Brantly Millegan reviews Brad Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society

Mar 21st, 2012 | By | Category: Blog Posts

This is a guest post by Brantly Millegan, in which he reviews the recently published book The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society, authored by University of Notre Dame professor of history Brad Gregory. Such a topic seems fitting on the traditional feast day for St. Benedict in the usus antiquior. We’re very grateful to Brantly for his contribution to Called To Communion. – Eds.

Judged on their own terms and with respect to the objectives of their own leading protagonists, medieval Christendom failed, the Reformation failed, confessionalized Europe failed, and Western modernity is failing, but each in different ways and with different consequences, and each in ways that continue to remain important in the present. This sums up the argument of the book. (p. 365)

Indeed, in his new book The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (released January, 2012 by Belknap Press of Harvard University), historian Brad Gregory does not shy from bluntly assigning blame for contemporary problems, and there is a lot of blame to go around.

Drawing on an astounding breadth of knowledge across multiple disciplines, and with writing that is clear, poignant, and at times even funny, Gregory expertly tells the story of the western world of the last five centuries in a way that both enlightens as well as challenges. Gregory lays out the hard facts of history that force all in the western world, regardless of their religious persuasion or lack thereof, to confess mea culpa.

But, as indicated in the quotation above, Gregory doesn’t think that all are to be given the same kind of blame. Medieval Christendom’s failure historically speaking, Gregory insists throughout the book, “was not a function of the demonstrated or demonstrable falsity of central doctrinal claims of the Christian faith as promulgated by the Roman Catholic Church.” Instead, it was due to the

pervasive, long-standing, and undeniable failure of so many Christians, including members of the clergy both high and low, to live by the church’s own prescriptions and exhortations based on its truth claims about the Life Questions [meaning, purpose, and goal of life, etc]. It was at root a botching of moral execution, a failure to practice what was preached. (p. 366)

The Protestant Reformers were disturbed by this moral failure, as had Catholic reformers for centuries (e.g. St Francis of Assisi, St Catherine of Sienna, Erasmus, etc). But the Protestant Reformers differed from the Catholic reformers, and followed in a long line of those declared to be heretics by the Church, by diagnosing the problem as a theological one at its core. That much Protestants could agree on. But what exactly was wrong with Catholicism’s beliefs, or what its correct alternative was, as Gregory demonstrates, Protestants have been unable to agree on from the 1520s to the present, with disagreement increasing rather than diminishing over time.

This failure of the Reformation, according to Gregory, was “derived directly from the patent infeasibility of successfully applying the reformers’ own foundational principle [sola scriptura].” As a result,

the unintended problem created by the Reformation was therefore not simply a perpetuation of the inherited and still-present challenge of how to make human life more genuinely Christian, but also the new and compounding problem of how to know what true Christianity was. ‘Scripture alone’ was not a solution to this new problem, but its cause. (p. 368)

He concludes, and this is a primary point made in the book:

Hence, the Reformation is the most important distant historical source for contemporary Western hyperpluralism with respect to truth claims about meaning, morality, values, priorities, and purpose. (p. 369)


Brad Gregory

The failure of sola scriptura was quickly recognized by many, even in the 16th century, and the proposal of sola ratio – or, reason alone – was an attempt by some to circumnavigate the new theological impasse. Unfortunately, sola ratio, and its secularization of all realms of life, has also failed dramatically in achieving any kind of consensus regarding the Life Questions that are necessary for successful human community. Instead, the hyperpluralism created by sola scriptura, which was exacerbated rather than corrected by sola ratio, has led many contemporary people to conclude that all truth is relative and all morality subjective, leading to what Gregory calls the “Kingdom of Whatever.” Thus, Protestantism’s sola scriptura and its secular analog sola ratio are both failed attempts at articulating a coherent, workable alternative to Roman Catholicism (which never went away, but was sidelined relative to its previously prominent position).

Gregory deftly traces the effects of these two separate though closely linked attempts in six chapters that each focus on a particular area of life: ‘Excluding God,’ ‘Relativizing Doctrines,’ ‘Controlling the Churches,’ ‘Subjectivizing Morality,’ ‘Manufacturing the Goods Life,’ and ‘Secularizing Knowledge.’

In the end, Gregory contents himself with only one seemingly modest proposal:

Therefore, consistent with the academy’s commitments to the open pursuit of intellectual inquiry without ideological restrictions, to critical rationality, to the importance of rethinking and reconsidering, to the questioning of assumptions, to academic freedom, and motivated by the desire to shed light on our current problems and to seek more fruitful ways to address them, the contemporary academy should unsecularize itself. (p. 386)

He asks not for religion to be embraced necessarily, but only that the possibility of religious truth be brought back on the table.

In addition to the wonderfully clarifying main argument of the book, there were also other, smaller helpful insights scattered throughout: e.g. I was personally unaware of the adventist expectations of many of the initial reformers. I particularly appreciated Gregory’s insistence that the radical Reformation be given its due, pointing out that the radical reformers fundamentally differed from magisterial reformers only in their lack of success, or purposeful refusal, to wed themselves with secular power. Gregory argues that a hard distinction between magisterial reformers and radical reformers is ultimately unhelpful and only masks the truly vast diversity of Christian belief created within a few years of Luther’s insistence on sola scriptura.

And Gregory’s scathing critique of the modern normalization of avarice via capitalism in chapter five (‘Manufacturing the Goods Life’), particularly when put in its historical context (Gregory argues that consumerism was intended to be a common activity to unite and pacify otherwise divided and increasingly violent Christians), is a welcome and much needed challenge to our modern world’s consumerism.

Also, the main text’s 390 pages are supplemented by a further 150 pages of footnotes that greatly complement and often either further expound the main text or point to what appear to be other great resources. I kept a second bookmark in the footnotes section and checked it often, and I recommend any reader to do the same.

I have only two complaints:

The first is that while most of Gregory’s writing throughout the book is exceptional, I must warn the reader that at times he gets wordy and repetitive. At those times, I exhort the reader to trudge on: the book is more than worth it.

The second is that, and perhaps this is only because the last book I read before reading this one was by Marshall McLuhan, the role of new technology isn’t given any consideration. Gregory does note in his conclusion that one could analyze how other areas of life, including new forms of communication, were affected by the Reformation and its ensuing hyperpluralism. But Gregory seems to be saying that one could analyze how communication was changed by the Reformation rather than how the new forms of communication – namely, the printing press – affected or helped precipitate the Reformation, which to me seems to be an oversight, and might add further explanatory power to his assessment that the Reformation was inspired by widespread immorality in the medieval Church.

I also must note, and this is not a criticism but a heads-up to potential readers, that due to its attempt to pull together a great breadth of content, many theological, philosophical, and historical concepts and terms are assumed or given little explanation. While I encourage anyone to give the book a shot, those unstudied in those subjects will most likely find themselves lost or spending a good amount of time looking things up.

Gregory’s masterpiece is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand why the world is the way it is and has the potential of becoming a landmark book of our times. In other words, if you decide to take a pass, and it later becomes big, remember that I told you so.

The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society is available at Amazon in hardcover ($25.20) and for Kindle ($22.68).

There’s a great interview with Brad Gregory about the book over at the Harvard University Press website.

About the Author: Brad S. Gregory is the Dorothy G. Griffin Associate Professor of Early Modern European History at the University of Notre Dame. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University (1996) and was a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows (1994-96). Before joining the faculty at Notre Dame in 2003, Gregory taught at Stanford University, where he received early tenure in 2001. Gregory has two degrees in philosophy as well, both earned at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium. He has received teaching awards at Stanford and Notre Dame, and in 2005 was named the inaugural winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities from the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture as the outstanding mid-career humanities scholar in the United States. Gregory’s research focuses on Christianity in the Reformation era, the long-term effects of the Reformation, secularization in early modern and modern Western history, and methodology in the study of religion.


Brantly Millegan

Brantly Millegan is a part-time MAT student at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul, MN, while also working full-time as the Director of Family Faith Formation at St Francis Xavier Parish in Buffalo, MN. He and his lovely wife Krista joined the Catholic Church in 2010 while they were both undergraduates at Wheaton College (IL). They have two children (one of whom is due by the end of March). He blogs at Young, Evangelical, and Catholic. Update: Watch him on The Journey Home here.

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  1. Great review. Do you think it could be said in addition to Gregory’s thesis:

    Today, Protestant(ism) continues to carry contemporary Western society deeper into a hyperpluralism with respect to truth claims about meaning, morality, values, priorities, and purpose?

  2. Here’s a lecture Brad Gregory gave last year at Ohio University, titled “The Kingdom of Whatever.” The lecture is drawn from his most recent book. The lecture becomes more interesting between 17′ and 24′ into the video, and remains directly on the role of the Reformation in the rise of pluralism until about 45′ into the video.

  3. Thank you! I discovered this book recently and have been meaning to buy it.

  4. Brantly,

    Good review. It is interesting that he critiques Capitalism, since it seems this ‘controversy’ is becoming more and more prominent in Catholic writing. Capitalism is seen as arising out of Protestant England, building from the theft and privatization of Catholic property by Henry VIII, and subverting the Christian Social Order in terms of economics and family life. Of course, that plays into the roles of husband and wife, just wages, etc, etc, so doctrine is tied in and thus Sola Scriptura plays a part.

    Could you speak a bit more on Dr Gregory’s comments/chapter on Capitalism?

  5. Carl Trueman, something of a favorite around here, has published a critique of the book on Reformation 21. I’d be curious to see a response to this.
    It seems as though Trueman is basically taking the tu quoque approach that has been so roundly debated here over the last couple of years, but I think it is with something of a twist. His historical interpretation grounds the philosophical side of the argument. The tu quoque may not hold much water from a philosophical standpoint, but if the historical evidence is such that it undermines the argument anyways, then the philosophy is irrelevant or worse, dangerous, because it leads us to assume as true things that are not (remember Aristotle’s famous assumption that women had fewer teeth than men simply because their mouths were smaller).

    http://www.reformation21.org/articles/pay-no-attention-to-that-man-behind-the-curtain-roman-catholic-history-and-the-e.php

  6. Josh,
    I guess I’m not that impressed with Trueman’s critique because it fails to deal with this:

    the unintended problem created by the Reformation was therefore not simply a perpetuation of the inherited and still-present challenge of how to make human life more genuinely Christian, but also the new and compounding problem of how to know what true Christianity was. ‘Scripture alone’ was not a solution to this new problem, but its cause. (p. 368)

    In other words, Sola Scriptura or perspicuity did not solve the moral problems, as Trueman admits, and added the doctrinal confusion problem, which Trueman doesn’t conclusively deal with. Even if one limits one’s examination to confessional Protestantism, as Trueman seems to want to do, there are a large number of irreconcilable positions on matters related to salvation or other essential teachings of the faith that leaves perspicuity highly questionable: Does baptism regenerate, can one lose salvation or not, what is and is not present in eucharist/communion, etc?
    Mark

  7. Josh and Mark,

    Trueman is able to identify those groups which he knows are in dissent from the Catholic Church, citing them as evidence of Catholic disunity similar to Protestantism. However, what I think such evidence points to is the perspicuity of the Catholic Church’s teaching — despite his insistence to the contrary. It is precisely in his ability to diagnose heresy and schism from the Catholic Church — and not from “Protestantism” — that he implicitly admits to the difference between the Protestant and Catholic.

    In the beginning of the essay, he laments that so many get to fall under the banner “Protestant”. Then he says, “Look! So many fall under the banner Catholic”. So, he wants it both ways. He wants Protestantism to be exclusive, but Catholicism to be inclusive. However, you don’t get it both ways. He goes on to say that, “If you say sola scriptura or the “perspicuity of Scripture” fails [to do this], all you are left with is a Papal system that failed too”. So, it is a new version of the tu quoque. It is the “You FAILED too!” version. Instead, what Trueman needs is a principled, non ad hoc way to determine who is in schism from his so-defined “Protestant” church and who is a heretic.

    As Bryan has pointed out, Protestantism has eliminated the sin of schism from the Church as a category of sin. Therefore, no one can really “leave” the (invisible) Church so long as they believe the true (Protestant) gospel. Protestants conflate schism with heresy, making the category of schism a non-category. So, one cannot make the argument given these premises that the various sects within Protestantism have departed from his category of what constitutes “Protestant” simply because they left (physically) their Protestant denominational homelands.

    So, he is left with heresy. It is at this point that the task becomes more difficult. If his tu quoque implies that the Protestant concept of perspicuity doesn’t work (but don’t worry because papalism doesn’t work either), then I don’t know what other principled means he is going to have at his disposal for determining which sects in Protestantism are not Protestant because they don’t hold to the doctrines that are necessary to be an orthodox Protestant (whatever that is in Trueman’s mind). Even as of recent on CTC, we have witnessed the difficulty for a Protestant trying to make such a determination in the name of “unity” (Armstrong).

