Taking a Stand on the Scriptures Against the Traditions of Men

Feb 17th, 2012 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Imagine this conversation ca. A.D. 49 –

Malachi: “Have you heard news yet about the Council’s decision regarding Gentile circumcision?”

Phineas: “I knew the apostles were meeting in Jerusalem last week to decide the question, but no, I haven’t heard anything. Everybody’s waiting to hear. Have you heard something?”

Malachi: “Yes, I was there. I had business in the capital that week.”

Phineas: “What a providential blessing! Did you talk to any of the Twelve?”

Malachi: “No, they were pretty busy the whole time. And I could only drop by as my work permitted. But I was there when they gave the final decision.”

Phineas: “Good! Well, I’m sure this was an easy one for them. I know Paul thinks Gentiles shouldn’t be circumcised, but we all know he’s not even one of the original Twelve. With so many non-Jews crowding into the Church over the last decade, I’m thankful the apostles finally decided to use their authority to settle this matter once and for all. To think that some have taught that Gentiles can be saved without being circumcised. So many have been led astray by this error. Anyway, back to the decision of the Council. I would imagine it was a wonderful moment when you got to witness them reaffirm our most ancient faith and uphold the clear scriptural commandment that the Lord’s followers be circumcised?”

Malachi: “Um…well…not quite. They ruled that circumcision doesn’t apply to Gentile Christians.”

Phineas: “Yeah, right.”

Malachi: “No. I’m serious.”

Phineas: “They ruled that circumcision doesn’t apply to Gentile Christians???”

Malachi: “Yes.”

Phineas: “But that’s not possible!!!”

Malachi: “I know what you’re feeling….but I was there and witnessed it with my own eyes and ears. They announced that the only thing that matters – for both Jew and Gentile – is faith in Jesus. Of course they expect them to be baptized and break away from pagan ritual observances, but, honest to goodness, they ruled that circumcision is not applicable to Gentile Christians. In fact, they believe circumcising them would compromise the good news about Jesus. They said Jews and Gentiles alike are saved, not by the flint knife of circumcision, but by faith in Christ alone. I know you still think I’m pulling your leg. But I’m dead serious.”

Phineas: “Alright…give me a minute…let’s sit down for a second. I’m trying to wrap my mind around what you’re saying. Let me get this straight – you’re telling me that the apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem have rejected the scriptural teaching on circumcision and all the obligations it entails??!!!”

Malachi: “Well, they would probably soften it a bit by saying that they have exempted the Gentile Christians from the requirement of circumcision, yes.”

Phineas: “The Scriptures never give an exemption from circumcision!”

Malachi: “I know. Think about what God said to Abraham regarding circumcision being the sign of the Lord’s everlasting covenant between himself and his people. And we Christians are the true heirs of Abraham in Christ. That’s enough evidence for me to say that Gentile Christians ought to be circumcised. Now that I think about it, even Paul teaches that Christians are sons of Abraham. ”

Phineas: “Exactly, my friend. May I ask if Bishop James was there? I’m certain he wouldn’t stand for this. Was he present when they made this declaration?”

Malachi: “Yes, he was there the whole time, and as strange as this is going to sound, he was in full agreement. Actually, he was the one who closed the meeting by summarizing the Council’s decision and formulating a plan of action to communicate their decision to the Church.”

Phineas: “Huh…I know James. I know his commitment to the ancient faith. You can understand this is hard for me to believe, can’t you? I’m still waiting for you to tell me you’re kidding with me.”

Malachi:”I wish I could!”

Phineas: “Okay. This just does not make sense. I can’t help but think that the leadership of the Church has made a serious mistake.” 

Malachi: “You’re not the first one to say this. Believe me.”

Phineas: “Well, tell me what Scripture texts they cited to prove their position.”

Malachi: “They didn’t. Not a single one. Well, not unless you count Bishop James quoting a couple of verses from Amos during his summary. But afterward I went back and looked, and that passage has nothing to do with circumcision. So I don’t know why he even referred to it.”

Phineas: “So on what basis did they make the decision?! They had to give some rationale!”

Malachi: “Peter related his experiences of Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit by faith, and then Paul and Barnabas told stories from the mission field. But at the end of the discussion it was Bishop James that said, and I’ll quote him best as I remember, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place this burden of circumcision on you Gentiles.”

Phineas: “He said this decision of the Council ‘seemed good to the Holy Spirit’? But the Holy Spirit speaks in the Scriptures! How can they say the ruling seemed good to the Holy Spirit if it directly contradicts what the Holy Spirit says in the Scriptures?”

Malachi “I thought the exact same thing when I heard him make the declaration.”

Phineas: “I never thought I’d say this but it sounds like there’s more of the Council’s will at work here than God’s. It has all the makings of a man-made tradition imposed as God’s will. They have absolutely no scriptural basis for what they’ve done. Tacking on a Scripture verse at the end doesn’t make it all okay. In truth, this doesn’t just lack a biblical basis, it flat out contradicts the Scriptures. I’m still reeling from this news. I never thought I’d see the day.”

Malachi: “I know. So, what are we going to do? My heart sank the moment I heard the ruling.”

Phineas: “We must do the only thing we can do. The thing God wants us to do. We must reason with them from the Scriptures and demonstrate what the divinely inspired writings clearly teach on this matter. We have to show them they’ve made a grave error. You well know you can’t be a follower of the Lord and remain uncircumcised. This is serious. An uncircumcised person is destined for destruction. The Lord’s wrath burned against Moses’ for neglecting the covenantal sign, as I’m sure you remember.”

Malachi: “I do. What if they don’t reverse their decision? I began thinking about that possibility.”

Phineas: “I’m hopeful they’ll come around. After all, they are Jesus’ apostles, which means they learned first hand that Jesus didn’t come to abrogate the law but to fulfill it, and that our Lord himself was circumcised. They themselves bear the mark of the covenant in their bodies, after all!”

Malachi: “But let’s say they don’t agree with us? What if they don’t agree with the Scriptures?”

Phineas: “Well, then, as much as I hate to say it, we’ll have to separate from them and organize churches that are faithful to the Scriptures and our most ancient faith as it was taught by Jesus. God has spoken in the Scriptures and so we will take our stand on the Scriptures. No man or group of men has the authority to set aside what God commands in his holy Word. We have to obey God rather than men. You never know, if we do have to separate, maybe our example of faithfulness to the Word of God will bring them back to the truth.”

Malachi: “Amen. May the Lord our God help us, and may the sword of his truth prevail.”

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188 comments
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  1. Thank you so much for this, Jason! I have been increasingly aware of the deep meaning of the Church being the “Israel of God.”

    jj

  2. Jason,

    Acts 15 doesn’t lay out all the Scriptures that were discussed by the apostles and elders when they discussed the matter. The text says there was “much debate.” Presumably, that debate would have involved argumentation from the Scriptures. Certainly, Amos was not the only part of Scripture that was brought up.

    The point is, their decision did not contradict the Scriptures, but rightly applied them. The issue Protestants and Orthodox have against the Roman communion is that the decisions made by the Roman bishop oftentimes contradict the Scriptures and are unilateral, made without the consultation of the whole church (which contributes to the continuing sad division in Christendom). For example, the Council of Trent was held without the input of Protestants, notably that of Dr. Luther, because the pope refused to include the Protestants (good thing, since Luther’s Christian brothers in the Roman communion would have murdered him).

    The final decision was made by Bishop James (“Therefore, my judgment is…”) in Jerusalem. (Why didn’t they all meet in Rome, to have the decision infallibly adjudicated by the first pope, Peter?) (A side note: Do you think the humble fisherman would have allowed himself to be carried about in regal fashion in a chair, to wear a jewel-studded crown, to have fellow Christians kneel before him and kiss his red shoe or his ring?) Peter was, of course, prominent at the council, but he’s not functioning as a pope but simply as a “fellow elder” (1 Peter 5:1). Nowhere does Peter act as Supreme Pontiff or “declare, say, pronounce, and define that it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff” (as it is pronounced in Unam sanctam).

    Regards,

    Daniel

  3. Jason,

    This is awesome – thanks!

  4. Daniel,

    Whatever old covenant texts the Council may have considered, the final rationale for the Gentile exemption is given in the bare statement: “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us…” Note well that St. James isn’t basing the Council’s decision on Amos 9:11, 12. Instead, and contrary to what one would expect if Scripture alone is the final authority, the prophet Amos is produced simply as a scriptural witness agreeing with the apostolic ruling. Mark carefully the order – the prophet agrees with the Council’s conclusion, not the other way around.

    In addition, the old covenant Scriptures never give the slightest inkling that God will one day sheath the knife of circumcision. A.D. 49 is the first time this teaching is promulgated to God’s people.

    Blessings,

    — Jason

  5. But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.
    Acts 15:1-2

    The Christians from Judea were claiming that unless the Gentiles were “circumcised according to the custom of Moses”, that they could not be saved.

    Daniel, do you believe that unless modern day Gentiles are “circumcised according to the custom of Moses”, that they cannot not be saved? If you don’t believe that, why don’t you believe that?

  6. Daniel,

    The issue Protestants and Orthodox have against the Roman communion is that the decisions made by the Roman bishop oftentimes contradict the Scriptures and are unilateral, made without the consultation of the whole church (which contributes to the continuing sad division in Christendom)

    You lumped Protestants and Orthodox together in the thread on Jason’s conversion, and now you’re doing it again. Why do you keep doing this? As several of us have pointed out in the other thread, no Christian before the Protestant era believed that the visible Church lacked dogmatic, conscience-binding authority, and this post gives biblical precedent for that universal belief. It is only tangentially related to the papacy, which you are bringing up here and trying to stack the cards against it by citing the “Protestants and the Orthodox.” Are you Orthodox? If not, why do you keep citing the testimony of their ancient belief in the authority of the visible Church, shared by Catholics, as if it were some benefit to the Protestant cause?

  7. Daniel,

    One more thing….

    How loud must the Holy Spirit increase the volume of the text before readers hear the obvious importance of St. Peter’s presence in Acts 15? His statements and reasonings dominate the chapter. St. James makes his final appeal in reference to Simon’s (Peter’s) words before citing the witness of Amos, and concluding by crafting a conciliar statement that encapsulated the Council’s mind (motivated as it was by Peter) on the matter of Gentile circumcision. St. Peter is the man at the Jerusalem Council. The ecclesial spotlight is on him.

    As to the notion that James and Jerusalem in Acts 15 contradict the claims of Roman primacy….

    St. James’ conclusion to the deliberations harmonizes naturally with his pastoral role as Bishop of Jerusalem. He is simply acting as the resident Shepherd of the city and host of the Council. And, of course, Roman primacy was years away as Peter had not yet established his See in that city.

    Blessings,

    — Jason

  8. To Jason’s point in #7, notice how Peter’s remarks are book-ended. Peter “stands up” before speaking. Then everyone falls silent after he’s done speaking.

  9. The CtC authors show their creative side! Don’t get me wrong, I love the articles and blogs but we need some humor and drama once in a while to illustrate a valuable point.

  10. Jason (#4),

    A belief in sola scriptura does not mean that Scripture is the only authority. This is a common misconception. It simply states that when other authorities, such as church councils and church tradition, conflict with Scripture, then Scripture must naturally have the preeminence—being that it is the very Word of God. The decision rendered by the Holy Spirit and the apostles and elders does not conflict with Scripture, so sola scriptura is not an issue here.

    I would have to disagree with you that “the old covenant Scriptures never give the slightest inkling that God will one day sheath the knife of circumcision.” If you read Justin Martyr’s “Dialogue with Trypho the Jew,” you’ll see that he goes into quite some length about this, quoting Scripture after Scripture. I would imagine that the Holy Spirit brought many of these Scriptures to remembrance at the council and illuminated the hearts of the apostles and elders to understand them and make the right decision.

    Regards,

    Daniel

  11. Mateo (#5),

    Please see my response to Jason (#10). The reason why I don’t believe that Gentiles are required to be circumcised is because of a church council (Acts 15) and because of the Scriptures (which Justin Martyr expounds regarding the question of Gentiles and circumcision). Again, a belief in sola scriptura does not mean that all other authorities are cast away. It does mean that the Scriptures are above all other authorities, because the Scriptures are the very Word of God.

    Regards,

    Daniel

  12. David (#6),

    I bring up the Orthodox because they–as well as the Protestants–are at an impasse doctrinally with Rome: Protestants because of sola scriptura issues, the Orthodox because of disagreements over Tradition and the authority of the visible church. Don’t you find it ironic that what Catholics claim is supposed to bring church unity–the authority of the visible church and Tradition–fails to do so?

    Regards,

    Daniel

  13. Jason (#7),

    No one doubts Peter’s prominence in Acts 15. But that doesn’t make him a pope. A prominent leader in the apostolic church, yes, but not a pope.

    Again, doesn’t it trouble you–even a little bit–that Peter’s spirit and demeanor were diametrically opposite to that of most popes, who have allowed themselves to be carried about in regal fashion in a chair, to wear a jewel-studded crown, and to have fellow Christians kneel before them and kiss their red shoe or their ring? When Cornelius fell down at Peter’s feet, Peter said, “Stand up; I too am a man.” Doesn’t the behavior of the popes say anything to you regarding their “fruits”? “You shall know them by their fruits.” I know you know all this, but doesn’t it carry any weight with you?

    Regards,

    Daniel

  14. Daniel (# 10),

    Can you please locate one passage or verse in the OT that indicates circumcision (an Abrahamic institution, btw) will cease as a requirement for the Lord’s people? Given the Protestant belief in the perspicuity of Scripture, I would imagine finding something will be relatively easy.

    Blessings,

    — Jason

  15. This is not a good analogy. The people who made the decision in Acts 15 are Apostles of Jesus Christ. They were the foundation of the Church. The record of their decision are written in the Scripture. The Roman Catholic Heirarchy are not Apostles! They are merely claimants of Apostolic Authority and therefore no Christian should be compelled to listen to the Roman Catholic Heirarcy if their teachings contradict the real Apostles. The teachings of the Roman Catholic Church should be judged to be true or false against the real Apostolic Teaching… and what better witness can there be to the Apostolic Teaching than the teachings taught in the Scripture itself? If Rome claims that her councils and ex cathedra statements are the Traditions or Teachings delivered by the original Apostles, there is no greater evidence to prove that claim than to point to Scripture — being divinely inspired.

  16. Jason,

    You asked Daniel: Can you please locate one passage or verse in the OT that indicates circumcision (an Abrahamic institution, btw) will cease as a requirement for the Lord’s people? Given the Protestant belief in the perspicuity of Scripture, I would imagine finding something will be relatively easy.

    Answer: The question actually does not in any way conflict the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture. As divine revelation through Jesus Christ is still being delivered via the guidance of His Apostles, there is no problem if there is no divine revelaiton in the OT that says physical circumcision would not be required. As divine revelation progresses, we know now that physical circumcision is not required to be a part of the new covenant simply because additonal revelation has been given. That revelation is in the NT which can be properly exegeted and uderstood. My question to you is, do you claim that Roman Catholic Church teaches doctrines that is not supported by the NT and OT and that its magisterium functions like the Apostles of old that can add or deduct to the deposit of faith? Given your analogy, it seems highly likely that logic of your analogy demands a “yes” to that question. Otherwise, enlighten me.

  17. Daniel –

    The difference between Sola Scriptura and Solo Scriptura has been tackled at length here at CtC. Here is an article by Bryan Cross on the subject in which he argues that there is no principled difference between Sol-a and Sol-o.

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/

  18. Daniel writes: The reason why I don’t believe that Gentiles are required to be circumcised is because of a church council (Acts 15) and because of the Scriptures (which Justin Martyr expounds regarding the question of Gentiles and circumcision).

    Here is what I see you saying. Your belief that the reason the Gentiles of our day do not have to be circumcised to be saved is based on two things, the ruling of apostles and the elders at the Council in Jerusalem, and that the apostles and the elders interpreted the Old Testament scriptures correctly.

    Let me concede these two points for the sake of argument. Where I disagree with the Protestants that hold to sola scriptura doctrine is that I believe that the apostles and the elders that decided this point of doctrine were protected from teaching error because they exercised the charism of infallibility at this council. And that is the point that I believe that Jason Stewart is making in his post # 4:

    Daniel,

    Whatever old covenant texts the Council may have considered, the final rationale for the Gentile exemption is given in the bare statement: “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us…”

    Daniel asserts: A belief in sola scriptura does not mean that Scripture is the only authority. This is a common misconception. It simply states that when other authorities, such as church councils and church tradition, conflict with Scripture, then Scripture must naturally have the preeminence—being that it is the very Word of God. The decision rendered by the Holy Spirit and the apostles and elders does not conflict with Scripture, so sola scriptura is not an issue here.

    The doctrine of sola scriptura most certainly is an issue here! You are claiming that when “church councils and church tradition, conflict with Scripture, then Scripture must naturally have the preeminence.” But who decides when a church council makes an error in interpreting scriptures?

    The doctrine of sola scriptura is built upon the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience, and that means that the ultimate authority in deciding a matter of doctrine is whether or not I personally believe that the doctrine being proposed by a church council is “scriptural”. Thus, if Protestant doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience is true, and if I don’t personally believe that the Council of Jerusalem got it right when interpreting scriptures, then I am free to reject the teaching of that church council – and not only that church council, but any other church council that does not agree with my personal interpretations of the scriptures. It seems to me that is one of the main points of Jason Stewart’s article. Based on the personal interpretation of scriptures, a Christian man living in world at the time of the Council of Jerusalem could have made a strong “scriptural” argument that the apostles and the elders in Jerusalem came to the wrong decision. But did the apostles and the elders really make the wrong decision? Who decides? That is exactly where the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura comes into play.

    Martin Luther, the man that promulgated the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura had this to say about the authority of councils:

    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

    Obviously, Martin Luther is setting himself up as an authority that is superior to every church council that has ever been held by the church. Unless a church council agrees with Martin Luther’s own personal interpretation of the scriptures, Martin Luther will not accept the authority of that council. In other words, Martin Luther is declaring here a doctrine of primacy. As long as Martin Luther’s conscience is not disturbed by what he believes, his conscience holds primacy in deciding what doctrines he will accept as valid.

    The big problem with Luther’s doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience is that there is absolutely nothing in scriptures that supports this false doctrine.

    “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.
    Matthew 18:15-17

    I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them.
    Romans 16:17

  19. Jason,

    Are we still discussing the council in Acts 15? The Jerusalem council didn’t make a determination about the Abrahamic covenant.

    Nevertheless, here is a Scripture passage to start with regarding circumcision not being a requirement for the Lord’s people (with the Abrahamic covenant in view):

    Genesis 15:6

    “And Abram believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.”

    And here is a Scripture passage regarding circumcision not being a requirement for the Lord’s people (with the Mosaic covenant in view):

    Isaiah 51:4-5

    “Hear me, hear me, my people; and ye kings, hearken to me: for a law shall proceed from me, and my judgment shall be for a light of the nations. My righteousness speedily draws nigh, and my salvation shall go forth as light, and on mine arm shall the Gentiles trust.”

    Regards,

    Daniel

  20. Fr. Bryan (#17),

    Thank you for the link. I’ll take a look at it.

    Daniel

  21. Joey (#15),

    Excellent point about the necessity for all teachings to be judged against apostolic teaching. Thanks for coming alongside!

    Regards,

    Daniel

  22. Mateo (#18),

    Are you saying church councils have never erred or that they’ve never contradicted other church councils?

    The Orthodox Church possesses apostolic succession, yet their doctrine does not agree with Catholic doctrine on many points. Doesn’t the Orthodox Church claim a “charism” as well?

    The Protestant confessions of faith function as a sort of “magisterium.” Why should I choose the Roman magisterium’s teaching over, say, the Anglican, Lutheran, or Reformed “magisterial” teachings?

    Regards,

    Daniel

  23. Daniel (#19),

    Are we still discussing whether there are statements in the OT that announce circumcision will one day cease? The verses you’ve cited say nothing on the subject. Do you think they do? Please help me to understand why you have referenced them.

    Blessings,

    — Jason

  24. Dear Andre (#9),

    Thank you for your compliment to Jason about showing his creative side. However, we the other contributors have already privately censured him for failing both our length and dryness criteria for blog posting. (Just kidding — see, more humor!)

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  25. Dear JoeyHenry (#15),

    You said:

    This is not a good analogy. The people who made the decision in Acts 15 are Apostles of Jesus Christ. They were the foundation of the Church. The record of their decision are written in the Scripture. The Roman Catholic Heirarchy are not Apostles! They are merely claimants of Apostolic Authority and therefore no Christian should be compelled to listen to the Roman Catholic Heirarcy if their teachings contradict the real Apostles.

    You seem to believe that the Apostles, as “the foundation of the Church,” bore authority to bind consciences. You then seem to claim that whether the Catholic Magisterium bears that same authority depends upon whether any given Christian finds their teachings to conform or contradict the teachings of the Apostles as recorded in Sacred Scripture. Do I have that right?

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  26. Tom B,

    You said: You seem to believe that the Apostles, as “the foundation of the Church,” bore authority to bind consciences. You then seem to claim that whether the Catholic Magisterium bears that same authority depends upon whether any given Christian finds their teachings to conform or contradict the teachings of the Apostles as recorded in Sacred Scripture. Do I have that right?

    Answer: Yes, I believe the Apostles are the foundation of the Church (Eph 2:20). The teachings of the Apostles as they received it from Christ binds the consciences of men. They are not in themselves authoritative (Gal 1:8, applied in Gal 2:11).

    The second statement is confusing. Each individual is inherently fallibl thus, the truth, whether or not the Catholic Magisterium teaches Apostolic Teachings, does not depend upon each individual’s judgment. The individual may arrive at the truth or detracts from the truth depending on his/her efforts to weigh the evidence of the truth. The question is, “Can an individual investigate whether or not the Roman Catholic Magisterium teaches Apostolic Teachings?” The answer is yes. Apostolic Teachings are accessible body of teachings which has it’s pure witness in the Scriptures — as it is inspired by God. Therefore, each individual can investigate for him or himself the claims of Rome.

    Please also note that I do not subscribe to the idea that the Roman Catholic Chruch bears the SAME authority as the Apostles. Apostolic Authority is unique to the Apostles themselves. Therefore, my contention is not whether the Roman Catholic Magisterium bears the SAME authority as the Apostles but whether they teach Apostolic Teachings as these teachings have Apostolic Authroity.

  27. Daniel,

    You said

    Don’t you find it ironic that what Catholics claim is supposed to bring church unity–the authority of the visible church and Tradition–fails to do so?

    As an individual who was confirmed as an adult, I don’t see the Catholic Faith as failing to provide the MEANS for visible ecclesial unity. Schism and division exist b/c people refuse to submit or recognize he Church’s Christ-instituted authority, that’s all. As a Catholic I enjoy a wonderful sense of ecclesial unity between myself and those with whom I share the Eucharist. At the same time, I am seriously troubled by the lies, confusion, misrepresentation, and ignorance that still prevent so many would-be Catholics from recognizing the Catholic Church to be the Church founded by Christ. Thank you.

  28. Daniel asks: Are you saying church councils have never erred or that they’ve never contradicted other church councils?

    No, I am not saying that at all. The “robber” Council of Ephesus in 449 AD is an example of a church council that taught error. Neither the Catholic Church nor the Eastern Orthodox churches accept the doctrines promulgated by this council to be valid.

    Daniel asks: The Orthodox Church possesses apostolic succession, yet their doctrine does not agree with Catholic doctrine on many points. Doesn’t the Orthodox Church claim a “charism” as well?

    You would have to ask the Orthodox to know for sure, but I do believe that the Orthodox teach that bishops are protected by the Holy Spirit from teaching error at valid Ecumenical Councils.

    Daniel writes: The Protestant confessions of faith function as a sort of “magisterium.”

    Not really. The word “magisterium” is derived from the Latin word magister. I found this etymology of magister:

    Etymology
    From Latin magister (“a master, chief, head, superior, director, teacher, etc.”)

    Reference: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/magister

    When the Catholic Church speaks about the living magisterium, she means that there is a teaching office within the church that Christ founded, and there are living men that hold that office. The Catholic Church teaches that only bishops can be vested with the authority of the teaching office of the church, which is something that both the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches also believe.

    A Protestant confession of faith is words on a piece of paper, words that have to be interpreted by someone. The sola scriptura confessing Protestant sects don’t have anything remotely similar to a magisterium, in the sense of living men holding a teaching office that is vested with the power to exercise the charism of infallibility. Do the Anglicans, Lutherans, and Reformed churches have teachers? Sure they do, but their teachers have no authority to bind the consciences of their brethren to any doctrine that is not explicitly taught by the scriptures. The teachers in these Protestant sects can only offer you learned opinion about what the scriptures teach, but these Protestant sects would deny that any doctrine promulgated by men living after the Apostles necessarily has a guarantee from God as to the inerrancy of the proposed doctrine. Which is just another way of saying that sola scriptura confessing Protestants don’t believe that men living after the apostolic age can exercise the charism of infallibility.

    There are sects of Protestantism that do not confess sola scriptura that do have something like a magisterium. For example the LDS church has the Prophet of Salt Lake City whom the Mormons believe the can teach conscience binding doctrine for all men. The Jehovah Witnesses have what is in effect a magisterium in Brooklyn New York:

    Hence, besides individually possessing God’s Word, we need a theocratic organization. Yes, besides having God’s spirit of illumination, a Christian needs Jehovah’s theocratic organization in order to understand the Bible. (Watchtower; June 15, 1951; p. 375)

    Daniel asks: Why should I choose the Roman magisterium’s teaching over, say, the Anglican, Lutheran, or Reformed “magisterial” teachings?

    I dug up some statistics off the Internet, and while the accuracy of these statistics are not anything that I would bet my life upon, I do think that they are roughly accurate. Here goes: In the world at large, there are 168 different sects within the Anglican Communion, 152 different church bodies that would call themselves Lutheran, and 746 Reformed denominations. That is over a thousand different “churches” that you could choose from if you wanted to stay just within the three major branches of Protestantism that you have mentioned. Within this group of a thousand different sects one can find just about anything being taught as the scriptural truth – abortion is a sin, abortion isn’t a sin, homosexual clergy is a problem, lesbian priestesses are not a problem … . You get the picture.

    Why wouldn’t you want to listen to the teachers in this morass of doctrinally divided sects? One obvious reason to me is the undeniable fact that these sects teach contradictory doctrine. Someone has to be the heretic. But how do you know with certainty who is teaching heresy? The Protestant teachers in these sects will all claim that what they teach is “scriptural”. Which, means that a Protestant wishing to pick one of these sects will have to decide for himself who is being scriptural. He will make that choice based on his own private interpretation of the scriptures, and the church that he will listen to is the one that agrees with his own private interpretation of scriptures. The Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura forces the individual to make that choice, and that means that the ultimate authority for the individual is the individual. Since the ultimate authority for who gets to decide what is scriptural is each individual, that means that there can be no magisterium with teaching authority within the sects of Protestantism that confess the doctrine of sola scriptura.

    Christ’s teaching found in Matthew 18:15-18 gives the scriptural reason why you should not listen to the teachers of the Anglican, Luther or Reformed sects. Christ commands that his disciples must listen to the church that he personally founded, and all Protestant “churches” are the mere creation of men that broke away from the church that Jesus Christ founded. If one actually believes that the scriptures are inerrant, then one must seek out the church that Jesus Christ personally founded and listen to his church. There is no scriptural justification for listening to any old church that some man or woman founded in the last five hundred years. Since the church that Jesus Christ personally founded must have a two thousand-year-old history, one isn’t left with a whole lot of options when looking for the true church. On the age criteria alone, one would be restricted to making a choice between the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church.

  29. Devastatingly good piece…thanks for sharing it!

  30. Jason (#23),

    Sure, I’d be glad to explain how these passages relate to circumcision one day ceasing.

    Genesis 15:6

    “And Abram believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.”

    Here, Abram is counted righteous because of his faith. This is while he is in the state of uncircumcision. We know that the circumcision he received later (Genesis 17) was not something God commanded in order for him to be righteous because he had already been counted righteous while he was uncircumcised. Therefore, the circumcision Abraham received functioned merely as a sign, and when what the sign signified—Jesus Christ, and the righteousness one receives through faith in him—came, the sign was no longer necessary and ceased to be a requirement.

    Isaiah 51:4-5

    “Hear me, hear me, my people; and ye kings, hearken to me: for a law shall proceed from me, and my judgment shall be for a light of the nations. My righteousness speedily draws nigh, and my salvation shall go forth as light, and on mine arm shall the Gentiles trust.”

    In this passage, God declares that a law shall proceed from him. Since this declaration is made through the prophet Isaiah—far later in time than the law given at Sinai—this must be a later law or covenant. Now a law or covenant given by God later of necessity repeals or does away with a law that came before it—namely, the law given at Sinai, which required circumcision. Thus, circumcision no longer remains a requirement. (And it’s interesting that this passage prophesies the righteousness and salvation the Gentiles would receive through their trusting in Jesus Christ, while at the same time showing that the old covenant works of the law would no longer be required.)

    Regards,

    Daniel

  31. Over at aomin.org, the anonymous blogger named ‘tur8infan’ limits the decree in Acts 15 only to a small group of Gentiles in the regions of ‘Antioch, Syria and Cilicia’ [see, Acts 15:23]. So, that makes circumcision mandatory to all those believers outside of these areas? Also, he relies on Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, though he gives no explanation explaining why the letter has any authority on the topic.

  32. @Daniel #30:
    I think the point is not whether there are Old Testament Scriptures that can be brought to bear to demonstrate that the Gentiles can be saved without circumcision, nor is it relevant whether the men at the Counsel of Jerusalem cited Scripture. The point is whether the fictional Phineas and Malachi would be right to oppose their understanding of Scripture – which, I think it must be confessed, certainly on the surface of the text (the ‘plain meaning of Scripture’), was on their side – whether they would be right to decide the Counsellors were wrong.

    Of course you and we agree they would be wrong. The difference is that you think such authority ended with the Apostles; we do not.

    We do not, of course, because the early Church (e.g. Ignatius of Antioch, AD108) did not. Certainly the full theology of the Papacy had not developed by Ignatius’s time – but he is pretty clear about the authority of the bishops!

    jj

  33. Hi John (#32),

    Thanks for your comments. I don’t think church authority ended with the Apostles (maybe some Protestants do, but I don’t). But I don’t believe that all authority is vested in one bishop of the church (Rome) or in any bishop or church that denies or annuls the teachings of the apostles by putting their tradition above the Word of God. I am also saying that church councils can err, being that the participants are fallible human beings. Yes, granted the Holy Spirit has been promised to be with the church throughout the ages. But many times very sinful men have held church office, and the Holy Spirit never promised to guide those who resist Him. It certainly isn’t the Catholic position that every church council that followed the Jerusalem council was infallible, is it? Why, then, can’t members of the church question teachings that come from a council? If I were a Catholic, I would wonder why some things I read in the CCC are at odds with pre-Vatican II teaching.

    Regards,

    Daniel

  34. 32JJ.
    Rather the problem is that Phineas and Malachi can’t really oppose the apostles on the basis of the OT.
    That’s because just as Christ in Matt 22 chided the Sadducees on their ignorance of Scripture when they asked whose husband the woman who married seven men would be in heaven, Jer. 4:4 tells us that true circumcision is of the heart, much more it was sign of Abraham’s faith as above, in Gen 17.
    FTM Paul only tells us the same thing that was essentially decided at the council of Act 15, when in Rom 2:28,29 he writes that a true Jew is somebody whose heart is circumcised, i.e. justification is by faith alone, not obedience to the moral or ceremonial law.
    Or a Augustine put it, the grace concealed in the OT is revealed in the NT.

  35. Robert (#34),

    Well said. I guess what I don’t get in this whole thread is why a church would seem to want to undermine “taking a stand on the Scriptures”–i.e., putting one’s confidence in the Word of God as one’s highest authority. Is it so that the authority of the church gets to be magnified over the Word of God? And what reason would there be for doing that?

    Regards,

    Daniel

  36. Mateo (#28),

    Why do Catholics believe that “church pedigree = truth”? Just because a church traces its lineage back 2,000 years doesn’t necessarily mean that their teachings should be followed today without any caveats. What’s wrong with instead believing “apostolic teaching = truth”? What teaching or practice not found in the Scriptures does the Catholic Church want to bind all other Christians to?

    Regards,

    Daniel

  37. Dear Daniel, (re #35:)
    You wrote:

    I guess what I don’t get in this whole thread is why a church would seem to want to undermine “taking a stand on the Scriptures”–i.e., putting one’s confidence in the Word of God as one’s highest authority.

    Your confusion is understandable if you think that is what the Catholics here are doing. No one I have read has suggested any such thing. What I do see is refusal to accept as authoritative an interpretation of God’s Word put forth by someone who holds that primacy of individual conscience is the highest authority in the interpretation of Scripture. The reason for doing that? Because Scripture itself condemns that practice (2 Peter 1:20).

