Are We All Heretics? A Reply to Zack Hunt

Mar 29th, 2012 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Zack Hunt of the facetiously titled blog, The American Jesus, gives a provocative twist to the Protestant principle of ecclesial fallibility (otherwise called sola scriptura) in his recent post, You’re a Heretic & So Am I. According to Hunt, all Christians are heretics, and all ecclesial communities are heretical, because every visible society of believers that reckons itself to be in some sense a church is divided from another such body, by way of having departed from another church and/or by dissenting from one or more of the doctrines taught by other denominations or congregations. 

Hunt’s thesis that heresy and schism are part and parcel of Christian identity is based upon the historical record of Christian division. Working backwards, we find Protestants divided from Protestants, Protestants divided from Catholics, and Orthodox divided from Catholics. Surprisingly, however, Hunt includes even the original Church (which for the sake of argument he grants is the Catholic Church) within the pale of heresy:

You see, when the Christian faith began it wasn’t a separate faith from Judaism. For the first followers of Jesus, and no doubt for Jesus himself, Christianity (or more precisely “the Way”) was the fulfillment of God’s promises to the people of Israel. Jesus was a Jew. His disciples were (mostly) Jews. Christianity, in its infancy, was simply a branch of Judaism which believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

Of course, we all know from history that this marriage didn’t last long. After the first Christians had been expelled from their synagogues one too many times for being “dissenters of the established (Jewish) religious dogma,” they eventually broke away to form what we now call the Church.

Which means, therefore, that every single person who has every [sic] worn the mantle of “Christian” is, by definition, a heretic.

There are several layers of confusion in this analysis. For one thing, Hunt wrongly conflates schism with heresy, such that a schismatic person or group is by definition heretical. Secondly, it is not the case that the Church was formed in response to the first Christians being expelled from the Jewish synagogues. Christ first established his Church, with distinct government, rites, and doctrines, gave her the Holy Spirit, and then the leaders and other members of the Church were rejected by Israel (that is, Israel “according to the flesh”), even as Israel had rejected her Christ while he was on earth. But neither Christ nor his mystical Body were heretics, nor were they schismatics. Christ was and is the Davidic King of Israel, and the Church was and is the present manifestation of the kingdom, which is particularly made evident in the celebration of the Eucharist (cf. Luke 22:14-30).

The Church was not originally constituted by the principles of schism and heresy, but rather by the principles of unity and truth. Those who would be united to Christ in the Church that he founded cannot therefore be content to be a heretic among many heretics, nor a member of a schism among many schisms.

A third problem with Hunt’s analysis is that he uses the word “heresy” in a purely horizontal sense, as something that merely stigmatizes an ecclesial community in the eyes of other such communities. He overlooks or ignores the relation between heresy and falsehood. Even though schism is not to be conflated with heresy, it is true that schisms often seek to justify themselves by the adoption of some heresy, or are formed due to the perception of heresy in the Church at large, or in a denomination, or in a particular congregation. In these cases, attribution of “heresy” is not simply a rhetorical device by which to stigmatize the other in relation to oneself. It is a declaration that an individual or ecclesial body has denied that which has been revealed by God. And the point of affirming (and not denying) truth that has been divinely revealed is not to distinguish oneself from one’s fellows, but to know God.

Only by defining “heresy” in purely relative and horizontal terms is Hunt able to dismiss the attribution as insignificant:

So what does all of this mean?

For starters, it means that if someone ever calls you a heretic, you can look them in the eye with confidence and say, “You’re right, I am a heretic. And so are you.”

More importantly, this brief history lesson should remind us that in our zeal to “defend the faith” we should remember that the faith is not always as black and white as we may have come to believe. Furthermore, we should remember that the Christian faith is full of disagreement. It’s full of people who were at first labeled heretics, but who, over time, came to be regarded as great heroes of the faith.

The effect of Hunt’s post is to call into question the absolute nature of doctrinal truth claims, or else to advance a skeptical position with reference to the question “Which is the true doctrine?” The key assumption behind the entire piece is that there is no living authority on earth whose interpretation of the Bible (i.e., doctrine) is binding upon everyone, as being specially protected from error. Thus, the situation according to Hunt is simply that Christians do not all agree in matters of doctrine, and in all probability no one’s doctrine is entirely right, since no individual or community is being especially protected from error. Ergo, we are all heretics.

By contrast to Hunt’s horizontal definition of heresy, the Catholic Encyclopedia defines “heresy” in relation not only to various groups of Christians, but to doctrinal truth. Of course, it is readily apparent that the definition in this article presupposes that there is a vital connection between one body of Christians, referred to as “the Church,” and the authentic exposition of the doctrinal content of the Bible, the denial of which constitutes heresy:

St. Thomas (II-II:11:1) defines heresy: “a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas”. “The right Christian faith consists in giving one’s voluntary assent to Christ in all that truly belongs to His teaching. There are, therefore, two ways of deviating from Christianity: the one by refusing to believe in Christ Himself, which is the way of infidelity, common to Pagans and Jews; the other by restricting belief to certain points of Christ’s doctrine selected and fashioned at pleasure, which is the way of heretics. The subject-matter of both faith and heresy is, therefore, the deposit of the faith, that is, the sum total of truths revealed in Scripture and Tradition as proposed to our belief by the Church. The believer accepts the whole deposit as proposed by the Church; the heretic accepts only such parts of it as commend themselves to his own approval.

Once heresy is understood to be false doctrine, and not simply doctrine which I and those like me happen not to hold, and once we understand that we are saved not merely by belief, but by belief in the truth, then it becomes evident that we need to know what is the actual doctrinal content of divine revelation; i.e., true doctrine. We cannot be content with Hunt’s softly skeptical assurance that we are all heretics, because heresy is not benign, it is cancerous. And if this cancer is in fact ubiquitous, then we are all in mortal peril.

As David Anders has recently shown, many Evangelicals are coming to terms with the implausibility of restorationism or Christian primitivism, whether of the confessional or fundamentalist variety, by adopting a more conciliatory attitude towards other groups of Christians, including Catholics and the Orthodox. The move from fundamentalism or confessional exclusivism to “we are all heretics,” or some other, less provocative, affirmation of ecumenical fallibility, seems to me to generally proceed along the following (hypothetical) line of reasoning:

There are all kinds loving, bright, dedicated groups of Christians, each committed to the Bible as the word of God. These groups contradict one another on what at least some of them take to be essential aspects of the biblical message. No individual or group is infallible in its interpretation of the Bible. Out of all this morass of theological opinion, who am I (or the particular denomination or congregation to which I belong) to say that such and so is orthodoxy, and that whoever disagrees with me (or my denomination or congregation) is a heretic? Conversely, who am I to say that my own doctrine or confession is particularly orthodox? Surely my personal interpretation of the Bible is not the standard of doctrine with which all Christians are bound to agree, or else fall short of the truth of Sacred Scripture and, perhaps, Heaven itself.

No, indeed. Neither your personal interpretation of the Bible, nor mine, is the Rule of Faith. But this does not entail that we are all heretics whenever we disagree and / or are divided. Nor need we revert to restorationism, in one its many permutations, in order to embrace a full and absolute orthodoxy. We could instead enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, which is both ancient and dogmatic, and furthermore is alive and active through the centuries in defining doctrine, protecting the faithful from the corrosive effects of heresy by building them up in the fullness of truth.

 

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  1. Sigh. Oh the extremes Protestants go to in order to justify their schism.

  2. Zack’s post did strike me as a rather extreme example of the new trend in Evangelical apologetics, in relation to Rome, which David wrote about in his post on how not to defend the Reformation. I suppose that we will all go to extremes to justify something that is important to us. At some point, the extremity reaches beyond the bounds of credulity, but that point varies from person to person.

  3. Interestingly, we are all heretics, but at the same time, according to Dan Delzell over at The Christian Post, we are all non-denominational. Here’s a quote:

    While you may always view your life of discipleship through the lens of your denomination, the Lord doesn’t view you that way. If you are born again, you belong to the body of Christ. He has only one body. He has only one family. There is only one Christian faith by which people enter the kingdom of God. You are either in, or you are out. There are people within all Christian denominations who are in…..and others within those denominations who are out. The true church is an “invisible” church made up of all Christians, regardless of denomination.

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  4. Well if you wanted to look at it from an objective non-Christian perspective, it would appear that modern Judiasm is not the same thing as Second Temple Judiasm. There are no alters or sacrifices (even done by the father of the family as was done in the Babylonian exile and at the time of Abraham). There are no more priests and the requirement to go to Jerusalem 3 times a year is also gone. The seat of moses is also gone as is the Davidic kingdom.

    In contrast, in Catholicism, there is a temple, a sacrifice, a priesthood, and optional pilgrimages, as well as the seat of Moses (Pope an Magestarium) and the Davidic kingdom under Christ with the Pope as his prime minister.

    So objectively, either both modern Judiasm and Catholicism are both children of Second Temple Judaism that grew apart, or Catholicism is the natural heir to Second Temple Judaism and modern Judaism is an modernized offshoot of Second Temple Judaism.

  5. It would seem, in the defense of your stand to hold sway over others by labeling them heretics, you entirely missed Rev. Hunt’s underlying message of grace that should be extended to all our brothers and sisters.

    One must only look to the treatment of Galileo by the Church to see the damage that can be done by such ungracious handling of those branded as heretics. More than 350 years later there is still debate, while acceding to the reality that Galileo was correct in chronicling heliocentrism, if the Church handled the matter correctly. Some still state that the Church was right in handling the situation by considering factors such as ethical and social factors as good rationale for persecuting him for heresy when the truth of his observations are now recognized as fact.

    We should all be quick to extend grace to each other instead of being so willing to brand each other heretical. We should be on guard, when presented with an argument, that we do not rush to condemn someone, because we do not understand them; or their idea(s) seem out of line with what we believe (or think we believe). We might be missing out on the truth.

  6. Andrew,

    I definitely understand the need for people to go to extremes when they are defending their views, after all, most people aren’t comfortable with changing their views if it requires major consequences such as leaving the Protestant church. But when Scripture explicitely says that there should be no schisms among us (1 Cor. 12:25) and that false doctrines produce evil (1Tim. 6:3-4) then that should be a major indication that God does not desire for Christians to be schismatics and heretics. If this is not God’s desire for us then surely He has given us a way to avoid schism and heresy. We Catholics say the way is Catholicism. Protestants are left with either accepting schisms and heresy or restorationism.

  7. Andrew:

    Having read Devin’s exchange with John Armstrong, then David Anders’ post, and now yours above, I have to admire the creativity with which evangelical Protestants are avoiding Mother Church’s embrace. Perhaps such admiration is itself an ecumenical achievement…

    Best,
    Mike

  8. Doug,

    Thanks for the comment.

    You wrote:

    It would seem, in the defense of your stand to hold sway over others by labeling them heretics, you entirely missed Rev. Hunt’s underlying message of grace that should be extended to all our brothers and sisters.

    Zack’s “underlying message” may have been that grace “should be extended to all our brothers and sisters.” But his explicitly stated message (as indicated in the title of the post, and argued for in the main body of the post) is that we are all heretics, including in that designation the Church that Christ founded. The point of my response is to deny the charge that all Christians and Christian churches are heretical, and to point out that heresy itself is not something that we can be content to live with. I was not defending any “stand to hold sway over others by labeling them heretics.”

    Andrew

  9. Andrew,

    On the post Dr Ander’s wrote on Why Protestants Need the Anti-Christ, I quoted Dr Daniel Wallace who said everyone is a heretic.

    Frankly, every one of us is a heretic (at least with a lowercase “h”); the problem is that we don’t know in what areas we are wrong. Yet, many of us are equally dogmatic about both central and peripheral doctrines. Tradition and reason both have their place, but the tragic thing is that the average Christian today has to choose which one to elevate because no church is balanced.

    This is much more serious than Zach making that claim, because Dr Wallace is a respected professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. I wrote a post about this as well.

  10. That Wallace quote is pretty remarkable. It would be interesting if someone would cull together these various concessions into a single article.

  11. What Wallace says of Protestant i.e. “the problem is that we don’t know in what areas we are wrong” would apply to Roman Catholics. In fact its more so.

  12. How does Wallace know that everyone of us is a heretic? In order to know that, he would have to know for every doctrine what is the orthodox position regarding that doctrine, and he himself would have to be intentionally denying at least one of these orthodox doctrines he himself knows to be orthodox (0therwise by being perfectly orthodox himself, he would be falsifying his own claim).

    He is making a claim that goes beyond the evidence available to him. That can be shown by the fact that the evidence he has is not essentially different from that available in the time of Christ with those different sects, and yet we know that Christ and the Apostles were not heretics. Our pride wants to believe that everyone is a heretic, so we don’t have to worry about being heretics ourselves.