    Ironically, whatever the Catholic principled method is, apparently Trueman is quite good at it. While he acknowledges that the heretic or schismatic may not think he is either, nevertheless, as a Catholic (or Protestant) it is apparently easy to spot one when you see one (e.g. SSPX or Pelosi).

  8. Hi Josh, Mark and Brent,

    Happy Easter! Dominus surrexit vere!

    I read Mr. Trueman’s article – and I highly recommend reading his “part 2” containing (apparently to him) all the more difficult technical bits that most readers will skip…

    I couldn’t detect much difference between his “combative” piece and his “chess game” piece in terms of factual accuracy, either about the past or the present, I’m afraid – but if you read them together you get a nice tapestry of the whole modern confusion that I suppose Gregory has depicted so nicely in his book, and you can put together a fascinating role-call of category errors and simple impatience that were responsible, I suppose, for a lot of reformation thinking from the 1500s to the present.

    As someone who came to Christianity as a whole, and then Catholicism as a total outsider, without the “baggage”, I found the narrow polemics, intellectual laziness and ability to censor facts and ignore vast swathes of normal experience more striking – and I think in this, most Catholics and Protestants have equally “failed” for most of this history… thank God faith doesn’t depend on this, but is a response to the Fact of Christ!

  9. Brent,
    Happy Easter!
    I think Trueman, rather than bemoaning the fact that Gregory wants to increase the size of Protestantism, is simply saying that Catholics cannot have it both ways. He seems to be saying that you cannot say claim everyone who could possibly be Protestant as part of the group while not requiring the same ‘generosity’ of Catholics. Everyone would probably like to include some people and exclude others so that their side looks good.
    As I’ve reflected on this, the problem with Trueman’s position is that it seems somewhat ad hoc. If Protestantism is simply defined, as the term would suggest, as those who ‘protest’ against the Catholic church, then on what grounds can people of Jan of Leyden and other Radical Reformers be excluded from the discussion. Simply because Calvin and Luther would disagree with them as well as the Catholics doesn’t make their dissent from Catholic teaching any less real or valid. Whereas the Catholic church has a real means of determining doctrine and saying what it is (which, as you pointed out, allows for those who dissent from it within the church — why aren’t they called protestants I wonder — to be clearly seen) whereas one of the big Protestant issues today, I might say the biggest, is trying to define who’s in and who’s out (Rob Bell, Mormons, Mars Hill, etc).
    For as good as Lewis’ book is, I think the idea of ‘Mere Christianity’ is creating more ‘mereness’ and less ‘Christianity’ as Protestants struggle to determine what doctrines truly matter (see the debate about the Creed). As you point out, perhaps the root of all of these issues is a failure to have a clear and workable understanding of the Church, which is of course another one of the pet projects by many in the Reformed world these days is trying to reinvigorate church life, but given the rise of technology, vehicular travel, and geographic mobility, it is harder to create an environment of pastoral oversight and discipline when all a person has to do is travel down the road to the cooler church to get a more ‘meaningful’ message (or worship or children’s ministry, etc).
    Michael,
    Are you saying, then, that the Reformation was largely a mistake because the sides were simply talking past each other or is there something else going on in your comment about the “category errors and simple impatience” of the time period?

  10. I have criticized Gregory several times on my blog for his incoherent rendering of Scotus’ position, and note that the same bad, embarassingly bad exegesis is at the heart of the present book as well. It is thinly warmed over 19th c. thomist apologetics that is sadly executed in a far more sophisticated fashion today by radical orthodoxy et al. (ably refuted by Richard Cross). Brad Gregory and Fr. Barron simply ride the coattails of the anti scotus express but don’t know what they’re talking about. I have nothing to say about the protestant/modernist issues, save that it would have been better if he had stuck to what he knew.

    Some of this was pointed out in Truman’s ‘chess game’ article. Another approach I noticed recently was a book on divine simplicity by James Dolezal, who assumes that all the protestant reformers were basically reformers and rejected Scotistic univocity. This is probably as over simplified as Brad Gregory, but come Thomists and protestant-Thomists, which is it? Were the reformers all Thomists or were they Scotists? Did Scotus ruin the world or not? (And don’t ever, ever, bother to actually read Scotus or quote a text when you answer).

  11. […] Called to Communion comment box […]

  12. An interesting discussion of Gregory’s book with Mark Noll (University of Notre Dame) and Rachel Brown (University of Chicago):

    H/T: la nouvelle théologie

  13. Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, in a piece titled “Life in the ‘Kingdom of Whatever’,” published today in Public Discourse, reflects on the primary argument of Brad Gregory’s book and its implications.

  14. […] Check out two great reviews of this important book, one by Archbishop Chaput and the other by Brantley Millegan. […]

  15. The problem is not that you are guilty of the same woes as Protestantism. The problem is that CTC does exactly what Trueman says(you deny the uncomfortable bits of history):

    “Empirical fact: The Papacy as an authoritative institution was not there in the early centuries.
    Never mind. Put together a doctrine of development whereby Christians – or at least some of them, those of whom we choose to approve in retrospect on the grounds we agree with what they say – eventually come to see the Pope as uniquely authoritative.

    “Empirical fact: The Papacy was corrupt in the later Middle Ages, building its power and status on political antics, forged documents and other similar scams.
    Ignore it, excuse it as a momentary aberration and perhaps, if pressed, even offer a quick apology. Then move swiftly on to assure everyone it is all sorted out now and start talking about John Paul II or Benedict XVI. Whatever you do, there is no need to allow this fact to have any significance for how one understands the theory of papal power in the abstract or in the present.

    Empirical fact: The Papacy was in such a mess at the beginning of the fifteenth century that it needed a council to decide who of the multiple claimants to Peter’s seat was the legitimate pope.
    Again, this was merely a momentary aberration but it has no significance for the understanding of papal authority. After all, it was so long ago and so far away.

    “Empirical fact: The church failed (once again) to put its administrative, pastoral, moral and doctrinal house in order at the Fifth Lateran Council at the start of the sixteenth century.
    Forget it. Emphasise instead the vibrant piety of the late medieval church and then blame the ungodly Protestants for their inexplicable protests and thus for the collapse of the medieval social, political and theological structure of Europe.

    “Perhaps it is somewhat aggressive to pose these points in such a blunt form. Again, I intend no disrespect but am simply responding with the same forthrightness with which certain writers speak of Protestantism. The problem here is that the context for the Reformation – the failure of the papal system to reform itself, a failure in itself lethal to notions of papal power and authority – seems to have been forgotten in all of the recent aggressive attacks on scriptural perspicuity. These are all empirical facts and they are all routinely excused, dismissed or simply ignored by Roman Catholic writers. Perspicuity was not the original problem; it was intended as the answer. One can believe it to be an incorrect, incoherent, inadequate answer; but then one must come up with something better – not simply act as if shouting the original problem louder will make everything all right. Such an approach to history and theology is what I call the Emerald City protocol: when defending the great and powerful Oz, one must simply pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”

    In other words, your solution to the problem of the Reformation actually created the problem that produced the Reformation.

  16. Darryl, (re: #15)

    The problem is not that you are guilty of the same woes as Protestantism. The problem is that CTC does exactly what Trueman says(you deny the uncomfortable bits of history):

    That’s the accusation. Let’s see if you provide any substantiation for it.

    “Empirical fact: The Papacy as an authoritative institution was not there in the early centuries.
    Never mind. Put together a doctrine of development whereby Christians – or at least some of them, those of whom we choose to approve in retrospect on the grounds we agree with what they say – eventually come to see the Pope as uniquely authoritative.

    This claim begs the question, by presupposing that there couldn’t have been any development of doctrine regarding the role of the bishop of Rome. It doesn’t show that we deny (or have denied) any historical truth, whether regarding the papacy or otherwise.

    “Empirical fact: The Papacy was corrupt in the later Middle Ages, building its power and status on political antics, forged documents and other similar scams.
    Ignore it, excuse it as a momentary aberration and perhaps, if pressed, even offer a quick apology. Then move swiftly on to assure everyone it is all sorted out now and start talking about John Paul II or Benedict XVI. Whatever you do, there is no need to allow this fact to have any significance for how one understands the theory of papal power in the abstract or in the present.

    First, we don’t “ignore” it; we’ve acknowledged it in many places in our discussions here. Nor have we ever excused it. Nor have we ever claimed that there is no corruption in the Vatican. So on all three counts, Trueman sets up a straw man. Finally, he offers no argument showing the “significance” or implications this must have regarding papal authority. Instead, he presumes (mistakenly) that we simply assert that there must not be allowed to be any implications. And that too is a straw man. So here too he fails to show that we have ever denied some bit of history.

    Empirical fact: The Papacy was in such a mess at the beginning of the fifteenth century that it needed a council to decide who of the multiple claimants to Peter’s seat was the legitimate pope.
    Again, this was merely a momentary aberration but it has no significance for the understanding of papal authority. After all, it was so long ago and so far away.

    Again, a straw man. If he really wants to discuss our view of the Western Schism, he doesn’t need to make up what he thinks we might say; all he needs to do is ask. Here again he does not provide any evidence that we have denied some historical truth.

    “Empirical fact: The church failed (once again) to put its administrative, pastoral, moral and doctrinal house in order at the Fifth Lateran Council at the start of the sixteenth century.
    Forget it. Emphasise instead the vibrant piety of the late medieval church and then blame the ungodly Protestants for their inexplicable protests and thus for the collapse of the medieval social, political and theological structure of Europe.

    Another straw man. We have never said or advocated forgetting or ignoring the problems internal to the Church at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Nor has he provided either (a) an argument showing that these problems undermine anything we have said, or (b) evidence that overturns any argument we have made, or (c) any evidence that we have denied some truth of history.

    In other words, your solution to the problem of the Reformation actually created the problem that produced the Reformation.

    Yes, *if* the problems to which you refer were essential to the structure of the Catholic Church. But if the problems were accidental to the structure of the Catholic Church, then no. And neither you nor Trueman have provided an argument showing that these problems are essential to the structure of the Catholic Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    -Bryan

  17. Bryan, so when your wife faults you for not taking out the trash, not picking up a gallon of milk, and leaving the gas tank on empty, do you respond, “that’s not an argument”?

  18. Darryl, (#17)

    No, because there is already a shared understanding that I have an obligation to do those things in those particular circumstances. But you seem to think that if my wife doesn’t have to provide an argument when pointing out that I failed to do something she and I already agree I should have done, then merely by pointing to particular problems within the Catholic Church (both present day problems and/or historical problems) you have either falsified the claims of the Catholic Church or refuted arguments we have made here. But that conclusion does not follow from that premise. If you want to draw from history to refute the claims of the Catholic Church, or refute arguments we have made here, you have to show how this evidence from history is incompatible with those claims by the Church or with the premises (or conclusions) of our arguments.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  19. Bryan, but we do have a shared understanding — if you share it — that Christ is the savior of the world. Your premises and conclusions involve the implicit notion that Christ only saves the world by the supremacy of the pope. In which case, you are the husband who has introduced a debatable proposition to the shared understanding.

    Not to mention that the CTC version of Rome’s superiority involves Protestantism’s deficiencies. Ignoring Rome’s deficiencies is not reasonable if you are going to bring up another Christian’s deficiencies. If you want to claim that Rome is superior because it has fewer deficiencies, that’s an interesting debate. But that takes you out of the realm of philosophy (which is not theology, mind you) and puts you smack dab in the realities of history. So you would seem to be in a position of telling your wife that it doesn’t matter if you forgot to pick up the milk because you are THE husband.

  20. @Dr. Hart (#15):
    The problem that I have with any Protestant raising the tu quoque argument is that the Protestant position is simply indefensible, and Trueman raises the perfect argument for why it is.

    Trueman states:

    The problem here is that the context for the Reformation – the failure of the papal system to reform itself, a failure in itself lethal to notions of papal power and authority – seems to have been forgotten in all of the recent aggressive attacks on scriptural perspicuity. These are all empirical facts and they are all routinely excused, dismissed or simply ignored by Roman Catholic writers. Perspicuity was not the original problem; it was intended as the answer. One can believe it to be an incorrect, incoherent, inadequate answer; but then one must come up with something better – not simply act as if shouting the original problem louder will make everything all right.

    The fact that Trueman concedes that perpsicuity was introduced as an answer to the problem gives up the game. As a theological novum, it must be rejected out of hand by anyone who adheres to a historical understanding of Christianity, not Reformation history, but over a millennium of Christian history between the second century and the present day. If the problem is the papacy, then there is an episcopate with perfect historical continuity, one that even Catholicism recognizes as a valid apostolic succession, that does not accept the papal doctrine: the Eastern Orthodox church.

