How the Church Won: An Interview with Jason Stellman

Nov 11th, 2012 | By | Category: Podcast

Jason Stellman

In July of this year, Jason Stellman wrote a Called To Communion guest post titled “I Fought the Church and the Church Won,” in which he explained briefly why he was becoming Catholic. Last week I had an opportunity to talk with Jason about this paradigm change, and the four years of internal wrestling that preceded it.

 

Download the mp3 by right-clicking here.

Among the articles referred to in the interview is the one he first encountered in 2008, titled “Michael Brown on “Sola Scriptura or Scriptura Solo.” Neal Judisch and I developed this argument in more detail in “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.” Regarding the “tu quoque” reply Jason mentions, see “The Tu Quoque.” The other article Jason mentions in the interview is “The Tradition and the Lexicon.” Also mentioned is Scott Hahn’s Kinship By Covenant: A Canonical Approach to the Fulfillment of God’s Saving Promises.

Update: The video of Jason telling his story on EWTN’s The Journey Home can be seen here.

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  1. Hi Bryan! Thanks for conducting and sharing this interview, it was a really good listen.

    Not to just avoid the actual substance of the interview, *but* — the intro and outro chant is really beautiful! Could you tell me what recording you got it from?

    Love to you and your family,
    Kristen W

  2. Thanks Kristen,

    Great to hear from you. The music is from this video of Benedictine Compline. Please say hello to your family for us. We miss you here in the Lou!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  3. A line from Evelyn Waugh’s Life of Edmund Campion seems apropos. Waugh describes the decision that Campion faced during his Oxford days, when he might have chosen timidity rather than courage:

    What he wished was to be left in peace to pursue his own studies, to discharge the duties which soon fell on him as proctor and public orator, to do his best for his pupils. But he was born into the wrong age for these gentle ambitions; he must be either much more, or much less.

    Thank you, Jason, for making your own courageous decision. With God’s good grace, I know that you will become “much more”.

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul Weinhold

  4. Great interview. I was curious about the reaction and status of his immediate family?

  5. Wow, my neck hurts from nodding in agreement and recognition. I still hope you go on the Journey Home Jason, but for me, this podcast was far better because you were able to go into so much more detail, -particularly theological detail- and intramural Reformed detail. I really related to so much of your story. Particularly your desire to see “the case” made for Protestantism, not just why Catholicism is wrong. A million naughty popes don’t make Sola Scriptura suddenly make sense. Like I still keep telling my Protestant family/friends, Sola Scriptura might well be true, but if it is, they should be able to articulate it in a sensible way, and in a way that makes more sense than the Catholic paradigm can.

    I am still waiting.

    Peace bro.

  6. Kirsten #1
    An interesting link for you. The monks of the abbey of Sainte Madelaine, Le Barroux, France invite you to follow live the liturgical offices, entirely sung in Gregorian in the extraordinary form of the Roman Catholic rite.
    http://www.barroux.org/en/liturgie/listen-to-our-offices.html

  7. Thanks for the positive feedback, everyone.

    And yeah, it really was key for me to press my Protestant friends to make a positive case for how exactly things like Sola Scriptura and the Regulative Principle of Worship could have emerged in the immediately post-apostolic Church. I mean, the written content of Paul’s instruction about the Eucharist, when taken together, probably amounted to a measly 5% of the instruction he gave to the churches orally. And it’s not like the second he died, all his hearers suddenly forgot everything he taught them face to face!

    So for SS to be true, the pastor of the church in Corinth would have had to make the announcement: “Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the Church of Corinth. For you visitors, be sure to grab some coffee and a doughnut after the service. Bit of bad news, I’m afraid: our beloved Paul has died. Now you’ll notice a drastic change in the way we celebrate the sacrifice of the Eucharist today—I mean, the Lord’s Table. You see, all his countless hours of instruction must be collectively forgotten by all of us from now on, and we must limit ourselves to his two letters he wrote. What’s that? You’re asking why we’re only going by two of the three and discarding the first letter? Well, funny story: in a few hundred years there’s going to be this thing called ‘the canon’ which will tell people which books are inspired and which aren’t, and by that time we’ll have lost that first letter! Sounds crazy, I know. But trust me, our utter confusion will be long forgotten in about 14 centuries.”

  8. Thanks for going into some detail on the doctrinal reasons for making the change. [The recording had some kind of music going on during the interview-(not the intro and ending chant)–it was very light and in the background of the actual interview–I wish you could have filtered it out—other than that it was an enjoyable interview].

    Thanks, Kim

  9. Dear Jason,

    I have listened to this interview. It was interesting to hear in more details how you came to those conclusions that led you to Rome. I admire you for following your convictions irrespective of the consequences (a second time), despite the fact that I disagree with those conclusions. I have two brief remarks about the interview.

    1. Since you talked a lot about how you didn’t find cogent arguments for the Protestant position (esp. of Sola Scriptura) and that criticism of Catholicism could not be a substitute for a positive case for the Protestant paradigm, I expected that your positive arguments for Roman Catholicism as the true alternative would be more weighty and convincing. My impression was, instead, that you poked holes on the Protestant claim, but did not offer a cogent argument for the RC position (arguments like “What if there is a tie among the Twelve?” are far from convincing).

    2. Are you sure you have heard all the good arguments that Protestants offer for their paradigm? Let me recommend a lecture series by Michael Kruger that has some interesting (and I think weighty) arguments for the Protestant view of the canon that Catholics might want to consider, too. Maybe you have heard some of those arguments, but if not, after listening to them you would at least know what kind of arguments your Protestant opponents will bring up next. You can download the lectures from here: http://michaeljkruger.com/lectures/.

    Blessings,
    Ádám

  10. Hi Adam,

    I have listened to this interview. It was interesting to hear in more details how you came to those conclusions that led you to Rome. I admire you for following your convictions irrespective of the consequences (a second time), despite the fact that I disagree with those conclusions.

    Köszönöm, testvér.

    Since you talked a lot about how you didn’t find cogent arguments for the Protestant position (esp. of Sola Scriptura) and that criticism of Catholicism could not be a substitute for a positive case for the Protestant paradigm, I expected that your positive arguments for Roman Catholicism as the true alternative would be more weighty and convincing. My impression was, instead, that you poked holes on the Protestant claim, but did not offer a cogent argument for the RC position (arguments like “What if there is a tie among the Twelve?” are far from convincing).

    Well, it took all the self-restraint I had to keep the interview to a manageable length, and it was still well over an hour!

    There’s a sense in which the Catholic version of its own origins need not be defended at all, at least against Protestant objections. Both sides agree that the early church was called “catholic,” and both sides claim to be in agreement with that early catholic church. The Protestant, of course, goes on to claim that this early catholic church became corrupted somewhere along the way and thus lost its authority, but that’s a claim that has the burden of proof.

    That said, I do think a positive case can very easily be made for the basics of Catholic/EO ecclesiology, but like I said, that interview wasn’t really the place to do it because of time restrictions (plus, there’s no better site to find such a case than CTC, which is where my podcast is hosted).

    Are you sure you have heard all the good arguments that Protestants offer for their paradigm? Let me recommend a lecture series by Michael Kruger that has some interesting (and I think weighty) arguments for the Protestant view of the canon that Catholics might want to consider, too. Maybe you have heard some of those arguments, but if not, after listening to them you would at least know what kind of arguments your Protestant opponents will bring up next.

    It is my understanding that Kruger’s book will be reviewed here eventually, but I don’t know the status of it.

    Still, I think any Protestant argument setting forth the rationale for the 27-book NT misses the point. In order for Kruger to land a real blow (and I admit I haven’t read him yet), he’d have to explain how we can trust this particular canonical list given that (1) there are no tests that can be, or were, administered that establish these 27 books and no others, and (2) no church council can determine the 27-book NT with infallible authority.

  11. Dear Jason:
    It was good to hear your story in great detail. Thanks so much for your willingness to put it all out there. I especially appreciated the way in which you did not denigrate your former co-religionists and obviously still have a deep love and respect for them, and that is a witness in and of itself of the grace of God in your life. I was also moved by your comments on how Protestants in general argue about what’s False with Catholicism vs what’s True about Protestantism . Very insightful.
    This interview will go a long way towards helping our Protestant brethren to reconsider the claims of sola scriptura and sola fide. As you said, the hardest part is just getting folks to stop “presupping” the argument before the question is even tossed out there.
    Many people will still attempt to take your words here and claim “you never knew the gospel” or “understood the doctrines of grace”. However, I think you have presented a story that the Holy Spirit will use to open many others’ eyes and hearts. All by His Grace!

    PS: thanks Bryan Cross too for a great interview. I had to drive from Allentown to Philly tonite and it was wonderful way to spend the time. God bless all you guys do on this blog.

  12. AH #6,

    Thanks for posting that link! (http://www.barroux.org/en/liturgie/listen-to-our-offices.html) What a treasure to be able to listen as though we were there. For the pace of my life and the weight of its responsibilities, it’s an absolute joy to be able to step out for a few moments of meditative audition to the sounds of eternal worship.

    It’s pearls like these that shouldn’t be tossed before swine, but speaking as a hungry piggy, I’m grateful whenever I find one – Beatific Vision isn’t just for the eyes!

    Pax Christi.

  13. David #12
    More divine worship from Le Barroux, France.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Alj4htzde8A

  14. Hello Jason,

    I appreciated you taking the time to do this interview, and I found that it was very helpful in understanding your current position and move to the RCC. There was a couple things I have read in your blog and heard from this interview that I did have a question about.

    1. It seems that there is too narrow of a definition that you impute(hah!) to the reformed understanding of righteousness when you limit it to Justification/Sanctification categories. There are some, such as Meredithe Kline in his book “Kingdom Prologue,” that also see a person’s righteousness (speaking of OT saints such as David, Noah, etc) in a typological in pointing the Righteous Son of God. And that god was pleased to use these imperfect and still sinful men to point forward to the one that would be the spotless lamb of God. Would you see this use of righteousness as fitting in the reformed paradigm?

    2. This may seem like a silly question, but what is the significance of Christ law-keeping for the believer today? I understand that he must be the True Adam/Israel, but what benefit is that to the Christian today(if any)? I guess what I’m trying to get at is why couldn’t he be laser beamed to the cross to die for our sins, raise and ascend to heaven, then pour out the Spirit upon us to get he ball rollin for our grace driven, NC Holy Spirit empowering law-keeping?

    Thanks for your willingness!

    PS. I do recommend Krugers new book, and would love to here your thoughts on his explanation of the Holy Spirits internal witness (since your a big Holy Spirit guy! Is your paper seminary paper online?) within the self-authenticating model of scripture.

  15. Hi Daniel,

    1. It seems that there is too narrow of a definition that you impute (hah!) to the reformed understanding of righteousness when you limit it to Justification/Sanctification categories. There are some, such as Meredithe Kline in his book “Kingdom Prologue,” that also see a person’s righteousness (speaking of OT saints such as David, Noah, etc) in a typological in pointing the Righteous Son of God. And that god was pleased to use these imperfect and still sinful men to point forward to the one that would be the spotless lamb of God. Would you see this use of righteousness as fitting in the reformed paradigm?

    Yeah, I have read Kingdom Prologue a couple times, there’s some amazing stuff in there. Kline’s position on, say, David’s righteousness is that whenever the OT describes his uprightness and integrity, he is being used as a type of Christ, the Son of David and true King of kings.

    While I don’t necessarily disagree with Kline’s typology, I do find it severely limiting to the text. There are many examples in both testaments in which people are described as “righteous,” but it is their obedience that is appealed to to substantiate the description. Now Kline would surely couch this in Mosaic and typological terms (horizontally righteous), but I think it is due to a paradigm according to which no person can truly be righteous in this life. But of course, that is not a neutral assumption, since the Catholic Church teaches that the Spirit’s infusion of agape into our hearts is precisely what fulfills the law. So it seems to me that Kline rightly wants to see Christ in those passages, but he doesn’t go as far as the text demands.

    2. This may seem like a silly question, but what is the significance of Christ law-keeping for the believer today? I understand that he must be the True Adam/Israel, but what benefit is that to the Christian today(if any)? I guess what I’m trying to get at is why couldn’t he be laser beamed to the cross to die for our sins, raise and ascend to heaven, then pour out the Spirit upon us to get he ball rollin for our grace driven, NC Holy Spirit empowering law-keeping? Thanks for your willingness!

    If Jesus is a sacrifice, then it is his entire life that constitutes that sacrifice, and not only the last six hours of it. He needed to enter willingly into our estate and “fulfill all righteousness.” That’s one of the reasons ancient depictions of Jesus often represent him as an infant in his Mother’s arms (not just because that’s the Jesus Ricky Bobby liked best). Even in his infancy he was being humiliated—in fact, especially then. So the CC, just like the Reformed, emphasize the life of Christ and not just his death. The difference is that Rome’s gospel is greater since Jesus’ sacrificial life is not just imputed from without, but is something in which we sacramentally and mystically participate.

    PS. I do recommend Krugers new book, and would love to here your thoughts on his explanation of the Holy Spirits internal witness (since your a big Holy Spirit guy! Is your paper seminary paper online?) within the self-authenticating model of scripture.

    I would recommend Tom’s paper here on the Canon question (and I think there’s a review of Kruger in the works, but I’m not sure of its status).

    And no, my Holy Spirit paper is not currently online (although I sum up parts of it in the chapter of Dual Citizens that focuses on Rom. 6:14).

  16. Jason,

    “The difference is that Rome’s gospel is greater since Jesus’ sacrificial life is not just imputed from without, but is something in which we sacramentally and mystically participate.”

    I think the reformed position does not just limit the gospel to justification in that although we believe that before the justice of God, only the Righteousness of Christ is accepted in our behalf to justify sinners, we also believe that we participate in Christ’s sacrifice when we are changed internally in sanctification and glorification. So in the eyes of the reformed, it is Rome’s gospel that is deficient such that Jesus’ sacrificial life is only participated upon in the sacraments which participation is dependent on man’s free choice and cut-off at the presence of mortal sins or accumulated venial sins which then can be regained when doing penance. In other words, it’s effectiveness is dependent upon the sinners efforts (cooperation) while the reformed conception covers not just the satisfaction of justice in the Righteousness of Christ during justification but the imitation of that justice effectively in the lives of the saints in sanctification and glorification.

    Regards,
    Joey

  17. That’s one of the reasons ancient depictions of Jesus often represent him as an infant in his Mother’s arms (not just because that’s the Jesus Ricky Bobby liked best).

    JJS keeps it real. Classic.

  18. So in the eyes of the reformed, it is Rome’s gospel that is deficient such that Jesus’ sacrificial life is only participated upon in the sacraments which participation is dependent on man’s free choice

    Why is the gospel deficient when participation is dependent on man’s free choice to reject or cooperate with God’s grace?

    Doesn’t the apostle say we are justified by grace through faith? Are you saying that in a “non-deficient” gospel, it should be possible to have “living” faith and yet not cooperate with His grace?

  19. Joey,

    I wrote, “The difference is that Rome’s gospel is greater since Jesus’ sacrificial life is not just imputed from without, but is something in which we sacramentally and mystically participate.” And you responded:

    I think the reformed position does not just limit the gospel to justification in that although we believe that before the justice of God, only the Righteousness of Christ is accepted in our behalf to justify sinners, we also believe that we participate in Christ’s sacrifice when we are changed internally in sanctification and glorification.

    Yes, I understand that the Reformed position includes sanctification along with justification. However, in the Reformed system sanctification is a mere afterthought or concession, in my opinion. The Reformed confessions go out of their way to insist that any progress we may make in this life is pretty insignificant, and that every good work we perform is utterly tainted with sinfulness. Moreover, since in justification all our past, present, and future sins are forgiven (in the Reformed system), sanctification virtually becomes an optional response.

    So while you’re technically correct that the Reformed gospel doesn’t limit things to justification, I think in practice it in fact does.

    So in the eyes of the reformed, it is Rome’s gospel that is deficient such that Jesus’ sacrificial life is only participated upon in the sacraments which participation is dependent on man’s free choice and cut-off at the presence of mortal sins or accumulated venial sins which then can be regained when doing penance. In other words, it’s effectiveness is dependent upon the sinners efforts (cooperation) while the reformed conception covers not just the satisfaction of justice in the Righteousness of Christ during justification but the imitation of that justice effectively in the lives of the saints in sanctification and glorification.

    It is apparent that you are merely evaluating the Catholic position from the standpoint of the Reformed one. Insisting that Rome’s gospel is “dependent on our cooperation” (and meaning this as a drawback) only makes sense if redemption is a zero-sum game, and if God is not a Father who delights in reproducing his divine image in his adopted children, thus enabling them to participate in the work of Jesus, who “does the things he sees the Father doing.”

    What I’m saying is that if Reformed people are going to balk at cooperation, then at least be consistent and deny the need for cross-bearing, interceding for others, and preaching the gospel. All of those things (we would all agree) are examples of the Father graciously enabling us to share in Jesus’ work (cooperation).

  20. Jason and Joey,

    I was speaking recently with a friend who works on sixteenth-century theology, and he finally helped me understand the difficulty of nailing down the Reformed view of sanctification. On the Reformed telling, for a work to qualify as righteous, it must be done with absolute angelic perfection, for absolutely pure motives. Anything less is damnable. And for a person to qualify as righteous, all his works must meet those criteria. This requirement is “taken care of” on the justification side of things by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. I don’t imagine that this is news to anyone reading here. But this means that the Reformed enjoy a kind of limitless flexibility when speaking on the sanctification side. Because the justification bar has been set infinitely high, one can wax gloriously about the reality of sanctification in the life of the believer, and then–in the next breath, if need be–wane condemnatory about how infinitely far below God’s standard such sanctification-righteousness falls.

    In the end, I think Jason is quite right. But the above has helped me understand the communication breakdowns that always seem to take place on this issue. For goodness sake, I must have read the WCF on sanctification two dozen times. It’s not the most perspicuous passage I’ve ever read (wink). And I’m open, naturally, to corrections from either of you.

    Also, Joey, a minor correction: no accumulation of venial sins can snuff out sanctifying grace, though they weaken charity and so make one more vulnerable to committing mortal sin.

    best,
    John

  21. Jason,

    Bryan said during the interview “It’s one thing to reject sola fide and sola scriptura, but quite another to embrace the fullness of the Catholic Church.” I feel therein is the weakest link in your reasoning: you begin well by departing from calvinism and the reformed, but end with gigantic non sequitur, in my view at least..Like you I reject sola fide/scriptura and also believe that there is no principled difference between solo and sola scripture, both are equally illogical and irrational. Nevertheless the leap to the CC of today cannot be supported on both a Scriptural and patristic basis.

    During the interview you appealed to apostolic succession for example. I was surprised by that given your mention of the Tu Quoque earlier. Are you not in a Tu Quoque of your own by joining the CC but yet rejecting the Orthodox? Both claim apostolic succession, so where do you draw the line? I thought your response there was muddled and revealed key vulnerabilities. You are appealing to a big, visible church that everyone knows Christ founded. Well, the truth is that the Pharisees in their day also had a big, visible ‘church’ that everyone knew God had founded through Moses. And how did Christ respond to them? He dismantled their claims pretty fast didn’t He? And on what basis? We are getting to that… My point is that apostolic succession cannot in and of itself even begin to prove sufficient to settle the argument I’m afraid. There is no compulsion in love and none in grace either; catholics like to remind us of that when discussing the nature of salvation and the conditional security of the believer and they are right! The irony however, is that they fail to recognize that apostasy does not just happen with the individual but can also happen corporately. Isn’t this why Christ urges 5 of the 7 churches in Asia Minor to repent and turn from their wickedness? Don’t they have apostolic succession? Yes, they do. Then of what use is to them if they are not overcomers and bearing fruit worthy of those who have been washed and sanctified by the Savior? Likewise, did not Christ Himself and His disciples emerge as a minority against the establishment of the Pharisees who had all the apostolic succession in the world to boast about? The epistemological delineator has to be FRUIT, not pedigree. Even pagans recognize this and ridicule us for as much.

    Likewise, merely appealing to the originators of the Canon to settle a choice cannot suffice logically. What do you do with the fact that Elizabeth and Zecharias were considered blameless and righteous without a canon? What about the faithful in the 1st century who were persecuted for their faith and yet were righteous in Christ’s sight (see His words to them in Rev 2, 3), all without a canon? By extension, could it be that today there are believers who are walking in the Spirit and fulfilling the requirement of the law but who are in churches which did not produce the canon?

    I do not say that Catholics are not Christians, unlike Protestants or vice versa, but I call both to repentance to return to the faith of the apostolic fathers who not only had the succession, but also the fruit that supports and VALIDATES that succession epistemologically and experientially. We can see this in Christ’s words to the church at Smyrna and Philadelphia and even some at Sardis. The only reason I am not in communion with the CC, or the OC and no longer a Protestant ( I also 100% reject extra nos imputation) is simply because there is great need for repentance within all 3 branches. What is the solution then and how does being separate help instead of worsening the division? I believe that this a case of “reculer pour mieux sauter”. The separation on my part is reluctant and painful and not out of condemnation, but a desire to see a church re-united, faithful, humbled, repentant, fruitful above all. But how is this possible when so much division abounds theologically and otherwise?

    The faith of the Apostolic Fathers provides us with possibly a unique opportunity to come together as christians of different stripes. Even Justo Gonzalez, the methodist minister and historian recognizes that they were remarkably united in their doctrine. Moroever, I believe Peter Leithart is absolutely right when he says that one of the greatest sins is the division of the church. And the faith of the AF provides us with an opening to each put aside our great sins and mistakes, and coalesce around a united doctrine, as the AF were united, not for the only sake of unity but in order to be found spotless and without blame at the return of Christ, that has to be the greater goal. But of course, everyone would have to sacrifice some dearly held beliefs. The baptist /reformed for example would have to give up once saved always saved/perservance of the saints (as I did) and embrace sanctification/theosis as salvation instead of solely clinging to justification and making sanctification optional. The EO and Catholic would have to give up icon veneration or at the very minimum their mandatory use as well as ideas such as the assumption of Mary. There is not a single shred of evidence for the veneration of icons or Mary in the writing of AF. The CC would have to repent of its cover up of child abuse and immorality within its ranks, The pentecostal would have to give up his attachment to outward manifestations and instead embrace the simple liturgy of the first believers and so on, including the real presence. Protestant prosperity preachers would have to give up their feel good gospel for the real gospel which involves self denial and the narrow door but also the joy of having the real interior abundant life.

    I realize this will be seen as naive, wishful thinking, unrealistic, perhaps even offensive (although the latter is not my intention by any means, so please forgive me, a sinner.) But so was the idea that Jews and Gentiles would sit at a common table and be accepted of God before the Gospel of Christ broke into the world 2000 years ago.

    Peace,
    SS

  22. Jason, you say: “the Catholic Church teaches that the Spirit’s infusion of agape into our hearts is precisely what fulfills the law.”

    So why is there still a need for a treasury of merits and a purgatory?

  23. SS,

    Bryan said during the interview “It’s one thing to reject sola fide and sola scriptura, but quite another to embrace the fullness of the Catholic Church.” I feel therein is the weakest link in your reasoning: you begin well by departing from calvinism and the reformed, but end with gigantic non sequitur, in my view at least..Like you I reject sola fide/scriptura and also believe that there is no principled difference between solo and sola scripture, both are equally illogical and irrational. Nevertheless the leap to the CC of today cannot be supported on both a Scriptural and patristic basis.

    Well, I agree that what I offered there is nowhere close to a robust defense of Rome over Constantinople. But then, by that point we were around 45 minutes into the interview, so you’ll have to pardon me for being somewhat abbreviative!

    During the interview you appealed to apostolic succession for example. I was surprised by that given your mention of the Tu Quoque earlier. Are you not in a Tu Quoque of your own by joining the CC but yet rejecting the Orthodox? Both claim apostolic succession, so where do you draw the line? I thought your response there was muddled and revealed key vulnerabilities. You are appealing to a big, visible church that everyone knows Christ founded. Well, the truth is that the Pharisees in their day also had a big, visible ‘church’ that everyone knew God had founded through Moses. And how did Christ respond to them? He dismantled their claims pretty fast didn’t He? And on what basis? We are getting to that… My point is that apostolic succession cannot in and of itself even begin to prove sufficient to settle the argument I’m afraid.

    I’m pretty sure I not only appealed to apostolic succession, but also to the primacy of Peter in particular. Like I said above, my intent was not to get into all the intricacies of the CC/EO debate, but simply to answer how I went from the rejection of SS/SF to joining the Catholic Church. In my response, I said that there was never any other viable option for me since logic itself seems to dictate that if Jesus was going to bother founding a visible church, he would have done so in a way that made finding it easier and less subjective than its agreement with my own interpretation of the authoritative sources, be they the Bible or Tradition.

    This is why the Magisterium is the necessary third leg of this stool, in my mind. For the Orthodox, the church is defined in terms of being true to the Dogmas and the Tradition. That’s all fine, but at the end of the day who gets to make that determination?

    I will say this, though: If I ever get around to writing a book on this issue, I am hereby laying claim to the title Rome/EO, Rome/EO: Wherefore Art Thou, Rome/EO?.

    Likewise, merely appealing to the originators of the Canon to settle a choice cannot suffice logically. What do you do with the fact that Elizabeth and Zecharias were considered blameless and righteous without a canon? What about the faithful in the 1st century who were persecuted for their faith and yet were righteous in Christ’s sight (see His words to them in Rev 2, 3), all without a canon? By extension, could it be that today there are believers who are walking in the Spirit and fulfilling the requirement of the law but who are in churches which did not produce the canon?

    Forgive me, but I don’t remember appealing to the canon in order to justify my becoming Catholic.

  24. Adam,

    Jason, you say: “the Catholic Church teaches that the Spirit’s infusion of agape into our hearts is precisely what fulfills the law.”

    So why is there still a need for a treasury of merits and a purgatory?

    I think to say that there is a “need” for the treasury of merits sort of misses the point (kind of like your daughter asking why you insist upon being bountiful with your blessings toward her even though her other siblings are better behaved than she is). God shares the family wealth with his children, even when we are less deserving of it than our brothers and sisters in Christ. God delights in being reckless and abundant, as I pointed out here:

    http://www.creedcodecult.com/divine-delight-in-the-useless-and-unnecessary/

    As for purgatory, it is simply the final purging away of the clinging temporal effects of the faithful’s venial sins by the fire of God’s love. It’s not about treading water holding a bowling ball over our head for a million years.

  25. PS – Bryan may want to jump in here with a more technical answer.

  26. Jason,

    However, in the Reformed system sanctification is a mere afterthought or concession, in my opinion. The Reformed confessions go out of their way to insist that any progress we may make in this life is pretty insignificant, and that every good work we perform is utterly tainted with sinfulness. Moreover, since in justification all our past, present, and future sins are forgiven (in the Reformed system), sanctification virtually becomes an optional response.

    I think the opinion is baseless. I am not sure what confession says “that any progress we may make in this life is pretty insignificant”. What confession are you referring to? Perhaps, what you mean to say is “insignificant in context of meriting justification but not in the context of sanctification”. The reformed has always upheld that those who are justified in Christ will be sanctified as it is part of God’s salvific work to rid the believer of the power of sin. Thus only those who are truly justified, having the Righteousness of Christ, can truly live out that verdict of not guilty showing forth a pattern of life in the likeness of the Savior. Sanctification is not to be seen as a “progress we make” but the act of God in His people, making them abound with fruits of righteousness. God will not fail to do this among those whom He has justified. So that, it is God’s progress and creation work in the life of the saint not the progress that we make. But the righteous life that is changed by God is not the ground of justification but the result of it. God accepted us and reverses His verdict of condemnation only because of what Jesus Christ did in behalf of the sinner in the cross.

    The second part on which you say, “that every good work we perform is utterly tainted with sinfulness” should be put in context also. The insufficiency of good works and its imperfection should be seen in the context of justification. You now see good works as meritorious gaining the increace of justice so that in the final judgment you’ll have a righteousness borne by your efforts to cooperate with grace and successful battle to avoid mortal sins ( and if ever, perform penances). The question now in your perspective is whether “good works” can be meritorious to gain justification and the increase thereof? The reformed will answer, “No. Good works done by sinners will never be meritorious because they are tainted with sin. Only the Righteousness of Christ has merit for the sinner when God made Him who has no sin to be sin in our behalf that we might be the righteousness of God in Him.” So, we have to put this in context. Our good works is not the payment for sin as it can’t pay nor qualify to pay or merit for our sin. Therefore good works, because of sin, will never be enough. But affirming this does not negate the fact that those who are justified and consequently transformed in Christ’s image, abounding in the fruits of the Holy Spirit, have ‘good/righteous works’ and that it pleases the Lord who effectively/without fail cause that internal righteousness to abound.

    In Reformed theology, good works are seen as good and righteous as this is part of the creative power of God in transforming the image of His Son. But, it is not the righteousness that earns/merits our justification. No matter how grand our good works are, it can not pay for our sins nor reverse the verdict of condemnation to the sons of Adam. Thus, our good works do not qualify nor have any value on the bar of justice to a God who is supremely holy. We can only abandon ourselves to the Savior and to His Righteousness alone. But, it does not mean that those who are justified by the Righteousness of Christ will fail to exhibit the transforming power of God when He progressively sanctify them. It also does not mean that the progress of sanctification mean nothing God as it is His pleasure to change the believer into the image of His Son. As He works, He takes pleasure in it just like when He sees His creation in the 7th day and declared that it is good so it is true that God takes pleasure in creating the image of Son in the lives of those whom He justified by the blood of His Son through faith.

    So while you’re technically correct that the Reformed gospel doesn’t limit things to justification, I think in practice it in fact does.

    I can line up several saints who embraces the biblical gospel and showed fruits of righteousness in order to discredit your claim. In practice, it is the reformed perspective that is transformative but the Roman gospel is not. Would you want to see a statistics on how many Roman Catholics, though attending mass and eating the eucharist live a life of unrighteousness and believe contrary doctrines to what your church taught? I don’t think in practice reformed folks limit things to justification. On the contrary, it is Rome’s gospel that has ineffectively transformed a major portion of its fold even though it claims to have the real flesh and blood of Christ that when eaten physically increases their righteousness.

    It is apparent that you are merely evaluating the Catholic position from the standpoint of the Reformed one.

    I am not sure how philosophically, we can evaluate things by going out of our own worldview. In fact, Jason, this works both ways. You are also evaluating the Reformed in the Catholic position, and you know it. Is that bad?

    Insisting that Rome’s gospel is “dependent on our cooperation” (and meaning this as a drawback) only makes sense if redemption is a zero-sum game, and if God is not a Father who delights in reproducing his divine image in his adopted children, thus enabling them to participate in the work of Jesus, who “does the things he sees the Father doing.”

    Well, Rome’s gospel is dependent on our cooperation. Trent has said that. The gospel of Rome only makes redemption a possibility. It saved no one but everyone can be saved only if all the conditions of cooperation are followed. Those who have enough cooperation after baptism can enjoy the hope of beatific vision but not until one has fully given satisfaction of temporal guilt in the pains of purgatory because after we die we are not that perfect yet to deserve eternal bliss. People who are still living can aide us, anyhow, through their good works by offering up mass for us or dedicating good works to our souls since we can not merit righteousness (and since our righteousness does not measure up yet for the beatific vision) in purgatory. Of course, the character of God portrayed in this narrative is a God who takes pleasure in seeing cooperation. But this is far from the God, Jesus and His Apostles, proclaimed in His the Scriptures.

    What I’m saying is that if Reformed people are going to balk at cooperation, then at least be consistent and deny the need for cross-bearing, interceding for others, and preaching the gospel. All of those things (we would all agree) are examples of the Father graciously enabling us to share in Jesus’ work (cooperation).

    Jason, you know in your heart that we have been consistent. We deny that our cross-bearing, interceding for others and preaching the gospel are our righteousness that justifies us. We can only plead the Righteousness of Christ. We balk at cooperation only when it is a cooperation that is seen as a merit for justification. Both of us knows believe in “cooperation” – but what kind, and to what purpose? In your worldview, the Father graciously allowed you to share in Jesus’ work because Jesus’ work only made you savable. That sharing is your effort of achieving righteousness righteosness and increase it, avoid mortal sin, do penance if mortal sin is done, lessen venial sins to avoid prolonged stay in purgatory so that there is less atoning that you will have to do for the sins you’ve commited and pray hard that someone on earth will offer for you masses in order to be “fully” justified. We can coaxed this scheme with “participation” and “cooperation” and “sharing” — but ultimately, since this is done by your autonomous free will, then this is your work, your effort to be righteous. Jesus work only made it possible for your efforts to be accepted but did not Jesus work did not count as your righteousness.

    In conclusion, the reformed gospel has everything Rome has claim. Rome claims the advantage that their gospel changes the person inside not just an extra nos work done for the believer. In actuality, the reformed and biblical gospel teaches both. While rome droped one aspect, the reformed accepted both. We are justified only because of Christ’s Righteousness and we are internally changed by the power of God in sanctification. The reformed gospel is fuller and richer than what Rome has to offer. I would say, the reformed gospel is the biblical gospel.

    Regards,
    Joey

  27. John,

    Also, Joey, a minor correction: no accumulation of venial sins can snuff out sanctifying grace, though they weaken charity and so make one more vulnerable to committing mortal sin.

    There’s no magisterial statement on your assertion above. There is a theological opinion floating around (acceptable) that theorizes that venial sin accumulated can be mortal.

    The mere multiplication of venial sins does not of itself change the species of the sin. A thousand venial sins do not equal a single mortal sin. Nevertheless, a venial sin could become a mortal sin for any one of the following reasons:

    a) Because of an erroneous conscience or a seriously doubtful conscience concerning the grave malice of a deliberate act. Thus he who erroneously believes that an action which is objectively only venially sinful is a mortal sin would commit a mortal sin if he performed that action. One would also commit a mortal sin in performing an action if he has serious doubts as to whether or not it is a mortal sin or only a venial sin, for one is obliged to solve such a doubt before performing the action.

    b) By reason of an end which is gravely evil, as would occur if one per­forms an act which is a light sin for the purpose of causing another to com­mit a serious sin.

    c) By reason of the proximate danger of falling into mortal sin if one com­mits a particular venial sin, as would be the case if one were to let himself become angry when he knows that he will very likely end by inflicting grave damage or injury on his neighbour.

    d) By reason of the grave scandal which would be occasioned by the com­mission of a light sin, e.g., if a venial sin committed by a priest were to become the occasion of a serious sin on the part of a layman.

    e) By formal contempt of a law which binds under light obligation. Con­tempt is called formal if it is directed against authority as such; it is called material if is directed to some other element, such as a disdain for the thing forbidden because one thinks it is of little importance.

    f) By the accumulation of material which may increase until it is grave matter.

    Note the last part.

    Regards,
    Joey

  28. Joey,

    Yes, I’m familiar with the conditions (a)-(f) described above by which a venial sin may become mortal. But that’s the point: it becomes mortal. These situations qualify but do not change the opening statement, “A thousand venial sins do not equal a single mortal sin.” As to condition (f), notice that it is the accumulation of material that can make the sin grave, not the accumulation of venial sins as such. I know that’s a fine distinction, but it’s important. Otherwise (f) simply contradicts rather than qualifies the point that a thousand venial sins does not make a mortal sin, which is the only point I was trying to make.

    Here’s an example: a chronic refusal to give relief to the needy through almsgiving–in other words, a deep-seated refusal of fraternal mercy–is gravely sinful matter. But how do you get there? Naturally, there will be a series of venial sins of stinginess. It is not those moments of stinginess–the venial sins–that add up to a mortal sin. It is the accumulation of the material of the sin over a long period of time that constitutes grave matter. That seems to me the natural reading of (f), unless the whole paragraph is nonsense. Thanks, though, for bringing this up. I appreciate the occasion for clarity and precision.

    best,
    John

  29. Ádám (re: #22)

    You wrote:

    Jason, you say: “the Catholic Church teaches that the Spirit’s infusion of agape into our hearts is precisely what fulfills the law.”

    So why is there still a need for a treasury of merits and a purgatory?

    Strictly speaking, as Jason said, there is no “need” for the treasury of merit, as though no one could be saved without there being a treasury of merit to which persons other than Christ contribute. The treasury of merit by which saints are able to aid others in the Body of Christ is itself Christ’s gift, allowing others to participate in His redemptive work, and allowing still others to benefit from fellow members in the Body of Christ in this way. But I think that’s not exactly what you’re intending to ask in your question. I suspect that to make your question more specific you would say something like this:

    If agape truly fulfills the law, then why does any believer who has received agape need to receive merit from anywhere, and still need to be purified upon death? It appears that agape has not truly fulfilled the law, if any additional merit is needed from any source, or if any additional purification or penance is needed.

    The answer to this question requires explaining the distinction between mortal and venial sin, and the basis for that distinction. I’ve explained the distinction in “Why John Calvin did not Recognize the Distinction Between Mortal and Venial Sin.” The answer also requires explaining the distinction between eternal punishment and temporal punishment, and the basis for that distinction. I’ve explained that (if you follow the links carefully) at “Indulgences, the Treasury of Merit, and the Communion of Saints.”

    So what I will say next presupposes that you’ve read and understood those explanations. At baptism, all the debt of eternal and temporal punishment is removed. But venial sin committed after baptism accrues a debt of temporal punishment. If after baptism one commits a mortal sin, and then repents, confesses and receives the sacrament of reconciliation, one also accrues a debt of temporal punishment. Absolution in the confessional does not remove the debt of temporal punishment. If a person never committed any mortal or venial sin after baptism, he would not need any aid from the treasury of merit or need to go to purgatory. So agape fulfills the law, but the believer, having free choice, does not always live in accordance with agape. If he commits a mortal sin, he acts directly in opposition to agape, and so obviously does not fulfill the law, but violates the law. If he commits a venial sin, he acts not directly against agape, and so not directly against the law, but neither does he act in perfect conformity to agape, and thus not in perfect conformity to the agape by which the law is fulfilled. So the short answer to your question “If infused love fulfills the law, then why the treasury of merit and purgatory?” is “Because we choose to sin, not always living according to the agape within us.” This answer, however, will be entirely unsatisfactory unless you grasp the basis for the distinction between mortal and venial sin, and the basis for the distinction between temporal and eternal punishment. Otherwise you will conclude either that agape does not fulfill the law, since if it did there could be no post mortem punishment at all, or that if agape fulfills the law, then believers do not receive agape, but only some imperfect form or portion of agape. See the discussion in the comments following “Imputation and Paradigms: A Reply To Nicholas Batzig.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  30. Re: Joey Henry #26

    I think you misunderstand the difference between “initial justification” and “increase in justification” in Catholic theology. There is no “increase in justification” or “merit” until a believer is first justified. And that initial gift of justification is “not” earned by good works. Nothing other than Christ’s sacrifice of love has sufficient merit to atone for and justify the unjust.

    Rather than thinking about justification as a glass which starts out empty and must be full, think of it like a living seed which is first sown and subsequently grows. A person is justified before God when the living seed is planted in fertile soil. There is nothing a person can do to “earn” life, because the life itself is a gift of God.

    “Increase in justification” happens as the seed sprouts, grows, and bears good fruit. When good fruit is produced, that is “merit”. But the good fruit doesn’t help the plant go from “not living” to “living”. The fruit is the result of the gift of life. The more abundant the life, the more abundant the fruit.

    The bottom line is that, when the final judgment comes around, God and we will be pleased by the good things we have done out of love for him. But we will be grateful to Him alone for the gift of life which enabled us to love him in the first place.

    Hope this helps,
    Jonathan

  31. Joey,

    I ask this in all seriousness and not to antagonize you: do you think Calvin was sanctified? The same Calvin who burned Servetus at the stake and reveled in it? A few other things for you to think about:

    1. There is no compulsion in grace and its presence in sanctification, if there were, it would no longer be grace.
    2. Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.
    3. None who is truly cooperating with grace in making every effort to be holy (Heb 12:14) is claiming any merit (Luke 17:10).

    The reformers made a mistake of epic proportions when they failed to understand that charis in the biblical sense inherently invokes the reality of God as our patron/benefactor. As a patron, He justifies freely and yes, that is indeed cause for rejoicing! But this is what the reformers failed to see: as our Patron/Benefactor, God requires that we be fruitful with that grace! See John 15:1-6 or the parable of the sower, or the parable of the fig tree for example. It is fully our duty (see Luke 17:10), borne out of love for Him and our neighbor to seek the holiness without which no one will see the Lord and failing which we should we produce thorns and briars we will fall into the hands of the living God. And yet we are not coerced by His Spirit into this process of sanctification, it is our response to make. Some believe for a while and but then fail to put down roots or are choked by the world and fall away. As Jason has pointed out, Paul himself emphasizes that if we walk by the flesh, we die. On the other hand, if we walk by the Spirit, we are fulfilling in us the righteous requirement of the law. But make no mistake, it our choice to make, even after we have been justified. There is no compulsion in grace. The Apostolic Fathers understood this very well, and reformers ought to reconsider their view of them. TF Torrance was massively wrong in his analysis of the doctrine of grace in the AF. His theological grid had no room for the patron/benefactor/suzerain-vassal covenant relationship which Christ came to institute. But they understood it and ther writing is proof of that.

  32. SS,

    Nothing you wrote prove that the reformed failed in epic proportion to your “patron/benefactor” schema. In fact, God commands us to be fruitful, yes. We are not coerced in anyway that we bear fruit, yes. All of these is affirmed by the reformed. There’s a third one, God will not fail to glorify those whom He has justified (Romans 8:30). It doesn’t mean we don’t sin, but that God prevails over our sin and our desire to sin by effectively (and without fail) transforming us.

    The Catholic schema however allows for people who were justified accordingly but was not finally glorified. The schema of course can not escape the conclusion that, in the final analysis, what gives effectivity to the salvation of Christ is man’s free choice and cooperation. In other words, God did not effectively save anyone. He only made men potentially savable by giving them opportunities to cooperate enough with the requirements He has set.

    Perhaps you allude to Romans 8:3-4 when you said, “On the other hand, if we walk by the Spirit, we are fulfilling in us the righteous requirement of the law.” Here’s the passage:

    For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    That word, “so that” is very important. It was God who achieved what the law requires. The Law could not make us righteous because we are in the flesh. How did He achieved it? Clearly, it is an extra nos work of substitution. The Scripture tells us this was done, BY sending his own Son taking on our sinful flesh and condemn sin in that flesh. He did that SO THAT the righteous requirment of the law may be fulfilled in us. Who fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law? God. How? By sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh then condemning sin in that flesh. Who are the recepients? How do we identify them? Answer: those who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    In other words, the last clause is descriptive not the condition of fulfilling the righteous requirement of the Law. There is no, “if” clause there. It only describes the people who are recepients of that fulfillment.

    God bless,
    Joey

  33. Jason and Bryan,

    I think what the treasury of merits and purgatory point toward is that, just like in Protestant theology, in the Catholic system there is 1) some kind of alien (extra nos) righteousness (the merits of other saints) and 2) a need for perfection (final purging from veniel sins because of our imperfection in agape). This makes Jason’s case extremely vulnerable.

  34. Joey (#32):

    You write:

    The Catholic schema however allows for people who were justified accordingly but was not finally glorified. The schema of course can not escape the conclusion that, in the final analysis, what gives effectivity to the salvation of Christ is man’s free choice and cooperation. In other words, God did not effectively save anyone. He only made men potentially savable by giving them opportunities to cooperate enough with the requirements He has set.

    That criticism assumes that God only saves people “effectively” if his will leaves them no choice but final salvation. In other words, it assumes monergism. That assumption begs the question.

    To get off the dime here, you need to consider a different paradigm in Scripture itself, and do so on its own terms. 2 Peter 3-4 reads:

    His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

    Salvation, then, consists in becoming a partaker of the divine nature. That means becoming by adoption what God is by nature; the Greek word for that is theosis, “divinization.” Since God is free, divinization does not override our freedom, but frees it from slavery to sin. Thus it is only when we have become partakers of the divine nature by baptism that we are free to follow the two great commandments of love–or not. That does not mean we earn grace by our own power of free choice; it means that our own power of free choice is enabled, by God’s unmerited communication of his own nature, to choose as God wills within us, and thus to partake of the divine nature. Being finally saved, therefore, does not displace our freedom but restores it–if we would but have it so.

    That is synergism, not monergism. Synergism is both biblical and patristic.

    Best,
    Mike

  35. Ádám, (re: #33)

    You wrote:

    I think what the treasury of merits and purgatory point toward is that, just like in Protestant theology, in the Catholic system there is 1) some kind of alien (extra nos) righteousness (the merits of other saints)

    You’re confusing the paying of a debt of punishment by way of satisfaction, and the extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness. The two are not the same.

    and 2) a need for perfection (final purging from veniel sins because of our imperfection in agape). This makes Jason’s case extremely vulnerable.

    Vulnerable to what? Hand-waving and criticism by suggestion, hint, or implicature are easy, but not helpful or in keeping with the charity that criticizes only in order to aid others in coming to the truth. If you wish to criticize Jason’s position, please lay out the criticism explicitly and openly.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  36. Joey,

    Romans 8:30 without its context is a pretext for proof-text. What is chapter 8 about? It follows Paul’s lamentation in chapter 7 that the law cannot save. He begins chapter 8 with “There is THEREFORE now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” This is a direct answer to his rhetorical question “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”. His point here is that if the law cannot deliver me, who will? And the answer is Christ, who through the Holy Spirit, enables the believer to walk in holiness. But the fact remains that there is nothing deterministic about this; earlier in v 12 and 13, Paul reminds the Romans that if they walk in the flesh, they will die! Context matters, Joey.

    So how does this context put the so called golden chain into focus? Paul wants to encourage the Romans to persevere in their faith: so he points to the past: those God called, He predestined, he justified and glorified. Note carefully that every verb in that sentence is in the aorist. Paul is speaking eschatologically here: he is viewing the victory from the other side of eternity. Why does he do this? Because his main goal here is to ENCOURAGE the Romans. Very much akin to a speaker at commencement saying to graduates “Remember, those that this alma mater has matriculated, it has educated and those it has educated, it has bequeathed to society as soldiers for the common good.” Is such a statement meant to prove without reasonable doubt that every student enrolled at Golden Chain University will indeed make a positive contribution to society? Of course not. Some will go on with flying colors, others will flunk out and fail. That is not what the commencement speaker has in mind, he’s not there to debate that. He is not there to argue for deterministic outcomes, but rather to encourage those graduates. The fact that it is obvious that not all go on to do such does not prevent him from speaking in the most positive of terms because he simply wants to embolden them as well as those who have not graduated yet.

    Now, you will say: well, that implies that God fails in effecting His salvation. This is a non sequitur. Consider the Jews, and the fact that the great majority of them since they were born as a people have failed to be a light to the world. Did God therefore fail in His promise to Abraham? Should we declare Him to have ‘only’ made it so that a fraction of Jews might be saved? Of course He has not failed (this is a big part of Paul’s thrust in the epistle to the Romans). The problem is that the reformed definition of success is sub-biblical. God works THROUGH failure and that magnifies His Glory, as opposed to diminishing it. Have you stopped to consider that even the failure of some Christians to persevere is being used by God as a warning to those who are persevering?

    Coming back to Romans 8:3-4. This is the mirror image of 1 Peter 2:24: “24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness”. Only that here Paul is expanding how that living for righteousness takes place: it takes place by walking in the Spirit. Now here’s your mistake: you restrict the phrase ‘who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit’ to being descriptive only. Why? I agree that it is descriptive, but given the CONTEXT of chapter 8, which includes not only encouragement but also warning, it cannot be limited to being merely descriptive. Look at what verse 1 says:

    “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, WHO DO NOT WALK ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, BUT ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT”. You will say, but that is merely descriptive again. What then do you do with this:

    “12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For IF you live according to the flesh you will die; but IF by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

    and just a little later on:

    “16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, IF indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”

    Quite a few IFs, wouldn’t you say? Here is another one from Romans 11:

    “22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, IF you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.”

    So the entire context of Romans 8 and the epistle as a whole supports the teaching that walking in the Spirit is our responsibility as believers, failing which we will die/ be cut off. Yes, it is all made possible by Christ’s substitutionary death and God’s grace. But that does not obviate the fact that Christ Himself has required that we be fruitful with this grace. This teaching is clearly echoed in Paul as shown above.

    I noticed that you did not address any of the verses I pointed out to you and neither did you address my question about Calvin. So let me rephrase again: Would you sit under the teaching of man who angrily planned to execute another for disagreeing with him? (“I shall never permit him to depart alive” part of Calvin’s letter referencing Servetus). Is this how we ought to respond to the grace that God has poured out on us? With anger and violence towards others? “It was the culture of the day” say Mohler, Piper and others. What then, of the fact that there were countless others, in the torturous culture of medieval Europe, who refused to engage in violence towards those who disagreed with them. Many of these landed here in America….persecuted by calvinists and Geneva…So I ask in all honesty, how can ‘culture’ be used as a defense of calvin’s actions and those of his followers. The scriptures tell us that our elders are to be not given to brawls or quarreling. Does Calvin pass the test?

    Heb 12:14 exhorts believers to make every effort to be holy for without holiness no one will see the Lord. There is an effort made here! Did not the one who was given 5 talents multiply them? Did he come back to His master and boast or did he simply say “here is what is yours”? And what about Luke 17:10, where the unworthy servants say we have merely done our duty? Is there any boasting in that? Consider the words of Christ to the unprofitable servant: he banishes him to the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. You will try to argue: but wait he wasn’t saved. Not so. Read the parable. Christ had given Him a talent, a gift of immeasurable value. All 3 are servants of His, but not all three respond to His grace as a benefactor in the same way. Likewise, consider how Heb 10 outlines the ethos of grace:

    “29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and INSULTED the SPIRIT of GRACE?”

    TF Torrance never interacted with the above, and for good reason, he could not reconcile the above with this theological presuppositions. Heb 10:30 unequivocally shows that there is a strong backdrop of HONOR to the grace that God pours out. Grace is given by our Benefactor and He expects an honorable response to it. Again, the reformers and the reformed are ignorant or deliberately choose to ignore the reality of God our Savior as Patron/Benefactor. I recommend you read the work done by David De Silva on the matter “Honor, Patronage, Kinship and Purity, Unlocking New Testament Culture” as a starting point.

  37. Michael (#34),

    Perhaps you can help me out. A while back I asked a question on another post which was not really answered. I asked,

    …..what would be the difference between what a Catholic means by “being in Christ” and by what a Protestant would mean by “being in Christ”. How would being in Christ (from a Catholic perspective) differ from having Christ’s righteousness because one is joined or united to him ?

    I am having a bit of trouble seeing the difference of imputation—(Christ’s alien righteousness being imputed to us) and of being partakers of the divine nature as Peter mentions. Bryan , in comment 347 on the post about Imputation and Paradigms wrote:

    If Christ is truly united to us internally, then so is His righteousness, because He is nowhere unrighteous. If, on the other hand, Christ’s righteousness is not united to us internally, then Clark’s claim that Christ is in us is reduced to the equivalent of Christ’s omnipresence in bees, trees and rocks.

    The concept I am trying to understand, then, is if I become a partaker of the divine nature because I am in Christ, then am I not participating in “His” righteousness (a righteousness outside of myself that somehow becomes internal)? When Christ’s righteousness is united to us internally is this not “His” righteousness? As you stated, it is a “communication of His own nature”.Is the only difference, between this concept and imputation , the idea that one is external and the other is internal? How is the internal “my” righteousness? Do I become so united with Christ’s nature that our natures ……are one and the same so that it is now my righteousness ? How would this differ from imputation? Do Protestants really believe imputations means an external declaration and not an internal change?

  38. Joey,

    I am not sure what confession says “that any progress we may make in this life is pretty insignificant”. What confession are you referring to?

    I had in mind Heidelberg Catechism 144:

    Q: But can those who are converted to God keep these commandments perfectly?