  13. Excellent response! Thank you for sharing! :-)

  14. Pam, good observation. He’s likely observed that while Protestants say they agree on the essentials and disagree on the non-essentials, that they can’t agree on what those essentials are.

    The key problem with believing “the problem is that we don’t know in what areas we are wrong” is that we have no security on anything. We don’t know what Jesus wants us to do or what’s required to go to heaven or even if heaven is open more than a few people (i.e. the broad versus narrow way). It’s certainly not a religion worth dying for, much less giving up a Sunday for.

    It’s okay to believe that we’re all heterodox to some extent or another, but you can’t believe you’re a heretic and still say you believe anything at all.

  15. Pam (#11),

    The tu quoque has been addressed in this post. The Catholic is not in the same epistemological boat with the Protestant when it comes to such questions.

    Do you agree with Wallace’s assessment of Protestantism? If so, do you realize that it means more than that Protestants don’t know when they’re wrong? For if they don’t know that, they also can’t know when they’re right. Is this not problematic?

    On the other hand, if you don’t agree with him: why not?

    Fred

  16. Fred,
    Of course the Roman Catholic is in the same position as the Protestant when it comes to the interpretation of Scripture. There is no offical-infallible interpretation of the Scripture in the RCC. I know it is claimed that the RCC is the only church to have the authority to interpret the Scripture but it has never done so. That’s why no Roman Catholic can give the infallible or official interpretation of a passage or verse of Scripture. There is no such work where a RC can go to and say this is the offical-infallible interpretation of this verse or that passage.
    I don’t agree entirely with Wallace. There is much within Protestant churches there is widespread agreement on the major doctrines such as the deity of Christ, His death and resurrection, the Trinity for example. I know of no body of leaders in the major Protestant churches that are confused on these doctrines. There may be confusion in the laity due to being ignorant of Scripture or poorly taught.

  17. Fred #14,
    Prior to Pam answering maybe we can answer a few questions about the Nick’s #9 partial quote.

    Who is the “every one of us” Wallace is referring to? Is it Protestants, Catholics, Christians as a whole?

    What does Wallace mean by heretic? Are these errors small or large errors? Are the error serious enough to put our eternal security in jeopardy or can the errors be attributed to practice vs doctrine?

    In what context is Wallace making these comments?

    Actually, the quote provided in 9 is a few concluding sentences of a paragraph within a July 2007 post about what Wallace views as the ideal church. In the paragraph where Wallace makes the quote, he starts by stating he can describe what he does not like about today’s churches more that what the ideal church would look like. In the paragraph, Wallace complains that Catholics have anti-Biblical traditions and Protestants have screwy interpretations. Wallace finishes the paragraph with the quote provided in 9.

    The post is in http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2007/07/the-ideal-church/

    When Wallace refers to Protestants, is he referring to every Protestant or just a specific group(s)? In other posts, Wallace appears to complain about the non-denominational and the “it’s just me and my bible” groups.

    What I am not sure of, are Wallace’s quotes from a person actually complaining about Protestantism or he is being harsher on the group he belongs to like a parent who coaches a team containing his children so the parent/coach is harder on his own kids.

    Now that Pam has a complete picture of the quote, maybe the question can rephrased to:

    “Do you agree with Wallace’s assessment that Catholics has anti-Biblical traditions and that non-denominational and it’s just me and my bible Protestants have screwy interpretations?”

    thanks

  18. Pam (re #16):

    You wrote:

    There is much within Protestant churches there is widespread agreement on the major doctrines such as the deity of Christ, His death and resurrection, the Trinity for example. I know of no body of leaders in the major Protestant churches that are confused on these doctrines.

    And, ironically, the doctrines you name were all once a matter of dispute in the early Church, with various heretical parties claiming this or that from their private interpretations of Scripture. It is only because of the pronouncements of the ecumenical councils of the early Church that you (or any Christian) has any assurance as to the orthodox content of these doctrines. Solo Scriptura did not work then and it does not work now. Only a visible Church with an authoritative teaching office of bishops descended in succession from the Apostles was able to infallibly define these core doctrines — the only ones (most) Protestants can agree on.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  19. Anil,

    1st Samuel 8 finds Israel asking for a king so that they can be like other nations. Samuel is offended and is jealous for God Who is the real King of Israel. In telling Samuel to honor Israel’s request, God also tells Samuel, “(f)or it is not you they have rejected, they have rejected Me from ruling over them.” 1st Sam 8:7 (The fulfillment of that rejection of God as King of Israel is complete when it is stated, “We have no king except Caesar,” John 19:16, before Jesus is crucified to death.)

    God is once again the real King, however He reigns through His Church. I am not sure how that applies to modern Judaism but don’t believe that modern Judaism recognizes Jesus as David’s son, the reigning King, the Messiah, or the Second Person of God, perhaps other than among some Messianic Jews / Jews for Jesus congregations, and then not always as Son/King/Messiah/Second Person of God because individuals in those organizations take the parts that they are willing to believe and discard or deny the others.

    The Church fulfills the role of the Temple and of Israel in a supranational way because Jesus is Lord of all the earth, and not merely Lord of part of old Israel. That is something that no part of Judaism even pretends to claim.

    Cordially,

    dt

  20. Pam –

    A potential reason why the Church hasn’t sufficiently interpreted a single scripture passage is that we see each verse to have layers of meaning. To say “Scripture X means Y” would sort of close the door to discovering some of these other layers of meanings.

    Here is an example. While I was just getting back into my Catholic faith in college I often debated the meaning revelation 12. Who is this woman clothed with the sun? I argued it was Mary. My protestant friends argued it was Israel. I have come to understand that the layers of meaning allow for both interpretations, and perhaps many more.

    Thus, I think the Church is wise not to interpret scripture in this narrow way. I disagree with your claim, ” There is no offical-infallible interpretation of the Scripture in the RCC.” Every dogmatic statement the Church has made is done by interpreting Divine Revelation as whole. Is your criticism that the Church has not infallibly stated what an individual passage means? If it is, I encourage you to consider my argument above and to reflect on what that would do to handcuff our understanding of the multiple layers of meaning present in various texts.

  21. Pam, you wrote (#16):

    Of course the Roman Catholic is in the same position as the Protestant when it comes to the interpretation of Scripture. There is no offical-infallible interpretation of the Scripture in the RCC. I know it is claimed that the RCC is the only church to have the authority to interpret the Scripture but it has never done so. That’s why no Roman Catholic can give the infallible or official interpretation of a passage or verse of Scripture. There is no such work where a RC can go to and say this is the offical-infallible interpretation of this verse or that passage.

    We seem to be talking past each other, since “when it comes to the interpretation of Scripture” is something new to our conversation. Be that as it may: the Magisterium has rarely (not never) exercised its authority to provide a de fide interpretation of specific passages in Scripture. Yet this does not mean that one is free to interpret the Bible in just any way he pleases:

    The Second Vatican Council indicates three criteria for interpreting Scripture in accordance with the Spirit who inspired it.

    112 Be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture”. Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.

    The phrase “heart of Christ” can refer to Sacred Scripture, which makes known his heart, closed before the Passion, as the Scripture was obscure. But the Scripture has been opened since the Passion; since those who from then on have understood it, consider and discern in what way the prophecies must be interpreted.

    113 2. Read the Scripture within “the living Tradition of the whole Church”. According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church’s heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God’s Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (“. . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church”).

    114 3. Be attentive to the analogy of faith. By “analogy of faith” we mean the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation. [CCC §111-114, emphasis added]

    So Catholics aren’t free to interpret the Bible just any old way that they wish, and this is manifestly a different circumstance than that in which the individual Protestant layman finds himself.

    But getting back to what I understood the subject to be—namely, how or whether Protestants know that they are wrong—you say that you don’t agree with Wallace entirely, and you say that there is consensus among Protestants on major doctrines. But why should consensus be a measure of the truth? After all, there’s nothing intrinsic about majorities that protects them from error. Once upon a time only a sliver of Israel remained faithful to the Lord, right?

    And if these same Protestant bodies are unable to know where they are wrong, once again my previous questions remains pertinent: how do they know that they’re right?

    Fred

  22. Pam,

    Another take on your proposal that Protestants and Catholics are in the same situation regarding the interpretation of Scripture:

    Suppose a Catholic theologian writes a book explaining that the Bible does not condemn homosexual acts as sinful, but is only condemning the common first century situation where an older man was sexually exploiting a younger man or adolescent. “Mutual love”, he may explain, “is always to be encouraged, regardless of gender. It is only exploitation that is condemned.” The Catholic Magisterium would have the authority to condemn this book as heretical. The Protestant would have no such mechanism.

    So even though there is no official verse-by-verse Catholic interpretation of Scripture, there is a living Magisterium that can and will condemn heretical interpretation when it occurs. Again, Protestantism has no such mechanism to define the orthodoxy of one interpretation versus another.

    Burton

  23. Fred (#18)

    And if these same Protestant bodies are unable to know where they are wrong, once again my previous questions remains pertinent: how do they know that they’re right?

    I think this is, indeed, the fundamental question, and difficulty with any form of private interpretation (whether of Scripture or of tradition). The problem is not so much knowing that your chosen source – Scripture, let us say – supports your view on something – the Trinity, perhaps. Your problem is to show that your source cannot support opposed views.

    A number have shown in various comments on Called To Communion that Scripture supports the doctrine of the Trinity. To be sure, it certainly does, and I am ready to argue it for anyone.

    What is not so clear to me is how you can prove that it cannot support, for instance, Arianism. The many verses used by the Arians – and the modern Jehovah’s Witnesses, for the matter of that – to show the subordination of the Son of God to the Father are, we Trinitarians think, evidence of an economic subordination. I would be hard put to it to show, from Scripture alone, that they do not relate to an ontological subordination.

    And so on. Every person who has tried to argue the validity of infant baptism must be aware of what I am referring to.

    To me, the only solution to the problem is if God has, as, of course, I believe He has, provided an authoritative umpire.

    jj

  24. Burton,
    There are liberal theologians in Protestant churches that do promote error. The scholar who would give a defense of homosexuality claiming its not wrong in the Bible is in fact wrong. There is no way to make a positive case for homosexuality from the Scripture. Many claim to do so but when their views are scrutinized we find this is not the case at all. Keep in mind that the RCC has had people who have promoted false teachings within your church. It has not always condemned false teachers. In fact just recently its being reported that certain RC universities promote things that are in direct opposition to church teachings and nothing is done about it. I know priests who don’t fully support church teachings.

  25. Hello everyone,

    Comments by “Pam” will no longer be approved because this person is an old commenter trying to avoid moderation. Have a blessed Holy Saturday!

    pax,
    Barrett

  26. Can people be saved without having the correct position on, say, Mary’s Immaculate Conception and Assumption, or the Real Presence in the Eucharist, Purgatory, etc.? I think the answer has to be yes.

    And, as JPII said:

    Redemptoris Missio

    10. The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all. But it is clear that today, as in the past, many people do not have an opportunity to come to know or accept the gospel revelation or to enter the Church. The social and cultural conditions in which they live do not permit this, and frequently they have been brought up in other religious traditions. For such people salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation.

    This being the case, there does not appear to be a necessity for being correct on doctrinal matters right, and the “necessity” of a central authority to fix doctrinal questions evaporates.

    Mark

  27. Dear Mark (re #26)

    This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation.

    So you agree that we must cooperate with the grace given to us by God to attain salvation?

    A Happy and Blessed Easter to you,
    Frank

  28. Mark (re:#26),

    The fact that Blessed John Paul II states that God *can* save people who are formally outside of the Catholic Church does not mean that people do not need to belong to the Catholic Church and to hold to what she officially teaches.

    God can bring employment into the life of a person who was not even seeking it. This does not mean that people should not seek employment.

    Your presupposition seems to be that only those doctrines/teachings which you consider to be “essential” for salvation actually *are* essential for salvation. However, it is historically documented that, at least as early as 189 A.D., early Church Fathers, such as St. Irenaeus, were already teaching that Christians are to hold to the *whole* of the apostolic faith and tradition (both oral and written, as stated by St. Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:15):

    “It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about” (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [A.D. 189]).

    “But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul—that church which has the tradition and the faith with which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world. And it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition” (ibid., 3:3:2).

    (Source: http://www.churchfathers.org/category/the-church-and-the-papacy/apostolic-succession/)

    St. Irenaeus also states the *exact location* of the ancient church with which all churches everywhere must agree– Rome. He was teaching this in 189 A.D. Which Church still teaches this today?

  29. Gentlemen,

    Please stay on topic. This thread is not the place to discuss synergism or extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Both topics are of course in various ways related to the topic at hand, which concerns, in short, the Rule of Faith, but to pursue these matters in this thread would not be practicable. So let’s stick with the Rule of Faith, in Protestantism and Catholicism, and the implications of this for the identification of what is orthodox doctrine and what is heresy.