    The fact that the Protestants were generally oblivious to the Eastern beliefs during the Reformation (not through their own fault or lack of good will, I would add) doesn’t really excuse us today from pointing out that it is a historically viable alternative and that Protestantism was a novelty in comparison. And incidentally, I think that Trueman is exactly right to say that perspicuity was a novelty that lacked antecedence in either Eastern or Western tradition. Maybe there was some argument for precedence in the Antiochene school in the nineteenth century, but the vindication of Cyril against Nestorius during the recent patristics renaissance appears to have finally put the last nail in that particular coffin, so Trueman is right to call its use a novelty.

    In other words, your mission against Catholicism is a suicide mission; if you and Trueman are right, then the criticism applies a fortiori to Protestantism, and you have successfully defeated your own position.
    As Bryan rightly notes, though, I can’t even see a good reason to see how the argument lands on the Catholic position. You have essentially summarized why I am not and cannot possibly ever be Protestant, without landing even a glancing blow against the reasons I am Catholic.

  21. So am I getting this right? Since perspicuity was brought to the forefront in the 16th century, as a protestant, I don’t understand what the Bible says?

  22. If that’s no good, try this:

    If Protestants tomorrow formed a magesiterium to interpret Scripture for us(could happen, you know), what does the RCC have that our hypothetical Protestant church doesn’t have?

  23. Jonathan, in point of fact, I’ve been trying to point out for months to Jason Stellman that the Eastern Church is more of an option when it comes to antiquity and apostolic succession than Rome since they have the original Nicene Creed. Thanks for confirming my point that the Eastern church is a viable option.

    Again, Vatican II would instruct you to back off the “suicide mission” rhetoric. Remember, I’m a separated brother in your books.

  24. AB, re#22

    Sacramental apostolic succesion.

  25. Darryl, (re: #19)

    Bryan, but we do have a shared understanding — if you share it — that Christ is the savior of the world.

    Yes, thankfully, we do have that in common, and baptism, and Scripture, among other things as well.

    Your premises and conclusions involve the implicit notion that Christ only saves the world by the supremacy of the pope.

    That statement needs to be clarified, because it is too ambiguous as stated, and causation (implied by your term “by”) is said in many ways. Christ saves the world through the Church (hence extra ecclesiam nulla salus). And “schism from” the Church is defined in relation to the bishop of Rome. (See, for example, “St. Optatus on Schism and the Bishop of Rome.”) So, from those two premises, it follows that in a true but importantly qualified/defined sense, Christ saves the world through that Petrine office.

    In which case, you are the husband who has introduced a debatable proposition to the shared understanding.

    That’s the question-begging claim on your part, nor does it follow from your prior statements.

    Not to mention that the CTC version of Rome’s superiority involves Protestantism’s deficiencies. Ignoring Rome’s deficiencies is not reasonable if you are going to bring up another Christian’s deficiencies.

    That last statement is true only if the deficiencies are comparable. But we have argued here that the problems and sins and flaws within the Church are, contra Donatism (and contra Montanism, Novatianism, rigorism, puritanism, etc.), compatible with the truth of what the Catholic Church says about herself, with the truth of magisterial authority, apostolic succession, the possibility of dogma, etc.; these problems are not part of her essence, but concomitant with the presence of sinners within her. By contrast, the problems we have raised regarding Protestantism are, so we have argued, intrinsic to its essence, to the rejection of magisterial authority inherent within sola scriptura.

    If you want to claim that Rome is superior because it has fewer deficiencies, that’s an interesting debate.

    That’s not our argument. It is not “fewer”; it is not a numbers claim. See my paragraph immediately above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  26. AB (re: #22)

    If Protestants tomorrow formed a magesiterium to interpret Scripture for us(could happen, you know), what does the RCC have that our hypothetical Protestant church doesn’t have?

    A magisterium founded and authorized by Christ, and not by mere men.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  27. Thanks, AH. But the hypothetical Protestant magisterium says that’s theirs too.

    Look, I only bring it up, because one big rub between prots and cats (the other being our view of getting justification right), is authoritative Scripture interpretation. I don’t mind Catholics thinking I don’t know how understand the Bible, because their magisterium tells them I am not supposed to be able to. Just acknowledge as a Catholic, I think, you must believe that anywhere little old AB or the hundreds of millions of Protestants disagree with the magisterial interpretation, we are at loggerheads, because of that fact alone. Not a big deal. Or maybe as dgh is talking about, Vat 2 softens your approach toward a little old bible reader like me? I’m still a novice at all this RC stuff, but hey, as long as were talking to another, there’s probably a way forward. I’m more into justification difference between prots and cats, but that’s for another thread, another day.

  28. AB (re: #27),

    But the hypothetical Protestant magisterium says that’s theirs too.

    Then, as Tertullian says, let this “hypothetical” Protestant magisterium “unfold the roll of their bishops”. It is easy to claim that one’s sect or group was founded by Christ and the Apostles. The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses make the same claim. But already at the end of the second century, Tertullian challenges the heretical sets to unfold their rolls of bishops, to see whose go back to the Apostles:

    But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men,– a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit (their several worthies), whom, as having been appointed to their episcopal places by apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed. Let the heretics contrive something of the same kind.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  29. Bryan, thanks for that. I’ve hijacked this thread enough. But by way of response, you are right, RCs and protestant groups share a similar desire to trace our roots all the way back. I’m not sure what you want my hypothetical magisterium to do, by way of unfolding the roll of our bishops. But in my silly scenario, yeah, we would be doing that too. At the second century, CtoC would not have existed, because I was not one of your separated brethren. Per my view, justification caused that split, and, just like Jonathan can’t become Protestant, I can not become tridentine.

  30. Darryl (#19, #23):

    Your replies suggest that you don’t quite get the dialectic here.

    In #19, you wrote:

    Bryan, but we do have a shared understanding — if you share it — that Christ is the savior of the world. Your premises and conclusions involve the implicit notion that Christ only saves the world by the supremacy of the pope. In which case, you are the husband who has introduced a debatable proposition to the shared understanding.

    Neither Bryan nor I rely on any such “implicit notion.” In Catholic doctrine, the “supremacy of the pope” is not the way Christ “saves the world” at all, never mind the “only” way. Christ saved the world as a whole by dying and rising again. He founded the Church, his assembly or ecclesia, as his bride and, by marrying her, is one body with her. As that Body, the Church is necessary for salvation, inasmuch as she is “the sacrament of salvation” (Vatican II), and thus the ordinary means through which the grace by which Christ saved the world as a whole is accessed by individuals. The “full, supreme, and universal jurisdiction” (Vatican I) of the pope is one of the means by which the Church, in her capacity as the sacrament of salvation, is governed and kept unified. But it is not the most important of such means; the most important are the Faith, the sacraments, and the college of bishops responsible for maintaining them. The papacy, whose chief ministry is to keep the college of bishops unified on the Faith and the sacraments, is thus only one of the tertiary instruments by which Christ brings his salvation of the world to individuals. Though necessary as part of the divine constitution of the Church, the papacy is by no means either primary or sufficient.

    Now that we have the correct Catholic understanding of the papacy’s role on the table, what about its being “debatable”? It’s debatable only in the sense that whatever is debated is debatable; saying it’s debatable in some stronger sense than that is, itself, debatable in that stronger sense. But the sense in which the papacy is clearly debatable holds for basically every Christian doctrine, including the one you say above you share with us. Hence the sense in which the Catholic doctrine of the papacy is debatable is not at all unique to it. And so it’s not an objection to said doctrine to point out that it’s debatable.

    The real issue in this thread is not whether the papacy was diseased in ways that occasioned the Reformation–that indeed is historical fact–but whether the cure has been worse than the disease. If it was, the next question is how to determine what other cure could have been undertaken and/or was undertaken. But as Bryan and Jonathan have shown, you have not actually broached that issue.

    You write:

    …the CTC version of Rome’s superiority involves Protestantism’s deficiencies. Ignoring Rome’s deficiencies is not reasonable if you are going to bring up another Christian’s deficiencies. If you want to claim that Rome is superior because it has fewer deficiencies, that’s an interesting debate. But that takes you out of the realm of philosophy (which is not theology, mind you) and puts you smack dab in the realities of history. So you would seem to be in a position of telling your wife that it doesn’t matter if you forgot to pick up the milk because you are THE husband.

    It is quite true that showing Protestantism to be epistemologically deficient does not suffice to show Catholicism superior in any way. But that doesn’t address the question whether the core epistemological deficiency of Protestanstism is fatal, which I have long argued in my own way and which Brad Gregory also helps us to show. Nor have you addressed that question either.

    You write:

    I’ve been trying to point out for months to Jason Stellman that the Eastern Church is more of an option when it comes to antiquity and apostolic succession than Rome since they have the original Nicene Creed. Thanks for confirming my point that the Eastern church is a viable option.

    The filioque clause–which is the only difference between the version of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed that Latin Catholics recite and that which Eastern Christians, including Eastern Catholics, recite–is a pretty thin reed on which to base any critique of Catholicism as an alternative to Protestantism. To make it a real basis for critique, you’d have to argue like the Orthodox, and maintain either (a) that the doctrine it expresses is false, and/or (b) the papacy had no authority to insert it into the Latin translation of said Creed in the 11th century. I doubt you’d want to maintain (a), since most creedal Protestants believe the doctrine, and the task is huge aside from that; and maintaining (b) would land you smack back into the “philosophical” considerations that Bryan, I, and others have long raised, and that you have studiously avoided in the name of question-begging “historical” considerations.

    Best,
    Mike

  31. AB,

    In comment #22 you wrote:

    If Protestants tomorrow formed a magesiterium to interpret Scripture for us(could happen, you know), what does the RCC have that our hypothetical Protestant church doesn’t have?

    Notice that by your stipulation this magisterium would be formed “tomorrow.” Then in comment #29 you write:

    I’m not sure what you want my hypothetical magisterium to do, by way of unfolding the roll of our bishops. But in my silly scenario, yeah, we would be doing that too.

    You can’t have it both ways. If the magisterium to which you refer were to be formed “tomorrow,” it could not actually trace its origin back to Christ and the Apostles, since the last Apostle died around AD 100. So as soon as you refer to a merely “hypothetical” magisterium that could come into existence tomorrow, you’ve already conceded that it is something that isn’t actual, and thus was not founded by the incarnate Christ and sustained in continuity from the time of Christ until the present day. So either you have to give up the idea that this Protestant magisterium is formed in the future (e.g. “tomorrow”), or you have to give up the idea that it could trace its origin back to Christ and the Apostles.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  32. Bryan, fair enough. What I’ve been thinking is how there is a Protestant magisterium, its just not neatly defined. The work happening “tomorrow” would be clearly defining who speaks for protestants. Again, its a silly scenario, but as you can see, I do take it partially seriously. As a Protestant, I do submit to Eclessiastical authority and rely on leaders to help me interpret those areas that are not as clear, as mentioned in the Westminster confession. I’m willing to keep talking. I was just thought experimenting in leiu of getting a response to my first question. I’m still wrestling with the idea that the Catholic magisterium, and all billion + Catholics must necessarily be at odds with the hundreds millions protestants. As a member of a fallible church, I am not immediately at odds with any large group. Except Catholics, I suppose. Again, not that this bothers me. I’m just dialoguing with you, Catholic people. Without the internet, I have no other means for feedback. Bye for now.

  33. AB (#32

    As a Protestant, I do submit to Eclessiastical authority and rely on leaders to help me interpret those areas that are not as clear…

    What does this submission consist in? Supposing the elders of your church (or whatever ecclesiastical authority you submit to) were to declare that John 6 means transsubstantiation and that you must worship the consecrated elements, would you submit to that? Suppose they declared that, in fact, the Catholic bishop of Rome were to be your earthly final authority – as, in fact, certain Anglican churches have done – would you submit to that?

    jj

  34. Chapter IV – F:

    ” (5) Do you promise to participate faithfully in this church’s worship and service, to submit in the Lord to its government, and to heed its discipline, even in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or life?”

    http://www.opc.org/BCO/DPW.html

    Hypotheticals are fun, JJ, as I started one in this thread, myself. If I have more thoughts later, I will make you aware. Or you can get my email from Bryan, and I can share more that way. Gotta run.

  35. AB (#34)

    Chapter IV – F:

    ” (5) Do you promise to participate faithfully in this church’s worship and service, to submit in the Lord to its government, and to heed its discipline, even in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or life?”

    http://www.opc.org/BCO/DPW.html

    Hypotheticals are fun, JJ, as I started one in this thread, myself. If I have more thoughts later, I will make you aware. Or you can get my email from Bryan, and I can share more that way. Gotta run.