    A: No, for even the holiest of them make only a small beginning in obedience in this life.

    Perhaps, what you mean to say is “insignificant in context of meriting justification but not in the context of sanctification”.

    No, that’s not what I meant to say. This section of the HC is not dealing with justification, but sanctification. So in the context of sanctification, even the holiest of men make only a small beginning in obedience in this life (and if that’s true, what hope do those have who are not among the holiest of men?

    The second part on which you say, “that every good work we perform is utterly tainted with sinfulness” should be put in context also. The insufficiency of good works and its imperfection should be seen in the context of justification.

    Here’s the statement I had in mind:

    Q: Whence arises the imperfection of sanctification in believers?

    A: The imperfection of sanctification in believers arises from the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit; whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins, are hindered in all their spiritual services, and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God. (WLC 78)

    Again, the context is not justification at all, but sanctification. The question to which this is the answer states that explicitly. So I stand by what I said.

    While sanctification is insisted upon in the Reformed paradigm, the fact that not a single thing we do in this life is deserving of anything but hell, together with the fact that all one’s future sins are forgiven in justification, brings me to the conclusion I stated above: In the Reformed system, sanctification is a mere footnote to justification, an optional afterthought that consigns our Spirit-wrought works of love and sacrifice to the level of mere response that, while great if it’s actually offered, doesn’t have any causal relation to our being saved in the end.

  39. Jason,

    No, that’s not what I meant to say. This section of the HC is not dealing with justification, but sanctification. So in the context of sanctification, even the holiest of men make only a small beginning in obedience in this life (and if that’s true, what hope do those have who are not among the holiest of men?)

    HC has no sections Justification and Sanctification and you know that. Furthermore, I know that you are familiar that perfect obedience is a concept of Justification. And you know that this section you are quoting is dealing with the reality that even those who have been justified have once fallen into sin and can still fall into sin therefore no one can perfectly obey the commandments. Only Jesus has done that for us. This statement in no way means that our obedience is insignificant as you claim and that God is not pleased with our obedience. It only means that even the holiest of men is disqualified from the perfection demanded by the Law and can not redeem himself or reverse the verdict of condemnation on the grounds of his work. So, if only Jesus perfectly lived out the commandments and obeyed it, why are we commanded to obey the God’s Law in this life? The HC also succintly answered that debunking your erroneous claim that Reformed theology makes our obedience insignificant:

    Q & A 114

    Q. But can those converted to God
    obey these commandments perfectly?

    A. No.
    In this life even the holiest
    have only a small beginning of this obedience.1

    Nevertheless, with all seriousness of purpose,
    they do begin to live
    according to all, not only some,
    of God’s commandments.2

    1 Eccles. 7:20; Rom. 7:14-15; 1 Cor. 13:9; 1 John 1:8-10
    2 Ps. 1:1-2; Rom. 7:22-25; Phil. 3:12-16
    Q & A 115

    Q. Since no one in this life
    can obey the Ten Commandments perfectly,
    why does God want them
    preached so pointedly?

    A. First, so that the longer we live

    the more we may come to know our sinfulness
    and the more eagerly look to Christ

    for forgiveness of sins and righteousness.1

    Second, so that
    we may never stop striving,
    and never stop praying to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit,

    to be renewed more and more after God’s image,

    until after this life we reach our goal:

    perfection.2

    1 Ps. 32:5; Rom. 3:19-26; 7:7, 24-25; 1 John 1:9
    2 1 Cor. 9:24; Phil. 3:12-14; 1 John 3:1-3

    Secondly, you asked, “what hope do those have who are not among the holiest of men?” The fact is, in Reformed Theology, all our hope stemmed from the fact that it is God who effectively (without fail) transform the hearts of the justified into the image of His Son. That’s the hope: God’s effective power. I will ask you Jason the same question in the Roman gospel you now hold: “What hope do you have when the effectiveness of God’s saving grace is dependent on how much you extend effort and cooperate with that, meriting the righteousness needed, avoiding mortal sin, doing penance and atoning for temporatl guilt of your sins in purgatory so that finally you will be deserving of the beatific vision?” In the Roman schema, since God’s saving grace can be thwarted by the automous will of man, you can only put your hope in your efforts (and the efforts of others when you are in purgatory since merit will not be possible there) that you will not fail or that it is enough that you may gain the beatific vision. Can the gospel you believe now really offer you the perfection of Christ and His full ability to save you not because of your efforts and striving but by the blood of His Son and by His grace?

    With regards to WLC 78, I know that you know the context of this. This is the full context Jason:

    Question 77: Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?

    Answer: Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputes the righteousness of Christ;in sanctification his Spirit infuses grace, and enables to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued:the one does equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.

    Question 78: Whence arises the imperfection of sanctification in believers?

    Answer: The imperfection of sanctification in believers arises from the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit; whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins, are hindered in all their spiritual services, and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.

    Question 79: May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from the state of grace ?

    Answer: True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God, and his decree and covenant to give them perseverance, their inseparable union with Christ, his continual intercession for them, and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

    Because we acknowledge the reality that we do sin even after justification in this life, we know that our obedience does not qualify as grounds for our justification. Only the perfection of Christ will qualify for that. Only the work of Christ on the cross is the good work that reverses our verdict. Thus, we point and look to Christ alone and His Righteousness because we acknowledge that even the best of us have fallen and continue to fall short of God’s glory. That’s why we dare not say that our righteous works merits justification and for the reason, as the WLC stated, that our works fall short of the glory of God and can not be accepted as the ground upon which God will justify.

    But does this mean that sanctification is a mere footnote and optional afterthought? I hope, you ponder on this Jason. Do you really believe in the reformed system, this effective act of God in transforming the lives of the saints such that He will write in their hearts His laws is a footnote and optional afterthought? Is God’s creative power to sanctify those whom He justify a mere footnote? You know the answer to this. You can read Calvin and our confessions and I know, in your hearts of hearts, no one in the reformed camp after reading these documents would arrive at your conclusion. Sanctification for us is one of the best work of God in our lives and we cherish it every day, every minute of lives because we know that God will not fail to change and complete His work in us. But it is also our joy and perfect peace that the righteousness we have that justifies us is a settled perfect righteousness, not paid or merited from our best of works, but from gracious act of God when Christ substituted Himself for our sake, His righteousness ours and our unrighteousness His because He loved us.

    …consigns our Spirit-wrought works of love and sacrifice to the level of mere response that, while great if it’s actually offered, doesn’t have any causal relation to our being saved in the end.

    I want you to go back to the Word of God. I know you don’t trust yourself interpreting this book now. But read it still. Compare what you have asserted above of good works being causal to our being saved. Observe the negation. In your heart, you know that God can speak to you in His Word. If this is God’s Word, believe this rather than the lure of philosophy and medieval theology. Die for what God’s Word said rather than the claimants of the voice of God on earth. He has not left us with nothing… He left us with a surer word, inspired coming from His very breathe that we may know Him and the gospel that powerfully saves us:

    For we too were once foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved to various passions and desires, spending our lives in evil and envy, hateful and hating one another. But “when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have donebut on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.”

    But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved! – and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.

    In my zeal for God I persecuted the church. According to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless. But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ, and be found in him,

    not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law

    , but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness.

    For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed – namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness. Where, then, is boasting?

    It is excluded! By what principle? Of works? No, but by the principle of faith!

    For we consider that a person is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law.

    You are not yet home Jason. Your home is not found in an institution but in a person, Jesus Christ.

    Regards,
    Joey

  40. Mike,

    That criticism assumes that God only saves people “effectively” if his will leaves them no choice but final salvation. In other words, it assumes monergism. That assumption begs the question.

    That also assumes that monergism and “effectivity” leaves anyone with no choice but final salvation.

    That does not mean we earn grace by our own power of free choice; it means that our own power of free choice is enabled, by God’s unmerited communication of his own nature, to choose as God wills within us, and thus to partake of the divine nature. Being finally saved, therefore, does not displace our freedom but restores it–if we would but have it so.

    We coaxed the system with so many words but in the final analysis -IF WE WOULD BUT HAVE IT SO-the grace of God is ineffective and does not save anyone.

    Regards,
    Joey

  41. There comes a time every few months where some new zinger catch-phrase comes in apologetics, and I think Jason has landed the latest one in post #38. Sanctification always has had an interesting place in Reformed soteriology, but I think Jason chose the perfect description for it: “a footnote of Justification.”

    Once Justification is not dependent on Sanctification, then it naturally falls into a “footnote” type status, since the Christian doesn’t need Sanctification to be worthy of entering Heaven. And as was shown – despite the fact the following is totally unbiblical – Reformed sources even admit a Christian’s works are thoroughly tainted by sin and are truly displeasing to God, except for the fact God graciously chooses not to impute sinfulness to them. Naturally the Reformed say that the Holy Spirit will assuredly produce good fruits in anyone who is truly saved, but the Bible is full of believing individuals who fell into grave sin. Indeed, half the New Testament was spent chiding Christians who had turned to sin (cf Revelation 2-3). And even the Westminster admits Christians can turn to lives of sin and even remain there for an indefinite time: “Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein” (17:3). So it seems like a standing contradiction to say the Holy Spirit assuredly changes a Christians lifestyle so that they get better day by day and yet Christians are able to (inexplicably, since free will is denied) turn to lives of sin.

    Another part of the Westminster’s teaching on Sanctification has always baffled me: “This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life” (13:2). So Sanctification is admittedly “imperfect in this life,” meaning the Christian dies unsanctified in some real sense. The only explanation is if human nature is seen as literally sinful, and the only way to escape this is literally leaving the flesh behind in death, but that’s a form of Manicheanism.

  42. Joey,

    The Gospel you are preaching seems to be so very alien to the Bible I read…

    I pray that all to have the grace to follow the truth wherever it may lead.

    Chris

  43. Bryan,

    My point was brief but explicit and transparent, I believe. One of Jason’s main argument was that there is no need for adding to the benefit of the Spirit working through agape (like what Protestant theology does when it adds the benefit of imputed righteousness to the benefit of infused righteousness) because God accepts imperfect righteousness like that of Elisabeth and Zechariah. I questioned the validity of this argument on the basis of 1) the role of the treasury of merits (someone else”s work somehow made beneficial to my final salvation) and 2) the need for final perfection implied by both the role of this treasury of merits and the need for purgatory (final purging from sins) in RC theology.

  44. Ádám, (re: #43)

    Merely questioning something does not refute or falsify it. Yes, you questioned the compatibility of Jason’s claim with (1) the Catholic doctrine of the treasury of merit and (2) the Catholic doctrine of purgatory. But you did not show any incompatibility between Jason’s claim and those two doctrines. And in comment #29, I explained how they are compatible.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  45. Bryan,

    Where did I say that I refuted or falsified Jason’s claim? I expressed my opinion that there are reasons to doubt the validity of those claims. As for your explanation of the compatibility of Jason’s claim and the two doctrines, I simply fail to see how it is convincing.

  46. Ádám, (re: #45),

    I agree that you didn’t say that you refuted or falsified Jason’s claim.

    You wrote:

    I expressed my opinion that there are reasons to doubt the validity of those claims.

    Right. And I’m pointing out that nothing you have said so far shows that what Jason said, i.e. “the Catholic Church teaches that the Spirit’s infusion of agape into our hearts is precisely what fulfills the law” is incompatible with the Catholic doctrines of the treasury of merit and purgatory. So far, therefore, you have not provided any good reason to doubt the compatibility of Jason’s statement with those Catholic doctrines.

    As for your explanation of the compatibility of Jason’s claim and the two doctrines, I simply fail to see how it is convincing.

    Ok, but that’s a statement about yourself — that you fail to see something. It doesn’t show any incompatibility between Jason’s statement and those two Catholic doctrines. If you want to make a case that Jason’s statement is incompatible with those two Catholic doctrines, you have to do more than talk about what you don’t see. Otherwise, all you have offered is an unsubstantiated assertion.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  47. Joey,

    You wrote to Jason above:

    “I want you to go back to the Word of God. I know you don’t trust yourself interpreting this book now. But read it still. Compare what you have asserted above of good works being causal to our being saved. Observe the negation. In your heart, you know that God can speak to you in His Word. If this is God’s Word, believe this rather than the lure of philosophy and medieval theology. Die for what God’s Word said rather than the claimants of the voice of God on earth. He has not left us with nothing… He left us with a surer word, inspired coming from His very breathe that we may know Him and the gospel that powerfully saves us”
    This just begs the question, what does ‘go back to the Word of God’ mean? Does it mean going back to epistemic randomness which must then be corraled back to the Westminster Larger Catechism which itself is greatly influenced by medieval theology?

    If God has left us with a surer word, then why is there a need for the WLC or WSC? You will say, well the catechism only speaks of which is in the Scriptures. Is that so? Says who? Joey Henry? John Calvin? By whose authority do you speak? And if what it contains is so readily available in the Scriptures, why not just go directly to the Scriptures then? I ask these not as confrontational questions, but they are difficult questions that need asked and answered. The ultimate question is this: where is the doctrinal standard in a world with 42000+ denominations, and possibly as many denominations as there are protestants? Can you acknowledge that there is a deep need for a standard?

    To that end I submit the following: The Scriptures tell us in Jude 1:3 that there was a faith ONCE and for ALL delivered to the saints and that we are to contend for it. That is not up for debate, the statement is merely declaring a fact. We also know that Christ commends some of the earliest Christians living in the 1st/early 2nd century in the book of Revelation. Given these 2 premises, isn’t it rational and fair to ask ourselves what did those Christians actually believe? We have the record of the Apostolic Fathers for us to consult. Did they believe in sola scriptura or sola fide? Not a shred of evidence for this. How about imputation of righteousness? Nowhere to be found. The faith was ONCE and for ALL delivered. It did not need Calvin’s brilliance or Luther’s insights. And yes, I agree with you that there was no such thing either as penance or a treasury or merit in the faith of the AF, or even icon/Mary veneration, but think first about the doctrines you hold so dear. Where is the evidence that the holiest men of God who were actually commended by Christ believed as you do?

  48. Joey,

    HC has no sections Justification and Sanctification and you know that.

    Yes it does. The Heidelberg Catechism is divided into three parts: The Misery of Man, God’s Deliverance, and Man’s Thankfulness. The section I quoted which said that even the holiest of men make but a small beginning in obedience (which you wrongly insisted was talking about obedience in reference to justification) is in the third section of the Catechism, the section dealing with sanctification.

    Furthermore, I know that you are familiar that perfect obedience is a concept of Justification. And you know that this section you are quoting is dealing with the reality that even those who have been justified have once fallen into sin and can still fall into sin therefore no one can perfectly obey the commandments. Only Jesus has done that for us.

    John the Baptist’s parents “were righteous before God, walking in all the commandments of the Lord blamelessly.” How, given your paradigm and what you just said, do you understand that passage in Luke 1?

    This statement in no way means that our obedience is insignificant as you claim and that God is not pleased with our obedience. It only means that even the holiest of men is disqualified from the perfection demanded by the Law and can not redeem himself or reverse the verdict of condemnation on the grounds of his work. So, if only Jesus perfectly lived out the commandments and obeyed it, why are we commanded to obey the God’s Law in this life? The HC also succintly answered that debunking your erroneous claim that Reformed theology makes our obedience insignificant.

    The only thing erroneous is your not knowing that both of the confessional statements I adduced (HC/WLC) were talking about sanctification and not justification as you thought.

    But that aside, what we have here is a clash of paradigms with one of us not realizing it (you). Your entire operating assumption is that it is the Law that defines obedience, which is why you say, “even the holiest of men is disqualified from the perfection demanded by the Law.” Now if I were a Pharisee I would agree with you and the Reformed tradition that it is obedience to the letter of the Law that defines the obedience that God requires. But as long as I am a Catholic who doesn’t share your assumption on that point, you simply can’t expect to use it as a premise that doesn’t need defending.

    So you’re either unaware of the basic Catholic position on this issue (that God’s will is fulfilled by Spirit-wrought love of God and neighbor and not by perfect obedience to the letter of the law), or you’re unwilling to fairly represent the position you’re trying to refute. But in either case, debating is pointless until you stop begging the question.

    I will ask you Jason the same question in the Roman gospel you now hold: “What hope do you have when the effectiveness of God’s saving grace is dependent on how much you extend effort and cooperate with that, meriting the righteousness needed, avoiding mortal sin, doing penance and atoning for temporatl guilt of your sins in purgatory so that finally you will be deserving of the beatific vision?”

    You could have asked Paul a similar question when he told the Corinthians that God’s grace toward him was “not in vain” since he “labored more than anyone else.” In fact, I would venture to guess that every prominent NT figure—Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, and John—made at least one or two statements that could give rise to the very question you’re asking me. Jesus said that unless we hear his words and do them, our house is built on sand and will collapse on judgment day. “OK, but how much obedience, Jesus? And how perfect must that obedience be?” John said that God gives us what we ask “because we keep his commandments.” Well, couldn’t you just ask John, “But since it is impossible to obey the law perfectly, then why are you making answered prayer hinge on something we cannot do?”

    I could go on and on. My point is that your paradigm makes no sense out of these passages and others. And it is ironic that the very objections you’re offering against the Catholic gospel could be made to statements found all over the NT, especially statements from Jesus. So until your problems with the Catholic message don’t also apply to the biblical one, you’ll have to forgive me for thinking they sound pretty hollow.

    Because we acknowledge the reality that we do sin even after justification in this life, we know that our obedience does not qualify as grounds for our justification. Only the perfection of Christ will qualify for that. Only the work of Christ on the cross is the good work that reverses our verdict. Thus, we point and look to Christ alone and His Righteousness because we acknowledge that even the best of us have fallen and continue to fall short of God’s glory. That’s why we dare not say that our righteous works merits justification and for the reason, as the WLC stated, that our works fall short of the glory of God and can not be accepted as the ground upon which God will justify.

    There’s nothing here that a Catholic would object to, which makes me wonder whether you understand the position you are arguing against. The CC teaches plainly that our initial justification is irrespective of our works—in fact, since initial justification happens usually in the baptism of an infant, it should be pretty obvious that we don’t believe that its “ground” is works.

    But does this mean that sanctification is a mere footnote and optional afterthought? I hope, you ponder on this Jason. Do you really believe in the reformed system, this effective act of God in transforming the lives of the saints such that He will write in their hearts His laws is a footnote and optional afterthought? Is God’s creative power to sanctify those whom He justify a mere footnote? You know the answer to this. You can read Calvin and our confessions and I know, in your hearts of hearts, no one in the reformed camp after reading these documents would arrive at your conclusion. Sanctification for us is one of the best work of God in our lives and we cherish it every day, every minute of lives because we know that God will not fail to change and complete His work in us. But it is also our joy and perfect peace that the righteousness we have that justifies us is a settled perfect righteousness, not paid or merited from our best of works, but from gracious act of God when Christ substituted Himself for our sake, His righteousness ours and our unrighteousness His because He loved us.

    I never claimed that consigning sanctification to a footnote or afterthought was something that a Reformed theologian would draw as an explicit conclusion (in fact, I think I specifically denied this). What I am saying is that a devalued sanctification is the implicitly logical result of (1) a justification that forgives all future sin, (2) the imputation of alien righteousness, and (3) a covenantal framework that sees Gen. 3 as the major turning point in redemptive history.

    I want you to go back to the Word of God. I know you don’t trust yourself interpreting this book now. But read it still. Compare what you have asserted above of good works being causal to our being saved. Observe the negation. In your heart, you know that God can speak to you in His Word. If this is God’s Word, believe this rather than the lure of philosophy and medieval theology. Die for what God’s Word said rather than the claimants of the voice of God on earth. He has not left us with nothing… He left us with a surer word, inspired coming from His very breathe that we may know Him and the gospel that powerfully saves us.

    If you like, I could adduce dozens of NT passages that draw an explicitly causal connection between our Spirit-wrought works and our receiving the eternal kingdom on the last day. Can you think of a single one that says that on the day of judgment God will receive us irrespective of our works, but because of the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience?

    (And no fair listing passages that any Catholic would heartily embrace without also showing that they necessitate the Reformed understanding of imputation.)

    You are not yet home Jason. Your home is not found in an institution but in a person, Jesus Christ.

    Christ’s mystical Body is not a mere institution, it is Christ himself (just like your right arm isn’t some dispensable thing that’s not part of you). It’s Gnostics who pit Jesus against his Body, not Christians.

    Not to sound lazy, Joey, but if you could keep your response (if you write one) a bit more concise and manageable lengthwise, that would be boss.

  49. Bryan,

    You either don’t understand my point or you don’t want to understand it. Never mind. I originally wrote it to Jason, anyway.

  50. Ádám (re: #49)

    Perhaps I don’t understand your point. All I have to go by is what you wrote. Here’s the recap. In #22 you asked:

    So why is there still a need for a treasury of merits and a purgatory?

    I answered that question in #29. In #33 you responded by stating the following:

    I think what the treasury of merits and purgatory point toward is that, just like in Protestant theology, in the Catholic system there is 1) some kind of alien (extra nos) righteousness (the merits of other saints) and 2) a need for perfection (final purging from veniel sins because of our imperfection in agape). This makes Jason’s case extremely vulnerable.

    In #35 I replied by explaining that your first claim (that there is an extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness in Catholic doctrine) confuses the paying of a debt of punishment by way of satisfaction, and the extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness. I also pointed out that your second claim (i.e. “. . . makes Jason’s case extremely vulnerable”) is mere hand-waving. An authentic criticism would explain what’s wrong with Jason’s claim, rather than merely asserting, without substantiation, that it is “extremely vulnerable.” We don’t rightly evaluate theological claims by whether they are “vulnerable,” but rather by whether they are true or false. And nothing you have said so far shows that Jason’s statement is false. That is why criticisms that end at “that claim is extremely vulnerable,” are mere sophistry.

    Then in #43 you wrote:

    My point was brief but explicit and transparent, I believe. One of Jason’s main argument was that there is no need for adding to the benefit of the Spirit working through agape (like what Protestant theology does when it adds the benefit of imputed righteousness to the benefit of infused righteousness) because God accepts imperfect righteousness like that of Elisabeth and Zechariah. I questioned the validity of this argument on the basis of 1) the role of the treasury of merits (someone else”s work somehow made beneficial to my final salvation) and 2) the need for final perfection implied by both the role of this treasury of merits and the need for purgatory (final purging from sins) in RC theology.

    Jason’s claim that there is no need for adding extra nos imputation to the benefit of the Spirit working through agape is fully compatible with (1) the doctrine of the treasury of merits, and (2) the doctrine of purgatory. You keep pointing to (1) and (2) as though those somehow falsify Jason’s claim (or are problematic for Jason’s claim), by being incompatible with Jason’s claim. But again, as I explained in #29, Jason’s claim is fully compatible with those two doctrines, and you have not provided any reason or argument showing an incompatibility between Jason’s claim and those two doctrines.

    In #45 you wrote:

    I expressed my opinion that there are reasons to doubt the validity of those claims. As for your explanation of the compatibility of Jason’s claim and the two doctrines, I simply fail to see how it is convincing.

    Yes, you have expressed your opinions. But as I explained in #46 you have not yet shown how there is any incompatibility between Jason’s claim and those two Catholic doctrines. Neither benefiting from the treasury of the saints nor being purified in purgatory involves an extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness.

    So that brings us to #49, in which you wrote:

    You either don’t understand my point or you don’t want to understand it. Never mind. I originally wrote it to Jason, anyway.

    I think it is not charitable to assume (or propose) that I don’t want to understand your point, just as it wouldn’t be charitable for me to propose that you’re not truly trying to understand the Catholic paradigm on its own terms. So if you think I don’t understand your point, then perhaps you can clarify your point. On the other hand, if you wish to drop or retract your claim, that’s fine with me.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  51. Kim (#37):

    You ended your comment by asking:

    Do Protestants really believe imputations means an external declaration and not an internal change?

    Many Protestants do, including the ones participating in this thread. Catholics believe that justification, which happens by God’s declaring us righteous, i>also initiates sanctification, and thus internal change. Thus God’s declaring us righteous makes us truly righteous, and does not merely cover over sin.

    Just before that, you asked a series of questions:

    The concept I am trying to understand, then, is if I become a partaker of the divine nature because I am in Christ, then am I not participating in “His” righteousness (a righteousness outside of myself that somehow becomes internal)? When Christ’s righteousness is united to us internally is this not “His” righteousness? As you stated, it is a “communication of His own nature”.Is the only difference, between this concept and imputation , the idea that one is external and the other is internal? How is the internal “my” righteousness? Do I become so united with Christ’s nature that our natures ……are one and the same so that it is now my righteousness ?

    When we become righteous, the life of God is lived within us and transforms us, so that our actions performed by his grace become his actions and vice-versa, by a cooperation of wills. That’s what it means to undergo the process of divinization. We do not become God by nature, but by participation.

    Best,
    Mike

  52. Joey (#40):

    I had asserted that your criticism of Catholic soteriology assumes “monergism,” and thus begs the question. To that, you replied: “That also assumes that monergism and “effectivity” leaves anyone with no choice but final salvation.” That reply misses the mark.

    My assertion was not an assumption, but an inference from (a) what you say and (b) the definition of monergism. The Wikipedia definition is pretty good: “Monergism describes the position in Christian theology of those who believe that God, through the Holy Spirit, works to bring about effectually the salvation of individuals through spiritual regeneration without cooperation from the individual.” So if you hold that God “effectively” saves us without the cooperation of our free will–and that is what you hold–you’re a monergist. Nor, I notice, do you deny you’re a monergist.

    In fact, you reaffirm monergism. As a Catholic, I had written that our salvation comes about when:

    …our own power of free choice is enabled, by God’s unmerited communication of his own nature, to choose as God wills within us, and thus to partake of the divine nature. Being finally saved, therefore, does not displace our freedom but restores it–if we would but have it so.

    To that, you reply:

    We coaxed the system with so many words but in the final analysis -IF WE WOULD BUT HAVE IT SO-the grace of God is ineffective and does not save anyone.

    You seem to take for granted that it is not God who saves us if we have any choice in the matter. Salvation must therefore be monergistic if it is to be salvation at all. But that assumption is unwarranted.

    God saved humanity through Jesus’ death and resurrection. If those had not happened, none of us would be able to please God by any means, including free choices, because everybody would remain enslaved to sin. But because it has happened, we all have the opportunity to be grafted, as it were, onto Christ, and thus be liberated from sin to participate in his divine goodness. That it remains up to us to stay in Christ or not, that we can grow in holiness or fall away if we choose, does nothing to change that. When a person chooses to stay in Christ, it is God who continues transforming them into a sharer in his nature, which is supremely free. So, while it is God who does the work of salvation all the way through, that work does not displace our freedom, or our activity in general, but transforms and strengthens them.

    Best,
    Mike

  53. Thanks, Michael

  54. JASON: “I sold my dog and bought a cat instead. Both are cute, but cats make better pets because they don’t need to be fed, they eat mice on the streets.”

    ADAM: “But… most people feed their cats, too, Jason. If you don’t feed them they might not remain your pets for too long. Your choice is based on an extremely vulnerable assumption.”

    JASON: “Well… no. Not at all. Bryan, could you help me here?”

    BRYAN: “Jason’s position is not incompatible with the fact that most people feed their cats because what cats eat at home is not mice and it is only a supplement to what they eat on the streets, anyway. You haven’t refuted or falsified anything. And please, don’t make hints, be more explicit.”

    ADAM: “I didn’t want to refute Jason’s case, I only said it’s extremely vulnerable. Arguments can be weak, you know, and Jason’s argument is weak because cats are usually fed, too. And your argument, Bryan, that feeding cats is different than feeding dogs hasn’t convinced me.”

    BRYAN: “That’s subjective. You simply make unsubstantiated assertions.”

    ADAM: “That’s frustrating…”

    BRYAN: “That’s uncharitable!”

    ADAM: “This is a weird conversation. Thank you for listening, but I need to go now. Bye.”

  55. Ádám, (re: #54)

    You wrote:

    JASON: … cats make better pets because they don’t need to be fed, they eat mice on the streets.

    ADAM: … If you don’t feed them they might not remain your pets for too long. Your choice is based on an extremely vulnerable assumption.

    If you want to argue by way of analogies, the example you choose cannot be disanalogous. Your example, however, is disanalogous, because the claim that “keeping a cat as a pet does not require feeding the cat because cats eat mice on the streets” is a probabilistic claim (i.e. it is true only in some, but not all cases). It does not follow by necessity from the nature of cats. Thus the person who assumes “keeping a cat as a pet does not require feeding the cat” to be true regarding his own cat is “vulnerable” to finding out that in his own case it is not true, whereas Jason’s actual claim i.e. (that the Spirit’s infusion of agape into our hearts is precisely what fulfills the law thus making extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness superfluous) is not a probabilistic claim. Rather, it follows by necessity from the nature of the supernatural gift given at baptism.

    You might be intending to imply that Jason himself is now vulnerable, because in Catholic doctrine, not everyone who receives the supernatural gift of grace and agape at baptism necessarily remains in a state of grace. That is, you might be intending to imply that by embracing a theological position in which apostasy is actually possible, Jason is more vulnerable than if he were to maintain the Reformed position according to which upon regeneration and faith, final apostasy is impossible. But if the Catholic doctrine is true, then by acknowledging its truth one is less vulnerable to apostasy than if one were to continue to believe falsely that actual apostasy is impossible. So if you’re intending to imply that by embracing a theological position that allows for apostasy, Jason is more vulnerable to losing his salvation, your claim presupposes the falsehood of the Catholic position, and thus begs the question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  56. Bryan,

    I know a guy who repairs telephones. Once an old lady went to the repair shop and told him that she couldn’t switch on her phone. The guy looked at the phone and pushed the button. The phone switched on (there was a faint light in the background that he could recognize) but the screen didn’t show anything. He gave back the phone to the woman and said: “But it can be switched on.”

    You remind me of that guy. This is not an ad hominem argument because it is not an argument at all. It is an honest feedback. I feel like the old woman when I talk to you.

  57. Ádám (re: #56),

    This is your 67th comment here at CTC. If the Catholic Church were false, would it really be so difficult to refute her that you must resort publicly to comparing your Catholic interlocutors to clueless phone repairmen? I understand something of the frustration and desperation that arises when trying to fight the Catholic Church. I’ve been through it; so has Jason. In the end, as Jason said in the podcast, “truth wins.” Let’s stick to the evidence and argumentation, shall we? If the evidence and argumentation is on your side, there is no reason to abandon it and engage in personal criticisms of those who do not hold your position. If, however, the evidence and argumentation is not on your side, then you will have to resort to personal criticisms to avoid following the evidence and argumentation where it leads.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  58. No, Bryan. And you did it again. But let me explain myself once more in the hope that we can make some progress in understanding each other.

    First, I didn’t come here to refute the Roman Catholic system. I came here to understand why Jason had made such a puzzling and – to my mind – incomprehensible step when he left Protestantism and joined the Roman Catholic Church. I didn’t come here to search Catholicism and I don’t plan to spend the rest of my life on this website. Frankly, the RCC doesn’t interest me too much. I’m not even fighting it. Her claims are too implausible to me to consider her as an option for myself. This might make you feel sorry for me, but this is just how it is. I’m not fighting the RCC. But Jason was a friend.

    Secondly, I followed Jason’s argument in the interview very carefully. He explained that there is a duplex beneficium Christi in the Protestant theological tradition, but this double benefit is made unnecessary in the RC system by the single benefit of Spirit-wrought righteousness that fulfills the law. He also explained in the interview that this fulfillment of the law doesn’t have to be perfect (unlike in Protestant theology) because the parents of John the Baptist, for example, were certainly not sinless and yet were called “blameless.”

    So I asked: what about the treasury of merits and purgatory in the RC system? In RC theology there is a grace that works in us (Spirit-wrought righteousness), which is one benefit. But there is also a second benefit (or you can call it whatever you want) which is made useful to us in our way to eternal life: the merits of other saints in the “treasury of merits.” These merits are external to us, like, though not exactly like, the alien righteousness of Protestant theology. Plus in RC theology we need further purging at purgatory. This shows that, contrary to Jason’s claims, there is a need for perfection even in the RC paradigm in order that we can enter into glory and have the beatific vision. The explanation that you gave about how the two doctrines and Jason’s argument are not incompatible has not convinced me. You missed my point. You strained at a gnat, and swallowed a camel.

    And thirdly, this is exactly my problem in communicating with you. Maybe I am not clear in my communication. There can be a language barrier, too (English is my second language). But sometimes when I think I do communicate clearly and unambiguously you still either don’t see my point or you strategically miss it. You are a very clever man, Bryan. In the analogy of the repairman and the old woman the repairman is a very intelligent man, the old lady is the less intelligent one. And yet, the conversation between them is not very meaningful because the repairman is not ready to face the illocutionary force of the woman’s communication. This is where our conversation, I believe, got shipwrecked a few times.

    And thirdly, I would prefer if Jason answered my question, but it’s O.K. if he doesn’t want to. I’m ready to move on.

  59. Ádám, (re: #58)

    Your latest comment helps advance the discussion, in my opinion. You wrote:

    So I asked: what about the treasury of merits and purgatory in the RC system? In RC theology there is a grace that works in us (Spirit-wrought righteousness), which is one benefit. But there is also a second benefit (or you can call it whatever you want) which is made useful to us in our way to eternal life: the merits of other saints in the “treasury of merits.” These merits are external to us, like, though not exactly like, the alien righteousness of Protestant theology. Plus in RC theology we need further purging at purgatory. This shows that, contrary to Jason’s claims, there is a need for perfection even in the RC paradigm in order that we can enter into glory and have the beatific vision. The explanation that you gave about how the two doctrines and Jason’s argument are not incompatible has not convinced me. You missed my point. You strained at a gnat, and swallowed a camel.

    Again, talking about yourself (“has not convinced me”) side-steps the evidence, because the question is not whether you (Ádám) are convinced of x, but whether there is some incompatibility between Jason’s claim and those two doctrines. (E.g. The Pharisees could not have refuted Jesus’s claims or arguments by replying, “We’re not convinced.”) As I pointed out in both comment #35 and comment #50, in Catholic theology there is no extra nos imputation of the merits of the saints. In Catholic theology, merit (whether that of Christ or the saints) cannot be imputed to anyone other than the person who merited. Satisfaction, however, can be made on behalf of another, in order to remove a debt of punishment. Your argument conflates the distinction between imputation of merit, and payment of debt by way of satisfaction. That’s why the doctrine of the treasury of merit is fully compatible with Jason’s claim that infused agape makes extra nos imputed righteousness superfluous. What to you seems like a ‘gnat’ (from the Protestant point of view) is a camel in the Catholic paradigm. And by dismissing the distinction (between imputation of merit and payment of debt by satisfaction) as irrelevant or insignificant (e.g. a mere ‘gnat’), you beg the question by presupposing the falsehood of the Catholic position.

    Second, you claim that the Catholic doctrine of purgatory “shows that, contrary to Jason’s claims, there is a need for perfection even in the RC paradigm in order that we can enter into glory and have the beatific vision.” The problem with that claim is that Jason has never claimed that perfection is unnecessary for entering glory and having the beatific vision. He agrees (with you) that perfection is necessary for entering glory and having the beatific vision. But in the Catholic paradigm there is a very important difference between fulfilling the law by having the essence of the law, and fulfilling the law by following the law to the letter. This is what I was explaining in comment #29, and the links embedded there. When Jason speaks of God accepting the “imperfect” righteousness of Zachariah and Elizabeth, he is referring to “imperfect according to the letter,” since they were not without venial sin. But they were righteous because they had infused agape, which is the essence of the telos of the law, and they walked in that agape. That is why they were truly righteous, and had no need for an extra nos imputed righteousness, even though they may have needed purgatory after death for venial sins they had committed. Your claim that purgatory is problematic for Jason’s claim presupposes that there is no difference between the essence of the fulfillment of the law, and the letter of the law. In that way, however, your claim begs the question, i.e. presupposes the falsehood of the Catholic position. Basically, the problem here is almost precisely what I addressed in “Imputation and Paradigms: A Reply to Nicholas Batzig,” in which one side is not grasping the paradigm difference (with respect to righteousness) when criticizing the other position. That’s what I was trying to explain in comment #29 above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  60. Bryan,

    I closely followed Jason’s exegesis because I wanted to understand his point. Though I disagreed with his conclusions (I think he made some serious mistakes in his exegesis) I nevertheless entered into his paradigm as much as I could. And I saw a tension there. After listening to what you say about the distinction between someone else’s merits being imputed to us and someone else paying satisfaction for our debt, and that in your opinion it is not a minor distinction, I still see a tension within Jason’s argument. If you are correct that even according to Jason Spirit-wrought-agape-fulfilling-the-law is not enough for the perfection that is needed for final salvation (I didn’t hear Jason say that), we are still exactly where we started. In the RC paradigm there is need for another benefit (beside infused grace), just like in Protestant theology (though not in the same way). Therefore Jason’s case is extremely vulnerable. Not Jason, but his case.

    So yes, I find your argument unconvincing. And yes, it is my personal reaction to what you say. But no, it does not side-step the evidence. An argument happens in a communicative situation as part of one’s communicative act. Perlocution is an important aspect of communication. Arguments can be convincing or unconvincing, more convincing and less convincing. Moreover, arguments are not always like the binary number system where there is only 0 or 1, falsification or verification. Some arguments are more forceful than others. Arguments cannot always be reduced to right and wrong syllogisms. Truth often needs validation rather than verification. (Do others see what I see? Do others see a problem with my perception of reality?) Reality is messy. Truth is in many ways subjectivity as well as objectivity. In that sense I’m more of an Augustinian and a Kierkegaardian than a Thomist. So when you try to exclude from our discussion the factor that I find your argument unconvincing you do something unreal. But this leads us into an entirely new realm where I don’t intend to go.

    Please, let me leave. I’ve said what I wanted to say (and much more). I don’t want to win this argument. I raised a question to Jason and it’s O.K. if you think you’ve answered it. It is my problem if I think you haven’t.

  61. Michael (re:#51),

    I haven’t been able to follow all of the comments here, as I’ve been sick for almost a week, but I just want to provide some thoughts regarding part of your reply to Kim. In #37, she asked you:

    Do Protestants really believe imputation means an external declaration and not an internal change?

    You replied to her:

    Many Protestants do, including the ones participating in this thread. Catholics believe that justification, which happens by God’s declaring us righteous, i>also initiates sanctification, and thus internal change. Thus God’s declaring us righteous makes us truly righteous, and does not merely cover over sin.

    It is true that Protestants do not believe the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness to them (in the general Protestant understanding of such) does not, in and of itself, *make* them righteous.

    It’s also true that, unfortunately, there are some Protestants who believe that justification and imputation need not necessarily be *followed* by sanctification. That belief is decidedly *not* the historic Reformed understanding of this matter, but there are some Protestants, such as the author Zane Hodges, who hold to such an understanding.

    However, from the Reformed confessions, books, and articles that I read when I was Reformed, and from all that I was taught by my ecclesial leaders in those circles, the historic Reformed teaching is that all who are justified, and who, therefore, have Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to them, *will* be sanctified. That is the implication of the “I” and “P” in the Calvinist “TULIP”: God’s monergistic grace in regeneration is “Irresistible,” and, after one is justified by that grace (through faith), one *necessarily* begins the synergistic process of sanctification, the “Perseverance of the Saints.”

    However imperfect and faltering that sanctification is, Reformed Protestants do hold that justification *entails* sanctification. To be sure, they are separate and distinct, in that the former is monergistic, involving a forensic declaration by God of the Christian’s imputed righteousness, while the other is synergistic, requiring the Christian’s participation. From all of my knowledge of Reformed thinking though, justification does entail sanctification– in that all who are justified will, *by definition*, be sanctified, imperfect though that sanctification be. Consistent five-point Calvinists don’t break apart the “TULIP” by saying that some Christians are justified but never sanctified.

    As a Catholic, of course, none of the above reflects my *current* thinking on the relationship between justification and sanctification. However, the above was my thinking (and was what I was taught to believe), as a “Reformed Baptist,” five-point-Calvinist Protestant.

  62. Michael,

    P.S. Correction: I meant to type in comment #60, “It is true that Protestants do not believe the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness to them (in the general Protestant understanding of such), in and of itself, *makes* them righteous.”

    Back to my recovery and away from the computer (and typos)… :-)

  63. Adam,

    I’m not avoiding you, honest. I answered your original question briefly and then invited Bryan to get into greater technical detail if he wished. Since he has done so I have just been following your dialogue from the sidelines.

  64. Christopher (61),

    I am so sorry you are sick.

    I suppose you and Michael (51) are both correct. I think Michael was answering my direct question which was related to the fact that imputation from the Protestant perspective does not produce an internal change in the believer. I just checked with Berkhof and he does state, basically, what Michael did concerning this subject of inner change. Berkhof says (page 512),

    With respect to the nature of justification the Reformers corrected the error of confounding justification with sanctification by stressing its legal character and representing it as an act of God’s free grace, whereby He pardons our sins and accepts us as righteous in His sight, but does not change us inwardly.

    Berkhof adds to this on page 513,

    Justification is a judicial act of God, in which He declares, on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, that all the claims of the law are satisfied with respect to the sinner. It is unique in the application of the work of redemption in that it is a judicial act of God, a declaration respecting the sinner, and not an act or process of renewal, such as regeneration, conversion, and sanctification. While it has respect to the sinner, it does not change his inner life. It does not affect his condition, but his state, and in that respect differs from all the other principal parts of the order of salvation.

    Berkhof later sates on the top of page 514,

    In distinction from it [justification]sanctification is a continuous process, which is never completed in this life.

    Therefore the imputation [which justification is concerned with] does nothing to change the inner life according to Berkhof. It does not change the man’s condition , but his state.

    My question to Michael was also dealing with the subject of what it means to be partakers of the divine nature and how or whether this differed from imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Perhaps some of the differences are in regard to what Berkhof calls ”man’s condition” and man’s “state”. The aspect of being partakers of the divine nature would be in regards to man’s condition, I suppose?. I think I find the Protestant’s way of separating these things strange. Salvation has to include regeneration, conversion, sanctification, yet as Berkhof shows , the Protestants [Reformed ones] separate these things from Justification. As you have stated , these things basically will necessarily follow according to the views of the Reformed. I understand. The Catholic view seems to gather in the whole work of salvation and the Reformed view seems to splinter it.[In my opinion].

    I do find it interesting that Berkhof on page 511 says that the doctrine of justification by faith “did not find its classical expression until the days of the reformation”.

    Thanks, Kim

  65. Ádám, (re: #60)

    You wrote:

    I closely followed Jason’s exegesis because I wanted to understand his point. Though I disagreed with his conclusions (I think he made some serious mistakes in his exegesis) I nevertheless entered into his paradigm as much as I could.

    If you think that the Catholic-Protestant question reduces to exegesis, then you are presupposing the Protestant paradigm. Jason makes this point in the podcast; see “The Tradition and the Lexicon” article linked in the post at the top of this page. Of course there is no requirement that you embrace the Catholic paradigm, but the goal in Catholic-Protestant dialogue aimed at coming to agreement concerning the truth is at least to see the other paradigm, such that one’s criticisms of the other paradigm are not question-begging, as would be the case if you were claiming that the question should be decided on the basis of exegesis.

    If you are correct that even according to Jason Spirit-wrought-agape-fulfilling-the-law is not enough for the perfection that is needed for final salvation (I didn’t hear Jason say that), we are still exactly where we started. In the RC paradigm there is need for another benefit (beside infused grace), just like in Protestant theology (though not in the same way). Therefore Jason’s case is extremely vulnerable. Not Jason, but his case.

    I think it would help here if you were more precise in your criticism. In logic we do not rightly criticize claims or arguments by merely claiming that they are vulnerable. If we think a claim is vulnerable to falsification, we provide the evidence that falsifies it or gives reason to believe it to be false. Likewise, if we think an argument is vulnerable to refutation we provide the refutation, or at least sketch out the way it could possibly be refuted. Claiming that a case is vulnerable is like claiming that a tree is vulnerable or a building is vulnerable; such a claim isn’t helpful unless you specify the with-respect-to-whatness of the predicate, i.e. the tree is vulnerable to disease or to carpenter ants, or the building is vulnerable to a terrorist attack, or to an earthquake, etc. As long as you leave the with-respect-to-whatness unspecified, you avoid the work of showing how it is vulnerable. And that makes your criticism a form of hand-waving (i.e. I think there is a problem here, but I’m not going to take the time to show where the problem is, and how exactly it is a problem; I’m merely going to imply that there is a problem in a drive-by comment.)

    The relevant question is whether Jason’s claim is false, or made “vulnerable” to falsification on account of the Catholic doctrines of the treasury of merit and purgatory. And the answer to that question is no. That’s because the believer’s possible need for purification in purgatory after death, and the possibility of his being benefited by the treasury of merit, does not entail or imply either that it is not by the Spirit’s infusion of agape into our hearts that the law is fulfilled in us, or that in Catholic theology too there is some kind of extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness. If you want to show that there is a problem with Jason’s claim, then you’re going to have to show the problem.

    You wrote:

    So yes, I find your argument unconvincing. And yes, it is my personal reaction to what you say. But no, it does not side-step the evidence. An argument happens in a communicative situation as part of one’s communicative act. Perlocution is an important aspect of communication. Arguments can be convincing or unconvincing, more convincing and less convincing. Moreover, arguments are not always like the binary number system where there is only 0 or 1, falsification or verification. Some arguments are more forceful than others. Arguments cannot always be reduced to right and wrong syllogisms. Truth often needs validation rather than verification. (Do others see what I see? Do others see a problem with my perception of reality?) Reality is messy. Truth is in many ways subjectivity as well as objectivity. In that sense I’m more of an Augustinian and a Kierkegaardian than a Thomist. So when you try to exclude from our discussion the factor that I find your argument unconvincing you do something unreal. But this leads us into an entirely new realm where I don’t intend to go.

    This might be one of the more fundamental, underlying factors making it more difficult to reach agreement. In 2010 Tom Chantry, who attended Westminster Seminary California, and now pastors at Christ Reformed Baptist Church in Milwaukee, wrote an article titled “How Education Makes Us More Stupider.” In that article he wrote the following:

    That brings us to the quintessential failed trend in modern education: the idea that students must make knowledge their own, with the result that its meaning will always be derived from within. English departments have enshrined this narcissistic exercise as “post-modern criticism,” which perhaps is why so many English majors are unemployable.

    Frighteningly, the “what-it-means-to-me” mentality is creeping from the English department into all other classrooms. It seems that there is no area of learning which cannot be existentially re-imagined. All truth is merely a platform for artistic self-expression. What matters are never the facts conveyed in the curricula; rather the students’ conversation about inward angst is the key to learning. (I just keep praying that the medical schools are bucking the trend; I don’t ever want to be in the hands of a surgeon who wrote a paper entitled “What Anatomy Means to Me.”)

    Of course I agree with you that arguments can be convincing to some people, and unconvincing to others. But counting how many people are persuaded or unpersuaded, or whether an argument persuades oneself or not, is not how arguments are rightly evaluated, because a sound argument may be unconvincing to most people (including oneself), and an unsound argument may be convincing to most people (including oneself). Many examples of either case are available. (The work of Kahneman and Tversky immediately comes to mind.) When I teach logic, I know there are certain invalid arguments that most students will misjudge as valid, and certain valid arguments that most students will misjudge as invalid. The more logic they learn, the less likely this is to happen. But nevertheless, it does happen. And the fact that it happens shows that nose counting is not a safe way of evaluating an argument, if our goal is truth. The fact that we can be mistaken about the soundness of an argument shows that our own persuasion or lack thereof is also not a safe way of evaluating an argument.

    To evaluate an argument by whether one finds it convincing is to fail to recognize that there are objective and rational criteria by which to determine whether arguments are sound or unsound, and that one’s failure to accept the truth of the conclusion of the argument does not necessarily make the argument unsound, and that one’s embrace of the truth of the conclusion of an argument does not necessarily make the argument sound. Only in the case of an infallible agent does persuasion by the argument entail that the argument is a sound argument, and non-persuasion entail that the argument is unsound. That’s why using one’s own persuasion (or non-persuasion) as a criterion for evaluating the soundness of the argument presupposes an over-exalted view of oneself, because it treats oneself as if one is God, i.e. infallible, in this particular way, namely, by being persuaded by all sound arguments without fail, and never being persuaded by any unsound arguments. In this way, making one’s own condition of being persuaded or unpersuaded a criterion for evaluating arguments is a kind of narcissism, very much along the lines Chantry describes in the quotation above.

    Using one’s own having been persuaded (or remaining unpersuaded) as a criterion for judging an argument is even more problematic in the case of a Reformed person who believes in total depravity and the fallenness of his own intellect. If your intellect is fallen, your failure to be persuaded by an argument is no reason to believe that the argument is unsound, because this failure could just as easily be due to ignorance, irrationality, bias, confusion, the noetic effect of sin, etc. Likewise, and for the same reason, given the fallenness of your intellect, your being persuaded by an argument is no reason to believe it to be sound.

    The notion that good arguments are only those that persuade me, and bad arguments are all those that don’t persuade me, is the intellectual equivalent of stipulating that true propositions are all those I believe to be true, and false propositions are all those I believe to be false. But only God can rightly make such a claim. Again, making such a claim denies one’s own fallibility with respect to such judgments, and takes a Protagorean notion that man’s intellect is the measure of truth and soundness, rather than truth and soundness being the measure of our intellect. Whether an argument is persuasive or not is a measure not of the soundness of the argument, but rather, all things being equal, of the speaker’s mastery of the art of rhetoric, the telos of which is persuasion. The telos of arguments, however, is finding the truth.

    I’ve ready plenty of St. Augustine and Kierkegaard, and I’ve never seen either of them endorse the notion that whether a person finds an argument persuasive is the (or a) criterion by which the soundness of an argument is to be judged. On the contrary, the Christian philosophical tradition all the way down recognizes that man is not the measure of all things, but is measured by them. If you disagree, please point to the paragraphs in the respective works of St. Augustine or Kierkegaard where they make this claim. Agreement concerning theology often requires backing up and clearing away faulty philosophical presuppositions. This notion that arguments are to be evaluated by whether one finds them persuasive is one such presupposition. If two people disagree on some theological matter, and they each think “the other person’s arguments are shown to be faulty if I am unpersuaded by them,” resolution of the disagreement is futile, because by adopting that presupposition, then since they find each other’s arguments unpersuasive, no rational way forward is left open to them by which to evaluate the arguments they offer to each other. Progress toward agreement can be had only if they each agree on objective criteria by which to evaluate their respective arguments, criteria other than “I am not persuaded by your argument.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  66. Bryan (65),

    You stated,

    Progress toward agreement can be had only if they each agree on objective criteria by which to evaluate their respective arguments, criteria other than “I am not persuaded by your argument.”

    I think I am getting lost in the forest here. What are you saying the criteria is?

  67. Kim (re:#64),

    Thanks for your thoughts, sister. I’m feeling somewhat better tonight. Hopefully, by tomorrow evening, I will be fully recovered.

    In reading your comment, with the excerpts from Berkhof, I may have found a more precise way to state what I was trying to say earlier. It is definitely true that, in the Reformed understanding, imputation, in and of itself, produces no internal change in the believer. Imputation is God crediting of Christ’s perfect righteousness to the believer, and this crediting has to do with how God chooses to *view* the believer (i.e. as having the righteousness of Christ.

    However, the internal change, in a sense, has already come (again, in the Reformed understanding) with *regeneration*, which precedes and causes faith, through which comes justification. Because of one’s God-enabled faith alone in Christ alone (in the specific way that the Reformed understand this matter), one is justified, and God imputes the perfect righteousness of Christ to oneself. Again, Berkhof states the Reformed view correctly in saying that this imputation produces no internal change in the believer. The internal change actually comes *before* imputation, with God’s regeneration of the believer, which the Reformed understand to be monergistic. The internal change then continues through sanctification, which historic Reformed Protestantism (in my understanding, at least) holds to be synergistic.