    Have you read what the Catechism says about the relationship of Scripture and the Magisterium?

    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.”47 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.”

    Please provide a single statement made here to substantiate your claim that “the authority of the church gets to be magnified over the Word of God”.

    Blessings,
    Frank

  38. @Daniel #33:

    I don’t believe that all authority is vested in one bishop of the church (Rome) or in any bishop or church that denies or annuls the teachings of the apostles by putting their tradition above the Word of God

    But I think this was the point of Jason’s parable above. The two interlocutors decided that the apostles had themselves put their teaching above the Word of God. That is why, it seems to me, Protestant ‘authority’ is not authority in the same sense as the Catholic.

    I remember a doctrinal matter that I thought (and still think) the elders of my Reformed Church were wrong about – this was about 1990 or so. I challenged them, and was told – what was a very Catholic statement – that they were the rulers God had placed over me.

    I submitted – and am glad I did. That was a major factor that got me thinking about Church authority, and that ultimately made a Catholic out of me.

    The idea of infallibility is an interesting one. It cannot be avoided. I remember one of the elders of that church – this is when I was a deacon – opining that God would protect the elders of a true Reformed church from teaching error (naturally the other elders disagreed :-)).

    R. J. Rushdoony says, somewhere, that infallibility is an unavoidable concept. He placed it in the Scriptures, of course – but the Scriptures cannot decide between me and my brother which of us is right. If we are Catholics, we can submit it to the Church. If the matter is big enough, the Church will give me a definitive answer.

    As in Robert’s #34 above:

    …the problem is that Phineas and Malachi can’t really oppose the apostles on the basis of the OT.

    But of course they precisely can – and many Jewish Christians in the time of the Apostles did just that. Indeed, Acts 15 is a stumbling block for some modern Christians. When I was in process of becoming a Catholic, a very concerned Protestant sent me a book – one that was, in many respects, very godly – which said that the tendency to an overweening authoritarianism began in the Church very early – with Acts 15. There, the author said, you saw the roots of the Catholic Church’s error of believing that its word was that of the Holy Spirit.

    He was right :-)

    jj

  39. @Daniel #35:

    Well said. I guess what I don’t get in this whole thread is why a church would seem to want to undermine “taking a stand on the Scriptures”–i.e., putting one’s confidence in the Word of God as one’s highest authority. Is it so that the authority of the church gets to be magnified over the Word of God? And what reason would there be for doing that?

    The reason, of course, is that if the Church’s authority has been ordained by God in the way Catholics believe, then those ‘traditions of men’ are, in fact, what God wants. By taking a stand on your own interpretation of the Scriptures against the Church, you are not placing your confidence in the Word of God, you are placing your confidence in your own understanding. The consequence of that is the chaos in non-Catholic Christianity.

    jj

  40. Well said, John!

  41. It turns out Acts 15 has many more gold nuggets that I don’t think people take full advantage of, particularly when doing exegesis. This chapter is unfortunately routinely ignored when Protestants exegete the Pauline Epistles.

    For example:

    1 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” … 5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

    That’s the Judaizer heresy stated plainly. Get circumcized and obey the 613 Mitzvot. Nothing about working one’s way to heaven by their own works, any works.
    What Protestants fail to realize is that things such as Baptism are nowhere commanded in the 613 Mitzvot, so when Paul says “apart from the works of the 613 Mitzvot” (Rom 3:28) he could not have been excluding Baptism by definition (Cf Acts 16:4 where Jerusalem’s decisions were delivered by Paul to the Galatians!).

    That is a fine case of the Catholic application of the principle “Scripture interprets Scripture” which Protestants unfortunately don’t use consistently. (Don’t believe me, ask them to use that principle in Romans 4)

    9 God made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. … 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.

    Interesting, here we see Peter explaining “saved by the grace of Jesus,” meaning “justified by grace,” as being defined as “hearts cleansed by faith”. Doesn’t sound too compatible with justification by imputation of an external favor.

  42. Dear JoeyHenry (#26),

    You and I agree that the Apostles are the foundation of the Church. We agree that they had some kind of authority. But you see their authority to bind consciences as having been limited to matters about which they received a teaching from Christ. You leave them with no real authority, then, but merely a role as ‘truth ductwork.’ If Christ did not transmit some truth to them, they are left impotent and unable to respond (as a real authority would be able to respond).

    Also, by seeing the apostles as a ‘truth ductwork,’ you presume that you know the origin of their teachings (Christ), and you assume that the ducting is not leaking, i.e., that there’s no introduction of error or loss of necessary truths between transmitter and receiver. If we are all fallible, from what source do your derive your confidence that you’re receiving their communicated truths accurately?

    If you lack that confidence, I posit that you are in no position to judge the fidelity of the teachings of the Catholic Church (or any other ecclesial body) against the teachings of Christ.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  43. Frank (#37),

    You said:

    “What I do see is [Catholics’] refusal to accept as authoritative an interpretation of God’s Word put forth by someone who holds that primacy of individual conscience is the highest authority in the interpretation of Scripture.”

    So they should if that were true. But history shows that the Reformers gathered together in council to define doctrinal issues. (So have the Orthodox, and they’re not part of the club either.) And the Reformers insisted that the Christians under their care align themselves with the decided-upon doctrinal statements. No “individual conscience” here.

    You said:

    “Have you read what the Catechism says about the relationship of Scripture and the Magisterium?”

    Frankly, I don’t trust the Magisterium. They have promulgated some pretty bizarre, secular humanist beliefs in the CCC (things which traditional Catholics are pretty upset over). They also have not exercised church discipline when their head bishop engages in acts of idolatry (I’m talking about, in particular, John Paul II’s disgraceful participation in pagan rituals. Please don’t tell me that allowing a statue of the Buddha to be placed on a Catholic altar and then burning incense before it is acceptable practice in the church of the living God, the pillar and mainstay of the truth!)

    “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.”

    The Catholic Church may make this claim about its Magisterium, but it doesn’t hold water. (It doesn’t even hold wine in the cup for the people, either. :-) ) Tell me: By what inspiration of the Holy Spirit did the Magisterium decide to withhold the Eucharistic cup from the people, the people for whom Christ poured out his Blood on the cross? From what “deposit of faith” did the Magisterium draw this practice? Or is it really the case that the Magisterium falsely added to the deposit of faith by decreeing this?

    The Word of God says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Yet the Magisterium says:

    “493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature”.138 By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.”

    Hmmm. St. Irenaeus and St. Chrysostom (members of the “Magisterium) didn’t think so. This “sinlessness of Mary” notion is another example of a Catholic tradition that is contrary to the Word of God.

    Regards,

    Daniel

  44. Nick #41,

    Not compatible ? As a RC you are obligated to show how external imputation (forgiveness of sin) and the purified heart (renewal of the inward man) by faith are compatible.

    …justification itself, which is not remission of sins merely, but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man… – Council of Trent, Justification

    This polemic only weakens the ecumenical efforts of your authorities.

    Eric

  45. Hi Eric,

    There is no problem whatsoever: forgiveness of sins and inner sanctification go hand in hand simultaneously.

    Remember when David lost his justification and had to repent to recover it? David plainly referred to both forgiveness and inner sanctification taking place at the same time: “Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Rom 4:6-8; Ps 32:1f).

  46. Daniel, re#43:
    You wrote:

    Frankly, I don’t trust the Magisterium.

    That would really be the heart of the issue, yes? It appears you place your individual conscience in a position of judgement over the authority of the Church’s living teaching body. I happen to agree with you about how bad what JP II did at that Peace gathering appeared to be. But this was a regrettable public gesture, not a statement about some change in the truth status of Church doctrine. It is simply not the place of the Magisterium to discipline the Pope, so anything they did or failed to do is not a valid reason to criticize it. It’s like criticizing an apple for not producing milk.

    So as far as I can deduce from your posts you do not believe the Catholic Church with respect to:

    1. Its practice of believing the Host (which is the resurrected Body) contains both the flesh and the blood (since it is the resurrected body)

    2. The Immaculate Conception

    3. The Magisterium is the extension through time of the Apostles, and is endowed with the authority given to the Apostles through the all the succeeding generations.

    Why, I wonder, did you ever think you were a Catholic? These are all distinctively Protestant objections.

    Your claim that the Reformers met in council is supposed to prove what? That they met and composed some confessions for non-Catholic Christians. No one denies that. But, I would ask, what authority did these men have to formulate doctrines that are binding on the consciences of their flocks? Since they were in schism with the Church founded by Jesus Christ, they relinquished Apostolic succession and the conscience-binding authority that goes with it.

    And let me ask, do you consider any of these non-Catholic creeds or confessions or catechisms as absolutely binding on your conscience, regardless of your personal view of a particular question of dogma, discipline or ecclesiology? If so, which one, and why that one and not others?

    Pac Tecum,
    Frank

  47. Tom B.,

    This is a good day. Reports are finished and therefore I can drop and write you a response. :)

    But you see their authority to bind consciences as having been limited to matters about which they received a teaching from Christ.

    Let me lay out to you how I view these things according to the evidences I found in my search for truth. First, Christ Himself had outlined their authority, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you…” (Mat 28:18-20, HSCB). Their authority to make disciples and baptize them is through teaching them what Christ has commanded. There is no other source of their teachings but that of Christ. That is why, according to Paul, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him” (Gal. 1:8, HCSB). What the Apostles should teach is in conformity to what Christ has taught them. They should not depart from it. Their authority, as what Paul has explained, is valid as it should be in conformity to the Gospel of Christ. Therefore, what you say is true. What they received from Christ is their authority since they view Christ and what He taught them as the continuation of divine revelation (Hebrews 1:1-2; cp. 1 Cor 11:23, 1 Cor 15:3).

    You leave them with no real authority, then, but merely a role as ‘truth ductwork.’ If Christ did not transmit some truth to them, they are left impotent and unable to respond (as a real authority would be able to respond).

    What is real authority? That should be defined on how Christ and His Apostles view real authority. Your view of what is real authority does not correspond to what Scripture is saying. Unless, you show me otherwise. However, as a response, the opposite is true. Since Christ has chosen them and entrusted to them His teachings, there is real authority (Jn 13:20; Jn 14:25-26). They are able to respond according to what Christ has taught them since what they passed on to the church has its source from Christ who has all authority (Mat 28:20). Consequently, any teachings not derived from Christ has no authority and are considered false teachings.

    Also, by seeing the apostles as a ‘truth ductwork,’ you presume that you know the origin of their teachings (Christ), and you assume that the ducting is not leaking, i.e., that there’s no introduction of error or loss of necessary truths between transmitter and receiver. If we are all fallible, from what source do your derive your confidence that you’re receiving their communicated truths accurately?

    Tom, do you have absolute confidence about the certainty of your beliefs? You are saying these words as if your own epistomological approach does not suffer from such a demand. However, as a response, to trust and know the truth does not require absolute confidence or certainty. Because we are fallible and have limits to our knowledge, our way of knowing what is true is based on sufficient confidence or certainty (not absolute). We work on the the available evidence and derive our conclusion from there and this does not require that we have absolute certainty to know that it is true.

    Now, you would say that since you believe that the Magisterium is infallible and therefore the Magisterium told you (a fallible witness) of what is true, then you have certainty. The problem is that you just pushed the question one step backward. If you are fallible, from what source do you derive your confidence that what you’re receiving from the Magisterium are purely from the Apostles? Furthermore, what source do you derive your confidence that you are interpreting what you received from the Magisterium accurately (given the canon laws, traditions and Traditions, Papal Bulls, decisions of the past and future)? If you have no confidence interpreting the truths of Scripture, where do you get your confidence that you can interpret correctly and have concluded correctly that the Magisterium’s teachings are the teachings of Christ? — that you have interpreted the body of literature from the early christians accurately in order to arrive at the conclusion that the modern Roman Catholic Church is true and pure?

    If you lack that confidence, I posit that you are in no position to judge the fidelity of the teachings of the Catholic Church (or any other ecclesial body) against the teachings of Christ.

    I don’t think so, Tom. Do you have the confidence that you are demanding from me? If you are as fallible as I am, and if you posit that I am in no position to judge the fidelity of the teachings of the Catholic Church (or any other ecclesial body) against the teachings of Christ, then why can you? Why do you make an effort to proclaim that the RC Church is the only true church of Christ or proclaim that her teachings are Apostolic? Think of the effect of your view to your own truth claim. :)

    God bless,
    Joey

  48. Nick,

    Thanks for responding. Would you please explain if “justification by imputation of an external favor” is the Protestant or RC position ? If this is the RC position on “forgiveness of sins”, then how can “hearts purified by faith” (inner renewal) be opposed as it’s found in Trent ? I thought Protestants and Rome agree on this, but Protestants are insistent on separating santification from justification.

    Eric

  49. Frank (#46),

    You said:

    “It is simply not the place of the Magisterium to discipline the Pope, so anything they did or failed to do is not a valid reason to criticize it. It’s like criticizing an apple for not producing milk.”

    It’s not the church leadership’s place to discipline an erring bishop? Really? St. Paul stood up to find fault with “Pope” Peter, but I guess he shouldn’t have, because it “wasn’t his place.” Huh?? St Paul: “Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.”

    And Pope Benedict continues the disgrace, even after two devastating earthquakes at the site of the idolatry. An Associated Press report regarding the Assisi III proceedings (Oct. 27, 2011) relates this interesting tidbit:

    “And there was a lot of distinctiveness on hand. Standing [!!!] on the altar of St. Mary of the Angels basilica, Wande Abimbola of Nigeria, representing Africa’s traditional Yoruba religion, sang a prayer and shook a percussion instrument as he told the delegates that peace can only come with greater respect for indigenous religions.

    ‘We must always remember that our own religion, along with the religions practiced by other people, are valid and precious in the eyes of the Almighty, who created all of us with such plural and different ways of life and belief systems,’ he said.”

    How could a Christian be in fellowship with this?

    1 John 5:21: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
    1 Cor. 10:22 “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?”

    Regards,

    Daniel

  50. Frank (#46),

    St. Cyprian also says that “God does not easily pardon idolaters.”

    I believe that a Christian would be putting his eternal soul at risk by being in union with an idolater.

    St. Paul:

    “I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater…”

    “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters…will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    Regards,

    Daniel

  51. 38 JJ

    But of course they precisely can – and many Jewish Christians in the time of the Apostles did just that.

    If we can say that, we still don’t get it. By definition those Jewish Christians just proved that they weren’t Christians if they opposed the apostles on the basis of the OT, i.e. reading it as promoting a works righteousness for salvation. The rest of the NT goes on to repeat the same. If anybody, even an angel from heaven, preaches a gospel contrary to salvation in Christ alone by faith alone, they are accursed Gal. 1:8,9.

    Indeed, Acts 15 is a stumbling block for some modern Christians. When I was in process of becoming a Catholic, a very concerned Protestant sent me a book – one that was, in many respects, very godly – which said that the tendency to an overweening authoritarianism began in the Church very early – with Acts 15. There, the author said, you saw the roots of the Catholic Church’s error of believing that its word was that of the Holy Spirit.

    He was right :-)

    Well, your concerned Protestant was right re. the Roman church, but like the Roman church failed to distinguish between the apostles in Act 15 and the Roman church.
    The apostles’s word was of the Holy Spirit, so Christ in John 16:13.
    That the Roman church’s word is the same has yet to be determined. Yes, we know that the Roman church says so, but on what basis do we believe that? A circular argument is after all exactly that. The question then becomes will we accept a CA based on testimony of Scripture or one based on the testimony of the Roman church? Granted Rome also appeals to Scripture for her authority, but it’s about as nominal as our two bible students in the story above.

    IOW the parable is a strawman and confuses the real issue. The Scripture is not only infallible, it is also sufficient and clear. Enough so that in time, Malachi and Phineas could figure it out, much more at least understand that if the apostles really were apostles, then their word really was authoritative as well as in harmony with the rest of Scripture. If they weren’t apostles, then Malachi and Phineas had no business listening to them from the get go. Which is it?

    cheers

  52. Hi Eric,

    The Protestant position is that Justification is purely forensic, it is a singular decree by which God graciously imputes Christ’s ‘record’ to your account’ – there is no ‘sanctification’ component involved in this Protestant form of Justification, contrary to Scripture and Catholic claims.

    I’m not sure what you are getting at by “forgiveness of sins” and “hearts purified by faith” are “opposed”. Those are two ‘components’ to Justification according to Scripture and Catholicism. In other words, there is no such Ordo Salutis in which we see Justification and Sanctification as two ‘phases’ of Salvation, but rather those things are co-dependent like a soul in a body.

    Catholic and Biblical soteriology are rooted in the Divine Indwelling of the Trinity in one’s soul, where as this is purely incidental in Protestant soteriology. See Eternal Security and the Trinity for one example and #7 of 7 Errors of Protestant Anthropology for some further insight.

  53. Mr. Stewart,

    Having posted a longer reply to your post here:

    http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2012/02/did-acts-15-council-rely-on-exegesis-of.html

    Let me briefly address two of your points:

    1) Amos 9:11-12 does answer the question of whether circumcision is necessary, because it refers to Gentiles who are called by the name of the Lord. That may not be perspicuous to you, but it is the reason that James quoted it.

    2) In fact, the assembly did take a stand on the Scriptures (especially Amos 9:11-12) against the traditions of men (namely the traditions of the Judaizers – the men who came from James, but whose tradition was inauthentic). This demonstrates the weakness of oral tradition. If there was already phoney oral tradition in the mid-first century, how much more opportunity there was for such phoney oral tradition later on. A wise God could address this problem by providing for the Scriptures to be written (well – completed – the bulk of the Scriptures were already written) and widely disseminated rapidly.

    In fact, God did use this approach. The Scriptures are able to throughly furnish the man of God unto every good work. That’s why were able to reject claims that the papacy was a divine institution even before RC historians (such as Robert Eno and Francis Sullivan) and non-RC historians (like Peter Lampe) demonstrated historically that the papacy was a development.

    Tradition of man or Scriptural teaching? Those are the options you have today, since you cannot summon a council of the apostles to ask them whether they transmitted an oral tradition of the bodily assumption of Mary, of her immaculate conception, of her perpetual virginity, of transubstantitation, of purgatory, of prayers to Mary, or prayers to the saints, of worshiping of God by images, and so on and so forth — and if you make an historical inquiry, you will find it clear that at least some of those things do not extend back to the apostles.

    So, will you hear Scripture and tradition? Or will you reject history and tradition in favor of the teachings of Vatican I?

    -TurretinFan

  54. @Robert #51:
    OK, yes, as you say, the issue is whether the modern Catholic Church inherits the authority to make decisions like that in Acts 15 – not revelation, just decisions about what the revelation actually implies – and in a way that means they can genuinely say that their decision is the decision of the Holy Spirit. You think the Catholic Church does not have such authority; I think it has.

    But let us assume your position is true – then you say:

    The Scripture is not only infallible, it is also sufficient and clear. Enough so that in time, Malachi and Phineas could figure it out, much more at least understand that if the apostles really were apostles, then their word really was authoritative as well as in harmony with the rest of Scripture.

    But the problem is that modern Malachis and Phineases end up differing in what they believe the revelation itself implies, not only from what the Catholic Church says, but from one another. Is there, then, in your view, no choice for them but to separate one from another – at least if the topic is one they consider essential?

    jj

  55. 53JJ

    Good question, but the one thing I do know is that Rome is not the answer. (I was born in that communion so don’t bother telling me I am speaking from ignorance. I know something of what the church teaches. You probably think not enough, but although you are entitled to your opinion, you are wrong. All things necessary for salvation are so clearly revealed in Scripture, that even the unlearned by due use of the ordinary means, can run the race of salvation, the end of which is eternal life in Jesus Christ.)

    Even further, modern Malachis and Phineases probably even fall away from the faith.
    So what? Christ came to save his own and they will be saved. While we are not to unnecessarily stumble our brother, much more the elect, to err in the other extreme for fear of those who will abuse their liberty by misreading the Scripture, in countenancing and excusing Rome’s sinful and unscriptural burdens on the believer’s conscience is unacceptable.

    Thank you.

  56. Turr8infan:

    So the best argument you have agaisnt Rome is that the Papacy was a development? Really? You must be one of those Protesters who thinks that the canon was established in 33 AD.

  57. TurretinFan,

    In response to your two points:

    1) I’m going to suggest that the meaning of Amos’ prophecy is obvious to us because St. James and the Council clarified and authentically interpreted the text (and consequently others like it) through the lens of apostolic tradition. Standing alone Amos 9:11, 12 can be read in more or less plausible ways in relation to the two sides of the circumcision dispute. Absent the authoritative definition provided by the Council, there would have been no clear exegetical champion in the debate. Textual speculation and unresolvable division would have necessarily resulted in each party planting their sandals firmly on their understanding of the scriptures. The Judaizers could easily receive the words of the prophet Amos, and declare, “Praise Jesus! Pass the knife.” Wasn’t the covenant God established in his people’s flesh everlasting (Gen. 17:13)? Had not God established one law of inclusion for both native and stranger (Ex. 12:49)?

    Of course, you and I have the benefit of knowing the end of the story. We are privy to the fact that the apostles and presbyters, guided by the promised Holy Spirit and the sure promise of Christ, ruled that circumcision and its corresponding obligations is not binding on Gentile converts. We know that the Prophet Amos was called by St. James as a scriptural witness to the Gentiles knocking down the doors of the Church at the Council’s moment in history. We know that Amos’ words agree with what the apostles were experiencing in their ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 15:14, 15).

    Fast forward twenty centuries and Christian Bible readers get the point (in a non-Judaizing way) when reading the many “Gentile-inclusion” passages of the OT. We can understand that our full inclusion in God’s kingdom is independent of circumcision because of the apostolic tradition, Bible included.

    2) As to the papacy developing, this really is basic Christianity 101. Every major feature of Christian belief and practice developed over time, the Bible as well as essential doctrines like the Trinity. I do not see development as a reasonable argument against affirming St. Peter’s successor.

    Tradition of man or Scriptural teaching? Those are the options you have today, since you cannot summon a council of the apostles to ask them whether they transmitted an oral tradition….

    Another option you seem to preclude – I can consult the successors of the apostles and discover what the apostles taught.

    Blessings,

    — Jason

  58. Jason.

    #57 – good point. And it’s not like Amos 9:11-12 says, “And when gentiles enter the assembly of believers in Christ Jesus they will not have to be circumcised.”

  59. TurretinFan (#53),

    I enjoyed the article you wrote on your blog about this. Well done! It crystallizes many of the thoughts that have been swirling about in my head since Jason wrote this post. And what’s really disturbing to me–as you pointed out–is this “mocking” attitude toward Christians who would put their entire trust and reliance on the Word of God. I find this quite disturbing, but then again, it’s been Rome’s supercilious mindset for centuries.

    You pointed out (as I did in #30 above when challenged to produce even one scripture passage that relates to the Gentiles’ not needing to be circumcised in order to be saved) that there are many OT passages which address this question. Judging by Jason’s lack of response, I can assume he’s yielded half of his argument—that is, that the Jerusalem council did not, for some reason, base its decision on the scriptures. What in the world were they debating, then?

    Now that no claim can be made that the Jerusalem council did not examine the holy Scriptures before coming to its decision, it all boils down, once again, to what Rome always proposes: sola ecclesia. Rome and its leaders can do, say, or promuIgate pretty much anything as long as it has the magisterium’s stamp of approval. I really could wish that Jason would come out of the RC church and save himself some future grief. But like a man who’s quite taken with a woman who’s really not good for him, he’s in the “infatuation” stage, and doesn’t realize what this woman is really like.

    Regards,

    Daniel

  60. Daniel.

    # 59

    Nobody here is mocking anybody else. Lets stay on topic.

  61. Daniel (#59),

    An old covenant reader of scripture would need apostolic teaching (see #57) to arrive at and warrant the conclusion that circumcision would one day cease as a requirement for Gentile converts to Yahweh. Without such authoratative teaching and tradition, the text (Gen. 15:6) relating Abram’s faith before circumcision would naturally be attached to the rest of the story in which he was circumcised after faith. Such could then be used to argue that when Gentiles come to faith like Abram, they should be circumcised like Abraham. This would be a plausible reading, and one in part which the Judaizers may well have adopted.

    Again, your assurance on this point is owing to the apostlic teaching on the subject, not on your ability to exegete a particular passage or verse in isolation from the authentic interpretation given through apostolic tradition. Simply put – your confidence about this matter is based on the reality that the apostles said “No” to the Judaizer’s “Yes”.

    Blessings,

    — Jason

  62. Daniel, (re# 49 and 50):

    You wrote:

    It’s not the church leadership’s place to discipline an erring bishop? Really? St. Paul stood up to find fault with “Pope” Peter, but I guess he shouldn’t have, because it “wasn’t his place.” Huh?? St Paul: “Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.”

    I’m trying to follow your argument here. I do not understand why you pull a verse about sexual immorality among the Corinthians and apply it to JPII’s poor judgement, born of a perhaps excessive zeal for ecumenism? Proportionality, anyone?

    You wrote:

    “And there was a lot of distinctiveness on hand. Standing [!!!] on the altar of St. Mary of the Angels basilica, Wande Abimbola of Nigeria, representing Africa’s traditional Yoruba religion, sang a prayer and shook a percussion instrument as he told the delegates that peace can only come with greater respect for indigenous religions.

    ‘We must always remember that our own religion, along with the religions practiced by other people, are valid and precious in the eyes of the Almighty, who created all of us with such plural and different ways of life and belief systems,’ he said.”

    How could a Christian be in fellowship with this?

    You seriously think Pope Benedict had personal knowledge that someone was going to mount the altar in that fashion and personally approved it ahead of time? I cannot take this idea seriously and do not think you do, either.

    And who is it, exactly, that you think is “in fellowship with this” (whatever you mean by “this”)? Because someone did not publicly humiliate this person with very poor judgement who mounted altar by pulling him down and chastising him on the spot, you take that as an indication of “fellowship”?

    I do agree with you that this fellow sounds like an idolater (it sounds like he practices some form of animism, perhaps), but how does that make Pope Benedict an idolater? Again, I cannot believe you are serious in leveling this scurrilous charge against the Pope personally. There is no warrant whatsoever for claiming he or the Church is “in union” with this idolater, and I think you know it, too.

    It does sound like you harbor great animosity towards the Roman Catholic Church now that you’ve been “spurned” at the table because of your failure to (apparently) understand or accept her Eucharistic doctrines. I’m sorry you seem not to have understood that before you entered the Church (if you ever did — that’s still unclear to me), but that onus is on you, Daniel.

    Now that I have done you the courtesy of responding to questions/issues raised in three different posts, will you return the courtesy and respond to the question at the conclusion of my #46:

    And let me ask, do you consider any of these non-Catholic creeds or confessions or catechisms as absolutely binding on your conscience, regardless of your personal view of a particular question of dogma, discipline or ecclesiology? If so, which one, and why that one and not others?

    Pax Tecum,
    Frank

  63. TurretinFan said in #53:

    1) Amos 9:11-12 does answer the question of whether circumcision is necessary…That may not be perspicuous to you, but it is the reason that James quoted it.

    It appears that it was not perspicuous to them either, at least according to Acts 15:1, “This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.” If there was a dispute and sharp debate it must not have been quite so clear cut.

    The question for Daniel and TurretinFan is: when the Apostles made their decision and it was made public, were all Christians (ethnic Jew and/or Gentile) bound to that ruling? Or would the Judaizers have been perfectly right to visibly separate from the Apostles and continue mandating circumcision for Gentile converts, based on the fact that they could reasonably have made their case from the Scriptures?

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  64. Nick,

    I’ll take a look at the links.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  65. @ Aaron Goodrich #53, & Jason Stewart,

    Let me begin by stating how I interpret your statements so that you can correct me if I have misunderstood you.

    You both say that the meaning of Amos 9:11 is not perspicuous. Therefore, the assembled Apostles and bishops make an infallible ruling based on their office and not on their exegesis. Their ruling is that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised. Consequently, the arbiter in this dispute is the Apostles. Granted James does appeal to Amos 9, but the reason Amos 9 is usable as evidence is because of James’ office. Though you have not stated this explicitly, I’ve inferred it from the premise that Amos 9:11 is not perspicuous.

    How can I come to a better understanding of your view?

    As it currently stands, I think that this raises a number of hermeneutical and linguistic problems, most of which is whether or not the reader can discern the meaning of the writer. If Amos 9:11 does not have a discernible meaning outside of the Church, I struggle to understand why James appeals to it and why God has given his people his Word at all. These questions are all questions that we can approach when and if I understand your position correctly, however.

    Look forward to the stimulating replies.

  66. Amos 9 is materially sufficient, not formally. It is OT prophecy/typology that is not “plain, everyday language” so ultimately an authoritative interpretive lens must be used. And given that the Gentiles didn’t come into the Church until something like 10 years after Pentecost means literally everyone was living as a Jew to some extent for the first decade of the Church’s existence.

  67. RefProf RE#64
    I can’t speak for Mr. Stewart but for me here goes:

    You both say that the meaning of Amos 9:11 is not perspicuous.

    I would posit that, yes.

    the assembled Apostles and bishops make an infallible ruling based on their office and not on their exegesis.

    I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. I think the Apostles made a ruling based on their office, said office uniquely guided by the Holy Spirit, precisely doing, among other things, exegesis.

    the arbiter in this dispute is the Apostles

    By virtue of the authority they were given by Christ to bind and loose, yes.

    but the reason Amos 9 is usable as evidence is because of James’ office

    No, it is usable as evidence because the Apostles believed it to be the Word of God.

    I look forward to the dialog as well.

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  68. Aaron,

    Thanks for your response. First you say,

    I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. I think the Apostles made a ruling based on their office, said office uniquely guided by the Holy Spirit, precisely doing, among other things, exegesis.

    Your reference is to my question placing exegesis and the declaration of the Apostles against one another. Let me attempt to clarify my question.

    I understand that you are arguing that Apostles did in fact exegete the passage. I think everyone is agreed here. Am I right to assume however, that the reason that this exegesis is binding is because the council declared it to be so? You have argued that there are numerous ways to interpret Amos 9, which the Judaizers did, so Scripture itself cannot be the arbiter. An interpreter of Scripture must decide between the two parties.

    Obviously interpretation entails exegesis, so I don’t want to suggest that you are arguing that there is no exegesis. The implication of your position (as I understand it) however, is that Scripture has no discernible meaning apart from the interpretation of the church. It would seem then that this leads to a voluntarism of sorts on part of the church. The meaning of the text is what the church says it is, not necessarily what it actually is (because the meaning of the text in not perspicuous).

    This is exactly why I ask about James’ use of Amos 9. What ground his exegesis? His office. So it is not really Amos 9 itself, but it is Amos 9 as in the interpretation of James that is binding. I understand why you respond that the Apostles used Amos 9 because they believed it to be the Word of God but this seems to me to be the point. The Apostles recognize that God’s Word speaks to this issue and they saw that it spoke to it perspicuously.

    I’d love to hear more of your thoughts, Aaron.

  69. RefProt,

    In response to your previous comment, I would like to make a few points (not to preempt Aaron’s response, but just in passing):

    You wrote:

    Am I right to assume however, that the reason that this exegesis is binding is because the council declared it to be so?

    Just to be clear, it is the Council’s *conclusion* that is binding, not their exegesis, which is the interpretive process that (in part) led to the conclusion.

    You wrote:

    The implication of your position (as I understand it) however, is that Scripture has no discernible meaning apart from the interpretation of the church.

    Scripture has no discernible meaning apart from interpretation, period. Interpretation is the means by which we come to discern the meaning of the text.

    You wrote:

    The meaning of the text is what the church says it is, not necessarily what it actually is (because the meaning of the text in not perspicuous).

    This is a both/and, not an either/or. What the Church says is the meaning of the text is the actual meaning of the text, whether or not the text is perspicuous. This is not because the Church creates that meaning, but because she is protected from error in articulating the meaning of divine revelation, when defining a matter of faith or morals.

    [Update: Between the second and third responses, above, I should have added something that answered your question and tied the responses together. Here is that something: Of course we can, in a natural way, understand the meaning of a text, including a biblical text, apart from the interpretation of the Church. But the Church can also, in her own peculiar way (qua Church), understand the meaning of a text. Perhaps the key difference between Protestants and Catholics is what to do when my own understanding conflicts with the Church’s understanding of the meaning of Sacred Scripture.]

  70. re 65

    In Acts Peter is given a vision and then sent to Cornelius’ house. Cornelius is believed to be a pagan in sympathy with Jerusalem but unwilling to be circumcised, and is known as a “righteous Gentile.”

    Peter receives Cornelius and his household into the Church via baptism based on Cornelius response to the good news as borne by Peter. The important refrain coming out of that revelation and visit is that
    evidently God can even save the pagans. There is no evidence that Cornelius or anyone in his household was required to submit to circumcision subsequent to being baptized into the Church.