    As a once-member of the Reformed Church of Pukekohe (indeed, as one of its co-founders), I am well aware of the passage. I recall, when first asked to join, being shown this passage. I pointed out then that it seemed to make the Reformed Church the arbitrator of what was doctrine. I was quickly told that I could not be held to anhything that I didn’t myself find in Scripture. My reaction was to laugh, and to say – correctly, I think – that that was a loophole you could drive a tank through.

    That was in 1984. At the end of 1994 I told my elders that I was convinced that, indeed, submission to church authority was necessary – and that their authority came from a broken link – that in order to submit to the authority of Christ’s church, I had to submit to the (Catholic) bishop of Auckland.

    Hypotheticals are meant to test the meaning of what we mean by statements about submission – not really fun.

    The counter-hypothetical is whether I would, say, submit to my bishop if the Church announced that it had been wrong in declaring the Immaculate Conception.

    That is a hypothetical that ought to be considered. I am quite sure of my reaction – I mean, if that were the declaration, not just someone thinking that. I would conclude that Christ had left no Church authority in the world – including Scripture; that churches and Scripture might – or might not – be helpful in my search for God, but that there was no sense in which I submitted to any of these as an absolute authority. I might be some sort of Quaker-type of person.

    I know that is what I would do. I recall telling my wife, in early 1994, that if I didn’t end up a Catholic from this storm that had hit me, I would never believe in Church authority again – and nor in the authority (as opposed to the possible usefulness) of Scripture.

    I think that your own submission to the authority of your church must – surely! – be of the same sort – hence my question.

    jj

  36. Thanks for sharing, JJ.

  37. A few monhs ago, I was in a cab going to a meeting in Manhattan. The driver, Mohammed, a Muslim asked me if I was a Christian. Of course I said yes, that I was a Catholic. He asked, “can I ask you a question?” I said yes…”if you are all Christians, why is it that you are all divided?” I explained that it was an unfortunate result of history and a result of our fallen nature. And also pointed out that the same could be said about the followers of Mohammed, with all the strife and bloodshed in the Midle East.
    It got me thinking very seriously about the scandal of disunity. I have one observation to you all, having read all these comments over the past few months. Imagine a world in which all Christians were united under the guidance and in union with the See of St. Peter?( Especially under the leadership of this current humble Pope Francis)….The way it was 1000 years ago. What a wonderful witness it would be to the entire world. That’s all…think about it. Good night…

  38. Bryan, you wrote: “these problems are not part of her essence, but concomitant with the presence of sinners within her. ” I don’t know how having three popes at the same time cannot be part of the substance of the papacy.

    But however you want to explain away those excesses, I maintain that the problems of Protestantism are not of the essence of the sufficiency of Scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit. Both of us have ideals and we have realities that the ideals don’t prevent.

    So how exactly does that make yours superior? It’s only the faith/choice that you make. Say hello to the modern world.

  39. Mike, you write: “The “full, supreme, and universal jurisdiction” (Vatican I) of the pope is one of the means by which the Church, in her capacity as the sacrament of salvation, is governed and kept unified. But it is not the most important of such means; the most important are the Faith, the sacraments, and the college of bishops responsible for maintaining them. The papacy, whose chief ministry is to keep the college of bishops unified on the Faith and the sacraments, is thus only one of the tertiary instruments by which Christ brings his salvation of the world to individuals. Though necessary as part of the divine constitution of the Church, the papacy is by no means either primary or sufficient.”

    I’m not sure this is correct. The sacraments don’t work unless the priest administering them is in fellowship with the Bishop of Rome. I could imagine that some bishops in Ireland are looking at what Henry VIII did and wondering about severing ties with Rome. But if they did, their ministry would be invalid. So Christ does save the world, on your account, by the pope.

    I’m not really interested in epistemological deficiencies because I don’t believe that trusting Christ requires someone to be a philosopher. Plus, I am not all that impressed by the circular reasoning that passes for philosophy here at CTC.

    As for Nicea as a thin reed for distinguishing the Eastern Church from Rome, I never knew that schism was a venial sin.

  40. Darryl, (re: #38)

    Bryan, you wrote: “these problems are not part of her essence, but concomitant with the presence of sinners within her. ” I don’t know how having three popes at the same time cannot be part of the substance of the papacy.

    As I’ve explained before on your site, there have never been three popes simultaneously. Two were anti-popes. So your statement includes a question-begging assumption, i.e. that there were three popes at one time. (Update: Scott Clark makes the same mistake, as I have explained in comment #11 here.)

    But however you want to explain away those excesses, …

    Notice that you resort to the ad hominem. By contrast, a good faith reply would either ask how we [Catholics] make sense of the Western Schism, or would show how the Catholic account of that time period is false. Instead you characterize our yet-to-be-made reply as “explaining away” these “excesses.” That’s not charitable dialogue, Darryl.

    I maintain that the problems of Protestantism are not of the essence of the sufficiency of Scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit.

    Ok. But your asserting that does not show how or where any of our arguments are defective.

    Both of us have ideals and we have realities that the ideals don’t prevent.
    So how exactly does that make yours superior?

    Because we’re not in schism from the Church Christ founded.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  41. Except who is Francis, Michael J? I hear ya, just seems that’s where the name Jesus belongs. I mean no offense.

  42. AB (re: #41)

    That line of reasoning would have eliminated not only the Apostle Peter, but all the Apostles, and thus second-guessed the Son of God who thought that choosing Apostles did not ipso facto subvert His place or Name, but instead created offices by which men represented Him, and taught in His Name and with His authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  43. Thanks, Bryan, this cradle Protestant will keep plugging away. I appreciate all y’alls company.

  44. @Dr. Hart (#23):
    I am somewhat baffled by what you said here:

    Jonathan, in point of fact, I’ve been trying to point out for months to Jason Stellman that the Eastern Church is more of an option when it comes to antiquity and apostolic succession than Rome since they have the original Nicene Creed. Thanks for confirming my point that the Eastern church is a viable option.

    Again, Vatican II would instruct you to back off the “suicide mission” rhetoric. Remember, I’m a separated brother in your books.

    My confirmation of that point entails that Protestantism is not, and cannot be, a viable historical option. That is the intellectual suicide mission to which I referred; based on your own criticism of Catholicism, you’ve admitted that Protestantism should be off the table entirely for anybody who takes history seriously. I would hardly be rejecting Vatican II by pointing out the consequences of your argument.

    What you seem to be implying, although I’m not sure why you wouldn’t come out and say it, is that Eastern Orthodoxy is somehow less “dogmatic.” In other words, since they accept the Nicene Symbol with no additions being permitted, you seem to be concluding that other doctrines are more open than they would be under Catholicism. This somewhat parallels the path taken by, e.g., D. H. Williams, which is basically to say that if we can be critical of Nicene and post-Nicene developments to the extent that they were developed from ante-Nicene beliefs that were more open. But Orthodoxy holds all seven ecumenical councils (and then some) as necessary developments of Nicene dogma, so the fact that they hold the Nicene Symbol hardly means that they are only bound to this or that what they are bound to in that creed is compatible with Protestantism.

    All I see you successfully arguing here is that historically minded Protestants should either convert to Orthodoxy or Catholicism, a conclusion that I find it hard to dispute (although I would then offer reasons that Orthodoxy is the wrong way to go). But I don’t see how that helps you. Can you explain?

  45. Darryl (#39):

    I had written:

    The “full, supreme, and universal jurisdiction” (Vatican I) of the pope is one of the means by which the Church, in her capacity as the sacrament of salvation, is governed and kept unified. But it is not the most important of such means; the most important are the Faith, the sacraments, and the college of bishops responsible for maintaining them. The papacy, whose chief ministry is to keep the college of bishops unified on the Faith and the sacraments, is thus only one of the tertiary instruments by which Christ brings his salvation of the world to individuals. Though necessary as part of the divine constitution of the Church, the papacy is by no means either primary or sufficient.

    To that, you reply:

    I’m not sure this is correct. The sacraments don’t work unless the priest administering them is in fellowship with the Bishop of Rome. I could imagine that some bishops in Ireland are looking at what Henry VIII did and wondering about severing ties with Rome. But if they did, their ministry would be invalid. So Christ does save the world, on your account, by the pope.

    If by “fellowship” you mean full communio in sacris, your first sentence is false as a general proposition. And since that sentence is the premise of your criticism of my characterization of the papacy’s soteriological role, your criticism is baseless. The Catholic Church has always recognized the validity of the sacraments administered by the Eastern and Oriental-Orthodox churches, which have not been in full communion with Rome for centuries. The Catholic Church views Anglican orders as generally invalid not because Henry VII severed ties with Rome, but because, in her judgment, what the Anglican Communion has understood Holy Orders to be ordination to is not what the Catholic Church understands. There are individual exceptions, of course; but the introduction of women’s ordination in the Anglican Communion has proven the wisdom of Rome’s judgment of Anglican orders in general.

    You write:

    I’m not really interested in epistemological deficiencies because I don’t believe that trusting Christ requires someone to be a philosopher. Plus, I am not all that impressed by the circular reasoning that passes for philosophy here at CTC.

    From the fact that “trusting Christ” doesn’t “require someone to be a philosopher,” nothing pertinent follows about the basic question at issue between Protestantism and Catholicism, or about how thoughtful inquirers are to decide between them by resolving that issue. That question is: Which is better suited to distinguishing authentic expressions of divine revelation as such from mere human opinions about what counts as such expressions? That is important for knowing what counts as an object for the unconditional assent of faith, as distinct from the provisional assent of opinion. And knowing that in turn is important for trusting the Christ there actually is, as distinct from the various Christs some fashion out of their own interpretations of the sources. If you don’t think it important to make the distinction I’ve described, for the end I’ve specified, then you have no reason to make the arguments, such as they are, that you’ve been making.

    Now I have long argued that Catholicism has a principled means of making the distinction called for, and Protestantism does not. Nothing you have said shows my argument to be “circular.” To show that it is circular, you’d have to show that my argument requires the premise that Catholicism is true. I await your attempt, but I doubt you can succeed where others have failed.

    You write:

    As for Nicea as a thin reed for distinguishing the Eastern Church from Rome, I never knew that schism was a venial sin.

    That’s just off target. “Nicaea” is not what I called a thin reed. What I called that reed is the filioque clause, and I called it that because it is not especially pertinent to the issue you had raised, which was that the arguments Bryan and I have been giving in our interactions with you do not suffice to show that Catholicism, as an alternative to Protestantism, is superior to Eastern Orthodoxy. Now even if that had been our aim, which it was not, nothing you have said shows that either that the filioque is false or that the papacy lacked authority to insert it into the Latin translation of the Creed of 381. Thus, nothing you have said shows that Catholicism, as an alternative to Protestantism, is not superior to Eastern Orthodoxy. Hence what you’ve been saying about that issue is irrelevant, unless you show what you haven’t so far been inclined to show.

    Best,
    Mike

  46. Bryan, “the Church Christ founded” is not a philosophical claim. It is historical. And you always let philosophy and dogma trump history. That’s why you can simply pass off the Avignon papacy as merely the case of two anti-popes. That was a determination that a Council had to make, not the pope. This was a crisis for the substance of the papacy. But you can’t address it.

    My Bible and Holy Spirit never had that problem.

  47. Jonathan, if the Eastern Church has more history and as much apostolic succession as Rome, and the original Nicene Creed, your decision to join Rome instead of Antioch is a kin to the Protestant who joins the Methodist church because it agrees with his reading of the Bible.

  48. Mike, sorry but your response only confirms the point. Rome recognizes other churches as being valid. So Rome once again makes the call and you need to get in line. If the local priest here were not in fellowship with Rome, his ministry would not be valid.

    As for the capacity to distinguish truth from error, you have a good theory. But you don’t seem to look at what the church actually teaches. First I was a schismatic and heretic (see the Catholic Encyclopedia). Now I am a separated brother. How do you determine which of those is correct? It doesn’t matter what you say. It only matters what your magisterium says. Which is a pretty good theory, and as air-tight as Marxism arguments about truth. Odd how for so long the Roman church was so anti-communist.

    Thanks for letting me know that nothing I say can falsify what you say. But I already knew that. This game at CTC is rigged.

  49. Darryl, (re: #46)

    Bryan, “the Church Christ founded” is not a philosophical claim. It is historical.

    I agree.

    And you always let philosophy and dogma trump history.

    That’s an ad hominem; notice that the subject of that sentence is “you.” Criticizing me doesn’t show anything about whether the Catholic Church is or isn’t the Church Christ founded.

    That’s why you can simply pass off the Avignon papacy as merely the case of two anti-popes.

    Claims about what I might “simply pass off” do not show that there were three popes and not two anti-popes. This is another ad hominem.