    I agree with you completely that the historic Reformed view separates the various aspects of salvation in a way that the Catholic Church’s teaching does not– and I agree that the Reformed view separates certain of these aspects in a strange and unnecessary way. As a Protestant, obviously, I viewed the separation between justification and sanctification to be at the very heart of the Gospel. However, when I made the conscious choice to re-study the Bible without my “Reformed lenses,” I began to see this sharp Reformed distinction between justification and sanctification as a matter of Reformed *eisegesis*, rather than exegesis. While we cannot be justified by works alone, neither can we be justified by a “faith alone,” even in Christ alone, that is devoid of works.

    The interesting thing is, Reformed Christians would actually *agree* with Catholic Christians that a professed “faith alone,” without works, does not save. However, the Reformed would say that such a faith is simply not Christian faith at all, whereas Catholics would say that it could still be “Christian faith,” in some sense, but that even a fervently professed Christian faith, without works, will not justify anyone before God and does not save him/her.

    It’s tragic, really. The historic Reformed view (following Calvin, especially) on justification and works/sanctification has much more in common with the Catholic Church’s teaching than many Reformed people seem to realize– and yet, many Reformed Protestants continue to say that the Catholic Church does not have “the Biblical Gospel.” I made that claim myself as a Reformed Baptist. From my standpoint now though, as a Catholic “revert,” we Catholics are simply following the words of Jesus, and St. Paul, and St. James on justification and works– *as* those words are rightly understood, as they have been taught by the Church for 2,000 years from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

    The Protestant Reformation introduced sharp theological distinctions in a salvific process that had not been understood, nor taught, for the previous 1, 500 years of Christianity. Or, as you wrote:

    I do find it interesting that Berkhof on page 511 says that the doctrine of justification by faith “did not find its classical expression until the days of the reformation”.

  68. Bryan,

    I plan this to be my last response to you under this thread. You have probably spent a lot of time answering my comment, or thinking that you were answering my comment. Had you spent at least half of that time trying to understand my comment and its intention your response (even if half as long) would have been a lot more beneficial to our communication. I experience two things again and again:

    1. You exagerate my claims so you can write a long refutation. E.g. I never said that “whether a person finds an argument persuasive is the (or a) criterion by which the soundness of an argument is to be judged”, nor do I agree with that claim. But you wrote a long refutation of it. This is pointless.

    2. You don’t seem to grasp that there is so much more in communication and persuasion than formal logic. A response is a part of communication but a response doesn’t necessarily have to be a logical refutation. At least in my world. It can also be a pause, an expression of doubt, fear, unbelief, lack of persuasion, which are equally real and valid responses. Maybe not on this website, or in your world, but then you might be reading too much scholastic and analytical philosophy. People are not machines of logic, there is intuition and so many other aspects of a human dialogue, which are important elements of being in the truth or outside it (Johannine language).

    I followed Jason’s exegesis because he wanted to convince us, remaining Protestants, that exegesis leads us toward Rome. I entered HIS paradigm. (Again, you didn’t listen to what I said.) And his paradigm looked vulnarable to me in the way I explained in the sentences before I said the “v” word which was the first gnat you strained at. Since then I have explained again why I thought his case was vulnarable “with-respect-to-whatness” (that is, to collapse as a case) four or five times already.

    Bryan, I don’t want to continue this conversation.

    Blessings,
    Ádám

  69. I forgot to link an article to my second point (on Kierkegaard’s view of truth as subjectivity): http://szabadosadam.hu/divinity/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/truth-as-subjectivity2.pdf

    I don’t necessarily agree with everything that Kierkegaard said but he makes a valid point, I believe. I don’t want to discuss this here, though. I’m out.

  70. Ádám, (re: #68,69)

    You wrote:

    Had you spent at least half of that time trying to understand my comment and its intention your response (even if half as long) would have been a lot more beneficial to our communication.

    When people misunderstand you, the more charitable (and ecumenically helpful) response is to attribute the misunderstanding to your own failure to communicate adequately, rather than assume that they did not give sufficient time and effort attempting to understand you. This response also helps you become a better communicator. (I find this principle to be true in marriage as well. :-)

    You exagerate my claims so you can write a long refutation.

    If I have exaggerated your claims, then I am sorry for having done so. It was not my intention to do so, let alone to do so in order to write a refutation. I’m attempting to go by what you have said.

    Let’s consider how I came to believe that you think arguments or explanations can be evaluated by whether one finds them persuasive or convincing. In comment #29, I explained how Jason’s statement is compatible with the two Catholic doctrines you think are problematic for Jason’s claim. In #45 you responded by saying,

    As for your explanation of the compatibility of Jason’s claim and the two doctrines, I simply fail to see how it is convincing.

    In #46 I replied by noting that this is a claim about yourself, and does not show any incompatibility between Jason’s statement and those two Catholic doctrines, or falsify anything I said about the compatibility of his claim with those two doctrines.

    Then in #58 you again claimed that these two Catholic doctrines are problematic for Jason’s claim, and added:

    The explanation that you gave [in #29] about how the two doctrines and Jason’s argument are not incompatible has not convinced me.

    In both instances (#45 and #58) you did not deal with the explanation I provided showing how Jason’s statement is compatible with those two Catholic doctrines. Instead, you dismissed my explanation [in #29] on the basis of its not having convinced you. So in #59 I pointed out that dismissing my explanation on the basis of its not having convinced you side-steps the evidence and argumentation I have offered in that explanation. When evaluating arguments and explanations, whether in science, or engineering, or theology or mathematics or any field of inquiry, “I’m not convinced” is not a good reason to dismiss anyone’s explanation or argument (for the very reasons I subsequently laid out in #65).

    Then in #60, your offered a whole paragraph defending your appeal (in #58) to your own not-being-convinced as a good reason for dismissing my explanation. In that paragraph you wrote that “Truth often needs validation rather than verification,” suggesting that your finding my explanation (in #29) unconvincing is a legitimate reason for dismissing it. Toward the end of that paragraph in #60 you wrote:

    So when you try to exclude from our discussion the factor that I find your argument unconvincing you do something unreal.

    My previous comments (in #46 and #59) were not attempting to exclude anything from our discussion, including your expression of being unpersuaded. In fact, in a dialogue it is helpful to know what one’s interlocutor is persuaded by and what he finds unpersuasive. Rather, I was pointing out that your being unpersuaded or unconvinced is not a good reason (or “factor”) for dismissing my explanation (in #29) and moving ahead with your criticism of Jason’s claim. But given this context (i.e. comments #45, 58, and my responses in #46 and #59), it seems to me that most readers would take your second paragraph in #60 as naturally indicating that you do indeed think that arguments and explanations can be evaluated by whether one finds them persuasive. So when you now write, “You exagerate my claims so you can write a long refutation,” perhaps you might consider whether your own words may have in some way implied the position I have criticized in #65.

    You don’t seem to grasp that there is so much more in communication and persuasion than formal logic.

    Rather than attribute ignorance to me, a more charitable interpretation would be that although I am quite aware of the other aspects of communication, I nevertheless believe firmly that appeals to one’s not-being-convinced are not good reasons for dismissing evidence or argumentation offered by one’s interlocutor. It wouldn’t be safe to assume that anyone who claims that appeals to one’s not-being-convinced are not good reasons for dismissing evidence or argumentation offered by one’s interlocutor is ignorant of the other aspects of communication beyond formal logic.

    I entered HIS paradigm. (Again, you didn’t listen to what I said.) And his paradigm looked vulnarable to me in the way I explained in the sentences before I said the “v” word which was the first gnat you strained at. Since then I have explained again why I thought his case was vulnarable “with-respect-to-whatness” (that is, to collapse as a case) four or five times already.

    By dismissing the explanation I provided in #29 (on the basis of your being unpersuaded by it), you have not entered his paradigm, which is the Catholic paradigm. Jason’s claim is that these passages of Scripture fit better into the Catholic paradigm. The explanation I have provided in #29 shows the compatibility of Jason’s claim with the two Catholic doctrines you have mentioned, and therefore why his case does not “collapse.” From my point of view, it would be disingenuous to claim that Jason’s case collapses on account of an objection you have raised, while dismissing (on the basis of your own not-being-persuaded) the Catholic reply to that objection.

    As for Kierkegaard’s “Truth Is Subjectivity,” I’m quite familiar with it, having first read it back in the 90s. And I largely agree with your summary. However, that in no way supports the notion that one’s being unpersuaded by an argument or explanation is a good reason for dismissing it, or that in a rational dialogue aimed at disagreement, each interlocutor may dismiss the arguments or explanations of the other interlocutor if he or she is unpersuaded by them.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  71. Bryan,

    I didn’t simply dismiss your explanation. I considered it and rejected it because you based it on a distinction that I don’t see as significant to my argument. I referred to this fact every time I redefined my point (43, 54, 58, 60). You have not refuted my argument. If you think you have then I beg to disagree. You need to do some more thinking or you need to find better arguments. Or make more efforts to ponder why I don’t find your explanation persuasive.

    I don’t think we will convince each other and I totally lost interest in this nitpicking dialogue. If my tone was not right or I accused you of a misunderstanding that I was responsible for, I apologize.

  72. Ádám, (re: #71)

    You wrote:

    I didn’t simply dismiss your explanation. I considered it and rejected it because you based it on a distinction that I don’t see as significant to my argument.

    To be clear, you don’t see as significant the distinction between extra nos imputation in Protestant theology as a second benefit beyond sanctification, and the benefits received through the treasury of merit and purgatory in Catholic theology. As you said in #58:

    He explained that there is a duplex beneficium Christi in the Protestant theological tradition, but this double benefit is made unnecessary in the RC system by the single benefit of Spirit-wrought righteousness that fulfills the law. He also explained in the interview that this fulfillment of the law doesn’t have to be perfect (unlike in Protestant theology) because the parents of John the Baptist, for example, were certainly not sinless and yet were called “blameless.”

    So I asked: what about the treasury of merits and purgatory in the RC system? In RC theology there is a grace that works in us (Spirit-wrought righteousness), which is one benefit. But there is also a second benefit (or you can call it whatever you want) which is made useful to us in our way to eternal life: the merits of other saints in the “treasury of merits.” These merits are external to us, like, though not exactly like, the alien righteousness of Protestant theology. Plus in RC theology we need further purging at purgatory. This shows that, contrary to Jason’s claims, there is a need for perfection even in the RC paradigm in order that we can enter into glory and have the beatific vision. The explanation that you gave about how the two doctrines and Jason’s argument are not incompatible has not convinced me.

    I responded to this in some detail in #59, explaining how what we receive from the treasury of merits is not an extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness, and how the Catholic doctrine of purgatory is fully compatible with what Jason actually said. In reply, you wrote the following in #60:

    After listening to what you say about the distinction between someone else’s merits being imputed to us and someone else paying satisfaction for our debt, and that in your opinion it is not a minor distinction, I still see a tension within Jason’s argument. If you are correct that even according to Jason Spirit-wrought-agape-fulfilling-the-law is not enough for the perfection that is needed for final salvation (I didn’t hear Jason say that), we are still exactly where we started. In the RC paradigm there is need for another benefit (beside infused grace), just like in Protestant theology (though not in the same way). Therefore Jason’s case is extremely vulnerable.

    These last two lines are at the heart of your reasoning. In your mind because in Catholic theology there is another benefit besides infused grace, therefore “Jason’s case is extremely vulnerable.” But that conclusion does not follow from the premise. There are many other benefits we Catholics now enjoy. Suffering, for example, in Catholic theology is a benefit we receive in this present life. So are prayers on our behalf by the saints, and the consolation that provides. We also receive the benefit of the Holy Spirit directed guidance of the Church, including the orthodox teaching of the Church. We have the benefit of the examples of saints and martyrs. We have the benefit of the sacrament of reconciliation, and the assurance provided therein of our reconciliation to Christ and His Church. And so on. The fact that there are many additional benefits Catholics receive in this present life, in addition to the gift of infused grace and agape by the Holy Spirit, is fully compatible with Jason’s point. His point was not that in Catholic doctrine there are no additional benefits that God has provided beyond infused agape, but that the gift of infused agape makes one benefit in particular, i.e. extra nos imputed righteousness, unnecessary because superfluous. That’s why if you point to other benefits Catholics receive (according to Catholic theology), and conclude therefrom that Jason’s case collapses, you are attacking a strawman of your own making. If you wish to challenge Jason’s actual claim, then you will have to do something you have not yet done in this thread: show that even given infused agape, extra nos imputed righteousness is still necessary. If you merely claim that Jason’s case is “extremely vulnerable” [to collapse] or any other such hand-waving, Jason’s claim remains intact.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  73. Christopher (67),

    Hope you are continuing to recover! Thanks for reminding me of those aspects of the reformed faith. I had forgotten about their ordering of the process of salvation. No system of belief is as straight forward as it appears at first. The Westminster Confession of Faith in its section XI on justification states:

    II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.

    There are similarities and differences, and it sometimes gets tricky trying to navigate the doctrines and trying to communicate concerning them!. Thanks Christopher—for reminding me.

    Kim

  74. Bryan,

    O.K. Once more you dragged me back into this discussion.

    In the interview Jason talked about what is needed for final salvation (whatever you call it, and please don’t get stuck at my terminology). Here is Jason’s argument as I understood it. In Protestant theology for final salvation we need to be in Christ which state has two kinds of benefits: 1) infused righteousness (regeneration, sanctification), and 2) imputed righteousness (justification). The latter benefit secures our salvation, the former necessarily accompanies it. But RC theology is better because 1) it doesn’t require perfect righteousness (the examples of blameless Elisabeth and Zechariah prove this), and 2) Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness fulfills the law (in that imperfect and yet blameless form) and therefore makes imputed righteousness superfluous.

    It proves nothing if you list dozens of additional benefits in the RC system because they don’t play in Jason’s argument. You would compare apples and oranges and step outside Jason’s paradigm (the paradigm of his argument, not the paradigm of the entire Roman system). There are many benefits in the Protestant system, too (e.g. pastors in the church, reading of Scripture, breaking the bread, confession of sins to other believers, praying for each other, singing together) which Jason didn’t mention, for obvious reasons: they are not in his comparison, either.

    Jason compared the DOUBLE benefit found in Christ in Protestant theology with the SINGLE benefit of Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness in Catholic theology. In Jason’s view the latter makes the second benefit of Protestant theology (imputed righteousness) superflous because it takes the role of both. Romans 8:4 examplifies it for him. Jason confessed in the interview that this exegetical discovery (which I think is incorrect) contributed to his conversion to Rome.

    However, Roman Catholic theology does require final perfection. Otherwise there would be no purgatory. Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness does not take the role of imputed righteousness fulfilling the law for us, because there will be a need for final purging from venial sins that Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness was unable to make right. And in an ironic way someone else’s merits (those of the saints) do come into the picture as a benefit for making right sins that Spirit-wrought agape cannot.

    So I still think that Jason’s argument is unconvincing. If that led him to Rome than he made a serious mistake.

  75. Hey Ádám :)

    I’m not quite sure of the best way to express myself, so here goes… I just wanted to thank you for stopping by and throwing your thoughts out here. This whole “pursuing Truth wherever it leads” business is difficult – not stuff for the faint of heart. Doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing, though, and doesn’t mean we Catholics aren’t glad you are here too. I’m glad you stopped by and gave us your thoughts – thank you. Feel free (as far as I’m concerned) to comment whenever – I’ll read whatever you write here, and even if I disagree I don’t think you wasted your time. Have a blessed day, brother :)

    Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  76. Dear Bryan Cross,
    I’m sorry! I don’t quite understand what you are saying in the following block that you have addressed to Ádám.

    His point was not that in Catholic doctrine there are no additional benefits that God has provided beyond infused agape, but that the gift of infused agape makes one benefit in particular, i.e. extra nos imputed righteousness, unnecessary because superfluous.

    Sincerely, Robert Glenn

  77. I responded to this interview here: http://justandsinner.blogspot.com/2012/11/responding-to-jason-stellman.html

  78. Ádám, (re: #74)

    Summarizing Jason’s claim you wrote:

    But RC theology is better because 1) it doesn’t require perfect righteousness (the examples of blameless Elisabeth and Zechariah prove this), and 2) Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness fulfills the law (in that imperfect and yet blameless form) and therefore makes imputed righteousness superfluous.

    I agree that Jason has claimed (2), but I think he has not claimed (1); nor does (1) accurately represent what he has in fact claimed. What makes the Catholic paradigm better, so Jason is claiming, is not that “it doesn’t require perfect righteousness,” but that it makes better sense of the biblical data, such as in the example of Zechariah and Elizabeth.

    That’s important because of what you then go on to say:

    Jason compared the DOUBLE benefit found in Christ in Protestant theology with the SINGLE benefit of Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness in Catholic theology. In Jason’s view the latter makes the second benefit of Protestant theology (imputed righteousness) superflous because it takes the role of both. Romans 8:4 examplifies it for him. Jason confessed in the interview that this exegetical discovery (which I think is incorrect) contributed to his conversion to Rome.

    However, Roman Catholic theology does require final perfection. Otherwise there would be no purgatory. Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness does not take the role of imputed righteousness fulfilling the law for us, because there will be a need for final purging from venial sins that Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness was unable to make right. And in an ironic way someone else’s merits (those of the saints) do come into the picture as a benefit for making right sins that Spirit-wrought agape cannot.

    You think that the truth that “Catholic theology does require final perfection” is problematic for Jason’s claim. But that truth is a problem only for the strawman in which Catholic theology does not require final perfection for entrance into heaven. That truth is not a problem for the claim Jason has actually made. Likewise, you again raise the doctrine of the treasury of merit as if it is problematic for Jason’s claim, because the saints’ satisfactions from which we benefit do something “that Spirit-wrought agape cannot.” However, Jason has not claimed that every benefit we receive regarding the forgiveness of sin and the removal of the debt of punishment for sin is accomplished entirely and solely by Spirit-wrought agape within the believer. Nor has anything he has said entailed such a thing. Otherwise his claim would leave no role even for Christ’s Passion in the forgiveness of our sins. What Jason has actually said regarding what Spirit-wrought agape does within us is fully compatible with the doctrine of the treasury of merit. So here too, your appeal to the treasury of merit, as though it is problematic for Jason’s claim, is based on a strawman of Jason’s position, not on the claims he has actually made.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  79. Bryan, I think it is you who have created a strawman out of Jason’s claim. Have a look at his latest blog post where he says almost verbatim what I summarized here as his argument. He might want to modify it later as he progresses in his Catholic faith, but then his argument will lose all remaining appeal to the Protestant Bible reader. Anyway, I need to leave this dialogue.

  80. Thank you, Benjamin, for your kind words. Blessings to you, too!

  81. Ádám (re: #79)

    I had already read Jason’s “The Baptist’s Blameless Forebears.” Nothing he says there either entails or is semantically equivalent to “Catholic theology does not require final perfection for entrance into heaven.” Nor does he say anything there that entails or is semantically equivalent to the notion that every benefit we receive regarding the forgiveness of sin and the removal of the debt of punishment for sin is accomplished entirely and solely by Spirit-wrought agape within the believer. So for the same reason I explained in #78, nothing Jason says in his recent blog post is incompatible with the Catholic doctrines of purgatory and the treasury of merit.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  82. You totally miss my point, but let it be according to your faith, Bryan.

  83. Ádám, (re: #82)

    I’m sorry to have missed your point. What is the point I missed?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  84. Adam,

    If you read the comments under that “Baptist’s Blameless Forebears” thread you’ll note that I say (I think to David) that it’s not the case that perfection is unnecessary, but that the perfection that is necessary does not arise from strict obedience to the letter of the law, but rather from the infusion of agape by the Spirit. “What the law could not so….”

    Hope that clarifies things a bit.

  85. I have been following this thread somewhat now.

    I realize that something needs to be cleaned up here between Mr. Brian Cross and Adam.

    What Adam is trying to say is that Jason claimed that God does not require a perfect righteousness in order for one to be considered “righteous” or “justified” in the eyes of God. Adam sees this fact (that God does not require moral and sinless perfection for final salvation) as fundamental to his argument which finds a contradiction between the practice of indulgences and purgatory with the non-requirement of moral perfection for final salvation.

    In other words, if God does not require perfection in the end, then why is there a treasury of merit and a system of purgatory? For if he could accept men as imperfect as they are, why go through this process?

    Respectively, in the protestant reformed understanding, God does indeed require sinless perfection and this requirement is met for them in Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life in their place.

    Adam’s point is extremely valid and a logical one. However, the one element that is missing in Adam’s argument is that God does not require moral perfection here on earth for one to be accepted at the final judgement, but that in the afterlife, whether one dies before the coming of Christ, or whether one is still living on earth when Christ returns, they all must both alike be “transformed into the image and likeness of Christ” at that moment.

    In other words, Elizabeth is stated to have been “righteous, walking in all the commands of God”, but since we know “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, she is not morally and sinlessly perfect. If she were to do in the state of being “righteous” and yet not “morally perfect”, God’s label of her being “righteous” because of her “walking in the commands of God” still remains for he cannot lie. So in a sense, she is already “justified” before God but remains to be completed and so must undergo the purgatorial cleansing (if she was not perfected) prior to seeing God.

    Elizabeth is “just as” accepted during her life of imperfection (yet being righteous in obedience) as she will be in the final analysis (after purgatory -if she went there) precisely because justification is a process and the person is no less or more accepted at the beginning of that process or at the end of that process. Does this make sense?

  86. I am currently attending an Anglo-Catholic Cathedral and I am not yet Catholic (I presume that one day this will happen but I still have barriers).

    However, I find Jason’s argument of how weak the arguments are for a positive proof for the protestant church and it’s ecclesiastical authority .

    For example, in the understanding of Jesus, the Church has the ultimate authority over one’s life here on earth. For when all efforts have failed in bringing an offender back to repentance, the Church is the last resort, and if he/she will not hear the Church, then they are excommunicated and under the binding/loosing powers of the Church, which finds their ratification in heaven. Jesus puts much authority into the Church, he even calls it as having the “keys to the kingdom of heaven”.

    Many protestants believe the “keys” are simply the opening of the door to the kingdom by proclaiming the cross of Jesus and the “faith” that one has to have to enter. But the “keys” function not just to “loose” or “open” but also to “bind” and “close”, even most precisely in the matter of ecclesiastical discipline of people who are already members in the Church after their conversion.

  87. Jason, thanks for stepping in, but your comment further muddles the waters.

    1. You wrote in your article: “The problem, obviously, is that not only does Luke not attribute their righteousness to a source external to them, he explicitly attributes it to their own blameless (not sinless) walking in God’s commands.” You emphasize that Elizabeth and Zechariah were not sinless and yet they were blameless and fulfilled the law. I infer from this that in your view fulfillment of the law doesn’t mean sinless perfection. You explicitly emphasize this in the interview (around min 33). You also deny the need for absolute, spotless perfection (around min 35).

    2. You emphasize both in your blog article and in the interview that Elizabeth and Zechariah certainly “went to heaven” (min 33:50). You write: “I could have denied that Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s righteousness was saving, insisting rather on some kind of Mosaic, typological righteousness. But as I noted above, if these two were actually hell-bound sinners then Luke’s description is stripped of its force.” So you explicitly say that they were finally saved – even though they were not sinless – because they fulfilled the law by the Spirit.

    3. In the comment above you write that this blameless – though not sinless – fulfillment of the law is the perfection that is necessary for salvation: “the perfection that is necessary does not arise from strict obedience to the letter of the law, but rather from the infusion of agape by the Spirit.”

    4. As I understand, your whole argument is to demonstrate that there is no need for an alien righteousness (the righteousness of Christ) that covers all sins because God accepts our Spirit-wrought-righteousness as perfection.

    5. So my original question remains: why is there a need for a treasury of merits and a purgatory if Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness makes the alien righteousness of Christ superfluous and fulfills the law as the perfection that is needed for final salvation (going to heaven)?

    P.S. This is a side note. Jason, I’m so sad that you find the doctrine of a treasury of merits more apostolic than the doctrine of being declared righteous in Christ. I would never have dreamed that you would ever find the merits of saints paying satisfaction for some of your sins more apostolic than the teaching that the righteousness of Christ covers those sins. It’s so disappointing.

  88. Jason, a related question: were Elizabeth and Zechariah under the old or the new covenant?

  89. Ádám (#87)

    5. So my original question remains: why is there a need for a treasury of merits and a purgatory if Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness makes the alien righteousness of Christ superfluous and fulfills the law as the perfection that is needed for final salvation (going to heaven)?

    There are not two righteousnesses of Christ, one alien and one infused. There is His righteousness. Infused in us, it saves us from the eternal penalty of sin. It does not save us from temporal penalties of sin, which is what the treasury of the saints (of works wrought from infused righteousness) and Purgatory are for.

    jj

  90. Dear jj,

    I am aware of the Roman teaching on this. But I’m following Jason’s argument right now.

  91. Adam,

    So my original question remains: why is there a need for a treasury of merits and a purgatory if Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness makes the alien righteousness of Christ superfluous and fulfills the law as the perfection that is needed for final salvation (going to heaven)?

    As I pointed out to you back when you initially asked this of me, speaking of there being a “need” for the TOM misses the point. In the same way that you might bestow delight upon the least-behaved of your children, so God reserves the right to share the wealth even to the least of his children. And as for purgatory, as I pointed out already, it exists to remove the lingering temporal effects of venial sins. In the same way that serving a long prison sentence may remove your guilt in the eyes of the law doesn’t necessarily also mean that there will be no reaping to do in other areas, so with God’s economy.

    So as Bryan has pointed out, I am not saying (and the CC does not say) that Spirit-infused agape removes every single other need we have in the Christian life (like prayer, worship, suffering, etc.). Rather, it brings about exactly what it is intended to, nothing more and nothing less.

    P.S. This is a side note. Jason, I’m so sad that you find the doctrine of a treasury of merits more apostolic than the doctrine of being declared righteous in Christ. I would never have dreamed that you would ever find the merits of saints paying satisfaction for some of your sins more apostolic than the teaching that the righteousness of Christ covers those sins. It’s so disappointing.

    I believe that sinners are declared righteous in Christ, and I affirm every verse that you would appeal to for this idea. It’s just that I go beyond you in how gracious I think the gospel is, because I believe that God’s declarations are performative and thus accomplish what they announce. The dunghill doesn’t just get covered in snow, but graciously transformed by the power of the Spirit.

    In fact, I think that if you really look at what is being said here, you’ll wonder if the guy who wrote it wasn’t in fact a Catholic:

    But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

    No way the man who wrote that thought that all the Spirit-wrought good works needed to attain heaven were simply credited to his account by a mere declaration that effected no inward change leading to redemptive suffering and striving for glory. Paul was a Catholic.

  92. Jason,

    This is confusing.

    “I believe that sinners are declared righteous in Christ, and I affirm every verse that you would appeal to for this idea.”

    Really? I thought you said the opposite.

    “It’s just that I go beyond you in how gracious I think the gospel is, because I believe that God’s declarations are performative and thus accomplish what they announce.”

    Protestants believe that, too. We are “made the righteousness of God” in Christ, because he was also “made sin for us” (2Cor 5:21). Both are performative acts. The classic example of a performative declaration is declaring a man and a woman husband and wife. Declaring Christ a sinner is a performative act. Declaring a sinner righteous is a performative act. We Protestants believe that the divine declaration of justification (I’m surprised you call it a declaration, too) is performative.

    “The dunghill doesn’t just get covered in snow, but graciously transformed by the power of the Spirit.”

    This is what Protestants believe. We believe both the covering and the transformation. But I thought as a Catholic you now deny the first part (the covering) as unnecessary and unbiblical.

    The quotation from Paul is perfectly harmonious with what I believe. If Paul was a Catholic, than I am a Catholic, too, and so are all Protestants who believe in both declarative and transformative righteousness.

  93. I think the catholic position isbthat justification comes out of regeneration which is both forgiveness and renewal. Paul says that ”he saved us….not by works of righteousness which we have done but accordingbto his mercy he saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the holy spirit, that having been justified by his grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life”.

    It would seem Paul finds justification in both the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the holy spirit.he mentions both the washing and the renewing and then draws from this justification. It would seem justification is more than extra Nos imputation of an alien righteosuness.

  94. Ádám (#90

    I am aware of the Roman teaching on this. But I’m following Jason’s argument right now.

    Sorry, I just thought that since you asked the question, you wanted to know what the answer was.

    jj

  95. Adam,

    This is confusing.

    “I believe that sinners are declared righteous in Christ, and I affirm every verse that you would appeal to for this idea.”

    Really? I thought you said the opposite.

    You thought I said that God does not pronounce sinners righteous in Christ? I certainly don’t remember saying that. I may have said that he does not merely pronounce us righteous, but that’s not a negation of the pronouncement, is it?

    “It’s just that I go beyond you in how gracious I think the gospel is, because I believe that God’s declarations are performative and thus accomplish what they announce.”

    Protestants believe that, too. We are “made the righteousness of God” in Christ, because he was also “made sin for us” (2Cor 5:21). Both are performative acts. The classic example of a performative declaration is declaring a man and a woman husband and wife. Declaring Christ a sinner is a performative act. Declaring a sinner righteous is a performative act. We Protestants believe that the divine declaration of justification (I’m surprised you call it a declaration, too) is performative.

    There is nothing clearer in Reformed theology than that God’s forensic declaration effects no internal change whatsoever in the sinner, but merely changes his relation to the law (I just read that in Hodge five minutes ago while looking for something else). So if you are a Calvinist, then you do not agree with me here that God’s declaration is itself performative. Instead, you sharply distinguish justification and sanctification, and insist that the former is in no way contingent on the latter.

    “The dunghill doesn’t just get covered in snow, but graciously transformed by the power of the Spirit.”

    This is what Protestants believe. We believe both the covering and the transformation. But I thought as a Catholic you now deny the first part (the covering) as unnecessary and unbiblical.

    We’re talking about the simul iustus et pecator here, a formula that is adhered to by both Lutherans and the Reformed. Because both camps understand righteousness in terms of perfect obedience to the letter of the law, and that every sin is mortal, and that the only good works that contribute to your final justification are Christ’s, you and I therefore have very different notions about that dunghill.

    The quotation from Paul [which I cited in my previous comment from Phil. 3] is perfectly harmonious with what I believe. If Paul was a Catholic, than I am a Catholic, too, and so are all Protestants who believe in both declarative and transformative righteousness.

    Here are the reasons the Catholic paradigm makes more sense out of that passage: (1) Paul says he suffered loss “in order to gain Christ,” and not that he gained Christ through a monergistic new birth in which he was completely passive; (2) Paul roots his not-from-the-law righteousness in his union with Christ and not imputation, which he never even mentions; (3) Paul says that he participates in Jesus’ sufferings, which, whenever I say something like that, gets me charged by Protestants with denying the sufficiency of the cross; and (4) Paul says that he wants to attain the resurrection from the dead “by any means possible,” which would be weird for someone to say if he believed that the only means possible for attaining to the resurrection from the dead is faith alone.

    So while you certainly may read Phil. 3 and agree with it, that’s very different from Phil. 3 being the kind of thing someone with a Reformed paradigm would naturally say.

  96. Jason,

    Declaring one righteous in Christ because of Christ is (!) the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. I thought you said you denied that because Spirit-wrought agape-righteousness makes it superfluous.

    I know that forensic declaration does not effect internal change (though some Lutherans would disagree and would emphasize that the real internal change is the experience of that forgiven state). When I said that this declaration is performative I used the word performative in the classical linguistic sense. A classic example of performative declaration in linguistic textbooks is when you formally declare a man and a woman husband and wife at their wedding. Declaring a man and a woman husband and wife doesn’t change their inner nature but it does change their status. Similarly, declaring one righteous in Christ is performative in that sense, at least that’s what I meant by the word performative. Jason both of us know what Protestant theology teaches on this subject. And if you read my comments above you would not attribute such a mistake to me as confusing the two benefits that we have in Christ in Protestant theology.

    I’m confused, however, about your view of being declared righteous in Christ. How does that relate to Spirit-wrought righteousness? And what is the basis of that declaration? Is it based on my Spirit-wrought righteousness or is it based on the alien righteousness of Christ?

    Phil 3…. The passage is perfectly compatible with Protestant theology, there is nothing in it that would be incompatible with what Protestants believe (can you hear Bryan talk to you like that over and over again?). Here is my response to your four points. 1. Reformed theology teaches the perseverance of the saints even through suffering as an important element to finally gain Christ. 2. Protestant theology teaches that imputation is through participation. We are justified because we are in Christ who is our righteousness. 3. In Protestant theology participation in Christ also means that we share in his destiny, including his sufferings. 4. Again, don’t forget that in Reformed theology the fifth petal of TULIP is the promise (and need) to persevere in the faith by the grace of God. We have to remain in Christ in order to be forensically justified because we are only justified if we are in Christ. So this passage makes perfect sense in the Protestant paradigm. In fact, it makes more sense because Paul makes a clear distinction here between “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” This righteousness doesn’t depend on the Spirit or on agape or on anything that would be my righteousness, but on faith because it is the alien righteousness of God received by faith (sola fide). But the faith that receives God’s righteousness in Christ suffers with Christ, too.

    BTW, the repetition of your initial answer to my question related to purgatory and the treasury of merits avoids answering my real question. In your answer you emphasize again that the TOM is not a need but the abundance of God’s grace toward us, children of the family. But my point is the existence of such a TOM not whether it is bad, gracious, or super-gracious. You say that the duplex benefit (benefit A and B) of Protestant theology is made superfluous because benefit B takes the role of both benefit A and B in Catholic theology. But then you look around and see that people are ready to even pay money (I’m referring here to the practice of selling indulgencies) or go on pilgrimages (a possibility recently announced in one of our largest RC cathedrals for people to receive merits from the TOM) for another kind of benefit A because, contrary to what you say, benefit B doesn’t fulfill the role of benefit A entirely. The existence of purgatory (Jason and jj and Bryan, I know what its function is in RC theology, so you don’t have to explain that to me again) is further proof of this.

  97. Szabados Ádám,

    The TOM does not fulfill A, but rather something completely different than A or B. Thus, Jason’s point stands which is that the CP on justification entails both A and B, making A superfluous. The TOM relates to God’s general requirement for justice, and more specifically considers that the temporal responsibility of sin is not evaded simply because the eternal responsibility of sin has been dealt with.

    Thus, our desire to participate in the benefits of the TOM directly corresponds to our familial bond in Christ and our dual sense of responsibility for ourselves and each other in this life. This, of course, all flowing from the overabundant grace of Christ made present in the life of His Church. Purgatory simply means that God’s love poured out in our hearts completes what it starts — both perfectly satisfying the law (A & B) and transforming us perfectly into the image of the Eternal Son in so much that all crooked paths are made straight. Perfect justice kisses perfect mercy.

  98. It might be helpful, towards appreciating the sufficiency of sanctifying grace with infused charity, to consider what is supposed to be the most important “negative” benefit of the extra nos imputation of the alien righteous of Christ: Without this kind of imputation all men would be condemned to Hell, which is the eternal penalty for not fulfilling the law. In Catholic theology, on the other hand, sanctifying grace with infused charity is sufficient for the negative benefit of not being condemned to Hell, apart from extra nos imputation of alien righteousness, apart from any additional graces (such as are made available by indulgences and pilgrimages), and even with venial sins.

  99. Andrew, and in universalism no one is lost. Are you sure this a good criterion to judge truth?

  100. Brent, if you are right (honestly, I think you haven’t grasped my point, either) than Jason’s case is hopelessly confusing to me. But thanks for the interaction.

  101. Adam,

    Is this your point?

    If the infusion of agape fulfills the law, and the infusion of agape happens at baptism, then it seems that there is no need for purgatory or a treasury of merits or any post-baptismal sanctification at all. Therefore, the fact that there is purgatory and treasury of merits in Catholic theology would seem to suggest that Catholics believe there is something besides the infusion of agape that fulfills the law. There is some type of law-keeping necessary on their part.

    Is that how you are approaching the conversation?

  102. Adam,

    I don’t think that you’ve grasped my point (heh). The point was not to judge of the truth of either the Catholic doctrine of sanctifying grace with infused charity or the Protestant doctrine of extra nos imputation. Rather, I wanted to point out that, in Catholic theology, sanctifying grace with infused charity is sufficient for salvation from Hell, even if the person who has inherent grace and charity also has venial sins, and so is temporarily prevented from entering Heaven.

    Your question in comment #22 might be problematic for the thesis that “infused agape fulfills the law (venial sins notwithstanding) and so renders extra nos imputation redundant” if the benefit of fulfilling the law had only a positive aspect (going to Heaven) and not also a negative one (being saved from Hell). But if we agree that being saved from Hell is a benefit of fulfilling the law, then it is no telling criticism of the aforementioned thesis to point out that, for Catholic theology, merely having infused agape (with the presence of venial sin) is not sufficient for entering Heaven. One needs to also show that, for Catholic theology, infused agape (with the presence of venial sin) is not sufficient for avoiding Hell.

    Andrew

  103. Greetings,

    Just as an aside, I don’t think the Bible teaches the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ in 2 Cor. 5 nor in Phil. 3… never mind “double imputations” of alien righteousness. I think if we don’t address this in a clearer fashion with Adam, we might give the impression that we accept it on some level (tacitly).

    In Phil. 3, St. Paul is not comparing “human righteousness” with “God’s righteousness” (much less the personal righteousness of Christ, which the Bible NEVER speak about transferred [which is not what logizomai means anyway, despite what some seem to imply]), but, rather, a righteousness that he calls “my own” (one that he has currently) and the one he is “pressing on to take hold of.”

    The Bible never ever speaks about Christ’s personal righteousness being transferred to anyone…

    Chris

  104. Szabados Ádám,

    honestly, I think you haven’t grasped my point, either) than Jason’s case is hopelessly confusing to me.

    What is your point, or more precisely, where have I not grasped it?

    What is confusing about Jason’s case?

    Maybe, when considering Fr. Bryan’s question above, in light of mine as well, you could help move the conversation forward. I know of no one here who is trying to be purposefully obtuse. I think we all genuinely want to understand each other. So, I’m not really sure why you “appreciate the interaction”, when you haven’t interacted with me, only lodged a short comment like the uncle on the couch who comes to the family get-togethers because he has to. At least that’s the impression I’m getting. I’m open to being firmly corrected.

    Thanks.

  105. Thanks, Andrew, your last comment was helpful to somewhat clarify the issue. I admit I really missed your point the first time. :)

    There is a problem though with your solution. Jason specifically talked about Elizabeth and Zechariah going to heaven, and made no reference to purgatory, nor to the role of indulgences and the treasury of merits (to deal with remaining venial sins that are outside the scope of the perfection which he talked about). He sounded as if 1) the righteousness that God requires from us (so that we can go to heaven) is less than sinless perfection, and 2) that Spirit-wrought agape fulfills the law so we can be righteous enough to enter into heaven. If he really meant what you say he meant, then the exposition of his thesis is extremely misleading and needs modification.

    If Jason agrees with your explanation of his views, despite what he said (and didn’t say) earlier, his case still looks untenable to me for a hundred different reasons. He would have to show, for example, 1) how Elizabeth and Zechariah, being under the old covenant, could enjoy the new covenant gift of the Spirit (in Jason’s view the law-Spirit contrast in Roman 8:1-4 refers to the contrast between the powerlessness of the old covenant and the Spirit-given life of the new covenant), 2) how they can be blameless without having been baptized, 3) why Luke calls them blameless (which, according to Jason, certainly qualifies them for heaven) if they still had to be cleansed from many venial sins in purgatory to really qualify for heaven, etc.

    I think Jason still owes us a positive case for the Roman Catholic church and her theological system, too. He tried to poke holes on the Protestant system, demanding a positive case for it, but he didn’t show the same diligence when it came to giving a positive case for the strange claims of the Roman church. This is a double standard. One of his main criticisms against the Reformed scholars he had consulted with was that they poked holes on the RC system but did not offer a positive case for Protestantism. Jason poked holes on the Protestant system but did not offer a positive case for Roman Catholicism.

    For me to even begin to consider your version of Jason’s case as a plausible argument, Jason would have to prove that 1) you can be saved from hell being a law-breaker (like Elizabeth and Zechariah) without the righteousness of Christ covering your sins (contrary to Rom 3:23-26), 2) that fulfilling the law means less than sinlessness (contrary to Jas 2:10), 3) that baptism deals with original sin, 4) that there is such a place as purgatory, 5) that there is a difference between the way original sin and venial sins (whatever they are) should be dealt with, 6) that indulgences, pilgrimages, etc. can deal with venial sins, 7) that there is such a things as a treasury of merits, and 8) that all these strange and bizarre doctrines are the teachings of the apostles and not elements of another gospel (cf. Gal 1:6-8). And a lot more.

    What I did under this thread was to follow Jason’s exegetical argument to see whether it leads away from Protestantism and whether it brings me any closer to Rome. I have not touched on the first one (though my opinion is that Jason does a very poor exegesis), and my conclusion about the second one is that his exegesis (at least the way he put it) is problematic for the RC position, too. You are the first one, Andrew, who shows him a way out, but it is only a way out if Jason modifies his thesis and makes it more transparent. The problem is that once he does that he will sound even less persuasive to a Protestant because he would have to argue like a Catholic, with Catholic assumptions, which Protestants don’t share (or even abhor).

  106. Fr. Bryan,

    Re: your summary of my point.

    “Is that how you are approaching the conversation?”

    Well, not exactly.

    First, Jason doesn’t mention baptism with regard to Spirit-wrought righteousness. His example of Elizabeth and Zechariah would become a strange example, anyway, if baptism was the issue for him. Jason might have thought of baptism when contemplating on Spirit-wrought righteousness, but he doesn’t explicitly mention it. As I understand, his emphasis is more on blameless (though not sinless) behavior, exemplified by the parents of John the Baptist. I doubt that Jason would want to identify Spirit-wrought righteousness with the simple cleansing from original sin at baptism, otherwise he would not talk so much about the transformation involved in justification, including suffering for Christ.

    Second, Jason claims that Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness-fulfilling-the-law is the perfection that is needed for final salvation (going to heaven). Jason unambiguously talks about final salvation (going to heaven) in the interview. He criticizes Protestant theology because in that system in order to go to heaven the single benefit of infused righteousness is not enough, you need something more (imputed righteousness). But obviously there is another kind of perfection needed in Catholicism, too, in order to qualify for heaven, which is proven by the belief in purgatory and the benefit given to believers from the treasury of merits.

    So Jason’s claim that infused righteousness renders imputed righteousness superfluous because infused righteousness fulfills the law in a way that we can go to heaven is untenable, I think.

  107. Jason (Response #48),

    Jason,

    Yes it does. The Heidelberg Catechism is divided into three parts: The Misery of Man, God’s Deliverance, and Man’s Thankfulness.

    I said HC has no sections Justification and Sanctification. It is divided into three parts as you’ve enumerated.

    The section I quoted which said that even the holiest of men make but a small beginning in obedience (which you wrongly insisted was talking about obedience in reference to justification) is in the third section of the Catechism, the section dealing with sanctification.

    I’ve never said that the obedience referred to is talking about obedience in reference to justification. I explained what the nature of the imperfection of our obedience. The imperfection is in view of the concept that our works are not perfect to atone for sin to and reverse the verdict of condemnation. Only the Righteousness of Christ is accepted in our behalf as the perfect satisfaction that fulfilled the requirement of the Law; not our progressive sanctification.

    John the Baptist’s parents “were righteous before God, walking in all the commandments of the Lord blamelessly.” How, given your paradigm and what you just said, do you understand that passage in Luke 1?

    Luke 1:6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, following all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. –> I’ve heard you talk about this in your interview. Luke, often times, used the word “righteous” in a practical and relative sense describing the pattern of living shown by believers. This means that generally, they were in exemplary conformance with the Law in the way that they lived relative to other Israelites and the pagan nations. The passage never said that they were not sinners before God (Rom 3:23). It never said that they were justified before God, as sinners, on the ground that they were generally Law abiding. Paul explained in Romans 3:19-20 that “no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the Law, for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin”. What justifies is a work not done by the sinner but by Christ who propitiated sin in our behalf on the cross. In fact, just like John’s parents, Paul also walks blamelessly in the commandments and ordinances of God (Philippians 3:6). But, he never saw such righteousness as the righteousness that justified him before God. He sought that righteousness which is found in Christ; not his own inherent righteousness (3:9).

    The only thing erroneous is your not knowing that both of the confessional statements I adduced (HC/WLC) were talking about sanctification and not justification as you thought.

    I only wish you read the explanations I gave which do not warrant your conclusion.

    But that aside, what we have here is a clash of paradigms with one of us not realizing it (you).

    I assure you I know from the start that we both have a different worldview (you call it paradigm). But, we don’t defend our worldview by giving it up and adopting our opponent’s worldview except to show its inconsistency.

    Your entire operating assumption is that it is the Law that defines obedience, which is why you say, “even the holiest of men is disqualified from the perfection demanded by the Law.”

    What other biblical standards are we measured?

    Now if I were a Pharisee I would agree with you and the Reformed tradition that it is obedience to the letter of the Law that defines the obedience that God requires.

    But you know that the reformed tradition doesn’t define obedience as merely obeying the letters of the Law the way the Pharisees (whom Jesus condemned) obeyed. Hypocritical obedience is not part of any of our confessions. Why then do you have unfairly caricature it? If you see it like that, then I question whether you really grasped reformed theology.

    But as long as I am a Catholic who doesn’t share your assumption on that point, you simply can’t expect to use it as a premise that doesn’t need defending.

    I don’t because I don’t hold to the assumption you described above.

    So you’re either unaware of the basic Catholic position on this issue (that God’s will is fulfilled by Spirit-wrought love of God and neighbor and not by perfect obedience to the letter of the law).

    I have been educated in the “basic” Catholic position having lived in a very catholic country and educated in a catholic university. In fact, when you say “God’s will is fulfilled” as the basic Catholic position, it is very vague because any reformed Christian can claim the same. Hypocritical obedience is denounced by the reformed (your term: obedience to the letter). On the contrary, we believe that it is God’s will that we obey His commands by the motivation of love (Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18 – which was reiterated by Christ in Mat 19:19). The Catholic basic position you are espousing is not uniquely Roman Catholic.

    you’re unwilling to fairly represent the position you’re trying to refute. But in either case, debating is pointless until you stop begging the question.

    It would be fair for me to say that you are the one unwilling to fairly represent the position you’re trying to refute given that there were several vague and obvious misrepresentation you made about reformed theology.
    I will ask you Jason the same question in the Roman gospel you now hold: “What hope do you

    You could have asked Paul a similar question when he told the Corinthians that God’s grace toward him was “not in vain” since he “labored more than anyone else.” In fact, I would venture to guess that every prominent NT figure—Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, and John—made at least one or two statements that could give rise to the very question you’re asking me.

    Here’s the question you asked me to ask Paul: “What hope do you have when the effectiveness of God’s saving grace is dependent on how much you extend effort and cooperate with that grace, meriting the justice needed, avoiding mortal sin, doing penance and atoning for temporal guilt of your sins in purgatory so that finally you will be deserving of the beatific vision?” – do you think Paul would concur with meriting the justice of God and it’s increase; with atoning for sins in purgatory for the temporal guilt we have by venial sins; with sacramental cooperation and effort that finally makes the saving grace of God effective? I am sure he would find these things foreign to the Gospel. Sure, he wrote that our labour is not in vain and that he laboured more than anyone else. But these things were never presented as the grounds upon which he was justified. He does these things knowing that he has been justified not in order that he might be justified. Any reformed Christian concurs with Paul that we lovingly labour in the Lord as a means of gratitude and worship for having justified us by faith in Christ alone.

    Jesus said that unless we hear his words and do them, our house is built on sand and will collapse on judgment day. “OK, but how much obedience, Jesus? And how perfect must that obedience be?” John said that God gives us what we ask “because we keep his commandments.” Well, couldn’t you just ask John, “But since it is impossible to obey the law perfectly, then why are you making answered prayer hinge on something we cannot do?”

    Please note the nature of the imperfection of obedience of the Law discussed in our catechism. They are viewed as imperfect as they cannot be the ground of justification as we are sinners who do them. Only the Righteousness of Christ climaxing on the cross and resurrecion can justify. You know the answer as to why we keep the commandments though they are not the ground of justification. I’ve quoted that from the HC already.

    I could go on and on. My point is that your paradigm makes no sense out of these passages and others. And it is ironic that the very objections you’re offering against the Catholic gospel could be made to statements found all over the NT, especially statements from Jesus. So until your problems with the Catholic message don’t also apply to the biblical one, you’ll have to forgive me for thinking they sound pretty hollow.

    Can you show me where the objections I raised can be applied to the statements of Jesus?

    There’s nothing here that a Catholic would object to, which makes me wonder whether you understand the position you are arguing against. The CC teaches plainly that our initial justification is irrespective of our works—in fact, since initial justification happens usually in the baptism of an infant, it should be pretty obvious that we don’t believe that its “ground” is works.

    What the CC teaches is that the potentiality of justification is free. No one oblige God to give sinners a chance to be forgiven. But initial justification is merited sacramentally by the waters of baptism which is a human choice one would make for his child or for himself as an adult. A child has sanctifying grace when baptized and is now eligible to merit further justice by doing good works and the sacraments. And this will be the measure whether the merits he gain is worthy of the beatific vision. But since, most people are imperfect in their meriting because of venial sins, he has to go to purgatory but cannot merit there anymore. Someone else among the living should offer mass and sacrifice for the souls in purgatory suffering and who lack merit in order to be worthy of the beatific vision. Tell me, which part of your system is not based or grounded on works?

    I never claimed that consigning sanctification to a footnote or afterthought was something that a Reformed theologian would draw as an explicit conclusion (in fact, I think I specifically denied this).

    This was not the essence of my argument if you read what I wrote.

    What I am saying is that a devalued sanctification is the implicitly logical result of (1) a justification that forgives all future sin, (2) the imputation of alien righteousness, and (3) a covenantal framework that sees Gen. 3 as the major turning point in redemptive history.

    How can points 1 and 2 (for 3, I don’t have an idea what you mean by this) devalue sanctification? I want to see where you are coming from. The reformed perspective never devalues sanctification by having these concepts instead upholds it. The position we have in Christ is the source of motivation and gratitude upon which we lovingly obeyed the Lord. A person who knows in his heart the eternal forgiveness of God and the substitionary act of Christ on the cross would fall and worship the God who justifies the wicked knowing how undeserving he is of such grace. He lovingly obeys not to gain forgiveness but because he is forgiven from all sins and have the perfection of Christ’s Righteousness by faith, not works.

    If you like, I could adduce dozens of NT passages that draw an explicitly causal connection between our Spirit-wrought works and our receiving the eternal kingdom on the last day.

    Sure. I want to see where the CAUSAL connection is. First, you have to define causal in the same manner as the official magisterial statements of your church defined it. And second, you have to show me where in the Scriptures that would be found.

    Can you think of a single one that says that on the day of judgment God will receive us irrespective of our works, but because of the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience?

    Note that, we believe that in the final judgment our works will be used to show whether we are truly His. So, no one is received in the final judgment irrespective of our works. Our works then are confirmatory and serve as evidence of our conversation and justification. The unregenerate can only mimic religious works but not perform it truly. Thus, our works is not irrelevant in the final judgment.

    (And no fair listing passages that any Catholic would heartily embrace without also showing that they necessitate the Reformed understanding of imputation.)

    So, can you show me the Catholic understanding of the passages I quoted? I believe there’s no official interpretation for the passage I’ve listed. If there is, show me the official Catholic understanding for these passages.

    Christ’s mystical Body is not a mere institution, it is Christ himself (just like your right arm isn’t some dispensable thing that’s not part of you).

    Do you mean to say that the Roman Catholic Church is Christ himself? To sense check your statement, where did Christ said that the Roman Catholic Church is Christ himself?