    [Update: To better facilitate staying on topic, I have removed the last few comments that centered on EENS. The Magisterium has clarified some aspects of this doctrine in recent years, both by way of development of the doctrine and in response to misinterpretations of this development. But, again, this is not the thread in which to pursue that topic.]

    Andrew

  30. Andrew,

    In recent conversations with fellow Protestants, I have been asking the question: “how do we define Truth, or more specically, how do we define heresy versus orthodoxy?”. A friend who has studied these issues in depth suggested that we need to be willing to accept some degree of “messiness”, and that it is an unhealthy obsession with a neat and tidy orthodoxy that has lead me to consider Catholicism. His Rule of Faith is the Bible approached with a humble heart open to the Spirit’s leading. He believes that all who approach the Bible in this way will arrive at the “saving Truth”, even if that looks a little different from person to person.

    Maybe this is what Mr. Hunt is getting at. None of us have a corner on the infallible interpretation of the Bible, but God can and does preserve His church and the Truth through the worldwide body of believers who trust humbly in the Bible. Could it be that the insistence on an infallible human magisterium represents a lack of faith in God’s means of preserving Truth, especially because it is not as neat as we would like it to be?

    I know that this post is like fresh meat for the bright and enthusiastic contributors at CtC, but as a Protestant trying to understand what God wants of me, I wonder if my insistence on certainty represents a lack of faith?

    Burton

  31. Burton RE#30
    I have heard this sentiment before and when I was considering the claims of the Catholic Church I was accused by some friends (in a somewhat gracious manner) of simply looking for certainty instead of just “having faith.” In some sense this was just an attempt to “put me on the couch,” as it where, and psychoanalyze what my motivations would be for converting to Catholicism. On some level it’s a cop out and a deflection intended to move the conversation away from the fact that just maybe I have found something True, and then engage it on those terms.

    You said:

    Could it be that the insistence on an infallible human magisterium represents a lack of faith in God’s means of preserving Truth, especially because it is not as neat as we would like it to be?

    Try replacing “an infallible magisterium” with “Sola Scriptura.” Then the “means of preserving Truth” becomes the Catholic Church, which I think all Catholics here would agree is sometimes “not as neat as we would like it to be.”

    I sympathize with your struggle. My wife and I just came out of it and were Confirmed and entered full communion on Easter. It was not easy; we have the scars to prove it.

    It may be helpful to remember that faith and reason compliment one another; God is the author of both. When it comes to Protestantism vs Catholicism and their underlying metaphysic, given what we know about God, I found one to be more reasonable than the other. This side of heaven there is only a certain level to which we can be sure of anything. That’s what faith is all about.

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  32. Hey Burton,

    Your friend is recommending that private judgment be the rule of faith. Some of the general problems with this are addressed in the first section of the old Catholic Encyclopedia article on that topic (to which I linked in #29). At least two claims in your comment present us with problems that require a solution in order for the proposed alternative to an absolute, defined orthodoxy to be feasible:

    (1) We would have to say what is “saving truth” before we could assess the accuracy of the claim that all who adopt private judgment as the rule of faith will arrive at saving truth.

    (2) The claim that “God can and does preserve His church and the Truth through the worldwide body of believers who trust humbly in the Bible” is an unfalsifiable tautology unless one can reliably identify said body.

    These claims are doubly problematic for the “messy” alternative to a clearly defined doctrinal orthodoxy, because saying what is saving truth and reliably identifying the worldwide body of true believers would seem to require explicitly defining doctrinal orthodoxy. The detail in which lies the devil is your friend’s stipulation that “we need to be willing to accept some degree of ‘messiness'” (emphasis added). Why does not this unspecified limitation upon degrees of messiness signify “an unhealthy obsession with a neat and tidy orthodoxy”?

    You asked:

    Could it be that the insistence on an infallible human magisterium represents a lack of faith in God’s means of preserving Truth, especially because it is not as neat as we would like it to be?

    It is never indicative of a lack of faith to accept by faith that which God has revealed; for example, that Christ established his Church as the pillar and foundation of truth, giving her, particularly as represented by Peter, the keys of the kingdom of heaven, with the power to bind and loose. It is never indicative of a lack of (subjective) faith to accept that (objective) faith which comes to us from God, in Christ, through the Apostles, in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

    You asked:

    I wonder if my insistence on certainty represents a lack of faith?

    To the contrary: A lack of certainty is indicative of a lack of faith, because faith itself is a kind of certainty. Faith is the assent of the intellect (as moved by the will, which is moved by grace) to divine revelation. The rule of faith informs the act of assent, not by replacing divine revelation as the proximate object of faith, but by teaching us what is the meaning of divine revelation. If the rule of faith is uncertain, then we will necessarily be uncertain about the meaning of divine revelation (i.e., the content of revelation, synthetically considered).

    The question, then, is “Who does the teaching which constitutes the rule of faith in this sense?” The Catholic Church gives an answer to this question that will enable us to reliably identify both the worldwide body of believers and the orthodox doctrine that this body affirms, which is the doctrine that is taught by the “who” in the above question. For the Catholic, that “who” is the Magisterium (i.e., the college of bishops in communion with the Pope).

    If we cannot answer this “who” question, then we will not be able to identify the worldwide body of true believers, and the claim that God preserves his truth through this body will be empty.

    If the answer to this “who” question turns out to be “Me”, (i.e., private judgment is the rule of faith), then the worldwide body of true believers will turn out to be whoever agrees with my interpretation of Sacred Scripture. This answer does not preserve God-ordained messiness from Catholic neatness, it simply substitutes myself for the Magisterium as the authentic teacher and guardian of the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

    In addition to more rigorous paths of inquiry, one can administer a “gut-check” test of the proposition, “The rule of faith which distinguishes true believers from heretics is my own interpretation of those writings that I accept as Sacred Scripture.” If one cannot stomach that proposition, and yet believes that it is vital to identify with certainty what is “saving truth,” then he might continue to consider that there are other alternatives to resigning oneself to the notion that we are all heretical sheep without an orthodox shepherd.

    Andrew

  33. @Burton (#30)

    The question of whether or not God wants us to have theological certainty is a fascinating one for me. I just converted to Catholicism so I’m hardly unbiased but it was an objection I ran into more than a few times. I’ll offer my thoughts and I guess I just hope they’re of some service to you. :-)

    I found when dialoguing with people it took some time to get to the point you identify. Most Protestants simply don’t realize what their own epistemological system entails, viz, the lack of any infallible certainty in any given interpretation of the holy Bible. Westminster XXXI.IV puts it relatively straightforwardly: “All synods or councils since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred; therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as a help in both.” So ecumenical councils can err (not only have but did; I assume Nicaea II’s approval of venerating icons would be right up there, etc). It should go without saying that Calvin, Luther, or Zwingli’s interpretation of scripture can err (and according to all 3, various Popes’ interpretations of scripture had erred, etc). At least in my experience, most Protestants just don’t seem to get that, if Protestantism is true, there just IS NO INFALLIBLE interpreter of Scripture.

    But like you I found a few persons who were willing to concede the point (interestingly, most of them were reformed pastors and elders rather than laity – perhaps because they’ve done sufficient study to recognize what epistemological boat Protestantism is in?) Regardless, they make the same claim: God doesn’t want us to have infallible doctrinal certainty and it is wrong to seek it. As such, the Roman Catholic church is trying to offer you something God doesn’t want you to have.

    I think this type of reasoning is unsound for the following reasons. First, not only John 8:32 (!) but the whole Bible centers around the notion that truth, as such, is knowable – AND KNOWABLE WITH CERTAINTY! Of course there are some eternal mysteries (say, the inner workings of the Trinity), and of course as humans we’re not omniscient, but it’s a rather big leap from those premises to say that God doesn’t want us to have infallible doctrinal knowledge about anything. And make no mistake, such a position truly does entail that we have no infallible knowledge about any doctrinal claim. No infallible knowledge that God is Triune, no infallible knowledge about the sacraments, etc. We can infallibly know that “Thou shalt not murder” (because it’s a direct Biblical quotation), but whether abortion or euthanasia count as murder involves interpretation of that verse, and so we can’t be infallibly certain that abortion is (or is not) murder. (I’m getting my PhD in philosophy and am very interested in ethics; the undermining of ethical knowledge that is entailed by such a position is, quite frankly, horrifying).

    Second, I’m a father of two (3 week old girl, Joy, and a 2 year old boy James). The educational philosophy entailed by Protestantism is just flatly unworkable. Seriously, can you imagine teaching a little child “Well, we’re 99% sure that baptism is a sacrament but…when you come right down to it, we’re just not certain. Also, not certain about whether lying under oath counts as ‘bearing false witness against thy neighbor’. Also not certain what exactly happens during Communion but, you know, here’s our best guess…” Good luck raising Christian kids with that kind of a framework. :-p

    Third, anyone who tries to prevent you from joining the Catholic church on these grounds is almost certainly engaging in a performative contradiction. If they think that there is no infallible doctrinal certainty about anything, then of course they themselves have no infallible doctrinal certainty that Catholicism’s theologies are false. So at best they can say something like I had above: “Well, we’re 99% sure that Catholicism’s claims are incorrect but we can’t be certain about that because we can’t be certain about any theological claims.” I, at least, have heard nobody actually be logically consistent in this regard: On the one hand those interlocutors I’ve engaged with decry the possibility of any certain theological knowledge, yet on the other hand they themselves are certain that Catholicism is false (and thus tried to persuade me to remain Protestant). It might be logically possible to avoid this contradiction yet it is telling to me that, no matter how much one decries the possibility of infallible theological knowledge, there is apparently somehow just enough infallible knowledge lying about to disprove Catholicism. Convenient, that. ;-)

    Also, (not to preempt Dr. Liccione’s no doubt better/lengthier presentation of the question – which I look forward to myself), :-) one of the distinguishing markers between conservative and liberal Protestants was that conservative Protestants think that theological truth, as such, can be known. As I noted at the beginning, it astonishes me how many good solid Reformed pastors and elders, when push comes to shove, embrace the unknowability (qua infallibility) of theological knowledge rather than embrace a Catholic/Eastern Orthodox epistemology/ecclesiology. If Protestantism (as such) entails that there is no infallible knowledge of any theological propositions, then it seems to me that all (internally consistent) Protestants just are liberal Protestants waiting to happen.

    Yours Sincerely,
    Benjamin

  34. Burton –

    I can’t really talk, since I’m not a protestant, but Sunday’s first reading (as well as today – Tuesday of the second week of Easter) says that the community of believers was of one heart and mind (Acts 4:32). This was a very deep unity that the early Christians shared. They were so closely related that they even shared each other’s wealth. The scripture tells us that none of them claimed any possessions on their own and that they had everything in common. Joseph – called Barnabas – even sold his land and laid it at the feet of the apostles.

    I think this provides an interesting point of reflection. Would a well informed baptist lay their wealth at the feet of the Catholic Bishops evangelization efforts? Would a well formed Catholic lay their resources at an evangelical mega Church? I don’t think that either would, and I think this is evidence that the divisions within Christianity are deeper than Christ wills.

    Plus, your friend has the obvious problem that his assertions that the rule of faith are the scriptures and a humble heart are not laid out in the Bible. If you, or anyone, finds themselves dissatisfied with the unity of Christians and in search of greater doctrinal certainty, I would not say that it is because of some kind of sin or lack of faith. I would say that it is by grace: that God has placed a desire within them for deep unity with other Christians – a desire to be of one heart and one mind, like the first Christians.

  35. “Bravo” to you Ben! So much terrible philosophy has soaked into me over the years. I am feeling that I can breathe again. Thank you to Burton for asking the question, and to Andrew and Benjamin for studying philosophy, that pernicous threat to Faith.

  36. Burton (#30)

    …as a Protestant trying to understand what God wants of me, I wonder if my insistence on certainty represents a lack of faith?

    It depends on whether God has provided such a certainty. If He has not, then we must do the best we can. We can know without any revelation that God exists and that we must adore Him. Without revelation – and revelation must imply certainty, in the nature of the case – we can only use our own instincts. And, indeed, if God has not provided such certainty, I do not see how the Bible can supply it. The concept of the Bible as God’s (certain!) written revelation is itself something that requires certainty. Otherwise, we have various writings – what we call the Bible, what we call the apocryphal writings such as the Gospel of Thomas, the various other holy writings of the past – the Qur’an, even the Book of Mormon – how do we sort them out? And the Bible itself has certainly not provided certainty for those who claim to follow it alone. A ‘degree of messiness’ seems a masterly understatement!

    But if God has provided a Church whose authority we can trust, then it would seem foolhardy, perhaps even blasphemous, to refuse to follow it. It is this very question whether such a certainty has been provided by God.