    That was a determination that a Council had to make, not the pope. This was a crisis for the substance of the papacy. But you can’t address it.

    Actually we can. But you have assumed here that we cannot. A charitable approach would ask how we address it, rather than assume that we cannot.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  50. Darryl:

    You write:

    sorry but your response only confirms the point. Rome recognizes other churches as being valid. So Rome once again makes the call and you need to get in line. If the local priest here were not in fellowship with Rome, his ministry would not be valid.

    I’m not sure which “point” of yours I’m supposedly confirming. Rome recognizes Orthodox churches as having valid sacraments, but does not so recognize Protestant “churches,” and even declines to call them churches at all, instead calling them “ecclesial communities.” That’s because she has self-consistent criteria for determining what counts as a church and what doesn’t. You seem to think it’s a difficulty for Catholicism that the Church has always recognized some non-Catholic churches as truly apostolic churches, but I’m puzzled about why you think that.

    Perhaps the resolution of my puzzlement can be inferred from what you write next:

    As for the capacity to distinguish truth from error, you have a good theory. But you don’t seem to look at what the church actually teaches. First I was a schismatic and heretic (see the Catholic Encyclopedia). Now I am a separated brother. How do you determine which of those is correct? It doesn’t matter what you say. It only matters what your magisterium says. Which is a pretty good theory, and as air-tight as Marxism arguments about truth. Odd how for so long the Roman church was so anti-communist.

    So the difficulty is supposed to be that magisterial teaching is inconsistent with itself, inasmuch as “I was a schismatic and heretic (see the Catholic Encyclopedia). Now I am a separated brother.” But there is no inconsistency at the level of doctrine.

    Protestants still are in schism and still do profess heresies. But on Catholic teaching as developed by Vatican II, whoever is a “schismatic” or “heretic” just is, ipso facto, a “separated brother.” The difference between the standard, pre-Vatican-II way of characterizing Protestants and Vatican II’s way is pastoral: one of emphasis and language, not of doctrinal substance. And what justifies that pastoral shift is the Church’s recognition of the fact that, centuries after the Reformation, it is no longer reasonable to presume that Protestants, merely as such, are culpable for being in schism from the Church and professing heresy. As the Church has always taught, any validly baptized person belongs to Christ. What’s relatively new is the formal, magisterial acknowledgement that belonging to Christ puts people in communion with the Church, a communion that is “imperfect” to varying degrees in the case of baptized people who do not submit to the Church’s authority. But that acknowledgement is logically consistent with previously defined ecclesiological doctrine, and you have said nothing to show otherwise.

    BTW, the Church was is still is “anti-communist.” It was out of pastoral concern for people living under Communist regimes in the 1960s that Vatican II did not explicitly say so, as Pius XII had consistently said during his reign just a few years earlier. I happen to believe that conciliar decision was a mistake, but that is only an opinion some Catholics hold. Neither the Council’s silence about Communism, nor my opinion about that silence, has any doctrinal significance.

    You write:

    Thanks for letting me know that nothing I say can falsify what you say. But I already knew that. This game at CTC is rigged.

    You are perfectly free to take your ball and go home because you don’t like the rules of the game, but that doesn’t show that the rules are unfair or otherwise unreasonable. Nor have you otherwise shown they are.

    Best,
    Mike

  51. Dr. Hart (#47 and 48):

    Jonathan, if the Eastern Church has more history and as much apostolic succession as Rome, and the original Nicene Creed, your decision to join Rome instead of Antioch is a kin to the Protestant who joins the Methodist church because it agrees with his reading of the Bible.

    My point was that the Eastern Orthodox church has the same history. In other words, from a historical perspective, they have the same type of claim to be the Church Christ founded. The difference is one of interpretation of continuity with that time. One of us has drifted away from the authority system that functioned at that time, meaning that one of us is missing something that was necessary for the functioning of the Church in earlier years (Petrine ministry from our perspective, synodal governance from theirs). There is a significant gap between evaluating two legitimate claimants to be the Church Christ founded versus Protestant denominations that (by your own argument) cannot possibly be. The former is a legitimate effort to identify Christ’s patrimony to us; the latter would not be.

    First I was a schismatic and heretic (see the Catholic Encyclopedia). Now I am a separated brother. How do you determine which of those is correct?

    Schismatics and heretics are Christians and therefore separated brethren. The question is whether you are separated by your own fault, which is something I would have to be able to see into your heart to know. Since no power on earth has the ability to see into hearts, there is no way to answer that question dogmatically. Vatican II simply pointed out that circumstance; there are some (and perhaps many) Protestants today who are likely NOT schismatics and heretics because they lack the necessary act of will with respect to the Church.

    Which is a pretty good theory, and as air-tight as Marxism arguments about truth. Odd how for so long the Roman church was so anti-communist.

    Consistency is a necessary but not sufficient condition for truth. You seem to be treating consistency as a vice.

    Thanks for letting me know that nothing I say can falsify what you say. But I already knew that. This game at CTC is rigged.

    You said that your object of faith is God. Can God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) be falsified? Is the game “rigged” in favor of Christ’s resurrection? Our point is simply that reason can’t be shut off in giving the assent of faith, so something that is necessarily self-contradictory cannot even possibly be a proper object of faith. It must meet at least the minimum rational standard of consistency, for example.

  52. Dr. Hart,
    Your frustration is akin to that of a high schooler who’s frustrated at the fact that his calculus homework is subject to the laws of mathematics. Yes, this system is rigged. That’s because God has provided us with a means by which we may know the truths Christ intends for us to know: the Church. In other words, this system (i.e. that of logic, reasoning, historical consideration, Christian revelation) is rigged by God almighty so that the children of God are not left defenseless in the face of secularism, paganism, relativism and even protestantism.

  53. Bryan, if you had written about the need for councils you would have linked to it.

  54. Mike and Jonathan, you guys have been drinking the Vatican II koolaid too long. Schism and heresy, last I checked by your reckoning, are mortal sins. Mortal sins don’t usually receive the categorization of separated brethren. If they had, no Spanish Inquisition.

  55. Darryl (#54

    Mike and Jonathan, you guys have been drinking the Vatican II koolaid too long. Schism and heresy, last I checked by your reckoning, are mortal sins. Mortal sins don’t usually receive the categorization of separated brethren. If they had, no Spanish Inquisition.

    For a sin to be mortal, it is necessary not only that the matter be grace (as the matter of heresy and schism is), but that the sin be entered into with full understanding and intention.

    When I was a Reformed Protestant, I did not think that the Catholic Church was the Body of Christ (in the sense it believes itself to be). Thus my not holding the Bodily Assumption of Mary to be true, though material heresy, was not a mortal sin, and my not submitting to the Church, though material schism, was not a mortal sin.

    Nonetheless, it was not good that I did not hold the truth of the Assumption of Our Lady – not good for me, for I did not hold the faith in fulness. It was not good for me to be separated, even although a brother (by baptism). The degree of my separation was less than it would have been had I known the doctrine to be true but refused to embrace it; had I known the Church to be His Body, but refused to submit to it. That would, indeed, have been mortal sin. The separation would have been absolute (even though I would still have been a brother, by baptism – but a brother condemned, by my own will, to eternal damnation).

    jj

  56. For a sin to be mortal, it is necessary not only that the matter be grace (as the matter of heresy and schism is), but that the sin be entered into with full understanding and intention.

    I hope it is clear that I meant that the matter should be grave, not grace :-)

    jj

  57. Darryl (#54):

    Going into schism and professing heresy, like many other kinds of act, are what Catholic moral theologians call “objectively grave matter.” But it doesn’t follow that anybody who’s in schism or professes a heresy has committed a mortal sin. As the CCC (§1859) says:

    Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice.

    As Vatican II acknowledged, it cannot be presumed that most Protestants meet all the conditions for committing the mortal sins of schism and heresy. They do not “know” that what the Catholic Church considers schism and heresy really are those things, and are sins. And that’s no Kool-Aid. It’s just psychological fact.

    Best,
    Mike

  58. Darryl (re: #53)

    Bryan, if you had written about the need for councils you would have linked to it.

    You claimed in comment #49 that “This was a crisis for the substance of the papacy.” By that I assume you mean that this was not merely a difficult time for the papacy, but that it is incompatible with the Catholic doctrine concerning the papacy. But you have offered no argument showing this. Instead, you have merely asserted it. I am willing to give you a Catholic response to the argument, but first you need to lay out the argument showing why you think something in the Western Schism is incompatible with Catholic doctrine concerning the papacy. Otherwise, you are engaging once again in the phantom argument fallacy, as you did in the “Habemus Papam” thread (see comment #128 there).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  59. jj (#55) and/or Michael (#57)
    I hope it is considered a “friendly” question, as this has been bothering me for some time, to ask how is it possible, given the conditions for committing the mortal sin of heresy or schism, for *anyone* to *ever* commit these sins? I’m not trying to ask a trick question here, I’m trying to understand, how it is possible for someone to *knowingly* commit these sins – to *know* that one is espousing heresy, and yet do it anyway, or to *know* that the Catholic Church is the true Church, and yet go into schism from her anyway? If it is truly possible, do we have any examples of anyone ever committing either one of these sins? I realize that it is impossible for human beings, given our lack of omniscience, and inability to read souls, to ever answer such a question definitively, but it does seem to significantly reduce the need for such stringent warnings, if there isn’t as a practical reality, much of any chance that anyone will ever qualify to have committed such a sin, is there? I’m sure I’m making some basic mistake in asking this question, but I’m very open to being enlightened as to where the mistake lies.

    Thanks in advance for your help…
    Pax Christi,
    Jeff H.

  60. John and Mike, are you guys actually the pope? Can you interpret the teachings of the church (if you can, then why is it necessary to have an infallible interpreter?)? No offense, but it looks to me like Roman Catholics are not all of the same mind about what the Church teaches. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07256b.htm

    So your ideas on sin and schism are just your opinion. I need to hear from someone with the authority of the magisterium (or is it that your Protestant doctrinalism is still showing?).

  61. Bryan, my claim is based on what historians say, not what philosophers theorize. Here is what Eamon Duffy has to say about the Avignon papacy and Western Schism:

    “There had often been antipopes before, but the rivals had usually been elected or appointed by rival groups. Here, the very same cardinals who had by due process chosen the Pope, had by due processes declared him no pope at all, and had solemnly elected his successor.” (Saints and Sinners, 127)

    Sounds like a crisis of substance to me, but hey I’m no philosopher.

    Duffy adds, “Yet the Pope was more than an administrative head. He was Christ’s own Vicar, holding the keys of heaven. . . . As year followed year and the schism became a permanence, men began to ask themselves how it could be ended. Could it be that Christ had left his Church with no means of solving the problem of being a body with two heads?”

    Ecclesiastical deism indeed. Saints like Catherine of Sienna and St. Vincent Ferrar backed different popes. So you are seriously going to say there wasn’t a crisis in the substance of the papacy, or that the Western schism makes plausible the denial of papal infallibility?

  62. Herbert, but our Lord and the apostles did not speak in the alleged certainty of philosophy or mathematics. They used parables and letters. But I understand that fundamentalists like faith to be like calculus.

  63. @Dr. Hart (#60):
    Since your field of study is more practical and political than philosophical, here’s an analogy that you may find helpful. When laws are passed, there may be some uncertainties in the application to particular cases. And people may disagree on those applications; presumably that is what leads to most appellate law. That doesn’t mean that the legal system as a whole or even the particular law in question fails to function, nor does such disagreement thereby eliminate the possibility of regulation. By your reasoning, the fact that there is interpretive disagreement means that there is anarchy, which is absurd.

    This is not to say that the legal analogy is a paradigm for dogma, only that there are routine situations with similar interpretive difficulties where disagreement on meaning does not vitiate the significance of the underlying authority. So it is for Catholicism, where there is disagreement. But your own argument undermines that possibility for Scripture. That’s not to say that God could not have written Scripture to do this, but the varying genre and style of the collection itself (typically parables and letters) manifests that it was not intended this way. I take that not as a suggestion that God did not intend us to be certain of His revealed truth, but rather, that He didn’t intend for Scripture alone to provide it.

    The legal analogy, incidentally, provides a nice answer to the problem of the Western schism. As you well know, we have resolved constitutional crises in this country without anarchy or wholesale replacement of the legal system. If that can be done even in a mundane system with no divine guarantee of continuity and no divine promise, then a fortiori, such resolution should be possible in a divinely instituted Church.

  64. Darryl, (re: #61)

    Bryan, my claim is based on what historians say, not what philosophers theorize. Here is what Eamon Duffy has to say about the Avignon papacy and Western Schism:

    “There had often been antipopes before, but the rivals had usually been elected or appointed by rival groups. Here, the very same cardinals who had by due process chosen the Pope, had by due processes declared him no pope at all, and had solemnly elected his successor.” (Saints and Sinners, 127)

    Sounds like a crisis of substance to me, but hey I’m no philosopher.