    It’s Gnostics who pit Jesus against his Body, not Christians.

    Did I pit Jesus against his Body? Where? What do you mean by “pit Jesus against his Body”?

    Regards,
    Joey

  108. Adam,

    Just to be clear, I was not attempting to defend or expound Jason’s comments, per se (although I do not disagree with him). I was only trying to figure out for myself, in light of your critique, at least one important sense in which the basic thesis under consideration might hold water. I have summarized that thesis as follows:

    Infused agape fulfills the law–venial sins notwithstanding–and so renders extra nos imputation redundant.

    The reason that I tried to defend this thesis was that it seemed to me, even after reading your critique, that there is something to it, and I wanted to put my finger on at least some of the something.

    Bryan and Jason, who have been your main interlocutors on this point, might have more in mind in their responses than I had in mind in my response, which focused narrowly on salvation from Hell. In any case, you raise a lot of related issues in your last comment, and I agree that my explication (#98 and #102) of the above-stated thesis has implications (e.g., Purgatory) that many Protestants find objectionable on both an intellectual and a visceral level. Nevertheless, I hope that we can all continue to explore these matters together, and by some means come to agreement in the truth.

    Andrew

  109. Ádám (#105

    …Jason specifically talked about Elizabeth and Zechariah going to heaven, and made no reference to purgatory…

    Going to Purgatory is going to Heaven. When I was on my way into the Catholic Church, one thing that helped me was understanding this. I had never known that persons in Purgatory were infallibly bound for Heaven. I had swallowed the Protestant slur that Purgatory was somehow a ‘second chance’ at repentance. It is not.

    Whether Zechariah and Elizabeth had temporal penalities of sin to purge before entering glory I don’t know, don’t know if the Church knows, either. But going to Heaven always implies Purgatory if such unpurged penalties exist. To say that so-and-so went to Heaven is not to say that he did not go via Purgatory.

    jj

  110. Hi Joey,

    You asked:

    “Do you mean to say that the Roman Catholic Church is Christ himself? To sense check your statement, where did Christ said that the Roman Catholic Church is Christ himself?”

    While I can understand the seeming incredulity at hearing somethign along those lines, perhaps you could drop the “Roman” and ask again, espcieally in light of Eph 5:32 and 2 Pet 1:4. It is precisely this audacity that (for me) perpetuates the Incarnation in the world, not by human power but by God in the Spirit working in those who are His.

    What are the practical implications of “..God the Father and God the Son “take up their abode in you” (Jn 14:23) or that Christ “abides in you” (cf Jn 15:4ff)? For me, this is one of the saddest effects of nominalism on Christian antiquity prefacing the Reformation and fits really well with Jason’s sentiments about gnosis. I do not point solely at non-Catholics on this point. God give us all the grace to be corageous in the flesh to oppose in love those things so culturally inculcated which defy the power of God present in His Body, the Church. As has been said (not in this thread), our age is a “crisis of saints”. Perhaps opportunites for martyrdom will yet appear in our time in this “civilized” culture.

    In Him,
    Bill

  111. Brent,

    “So, I’m not really sure why you “appreciate the interaction”, when you haven’t interacted with me, only lodged a short comment like the uncle on the couch who comes to the family get-togethers because he has to. At least that’s the impression I’m getting. I’m open to being firmly corrected.”

    This is a fair observation about me and I apologize. I got tired of this dialogue, and in the meantime I have so many other stuff on my plate (when I wrote you I was just leaving for a church meeting that I held). It was frustrating to see that a point which is so clear to me is constantly misunderstood or explained away. So again, I apologize for dismissing your comment like that. But frankly, I’m not sure I want to explain myself again. You might find some of my thoughts that relate to your comment under my response to Fr.Bryan and Andrew Preslar.

  112. Andrew,

    “I hope that we can all continue to explore these matters together, and by some means come to agreement in the truth.”

    Would you consider becoming en evangelical? :)

  113. jj,

    “Going to Purgatory is going to Heaven.”

    Well, not before you have been purged from all remaining sins that Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness hasn’t dealt with, and probably not without some indulgences from the treasury of merits. So my point is unaffected by your comment.

  114. Adam,

    In response to my stated desire that Protestants and Catholics would continue to dialogue, and come to agreement in the truth, you asked:

    Would you consider becoming an evangelical? :)

    Well, that sounds like more of an ideological move than an ecclesial one, since “evangelical” (in this context) denotes a set of ideas rather than a Church. So there would have to be some preliminary discussion about the presuppositions behind the question itself, before I could answer it. I have to admit that I am not willing to become a religious ideologue, rather than a churchman. But I can say, in answer to an unasked though related question, that I would consider being received into full communion with the Church that Christ founded, if it can be show that (a) the Catholic Church is not that Church, and (b) which Church, out of all the rest, is that Church. If this move entailed accepting evangelical ideology, then I would accept that ideology. It could be that, from your point of view, things should work the other way around–develop your own doctrines, and then look for or start a Church that teaches those doctrines. That is one of the matters that warrants further discussion.

    Andrew

  115. Andrew,

    You took me too seriously. We both know that this is a Roman Catholic apologetic mission and the purpose of dialogue is to make us, Protestants, Roman Catholic.

    I am a happy evangelical churchman, by the way, who is passionate for the Catholic church, the head of which is Christ. I love the Church which is gathered together by the preaching of the apostolic gospel and which lives in local congregations. It is you who have to prove the sectarian claim that the Catholic church is identical with the institution organized from Rome, and that all others (Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Ancient Syriac, Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Reformed, Presbyterian, Brethren, Independent, etc.) are not the Church of Jesus Christ.

    But please, let’s not start another line of argument here. As I said, we both know what the purpose of dialogue at this website is, and I’m not interested in further discussing the claims of Rome. At least not now.

    Blessings,
    Ádám

  116. Adam,

    Concerning going to heaven via purgatory you wrote:

    Well, not before you have been purged from all remaining sins that Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness hasn’t dealt with, and probably not without some indulgences from the treasury of merits. So my point is unaffected by your comment.

    I am a bit behind in this thread (and won’t be able to comment any further today since I’ll be giving thanks that the Indians were so easy to kill), but I am wondering if you saw my post where I distinguished between having our guilt forgiven and experiencing the lingering temporal effects of our sins. I ask, because your objection sounds to me like saying to the prison guard as he opens the cell door for you after you’ve served a 20 year sentence for murder, “Well, thanks for letting me out of my cell, but my having served my time is meaningless since I won’t be really free until I somehow win all my friends back and get readmitted to the country club.”

    My point is that there is a difference between being not guilty in the eyes of the law, and dealing with the ramifications of the sin we committed in the first place. Sanctifying grace and infused agape answer the first, and purgatory the second. If you have a problem with that, then to be consistent you should also object to the need for prayer since the cross was supposedly sufficient.

  117. Jason, you lost me there. I admit I haven’t got a clue anymore what your argument is about.

  118. Adam (#113)

    “Going to Purgatory is going to Heaven.”

    Well, not before you have been purged from all remaining sins that Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness hasn’t dealt with, and probably not without some indulgences from the treasury of merits. So my point is unaffected by your comment.

    I don’t think so. If I say I am going to church, but I don’t tell you what streets I am going to, you are not justified in assuming I didn’t mean I was going through those streets.

    That Zechariah is going to Heaven does not mean he won’t necessary go via Purgatory.

    jj

  119. Forgive such a rudimentary question. But, do Reformed Christians believe that the elect must be completely sanctified/purified to see God face to face? If so, when does this take place. Thanks.

  120. Adam (#113

    Well, not before you have been purged from all remaining sins that Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness hasn’t dealt with, and probably not without some indulgences from the treasury of merits. So my point is unaffected by your comment.

    Purgatory does not purge you from sin; it purges you from the temporal (not eternal) penalty due to sins that have been completely forgiven due to Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness.

    jj

  121. jj,

    This is what the Catholic Catechism says on purgatory:

    “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” (1030)

    But my argument does not depend on whether you interpret the teaching of your denomination correctly or the Catechism (if I correctly see a reference in it to transformation, as Brent did in his 97 comment). Either way I have the same problem.

    However, I’m not sure I want to say anything about Jason’s case anymore because after some of his comments under this thread I honestly don’t understand what he is arguing for.

  122. Adam (#121
    Sure – but when you said “purged from all remaining sins that Spirit-wrought-agape-righetousness hasn’t dealt with” it would appear that you have misunderstood the point of Purgatory. There is no sin that infused agape doesn’t “deal with” – as to what it “deals with.” It doesn’t purge you from the temporal penalty due to sin.

    The problem you seemed to have with Jason’s statement – the only one I was responding to – about Zechariah and Elizabeth – was that he didn’t explicitly say they went through Purgatory (which they may or may not have done), because he said they went to Heaven. This doesn’t seem reasonable to me. I hope to go to Heaven. I expect to go via Purgatory. If I say I hope to go to Heaven, I am not by those words saying I will not go via Purgatory.

    jj

  123. Adam,

    Nah, I saw the little smiley face at the end of your question. But I did choose to take the question seriously, even though it was meant (at least partly) in jest, because its always good to think about the nature of the pre-existing intellectual commitments on each side of ecumenical dialogue, and how these affect the process and are related to the goals of such dialogue. Of course we believe that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded. And you believe that this is not the case. We can’t both be right. But the law of the excluded middle entails that one of us is right, and the other wrong. So, which is it? We can simply ignore the question, or we can trade assertions, or we can find another way. If you are not prepared to find that other way here and now, perhaps there will be another time and place. But in any case, as Blessed John Henry Newman reminds us, “Time is short, eternity is long.”

    Andrew

  124. Adam,

    Sorry you don’t understand me. All I’m trying to say is that there is a difference between the guilt of sin on the one hand, and sin’s temporal effects on the other. So in the same way that you can commit murder and then, by serving your sentence, be fully pardoned in the eyes of the law despite the fact that you will still have to deal with the consequences of your sin for years to come, so in a similar way it can be true that God can pardon our sins while at the same time needing to purge us of whatever lingering after-effects of our sin after death and before we enter his presence.

    Does that make sense?

  125. Jason,

    I think I understood that point. What I don’t understand anymore is the case you made in the interview (using Romans 8 and the examples of Zechariah and Elizabeth) in light of this. It’s just confusing to me.

    So, for example, was Zechariah and Elizabeth simply “pardoned” instead of being blameless in their actual behavior (and/or in their loving heart-intentions)? Or by “pardoning” you mean the result of their Spirit-wrought righteousness? (I don’t even ask how that would work with Romans 4:6-8.)

    If God accepts their righteousness as their perfection (as you explicitly said earlier) and that’s what you mean by “being pardoned”, then why can’t they enter into glory immediately after they die? I heard your answer to that, but if you are right and they cannot, then why do you say that their Spirit-wrought righteousness renders imputed righteousness superfluous? (I don’t even ask how Elizabeth and Zechariah had that new covenant gift of Spirit-wrought righteousness under the old covenant.)

    In Protestant theology imputed righteousness (which is based on our union with the cross and resurrection of Christ) makes us so perfect in God’s eyes (cf. Heb 10:14) that we have access to God’s glory without us having to give any satisfaction for our sins (cf. Heb 10:18). But as a Catholic you have to believe that you will pay satisfaction for some of your sins that were not part of the Spirit-wrought righteousness which is your “perfection” (whatever you mean by that, I don’t know anymore). And you also have to believe that others will probably pay satisfaction for some of those sins (if a brother or sister who knew you in your life will be kind enough to make a bus trip to Lourdes or donate for a good Catholic purpose to purchase some indulgences for you, or in some other ways the treasury of merits is made useful to you). Beside this being a weird and bizarre doctrine, which I don’t find anywhere in the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, I just don’t see how it fits into your new exegetical paradigm (esp. with regard to Rom 8).

    I have a lot more questions about your argument and your comments. Some of them are in my comments 87, 88, and 96. You never answered them. You don’t have to, but they are out there. (BTW, you also never answered my earlier question if as a Catholic you will begin to pray to Mary now, but that’s unrelated to your case which is my only focus here.)

  126. Andrew,

    Are YOU prepared to find that other way? That’s what my smiley question indicated.

  127. Jason,

    All I’m trying to say is that there is a difference between the guilt of sin on the one hand, and sin’s temporal effects on the other.

    FYI, this is not always the case in the RC schema. It might be true that guilt of sin is remitted before death and temporal punishment due must be endured in purgatory but only for mortal sins. Venial sins is not as clear as mortal sins whether the guilt and temporal punishment at the same time is dealt with in purgatory. Regardless, the soul has to satisfy the justice of God through suffrages (penal in nature) in order to be worthy of the perfection that God demands for the beatific vision.

    Regards,
    Joey

  128. Joey wrote:

    “Luke 1:6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, following all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. –> I’ve heard you talk about this in your interview. Luke, often times, used the word “righteous” in a practical and relative sense describing the pattern of living shown by believers. This means that generally, they were in exemplary conformance with the Law in the way that they lived relative to other Israelites and the pagan nations. The passage never said that they were not sinners before God (Rom 3:23). It never said that they were justified before God, as sinners, on the ground that they were generally Law abiding. Paul explained in Romans 3:19-20 that “no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the Law, for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin”. What justifies is a work not done by the sinner but by Christ who propitiated sin in our behalf on the cross. In fact, just like John’s parents, Paul also walks blamelessly in the commandments and ordinances of God (Philippians 3:6). But, he never saw such righteousness as the righteousness that justified him before God. He sought that righteousness which is found in Christ; not his own inherent righteousness (3:9).”

    The above is pure eisegesis… there was nothing ‘relative’ about the righteousness of Z&E, this is inserted this into the text to mitigate cognitive dissonance. Further, appealing to the word ‘righteous’ in other areas of Luke’s gospel does nothing to address the uniqueness of Luke 1:6, another basic exegetical misstep. Let’s review the verse again:

    “6 They were both righteous in the sight of God , walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.”

    Z&E b(and as we’ll see later, the Publican) are to this discussion what the black swan represented to David Hume. Not exactly of course, but there is a somewhat of a parallel between the classic problem of induction and the Reformed paradigm with regards to the meaning and intent of the Mosaic law.

    Righteous in v 6 is actually dikaioi (just, from which we get the word justified), and it’s not just (pun intended) that they are called dikaioi, but much more than that, they are described dikaioi in the sight (in view) of God. There is simply no way around that. So the question then becomes: how could Luke 1:6 exist in a Reformed paradigm where the word ‘law’ automatically always and everywhere conveys the notion of legalistic, God indebting nomism? Well that’s precisely the problem and precisely the issue (albeit tangentially) that Jason Stellman is raising, an incredibly important one at that.

    The problem for the reformed paradigm is this: Luke 1:6 is ironclad: they weren’t simply called ‘righteous’, but rather righteous in God’s sight! This is impossible under reformed theology because of the straitjacket into which the Mosaic law has been placed. Hence Jason believing that the catholic paradigm provides better explanatory power for such a verse. (I cannot blame him for doing so, even though I know he knows it is not the only other paradigm that does so.) So what is this other paradigm? Well for starters, it is one in which we begin to realize that the Mosaic law was given to the Jews not as a list to keep to earn salvation, but actually as a handmaiden/attendant to mature the Jews to the obedience of faith (see D.A Carson’s stunning admission at the end of Justification and Variegated Nomism). This obedience of faith was not one in which nomism put God in debt when one kept the commands (or attempted to, no one could in fact keep all 613 commands), this was in fact a twisting of the law by the Jews in the ultimate cosmic reversal borne out of pride: they were trying to reverse the roles, they as patron and God as client, and trying to put God into their debt (think Pharisee vs Publican here), hence Paul’s unique term ‘works of the law’ (which btw, does not only include ceremonial boundary markers contra NT Wright/Dunn/NPP, sizeable faux pas there). But, by contrast, the obedience of faith was obedience that found its genesis in humility and love for God. Remember, both Pharisee and Publican stood at the temple where sacrifices were made. They were both involved with the law, but one went home justified and the other not. The Publican approached the law and the sacrifical lamb/atonement provision at the temple with humility and faith. And that is precisely the paradigm that does the best job of explaining the existence of Luke 1:6 in the NT, i.e., one in which the Mosaic law was all along meant to be a law of faith (think Rom 8:1-4). Now, if you’re thinking well, who needs Christ then if the Mosaic law was so great? Well, think again, was Jesus in the picture in the story of the Pharisee and the Publican? No, He wasn’t. Did He say that the Publican was justified because of the extra nos imputation of the Messiah’s merits? No, He didn’t. Christ simply says that the Publican went home justified that day. The publican is a black swan of his own, in a land where we are told all swans are white (all law keeping is legalistic in nature). You’re only way out of this quagmire is DTS style dispensationalism, but that is jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, it is very easily dismissed.

    Z&E were righteous in God’s sight in the same way in which the Publican was. They approached the law with the obedience of faith. Were they one of the very few who did so? Most likely very much so, much like Joshua and Caleb were the ‘very few’ who made it into the promised land, by faith. So how is all this reconciled with Romans 3:23? Well, no one is denying that Z&E sinned, this is a red herring/straw man. The law made provision for sin, and when this provision was made with a heart full of faith as opposed to a heart full of pride, it was accepted by God (think about the Publican again). What about Romans 3:19-20 then? That’s the better objection:

    Romans 3:19-20 is dealing with the ‘works of the law’, i.e., the mindset that the Mosaic law was a law of works. But here’s the point again: it wasn’t meant to be a law of works! It was meant to be a law of faith, where every attempt to keep the law was clothed in humility and in faith that it was God who justified, and not one’s attempt to put Him in our debt. But of course, the Jews (as we would have done), turned that on its head and infused a spirit of legalism into the ordinances and commandments of God. Instead of thinking, “how can law #34 draw me closer to loving God”, they thought “how can I make sure to keep law #34 to have something to present God with and demand repayment at the judgment”. Cue in Phil 3:6, that’s exactly where the artist formerly known as Saul was!

    So there is absolutely no contradiction between Luke 1:6 and Rom 3:19-20 or Rom 3:23! You are dealing with apples and oranges. But the problem, as Jason has astutely raised, is that we are dealing with two different paradigms, one of which is fatally flawed. I adduce Romans 9:30-32 here:

    “30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.

    There, straight from the horse’s mouth. Now that Christ has atoned for the sins of the world, there is an infinitely better way to the obedience of faith. But let’s not lose sight of what the existence of Z&E in the NT has to teach us: the proper paradigm for our covenantal relationship with God is not one which posits that God desires that we keep a list of laws perfectly. The proper paradigm is that God desires for us to mature to the obedience of faith. And this is the GOOD NEWS:

    “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

    Peace to All,
    SS.

  129. Adam,

    You asked, referring to the trilemma I posed in #123:

    Are YOU prepared to find that other way?

    Yes indeed I am. The “other way” to which I referred includes dialogue, prayer, and cooperation in works of corporal mercy, in the spirit of love and desire for the reconciliation of Protestants and Catholics, to the glory of God and for a witness to the world.

    Andrew

  130. Andrew,

    You said: “The “other way” to which I referred includes dialogue, prayer, and cooperation in works of corporal mercy, in the spirit of love and desire for the reconciliation of Protestants and Catholics, to the glory of God and for a witness to the world.”

    In my experience it’s so much easier to do without the claim that my denomination is the One True Church that Jesus founded and everyone else is a schismatic.

  131. Adam,

    I don’t think that ecumenical dialogue, prayer, and cooperation in corporal works of mercy enjoined by Protestants and Catholics would be much easier without the Catholic Church’s exclusive claim to be the one Church that Christ founded. Such cooperation would be impossible, because without that claim there would be no Catholics! One might as well say that inter-religious dialogue between Christians and members of other religions would be much easier if Jesus of Nazareth had not claimed to be the Messiah of Israel, the only-begotten Son of God, and the only way to the Father. It would be impossible, because there would be no Christians.

    Of course every Protestant must on some level wish that there were no one who accepted the exclusive claims of the Catholic Church, just as every non-Christian religious believer must on some level wish that there were no one who accepted the exclusive claims of Christ. I don’t think that many of these folks are wishing for the eradication of Catholics, but merely our conversion. I get that. But our commitment to the Catholic Church is a matter of faith; as we see it, it has been divinely revealed that the Catholic Church is the mystical Body of Christ, visible on earth. If this were merely a matter of opinion, or if the Catholic Church’s claims were such that being in full communion with her were just one option among other valid options, things would be different. And if Jesus were merely a man, or an angel, or a prophet among other prophets, things would be different.

    But that is not how things are. If you disagree, and would persuade us to change our minds about the Catholic Church, then you are more than welcome to enter into dialogue, whenever you are ready to do that. This is a genuine and open invitation. There are many posts on this website, concerning the nature and identity of the Church, as well as many other related matters of doctrine that are at or near the heart of the schism between Protestants and Catholics. This is a small and unofficial part of the world of ecumenism, but it can be, I believe, a good place for individual Protestants and Catholics to strike up conversation, with mutual good will and charity.

    Andrew

  132. Andrew,

    I agree with a lot of what you are saying. I agree that there is a rare opportunity for charitable (and intelligent) conversation here. I agree that the Roman Catholic church has developed claims that makes it almost impossible for a well-educated individual Roman Catholic to have a genuine dialogue with a Protestant, a dialogue that doesn’t aim at converting the Protestant to Rome. Protestants can learn from each other (sometimes from Catholics, too!) without that urge.

    However, I think it is time for Roman Catholics to wake up to the fact that the Church that Jesus Christ “founded” has split into many parts and has existed in many denominations for at least a millennium (probably for a much longer time if you don’t forget about the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Coptic Church, and other Oriental Orthodox churches). And there are reasons for this which are not unrelated to the fact that something developed in Rome that other Christians were extremely unhappy about.

  133. Adam,

    Ecumenical dialogue is multi-faceted, and can have immediate goals (e.g., mutual understanding; resolving particular disagreements) as well as an ultimate goal (reconciliation of Protestants and Catholics in full communion).

    You did not exactly claim that Protestants do not have the “urge” to convert Catholics, although you seemed to suggest as much by juxtaposing the Catholic’s aim in dialogue with Protestants who are able to learn from one another (and from Catholics) “without that urge.” But the confusing thing is, you immediately went on sound a “wake-up” call to Catholics, concerning the claims of the Catholic Church. If this wake-up call is not aimed at converting Catholics to a non-Catholic position, then I cannot understand why you would sound such a call. At least, I find it hard to believe that you intend for us to realize that the Catholic Church’s claims for herself are false, and then remain in the Catholic Church.

    It is important to acknowledge that both sides in this discussion not only have some incompatible doctrines, but also significantly different understandings of the ultimate goal of ecumenism. On some level, we each want to convert the other, unless we are content to be relativists. It is no good pretending otherwise. But since there are other, more immediate goals in ecumenical dialogue, we can engage in such dialogue while being fully committed to our respective positions. There is an undeniable tension, maybe something close to a paradox, in such an undertaking. That is what makes it so difficult, so difficult that many folks avoid the issues altogether, or else can only bring themselves to hurl invectives or make assertions, sans careful argument or consideration of the other position. But in my experience, the tension that comes with genuine dialogue can be accompanied by a peace that passes understanding. This peace comes from God, whom we as brothers confess to be our Father, as we mutually confess that his Son Jesus Christ is Lord of all.

    As to that ultimate goal of reconciliation: The work of conversion is a work of the Holy Spirit, and a gift from God. I certainly will not try to convert you or anyone else. But I will try to defend the claims of the Catholic Church, and be happy if by any means I might persuade some. Along the ecumenical way, there are many changes that must take place in each one of us, because genuine reconciliation requires growth in each of the seven virtues, most of all love. And it always bears that remembering there is much good which Catholics and Protestants already have in common, for which we should be thankful.

    In case you are interested in a non-analytic description of Protestant / Catholic ecumenism, I once used a famous poem as an obscure, romantic, hopefully evocative, means to that end: By Analogy, by Proxy: Wherein Something is Described.

    Andrew

  134. Andrew,

    I agree again with most of what you are saying. Maybe we are not that far from each other as individual Christians. :) I have fellowship in Christ with Roman Catholics who trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I am an evangelical whose center is the person of Jesus Christ and the gospel he and the apostles preached. This makes it possible for me to have not just dialogue but even fellowship with Roman Catholics who believe in the same basic gospel message (something alongside 1Cor 15:1-4) and have the Holy Spirit in their lives (despite the confusing confusion of the Magisterium, I would have to say). The book written by the Dominican missionary-monk Vincent Donovan (Rediscovering Christianity) is a great example of such a simple gospel-faith that makes such fellowship possible.

    I have had genuine dialogues with Roman Catholics on all sorts of issues (and we have genuine agreement on many of them). But our fellowship always gets difficult when they realize that according to their denomination there is an anathema on me (because of Trent) and that they should treat me as a schismatic (and a heretic) not as a brother. It is often more difficult to have a fellowship with a consistent Roman Catholic than an inconsistent one. I agree that we Protestants can make such fellowship difficult, too, when we express our strong aversion to some Roman dogmas and practices, and make those issues central to our definition of the true faith (or lack of it). And I agree with you that it would be dishonest to pretend that we don’t have those aversions (or that you don’t consider us schismatics and heretics). And sometimes I think we really don’t have fellowship with each other, and the tension can get so big that one is certainly wrong (possibly not even a true Christian).

    So yes, dialogue is difficult, fellowship is even more difficult, and sometimes both are impossible. Nevertheless, because of my evangelical convictions I believe both are possible when the Holy Spirit transcends the sectarian claims of Rome and the perfectionistic tendencies of some strict confessionalist Protestants.

  135. Oh, and there is nothing on the page that you linked in.

  136. I tried to open the link again and there it was. Sorry. Thanks for this great poem. At one point under this thread Bryan accused me of trying to refute Roman Catholicism. I am not trying to do that. The only reason I came here and started to post comments is because Jason – who was a friend and a supporter of our evangelical work in Hungary – turned Roman Catholic. I wouldn’t have reacted to his switching denominational commitments if he had become an Anglican, a Lutheran, or a Pentecostal. But his conversion to Romanism sent us the message that from now on he will view us (if he is consistent) as schismatics and heretics, or at best not a church. This was disheartening. I’m not here to mend walls. I came here to understand why Jason is mending those walls, especially from the other side, by claiming that “the Church won.” That’s why I challenged him. But I think he probably have had enough of me by now, so I’m very much ready to move on.

  137. Adam,

    So, for example, was Zechariah and Elizabeth simply “pardoned” instead of being blameless in their actual behavior (and/or in their loving heart-intentions)? Or by “pardoning” you mean the result of their Spirit-wrought righteousness? (I don’t even ask how that would work with Romans 4:6-8.)

    According to Catholic theology, having sanctifying grace and infused agape in the heart is to be righteous, and is not merely something that God counts as righteousness. So even if Z&E’s conduct was not absolutely sinless according to the letter of the law, that was never God’s demand for his children in the first place (which is why a righteousness is needed that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees).

    If God accepts their righteousness as their perfection (as you explicitly said earlier) and that’s what you mean by “being pardoned”, then why can’t they enter into glory immediately after they die? I heard your answer to that, but if you are right and they cannot, then why do you say that their Spirit-wrought righteousness renders imputed righteousness superfluous?

    Again, it is not as though God were accepting one thing in lieu of the thing he really wanted but couldn’t get us to achieve. But to answer your question, no one knows whether they went directly to heaven after death. My point was simply that the righteousness Luke attributes to them was not a typological Mosaic righteousness similar to what Saul had before he was converted (Phil. 3). The text says that they were “righteous before God.” So my point stands regardless of whether they would have entered purgatory before entering heaven (but if they would have, then I have answered why a couple times, as have others).

    And the reason Spirit-infused agape renders imputation superfluous is that if God can actually make us what he wants us to be, then there is no need for him to also declare us to be what he wants us to be by a declaration that effects no inward change in us. Imputation stops far short of what infusion accomplishes, which is why the latter makes the former unnecessary.

    In Protestant theology imputed righteousness (which is based on our union with the cross and resurrection of Christ) makes us so perfect in God’s eyes (cf. Heb 10:14) that we have access to God’s glory without us having to give any satisfaction for our sins (cf. Heb 10:18).

    But if imputation as understood by Protestantism is actually a false teaching, then it doesn’t matter if on paper it seems to have greater benefits than the true teaching. If ease of salvation were the deciding factor, then Antinomians would have an even better gospel than you do, since according to their theory you don’t even need sanctification at all. What I am trying to show is that Protestant imputation is in fact false, and further, if it were true then Luke would have used very different descriptors for John’s parents.

    But as a Catholic you have to believe that you will pay satisfaction for some of your sins that were not part of the Spirit-wrought righteousness which is your “perfection” (whatever you mean by that, I don’t know anymore)…. I just don’t see how it fits into your new exegetical paradigm (esp. with regard to Rom 8).

    All you’re doing here, Adam, is stomping your feet and holding your breath. I have explained at least twice that there is a difference between the guilt of sin, and sin’s lingering temporal after-effects, as well as the difference between the remedy for both.

    And if Rom. 8 is intended to be so far-reaching as to eliminate the need for any post-justification forgiveness or satisfaction on the sinner’s part, then we’re both in trouble, for then we would never have to pray “forgive us our trespasses” or to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” My point is that it’s no fair for you to imply that Rom. 8 should make purgatory unnecessary if you also believe Rom. 8 but nonetheless insist upon certain things for believers to do after they’ve been justified.

  138. Jason, it’s probably better for both of us if I don’t list my objections, questions, and frustrations about your answer. I let you go. Isten áldjon!

  139. Fair enough. Tavaszon lessünk Pesten. Talán találkozzhatunk.

  140. SS,

    The above is pure eisegesis… there was nothing ‘relative’ about the righteousness of Z&E, this is inserted this into the text to mitigate cognitive dissonance. Further, appealing to the word ‘righteous’ in other areas of Luke’s gospel does nothing to address the uniqueness of Luke 1:6, another basic exegetical misstep.

    First, I am appreciative of the gesture to go in to the Scripture and exegete it. But, I am not sure if there is an official interpretation of this text from your RC Magisterium to judge me as engaging in “pure eisegesis”. Are there? If there is none, I would take your criticism as a layman privately interpreting these texts which has no authority.

    But, does the interpretation I present engage in pure eisegesis? The ground upon which you base this is that:
    1) There was nothing “relative” about the righteousness of Z&E in the text and that such concepts are inserted in to the text and,
    2) Using other contexts where Luke uses the adjective “righteous” and apply it to pre-New Covenant people would be an exegetical misstep. The reason for this, you assert, is that Luke 1:6 is unique.

    Both of these concepts are also inserted in the text. This is because the adjective “righteous” as the author uses it (with the common usage of the word) means patterns of behavior or conformance the commandments of God, being upright or living in obedience to God. This kind of life is properly described as “righteous” in the biblical sense. Even, the lexical data bears this out. Therefore, the relativity is evident because of the fact that Israelites are seen as righteous by the obedience they are seen towards the Law (short for the commandments and ordinances). Z&E, are worthy examples of being “righteous” (adjective) expressed in their “walking blamelessly” in the commandments and ordinances of God as Z is a priest and E, amazingly, comes from a lineage of priests.

    As Luke narrated the story, his sources bears the testimony of what kind of life Z&E had. The expression, “in the sight of God” or “before God” does not necessarily imply that Luke or his sources has access to the mind of God and can see what God sees in the heart of men. Rather, this phrase is written to augment the fact that both Z&E are childless. In Jewish context, a couple that is childless is seen as having been cursed by God. The narrative, by adding this phrase, announces that they are not cursed but that their blessing was planned out because they had a child finally by God’s doing even in later age. Therefore “walking blamelessly” as a description of the kind of life that they have even during the time of waiting for a child can not be questioned as to its authenticity.

    Contrary to the assertion that other passages in which Luke used “righteous” is irrelevant, a good exegete must consider them. Eisegesis is rather the assertion that a certain passage should be taken uniquely without basis. Luke does use the adjective many times (2:25, 5:32, 18:9, and 23:50). In each case, the texts implies relativity. Meaning, people who are described as righteous is basically in conformance to the Law versus those who have transgressed it. And yet, conformance to the Law per se, per Luke or Paul, though good does not justify. It is not that the Law is deficient but the ones doing the Law are deficient being weak in th flesh. Luke for example, in (18:9) describes the concept of being justified as the acceptance that we have fallen short of the Law and the need for God to atone for our sins (pre-New Covenant era; a similar understanding with Paul’s language in which trusts involves accepting that we are ungodly i.e. “God justifies the ungodly”). I am sure, the tax collector in some ways obeyed the Law but he saw his life, even his transgression, as the breaking of the covenant that disbars him from presenting any of his works (even if done for God) as his righteousness. The tax collector has no “cross” yet to look to but the sacrifices he made at the temple resembles the “cross” upon which he pleads for God to propitiate. The same with Z&E, they are described as people who look to the “Messiah” and the deliverance from sin that will come through Him by the types and prophecies available to them. Paul on the other hand wrote that he was blameless before the Law but with the Cross in view, he knew that obedience even with zeal before the Lored does not justify. He looked outside of himself as the basis of his rigtheousness. He looked at the atonement of Christ and His resurrection, substitutionry in nature, as the “righteousness” that justifies him. This is what he meant that his fellow Israelites can not obtain justification because obeying the Law (even in zeal before the Lord) satisfy the perfection demanded by the Law. It is not looking to Christ and the Cross which renders the “works of the Law” as not according to “faith”.

    In other words:
    1. The context in Luke 1:6 is not dealing with the concepts the theological concept of justification. It is a statement on the quality of life that Z&E had.
    2. The adjective “righteous” to describe people as used by Luke implies relative conformance to the commandments and ordinance of God. This is the pattern of behavior that one exhibits relative to other Israelites who claims to be “righteous” also.
    3. The phrase “before God”/”in the sight of God” are confirmatory assurances to the readers that the kind of life Z&E have prior to E’s child bearing are authentic obedience. They are not hypocritically righteous as some usage of the word “righteous” might imply. Luke says so on the basis that, finally, in their ripe age, they bore a child. No Jew can question their obedience before God on the basis of the cultural stigma that being childless means that they were transgressors and icurred the curse of God upon them.
    4. Z&E are OT saints among the few who awaits for the Messiah and looks to the propitiation that God would perform through Him. The tax collector displayed the same attitude when pleads for God to propitiate and the sacrifice being the vihicle of communication of what the Christ would do in his behalf. They never look to their righteousness but instead saw their sinfulness and await the Christ who will deliver them. This attitude is part of what is being called “righteous” before the Lord.
    5. Paul also describes himself as blameless before the Law obeying it in zeal before the Lord. But he never saw this obedience as the ground of justification. The perfection of the work of Christ in the cross (a work he did not do, therefore extra nos) is looked upon as the basis and ground of his justification.

    The reformed therefore accepts Luke 1:6 and we can account and exegete it. Only when people forces a myopic view of the term “righteous” then decontextualize it to mean that their obedience served as ground for their justfication, even if the passage is not talking about justification, do this passage seems bazare. But as it stands, even Calvin commented on this passage and can account for the reformed paradigm.

    Regards,
    Joey

  141. Jason, írd meg, hogy mikor jöttök, és szívesen találkozom veletek akár Pesten, akár Veszprémben.

  142. Joey Henry,

    First, I am appreciative of the gesture to go in to the Scripture and exegete it. But, I am not sure if there is an official interpretation of this text from your RC Magisterium to judge me as engaging in “pure eisegesis”. Are there? If there is none, I would take your criticism as a layman privately interpreting these texts which has no authority.

    That is disingenuous. The Church, nowhere, prevents us from exegeting Scripture. She sets boundaries, but doesn’t hold some kind of “source code”. This is a case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” — to mean unfair. It is obvious “SS” is not some 5th grade educated mill worker. More on point, when a Catholic calls out bad exegesis, gives reasons, etc. — doing what you would expect from a Protestant (but, aghast a Catholic is doing it!), then you would be better off to just correct their exegesis then make these kind of unfortunate and misleading comments.

    I appreciate the rest of your comment and look forward to the ensuing conversation with “SS”.

  143. Also, ironically enough, SS is not a Catholic.

  144. John S, that’s true. Perhaps ‘apophatic’ ecclesiology is the way back to unity…. (only half tongue in cheek)? I’m an unworthy bond servant who longs for peace and unity among believers. Speaking of 5th grade education: in the words of Malcom Muggeridge, if it is true that we have educated ourselves into imbecility, then perhaps it’s not that much of a disadvantage :-) , especially given that we have so much intellectual firepower in both Catholic and Protestants camps today. I’m only wondering out loud.. While Muggeridge was talking about secular education, would it perhaps be more fitting to say that within the church we have educated ourselves into ever increasing degrees of disunity? Hmmm, could it be that our scholasticism is actually part of the problem and not the solution? I wish Polycarp or Ignatius were here to opine.

    I’ll be back later with thoughts in response to Eric etc.

  145. SS,

    I’m sure you can guess what I think Saints Polycarp and Ignatius would have you do… :-) But I don’t know that this is the time to dig into the difficulties from which I think your prescriptions (here and in other comments) suffer, and I have very much appreciated your engagement here and at Creed Code Cult. Please do keep it up!

    in Christ,
    John

  146. Joey,

    You wrote:

    “…
    1. The context in Luke 1:6 is not dealing with the concepts the theological concept of justification. It is a statement on the quality of life that Z&E had.
    2. The adjective “righteous” to describe people as used by Luke implies relative conformance to the commandments and ordinance of God. This is the pattern of behavior that one exhibits relative to other Israelites who claims to be “righteous” also.
    3. The phrase “before God”/”in the sight of God” are confirmatory assurances to the readers that the kind of life Z&E have prior to E’s child bearing are authentic obedience. They are not hypocritically righteous as some usage of the word “righteous” might imply. Luke says so on the basis that, finally, in their ripe age, they bore a child. No Jew can question their obedience before God on the basis of the cultural stigma that being childless means that they were transgressors and icurred the curse of God upon them.
    4. Z&E are OT saints among the few who awaits for the Messiah and looks to the propitiation that God would perform through Him. The tax collector displayed the same attitude when pleads for God to propitiate and the sacrifice being the vihicle of communication of what the Christ would do in his behalf. They never look to their righteousness but instead saw their sinfulness and await the Christ who will deliver them. This attitude is part of what is being called “righteous” before the Lord.
    5. Paul also describes himself as blameless before the Law obeying it in zeal before the Lord. But he never saw this obedience as the ground of justification. The perfection of the work of Christ in the cross (a work he did not do, therefore extra nos) is looked upon as the basis and ground of his justification”

    It is legitimate to consider the Lukan lexical use of the word dikaio and its cognates, that is certainly part and parcel of sound exegesis. For instance, let’s contrast Lk 1:6 with 18:9 – Z&E are described as righteous/just (dikaioi) in the sight of God whereas 18:9 deals with the Pharisees who are described as dikaioi in their own sight. Now, you must be pounding the table saying “That’s exactly what I meant by relativity!” Now it is obviously true, by definition ,that righteousness is a relative concept. The real question however is this: what is the nature of that righteousness? Is it a righteousness fully compatible with Paul’s use of the term in regards to justification? When I was saying in my earlier post is that you are importing a relative concept of righteousness into Lk 1:6 to mitigate your cognitive dissonance; not relative in the sense of whether Z/E or Simeon were righteous and the Pharisees were not, (that is the stating the obvious) but rather, relative in the sense of a horizontal and therefore a less than fully genuine ‘Pauline’ righteousness. In other words, some instances of “righteous” in the NT, in your worldview, are more equal than others.

    And here is proof of this: in a most stunning statement (but one that is a logical necessity under your reformed paradigm), you say:

    “As Luke narrated the story, his sources bears the testimony of what kind of life Z&E had. The expression, “in the sight of God” or “before God” does not necessarily imply that Luke or his sources has access to the mind of God and can see what God sees in the heart of men. Rather, this phrase is written to augment the fact that both Z&E are childless.”

    I think this is more than worth discussing, because it has enormous implications for protestant-catholic dialogue… What you are saying in effect above is this: when Luke described Z&E as righteous in the sight of God, he was merely embellishing the story and that righteousness is in no way shape or form the righteousness that Paul speaks of when he is discoursing on justification in Romans 3 or Galations 3. Correct? Now, even if I grant you that Luke was ‘augmenting’ the story (that argument by the way would make much more sense if it were Matthew’s gospel we were discussing, because Luke was writing to the gentiles), we’re still left to deal with the concept you propose, i.e., that Luke did not really have access to the mind of God in regards to Z&E. So this begs the question: was is not God in the Third Person inspiring Luke to write these words? Doesn’t God mean what He says? Once we allow this 19th/20th century style criticism to seep through, we quickly find ourselves on shifting sands and I don’t know if you fully realize the implications of the statement above. It may help you deal with what you may feel is an inconvenient verse, but you give up the farm in the process.

    So, we’re back to square one: Z&E are described as righteous in the sight of God. I have no issue with your idea expressed in point 2 from your prior post, that’s obvious. The real issue is not whether Z&E were relatively more righteous than the Pharisees but instead whether that righteousness is absolute, meaning, whether Z&E were truly accepted of God. Your paradigm does not answer that question. It leaves it wide open!

    It’s is readily evident why that question must remain wide open under your paradigm. After all, as you say, how can anyone be justified when Paul says that no one is justified by the works of the law. Isn’t that obvious enough? But here is what the reformed position misses entirely: it fails to recognize that what Paul was opposing was not the type of covenantal nomism we find in Z&E or Simeon, but instead the kind of nomism found in Saul the Pharisee. Those are two radically different worlds and indeed the one redeeming thing out of the whole NPP saga. Z&E and Simeon’s law observance was not done in a twisted legalistic ‘works of the law’ phronema (see 4QMMT and Andrew A Das’s line of reasoning, albeit missing the forest for the trees, he still raises good evidence), but instead by faith! That is why they are described as just/righteous. They were truly righteous! Not some half baked, ‘not-sure-what-kind-of-righteousness-that-is’ righteous. And yes, your argument about the Publican and the typology of the temple sacrifice or the anticipation of the Messiah by Z&E can still hold true within that understanding. It is precisely because they were pursuing the law by faith that they were righteous in God’s sight.

    You did not engage with another ‘black swan’ I presented in my earlier post: Romans 9:30-32:

    30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.

    “As if it were by works”. Possibly the most under-examined 6 words in the entire NT. Z&E, Simeon, Joseph of Arimathea all pursued the law, as it was meant to be pursued, BY FAITH. And as a result, they were just, truly just, not on a horizontal plane, but in the eyes of God. They were part of a select few who were faithful to God, in the way in which He had intended for Israel to be. But the reality was that Israel as a whole failed miserably. Instead of seeing in the Law an opportunity to draw near to God and prepare the way for the Messiah Jesus, they used the law to take their pride to new heights and seek a righteousness that came from legalistically obeying the ordinances. That is what Paul is reacting to in Romans and Galatians. Again, works of the law means something very specific in Paul’s use, namely, the law separated from faith, naked and powerless. Which explains why Paul counted it all as dung. Paul would never have said that the law keeping done by Z&E was such. He would have been the first to say that their covenantal nomism had its motivation in love and not in devilish pride and self righteousness. Afterall, does not Paul say that Abraham was justified on the basis of his faith? Should we see Abraham’s righteousness as any different than Z&E’s? No,we shouldn’t. He believed God and so did Z&E. They should not be the source of theological malaise but instead be excellent reminders to the idea that Christ calls us to the obedience of faith:

    John 14:15-17
    15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth”

  147. John S,

    Would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the difficulties in the prescriptions mentioned earlier. Is there a way to connect privately via pm or email?

  148. Dear SS,

    Given the broadly ecclesiological topic of the podcast, I’ve changed my mind. This is probably as good a place as any to address your suggestions. Let me start by restating what I’ve garnered from your posts, and you can let me know if I’ve understood it accurately before I offer a response.

    As I understand it, the key components of your position are as follows:
    (1) Unified orthodoxy characterizes the period of the Apostolic Fathers (up to 150 or so?).
    (2) After the period of the Apostolic Fathers, the Church no longer succeeds in holding together unified orthodoxy. (You cite the Montanists at one point, I believe.)
    (3) Protestantism’s most significant error is a failure to discern the matrix of the patron-client relationship that underlies the teaching of the NT, and so it badly misconstrues the NT’s doctrine of grace.
    (4) Neither Catholicism nor Orthodoxy nor Protestantism is currently reflective of primitive orthodoxy.
    (5) Appeals to the “unity of the invisible church” are gratuitous.
    (6) The way forward would involve (a) the repentance of all Christian parties and bodies; (b) a return ad fontes, including the Apostolic Fathers as the most valuable interpretive lens for the NT; (c) the consequent rejection of some doctrines and practices on the part of Catholics and Orthodox (veneration of icons, veneration of Mary, etc.), and others on the part of Protestants (monergism, etc.). Under these conditions ecclesial unity could be attained.

    Is that close enough for government work? Let me know if there are any major gaps or distortions here, and then I’ll offer some thoughts in response. By the way, I’m not sure how much time I’ll be able to spare in the next little while here, so this may be slow going.

    best,
    John

  149. Dear John,
    Yes time is scarce for probably all of us, and whatever is offered here is offered out of faith, certainly… I appreciate your willingness to clarify some of the points I have raised. That said, I wanted to outline that I am approaching this with some radically different presuppositions; the thrust of my proposal is grounded in what I would call a theology of fallibility , not infallibility. I can hear the pushback: “Well, who wants to be part of THAT?” due to the prevailing bias usually expressed as follows: “I want to be part of a church that has never erred, after all didn’t Jesus say that the gates of hell would not prevail?” Major non sequitur, if only it were so simple. What we fail to realize is that the jews of Jesus’ day made exactly the same claim, that God had promised unto Moses, and therefore they could not fail. And yet, was not Christ most forthcoming in raising awareness of their EPIC failure? Have we considered that the gates of hell have not prevailed despite the church’s failures and sin, and not because of the church’s holiness? That it is possibly the Grace of God that has kept the church alive throughout the centuries, despite her great faults? But what about the mustard tree? Is a mustard tree a glorious tree, or perhaps instead an unglorious shrub, in which birds (always seen as unclean animals by the jews) perch? Shouldn’t its proximity to the parable of the leaven give us great pause before we try to read into it some concept of an infallible church? It makes no sense to read eccesiological infallibility into this statement by Christ “Will the Son of Man find faith on earth when He returns?”. Unlike protestants, I do not claim that catholics and orthodox are outside the church. But I do suggest that we rethink our presuppositions on ecclesiological inerrancy, no matter where the claim emanates from.

    Therefore, as we wrestle with this, our ‘mind’-offering must be pleasing to God with respect to honesty and truth, and therefore can only be offered in faith. So I pray that whatever I suggest would not be seen as dogmatic, because there is no compulsion in love and none in truth either. Secondly, any ecumenical endeavor honored by God can only be borne out of a natural desire within believers to look inward and willingly contribute to the process of communion. I liken this process to marriage counseling. It can only bear fruit if both husband and wife acknowledge their sin and in humility, turn away from it, for the sake of restoring communion. As long as one party remains indignant or unwilling to engage, because they are necessarily in the right and the other in the wrong, we remain at an impasse. But as soon as humility is poured out, grace is given and the middle way of reconcilation appears.

    Coming back to the list of 6 points: whatever I offer here is in fear and trembling. Let’s take them one at a time:

    1. Yes, the AF were united in doctrine. As importantly, even though the latter was under-developed, it was fully salvific (see Christ’s words to the church at Smyrna, Philadelpia and a cross section at Sardis). But what I am suggesting is not merely endorsing the AF’s teaching, but also the spirit that embodied their writing and praxis: it most certainly wasn’t scholastic in nature, or concerned with how sophisticated it could appear, but instead exhortative and focused on the obedience of faith. I believe they understood that apostolic succession and pedigree would mean nothing to their Lord, if they failed to live and walk as Christ did. (Re the development of doctrine, Vincent of Lerins had so much wisdom to offer, but did anyone listen to him?).

    2. The issue is not that the church couldn’t hold it together after the AF, but rather that the church broke with Christ’s teaching to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s and that the church has allowed major immorality to be rationalized within its ranks for so long now. Heretical and schismatic groups were bound to appear, of course, but the problem is that the church itself began to compromise with the world, losing a measure of grace in the process. Alas, we cannot take the red pill to see where the church could have gone had it not compromised, but as the french say “ca ne sert a rien de se serrer les fesses quand on a chie dans son pantalon”. But then, all of our pants are soiled, lest you think that may be too harsh. We are all in need of repentance.

    3. Protestantism most significant error is sola scriptura, bar none. It is a massive, EPIC epistemological faux pas propped up by pride. Protestantism’s failure to discern the patron-client understanding of Grace is a failure that stems from sola scriptura and its untenable presuppositions. Had protestants truly honored the AF, they would have immediately recognized that the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3) was radically different than that proposed by gurus such as Luther and Calvin. To which the charge is made against me: well, isn’t this a bit rich, aren’t you a guru too? No, I’m not. I am not seeking a following, I am seeking unity. I am asking the question: Is there anyone today within the CC, OC and PC who sees the need for repentance and unity? If there is, can we begin to work together and not against each other with the goal of obeying the Lord’s command to be one? Unlike gurus, I do not deny that the CC, or OC is the one true church founded by Christ, it most certainly is by apostolic succession, as problematic as the latter became (think 4-5th century). I’m just a lonely voice in the blogosphere, saying that we are in need of repentance, and this beginning with my own. The fundamental difference here is that I am pointing to the faith of the AF, the faith once and for all delivered. It is not a faith of my own making, but a faith that I have submitted to, myself. I have cut ties with the protestant paradigm, when the alternative would have been much more lucrative (not unlike Jason’s case, but I do not have his pedigree (impressive)). I have abandoned sola scriptura, sola fide (as it is understand by the reformed), OSAS/eternal security, baptism and communion as mere symbols, among other doctrines, to be aligned with the faith of the earliest believers.

    4. Yes, although of the 3, Orthodoxy is closest to the FOFAD (Jude 1:3).

    5. Yes, there is no such thing as an invisible church, but rather a visible church in need of repentance. It is an invention designed to mitigate cognitive dissonance, no more, no less.

    6. Yes, but a qualified yes. The way forward must be of our own volition. It cannot be steeped in coercion or compulsion (as in believe this or you will be out of the one true church), for if it were, it would no longer be by faith but by works. The proper mindset, or maybe I should ‘heart-set’, should not be to put forth conditions so to speak as much as it is to foster a spirit of humility and repentance that leads to a willing shedding of any doctrine that takes us away from the FOFAD, and thereby away from the assurance that we are honoring the Savior (see Rev 2,3). Let’s take icons for example. In my view it is certainly unfair and uncharitable to blanket accuse catholics and orthodox with the charge of idolatry. If the icon allows many to deepen their faith, isn’t it commendable? If the veneration leads to an increase of compunction of heart, love for God and neighbor, has not the law of Christ been fulfilled? However, on the other hand, why MANDATE the veneration of icons, thereby turning their use into works of the law? That is certainly what the 7th ecumenical council did. You cannot be Orthodox today without embracing the conclusion of that council. Did not Paul say not to judge those whose faith is weaker and isn’t the gospel freedom? John the Damascene said that we would be denying the incarnation of Christ if we deny icons. With all due respect, the conclusion simply does not follow! What then of the words of Christ: “You have believed because you have seen, blessed are those who have not seen and yet still believe.”! Why not allow believers the freedom they have been granted, freely. Every year I am saddened at the brawl that happens at the church of the Nativity in Jerusalem. Is that brawl over a line of division between Armenians and Greeks not emblematic of the divisions in the church as a whole today? We need to awaken to the fact that the Gospel is power to confront and remove division, much as Paul confronted Peter over his table/eating separation. Peter acknowledged his mistakes, the question is can we do the same today, individually and by extension, collectively?