    On the face of it it seems probable a priori that He would do so. And you have, I think, considered many of the reasons for believing that He has. Have you considered taking some revocable action, such as enrolling in RCIA? It does not oblige you to become a Catholic; it could be the right way of ‘laying a fleece’ before the Lord.

    jj

  37. Alicia, Benjamin, and Aaron,

    To this whole question of whether it is appropriate for Christians to want to have “certainty,” I can only say, as a Catholic, that “certainty” is only important in Christianity, to the extent that one, as a Christian, wishes to know what one should rightly believe, in regard to:

    The Biblical canon, baptism, justification, salvation (and whether one can lose it or not), the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper), human sexuality (in marriage, and in and of itself), whether or not miraculous gifts are still extant and operative among Christians today, and (last but *not* least) ecclesiology.

    These are all issues on which Protestants differ among themselves. Certainty in Christianity is only important if these issues seriously matter– and needless to say, they do!!

    Aaron and Benjamin, I encountered the same type of armchair psychoanalysis, from some of my Reformed friends (and it wasn’t always gentle in my experience!), of my thinking and motivations behind considering Catholic truth claims as a Calvinist.

    This psychoanalysis continued for months after I returned to the Catholic Church, and it would probably still be continuing, if I had not made it clear to my friends, over time, that I was convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith, and that, respectfully, in Christian love, I had no intention of returning to Protestantism, whether Reformed or non-Reformed. Unfortunately, when I made those two things clear, I lost most (not all, thanks be to God!) of those Reformed friends. Some Catholic converts, happily, have had very different experiences with most of their Reformed friends.

    I tried to be as respectful and loving as I could, in conversations with friends who, heartbreakingly, probably would have once taken a bullet for me, but who now, told me, simply, that I had shipwrecked my faith by apostasty,and/or who stated, no matter what evidence I provided to show otherwise, that Catholics “worship Mary and the Saints.” I still would be friends with these brothers and sisters, but in the end, they all cut off our communication.

    To be fair, when I was a die-hard Reformed Baptist, that is what we were basically taught to do with Protestants who join, or return to, the Catholic Church– *if* repeated attempts to encourage them to “return to the (Reformed) Gospel” were unsuccessful. Very honestly, if I were still a Reformed Baptist, I’m not sure that I would be reacting differently than my (former) Reformed friends to an “idolator” like me. I *hope* that I would be reacting differently… but the Reformed Baptist (and, to a lesser extent, *some* of the conservative Presbyterian) world can be a somewhat closed-in, insular world which sees the Catholic Church as “the pseudo-Christian enemy of the Gospel.” With such a view of the Church, I can understand that it is hard for Reformed Baptists to remain friends with R.B.’s who become Catholic or return to Catholicism.

    Recently, I have taken the step of beginning to comment on the blogs of Reformed organizations in which some of my old friends are involved, such as The Gospel Coalition. Thus far, there has been no response from any of the friends, and, surprisingly to me, no response from any of the leaders and/or bloggers in the Coalition. The only two responses have been from readers of the blogs. I’m genuinely hoping that some actual leaders in the Coalition will thoughtfully engage with a former Protestant and Catholic “revert” who is thoughtfully (I hope and pray) commenting on their own blogs and book reviews.

  38. P.S. to #37: To be clear, obviously, Protestants do agree on the 66-book Protestant Biblical canon, but they *can’t* agree, among themselves, as to *how, and from where* (other than from God and the inspired authors) they have received that canon.

  39. Burton (re:#30),

    Actually, brother, somewhat embarrassingly, I just realized now that my comment #37 also replies to your question, in part, too. Thank you very much for asking your crucial question about certainty which kick-started this discussion in the first place!

  40. Andrew, Aaron, et.al.,

    Thanks for your comments. I agree that some degree of certainty is necessary, lest we devolve into doctrinal anarchy. There is a broad range of Protestant responses to this query, and I am trying to determine the logical validity and philosophical soundness of these various rule-of-faith paradigms as compared to Catholic claims – not a small task for a bloke like me!

    I don’t know anything about Zach Hunt, but his arguement as quoted above, taken at face value, sounds like the doctrinal mush of some liberal Protestants and Catholics – a comfortable, sentimental relativism. I would have to read his full article to understand his true intent, which I don’t want to judge based on two quotes. Again, I suspect that he was being purposefully provacative to make a point: don’t get too uppity about your pet doctrine, because ain’t none of us infallible.

    I also agree that this assumes that he and his audience would need to share some underlying presuppositions for this to make sense, or, as noted in one of the comments above, he would be unable to make any truth claims at all. So, what is being left unsaid? The unspoken but understood rule-of-faith: those who trust in the Bible as God’s Word will get the important stuff right. It is hard as a Protestant to shake a gut level adherence to this paradigm.

    Burton

  41. Zack Hunt’s position is simply silly. He has twisted light and darkness to produce a false humility. As a Protestant who adopts the WCF, I think this position undermines the foundation of all things Christian and should be repudiated. Heresy attacks or at least obscures truth and schism is the breeding ground for hatred. To identify all Christians as heretics will reduce any meaningful understanding of a visible church to absurdity. All professing Christians need to run from this.

    All attempts to find a solution should be explored before the conscience yields to an exterior magisterium claiming infallible certainty. Three reasons substantiate this: First, RC theology accepts the idea that heresy and/or schism causes a member of the magisterium to lose their authority to command in the church. Next, each member of the magisterium (any given pope or bishop in his communion) can fall into heresy and/or schism. Finally, this possibility of having “visible authorities” who don’t have true authority undermines the obligation to yield full obedience in matters of theological certainty. All of this raises serious doubts about the certainty promised by Roman Catholics (lay or clergy). How does a RC know if a heretic is not occupying the chair of Peter ? Or if a heretic(s) proposed the doctrine of the “chair and succession” ?

    Thanks,
    Eric

  42. Burton (#30)

    “His Rule of Faith is the Bible approached with a humble heart open to the Spirit’s leading. ”

    But after all, who wouldn’t say that?

    For me Catholicism moves the Rule of Faith to objectivity since I am now deferring to an authority not on the basis of what they say, but on the basis of who they are.

    I wonder if my insistence on certainty represents a lack of faith?

    Did you ever consider that it might be the converse?

    My wife and I also were received into the Church at the Easter Vigil 2012. We came from Reformed Protestantism (PCA) and started out just to take the RCIA and investigate Catholicism. Ultimately it became a matter of faith.

    I decided that my theme verse for this whole experience (and perhaps a good life verse also) is none other than Romans 1:17 (Paul quoting Habakkuk 2:4), ironically the verse that ignited the fire of the ‘Protestant Reformation’. Perhaps the greater truth is that in reality it was the onset of the Catholic Reformation since the Church did reform.

    The reason to choose that verse is that to hold that God did not engage in Ecclesial Deism for the first 1500 years of the Church, that Christ instituted apostolic succession, built His church upon Peter, gave Peter the keys, gave the college of Apostles the right to hold or release sins, instituted the new passover for the New Covenant, instituted the Apostles as the new priesthood of the New Covenant after His own order of Melchezidek, that to listen to the teaching of the apostles and their successors is to listen to Christ himself, that by the laying on of hands is to see objectively apostolic succession, to accept the Cannon of Holy Scripture as it was determined by the successors of the Holy Apostles, etc, etc, is an act of faith.

    Perhaps to have faith in the authority of another rather than oneself is the greater act of faith, and the more objective, difficult, and superior faith commitment.

    For the just shall live by faith.

    IMO, your insistence on certainty (a good thing in my view) will require of you great faith – the only remaining question is where you will choose to place it.

    God bless and strengthen your faith in your efforts!

    pro unitate Ecclesiae,

    -Mike

  43. Eric,

    You asked:

    How does a RC know if a heretic is not occupying the chair of Peter ? Or if a heretic(s) proposed the doctrine of the “chair and succession”?

    Since we cannot read minds, we don’t know whether or not any Pope personally harbors heretical opinions in his mind. We do know that no Pope, in exercising his office of confirming the faith of the brethren, can teach any heretical opinion as Catholic doctrine. Regarding the second question, we know that a heretic did not propose the doctrines of Papal Infallibility and Apostolic Succession, because those doctrines were “proposed” by our Lord Jesus Christ, when he established his Church, once and for all, upon the foundation of the Papacy and the Apostolic College of Bishops.

    Andrew

  44. Eric,

    I also disagree with Mr. Hunt’s views on heresy, but perhaps there is, from the Protestant perspective, a certain consistency to his argument. For instance, how do you define heresy, and how do you personally know with certainty that you aren’t a heretic or a schismatic? If we hold to the Bible as our rule of faith with the WCF as our interpretive guide, but at the same time hold the fallibility of the WCF and our interpretation, then it seems we are hard pressed to define, with any certainty, the line that divides heresy from orthodoxy. What do you think?

    Burton

  45. Regarding the second question, we know that a heretic did not propose the doctrines of Papal Infallibility and Apostolic Succession, because those doctrines were “proposed” by our Lord Jesus Christ, when he established his Church, once and for all, upon the foundation of the Papacy and the Apostolic College of Bishops.

    This is not necessarily true. Of all the original bishops with valid apostolic succession, only the bishop of Rome has put forward the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. All other churches with Apostolic Succession (maintaining the deposit of the Faith) reject that doctrine.

    Furthermore, St. Peter never had (or claimed) infallibility, and did err in his doctrine (needing correction from St. Paul). How can his successor’s receive this special chrism of the Holy Spirit by virtue of holding his office, if the original office holder never had the chrism?

    In the early church, Diptych’s were used to determine who is in communion with whom. Heresy involved a ‘striking’ a persons (bishops) name from the diptych. The whole 1054 issue is that Rome was ‘struck’, and they were attempting to get the other Apostolic bishops to put the bishop of Rome’s name back on the diptych. This didn’t happen (due to a failure to repent)… so as far as the world-wide ancient church is concerned, it is Rome that fell into heresy. Rome has since changed their own diptych’s to reflect their own structure… something you see every Sunday when you pray for your leadership hierarchy.

    The fact that PI (as well as almost every other doctrine that Protestants have difficulty with) came after 1054 is not surprising. Heresy breeds heresy.

  46. Burton (#40),

    You wrote about Zack Hunt’s seeming position:

    I also agree that this assumes that he and his audience would need to share some underlying presuppositions for this to make sense, or, as noted in one of the comments above, he would be unable to make any truth claims at all. So, what is being left unsaid? The unspoken but understood rule-of-faith: those who trust in the Bible as God’s Word will get the important stuff right. It is hard as a Protestant to shake a gut level adherence to this paradigm.

    Without being *presumptuous*, I can say, with a fairly good degree of *confidence*, that I can truly understand how almost any Protestant (Reformed or non-Reformed) feels, in his/her gut, about the basic Protestant paradigm of “trust in the Bible as God’s Word, and you will get the important stuff right”– with that paradigm, itself, being based on the Protestant concept of the perpescuity of Scripture.)

    However, the more that I allowed myself to be *fearlessly candid* with myself (which was very scary at times!!), I had to admit that that paradigm simply *does not work*.

    First, one needs to be able to have an authoritative way of discerning which things are “essential” and which are not– and even with the indwelling illumination of the Holy Spirit, when most Protestants today read the Biblical texts, they come to very different conclusions, as to what many of those “essential” things for salvation are, than Christians held (from the historical records we have) for 1, 500 years. This is a serious problem. I was amazed, as a Calvinist, to see one of my elders virtually dismiss that problem with a wave of his hand and an assertion that, well, Israel was unfaithful to God in the Old Testament for long periods of time too…. This was almost unbelievable (to me at least)! Yes, many Israelites were unfaithful to God many times in the OT, but He simply did not tell the faithful ones to split off and for their *own, new* Israel– which, in a certain sense, is what Luther did at the Reformation in relation to the Church.

    Second (and this is related to the above, first point), Protestants are even now beginning to disagree about important details of some of the things that *they* tend to agree, among *themselves*, are the “essentials”– as can be seen with the Federal Vision controversy among conservative Presbyterians. The Federal Vision people argue that they are being “faithful” to Scripture– more so, they seem to think, on certain issues, than those who accuse them of heresy. Obviously, their accusers disagree. Again, this serious doctrinal dispute is just among *conservative Presbyterians*, to say nothing of the wider world of Protestants. Who decides what is orthodoxy and what is heresy for Protestants? The paradigm of “I trust the Bible as God’s Word, and it is sufficiently clear on the important stuff” just does not suffice to answer that question.

    Catholics fully accept the first half of that paradigm. The Bible *is* God’s Word, and we *do* fully trust it. The second half of the paradigm, though (the perpescuity of Scripture on “the essentials”), is both dangerous and unworkable. It ultimately degenerates into subjectivism.