    Unless a pope abdicates or dies, then no new pope can be legitimately selected. So even though the processes in which the cardinals subsequently engaged were “due” in other respects, they were nevertheless illegitimate and void because the existing pope (Urban VI) had neither abdicated or died. To you this may “sound like” an event that falsifies the Catholic teaching concerning the papacy, in actuality it does not. Nor have you have provided any argument demonstrating that it does.

    Duffy adds, “Yet the Pope was more than an administrative head. He was Christ’s own Vicar, holding the keys of heaven. . . . As year followed year and the schism became a permanence, men began to ask themselves how it could be ended. Could it be that Christ had left his Church with no means of solving the problem of being a body with two heads?”

    Ecclesiastical deism indeed. Saints like Catherine of Sienna and St. Vincent Ferrar backed different popes. So you are seriously going to say there wasn’t a crisis in the substance of the papacy, or that the Western schism makes plausible the denial of papal infallibility?

    It would be “ecclesial deism” if Christ had allowed the papacy to end. But, He did not. He preserved it, even through the Western Schism. And the fact that St. Vincent Ferrar backed an anti-pope does not change that. Saints are fallible. Nor does any event in the Western Schism falsify the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility, nor have you provided any argument demonstrating that it does.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  65. Jeff, (re: #59)

    I hope it is considered a “friendly” question, as this has been bothering me for some time, to ask how is it possible, given the conditions for committing the mortal sin of heresy or schism, for *anyone* to *ever* commit these sins? I’m not trying to ask a trick question here, I’m trying to understand, how it is possible for someone to *knowingly* commit these sins – to *know* that one is espousing heresy, and yet do it anyway, or to *know* that the Catholic Church is the true Church, and yet go into schism from her anyway?

    Your question presupposes that we can never act against a truth we know to be true. But we can act against a truth we know to be true. This is what Adam and Eve did in the garden. Their sin was not due to ignorance, but to rejecting by their free will what they knew to be true and right.

    If it is truly possible, do we have any examples of anyone ever committing either one of these sins?

    In order to “have examples,” we would have to know hearts. But only God knows hearts infallibly.

    I realize that it is impossible for human beings, given our lack of omniscience, and inability to read souls, to ever answer such a question definitively, but it does seem to significantly reduce the need for such stringent warnings, if there isn’t as a practical reality, much of any chance that anyone will ever qualify to have committed such a sin, is there?

    From the fact that we cannot with certainty point to actual cases of these sins being *mortal* (rather than merely *grave*), nothing follows about the frequency or ease by which such sins are committed as *mortal.* Don’t take “we can’t point to actual cases” as justification for concluding “hey, don’t worry about it; no one ever does this as *mortal,* and it is extremely difficult to do,” or anything of that sort. What Cardinal Arinze says in the video below regarding mortal sin in general, applies likewise to the grave sins of heresy and schism:

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  66. Darryl (#60):

    You want Magisterium? We got Magisterium. From the CCC:

    817 In fact, “in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church – for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame.”269 The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ’s Body – here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism270 – do not occur without human sin:

    Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.271
    818 “However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers . . . . All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church.”272

    819 “Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth”273 are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: “the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.”274 Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him,275 and are in themselves calls to “Catholic unity.”276

    All the footnotes are to Lumen Gentium, Vatican II’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.” That’s Magisterium.

    BTW, I agree with everything in the article from the non-magisterial 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia to which you link. Its contents are logically quite compatible with the statements quoted above from the CCC and LG; note especially the article’s section on “persistence of heresy.” If you’re inclined to argue that they are not compatible, not just assert as much, I welcome your attempt to provide an argument. Although I don’t have what it takes to handle actual guns well, I look forward to the metaphorical duck shoot you’d be offering me.

    Best,
    Mike

  67. Dear All,

    Mike said: “If you’re inclined to argue that they are not compatible, not just assert as much, I welcome your attempt to provide an argument.”

    This is the whole problem, DGH. Where is the argument? Where is the beef? Where is the recognition that an assertion is not an argument? Where is the recognition that an assertion made by a historian and cut and pasted into the combox is not an argument?

    If there has been a contradiction in the Catholic Church’s magisterium, you need to do three things. First, you need to present the first teaching. Then you need to present the second teaching. Then you need to do a third thing. You need to actually explain why there is a contradiction. For example, you can say: “the thing that was anathematized with the Church’s full authority in the first quote, was stated as something we are bound to believe in the second quote. We know that the words ___ in the first quote mean __ because of ___. But if the words in the first quote mean ___, then this is exactly what we are asked to believe in the second quote, when it says _____. So, clearly there is a contradiction.”

    Then someone can respond to the argument, and say: “yes, but the words in the first quote don’t actually mean ___.” And then you can say: “well, this ancillary source says that they do.” And that is how you have a discussion that is productive. Maybe you can show that there has been a contradiction. That would be a better use of your own time than what you are doing now.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  68. @Darryl (#60)
    I had to laugh at this:

    So your ideas on sin and schism are just your opinion. I need to hear from someone with the authority of the magisterium (or is it that your Protestant doctrinalism is still showing?).

    When I was a Calvinist I viewed the Catholic as mealy-mouthed attempts to water down sin. It was the Catholic Church that showed me that the guilt of sin is dependent, not only on the matter of sin, but on the sinner’s own knowledge and intent.

    Michael Liccione has quite adequately answered you from the Catechism. Of course the link you posted was about the matter of the sin of heresy, not the imputation of its guilt. I am sure you understand that very well.

    @abdiesus (#59)

    I hope it is considered a “friendly” question, as this has been bothering me for some time, to ask how is it possible, given the conditions for committing the mortal sin of heresy or schism, for *anyone* to *ever* commit these sins? I’m not trying to ask a trick question here, I’m trying to understand, how it is possible for someone to *knowingly* commit these sins – to *know* that one is espousing heresy, and yet do it anyway, or to *know* that the Catholic Church is the true Church, and yet go into schism from her anyway? If it is truly possible, do we have any examples of anyone ever committing either one of these sins? I realize that it is impossible for human beings, given our lack of omniscience, and inability to read souls, to ever answer such a question definitively, but it does seem to significantly reduce the need for such stringent warnings, if there isn’t as a practical reality, much of any chance that anyone will ever qualify to have committed such a sin, is there? I’m sure I’m making some basic mistake in asking this question, but I’m very open to being enlightened as to where the mistake lies.

    Quite understand the puzzle. But I don’t think, really, there is a real problem understanding how it is possible. It is, I think, the same as for any sin – except that for many of us, it is hard to understand the temptations attached to schism or heresy.

    Take the SSPX business. I do not know the hearts and minds of those who have followed it, but I have a friend who is now SSPX. He is disgusted (and one can sympathise with him here!) with some of the antics perpetrated in the name of the ‘spirit of Vatican 2.’ He has found a reverent, holy Mass in the SSPX. He has persuaded himself that the SSPX are not really in schism – and when you talk to him, he is constantly trying to bring up arguments to prove it.

    So … does he have full knowledge? ‘Full knowledge,’ in the matter of moral actions, cannot possibly be the same as exhaustive, impossible-to-doubt knowledge. We do not have that for much of anything in life. But his nervousness about whether it is schism; his ‘protesting too much;’ his constant harping on abuses of the Mass in parishes faithful to the Church – all seem to me to indicate that he does, indeed, know that what he is doing is – or at least, that it may be – schism. If he thinks even that it may be schism, he has a duty to find out – honestly! As the Catechism says (Paragraph 1859):

    Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart133 do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

    Is he in mortal sin? I do not know, and pray not – but it seems possible that he is.

    Think of a commoner situation: adultery. Maybe your marriage is really horrid. That other person is attractive. Maybe your spouse is not even living with you. You now commit adultery.

    But you persuade yourself that love makes it all right – etc, etc. I think you can see how that is possible – and yet that you are really committing mortal sin. You know full well that the action is gravely sinful. You have, to be sure, extenuating circumstances, but, look, boy! no one has pushed you into bed with her! You just want her – including, perhaps, her love and affection of which you are starved in your marriage. You go ahead.

    Don’t know if this helps. I feel the emotional strength of your question; I do think it quite true, nonetheless, that all sin, including heresy and schism, can be entered into with knowledge full enough to know you are wrong and with intent definite enough to make you culpable.

    The wonderful fact is that God is merciful. He never ceases to draw you back. My SSPX friend may well – I hope he will – come back. There is no sin so great that God is not ready and longing to forgive it.

    jj

  69. Thanks to Bryan and jj for these responses – this is helpful, especially the video, which I do remember I had seen before. (I hope that a follow-up will be considered “in-bounds” for this discussion, but if not, I trust the judgement of the moderators implicitly and explicitly)

    For some reason I find that, as jj said, “for many of us, it is hard to understand the temptations attached to schism or heresy.” I think that even the example of the friend in the SSPX points this out, because clearly, as you point out “He has persuaded himself that the SSPX are not really in schism”.

    This is kind of my point. Whether he has a case or not, his friend certainly has persuaded himself, and as such, it doesn’t seem that it is possible that this would fit the criterion established for committing the sin of schism – and certainly not mortally, as qualified.

    In a similar vein, clearly the pastoral qualifications which are presented in the Conciliar and post-Conciliar teaching regarding separated brethren lead us to not impute the sin of schism to those who have been born into these communities, either physically or spiritually, both because they have *not* actually “schismed” from anything themselves, and because they do not *know* that the Catholic Church is the one Church founded by Christ. However even if we were to go back to those who might rightly be said to have personally “schismed” from Her, (e.g. Luther or Calvin) how can we attribute to them the sin of schism, if they believed that they were not in schism from Christ – however theologically problematic that might be (“We must obey God rather than men.” etc.). Thus they were clearly disobedient to lawful authority established, through apostolic succession, by Christ himself, and they were clearly theologically confused to the extent that their claim of union with Christ contradicted their position in schism from Christ’s body, but, if the qualifications which appear to have been presented here are valid, it doesn’t seem possible that even Calvin or Luther actually committed the sin of schism or even heresy, and certainly not as a mortal sin. This is what leads me to ask the question if it is possible for anyone to commit this sin – a person would either have to be absolutely evil, on a par with Satan himself, or, on the other hand, have such a low view of the value of being united with Christ through his Body, as to be willing to sacrifice that for some other merely temporal pleasure or status. It is hard to imagine anyone who truly *knows* what Christ’s Body is, and who therefore *knows* that he cannot truly be in union with Christ without being so through union with Christ’s Body, as being willing to do that – though it is quite possible to imagine many like Calvin and Luther who were willing to be in de facto schism from the Church because they had mistakenly or confusedly placed the idea being united to Christ in conflict with being united to Christ’s Body.

    I can easily see in the examples presented by Bryan (Adam & Eve: they saw the fruit was good – they valued it’s goodness more than the obedience they in justice owed their Creator) and jj (the hypothetical adulterer: who saw the other woman as good, and valued union with her above faithfulness to God’s Law and his marriage vows) but it’s just hard for me to imagine what could motivate someone to commit the sins of heresy and schism if they truly *knew* that the Catholic Church was the Church founded by Christ.

    For example, in the example jj gave of his friend from the SSPX, I too have had experience of the arguments offered by folks in the SSPX – and they would strongly argue that they are not in schism from the Catholic Church, and that they recognize the Pope, though the status of their society is irregular, and though their priests do not have faculties from their local Ordinary to hear confessions, they do offer a valid Catholic Mass. I’m not here to argue for or against their position, however the fact is that even if one judges the act of Abp Lefebvre in consecrating four SSPX Bishops to have been a schismatic act (it seems clear to me that it was) they clearly don’t “want” to be, nor do they believe themselves to be, in schism from the Church Christ founded. No more than Calvin or Luther would have said that they “wanted” to be, nor would they have said that they believed themselves to be, in schism from the Church Christ founded.

    Does this make sense? Am I still missing something?

    Thanks in advance for any futher light you can shed….

    Pax Christi,
    Jeff H.

  70. Bryan, whatever gets you through the night.

  71. Mike, did you run that comment by the magisterium to make sure you interpreted the words correctly? After all, its the magisterium that matters, not even your quotes of them. I want to know what they say!!! Now!!!

  72. K. Doran, you can put your head in the sand and ignore the fine historical scholarship by Roman Catholic historians, or you can actually read the historical record which doesn’t line up with the fantasies constructed here.