  150. I finished my response to this interview. http://justandsinner.blogspot.com/2012/11/response-to-jason-stellman-part-2.html

  151. Jordan,

    I listened to about 50 minutes of your podcast and will only limit my comments to your thoughts on the letter to Diognetus and Clement’s epistle. I find it interesting that you fault Jason for reading catholic theology into the fathers, when you do exactly that with your statement that imputation is in view in chapter 9 of the letter.

    “He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for those who are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness ? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!”

    I was surprised, given your credentials, to see how casually you claim that the righteousness of Christ in the text must necessarily mean the imputation of his active/passive obedience. It appeared to me that you were merely proof-texting as opposed to offering any real exegesis or analysis, limited podcast time notwithstanding. Perhaps it would have been a much more productive use of your time to expand on why you believe the above, as opposed to discoursing on Jason’s maturity or lack thereof? (btw, when he said that he thought the fathers were ‘idiots’, he was relating his lack of appreciation for the Fathers as a protestant, which is NOT his current stance at all, so that comment of yours seemed very unfair to me.) Returning to the letter to Diognetus, I highly recommend spending some time reading the analysis of a fellow protestant of yours, Bradley Cochran who so bravely writes:

    http://theophilogue.com/2010/07/19/does-the-letter-to-diognetus-teach-imputation-a-response-to-ligon-duncans-analysis/

    The Righteousness of the One is the Pistou Christou, the faithfulness of the Son of God in offering Himself as a substitute for us, in fulfilling God’s-Plan-For-The World-Through-The-Faithful-Israelite as Tom Wright would say, enduring the suffering that we deserve, to condemn our sin borne in His body, thereby trampling death underfoot and ransoming the many! This is the true patristic (also witnessed in the EO tradition) understanding of the text above. This is the Righteousness of God in making good on His promise to Abraham, despite Israel’s unfaithfulness and failure to be the light of the world, having pursued the law as if it were by works, instead of by faith. Which brings me to Clement’s epistle to the Corinthians:

    Again, I heard nothing but proof-texting there, you cite chapter 32:

    “And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

    Very good. But why don’t you consider the context of those words? Only a short 2 chapters later he says:

    “… And thus He forewarns us: “Behold, the Lord [comes], and His reward is before His face, to render to every man according to his work. ” He exhorts us, therefore, with our whole heart to attend to this, that we be not lazy or slothful in any good work.

    and in chapter 35:

    “Let us therefore earnestly strive to be found in the number of those that wait for Him , in order that we may share in His promised gifts. But how, beloved, shall this be done? If our understanding be fixed by faith towards God; if we earnestly seek the things which are pleasing and acceptable to Him; if we do the things which are in harmony with His blameless will ; and if we follow the way of truth, casting away from us all unrighteousness and iniquity, along with all covetousness, strife, evil practices, deceit, whispering, and evil-speaking, all hatred of God, pride and haughtiness, vain glory and ambition”

    Now do your theology. Harmonize these passages and then ask yourself the question: does such a train of thought do justice to the protestant idea of imputation? It simply does not. It is a striving after a real righteousness which is in view here, not legal fiction involving debits and credits! Why do you think TF Torrance accused the AF of not understanding grace? It’s certainly not because he was right, but rather because imputation is nowhere to be found in them! I’m only talking about those who were the recipients of the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3), not Augustine, or Jerome who came much later.

    The AF held to a patron-client understanding of grace, which is the undercurrent in the entire NT. They got it right! Now to be fair, I agree with you that what Jason said about sola scriptura and Jesus not being an idiot by not teaching, all that could have phrased better. But the gist of your talk, i.e., your views about imputation, are on very shaky ground and unconvincing. I mean, if a protestant like Cochran can admit to that, that should give everyone pause. Hats off to him.

  152. Dear SS (#149),

    Thank you both for your comments themselves and for the spirit in which they are offered. Sorry for the long delay in replying.

    I began to respond to your comments sentence by sentence, sometimes agreeing, sometimes qualifying, sometimes pushing back. But it seems to me that that would be to run the risk of missing the forest for the trees (important though each tree certainly is). So, instead, I’ll make a few general comments. They will certainly not meet the case if you’re hoping for fully formed responses to each of the many and complex issues you bring up, but I hope they will at least clear some ground for further discussion. I’m only going to speak for myself (and only for myself) as a Roman Catholic, but I imagine that much of what I say would be echoed by Orthodox as well, and possibly even some of it by confessional Protestants.

    First, let me note that I can very well understand the attractiveness of much of what you’ve outlined from the vantage point of someone who is not under a living authority, i.e., unattached to any particular ecclesial body. (I’ve been there myself.) But it’s important for you to recognize that, while you graciously do not deny that Catholics, as Catholics*, are members of the one Church of Christ, insofar as you ask Catholics to dispense with things that we believe to be of divine institution—in particular, our understanding of the Church—you are in effect asking us, as a precondition to the kind of renewal you’re interested in, to stop being Catholics. Further, you are asking us to betray or to hold as of small account things that we believe have been entrusted to us by the Savior.

    [* I say “as Catholics” in order to distinguish what I understand your position to be from those who admit that Catholics “may” be Christians despite being Catholics.]

    Second, once the foregoing has been said, I would like to praise your call to repentance on all sides. Wheresoever and in whomsoever there is sin, it should be repented, including among Catholics for sins that have contributed to Christian disunity. This does not strike me as controversial. And I agree that it starts with me.

    Third, I found myself somewhat puzzled by these two rhetorical questions:

    Have we considered that the gates of hell have not prevailed despite the church’s failures and sin, and not because of the church’s holiness? That it is possibly the Grace of God that has kept the church alive throughout the centuries, despite her great faults?

    The answer, at least for Catholics, is, Yes, naturally we have considered that, and we very much agree with it. The Church’s indefectibility is certainly not predicated upon the holiness of her members, but on the strength of the promises of her Head and the gifts of His Holy Spirit.

    It seems to me that more discussion of the Catholic doctrines of the Church may be in order. In this regard, first, I suppose there are Catholics out there who would consider a mere citation of Matt 16 a sufficient argument for the Church’s indefectibility, her infallibility under certain circumstances, and papal infallibility, but I’m not one of them, and I doubt many Catholics interacting here are, either, so the charge of non sequitur doesn’t seem to stick. Second, there are two sets of problems with your Israel-Church argument for ecclesial defectibility, the first of which pertains to the condition of Israel at the time of Christ, the second of which to the relevant differences between the status of Israel before Christ and the Church after Christ, who “has obtained a ministry which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises” (Heb 8.6). Third, I agree that it would be interesting to put the dominical sayings you mention in explicit conversation with Catholic ecclesiology. No single one of these questions, let alone all of them together, could be responsibly covered in a single comment.

    Fourth, I would simply like to request more information about the narrative of rupture and/or decline you discern in the patristic Church. Dalliance with Caesar has been insinuated, but I would appreciate more historical specifics before I could respond very usefully.

    Fifth, I’d like to say something in response to this bit of your comment:

    I am pointing to the faith of the AF, the faith once and for all delivered. It is not a faith of my own making, but a faith that I have submitted to, myself. I have cut ties with the protestant paradigm, when the alternative would have been much more lucrative (not unlike Jason’s case, but I do not have his pedigree (impressive)). I have abandoned sola scriptura, sola fide (as it is understand by the reformed), OSAS/eternal security, baptism and communion as mere symbols, among other doctrines, to be aligned with the faith of the earliest believers.

    Let me begin by saying that I am genuinely humbled by your resolve in this regard. But at the same time, isn’t what you’ve submitted to ultimately your own interpretation of the faith of the Apostolic Fathers? While the addition of a generation or two of tradition in order to interpret Scripture is naturally going to bring you materially closer to the Catholic and Orthodox Churches (as indicated by your abandonment of the tenets you mention here), it seems to me that this is still formally Protestantism, because it is a rejection of any living ecclesial authority. It’s another restorationism, though I certainly think it’s a more sophisticated one than is normally posited.

    As you’re probably aware, one of the most discussed articles (really, series of articles) on this website is devoted to demonstrating that there’s no principled difference between what some Protestants have dubbed solo scriptura and sola scriptura. And it seems to me that your position is susceptible to the same criticism: you examine Sacred Scripture along with the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, making judicious use of secondary scholarship. From this examination you piece together a system that you proceed to identify with the faith once delivered to the saints, and to which you therefore submit.

    Additionally, there seems to me to be in internal incoherence in your position. Have you submitted yourself to a bishop? If not, your situation seems out of accord with St Ignatius’s instructions. What’s more, on my reading of the Apostolic Fathers, this concrete problem of not having a bishop over you is only one aspect of a deeper problem. That deeper problem is that St Ignatius’s emphasis on episcopal authority is but one expression of his (and all the Fathers’) more fundamental conviction of the sacramental form of tradition. That is, the faith once delivered to the saints has been delivered precisely to the saints, i.e., to Holy Church, and is not even in principle separable from its living, ecclesial subject. This, of course, is already reflected in Sacred Scripture. (If you wish, I could expand on this, but I’m acutely aware of how wildly multi-faceted this discussion already is.) Your chosen posture of sola scriptura cum patribus apostolicis entails a de facto rejection of this sacramental form, of a living Tradition. And it seems to me that this puts you at odds with your very tutors, the Apostolic Fathers.

    That will have to do for now. I’m not sure the best way to proceed with the specifics that each of us has mentioned (including the ones you brought up that I have not addressed) without things getting prohibitively unwieldy. I imagine some of these things can be discussed piecemeal as they come up here and/or on other blogs. Once again, I’ve appreciated your interaction very much. Every blessing to you and yours.

    in Christ,
    John

  153. Dear John,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond. I greatly appreciate your interaction, and sense that it is offered in a charitable spirit, which is most fitting for a site named C2C. I’ve had a long day out with the family but will be back to offer some thoughts in response. Suffice it to say for now, I cannot overemphasize that I am emphatically not seeking a following, and also not asking any Catholic break fellowship (likewise for the protestant). I understand that it is immediately countered that this is disingenuous, since my status (out of communion with both) de facto advocates rupture/schism in deed , even if not in word. In response to this legitimate objection, I will simply raise a question, but before I do, let’s turn to history for a moment:

    In AD 379, Gregory the Theologian, who is recognized as a saint in both East and West , appeared in Constantinople. Up until then, the son of the Bishop of Nazianzus, had been presbyter of the latter, even though this ordination was against his wishes; at one point, he abandoned his post to return to monastic duties with St Basil the Great before eventually returning to Nazianzus. But now, he was in Constantinople, shocked by the state of affairs and the then dominant Arianism which enjoyed the total support of the state. Things got so bad that mobs pelted him in the streets and Arian monks broke into his service, which he held in the home of a relative . After Theodosius prevailed a year later, the latter asked Gregory Naziazen if he would preside over a council. St Gregory refused, saying that the bishops behaved like a swarm of hornets. , and so he went into exile. When Theodosius asked him again to preside over another council, he again flatly refused, living away from all civil and ecclesiastical pomp, until he died when he was some 60 years of age. (source: The Story of Christianity, Justo L Gonzalez)

    My question to you is this: was St Gregory endorsing a hermeneutic of rupture when he:

    – held services in the home of a relative, and hence ostensibly out of communion with the Church?
    – said that bishops behaved like a swarm of hornets?
    – refused to submit to Saint/Emperor Theodosius? (recognized by the EO)

    This is where I would begin our discussion. There are far too many issues to deal with at once, and think it would be more productive if we prioritized the questions since we may not be able to get to all of them, for lack of time. As you can probably intimate from the above, my sense is that the overwhelmingly pressing theological issue of our day is not quite exactly doctrinal (as important as the various doctrinal disputes are, I am not denying that these need to be addressed) at the core, but rather epistemological and therefore, ultimately ecclesiological. It is no coincidence that I am posting here at “Called to Communion” and not somewhere else. I’ll stop here for now and look forward to your thoughts before I continue and address your points in more detail.

    Pax Christi,
    S.

  154. Dear SS,

    I’m a little uncomfortable here because I don’t know exactly what you mean by “hermeneutic of rupture.” I know that in my last comment, I referred to a “narrative of rupture and/or decline,” by which I was referring to your statement in #149 that “the church broke with Christ’s teaching to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” My use of “rupture” there was non-technical; it was simply meant to pick up “broke” in your comment. But as you probably know, “hermeneutic of rupture” has acquired a specific meaning in post-Conciliar Catholic language.

    But, to shoot from the hip, I’ll say this:

    You asked whether St Gregory the Theologian was “endorsing a hermeneutic of rupture when he:”

    held services in the home of a relative, and hence ostensibly out of communion with the Church?

    No. And St Gregory was not out of communion with the Church, ostensibly or actually, but only with the imperial Arian church.

    said that bishops behaved like a swarm of hornets?

    No, of course not. Bishops sometimes have so behaved.

    refused to submit to Saint/Emperor Theodosius? (recognized by the EO)

    Again, of course not. It’s not clear to me that Theodosius commanded St Gregory’s participation such that his refusal would count as a refusal to “submit” as opposed to a mere withholding of voluntary acquiescence. I could be wrong on that — it’s been five or six years since I studied that episode in detail, though I suppose I ought to pull out my books and find out. But either way, even if St Gregory did disobey Theodosius outright, bishops are not obligated to submit to temporal princes, including Orthodox Christian ones, in spiritual matters.

    I guess I’m not sure what you’re getting at here.

    in Christ,
    John

  155. SS,

    I meant to add this, too. You wrote, “I cannot overemphasize that I am emphatically not seeking a following.” I just wanted to reassure you that you’ve made that plenty clear, and I believe you :-) If anything in my previous comment suggested that I didn’t, it was unintended.

    But I still don’t see how your recommendations don’t amount to a de facto recommendation of not being Catholic, or at least bracketing those aspects of Catholicism that you think are problematic. In other words: what I said in the paragraph in #152 beginning “First, let me note…” still seems on point to me. Maybe you could explain what exactly you’re asking of Catholics if not, in effect, that they not be Catholic. Or you could hold off on that, as your judgment dictates.

    John

  156. Hi John,

    Thanks. Yes, hermeneutic of rupture was a poor choice of words on my part (was typing that late at night in the fog of fatigue). I was beginning to address this comment, which I believe is foundational to your objection:
    “Additionally, there seems to me to be in internal incoherence in your position. Have you submitted yourself to a bishop? If not, your situation seems out of accord with St Ignatius’s instructions”

    Now, you raise a legitimate objection but nonetheless one that begs an important epistemological question. Submission to a bishop surely is part and parcel of the FOFAD, but in and of itself cannot be measure enough. Why? Turning to history, we know that there was a time at which, in the words of St Jerome, “the whole world groaned and awoke to find itself arian.” We know that in the late 4th century, for decades, the church was reaping what it had sowed earlier in its novel alliance with the political Roman Empire. Under Constantine the Great’s son Constantius II (Emperor from 337-361), a semi-arian, the church became overwhelmingly arian in its beliefs. So much so, that Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria was banned at least 5 times, spending 17 years in exile, suffering ex communication from Pope Liberius (325-366). This state of affairs, led to the famous phrase “Athanasius contra mundum”, i.e., “Athanasius against the world.”

    Now imagine being present at the time, to hear the 60 bishops at the synods of Caesarea and Tyre accuse and condemn Athanasius with the following “You are not in submission to the Bishop and therefore you are outside the apostolic faith.” How does Athanasius respond?

    “May God console you!… What saddens you… is the fact that others have occupied the churches by violence, while during this time you are on the outside. It is a fact that they have the premises, but you have the Apostolic Faith. They can occupy our churches, but they are outside the true Faith. You remain outside the places of worship, but the Faith dwells within you… You are the ones who are happy; you who remain within the Church by your Faith, who hold firmly to the foundations of the Faith which has come down to you from Apostolic Tradition…

    Note he was speaking to the faithful and not to the Arians in power. But nevertheless, he makes an historical appeal to the faith of the Fathers. Now, I am of course, not likening today’s Catholic church to the church of he late 4th century (prior to 381 AD). However, the principle by which I offer my suggestions to the CC is in the same spirit as that of Athanasius and Gregory Nazianzen’s objections.

    Of course, looking back, you will argue with impunity that St Gregory was not out of communion with the Church (with the benefit of hindsight). But this merely begs the question : how does this stance not commit the fallacy of simply assuming what one is trying to prove in a manner akin to a posture of sola scriptura cum patribus apostolicis? How is this immune from the charge that ‘this is your interpretation’? Had one objected to an arian bishop at the time, one would have received the same answer: “Isn’t this your private interpretation of matters and why should we listen to it? Afterall, God has granted us majority rule and you should submit to us.”

    So the catholic response will be “Well, we know from history that Arianism was never what the Apostolic Church taught.” I agree with that, but that’s beside my point which is that this Athanasian defense (and that of Gregory in recusing himself from ecclesiastical pomp) is fundamentally an historical appeal to the faith of the Fathers, i.e., exactly what I am claiming to be doing by turning to the AF. You see, even the arians could charge Athanasius as heretical for simply being out of communion with them, by mere decree! That did not necessarily mean however that they were correct. I believe that there is such a thing as an honest appeal to the AF; for instance, I think of protestant Bradley Cochran, who brilliantly refuted the protestant view that the Epistle to Diognetus teaches imputation. But even beyond that hope of an honest historical appeal, I have to add that apostolic succession, as good and important as it is, simply cannot be a guarantor of truth. We must turn to a higher epistemological standard, i.e., an Apostolic Faith that is supported and vindicated by its fruit and honorable/noble resistance to an evil world and its corrupting ways.

    Contrast the nobility of Polycarp, who is persecuted by the authorities/world with the life of Pope Liberius, who exiled Athanasius. Contrast the purity of the faith of Ignatius who went to his death contra mundum but with the grace of God to strengthen Him at the stake, with the bishops appointed by emperior Valens in the East.

    I believe that this epistemological principle derives its existence from the very words of Christ in Matt 7 where He gives believers the prerogative to discern their teachers. He says in no uncertain terms, using the word, epi-ginosko, “You shall know them….”, implying a deep, felt in the gut/experiential sense of knowing. In other words, He commands us not to be afraid to ask the question: are your teachers bearing fruit in keeping with repentance?

    Which brings us to the question of “maybe you could explain exactly what you’re asking of Catholics, if not in effect, that they not be Catholic.” Firstly, let me just say this: I make no demands of catholics, for I am a sinner in great need of God. I can only join in unison with the voices within the church who are calling for great repentance , the kind which, these catholics, have not seen:

    http://www.christianpost.com/news/catholics-far-behind-evangelicals-in-devotion-to-faith-study-shows-85901/

    What would happen to all those who have abandoned the CC if they saw the church actively repent from its worldliness, selling all to follow after Christ? What would happen if the church took a first step by melting the Papal golden throne, dissolving the Vatican-State, giving the proceeds to the poor, going above and beyond what it is doing for the needy? What would happen if the church relieved of their duties the pastors and bishops guilty of sexual abuse and covering up the abuse, and joined the EO in allowing their priests to marry ( think of Bishop Gregory of Nazianzus Sr and Nona), while not refusing celibacy to anyone who would prefer that? The anger in the catholic community over such is still smoldering and its for a reason, they feel that their silence can be bought.

    I believe that if repentance of that nature were undertaken, we would see an incredible faith driven revival with sustained fruit, providing the basis for a return to the faith of the apostolic fathers. This was a faith which saw married bishops and clergy, as well as priests who worked for a living (see Didache) in addition to serving God and church. I recognize that all this is hard to hear and almost impossible to contemplate, but is it not in our weakness that God’s strength is brought to bear? You will say, you are being ridiculous, how can dissolve the Vatican as a state (btw, I urge all megachurches to do the same, sell your campuses, meet in smaller locales, and feed the poor). Did not Jesus say, you cannot serve God and Mammon and also this: “with God all things are possible!”? I’ll stop here for now.

    Peace,
    S.

  157. One other thing I wanted to add: you know when you say “what you’re really asking us is stop being catholics”, it immediately makes me think of the spouse in the middle of a counseling session, who upon hearing the grievances of the other, patiently and tearfully brought to the table, simply responds stoically with arms crossed: “You are asking me to be someone I am not. I YAM who I YAM! . ” :-)

    Isn’t it true that this is usually the valley in which all good intentions and hopes of communion go to die? We can take the approach of systematically demantling our neighbor’s grievances, but does such an approach lead to communion or does it kill the process? I believe that this site has done great things to advance the dialogue in a spirit of charity, no matter how difficult and frustrating the conversation has been and yet always lurking in the background is this danger of inertia. Is it fair to say that there cannot be communion if inertia is the modus operandi, on either side? Doesn’t the process of reconciliation always involve a give and take, an admission of mistakes as well as suggestions that can move us closer to unity. I will be the first to admit as an ex Protestant that sola scriptura, sola fide (as they understand it), the TULIP, the voiding of baptism/eucharist as sacraments among other things were great mistakes, in addition to the moral failures of the movement itself, since the Reformation. But is there any admission on your end that part of what is taught in the CC today and part of the praxis cannot be found in the FOFAD?

    Peace,
    S.

  158. SS (#157

    Following up on “I yam who I yam” – and, obviously, you don’t need to tell me, but you have said you are not Protestant and you are not Catholic – do you identify with any group? Do you call yourself a Christian at all? It might help us to know where you are coming from.

    Whilst I am at it, what is FOFAD?

    jj

  159. Hi John J,

    I thought Popeye would soften my tone some, but I now realize he was a pretty hard slugger himself, that was probably a mistake, LOL. Btw, you’d make a pretty good Santa if you’re not already one. I bet there’s a jolly ole red suit in the rest of your picture, :-)

    Speaking of affiliation, I have nowhere to lay my head, rejected by all, but desirous to be in communion with all. The acronym is a time saver for faith once and for all delivered (to the saints, Jude 1:3).

    Peace,
    S.

  160. SS,

    You wrote:

    So the catholic response will be “Well, we know from history that Arianism was never what the Apostolic Church taught.” I agree with that, but that’s beside my point which is that this Athanasian defense (and that of Gregory in recusing himself from ecclesiastical pomp) is fundamentally an historical appeal to the faith of the Fathers, i.e., exactly what I am claiming to be doing by turning to the AF. You see, even the arians could charge Athanasius as heretical for simply being out of communion with them, by mere decree!

    I don’t think that is the Catholic response at all. I think the Catholic response would be to say that you have missed one of the the most important aspects of the Arian conflict. In the midst of his battle with the Eastern bishops, what Athanasius does is flee to pope St. Julius in Rome, and there garners the protection of Julius, who in receiving the accusations of the Eastern Arian bishops (notice how these heretical bishops knew they needed the pope to complete their program) ruled for Athanasius and Nicene orthodoxy, thereby turning the Arian tide. The rising waters of the Arian heresy broke upon the rock of Rome.

    It was precisely these events which loomed large in Newman’s conclusion that the Petrine office was the indefectible center of the Church’s orthodoxy and was a doctrine more attested by Church history than almost any other! It is one of the more common arguments made by Catholic historians in support of the doctrinal indefectibility of the Petrine office. That is why, in Catholic ecclesiology, the Pope’s involvement or consent or ratification are in one way or another needed in the formation of any dogma. The Magisterium just is the bishops in union with the successor of Peter. Where that union does not exist, no dogma can arise. Infallibility is a gift to the Magisterium because it is and was first a gift to Peter. Therefore, the Petrine office is an irreducible constituitive element of the Magisterium. St. Athanasius’ appeal to the faith of the fathers, like that of other ECF’s, is perfectly compatible with his and their other words, as well as actions, which show that they understood that faith to be entrusted most especially, and indefectibly, to the keeper of the Petrine office, the principle of the Church’s unity.

    There is an irony here, because from the history of these events you take away the notion that the “faith of the fathers” can be in conflict with, and indeed trump, the Magesterial authority of the Church; whereas I and many Catholic historians see in these very same events one of the most powerful indications and vindications of Catholic ecclesiology and authority. At any rate, all I hoped to point out here is that the Catholic response would not be what you think it might be.

    Pax Christi

    Ray

  161. JTJ,

    Re your question “Do you call yourself a Christian?”: I am tempted to reply in the affirmative, much like Sanctus did when pressed in the arena (2nd century). But then I realize that I might not be worthy of such an appellation, considering the latter’s faith. I can say however, that Christ is Lord and Savior, in unison with you.

  162. Ray,

    Thank you for your input. That Athanasius fled to Julius is besides the point at best, and a red herring at worst, but I appreciate you raising that, because it should help clarify my point. I am responding to the idea that an appeal to Holy Scripture and the tradition of the Apostolic Fathers necessarily suffers from the same disease that the solo/sola scriptura problem does, namely epistemological arbitrariness. What I am saying is that regardless of where Athanasius fled to, he himself made an historical appeal to the Fathers, in defense of truth. And at the time, the powers that were (and they were in the majority) could have just as easily told him that there was merely his private interpretation as was that of Julius. And yet, we know that it was not a merely private interpretation, but rather the defense of the apostolic faith. The inclusion of the AF to confirm and validate our reading of Scripture allows us to stay within the loci of the beliefs delivered to the saints.

    With all due respect to JH Newman: I find the greatest weakness in his logic to be epistemological, even though he started well by studying the history of the 4th-6th century disputes. Sure, the disputes may have been resolved, but that cannot and should not be the main determining factor in our analysis. We should also be asking this question: how were those disputes resolved? Were they resolved by violence, in the flesh, or by the Spirit? History gives us the answer. The question is, what epistemological principle are we using to validate doctrinal truth? I am saying that whatever it is, it should include Christ’s warning to beware the fruit of our teachers. What is so pure and beautiful about the AF is that they are a witness to what the church was meant to be and we have the proof of Christ’s commendation of some of them (which is sufficient to make the point), that they were poor, yet rich.

    Peace,
    S.

  163. SS – oh, I wasn’t troubled by Popeye, just wondered if you identified yourself with a flavour of Christians or what.

    jj

  164. SS,

    My response was designed to counter your notion of what the Catholic response would be to the claim that the events surrounding St. Athanasius show that orthodoxy is to be detremined by a personal reading (even the personal reading of an ECF) of scripture in light of the AF. To that end my response was precisely to the point because what you had posited as the Catholic response is not the Catholic response.

    As to the larger issue, you wrote:

    “And yet, we know that it was not a merely private interpretation, but rather the defense of the apostolic faith”

    But we know no such thing. Athanasius is simply one ECF, and there is nothing which entails that this or that father’s understanding of the deposit of faith suffices to establish what the deposit *is* in any binding sense. Combining your private interpretation of the scriptures with your private interpretation of the positive theological content of the AF’s yields only your private interpretation of scripture-cum-AF’s. The epistemic problem rests with yourself, for there is no evidence whatsoever that any father thought that the binding understanding of the dsposit of faith rested with his own private theological discernment; but there is abundant evidence that the fathers saw the crux of binding orthodoxy as resting with the See of Peter in Rome.

    What could there possibly be about your own reading of scripture and the AF’s which would lead anyone to understand that reading as binding? And if not binding, it is theological opinion, and if theological opinion is the best we can do, then for practical purposes, we have lost a handle on divine revelation *as* divine revelation and subsumed the deposit of faith within a fog of subjective interpretation. However, if the authority and promises which Christ gave to Peter entail the establishment of a principle of unity which Christ preserves from error, then we have a ground for recognizing as binding, that which is in accord with the faith of the Apostolic See.

    You say that JHN makes epistemological errors, but do not say what those are. You then acknowledge that the disputes were resolved and affirm that we should be asking *how* they were resolved. But as I explained, what caused the resolution was not the word of Athanasius, but the ruling of the pope. Why? Because the pope’s ruling was understood as having authority to bind, as from Christ. That’s how it was done. We find St. Augustine upholding the same principle, as do so many of the fathers.

    I agree that the question is: “what epistemological principle are we using to validate doctrinal truth?” But as a matter of logic, even prescinding from history, your proposal can never make that validation in anything other than a subjective and non-binding way, since there are no grounds for thinking that you (nor I) are protected from error in any doctrinal promulgation. That means your solution can only yield theological opinion, and that undermines the sought distinction between orthodoxy and heterodoxy.

    By contrast, the ecclesiology of the Catholic Church provides a principled means by which such validations might be made and known as free from error (and therefore binding), only supposing the Petrine office holder is protected by Christ from error (even despite sin) in the way Catholics think him to be. It is an understaning of doctrinal validation which can work, in principle, from a purely logical of functional point of view. But most importantly, there is a stong basis from both scripture and the ECF’s for thinking that Christ gave Peter just that sort of promise.

    Pax Christi

    -Ray

  165. But as I explained, what caused the resolution was not the word of Athanasius, but the ruling of the pope.

    I used the term ‘resolution’ lightly and not in the manner in which you use it above. Nothing was truly ‘resolved’, i.e, made final about the church’s arian problem until Valens was killed and Emperor Gratian appointed Theodosius (a Nicene), who then, used force/violence to reverse the state of affairs. Did Christ teach us to coerce/kill in the name of truth or did He teach us to love our enemy, even our theological enemies? (loving them does not equate of course to agreeing with them…) That Athanasius was only one ECF is precisely the point, so much so that it was Athanasius Contra Mundum. It is readily acknowledged that he almost single handedly kept the deposit of faith alive.

    You did not deal with the elephant in the room. Namely that the charge of a private interpretation could have just as easily been made towards Athanasius in his day, by the arian bishops. Their existence and rule for decades at the helm of the church is a lasting witness to the fact that authority in and of itself has no self validating power. It can only be truly validated by the fruit of righteousness, which we saw in the AF and can still be experienced today, if true repentance is pursued.

    What could there possibly be about your own reading of scripture and the AF’s which would lead anyone to understand that reading as binding? And if not binding, it is theological opinion, and if theological opinion is the best we can do, then for practical purposes, we have lost a handle on divine revelation *as* divine revelation and subsumed the deposit of faith within a fog of subjective interpretation. However, if the authority and promises which Christ gave to Peter entail the establishment of a principle of unity which Christ preserves from error, then we have a ground for recognizing as binding, that which is in accord with the faith of the Apostolic See

    This is truly fascinating. Go back to the Lord’s day and imagine a devout Jew making the same argument against Christ or one of his followers:

    “What is binding about your reading of Scripture and how is all this not nothing but opinion? We have Moses who spoke our authority, what do you have? And if your opinion is taken to prevail, we have lost a handle on divine revelation. However if the promises God gave to Moses entail the establishment of a principle of unity which Moses (and our copyists) preserved from error, then it is us and only us who have any ground to differentiate what is binding or not.”

    I’m sorry, this line of reasoning simply will not do. It is riddled with non sequiturs, which Christ in His day, exposed rather quickly and decisively. A mere appeal to authority or even pure lineage can never suffice and is easily dismissed as irrelevant when the goal of the gospel is mangled beyond recognition. Love is the higher law, not the Magisterium. I just read about the Fr Finn story in the NYT, front page. Case in point: all the authority and succession in the world cannot make up for the true demand of God, that we do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him.

    But as a matter of logic, even prescinding from history, your proposal can never make that validation in anything other than a subjective and non-binding way, since there are no grounds for thinking that you (nor I) are protected from error in any doctrinal promulgation. That means your solution can only yield theological opinion, and that undermines the sought distinction between orthodoxy and heterodoxy.

    This would hold true only if one operates out of the specific presuppositions you hold to: namely that the CC has nothing to repent of and will always be right because of its interpretation of the promise to Peter. But consider the words of Christ who when speaking of His return says rather ungloriously, “Will the Son of Man find faith on earth when He returns?” Could it be that the church prevails not because she does not err but rather out of the sheer mercy of God? My ‘solution’ does not presuppose that I have all the answers, but rather suggests that the AF afford both catholic and protestant a way forward towards reconciliation. But as long as one party continues to advocate, even philosophically or theologically that it is inerrant, then there is as much hope as in the case of a broken marriage where one spouse simply crosses arms and says “I Yam what I Yam, take it or leave it.” What I am suggesting is not final, but points in the direction of ecumenical deliberation leading to a voluntary give and take. How that process works itself out we cannot say in advance. It would have to be grounded in a theology of humility as much as it is in zeal for truth. “He who exalts himself shall be lowered and he who lowers himself shall be exalted.” But of course, all this is mere suggestion. I am not so naive to think that the odds are stacked against it, given the current state of affairs. Nevertheless, I make the effort, it is worth making because that the world might believe that the Father sent the Son.

  166. Another thought to keep in mind re Pope Julius… he was succeeded by Pope Liberius, the first pope not to be canonised as a saint, and who as importantly, excommunicated Athanasius for years before he was reinstated. What sort of resolution was that? Nothing was truly resolved until Theodosius marched into the streets of Constantinople and by the use of force expelled Demophilus among others.

  167. SS,

    First let me say that I appreciate the charitable dialouge.

    You wrote:

    That Athanasius was only one ECF is precisely the point, so much so that it was Athanasius Contra Mundum

    But, in fact, it was Athanasius supported by the pope against the world; and that support made all the difference. But I will let the historical debate lay. Suffice it to say, that one’s understanding concerning how the resolution of Arianism was reached can be seen (though it is obviously not seen by all) as readily supporting the claims of the Petrine ministry: but we could argue about the significance and implications of those events ad nauseum.

    You wrote:

    “You did not deal with the elephant in the room. Namely that the charge of a private interpretation could have just as easily been made towards Athanasius in his day, by the arian bishops. Their existence and rule for decades at the helm of the church is a lasting witness to the fact that authority in and of itself has no self validating power . . .

    I dealt with it. You are simply not responding to the Catholic position. The Arian bishops did charge Athanasius with producing a private interpretation. And indeed, without some way to settle whether his view was orthodox or not, it would be just that – a non-binding, private, interpretation – just like yours. But notice that neither Athanasius private judgment, nor the Arian bishops charges against him, settled the doctrinal issue. Rather, the Arian bishops sent their charges to Julius for adjudication, and Athanasius fled to Julius as well. Both parties appealed to Rome. Why?? This shows, as a matter of fact, that the Arian bishops were *not* at the helm of the Church. Only if you beg the question against Roman Catholic ecclesiology and reject the centrality of the Petrine office could you define “the church” in such a way as to suggest that the Arian bishops (or any particular set of bishops for that matter) were “at the helm of the church”. From a Catholic perspective, the only bishop who is or ever was “at the helm” of the Church was placed there by Christ – the Church-builder and rock-setter. From a Catholic perspective, the fact that they ultimately sent their grievances to Rome, undermines the ecclesial outlook implicit in your statements.

    You wrote:

    It can only be truly validated by the fruit of righteousness, which we saw in the AF and can still be experienced today, if true repentance is pursued.

    It is an unsupported assertion that orthodoxy can only be known when promulgated by those who practice some requisite degree of righteousness (and who decides what that is??). That postulate is contrary to Jesus’ teaching concerning those who “sit on the seat of Moses” – and while the “know them by their fruits” passage certainly applies to whether a man is in union with Christ, it does not necessitate that a sinner might be nevertheless used to convey God’s message – Balaam, Balaam’s donkey, Cyrus, Caiaphas, the Pharisees on Moses Seat, etc). But most problematic of all, your proposal again puts the individual in the position of determining when the leaders of Christ’s Church are behaving righteous *enough*, such that we must take their doctrinal expressions as binding. Again, in this theory the final buck, with respect to what should and should not be recognized as orthodoxy, ends in personal subjectivism – only this time not only does the subjectivism extend to scriptural and patristic interpretation, it now includes a subjective assessment of other folks holiness. The entire paradigm supposes that Christ made the preservation of the truth He wished to communicate across space and time dependent upon the ability of men to practice sustained holiness. Catholics think Christ is a better organizational planner than that and see scriptural and patristic evidence to support the idea that he did plan better than that.

    Describing a fictional first century dialogue between the Jews and Christ, you wrote:

    “What is binding about your reading of Scripture and how is all this not nothing but opinion? We have Moses who spoke our authority, what do you have? And if your opinion is taken to prevail, we have lost a handle on divine revelation. However if the promises God gave to Moses entail the establishment of a principle of unity which Moses (and our copyists) preserved from error, then it is us and only us who have any ground to differentiate what is binding or not.”

    Of course, this overlooks the fact that one crucial goal of Jesus’ miracle working and rising from the dead was to establish the motives of credibility which indicate that He did, in fact, have Divine authority (not just human opinion making ability). The works confirmed the message (“If you do not believe My teaching, believe the works that I do” – “Go tell John what you see and hear”). So when asked “What [Jesus] do you have [to establish you’re interpretive authority]?”; Christ might have a few valid points, “Well, I have been walking on water, turning water into wine, multiplying loaves and fish, fulfilling a lot of OT prophecies, raising folks from the dead, healing the deaf, blind, and lame; and soon I will rise from the dead Myself – will that do?” So there is every ground to take Jesus’ word as binding. The apostles also, were both commissioned and authorized to teach by the One who had shown Himself, through mighty deeds, to be the Son of God. In all this, we are looking at objective, historical, grounds for recognizing the interpretive authority of Christ and His apostles to speak definitively and bindingly to doctrinal issues. Have you been authorized by Christ to teach in His name, or provided the world with motives of credibility such that we should adhere in a binding way to your interpretations of scripture or the AF’s, or your judgments concerning the requisite level of holiness which any “true” teacher must possess? Again, the point is that there are grounds for thinking that Christ and those He authorized can speak with binding authority. There are no such grounds for you (or me).

    In fact, your situation is much more akin to an early Christian believer – after the ascension of Christ – listening to some doctrinal point promulgated by St. Peter and saying:

    “Wait a minute Peter, from what I remember the Lord saying when He was on earth, and in conjunction my interpretation of the OT scriptures; I think you have got part of the gospel wrong here Peter. Besides, as everyone knows you are a sinner (and a pretty notorious one at that). Just because Christ named you “rock” and set you as the foundation upon which He would build His Church and gave you the keys to the kingdom so that whatever you bind or loose on earth is bound or loosed in heaven, I see no intrinsic need to recognize your authority to teach in Christ name on this point, or to be bound to your teaching as if it were ipso facto ‘orthodox’. I can read, as well as remember the words of the Lord, myself. After all, you are a sinner just like me. I have every right – and indeed the responsibility – to call you out when I think you are wrong. So don’t give me that ‘I am authorized by Christ bit’. Jesus never meant for you or your office to have that kind of authority”.

    Well that kind of stance is a recipe for doctrinal anarchy, and whenever and wherever the litmus test of orthodoxy has been moved to the individual – doctrinal chaos and anarchy have reigned.

    You wrote:

    “This would hold true only if one operates out of the specific presuppositions you hold to: namely that the CC has nothing to repent of and will always be right because of its interpretation of the promise to Peter.

    Nope. This holds true as a matter of logic, independent of the Roman claims, or the claims of any other ecclesial body. Again, I had written:

    But as a matter of logic, even prescinding from history, your proposal can never make that validation in anything other than a subjective and non-binding way, since there are no grounds for thinking that you (nor I) are protected from error in any doctrinal promulgation. That means your solution can only yield theological opinion, and that undermines the sought distinction between orthodoxy and heterodoxy.”

    The Catholic position could be entirely wrong, and what I have said here will still follow. Your proposal is that individuals (such as yourself), who show no signs of having either been authorized by Christ to make binding doctrinal decisions, nor shown any objective motives of credibility as to why your doctrinal interpretations should be regarded any higher than anyone else’s; should assume the role of ultimate decision makers with respect to what does and does not constitute the deposit of faith – what distinguishes orthodoxy from heterodoxy. That reduces in practice (as history well attests) – and as a matter of logic – to a barrage of table-pounding claims with respect to what is orthodox and what is not – an endless battle of mere theological opinions. In this situation, we become unable to recognize any doctrine as revealed per se. We can perhaps affirm (based on the historical motives of credibility) that a revelation of some kind was given in the past, but we cannot say with anything other than theological opinion, what its content is today. That’s the result of your position from a logical POV, without reliance upon any RC ecclesial pre-supposition. Now if the Catholic position is wrong, it just means that Christ gave us no objective provision for distinguishing orthodoxy from heterodoxy, but the logical results of your proposal do not change. It only means that the best theology can do is educated theological opinion. It means that access to knowledge of divine revelation – as such – is blocked for those of us who live after the death of Christ and the apostles. Of course, you are free to embrace that result. Avoidance of this situation was the very reason why the Church held ecumenical councils (beginning with Jerusalem in Acts), whose binding nature was not understood to arise from the theological interpretations which the council members settled on, nor certainly on the personal holiness of all (or even a majority) of the attending bishops, but upon the will of Christ to preserve His Church from error, despite human sinfulness; so that His truth might be passed on – knowable as such – from generation to generation, without the risk of being obscured at the first signs of personal sin among the Church’s leadership. The Church, because established by Christ as His very body, is a greater and stronger thing than either ancient Israel, or the cumulative sins of the Church’s hierarchy across time. I am all for your calls for holiness and repentance – don’t get me wrong – but as a condition of orthodoxy, I think that theory is a plain mess.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  168. SS (#165)

    That Athanasius was only one ECF is precisely the point, so much so that it was Athanasius Contra Mundum. It is readily acknowledged that he almost single handedly kept the deposit of faith alive.

    But what I don’t understand is how do you know it was the Deposit of Faith he kept alive? How do you know the Arians weren’t right, and that with Athanasius’s triumph, the doom of the Deposit of Faith was sounded?

    jj

  169. Ray said:

    But, in fact, it was Athanasius supported by the pope against the world; and that support made all the difference. But I will let the historical debate lay. Suffice it to say, that one’s understanding concerning how the resolution of Arianism was reached can be seen (though it is obviously not seen by all) as readily supporting the claims of the Petrine ministry: but we could argue about the significance and implications of those events ad nauseum.

    The pope who renders your argument invalid was against Athanasius before he was for him. Liberius who succeeded Julian excommunicated Athanasius, he was a Roman pope as well. How is that for a binding and authoritative decision? Your praescriptio is impotent. History shows that Arianism was not effectively dealt with until Theodosius forcibly took Constantinope, and Julius was long gone by then. This appeal to history is not tangential to the alternative argument, it is central to it. I understand your desire to lay it aside, but I am saying slow down and consider the implications of history.

    When Athanasius was in exile, by decree of Pope Liberius , he appealed to Scripture and the faith of the Apostolic Fathers. There is no getting around that! Now, I have to repeat that what I am offering here, is not meant to be viewed in isolation as in “I have the truth and I am infallible.”, but as an offering of faith to the catholic theologians/community, for them to consider and internally discuss with the view of eventually discussing it with the EO and Protestants as well. In other words, what I am suggesting can only be of value if it is considered in a truly conciliar and ecumenical fashion. I am a nobody, but the somebodies in the CC, EO and Protestant bodies can take this offering of faith and discuss it with a view towards unity.

    Regarding whether I have been authorized by Christ: this is what I have been authorized by Him to do: to discern my teachers:

    ” 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them .”

    Repeated twice for emphasis. Further 1 Tim 3 says this:

    “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach , faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle , not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.”

    I summon the epistemological principle delineated by Christ Himself in Matt 7 and ask you: can you honestly say that the history of the Papacy stands in accord with the above? Does it promulgate a subjective assessment of the holiness of folks or does it provide us with a reasonable measure by which we can discern our leadership? I believe it does the latter. All the table pounding about authority is moot in light of the Scripture above. Christ responded to his interlocutors with Scripture and we as His followers not forbidden to do so, with all due respect for the authorities. There are times, when, as Athanasius, we have to courageously stand for what was the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. Again, I am not calling anyone to follow me (God will be my judge), but instead hope that C2C would take this suggestions at par value, and give them a fair hearing amongst yourselves, with the view of eventually reaching outward. (btw,over at Jason’s blog I am also pointing to the problems with the Protestant paradigm). But again, an absolutely rigid stance makes this impossible. As long as we have a take it or leave it approach, how can communion truly be achieved?

    Peace,
    S.

  170. But what I don’t understand is how do you know it was the Deposit of Faith he kept alive? How do you know the Arians weren’t right, and that with Athanasius’s triumph, the doom of the Deposit of Faith was sounded?

    JJ,

    Imagine yourself going back in time to ask Athanasius the very same question. He has been exiled by the Pope at Rome himself and is sitting in solitude. What does he say when you ask him the question above?

    Peace,
    S.

  171. SS you wrote:

    Did Christ teach us to coerce/kill in the name of truth or did He teach us to love our enemy, even our theological enemies?

    To me, this is a very good question, albeit, a somewhat loaded question. My answer to your question is complicated by the fact that you speak of “killing in the name of truth”. Which raises this question for me: Do the scriptures ever teach that the punishment of death is justified for unrepentant sinners that commit crimes against the faith?

    The Mosaic Law authorized the death penalty for certain crimes against the faith such as sacrificing to false Gods (e.g. Exodus 22:20, Leviticus 27:29). Under the Mosaic Law, a Jewish ecclesiastical court had the authority to mete out a death penalty punishment for the sin of unrepentant idolatry. The Mosaic Law that demands a death penalty for unrepentant idolatry, the Jewish judges, the Jewish ecclesiastical court – all these things constitute an OT type that finds its fulfillment in its NT antitype. The fulfillment of this OT type is the Final Judgement, where unrepentant idolaters will receive a guilty verdict from the Just Judge; a guilty verdict that makes these unrepentant sinners subject to the penalty of the second death (i.e. eternal punishment in the lake of fire. See Revelation 21:8).

    From my reading of the Scriptures, I know that unrepentant sins against the faith do merit a punishment of “killing” (the everlasting “killing” of the second death). The faithless are also subject to the just punishment of the second death (see again, Revelation 21:8). The scriptures are clear, I must not be found to be faithless if I am to avoid the lake of fire. Which raises this question, how can I ever be a faithful disciple of Christ if I have no certainty about what constitutes orthodox belief?

    Leaving aside the question of the “killing” that is justly due for faithlessness, we can ask another question. What did Christ authorize the leaders of his church to mete out as punishment for the sin of faithlessness? Specifically, how should the church punish unrepentant heretics while these unrepentant heretics are living on earth? As far as I can see from my reading the NT, the leaders of the church that Christ personally founded are only authorized by Christ to give the punishment of excommunication to unrepentant heretics. And a man must first be a member of the church that Christ personally founded before he can be excommunicated for being an unrepentant heretic.

    To answer your question, I think that an orthodox understanding of excommunication is vital. Yes, we must love our enemies, even our “theological” enemies. But the disciples of Christ are in no way instructed by Christ to keep communion with unrepentant heretics. So how do I know what constitutes an orthodox understanding of excommunication? That question cannot be answered without first having definitive answers to many other questions. For example: How does a seeker of truth identify where the church that Christ personally founded resides on earth? How does one become a member of the church that Christ personally founded? Who has the authority within Christ’s church to formally define what constitutes orthodox belief? Who has been given the power to formally excommunicate an unrepentant heretic?

    One way to answer all these questions would be to do what Christ commands of those who would be his disciples – to take such questions to “the church”, and then to “listen to the church” when she teaches. Even if I am having trouble identifying where “the church” is that I must listen to, I can study history and come to the realization that every church that has a two-thousand year old history understands that “listening to the church” entails accepting the dogmas solemnly defined at valid Ecumenical Councils. Let us use that common understanding of the ancient churches as our starting point.

    SS, it seems to me that you are not claiming to be personally infallible. Nor do you seem hostile to the idea that a valid Ecumenical Council has the power to formally define what constitutes orthodox doctrine for all Christians. Is that correct? If so, I would like to ask you a question. What, in your understanding, are the criteria that determines the validity of an Ecumenical Council?

    The Catholic Church can give me the criteria I am asking for before an Ecumenical Council is ever held. As a lay Catholic, I can know when any Ecumenical Council has infallibly taught without personally having to exercise the charism of infallibility to make that discernment. But no other church that I am aware of can give me the concrete criteria that determines the validity of an Ecumenical Council before the Council is even held. This is not an insignificant issue. Is the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus of 449 AD valid or not? Is the Ecumenical Council of Florence of 1439 valid or not? How do I know if any Ecumenical Council has taught infallibly, if I don’t know first the criteria that determines the validity of an Ecumenical Council?

  172. Mateo,

    Thank you, appreciate the questions and tone. You know, as a non catholic, I want to credit everyone here at C2C for their even keel and honest attempts at engaging different perspectives with fairness and respect. By contrast, over at Jason’s blog, I’ve already been condemned as an unregenerate by a protestant and it is now being said that catholics and those who agree or partly agree with them are puffed up with pride… isn’t it deeply ironic that Rom 3:23 tends to be one of their banners? This is quite discouraging but one must move ahead.

    I will give your post a deeper think and will circle back, you raise some important points there.

    Peace,
    S.

  173. SS:

    You’ve been making a great deal out of Pope Liberius’ excommunication of Athanasius. But there is universal agreement in the written sources we have that that act was performed under duress, and was rescinded by Liberius as soon as that duress lessened. See, e.g., the account given here. The evidence indicates that Liberius was orthodox, not Arian, and that he temporarily acted otherwise only out of weakness–just as, e.g., St. Peter had so acted when he refused to eat with Gentiles and was rebuked by St. Paul for that. Even Athanasius knew the score and so refused to accept the excommunication’s validity. Given also that excommunications have never been thought to be infallible, Liberius’ of Athanasius has no doctrinal relevance.

    From a doctrinally relevant standpoint, the decades-long Arian controversy was not settled by Theodosius’ imposition of Nicene orthodoxy in the 370s. Nobody at the time could know that Theodosius was not going to be replaced by yet another Arian emperor who would have tried to enforce Arianism again. That indeed was to happen more than once–even over a century later, when Boethius was imprisoned by an Arian emperor. What quelled the controversy over time was the fact that everybody knew that the Church of Rome, the pre-eminent church, opposed the heresy. It is true, of course, that Athanasius and the Nicenes appealed to Scripture and Tradition. But so did the Arians, and so do most heretics. That’s because any Christian theology must do so if it is to have any plausibility, or even relevance. But if such disputes could be settled by reason alone, there would be no need for ecclesiastical authority to settle them. Yet that’s how this one and many others were settled, for the very good reason that, absent such authority, everything in theology–including and especially the status and meaning of Scripture–remains a matter of opinion.

    That holds, of course, for your own appeals to Scripture. If the Church is not infallible when teaching with her full authority, then no human agency is, and hence your own theology, like everybody else’s, would be just an opinion. Indeed, the traditional doctrine that the biblical canon consists of such-and-such divinely inspired books would itself be just an opinion. What we need is not more opinions, but a principled way to distinguish divine revelation from human opinion, and thus orthodoxy from heresy. Your approach supplies no such distinction. The Catholic approach does.

    Best,
    Mike

  174. Dear SS (##156, 157),

    Sorry again for the delayed response. I know that can make things difficult. And sorry, too, for any overlap with your conversation with Ray, which I have been following.

    I have to admit I’m a little puzzled by what looks to me like a certain reductionism in your approach to the ecclesiological-epistemological question. Catholics very much agree with you that apostolic succession is not on its own a sufficient condition for the preservation of the fullness of orthodox Christian faith and life. We do, however, believe it is a necessary condition, and while you suggest that it “surely is part and parcel of the FOFAD” and that it is “good and important,” you nonetheless argue, in effect, that it can be replaced by appeal to Scripture and the Apostolic Fathers, coupled with a judgment of the fruits of those who claim to preserve and hand on the Apostolic Faith. If, on the other hand, you don’t think it can be replaced, being as it is “part and parcel of the FOFAD,” I’ll ask again who your bishop is.

    I agree that discernment of fruits is an important part of the Christian life, but I do not think it plays the role in discerning orthodoxy that you think it does. Already in the third century, Origen, preaching to the faithful in Caesarea, warns of the demons’ shrewdness in clothing the heretics in virtue, so as the more easily to allure their listeners, and in trying to cause orthodox preachers to stumble, the more easily to discredit their message (Homily on Ezekiel 7.3). Note, too, how St John Chrysostom interprets the passage on false prophets that you have highlighted, in Homily on Matthew 23.8. Certainly there are wolves in sheep’s clothing in the Church, and certainly we must be on our guard against them.