  47. I meant to type, that God did not tell the faithful Israelites to split off and *form* their own, new Israel… sorry… typing in a hurry here…

  48. Bob,

    You wrote:

    Of all the original bishops with valid apostolic succession, only the bishop of Rome has put forward the doctrine of Papal Infallibility.

    At the First Vatican Council, 433 bishops voted in favor of (with two bishops opposing) the final formulation of the definition of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. So the claim that “only the bishop of Rome has put forward the doctrine” is not true. For further elaboration of the proceedings of the Council, see The Gift of Infallibility.

    You wrote:

    All other churches with Apostolic Succession (maintaining the deposit of the Faith) reject that doctrine.

    Christ only founded one Church, and that Church, being the pillar and foundation of truth, does not contradict herself. Sadly, it is true that there are particular Churches, having Apostolic Succession, that have fallen into schism and heresy. But the truth of the doctrines defined by the Church that Christ established does not depend upon there being no heretical and/or schismatic particular Churches that dissent from one or more of those doctrines.

    You wrote:

    Furthermore, St. Peter never had (or claimed) infallibility, and did err in his doctrine (needing correction from St. Paul). How can his successor’s receive this special chrism of the Holy Spirit by virtue of holding his office, if the original office holder never had the chrism?

    These claims were addressed in my reply to Eric. St. Peter’s personal failures are completely compatible with the doctrine of Papal Infallibility as defined by the First Vatican Council, and that doctrine is implicitly contained in the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ regarding Peter and the Church.

    Regarding the mutual excommunications of 1054 and the striking of names from the diptychs, see this document, jointly affirmed by the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1965.

    You wrote:

    The fact that PI (as well as almost every other doctrine that Protestants have difficulty with) came after 1054 is not surprising. Heresy breeds heresy.

    No doctrinal definition comes before its time. Jehovah’s Winesses claim that the fact that the definition of homoousion came after 313 A.D. is not surprising. But whether or not it is “surprising” is irrelevant to the question of whether the doctrine is orthodox or heretical.

    Andrew

  49. Also, in my analogy, in #46, of Luther splitting off from the Church, and forming his own “new Israel,” I did *not* mean to imply that Luther was acting as a “faithful Israelite.” In the Old Testament, faithful Isralites did not reply on the primacy of the individual conscience in interpreting Scripture, as Scripture existed at that time. There is no reason to think that this situation changed with the coming of Christ and His founding of the Church and, later, the writing of the New Testament. There is much evidence to the contrary, both in Scripture itself, and in the writings of the early Church Fathers in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D.

  50. Christ only founded one Church, and that Church, being the pillar and foundation of truth, does not contradict herself. Sadly, it is true that there are particular Churches, having Apostolic Succession, that have fallen into schism and heresy.

    I’m not sure I would dismiss the entire east (and all of Russia) as a particular church. They have (or at least claim) the same fullness of the faith as the Romans do.

    The first Vatican Council was not ecumenical, and was only ratified by the Pope and bishops subservient to him… none of the bishops of the east, recognize it, and neither do those whose lineage come from England.

    Lets suppose for a minute that ecumenical councils (instead of Papal fiat) are needed to determine doctrine (as was the case for the first 1000 years of the Church). Would it even be possible for PI, purgatory, or the treasury of merits (and associate indulgences) to become dogma? I suspect that our Eastern brethren would have held fast to the faith of the fathers and shut down those innovations (as they continue to do). It is only possible for these doctrines to materialize under a Papacy. If truly ecumenical (instead of Vatican-claimed ecumenical) councils are required to settle doctrinal disputes… where does that leave the Roman Catholics and what have they been doing for the past 500 years?

    I know where it leaves the protestants… they rightly identified heresy and are attempting to change course. However, they are largely cut-off from their history. As a result, they correctly identify heresy like PI, but miss out on the benefits of a historical church.

    Funny thing about that joint declaration: Rome hopes that the Orthodox will fall in line under Papal rule as it exists today. Orthodox hope that Rome will abandon its innovative dogma (starting with the filioque) and repent. Neither is about to happen… as Orthodoxy is committed to sound doctrine and Rome has dogmatised it’s inability to be wrong. Bit of a rock and a hard place.

    I’ve put forth my solution to this issue – Rome needs to repent – repent of pretty much all dogmatic statements made after 1054. Rejoin the East and together be an example to the Protestants (myself included) and the whole world.

    The other option is that the left and right lungs don’t really need each other (since they both are the fullness of the faith). If Rome doesn’t need the East, why do Protestants need Rome?

  51. Bob,

    You wrote:

    The first Vatican Council was not ecumenical, and was only ratified by the Pope and bishops subservient to him… none of the bishops of the east, recognize it, and neither do those whose lineage come from England.

    The Eastern Catholic bishops and the English Catholic bishops recognized Vatican I. So the claim that none of the Eastern or English bishops recognized the Council, like the previous claim that only the Bishop of Rome “put forward the doctrine,” is false.

    You wrote:

    I’m not sure I would dismiss the entire east (and all of Russia) as a particular church. They have (or at least claim) the same fullness of the faith as the Romans do.

    The Russian Orthodox Church, like each of the Orthodox Churches, is a particular Church, not the universal Church. It is true that the Orthodox consider the communion of all particular Orthodox Churches to be the universal Church that Christ established. My point was not to dismiss the entire East as a particular Church, nor to beg the question in favor of the Catholic Church’s claim to be the universal Church that Christ established. Rather, my point was as stated:

    But the truth of the doctrines defined by the Church that Christ established does not depend upon there being no heretical and/or schismatic particular Churches that dissent from one or more of those doctrines.

    I agree that the reunion of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church would be a wonderful testimony both to Protestants and the whole world (John 17:23).

    Andrew

  52. The Eastern Catholic bishops and the English Catholic bishops recognized Vatican I. So the claim that none of the Eastern or English bishops recognized the Council, like the previous claim that only the Bishop of Rome “put forward the doctrine,” is false.

    Perhaps we are speaking past each other with these geographical terms. Vatican 1 cannot be truly ecumenical because 1. The Orthodox (lead by Constatinople) do not recognize it, nor affirm its opinions on PI and 2. The Anglican Communion (lead by Canterbury) do not recognize it.

    Both Orthodoxy and Anglicanism claim Apostolic succession. It is ONLY the Bishops who already are in communion with Rome that recognize Vatican 1 as legitimate – no matter where their location (east, England, or other). These were bishops that remained as a part the Roman half of the 1054 split, and remain through the English Reformation.

    To me it is kind of like ‘all the representatives who agree with me continue to agree with me and we’re ecumenical’ – marginalizing the other Apostolic churches. This is not the case – Rome NEEDS the east (at the very least) to be present and to ratify the decisions made before a council can be called ecumenical. They were there for the first 1000 years, and that is how it was done.

  53. Bob,

    You wrote:

    Perhaps we are speaking past each other with these geographical terms. Vatican 1 cannot be truly ecumenical because 1. The Orthodox (lead by Constatinople) do not recognize it, nor affirm its opinions on PI and 2. The Anglican Communion (lead by Canterbury) do not recognize it.

    By this rationale, the Councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451) cannot be ecumenical, because the Assyrian Church of the East does not accept the former, and the Oriental Orthodox Churches do not accept the latter.

    You wrote:

    To me it is kind of like ‘all the representatives who agree with me continue to agree with me and we’re ecumenical’ – marginalizing the other Apostolic churches.

    The First Vatican Council marginalized those who disagreed with its definitions of doctrine just as every other Church Council marginalized those who disagreed with its definitions of doctrine.

    Andrew

  54. Andrew,

    I appreciate the absence of any papal-approved-magisterial-teaching to answer my knowledge questions. What you did offer are two opposites, ignorance and knowledge. On the one hand, there is a universal metaphysical limitation of reading minds, and on the other hand, an appeal to Christ the light of the world. I will assume that my three reasons are acceptable, unless you disagree. Treat these reasons as a gage order for the RC magisterium. In light of my reasons and your willingness to isolate Christ and his doctrine, please tell me what level of truth-confidence do you have in the following:

    You wrote:
    …we know that a heretic did not propose the doctrines of Papal Infallibility and Apostolic Succession, because those doctrines were “proposed” by our Lord Jesus Christ, when he established his Church, once and for all, upon the foundation of the Papacy and the Apostolic College of Bishops.

    You say we know, so please tell me how you know this to be the case ?

    Thanks,
    Eric

  55. Eric,

    In response to my claim to know that Christ established the Church upon the foundation of the Papacy and the Apostolic College of Bishops, you asked:

    …so please tell me how you know this to be the case ?

    I know this to be the case by way of the historical witness of the New Testament and the Christian centuries, and by the gift of faith.

    Andrew

  56. Eric,

    You wrote:

    I will assume that my three reasons are acceptable, unless you disagree.

    Here is the third of your “three reasons” (listed in #41):

    Finally, this possibility of having “visible authorities” who don’t have true authority undermines the obligation to yield full obedience in matters of theological certainty.

    You never established that the visible authority in question, i.e., the Magisterium, does not have true authority. Your first two reasons do not entail the third reason, and you did not otherwise argue for the third reason. Therefore, it begs the question, which is unacceptable.

    Andrew

  57. By this rationale, the Councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451) cannot be ecumenical, because the Assyrian Church of the East does not accept the former, and the Oriental Orthodox Churches do not accept the latter.

    The main difference between these councils and the post 1054 Roman councils is that all the bishops were invited, and participated in the councils. That and the schism’s occurred because of the councils; instead of forged documents, changes to creeds, and hasty excommunications.

    Councils determine doctrine. The Romans changed doctrine (filioque) and broke communion without a council. Subsequent councils held by the Pope and his supporters cannot be ecumenical. Don’t you see? Protestant’s wouldn’t exist if Rome hadn’t fallen into heresy. Rome needs to take ownership of that and repent.

  58. Eric,

    Your second reason is also unacceptable, because it does not distinguish between the Pope’s personal opinions and his public teaching as regards heresy, and begs the question as regards schism (i.e., if the Pope is the visible principle of unity of the Church, as Catholics claim, then the Pope cannot, by definition, be in schism from the Church).

    Finally, your first reason is problematic in a way similar to the second, since it does not distinguish between private opinion and public teaching. To my knowledge, a Pope or bishop who is privately a heretic is not ipso facto deprived of authority (to teach, govern, and sanctify) in the Church. In the article “A Heretical Pope?,” Michael Davies notes that Catholics have historically appealed to this distinction in this regard.

    Andrew

  59. Bob,

    You wrote:

    The main difference between these councils and the post 1054 Roman councils is that all the bishops were invited, and participated in the councils. That and the schism’s occurred because of the councils; instead of forged documents, changes to creeds, and hasty excommunications.

    This is also incorrect, on several counts. The Orthodox bishops were invited to the First Vatican Council. No Western bishops participated in the First Council of Constantinople. Finally, the schisms of the first millennium did not occur because of the Councils, but because of the heretics who troubled the Church, and then refused to submit to the authority of the Church as exercised in the Councils. The second millennium follows the same pattern: Heretics and schismatics trouble the Church; the Church holds Councils to address the heresy and/or source of division; those who refuse to submit to the authority of the Church as exercised in the Councils are cut off, by their own persistence in rebellion, from her unity in truth.

    The second paragraph in your last comment begs the question on each point, with the exception of the observation that the filioque was added to the Creed, which addition was progressively accepted in the Western Church, before a Council was convened to ratify the addition. Eventually, this addition was confirmed by the Church in council, as noted in the old Catholic Encyclopedia:

    …the doctrine of the Filioque was declared to be a dogma of faith in the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), the Second council of Lyons (1274), and the Council of Florence (1438-1445). Thus the Church proposed in a clear and authoritative form the teaching of Sacred Scripture and tradition on the Procession of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.

    There is no doubt that many members of the Catholic Church, from popes to laity, are far from guiltless in these matters (i.e., the two great schisms of the second millennium). It is also certain that many Orthodox and Protestant Christians are and have been personally guiltless of both formal heresy and other schismatic actions and attitudes. Catholics do need to take ownership of our own sins and the past sins of fellow Catholics that have provoked others to righteous anger, which in some cases precipitated or perpetuated a schism. These sins, like all sins, do indeed call for repentance.

    However, the claim that the Catholic Church has fallen into heresy does not follow from the many sins and failings of Catholics, both past and present. You claim that [Ecumenical] Councils determine doctrine. I agree. The Catholic Church not only accepts the Councils of the first millennium, she continues to hold Councils, defining doctrine and so defending the faithful from heretics, after the manner of the Church of the first millennium. And a straightforward explanation of this fact is that the Catholic Church is (as she understands and proclaims herself to be) that same Church, which has not died nor become inert, but continues to live and move in unity and truth, to end of the age, according to the promise of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Andrew

  60. The Orthodox bishops were invited to the First Vatican Council. No Western bishops participated in the First Council of Constantinople. Finally, the schisms of the first millennium did not occur because of the Councils, but because of the heretics who troubled the Church, and then refused to submit to the authority of the Church as exercised in the Councils.