    Later, Paul who has been fighting the Judaizers (those demanding that Jesus be approached through Moses’ works of the Law) turns it over to the Church in Jerusalem, to Peter, James and John who Paul sees as pillars of the Church. Peter gives the same answer he gave for receiving Cornelius and the others fall in line.

    The requirements laid on Paul’s converts are meant to keep them from falling back into idolatry. In this they are the same in spirit as many of those laid on the Jews who were required by God to kill animals sacred to the Egyptians. Hard to worship the Egyptian gods one is killing, especially if the killing is repeated. Whatever the fleshpots of Egypt were, Paul’s new converts to the Church had their own “fleshpots,” including literal temple prostitution, that they needed to avoid.

    What the apostles did at the Council of Jerusalem is what Moses did in the desert: Separate the slaves / new converts from their old thinking.

    Cordially,

    dt

  71. RefProt RE#67
    Thanks for your response. You said:

    Am I right to assume however, that the reason that this exegesis is binding is because the council declared it to be so?

    Yes

    Next you said:

    The implication of your position (as I understand it) however, is that Scripture has no discernible meaning apart from the interpretation of the church.

    No, actually I would posit that Scripture has many many discernible meanings, the question is which one is the right one. And the right one may be defined as that meaning that the author intended. And I don’t just mean Scripture’s human authors.

    You said:

    The meaning of the text is what the church says it is, not necessarily what it actually is (because the meaning of the text in not perspicuous).

    When the Magisterium definitively interprets Scripture then what the Church says it means and what it actually means are one and the same.

    You said:

    The Apostles recognize that God’s Word speaks to this issue and they saw that it spoke to it perspicuously.

    I don’t know that you can infer that they regarded Amos 9 as perspicuously addressing this issue. Acts 15:7 says, “after much discussion” Peter addressed those gathered. And, further, it took testimony from Paul and Barnabas to drive the point home. Only then did they make a binding decision.

    Hope that helps!

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  72. So many responses! Let me address the easiest one first.

    Jesse asked: “So the best argument you have agaisnt Rome is that the Papacy was a development? Really? You must be one of those Protesters who thinks that the canon was established in 33 AD.”

    I will take your questions as intended sincerely, since I understand that such is the spirit of this forum.

    There are numerous arguments that I have against Rome. It is very hard to pick one best one. The papacy is a very important one. There are, on the topic of the papacy, numerous arguments – both in terms of topics of argument (primacy, universal jurisdiction, infallibility, relation to ecumenical councils, and so on) and in terms of points of argument (Vatican I can be critiqued on its own merits, in terms of its justification Biblical and Historical for its papal doctrines, for example). I pointed out one of the relatively key points – that the apostolic church wasn’t a papacy. I suppose folks like Sullivan would try to argue that the papacy is justified on some other grounds – but I think that argument is full of holes.

    Regarding the canon, the Old Testament canon, of course, was already closed in A.D. 33. That’s why when Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Search the Scriptures,” they didn’t respond, “If only someone had defined the canon already!” Moreover, while Christians in later generations sometimes disputed a few of the New Testament books, the books of the New Testament were recognized as Scripture within the apostolic era (we see Paul refer to the Gospel of Luke as Scripture, cf. 1 Timothy 5:18 and Luke 10:7 – and we see Peter refer to Paul’s epistles as Scripture, 2 Peter 3:15-16).

    Hopefully that answers your questions.

    -TurretinFan

  73. I’ll go for another relatively short one next.

    Aaron, you wrote: “It appears that it was not perspicuous to them either, at least according to Acts 15:1, “This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.” If there was a dispute and sharp debate it must not have been quite so clear cut.”

    a) I am sure that your hidden puns are unintentional. (Grinning) Humor aside …

    b) It seems the matter wasn’t clear cut to everyone – particularly not to those promoting what Paul opposed. Why wasn’t it clear? It seems that there were folks in Antioch claiming that back in Jerusalem, James taught that circumcision of the Gentiles was necessary (which, in fact, James had not taught). You see, a pure crystal can appear blurry to a person with cataracts. Even so, apparent lack of clarity in Scripture may be due not to any obscurity in the text, but rather to a deficiency in the person.

    c) Of course, we don’t know what arguments Paul used, beyond the argument that Peter was employing a double standard: he was compelling the Gentiles to live like the Jews, while he himself was not observing the law! (Galatians 2:14) We are not told whether Paul quoted from Amos (or any other Scripture) in Antioch. So, we cannot say what the effect of that Scripture had or would have had on the Antiochene crowd.

    You continued: “The question for Daniel and TurretinFan is: when the Apostles made their decision and it was made public, were all Christians (ethnic Jew and/or Gentile) bound to that ruling?”

    a) The letter was written only to a specific group of Gentiles. I assume that you yourself agree that you are not bound by the letter, in that you don’t feel obliged to avoid consuming blood. So, no – that letter did not and does not bind “all Christians.”

    b) The argument of the apostles is compelling, regardless of the authority of the apostles as such. By denying that circumcision is necessary for Gentiles, they were affirming what Scripture itself teaches. So, their letter was binding for at least those reasons.

    c) Moreover, the apostles were uniquely gifted with the Holy Spirit, so that by the laying on of their hands (and only their hands, it appears), the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit (tongues etc.) were given to believers. So, apostolic teaching had a special degree of authority.

    d) That said, if the apostles had taught something contrary to Scripture, then we would rightly reject it. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to teach us:

    Galatians 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

    e) Moreover, as Paul noted, while James, Cephas, and John all seemed to be pillars (Galatians 2:9), when he came to Antioch he had to resist Peter to his face, because he was to be blamed (Galatians 2:12). So, it is possible to resist the apostles themselves, notwithstanding their apostolic authority. Indeed, it appears that Barnabas may have joined the resistance against Paul (Galatians 2:13) initially.

    You wrote: “Or would the Judaizers have been perfectly right to visibly separate from the Apostles and continue mandating circumcision for Gentile converts, based on the fact that they could reasonably have made their case from the Scriptures?”

    a) The Judaizers were never right to mandate circumcision. They were not right before the assembly met in Jerusalem. Their opinion expressed in the assembly was not right. And they would have continued to have been wrong to mandate circumcision.

    b) Visible separation is sometimes necessary when people cannot agree with one another over something important. In fact, Acts 15 provides the first example of that:

    Acts 15:36-41
    And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; and Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

    c) The Judaizers couldn’t “reasonably make their case from Scripture.” Why do you try to legitimize their position in this way? Does Scripture make this claim for them? Their position was wrong. Paul knew it was wrong before the assembly, and was willing to resist and rebuke Peter, one of the apparent pillars of the church, over the matter. Paul didn’t think that the Judaizers had a reasonable case – why do you think so?

    Hopefully that answers your questions and provides you with something to think about, Aaron.

    Lord willing, I will address some more of the responses tomorrow.

    Peace and blessings be to those who serve the Lord alone (1 Samuel 7:3)!

    -TurretinFan

  74. Jason (#61),

    I have no objection to acknowledging my debt to the apostles. I am grateful for the apostolic tradition regarding circumcision and the Gentiles. I agree that I wouldn’t understand certain passages in the OT without their inspired interpretation. I affirm that throughout much of church history, the church looks “catholic.”

    So far so good.

    So why wouldn’t I jump at the chance to be Roman Catholic?

    It’s because of what this church has morphed into. Instead of simply believing the apostolic deposit, the Roman church requires–since the beginning of the Middle Ages or so–that I must also submit my will to other doctrines and practices opposed to the apostolic deposit but which are taught and proposed by the Pope and the bishops. If I don’t, they say I’ll be eternally damned (or at least they used to say that–it’s hard to keep track of the contradictory, ever-changing infallible statements made by the Pope and the bishops).

    For example:

    The pre-Vatican II church said I will be damned if I’m not a Catholic; the post-Vatican II church says I might not be damned. Which infallible statement should I believe?

    The pre-Vatican II church said that the cup is forbidden to the laity (council of Trent). The post-Vatican II church says that yeah, maybe sometimes I’m allowed it–if it’s been permitted by my bishop (which it isn’t in most parts of the world). So why doesn’t the post-Vatican II church follow the infallible decrees of Trent?

    Regards,

    Daniel

  75. Frank (#62),

    You said:

    “I’m trying to follow your argument here. I do not understand why you pull a verse about sexual immorality among the Corinthians and apply it to JPII’s poor judgement, born of a perhaps excessive zeal for ecumenism? Proportionality, anyone?”

    Well, I was hoping that you would take the specific statement regarding the Corinthians’ lack of sorrow over sexual sin in their midst, and apply the same sentiment generally to the Catholic Church’s lack of sorrow over Benedict’s and JPII’s sin of idolatry in its midst.

    You said:

    “You seriously think Pope Benedict had personal knowledge that someone was going to mount the altar in that fashion and personally approved it ahead of time? I cannot take this idea seriously and do not think you do, either.”

    Frank, he doesn’t have to be clairvoyant. We’re not dealing with some dodo here. Benedict knew full well about the shenanigans that had taken place previously in Assisi. I sorta kinda think he might have had some inkling that a pagan might attempt to carry out a pagan action.

    You said:

    “And who is it, exactly, that you think is ‘in fellowship with this’ (whatever you mean by ‘this’)? Because someone did not publicly humiliate this person with very poor judgement who mounted altar by pulling him down and chastising him on the spot, you take that as an indication of “fellowship”?

    Frank, Benedict is in fellowship with this by inviting him into the church. “This” refers to the blasphemy and effrontery to the body and blood of Christ perpetrated by the pagan. It was Benedict who invited pagans to come with their worship practices into the church. And yes, someone should have pulled the pagan down and chastised him on the spot. Any good Catholic worth his or her salt would have done so.

    Regards,

    Daniel

  76. Not to distract from or interrupt any dialogue happening, but I want to express my gratitude and great pleasure reading the exchange recently begun by RefProt, here. Much of the recent discussion on C2C recently has veered toward to acrimonious and insincere, and your charitable and genuine tone (and that of Andrew and Aaron) is a model of how we should strive to engage in discussion with each other. Thanks to all involved thus far, I look forward to reading on…

  77. I just read Tur8infan’s article on James White’s blog and my head is spinning.
    He makes the claim that Mr. Stewart is not doing the best exegesis, because he failed to see that the words from Amos have to do with circumcision though they do not use the word circumcision. To prove this he says that text from Acts 15 states that these heathen people “already” belong to the Lord and that circumcision must not be required of them, “That they are referred to as heathen even while being called by the name of the Lord, demonstrates that they do not require circumcision in order to be the followers of God.”
    Did any of the moderators think that verses from Deuteronomy( 30:6; 10:16) speaking of circumcision of the heart could have informed James? And since the expectancy was to be for “all the people”.

    Wasn’t it known during Jesus’ own ministry that He was fulfilling the law and giving a new commandment, signifying to the Jews that something new had arrived? If this was understood by the Apostles, then it would make sense that anyone imposing Jewish signification( circumcision of the flesh) on a people who had already been called of God , would be termed “Judaizers”, and wrong.

  78. correction: If this was understood by the Apostles, then it would make sense that anyone imposing Jewish signification( circumcision of the flesh) on a people who had already been called of God , would be wrong.

    Turretin Fan makes the case that the Apostles in Acts weren’t working with one small piece from Amos, though admittedly, that section and the prophecy of Simeon where….. interestingly enough Jesus has been brought to the Temple to be circumcised……are all that is mentioned.

  79. Daniel asks: You [TurrentinFan] pointed out … that there are many OT passages which address this question. Judging by Jason’s lack of response, I can assume he’s yielded half of his argument—that is, that the Jerusalem council did not, for some reason, base its decision on the scriptures. What in the world were they debating, then?

    First, I fail to see where Jason Stewart has denied that the meaning of the Jewish scriptures was discussed at the Council of Jerusalem. That seems unlikely to me, since Paul was at the Council of Jerusalem, and Paul brought along witnesses that could testify to Paul’s account of the dispute that arose among the Christians in Antioch. Do we need to speculate how Paul would have given a scriptural argument against the false doctrine that circumcision for Gentile men was necessary for their salvation? I don’t think so, since Paul lays out his scriptural arguments in several of his letters that are in the Bible, especially his letter to the church in Galacia. I think it is at least plausible to believe that Paul gave his scriptural reasons for his opposition to Gentile circumcision at the Jerusalem Council. To me, that seems plausible since we know that Paul testified at the Council of Jerusalem.

    It seems to me that the Protestants discussing Jason’s article are missing the point that the Council of Jerusalem is the putting into action Christ’s teaching of Matthew 18:15-19. Christ’s teaching in Matthew 18:15-19 gives us the reason why the community in Antioch sent witnesses (“Paul and Barnabas and some of the others“) to the Apostles and the elders for a ruling on the doctrinal dispute. If Paul’s personal interpretations of the scriptures were sufficient to settle the doctrinal dispute in Antioch, the community in Antioch would not have sought a ruling from the Apostles and the elders. But they did – and Matthew 18:15-19 gives us the reason why they did not rely solely on Paul’s personal interpretations of the scriptures.

    Second point, Daniel asks what else was being debated at the Council of Jerusalem. Obviously there was more than just an exegesis of the Jewish Scriptures being discussed at this Council.

    And after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

    And all the assembly kept silence; and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
    Acts 15: 7-12

    It is interesting to me that the signs and wonders carry so much weight as evidence, with no mention of scriptural exegesis even mentioned in the passage above. That is interesting to me because it shows that the Apostles and the elders in Jerusalem weren’t hamstrung by Protestant sola scripura doctrine. Acts 15: 7-11 make specific reference to the signs and wonders that Peter experienced that brought Peter to his conclusion that Gentiles will be “shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus”. The signs and wonders that Peter experienced are mentioned in the previous chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. One wonder relevant to the case under is the mysterious vision of Peter when he was in Joppa (Acts 10: 9-17). Another wonder that is specifically mentioned as evidence at the Council of Jerusalem is that the Holy Spirit fell on the household of Cornelius before these Gentiles were even baptized. (Acts 15: 7-11).

    While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
    Acts 10: 44-48

    The signs and wonders experienced by Paul, Barnabas and the Apostle Peter are specifically mentioned as to what was discussed at the Council of Jerusalem. It was the signs and wonders experienced by the Apostles Peter and Paul that led Bishop James to his correct interpretation of the Jewish scriptures. The correct interpretation of the Jewish scriptures did not come prior to the experiencing of signs and wonders; the correct interpretation of the scriptures comes after the experiencing of the signs and wonders. That is the scriptural pattern after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – the Holy Spirit moves first and leads the way, then comes the correct understanding of scriptures. The Holy Spirit grants the charism of infallibility, and only then does Christ’s church receive her inerrant interpretation of the scriptures.

  80. TurretinFan RE#73
    Thanks for your response. You said:

    b)…apparent lack of clarity in Scripture may be due not to any obscurity in the text, but rather to a deficiency in the person

    I don’t know where to begin with this one. What is the nature of this “deficiency?” Intellectual? Spiritual? Moral? How does one know if one is “deficient” such that they are not seeing the Scriptures with “clarity?” Is it whether or not they agree with you?
    Then you said:

    b)…The argument of the apostles is compelling…they were affirming what Scripture itself teaches. So, their letter was binding for at least those reasons.

    It was compelling to you, but not to the Judaizers, likewise with Amos 9. Again, it couldn’t have been but so compelling given that there was so much dispute on the issue.
    You said:

    c) Moreover, the apostles were uniquely gifted with the Holy Spirit, so that by the laying on of their hands (and only their hands, it appears), the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit (tongues etc.) were given to believers. So, apostolic teaching had a special degree of authority.

    We have no disagreement here. Where we disagree is that you claim that this “unique gifting” and “special degree of authority” ended with the Apostles (which is nowhere found in Scripture). That this “unique gifting” and “special degree of authority” were passed on to their successors was never in dispute for 1500 years (East or West) and even when the Reformers disputed it it remains the belief of the vast majority of Christians since then and now to this day. To argue that it has been so misunderstood for so long and continues to be, but not by you, is special pleading.

    You said:

    d) That said, if the apostles had taught something contrary to Scripture, then we would rightly reject it.

    That still applies today. The Magisterium has never definitively taught something contrary to Scripture.

    You said:

    b) Visible separation is sometimes necessary when people cannot agree with one another over something important. In fact, Acts 15 provides the first example of that:

    You’ve shifted the goalpost; that was not a doctrinal dispute.

    I look forward to your response.

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  81. I would offer this for TurretinFan and others with the same outlook. It is intended strictly as a focus for thought. If you want to know who agrees with your interpretation of scripture, merely open the Yellow Pages to Church and read the major subheadings. If you want to know what those major subheadings believe, Google them and look for their doctrinal positions. Some, I think of Anglicans / Episcopalians, Lutherans, Reformed/ Presbyterians, Orthodox and Catholics will have lots of information. Others will be sparse and many are in between. My own previous evangelicalism will posit scripture, but since a lot of the congregations are self-determining on what scripture means, heavy duty formal doctrinal positions will be virtually non-existent.

    If you are really serious, chart them. I believe most will give you the reason/s for what they believe, at least to the depth that they do believe it, and you can compare them visa-vie one another.

    It is a difficult effort, and not all parts of Lutheranism or Calvinism are in complete agreement about what Luther or Calvin said. This might charitably be recognized as a problem of interpretation, and hence disagreement. But in the main, there are points which are common and can give you a fix on why they largely believe what they believe.

    In the fractured world of evangelicalism it is not so easy, as there is no centralized authority or even an attempt at such. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) took charge of its bible colleges and seminaries to enforce a very conservative belief set on its professors and hence its potential clergy, all the while knowing that if a congregation wanted to believe something different, the SBC is not in a position to impose on that congregation. When the individual believer is the determinant of what is believed, the SBC has an insurmountable difficulty.

    Before I left the Assemblies of God (roughly 40 years ago) there was a split forming. There were the classical Pentecostals and a major group (heralded by Jimmy Swaggart) who were pushing to be Baptists who speak in tongues (which was a disparaging phrase we invented inside of the AG). This resolved itself in the Christian Life Centers, and while I haven’t paid a lot of attention, I believe that these have dissolved into a lot of independent churches and congregations which may or may not involve charismata, and may or may not still exist, but would almost certainly have new clergy with new beliefs by now.

    I am sure that once you get to the Independent Churches in the Yellow Pages you are on your own. I am aware of their existence but have little experience and less interest so I cannot help you even with a bit of history.

    Cordially,

    dt

  82. Aaron,

    At the end of your last comment, you wrote: “that was not a doctrinal dispute.” In context, it seems that you are referring to the dispute that was addressed by the Jerusalem Council, concerning whether or not it is necessary for Gentiles to be circumcised and to keep the law of Moses. James’ written communication to the Church in Antioch does prescribe certain disciplines for the faithful there, but it is doctrinal to the extent that it does not enforce the necessity of circumcision and the Mosaic Law (per se), reflecting the Council’s doctrinal decision that such observances are not necessary for salvation (Acts 15:7-11). If we also consider the letters of St. Paul that address this dispute, then it becomes very clear that it was a doctrinal dispute about the Gospel itself.

    I may have misunderstood your comment, but I think that it is important to acknowledge that the Judaizers who preferred their own interpretation of Sacred Scripture to the interpretation of the Church as made manifest in the Council were not only schismatics, but heretics. Of course, their interpretation was wrong before the Council made its decision, but once that decision was made, the Judaizer’s had sufficient reason to change their minds, submitting to the Church’s authoritative interpretation of Scripture, thus preserving unity in the bond of peace. That some did not submit to the Church is evident from other Scriptures (written after the Council). Thus arose perhaps the first of many schisms and heresies.

  83. Andrew, thanks for pointing out the possible misunderstanding. Yes the central issue in Acts 15 was certainly doctrinal. I should have made the blockquote I used from TurritenFan in #73 larger. In it he specifically references Acts 15:36-41 when saying “Visible separation is sometimes necessary when people cannot agree with one another over something important.” And what is related in Acts 15:36-41, and thus according to TurretinFan necessitates a visible separation, was not doctrinal but rather logistical.

    Sorry for the misunderstanding.

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  84. Aaron,

    Yeah, I missed the specific context of your comment. Thanks for pointing that out. And I agree with you: TF’s reference to that passage certainly shifts the goalposts, since the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was different in kind from the dispute with the Judaizers. This parting of the ways between Paul and Barnabas was not predicated upon a doctrinal difference nor did it amount to a schism from the Church (on the part of either of them).

  85. Daniel, (re #75:)
    You wrote:

    “I’m trying to follow your argument here. I do not understand why you pull a verse about sexual immorality among the Corinthians and apply it to JPII’s poor judgement, born of a perhaps excessive zeal for ecumenism? Proportionality, anyone?”

    Well, I was hoping that you would take the specific statement regarding the Corinthians’ lack of sorrow over sexual sin in their midst, and apply the same sentiment generally to the Catholic Church’s lack of sorrow over Benedict’s and JPII’s sin of idolatry in its midst.

    1. Poor judgement born of what appears to be an excessive zeal for ecumenism (an excess of charity – if such a thing is possible) does not constitute idolatry. You have not connected the dots with your misplaced (and uncharitable) charge of idolatry.

    2. And, how do you know what private expressions of regret may have followed upon these events? How do you know JPII and BXVI did not go to their confessor and ask forgiveness for any transgressions of omission they felt convicted of? You are speculating, Daniel – nothing more. And your speculations are colored by your animosity towards the RCC.

    3. This is why I did not and do not see any connection between the Assisi events and I Corinthians.

    You wrote:

    Frank, Benedict is in fellowship with this by inviting him into the church. “This” refers to the blasphemy and effrontery to the body and blood of Christ perpetrated by the pagan. It was Benedict who invited pagans to come with their worship practices into the church. And yes, someone should have pulled the pagan down and chastised him on the spot. Any good Catholic worth his or her salt would have done so.

    “Fellowship”and “hospitality” are not the same thing. I have pagan and atheist friends who come to my home, but this does not mean I am “in fellowship” with atheism or paganism.

    There is no way to to know this, but I am firmly convinced that any consecrated hosts in the Church were removed from the altar during these non-Catholic events. This is common practice, for example, when Catholic churches are used for concerts — perhaps you did not know this. When the Host is absent, the Church is just a building like any other and no sacrilege can be committed against wood and stone.

    OK, Daniel. I have now done you the courtesy of responding to four of your posts and you still have not responded to my question from #62, originally posed in #49.

    I appreciate this opportunity to dialog with you, but it can not be entirely one-sided. I will be happy to continue the dialogue if and when you reply to my question.

    Pax Tecum,
    Frank

  86. Mateo (#79),

    I think it is at least plausible to believe that Paul gave his scriptural reasons for his opposition to Gentile circumcision at the Jerusalem Council. To me, that seems plausible since we know that Paul testified at the Council of Jerusalem.

    I believe you’re right. But at the beginning of this blog, the premise was that the Scriptures were not consulted (except for Amos, which Bishop James kind of added on for good measure). Can we all agree now that the council included the Scriptures in its decision-making process?

    It is interesting to me that the signs and wonders carry so much weight as evidence, with no mention of scriptural exegesis even mentioned in the passage above. That is interesting to me because it shows that the Apostles and the elders in Jerusalem weren’t hamstrung by Protestant sola scriptura doctrine.

    1. But you already said it was plausible that St. Paul provided scriptural reasoning at the council.
    2. Why shouldn’t the signs and wonders carry weight? We’re dealing with overt acts of the Holy Spirit in the apostolic age.
    3. Are you therefore equating the apostles’ authority with the popes and bishops who came later? And by that do you mean that church authorities’ decisions can never be questioned? As TurretinFan stated, the apostles themselves were questioned about their decisions and actions. Do you believe that the pope and bishops are somehow above the apostles, that their decisions can never be questioned?
    4. Are you implying that Protestants would not consider apostolic signs and wonders as valid evidence? Sola scriptura does not summarily reject extra-scriptural evidence. It only rejects what makes the Word of God void. This is the Protestant “beef” with the Catholic Church. We believe the Catholic Church has voided the Word of God in many ways.

    Finally, this idea that holding a belief that God’s own words are your highest authority somehow “hamstrings” you…I don’t know what to do with this…I guess it must belong to the same category as holy days of “obligation.” (Why in the world Christians would consider the privilege of gathering together to worship God as some sort of “obligation” one has to perform in order to avoid mortal sin is beyond me.)

    Regards,

    Daniel

  87. Aaron,

    In response to my question about meaning in the text you responded,

    No, actually I would posit that Scripture has many many discernible meanings, the question is which one is the right one. And the right one may be defined as that meaning that the author intended. And I don’t just mean Scripture’s human authors.

    Again, let me tell you how I read your response. You say that there are meanings (plural) in a text. I don’t want to necessarily disagree, because a text can have multiple horizons. Clearly, the prophets are a great example for this!

    However, are you saying there are multiple competing meanings of equal validity in a text? Or are you trying to communicate that there are multiple equally valid interpretations of the meaning of the passage?

    The reason I include the term “equally valid” is because the argument seems to assume that there is no way to discern between interpretations. I hear you saying that because the interpretation of the text is at issue, it cannot be the arbiter (because this is where the disagreement is), therefore in order to settle disputes of interpretation, there must be an outside authority.

    Andrew is right to point out that interpretation is part of every quest for meaning. To communicate, texts must be interpreted. What I am attempting to understand is the way in which Rome posits criteria for interpretation.

    As it stands now, in order to establish the authority of the Church I see you attacking the perspicuity of Scripture. For you, the debate over the issue indicates how Scripture cannot itself decide the issue. I remain unpersuaded of this conclusion and think it establishes the exact opposite. It seems that the Word of God is what binds the decision of the council, and not the council itself.

    Furthermore, I am concerned that this type of argument erodes the value of God’s Word. Perhaps to help me you could explain how the Word of God is able to equip the man of God for every good work in your scheme (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

  88. Hello TurretinFan (re: post#72),

    I realize you are already facing numerous posts so I don’t expect you to address everything. I wanted to focus on one thing you said:

    Regarding the canon, the Old Testament canon, of course, was already closed in A.D. 33. That’s why when Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Search the Scriptures,” they didn’t respond, “If only someone had defined the canon already!” Moreover, while Christians in later generations sometimes disputed a few of the New Testament books, the books of the New Testament were recognized as Scripture within the apostolic era (we see Paul refer to the Gospel of Luke as Scripture, cf. 1 Timothy 5:18 and Luke 10:7 – and we see Peter refer to Paul’s epistles as Scripture, 2 Peter 3:15-16).

    (1) When Jesus said “Search the Scriptures,” this doesn’t entail a closed canon. At most it means there was a certain collection agreed upon as Scripture and it could be appealed to for testimony. The dispute between the Pharisees and Sadducees in Acts 23:6-8 could very well be attributed to differences in canon.

    (2) There is no good evidence the NT canon was settled upon early on, especially that early on. And there are good reasons for this. First, some of the writings were private correspondence (Timothy, Titus), so there is no reason to assume people thought, “this is Scripture, let’s pass it on!” Second, it is not certain that Paul referenced Luke’s Gospel in 1 Timothy 5:18, as even John Calvin says it was merely recalling oral teaching of Our Lord. Third, the only time NT writings are called “scripture” is by Peter, but this is in reference to an unspecified number of Paul’s writings (certainly not everything Paul ever wrote was scripture).

    I point these things out because many Protestants take such things for granted, when in fact taking a step back and looking at the data shows there are bigger gaps that cannot be simply accounted for by Scripture alone.

  89. RefProt RE#87,
    First of all, I agree with the sentiments of SB in #76 above, so thank you. Now on to your post, you said:

    You say that there are meanings (plural) in a text. I don’t want to necessarily disagree, because a text can have multiple horizons. Clearly, the prophets are a great example for this!

    Then we are agreed on this, good!

    Next you say:

    However, are you saying there are multiple competing meanings of equal validity in a text?

    No

    So then:

    are you trying to communicate that there are multiple equally valid interpretations of the meaning of the passage?

    Yes, and not just the passage in question but Scripture as a whole.

    Then:

    As it stands now, in order to establish the authority of the Church I see you attacking the perspicuity of Scripture.

    So it seems that the perspicuity of Scripture may be the crux of the issue. This is good, we can go deeper now and see just how far the rabbit hole goes. So yes, I am certainly attacking the perspicuity of Scripture. However, I need not establish this in order to establish the authority of the Church. The authority of the Church was established by Christ to do many things, namely, shepherd the people of God, which involves teaching, administering the Sacraments, and settling disputes (about Scripture as well as other things), among others.

    Then:

    For you, the debate over the issue indicates how Scripture cannot itself decide the issue. I remain unpersuaded of this conclusion and think it establishes the exact opposite.

    Yes, the debate recorded in Acts 15, as well as all the others over the past 2000 years, makes it somewhat obvious (to me) that Scripture itself cannot decide these issues definitively. I appreciate your honesty about being unpersuaded of this, however, a question I would ask you would be: you say Scripture is perspicuous, fair enough, but what would it look like if it were not? And just to let you know where I am going with this, I would posit that it wouldn’t look very different than it does today in Protestantism. So many groups teaching so many wildly different things, all claiming that it is so obvious from Scripture. I look forward to your thoughts on this.

    You said:

    It seems that the Word of God is what binds the decision of the council, and not the council itself.

    Hmmmmm, I’ll have to think on this for a bit. Just shooting from the hip here, as far as I know the Church holds to norma normans non normata. The Scriptures norm other norms, but is itself not normed. So, the Scriptures ‘norm’ the other norms, those being Tradition and the Magisterium. I guess in that sense the council can be said to be bound by the Word of God, as it is rightly wielded by the Apostles. I am not too proud to admit if I am wrong on that so any other Catholics who know their theology on this better than me feel free to jump in and/or point out where I messed up.

    You said:

    Furthermore, I am concerned that this type of argument erodes the value of God’s Word.

    All of us should be concerned if at any point the value of God’s Word is eroded, so we can hold this concern together! And likewise, when I learn about certain teachings of certain Protestant churches that fall so far from anything that we may both agree could be considered historic Christianity, I am concerned that the value God’s Word has been eroded as well.

    And as for 2 Timothy 3:16-17, I find it interesting that Paul, just one verse prior in 15, says “continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it.” This is a direct appeal to the authority of those who taught Timothy. Only after this does he bring up Scripture, which at that point could only have been the OT. So what am I to make of that?

    Let me know if I missed anything or was not otherwise clear (as Andrew pointed out above).

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  90. mateo writes: I think it is at least plausible to believe that Paul gave his scriptural reasons for his opposition to Gentile circumcision at the Jerusalem Council. To me, that seems plausible since we know that Paul testified at the Council of Jerusalem.

    Daniel responds: I believe you’re right. But at the beginning of this blog, the premise was that the Scriptures were not consulted (except for Amos, which Bishop James kind of added on for good measure). Can we all agree now that the council included the Scriptures in its decision-making process?

    What I think is plausible is just my speculation. In the end, all we know is what is written in Acts chapter 15, and that is this: a doctrinal dispute arose among the Christian community in Antioch (a dispute that Acts 15 takes pain to note arose from Christians that were given no instruction to preach the doctrine that is causing the dispute – “ some persons from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions” – Acts 15:24). The dispute in Antioch is NOT settled by Paul’s interpretations of the Jewish scriptures, although again, I would speculate that at least some of the Christians in Antioch were persuaded by Paul’s scriptural argumentation, because the Christians in Antioch move to put into action Christ’s teaching found in Matthew 18:17:

    “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.
    Matt 18:15-17

    The Christians in Antioch that are preaching the doctrine that Gentiles must be circumcised in order to be saved, are the “brothers” that are sinning, since they are preaching a heresy that is tearing apart the church in Antioch. These heretical brothers are confronted by Paul and Barnabas, but to no avail. That lack of resolution over a matter of doctrine concerning salvation causes the final step found in Matthew 18:17 to become operative. The community in Antioch sends “Paul and Barnabas and some of the others” to the members of the church that are authorized to make a definitive ruling on this doctrinal dispute. The men that can make the definitive ruling are the “apostles and the elders” that are in Jerusalem.

    Note that what occurs in Antioch is nothing at all like what one finds within Protestantism today. The church in Antioch is not a Protestant sola scriptura confessing sect that recognizes no authority higher than one’s own personal interpretation of scriptures. Unlike today’s Protestant sects, the church in Antioch takes seriously Christ’s commandment to take the doctrinal dispute to the men that are divinely authorized to settle the dispute.