    Some historical footnotes (though I see now that Mike Liccione has beaten me to the punch here):

    First, you said to Ray that Pope Liberius was against St Athanasius before he was for him. But this isn’t quite accurate. Liberius was originally for Athanasius and, while his lapse in exile himself is probably one of the key reasons he was never raised to the altars, it’s not clear that he was ever actually against Athanasius. Take note of Athanasius’s own report of Liberius’s lapse:

    But Liberius after he had been in banishment two years gave way, and from fear of threatened death subscribed. Yet even this only shows their violent conduct, and the hatred of Liberius against the heresy, and his support of Athanasius, so long as he was suffered to exercise a free choice. For that which men are forced by torture to do contrary to their first judgment, ought not to be considered the willing deed of those who are in fear, but rather of their tormentors. They however attempted everything in support of their heresy, while the people in every Church, preserving the faith which they had learnt, waited for the return of their teachers, and condemned the Antichristian heresy, and all avoid it, as they would a serpent.

    Historia Arianorum 5.41 (NPNF trans.)

    If you think I’m missing something here, please provide some documentation, preferably from primary sources, but failing that secondary will do.

    Second, and more importantly, in the quotation that you cite, St Athanasius’s appeal to “Apostolic Tradition” is not reducible to appeal to the texts of the Apostolic Fathers, though such texts certainly figure into the appeal. The contrast is not between “the Faith” and “apostolic succession.” Bishops on both sides—the case never having been, strictly speaking, Athanasius contra mundum—had apostolic succession. It’s between “the Faith” (which is inseparable from the sacramental form of paradosis) and “the places,” i.e., the actual church buildings. Now, obviously, church buildings, on a Catholic/Orthodox understanding, are not “just” buildings. They have been consecrated by the people of God, set aside for public divine cult. But I’ve never heard anyone arguing that the buildings as such have anything to do with the preservation of orthodoxy! So, no, St Athanasius could not rightly be accused of resorting to private interpretation of Scripture and the AF.

    Next, I’d like to say something about your comment that the crisis of the late fourth century came about because “the church was reaping what it had sowed earlier in its novel alliance with the political Roman Empire.” There may be some truth to that, but that strikes me as too sweeping and simple a judgment. I do not find anything in the New Testament that clearly envisions the possibility of a time when the Church would have any kind of direct influence on the State. That means that the questions that will have to be asked are not going to have pat, cut-and-dried answers when they actually arise in history. What do you do when Caesar is a Christian, and what does Caesar do? There can be no doubt, in my view, that the situation beginning in the early fourth century was a genuinely new historical situation for the Church to deal with, and the Church needed to figure out how to understand this new situation. (It wouldn’t be the last. There have been many other unprecedented historical contingencies with which the Church has had to deal. Think of the Enlightenment, the rise of nation-states, the emergence of democracy, etc. And now—heaven help us!—the pope has reportedly gotten a twitter account.) Eusebius gave voice to the great temptation to overreach in reading the movements of Providence and to ascribe messianic attributes to the Emperor. I think St Augustine’s City of God is a rather helpful and balanced antidote.

    Simply condemning any cooperation between Church and State is way too facile. Are we not to pray and hope for the conversion of public leaders? And are they not to bring the gospel to bear in how they govern the secular order? Let’s be clear: this is not to underwrite every theocratic kook who thinks he’s serving Jesus. This is just to point out that the situation in the fourth century—and in every subsequent century of Christendom, eastern and western—is more complex than I think most people realize. The challenges were different in the East and the West, but I don’t think the history of either lung of the Church, politically speaking, is rightly characterized either with triumphalism or with contempt (the latter, obviously, being the flavor of the week in popular accounts of ecclesiastical history).

    That’s why your nostalgia for the late first and early second centuries rings hollow to me. Those Fathers were responding to the situations and needs of their times and representing the Apostolic Faith in their own context. So were the Apologists who followed them. So were the Fathers of the third and fourth centuries. I very heartily commend your love for the AF and the clarity of their witness on certain points, and I agree that their writings have a lot to offer for Catholic and Protestants to consider together (unless, of course, those Protestants find TF Torrance as convincing as you find Justo Gonzalez, but that’s the academic magisterium for you!) But I don’t think it works to just push the “cliff” back from sometime around the turn of the second century (or earlier, if you agree with Torrance’s reading of 1 Clement) to the middle of the second century, or even the beginning of the fourth. That’s to make the faith into a fossil whose DNA can be analyzed and replicated (yeah, like in Jurassic Park). But the faith isn’t a fossil. It’s the life of a living, breathing Subject, the Church. That isn’t to canonize the Church’s every historical moment, but it is to affirm that Christ has been faithful to His promises, and the Holy Spirit has preserved the fullness of the FOFAD in the Catholic Church. Primitivism is a non-starter. Jesus didn’t give us a timeless set of blueprints from which men of goodwill are supposed to found churches on their own initiative. He gave us the Church.

    Right-ho: onward.

    What would happen to all those who have abandoned the CC if they saw the church actively repent from its worldliness, selling all to follow after Christ? What would happen if the church took a first step by melting the Papal golden throne, dissolving the Vatican-State, giving the proceeds to the poor, going above and beyond what it is doing for the needy?

    The defection of huge numbers of Catholics in recent decades is a massive tragedy. I pray daily for ex-Catholics. And I pray that I may not be the cause of anyone leaving the Church.

    I know that things like the papal throne can be a stumbling block to some, and that does seem to me to be worthy of careful consideration. But, for what it’s worth, here’s how I view it, myself. The papal throne, like all material adornments in the Church—sacred vessels, vestments, buildings, etc.—are signs of the splendor of the spiritual gifts God has given to the Church, a faint reflection of the glory of the Jerusalem above. Since, the Pope of Rome tends immediately to raise so many hackles, I’ll illustrate this with an appeal elsewhere. I’m reminded of the recent enthronement of the new Coptic pope, His Holiness Tawadros II. All that cloth of gold! What does that mean to the Copts, undergoing all that persecution? Does it mean that their Church is out of touch with the poor and their leaders obsessed with their own glory? I don’t think so. I think they see that as a sign of the glory of their Christian faith, the same faith they cling to when suffering indignity and violence for the sake of the Name.

    None of these things, of course, are essential to the Faith. But they are meant to be worshipful responses to the extravagance of God’s love for us. Such decorations and signs of honor should not be the occasion of pride, but a token of the love that burns in our hearts for our Lord and of the glory we want to bestow on him. The honors we pay to prelates of Holy Church should be referred to the one High Priest in whose office they participate by grace. (This last point is something that reforming Saints like Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, and John of the Cross understood very well, as have all true reformers of the Church.) I don’t believe that care for the poor and adornment of churches are inherently opposed, but I think I stand quite squarely on Catholic teaching when I say that such adornment is rendered vain and useless if it is not preceded by, coupled with, and followed by love of and support for Christ’s poor. The papal throne and other papal regalia in particular, I might add, are rendered beautiful, at least to my eyes, when they are occupied, as they are today, by a Successor of the Fisherman who pastors his Master’s flock in a spirit of humble leadership and personal penance.

    As for the political status of the Vatican, it certainly could be changed or abolished. I don’t personally think that would be wise at this point in history: the Vatican city-state makes a lot of sense to me at the present moment in history as a contingent arrangement for preserving the libertas ecclesiae. But who knows what Providence will arrange in the future?

    When it comes to care for the poor, I am proud of the Church’s many charitable activities. But, certainly, we can always do more for the poor. That’s a timely reminder during this penitential season of Advent.

    What would happen if the church relieved of their duties the pastors and bishops guilty of sexual abuse and covering up the abuse, and joined the EO in allowing their priests to marry ( think of Bishop Gregory of Nazianzus Sr and Nona), while not refusing celibacy to anyone who would prefer that? The anger in the catholic community over such is still smoldering and its for a reason, they feel that their silence can be bought.

    Each of these issues is worthy of discussion, but I don’t accept the implication that they are causally linked, popular though that linkage may be in the popular mind.

    The sex-abuse scandals—by which I refer both to the fact of sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy and to its cover-up in the hierarchy—are a very painful self-inflicted wound. I know. I feel the pain of it every day. What you’ve suggested here, that guilty parties be dismissed, is very sensible. On the ground, as anyone knows who has done any research on the issue beyond the sneers of the New York Times, concrete situations are often complex, and the policies the Church adopts cannot be characterized by sweeping “zero-tolerance” legalism. While such an approach tends to appease on-lookers, it rarely serves justice. With that caveat in place, I imagine that you and I largely agree on this matter.

    Priestly as well as episcopal continence (as opposed to celibacy) is well attested in the ancient Church well before Pope Siricius’s 386 decretal. On this matter, I recommend Stefan Heid’s Celibacy in the Early Church.

    By the by, the Eastern Orthodox certainly do not permit men in major orders to marry; they allow married men to be ordained (to the diaconate and presbyterate). Once ordained, a man may not marry. Maybe that was a slip of your keyboard, but it is an important distinction.

    You will say, you are being ridiculous…

    SS, I’d be dishonest if I didn’t admit that it’s grating to be told what I will say. I may not agree with everything you’ve said, but I don’t find much if any of it “ridiculous.” I hope the seriousness of my responses makes that clear.

    you know when you say “what you’re really asking us is stop being catholics”, it immediately makes me think of the spouse in the middle of a counseling session, who upon hearing the grievances of the other, patiently and tearfully brought to the table, simply responds stoically with arms crossed: “You are asking me to be someone I am not. I YAM who I YAM! . ” :-)

    The fact that something I said makes you think of something bad, doesn’t show that what I said is false. At any rate, I didn’t say and haven’t said that everything you’ve suggested amounts to asking us not to be Catholics. What I said in #152 was, “insofar as you ask Catholics to dispense with things that we believe to be of divine institution […] you are in effect asking us […] to stop being Catholics.” By “insofar as,” I meant “to the extent that,” and no more. Now, if you are in fact asking us not to be Catholics—specifically, by asking us to believe that the Catholic Church has erred in her definitive teaching in matters of faith and morals—that’s fine. We ask Protestants not to be Protestants all the time, after all! But you should recognize and own that fact. Suppose you’re right, and my posture is not one of living fidelity to our blessed Lord, but of toddler-like stubbornness. You still ought to admit that you are asking me to be something I’m currently not! However it may look to you from ecclesial no-man’s land, I am not free to redefine what it means to be a Catholic.

    But is there any admission on your end that part of what is taught in the CC today and part of the praxis cannot be found in the FOFAD?

    In order to get any traction in talking with Catholics, you’re going to have to distinguish between what has been definitively defined and what hasn’t. Yes, of course there may be such an admission on the Catholic end, in at least two ways. First, there are many aspects of praxis that fall under the rubric of discipline and are perfectly changeable, forming, as they do, no part of the deposit of faith. Second, there are surely plenty of things that get taught on the ground by Catholic priests and believed by the faithful that are false and contrary to the FOFAD as authentically expounded by the Magisterium. But no, there is no admission on our end that the Catholic Church has definitively taught error.

    That distinction once in place, I hope you’ll find an answer to the inertia you’re worried about. What you seem to be suggesting is that the statement “some of the claims of the Catholic Church–specifically, the ones about her indefectibility–are false” is a precondition to dialogue. In that case, don’t be surprised when you get “crossed arms,” any more than you’d be surprised if that’s what you got when sitting down for a friendly dialogue with a Muslim and asking him to begin by admitting that parts of the Qur’an is false, or if he asked you to begin by admitting that Jesus was probably only a prophet. If you want our arms uncrossed (however much I feel the negativity of the image you’ve chosen, I’m sticking with it for the sake of discussion) on matters that the Church has pronounced on definitively, you’re going to have to show us that the Church’s claims about herself are wrong. We’re not going to presume it.

    in Christ,
    John

  175. To my dear friends, Ray, Michael, John and Mateo,

    You’ve been making a great deal out of Pope Liberius’ excommunication of Athanasius. But there is universal agreement in the written sources we have that that act was performed under duress, and was rescinded by Liberius as soon as that duress lessened. See, e.g., the account given here. The evidence indicates that Liberius was orthodox, not Arian, and that he temporarily acted otherwise only out of weakness–just as, e.g., St. Peter had so acted when he refused to eat with Gentiles and was rebuked by St. Paul for that. Even Athanasius knew the score and so refused to accept the excommunication’s validity. Given also that excommunications have never been thought to be infallible, Liberius’ of Athanasius has no doctrinal relevance.

    That the excommunication was made under duress does not lessen my point, it only magnifies it. Before I expand on that, let me first address what is the deeper flawed underlying principle at work here. And this undercurrent in thought is present in virtually all of the responses here to my posts; namely one which posits that infallibility is and should be the overriding concern in all theological endeavors. It was echoed also in Mateo’s question re ecumenical council and the question of how to define one.

    Now, this undercurrent is remarkably similar to the other side’s insistence on sola scriptura only that here one could say sola infallibilis (of course, this is implied) is in view. For this is truly the catholic belief/phronema upon which everything else rests and as importantly, upon which everything else is submitted to.”We have no problem with that”, comes the objection, “matter of fact this is a necessity, haven’t you seen where the alternative has led to, with tens of thousands of splintered denominations”. I understand where you are coming from, splintered divisions among protestants notwithstanding, but if I may:

    There’s a remarkable parallel between this insistence on what I would call sola infallibilis and the response of those who opposed John the Baptist at the beginning of his ministry. Anticipating their objection he says:

    “Do not begin to say Abraham is our Father….” Implicit in those words, “Abraham is our Father” lies the very same presumption of infallibility which hardened the jews hearts against not only John the Baptist, but also the Messiah he pointed to. It was impossible for the jews to admit that they might have misunderstood Moses and the Law and turned it on its head. Why? Because by their understanding, infallibility was the guaranteed by product of their lineage and descent (of which apostolic succession is an echo). This is the same resistance that the Apostle wrestled with in his epistle to the Romans, especially in chapter 9.

    15 For he says to Moses,

    “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
    and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

    16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort , but on God’s mercy”

    Today, albeit an insignificant and non pedigreed voice calling out in the blogosphere, I must nevertheless echo Paul and raise the question: by way of analogy, could it be that it salvation does not depend on our infallibility, but rather on God’s mercy? What I am suggesting, is this: what the Almighty is concerned is that we do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with him, not any self ascribed infallibility which allows us to rationalize our lack in regards to Micah 6:8. Let’s use the Fr Finn situation as an example: I thought the NYT article was actually, surprisingly relatively fair in its coverage. It pointed out that there are many priests calling for his removal, although one cannot be sure that this is for the right reason and not liberal politics. If they are indeed calling for his removal genuinely, that’s certainly commendable. However, the article also states that Archbishop Vigano, who is Pope Benedict’s representative in the US, has not responded to calls for Fr Finns resignation. Now, at this juncture, one may say, look, you are pointing to an administrative failure, but this in no way challenges our belief that our Pope is doctrinally infallible. And I have to say in response, you are missing the entire point:

    Only God is infallible, in all possible uses/senses of the word. Peter was to be the custodian of His infallibility and rely on His grace through faith and humility (introduces himself as a bondservant of Christ, not as Pope in his epistle), which he did and as a matter of fact, he never claimed any infallibility of his own. Even if I grant you that he was the first Pope (Scriptural evidence does not suggest this at all, the EO have a better argument there), then he erred in his ‘doctrine’ that believers in Christ had to keep the ceremonial law as well (prior to his correction through the dream and the Cornelius event). And yet, despite this non trivial mistake, (which God corrected through Paul, the one ‘abnormally born’) God blessed subsequent generations of christians in manifold ways. Yes, the gates of hell shall not prevail against His church, but it is certainly not because of doctrinal infallibility, but rather wholly due to God’s mercy (Rom 9:16).

    When one attempts to make a distinction between doctrinal infallibility and administrative infallibilty, to preserve oneself from the impact of doctrinal disagreements, one is inserting scholasticism into the deposit of the faith, when it was never there in the first place. The minute you do that is the minute you break with your own: St Vincent of Lerins warns that doctrinal development should bear in kind, wheat bearing wheat, not moving away from the deposit of faith. One can produce verse after verse after verse which shows that the Apostolic Fathers had nothing of scholasticism and would have never tolerated such a distinction. Their emphasis was wholly on the obedience of faith:

    St Clement writes in chapter 44 of his epistle to the Corinthinans:

    “We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit , and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them.”

    Clement was pleading for unity in the church. And witness what he says about what is expected from the bishops and presbyters: that they blamelessly fulfill their duties in holiness. Then he says blessed are those who have finished their course. Which brings me back to Pope Liberius:

    In the attempt to introduce the doctrinal/administrative infallibility distinction, we are breaking with the FOFAD, which Jude calls to contend for (i.e., defend, stand up for, uphold). This is not reductionism or a nostalgia for the primitive, but rather obedience to God’s will that the faith be upheld. The argument that Pope Liberius must be excused for his excommunication of Athanasisus is out of keeping with the faith of the AF. It is germane to scholasticism but not to the FOFAD. Not to mention that the AF by the principle expressed above most likely would never have reinstated Liberius, but instead replaced him, much as Judas was replaced. So claiming that Liberius ultimately vindicated Athanasius is a moot point.

    Clement also says:

    “Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours; and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him”

    Some might say Peter was Peter, Liberius another. But Liberius as Pope in Rome was in the apostolic succession of Peter. So why did he not do as Peter, Paul and Polycarp, and refuse to deny Christ by compromising with the arians whether he wanted to or not? That’s a practical/historical problem for you of great significance, because regardless of his motive, he failed! And it is during those years, that Athanasius had to hang on to the deposit of faith, against the world with no one from East or West to help him.

    Here’s another problem with your reasoning: You claim that the teaching of the CC is in harmony with that of the AF, because she is a living church. Yet Ignatius says:

    “Wheresoever the bishop appears let the people be, even as wheresoever Christ Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church”.

    Catholic apologists attempt to equate the bishop as the pope in the above verse but this is a classic example of taking something out of context. The epistle is to the local church of Smyrna and its referring to the laity and bishop of that church. The bishop of Smyrna is Ignatius’ close friend the great Polycarp. For Ignatius the fullness of the catholic church is found at the local level , each church with a bishop is fully catholic as EO teaches. This is not to deny that the church at Rome was ‘first among equals.’ , it certainly was.

    So if Ignatius equates the catholic church to the local church, how can one try and cover the wrongdoing by the Eastern Bishops as being irrelevant because they were not part of the true church? That only begs the question, aren’t you contradicting Ignatius? You are when you say :

    What quelled the controversy over time was the fact that everybody knew that the Church of Rome, the pre-eminent church, opposed the heresy.

    This presupposes a break with the teaching of Ignatius and the AF, as explained above.

    So again, I plead with the CC, to take the above as nothing more than a suggestion, but nevertheless one to be taken at face value. Discuss it among yourselves, and if you see any truth in it, perhaps this would provide a launching pad for a genuinely ecumenical council, where all are present (catholics, eastern orthodox, protestants), not the just those who want to show up (as was done many times in the past).

    Now regarding the analogy of sitting down with muslims and receving crossed arms as a result. While that may be generally true, it is not always and everywhere true. I personally know muslims who were converted to the faith and whose conversion had partly to do with the exposure of the errors/plagiarism of the Koran. So, with Paul, I would say:

    Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’”(that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. ”

    Scholasticism has created a schism between mind and heart. I am here to plead for a return to harmony between both. This return is possible through a theology of humility and fallibility , for it is in our admission of fallibility and trust in God that His strength is magnified. He can bring us together to be one again while providing for our need for doctrinal purity. How can the God who raised Christ from the dead fail to provide us doctrinal purity if we turn to him with our whole hearts, admitting our mistakes and resolving to deny ourselves for His glory? Are we that weak as to say that the Holy Spirit cannot work through the conciliar process anymore and that we, upon whom more grace as been poured out than any other generation, cannot be part of that process? Where is our faith? It is in our admission of fallibility, that God’s infallibility is vindicated and triumphant.

    Peace,
    S.

  176. SS (#175),

    Many aspects of your last comment merit consideration, and I won’t be able to give a full response to this for a while. Perhaps others will jump in. But I wanted to make one quick clarification. In response to something I had said, you wrote:

    Now regarding the analogy of sitting down with muslims and receving crossed arms as a result. While that may be generally true, it is not always and everywhere true. I personally know muslims who were converted to the faith and whose conversion had partly to do with the exposure of the errors/plagiarism of the Koran.

    Right. That’s my point. They converted because they were shown the errors/plagiarism of the Koran, not because they were asked to presume the existence of such as a precondition for dialogue.

    My point here is that you keep claiming that you’re not asking us to “break fellowship.” But at the same time, that’s exactly what you’re doing, because insofar as you are asking us to abandon certain of the claims of the Church about herself, you are asking us to throw in the towel on being Catholics. That’s fine, but let’s be clear about what’s going on.

    best,
    John

  177. SS,

    If you’ll suffer a follow-up to try to make the point—actually there are two related points—even clearer, here’s something the Church teaches about herself:

    889 In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a “supernatural sense of faith” the People of God, under the guidance of the Church’s living Magisterium, “unfailingly adheres to this faith.”

    890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:

    891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,” and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.” This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.

    892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

    Now, you do not believe this. Nor do you think we ought to believe it.

    The first point is that, for a Catholic to reject these four paragraphs is to reject something essential to being a professing Catholic. So, insofar as you want us to reconsider and ultimately to reject these four paragraphs, you are asking us not to be Catholics, and that’s something that it seems to me you should admit forthrightly. Your protestations of humility and these things being suggestions have been heard, but they do not fundamentally alter the content of what they imply, which is precisely defection from the faith as proposed by the Catholic Church.

    The second point is that you shouldn’t be surprised or annoyed that we aren’t willing to suspend belief in those four paragraphs as a precondition for dialogue. If you want to dissuade us of the truth of these, you’ll have to show us their falsity and not accuse us of stubbornness for not immediately relinquishing adherence to these claims.

    Does that make any more sense?

    in Christ,
    John

  178. John,

    I’m not asking you to throw in the towel , which means rejecting everything. If I was, I would ask you to embrace sola scriptura, sola fide, sacraments as merely symbolic, deny that Rome is the first of equals and much more. But I’m not. I hope you can see the distinction, and I am sorry not being more forthright. I am trying to be as direct in my suggestions to the Protestants that they reconsider the above. They have also, so far, equated my suggestions with throwing in the towel, because for them all those, especially sola scriptura, are sacred. But multitudes have been showed the errors of sola scriptura and have crossed the Tiber. What I am saying is that I have no authority to do anything or call for a council, but you do , as Catholics. I do not blanket condemn Rome as Protestants do, but I am calling for a time of deep reflection and even deeper dialogue in the spirit of Micah 6:8.

  179. John,

    I’m happy to give you and C2C the last word. I fear I would be repeating myself with what I said in #75 in response to #77. I believe I have shown why the paradigm on which #77 is based is not in keeping with the FOFAD. But it is clear that you disagree, and I respect that. Only one thing to add; my analogy involving the jews was not meant to be one to one, rather I wanted to point to the argument they used and not the condition of their heart. I do not equate catholics to those who opposed John the Baptist, so please forgive me if I conveyed the idea of stubbornness, that was not my intention.

    Peace,
    S.

  180. SS (#170

    But what I don’t understand is how do you know it was the Deposit of Faith he kept alive? How do you know the Arians weren’t right, and that with Athanasius’s triumph, the doom of the Deposit of Faith was sounded?

    JJ,

    Imagine yourself going back in time to ask Athanasius the very same question. He has been exiled by the Pope at Rome himself and is sitting in solitude. What does he say when you ask him the question above?

    Peace,
    S.

    I don’t know what he would say, and can’t ask him. But I really do want to know how you know.

    jj

  181. JJ,

    If you don’t know what Athanasius would say, then are you willing to admit that during the time he was in exile, the church and the Pope erred doctrinally? Answer this and I will answer your question.

  182. SS (#181)

    If you don’t know what Athanasius would say, then are you willing to admit that during the time he was in exile, the church and the Pope erred doctrinally? Answer this and I will answer your question.

    Of course I am not willing to admit that the Church ever erred. The Church cannot err, though any number of its members can.

    I have no idea whether the Pope erred – but I am sure he never taught definitively error as something that the Church must believe. The Pope can err personally, of course, and, for what I know, may have done.

    How do you know that what Athanasius kept alive was the Deposit of Faith?

    jj

  183. S#175,
    Great story, sola humilitas, sola fallibilitas!

  184. SS (##178-9),

    The citation from the Catechism in #177 was merely intended to illustrate a sort of formal point about dialogue that I’ve been trying to make for a while but that it didn’t seem like you’d understood–specifically, (1) that you are, in fact, asking us not to be Catholics, or at least asking us to call for a major rupture in the Church’s self-understanding, such that what it means to be a “Catholic” would change for everyone from myself to the pope; and (2) that it is not reasonable to ask us as a precondition to suspend our present convictions. It was not meant as a response to the actual material you brought up in #175, which, as I said, I’ll have to digest and respond to later.

    But the moment is obviously past, so it’s probably best to forget about it. I think you’ve made your position as an interlocutor sufficiently clear. I’m really sorry for muddying the waters, and I hope I’ll find some time for more thinking and writing later this week.

    in Christ,
    John

  185. SS (#175):

    1. You wrote:

    There’s a remarkable parallel between this insistence on what I would call sola infallibilis and the response of those who opposed John the Baptist at the beginning of his ministry. Anticipating their objection he says:

    “Do not begin to say Abraham is our Father….” Implicit in those words, “Abraham is our Father” lies the very same presumption of infallibility which hardened the jews hearts against not only John the Baptist, but also the Messiah he pointed to. It was impossible for the jews to admit that they might have misunderstood Moses and the Law and turned it on its head. Why? Because by their understanding, infallibility was the guaranteed by product of their lineage and descent (of which apostolic succession is an echo).

    I find it rather odd that you would argue for such a parallel. In many of my discussions with Protestants, they object to my claim that an infallible Magisterium is necessary for the Church on the ground that the Jews of the OT had divine revelation but neither claimed to have an infallible magisterium nor thought such a thing necessary! As a matter of fact, of course, your “parallel” rests on your own interpretation of some Jews’ reaction to John the Baptist. But that interpretation is not very cogent. For the Jews of that time were divided into Pharisees, Sadduccees, and Essenes, and those groups did not agree either on whether the prophetical and wisdom books were divinely inspired, or on how to interpret the sacred writings as a whole. If any had recognized an infallible human teaching authority amongst themselves, whether on the basis of descent from Abraham or otherwise, they would have said something to that effect and appealed to it. But there is no evidence of that in the sources.

    2. You write:

    Only God is infallible, in all possible uses/senses of the word. Peter was to be the custodian of His infallibility and rely on His grace through faith and humility (introduces himself as a bondservant of Christ, not as Pope in his epistle), which he did and as a matter of fact, he never claimed any infallibility of his own. Even if I grant you that he was the first Pope (Scriptural evidence does not suggest this at all, the EO have a better argument there), then he erred in his ‘doctrine’ that believers in Christ had to keep the ceremonial law as well (prior to his correction through the dream and the Cornelius event). And yet, despite this non trivial mistake, (which God corrected through Paul, the one ‘abnormally born’) God blessed subsequent generations of christians in manifold ways. Yes, the gates of hell shall not prevail against His church, but it is certainly not because of doctrinal infallibility, but rather wholly due to God’s mercy (Rom 9:16).

    In that paragraph you commit two fallacies: false dichotomy and non-sequitur.

    The false dichotomy is that between infallibility and mercy. Jesus’ opponents were wont to point out that only God forgives sins, a point which was true, and is in fact repeated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (§ 1175). Yet Jesus said to his disciples: “Whose sins you shall forgive are forgiven them” (John 20:23). As God the Son, Jesus shared the divine prerogative of forgiveness with his authorized representatives, and in a wider sense with his followers as a whole, who are commanded to forgive one another. So if the Church and her members can and ought to share the divine prerogative of mercy, there is no reason to believe that she could not share in the divine prerogative of infallibility. After all, as Christians we are called to become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). That is a mercy, and so are the divine gifts, such as infallibility, that come with it.

    Your non-sequitur is that, because Peter sometimes erred and did not make a formal claim to infallibility, therefore he was not infallible under any conditions. If that were the case, then the Council of Jerusalem would have arrogating undue authority to itself when it said that “it seems to the Holy Spirit and to us” that Gentile converts were not bound to most of the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law. But in fact, it was exercising the authority Jesus gave to the Apostles to teach in God’s name. As part of the unfolding of divine revelation recounted in Acts, Peter had to learn the truth of what said council went on to rule. He learned it in part from a dream and in part from Paul. So while he was not infallible as a man, the council he presided over as acknowledged leader of the Apostles was exercising the divine prerogative of infallibility, and so therefore was he. Of course the issue between the Roman and Orthodox communions is whether the successor of Peter in the See of Rome can exercise that prerogative unilaterally, not just when gathered in council. But we’re never going to make progress in discussing that if you reject even the infallibility of the bishops, the successors of the Apostles, as a whole. If the Church is not infallible when expressing her faith at the highest level of authority, then as I’ve been saying, everything in theology is a just matter of provisional opinion. But that reflects the ecclesiology neither of the New Testament nor of the Orthodox–never mind of the Catholic Church.

    3. Your argument about Liberius does not present a counterexample to the Catholic position. The Catholic Church has never held that popes will always do their jobs well. Not even Peter always did his job well. The Catholic Church has never taught that popes cannot be, personally, heretical–though there’s no evidence that Liberius was actually a heretic, as distinct from caving to pressure to act like one. Catholic doctrine entails only that popes will never use their authority to bind the Church to a doctrinal proposition that is false. Despite his failures, Liberius did not do that.

    4. You write:

    So if Ignatius equates the catholic church to the local church, how can one try and cover the wrongdoing by the Eastern Bishops as being irrelevant because they were not part of the true church? That only begs the question, aren’t you contradicting Ignatius?

    The answer to your question is no, because the move you’re attributing to me is not a move I’ve made. The Eastern bishops were “part of the true Church,” because they had authentic apostolic succession. But the majority of them erred because they were Arian. Catholic doctrine does not hold that bishops can never err. It holds that the college of bishops as a whole is infallible when, in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, it sets forth a doctrine as binding on the whole Church. But that requires the free and authoritative concurrence of the Bishop of Rome.

    5. Your last paragraph labors under the same false dichotomy I’ve already addressed. And it’s fatal to your position. For if no agency in the Church is divinely authorized to teach in God’s name, and thus empowered by God to teach infallibly, then one man’s “doctrinal purity” is another’s heresy, and nobody is authorized to say otherwise with any authority save their own opinion.

    Best,
    Mike

  186. SS,

    By the time I post this I am sure others will have already responded to you, but perhaps this may add to the conversation:

    You wrote:

    “one which posits that infallibility is and should be the overriding concern in all theological endeavors”

    No, infallibility is not the only concern in all theological endeavors, but it is the fundamental and primary concern with respect to having a principled means of distinguishing orthodoxy from heterodoxy. That is a very specific theological concern – not the only one. This problem has not to do, firstly, with faithfully living out the truth (which is no doubt the ultimate purpose for *knowing* the truth). It has to do with deciding how that very truth which we are supposed to live-out can be recognized as such. It has to do with preserving “divine revelation” as something recognizable in the world – as distinct from human opinion – so that people can live the truth. The primary trouble I see with your position is that nothing you have said addresses our consistent argument that your proposal for grounding how the truth is to be known (as distinct from the equally important issue concerning how the truth is to be lived), logically undermines the very concept of divine revelation; putting in its place nothing less than private judgment – whether interpretive or moral or both.

    You wrote:

    There’s a remarkable parallel between this insistence on what I would call sola infallibilis and the response of those who opposed John the Baptist at the beginning of his ministry. Anticipating their objection he says:

    “Do not begin to say Abraham is our Father….” Implicit in those words, “Abraham is our Father” lies the very same presumption of infallibility which hardened the jews hearts against not only John the Baptist, but also the Messiah he pointed to. It was impossible for the jews to admit that they might have misunderstood Moses and the Law and turned it on its head. Why? Because by their understanding, infallibility was the guaranteed by product of their lineage and descent (of which apostolic succession is an echo)

    But here again you conflate living-the-truth with knowing it. The Jews did not think they were infallible due to their ethnic heritage, they though that their ethnic heritage, ipso facto, made them acceptable in God’s sight, such that John’s call to repentance need not apply to them. The issue had nothing to do with correct interpretation of the Mosaic Law (the truth as such). The problem was spiritual presumption. The proper analogy would be those Catholics who think that simply by being baptized or receiving the sacraments, (i.e. being sacramentalized) ipso facto entails that they are “okay” with God (“good Catholics”), while they are all the while far from Him in their hearts through embrace of mortal sin. That’s ritual presumption (a very dangerous thing indeed); but that is not relevant to the question of how one knows what the truth is that one should embrace (say concerning justification, or other crucially practical, yet fundamentally theological, matters).

    You wrote:

    “Now, this undercurrent is remarkably similar to the other side’s insistence on sola scriptura only that here one could say sola infallibilis (of course, this is implied) is in view”

    Nope, Sola Scriptura (as well as your unique duo of scripture+AF’s) leaves the private individual as an authority unto himself, standing in judgment of true doctrine and/or the moral sufficiency of ecclesial authority. The Catholic approach requires that a man relinquish his theological autonomy, and submit to an authority other than himself.

    You wrote:

    “Even if I grant you that he was the first Pope (Scriptural evidence does not suggest this at all, the EO have a better argument there), then he erred in his ‘doctrine’ that believers in Christ had to keep the ceremonial law as well (prior to his correction through the dream and the Cornelius event)”

    The EO position is quite inferior to the Catholic with respect to early documentary testimony concerning the reality and role of the Petrine Ministry (I am trading assertion for assertion here – though I believe it to be true). I encourage you to read the works on the historical grounds for the papacy listed in the library index on this site. Secondly, no Catholic teaches that a pope’s private theological views are protected from error by Christ: only those which he promulgates as binding upon the family of God in his role as head of the Church. Peter in no way promulgated a doctrine of ceremonial law observance. To the contrary, he righty kept faith with Jewish practice until God revealed to him otherwise. It is also (from a Catholic perspective) no accident that Peter was the one to whom God clarified the crucial issue at the time of the Church’s infancy.

    You wrote:

    “When one attempts to make a distinction between doctrinal infallibility and administrative infallibilty, to preserve oneself from the impact of doctrinal disagreements, one is inserting scholasticism into the deposit of the faith, when it was never there in the first place”

    Nope, the recognized role and authority of the Successor-to-Peter is widely found within the patristic documentary evidence of the first 4 Christian centuries, and only compounds in weight in the centuries following: not a scholastic novelty. Have you done the research on this point? Again, please consider taking a peak at some of the works listed in the library index.

    You wrote:

    “St Clement writes in chapter 44 of his epistle to the Corinthinans . . . Clement was pleading for unity in the church”

    Right, St. Clement wrote an authoritative, yet unsolicited, letter of instruction to the Corinthian Christians! Who did he think he was anyway, the Pope? And not long after Clement, Irenaeus attests to the primacy of Rome, followed by 3rd century fathers, then fourth century fathers, and fifth century fathers . . . and so on. See here for just a small sampling.

    You have written a great deal about the need for humility, righteousness, etc: all things which any Catholic, and any scholastic would heartily affirm. Have you read what the scholastics have to say about the virtues and the life of grace? How much do you know about the life of a man like St. Thomas Aquinas – though an intellectual giant by any standard – yet, possibly one of the most humble Saints in Christian history. I could keep responding to each of your historical claims, but doing so just obscures the real seat of the problem. You present a historical situation: “But what about this pope or bishop who did this” or “What about this scripture which indicates how important holiness is”; and we counter with the Catholic response. Or you make blanket assertions to the effect that Catholic theological thinking is infected by a non-spiritual, dry, crusty rationalism which you associate with Scholasticism; as if clarity and precision in theological discourse were some how at odds with human virtue, true spirituality, etc. But that’s just throwing dust in the air and inviting absolutely interminable debates.

    Let’s re-focus on the argument, which so far goes like this:

    Catholics ask: “How are men and women to know what God has revealed to the human race through the sending of His son, as distinct from, and in the midst of, an ocean of human theological opinion”? To be very clear; no one is debating that the end-game – the thing of penultimate importance in the order of execution according to destination – is living the truth. But it is simply a fact that knowing the truth is first in the order of execution according to commencement (had to play a Scholastic riff :>)). One cannot live a truth which one does not know.

    1.) Your initial response to the question concerning how the truth we are to live is known to be God’s truth – and not the theological guesswork of men – seems essentiality to be this: Each Christian must interpret scripture along with the AF’s, wherein even the selective AF criteria itself is adopted based on a still further private assessment that the AF’s personal holiness is uniquely worthy to serve as a source of doctrinal determination.

    2.) We point out that this criteria reduces doctrinal truth – divine revelation – to the level of mere human opinion which is the very opposite of divine revelation, and the very source of confusion which divine revelation is – in theory – given by God to overcome. Accordingly, the possibility of distinguishing between orthodoxy and heterodoxy is negated – in principle – and we point out that this problem follows for your position regardless of whether or not Rome’s claims are true.

    3.) You could respond to that very clear and concise logical objection by either: a.) pointing to some other alternative for grounding orthodoxy: or b.) offering some additional nuances or factors relative to your theory which you think might save it from the criticism we raise: or c.) you could simply admit that your theory has the implications for theology and divine revelation that we say it does, but then go on to argue why that’s not a big deal.

    4.) Yet, instead, of answering our objections to your theory; you begin offering examples which you think undermine the Catholic approach – each of which we answer from a Catholic point of view. But the common factor in your objections – the thought that is doing the work is just this: “God could not (or at least would not) use a sinful man (or men) as an instrument(s) wherein He divinely ensures his orthodoxy under specific conditions; that is, protecting Him from error when teaching as head of the Church on behalf of the whole Church”. That some level of sin effectively obviates the possibility of God’s providential preservation of a man from teaching error: that’s the essential premise doing all the work.

    5.) But there are at least three problems with this premise:

    a.) God has done something quite similar in the past, not only with respect to the biblical figures I mentioned in a prior post, but more profoundly through the instrumentality of the sinful biblical writers through whom the Holy Spirit inspired the sacred scriptures only while writing the sacred books. The gift of infallibility, wherein God protects the formal teaching of even sinful men so as to preserve scripture’s interpretation from error across time, is nothing less than the counterpart to the gift of inspiration by which God protects the writing of sinful men from error in producing the scriptures themselves.

    b.) Most problematic of all, is that this position subtlety, but surely, enthrones individual autonomy and ego under the guise of championing “righteousness”. I don’t mean that you intend to be acting in such a way. I mean only to say that the logical/implicit result of your position – in fact – puts the individual in the position of ultimate arbiter concerning just what level of holiness must obtain in order to recognize some teacher’s doctrine as authoritative (and the interpretive subjectivism adds yet another subjective layer). Contrary to its humble and docile first impression, this position is far from an act of humility. The individual remains the arbiter of truth..

    c.) Persons apparently very holy can, and have, taught error (Donatist and Montanist rigorists, etc).

    So what would be helpful is this; rather than presenting examples of sinful popes or hierarchs (we Catholics are perfectly aware of their existence), or putting forward scriptures which call men to holiness (a call we Catholics fully acknowledge), could you please:

    1.) Explain how our initial position concerning private interpretation of scripture and the AF’s (because you have privately determined them to be sufficiently holy), resolves the original question concerning how men can – in principle – know the difference between divine revelation and mere human theological opinion.

    and

    2.) Defend what I will call the “sufficient holiness” premise itself, which asserts that a subjective assessment of an adequate level of holiness is a necessary condition for recognizing any ecclesial authority’s doctrinal promulgation(s) as binding.

    I truly do appreciate you willingness to sustain dialogue – especially in a Catholic venue; but I do hope we can center in on the real disagreement – even if we end up disagreeing.

    Pax Christi,

    Rays

  187. 1.) Explain how your initial position concerning private interpretation of scripture and the AF’s (because you have privately determined them to be sufficiently holy), resolves the original question concerning how men can – in principle – know the difference between divine revelation and mere human theological opinion.

    and

    2.) Defend what I will call the “sufficient holiness” premise itself, which asserts that a subjective assessment of an adequate level of holiness is a necessary condition for recognizing any ecclesial authority’s doctrinal promulgation(s) as binding.

    I truly do appreciate you willingness to sustain dialogue – especially in a Catholic venue; but I do hope we can center in on the real disagreement – even if we end up disagreeing.

    1. I have not privately determined them to be holy, Christ has , in His address to the church at Smyrna, Philadelphia and a cross section at Sardis. (see Rev 2,3). If He has said to the Smyrnaens for example, “you are poor, yet you are rich”, whom am I to say otherwise? Do you disagree that they (among whom are martyrs Polycarp and Ignatius) were holy? Your insistence on infallibility as a precondition, is precisely, the very heart of the problem. What I am saying is this: let’s give up our claims to infallibility and consider the AF. This is not arbitrary because if we can agree that they were righteous in the Lord’s sight, then what can we learn from them, doctrinally? How does our doctrine compare to theirs? Historians such as Justo Gonzalez tell us that they were remarkably united in certain aspects of doctrine. They certainly were in their soteriology even though it wasn’t that developed. And that should cause for rejoicing, because it shows that what God seeks is Micah 6:8, not the sophistication of Aristotlean thinking or anything of the sort. Of course, one does not preclude the other, but what I saying is that the latter can most definitely become an impediment to the former. So I am suggesting that Catholics, EO and Protestants work together, in a conciliar fashion, to compare their beliefs to theirs and find common ground with the goal of truly being reunited. In other words, bring all your claims of infallibility, be they sola scriptura, sola infallibilis/papal infallibility and lay them on the table as an offering to God, asking the Holy Spirit to guide and direct. If nothing avails of this, then still this would have been more pleasing to God than all of the killing done in the name of truth at the councils (especially leading up to and after Chalcedon).

    2. When Christ gave us the command to beware and to know our teachers by their fruit, He intended for us to apply it. 1 Tim 3 provides us with the necessary guidelines to obey that command. This is precisely the problem with scholasticism and the artifical/contrived doctrinal/administrative distinction. It flies in the face of Christ’s command to discern fruit, which by definition, disregards that distinction. This need not be complicated at all. Christ’s command is clear enough.

    Peace,
    S.

  188. I find it rather odd that you would argue for such a parallel. In many of my discussions with Protestants, they object to my claim that an infallible Magisterium is necessary for the Church on the ground that the Jews of the OT had divine revelation but neither claimed to have an infallible magisterium nor thought such a thing necessary! As a matter of fact, of course, your “parallel” rests on your own interpretation of some Jews’ reaction to John the Baptist. But that interpretation is not very cogent. For the Jews of that time were divided into Pharisees, Sadduccees, and Essenes, and those groups did not agree either on whether the prophetical and wisdom books were divinely inspired, or on how to interpret the sacred writings as a whole. If any had recognized an infallible human teaching authority amongst themselves, whether on the basis of descent from Abraham or otherwise, they would have said something to that effect and appealed to it. But there is no evidence of that in the sources.

    It may or may not be odd, but that has no bearing on its truth. Judaism in that time was indeed variegated, but the Pharisees were prominent. It is one of these who stood convinced in the temple that he was justified by virtue of his infallible lineage. Again, I am not arguing for a direct parallel between those and the CC, but pointing to the reasoning employed and the danger it presents. In response to John, I am not asking for that as a precondition, but only that it would be ‘on the table’ if a truly ecumenical council were ever to be held.

    So if the Church and her members can and ought to share the divine prerogative of mercy, there is no reason to believe that she could not share in the divine prerogative of infallibility.

    Perhaps. But the historical evidence shows otherwise. As importantly, the paradigm underlying this statement is flawed as discussed in #175.

    If that were the case, then the Council of Jerusalem would have arrogating undue authority to itself when it said that “it seems to the Holy Spirit and to us” that Gentile converts were not bound to most of the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law.

    Non sequitur re the Council in Acts 15. Peter’s vision and correction happened prior to that. Further, learning by definition, can include the setting aside of erroneous beliefs, inferences, conclusions.

    If the Church is not infallible when expressing her faith at the highest level of authority, then as I’ve been saying, everything in theology is a just matter of provisional opinion. But that reflects the ecclesiology neither of the New Testament nor of the Orthodox–never mind of the Catholic Church

    What I have tried to present in #175 is an alternative to your paradigm, which one could call sola infallibilitatis. This alternative would be something akin to this:

    a nostris fallibilis ad Dei infallibilitatis via Sancto Spiritu in verum concilium

    Such a council could only be truly ecumenical if all parties agreed to convene of their own will, and with a desire for true communion. Does this sound hopelessly naive and improbable? Yes it does. But so was the idea that one man would die for the sins of the world and rise again on the third day.

    Catholic doctrine entails only that popes will never use their authority to bind the Church to a doctrinal proposition that is false. Despite his failures, Liberius did not do that.

    #175 was intended to show that indeed he did do that. Regardless of his intentions, he denied Christ for a season and hence allowed false doctrine to persist for a while.

    The answer to your question is no, because the move you’re attributing to me is not a move I’ve made. The Eastern bishops were “part of the true Church,” because they had authentic apostolic succession. But the majority of them erred because they were Arian. Catholic doctrine does not hold that bishops can never err. It holds that the college of bishops as a whole is infallible when, in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, it sets forth a doctrine as binding on the whole Church. But that requires the free and authoritative concurrence of the Bishop of Rome.

    My argument wasn’t that the Eastern bishops weren’t part of the true Church. It was the opposite, on the basis of Ignatius’s statement that where the Bishop is, there is the Catholic Church. Your last statement above does not take into account the case of Pope Liberius, who despite his good intentions, denied Christ and compromised with false doctrine for a season. And what about Pope Honorius I, who favored monothelistim and sent his deacon Gaios to a synod in Cyprus in 634, only to be anathematized 40 years later by the 3rd council of Constantinople. Once again, the argument will be made that Honorius did not issue the teaching ex cathedra. But that is a distinction without a difference when one understands the weakness in the sola infallibilis paradigm. The distinction cannot be upheld in the light of Matt 7:15 ff! It is very obvious to those outside the CC that the doctrine/administrative distinction is meant to minimize cognitive dissonance and hold everything together. But of course, I know that you don’t have any cognitive dissonance whatsoever. That much seems clear.

    Your last paragraph labors under the same false dichotomy I’ve already addressed. And it’s fatal to your position. For if no agency in the Church is divinely authorized to teach in God’s name, and thus empowered by God to teach infallibly, then one man’s “doctrinal purity” is another’s heresy, and nobody is authorized to say otherwise with any authority save their own opinion.

    a nostris fallibilis ad Dei infallibilitatis via Sancto Spiritu in verum concilium

    This above my hope and prayer: that from our admission of fallibility inspired by a total devotion to the truth expressed in Micah 6:8, God’s infallibility would be glorified and made manifest through the Spirit via a truly ecumenical council. That’s all it is, a hope and a prayer. If it must be rejected, let it be so, but one would have nevertheless made the effort towards the possibility of true communion and unity.

  189. Catholics ask: “How are men and women to know what God has revealed to the human race through the sending of His son, as distinct from, and in the midst of, an ocean of human theological opinion”? To be very clear; no one is debating that the end-game – the thing of penultimate importance in the order of execution according to destination – is living the truth. But it is simply a fact that knowing the truth is first in the order of execution according to commencement (had to play a Scholastic riff :>)). One cannot live a truth which one does not know.

    1.) Your initial response to the question concerning how the truth we are to live is known to be God’s truth – and not the theological guesswork of men – seems essentiality to be this: Each Christian must interpret scripture along with the AF’s, wherein even the selective AF criteria itself is adopted based on a still further private assessment that the AF’s personal holiness is uniquely worthy to serve as a source of doctrinal determination.

    2.) We point out that this criteria reduces doctrinal truth – divine revelation – to the level of mere human opinion which is the very opposite of divine revelation, and the very source of confusion which divine revelation is – in theory – given by God to overcome. Accordingly, the possibility of distinguishing between orthodoxy and heterodoxy is negated – in principle – and we point out that this problem follows for your position regardless of whether or not Rome’s claims are true

    Ray,

    You are right the end goal is living the truth, or as I would prefer living in Christ, for He is the truth. Look around you. There may be a vibrant community of ex catholics here, but look at the state of your own church. She is suffering greatly and letting blood:

    http://www.christianpost.com/news/catholics-far-behind-evangelicals-in-devotion-to-faith-study-shows-85901/

    You can argue for your paradigm, but I must raise the question, at what cost? Consider an alternative: imagine turning to the praxis of the AF and doing what the Didache says for example: in requiring that elders and itinerant preachers work for their bread as much as possible. How much credibility would the CC regain today if it were to adopt this, by this one change alone? How about the fact that clergy were still married in the 1st century as seen in 1 Tim 3 (husband of one wife) How many would return to the church if they saw the leadership acknowledge that it has erred in mandating celibacy for its priests? (how much of the abuse has been caused by this doctrinal ruling alone?) Did not Christ commend the early church which had married clergy?

    You’re all pressing me for an infallible rule and I understand why. I have none, but that’s the entire point! I posit that a humble recognition of doctrinal and moral failure (by all, Catholics, EO and Protestants) and a desire to fall on our face and seek God’s blessing collectively will place us in a position to collectively receive the blessing of God and come to terms on doctrine.(2 Chron 7:14). My faith is not in my infallibility, it is in the mercy and grace of God who gives grace to the humble. I’m not blindly advocating a polly-annaish approach to theology: the praxis and beliefs of the AF could act as guiding light and model, but we would have to work collectively to come to an agreement on salvation and other doctrines. How can the Holy Spirit not bless and guide us, if we humble ourselves and turn to him?

  190. SS (re: #188; by the way, what is your real name?),

    You wrote:

    #175 was intended to show that indeed he did do that. Regardless of his intentions, he denied Christ for a season and hence allowed false doctrine to persist for a while.

    More precisely, Peter denied that he knew Christ. Then, what was the ‘false doctrine’ Peter ‘allowed … to persist for a while’, as you say?

    You also wrote:

    Once again, the argument will be made that Honorius did not issue the teaching ex cathedra. But that is a distinction without a difference when one understands the weakness in the sola infallibilis paradigm. The distinction cannot be upheld in the light of Matt 7:15 ff!

    On the contrary, the point at issue in Matthew 7:15ff is twofold, although heretofore you have been insisting on a one-dimensional interpretation. The two points at issue are: the status of certain men as ‘prophets'; and their ‘behavior’ which disqualifies their prophetic status. To speak of a ‘prophet’ is to speak of someone who brokers the word of God authoritatively, through his own communicative action, to the community of faith. But this consideration has not yet factored in your alleged counterexample, when in fact it is precisely what is at issue in Mike’s rejoinder to your counterexample. No one denies that the ‘behavior’ of certain popes or bishops is to be condemned. But what you have yet to show is the extent to which these men were behaving in such a way as to compromise their prophetic communications, given that none of them spoke infallibly–i.e. as prophets–while compromised by their behavior, such as would, in your view of Matthew 7:15ff, invalidate their status as prophets of God and their prophecies as messages on God’s behalf.

    If you want to rivet ‘infallible’ to ‘prophetic’, and show that Matthew 7:15ff presents a problem for the doctrine of infallibility, you’ll need to show examples of infallible–i.e. ‘prophetic’–pronouncements compromised by the kind of condemnable behavior Matthew 7:15ff has in view, objectively identified as such.

    In the grace of Christ,

    Chad

  191. Hi Chad,

    If you don’t mind, it’ll have to stay at SS.

    I don’t believe that Peter was the first pope. I had believe he had authority to lead the disciples, that he was the first among equals (as the EO believe), but not that he was the pope as per Catholicism.

    What the doctrinal/adminstrative error distinction does is this: it renders moot the epistemological principle enunciated by the Lord in Matt 7:15ff and repeated by Peter in 2 Peter 2:1:

    “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.”