    You are correct – heretics cause problems, not councils. My main point remains – post 1054 councils are not truly ecumenical or valid by Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant standards. Councils make doctrine, not papal fiat. Councils can and do decide doctrine without the Pope. The pope cannot decide doctrine without truly ecumenical councils (I use truly to differentiate fake ecumenical councils that the Roman Catholics seem fond of.)

    If the Orthodox were invited (and attended) – It surely wasn’t as participants but as witnesses. Orthodoxy consistently condemns PI. They certainly don’t see Vatican 1 as authoritative. Interestingly enough, those who disagreed with PI were correct at its outcomes (quote from wikipedia):
    “They opposed the ultramontane centralist model of the Church because, in their opinion, it departed from the ecclesiastical structure of the early Christian church. From a pragmatic perspective, they feared that defining papal infallibility would alienate some Catholics, create new difficulties for union with non-Catholics, and provoke interference by governments in Church affairs.”

    The Catholic Church not only accepts the Councils of the first millennium, she continues to hold Councils, defining doctrine and so defending the faithful from heretics, after the manner of the Church of the first millennium.

    The Roman Church did not accept the creed of the council, and broke with the Church by changing it. Holding your own councils, calling them ecumenical, and accepting the heresy as dogma does not change history. Persisting in that vein leads to more heresy, like PI.

    I agree. The Catholic Church not only accepts the Councils of the first millennium, she continues to hold Councils, defining doctrine and so defending the faithful from heretics, after the manner of the Church of the first millennium.

    Why are they still holding councils? Don’t the Romans celebrate the feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy? All new heresy is a re-hash of old heresy… all doctrine necessary for salvation has been defined! So what are the Popes doing, other than putting chains around us? How relevant is PI to my salvation?

    I’m stepping away from this thread… we seem to be going in circles based on who’s team colors we are wearing. Ultramontanism is polemic.

  61. Andrew,

    Response to #55:
    1) New Test. historical witness
    2) Christian centuries
    3) gift of faith

    Each of these beg the question for Papal claims when a Roman Catholic considers and presents them for consideration.

    1) The NT is known through the infallible judgment of Rome
    2) Christian centuries are Papal governed centuries ( even those who excomm. can be summoned to Rome’s court ) and is evidence for Tradition.
    3) faith, in reference to content, is defined and proposed by Rome.

    1, 2 and 3 gives knowledge of the Christo-foundations of the Papacy. When you defend the idea that the “chair and succession” is not heretical in origin, you appeal to the Christ of the New Testament. You don’t know the true Christ and his doctrine unless you know it through the Papacy, but you know the Papacy through the true Christ, who is known through the Papacy. This Scripture-Tradition-Papacy is a closed circle that doesn’t even permit you entrance.

    You only know this circle like you know that no one can read minds. You can’t read minds because human minds can’t read human minds, or you can know the circle because knowing the circle is what can be known about the circle !

    Eric

  62. Burton,

    There is nothing wrong with Mr. Hunt’s generic definition of heresy because it does touch on individual-group dynamics. Even Andrew’s quote of Aquinas supposes this. I don’t think that denominationalism is based only on disagreements. Recent ecumenical ideas have shown many positive and natural social connections between protestant denominationalism and catholic ecclesial movements (or the creation of orders, not sacramental). Andrew’s critique was good because he brought forward the relation between heresy and falsehood. Strictly speaking, I think heresy and schism pertain more to the will (Mr. Hunt’s idea I think), but the critique reached into the intellectual side to expose Hunt’s weakness. Although there is warning, if we steer towards the intellectual only, then major problems arise in socio-political ethics.

    I’m going to take a brave leap and say that the WCF does contain infallible truths because it says that good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture. But not everything in the WCF is a good and necessary deduction, like things drawn from “Christian Prudence”. Drawing the line neatly between heresy and orthodoxy is the same as dividing wheat and weeds in this life. Final judgment belongs to God alone. Even if we can’t identify each and every instance of H or O in experience, you are still justified in making a conceptual distinction. So much more could be said on this.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  63. Bob,

    You raise some excellent points that get to the heart of my questions. You stated that the filoque and papal infallibility represent heretical innovations from which Rome needs to repent. I suspect an historical case can be made for this claim, but I want to take it one step back and try to understand your principled basis for defining heresy. One principled basis would be the clear demonstration that the filoque or PI contradict doctrines previously defined at an ecumenical council. Can this be demonstrated? I don’t think we can necessarily label a doctrine as heretical purely on the basis of when it was defined. Is there some other means you are using to distinquish heresy from orthodoxy?

    Burton

  64. Eric, re #61,

    You wrote:

    You don’t know the true Christ and his doctrine unless you know it through the Papacy, but you know the Papacy through the true Christ, who is known through the Papacy. This Scripture-Tradition-Papacy is a closed circle that doesn’t even permit you entrance.

    The reason that this is not a closed circle is that knowledge of Christ and his doctrine in the first instance does not come through believing the Catholic Church, but through historical investigation, which yields knowledge in the sense of moral certainties or probable opinions. Knowledge of Christ and his doctrine in the second instance does come through believing the Catholic Church, as expressed in the profession of faith:

    I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.

    This faith builds upon the knowledge gained by historical inquiry, and so is not fideistic, but it is not the product of such inquiry, nor of any other effort of human reason, being essentially a divine gift. However, one does not need to first have this faith before he can profitably inquire into the historical data pertaining to Christ and the Church that he established.

    For more on the relation of faith and reason, see these posts.

    Andrew

  65. Bob, re #60,

    You wrote:

    My main point remains…

    You continue to assert this point, but the claims that you have adduced in support of this point have each been falsified.

    You wrote:

    Why are they still holding councils? Don’t the Romans celebrate the feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy? All new heresy is a re-hash of old heresy… all doctrine necessary for salvation has been defined! So what are the Popes doing, other than putting chains around us? How relevant is PI to my salvation?

    The Catholic Church is still holding councils in the second millennium because (a) heresies have continued to arise and (b) she is continuing to grow in her understanding of the deposit of faith. The Eastern Catholic Churches do indeed celebrate the feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. We simply believe that the triumph over heresy is ongoing, from the Jerusalem Council till the end of the Age, including but not ending with the defeat of iconoclasm and the restoration of images to the churches. The doctrine of Papal Infallibility is relevant to your salvation in that it clarifies what is the visible principle of the Church’s unity in truth, and we are all saved through being united in the Truth.

    Scott Hahn elaborates further upon the communal nature of salvation and role of the Pope in this video.

    Andrew

  66. Eric, re #62,

    You wrote:

    Drawing the line neatly between heresy and orthodoxy is the same as dividing wheat and weeds in this life. Final judgment belongs to God alone. Even if we can’t identify each and every instance of H or O in experience, you are still justified in making a conceptual distinction. So much more could be said on this.

    That is an explicit statement of what I believe to be the most problematic implication of Zack’s post, which I formulated as follows:

    The effect of Hunt’s post is to call into question the absolute nature of doctrinal truth claims, or else to advance a skeptical position with reference to the question “Which is the true doctrine?”

    What makes this skepticism problematic (to say the least) is the fact that we are saved (in this life, not after) by belief in the truth, not by making the conceptual distinction between true and false doctrine without being able to specify what is the true doctrine.

    Andrew

  67. One principled basis would be the clear demonstration that the filoque or PI contradict doctrines previously defined at an ecumenical council. Can this be demonstrated?

    The filioque contradicts the source of origination of the Holy Spirit. In converstions I’ve had with David Meyer, we describe it as the ‘spigot’ and the ‘hose’. Is the hose the source of the water (Holy Spirit)? No – but rather the hose is the directing participant. My understanding is that this is what Roman Catholics believe as well.

    However, the filioque is about more than just ‘and the Son’. It is about the nature of church authority itself. I believe that if the Roman church had not inserted the filioque, but had taken the issue to a council, then 2 things would have happened. 1. it wouldn’t say ‘and the Son’ – but might say something like ‘through the Son’. 2. Dogma’s like PI wouldn’t have happened.

    The filioque is both about the procession of the Holy Spirit, and also about weather Popes are subservient to councils or not. In answer to your question, I believe it can be demonstrated both that Popes have always been subservient to ecumenical councils – allowing for titles like ‘first among equals’, but rejecting authority implied with ‘pontifex maximus’. I also believe that it can be demonstrated that the source of the Holy Spirit is the Father alone – and that the filioque is at best ambiguous in its teaching, or heretical in the plain reading of ‘and the Son’.

    I don’t think we can necessarily label a doctrine as heretical purely on the basis of when it was defined. Is there some other means you are using to distinquish heresy from orthodoxy?

    True – dates of doctrinal statements don’t affect the validity of the doctrine. However, the doctrine we are discussing (PI) by its nature assumes that all doctrine both before and after are ‘orthodox’. By arguing the Eastern side in the 1054 split I am attempting to show that error has happened. Since error has happened, PI cannot be doctrine (it depends on there being no error). When PI falls, so does the rest of the house of cards. Repentance is in order.

    I view 1054 as a fork in the road. One leads to orthodoxy (small o), the other to heresy. Farther down the heresy road is the town of PI – you can’t get there if you remain on the orthodox road. Only the Bishop of Rome and those under him chose the heretical road.

  68. Andrew,

    I will show that the “effect” that Hunt and I share is not based on shared principles of the heresy-orthodox relation, but rather on our shared rejection of the following:

    You wrote:
    “necessity of a living authority on earth whose interpretation of the Bible (i.e., doctrine) is binding upon everyone, as being specially protected from error”.

    I wrote:
    Even if we can’t identify each and every instance of H or O in experience, you are still justified in making a conceptual distinction.

    1) In experience, Rome can identify every instance of H or O principally.
    2) In experience, Rome can’t identify every instance of H or O practically.

    Experience and history are the fields where doctrinal development and corruption instantiate. Due to nature of the case, ” The Virgin Mary was conceived immaculate” was not known with certainty to be orthodox before your living authority officially promulgated it. The neatly divided line was not so neat for earlier generations.

    Due to the nature of this very stubborn case, Rome will need to know the entire set of formulated-orthodox-doctrinal-revealed truths that will ever be promulgated before they can condemn every new corruption in practice. The difference between principal and practice substantiates my “effect”. The proof is in the very fact that no one, including your living authority, could accomplish what you desire.

    You wrote: …..being able to specify what is the true doctrine

    I will give Rome an escape route. If Rome endures through experience and history with the corruptions, then it may be able to keep up with its condemnations. At this point, you will need to affirm the necessity of corruptions and Rome for the development of doctrine. Developments could not exist as pure and positive developments of the revealed deposit without the existence of corruptions. Rome needs heresy, so stop trying to take it away from them.

    Now, I will put into practice my principal and orthodox teaching drawn from the scriptures.

    Jesus taught the “Rock” was himself.
    Rome corrupts the truth by teaching that the “Rock” is Peter and his successors.
    A corruption of the truth is a heresy.
    Rome teaches heresy.

    I believe in principal the permanent conceptual and real distinction between heresy and orthodoxy.
    After applying these to Rome’s teaching, this distinction is now a practical case.
    All I wrote was….not each and every instance.
    This instance suffices for your specification requirement.

    I feel like Calvin when he straddled Rome and the Anabaptists. Only now, it is between doctrinal absolutism and relativism. Also, you did not consider my warning:

    #62 Although there is warning, if we steer towards the intellectual only, then major problems arise in socio-political ethics.

    If you had it your way, then dividing the wheat and weeds in this life could be accomplished. Pure absolutism in the mind and body. Final judgment rests with God.

    Eric

  69. Bob B (#67)

    The filioque contradicts the source of origination of the Holy Spirit.

    Surely it does not do so in any obvious sense. The first version without the filioque doesn’t say “from the Father and from no one else” – but just “from the Father.” You may think the phrase “from the Father” implies certain things – but there’s only a contradiction if your understanding is correct, and your understanding is not there in the Creed itself.

    jj

  70. Eric, re #68,

    You wrote:

    Due to the nature of this very stubborn case, Rome will need to know the entire set of formulated-orthodox-doctrinal-revealed truths that will ever be promulgated before they can condemn every new corruption in practice. The difference between principal and practice substantiates my “effect”. The proof is in the very fact that no one, including your living authority, could accomplish what you desire.

    This point was addressed in the post, “Son of a tu quoque.” The difference between Catholicism and Protestantism re the content of orthodoxy is not that the former has a comprehensive list of infallibly defined doctrines (past, present, and future) while the latter does not. Rather, the difference is that Catholicism has a principled way of determining that specific doctrines are orthodox (absolutely speaking), while Protestantism lacks a principled way of determining whether any doctrine is orthodox (absolutely speaking). This difference, as you note, is accounted for by the fact that Protestantism lacks “a living authority on earth whose interpretation of the Bible (i.e., doctrine) is binding upon everyone, as being specially protected from error.”