    Daniel, you said that it was the premise of Jason Stewart’s article that scripture was not consulted in settling the dispute that arose in Antioch, but I don’t see where you are getting that idea. Jason’s fictional Malachi states that he was in Jerusalem on business, that he could only “drop by” as work permitted, i.e. Malachi was NOT present at the debates. However, Malachi does hear the final decree of the Council, and that is where all the private interpretation of the Jewish scriptures begins in Jason’s dialog between Malachi and Phineas. As I see it, the whole point of Jason’s fictional dialog is to expose the problem with basing one’s faith on one’s own private interpretation of the scriptures. If the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience was a normative principle of the early Christians, then we wouldn’t have tens of thousands of Protestant sects like we have to day, we would have millions of Protestants sects that are divided over doctrine. We would have that increased chaos, because there would have been an extra one-thousand-five-hundred years for Protestant doctrinal chaos to spread across the planet.

    mateo writes: It is interesting to me that the signs and wonders carry so much weight as evidence, with no mention of scriptural exegesis even mentioned in the passage above. That is interesting to me because it shows that the Apostles and the elders in Jerusalem weren’t hamstrung by Protestant sola scriptura doctrine.

    Daniel responds: 1. But you already said it was plausible that St. Paul provided scriptural reasoning at the council.

    Plausible doesn’t mean it happened. My point is that it is the signs and wonders wrought by the Holy Spirit that is mentioned in Acts 15, and not exegesis of the Jewish scriptures.

    2. Why shouldn’t the signs and wonders carry weight? We’re dealing with overt acts of the Holy Spirit in the apostolic age.

    Right, the Holy Spirit was operating in the church that Jesus Christ personally founded during the Apostolic age. We agree on that point. But are you arguing for cessationism – that all signs and wonders ceased after the death of the last Apostle?

    3. Are you therefore equating the apostles’ authority with the popes and bishops who came later?

    Not exactly. The Apostles could exercise a “sign and wonder” that did cease after the death of the last Apostle – the Apostles exercised the charism of inspiration, and no living bishop can exercise that particular charism. Public Revelation ceased with the death of the last Apostle. Validly ordained bishop of our era can only exercise the charism of infallibility, that is, under certain specific circumstances, the bishops interpretations of the scriptures have a guarantee from God of being inerrant.

    And by that do you mean that church authorities’ decisions can never be questioned?

    Their decisions cannot be question when the charism of infallibility has been exercised, and that is because God has guaranteed that infallibly defined doctrines are always inerrant.

    As TurretinFan stated, the apostles themselves were questioned about their decisions and actions.

    The formally defined doctrines given to Christ’s church by the Apostles were questioned? By whom? Christ commanded that his disciples must listen to his church or be excommunicated. Men who refuse to listen “even to the church” cease to be members of Christ’s church. Sure, there are heretics that refuse to listen to Christ’s church, but we are warned by the Apostles to not listen to such men.

    Do you believe that the pope and bishops are somehow above the apostles, that their decisions can never be questioned?

    Of course today’s bishops are not above the Apostles. The Apostles gave Christ’s church some of our public Revelation. Popes and bishops cannot add to public Revelation. They can only be servants that preserve public Revelation from corruption.

    4. Are you implying that Protestants would not consider apostolic signs and wonders as valid evidence?

    No, I am saying that some Protestants are no different than the Montanist heretics. Many Protestants think that the Holy Spirit enlightens their personal interpretations of the scriptures to a level that exceeds the authority of the men within Christ’s church that can exercise the charism of infallibility. Martin Luther was such a man – Luther declared that he accepted the authority of no council unless the decrees of the council agreed with Luther’s own personal interpretation of the scriptures.

    Sola scriptura does not summarily reject extra-scriptural evidence. It only rejects what makes the Word of God void.

    Makes the Word of God void according to whom? The Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura is Luther’s protest against any teaching authority that did not submit to Martin Luther. If one embraces the Luther’s doctrine of sola scriptura, one is asserting that ultimately the individual is the highest interpretive authority for that individual. Which is why sola scriptura inevitably degenerates into solo scriptura.

    This is the Protestant “beef” with the Catholic Church. We believe the Catholic Church has voided the Word of God in many ways.

    Of course you do. Each sola scriptura confessing Protestant is his or her own pope, since the final temporal authority for each Protestant is himself or herself. But where does the scriptures teach the papacy of the believer? That is the Catholic’s beef with the Protestants – there is NO scriptural support for the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience nor the daughter doctrine of solo scriptura. Which, it seems to me, is the whole point of Jason Stewart’s fictional dialog.

    Finally, this idea that holding a belief that God’s own words are your highest authority somehow “hamstrings” you…I don’t know what to do with this…

    You don’t have to do anything with this. Protestant are not hamstrung by their belief that scriptures are inspired and inerrant. Protestants are hamstrung by their belief that no individual has any more interpretive authority of the scriptures than anyone else. This deviant belief of Protestantism makes it impossible for Protestants to ever resolve any dispute over doctrine. Hence, they are hamstrung, and they can never move forward when a point of dispute arises among Protestants.

    If the Protestant does not accept the teaching of his Protestant sect, he can just go church shopping, or if he is ambitious, he can found his own personal “bible church” that teaches, quite naturally, his own interpretations of the scriptures. This pernicious practice of church shopping, and the founding of personal bible churches, utterly destroys the teaching of Christ found in Matthew 18:15-19. If I only have to listen to the church when the church agrees with me, then I don’t have to listen to anyone, not even the church that Jesus Christ personally founded.

  91. RefProt (Re: #87):

    I think it is also important to highlight the fact that a valid interpretation of Scripture is inseparable from its context within the Church (just as the Decalogue was not meant to be understood abstractly, apart from the covenant). In other words, Scripture can only be properly understood within the context of the Church, whose foundations were laid by Christ, the Incarnate Word, prior to the formation of the canon (and prior to the written NT scriptures as well). In light of this, then, emphasizing one should not entail denigrating the other. To say that the Bible is not perspicuous to each individual reader should not be construed as an erosion of the Word–it is simply recognizing the fact that the Bible is inseparable from the Church and vice versa.

  92. Jason,

    Thanks for your response.

    You wrote: “I’m going to suggest that the meaning of Amos’ prophecy is obvious to us because St. James and the Council clarified and authentically interpreted the text (and consequently others like it) through the lens of apostolic tradition.”

    a) Perhaps the meaning is “obvious” even without the help of James. The problem is that in hindsight a lot of things seem obvious – and it’s pretty much impossible for us to set aside the other things we know.

    b) Even if it were not “obvious” with the assistance of James, James’ explanation is rational – it persuades by virtue of correct reasoning recommending itself to us. Therefore, it does not require any additional authority. It’s kind of like figuring out how to see one of those “Magic Eye” pictures. Once someone shows you how, you can do it. Their assistance doesn’t have to be infallible or even “authoritative” to help you see what is there.

    c) James didn’t interpret it “through the lens of apostolic tradition,” although he did interpret it in view of the special revelation given to Peter and his experience with Cornelius, as well as Paul and Barnabas’ experience with the Gentiles. There wasn’t some sort of “apostolic tradition” about what Amos 9:11-12 meant.

    d) You may wonder why then it was important that the Jerusalem church clarify matters. One reason is that the Judaizers at Antioch had appealed to an alleged apostolic tradition. The Jerusalem church denied that they had taught such a thing. Thus, it was important for James and the others to have an official denial, because people had gone around claiming that James taught that the Gentiles were to be circumcised.

    e) Nowadays we can (as I mentioned before) determine whether something is apostolic tradition by resorting to what Justin Martyr referred to as the “memoirs” of the apostles. That is how we know what they taught.

    “Standing alone Amos 9:11, 12 can be read in more or less plausible ways in relation to the two sides of the circumcision dispute.”

    a) Of course, Amos 9:11-12 doesn’t stand alone. It stands within a much larger body of historical and prophetic works. I addressed this in more detail in my post.

    b) The characterizations “more or less plausible” seem pretty subjective. Why introduce subjectivity into the discussion, assuming you believe that there is a right and a wrong interpretation?

    “Absent the authoritative definition provided by the Council, there would have been no clear exegetical champion in the debate.”

    a) “Authoritative definition” of what exactly? Are you of the impression that the assembly defined dogma?
    b) Why are you so dubious of the exegetical merits of James’ case on its own two feet? If the assembly had been broken up by Roman soldiers prior to getting around to concluding, why would the exegetical champion have been unclear?

    “Textual speculation and unresolvable division would have necessarily resulted in each party planting their sandals firmly on their understanding of the scriptures.”

    a) Why do you think that “speculation” is necessary? Why do you think that the division is unresolvable from the text?

    b) Moreover, the assembly didn’t end the problem for good. When Paul writes in Galatians, the Judaizers still exist. So, did the Judaizers just plant their sandals in the sand regardless? Perhaps so.

    “The Judaizers could easily receive the words of the prophet Amos, and declare, “Praise Jesus! Pass the knife.””

    a) Claiming to affirm the words of the prophet Amos, while contradicting them is just sophistry. I’ve seen people try to do that before. The fact that people can (and some do) engage in sophistry doesn’t really seem to undermine the text or its inherent authority.

    (Upon reviewing the paragraph above, before posting, I realized you might misunderstand me as suggesting that you are a sophist. What I am saying is you are claiming that the Judaizers could just employ sophistry.)

    b) Moreover, we could go beyond sophistry to simple refusal to obey. They could deny that Amos has authority. They could do lots of things. None of their attempts to get around the meaning of the prophet’s words seem particularly harmful to the actual authority of the words.

    c) Additionally, these are not just the words of Amos, they are the first person speech of God: “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.”

    “Wasn’t the covenant God established in his people’s flesh everlasting (Gen. 17:13)? Had not God established one law of inclusion for both native and stranger (Ex. 12:49)?”

    Of course, these objections are easily answered from Scripture. The covenant God established with Abraham was with him and his seed.

    Genesis 17:7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.

    As for Exodus 12:49, it refers to those who wish to partake of the passover. They must become Jews through circumcision in order to partake of the passover.

    Exodus 12:48
    And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.

    Moreover, as I mentioned before, Amos does not stand alone. God promised judgment upon unfaithful Israel including provoking them to jealousy with non-Jews:

    Deuteronomy 32:21 They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

    Moreover, it was prophesied that the covenant was going to pass away:

    Jeremiah 31:31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

    “Of course, you and I have the benefit of knowing the end of the story.”

    Indeed we do. We also know, as I pointed out above, that Paul still ended up writing Galatians against the Judaizers. So, the end of the story was not “and the Judiazers henceforth stopped trying to impose circumcision.” But we are not like them – we realize that they were opposing Amos and God by insisting as they did.

    “We are privy to the fact that the apostles and presbyters, guided by the promised Holy Spirit and the sure promise of Christ, ruled that circumcision and its corresponding obligations is not binding on Gentile converts.”

    In what way were they guided, though? Guidance from the book of Amos is guidance from the Holy Spirit. The distribution of spiritual gifts to the uncircumcised is additional guidance. Paul was a prophet and more than a prophet, an apostle. So was Peter. So was James the son of Alphaeus. Are you suggesting that any or all of them were exercising their prophetic gifts? Was James prophesying? Were they providentially preserved from error, much like Paul’s life was providentially preserved during the shipwreck?

    Suppose any or all of the above apply. Even still, you have not arrived at some principle that all future assemblies will be similarly providentially blessed, will have prophets and apostles amongst them, or will have the benefit of the extraordinary gifts. The only of those means of guidance of the Holy Spirit that clearly continues is the Scriptures – but men often make bad use of that guidance.

    “We know that the Prophet Amos was called by St. James as a scriptural witness to the Gentiles knocking down the doors of the Church at the Council’s moment in history.”

    He was called as an authority that God had decreed to place his name on Gentiles.

    “We know that Amos’ words agree with what the apostles were experiencing in their ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 15:14, 15).”

    Amos’ words provide the authoritative basis upon which it was possible for the apostles and the rest of the Jerusalem church to draw a conclusion from Peter’s vision and experience, and the experience of Paul and Barnabas.

    “Fast forward twenty centuries and Christian Bible readers get the point (in a non-Judaizing way) when reading the many “Gentile-inclusion” passages of the OT.”

    That’s partly because we have the books of Galatians and Hebrews, no doubt. God’s revelation in Jesus Christ made clear to us what was not as clear to the Jews.

    “We can understand that our full inclusion in God’s kingdom is independent of circumcision because of the apostolic tradition, Bible included.”

    There is not any other apostolic tradition that we reliably know outside the New Testament (Acts included). But the independence between circumcision and salvation is readily seen from the Old Testament itself – even from the very law of Moses, which shows us that Enoch walked with God, long before the ordinance of circumcision was ever given. Likewise, it can be seen from the fact that women were always incapable of being part of the rite. Those who thought that the rite of circumcision saved are as foolish as those who today think that the rite of baptism saves (as though no one was saved before baptism).

    Instead, as taught by Peter the Apostle, right there in Acts 15, we Gentiles are saved the same way the Jews were saved, namely by faith. That’s the same way that Enoch was saved as well.

    “As to the papacy developing, this really is basic Christianity 101.”

    a) No, it’s not.

    b) Actually, what basic Christianity 101 is, is repentance and faith in Christ.

    Hebrews 6:1-2
    Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

    c) The idea of the papacy being a development, as contrasted with an apostolic tradition, perhaps ought to be common knowledge, but the false claims to the contrary persist in your new-found communion. Advocates of the papacy against the Reformation have traditionally relied on making false historical claims for the ancientness of the papacy. But I am glad to understand from your comment that you think this is something everyone does or should know.

    “Every major feature of Christian belief and practice developed over time, the Bible as well as essential doctrines like the Trinity.”

    There’s a major difference between not having a papacy and then later having one, as compared to developing technical language for discussing the Trinity. There’s a significant difference between working out nuanced explanations and teaching doctrines that the apostles did not teach.

    The doctrine of the Trinity that the Reformed churches hold is the same doctrine of the Trinity that the apostles taught. The apostles, however, did not hold to the doctrine of the papacy that you now hold to. There was no person in the church with more authority than Paul, who was the least of the apostles. As it is written:

    1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

    2 Corinthians 11:5 For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.

    “I do not see development as a reasonable argument against affirming St. Peter’s successor.”

    Is the bishop of Rome the successor of Peter? Many of the bishops of Rome have not had the faith of Peter, as evidenced by their unrepentantly wicked lives.

    If the papacy did not begin with Peter (and it did not, it was a development), then in what real way are the bishops of Rome Peter’s successor at all?

    And if Paul withstood Peter to his face because he was compelling the Gentiles to live as the Jews do, even if the bishop of Rome were the successor of Peter, why should not we oppose him when he is to be blamed for compelling men to live according to the traditions of men?

    I had asked: “Tradition of man or Scriptural teaching? Those are the options you have today, since you cannot summon a council of the apostles to ask them whether they transmitted an oral tradition….”

    You replied: “Another option you seem to preclude – I can consult the successors of the apostles and discover what the apostles taught.”

    What makes you think that Benedict XVI has any better knowledge of what the apostles taught? It’s not as though the Vatican Secret Archives contain hidden scrolls of knowledge that the bishops of Rome hand down from one to the other.

    There is no promise in Scripture that the bishop of Rome will never err in doctrine – look at all the bishops of Rome who denied the immaculate conception before all the more recent ones affirmed it.

    http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2010/09/how-many-popes-does-it-take-to-deny.html

    And – yes – I know that the modern dogma of papal infallibility places a variety of caveats on the dogma. The point is simply that it should be obvious that the bishops of Rome have often erred, which undermines the argument that you can simply consult the alleged successor of Peter to determine true doctrine.

    I would write more, but time is short. Hopefully this answers the points raised in your comment. I see that I still have some of the first wave of comments to answer, and some new comments to answer on top of those. I will endeavor to make some progress on those tomorrow, if the Lord wills.

    -TurretinFan

    – TurretinFan

  93. T-Fan,

    You said:

    it persuades by virtue of correct reasoning recommending itself to us. Therefore, it does not require any additional authority. It’s kind of like figuring out how to see one of those “Magic Eye” pictures. Once someone shows you how, you can do it. Their assistance doesn’t have to be infallible or even “authoritative” to help you see what is there.

    1. Could you explain how it is “kind of like”?
    2. Could you differentiate this from logical/metaphysical certainty or is it the same?
    3. What type of person cannot see “Magic Eye” pictures and why? Is it a spiritual, moral or physical defect?

    Thanks!

  94. Frank (#46),

    My apologies for not answering you sooner. Life must go on, even amidst the addiction of blogging.

    Your claim that the Reformers met in council is supposed to prove what? That they met and composed some confessions for non-Catholic Christians. No one denies that.

    It proves that the Reformers did not believe in what you’re claiming all Protestants believe in: the primacy of the individual conscience. They’re meeting in council about doctrine, just like Roman Catholic leaders meet in council about doctrine.

    But, I would ask, what authority did these men have to formulate doctrines that are binding on the consciences of their flocks? Since they were in schism with the Church founded by Jesus Christ, they relinquished Apostolic succession and the conscience-binding authority that goes with it.

    By what authority does Rome formulate doctrines that are binding on the consciences of their flock? Protestants believe that Roman Catholics are the ones who are in schism because they command obedience to traditions of men that are in conflict with apostolic doctrine. After all, apostolic succession is meant to pass on apostolic doctrine. Therefore: Apostolic succession indeed is of value if you obey apostolic doctrine; but if you oppose apostolic doctrine, your succession becomes un-succession.

    And let me ask, do you consider any of these non-Catholic creeds or confessions or catechisms as absolutely binding on your conscience, regardless of your personal view of a particular question of dogma, discipline or ecclesiology? If so, which one, and why that one and not others?

    Which Roman Catholic creeds or confessions or catechisms do you consider as absolutely binding on your conscience? The Baltimore Catechism contradicts the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Let’s say I were to become Catholic. What sort of Catholic should I be: a Vatican II Catholic or a Traditionalist Catholic? Tell me which one you would pick for me, and why that one and not the other.

  95. I was reading a Mateo response above, in part because I enjoy reading Mateo who works his way determinedly through the issue he is addressing. He is much better in this than me. Thank you, Mateo. From Mateo’s response:

    “Finally, this idea that holding a belief that God’s own words are your highest authority somehow “hamstrings” you…I don’t know what to do with this…

    You don’t have to do anything with this. Protestant are not hamstrung by their belief that scriptures are inspired and inerrant.”

    I was on the way out of evangelical Pentecostalism (non-Calvinist) because we did not believe what Jesus was saying, and that tortured me. We made keen claims about being bible believing, and were bible believing except when we were not. Abraham noted to Isaac that God Himself would provide the lamb (for the sacrifice) when Abraham was going to provide Isaac to God as a sacrifice.

    The Passover involved a lamb that had to be eaten, and whose blood was to be spread on the doorposts so that the angel of death would pass over those houses so marked.

    Isaiah noted a lamb being led to the slaughter that was silent before its executioners.

    The Baptist pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” Jesus is the fulfillment of Abraham’s prophecy, of the Passover including its meal, of Isaiah’s prophecy, and of the Baptist’s statement.

    Jesus told us that we would have to eat His Body and drink His Blood to have everlasting life, and we did not believe Him. John 6, the Synoptics, 1st Corinthians 10. It did not matter, we did not believe Him and that He would be the literal fulfillment of the Passover, and we did not believe Paul who was generally the pipeline for interpreting everything. Our bible believing had reached the point where it ceased to be bible believing. I found it impossible to swallow the idea that Jesus could be untrustworthy, and the explanations/justifications I was given for denying Jesus’ words were impossible to swallow.

    The long and short of it was that I was graced to find the place where Jesus’ words were believed. The scriptural underpinnings, necessary for a person like me, were all there. I could see the Passover / Eucharist coming from Genesis on. I could see the Petrine (keeper of the keys) function from Isaiah and Kings. I could see the Gebirah (Mary) from Kings on. I could see our Lord as King and High Priest from the old testament on. Scripture was alive and could be trusted when I was finding Catholicism which holds our Lord as King and High Priest as well as the only acceptable Offering to God the Father. I was no longer at war with myself and I was no longer the rule of faith. It was and is glorious!

    It did not stop there. I saw the forgiveness of sins ala John 20:23 being practiced per John 20:23. Men fail, and I am an object example of that, but it did not stop me from becoming Catholic. God’s own words were not what hamstrung me. It was the aversion to them which afflicted me. I may not live up to them, but I am no longer forced to deny them to maintain a position I could not hold way back in the day.

    Virtually all of the letters I read here are from people with a striking investment in finding the truth, many without regard to what it will cost them. May they all find the truth, please God.

    dt

  96. Donald Todd,

    That was beautifully said.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  97. Daniel (#94)

    In #85 I wrote:

    OK, Daniel. I have now done you the courtesy of responding to four of your posts and you still have not responded to my question from #62, originally posed in #49.

    I appreciate this opportunity to dialog with you, but it can not be entirely one-sided. I will be happy to continue the dialogue if and when you reply to my question.

    Here is the question, referenced from #49,#62, and #85:

    Now that I have done you the courtesy of responding to questions/issues raised in three different posts, will you return the courtesy and respond to the question at the conclusion of my #46:

    And let me ask, do you consider any of these non-Catholic creeds or confessions or catechisms as absolutely binding on your conscience, regardless of your personal view of a particular question of dogma, discipline or ecclesiology? If so, which one, and why that one and not others?

    And here is your response:

    Which Roman Catholic creeds or confessions or catechisms do you consider as absolutely binding on your conscience? The Baltimore Catechism contradicts the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Let’s say I were to become Catholic. What sort of Catholic should I be: a Vatican II Catholic or a Traditionalist Catholic? Tell me which one you would pick for me, and why that one and not the other.

    Note that you have not answered the question, but instead thrown it back in my lap.

    Please answer the original question as it pertains to you and your beliefs.

    Blessings,
    Frank

  98. Josh,

    Briefly, of course interpretation is never in a solipsistic blockhouse. The Church has always been a very important part of the process. Of course the question arises when various bishops or churches disagree. Confessional Protestants have not conceived of it as referring to individuals per se, but that the Scriptures are perspicuous for the rule of the Church.

    This can take us different directions in this discussion but what Aaron and I have been discussing is focused upon hermeneutical issues. It seems to me that it becomes a vicious circle when you say that Scripture is not perspicuous and therefore the church must interpret what it means. The question then becomes which church? And if you bring forward various historical data to differentiate between churches, how do you interpret it? How far does this “inperspicuity” go?

    I wish I could comment further but unfortunately time constraints limit much further interaction for the next week or so. If I can steal some time, perhaps I’ll make it back to see response and provide a brief response.

  99. Donald, I appreciate the compliment. Personally, I think your comments are a great asset to CTC, and I always read them with interest.

    Our bible believing had reached the point where it ceased to be bible believing. I found it impossible to swallow the idea that Jesus could be untrustworthy, and the explanations/justifications I was given for denying Jesus’ words were impossible to swallow.

    Well said, Donald.

    “Why do you call me `Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
    Luke 6:46

    …we did not believe Paul who was generally the pipeline for interpreting everything

    I have noticed that Protestants generally use Paul as “the pipeline for interpreting everything.” That brings up a point that is germane to this thread, and that is the fact that Paul’s authority and brilliance at interpreting the Jewish scriptures was NOT sufficient to settle his dispute with the Christians that were stirring up trouble in Antioch.

    The local church in Antioch sent Paul to the “apostles and the elders” in Jerusalem for a ruling on a matter of doctrine. The fact that Paul went along with this plan shows that Paul believed that his authority was subservient to the authority of the Council in Jerusalem. The Council in Jerusalem vindicated Paul in his dispute with the trouble making Christians that had gone to Antioch. But still, Paul’s vindication over his opponents was not victory that was won on the basis of Paul’s personal authority, but rather, it was a victory that was won on the basis of an authority that was greater than that which Paul personally possessed.

  100. Daniel asserts: Protestants believe that Roman Catholics are the ones who are in schism …

    Say what? Protestants, if they belong to any “church” at all, belong to one of the tens of thousands of institutions founded by mere men and women. The original protesters are given the title “Reformers” by those who believe in the “Reformation”. If the “Reformers” were not trying to reform the church that Jesus Christ personally founded, then what church were they trying to reform, and why were they even bothering to reform her if she wasn’t the church personally founded by Jesus Christ?

    It is impossible that Protestants belong to the church that Jesus Christ personally founded, since no Protestant church has been in existence for more than five-hundred years.

    Daniel asserts: Therefore: Apostolic succession indeed is of value if you obey apostolic doctrine; but if you oppose apostolic doctrine, your succession becomes un-succession.

    And who decides if someone is opposing Apostolic doctrine? The scriptures give us the answer to that question, and it isn’t Aimee Semple McPherson, Martin Luther, Charles Taze Russell, John Calvin or any other man or woman that has founded his or her “bible church”. The scriptures are clear where the authority lies to settle disputes over doctrine, and that authority lies with the church that Jesus Christ personally founded.

    The Council in Jerusalem is a perfect example of how a doctrinal dispute is settled within the church that Christ founded. Protestant rebellion against existing church authority will never be anything more than that what it is – rebellion against existing church authority.

    Daniel writes: It [the fact that Protestants hold “councils”] proves that the Reformers did not believe in what you’re claiming all Protestants believe in: the primacy of the individual conscience.

    It does not prove that! Every Protestant sect was started by some man or woman that was rejecting the authority of some “church” that already existed.

    The initial founder of every Protestant sect was a Lone Ranger Christian that believed that his or her personal interpretation of the scriptures carried more authority than any church on earth. That is true whether the Lone Ranger Christian was John Calvin or Chuck Smith or Mary Baker Eddy. I will acknowledge that that even the Lone Ranger had Tonto as a follower. The fact that followers of a Lone Ranger Christian may at some time hold a “council” to affirm the teaching of their Lone Ranger founder, does not change the fact that the Lone Ranger that started his or her “bible church” believed in the doctrine of the the primacy of the individual conscience. The doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience is the foundation of Protestantism, and Protestantism couldn’t exist without it.

  101. Would someone please address Turretin Fan’s comment.I’d like to know how the bishops of Rome have erred in matters of faith or morals:

    “And – yes – I know that the modern dogma of papal infallibility places a variety of caveats on the dogma. The point is simply that it should be obvious that the bishops of Rome have often erred, which undermines the argument that you can simply consult the alleged successor of Peter to determine true doctrine.”

    Re#94 “Which Roman Catholic creeds or confessions or catechisms do you consider as absolutely binding on your conscience? The Baltimore Catechism contradicts the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Let’s say I were to become Catholic. What sort of Catholic should I be: a Vatican II Catholic or a Traditionalist Catholic? Tell me which one you would pick for me, and why that one and not the other.”

    Would someone please address what is going on here without a long history lesson? Are these catechisms contradictory? If yes, are the differences one/ones change something about man’s salvation or a new way to view God, or is there denigration of the Scriptures, or a new way to consider or treat fellow men?
    I do understand that the Christian Church is ancient and covers the entire world, and that changes to the times are needed. I’m sure there is always a new crop of heretics or dissenters to deal with too, so that would neccessitate a counsil from time to time.

    I know that I’m butting in here, but as far as the catechism binding the conscience, I’d like to say that that obviously changes when you begin to accept a new dogma. As a Protestant, I have feel no conscience about rejecting the doctrines of Mary, because my sect as they believe that this is not to be included as part of true Apostalic Authority, have taken away my being in subjection to this not so perspicable part of Scripture. However, when I am shown from Scripture where the doctrine came from and how it can be proven to be a legitimate interpretation, then am forced by The Holy Spirit to believe the bible over the doctrines of men. How else does one give assent?

  102. RefProt (#98),

    In regard to your second paragraph, I believe Dr. Liccione has an illuminating article on this “vicious circle”:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/02/mathisons-reply-to-cross-and-judisch-a-largely-philosophical-critique/

    Echoing others, I have also appreciated your irenicism. It’s part of what makes this blog a consistently good read.

    – dp

  103. Mateo: (re#100)
    Daniel writes:

    It [the fact that Protestants hold “councils”] proves that the Reformers did not believe in what you’re claiming all Protestants believe in: the primacy of the individual conscience.

    Mateo replied:

    It does not prove that! Every Protestant sect was started by some man or woman that was rejecting the authority of some “church” that already existed.

    The initial founder of every Protestant sect was a Lone Ranger Christian that believed that his or her personal interpretation of the scriptures carried more authority than any church on earth. That is true whether the Lone Ranger Christian was John Calvin or Chuck Smith or Mary Baker Eddy. I will acknowledge that that even the Lone Ranger had Tonto as a follower. The fact that followers of a Lone Ranger Christian may at some time hold a “council” to affirm the teaching of their Lone Ranger founder, does not change the fact that the Lone Ranger that started his or her “bible church” believed in the doctrine of the the primacy of the individual conscience. The doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience is the foundation of Protestantism, and Protestantism couldn’t exist without it.

    Note that I have asked Daniel several times to tell me if considers any of these non-Catholic councils binding on his conscience, and if so, which one, and why that one and not others. The closest he has come to answering that question is to throw it back into my lap:

    Which Roman Catholic creeds or confessions or catechisms do you consider as absolutely binding on your conscience? The Baltimore Catechism contradicts the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Let’s say I were to become Catholic. What sort of Catholic should I be: a Vatican II Catholic or a Traditionalist Catholic? Tell me which one you would pick for me, and why that one and not the other.

    I still await his reply to the question I’ve asked three times now.

    By the way, I want to echo what dt has said about your comments. Your passion and clarity are inspiring.

    Pax Tecum,
    Frank

  104. RefProt (#98):

    Thanks for the response. I appreciate your tone as well.

    . . . what Aaron and I have been discussing is focused upon hermeneutical issues. It seems to me that it becomes a vicious circle when you say that Scripture is not perspicuous and therefore the church must interpret what it means. The question then becomes which church? And if you bring forward various historical data to differentiate between churches, how do you interpret it? How far does this “inperspicuity” go?

    Part of what I am suggesting is that the Church is actually an irreducible part of the hermeneutical grid (‘the intended reader,’ as it were). The Reformation was largely a rejection of this view (consider Tyndale or Luther’s motives for translating Scripture into the vernacular–it was explicitly to get rid of what was considered an ecclesial monopoly on biblical interpretation; “I defy the Pope and all his laws, . . . if God spare my life ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plough, shall know more of the scripture than thou dost”), which would explain why one might, a priori, view interpretation as not involving the Church at the most fundamental level.

    If you grant that Church plays a fundamental, authoritative role in interpreting Scripture, the question is rightly moved to ‘which Church.’ Now it is a question of history and there is an implicit assumption that the true Church cannot err with regard to her interpretation of Scripture since if the Church can and does err, it makes little or no sense to posit an authoritative ecclesial interpretation of Scripture.

    You do say this:

    The Church has always been a very important part of the process. Of course the question arises when various bishops or churches disagree. Confessional Protestants have not conceived of it as referring to individuals per se, but that the Scriptures are perspicuous for the rule of the Church.

    Now when someone disagrees with a given confession (or its interpretation) as being unbiblical, ought s/he be obligated to remain under that denomination’s authority? If you say yes, then confessional Protestants are guilty of what they accuse Catholics of. If you say no, then the ‘very important part’ played by the Church in the interpretation process “for the rule of the Church” amounts to nothing but individual interpretation. I don’t see there being any middle ground.

    What do you think?

  105. Dear Alicia, (re: #101)

    Notice that these assertions always lack specifics. T-Fan seems reasonable when he acknowledges the bounds within which Papal Infallibility applies, but he then follows that up with a broad-brush, question-begging assertion:

    “And – yes – I know that the modern dogma of papal infallibility places a variety of caveats on the dogma. The point is simply that it should be obvious that the bishops of Rome have often erred, which undermines the argument that you can simply consult the alleged successor of Peter to determine true doctrine.

    Note he does not specify what kind of “error” is alleged, and he assumes it is “obvious.” It is obvious to him because from his Protestant point of view it is one of his fundamental presuppositions about the RCC.

    That doesn’t make it so. He has not presented an argument, only evidence of his presuppositions.

    If he brings up instances of personal moral failure, he knows that would be shot down because infallibility has never been claimed for personal moral conduct for anybody. If he brings up a point of doctrine, the responses to him will highlight the fact that he is making the claim of “error” on the basis of his personal interpretation of Scripture – making himself the infallible authority in place of the Church.

    As to the Catechism question, I don’t know what discrepancies Daniel means. I am old enough to have studied the Baltimore Catechism as a youth and the current CCC as an adult. I have seen no changes in doctrines pertaining to faith and morals (the limits within which infallibility applies). Perhaps he’ll supply some specifics that can be discussed.

    Regarding Marian doctrines and the Immaculate Conception specifically, I responded to another Protestant on this site with a thumbnail summary of how the doctrine was developed and what its Scriptural basis is. I am sure others could probably do better with this, but, FWIW, this is what I wrote:

    Henry, (re#126),

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

    So, on to the Immaculate Conception.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Blessings,
    Frank

  106. Hi Alicia,

    I don’t have time to comment much now, but I feel sorry that no one has responded to your question.

    To briefly answer, I don’t know of any time when the Bishop of Rome has erred in a proclamation of faith or morals while speaking infallibly. There are cases where they have erred in a proclamation of faith or morals while not speaking infallibly. Is there a specific case you would like to bring-up?