    When the church rationalizes the deeds of popes such as these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bad_Popes, while arguing that they never engaged in doctrinal error by speaking ex cathedra, this directly contravenes Matt 7:15ff and 2 Peter 2:1ff. The test Christ says is not whether they speak ex cathedra in error or not necessarily, but what kind of a life they live and by their actions/deeds And so when we look back at the history of the CC, we can see how the church has erred greatly, by appointing these popes and allowing them to rule (even though some of them were eventually anathematized, such as Honorius I) and even honoring them, much like Protestants today honor Calvin and Luther, despite both of these directly or indirectly killing in the name of truth.

    Then you have the cases of doctrinal error spoken ex cathedra, such as with Pope Leo XI in 1039, when he mandated celibacy and contributing to the great schism of 1054 AD. How much of an impact has this single ruling had on the eventual immorality within the ranks, throughout the centuries? Worth thinking about.

  192. SS (re: #191),

    You wrote:

    When the church rationalizes the deeds of popes such as these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bad_Popes, while arguing that they never engaged in doctrinal error by speaking ex cathedra, this directly contravenes Matt 7:15ff and 2 Peter 2:1ff.

    How does the Church “rationalizing” the deeds of popes while arguing that they never engaged in doctrinal error by speaking ex cathedra ‘directly contravene’ Matthew 7:15ff or 2 Peter 2:1ff, given that none of the popes in question exercised his prophetic role in the very manner that is essential for your case to work? You don’t get to use passages like Matthew 7:15ff or 2 Peter 2:1ff to build a case against infallibility, but gloss the relevant component in each of those verses which is absent from the historical examples you want to critique, without being called on it.

    You then wrote:

    The test Christ says is not whether they speak ex cathedra in error or not necessarily, but what kind of a life they live and by their actions/deeds (italics added)

    By this concession (in italics), do you mean to drop Matthew 7:15ff and 2 Peter 2:1ff as joists in your argument against infallibility? Because as Mike and I (and numerous others in various comments throughout this site) have already conceded, certain popes and bishops behaved deplorably. In your view, what else besides “prophetic infallibility” is the ‘test’ testing?

    In the grace of Christ,

    Chad

  193. Chad,

    For a prime example of contravention of Matt 7:15ff: consider pope Pius XII (spoke ex cathedra on the assumption of Mary) who repeatedly ignored the cries of the jews for help in the early 40s and did nothing while deportations took place around Europe. Whatever he may or may not have done later cannot remove the consequences of his earlier behavior and decisions.

    You also fail to understand that a leader of the stature of the pope does more teaching by his actions than he does by his words. I understand that your paradigm necessarily needs to restrict itself to doctrine, but as Peter warns in 2 Peter 2:2

    “2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.”

    Essentially you are trying to ontologically separate doctrinal error from moral error/failure and what I have been saying is that while you can do this philosophically and avoid cognitive dissonance, you cannot do it theologically in view of the epistemological principle that Christ gives every believer.

    Peace,
    S.

  194. SS:

    Myth of Pius XII debunked

    Pax Tecum,
    Frank La Rocca

  195. SS (re: #193),

    What is ‘the epistemological principle that Christ gives every believer’, and how does it preclude differentiating theologically between infallibility and impeccability?

    In the grace of Christ,

    Chad

  196. SS,

    You wrote: “Essentially you are trying to ontologically separate doctrinal error from moral error/failure and what I have been saying is that while you can do this philosophically and avoid cognitive dissonance, you cannot do it theologically in view of the epistemological principle that Christ gives every believer.”

    But, Matthew writes: “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.'”

    That sounds like a way of separating doctrinal error from moral error/failure to me.

    I also recommend spending less time thinking about the sins of others. We can easily stray into calumny and slander by that road. It’s better to spend time thinking about our own sins and asking for God’s mercy on ourselves. We can tell we’re getting too excited about the failures of others when we start getting angry at Popes who have failed after being tortured repeatedly, or when we start getting angry at leaders who were able to save the lives of some people but didn’t succeed in saving the lives of everyone. It’s so easy to slip into self-righteousness by preaching repentance to others. Let’s just preach it to ourselves first, and pray that if we’re tortured we won’t fall. With the way the modern world is going, the time when we ourselves are put to the test may not be too far away!

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  197. Frank,

    “Inside Vatican Pius XII by Harold Tittman”

    http://www.amazon.com/Inside-Vatican-Pius-XII-ebook/dp/B00395ZYYU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354724302&sr=8-1&keywords=harold+tittman

  198. K Doran,

    Sure you can do it using that example. But recognize that if one follows your logic to it natural conclusion, then there is absolutely no need to heed the guidelines established for leaders in 1 Tim 3. Who then would need to be beyond reproach/blameless, husband of one wife and so on, since it’s just a matter of do as they say, not as they do. reductio ad absurdum.

    I think your recommendation is an excellent one indeed, but not sure why the charge of anger, if anything I have greatly enjoyed my discussion with the members of C2C. Although perhaps your charge is projection of anger at me? I don’t know. And that’s probably a good sign that my time at C2C is up.

    Thank you all for the discussion,
    Very happy for you to have the last word,
    God Bless,
    SS.

  199. SS, (re: #198)

    Regarding the requirements of 1 Tim 3, these specify qualities required for candidates for ordination; they are not conditions for the validity of ordination or for the retention of holy orders or clerical office.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  200. Friends,

    One last thought: what use is it to say, “I and only I have the keys to the car”, when the engine fails you in the middle of the highway? “Should we call a tow truck?” “Of course, not, I have the keys to the car!” “But Dad, we’re on the side of the highway now, it’s getting dark and cold and we’re far from our destination…” “Son, it doesn’t matter, what matters is that I and only have the authority to turn the key”. Or as some would say, what use is it to have a fine set of teeth but no jaw to chew with?

    With tough love,
    Merry Christmas,
    SS.

  201. SS,

    Regarding Mt. 7:15ff and 2 Pet 2:1, of course there will be (and are) false prophets, and we will know them by their fruits. But there is more than one way to be false. One way to be false is to be living in mortal sin, while at the same time verbally teaching the moral law and in one’s clerical office representing Christ. Another way to be false is to teach contrary to what Christ and the Apostles taught. The passage in Matthew and 2 Peter are not teaching that a bishop or priest in mortal sin ipso facto loses either holy orders or authority of office. The falsehood in view is “prophetic” falsehood, i.e. falsehood in the message taught. Some of the fruits by which we are to recognize “false prophets” are separation from the ancient Church, teaching contrary to the Church, and division among themselves. Your interpretation does not make the distinction between these two ways in which someone can be ‘false,’ and you are placing your interpretation of these passages over that of the Church and Tradition, and in that respect begging the question, i.e. presupposing precisely what is in question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  202. SS, (re: #200)

    The engine isn’t dead. The Catholic Church is at 1.2 billion, and growing by 36,000 per day.

    EPIC :120 English from Catholics Come Home on Vimeo.

    Catholicism Series Highlights:

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  203. SS (#191)
    I’m a little surprised at this:

    Then you have the cases of doctrinal error spoken ex cathedra, such as with Pope Leo XI in 1039, when he mandated celibacy and contributing to the great schism of 1054 AD. How much of an impact has this single ruling had on the eventual immorality within the ranks, throughout the centuries? Worth thinking about.

    I am sure you know that celibacy is a discipline, not dogma (the word ‘doctrine’ in Catholic-speak doesn’t mean the same as ‘dogma’ – and is not something spoken ex cathedra). You may think – I do not – that priestly celibacy – which, by the way, did not start in 1039 – contributed to immorality, but it was not dogma.

    jj

  204. SS,

    To add to what John wrote in #203 regarding the discipline of priestly celibacy, see the two books I referred to last year in comment #45 of the “From Calvin to the Barque of Peter” thread, and what I wrote two years ago in comment #880 of the “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority” thread. See also the book titled Married Priests?: 30 Crucial Questions about Celibacy, (Ignatius, 2012).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  205. SS, I hope you don’t quit this conversation! I appreciate all the effort that you have made to respond to the many questions that are being asked of you in the comboxes. But I am a still confused by what you are trying to say, and I hope that you can clarify a few things for me before you decide it is time to leave this conversation.

    You write:

    I am saying is that I have no authority to do anything or call for a council, but you do, as Catholics.

    … I am suggesting that Catholics, EO and Protestants work together, in a conciliar fashion, to compare their beliefs to theirs and find common ground with the goal of truly being reunited. In other words, bring all your claims of infallibility, be they sola scriptura, sola infallibilis/papal infallibility and lay them on the table …

    You ask Catholics to call an Ecumenical Council and to bring up all “claims of infallibility” as a topic open for debate. Can you not see why this would be huge problem for Catholics?

    As a layman in the Catholic Church, I believe that the Ecumenical Council of Vatican I is a valid Ecumenical Council because it meets the objective criteria that determines the validity of an Ecumenical Council.

    So why would it be a problem for me to accept your proposal to bring infalliblity “to the table” as a topic of debate for a future Ecumenical Council? The Ecumenical Council of Vatican I, of course, formally defined the dogma of papal infallibility. So, it seems to me, that you are really asking me – and every other Catholic – to accept some alternate criteria for determining the validity of an Ecumenical Council. Your alternate criteria would then allow Catholics to reject the validity of Vatican I. But I am not at all clear as to what the alternate criteria that you are proposing actually are. Which is the reason why I asked you this question in my post # 171:

    What, in your understanding, are the criteria that determines the validity of an Ecumenical Council?

    I would still very much like you to respond directly to this question. But before you do, I need you clarify a point for me. Do you believe that a valid Ecumenical Council can infallibly define a doctrine of the faith in such a way that this Council binds all the faithful, for all times, to the dogma solemnly defined at the Ecumenical Council? Or do you believe that the best an Ecumenical Council can do is render a consensus theological opinion that can, in principle, be revised by the Christians of a later generation?

    I have a huge problem believing that Christians can decide for themselves that they are free to reject the dogmas that were promulgated by an Ecumenical Council that was held before they were even born. If that is possible, then the dogmas promulgated by every Ecumenical Council are, in principle, subject to revision at some later time.

    My point is this: If all an Ecumenical Council can do is offer up the fallible opinions of men for my consideration, then I have been left with a need to determine if those opinions are worth listening to. To make that discernment without error, it seems to me, that I would need the Holy Spirit to give me a personal charismatic gift – a charismatic gift that would allow me to infallibly discern whether or not the consensus opinions offered up by an Ecumenical Council are, in fact, orthodox.

    On the other hand, if valid Ecumenical Councils can indeed teach infallibly, then I, as a layman, don’t need a personal charismatic gift of infallibility to know if the dogmas promulgated at a particular Ecumenical Council have been taught infallibly.

    Let us take the Ecumenical Council of Vatican I under consideration and determine its validity by the criteria that Catholics use. Was this Council called as an Ecumenical Council? Check. Were there questions proposed for debate at this Council? Check. Were the questions thoroughly debated? Check. Was what was being debated voted upon? Check. Did only the bishops of this Council vote on what was being proposed? Check. Did the pope formally approve what the voting bishops solemnly defined as dogma? Check. As I proceed down my checklist, at no time am I required as a layman to exercise a charismatic gift of the Holy Spirit before I can mark off an item on my checklist. At the end of this process, I see that all the objective criteria that determine the validity of an Ecumenical Council have been crossed off my checklist. Once I have completed my checklist (a checklist that I had before the Council was ever convened), I can know that Vatican I was a valid Ecumenical Council. With this knowledge, I can accept by faith what has been proposed as dogma by Vatican I, and I can do that without doubt on my part, since I know that valid Ecumenical Councils always infallibly teach the dogma that they solemnly define.

    If I am not going to use the criteria that Catholics use for determining the validity of an Ecumenical Council, the I need to know exactly what those criteria are, and where they came from. All this is moot, of course, if all that a valid Ecumenical Council can offer to me are the fallible opinions of men that may, or may not, be true. Because if that is true, then I still don’t know if what was taught as dogma by a valid Ecumenical Council is orthodox, and I need something besides a valid Ecumenical Council to make that discernment.

    SS, thanks for this conversation. May God bless you.

    mateo

  206. SS,

    I read through your comments, and thought I might add a few more observations, even at the risk of piling-on. The Church does not rationalize the sins of popes. Rather we do penance for them. Pointing out that the sins of a pope do not nullify the authority of his teaching or indicate that his teaching is not orthodox is not rationalizing his sins. When you say (in #175), “The argument that Pope Liberius must be excused for his excommunication of Athanasisus …” you are misunderstanding what the Catholics here have been saying. No one is saying that Pope Liberius ought to be morally excused for anything, although from an ethical point of view, there is no denying that a wrongdoing committed under torture or threat of torture is less culpable, ceteris paribus. Rather, the point is that the doctrine of papal infallibility as it is taught by the Church is fully compatible with popes saying or doing false things under duress.

    In #189 you wrote:

    You’re all pressing me for an infallible rule and I understand why. I have none, but that’s the entire point! I posit that a humble recognition of doctrinal and moral failure (by all, Catholics, EO and Protestants)

    Here you, on the basis of your own [fallible] interpretation of Scripture, presume to know that there is some doctrinal failure in the Catholic Church. You use the language of humility, but how is it humble for one man, under no ecclesial authority whatsoever, and having no ecclesial authority himself, to presume to know better than the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church Christ founded, what is orthodox? That doesn’t seem to me like humility; it seems like just the opposite. Where is your humility when it comes to your belief that the Church cannot be infallible in certain respects, and that some of her doctrines are in error? Where is your fallibility and humility regarding your denial of the Catholic distinction between infallibility and peccability? Ironically, it seems as though you are treating these beliefs of yours as infallible, so much so that you call on Catholics to divest ourselves of the doctrine of infallibility, and acknowledge our “doctrinal failure.” You imply that if the Catholic Church believes and teaches that in certain respects she is divinely protected from error, she is not being humble. Regarding the notion that necessarily the Catholic Church’s claims about herself are arrogant, see the last three paragraphs of “Ecclesial Unity and Outdoing Christ: A Dilemma for the Ecumenism of Non-Return.”

    The authority issue cannot be avoided, and you are not avoiding it. By claiming that the Catholic Church has doctrinal errors, and by stipulating conditions for an ecumenical council, you are presuming the equivalent of papal authority. And when you refer to yourself as “an insignificant and non pedigreed voice calling out in the blogosphere,” you imply that you have prophetic authority. But you have no “immediate mission.” See the section titled “The Mission of the Church” in St. Francis De Sales’s The Catholic Controversy.

    Here at CTC we are committed to an ecumenism that does not involve compromising what any participant believes to be true. Instead it involves patient, charitable dialogue aimed at coming to agreement through a process of mutual understanding and persuasion concerning what is the truth. See one of our earliest posts, titled “Two Ecumenisms.”

    Regarding the notion that the New Covenant magisterium is no more divinely protected from error than is the Old Covenant magisterium, see the section titled “The Contradiction of Pleading for Communion in what one Condemns as Idolatrous” in ““Too catholic to be Catholic?” A Response to Peter Leithart.”

    In #175 you wrote:

    When one attempts to make a distinction between doctrinal infallibility and administrative infallibilty, to preserve oneself from the impact of doctrinal disagreements, one is inserting scholasticism into the deposit of the faith, when it was never there in the first place. The minute you do that is the minute you break with your own: St Vincent of Lerins warns that doctrinal development should bear in kind, wheat bearing wheat, not moving away from the deposit of faith. One can produce verse after verse after verse which shows that the Apostolic Fathers had nothing of scholasticism and would have never tolerated such a distinction.

    Of course this was just what the whole Donatist controversy was about. And both St. Optatus and St. Augustine (who wrote approximately ten anti-Donatist works) argued that sins on the part of the bishop do not take away Holy Orders or nullify the sacraments the bishop administers. So this alleged scholastic distinction was already there in the fourth century. But that’s because it was already there in the first century, having been taught explicitly by the Second Person of the Trinity, as K. Doran pointed out in comment #196, referring to Matthew 23. So the development St. Vincent describes, which I have written about in “The Commonitory of St. Vincent of Lérins, is precisely the development made explicit not only by the fourth century Church Fathers, but later by the Scholastics.

    Also in #175 you wrote:

    “Wheresoever the bishop appears let the people be, even as wheresoever Christ Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church”.

    Catholic apologists attempt to equate the bishop as the pope in the above verse but this is a classic example of taking something out of context. The epistle is to the local church of Smyrna and its referring to the laity and bishop of that church. The bishop of Smyrna is Ignatius’ close friend the great Polycarp. For Ignatius the fullness of the catholic church is found at the local level , each church with a bishop is fully catholic as EO teaches. This is not to deny that the church at Rome was ‘first among equals.’ , it certainly was.

    So if Ignatius equates the catholic church to the local church, how can one try and cover the wrongdoing by the Eastern Bishops as being irrelevant because they were not part of the true church?

    The statement from St. Ignatius does not apply only to the pope, but to each bishop, and especially to the bishop of Rome. The Church would not be “catholic” if it were limited only to the local church. To be catholic, a local church must be in communion with the universal Church. Otherwise, it would be in schism. In his statement “Wheresoever the bishop appears …” St. Ignatius is not referring to schismatic bishops, but to Catholic bishops, i.e. bishops in communion with the universal (i.e. Catholic) Church. I have explained this a bit more in “St. Ignatius of Antioch on the Church.”

    Your general notion that we should all return to the Apostolic Fathers presupposes that we (Catholics) have departed from them, or not developed authentically. I wonder how you think that presupposition avoids ecclesial deism.

    You wrote:

    Are we that weak as to say that the Holy Spirit cannot work through the conciliar process anymore

    No, we are not. We believe that He has worked through all twenty-one ecumenical councils, which is why we accept their teaching as authoritative.

    Where is our faith? It is in our admission of fallibility, that God’s infallibility is vindicated and triumphant.

    To be consistent with your statement, you’ll need to embrace your own fallibility regarding your present denial of the Catholic Church’s doctrine of infallibility, and call this denial into question. With John S, I agree with your call to humility. But there are two caveats. First, I do not equate humility with unqualified fallibilism (i.e. skepticism) such that a Catholic not willing to deny a Catholic dogma is ipso facto not being humble. And second, if you are serious about humility and repentance, then the principle of getting one’s own house in order when it comes to calls to repentance and getting the log out of one’s own eye will require you to address the question of your own condition of [material] schism from the Church Christ founded. I fully understand that carefully searching out the Catholic question takes time, and most of us go through a period of theological and ecclesial limbo (!) during that process. But, nevertheless, a call to humility takes on credibility and persuasive power only when the one making it has shown the humility to submit willingly to divinely appointed authorities.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  207. Hi Mateo,

    I recused myself earlier out of concern for the tenor of the dialogue (see #196).

    I can see your point very clearly and will be back to share some thoughts as soon as time allows.

    Peace,
    SS.

  208. Bryan,

    I’ve just realized upon reading your post above that the heart of what I am suggesting has everything to do with your post on the two ecumenisms, especially your final paragraph:

    Practitioners of the other type of ecumenicism sometimes accuse this type of ecumenicism of being “apologetics for our own tradition, masked as ecumenicism.” They make this charge because this type of ecumenicism is apologetics for our own tradition, the only qualification being that it is also, at the same time and without contradiction, a genuine and humble pursuit both of the truth and of complete agreement with those of other traditions regarding the essential truths. That is why this ecumenicism is not apologetics in the sense of simply pushing an ideology, with no regard for truth as such. It involves genuine listening, and the developed discipline of understanding other traditions, not just to critique them, but with the sincere and shared desire to determine whether and where and to what degree they are true.

    (emphasis mine)

    The above (bolded) is where I fundamentally disagree. Perhaps an analogy will help: consider the aftermath of a separation/divorce between a husband and wife. Often, counselling is considered and sometimes undertaken. One of the first principles if not the first principle laid down by the counselor is usually this: “If one or both of you believe that you have not erred in any way, there’s nothing I can do for you and we might as well cancel our next appointment right now.” And so what usually happens? Sometimes, lipservice is paid to the idea that this is not the case, but then in the heat of the discussion it becomes very clear that one or both spouses absolutely refuse to recognize any mistakes or wrong doing. And so, just as was in the garden with Eve and Adam, the reasoning offered takes on the form of indemnity for the plaintiff and a heap of condemnation for the other: “She is not a submissive wife.” or “He has an anger problem and I won’t stand for that.” “She is unappreciative of what I’ve done for her,” “He is always putting me down.”

    Christ gave us the greatest commandment: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Notice that the mind appears last… I am not saying that it shouldn’t be part of one’s love for God, only that our drawing near to God must first be one of the heart. The EO teach that salvation is healing , one in which the Savior places His anointing upon the eyes of our heart and allows us to see the depths of our fallibility, in addition to it being theosis. In the few marriage counselling sessions that succeed, at some point there is a catalyst that leads to that healing, one that is supernaturally inspired, resulting in the softening of the heart and an admission of one’s mistakes.

    The ecumeniscism you endorse, let’s call it C2Ce in short, is one that is inherently closed to inward introspection and to that catalyst. Because it presupposes that it is always the other who is at fault; the infallibility/peccability distinction is the defense mechanism to justify the stance. It is always the other’s shortcoming and intellectual lack, or arrogance in refusing to see what is the obvious truth. Because truly, everyone here at C2C being erudite and with the finest arguments the mind can conjure, has their Is dotted and Ts crossed (no pun intended).

    So where am I in all this and isn’t there a tu quoque here? I have acknowledged that in the past I have held to doctrines which you agree are alien to the FOFAD (Jude 1:3): sola scriptura, sola fide among others and therefore I have erred. Much more importantly, beyond my own insignificant journey, there are multitudes who are willing to recognize their mistakes, but cannot violate their conscience to fully cross the Tiber for they have great concerns still pending. Then there are those within the EO who also long for a re-united church, but there again is the presupposition of infallibility (I do not use it in the technical sense here), albeit not as explicitly argued as it is in the CC.

    What I have tried to convey in my sharing here at C2C i(and what I would say to the Reformed/Michael Horton and everyone else) is this: an ecumenical council can only be truly ecumenical if there is a willing recognition by all parties, that all parties have erred to one degree or another, doctrinally and morally. Christianity as a whole is currently divorced from God’s will that she be united in the deepest ontological sense of the word (John 17). Circling back to this quote of yours:

    the only qualification being that it is also, at the same time and without contradiction, a genuine and humble pursuit both of the truth and of complete agreement with those of other traditions regarding the essential truths.

    What I am hoping you would understand with the heart first and mind second, is that the above is akin to the husband who says to his wife that he is open to reconcilation if she is just humble enough to recognize her mistakes and acknowledge that he was right all along, ala “think about it, it’ll probably take you a lot of time being in limbo, but I’ll be right here when you return when you fess up to the truth”

    Consider Paul’s confronting Peter over table fellowship. You will say, look, that wasn’t a doctrinal issue, but a moral one, it was mere lapse. This is again, a distinction without a difference given God’s law that it is on the basis of our deeds that we shall be judged. And what I’m saying is that we are what we believe (whether we express it with our lips or not), in other words, as a man thinketh in his heart so is he. Our deeds are the true measure of our beliefs, at any given point in time. How did Peter react? Did he say I have been granted infallibility directly from our Lord Himself, so who are you to correct me? Or did he correct course immediately? Yes, I know you will say you are not Paul. That’s true, I shouldn’t even be mentioned in a sentence with him. But I do know that there is a massive cross section of highly concerned christians today across the world, in various denominations or otherwise, even at the highest levels, who have something to say about catholic doctrine and praxis that is worth at the very least giving an ear to.

    What I am suggesting, and I know it seems hopelessly naive given the current state of affairs (but I do it by faith), is that if somehow the 3 main branches of the faith today gathered to individually and collectively mourn for its lack of unity, God would not turn His back on us. Did He not say blessed are the peacemakers? How can there be peace in schism and divorce? God hates divorce as Malachi reminds us. Mateo talks about his concerns for doctrinal impurity to seep through and raises the epistemological question which I understand fully and sympathize with. My response however is that the epistemological question is all the more real and relevant in our disunity than it would ever be in our unity…. Will not God hold us accountable for our disunity one day if judgment begins with the house of God?

    Consider John Henry Newman’s thoughts:

    “Was St. Peter infallible on that occasion at Antioch when St. Paul withstood him? was St. Victor infallible when he separated from his communion the Asiatic Churches? or Liberius when in like manner he excommunicated Athanasius? And, to come to later times, was Gregory XIII, when he had a medal struck in honor of the Bartholomew massacre? or Paul IV, in his conduct towards Elizabeth? or Sextus V when he blessed the Armada? or Urban VIII when he persecuted Galileo? No Catholic ever pretends that these Popes were infallible in these acts. Since then infallibility alone could block the exercise of conscience, and the Pope is not infallible in that subject-matter in which conscience is of supreme authority, no dead-lock, such as implied in the objection which I am answering, can take place between conscience and the Pope.”
    From Newman’s Letter to the Duke of Norfolk

    Taken from: http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.net/theology.html

    The problem today is that the consciences of so many christians are not at peace. Now I understand that you can make the argument that it is because they refuse the obvious truth of the CC that this is so. But this begs the question and I can only merely suggest that this might not be the case. The other question I raise is this: how can there be any truly ecumenical council at all without the willing participation of all and their complete agreement with the outcome of the council?

    Consider this other admission from JH Newman:

    On how the Arian controversy shows that it is sometimes the laity, and not the episcopate, that best preserves and protects the truth of the Catholic faith

    “Here, of course, I must explain: — in saying this, then, undoubtedly I am not denying that the great body of the Bishops were in their internal belief orthodox; nor that there were numbers of clergy who stood by the laity, and acted as their centres and guides; nor that the laity actually received their faith, in the first instance, from the Bishops and clergy; nor that some portions of the laity were ignorant, and other portions at length corrupted by the Arian teachers, who got possession of the sees and ordained an heretical clergy; — but I mean still, that in that time of immense confusion the divine dogma of our Lord’s divinity was proclaimed, enforced, maintained, and (humanly speaking) preserved, far more by the ‘Ecclesia docta’ than by the ‘Ecclesia docens;’ that the body of the episcopate was unfaithful to its commission, while the body of the laity was faithful to its baptism; that at one time the Pope, at other times the patriarchal, metropolitan, and other great sees, at other times general councils, said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth; while, on the other hand, it was the Christian people who, under Providence, were the ecclesiastical strength of Athanasius, Hilary, Eusebius of Vercellae, and other great solitary confessors, who would have failed without them. I see, then, in the Arian history a palmary example of a state of the Church, during which, in order to know the tradition of the Apostles, we must have recourse to the faithful… .”
    From “On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine”

    My point in raising Liberius was not to denigrate him or the CC. Matter of fact, I would have probably comprised earlier than he did. The point was to raise awareness to the fact that as JHN says “that at one time the Pope, at other times the patriarchal, metropolitan, and other great sees, at other times general councils, said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth; ”

    My conscience cannot allow me to cross the tiber, not because of the claimed failures, but because of the refusal to admit that they were failures, among other issues. And I write this not to denigrate or criticize, but to fallibly express my concerns as much as I readily admit that I am doctrinally far from where God wants me to be, by virtue of the fact that christianity remains fractured and in dire need of healing.

    Peace,
    SS.

  209. SS, (re: #208)

    I do agree with you that “Christianity as a whole is currently divorced from God’s will that she be united in the deepest ontological sense of the word (John 17).” But I do not agree with your proposed conditions for ecumenical dialogue. Let’s consider whose ecumenism allows more persons to participate at the table of ecumenical dialogue. The ecumenism I described (and endorsed) in the “Two Ecumenisms” post allows anyone to participate at the ecumenical table, so long as he or she is seeking unity in the truth. The ecumenism you propose, on the other hand, excludes from the ecumenical table those who believe that their position is true, and are not willing to call it into question. Under your ecumenism, anyone who believes he has discovered the Church Christ founded and believes that Christ endowed His Church with the charism of infallibility, is excluded from the ecumenical table. Under your ecumenism, unqualified theological falliblism is in this way made a precondition for participation in ecumenical dialogue. Note that under such preconditions, Jesus and the Apostles would be excluded from the ecumenical table. No one who in fact has discovered the truth and knows he has discovered the truth, would be permitted to participate at this table. In this way, this ecumenism presupposes that no human being presently living on earth knows the truth, since otherwise it would be foolish to exclude such a person of all people from the table. But why should skeptics be the ones who make the rules for ecumenical dialogue? Who put the skeptics in charge of setting the rules for ecumenical dialogue? No one. That’s why insisting that only fallibilists be allowed to the ecumenical table is an act of brute power, i.e. bullying. It is forcing one’s own fallibilism on everyone who wants to participate in ecumenical dialogue, all while using the language of humility.

    Your marriage counseling analogy is not a good analogy, because every husband and wife is fallible. So, your analogy begs the question, by presupposing either that Christ did not found a Church with a charism of infallibility, or that if He did, ecclesial deism is true, and He let her slip into non-existence.

    The other question I raise is this: how can there be any truly ecumenical council at all without the willing participation of all and their complete agreement with the outcome of the council?

    In the same way there have been ecumenical councils through the last two thousand years. The Arians did not agree with the outcome of the first council. The Pneumatomachians did not agree with the outcome of the second council. The Nestorians did not agree with the outcome of the third council. The monophysites did not agree with the outcome of the fourth council. The Protestants did not agree with the nineteenth council. The “Old Catholics” did not agree with the twentieth. The sedevacantists did not agree with the twenty-first. The Church has never believed that persons already in schism must participate in an ecumenical council, in order for it to be truly ecumenical. Nor has the Church ever believed that all persons must agree with a council’s conclusions, in order for it to be an ecumenical council. In that case, there would be no ecumenical councils at all. As I said in my previous comment, when you attempt to stipulate the conditions for what counts as an ecumenical council, you ipso facto take to yourself an authority equivalent to papal authority, rather than allow that ecclesial authority by which previous ecumenical councils have been deemed ecumenical to decide such matters.

    You will say, look, that wasn’t a doctrinal issue, but a moral one, it was mere lapse. This is again, a distinction without a difference given God’s law that it is on the basis of our deeds that we shall be judged.

    In Catholic doctrine, falling into heresy is not the only grave sin. Murder, adultery, rape, etc. are also grave sins. The act of choosing heresy (i.e. one’s own opinion) over the teaching of the Church, is a “deed,” and will be judged by God. Nevertheless, falling into heresy is a sin that destroys faith, while the other grave sins (excepting apostasy) do not; they destroy charity. So the fact that heresy will be judged by God does not nullify the real distinction between teaching false doctrine (or believing false doctrine), and the other sins. The question here is fundamentally one of divine omnipotence. Is it possible for God to protect a person from teaching false doctrine, while not keeping the person from committing other sins? Your answer so far, implies that you believe God cannot do that. But if you already believe that the Scripture are divinely inspired and inerrant, then unless you believe that every human author of Scripture was sinless, you already believe that God in His omnipotence is capable of doing the very thing in question. And in that case, your objection is not principled, because the question then becomes merely whether He has in fact done so.

    And what I’m saying is that we are what we believe (whether we express it with our lips or not), in other words, as a man thinketh in his heart so is he. Our deeds are the true measure of our beliefs, at any given point in time.

    If that were true, no one would be culpable for his evil actions, for everyone would at his deepest level believe that every act he is doing is good. But man can believe that x is evil and that he should not do x, and yet still do x. We are able to do what we truly know we shouldn’t do. Evil is not due to ignorance alone, but fundamentally to choice. But beyond that, you’re leaving God out of the picture (on this question). God runs His Church. Even if it were true that (a) our deeds are the true measure of our beliefs and (b) some pope is living in sin, this does not entail that God is incapable of preventing this pope from promulgating false doctrine.

    My conscience cannot allow me to cross the tiber, not because of the claimed failures, but because of the refusal to admit that they were failures, among other issues. And I write this not to denigrate or criticize, but to fallibly express my concerns as much as I readily admit that I am doctrinally far from where God wants me to be, by virtue of the fact that christianity remains fractured and in dire need of healing.

    As a Catholic, I fully support your following your conscience, because we believe that going against one’s conscience is a sin, even in cases where one’s conscience is not rightly formed. And when you speak of “refusal to admit that there were failures,” if you are speaking of moral, pastoral, and prudential failures, then Catholics are more than willing to admit that there have been far too many such failures. Hopefully we’re the first to admit such things. But if you are speaking of doctrinal failures in the sense of the magisterium defining as dogma something that (in your opinion) is not dogma, then no, we do not believe there are any such failures, because we believe that the Holy Spirit supernaturally protects the Church from error in such definitions. And insisting that Catholics must believe that there have been such failures, in order to participate in ecumenical dialogue, is no less question-begging and bullying than if Catholics were to insist that only persons who believe in the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin are allowed to participate in ecumenical dialogue. Why should force and bullying be allowed at the ecumenical table??

    But I do know that there is a massive cross section of highly concerned christians today across the world, in various denominations or otherwise, even at the highest levels, who have something to say about catholic doctrine and praxis that is worth at the very least giving an ear to.

    And we (Catholics) are all ears, so long as we are not excluded from the table by rules requiring all who wish to participate to adopt some form of theological skepticism that requires that we call into question Catholic dogmas.

    What I am suggesting, and I know it seems hopelessly naive given the current state of affairs (but I do it by faith), is that if somehow the 3 main branches of the faith today gathered to individually and collectively mourn for its lack of unity, God would not turn His back on us. Did He not say blessed are the peacemakers? How can there be peace in schism and divorce? God hates divorce as Malachi reminds us. … Will not God hold us accountable for our disunity one day if judgment begins with the house of God?

    I completely agree with this, and I don’t think it is naive. I recently was listening to a radio program (I believe it was NPR) in which voters were being interviewed about why they voted the way they did. One thing that struck me was the way persons were reasoning about the relation of Christianity to moral issues such as homosexual ‘marriage’ and abortion. They were saying that so many “churches” have already “come around” on these issues that it is only a matter of time until the Catholic Church finally catches up. This is just one of the many ways in which the divided condition of Christendom is the largest obstacle to evangelism.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  210. SS (#208)

    Perhaps an analogy will help: consider the aftermath of a separation/divorce between a husband and wife. Often, counselling is considered and sometimes undertaken. One of the first principles if not the first principle laid down by the counselor is usually this: “If one or both of you believe that you have not erred in any way, there’s nothing I can do for you and we might as well cancel our next appointment right now.”

    I would not go to such a counsellor nor recommend anyone to do so. A counsellor who does not understand that the issue with marriage break-up is not to find out who did what that was wrong, but rather for both parties to understand that marriage is “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do them part” has not understood what marriage is, and therefore is not a competent counsellor.

    And to extend your analogy, to recommend that, in any church break-up problem, the way to settle it is for each party to confess its sins, and then, somehow, to think that the two can come back together on their own look-out, because they have agreed together, is to fail to understand what the Church is.

    A couple are not married because the two persons have agreed to be married and for that reason alone. To be sure, they are the ministers of the Sacrament; but unless it is God Who has joined them together, they are not one flesh.

    And the Church is not one because its members have agreed to be one. Christ has made the Church one. He has ordained what that means. When the various members of the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, of which I was a member, and one of which I was a founder, agreed to associate together as the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, they became one organisation only; Christ has not made them one. Their oneness with Christ, to the extent it exists – and it does, albeit imperfectly – is due to their baptism which joined them to the Catholic Church.

    jj

  211. re: 208

    SS

    When I was new in the Church, a local Baptist congregation split. It had nothing to do with dogmatic positions, it involved personalities. Some persons did not like other persons. The power block of the existing congregation won that fight and the pastor and his supporters were exiled.

    I note that because there is more than theology involved. Sometimes people don’t like other people and love of neighbor comes out on the short end.

    Cordially,
    dt

  212. SS (re: #208)

    Today, Pope Benedict XVI said the following about the relation of violence and objective truth:

    “Nowadays, this supernatural sense of the faith of believers leads to a vigorous reaction against the prejudice according to which religions, and in particular monotheistic religions, are intrinsically predisposed to violence, especially on the pretext that they lay claim to a universal truth. Some maintain that only a ‘polytheism of values’ would guarantee tolerance and civil peace by conforming to the spirit of a pluralistic democratic society. … On the one hand, it is important to remember that faith in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, meets the rational demands of metaphysical reflection, which is not weakened, but rather strengthened and deepened by the Revelation of the mystery of the Triune God. On the other hand, it is necessary to emphasise the form that the definitive Revelation of the mystery of the Triune God takes in the life and death of Jesus Christ, led unto the cross like ‘a lamb that is led to the slaughter’. The Lord offers a radical refusal of any form of hate or violence in favour of the absolute primacy of agape. While throughout history there have been or indeed there are forms of violence carried out in the name of God, these cannot be attributed to monotheism, but rather to historical causes, and in particular to human error. It is, rather, an oblivion to God that immerses human society in a form of relativism, which ineluctably generates violence. Once the possibility of referring to a form of objective truth is negated to all, dialogue becomes impossible and violence, whether declared or concealed, becomes the rule governing human relations. Without opening up to the transcendent, which enables us to find answers to our questions on the meaning of life and how to live in a moral fashion, man becomes incapable of acting with justice or committing himself to peace”. (source)

    Here Pope Benedict turns the tables, as it were, on those who claim that violence must be intrinsic to monotheistic religions because they “lay claim to universal truth.” He argues that in a way, the very opposite is the case. Those who deny the possibility of grasping objective truth make dialogue impossible, leaving violence as the default rule governing human relations. They make dialogue impossible because some pre-existing agreement concerning objective truth is a necessary condition for dialogue. Otherwise, there is neither a common starting point from which to reason, or a common standard by which to reason, or a common goal toward which to reason. So skepticism concerning truth cannot be a precondition for ecumenical dialogue, because it would make dialogue impossible. So far, I imagine, you agree. But then it seems arbitrary to acknowledge that skepticism must not be a precondition for ecumenical dialogue, while requiring of Catholics (and Orthodox) that they must adopt a mitigated skepticism with respect to their doctrine of infallibility, in order to participate in ecumenical dialogue. The insistence on this mitigated skepticism, as an arbitrary precondition for ecumenical participation, seems thus to be an expression of violence (or force of will) as I explained in my preceding comment, rather than meeting where they are persons willing to engage in a mutual pursuit of truth, and working from and with the common ground we find among them.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  213. SS, you write:

    Mateo talks about his concerns for doctrinal impurity to seep through and raises the epistemological question which I understand fully and sympathize with. My response however is that the epistemological question is all the more real and relevant in our disunity than it would ever be in our unity…. Will not God hold us accountable for our disunity one day if judgment begins with the house of God?

    We are going to be accountable for every choice we make, the good, as well as the bad. So we should make as many good choices as possible!

    Any Christian should have an intense desire to be orthodox in what he or she believes. A creeping “doctrinal impurity” is nothing more than a creeping corruption of the Gospel. From what I have been reading of your posts, I think that there is something that you and I agree upon –that the corruption of the Gospel is a very bad thing, and that should be avoided at all costs. What is very interesting to me, is that you have also stated that you reject the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. I believe that is a good starting point for a fruitful dialog about what constitutes orthodox doctrine. But I am at a loss as to how to proceed from here, because I still don’t know if you believe that a valid Ecumenical Council can infallibly define dogma.

    If you don’t believe that a valid Ecumenical Council can infallibly define dogma, then I need to know why it is, exactly, that you claim that you reject the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. The Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura at its essential core entails a radical rejection of a doctrine concerning infallibility that all the ancient churches confess to be true. The Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches confess that valid Ecumenical Councils always teach infallibly when they solemnly define dogma at the Council. Therefore, the dogmas defined at valid Ecumenical Councils constitutes a part of the orthodox doctrine that faithful Christians must confess.

    A sola scriptura confessing Protestant, on the other hand, must necessarily reject this doctrine of infallibility in order to be a sola scriptura confessing Protestant in the first place. Why is that so? If a Christian must accept as infallibly taught truth not only what is explicitly taught in scriptures, but also what has been taught as dogma at valid Ecumenical Councils, then the Christian would have, as a minimum, at least two sources that determines for him what constitutes orthodox doctrine. But having two sources of orthodox doctrine takes the sola out of sola scriptura, which is why sola scriptura Protestants must necessarily deny that any dogma defined at Ecumenical Councils can be said to be taught infallibly.

    It seems to me that this particular point of conflict between the sola scriptura confessing Protestants and the ancient Churches boils down to an either/or proposition that is laid before all men. Either valid Ecumenical Council can teach infallibly, or they cannot teach infallibly. I don’t see how there is possibility of a third choice. SS, you say you “sympathize” with an “epistemological question” that I raise, but honestly, I still don’t know whether or not you believe that valid Ecumenical Councils can teach infallibly. So if you can clarify where you stand on this particular point, that would be very helpful for me.

    Blessings to you,
    mateo

  214. We are going to be accountable for every choice we make, the good, as well as the bad. So we should make as many good choices as possible!

    Agree and we should also not constrain ourselves to a false dilemma/trilemma when there need not be one.

    Any Christian should have an intense desire to be orthodox in what he or she believes. A creeping “doctrinal impurity” is nothing more than a creeping corruption of the Gospel. From what I have been reading of your posts, I think that there is something that you and I agree upon –that the corruption of the Gospel is a very bad thing, and that should be avoided at all costs. What is very interesting to me, is that you have also stated that you reject the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. I believe that is a good starting point for a fruitful dialog about what constitutes orthodox doctrine. But I am at a loss as to how to proceed from here, because I still don’t know if you believe that a valid Ecumenical Council can infallibly define dogma.

    My point all along has been this: ontologically, a ‘valid’ ecumenical council cannot be defined by only one of the three branches of christianity. It might be a source of pride and accomplishment to a part of the whole, but ontologically deficient nevertheless. True ecumenism cannot presuppose division ex ante. It certainly will result in division ex post, but if the 3 main branches agree on the Nicene Creed, or use it as their common starting ground, then the effort towards unity will be genuine and not contrived.

    That issue aside, I am with the EO when they say that they do not need to declare anything to be infallible per se, and that the conciliar process led by the Holy Spirit is sufficient to produce propositional truth that upholds the righteousness of God and produces righteousness in His children. I refer you again to Cardinal Newman’s objections re infallibility before Vatican I was ratified (see above).

    Which leads me to what is a constant source of amazement to me when I read the posts here at C2C: self proclaiming infallibility (without the recognition of the EO at the very least, let alone Protestants) on the basis of a private judgment of what was entrusted to Peter and on what basis it was entrusted, while relegating serious and repeated sin/lapses to a secondary concern that we can live with (given enough prayer and penance) regardless of any real progress or the lack thereof, will always miss the point of Micah 6:8. Regardless of what we think of infallibility, what use is it if we are failing to do justly and love mercy, and walk humbly with God? Re the Tu Quoque (article), the argument is deeply flawed. Will post there next.

    The Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches confess that valid Ecumenical Councils always teach infallibly when they solemnly define dogma at the Council. Therefore, the dogmas defined at valid Ecumenical Councils constitutes a part of the orthodox doctrine that faithful Christians must confess.

    If the EO and OO believe that, why then aren’t they in communion with the CC? Ah, but yes that is exactly the problem, infallibility or claims thereof is as capable of producing unity and the fruit of righteousness as the works of the law are. That’s a stumbling block to the heart first and the mind second.

    So if you can clarify where you stand on this particular point, that would be very helpful for me.

    As the EO teach us, we do not need to officially declare infallibility to be in keeping with what God requires of us. What we need is genuine agreement built around common ground, one in which all parties repent of doctrinal and moral failure, seeking the faith once and for all delivered to the saints and as importantly the fruit of righteousness which always accompanies such faith. What use is it to run around parading the result of this or that council when blood was shed over it in great anger? As if He needs our righteous anger to uphold truth. If God was deeply displeased with the shedding of the blood of bulls and oxen while hearts were still full of injustice and violence, could it be that He also rejects the burnt offerings of infallible proclamations?

  215. Here Pope Benedict turns the tables, as it were, on those who claim that violence must be intrinsic to monotheistic religions because they “lay claim to universal truth.” He argues that in a way, the very opposite is the case. Those who deny the possibility of grasping objective truth make dialogue impossible, leaving violence as the default rule governing human relations. They make dialogue impossible because some pre-existing agreement concerning objective truth is a necessary condition for dialogue. Otherwise, there is neither a common starting point from which to reason, or a common standard by which to reason, or a common goal toward which to reason. So skepticism concerning truth cannot be a precondition for ecumenical dialogue, because it would make dialogue impossible. So far, I imagine, you agree. But then it seems arbitrary to acknowledge that skepticism must not be a precondition for ecumenical dialogue, while requiring of Catholics (and Orthodox) that they must adopt a mitigated skepticism with respect to their doctrine of infallibility, in order to participate in ecumenical dialogue. The insistence on this mitigated skepticism, as an arbitrary precondition for ecumenical participation, seems thus to be an expression of violence (or force of will) as I explained in my preceding comment, rather than meeting where they are persons willing to engage in a mutual pursuit of truth, and working from and with the common ground we find among them

    You are reaching there. The precondition of a volitional recognition of failure is not imposed on anyone. It comes alive and only finds its true expression when it is willingly embraced, without a hint of opposition. If it is not, it’s a no go from the get go. The precondition is grounded in the rich strand of repentance we find running through the entire Bible, as seen in 2 Chron 7:14.

  216. SS (re#215):

    The precondition is grounded in the rich strand of repentance we find running through the entire Bible, as seen in 2 Chron 7:14.

    . Repentance for what? Please specify who would repent for what to satisfy the precondition.

    Pax Tecum,
    Frank

  217. SS, (re: #215)

    If you are acknowledging that the denial of the Catholic dogma of infallibility should not be a precondition for ecumenical dialogue, then we are agreed on this point.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  218. SS, thanks for the responses to my questions. If I understand you correctly, you think that the Eastern Orthodox do not believe that when a dogma has been solemnly defined at a valid Ecumenical Council that this Ecumenical Council has taught infallibly.

    From what I understand of your position, you contend that the EO believe that all an Ecumenical Council can do is only offer up to men consensus opinions for their consideration – opinions, that in principle, Christians of a latter generation can ultimately reject. Which would mean that the EO believe that no Ecumenical Council has ever taught dogma that cannot be revised by the Christians of later generations. I would argue that this is not what the Eastern Orthodox believe, and I ask you to provide the evidence for what you are asserting; i.e. that the Eastern Orthodox believe that the dogmas promulgated by valid Ecumenical Councils can be rejected by Christians of a latter generation.

    About this point I wrote earlier:

    The Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches confess that valid Ecumenical Councils always teach infallibly when they solemnly define dogma at the Council. Therefore, the dogmas defined at valid Ecumenical Councils constitutes a part of the orthodox doctrine that faithful Christians must confess.

    You then asked me a good question:

    If the EO and OO believe that, why then aren’t they in communion with the CC?

    The EO and the OO believe that valid Ecumenical Councils teach infallibly, but the EO and the OO have different criteria than the Catholic Church for determining what makes a particular Ecumenical Council valid. From the Orthodox Wiki website:

    An ecclesiological theory which has been popular since the time of the Slavophile philosopher Alexis Khomiakov first defined it is that ecumenicity—the idea that a particular council is of universal, infallible significance for the Church—is determined by the reception of the whole body of the Church.

    Khomiakov has advanced an ecclesiological theory that Ecumenical Councils are not valid unless the “whole church” has “received” the dogmas taught at a particular Ecumenical Council. But what, exactly, are the criteria that determines when the whole church has received the dogmas promulgated by an Ecumenical Council? And what Church Father ever taught Khomiakov’s “whole church receptionism” criterion? These questions cannot be answered by those who hold to Khomiakov’s theory. From a practical standpoint for the layman that is trying to determine if a particular Ecumenical Council is valid, Khomiakov’s criterion is hopelessly vague, and is of no use whatsoever for determining the validity of an Ecumenical Council.

    Among the EO, one can find different theories about how the validity of an Ecumenical Council is determined, but the point that I want to make is this: the members of the EO believe that the dogmas taught at a valid Ecumenical Councils are taught infallibly, even if the members of the EO cannot agree among themselves about what constitutes the concrete criteria that definitively determines the validity of a particular Ecumenical Council. The EO do not believe that it is possible for later generations of Christians to overturn the dogmas taught at valid Ecumenical Councils.

    The same thing is true among the Oriental Orthodox. The OO believe that valid Ecumenical Councils teach infallibly, but what, exactly, constitutes the criteria for determining the validity of an Ecumenical Council is a question for which the OO have no definitive answer. At least not that I am aware of.

    I agree with the EO and the OO that Ecumenical Councils teach infallibly, because I can see that this is what the early Church Fathers believed, and that this belief can be defended from the scriptures. But as an outsider that is considering whether or not to join either the EO or the OO, how am I supposed to know if I should listen to the OO or the EO? If neither the EO nor the OO can give me useful criteria for determining when an Ecumenical Council is valid, then before I can join one of these churches, I am going to have to make a blind leap with no reason for making that leap. But the Catholic Church can give me those criteria, and not only that, the criteria that the Catholic Church gives me does not require me to be given a charismatic gift of the Holy Spirit that makes me personally infallible when I make that discernment. Which is precisely what I need if I am to ever know what constitutes orthodox Christian doctrine without having to become my own pope.

    My point all along has been this: ontologically, a ‘valid’ ecumenical council cannot be defined by only one of the three branches of christianity.

    You will have to spell out for me the criteria that determine which Protestant sects are “branches” of the church that Christ personally founded. Are Mormons, Moonies, Branch Davidians, Jehovah Witnesses, the Church of God Abrahamic Faith, Oneness Pentecostals, and Unitarians all “branches” of the true church? All these Protestant sects are anti-Trinitarian in their doctrine, and that disqualifies them for me. If you agree that these anti-Trinitarian sects of Protestantism are not branches of the true church, then what other heresies are there that I should know about that would preclude a particular sect from being a branch of the true church? How do I, a person that is not claiming to be personally infallible, ever make that determination?

    I hope you see my point here. If all that valid Ecumenical Councils can offer to me are the fallible opinions of men, then what is to stop me from believing that some sect of anti-Trinitarian Protestants are not orthodox in their beliefs? If even the doctrine of the Trinity is not foundational to Christianity, are there any doctrines that can be said to be foundational to Christianity? If there are, how do I know what they are?

    Regardless of what we think of infallibility, what use is it if we are failing to do justly and love mercy, and walk humbly with God?

    I don’t see how any Christian can question the usefulness of knowing with certainty what constitutes orthodoxy! Surely you must agree that knowing what has been infallibly taught concerning doctrines of faith and morals would be useful for the Christian that wants to be orthodox in his beliefs. Such a Christian could know, for example, whether or not artificial sterilization is sinful, whether or not he should believe in the Trinity, whether or not homosexual marriages should be legitimized, whether or not women can be ordained as priests and bishops, etc., etc.

    What we need is genuine agreement built around common ground, one in which all parties repent of doctrinal and moral failure, seeking the faith once and for all delivered to the saints and as importantly the fruit of righteousness which always accompanies such faith.

    How can I ever repent of “moral and doctrinal” failure if I don’t have any certainty about what constitutes the orthodox Christian doctrines of faith and morals? Should I repent of the sin of being intolerant if I don’t believe that a homosexual should be allowed to marry the person that he or she is in love with? Am I being sinful if I don’t believe that women should be ordained as bishops? I quite agree that I should repent for believing in false doctrine, if that is what I am doing. But if a Protestant asks me to repent for believing in false doctrine, he has also raised the question what constitutes false doctrine.

    If the doctrine of the Trinity can be disputed, then any doctrine can be disputed. And it is, within Protestantism. What I am saying is this, when a Protestant asks me to repent of believing in false doctrine, I have no idea what that might entail, since within Protestantism, every doctrine that has ever been proposed as being an object of faith is disputed by some Protestant or other. Protestantism, as it exists today, is thousands upon thousands of divided sects with no unity of faith. Within Protestantism, doctrinal chaos reigns, so I find a Protestant call for repentance for believing in false doctrine not to be something that I find to be objectionable, but rather, something that I cannot do until we first agree about what constitutes orthodox doctrine. It seems to me, that you have the cart before the horse, and your proposal is unworkable because of it.