    This is why you cannot name one doctrine (i.e., a proposition that expresses the content of divine revelation, synthetically considered) that is absolutely orthodox, and this is why you affirmed that “Drawing the line neatly between heresy and orthodoxy is the same as dividing wheat and weeds in this life.” The implications of this position have been noted in the post and in comment #66.

    Andrew

  71. Andrew,

    This is an interesting comment:

    This is why you cannot name one doctrine (i.e., a proposition that expresses the content of divine revelation, synthetically considered) that is absolutely orthodox,

    Please clarify if I don’t understand. Are you saying that Protestants don’t have and know one absolutely orthodox doctrine other than the exact words of scripture (content of divine revelation for Prot. at least)?

    If so, then here is one (minus the dangerous absolutism):
    The Sabbath, after Christ’s resurrection, is Sunday the first day of week.

    This is synthetic because it “relates” to divine revelation without being the exact-analytic words of scripture.

    Eric

  72. Surely it does not do so in any obvious sense. The first version without the filioque doesn’t say “from the Father and from no one else” – but just “from the Father.” You may think the phrase “from the Father” implies certain things – but there’s only a contradiction if your understanding is correct, and your understanding is not there in the Creed itself.

    My understanding is that the Father is the only source of the Holy Spirit, just as the father is the only source of the Son (yes, the theotokos has a role too). The Son has a part to play in the direction of the Holy Spirit, but is not the originator of the Holy Spirit.

    It seems that all this ignores the 2nd (perhaps greater) part of the controversy – the authority to change creeds without the approval of an ecumenical council. Those 3 little words speak volumes about the shift in power from a Bishop centered church to a Pope centered church.

    I would liken it to the power shift we see in America, becoming a more President centered country instead of a 3 branch country. For example, Presidents can deploy troops without congress now. Was that ‘doctrine’ available in ‘seed form’ in the constitution? Politics aside, I see common behavioral traits between the office of the Papacy and the office of the Presidency.

  73. Bob,

    Popes were exercising binding doctrinal authority on the worldwide church long before the creed in question was ever published by an ecumenical council.

    There wasn’t a “shift in power from a Bishop centered church to a Pope centered church.” There was and is a Church with both spheres of local authority and spheres of universal (or Catholic) authority. The former spheres are overseen by individual bishops, and the latter is overseen by groups of bishops acting in union with the bishop of Rome. This was an established phenomenon in doctrinal matters long before the creed in question was promulgated at Chalcedon.

    See, for example, the role of Pope Innocent in the Pelagian Controversy, a doctrinal issue of worldwide influence.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  74. Bob,

    In post #67, I can’t find where you answered my question. How do you, as a matter of principle, define heresy and schism? 1054 isn’t the only fork in the road. When the road forks, how do you decide which one to travel? It is not enough to simply state that Rome chose the schismatic or heretical path. They may well have, but there must be some be some reasoned basis making this decision every time a split occurs. Or, like Eric and Mr. Hunt, you can come to the reasoned conclusion that no clear means of defining heresy exists.

    Burton

  75. Bob B (#72)

    My understanding is that the Father is the only source of the Holy Spirit, just as the father is the only source of the Son (yes, the theotokos has a role too). The Son has a part to play in the direction of the Holy Spirit, but is not the originator of the Holy Spirit.

    Certainly I understand that is your understanding, just didn’t see how it made the addition of the filoque simply to contradict the version without it.

    It does seem to me also that there is sufficient ambiguity in the ‘from’ that the claim that the Spirit is ‘from’ the Son as well as the Father necessarily means ‘origination.’ Going back to the ‘hose’ vs ‘tap’ illustration, the water comes ‘from’ the hose, even if it (in a sense :-)) ‘originates’ from the tap.

    I am not here trying to argue for or against the filioque, only arguing that I don’t see a necessary contradiction of earlier dogma in the addition of the phrase – which is what I thought you were saying in #67 above.

    jj

  76. Popes were exercising binding doctrinal authority on the worldwide church long before the creed in question was ever published by an ecumenical council.

    There are also plenty of examples where ecumenical councils overruled errant popes. That is how ‘first among equals’ works. It’s like the chief justice of the supreme court – no additional authority, but given extra honor / weight to their opinions.

    I am not here trying to argue for or against the filioque, only arguing that I don’t see a necessary contradiction of earlier dogma in the addition of the phrase – which is what I thought you were saying in #67 above.

    Lets assume the filioque is correct, with all of it’s ontological difficulties. What is the best way to change a creed of the church? By fiat, or by council? If the goal is truly ‘that they may be one’, how does the ‘one’ act with its millions of members, with its language difficulties, with its multiple centers of power? Do we proceed in humility, or with bills of excommunication? How is Christ glorified with ‘and the Son’ and all the trouble those 3 words have brought to Christendom? Was the sacrifice of the East worth ‘and the Son’?

    I am beginning to understand the closed communion more now. In order to justify less than gracious behavior, one must view other Christians as ‘lacking’ – weather it be ‘lacking truth’, or ‘fullness’, or whatever. They are the schismatic heretics… not us, cause we are king of seven hills!

  77. Eric, re #71,

    You asked:

    Are you saying that Protestants don’t have and know one absolutely orthodox doctrine other than the exact words of scripture (content of divine revelation for Prot. at least)?

    Yes, that is what I am saying.

    In response to this, you wrote:

    If so, then here is one (minus the dangerous absolutism):
    The Sabbath, after Christ’s resurrection, is Sunday the first day of week.

    Since you explicitly subtract the absolutism, this doctrine does not constitute an exception to the relativity of Protestant orthodoxy.

    Andrew

  78. Bob B (#76)

    I am not here trying to argue for or against the filioque, only arguing that I don’t see a necessary contradiction of earlier dogma in the addition of the phrase – which is what I thought you were saying in #67 above.

    Lets assume the filioque is correct, with all of it’s ontological difficulties. What is the best way to change a creed of the church? By fiat, or by council?

    I’m not sure I have anything useful to say on this, but, again, I emphasise that my only point was your statement in #67:

    The filioque contradicts the source of origination of the Holy Spirit.

    which you gave as a response to Burton’s #63:

    One principled basis would be the clear demonstration that the filoque or PI contradict doctrines previously defined at an ecumenical council. Can this be demonstrated?

    I am still trying to see how the addition of the filioque constitutes a contradiction. It seems to me that there is no necessary contradiction at all. It is true that if you assume that ‘from the Son’ must necessarily mean ‘originating from the Son in the same way that the Spirit originates from the Father’ and cannot mean ‘originates from the Son as in “through the Son”‘ – then, there is a contradiction. But I see nothing, either in the wording of the Creed, nor in the interpretation of these words by the Church to indicate any such necessary interpretation.

    So … do you now mean that the addition of the filoque need not constitute a contradiction? Or, if you still think it does, can you explain why my thinking is mistaken?

    jj

  79. Andrew re:#77,

    RC will never accept any other position on H/O by definition. Refuting the absolutism is what I must do, even if a satisfactory alternative is not produced.

    Your post above:
    Once heresy is associated with false doctrine (and not simply doctrine which I and those like me happen not to hold), and once we understand that we are saved not merely by belief, but by belief in the truth, then it becomes evident that we need to know what is the actual doctrinal content of divine revelation; i.e., true doctrine.

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/02/son-of-a-tu-quoque/
    What does lie beyond that river, among many wonderful things, and what is to be found no where else on earth, is a living, visible, interpretive authority, able to bind and loose, to say “yes” or “no,” for all Christians, for all time

    Absolutism of Rome exposed:

    1) Pope Benedict XVI, successor of Peter and supreme interpretive authority, is a manifest heretic. Is this statement O or H ? If neither, then what ? If heresy, then when was the contrary defined as being doctrinal content of revelation. The acceptance of this statement will endanger faith and salvation, no ? Ignoring it will not work. Sedevacantists teach this statement today without one condemnation from your living, visible, interpretive authority. They call themselves true RC. If death visits both of us today, then we go without a “yes or no” on something that addresses “belief in the truth”.

    2) As Ratzinger, the current Pope wrote a book called Into. to Christianity. On pgs. 171-178 he deals with the doctrine of the Trinity as negative theology.

    pg. 173: On the contrary, every heresy is at the same time the cipher for an abiding truth, a cipher we must now preserve with other simultaneously valid statements, separated from which it produces a false impression. In other words, all these statements are not so much gravestones as the bricks of a cathedral, which are, of course, only useful when they do not remain alone but are inserted into something bigger, just as even the positively accepted formulas are valid only if they are at the same time aware of their own inadequacy.

    Is this statement about the trinitarian dogma O or H ?

    ….just as even the positively accepted formulas are valid only if they are at the same time aware of their own INADEQUACY.

    He never rejected this in public. If it is heresy, then you elected a man who at least taught heresy. Since there is no “yes or no” about this, then what will you do now it is brought to light ? If orthodox, then fit into your position.

    3) It is not necessary to know every dogmatic-revealed-truth to be saved ( which is your absolutist doctrine even if you don’t state it the way I do). RC theology and Protestant principles will prove this.

    There is no denying that in St. Paul’s pair of credibles [Heb. 11:6], God’s existence and God’s remunerative providence, all articles of faith are contained.
    The Theological Virtues, On faith, Garrigou Lagrange pg.128 Herder

    WCF:
    The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for…man’s salvation….is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture…

    I wrote #62:
    Even if we can’t identify each and every instance of H or O in experience, you are still justified in making a conceptual distinction.

    This statement is not even Scripture, but rather, a good and necessary consequence deduced (refuting your claims in #77). Restricting ourselves to concepts and laws of logic, it is even more primal than the prime credibles !

    This -or- That, H-or-O, man-or-God, creation-or-creator. My absolutism is truly divine.

    Eric

  80. Since this is where all the dialogue seems to be happening right now, I thought I’d let everyone know that I was received into the Catholic Church this morning. It was a wonderful experience.

    Thank you to all the bloggers and commenters here!

  81. Burton,

    You wrote #74:
    They may well have, but there must be some be some reasoned basis making this decision every time a split occurs. Or, like Eric and Mr. Hunt, you can come to the reasoned conclusion that no clear means of defining heresy exists.

    Andrew’s Post above:
    There are all kinds loving, bright, dedicated groups of Christians, each committed to the Bible as the word of God. These groups contradict one another on what at least some of them take to be essential aspects of the biblical message. No individual or group is infallible in its interpretation of the Bible. Out of all this morass of theological opinion, who am I (or the particular denomination or congregation to which I belong) to say that such and so is orthodoxy, and that whoever disagrees with me (or my denomination or congregation) is a heretic? Conversely, who am I to say that my own doctrine or confession is particularly orthodox? Surely my personal interpretation of the Bible is not the standard of doctrine with which all Christians are bound to agree, or else fall short of the truth of Sacred Scripture and, perhaps, Heaven itself.

    No, indeed. Neither your personal interpretation of the Bible, nor mine, is the Rule of Faith.

    What Rome and this post offer is not a principle, whereby, you, or Bob,or anyone makes the determination of O or H. Only pure obedience to the visible, living, interpretive authority determining “yes or no”. Any “reasoning” takes place in the mind of the authority. To equate the authority with a principle is to mistakenly use the word principle. Rome is a necessary-mind-legislating-reality (NMLR), not the contingent-mind-receiving-revelation (CMRR). How do I know this ? Simple, Rome perceives with its mind, legislates, defines and presents REVEALED truth. It is CMRR in relation to God, but NMLR in relation to everyone else. Rome is you to God and God to you.

    Bishops and priests being, as they are God’s interpreters and ambassadors, empowered in His name to teach mankind the divine law and the reles of conduct, and holding, as they do, His place on earth, it is evident that no nobler function than theirs can be imagined. JUSTLY, therefore, are they called not only ANGELS, but even GODS, because of the fact that they exercise in our midst the power and prerogatives of the immortal GOD. – Roman Catechism, Tan pg.318

    Eric

  82. Welcome home, Joshua! And you’re welcome.

  83. JJ (#78):

    I’ve been having this debate periodically with some Orthodox, and their sympathizers, for years. I agree with the points you’ve made. For that matter, the logical and conceptual question of how the filioque can be reconciled with the monarchy of the Father is fascinating in its own right. Resolving it won’t give anybody greater insight into the inner life of the Godhead, but it’s potentially useful for ecumenical purposes. Yet I’ve long since come to agree with Jaroslav Pelikan, the great historical theologian who converted from Lutheranism to Orthodoxy later in life: “If there is a special circle of the inferno described by Dante reserved for historians of theology, the principal homework assigned to that subdivision of hell for at least the first several eons of eternity may well be the thorough study of all the treatises–in Latin, Greek, Church Slavonic, and various modern languages–devoted to the inquiry: Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father only, as Eastern Christendom contends, or from both the Father and the Son (ex Patre Filioque), as the Latin Church teaches?”