    Individual teachings in a catechism have exactly the level of authority of whatever document they are based on. So, teachings in the Baltimore catechism which were based on infallible declarations have not changed. However, catechisms do not only include teachings that have been proclaimed infallibly. They also include teachings that have not yet been proclaimed infallibly, but have been held long and widely. These non-infallible teachings sometimes look slightly different in a later catechism than an earlier one. Not usually, but sometimes. This is because the non-infallibly proclaimed doctrines of the church do sometimes change. I view this as a blessing and a healthy thing. I still try to obey and assent to the non-infallibly proclaimed doctrines, even though it is theoretically possible that they will change somewhat in the future. There are many reasons why such obedience and assent make sense; to name but one: very few of the non-infallibly proclaimed doctrines change much anyway.

    To be honest, I don’t understand how one assents to doctrines in Protestantism. But in Catholicism, the process of assenting to a doctrine combines reading / listening to the scriptures yourself, and reading / listening to the Church teach about the scriptures. The reading happens with your bible and then with letters from your pastor, your Bishop, other Bishops, or the Bishop of Rome. The listening happens during the liturgy, where we hear the word of God and then listen to a homily by our pastor or Bishop. I have always found that the Church explains the scriptures beautifully and vice versa.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  107. Alicia,

    It looks like you have a question about the Marian doctrines as well. Two things:

    (1) When I became a practicing Catholic, I had some concerns and confusions about the Marian doctrines as well. Its hard to find the perfect analogy to what I experienced next, but it was as if I learned to love her first, and then I learned to understand. I first made many little acts of faith that the saints, including Mary, could hear my prayers just like my friends on earth can. . . only after much faith did understanding start to come, especially the “eyes” to see Mary in the scriptures. Now, I am amazed when people don’t realize her special role in salvation history. She is the example for every Christian: we should say yes to the Word of God like her, carry the Word of God like her, praise God like her, put up with inconveniences and being shoved aside like her, intercede for others with Jesus like her, and follow Jesus to the cross like her. It’s so clear to me that she is the example for each of us. But you have to live it first, Alicia. Sometimes we understand first in order to love later, but sometimes we need to love and trust first in order to understand.

    (2) I forgot what the second thing was, since I got excited writing the first one.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  108. It seems to me that TFan’s point at the end of #92 is that even when infallibility is not in play, an error by a Pope calls into question the Papacy’s ability to be reliably consulted on matters of doctrinal dispute. For example, take the list he linked to of Popes who have allegedly denied the Immaculate Conception. All of the references appeared to be of the nature that does not entail an exercise in infallibility (sermons, letters, etc.); however, if I was a Catholic in the 5th century and I was privileged enough to consult with Pope Gelasius I (TFan’s 2nd example) whether Mary was without sin or not, and Gelasius responded back “It belongs alone to the immaculate Lamb to have no sin at all,” what am I to do? If I follow his teaching, than I am believing something which is not true (in light of later Catholic dogma). If I reject his teaching, than I am choosing my own opinion over the Vicar of Christ’s (and the Church). The fact that Gelasius’s utterance does not meet the criteria of an infallible proclamation does not seem to help my dilemma.

    Any ideas, Gents? What am I missing?

    (And with that I break my 1 post a year rule on this blog).

    – dp

  109. @K. Doran #106:

    catechisms do not only include teachings that have been proclaimed infallibly. They also include teachings that have not yet been proclaimed infallibly, but have been held long and widely.

    I think a good example might be the idea of the limbus puerorum – “Limbo” Widely held opinion that unbaptised babies who die before the age of responsibility go to a state that is not Heaven – is sort of the highest level of Hell – a place of perfect natural happiness but without the vision of God. This opinion is certainly not infallibly taught and may well not be correct. It is definitely not so widely held as was once the case.

    Whether the Baltimore Catechism teaches this or not I wouldn’t know, but if it does, and if the current Catechism does not, this is a difference but not a change of infallible doctrine.

    jj

  110. Alicia.

    I hope to have more time to go into greater detail. Today in Houston is ‘Go Texan’ day so we’re getting ready for the rodeo.

    To TFan’s argumment that you highlight – suffice to say that there is no such thing as the ‘Vatican II Catholic Church’ or the ‘Baltimore Cathechism’ Church. There is only ONE, Holy, Catholic Church.

    All of Tfan’s statements about Popes erring pays no mind at all to what the Catholic Church actually teaches about infallibility. I mean, even TFan will admit that St Peter, our first pope, wrote 1st and 2nd Peter infallibly even though Peter erred when he denied Christ.

  111. David P (re#108),

    I think what’s missing is the realization that you are not conscience-bound to hold to that Pope’s teaching if you think you have evidence that supports IC. Note that Gelasius does not deny a previously defined doctrine, since the IC as a dogma is not defined until the next millennium. I would say this fictional example would be explained by Blessed Newman’s notion of the Development of Doctrine.

    That’s my best thought on the matter. I’m sure others have something more rigorous to offer.

    Frank

  112. To question #108. That is a very good question, but it makes my heart drop because I fear that if there is no infallible authority than we are all making up our own ideas and eccletial deism is our fate.

    Mr. Jensen what you said: “I think a good example might be the idea of the limbus puerorum – “Limbo” Widely held opinion that unbaptised babies who die before the age of responsibility go to a state that is not Heaven – is sort of the highest level of Hell – a place of perfect natural happiness but without the vision of God. This opinion is certainly not infallibly taught and may well not be correct. It is definitely not so widely held as was once the case.”

    Are you saying Dante is right about circles of heaven?(smile) Ok, this bothers me, but then again, I had no idea what happened to children who die that aren’t baptised anyways. I don’t know if Reformers have an answer for this or not. Is everyone shooting from the cuff,or what on some of these matters? Th

    Is there a list of infallible declarations that we can peruse( smile again, but still serious)

  113. Hi David P.,

    You said: “If I follow his teaching, than I am believing something which is not true (in light of later Catholic dogma). If I reject his teaching, than I am choosing my own opinion over the Vicar of Christ’s (and the Church).”

    This is the kind of things that whole books are probably written about. Catholics have volumes and volumes that have been written (even by Saints, I believe!) about what to do when and conditional on what. I bet Alphonsus Liguori has good advice on this kind of thing, or Robert Bellarmine. You should never underestimate the usefulness of assuming we have already written about all possible dilemmas! Catholics love writing about these things.

    Here’s the deal, though: no Catholic thinks you’re going to be judged for believing the best teaching currently available on a _faith_ issue that hasn’t been settled yet. Good Heavens! I don’t know any Catholics who worry about this kind of thing, and I know plenty whose whole lives are transformed every day by the Church.

    So, yes, Catholics have thought about that kind of thing. But, no, it doesn’t have any importance to my life. I am not going to be judged for inaccurately believing something that is currently taught about Mary but will later be superseded by a more accurate infallible statement. So why do I care?

    If the question is not about the kind of thing you raise, but rather about _moral_ teachings, then the question is more serious. The vast majority of the Church’s moral teachings have been quite consistent in an obvious way over time. But what about areas where the Church’s moral teachings have not been settled? Isn’t this a danger zone, in which we can obey the best advice we’re given and yet still be wrong? Short answer: yes. Life is hard sometimes. But at least many of the Church’s moral teachings are sufficiently settled that they cannot be changed. So we have much to be grateful for, even if future generations will have more to be grateful for.

    Does this help at all? If not, the next step, and one you should definitely take, is to read the moral theology of the great Catholic saints. Especially the stuff from the scholastic period onward, in which our greatest thinkers got all nitpicky about the kind of stuff you mentioned.

    As you read, keep in mind: we have lots of settled doctrine; how does the fact that all questions have not been answered yet mean that we should reject the answers that have been irreformably given?

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  114. Alicia,

    You will learn, as you enter deeply into the Catholic Church, that people are definitely not just shooting from the cuff on non-infallibly taught matters. In fact, these are deep discussions, lasting hundreds of years, and as the Holy Spirit guides the Church during each phase of history, she reaches greater and greater understanding of these issues. Such understanding culminates in infallible dogma. It’s a journey with a real destination, not just a series of interminable cycles of debate with no end. The Catholic Church has made real progress, for example, on understanding the intricacies of Christian moral teaching. This is something that was only available in seed form in the early centuries. The Church is alive and growing, and this growth leads somewhere definite.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  115. re 96

    K Doran,

    Thanks be to God. I was given a gift. It seemed then and seems now that I should proffer that gift to others at no charge, because the Giver of that gift is not limited and does not limit His gift giving to me. I am a son of the Church He founded, a real minor player but a real son and a real player in any case. I would see myself as unappreciative of the gift if I did not display it and offer it to others searching as I did.

    How could I go to confession and confess that I failed to offer this great Gift? I am not much, but I am something and that something is a gift in itself from God. Rather like life, it seems something that is supposed to be passed on, because it is good. I go to confession for other things but failing to offer people what I was given is not one of those things.

    Strangely enough I often seem to be sent to Catholics, as is evident in my parish. The love is there, the desire for the truth is there, but some particular understanding does not appear to be there. Then we (He and me) hear someone say something at which point He illuminates me and I deliver the information to someone who is ready for it. The Master did say to ask, to seek, and to knock.

    For some of the other readers, I won’t be replacing anyone in authority. That is not my call or my job. There is Paul the Apostle, and there is Simon the tanner. If I am fortunate, I’ll be elevated to Simon’s position. For now, I merely listen and then do my best to obey.

    Thanks be to God Who is the Giver of all good gifts.

    Cordially,

    dt

  116. Alicia 101 cont’d…(thanks for some help from Bryan I get to put down a fuller response and still go to the rodeo)

    Regarding “Bishops of Rome that denied the Immaculate Conception.”

    The quotation from Schaff that *TF uses on his blog entry makes it appear as though the “festival of the Conception of Mary” was first celebrated in the twelfth century. However, we have records of its celebration in the 600s; see the lecture at “Mary’s Immaculate Conception.”

    None of the quotations from Pope Leo I, Gregory I or John IV given by TF is contrary to or incompatible with the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, or entail its falsehood, for the very same reason that Romans 3:23 does not contradict the dogma, as explained in comment #1061 of the Solo Scriptura thread, and comment #152 of the Sola Scriptura thread.

    The purpose of these broader statements that all have sinned, etc., is not to treat the question of the time or manner of Mary’s being made free from sin, but to affirm against the Pelagians that in the post-Fall economy, every child is conceived and born in a state of original sin.

    For the same reason, neither of the two statements from Gelasius I are contrary to or incompatible with the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Further, the statement from Gelasius I’s seventh letter is about Adam and Eve, not about Sts. Joachim and Anne.) Also, the quotation “I say confidently that this my daughter also has some sins” is not referring to Mary, but to the lady Dominica.

    As for the statement from Innocent III, the second quotation TF provides is referring to the concupiscence of Mary’s parents. The first and third quotations treat in a non-definitive way the cleansing of Mary from original sin, as taking place in the womb, immediately after her conception. This was likewise the view held and taught by St. Thomas Aquinas, for reasons that are carefully explained in the lecture at “Mary’s Immaculate Conception.” Innocent III’s comments about this are in sermons, not in a papal bull addressed to the universal Church. They are like Pope Benedict’s book Jesus of Nazareth, which carries weight as the opinion of a theologian, but neither defines dogma nor requires intellectual assent on the part of Catholics. Such are also the comments from John XXII and Innocent V.

    The statement from “Clement VI” was written while he was still Cardinal Roger, at least three years before he became pope. And the statement is highly guarded, because, as Pusey notes, it leaves it an open question whether the original sin connected to Mary’s conception was only in the cause (i.e. only in the concupiscence present in her parents during the sexual act by which she was conceived), or also “in form,” as a deprivation of sanctifying grace in her in the moment of her conception. Cardinal Roger leaves it an open question precisely because the question had not yet been resolved, nor the dogma defined. If the question had already been resolved or the Tradition established that Mary was conceived “in form” with original sin, then it would have been heretical for him to leave it an open question.

    Much of the rest of TFan’s response regarding the argument that the papacy was some kind of foreign accretion into the Church has really been discussed on Called to Communion quite a bit already. Look at the index under ‘Apostolic Succession.’

    *Tfan – I am not trying to talk about your argument as if you aren’t here, rather I was answering Alicia specifically about the comments she had about your argument. I thought about that after I’d already typed everything out.

  117. And, as an addendum to the above I would ask TFan:

    Was Peter writing infallibly when he wrote 1st and 2nd Peter? If so, how can you trust Peter since he erred publicly in denying Christ three times?

  118. Sean Patrick:

    You wrote: “#57 – good point. And it’s not like Amos 9:11-12 says, ‘And when gentiles enter the assembly of believers in Christ Jesus they will not have to be circumcised.'”

    If you mean that you’re paraphrasing rather than quoting, ok. But it does say that there will be Gentiles called by the Lord’s name, after David’s tabernacle is rebuilt (a Christological reference).

    Daniel wrote: “And what’s really disturbing to me–as you pointed out–is this “mocking” attitude toward Christians who would put their entire trust and reliance on the Word of God.”

    You replied: “Nobody here is mocking anybody else. Lets stay on topic.”

    Sometimes attitude is hard to judge in text – but the perceived tone of the dialog is one of mocking. But if you disagree, I won’t debate the matter. The tone of the article is hardly the most important thing.

    Daniel also wrote: “Judging by Jason’s lack of response, I can assume he’s yielded half of his argument—that is, that the Jerusalem council did not, for some reason, base its decision on the scriptures.”

    I’m surprised you, Sean, did not respond to this. This is important and clearly on topic. Let me put it this way, there are a number of statements in the mouths of the participants which are not true:

    Phineas: “The Scriptures never give an exemption from circumcision!”

    Malachi: “I know. …”

    Phineas: “Well, tell me what Scripture texts they cited to prove their position.”

    Malachi: “They didn’t. Not a single one. Well, not unless you count Bishop James quoting a couple of verses from Amos during his summary. But afterward I went back and looked, and that passage has nothing to do with circumcision. So I don’t know why he even referred to it.”

    Phineas: “Tacking on a Scripture verse at the end doesn’t make it all okay. In truth, this doesn’t just lack a biblical basis, it flat out contradicts the Scriptures.”

    These lines all suggest that Amos 9:11-12 wasn’t cited to prove James’ position (though it was) and/or that it doesn’t address the question (though it does). Moreover, the title of the post is “Taking a Stand on the Scriptures Against the Traditions of Men,” as though James’ position was merely an apostolic tradition and not based on Scripture.

    Once it is conceded, and I think it has to be conceded, that the assembly”s decision was based on Scripture, it is difficult to see how the assembly and its deliberations are in any way contrary to Sola Scriptura.

    Tying that back into your previous comment, for example, the fact that Amos 9:11-12 doesn’t use the words you suggest hardly means that it does not speak authoritatively to the issue under consideration. So, it seems that (perhaps) the matter of this particular thread has been resolved!

    -TurretinFan

  119. Nick:

    You wrote: “Amos 9 is materially sufficient, not formally.”

    I see that you insist this, but let’s examine your reasoning.

    “It is OT prophecy/typology that is not “plain, everyday language” so ultimately an authoritative interpretive lens must be used.”

    It is prophesy, but it is not typological. It says “Gentiles, which are called by my name.” That’s something to be taken according to the literal sense. There is figure of speech employed in the first part of the verse (“tabernacles of David”), which may be understood (within the convention of metaphor) literally, or which may point us specifically to the resurrection of Jesus (in which case it is typological). However that part of the verse isn’t the part that is key – key is the part about Gentiles being called by the name of the Lord. That part is plainly stated without the use even of metaphor or simile.

    “And given that the Gentiles didn’t come into the Church until something like 10 years after Pentecost means literally everyone was living as a Jew to some extent for the first decade of the Church’s existence.”

    :shrug: This doesn’t seem especially relevant, whether or not the dates you identify are correct (a point I’ll pass over for now).

    – TurretinFan

  120. Alicia (re: #77):

    You wrote: “I just read Tur8infan’s article on James White’s blog and my head is spinning.
    He makes the claim that Mr. Stewart is not doing the best exegesis, because he failed to see that the words from Amos have to do with circumcision though they do not use the word circumcision. To prove this he says that text from Acts 15 states that these heathen people “already” belong to the Lord and that circumcision must not be required of them, “That they are referred to as heathen even while being called by the name of the Lord, demonstrates that they do not require circumcision in order to be the followers of God.””

    Indeed! That’s why James quoted it – he quoted it because it settles the matter from the authority of Scripture.

    You continued: “Did any of the moderators think that verses from Deuteronomy( 30:6; 10:16) speaking of circumcision of the heart could have informed James? And since the expectancy was to be for “all the people”.”

    Obviously, I’m not one of the moderators here – but I wonder if you would clarify for me what you are suggesting. I would certainly argue that the entire Old Testament could have informed James, in that it was all available to him at the time. The only verse that we know he relied upon, however, is the pair of verses from Amos 9.

    You wrote: “Wasn’t it known during Jesus’ own ministry that He was fulfilling the law and giving a new commandment, signifying to the Jews that something new had arrived? If this was understood by the Apostles, then it would make sense that anyone imposing Jewish signification( circumcision of the flesh) on a people who had already been called of God , would be termed “Judaizers”, and wrong.”

    Traditions are a very powerful thing. Under the temple system, gentiles were not viewed as part of the congregation – but as outsiders. Until they were circumcised, for example, they could not partake of the passover. Until prompted by the church at Antioch, it appears that the church at Jerusalem had not given careful thought to the matter. Scripture may be pretty clear about the matter, but you have to actually think about the question before you will discover the answer.

    Re: #78

    You wrote: “correction: If this was understood by the Apostles, then it would make sense that anyone imposing Jewish signification( circumcision of the flesh) on a people who had already been called of God , would be wrong.”

    Not merely “called of God” but on whom God’s name had been placed. I apologize for being a grammar Nazi of sorts here, but the distinction is important. Being “called by the name of the Lord” means that they are his. Think adoption: like adopted kids take on the family name of their adopted father, so we Gentiles take on, by grace through faith, the name of the Lord.

    “Turretin Fan makes the case that the Apostles in Acts weren’t working with one small piece from Amos, though admittedly, that section and the prophecy of Simeon where….. interestingly enough Jesus has been brought to the Temple to be circumcised……are all that is mentioned.”

    The Greek text does have “Simeon” (which is why the KJV provides it there). But “Simeon” apparently can be a variant of “Simon.” So, I think most people assume that James is referring to Simon Peter. Nevertheless, you do make a good point that I had not addressed in my original response to Jason.

    That is, James may be referring to the gospel of Luke or simply to the prophecy itself which Luke recorded. We don’t know whether Luke was already written at this point or not. Let’s consider the possible relevance of that prophecy which was not at the occasion of Jesus’ circumcision, but only a few weeks later (40 days after Jesus’ birth) at Mary’s purification:

    Luke 2:25-35
    And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

    What is interesting is that Simeon’s prophecy does actually fit with theme we have discussed – he anticipates the light extending to the Gentiles. Nevertheless, James said, “Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.” This seems to fit better with Peter’s discussion of the past (i.e. Cornelius), than with Simeon’s discussion of what was, at that time, the future.

    Lord willing I will pick up with comment #80 tomorrow, although I see many interesting comments have been posted in the meantime.

    – TurretinFan

  121. Turretin Fan, you asked me:
    “Obviously, I’m not one of the moderators here – but I wonder if you would clarify for me what you are suggesting. I would certainly argue that the entire Old Testament could have informed James, in that it was all available to him at the time. The only verse that we know he relied upon, however, is the pair of verses from Amos 9.”

    To my thinking, the disciples should have understood that the gentiles were more and more coming into the fold, but what I am suggesting is that Mr. Stewart’s characterization of the way in which Jews viewed the events at The Council of Jerusalem may be too surmised, because even if the disciples were not clear about this—–as the vision at Joppa and the centurion Cornelius seems to show—–it eventually became more clear now that God had supplied these recent events. But don’t want to carp on this, if we are missing what Mr. Stewart was trying to point out( Mr. Preslar’s comment is in the back of my mind); shoot, I can’t find it in the thread but, I think( and I’m not sure) that the overarching point of the narrative is to point out that considering Paul and Barnabas had already been in dispute with the Jews at Antioch who wanted the new Gentile converts to be circumcised, that there is an emphasis that they sought counsil from the church at Jerusalem. That the Judaisers rose up again in the assembly, demanding that they follow the law and that Peter’s decision was definitive does have weight too. Do you see this as significant to the text,Turretin Fan?

  122. @Alicia #112:

    Mr. Jensen what you said: “I think a good example might be the idea of the limbus puerorum – “Limbo” Widely held opinion that unbaptised babies who die before the age of responsibility go to a state that is not Heaven – is sort of the highest level of Hell – a place of perfect natural happiness but without the vision of God. This opinion is certainly not infallibly taught and may well not be correct. It is definitely not so widely held as was once the case.”

    Are you saying Dante is right about circles of heaven?(smile) Ok, this bothers me, but then again, I had no idea what happened to children who die that aren’t baptised anyways. I don’t know if Reformers have an answer for this or not. Is everyone shooting from the cuff,or what on some of these matters?

    I’m saying that the Church is not a kind of infallible interpretation machine. The Church has made some things so clear that you cannot doubt them without denying that you “believe what the Church believes” – obvious things like the Trinity, the two Natures of Christ – and, Protestants to the contrary notwithstanding – the sinlessness of Our Lady.

    There is a vastly greater number of things that we might like the answers to that the Church has not – and perhaps cannot – give us the definitive answers to. One may be the status of unbaptised children dying in infancy. The Catholic Church is not an oracle. It is the guardian of the deposit of faith. What is implied in that is itself not necessary obvious. The ‘Limbo’ business may be one example.

    My point was only that differences between a commonly-held opinion within the Church at one point in its history – which is not at all the same thing as a truth defined eby the Church – the difference between such an earlier opinion and a later need not mean that the teaching has changed, nor that the Church’s teaching has contradicted itself.

    At the beginning of the Book of Acts, Jesus has appeared to His apostles. They ask Him whether He will now restore the kingdom to Israel. He replies that (from memory, don’t have it in front of me) that it is not for them to know the times and places which the Father has put into His own Hand; they should go to Jerusalem and await the promise of the Holy Spirit.

    There is so much that I would love to have a definitive answer from the Church about; much I will have to wait until I am with the Lord in Heaven. This, however, does not stop me from wondering, and if I am a theologian, it does not stop me from thinking.

    jj

  123. TurrentinFan asserts: Once it is conceded, and I think it has to be conceded, that the assembly”s decision was based on Scripture, it is difficult to see how the assembly and its deliberations are in any way contrary to Sola Scriptura.

    The Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura stands upon the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience, which is why there is no principled difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura. It utterly baffles me how you can assert that the Bishop James’ reference to a prophetic statement found in the Jewish scriptures affirms the Protestant doctrine of solo scriptura. Please connect the dots here!

    If the Protestant doctrine of solo scriptura was something that was believed by the Christians in Antioch, then it seems reasonable to me that these early Christians would have acted like a bunch of sola scriptura confessing Protestants. They would have divided into warring factions over a matter of doctrine, and then founded a raft of “churches” teaching irreconcilable doctrine based on the principle of scrolls alone.

    The Christians in Antioch don’t act like sola scriptura confessing Protestants do when they are confronted with a doctrinal dispute. Instead, they act like a bunch of Catholics, and they follow Christ’s commandment given in Matthew 18:15-19. The Christians in Antioch seek out a ruling on this doctrinal dispute from the men authorized by Christ to settle the matter once and for all.

  124. RE: The Baltimore Catechism, responding to no one in particular but hopefully for the benefit of Alicia along with K. Doran et. al.

    The accusation that the Modern Catechism of the Catholic Church contradicts or fundamentally changes the faith presented in the older Baltimore Catechism is simply false and fallacious on several levels. As has been pointed out, no specific example are given, no passages cited. There is not one single doctrine in The Baltimore Catechism that is contradicted by The Catechism of the Catholic Church. However, I know T.Fan and he probably has some notes on backing his accusation up and on the surface he could make his argument appear credible to anyone who doesn’t have the background to see the fallacious reasoning behind the accusation. There are however many doctrines in The Baltimore Catechism that sound much different from what we articulate today. Below my main focus is to explain WHY the two catechism do sound so different on the surface, and to establish making any pre/post Vatican II contradiction claim based on the comparison of these two catechisms is inherently fallacious and a total waste of typing.

    It turns out I’ve dug into this with a bit of depth. If the moderators will indulge me, I think the exterior issues to this question actually are relevant to many of the discussions here on CtoC. I’m sure my insights aren’t original and that most of the CtoC contributors will not learn anything really new, but I think this really is a core aspect of the why the Catholic Church in America is what it is and it ties right in with many of the accusations regarding lack of unity in the Catholic Church.

    Comparing The Baltimore Catechism and The Catechism of the Catholic Church is essentially a ontological error.

    It is Apples and Oranges.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a Universal Catechism for the whole Church. It is a Major Catechism in that it was conceived from the outset to be a complete and comprehensive exposition of the Faith of the Church. Traditionally a Major Catechism is primarily intended for teachers, catechists and clergy although this one also hopes (a bit naively) for a widespread lay audience. It would be more appropriate to compare the The Catechism of the Catholic Church to Catechism of the Council of Trent otherwise known as The Roman Catechism which was the last previous Major Catechism. John Paul II issued the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum on the completion of the first draft in French and the Apostolic Letter Laetamur Magnopere on the promulgation of the Latin Typical edition. Thus, The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a product of the Papacy as well as the whole Magisterium, and while not infallible in and of itself, it carries a serious ordinance of authority.

    On the other hand The Baltimore Catechism is a Minor Catechism, a catechism derived from a major catechism to be used for teaching a specific audience. The Baltimore Catechism was designed to be a text for school children. It was the primary religious text in Catholic schools in North America for about 80 years from 1885 to 1965.

    From EWTN This catechism was collaborated on by the Bishops of the United States in the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, which took place in 1884. It was put together and finally issued in 1885 by Cardinal Gibbons who, at the time, was the head of the American hierarchy. It took the American Bishops from 1829 to 1885 to put together the Baltimore Catechism, which in turn, derived from what was called the Roman Catechism or the Catechism of the Council of Trent. This document, similar to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which came out on June 22, 1994, was issued in 1565 by Pope Saint Pius V, and was to be the basis of various national catechisms and textbooks.

    The Baltimore Catechism was set out in a question-and-answer format, and while its focus and emphasis was not necessarily that which contemporary pedagogues would appreciate, or for that matter, some theologians, liturgists, Scripture scholars and others, it did have the great advantage of being a more or less complete skeletal outline of the Catholic Faith. Although it was often presented in books that lacked illustrations and were dry-both in the graphic presentation of the material and in the way it was presented-the Baltimore Catechism should not be faulted since it also had many advantages, and it certainly formed and trained many generations of Catholics in our country in a correct knowledge of our holy religion.

    The Baltimore Catechism was intended to be concise and basic for school children. There was eventually an edition intended for teachers that had some explanation of many of the answers, but it was by no means a complete exposition of the faith.

    So, we are comparing a simple, rote, skeletal catechism for school children, that was developed for the North American territory, with a comprehensive universal Catechism that is written for educated adults as a complete exposition of the Catholic Faith. Even if we could establish a contradiction between these two sources, it would accomplish almost nothing. The Baltimore Catechism does not, and was never intended to stand up for itself. Any statement in the The Baltimore Catechism has to be understood as an interpretation, or expresion of Catechism of the Council of Trent which in turn has to be understood as it expresses the Faith as articulated by the Magisterium up to and including the Council of Trent.

    Further Context
    The Baltimore Catechism was based on the Catechism of the Council of Trent the Council of Trent was the response to the Protestant Revolt and the key action of the Reformation within the Catholic Church. Catechism of the Council of Trent couldn’t help but have a strong tendency to buttress the Catholic Faith contra the Protestant claims and accusations. There is an element of defensiveness. The Baltimore Catechism was developed in America at a time when the Catholic Church was not yet accepted in a Protestant Country which I think amplified that defensiveness. The Bishops of the 19th century were focused on a catechism that would build a very clear understanding of precisely what it meant to be Catholic without ambiguity.

    In contrast The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a milestone in the efforts of Vatican II to re-articulate and present the Catholic Faith in a open and evangelizing and ecumenical formulation. A major premise of the entire Vatican II process was the need to chip away that defensive posture and make the Church more open to the modern world. While that involved changes in discipline and in practice (liturgy) it was also a restatement of Doctrine in a formulation that was outward looking and opening rather than fortess. I like to think that in many cases the Statement of a Doctrine is “Turned Inside Out” the formulation of dogma in Vatican II is DISTINCTLY different than the formulation of Trent dogmas. Ultimately they harmonize and I believe they harmonize amazingly well, especially when the dogmas are contemplated in the context of the WHOLE history of the Church. Trent was a buttoning up and bundling for winter even in comparison to earlier formulations of some doctrines. Vatican II was dressing appropriately for the “New Springtime.”

    I think this is important. By the time we get to the early 60s and Kennedy’s election as president and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen’s hit television show the 50s, the Catholic Church in the USA was entering a new epoch. Yet nearly everyone was still catechized by memorizing brief dogmatic responses from The Baltimore Catechism. What had been built was a formidable shell of knowledge, but for far too many American’s, the inside was just hollow. Few had ever learned the organic connection of various doctrines. Few understood the foundation for what the Church taught. Few had any idea at all how to even begin explaining or defending what they believed.

    Then came Vatican II. The “breath of fresh air” turned out to be pretty confusing for those with a middle school The Baltimore Catechism understanding of the Catholic Faith. Never having been taught the nuances of the doctrines, or the reasoning behind them, or how they were inter-connected made it difficult for many to understand how these changes were possible. Further, there was confusion between Discipline and Doctrine. Finally, very few ever read the Vatican II documents themselves, and instead only heard sometimes contradictory and frequently over simplified summaries of what the Church taught “now” as opposed to what was taught “before” and it certainly didn’t sound much like what they learned from The Baltimore Catechism.

    There Does APPEAR to be Some Contradiction
    When you compare what the typical (or stereo typical) Catholic believed in the 1950s to what the typical Catholic believed by the 1980s and also how people practiced their faith and worshipped, yes there certainly is an apparent contradiction. Especially if you rely on ordinary Catholics (with little personal study since 8th grade or maybe high school) to explain what they believe and what was changed by Vatican II, you can not help but think that surely there is a contradiction.

    Regardless of how disconcerting this train wreck in the Church actually is, it isn’t relevant for the purpose of claiming that the Catholic Church contradicts itself. People were confused, yes. Most thought the changes were a rupture or a “new beginning.” Some people, priests, nuns, even Bishops encouraged these perceptions. Many Priests were poorly formed and took Vatican II as permission to change everything and some married and others walked out on their vocations. Very few were able to speak clearly and sensibly regarding the whole thing in the first 20 years. But even 50 million confused and inarticulate Catholics don’t establish any proof of contradiction in what the Church actually teaches.

    The only legitimate sources for proving a contradiction are sources that represent an exercise of the Magisterium, most appropriately the texts of Vatican II and the texts of the Council of Trent. Tom Browns article and discussion here at CtoC covers one of the most better candidates. I think Tom capably defends the harmony of Trent and Vatican II in this instance that many “liberal” post Vatican II and “conservative super trad” pre-Vatican II types misunderstand.

    Conclusion
    The Baltimore Catechism is a “skeletal” and simplified, straight forward statement of the basics of the Catholic Faith intended for catechizing school children primarily by rote memorization of statements. It is not a full exposition of the Faith. The Baltimore Catechism is an outgrowth of a Church that is protectively drawing up it’s borders in doctrinal clarity. It is a regional Catechism for North America only, developed by a Bishop’s conference. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a Major Catechism. The compilation of the Catechism and it’s original text in French and it’s typical edition in Latin and each translation into vernacular languages was an exercise of the Holy See from beginning to end. The The Catechism of the Catholic Church is intended to be a comprehensive exposition of the Catholic Faith aimed at scholars, teachers and clergy as well as the public. As a product of the post-Vatican II Church The Catechism of the Catholic Church is expressed in an open relationship with the world, specifically intended to abandon the defensive posture of the pre-Vatican II mindset. Thus, any apparent contradiction is just that, apparent. In any case, neither document is authoritative, although The Catechism of the Catholic Church takes precedence and wins any “dispute” between the two. BOTH can not be understood in any way that contradicts the infallible teaching of the Magisterium historically. There is no point to be won by seeking to make them contradict each other.

    The accusation that the faith presented in The Baltimore Catechism contradicts that of The Catechism of the Catholic Church at first can appear valid because it resonates with our observation of the change in the Church resulting from Vatican II. We can easily fall into the thought that “it looks so different” there must be a discontinuity, a break in the flow of tradition. Ultimately what is taught in the The Baltimore Catechism does harmonize with the modern Church. The The Baltimore Catechism can be admired in that it presented the faith concretely and simply. It is still very useful for educating younger children and my family uses the Baltimore Catechism. However, catechism and knowledge of the Faith can’t stop at an 8th grade understanding, and I especially encourage my children as they get older to learn the faith at a greater depth, and certainly High School students really should be using either The Catechism of the Catholic Church directly, or a good young adult or teen appropriate catechism based it.