  73. Dr. Hart (re62)-

    You said

    but our Lord and the apostles did not speak in the alleged certainty of philosophy or mathematics

    Though my analogy doesn’t precisely relate, your comment seems disingenuous considering the fact that it’s coming from a confessional Presbyterian. It would seem a bit more sincere were it commg from a skeptic because the precise theology you hold to is in many respects not unlike Catholicism with its doctrines, dogmas, disciplines, traditions, etc.

    Secondly, you closed, saying

    But I understand that fundamentalists like faith to be like calculus.

    This statement is essentially an ad hominem in that it insinuates something (presumably) negative about me personally (i.e. that I am a “fundamentalist,” a person making the Christian faith out to be something that I wish it to be rather than simply what it is). The same charge could be made against you and your confessional Presbyterianism, could it not? But where would that get us?

  74. Jeff, (re: #69)

    One thing missing from the way you lay out the question is the distinction between material sin and formal sin. An act can be objectively sinful even if the agent in doing it has no intention of doing anything wrong. Hence the distinction between material heresy and formal heresy, and between material schism and formal schism. An act can be gravely wrong (gravely sinful), even if the person doing it is unaware of its evil, or does not intend evil in doing it.

    Second, if you are merely asking how people can formally commit the sins of heresy or schism, the answer is the same as in the case of Adam and Eve, who, with the preternatural gift of infused knowledge had far more knowledge of the evil of what they were doing when they sinned, than any other human being in the act of sinning. If you think the act of Adam and Eve is no problem to understand, in relation to the person committing formal schism or formal heresy, then you just haven’t understood the difference infused knowledge makes. They were, in that respect, more like the angels. Sin is ultimately irrational, and cannot be “understood.”

    Third, rarely (though not impossibly) do we commit a high-handed sin — an outright, explicit, brazen rejection of what we know to be right. Typically, as Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), so we sinners hide from ourselves the sinfulness of our sin, making it seem to ourselves to be good and right. We do this by displacing from our mind the good we ought to do (or more typically by refusing to consider more carefully the good we have some sense we ought to do), and choosing to fix our mental gaze on a lesser good, neglecting to allow ourselves to compare it sincerely and truthfully to the good we have some reason to know that we ought to do. In this way we deceive ourselves, by convincing ourselves through a kind of false rationalization that the lesser good we want is the true good. We can seem both to ourselves and to others as though we are acting in good faith, with a clean conscience, but upon a deep and careful examination of conscience, we see that we led ourselves away from the light, and into the evil we wanted to do, and convinced ourselves (through a suppression of conscience) that it was the right thing to do, all while knowing deep in our heart that it was not. “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) It hides itself from the truth, while superficially convincing itself that it is following the truth. But on Judgment Day, the Lord “will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts” (1 Cor 4:5). In the case of heresy, we can deceive ourselves by so focusing on the importance of right doctrine, that we neglect subordination (or attempt to justify insubordination) to the divine authority by which orthodoxy is defined, and thus (paradoxically), we lose orthodoxy. Likewise, in the case of schism, we can so focus on the good of the Tradition (or some aspect of the Tradition), that we neglect the necessity of the good of unity (or attempt to justify dividing from the Church, or deceive ourselves into believing that we are not in schism from the Church). And in separating from the unity of the Church, we again (paradoxically) separate ourselves from the source and guardian of the fullness of the Tradition.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  75. @abdiesus (#69)

    This is kind of my point. Whether he has a case or not, his friend certainly has persuaded himself, and as such, it doesn’t seem that it is possible that this would fit the criterion established for committing the sin of schism – and certainly not mortally, as qualified.

    But my point is that his constant defences (even when not challenged) are (arguably) evidence that he has persuaded himself in the same sense that I have (hypothetically, you understand :-)) persuaded myself that my sexual relationship with that ‘other woman’ is not really adultery because my wife is so mean and I really love her – etc.

    We are not simple. I may persuade myself of something at one level, but my heart knows better.

    When I was a Calvinist, the very thought that the Catholic Church might be what it says it is could never have occurred to me. If a Catholic had asked me to defend my being in schism, I would have felt, frankly, just a tedious sort of need to give some kind of answer – much as if a Muslim had asked me to defend not being a Muslim.

    It was only once, in 1993, that I was suddenly struck (to my horror!) with the idea that, after all, the Church might be true, that I had a moral duty to find out. Had I sought to avoid the question; remained a Calvinist because it was vastly less painful; brought out reasons why the Church was wrong even though I had a fear that it might be right – my material sin of schism (as well as those materially heretical views I held) could suddenly have amounted to mortal sin.

    And mortal sin – never doubt it! – decisively wrecks our relationship with God.

    This particular example is not theoretical merely. When I began to struggle with the issue – and, even more, when I actually decided to become a Catholic – a number of my Reformed friends were greatly shaken. Several of them, after a similar gut-wrenching period of trying to find out, became Catholics.

    But the tragic ones are the ones that came so close – and then veered off, out of fear – and who then went from a vibrant, real, albeit Protestant, relationship with the Lord, to, in one case, declared atheism (which, thankfully, lasted for five years but has now resulted in the person coming back to Christ – not to the Church, yet, but in my opinion that person will; he is unhappy now and is still seeking excuses), in another case a man and his wife are now far from God, indeed, and into all sorts of weird stuff.

    I think both of these cases are precisely because of the fact that, if God gives you grace to follow Him, and you don’t, you may be worse off than before. I pray for both of these people (families, actually).

    Having persuaded yourself of something that, at a deeper level, you fear is not true, is not a safeguard against mortal sin.

    jj

  76. Darryl (#71):

    Referencing my #66, you wrote:

    Mike, did you run that comment by the magisterium to make sure you interpreted the words correctly? After all, its the magisterium that matters, not even your quotes of them. I want to know what they say!!! Now!!!

    I just told you what they say, by quoting them. I believe what they say and believe myself to have said the same, in my own words. But if you don’t think that even my quoting them matters, then asking me to tell you what they say about my interpretation is idle–even if they had said it, and whether it objectively supports my position or not. So why not read the source documents for yourself and submit a dubium to the CDF asking whether I’ve misinterpreted them? The CDF does answer such questions on occasion. And you can quote me if you think that matters.

    In the meantime, I note that your argument is no longer what it first was: to wit, that the body of magisterial teaching on the topic at hand is internally inconsistent, and that I have misinterpreted it as consistent. Your argument is simply that the Catholic can never know whether he’s interpreting magisterial teaching correctly or not, because no matter what the Magisterium might say, that must be interpreted by the individual believer, whose interpretation is not the Magisterium’s and thus cannot be known to be correct. But would it really be pointless for you or any non-member of the Magisterium to present my interpretation to the Magisterium along with the magisterial words I’ve quoted, and ask for a “yes” or “no” answer to the question whether my interpretation is correct? Only if it is really the case that unless the Magisterium says that “yes” means yes and “no” means no, one cannot know that “yes” means yes and “no” means no. But that is not the case. Hence the infinite regress you posit is illusory, and your new argument is thus unsound.

    Of course we both know you aren’t going to submit a dubium to the CDF about this. For if you did and perchance got a “yes” or “no” answer, the game would be up. And in any case the effort would be unnecessary, because we both also know that you have presented no reason to believe that my interpretation is incorrect. The adjudicative intervention of the Magisterium is necessary only when such a reason has actually been given. Short of that, what I say does matter; it ceases to matter only if they say I’m wrong. Sorry to disappoint you.

    Best,
    Mike

  77. abdiesus, you ask:

    … if we were to go back to those who might rightly be said to have personally “schismed” from Her, (e.g. Luther or Calvin) how can we attribute to them the sin of schism, if they believed that they were not in schism from Christ …

    What Luther and Calvin believed in their hearts is something that neither you nor I can possibly know unless God were to give one of us special revelation that revealed the state of their souls before God. That said, it is important is to understand the difference between objective judgment of the brethren (which is commanded of us by Christ) and subjective judgment of the brethren (which is forbidden us by Christ). The living magisterium of the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” (the church personally founded by Christ) gives to her members the objective standards of behavior that the faithful members of Christ’s church are to publicly and privately manifest.

    Objective judgment, on the part of the faithful, involves assessing the external behavior of a particular member of Christ’s church, and then charitably correcting a member of the church if he or she gets out of line. Jesus tells us how we are to exercise objective judgment in Matthew’s Gospel (Matt 18:15-20).

    A scriptural example of the brethren failing to exercise objective judgment, and then taking the appropriate action, is found in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 5). Paul asks the brethern, “Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Cor 5:12). Here Paul is asking a rhetorical question, and the answer he expects is a “yes” answer – yes, of course we know we are to judge the members of Christ’s church because Christ has commanded us to do that. The brethren in Corinth failed to excommunicate “a man is living with his father’s wife” and Paul severely rebuked the brethren in Corinth for this moral failure. What is germane to your question is this observation by you of the publicly manifested external actions of Calvin and Luther:

    … they were clearly disobedient to lawful authority established, through apostolic succession, by Christ himself …

    The external actions of Luther and Calvin can be, and must be, objectively judged by the faithful brethren of Christ’s Church, and righteous objective judgment clearly warrants the conclusion that Luther and Calvin committed sin involving grave matter, namely both men were unrepentant when they were judged by the legitimate authorities of Christ’s church for promulgating heresy and schism.

    Whether Calvin and Luther are culpable in God’s eyes for committing sin that would damn them to the everlasting flames of Hell is something that God judges subjectively, not just objectively. Objectively, Luther and Calvin were unrepentant heretics and schismatics, but God alone knows the heart, and He knows what might make Luther and Calvin not fully culpable for the terrible sins that they committed. Perhaps God takes Luther’s mental illness into account and extends mercy to him in spite of his being an obstinate rebel until the end of his life. Perhaps Calvin was misled by Luther, and he acted out of invincible ignorance when he claimed to have the authority condemn to death the brethren that did not agree with his eccentric personal interpretations of the bible.

    abdiesus, you write:

    … it doesn’t seem possible that even Calvin or Luther actually committed the sin of schism or even heresy, and certainly not as a mortal sin. This is what leads me to ask the question if it is possible for anyone to commit this sin …

    It is absolutely possible to know that Calvin and Luther committed the sins of heresy and schism because the faithful brethren possess the objective criteria that allows them to make such a judgment. Christ says “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault …”. How can I know that a brother is sinning unless I have objective standards that allow me to judge that a brother is sinning? When a brother sins by promulgating heresy, I have to have a standard that says “this is heresy” before I can rebuke him. It is not my personal opinion of what constitutes heresy that matters, it is ultimately what the church defines as heresy that matters. And the only church that matters in this case, is church that Jesus Christ personally founded. Luther and Calvin, of course, founded their own personal “bible churches”, that, quite naturally, taught exactly what Luther and Calvin wanted their personal churches to define as orthodoxy – which is precisely why their personal “bible churches” aren’t anything the disciples of Christ can listen to.

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

    abdiesus, you write:

    … it’s just hard for me to imagine what could motivate someone to commit the sins of heresy and schism if they truly *knew* that the Catholic Church was the Church founded by Christ.

    How could Calvin and Luther not know that the church that they were trying to “reform” was “the church”, the church personally founded by Christ? Why would Calvin and Luther be trying to reform “a church” – a church that was founded by some mere man?

  78. Thanks again to both jj (#75) and Bryan (#74) – both of these posts are quite helpful and I really appreciate your taking the time to “fill in the gaps” for me.

    Pax Christi,
    Jeff H.

  79. Thanks mateo (#77) – I didn’t see this one earlier, however this is helpful too.

    Pax Christi,
    Jeff H.

  80. Abdiesus, and everyone here,

    I resonate with what JJ wrote in #75. In one sense, I can understand how it is difficult for you to fathom that someone would leave, or refuse to join, the Catholic Church, *while knowing* the Church to have been founded by Christ with continuing apostolic succession. However, in both lesser and more serious matters, it is always possible to *knowingly* act against what one *knows* to be the objective truth. We do this every time that we knowingly sin, period.

    Refusing to become, or remain, Catholic, even while knowing that the Catholic Church is Christ’s Church, may seem like a radical, and even implausible, sin– but at the root level, isn’t there something implausible about the choice to sin *itself*? In every voluntary sin, we are acting against what we know to be the truth, and therefore, we are acting against what we know, on some level, to be best for us– yet we do it anyway. Logically speaking, this choice to sin can even extend all the way to refusing to join, or remain in, the Church that one personally knows to have been founded by Christ Himself.

    I will use an example from my own life to illustrate the temptation toward that exact sin. At the time that I began to experience unwanted stirrings to “look back into” the Catholic Church, I had been away from her for well over a decade. For a few of these years, initially, after leaving the Church, I had been an actual non-Christian. After that period of time, I had a “reconversion” and became an evangelical Protestant– and, increasingly, a consciously anti-Catholic and Calvinistic Protestant. I never *dreamed* that I would return to the Catholic Church.