    The basic problem, as always, is authority. If there is no authority to decide, definitively and irreformably, how the phrase ‘filioque’ should be understood, then of course there can be no agreement on whether the doctrine thus expressed is orthodox. Conversely, if there is such an authority, than that is the same authority which decides, definitively and infallibly, whether the doctrine is orthodox. The Orthodox cannot reasonably make claim to such authority. There is only one candidate for it, but the Orthodox do not accept it. So the quarrels about the filioque are endless.

    I suggest you not let yourself be baited further.

    Best,
    Mike

  84. Congratulations Josh! We’re rejoicing with you.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  85. Great news, Joshua! Thank you for sharing and welcome home!

  86. Praise the Lord!

    Joshua, I am so happy for you, so happy to be in full communion with you. Thank you for sharing the news.

    In Christ,

    Andrew

  87. Joshua,

    Congratulations on coming home to the faith of Christ’s Church. Be assured of our prayers for you as you continue on the path of following the crucified and risen Lord!

  88. Mike (#81)

    I suggest you not let yourself be baited further.

    Ah! Didn’t realise I was being baited – I just was trying to see how adding the filioque necessarily amounted to a contradiction. I still don’t. But perhaps it doesn’t matter.

    jj

  89. Congratulations and welcome to the Church, Joshua! I will be praying that God continues to encourage and strengthen you, in the coming days and months, through the Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition of His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church– and especially through the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. What wonderful news to see (after my having been largely away from CTC for a few days)!

  90. Andrew re#64,

    This is a good place to stop. I think we have truly seen Reformation meet Rome by this time. Thanks for the exchanges.

    Using the classic two orders of knowledge does open the circle. Now that it’s open, a very dangerous virus has been injected. A virus in the form of an argument used by RC against Protestants. Principally, the circle was strong when closed. What’s the virus ? Skepticism generated by the presence of moral certainties and probable opinions.

    My initial question was how do you know if a heretic proposed the teaching of the “chair and succession”.
    Wisely avoiding the fallacy of begging the question you appealed to Christ (and his doctrine). When pressed on how you know it to be the case, you continued to distance yourself from begging the question in the 1,2,3 response. I tried to insert the begging, but you responded by adding another party to the circle, the catholic church. This closed-circle remained solid and foundational, as are all of our ultimate presuppositions (principally speaking).

    I’ll play the role of a RC. After natural reason searches the bible, how can it know with absolute certainty that the “Rock”, declared by this Jesus, is peter and his successors if it doesn’t have an infallible interpretative exterior authority to say “yes or no” ? If NR says the Rock is Christ, then you will need to counter this. No matter how hard NR argues, the counter-response will always generate skepticism. Generating the skepticism is a must in demonstrating the need for a necessary authority (remember, we need true doctrine to be saved). A Protestant or NR will never overcome this, right ? Continuing with the role play, I wish to call up faith and build upon the moral certain and probable knowledge gained by historical inquiry. It is absolutely critical that we avoid fideism. But to our surprise we are actually building, with faith, on the firm sand of skepticism that we so carefully generated! Rome says to get out of the circle and stop trying to know, just obey and defend. You can only know the circle as a circle, beyond that, certain knowledge about revealed truths doesn’t exist. Perhaps Jesus was a heretic who didn’t lose his office, and founded the papacy through a gift of infallibility, ordered to the public good of the church. As long as a heretic can still have authority, then it really doesn’t matter. What’s good for the vicar of Christ is good for the Christ.

    Eric

  91. Dear Josh,

    May the grace you received in Confirmation strengthen you. Thank you for sharing your journey with us here.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  92. @Alicia (#35),

    Thanks for the kind words! If I may wax on a more personal note for a moment, I don’t happen to think that philosophy is a pernicious threat to the faith (although I love the phrase) – bad philosophy is a pernicious threat to faith, morals, and even reason itself. Frankly, my “avenue of approach” to Catholicism was, in many ways, more philosophical than theological. Let me explain.

    I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember and was raised by Christian parents (Deo gratia!) But as the years have passed (doing debate in high school, philosophy as an undergrad, philosophy MA and now working on my PhD), several philosophical principles have become borderline self-evident to me in a way that they apparently are not to others. For example, one can’t do graduate philosophy work without coming to grips with the fact that there are multiple interpretations of any given text – and that the best way to sort out the correct interpretations of a text from the incorrect interpretations of the text is to ask the author. In the case of some people I study (say, Aristotle,) that’s not so much an option. ;-) But just a few weeks ago we read a book on utilitarianism and had the author come to campus to give a speech and take questions. Catholicism has the good sense to “posit” (if that’s a fair term to use) a mechanism whereby we can take a text (the Holy Bible) and, if the question is of sufficient importance about something sufficiently ambiguous, figure out for sure (through the Magisterium) what competing interpretation is correct (or, as is more likely the case, fencing off an incorrect interpretation of the text). This is what happened at, say, Nicaea. Arius is running around advocating one view of Christ’s relationship to God the Father, Alexander has another, this matter is SUPER important and the Bible isn’t exactly clear about what the relationship is. So a council gets together, throws out the Arian position, and we now know that God the Father and Jesus the Son are “consubstantial” (“of one substance” – and of course what a substance is is itself a theological matter!) All of which is to say that I have understanding of and sympathy towards those who think that there just is no way to get an infallible resolution to a theological matter – but to those who think that such a thing isn’t even needed in the first place, I would suggest that they’re just wrong (and dealing with various philosophical texts helped show me the [at least in-principle] desirability of having some mechanism of authoritatively interpreting texts of any sort, much less theological texts of the utmost importance like Holy Scripture). :-)

    While I’m waxing (however eloquently,) something else I appreciate about Catholicism is that philosophy fits hand-in-glove with it in a way that it never quite did in the Protestant circles I ran in. To be sure there are any number of philosophers whose works are praised by Protestants (Dr. Greg Bahnsen being the example I’m most familiar with; OPC and all). And of course there are any number of good philosophers now living who are Protestant (Drs. William Lane Craig and Plantinga are the two that immediately jump to mind). That being said (and these are my anecdotes; yours may vary) Protestantism in my experience has a kind of schizophrenic reaction towards reason itself and our reasoning faculties. On the one hand (some) Protestants are quite fond of reason (reason is prized and of course Protestants care very much about their faith being, in the right sense, reasonable.) But of course one occasionally runs into Protestants who think that Christianity is based entirely on faith and is thus somehow above all rational examination. These persons are silly. :-p On the other hand (some) Protestants take a rather strong view of total depravity such that our reasoning faculties themselves are undermined. Something that also bothered me is that, at least according to some Protestants, philosophy is an essentially negative project (refuting the views of others) rather than a positive one (putting forth one’s own views). The stereotypical view of Bahnsen’s presuppositional philosophy exemplifies this well – one’s goal as a philosopher is to expose and demolish the unfounded presuppositions that others hold. But as far as one’s own presuppositions, well, theologians deal with that sort of stuff. ;-) And of course negative philosophical projects are okay so far as they go, but it’s a rather dim view of philosophy to say that that is all there is to philosophy. Anyways, maybe I’ve just gotten a bad dataset, but I’ve run into more Protestants who think that philosophy is either impossible, useless, or essentially negative than I have Catholics. Then again, I haven’t been Catholic that long, so perhaps I’ll be duly disillusioned in another few decades. ;-) Given the central role that Aquinas plays in Catholic tradition and thought, though, I somewhat doubt it.

    Anyways, done rambling now. :-) There’s plenty of bad philosophy out there but there’s also a lot of good philosophy. Truth wherever it is found is good and is, in its own way, serving God. I’ve just been pleasantly surprised to find out that philosophical truth seems to have a much more comfortable home in Catholicism than in Protestantism (or the Protestant circles I ran in, at least). Happy truth hunting – it’s out there and it can be known. :-) God not only saves our souls from the damnation we deserve but also helps us discover truth too! Amazing, isn’t it!

    Sincerely,
    Benjamin :-)

  93. @Josh (#79)

    My sincerest congrats, Josh! My impression is that we’ve both, as it were, moved into a new church. Chesterton in his book The Catholic Church & Conversion rightly notes that “When [one] has entered the Church, he finds that the Church is much larger inside than it is outside. He has left behind him the lop-sidedness of lepers’ windows and even in a sense the narrowness of Gothic doors; and he is under vast domes as open as the Renaissance and as universal as the Republic of the world.” This has been true in my (limited) experience and I hope it is for you too. :-) Now that we’ve moved in, I suppose it is incumbent upon us to befriend our neighbors in this Church and see how we can be of service (in however limited a fashion). One does what one can. Regardless, you’ll be in my prayers.

    Sincerely,
    Benjamin :-)

  94. Benjamin,

    You said (in #89):

    Anyways, maybe I’ve just gotten a bad dataset, but I’ve run into more Protestants who think that philosophy is either impossible, useless, or essentially negative than I have Catholics.

    Your experience is shared by others. Including me: I was one of them. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. St Thomas has opened a new world to me.

    Fred

  95. Gentlemen:

    If you haven’t read it already, please do not neglect JP2’s encyclical Fides et Ratio. That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

    Best,
    Mike

  96. Benjamin and Fred,

    Firstly, I have a hard time believing you could have been one of those people, Mr. Noltie, who found philosophy useless, if you were able to figure out that Protestantism had no definitive way to determine truth;) It was your article The Accidental Catholic that starting turning on the lights for me.

    Benjamin, thank you for that response. I’m not disenchanted with philosophy, except the modern kind. I read Aquinas to keep my sanity right now;) Martin Luther studied philosophy, but he said, “The entire Ethics of Aristotle are an enemy of grace”. We have what we have been given to help us understand, “what is”, and for some reason Aquinas thought it wise to use what Aristotle had mined. The synthesis looks suspicious to eyes that want NT primitivism, but how can I say, “no way” to Aquinas, but “sounds good to me” when considering the employment of other philosophies? How can I be certain, that Neoplatonism is a good idea? Christianity didn’t grow in a hermetically sealed room—- though amazingly, the orthodox fathers were able to spot the gnostics and the other heretics. We have St. Paul quoting a Greek poet (Acts 17:28), for goodness sake.
    If I don’t believe in an infallible, though not omniscient, church, how can I be sure that one of these others teachings weren’t right? This is the dilemma, that the RCC says is not a dilemma.

  97. Eric,

    Re #79: Ratzinger’s statement in Introduction to Christianity is orthodox. Every heresy is comprised of bits of truth, together with the denial of other truths, which partial truth is typically worked into a logical system of doctrine. Orthodoxy is always inadequate, not because it is potentially false, but because the truth to which it refers cannot be completely grasped by us. We recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday, not merely to remind ourselves of the truth, but to enter into it afresh, that is, to faithfully encounter the mystery to which the Creed succinctly and infallibly refers. I agree with that quote from GL in The Theological Virtues. All of orthodox doctrine can be summarized by those two points, but this does not entail sola scriptura.

    Re #81: The teaching authority of the Magisterium is a principle of orthodoxy (right belief) in the sense that it constitutes a Rule of Faith.

    Re #90: Faith is not built upon reason by way of deduction, in which reason provides the premises and the article of faith is the rationally unavoidable conclusion. Rather, faith rests upon divine revelation as expounded by the Church, believing that which we cannot see, on the basis of authority. Faith does build upon reason in that (1) reason can perceive the truth of some things that have been revealed (e.g., that God exists, the order of the natural world, including the moral order proper to man), and (2) reason can point the way towards divine revelation by discerning marks of genuine religious authority (e.g., miraculous attestation). The language of “building upon” does suggest a “foundation/structure” relation, and this is true to the extent that rational knowledge precedes and informs the act of faith, but, again, this language is not intended to suggest a deductive chain or building process such that the doctrines of faith are deducible from the deliverances of reason.

    Further comments on faith and reason should be directed (after having read/listened to and duly considered the material presented in the post or podcast) to one of the threads following the posts to which I linked at the end of comment #64.

    Andrew

  98. Hi Alicia,

    Thanks for your kind words. It may be hard to believe, but it is a lamentable fact that as a Presbyterian I considered philosophy to be a useless dead-end: unable to assist one very much (if at all) on his road to salvation under the best of circumstances, and most likely to lead to his shipwreck. Like I said, Aquinas has been a real eye-opener. I’m glad he helps you stay sane!

    God bless you on your journey,

    Fred

  99. Hi Mike,

    Been there, done that, got the F et R t-shirt. :-)

    (Okay, not really. But I’d seriously think about buying one if somebody made one for the encyclical!)

    Fred

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