  125. TurretinFan et al.,

    I see there’s a lot of discussion happening. That’s good. Unfortunately for me I’ll have to be away from the computer for a few days. Next week will be the first opportunity I’ll have to respond.

    Blessings,

    — Jason

  126. Frank,

    I think what’s missing is the realization that you are not conscience-bound to hold to that Pope’s teaching if you think you have evidence that supports IC.

    I think that’s the essence of the problem for most Protestants; they believe that they have “evidence” to ignore a lot of Papal teaching (irreformable or not).

    I would say this fictional example would be explained by Blessed Newman’s notion of the Development of Doctrine.

    You’re probably right. I’ve read Newman’s Development twice, but the last time was a decade ago, so I have forgotten much of its content.

  127. K. Doran,

    I think you might have taken my question in a more polemical sense than it was intended. I was mainly playing a little devil’s advocate and further clarifying what I took to be the dilemma in TFan and Alicia’s viewpoint. I have no doubt that there is a mountain of literature on this topic (I remember encountering a similar dilemma being discussed by Canon lawyers during the Conciliarism controversy in the late Middle Ages, but again my memory is rusty). I was just wondering if a succinct elucidation of the issue could be provided by a Catholic commentator here. This is all possibly off topic anyway, and for that I apologize.

    Here’s the deal, though: no Catholic thinks you’re going to be judged for believing the best teaching currently available on a _faith_ issue that hasn’t been settled yet.

    I am not going to be judged for inaccurately believing something that is currently taught about Mary but will later be superseded by a more accurate infallible statement. So why do I care?

    I think this may illustrate a real difference in mindset between Protestants and Catholics. I imagine many Protestants feel a real soteriological anxiety about getting doctrine wrong. With sola scriptura there is often a burden on the individual believer to make sure that they get as much right as humanly possible about the Faith, which drives them to Biblical commentaries, systematic theologies and Greek/Hebrew studies in a way that would baffle the ordinary lay Catholic. At least when I was a Protestant I did think that I was going to be judged in some sense on what I believed about Mary.

    I’m actually just beginning to dig into moral theology and natural law lately. I finished John Mahoney’s The Making of Moral Theology (Oxford, 1987) a few weeks ago, and am intending to read Romanus Cessario’s Introduction to Moral Theology (CUA, 2001) in the near future. I’m not at a point yet where I feel confident with primary sources. Any reading suggestions would be appreciated.

    Again, apologies if this was too off-topic.

  128. David P. #126…

    I think what’s missing is the realization that you are not conscience-bound to hold to that Pope’s teaching if you think you have evidence that supports IC.

    I wanted to make certain my comment about the IC was not read out of context by any readers who are not following every contour of these discussions. This comment applied to a fictional encounter between a believer and Pope Gelasius I when the dogma of the IC was not yet defined. In this fictional encounter the Pope was speaking one-on-one and not promulgating official teaching. He was offering a theological opinion, and in such a case, Catholics may hold a different opinion if they believe the evidence points to a different conclusion.

    Read without the surrounding context, my statement could be construed as advocating “primacy of individual conscience” – and that is absolutely not what I was saying.

    Frank

  129. David P. said:

    “I think this may illustrate a real difference in mindset between Protestants and Catholics. I imagine many Protestants feel a real soteriological anxiety about getting doctrine wrong. With sola scriptura there is often a burden on the individual believer to make sure that they get as much right as humanly possible about the Faith, which drives them to Biblical commentaries, systematic theologies and Greek/Hebrew studies in a way that would baffle the ordinary lay Catholic. At least when I was a Protestant I did think that I was going to be judged in some sense on what I believed about Mary.”

    Yes, this is a really good point. It is interesting to see how differently Catholics and Protestants approach these issues. Two people are looking at the same incomplete picture: one fears a dilemma, and conquers it with logic; the other says: “how wonderful what has already been drawn — to bad I won’t live to see its completion!” To add another metaphor: same planet, different worlds.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  130. @David P. #127:

    I think this may illustrate a real difference in mindset between Protestants and Catholics. I imagine many Protestants feel a real soteriological anxiety about getting doctrine wrong. With sola scriptura there is often a burden on the individual believer to make sure that they get as much right as humanly possible about the Faith, which drives them to Biblical commentaries, systematic theologies and Greek/Hebrew studies in a way that would baffle the ordinary lay Catholic. At least when I was a Protestant I did think that I was going to be judged in some sense on what I believed about Mary.

    I think this is true, and the reason, of course, is that a Catholic knows the Church will be able to set him straight if he is wrong.

    I would add, though, that the Catholic – because he loves the Church as Christ’s own Bride – also strives to discover what the Church believes and wants to embrace it. The Catholic is, however, cautious about his own judgement of what the Church believes, until it is clear.

    I recall when I either was a Catholic or knew I was about to become one, hearing with great joy John Paul’s statement that the impossibility of ordaining women was irreformable doctrine. I remember, when discussion was going on that might indicate the Church might say that women could be ordained, being anxious. I personally believed it impossible – but I had come to believe that the Church was of Christ’s ordination and could not err. I was prepared, therefore, to submit my intellect to the Church’s judgement when it came.

    It came and I was so happy to find that I had, indeed, been thinking with the mind of Christ, which is the mind of the Church.

    jj

  131. Frank (#97),

    And let me ask, do you consider any of these non-Catholic creeds or confessions or catechisms as absolutely binding on your conscience, regardless of your personal view of a particular question of dogma, discipline or ecclesiology? If so, which one, and why that one and not others?

    OK, I’ll be the first to blink, if you promise that you’ll tell me later why you have chosen not to be a Traditionalist Catholic.

    Since the Word of God is the word of the very Creator Himself, it must and shall always remain the judge of all creeds, confessions, or catechisms. So formulations of men—whether Catholic or non-Catholic—are not absolutely binding. With that said, if I am a member of a particular church of the universal Church, then I am to obey those in authority over me, as long as what they charge is not contrary to the Word of God. As Peter, the first “Pope,” said to the religious authorities, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge,” and “We must obey God rather than men.”

    You will say: “You’re engaging in private interpretation when you read the Word of God and compare it with church teaching. How dare you do that! You need an infallible magisterium to tell you the meaning of the text!” But think about it: Catholics engage in private interpretation when reading what the pope and bishops in submission to him propose. When you tell others the meaning of what the pope and bishops have written, how do you know that what you’re telling others is what the pope and bishops really meant? So you need a second magisterium to infallibly tell you whether your interpretation of what the first magisterium said is correct. You see how this can go on and on ad infinitum?

    At some point, a human being must engage in some sort of “private interpretation” to make sense of the data that is presented to him or her. We Protestants believe that the primary sources (the apostles’ memoirs and the Scriptures) should be consulted directly, that they have preeminent authority, and that they conflict in many points with Roman teaching. Even the Orthodox Church—the other “lung” of the Church (we Protestants are the “heart” and “brain”—just kidding!)—claims that many of your teachings are wrong.

    Best regards,

    Daniel

  132. Dear other David P :)

    I think this may illustrate a real difference in mindset between Protestants and Catholics. I imagine many Protestants feel a real soteriological anxiety about getting doctrine wrong. With sola scriptura there is often a burden on the individual believer to make sure that they get as much right as humanly possible about the Faith, which drives them to Biblical commentaries, systematic theologies and Greek/Hebrew studies in a way that would baffle the ordinary lay Catholic

    This is exactly how I began to feel after a while of exploring the doctrinal varieties of Protestantism. When I first became a Christian, I was attending a “non-denominational” church with some of my Christian friends from school. A few years later, I was a die-hard Reformed Presbyterian. Eventually all of the internal debate of worship, eschatology, moral issues, and even soteriological issues thrust me into a state of deep disillusionment and fear. How could I be sure that I had studied the bible correctly to arrive at my doctrinal opinions? What if I were worshiping God incorrectly or believing something heretical without knowing it?

    These fears were fueled by the Federal Vision controversy, and my fear nearly turned to despair as the arguments now turned on salvation itself, with people I trusted and appreciated as theologians on both sides. My doubts continued. What they got it right and we got it right? What if I find myself persuaded by the scriptural and historical arguments of the FV theologians? Does that mean I’m being led by the Spirit or being deceived by Satan? How can I tell the difference? Look at the bible? But that’s what I’ve been doing this whole time! Follow the synodal decisions of my denomination’s presbyteries and those of other denominations? But why? Just because I happen to be in this denomination? This was a tipping point for me as I had no idea where to look for guidance. When in Acts I read again how the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading the scriptures but seemed to be in a position similar to me, things began to change. The Eunuch knew that the Bible isn’t supposed to be picked up and read by any individual and understood without any recourse to a proper guide (“How can I understand what I am reading if I have no one to explain it to me?”). This jived with other passages of scripture, such as where the believers are exhorted to obey their elders in everything, that there should be complete unity of mind among us, etc. So at that point I had to ask, “Who is the Philip to my Ethiopian Eunuch? Who are those elders I’m supposed to obey?”

  133. GNW Paul.

    In # 124, thank you for taking the time to give that outline.

  134. Re GNW Paul combox post # 124:

    I think that this is an excellent summary. I would like to make a couple of comments on it for Alicia.

    The Baltimore Catechism is a “skeletal” and simplified, straight forward statement of the basics of the Catholic Faith intended for catechizing school children primarily by rote memorization of statements.

    This was how the Baltimore Catechism was used when I attended a Catholic grade school in my youth. And I think that this is appropriate pedagogy for grade school children. I actually had a good foundation of the Catholic Faith laid down by this approach. However, what I could not do as a child is give a detailed explanation using scripture alone to explain what I believed. Since the doctrine of sola scriptura was a Protestant thing, no one was particularly alarmed that the doctrines of the Catholic faith were not presented to grade school children by giving elaborate exegesis of the Douay-Rheims bible.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a product of the Papacy as well as the whole Magisterium, and while not infallible in and of itself, it carries a serious ordinance of authority.

    The above is germane to some of the questions that Alicia asked in her post #101, which are based on a comment Daniel made in his post # 94:

    Daniel asks: “Which Roman Catholic creeds or confessions or catechisms do you consider as absolutely binding on your conscience?

    After asking that question, Daniel makes this assertion:

    The Baltimore Catechism contradicts the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    Alicia asks:

    Would someone please address what is going on here without a long history lesson? Are these catechisms contradictory? If yes, are the differences one/ones change something about man’s salvation or a new way to view God, or is there denigration of the Scriptures, or a new way to consider or treat fellow men?

    Alicia asks for a simple answer without a long history lesson, but I don’t think that is possible. Sorry Alicia!

    First point. There is a big difference between the Nicene Creed and the Apostle Creed on the one hand, and the Baltimore Catechism and the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the other hand. Daniel doesn’t make that distinction, which might be causing some confusion about what Catholics are conscience bound to believe.

    All Catholics are conscience bound to hold every dogma summarized by the Nicene Creed and the Apostle Creed. Catechisms are a different story. A Catechism typically contains dogmas that are de fide definita (solemnly defined dogmas of the Catholic Church that all Catholics are conscience bound to confess), plus a lot of doctrine that does not have that level of theological certainty. The teaching about infant limbo found in the Baltimore Catechism, for example, is a teaching that is NOT at the level of theologial certainty of de fide definita, but is rather, a theological theory that no Catholic is conscience bound to believe. The theory of infant limbo was examined at the request of Pope John Paul II by the International Theological Commission. This is what the ITC says about the theological level of certainty of infant limbo:

    The International Theological Commission has studied the question of the fate of un-baptised infants, bearing in mind the principle of the “hierarchy of truths” and the other theological principles of the universal salvific will of God, the unicity and insuperability of the mediation of Christ, the sacramentality of the Church in the order of salvation, and the reality of Original Sin. In the contemporary context of cultural relativism and religious pluralism the number of non-baptized infants has grown considerably, and therefore the reflection on the possibility of salvation for these infants has become urgent. The Church is conscious that this salvation is attainable only in Christ through the Spirit. But the Church, as mother and teacher, cannot fail to reflect upon the fate of all men, created in the image of God, and in a more particular way on the fate of the weakest members of the human family and those who are not yet able to use their reason and freedom.

    It is clear that the traditional teaching on this topic has concentrated on the theory of limbo, understood as a state which includes the souls of infants who die subject to original sin and without baptism, and who, therefore, neither merit the beatific vision, nor yet are subjected to any punishment, because they are not guilty of any personal sin. This theory, elaborated by theologians beginning in the Middle Ages, never entered into the dogmatic definitions of the Magisterium, even if that same Magisterium did at times mention the theory in its ordinary teaching up until the Second Vatican Council. It remains therefore a possible theological hypothesis. However, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992), the theory of limbo is not mentioned. Rather, the Catechism teaches that infants who die without baptism are entrusted by the Church to the mercy of God, as is shown in the specific funeral rite for such children. The principle that God desires the salvation of all people gives rise to the hope that there is a path to salvation for infants who die without baptism (cf. CCC, 1261), and therefore also to the theological desire to find a coherent and logical connection between the diverse affirmations of the Catholic faith: the universal salvific will of God; the unicity of the mediation of Christ; the necessity of baptism for salvation; the universal action of grace in relation to the sacraments; the link between original sin and the deprivation of the beatific vision; the creation of man “in Christ”.

    Ref. INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION

    THE HOPE OF SALVATION FOR INFANTS
    WHO DIE WITHOUT BEING BAPTISED

    [link]

    The theory of infant limbo taught in the Baltimore Catechism is a possible theological hypothesis. A Catholic is free to believe the hypothesis if one thinks that it is correct, but no Catholics is conscience bound to believe it.

    Here is what the Baltimore Catechism Number 3 says about infant limbo:

    324 … Infants who die without baptism of any kind do not suffer the punishments of those who die in mortal sin. They may enjoy a certain natural happiness, but they will not enjoy the supernatural happiness of heaven.

    The CCC gives a different theological theory. See the ITC document quoted above and its reference to CCC 1261. This brings me back to GNW Paul’s comment:

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a product of the Papacy as well as the whole Magisterium, and while not infallible in and of itself, it carries a serious ordinance of authority.

    I would want to qualify this comment a bit. The CCC does contain dogma that is infallibly defined. The CCC also teaches doctrine that is not at that level of theological certainty. That is why there a Second Edition of the CCC.

  135. GNW Paul,

    Thank you very much for taking the time to write at length about the topic of Appeared contradiction between the “buttoning up for winter” and the “letting in the spring”. That was very kind. The skeltetal catechism for children makes sense, but the fact that Priests and Nuns didn’t know their faith more deeply is troublesome. What were the adults, and parents getting? And does the CC encourage parents to catechize their families?

    David P.

    “I think this may illustrate a real difference in mindset between Protestants and Catholics. I imagine many Protestants feel a real soteriological anxiety about getting doctrine wrong. With sola scriptura there is often a burden on the individual believer to make sure that they get as much right as humanly possible about the Faith, which drives them to Biblical commentaries, systematic theologies and Greek/Hebrew studies in a way that would baffle the ordinary lay Catholic. At least when I was a Protestant I did think that I was going to be judged in some sense on what I believed about Mary.”
    This is absolutely right. The Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura is a cardinal law; yielding to Papal Infallibility is throwing away all that Christ’s divine power has given me that is necessary for life and godliness. Now, I know that I could be mistaken using 2 Pet. 1:3 in this way, and then that also disturbs me because I am finding out that I don’t know when I am wielding scripture improperly. His divine power has given me all that is necessary for life and godliness and this just might include the Magisterium of the CC. How do I know? I’m told that the canon is closed and the charismatic gifts have ceased. This is something I want to investigate, because I find my conscience bound that the canon has closed, but I have a suspicion that charisma has not, so how would one know either way unless we learn definitively from some authority? But what if a Pope somewhere along the line, declares that something he has written is to be added to the canon? Is he changing church teaching or using his infallible authority?
    Further, is the attention that the CC gets from the media from time to time. I hear, “the church is saying or doing such and such…” coming from a commentator and I understand that there are two cities and they really don’t mix. The Two Kingdom theology has been drilled into me. It’s strange to see colorful processions involving the Pope on my TV. It’s like watching a report that a Monarch has arrived. Take that, and mix it with the knowledge that Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, and one’s sensibilities are on overload.

    John Jensen,
    I didn’t quite understand what you were saying about the discussion to ordain women. You waited hoping that it would not be permitted, but why would it be brought up, if an earlier Pope said, “never” to the question? This opens a door to permit all kinds of things doesn’t it? And if you disliked the idea that women would be ordained, as I do too, what of our ontological notions about the way the world is? Natural law easily puts down homosexual union and marriage, but is a woman as Christ’s Vicaress as viscerably discernible?

    This is where my mind goes….

  136. Daniel writes: Since the Word of God is the word of the very Creator Himself, it must and shall always remain the judge of all creeds, confessions, or catechisms. So formulations of men—whether Catholic or non-Catholic—are not absolutely binding. With that said, if I am a member of a particular church of the universal Church, then I am to obey those in authority over me, as long as what they charge is not contrary to the Word of God.

    And who ultimately decides if those in authority are teaching what is contrary to the scriptures? As far as I can see, ultimately it is Daniel that makes that judgement for Daniel. It seems to me that you have decided, based on your private interpretations of the bible, that the church that Jesus Christ personally founded is teaching what is contrary to scriptures. And I do not say that your personal judgement was not made in good conscience. I will gladly give you the benefit of the doubt; let us agree that you have made your judgement in good conscience. What I am baffled by is your assertion that you do not believe in the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience!

    Daniel writes: At some point, a human being must engage in some sort of “private interpretation” to make sense of the data that is presented to him or her. We Protestants believe that the primary sources (the apostles’ memoirs and the Scriptures) should be consulted directly, that they have preeminent authority …

    Daniel, anything that is written down it has to be interpreted by someone to be understood. That is equally true about a play of Shakespeare, a catechism or the Bible. You assert that for Protestants the bible has preeminent authority. But the bible has to be interpreted by someone to be understood, and that brings up the question of primacy. For the sola scriptura confessing Protestants, the preeminent authority that binds the conscience of the individual to a particular interpretation of the scriptures is the individual’s own conscience. Ultimately, what he or she sincerely believes is the final authority that can be appealed to. Hence, the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience.

    It is easy to test whether or not a particular Protestant believes in the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience. Simply ask the Protestant this question: If you sincerely came to believe that what your church was teaching was unscriptural, do you believe that you are justified in leaving your current church to find another church that teaches what you personally believe is scriptural? Any Protestant that reserves the right to go church shopping under these circumstance is a Protestant that believes in the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience. And what sola scriptura confessing Protestant doesn’t reserve the right to go church shopping under these circumstances? None that I know of!

  137. Daniel (re: 131);

    But think about it: Catholics engage in private interpretation when reading what the pope and bishops in submission to him propose. When you tell others the meaning of what the pope and bishops have written, how do you know that what you’re telling others is what the pope and bishops really meant? So you need a second magisterium to infallibly tell you whether your interpretation of what the first magisterium said is correct. You see how this can go on and on ad infinitum?

    Your questions have been addressed in many heavy-hitter articles & blog posts on the CTC site. I would recommend you go here:
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/02/keith-mathisons-reply/
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/02/mathisons-reply-to-cross-and-judisch-a-largely-philosophical-critique/
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/11/sola-scriptura-a-dialogue-between-michael-horton-and-bryan-cross/
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/05/the-tu-quoque/

    Even though most of the comments on these articles have ended some time ago, don’t hesitate to post a question. There are many articles on this site where the comments stop for many months and then pick back up again.

  138. Daniel,

    Where does the interpretive “buck stop”, so to speak? For example, if I go into a classroom and me and a Teacher look at a textbook, and the teacher says the correct interpretation of such and such is “x”, and I say it is “y”, how do we decide? If both of our opinions are equally valid, then the teacher serves a tentative function; or is merely my personal interlocutor.

    On your view, the “Church” functions only as a guide up until you decide that she is no longer true. Thus, we hold that you hold to the primacy of the individual conscience. However, to say “you too!” to Catholics seems fundamentally misleading. Going back to my analogy, let’s pretend that two people walk into a classroom both carrying the textbook in tote. The teacher says that such and such is properly understood as “x”. I, in virtue of the Teacher’s position, assent to “x”. You believe the interpretation is “y”, therefore you reject the Teacher.

    How are we the same? (I ask, because your line of thought is repeated ad nauseam).

  139. @Alicia #135:

    John Jensen,
    I didn’t quite understand what you were saying about the discussion to ordain women. You waited hoping that it would not be permitted, but why would it be brought up, if an earlier Pope said, “never” to the question? This opens a door to permit all kinds of things doesn’t it? And if you disliked the idea that women would be ordained, as I do too, what of our ontological notions about the way the world is? Natural law easily puts down homosexual union and marriage, but is a woman as Christ’s Vicaress as viscerably discernible?

    Sorry, I wasn’t clear – and this raises the question about what infallibility means. There are not some fixed number N of infallible pronouncements in Catholic history, all other matters being up for grabs. Things that have, in general, always been believed are to be believed as having been proclaimed with what is called ordinary infallibility. Classic example is the existence of angels. The Church has always believed in the existence of angels. It has never been seriously questioned – so no Pope has ever had occasion to define it.\

    The impossibility of ordaining women was such a matter. I don’t know if any earlier Pope had ever definitively said that women cannot be ordained. But the issue began to get serious for many Christians in the 20th Century. In 1994 I had determined to become a Catholic. I had concluded that the Catholic Church was the Church Christ had founded; that I could not be saved if I wilfully stayed out of it; and that it could not err.

    But the popular press had begun to buzz that the Pope (John Paul II) was going to make an announcement on the matter of women’s ordination. Some thought he might declare it possible. I had decided on other grounds that the Church could not err, and that, therefore, if he declared women could be ordained, I would believe it – because the Church had declared it. I doubted he would. But – the point for this matter of Protestants thinking they have to figure out doctrine for themselves – I had my opinion, but did not think I had to be the final decider and to trust my own judgement. I would, I confess, have been astonished if he had declared it possible. I think, in fact, that it is, like the impossibility of homosexual union, a matter of natural law. Priests are fathers, not mothers. I also did not understand that well the idea of the ordinary magisterium – as I hope I do now.

    But my point was that it wasn’t up to me.

    I should say that there are still Catholics who point out that the Pope, though he said the teaching was irreformable (his word), did not ‘define’ any doctrine – so there are still some hard-line hold-outs who say the doctrine is not infallible. I think they are wrong, and are, in fact, relying on that idea of some definite list of N infallibly defined doctrines, and everything else is up for grabs.

    That is not the way the teaching of the Church works. I understand that better now than I did 18 years ago.

    jj

  140. @Mateo #134:

    All Catholics are conscience bound to hold every dogma summarized by the Nicene Creed and the Apostle Creed.

    And even here there is an important fact to be noted. Catholics are conscience-bound to hold every dogma summarised by these creeds – to believe, in fact, the truths that those dogmas express. This means that the creeds are not yet another body of writing that I must go off interpret privately.

    For instance, in many translations, the Apostles’ Creed says that Jesus “descended into Hell.” The Latin says He descendit ad ínferos. Suppose there arises a controversy regarding what, exactly, this means. Does it mean Jesus “went to Hell” (as I have heard that Hans Urs von Balthasar in some sense has thought) in something like the same sense that a condemned sinner does? Does it mean rather the victorious descent to the ‘place of the dead’ to preach the Gospel to the fathers in Sheol – as Peter seems to say in one of his epistles? Supposing enough of a problem ensues in the Church that men want an answer.

    They do not simply have to say, “well, the Creed says this and it obviously means that and end up unable to know for sure. The Church can give an authoritative interpretation. The Church might well – I suspect it would – say that this is not something that has been given in the Deposit of Faith and that, therefore, Catholics are free to hold differing opinions. The Church has said this about many controversies.

    The point is that believing the Creed does not simply reduce me to private interpretation when it comes to matters of obligatory divine faith.

    jj

  141. David P –

    You aren’t the David P. of Beachchair Between Pews, are you? If so I still check your blog quite often looking for a new post. Would love to see an update soon.

    You asked for some Moral Theology references. To be honest, I found Cessario to be quite difficult. I liked Morality: The Catholic View by Servais Pinckaers a lot more. I also found Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor to be quite good.

    Blessings.

  142. John Thayer Jensen, excellent point about the meaning of what we confess in the creed, e.g Christ “descended into Hell”. If I don’t understand what this means, I can always ask the living magisterium what it means. As you say, “The Church can give an authoritative interpretation.” Which brings up a Catholic principal – “the magisterium interprets the magisterium.”

    Protestants that confess sola scriptura recognize no living magisterium that can bind the consciences of the individual Protestant to any particular interpretation of scriptures, the creed, or anything else.

    Regarding the doctrine that the ordained priesthood is reserved to men, you say:

    I should say that there are still Catholics who point out that the Pope, though he said the teaching was irreformable (his word), did not ‘define’ any doctrine …

    I agree. Pope John Paul II did not speak ex cathedra in his Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (the letter where the pope spoke against the ordination of women.) Because Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is not an extraordinary exercise of the papal magisterium, the dogma that women cannot be ordained does have the level of dogmatic certainty of de fide definita, i.e. the dogma was not solemnly defined by an extra-ordinary exercise of the magisterium.

    Does that mean that the doctrine that the ordained priesthood is reserved to men is NOT a doctrine infallibly taught by the church? No it doesn’t, because, as you observed, most infallibly taught doctrines of the church are set forth through the ordinary and universal magisterium. The infallible nature of the doctrine contained in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, i.e. women cannot be ordained, is given in this letter from Cardinal Ratzinger when he was the Prefect of the Congregation of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

    … In response to this precise act of the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff [John Paul II], explicitly addressed to the entire Catholic Church, all members of the faithful are required to give their assent to the teaching stated therein. To this end, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of the Holy Father, has given an official Reply on the nature of this assent; it is a matter of full definitive assent, that is to say, irrevocable, to a doctrine taught infallibly by the Church. In fact, as the Reply explains, the definitive nature of this assent derives from the truth of the doctrine itself, since, founded on the written Word of God, and constantly held and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary universal Magisterium (cf. Lumen Gentium, 25). Thus, the Reply specifies that this doctrine belongs to the deposit of the faith of the Church. It should be emphasized that the definitive and infallible nature of this teaching of the Church did not arise with the publication of the Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. In the Letter, as the Reply of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also explains, the Roman Pontiff, having taken account of present circumstances, has confirmed the same teaching by a formal declaration, giving expression once again to quod semper, quod ubique et quod ab omnibus tenendum est, utpote ad fidei depositum pertinens. In this case, an act of the ordinary Papal Magisterium, in itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of the teaching of a doctrine already possessed by the Church.

    Ref. Letter Concerning the CDF Reply Regarding Ordinatio Sacerdotalis
    Letter by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
    Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
    October 28, 1995

    http://www.ourladyswarriors.org/teach/ordisace3.htm

  143. To Aaron (re: #80):

    You wrote: “Thanks for your response.”

    My pleasure. I imagine that this would move along more quickly as a dialog than a multilog, but it is still a valuable exchange.

    I had written “b)…apparent lack of clarity in Scripture may be due not to any obscurity in the text, but rather to a deficiency in the person”

    You replied: “I don’t know where to begin with this one. What is the nature of this “deficiency?” Intellectual? Spiritual? Moral? How does one know if one is “deficient” such that they are not seeing the Scriptures with “clarity?” Is it whether or not they agree with you?”

    Well, let’s consider this in a non-controversial context. On typical standardized exams like the SAT, there are “reading comprehension” questions. Those questions are not all of equal difficulty – some are easy (almost all the test-takers will get these right), some are moderately difficult (most of the test takers will get these right), some are difficult (a significant portion of the test-takers won’t get these right).

    What I trust you’ll agree about is that the “easy” questions relate to matters that are expressed most clearly – the “moderate” ones are matters expressed less clearly – the “difficult” ones are matters expressed most clearly. That’s an objective component to the writing.

    There’s a subjective component, however. To students who aren’t good at reading comprehension, almost all the questions seem difficult, while to exceptionally good students (within this dimension of study), all the questions are easy.

    That example, though, is oversimplified. In real life, people are influenced in their perception by their biases and prejudices. A careful person tries to set those aside, but a careless person is ruled by those things. Thus, even a person who is good at reading comprehension in general can experience errors of comprehension when a topic on which he has biases comes into consideration.

    Finally, there is a moral dimension. This is something that the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to include in Acts – a message explained by Paul:

    Acts 28:23-27

    And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, “Go unto this people, and say, ‘Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:’ for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”

    First of all, notice that Paul persuaded the Jews (or tried to) based on the authority of Scripture. That was always his approach, even though he himself had the gift of prophecy. I’ve heard people argue that Sola Scriptura couldn’t be practiced in the apostolic period, but it seems clear that Paul did appeal to the Scriptures as uniquely authoritative – and even as the standard by which his own teaching was to be judged both by the unbelievers and the believers.

    Second, notice that while some of the Jews were persuaded by Paul’s exposition of Scripture (and application of it to Jesus), not all were. The Scriptures he used and his presentation of them to the Jews were of a single objective level of clarity. Yet there were at least two subjective levels of clarity.

    Third, notice that Paul provides an explanation for the lack of persuasion. He doesn’t say that the Jews needed an infallible magisterium. He appeals to the prophecy in Isaiah:

    Isaiah 6:9-10
    And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

    The problem wasn’t in the Scriptures, it was in the their fat hearts, their heavy ears, and their shut eyes. In this case, those deficiencies were the source of their lack of understanding the otherwise clear Scriptures.

    As a bonus that is tangentially related to the topic, notice what Paul said immediately after what I quoted above:

    Acts 28:28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.

    I also wrote: “b)…The argument of the apostles is compelling…they were affirming what Scripture itself teaches. So, their letter was binding for at least those reasons.”

    You responded: “It was compelling to you, but not to the Judaizers, likewise with Amos 9. Again, it couldn’t have been but so compelling given that there was so much dispute on the issue.”

    It was compelling, it appears, to the church at Jerusalem in general. Perhaps the Judaizers at Jerusalem were not persuaded, but that may be to the kind of blindness that Paul mentions – or simply to their obsession with the law.

    Just because an argument is good and compelling in itself does not mean it has the same effect on everyone.

    I had written: “Moreover, the apostles were uniquely gifted with the Holy Spirit, so that by the laying on of their hands (and only their hands, it appears), the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit (tongues etc.) were given to believers. So, apostolic teaching had a special degree of authority.”

    You replied: “We have no disagreement here. Where we disagree is that you claim that this “unique gifting” and “special degree of authority” ended with the Apostles (which is nowhere found in Scripture).”

    Let me offer you a few arguments from Scripture to try to persuade you.

    First, there is good reason to view Paul as the last of the apostles (though perhaps he died before the beloved disciple, he was the last ordained):

    1 Corinthians 15:3-10

    For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

    Thus, no bishop of Rome fits within the Apostle Paul’s conception of who the apostles are.

    Second, the only instance of a succession to an apostolic post that we have in Scripture is that of Matthias acceding to the place of Judas Iscariot.

    Acts 1:12-26

    Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) “Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.’ Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, “Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

    This passage is also interesting in that Peter speaks and the others listen and agree with him – and yet like James in Acts 15, Peter appeals to the authority of Scripture to decide the matter.

    Note, however, the criteria that Peter identifies for how Judas’ successor (so to speak) is to be chosen, namely from among:

    1) “men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us” specifically
    2) “beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us”

    And the man was to be “ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.”

    That, after all, is the apostolic function. From Linus to Benedict XVI, how many of the bishops of Rome claim to be witnesses of the resurrection of Christ? None, right?

    Third, the extraordinary gifts were something that could be only distributed by the apostles, not by others – not even by Philip the Evangelist:

    Acts 8:12-19

    But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.”

    Notice that although they believed, and Philip baptized them, they did not receive the sign gifts (“miracles and signs”) until the apostles laid their hands on them. (Notice that Peter and John were sent by the Jerusalem church – wouldn’t that sound like an odd way of expressing it, if Peter were a monarchical pope? But as I noted above to Jason, the papacy hadn’t developed its way into existence yet.) This is one example of the unique gifts of the apostles. The sign gifts were given to those that they laid hands on – but those same people (like Philip) could not distribute the sign gifts (this is why the sign gifts disappeared when the apostles were no longer around to distribute them).

    Fourth, we actually see the disappearance of the sign gifts beginning in Hebrews. There we read:

    Hebrews 2:3-4
    How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

    Notice that the author of Hebrews (an epistle of Paul according to Trent’s allegedly infallible decree on the canon, not an epistle of Paul according to the stylistic evidence and 2 Thessalonians 3:17 “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.”) describes these sign gifts in the aorist tense – as though the confirmation were past completed thing, rather than an on-going thing.