    First of all, to my mind at that time, from my “Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide” viewpoint, the Catholic Church didn’t even have the true Gospel. (Obviously, I now believe that I was severely mistaken!) Second, almost all of my close friends, and most of my entire social circle, period, consisted of people who had the same strongly Reformational perspective.

    Also, my long-term career hopes were for a future as a Protestant “Biblical Counselor” of a decidedly Reformed bent (in the vein of men such as Dr. David Powlison and Dr. Ted Tripp). This was not just a far-fetched personal dream or whim of mine. It was a passion and a gift that had been affirmed and encouraged by many friends, one of whom was the Biblical counselor on staff at my last Protestant church. At the very time that I began to (again, unwantedly) have questions about the Catholic Church, I was in a mentoring relationship with this particular elder with the specific purpose of my eventually becoming a Biblical counselor myself, either at this church, or somewhere else in a similar theological vein.

    Moreover, by the time that I had reached this point in my life, career-wise, all of the other professional paths that I had pursued had not worked out for me, long-term, such that it seemed as though God *must* have been leading to this direction of Biblical counseling, which had *already* been my passion for some time. It’s relevant to mention here that I have the physical disability of Cerebral Palsy. I’m not able to drive a car, and I have to use a wheelchair for most of my getting out and about. While I can do many things that people with more severe versions of CP cannot do, still, due to my disability, certain career paths are simply not possible for me, and the ones that I had wanted to pursue, prior to discovering Biblical counseling, had not come to fruition. Especially in light of all of these considerations, it seemed that God had given me this passion, and gift for, Biblical counseling (confirmed by other people), so that I could help others with it and, hopefully, and pursue it as a long-term career.

    When I first began to have “Catholic questions,” then, I was *firmly* ensconced in the Reformed Protestant world– specifically, in a consciously *anti-Catholic* world. I had been taught, and had believed, myself, for years, that Catholicism was damnably heretical. Most of the people in my social circle shared this view. My career plans were virtually built around a Reformed understanding of Scripture.

    In light of the above, it was shattering to me, on so many levels, when, over time, I began to reach the conclusion that Reformed Protestantism was simply not historical, apostolic Christianity (even as it contains many important doctrines and teachings of historical, apostolic Christianity!). All throughout my process of studying Catholic and Reformed questions, while still a Protestant, I met with Reformed leaders and friends. Some of them tried to persuade me that I could continue to be a Protestant, while also retaining some of the things that I had learned from studying outside of the Refomed tradition. I remember the options presented to me.. I could be a high-church Lutheran.. I could become an Anglican… and so on.

    However, what my Reformed leaders and friends didn’t understand (perhaps because I could not articulate it well enough, either to myself and to them, at the time) is that those things were increasingly not options to me, because Protestantism, itself, was coming to seem untenable to me– and because the Catholic Church was increasingly seeming to be (even though against many of my desires!) the Church founded by Christ.

    To say the least, it was incredibly inconvenient for me to return to the Church. It was socially and professionally shattering. I lost most of my friends. I was quite lonely for some time, even with the comfort of Christ and the sacraments. In many ways, my social life has “recovered”– but my professional life has not, even after having been back in the Church for three years.

    Do I regret my “reversion”? No. In a certain sense, it had to happen. I had to follow it out, in order for me to truly be faithful to what God had shown me about Christ, the Bible, and the Church. However, I must admit that I experienced great temptation *not* to return to the Church– to find some way, any way, to “stay Protestant” and keep my theological, ecclesial, social and professional worlds from shattering. In the end, I just could not do it. I was and am far from being a (canonized) Saint, but I wanted to obey God more than I wanted to prevent severe disruption, and even great pain, in my life.

    However, the temptation was definitely there for me to *not* return to the Church. How many people give in to such a temptation, even while knowing the Catholic Church to be founded by Christ? Only God knows. It is by His grace alone that I returned. Even any supposed “courage” that I have exercised, in leaving my Protestant ecclesial community, and losing so many friends, and messing up my career life, has been due to God’s grace. It has all been worth it. It still is worth it. Soli Deo Gloria.

  81. @Christopher (#80):
    That is a remarkable witness. Thank you for sharing it.

  82. Ditto.

  83. JJ,

    Remember me? It turns out I have another thought.

    I have a day job during the week. You’ll have to excuse my inability to immediately address.

    I understand your point about the magisterium proclaiming immac. Conception false creating a problem for where you would go to church this week. But what if the magisterium, still holding to IC, proclaimed itself fallible. Just like my silly scenario before, this too, is silly. I will not mind if this comment is not posted or replied to. But just like protestant magisterium suddenly proclaiming its self existence, so too could the Roman magisterium proclaim its fallibility tomorrow. I’ve honestly considered all of our discussions here throughout the week, and I am asking this question because I actually believe this would be the first step in achieving the goal set forth in this website. I’m open to anyone who wants to respond, doing so, I want to hear what you think.

    Regards.

  84. @AB (#83)

    But what if the magisterium, still holding to IC, proclaimed itself fallible. Just like my silly scenario before, this too, is silly.

    Not a bit silly – and the same thing as would be implied by the Church’s saying that it had been wrong about the Immaculate Conception. If the Catholic Church is fallible – I mean, in this sense, of teaching something definitively and then saying it was wrong – or if it simply said it was wrong about its infallibility – it would mean that Christ had not, after all, left any authority in the world.

    If, after that, I joined myself with any body of Christians, it would be simply for practical reasons. I found this or that group to be a good group to be with – for now. There would be no authority I could submit to.

    jj

  85. Christopher (#80) – this too is helpful, as it puts abstract ideas into a personal context. Thank you!

  86. JJ,

    I’m going to maintain my actions here on this blog constitute silliness and fun, for which there are other threads, if I feel further need. The RC church remains an enigma, but you guys engaging with me helps me know more, so that when I get to hang out with your types (or if I am so lucky, even you, whoever you are, reader, of this comment), I’m not afraid of what this masgisterium of your might do to me. I’ve read stories about the past, things can get ugly real fast in religious debates. As a way of a final comment, I’m very thankful to be a member, indeed , ordained, in a fallible church. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m still dealing with sin. I’m afraid of the dudes who want me to believe they are infallible, but I am willing to golf with even such as these. Peace.

  87. @AB (#86)

    Well, I hope you have fun, anyway. As for this:

    …I am willing to golf with even such as these.

    I don’t play golf – indeed, never could figure out why anyone would :-) – but I am more than happy to interact with you.

    jj

  88. I will make you aware if I have more thoughts. Thanks.

  89. In response to Brad Gregory, Carl Trueman has offered two tu quoque objections. Trueman writes:

    Gregory is more savage: for him (as for his Notre Dame colleague, Christian Smith), the diversity of Protestant interpretations of the Bible puts the lie to any notion of perspicuity. This is very much at the heart of his book, The Unintended Reformation, and I hope to address his case in more detail in my review of that work next month. Yet as I read his response to Castaldo, I could not help but feel considerable irritation, especially when Gregory argues that perspicuity depends upon a circular argument. Roman Catholicism can scarcely stand in judgment on circularity when it comes to issues of authority. The papacy in its modern form emerges over time; it is, if you like, a result of historical process. How do we know the results of this process are the right ones? Well, there is a sense in which Roman Catholics just do. This was not, of course, quite so clear at the start of the fifteenth century, but we can brush that aside as a momentary aberration….

    Trueman here makes use of a tu quoque. Responding to the claim that the Protestant perspicuity thesis rests on a circular argument, Trueman implies that Catholics too know of the Church’s authority by way of a circular argument, or fideistically (i.e. they “just do.”) But in actuality the Catholic claim does not rest on a circular argument. The argument for the authority of the Catholic magisterium does not depend upon the authority of the Catholic magisterium, nor is it known fideistically. We determine the identity and authority of the Church and her magisterium through the motives of credibility, and these are accessible to human reason, and do not in any way presuppose the authority of the Church. (See comments #27, #66, and #77 in “Wilson vs. Hitchens: A Catholic Perspective.”) (Update: See “Lawrence Feingold: The Motives of Credibility for Faith.”) So this tu quoque is not true.

    Next Trueman writes:

    If Gregory can claim that Protestants exclude those with whom they disagree on interpretation in order to manufacture a consensus, then it seems to us Protestants that Roman Catholics do much the same with the historical process: the theological significance of late medieval conciliarism is routinely minimized; the flip-flop on doctrinal issues over the years is simply side-stepped; the ecclesiastical use of things as disparate as the Turin Shroud and the Donation of Constantine is ignored, excused or spun; and the pro-active fostering of the cult of charlatans like Padre Pio is simply weird and deeply unChristian to Protestant eyes. If Roman Catholics are free to argue that the history of Protestantism has made the Bible impossible, I submit that for Protestants like myself, the history of Roman Catholicism has made the Church implausible.

    Trueman here makes use of another tu quoque, claiming that the Catholic Church too creates consensus among Catholics by excluding those with whom we disagree regarding historical events and their theological significance. But the problem Gregory is addressing is not adequately characterized merely as creating a “consensus by excluding those with whom we disagree.” Every group having some essential belief must maintain consensus by excluding those who do not hold that essential belief. There is, however, a principled difference between an ad hoc ‘consensus’ created when an unauthorized person selects as members of the set of persons among whom to find consensus only those persons who agree (or mostly agree) with himself or his interpretation, on the basis of their agreement with himself, and a consensus formed or maintained on the basis of submission to a teaching and interpretive authority in relation to which membership in the community is independently defined. The problem Gregory is pointing out is the creation of ad hoc consensus. (See the Mark Galli thread.) By contrast, because membership in the Catholic Church is defined in relation to the apostolic authority of her magisterium, the consensus among Catholics on matters about which the magisterium has decided authoritatively (whether those matters be historical events, relics, saints, or doctrinal claims) is not an ad hoc consensus. But because Protestantism denies apostolic succession, and thus denies magisterial teaching authority, the consensus by which any Protestant denomination (or association of denominations) is formed can be only of the ad hoc sort — merely a selection of and association with those who more or less share each other’s interpretation of Scripture. So here too Trueman’s tu quoque is not true.

  90. Bryan, if only you were pope (but you’d have to find a different hat).

  91. Darryl, (re: #90)

    The soundness of my two arguments (in comment #89) does not depend on my being (or not being) pope.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  92. In the following video Brad Gregory gives a one hour summary of his book The Unintended Reformation:

    UPDATE: See also his talk “Against Nostalgia: Catholicism, History and Modernity.”

  93. Bryan, but if you were pope, you’d have a better hat.

  94. “… the pro-active fostering of the cult of charlatans like Padre Pio is simply weird and deeply unChristian to Protestant eyes…”

    I’m not a Bhuddist. I’d rather prefer the various forms of Catholic monasticism, given divine revelation. I however wouldn’t describe their(Bhuddist) form of monasticism or sundry rituals or devotion to certain “leaders” as fostering a cult of charlatans. I honestly would never expected this level of shrill rhetoric from Trueman.

  95. In his First Things article “Tayloring Christianity,” (Dec. 2014) Matthew Rose, summarizing Charles Taylor’s thesis in A Secular Age writes:

    Hence the “titanic change” of secularism: “We have changed . . . from a condition where most people lived ‘naïvely’ in a [Christian outlook], . . . to one in which almost no one is capable of this.”

    How did this transformation come to pass? What is it about our inherited modes of thought and experience that opened up our religious convictions to competing perspectives and thereby shifted the how of belief? Taylor’s answer: We are living in a culture shaped by a history of unresolvable theological disagreement.

    If Taylor is correct on this point, the secularization of our age is in no small measure due to the theological skepticism necessarily following upon widespread intractable theological disagreements, which themselves are the product of two notions implicit in sola scriptura: a mistaken conception of perspicuity and a rejection of the Magisterium.

  96. In the following video, Carlos Eire, the Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies at Yale University, discusses the way Protestantism caused disenchantment with and desacralization of the world, notably in its strong opposition of matter to spirit, and hence its anti-sacramentalism and iconoclasm:

  97. When I was a new Christian, a Protestant, I recall listening to a lot of taped talks by Francis Schaeffer. He made this point, that Protestantism desacralised the world – and he considered this one of the good things about Protestantism.

    My own Reformed Church used to teach much the same – and taught that miracles and St Paul’s gifts of the Holy Spirit had ceased. It sounds to me much like what Max Weber is supposed to have said about the Reformation, and that it led to the capitalist world.

    jj

  98. Since Moses and Jesus also desacralized the universe (as all good monotheisms do), Protestantism stands in good company. Those who lament such desacralization have a thing for paganism.

  99. Darryl, (re: #98)

    That’s a good example of the fallacy of equivocation.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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