    But who from Linus to Benedict XVI can tell us independent of Scripture what was spoken by the Lord? Who of them is confirmed by a variety of miracles, gifts of the Holy Spirit, and signs and wonders? Even if you buy into the pious legends regarding miracle working saints, certainly there is not the least hint that Benedict XVI can raise the dead, heal the lame, or even cure someone’s headache!

    In short, the Scriptures do confirm that the Apostles were of unique authority and function, and that the confirmation sign gifts were given to them in a unique way – a way that passed out of existence, in accordance with Paul’s prophecy:

    1 Corinthian 13:8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

    You continued: “That this “unique gifting” and “special degree of authority” were passed on to their successors was never in dispute for 1500 years (East or West) and even when the Reformers disputed it it remains the belief of the vast majority of Christians since then and now to this day.”

    First, there were those from the beginning who tried to claim the authority of apostles without actually being apostles. Paul tells us of them:

    2 Corinthians 11:8-15

    I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth. But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

    Second, while there is a concept of “apostolic succession” that existed (different from that of Matthias discussed above) you would be mistaken in thinking that this “apostolic succession” meant that the successors of the apostles had the same authority as the apostles.

    Indeed, in the earliest usage we see of that kind of terminology, it just means those who came after the apostles in terms of having eldership and oversight in the church. There was not, in those authors, a concept of each of the twelve and/or Paul having a unique successor – or of only Peter having a unique successor.

    Over time, as the papacy emerged in the West, various concepts emerged – one of which was that the bishop of Rome was uniquely the successor of Peter, that he had universal jurisdiction over the whole church, and so forth. But it is inaccurate to say that these ideas were unchallenged until the Reformation.

    The idea of a universal bishop was, in fact, opposed by one of Rome’s most notable bishops – Gregory the Great. It had come up in the context of the bishop of Constantinople attempting to be treated the head of the church – an idea that had some political support, in that Constantinople was the head of the empire.

    “To argue that it has been so misunderstood for so long and continues to be, but not by you, is special pleading.”

    I think we can pass over this for the time being, since I hope the discussion above won’t leave you thinking that I’m claiming to have some new insight in this case.

    I had written: “That said, if the apostles had taught something contrary to Scripture, then we would rightly reject it.”

    You responded: “That still applies today. The Magisterium has never definitively taught something contrary to Scripture.”

    a) I could give you several contrary examples. One example is the immaculate conception of Mary – another example is Trent’s teaching that Hebrews is an epistle of Paul.

    b) Your church demands that you read the Scriptures in such a way as not to contradict what the church teaches. If you obey that, how could you possibly ever identify when Scripture really contradicts your church?

    I wrote: “Visible separation is sometimes necessary when people cannot agree with one another over something important. In fact, Acts 15 provides the first example of that …”

    You responded: “You’ve shifted the goalpost; that was not a doctrinal dispute.”

    a) Why do you characterize this as not a doctrinal dispute?

    b) Are not doctrinal disputes more significant? If so, if the lesser justifies visible separation, doesn’t the greater as well?

    You may notice above that I didn’t directly address this: “How does one know if one is “deficient” such that they are not seeing the Scriptures with “clarity?” Is it whether or not they agree with you?”

    Rather than trying to detect whether one is deficient, it is appropriate for a person who is unsure to pray for wisdom from God:

    James 1:5-6
    If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

    James does not say, “If any of you lack wisdom, don’t worry – just ask the pope what to do.”

    -TurretinFan

    (Hopefully more responses on or by Monday.)

  144. Frank (#105), GNW Paul (#124), and Mateo (#134),

    Frank said:

    As to the Catechism question, I don’t know what discrepancies Daniel means. I am old enough to have studied the Baltimore Catechism as a youth and the current CCC as an adult. I have seen no changes in doctrines pertaining to faith and morals (the limits within which infallibility applies). Perhaps he’ll supply some specifics that can be discussed.

    Here’s an example of what I’m talking about regarding there being a discrepancy between the Baltimore Catechism and the CCC.

    From the Baltimore Catechism:

    Q. 1148. How do we offer God false worship?
    A. We offer God false worship by rejecting the religion He has instituted and following one pleasing to ourselves, with a form of worship He has never authorized, approved or sanctioned.

    Now, compare with the CCC:

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

    The CCC footnote 330 references Lumen Gentium:

    16. … But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Moslems: these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.

    and Nostra Aetate:

    3. The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

    Clearly, there is a discrepancy between the CCC and the Baltimore Catechism. (I presume the CCC would also be at variance with the Catechism of the Council of Trent.)

    Regards,

    Daniel

  145. Frank, Mateo, et al.,

    I will be taking off soon for a much-needed two-week vacation in, ironically, a Catholic country, so I’ll be out of touch with the blog world. (Good thing the Holy Office has not been very active for the last century and a half or so…otherwise, I might have to ask you to pray for my “safe conduct”–just a little Protestant humor :-) )

    Regards,

    Daniel

  146. Mateo re:#135 at the end

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a product of the Papacy as well as the whole Magisterium, and while not infallible in and of itself, it carries a serious ordinance of authority. (From my 124)

    I would want to qualify this comment a bit. The CCC does contain dogma that is infallibly defined. The CCC also teaches doctrine that is not at that level of theological certainty. That is why there a Second Edition of the CCC.

    Yes, I agree totally. I was having trouble trying to express my meaning at that point. Gravitas would perhaps be the better word, for of course nothing in the Catechism is spoken with authority in the sense that on the grounds of being in the Catechism causes it to be authoritative teaching.

    Because I think it may be helpful for some, I’d like to try between us to noodle around a bit with the question of just how “authoritative” the CCC really is.

    Here is another attempt at it:
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church by virtue of it’s genesis at the very highest levels of the Church is a distinguished source that although certain points may be questioned, debated, qualified, and with good reason assuming it’s not an infallible teaching perhaps rejected. However, I think this must be understood very cautiously. Much of what is presented in the Catechism is actually firmly and constantly taught by the Ordinary Magisterium.

    There are two points I think should be made for those who seek to understand the Catholic Church. First, the CCC is the current best effort of the Church at the direction and oversight of John Paul II to clearly present and explain the Catholic Faith comprehensively. As such, the catechism may be generally considered reliable as a source. Any contention that the CCC is wrong or in error, or that something not in the CCC must be believed can safely be treated with a high degree of skepticism, and the larger share of the burden of proof placed on the party questioning the CCC. Second, the overarching principles the CCC is organized around are overwhelmingly solidly taught and really not open to question. It is only in the details of application that there are really points where it is reasonable to consider certain paragraphs or statements to be reformable. It would seem to me that very few passages of the CCC are really open questions where anyone should feel free to completely disregard.

    My personal advice would be to mostly just trust the CCC. I personally enjoy reading encyclicals and theology and blogs. Certainly I read the bible for devotion and for study. However, I just go to the CCC and leave it at that 98% of the time when I have a question of a particular doctrine. Only if I a) find it difficult to accept and need to research the history and reasons behind it, or b) the CCC doesn’t specifically answer my question do I go to other sources. The CCC is very handy for this since it nearly always references 2 or 3 very important sources that I can start with. I put that in bold because it is really a great resource for that sort of thing.

  147. the fact that Priests and Nuns didn’t know their faith more deeply is troublesome. What were the adults, and parents getting? And does the CC encourage parents to catechize their families?

    Yes, it certainly is a scandal. I’m sorry I can’t pretend that Catholic Life in America as pure and perfect as it ought to be. Perhaps it is getting somewhat better. I believe it is. Still, such is our fate. The younger priests today are mostly much, much better and in some dioceses vocations are up considerably (although the MSM doesn’t notice that) but other dioceses still aren’t fostering many vocations and young priests are a scarce commodity. BXVI has replaced a lot of Bishops and overall they are younger and seem to be of a higher caliber than many of the JPII era Bishops. I take the recent HHS reaction from the Bishops as a sign of hope.

    Yes, the Church does encourage parents to catechize their children. CCC 2221-2231 particularly 2225-2226 address that directly. However, my experience is that at most parishes you’ll very seldom here that mentioned in a homily. Most Bishops are now requiring parents to take at least 1 session of catechism class as a condition of getting kids baptized, first communion or confirmed. I’m not sure I like that approach. Marriage prep is a big area where most parishes are trying to form better Catholic parents. On parish near me is having parents come to Catechism class with the kids once a month and then giving them the materials and outlines to do catechism at home. I like that idea.

    Overall, Catholics in North America are pretty lame when it comes to transmitting the faith to the next generation. It has improved from when I was a kid, at least where I am at. My parish went back to the Baltimore Catechism for k-8th grade.

    In short, we really need you protestant converts to come over an help us! Many of the Protestant churches are excellent in this area. Although I will suggest that if you strip out the sacraments, the hierarchy, the magisterium, reduce ecclesiology to the family and the bible, eliminate Mariology entirely, and focus on the Solas, John 3:16 …… it does make the job easier. It is easy to make Catholicism too cerebral and be too much about “what the Church teaches” and not enough about knowing Jesus.

    Pray for us! The task seems impossible. Even raising my own kids, this is challenging stuff. I take heart that even one of the twelve lost the faith, and that St. Paul had all sorts of trouble getting people to grow up in the faith and move on from “baby food” to real food.

  148. Mateo

    Following on my comment above,

    I should have made clear that quite a few sections of the Catechism actually explain disciplines or matters that are Cannon Law. Certainly those parts are reformable. However, they are currently binding on Catholics.

  149. Brent (#138),

    Where does the interpretive “buck stop”, so to speak? For example, if I go into a classroom and me and a Teacher look at a textbook, and the teacher says the correct interpretation of such and such is “x”, and I say it is “y”, how do we decide? If both of our opinions are equally valid, then the teacher serves a tentative function; or is merely my personal interlocutor.

    But both of our opinions could not equally be valid. Let’s say the teacher is wrong, and “y” is indeed the correct answer. It seems to me that a Catholic would just go ahead and say that “x” is true, just because the teacher said so.

    On your view, the “Church” functions only as a guide up until you decide that she is no longer true. Thus, we hold that you hold to the primacy of the individual conscience. However, to say “you too!” to Catholics seems fundamentally misleading. Going back to my analogy, let’s pretend that two people walk into a classroom both carrying the textbook in tote. The teacher says that such and such is properly understood as “x”. I, in virtue of the Teacher’s position, assent to “x”. You believe the interpretation is “y”, therefore you reject the Teacher.

    How are we the same? (I ask, because your line of thought is repeated ad nauseam).

    We’re the same because we’re both exercising private judgment as to what the teacher said. My question would be: How do you know you’ve understood the teacher correctly? Your answer might be: “Well, the teacher said so.” But where’s your “magisterium” to help you correctly understand what the teacher said? If you don’t have a magisterium, you’re exercising private judgment. You’ve become your own “pope,” so to speak.

    Regards,

    Daniel

  150. Daniel,

    Let’s say the teacher is wrong, and “y” is indeed the correct answer.

    How do you know it is “y”? I say I know because the Teacher was given a charism by Christ–therefore my believing “x” is not a “go ahead and say” but a “put my trust in Christ”. You say you know because the Bible tells you so. I say the Bible could warrant both of our positions. Therefore, I go with the Church Jesus founded against your (or my) private interpretation. See also my comment #22 (second part) and comment #40 (second part).

    We’re the same because we’re both exercising private judgment as to what the teacher said. My question would be: How do you know you’ve understood the teacher correctly?

    As I said in my comment #22, I think it is this part of the argument that is sophistry. I think it is sophistry because it assumes we can never understand anything a part from our private interpretation. It would also make the claims of Christianity in general against other religions mere subjective preference–private interpretation. It would reduce all of our ideas to some kind of Lockean impressions with no necessary relation to the thing in reality. Moreover, obedience and/or submission — on your view — would be impossible since ultimately I would only be obeying or submitting to my own interpretation of what someone said. However, that is not true. There are some things that can be understood prima facie, and obedience is possible. That is the point of a teacher, to make what is obscure or less direct, direct and not obscure. Then, instead of having to interpret, one can merely assent to a true proposition. That is the role of the Magisterium. Also see Tu Quoque. We should probably direct any more conversation about this topic there.

    Let me give you an example. The Catholic Church teaches there are seven Sacraments. She says this in one sentence. I’ve studied the Bible my whole life and never reached that conclusion personally. I’ve read where some people who study the Scriptures reach that conclusion. What gives? For a thoroughgoing discussion of this phenomena generally, see my guest post where I review Christian Smith’s “The Bible Made Impossible”. You can find it here.

    What you are saying assumes the Bible was written as a catechism. However, it was not. That is not its purpose. It is a collection of inspired books, pointing to the person of Christ, but particularly fashioned for the liturgical worship of the people of God. It is not a private letter to me, but a public letter, received by the Church and handed down to me through time by the Church. I know Church first, then Word. The relationship between Word, Church and Christ is understood chiefly through the Incarnation. It is the Incarnation that portends the impossibility of an “or” relationship between Christ and His Church. In other words, the Incarnation promises that I can trust His visible Church and in so doing trust Christ — who is eternally visible a la the Incarnation. The reality of His visibility made manifest through the unicity of his visible Church on earth.

    God bless,

    Brent

  151. Hi Daniel, Re: (Brent 138 & Daniel # 149)

    I believe that Brent’s question re: the teacher and the students was that the teacher would be always correct but this is only an illustration to make a point. In real life a teacher can certainly make a mistake. So assuming that the teacher WILL be correct the students involved would yield their answers to the teacher. Under any normal circumstances this would be the case. But when comparing the Church to the teacher and the students to various Christians in real life you are saying that the Church could be wrong, but you are forgetting one thing , and that is the Church is not operating on her own. She is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead all people (students) into the truth. So even though you might say a teacher in real life can be mistaken. The Church in real life will not be mistaken ( due to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.)

    The illustration that Brent used was good, but after all, it still is a human illustration and we think well, the teacher COULD be wrong! However the Church is not only human but she is divine in that she receives her teachings through Christ who is the living head. If you say the Church CAN be and IS wrong in matters of binding faith and morales then Christ is teaching error.

    Of course you don’t think that Christ teaches error therefore I think your concept of church and the Catholic concept of Church are two different concepts. So there will have to be a meeting of the minds so to speak, on what definition we should apply to the Church. I think if we cannot agree on that then the rest will be almost impossible to agree on.

    PS.
    Sorry Brent didn’t mean to squeeze in here. Just a thought about the Church and how it appears that you might be talking past each other on this point. I am thoroughly enjoying this round of talks. Very interesting.

    Blessings
    Nelson

  152. Daniel,

    We’re the same because we’re both exercising private judgment as to what the teacher said. My question would be: How do you know you’ve understood the teacher correctly? Your answer might be: “Well, the teacher said so.” But where’s your “magisterium” to help you correctly understand what the teacher said?

    Let’s say one of my children disobeys me and won’t clean her room after I’ve told her too. She argues that it’s her room and she should be free to treat it however she likes and that I am wrong to insist that as her parent and because the house is mine that she is morally bound to clean it. Say also that my other child cleans her room when I request it, but does not clean her closet because she honestly didn’t realize that I meant that she should clean the closet too. When I correct her, she cleans her closet. Your argument is that my 2 children are the same because they are both interpreting what I’m saying. That can’t be. The second child recognizes that she is not her own authority and does her best to obey me. The first child has fundamentally challenged my authority. If child 2 tells child 1 that she is rebelling and acting as her own authority, it would be ridiculous for child 1 to respond and say that they are both the same because they are both acting as interpreters of what I say or as interpreters of whether or not I actually have this authority as their parent.
    Mark

  153. Daniel,

    Maybe while you are enjoying what is no doubt a well-earned vacation, you can devote a moment or two to considering the question I’ve posed to you several times and which is so far unanswered:

    “And let me ask, do you consider any of these non-Catholic creeds or confessions or catechisms as absolutely binding on your conscience, regardless of your personal view of a particular question of dogma, discipline or ecclesiology? If so, which one, and why that one and not others?”

    Enjoy your vacation.

    Frank

  154. Daniel asserts: Clearly, there is a discrepancy between the CCC and the Baltimore Catechism.

    Clear to whom? Who has decided that the Baltimore Catechism contradicts the CCC? You!

    The quote you gave from the Baltimore Catechism is commentary on the first Commandment:

    Q. 1140. What is the first Commandment?
    A. The first Commandment is: I am the Lord thy God: thou shalt not have strange gods before me.

    Q. 1148. How do we offer God false worship?

    A. We offer God false worship by rejecting the religion He has instituted and following one pleasing to ourselves, with a form of worship He has never authorized, approved or sanctioned.

    I fail to see how the quotes you gave from the Baltimore Catechism and the CCC contradict each other when they are read in their context. To go into an in depth analysis of why I hold to that position would take this thread way off topic.

    It seems to me, that any debate with you over this particular matter would only result in you giving me your opinion, and me giving you my opinion backed up with the teachings of the magisterium of the Catholic Church. The end result of the discussion with you would be impasse, with you holding to your private interpretations of the Baltimore Catechism and the CCC. My point here is that it is you who decide what you will believe based on your private interpretations of the scriptures, and the Baltimore Catechism and the CCC. You are your own personal magisterium, and your magisterium has the final say in what you will believe. Please don’t take that personally, your approach to understanding the meaning of scriptures is exactly what I would expect from sola scriptura confessing Protestant, since the doctrine of the “liberty of conscience” is a fundamental aspect of sola scriptura theology. What I still haven’t figured out is why you deny that you believe in the primacy of the individual conscience.

    If you would explain why you do NOT believe in the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience, I think that we could discuss something that is germane to Jason Stewart’s article. To get the ball rolling here, please answer these questions:

    If you sincerely that a particular Protestant church is teaching what, in your opinion, is “unscriptural”, do you believe that it would be wrong for you to join that church, no matter how attractive its other aspects may be?

    If your answer is that you don’t care if a Protestant church is pure in its doctrine, I would like to know why that is so. If you would not join a Protestant church whose teachings are, in your opinion, “unscriptural”, please answer this question:

    The Protestant church that you would join, who is it that decides if what they teach is “scriptural”? Who is the ultimate authority that makes the decision about what is, or is not, scriptural?

  155. Nelson,

    Squeeze away! However, the essence of the Catholic response to the Tu Quoque is that the Catholic is still not in the same epistemic boat as the Protestant even if he holds to a false Magisterium. In other words, the point of my original question to Daniel was only to mark the difference between a Protestant who must necessarily hold to the “primacy of the individual conscience” which I believe “makes church shopping make sense“, and a Catholic who submits to the Church. Of course, the next question is how does one go about locating the Church Jesus personally founded. If there is such a Church, then obviously “church shopping” would not make sense, and the “primacy of the individual conscience” would be a sin.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  156. Danial #144 and Mateo #154

    There is a whole article and thread on precisely this question Here: VanDrunen on Catholic In lnclusivity and Change – by Tom Brown

    I would agree that if you wanted to pick the best argument for a contradiction between Trent and Vatican II this is the best candidate. I think we can leave the Baltimore Catechism out of the discussion entirely however. It is irrelevant. It is a school text for elementary grades. Go back to the Council of Trent and earlier formulations of that doctrine and understand them in context and that is where the argument lies. I’ll leave it at that because it belongs on the other thread.

    Daniel, if you want to take this up, I encourage you and welcome the discussion, but please actually read the article linked above and the comments. I believe I commented there a couple of times myself.

    I’ll indulge one parting shot however. If the Catholic Church, ever at any point in history believed that absolutely everyone who was not formally and visibly a member of the Catholic Church had absolutely no possible hope of salvation, how is that the Church has never declared even one single individual to have actually been condemned to hell?

  157. Is there more to these words, than have been highlighted by Daniel? I’m a Protestant and as far as I know, having a heart that is deceitful, I love the creator, but God is triune and Jesus said that no man could come to the Father but by Him. If Muslim’s deny the trinity, and that Jesus is the second person of the godhead, and if they aren’t in communion with the Church Christ founded, how is there any salvation for these people unless they bow to this already established truth? Unless there is more explanation, this salvation is looking pretty universal.
    What frightens me is the possiblity that you and I have followed the rabbit all the way, and that there is no way to know truth afterall. But I believe in Pure Actuality and IT doesn’t need me in order to be true. Beauty, Truth, and Goodness are real. Has trusting in sola scriptura or the Catholic Magisterium painted us all into a corner?

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

    The CCC footnote 330 references Lumen Gentium:

    16. … But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Moslems: these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.

    and Nostra Aetate:

    3. The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

  158. MarkS,

    Say also that my other child cleans her room when I request it, but does not clean her closet because she honestly didn’t realize that I meant that she should clean the closet too. When I correct her, she cleans her closet. Your argument is that my 2 children are the same because they are both interpreting what I’m saying. That can’t be. The second child recognizes that she is not her own authority and does her best to obey me. The first child has fundamentally challenged my authority.

    To this story you could also add that the situation described is completely different between one in which all the children have to go on is a note from you that says “Clean you rooms.” Let’s speculate that you left the country for business and would not be reachable until you returned. When you wrote “Clean your rooms,” did you mean that “closet” was implied by “room”?

    With just the note, the children are left to bicker over whether you meant to include the closet. But let’s say your wife was there with the children while you were gone. Perhaps you specifically asked her to make sure that the closets and the bedrooms were cleaned. Or perhaps you also didn’t tell her specifically what needed to be done and your wife simply has the right to interpret your note to the children authoritatively. Or perhaps you told your wife that the children also needed to clean the bathroom, even though you didn’t put that in the note. Whatever the case, with an authoritative representative still in the household, the children are in a much less precarious state about to do than they would have been if all they had was the note.

  159. Dear Alicia (#157)

    Note what those highlighted texts do not say. They do not say that Muslims are saved apart from the church. They say that they are part of “God’s plan of salvation.” God’s plan of salvation is for all to be in communion with the Church personally founded by Jesus Christ. Not all those outside of the Catholic Church are equally “distant” from her. Protestants are closer than Muslims, for example, because of the many doctrines held in common.

    Note that all these texts say is that Muslims (as descendants of Abraham) professto believe in the same “God” as Christians and Jews. But only Christians have the fullness of “God” in His trinitarian nature. So Muslims are closer than Hindus, but more distant than Protestants. This word profess is an important nuance. Their regard for Jesus as a prophet and for Mary as the “virgin mother” of Jesus means they have some of the ingredients for full-orbed belief in God, but have fallen short of belief in the one, true, Trinitarian God.

    Vatican II (from which Lumen Gentium comes) had ecumenism as one of its principal emphases. This explains the irenic tone towards Muslims. The texts make truthful statements about professed Muslim beliefs in the hope that it might foster dialogue and bring them to the fullness of the faith. I admit that seems like a pretty optimistic goal given what I understand about Islam, but there is no dilution or compromise of the truth involved in expressing this hope and extending an open hand instead of a closed fist.

    This issue of Islam has been raised elsewhere on C2C, and seems like a common tactic used to undermine people’s confidence in what the Church teaches. It relies (as have other statements intended to undermine faith in the Church) on a partial truth, not unlike a certain incident we’ve read about in Genesis.

    Blessings,
    Frank

  160. Alicia,

    A few thought for your consideration. This is a difficult and contentious topic and I’ve have had numerous arguments over these passages with Catholics of all perspectives. Context is everything of course, and in this case what I mean by context isn’t very comforting to those who aren’t Catholic. It’s not just the context of the particular passages in the original sources that I’m talking about. We need to understand this in the context of the whole of revelation and the scriptures and the history of the Church.

    The Catholic Church exists (at least in it’s own self conception) as the visible body of Christ whose primary (sole) mission on earth is the salvation of souls. The only way the Apostles were taught by Jesus to bring souls to teach what Jesus taught and to celebrate the sacraments. Restating the same thing: The only purpose of the Church is bring salvation to the world through preaching Jesus Christ crucified and through the sacraments. Those two puzzle pieces imply two unstated corollaries. Knowing, naming or declaring who is in Hell is NOT part of the mission of the Church and is totally beyond the authority of the Church and anyone else except Jesus Christ himself. Since Jesus Christ himself has been given authority to pronounce judgement -not the Church, even though we do not know or understand how, we must admit that even in the case of one who we have no visible reason to believe could possibly the Church can not declare there is no hope for their salvation because doing so would usurp the Judgement of “the secrets of mens hearts” that the Father has granted to Jesus Christ alone.

    I admit that is a lot to digest and I agree it isn’t something that anyone is just going to ‘believe’ on one look.

    Addressing the specific quotes you mention from Daniel. CCC 841 – I think reading CCC 846-848 helps at least a bit.

    Outside the Church there is No Salvation
    846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

    Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.
    847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

    Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.
    848 “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”

    Looking at the context of each quote you will find the same things. A) the main point of the passage has to do with Salvation is through Christ and his Church, B) no one is saved without Christ’s Sacrifice C) Christ alone can judge the hearts of all men, and it is possible that some sincere person who although not visibly united to the Church on this earth through no fault of their own, may yet be saved – but only by the merits won by Christ on the Cross and by his merciful judgement.

    A Biblical Justification for CCC 848

    I’d like to look at Roman’s Chapter 2.

    Romans 2:1 “Therefor you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgement on him you condemn yourself.”

    and

    Rom 2:14-16
    When the Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

    Here we see straight from the Apostle Paul that passing Judgement is not ours. Specifically to be properly understood, it doesn’t say we aren’t to judge or be judgmental. Paul is making it clear that even for the Apostles, pronouncing final judgement is for Jesus Christ and not for the Church. Further, looking at Rom 2:14-16 in conjunction with Rom 1:18-19

    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

    So God can justly condemn men and subject him to his wrath BECAUSE men CAN KNOW about God and it has been shown to them. A just God could not condemn people for what there is no way they could know. The Natural Law can be rationally understood and God can be known from nature. Combining this with Rom 2:14-16 God will judge “the secrets of men’s hearts” and God will condemn them only on the grounds of what they could have known.

    Conclusion. Judgement does not belong to the Church. God will Judge in Jesus Christ. Out of Justice, God will not damn a man for what he can’t be expected to know AND it is possible for men to know of God and natural law through reason and observation. All three of those statements would be violated if the Church proclaimed that there was any single person or group of persons on the planet who absolutely could not have been saved under any circumstances. The Church MUST allow some possibility for everyone, and She always has through out history. There is no other choice. To take muslims and say “anyone who dies a muslim, was not a member of Christ’s Church, was not baptized and did not die in Christ (visibly) therefor we know with certainty that all muslims go to hell” would mean that we violated Romans 2:1 in passing final judgement, we violated Rom 2:16 by not leaving any room for God to exercise His divine authority in judging the secretes of their hearts, and we violate justice because we condemn to hell anyone who may have lived a very good life out of a sincere desire to please God and following his conscience in what he was able to know – in particular Natural Law. {And in point of fact, the Muslims do worship “the God of Abraham” and they certainly do explicitly accept most of what is Natural Law, so a “good Muslim” might very well lead a fairly virtuous and righteous life}

    I have a couple more approaches to this that might help, but I’ll leave at this for now and get some sleep.

  161. DT:

    Thanks for your comments.

    You wrote: “I would offer this for TurretinFan and others with the same outlook. It is intended strictly as a focus for thought.”

    I understand.

    “If you want to know who agrees with your interpretation of scripture, merely open the Yellow Pages to Church and read the major subheadings. … ”

    Charting these churches may reveal what things in Scripture are the most clearly expressed (the death and resurrection of Christ, for example) and things that practically no one finds in Scripture (like a papacy, immaculate conception of Mary, purgatory, indulgences, the bodily assumption of Mary, and so on).

    But it is not widespread agreement that is our rule of faith – our rule of faith is the Word of God. So, while it may be an interesting experiment, I’m not sure what its ultimate value would be.

    -TurretinFan

  162. Frank (#128),

    My fictional encounter was set to illustrate the frustration of many Protestants when Catholics say they need the infallibility of the Pope and the Magisterium. The very fact that the Pope is not an “infallibility machine,” as a previous commentator put it, is precisely why many Protestants don’t see his necessity: “If the Pope is only giving his opinion on many matters, than what good is he! I’ll just consult my Bible; it’s infallible every time I open it up!” Of course this brings up issues of the reliability of individual versus ecclesial exegesis, authority and conscience, etc., but this is why I emphasize that determining whether the Pope is exercising his infallibility or not (or whether a dogma has been defined or not) is irrelevant to the Protestant objection.

    If Christianity is essentially an assemblage of all the true doctrines one can cobble together from a sacred text, than one has a big responsibility to get it right. Joining oneself to a confessional standard (Westminster, Augsburg, 39 Articles, etc.) would be not so much submitting oneself to an external authority, as it would be relieving one’s anxiety over getting it all right: “If there is a group of people out there who agree with me, than maybe I’m on the right track.” IMO, the tu quoque objection comes up so often because Protestants assume that all Christians are in the same boat. I could be accused of psychologizing here, but this was my mindset as a Protestant and most ex-Prots I know have concurred.

    Given that mindset, Malachi and Phineas are not to be blamed so much for refusing to submit to the Apostles’ authority as for their poor exegetical skills. That this is said in hindsight should give one pause, but it rarely does.

  163. Fr. Bryan (#141),

    I’m not even on Facebook, let alone the author of a blog. I generally keep a low profile on the internet, reading for my own benefit/amusement but rarely ever commenting. I usually assume that I’m the dumbest person in the room, and therefore have nothing to add in most discussions. Why I’m being so loquacious now is beyond me.

    I have several of Pinkaers’ volumes on my Amazon list, but I have more reading to accomplish before I can justify the purchase. I try to read the relevant Papal encyclicals on my iPhone (iPieta app) but I tend to zone out after a few minutes. I really should just print them out.

  164. TurretinFan,

    Thank you for your patience. I see you’ve written a few lengthy responses in the combox here and that they are addressed to various individuals who’ve engaged you. For my part, I’d be interested in your answer to a basic question nestled at the root of all of this.

    Since anybody with basic reading skills can read and understand the Bible, what, in your opinion, was the reason and purpose for calling the assembly in Jerusalem?

    Blessings,
    Jason Stewart

  165. @Alicia #157:

    What is essential to note is that, first, no one is condemned to Hell except by his own action, and, second, that no one is saved except through Christ.

    The first is relevant to what, when I was an evangelical, I used to have to deal with when trying to share the Gospel with people – the “heathen in Africa” problem.

    My response – quite properly, I think – was to tell them that I didn’t know how God would deal with those who had never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus, but that you (the person I was talking to) now had had that opportunity – so what was he going to do about it.

    My own father was pretty much a Deist. He was Jewish, but had been raised with no religious practice at all. His best friend in school had been an evangelical. My father, when I became a Christian, was pleased – and said that he himself could not not believe in – well – Something behind it all (and he would wave his arms to take in all of creation) – but that he could not see how all this could have just happened.

    My father is dead now. Is he in Hell? Only God knows. The Church talks about ‘invincible ignorance.’ Had my father ever had the thought that, hey, maybe all this that my son is raving about could possibly be true – and then suppressed that thought – then he might, in fact, have been guilty of rejecting God’s offer of grace. I don’t know. I hope and pray not. But of this I am sure, that my father, if he is in Hell, is in Hell entirely by his own fault.

    Many a Muslim might be in his position. Heard of Christ, yes. It is difficult to imagine anyone today not having at least heard of Christ. But facts of upbringing, of cultural pressures, of all sorts of things, may make it practically speaking impossible for such a person seriously to consider the possibility of the truth of the Gospel.

    But of this I am utterly and absolutely certain: if my father is not in Hell, if, in fact, he is in Heaven, or in Purgatory on his way to Heaven (for all souls in Purgatory are, as we evangelicals used to like to say, “Heaven-bound” – which I had not understood as a Protestant, either when I was evangelical or when I was Reformed) – then my father is in that state solely by virtue of the grace of God in Christ. There is not grace outside of Christ.

    That grace always flows through the Church – but I believe – and thank God – that grace can flow to many who do not realise it is Christ and His Church they have to thank for it. My own conversion – there are many mysterious channels that led to it, I am certain – the prayers of my ancestors; prayers of Christians throughout the world who could never know me; prayers by Christians for the salvation of the foolish and ignorant – I have no idea. But I am certain it is so. No one is saved except in Christ. No one is saved except through the Church.

    jj

  166. Alicia asks: I’m a Protestant and as far as I know, having a heart that is deceitful, I love the creator, but God is triune and Jesus said that no man could come to the Father but by Him. If Muslim’s deny the trinity, and that Jesus is the second person of the godhead, and if they aren’t in communion with the Church Christ founded, how is there any salvation for these people unless they bow to this already established truth?

    A Muslim can know that Christians believe that God is Triune because he has heard a Christian make that claim. But is his knowledge about the Triune nature of God necessarily the same as a Christian whose “knowing” is enlightened by supernatural grace? No, not necessarily, because the Muslim may not have received the grace necessary to enlighten his intellect to the point that he would be culpable for not believing what a Christian claims to know. My point here is that one must distinguish between two ways of “knowing” – a type of “knowing” that comes from natural reason unenlightened by supernatural grace, and a type of “knowing” that one has when one receives the sanctifying gifts of the Holy Spirit of Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge.

    Did Abraham know that God was Triune? No, he did not know that while he was alive on earth, because that truth had not yet been revealed to man. Is Abraham condemned to eternity in Hell because he did know that God was Triune? No, not if we believe what Jesus has revealed to us about the fate of Abraham. Abraham was not condemned to Hell for his ignorance, because God does not hold a man culpable for his ignorance when that ignorance is invincible:

    INVINCIBLE IGNORANCE. Lack of knowledge, either of fact or law, for which a person is not morally responsible. This may be due to the difficulty of the object of the knowledge, or scarcity of evidence, or insufficient time or talent in the person, or any other factor for which he is not culpable. (Etym. Latin in, not + vincibilis, easily overcome: invincibilis.)

    Ref: Modern Catholic Dictionary
    http://www.therealpresence.org/cgi-bin/getdefinition.pl

    ***************************

    Outside The Church There Is No Salvation

    The doctrine that “Outside the Church there is no salvation” is one that is constantly misinterpreted by those who won’t submit to the Magisterium of the Church. Faith does not depend upon our ability to reason to the truth but on our humility before the Truth presented to us by those to whom Christ entrusted that task. This is why the First Vatican Council taught that it is the task of the Magisterium ALONE to determine and expound the meaning of the Tradition – including “outside the Church no salvation.”

    Concerning this doctrine the Pope of Vatican I, Pius IX, spoke on two different occasions. In an allocution (address to an audience) on December 9th, 1854 he said:

    We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation; that she is the only ark of safety, and whosoever is not in her perishes in the deluge; we must also, on the other hand, recognize with certainty that those who are invincible in ignorance of the true religion are not guilty for this in the eyes of the Lord. And who would presume to mark out the limits of this ignorance according to the character and diversity of peoples, countries, minds and the rest?

    Again, in his encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore of 10 August, 1863 addressed to the Italian bishops, he said:

    It is known to us and to you that those who are in invincible ignorance of our most holy religion, but who observe carefully the natural law, and the precepts graven by God upon the hearts of all men, and who being disposed to obey God lead an honest and upright life, may, aided by the light of divine grace, attain to eternal life; for God who sees clearly, searches and knows the heart, the disposition, the thoughts and intentions of each, in His supreme mercy and goodness by no means permits that anyone suffer eternal punishment, who has not of his own free will fallen into sin.

    Ref: Colin B. Donovan, STL

    http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/outside_the_church.htm

    As Christians, we are obligated by God to spread the Good News. But not everyone who hears the Good News understands what he is hearing:

    When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path.
    Matthew 13:19

    For some people, the obstacle to understanding is stronghold that must be torn down before the Good News can be understood. Christ has given us the power to tear down strongholds. If a stronghold is left standing, perhaps God will hold a Christian culpable for not even trying to tear down the stronghold.

    For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
    2 Cor. 10: 3-4

    And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
    Mark 9:28-29

  167. Ok, John I am trying to understand it all, but is so foreign to what I have always believed and is an entire paradigm shift in my thinking. I’m not sure when I am sinning and when I am not anymore. Do you go by your conscience or what? I thought I was depraved. What of Christ’s full satisfaction; what do I do with this doctrine? Is it biblical? Am I responsible for an erotic dream, or a sinful thought? I feel guilt, but am I guilty?
    No more, “Sheep May Safely Graze” must I hear “Dies Irae” always?

  168. Aaron:

    You wrote: “This parting of the ways between Paul and Barnabas was not predicated upon a doctrinal difference nor did it amount to a schism from the Church (on the part of either of them).”

    It was a visible separation. “Schism,” of course, would refer only to a sinful separation. I didn’t allege that it was a sinful separation. Sometimes visible separation is necessary and valuable – if for non-doctrinal reasons, much more so for doctrinal reasons.

    -TurretinFan

  169. @Alicia #167:

    Ok, John I am trying to understand it all, but is so foreign to what I have always believed and is an entire paradigm shift in my thinking. I’m not sure when I am sinning and when I am not anymore. Do you go by your conscience or what? I thought I was depraved. What of Christ’s full satisfaction; what do I do with this doctrine? Is it biblical? Am I responsible for an erotic dream, or a sinful thought? I feel guilt, but am I guilty?
    No more, “Sheep May Safely Graze” must I hear “Dies Irae” always?

    Oh my dear Alicia, this brings tears to my eyes. As you know, if you have read that story of my own becoming a Catholic which I sent you off-list, on that one day in June, 1994, I experienced what the psychologists call ‘fugue’ – a form of amnesia. I got off that ‘bus – no longer knowing why I was even on it nor where I was going – unable to breathe because of extreme allergies, and convinced that God was holding my nostrils shut, and laughing in Heaven at me: “You must decide – decide now – hurry! – and whatever decision you make will be WRONG and I, God, will just laugh at you!!!

    I had been where it sounds like you are now for the months leading up to that. It was sitting on that bench in the winter sunshine that I decided – I refused to believe in a God like that. I would believe in a God Who, if I tried to seek Him, would be found by me.

    Christ has paid absolutely full satisfaction. Absolutely. One hundred per cent. Believe it. What you must struggle with is how to appropriate that satisfaction. God be forever praised for this! Those erotic dreams? Or – as in my case, those dreams of disgusting anger against those I love? They are not sin, of course they are not. But – guilt? Yes, indeed. I am guilty. I am guilty of all my past sins, my past actual anger, my past actual lusts – all of which have formed me so that this stuff in my subconscious is certainly there. I turn them over to God in the morning – ask His Holy Spirit to guide me in the way of cleansing – you can scarcely believe just how much it helps to go to Confession, and then actually to do penance – tiny little things, but my acts of loving God for my real, deep guilt.

    Yes, of course I follow my conscience. What else is there? That is why God made me with it – and I strive properly to form my conscience, to read the Bible, to pray, to listen to the Church, to examine my conscience regularly, and to bring it weekly to the tribunal where the just and merciful Judge both condemns my acts and releases me from their guilt – and teaches me the way of healing.

    Both – “Sheep May Safely Graze” and “Dies Irae.” The Dies Irae is not condemnation. It is a plea for mercy, mercy which will never be denied to the one who asks.

    I pray daily for you and for many on Called To Communion.

    jj

  170. re 167

    Alicia,

    I met a man who told me something that I never would have thought of if it had not been presented to me. When I was actively searching to find out where I needed to be, I met a man who was Calvinist in the literal sense. He liked going to the church he was a member of. He liked the hymns and the people. However, he was sure that he was damned and so, while objectively moral in most areas of his life, he had a weakness for the fairer sex and did not deny himself such comfort as they were willing to provide. In this case, Calvin had done this man a great disservice. He was sure that he was not going to heaven.

    It was a hard idea for me. God came to save the world and here was a man whose religion condemned him. I sometimes am smart enough to listen, and since I was searching, I could have provided some bible verses but would literally have been unable to guide him to a congregation where he might be convinced of his value in Christ. (The place I was in did not always believe Jesus when He said something in scripture, and I was on the way out. I could not invite him to a place I was leaving.)

    Our human nature is such that it straddles time and eternity because we were made for life everlasting. There are fallen creatures on the other side of this divide. Sometimes they speak to us and, whether we act on what they say or not, we are aware of the idea/s being presented. Commonly we’ll say, “Now where did that idea come from?” I would not give the fallen creatures credit for all my failings, but they can claim an involvement in some, and the sense of “where did that come from” is correct.

    We might examine the idea to see if it is acceptable or good or even merely useful. Somethings are both good and acceptable, and other things are morally neutral. There is however a category of thought that is diabolical. The idea may not appear to be so initially, remembering that Satan and his minions can appear as angels of light, but its end is death. Once such a realization is made, the idea can no longer be entertained, because even entertaining it is sinful.

    I don’t know what you are seeing or hearing or thinking. It sounds like scruples have a hold on your imagination. I would suggest that you let go. Do good when you can; do no harm; and pray for whatever it is that you cannot decide about, especially if it involves another person. In the economy of salvation, your prayers are quite powerful. Someone will get the benefit at the right time from the right source and, like Simon the tanner bringing healing to Paul, everything will turn out alright.

    The man I met settled for a evil idea, that God had made him to condemn him, because Calvin had presented that idea in its full flower. That fact is the reason I rejected Calvinism without bothering to become a Presbyterian or a Reformed churchman. I’ll give my old Assemblies of God church mates this, they did believe that God had come to save the world and they were right about that.

    Trust God and offer Him those prayers anytime you are unsure. When you have done exactly that, don’t be troubled. One plants, another waters, and God grants the increase. He’ll do the lifting we cannot do.

    Cordially,

    dt

  171. Alicia asks: … I am trying to understand it all, but is so foreign to what I have always believed and is an entire paradigm shift in my thinking. I’m not sure when I am sinning and when I am not anymore. Do you go by your conscience or what?

    Alicia, that is a very deep question. One must obey one’s conscience, but one’s conscience must also be informed by the truth to have a perfectly formed conscience. A devout Muslim man that prays to the God of Abraham five times a day probably is not disturbed in his conscience when he prays to God. He would more likely be disturbed in his conscience if he did NOT pray to God.

    Every man or woman needs to obey his or her conscience, but no man or woman is born with a perfectly formed conscience. If we were all born with perfectly formed consciences, then no church would be necessary for us to know what constitutes orthodox moral doctrine, and God certainly would not have needed to give us the divine revelation found in the Ten Commandments. If men and women were born with perfect consciences, God could have just told Moses to tell Hebrews to obey their consciences.

    My point here is that people are born without perfectly formed consciences. The defects of conscience can be broadly ascribed to either the defect of scrupulosity, or the defect of licentiousness. The man or woman suffering from the defect of scrupulosity sees sin where there is no sin. Martin Luther seems to have suffered greatly from scrupulosity. The man or woman that suffers from the defect of licentiousness sins without his conscience being disturbed. The extreme example of that defect of conscience would be the sociopath who feels no guilt about the crimes he commits.

    I thought I was depraved.

    I don’t know what that is supposed to mean. If you are a normal person, you struggle like all normal persons do with your concupiscene. Normal people want to do what is right, but doing what is right isn’t always that easy. We are tempted by the world, the flesh, and the devil, and we can only be tempted by what attracts us. To quote one Protestant man that I respect, “If sinning was like rubbing ground glass in our eyes, we would all be saints.”

    The Fall deprived Adam’s progeny of the preternatural gift of lack of concupiscence, and that preternatural gift is not restored when one becomes a Christian. In other words, becoming a Christian does not instantly transform us into great saints whose thoughts, words, and deeds are above reproach.

    Am I responsible for an erotic dream, or a sinful thought? I feel guilt, but am I guilty?

    No, you are not guilty for having an erotic dream. Scientists that have researched the sleep cycle have determined that normal people have several erotic dreams every night, but not everyone remembers those dreams. So I wouldn’t fret over that, that only proves that you are normal.

    What of Christ’s full satisfaction; what do I do with this doctrine?

    Accept it! Catholics believe that we must repent of our sins and confess to a priest our personal sins (sins that are real sins, and not just involuntary things like dreams or random thoughts that pass through our heads). If we confess our sins with a firm resolution of amending our ways with the help of God’s grace, we can then claim the satisfaction that Christ made for the eternal punishment due these sins. What practicing Catholics can’t do is set themselves up as the supreme authority that decides what is, or is not, sinful.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks about the formation of conscience, the problem of erroneous judgement, and the necessity of having one’s conscience formed by an authority that is higher than one’s own feelings. For a good place to start, see CCC paragraphs 1776 – 1794.

    I hope this helps. I will continue to pray for you in your struggles to find peace of mind.

  172. Dear Alicia, (#167)

    During Lent my priest has been giving a sermon series on the 7 deadly sins. As part of that, he drew our attention to the conditions that must be met in a person for a sin to be serious (‘mortal’) and therefore to destroy sanctifying grace in the soul. This is what the CCC teaches about serious sin:

    1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”131

    1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.”132 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

    1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice.

    Summarizing, for a person to be held culpable for sin, 1) the act or thought must be grave matter, 2) we must give the full consent of our will, and 3) we must know it is sinful.

    An erotic dream cannot possibly involve the assent of your will and is therefore not a sin. A sinful thought that just drifts into your mind and which you do not dwell upon or savor, is also not a sin, because you are not forming an immoderate attachment to an earthly (fleshly) desire or thing. Now if you consciously summon up that same thought, and dwell upon it with full knowledge of its sinful nature, then you are culpable. Sin resides in the will and in the turning away of that will from that to which it is properly ordered: God and his moral law.

    The CCC is online. You may find it to be a source of reassurance to you.

    Blessings,
    Frank

  173. Nick:

    You wrote: “(1) When Jesus said “Search the Scriptures,” this doesn’t entail a closed canon. At most it means there was a certain collection agreed upon as Scripture and it could be appealed to for testimony. The dispute between the Pharisees and Sadducees in Acts 23:6-8 could very well be attributed to differences in canon.”

    a) It means that when Jesus said, “Scripture,” people knew what he meant. That implies that the boundaries of the canon (of Jesus) were pretty well known.

    b) That’s closed in the sense of not being uncertain. That’s not closed in the sense of not being open to future addition of other works, for example, NT books.

    You continued: “There is no good evidence the NT canon was settled upon early on, especially that early on.”

    I think I’ve already provided the evidence regarding 1st century recognition of the canon. There’s also second-century evidence and third century evidence.

    “First, some of the writings were private correspondence (Timothy, Titus), so there is no reason to assume people thought, ‘this is Scripture, let’s pass it on!'”

    It’s hardly an assumption that people recognized the epistles as Scripture and passed them on.

    “Second, it is not certain that Paul referenced Luke’s Gospel in 1 Timothy 5:18, as even John Calvin says it was merely recalling oral teaching of Our Lord.”

    Clearly I disagree with Calvin on this, but consider what he wrote in his commentary on 1 Timothy 5:18:

    The laborer is worthy of his hire He does not quote this as a passage of Scripture, but as a proverbial saying, which common sense teaches to all. In like manner, when Christ said the same thing to the Apostles, (Matthew 10:10,) he brought forward nothing else than a statement approved by universal consent.

    Calvin is a worthy and amazing scholar, but his name alone is not enough.

    “Third, the only time NT writings are called “scripture” is by Peter, but this is in reference to an unspecified number of Paul’s writings (certainly not everything Paul ever wrote was scripture).”

    :shrug:

    “I point these things out because many Protestants take such things for granted, when in fact taking a step back and looking at the data shows there are bigger gaps that cannot be simply accounted for by Scripture alone.”

    Sola Scriptura presupposes one has the Scriptures. While the Scriptures are self-authenticating, the Holy Spirit often uses other means to persuade us to accept them for what they are.

    -TurretinFan

    P.S. Lord willing, more responses tomorrow, beginning at #91.

  174. Dear John,

    What a beautiful comment (169). Thank you!

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  175. Thank you, John. You understand what I am experiencing.

    Dear Mateo,
    You said: “A Muslim can know that Christians believe that God is Triune because he has heard a Christian make that claim. But is his knowledge about the Triune nature of God necessarily the same as a Christian whose “knowing” is enlightened by supernatural grace? No, not necessarily, because the Muslim may not have received the grace necessary to enlighten his intellect to the point that he would be culpable for not believing what a Christian claims to know. My point here is that one must distinguish between two ways of “knowing” – a type of “knowing” that comes from natural reason unenlightened by supernatural grace, and a type of “knowing” that one has when one receives the sanctifying gifts of the Holy Spirit of Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge”

    Because, I am having such a shift in my thinking, I am now uncertain of epistemic certainty about nearly everything. Do you have any recommended reading on this topic and on the subject of morals. If you do, please recommend the most scholarly and respected. I know that I probably should not read Balthasar. “Balthasar has expressed some sympathy with a “hope” for salvation for non-Christians,but warns against asserting it.Universal salvation, if it happens, would be the result of Christ’s “utter abandoment”. Wikipedia. Thank you.

  176. TurretinFan (Re #119)

    I am trying to catch up on the 50 new posts since Friday, but skimming over them they don’t seem to have overlapped on your response to me.

    I originally claimed that Amos 9 was materially sufficient, not formally sufficient. And I said this because it employed typology and prophecy. You responded:

    It is prophesy, but it is not typological. It says “Gentiles, which are called by my name.” That’s something to be taken according to the literal sense. There is figure of speech employed in the first part of the verse (“tabernacles of David”), which may be understood (within the convention of metaphor) literally, or which may point us specifically to the resurrection of Jesus (in which case it is typological). However that part of the verse isn’t the part that is key – key is the part about Gentiles being called by the name of the Lord. That part is plainly stated without the use even of metaphor or simile.

    But “Gentiles, which are called by my name” doesn’t really tell us anything specific. That is what Jason’s whole point was this entire time. The Jews were living as Jews the whole time and were calling upon the Lord’s name, so why must this “called by my name” entail living differently than the Jews? This is why I originally mentioned that all Christians were Jews and living as Jews at least the first 10 years of the Church, because ‘no circumcision’ wasn’t originally part of Christian life.

    As for the reference to “David’s tent,” you say “that part of the verse isn’t the part that is key,” and yet that was ‘half’ of all the ‘prooftext’ that Saint James quotes. This weakens the “Sola Scriptura” approach even further, for they were quoting something not directly relevant (per your admission) to circumcision.

  177. Mateo,

    Re Q. 170

    You didn’t know what I meant by depravity. I don’t know if you are familiar with The Canons of Dort?
    Using TULIP as an acronym the “T” stands for Total Depravity:
    http://www.gospeloutreach.net/total_depravity.html

    As far as the rest of your response, thanks again.

  178. Alicia asks: Because, I am having such a shift in my thinking, I am now uncertain of epistemic certainty about nearly everything. Do you have any recommended reading on this topic and on the subject of morals.

    I hope that you would agree that one of the great problems plaguing our culture today is the problem of rampant moral relativism. Commonly accepted norms of right and wrong are being challenged with ever greater intensity, and it seems that we are headed for a society where anything goes, as long adults consent to what they are doing. One voice that I think speaks with clarity against this foolishness is C.S. Lewis. I highly recommend his book Mere Christianity to understand why moral relativism is just plain wrongheaded thinking.

    The first part of Mere Christianity is a defense of idea that all men have a human nature that possesses an inherent knowledge of right and wrong. Lewis gives a name to this knowledge of right and wrong that is inherent in our human nature – “the Law of Nature” (in the CCC, this would be referred to as natural law). Lewis begins Mere Christianity with two points that form the major premises of his book:

    These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.

    I think that an understanding of natural law, or the Law of Nature, is the proper starting point in any systematic exposition of morals and ethics. C. S. Lewis argues that it simply isn’t true that “different civilizations and different ages have had quite different moralities”. The appendix in his book The Abolition of Man gives his evidence for that assertion.

    The final section of Mere Christianity is titled Christian Behavior, which makes up about two-thirds of the entire book. I think it is best to assimilate his arguments in the first two sections before delving into the last part of his book.

    You didn’t know what I meant by depravity. I don’t know if you are familiar with The Canons of Dort?

    Using TULIP as an acronym the “T” stands for Total Depravity …

    Alicia, the site you referenced says this:

    The doctrine of Total Depravity briefly states that because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the Gospel. The sinner is dead, blind and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free; it is in bondage to his evil nature; therefore, he will not — indeed he cannot — choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently it takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ — it takes regeneration, by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature.

    Some of what C.S. Lewis is saying in Mere Christianity can be reconciled with the above. Lewis would not agree that unregenerate men could not choose good over evil the spiritual realm. For example, a man can choose to pray to God without first being regenerated by grace.

    The topic of total depravity leads into a debate about the Calvinist concept of fallen man’s “sin nature” (whatever that is). From what I gather, Calvinists posit that Adam had one kind of human nature before the Fall, and different kind of human nature after the Fall. I know that Calvinists believe that Jesus had a divine nature and a human nature, but I have never been able to figure out if Calvinists believe that Jesus had a “sin nature” when he dwelt among us on earth. I only bring up that point because the idea that Adam possessed two kinds of human nature at different points in his life is alien to Lewis’ thought, and you should be aware of that if you decide to read Mere Christianity.

    The idea that man receives a “new nature” when he becomes regenerate, does not sound right to me, but perhaps my difficulty lies with what Calvinists mean by a having a “new nature”. If a tree became a tree frog, then I would say that the tree had acquired a new nature. If a man could get a new nature, he would cease to be a man, and would become different species altogether – like a tree turning into a tree frog.

    May the peace of Christ be with you, Alicia.

  179. Alicia (re:#173),

    You mentioned epistemic uncertainty about almost everything. It seems that you are now at, or near to, the point that I was in the spring of 2009. At the time, I was a member of a non-denominational, credobaptist, five-point-Calvinist Protestant church in New Mexico. It was a bit like Mars Hill in Seattle but not nearly as edgy. Anyway, by the aforementioned spring, my five-point-Calvinist beliefs were crumbling, in light of all too many Scriptural passages that very much appeared to refute those beliefs. I was reading the early Church Fathers and seeing that they definitely did not hold to certain important parts of the theological thinking set out, over 1,ooo years later, in the “5 Sola’s of the Reformation.”

    I was beginning to clearly discern that at least *some* of what I had previously thought was “the clear teaching of the Bible” (partially, but not wholly, based on the teaching of my leaders) was, in fact, not so clear at all– and, in some cases (such as with “eternal security,” or the Perseverance of the Saints) was not even held by Christians for 1, 500 years! Such realizations were utterly terrifying to me, because for years, I had been *absolutely convinced* of the Biblical truth of these teachings. However, I could not deny the force of the passages which contradicted eternal security. I could not deny that the early Church Fathers subscribed to an ecclesiology and theology which appeared to be quite “Catholic,” rather than the “Calvinistic Baptist” thinking that I had been taught through appeals to certain Scriptures– which is not to say that the latter thinking was truly *Biblical*.

    In a way, this was the problem for me by the spring of 2009– how could I really know, anymore, what was “Biblical” thinking and what was not? As I continued to read the Bible itself, along with the early Church Fathers, and both Catholic *and* Reformed apologetics, I saw two things: 1. The early Christians just did not have the same “Sola Scriptura” methods (not Solo but Sola, to be clear!) for resolving doctrinal disputes that I had utilized for years, and 2. Protestants in general, including the Reformed, have quite a bit of disagreement, in some very important areas, about what is “Biblical” thinking and practice, and what is not.

    How to get beyond the above impasse– which, at a certain point, for me, became a real epistemological crisis? Given that I was seeing that the “proper hermeneutical and exegetical principles,” by which I had been taught to interpret Scripture, were themselves often informed by Protestant presuppositions, *and* given that I was learning that the New Testament itself was not even collected *into* a codified New Testament until the 4th century, I decided, logically, that I needed to examine more deeply the writings and thinking of the “pre-4th-century” Christians– the early Church Fathers, such as St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, St. Ignatius of Antioch, and others. One book which was invaluable to me in doing so was “Four Witnesses: The Early Church In Her Own Words,” by Rod Bennett. I commend it to you. I’ve heard that “The Fathers Know Best,” by Jimmy Akin, is also very helpful, but I haven’t yet bought that one. The following website, created by a friend, and a fellow former Calvinist, might be helpful to you: http://www.churchfathers.org/

    I will be praying for you, my sister in Christ. There are real, valid, and fruitful ways out of the epistemological crisis in which you find yourself. The Protestant framework does not even offer a way out of that crisis, other than to continually argue that certain things are “Biblical,” and others are not– but again, even Protestants themselves disagree as to what many of these “Biblical” things are– and this is not even beginning to take into account the crucial question of how the Biblical canon came to be known *as* the canon ( and in the 4th century, it wasn’t the “Protestant” canon).

  180. Alicia,

    Also, in addition to my above comment, if you haven’t already done so (I haven’t been able to read all of the comments here), I would highly recommend buying a copy of the 2nd edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and simply beginning to read it, starting at page 1. You may be amazed by how much light it can shed on epistemological questions. The Catechism is best read, though, along with the Bible and the Church Fathers, as it constantly quotes both. You are in my prayers.

  181. Joshua (re: #91)

    You wrote: “I think it is also important to highlight the fact that a valid interpretation of Scripture is inseparable from its context within the Church (just as the Decalogue was not meant to be understood abstractly, apart from the covenant).”

    I wonder if you’ve considered what you mean by this. First, what’s the difference between a right interpretation and a valid interpretation? Second, how is a literary context, like the Pentateuch, similar to “the Church”?

    “In other words, Scripture can only be properly understood within the context of the Church, whose foundations were laid by Christ, the Incarnate Word, prior to the formation of the canon (and prior to the written NT scriptures as well).”

    That seems demonstrably wrong, even from your perspective. For example, we (Reformed) properly understand much of the Scriptures, judged by Roman standards. We correctly interpret the Scriptures to teach the virgin birth, the sinless life, the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus, to take some easy examples. So, clearly we do properly understand the Scriptures without the context of your church.

    Moreover, “the Church” isn’t a literary context. The apostolic church may be a cultural context, but that culture has changed – your bishops don’t live like the apostles. Moreover, we can access that cultural context through historical tools. So, we’re not reliant on your church to tell us what the apostolic culture was.

    “In light of this, then, emphasizing one should not entail denigrating the other.”

    If the Scriptures are sufficient and you deny that, then you are denigrating them.

    “To say that the Bible is not perspicuous to each individual reader should not be construed as an erosion of the Word–it is simply recognizing the fact that the Bible is inseparable from the Church and vice versa.”

    It cannot really erode what the Word is – but it does denigrate the Word. It is, however, an erosion of the tradition that you are trying to claim as your own. My friend and I posted a series on the formal sufficiency of Scripture and the fathers, which you may find enlightening. Here’s the most recent (I believe) post in that series:

    http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2010/12/formal-sufficiency-of-scripture-fifth.html

    -TurretinFan

  182. […] fascinating discussion has been going on at Called to Communion regarding the Apostles’ reference to Amos 9:11-12 at the Council of Jerusalem: In that day […]

  183. TF,

    You asked:

    Second, how is a literary context, like the Pentateuch, similar to “the Church”?

    It is similar in that both contain an account of the history of God’s covenant people. The Pentateuch presupposes the existence and history of the people of God up to the point of its composition–the events recounted therein are not made up. Sacred Scripture is meant to be understood from within the life of the covenant, in communion with one another and in submission to the magisterium–first of the Old Covenant (Matthew 23:3) and then of the New (Luke 10:16). The life of the New Covenant people of God extends beyond the first century, and though the subsequent years are not taken up into any biblical narrative, the life of the Church in those years becomes a part of the context in which we interpret Sacred Scripture. This is why the following claim is implausible:

    So, clearly we do properly understand the Scriptures without the context of your church.

    Not only do you accept our doctrines, such as the ones you listed (and often in the very form in which those doctrines have been defined by the Catholic Church), you accept our NT canon, from which those doctrines are derived. So to the extent that you “denigrate” the authority of the Church, you are eroding “the tradition that you are trying to claim as your own.”

    You wrote:

    My friend and I posted a series on the formal sufficiency of Scripture and the fathers, which you may find enlightening.

    Quotations from the Fathers are almost always enlightening–when rightly interpreted. I have read your selections, and cannot find anything contrary to the Catholic view that Tradition and the Magisterium are indispensable for discerning the doctrinal content of Sacred Scripture, such that error is precluded and, consequently, unity in truth is preserved. Saying that the meaning of Scripture is clear, that God meant to be understood, that it yields fruit to careful study, that even (and especially) the simple can understand the Bible, etc., leaves open the question of the proper hermeneutic by which the essential doctrinal meaning of Sacred Scripture is discerned; e.g., whether and in what way the proper hermeneutic takes into account the teaching of the Church.

    Some of the same Fathers that you quote in your post also assert the necessity, for doctrinal rectitude, of remaining within the Church, under the authority of the local bishop who is in full communion with the Church. In this context, it is perfectly true and Catholic to assert that the meaning of Sacred Scripture can be understood, such that the reader is made wise unto salvation, etc. This is how I read Scripture today, and I find it to be enlightening, nourishing, comforting, and all that.

    Tradition and the Magisterium are not necessary for arriving at just any interpretation of Scripture, including obviously correct interpretations of some individual texts and more or less plausibly correct synthetic (biblical-theological) interpretations of the whole thing. But the Church is not claiming that her interpretive authority is necessary for those ends when she asserts the necessity of an ultimate interpretive authority that is neither the individual believer nor the academy, but the God-given magisterium of the bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome.

    Andrew

  184. Andrew,

    You said:

    Some of the same Fathers that you quote in your post also assert the necessity, for doctrinal rectitude, of remaining within the Church, under the authority of the local bishop who is in full communion with the Church. In this context, it is perfectly true and Catholic to assert that the meaning of Sacred Scripture can be understood, such that the reader is made wise unto salvation, etc.

    I answer: Amen.

    TFan: Earlier Jason asked you a question related to what you think the apostles were doing in Jerusalem. Maybe I missed your response but if I didn’t can you respond to his question?

  185. May I respond at length to a news item which appears to reflect badly upon Pope Benedict XVI by association (if not directly) and which has been brought up here in a context which leaves a bad taste in the mouth not to mention a strong whiff of brimstone in the nostrils.

    As noted far above by Daniel @49 and 75 (and responded to by Frank La Rocca @62 and @85 respectively), an AP long report dated October 27, 2011 referring to the Peace Pilgrimage at Assisi included this: “. . . Standing on the altar of St. Mary of the Angels basilica, Wande Abimbola of Nigeria, representing Africa’s traditional Yoruba religion, sang a prayer and shook a percussion instrument . . .” See, e.g., here http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/10/27/rainbow-religious-leaders-join-pope-for-peace/

    That the estimable Mr. Abimbola should have assumed so improper a vantage point seems inherently improbable. What appears to be a photo of his intervention can be seen on the website of the SSPX (no friend to inter-religious dialogue) http://sspx.org/news/assisi_iii/assisi_iii_1986-2011.htm showing an African declaiming or singing in front of a lectern with, possibly, a percussion instrument in his right hand. Over his left shoulder and at some distance behind him can be seen the head and shoulders of an Orthodox or Eastern Catholic hierarch and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The discrepancy in height levels as between the African and these others cannot be attributed to his standing on any very elevated structure. The extensive report by SSPX says nothing about anyone “standing on [an] altar” and we can presume the phrase is a simple mistranslation from the Italian.

    A serene interpretation of the AP report is amply confirmed by a review of the architecture of the basilica, which houses the portiuncula (the name for the primitive chapel restored by St. Francis) as well as the cell in which the saint died. The basilica takes the form of a Latin cross in plan, with a dome over the crossing. The portiuncula stands under the dome, and the saint’s cell is under the high altar in the choir.

    These photos give a general impression of the interior arrangement of the basilica: first a long view from the nave towards the portiuncula – http://www.panoramio.com/photo/5391844; and here a view from one of the transepts (the choir and high altar are out of sight to the right, although the wall-hung pulpit is visible) – http://www.panoramio.com/photo/55883391.

    The 2011 Peace event was held in the nave directly in front of the portiuncula, and for this purpose a very large temporary stage or podium was erected occupying several bays of the nave. Photos show that it was carpeted and of no great height above the floor level of the nave. The participants were arranged on seats around the perimeter of this stage, in the centre of which was the lectern visible in the photo on the SSPX website. This photo here shows the Holy Father addressing the participants from the same lectern – http://www.flickr.com/photos/newsva/6291184780/in/photostream/. This other photo shows the line-up of the main participants standing at their places in front of the portiuncula and facing away from it – http://www.flickr.com/photos/newsva/6290664095/in/photostream/.

    While unable positively to assert that Mr. Abimbola did not (a) enter the portiuncula in order (invisibly and inaudibly) to address the participants outside it, or (b) disappear behind the portiuncula in order (invisibly and inaudibly) to address them from the vicinity of the high altar, I, for one, consider the probabilities to be so severely against either course of action as to exclude the necessity of defending him against any super-added act of abominable sacrilege while out of sight.

  186. […] and no individual’s personal interpretation of Scripture could overturn this decision (see here for a very interesting article about the issue of authority and the council in the Book of Acts […]

  187. The added amusement factor in this old post (I got linked here from http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/10/jason-stewart-on-the-journey-home-october-29-2012/) is that almost all of the comments seem to miss the point that this is a spoof of what would happen if you applied modern Bible-only thinking to the historical circumstances around the Bible itself… ouch…

  188. Tradition is thought of by Protestants as something that was later added to Scripture, as if it were the sort of a second revelation. This is incorrect. The Orthodox understand it only as simply the way in which, through the past twenty centuries, Scripture has been understood, prayed, applied and lived out within the Church.

    If something creeps into the Tradition that contradicts Scripture, it is weeded out and does not survive even a few decades; since we don’t have a central authority besides Christ himself, the Church slowly pushes the “intruder” out, like a body would reject an infection.

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