    Now I agree wholeheartedly agree with you that Christians should walk humbly with God, but the essence of humility would be for me to obey Christ, instead of just ignoring what Christ teaches in the scriptures. What must I believe? The scriptures are explicit on this point: Christ teaches if I am to be his disciple, that I must I must listen to the church that he personally founded or suffer the pain of excommunication:

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

    Matthew 18:17

    There are no scriptures that authorize men and women to found their own personal “bible churches” whenever they disagree with the church that Christ founded. Men and women that found their own personal “bible churches” always teach, quite naturally, their own personal interpretations of the scriptures. And if these privately held interpretations lead to a stubborn and unyielding protest against what Christ’s church teaches, the protestors are doing the exact opposite of listening with humility to what Christ teaches.

    … we should also not constrain ourselves to a false dilemma/trilemma when there need not be one.

    SS, you say that you don’t believe in the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura, but I can’t understand why you make that claim. For men living in the post-apostolic age, is the Protestant bible the only source of doctrine that is guaranteed by God to be inerrant? Or do Christians living in the post-apostolic age have some other source of doctrine besides the Protestant bible that is guaranteed by God to be inerrant?

    I am not proposing some false dilemma here. I have been operating on the assumption that we both agree that for men living in the post-apostolic age, that the scriptures are a source of doctrine that has a guarantee from God of being inerrant (even if we don’t necessarily agree about what constitutes the actual canon of scriptures). Assuming we don’t disagree about this particular point, then logically, for Christians living in the post-Apostolic age, either the bible alone is the sole source that men possess that has a guarantee from God as an inerrant source of doctrine, or it is the bible plus something else. There are no other options available.

    If you believe in the bible alone option, then it seems to me that you are, by definition, a sola scriptura confessing Protestant. But if you don’t agree with the bible alone option, and if valid Ecumenical Councils are not another source that has a guarantee from God to be inerrant, then please identify your other source!

    Blessings to you, SS.

    mateo

  219. SS (referring to Mateo’s comment #218)

    Mateo’s comment asks, in a more elaborate way, what I meant when I asked you how you know that it was the Deposit of Faith that Athanasius defended? How do you know that the Arians and Muslims would not be right to call Trinitarianism polytheism?

    jj

  220. JJ,

    I know it in the same way that you know that Christ gave Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

    SS.

  221. Mateo,

    All your posts have one presupposition: the need for rational certainty as expressed in the repeated requests for me to outline how what I’m proposing meets this insatiable need for infallibility. While of course understandable given the theological relativism of our time, the presupposition assumes that this how the Almighty operates, i.e, through rational propositions leading to rational certainty. I pointed you to the EO because, by contrast, they have retained the ancient church’s understanding that spiritual truth is revealed through the theoria, the vision of God in the Holy Spirit.

    The EO do not define infallibility in the way you do: as the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs of 1848 explains: “Moreover, neither Patriarchs nor Councils could then have introduced novelties amongst us, because the protector of religion is the very body of the Church, even the people themselves…

    Notice that last sentence above: this is exactly what Cardinal Newman tried to raise awareness to on the eve of Vatican I, albeit unsuccessfully:

    On how the Arian controversy shows that it is sometimes the laity, and not the episcopate, that best preserves and protects the truth of the Catholic faith

    “Here, of course, I must explain: — in saying this, then, undoubtedly I am not denying that the great body of the Bishops were in their internal belief orthodox; nor that there were numbers of clergy who stood by the laity, and acted as their centres and guides; nor that the laity actually received their faith, in the first instance, from the Bishops and clergy; nor that some portions of the laity were ignorant, and other portions at length corrupted by the Arian teachers, who got possession of the sees and ordained an heretical clergy; — but I mean still, that in that time of immense confusion the divine dogma of our Lord’s divinity was proclaimed, enforced, maintained, and (humanly speaking) preserved, far more by the ‘Ecclesia docta’ than by the ‘Ecclesia docens;’ that the body of the episcopate was unfaithful to its commission, while the body of the laity was faithful to its baptism; that at one time the Pope, at other times the patriarchal, metropolitan, and other great sees, at other times general councils, said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth; while, on the other hand, it was the Christian people who, under Providence, were the ecclesiastical strength of Athanasius, Hilary, Eusebius of Vercellae, and other great solitary confessors, who would have failed without them. I see, then, in the Arian history a palmary example of a state of the Church, during which, in order to know the tradition of the Apostles, we must have recourse to the faithful… .”
    From “On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine”

    Where is your response to the above? I take it that you believe then that Newman was mistaken. You see it was not always so simple as to say, we know where to find the CC, it’s right down the corner. For the reasons put forward by Newman above. As I have pointed to above, there was a time when the entire world woke up and groaned to find itself Arian (Jerome’s quote, not mine). Where was infallibility in that?

    When you make an appeal to Peter, as holder of the keys of the kingdom, you are fundamentally making an historical appeal. Likewise, an historical appeal can be made to the FOFAD (Jude 1:3) as it evidenced in the writing of the Apostolic Fathers. Not on an arbitrary basis, but in keeping with the theoria which is made evident in Christ’s commendation of the latter as seen in Revelation 2 and 3. This is also the basis by which I reject sola scriptura. I am suggesting that the Apostolic Fathers’ faith can provide the common ground for the most inclusive ecumenical council we could ever have without having to compromise one iota with the voices of liberalism who advocate for all the beliefs that you and I reject (homosexuality, ordination of women, non trinatarian formulations etc)

    On another note, you have repeatedly pressed for answers but provided none of your own to the questions I have raised. I will ask you again then: what good will it do you and the CC to cling to claims of infallibility in doctrine when your praxis has revealed itself to be corrupt throughout the centuries down to this very day? The CC is the laughing stock of atheists for good reason, one cannot fault them entirely for seeing the obvious repeated moral failures being rationalized as “Oh we will always have that with us, but hey, we are doctrinally infallible!” Not to mention that there was no infallible canon of Scripture until Trent (1500s), no infallible dogmatic position on the Immaculate Conception until 1854 and indeed no dogma of papal infallibility until 1870…All these declared in retrospect, without the assent of a entire swath of Eastern christianity, the very cradle of the faith.

    There is a visible church founded by Christ, however she is in need of repentance. This is in direct parallel to the visible body of Jews who are the people of God, and who are the recipients of His Law. Has not God brought salvation to the world despite their failure to honor Him? Where was infallibility in all of that?

    Substitue Peter for Abraham below:

    39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “ then you would do what Abraham did… Abraham did not do such things. ” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

    There it is, the claim to infallibility again. Of what use is it when the praxis is an epic failure?

    The issue is not only that false doctrine that is beyond that of the FOFAD has been introduced into the fold, such as recent dogmas. It is also that man made traditions have also been appended to the FOFAD, resulting in a load that few if any can truly bear. These man made traditions are entirely absent from the Apostolic Fathers , who once again, bear a divine stamp of approval. Where is the evidence for icon veneration in the AF? Where is the evidence for purgatory in the detailed soteriological essays of Clement? Or the treasury of merits? (by the same token, there is zero evidence of imputed righteousness, baptism as mere symbol, eternal security among other typically protestant beliefs.) Let’s take the ‘disciplinary rule’ of celibacy for example: you will say, that’s not dogma, it’s a rule. Look, whatever you want to call it, it is outside the FOFAD which had no such thing as mandated celibacy for priests (ours is a historical faith! we do claim that Christ suffered under Pontius Pilate after all…)

    All this only serves to highlight the need for a truly ecumenical council to be held with EO and major Protestant bodies at the table. Khomiakov does not speak for me. However, I do believe that it is reasonable and fair to suggest, given the ethos of our Lord’s teaching (see golden rule), that ex ante, one should never be holding ‘ecumenical’ councils when one is divorced from the body of Christ. (ex post, yes there will be division, most likely, but this is the best we can do in good conscience, with the grace that has been afforded us). Regrettably, this is what has been happening now for centuries on end. But then again, as long as you have beliefs espoused as those of Frank above that there is no need to repent of anything, well, that says it all.

  222. SS (#220

    I know it in the same way that you know that Christ gave Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

    Hmm… I wonder. I know that Christ gave Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven because I believe that the Catholic Church tells me the truth and cannot err.

    jj

  223. SS (re#221)

    In #216 I asked you, in response to #215, a question:

    Repentance for what? Please specify who would repent for what to satisfy the precondition.

    In your response to Mateo, #221, you write:

    But then again, as long as you have beliefs espoused as those of Frank above that there is no need to repent of anything, well, that says it all.

    I ask you, in charity, please not to put words in my mouth. Answering my question would move the dialogue forward.

    Pax Tecum,
    Frank

  224. SS,

    Reading your comments, I am hesitant to comment. You seem to have a disproportionate appreciation for the CC’s failings, and a disproportionate depreciation for her beauty. I’m ready to admit all of the failings — I do — and they grieve me, but I don’t think her failings making her the “laughing stock amongst atheists”. New atheists laugh at what they don’t understand, and if anyone, new atheists confuse us for fundamentalists. A really sharp former atheist, Leah Libresco, recently converted to the Catholic Church, so apparently whatever distinctions we are trying to make made purchase on her.

    My point is this: we all readily admit our human, broken past. We do. Honestly. And we all have it, so there will be no way for one of us to disqualify the other solely on such charges. So, in the name of Christ, please forgive us and allow the dialog to move forward without throwing it in our face as a kind of emotional trump card (search “sins” and such words in this thread). Dragging our tale before us is no “theoria”, and I would think if you would focus on precisely the points of theology for which you positively proscribe and enter into dialog with us, progress could be made.

    So, let us reason together as we contemplate the things of God. Lord, hear our prayer. Amen.

  225. JJ, please permit me a quick side conversation. You wrote in 222:

    I know that Christ gave Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven because I believe that the Catholic Church tells me the truth and cannot err.

    This sounds circular to me. Mainly:

    1) Catholic Church tells the truth and cannot err
    2) Catholic Church says Christ gave Peter the Keys
    3) Therefore Christ gave Peter the Keys

    But how do you know (1)? See (2).

    That sounds either circular or begging the question. — or perhaps I should leave the technical parts to the trained philosophers here. ;)

    Anyway, I seem to recall a couple years back you tracing your epistemology more deliberately. (Well, at least if my memory serves me since I don’t have the link handy)

    I understand your point above wasn’t to itemize your epistemology, but it raised my eyebrow so I thought I’d chime in for clarification.

    I would be interested in a rough outline of a sound Catholic Epistemological Paradigm. When I share it, it sort of looks like this: There was a man name Jesus who was killed. He believed He was God. His tomb was empty on the 3rd day and those following Him shared that He Resurrected. Many turned from cowards to willing to die for their beliefs. People die all the time for false beliefs, but rarely for things they know to be lies. This and a host of other reasons leads me to believe their claims to be credible. And if so, Jesus is also credible. If I saw tell me they were going to die and resurrect and they did it, I’d want to know more from them as well. This Man, Jesus, told Peter to “feed His sheep” and told Peter He would build His Church on Peter the rock and also gave Peter the “Keys of the Kingdom”, which was no small matter, given the historical meaning of this concept all the way back to King David. Jesus promised to protect this Church from error. So this Man Jesus founded a Church on Peter and the first few generations of Christians began believing in items of faith consistent (as well as distinct from others) with the Catholic Church today. They were hierarchical, sacramental, mystical and faithful, even to death. When disagreements arose between Christians they sought input from the Church, through bishops and councils. After a decision from the Church, and based on Christ’s promise to prevent the Church from error, those who held different positions either submitted or were in schism with the Church. And based on Christ’s promise, this Church continues to today. We are confident the Catholic Church is the same as the Church of Christ and the Apostles because the Catholic Church remains an unbroken line of ordination, of Apostolic Succession.

    This is a much longer answer, but I’d appreciate help with a shorter (and if necessary, corrected) epistemological perspective.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    Happy Advent, Eva

  226. Brent,

    In late November there was a news report on the case of an Indian rationalist/atheist who investigated a weeping statue of Jesus: Weeping Icon

    As the article states, the ‘weeping’ was caused by sewage water draining through the plumbing and through the wall the statue is affixed to. Btw, some of this ‘holey’ water was being used as drinking water by the faithful there. So this man, who is now living in exile in Finland, is then given a ‘chance’ by Cardinal Gracias: “ Apologize for the offense and I will see to it that the charges are dropped. “….For every Libresco there are hundreds who cement their opposition to the church upon seeing the likes of the above.

    I am trying to help you realize that the CC’s behavior at the macro and micro level, is a function of doctrines and beliefs Throughout this thread, you have repeated tried to separate the two, but fail to recognize that they are inherently, intrinsically linked. We are and do what we believe. Now, I hope it’s obvious that you do not need my forgiveness, afterall under your paradigm I am currently guilt of mortal sin. I don’t take offense at that, and understand what you mean by that, how’s that for a tu quoque?

    I will give you another example: catholics believe that penance and prayers for the dead can contribute to their salvation. So it is said of the immoral popes of the 14th and 15th centuries among others, that the CC is doing penance and prayer for them. Ok. Imagine being a priest today involved in and addicted to abuse: can you see how such doctrine (putting aside its truth for a minute), no matter how well intentioned, can be used to indirectly rationalize his behavior? As in “Well, I really struggle with this and I know it’s wrong, but hopefully my church will pray and do penance for me in the afterlife and I will be saved.” The Apostolic Fathers did not believe in purgatory but rather that it is appointed for all men to die and then the judgment. I’d be happy to provide you with references.

    Could it be that the real problem here is a disproportionate appreciation for doctrinal infallibility? I believe that is the case and have been arguing to illustrate this, not to hurt feelings.

    Peace,
    SS.

  227. Eva Marie (#225

    This sounds circular to me. Mainly:

    1) Catholic Church tells the truth and cannot err
    2) Catholic Church says Christ gave Peter the Keys
    3) Therefore Christ gave Peter the Keys

    It would be circular if the 1) were “Catholic Church tells the truth and cannot err because Peter has the Keys”

    By the above I was trying to say to ‘SS’ that I do not think he believes Athanasius was on the orthodox side for the same reason that I do. He has not yet told us why he believes Athanasius was on the orthodox side.

    Everyone must start somewhere. The Bible-only believer starts with the Bible itself. He believes this is the Word of God – and he believes that his Spirit-strengthened understanding can understand what is required of him. Why he believes the Bible to be the Word of God is something that cannot, in the nature of things, be based on that belief itself.

    Now the tu quoque response is based on the idea that, since we all have to start somewhere, whether you start with the Bible or the Church, both are based on human reasoning (which, in a sense, is true; the ‘motives of credibility’ must be things we humans can know). I contend that belief in the Bible is, consciously or unconsciously, based on belief in the Church – at least up to a point. The Bible believer has, in fact, assumed the infallible and inerrant Church up to the point of its ‘issuance’ of the Bible – as though, at a certain point, the Church said, “There – now you have it in writing; you don’t need me any longer, and I will bow out.”

    I absolutely agree with your own reasoning, basically. I like Father Ronald Knox’s summary of the points in his superb book The Belief of Catholics:

    Let me then, to avoid further ambiguity, give a list of certain leading
    doctrines which no Catholic, upon a moments reflection, could accept on the
    authority of the Church and on that ground alone.

    (i.) The existence of God.

    (ii.) The fact that he has made a revelation to the world in Jesus Christ.

    (iii.) The Life (in its broad outlines), the Death, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    (iv.) The fact that our Lord founded a Church.

    (v.) The fact that he bequeathed to that Church his own teaching office, with the guarantee (naturally) that it should not err in teaching.

    (vi.) The consequent intellectual duty of believing what the Church believes.

    These are all things which logically (I do not say, ‘always in practice’) precede faith. The reasons for each step in the above list are more than I have time for here – and, in fact, the best way to understand them is to read Knox’s book.

    I think the Bible-only believer adds:

    (vii.) The fact that the Church at some point produced the Scriptures and left us to follow them using our Spirit-aided reason.

    There is, it seems to me, neither historical nor reasonable grounds for this addition, and it seems to me that history has shown its inadequacy.

    But all of this said, no ‘motives of credibility’ can, in and of themselves, give faith. Faith is the gift of God. We are not semi-Pelagians. Even finding the ‘motives of credibility’ itself is only possible through the prevenient aid of the Spirit. It is perfectly possible to argue against each step in the above. My (unbelieving) brother has recently asked me to read a (perfectly awful) book, The Transcendental Temptation. The writer, determined, I would say, not to believe, comes up with all sorts of utterly implausible reasons to think that, for example, Jesus’s Resurrection is a myth.

    A man must come to the motives of credibility with, not, in my opinion, merely an open mind – which seems to imply something like a kind of neutrality – but with a mind that judges, first of all, what Newman calls the ‘antecedent probability’ of something’s being true. There can be a mind-set that starts from ‘whatever is supernatural is so unlikely that only the strongest evidence could favour it’ (which C. S. Lewis, in his superb book Miracles, talks about – David Hume’s presupposition, in fact). There seems to me to be, simply from the history of man, the strongest reason to object to such a presupposition.

    Read Knox; read Lewis. But you don’t need to. Your epistemology seems to me perfect.

    jj

  228. SS,

    For every Libresco there are hundreds who cement their opposition to the church upon seeing the likes of the above

    I think that is anecdotal postering. I think I could say that for ignorant or fundamentalist faithfuls of all stripes. I would need no real data to qualify it, and I would get some emotional bang for my buck from those who cared less to investigate the details.

    If your argument is “because the Catholic Church thinks she can teach, under certain conditions, infallible dogma, she is therefore immune to her personal failings”, the argument is called ad hominem or at the least, the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc. Correlation is not causation; and today more than ever, modern man is obsessed with this fallacy (e.g. Freakonomics). The problems in Catholicism are not unique to Catholicism, they are human problems, so it is going to be really difficult to isolate an ecclesiological dogma (infallibility) and explain why it is the cause of a particular lay behavior. Man’s compunction to want to believe is shared, too, by the atheist, who flaunt evidence and flimsy worn out arguments like their weeping icon — happy to ignore any contrary testimony.

    If impeccability is a precondition of infallibility, then make an argument to that effect. I would be interested in it. And, it would be necessary for your position, since on your view it would seem that peccability necessarily entails falliblity — which in my view precludes even the possibility of the Sacred Scriptures (unless one subscribes to a possession theory of dictation).

    Could it be that the real problem here is a disproportionate appreciation for doctrinal infallibility?

    Not if it is a true dogma.

    I believe that is the case and have been arguing to illustrate this, not to hurt feelings.

    You are not hurting my feelings at all.

    Peace, brother.

  229. The fact that he bequeathed to that Church his own teaching office, with the guarantee (naturally) that it should not err in teaching.

    Where does this belief originate from?

  230. The fact that he bequeathed to that Church his own teaching office, with the guarantee (naturally) that it should not err in teaching

    Where does this guarantee originate from and how do you know it to be true?

  231. Brent,

    Technically it isn’t “correlation is not causation”, but rather “correlation does not imply causation”. The dictum does not state that there cannot be a causal relationship between the variables; it merely highlights the absence of a necessary link (with a probability of 1) between them. The examples I have mentioned are but a drop in the ocean of what has transpired over the centuries; more than enough to an independent observer to suggest that the correlation between doctrine and praxis should at the very least be taken seriously and not dismissed a priori.

    I’m glad to hear your feelings are not hurt!

    Peace,
    SS.

  232. SS (#230)

    The fact that he bequeathed to that Church his own teaching office, with the guarantee (naturally) that it should not err in teaching

    Where does this guarantee originate from and how do you know it to be true?

    SS, I repeate that this is part of the ‘motives of credibility’ and is something that has to be argued as have sufficient reasonability as to be morally certain. But I really do not have time to basically repeate Knox’s whole book here. I encourage you to read it.

    jj

  233. Just a PS – the guarantee, Knox suggests, is ‘natural.’ He did, indeed, say things like, “all power is given to Me … go, therefore…” and “who receives you receives Me” and “go, teach all nations.” To give a command that cannot, in the nature of things, be obeyed is, it would seem to me, not reasonable.

    jj

  234. SS, you wrote:

    All your posts have one presupposition: the need for rational certainty as expressed in the repeated requests for me to outline how what I’m proposing meets this insatiable need for infallibility. While of course understandable given the theological relativism of our time, the presupposition assumes that this how the Almighty operates, i.e, through rational propositions leading to rational certainty.

    I think I need to clarify a few things if this is what you think I really believe.

    It is true that I have been asking you how we are supposed to know with certainty what constitutes the doctrines of orthodoxy. I ask these questions because you have asked me to repent of “moral and doctrinal” failure. My response to your request is that I have no objection to doing that. None at all. But I have also pointed out to you, that it is absolutely pointless for you to ask me to repent of doctrinal failure if we don’t first agree about what constitutes orthodox doctrine. If we agree about what constitutes orthodox doctrine, then you can call me out when I fail to repent of heresy. In fact, you are commanded by Christ to do exactly that, and that is why I would have no objection to your call to repent of heresy.

    But what if we don’t agree about some particular point of doctrine? What should we do then? What I have been trying to say to you is this, that the scriptures that you have in your Protestant bible give us explicit instructions about how we are to proceed, and from my point of view, you are simply ignoring those scriptures.

    So what we must do if we have reached an impasse about what constitutes orthodox doctrine? We must follow the teachings of Christ found in Matthew 18:15-20. First, you should come to me in private if you believe that I am spreading heretical doctrine. Suppose you do that, and then I tell you that you are mistaken, that what I believe is actually orthodox doctrine and what you believe is the real heresy. Following the teaching laid out in Matthew 18:16, your next step would be to confront me with two or more witnesses that agree with you. If I don’t agree with you and your witnesses, then we must follow the teaching of Matthew 18:17 – the two of us are to take our doctrinal dispute to the church that Jesus Christ personally founded, and we are to let the church rule upon our dispute.

    The church that Christ personally founded has the final authority in these matters of doctrinal dispute. Once the church has made her ruling, anyone that refuses to listen to the church is to be excommunicated.

    In Acts chapter 15 one can see where the early church put this teaching of Christ into action:

    Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and presbyters about this question. Acts 15:1-2

    Note that men from Judea were preaching to the brothers in Antioch about a point of doctrine concerning salvation. They were preaching that the Gentile converts could not be saved unless they were circumcised. Paul vehemently disagreed with these men from Judea over this point of doctrine, and neither the men from Judea nor Paul would concede that the other side was mistaken about what constitutes orthodox doctrine. Now note carefully how the church in Antioch settled this doctrinal dispute, because the way they settled the doctrinal dispute fulfills exactly the teaching of Christ that is spelled out in Matthew 18:17-18:

    … it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and presbyters about this question.
    Acts 15:2

    The Council of Jerusalem settles the doctrinal dispute, and they rule in Paul’s favor about this point of doctrine. The church in Antioch is bound by this ruling, and not only that, the whole church is bound for all times by this ruling. No Christians of a later generation can overturn the ruling of the Council of Jerusalem and begin preaching that circumcision of men is necessary for salvation.

    Returning to your reply, you have stated that I have an “insatiable need for infallibility”. I don’ really object to that. I need to know with certainty what constitutes orthodox doctrine, and so did the Christians in Antioch that were alive when a major doctrinal dispute broke out in their community. The church in Antioch needed a definitive ruling about what constitutes orthodox doctrine to settle once and for all the doctrinal dispute disrupting the peace of the church. My point is that the Christians in Antioch were not at all confused as to how to get that ruling. These early Christians simply followed the teachings of Jesus that you can find spelled out in your Protestant bible in the verses of Matthew 18:15-20.

    While I am unapologetic about my need to know with certainty what constitutes orthodox Christian doctrine, I do object to you saying that I presuppose that I believe that Almighty God reveals what constitutes orthodox doctrine “through rational propositions leading to rational certainty.” What I actually presuppose is this: when a doctrinal dispute is taken to “the church” for a ruling, the Holy Spirit will protect the church from teaching error. So I believe that doctrinal disputes can be settled for the whole church in valid Ecumenical Councils. The reason that the church cannot err when she exercises her full teaching authority in an Ecumenical Council is because Jesus has promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail against his church.

    You have quoted to me a section from the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs, 1848, but that document makes exactly the same argument that I have just made. Ecumenical Councils teach infallibly because Christ has infallibly promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church that he has personally founded:

    Of these heresies, some already have entirely failed, some are in decay, some have wasted away, some yet flourish in a greater or less degree vigorous until the time of their return to the Faith, while others are reproduced to run their course from their birth to their destruction. For being the miserable cogitations and devices of miserable men, both one and the other, struck with the thunderbolt of the anathema of the seven Ecumenical Councils, shall vanish away, though they may last a thousand years; for the orthodoxy of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, by the living Word of God, alone endures for ever, according to the infallible promise of the LORD: the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. xviii. 18).

    Ref: http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/encyc_1848.aspx

    The gates of hell shall not prevail – the definitive teachings of the seven Ecumenical Councils were like a thunderbolt that struck down the heretics that disputed with the Catholic and Apostolic Church. I completely agree!

    SS, be assured that I am not ignoring your other questions, but I better stop here before this response gets out of hand. I promise that I will respond to your other points when I get time. I just wanted to clear up with my post this point: I do not believe that my natural reason unaided by grace will ever allow me to decide for myself what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of Christianity. The reason that I trust the doctrinal teachings of valid Ecumenical Councils is because I believe that the bishops that teach at valid Ecumenical Councils are divinely authorized by God to promulgate those teachings. When the bishops exercise the authority of their teaching office at a valid Ecumenical Council, these bishops also exercise a charism of the Holy Spirit that protects them from teaching error. This is one way that I can separate the fallible theological opinions of well-intentioned academics from divinely protected interpretations of what has been handed down in the deposit of faith.

    The bishops teaching at valid Ecumenical Councils are always protected by God from teaching error, but I can never be sure if well-intentioned academics are protected from error in their reasoning when they propose opinions for my consideration.

    Blessings to you,

    mateo

  235. It is true that I have been asking you how we are supposed to know with certainty what constitutes the doctrines of orthodoxy. I ask these questions because you have asked me to repent of “moral and doctrinal” failure. My response to your request is that I have no objection to doing that. None at all. But I have also pointed out to you, that it is absolutely pointless for you to ask me to repent of doctrinal failure if we don’t first agree about what constitutes orthodox doctrine. If we agree about what constitutes orthodox doctrine, then you can call me out when I fail to repent of heresy. In fact, you are commanded by Christ to do exactly that, and that is why I would have no objection to your call to repent of heresy.

    Mateo, the Scriptures say that the faith was once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). I don’t think you understand the significance of those words. ONCE and for ALL. There was nothing that needed to added, nor subtracted from the faith, it was fully salvific in its primitive state. This faith, as practiced by the earliest churches at Smyrna, Philadelphia and elsewhere, produced the fruit of righteousness and as importantly was vindicated and validated by God Himself Christ told the Smyrnaens that they were poor, yet rich. They adhered to the FOFAD, as it was taught them by Polycarp, himself a disciple of John the Beloved. This is the key: the succession was apostolic not only in lineage , but in praxis as well. That faith can also be historically apprehended: broadly, it was Trinitarian in nature (God is one in three: Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and taught that salvation not only comprises the forgiveness of our sins via the atoning death of the Son of God (trampling down death with death), but also sanctification through His Resurrection, a sanctification without which no one will see the Lord, that baptism is regeneration and for the remission of sins, the real presence in communion, that a true believer can forfeit one’s salvation, that church polity is episcopal, that Christ will return to judge the church and the world. This is in essence, the faith of the Apostolic Fathers. It provides today’s catholic, orthodox and protestant an opportunity to reconcile and reunite around a set of beliefs which produced some of the holiest men who were commended by God Himself as attested by the Scriptures. Is that not God’s will, that we be conformed to the image of His Son and is that not the proper ethos in which infallibility should be comprehended and apprehended?

    But what if we don’t agree about some particular point of doctrine? What should we do then? What I have been trying to say to you is this, that the scriptures that you have in your Protestant bible give us explicit instructions about how we are to proceed, and from my point of view, you are simply ignoring those scriptures.

    Is there anything in the above that you disagree with? Of course, it is a broad description and not meant to be exhaustive, but is there anything you would deem to be unorthodox about the above? Regarding ignoring Matt 18, this presupposes the catholic understanding of doctrinal infallibility which is precisely what we are discussing here. You cannot simply assume that which you wish to prove… I am not ignoring Matt 18, but only suggesting that your presupposition that the church has not erred in her teaching is mistaken.

    While I am unapologetic about my need to know with certainty what constitutes orthodox Christian doctrine, I do object to you saying that I presuppose that I believe that Almighty God reveals what constitutes orthodox doctrine “through rational propositions leading to rational certainty.” What I actually presuppose is this: when a doctrinal dispute is taken to “the church” for a ruling, the Holy Spirit will protect the church from teaching error. So I believe that doctrinal disputes can be settled for the whole church in valid Ecumenical Councils. The reason that the church cannot err when she exercises her full teaching authority in an Ecumenical Council is because Jesus has promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail against his church.

    It is not only I saying that about ‘rational propositions’, that was a quote from Eastern Orthodoxy. I give them all the credit for that masterful insight into the nature of things as they stand. Again, truth is a person, not a set of rational propositions. We can only remain in doctrinal truth, to the extent that we remain in the true Vine, in Christ Himself. Rational propositions divorced from the ontological reality they are meant to point to are absolutely worthless. This is why, in my view, holding to doctrinal infallibility whilst repeatedly breaking Christ’s law is an untenable and self contradictory position.

    “The reason that the church cannot err when she exercises her full teaching authority in an Ecumenical Council is because Jesus has promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail against his church.”

    This is a non sequitur of gigantic proportions, one on which C2C and Catholicism is founded. Christ’s promise does not necessarily presuppose the kind of infallibility in the church’s doctrinal teaching that you ascribe to , it could merely presuppose the lovingkindness and mercy of God in allowing the church to exist despite corruption in teaching and praxis. In other words, could it be that the gates of hell did not prevail not because of the church’s orthodoxy but in spite of its lapse into unorthodoxy? Read the parable of the leaven and the mustard tree with a 1st century Jewish perspective and you will understand. ‘Birds of the air’ were always understood to be unclean animals with an evil connotation in the jewish hearer’s mind.

    What you are doing in asserting doctrinal infallibility under your paradigm , is offering a private interpretation, as a Catholic, of the promise that Christ made. C2C argues that the ‘discovery’ made by the Catholic when confronted with the reality of apostolic succession and the historical church is extra-mental. In a sense, that is true. The truth that the gates of hell shall not prevail against Christ’s church is much bigger than any of us. However, one must read into that statement the catholic idea of doctrinal infallibility when in and of itself it does not necessarily have to teach this. All one has to do is consider how God dealt with the sin of Israel in twisting the gracious Law he gave them: they too, believed in their own brand of doctrinal infallibilty, so much so that they felt so confident in adding rule upon rule, law upon law, beyond what God had intended for them, burdening their own with load none could bear. And they killed the prophets whilst holding to doctrinal infallibility. Is it any wonder that Christ’s confrontation with them was so acerbic? You see the problem is not with infallibility per se. The problem lies in the paradigm in which infallibility is understood and wielded. The Apostolic Fathers enjoyed infallibility!, but this infallibility was proven and validated by the fruit of righteousness evident in their lives. (Matt 7:15ff). It was the grace of God granted to those who remained in the Vine. Was not Polycarp the first martyr for the faith, gentle yet firm until the end, refusing to compromise with the evil Roman empire? Ignatius had a similar end. Do not his epistles still speak today to his righteousness? Same for Clement, Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, the author/s of the Didache and so on. Can the lives of the ensuing Popes throughout history offer us similar assurance that they were truly of God? I don’t think a reasonable student of history can make that assertion.

    Re the quote you provided from the Orthodox site: have you stopped to consider that they too believe that the Holy Spirit will not guide the church into error. Why then is the CC not in communion with them? Why do they not recognize the proclamations of the CC from the 7th council on? You see, merely claiming the possession of the Holy Spirit, can never suffice. A fortiori, neither can claiming the Spirit without regard for any evidence of the Spirit’s presence, made manifest in the fruit of the Spirit . This cannot and will not do. Are you sure that the Holy Spirit was present at Chalcedon, where blood was shed over doctrinal truth in the name of God? Is the fruit of the Spirit punches and lunging, and beard pulling and blood shedding? (regardless of whether the right conclusions were reached or not at the council.) Or is it love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, all afforded to us, if we cooperate with God’s grace, being under the new covenant and under Christ’s law. Was there blood and violence at the council of Jersualem? None. Was there only one group of believers at that council, or was the entire church represented? The entire church was represented there. “What can I do without doctrinal infallibility?” you ask and I will say it again: look to the Apostles and the Apostolic Fathers, who were commended by Christ and blameless in their conduct as bishops and elders of the church. Their infallibility in teaching was proven by their wisdom and it is the kind of infallibility that is truly of God and not self ascribed by men.

    Consider again that the earliest believers were commended by Christ and righteous in His sight, without any need on their part to tout doctrinal infallibility as their possession regardless of their conduct. There was no infallible canon of Scripture until Trent (1500s), no infallible dogmatic position on the Immaculate Conception until 1854 and indeed no dogma of papal infallibility until 1870. And yet! to the earliest believers, Christ says:

    ” I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name”

    SS, be assured that I am not ignoring your other questions, but I better stop here before this response gets out of hand. I promise that I will respond to your other points when I get time.

    I look forward to your response.

    Peace,
    SS.

  236. SS, you write:

    Mateo, the Scriptures say that the faith was once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). I don’t think you understand the significance of those words. ONCE and for ALL. There was nothing that needed to added, nor subtracted from the faith, it was fully salvific in its primitive state.

    What is it that I don’t understand? The faith delivered once and for all is the depositum fidei:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    84 The apostles entrusted the “Sacred deposit” of the faith (the depositum fidei), contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. “By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. So, in maintaining, practicing and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful.”

    Of course the true faith was salvific in its primitive state! But if you want to speak about primitive states, then I would note that Euclidean Geometry is correct in its primitive state too. Euclidean Geometry being correct in a primitive state – does that necessitate that Euclidean Geometry must remain stagnant and in an undeveloped state for thousands of years? If a branch of mathematics can develop into a richer state over time, I should think that it would be uncontroversial to believe that the Christian religion can develop a more complete understanding of the implications of what is contained in the depositum fidei.

    Euclidean Geometry rests on only a few posited axioms, and we are still discovering new theorems that flow from these simple axioms. The depositum fidei is far, far richer than the axioms of Euclidean Geometry. With two thousand years to reflect on the depositum fidei, I would hope that we are not still in a primitive state of our understanding of the faith delivered once and for all!

    This faith, as practiced by the earliest churches at Smyrna, Philadelphia and elsewhere, produced the fruit of righteousness and as importantly was vindicated and validated by God Himself Christ told the Smyrnaens that they were poor, yet rich. They adhered to the FOFAD, as it was taught them by Polycarp, himself a disciple of John the Beloved.

    I know that St. Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John. I also know that some of the local particular churches in Asia Minor were commended for their practice of the faith, and some were chastised for laxity in their practice. Can you explain your point here, because I am afraid that it has gone over my head.

    This is the key: the succession was apostolic not only in lineage , but in praxis as well.

    Bishops receive apostolic succession through the Sacrament of Ordination. Are you trying to argue that a bishop that fails to live a holy life loses the validity of his ordination? I ask this because that is what I think you are saying.

    That faith can also be historically apprehended: broadly, it was Trinitarian in nature (God is one in three: Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and taught that salvation not only comprises the forgiveness of our sins via the atoning death of the Son of God (trampling down death with death), but also sanctification through His Resurrection, a sanctification without which no one will see the Lord, that baptism is regeneration and for the remission of sins, the real presence in communion, that a true believer can forfeit one’s salvation, that church polity is episcopal, that Christ will return to judge the church and the world. This is in essence, the faith of the Apostolic Fathers.

    The points that you make in your “broad outline”, I agree with them, but I don’t agree that these points constitute the essence of the faith of the Apostolic Fathers! These are points of doctrine that Christians must believe, but this is hardly a complete list of what constitutes orthodox doctrine.

    It provides today’s catholic, orthodox and protestant an opportunity to reconcile and reunite around a set of beliefs which produced some of the holiest men who were commended by God Himself as attested by the Scriptures.

    I think I finally see what you are driving at. You believe that the partial list of doctrines that you have listed constitutes the fullness of the faith delivered once and for all. And you have gathered together your particular list of doctrines by reading the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. You have not even considered the value of the writings of the ante-Nicene Fathers.

    To be sure, the writings of the Apostolic Fathers are well worth reading, but you cannot treat these writing as a systematic presentation of the orthodox doctrines of the Christian faith, since the Apostolic Fathers never wrote what they wrote with that intention in mind.

    Is that not God’s will, that we be conformed to the image of His Son …

    Yes!

    … is that not the proper ethos in which infallibility should be comprehended and apprehended?

    Ethos? Should bishops be ethical? Sure. Paul says so in his letter to Timothy. But infallibility is a particular charismatic gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is not true that only holy men can exercise the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit. Evildoers can exercise charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit too, and I wouldn’t believe that except for the fact that Jesus explicitly teaches that the damned can exercise charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit:

    … many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’ Matthew 7:22-23

    Jesus states that men can prophesy in his name, and that they will still be damned. Prophecy is a charismatic gift of the Holy Spirit. Bishops should be holy men, as Paul teaches Timothy, but the holiness of a bishop – or lack of it – in no way means that he can’t exercise the charismatic gift of infallibility when he teaches. The charismatic gift of infallibility is similar, but not identical to, the gift of prophecy. If you are arguing that only holy bishops can teach infallibly, then you need to develop that argument with something more than mere assertions.

    Is there anything in the above that you disagree with? Of course, it is a broad description and not meant to be exhaustive, but is there anything you would deem to be unorthodox about the above?

    Not really. The defect of your list lies in the fact that it is not exhaustive, not by a long shot.

    We can only remain in doctrinal truth, to the extent that we remain in the true Vine, in Christ Himself.

    I can believe in the doctrines of the faith without acting on those beliefs. That is why James tells us that we must be doers, and not just hearers. The parable of the vine and the branches is not a parable about what I must believe; it is a parable about bearing fruit. The fruit that Jesus wants me to manifest are the works of love.

    I am not ignoring Matt 18

    But I think you are! I think that you are ignoring Matthew 18 the same way that every other Protestant ignores this teaching.

    You have not told me how it is that you obey the commandment of Christ to listen to the church that he personally founded. Nor have you explained why the penalty of excommunication does not apply to you for refusing to listen to the church that Christ personally founded. Instead, you have propounded a bunch of arguments that are based on your own personal interpretations of the scriptures and the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. How does listening to yourself equate with listening to the church that Christ personally founded? I really want to know an how you answer that question!

    I don’t want to pick apart once again all the places where I think you are wrong in your doctrine. What I want to know is how it is that you can claim that the doctrines that you have personally developed are in line with the doctrines that have been solemnly defined by the church that Jesus Christ has personally founded. Until you tell me how you identify the church that Jesus Christ has personally founded, and how it is that you are faithful to what that church teaches, then I will continue to believe that you are simply ignoring the teachings of Jesus found in Matthew 18:15-20.

    SS, do you believe that if a Christian refuses to listen even to the church that Christ personally founded, that this Christian should be excommunicated from the church?

    I look forward to your answer.

    Peace to you,
    mateo

    .

  237. “correlation does not imply causation”

    Right. The point is the same. Books like Freakonomics employ similar argumentative strategies to try to prove, for example, that abortion improves the education levels of a society. That aside, I think our conversation has run its course. I’m bowing out.

  238. What is it that I don’t understand? The faith delivered once and for all is the depositum fidei

    Mateo, you said earlier you would respond to my questions, but with every post you seem to delay that further. Would appreciate your response to the questions I raised in the last 2 or 3 posts…

    Can you suppport the assertion above? Where you find the sale of indulgences, treasury of merits, Immaculate Conception, purgatory etc in the faith of the Apostolic Fathers? And if you tell me that these were developed later, then you’ve made my point about the faith once and for all delivered.

    If a branch of mathematics can develop into a richer state over time, I should think that it would be uncontroversial to believe that the Christian religion can develop a more complete understanding of the implications of what is contained in the depositum fidei.

    The EO are indeed correct in their assessment of the Catholic phronema; it is deeply scholastic, seeing the faith as a series of rational propositions which can be defended or developed much like any of the sciences were developed. Your statement above illustrates this well. But that is part of the problem and not the solution, especially not the solution to the continued fractured state of Christianity As Vincent of Lerins said:

    Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers.

    But that’s precisely the problem: all possible care has not been taken and there has been a departure from the faith held by the holy Apostolic Fathers. Much of this departure had to do with the breaking of Christ’s command to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. Christ was saying, in other words, firstly that Caesar was not God (he was worshipped as a god by the people), and secondly that the church should remain separate from the state. When the church decided to allow itself to be embedded in the state (this continues to this day), it made a definitive break with the deposit of the faith and opened a Pandora’s box that it has never been able to shut since. The departure is also manifest in the addition of doctrines which cannot find support either in Scriptures or in the FOFAD and which are largely the result of the scholasticism introduced by Anselm, bishop of Canterbury. For instance, Anselm’s satisfaction theory of the atonement has no precedent in the writings of the AF and is at deep odds with the Eastern Orthodox understanding of the atonement. The latter have preserved the true, original understanding, pointing to the fact that God did not necessitate that the Son suffer on the cross before He could forgive and be reconciled.. Anselm’s idea laid the ground work for Luther and Calvin and the doctrine of penal substitution, which technically speaking, makes God subject to necessity. But He is beyond any requirement that our minds can conjure up.

    So re your comment that you hope that you are not still in a primitive understanding of the faith: certainly, but better a primitive and true understanding than a developed understanding which has departed from the faith.

    I know that St. Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John. I also know that some of the local particular churches in Asia Minor were commended for their practice of the faith, and some were chastised for laxity in their practice. Can you explain your point here, because I am afraid that it has gone over my head.

    The point is that the faith of the AF is not an arbitrary point of contact for catholic, orthodox and protestant alike. It is a faith that was actually commended by God, as the Scriptures attest. When a protestant for example says why should I trust what the AF are saying about the possibility of forfeiting one’s salvation? One can point them to the fact that their faith was not arbitrary but rather bore divine approval. It is precisely because they feared being found unfaithful by their Lord that they persevered. Likewise, for you as a catholic, I would reaffirm the fact that your faith resembles the faith of the AF in some respects, but has departed from that faith in many other respects. And since infallibility as you understand it (with your scholastic paradigm) is a must for you, I show you that God was in the business of saving men long before the doctrine of infallibility was articulated. So, if a truly ecumenical cooperation was to happen between catholic, orthodox and protestants, the AF could provide a unique common ground that meets all needs for doctrinal purity. My point is precisely that one does not need a systematic theology! The Smyrnaens were poor, yet rich. Those at Philadelphia had a door opened before them that no one could shut. All without systematic theology.

    Now you say you don’t agree that the points I raise provide the essence of the faith of the AF. It’s easy to make an assertion. Can you support that assertion? That the list is not exhaustive does not prove anything. How much information do you require that a believer needs before he can be saved? Wasn’t the faith of the earliest believers a primitive one and yet fully salvific? Isn’t salvation the ultimate goal here and not systematic theology?

    But infallibility is a particular charismatic gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is not true that only holy men can exercise the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit. Evildoers can exercise charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit too, and I wouldn’t believe that except for the fact that Jesus explicitly teaches that the damned can exercise charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit

    Straw man. Nowhere do I say that only holy men can exercise charismatic gifts. What I am saying is that the consistent, holy lives of the AF are the fruit by which we know (Matt 7:15ff) that the tree was good.

    I can believe in the doctrines of the faith without acting on those beliefs. That is why James tells us that we must be doers, and not just hearers. The parable of the vine and the branches is not a parable about what I must believe; it is a parable about bearing fruit. The fruit that Jesus wants me to manifest are the works of love.

    Distinction without a difference. You works are a function of your beliefs. If a priest who is abusing children believes that the faithful will do penance and pray for him, he might very well rationalize his behavior. Yes, you are right, it is the doers of the faith who will be saved. I put forth the parable of the Vine to explain the difference between the scholastic mindset of the catholic vs the EO phronema of union with Christ. The EO have it right, they know and teach that the true theologian is the one who prays and the one who prays is the true theologian. In other words, there is an indissoluble bond between the trustworthiness of the teacher and his teaching. The works of love that you speak of were indeed manifested by the AF. Can you say the same about those who followed them?

    Bishops receive apostolic succession through the Sacrament of Ordination. Are you trying to argue that a bishop that fails to live a holy life loses the validity of his ordination? I ask this because that is what I think you are saying.

    As per the preceding paragraph, I am saying that the fruit reveals the tree. No one is talking about losing ordination. The argument I make is epistemological and ontological, and shows that the artificial distinction between doctrinal and administrative infallibility is not only moot, but also a false distinction.

    But I think you are! I think that you are ignoring Matthew 18 the same way that every other Protestant ignores this teaching.

    You have not told me how it is that you obey the commandment of Christ to listen to the church that he personally founded. Nor have you explained why the penalty of excommunication does not apply to you for refusing to listen to the church that Christ personally founded. Instead, you have propounded a bunch of arguments that are based on your own personal interpretations of the scriptures and the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. How does listening to yourself equate with listening to the church that Christ personally founded? I really want to know an how you answer that question!

    Was Athanasius ignoring Matt 18 when he refused to comply with the Arian bishops in power? Look, you can strong arm me as much you want with the penalty of excommunication all you want, but you are nevertheless assuming what you are trying to prove. Your belief that the CC has retained infallibility of doctrine regardless of her behavior is a private interpretation which has no basis in the Scriptures nor in the evidence afforded by the writing of the Apostolic Fathers. Granted, it is a private interpretation shared by a billion plus, but nevertheless a private one. So the tu quoque here is deeply felt and deeply ironic.

    Should Athanasius have been ex-communicated from the church by the Arian bishops in power (for decades)? If you say no, they were not the church, you are merely question begging. Have you considered the thoughts of your own Cardinal Newman, who was opposed to certain conclusions of Vatican I?

    Just a reminder: it would be helpful to see you interact with the points I’ve raised in the last 2 or 3 posts. I think that if we cannot agree, that is nevertheless the charitable thing to do.

    Thanks,
    SS.

  239. SS, I promised you that I would address more of the points that you have made in your post #221. Let me address two points of your that concern infallibility and impeccability.

    You wrote:

    The EO do not define infallibility in the way you do: as the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs of 1848 explains: “Moreover, neither Patriarchs nor Councils could then have introduced novelties amongst us, because the protector of religion is the very body of the Church, even the people themselves…

    Notice that last sentence above: this is exactly what Cardinal Newman tried to raise awareness to on the eve of Vatican I, albeit unsuccessfully:

    Let us define infallibility. Pope Benedict XVI has stated that all dogma is an interpretation of scriptures. I think that we can come up with a working definition of infallibility from that principle. Infallibly taught dogma: An interpretation of scriptures that has a guarantee from God of being inerrant. I don’t believe that the EO or OO would object to that definition of infallibility. In any case, both the EO and OO believe that the dogmas defined at valid Ecumenical Councils have a guarantee from God of being inerrant.

    The EO Churches believe that the bishops, and the bishops alone, can define dogma at an Ecumenical Council. No layman has ever defined dogma at an Ecumenical Council, and neither the EO nor the OO believe that laymen can define dogma at an Ecumenical Council. To be sure, laymen in a state of grace possess the sensus fidelium (the sense of the faithful), which is itself is a gift of the Holy Spirit. But the sensus fidelium is not a charismatic gift of the Holy Spirit that bestows upon laymen the charism of infallibility.

    I take it that you believe then that Newman was mistaken.

    I don’t believe that Newman was mistaken if he believes that the Eastern bishops were at one time overwhelmingly Arian. He is not mistake if he believes that the laity of the East knew that their bishops were in error because of their possession of a gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the sensus fidelium. The laity knew that their new bishops were not teaching what earlier bishops had taught them, and because the gift of the sensus fidelium the knew that the novelties being taught by their new bishops were off base in some way. I totally agree with that. But if Newman is trying to argue that the supernatural gift of the sensus fidelium is a substitute for a supernatural charism that allows bishops to teach infallibly at a valid Ecumenically Council, then Newman is mistaken.

    If Newman is arguing that the laity’s sensus fidelium must be accounted for when determining the orthodoxy of a particular doctrine defined at an Ecumenical Council, then it seems to me that what Newman would be arguing for Alexis Khomiakov’s “whole church receptionism” doctrine. But I contend that buried within Khomiakov’s doctrine is another novel doctrine, the doctrine of the primacy of the laity. That is a novel doctrine has neither scriptural support, nor patristic support.

    Here is why I see it that way. Khomiakov asserts that the dogmas promulgated by an Ecumenical Council cannot be said to be valid until the “whole church” receives that dogma. Let us examine what this implies. Laymen have never defined dogma at an Ecumenical Council. Obviously the bishops that have defined dogma at an Ecumenical Council have already accepted the dogma that they have defined. That means that if Khomiakov’s “whole church receptionism” is true, then the people that have the final say on whether or not a doctrine is “received” are the Christians that are not allowed to vote at Ecumenical Councils. The Christians that are not allowed to vote at Ecumenical Councils would be comprised overwhelmingly by the laity. And let us not forget that the women make up the majority of the laity.

    Now by definition, whoever has the ultimate temporal authority to rule on what constitutes Christian orthodoxy also possesses primacy within the church. This is why I contend that Khomiakov’s “whole church receptionism” doctrine carries within it an embedded doctrine of the primacy of the laity. Some Orthodox see my point, and some Orthodox do not. I know one Russian Orthodox woman that sees my point, and she assures me that Orthodox women have the authority to overrule the teachings of the Orthodox bishops that promulgate dogma at an Ecumenical Council. Which is why she believes that women will eventually be ordained as priests and bishops within the Orthodox Churches. Needless to say, I don’t find many Orthodox that agree with her, but then again, the members Orthodox Churches that subscribe to Khomiakov’s “whole church receptionism” doctrine have never presented to me a rational argument for why Orthodox women don’t have the final authority for determining what constitutes orthodox doctrine. And yes, I have asked members of Orthodox Churches how they avoid this conclusion if they buy into Khomiakov’s doctrine of “whole church receptionism”.

    When you make an appeal to Peter, as holder of the keys of the kingdom, you are fundamentally making an historical appeal.

    I think that you are getting ahead of yourself. I have not, as yet, made any appeal to Peter as the holder of the keys. I have only argued that the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches all agree that valid Ecumenical Councils teach infallibly. You have not provided me with any evidence that the EO and the OO do not believe that valid Ecumenical Councils teach infallibly.

    On another note, you have repeatedly pressed for answers but provided none of your own to the questions I have raised. I will ask you again then: what good will it do you and the CC to cling to claims of infallibility in doctrine when your praxis has revealed itself to be corrupt throughout the centuries down to this very day?

    Let me address your point about praxis. Whatever connection you are trying to make between praxis and doctrine, I don’t concede that practicing Catholics have revealed themselves to be corrupt through out the centuries. Great saints have come out of the Catholic Church for two thousand years, and great saints are still coming out of the Catholic Church. Who can deny that?

    Are there unfaithful Catholics that don’t live up to the moral doctrines taught by the Catholic Church? Sure there are. That is a scandal, but what does that scandal prove in regard to veracity of the moral doctrines taught by the Catholic Church? The very fact that you find it scandalous that some Catholics do not live up to the moral doctrines taught by the Catholic Church is proof to me that you actually agree with the moral doctrines taught by the Catholic Church!

    The failure of men to live up to the moral doctrines taught by the Catholic Church is not evidence that the moral doctrines taught by the Catholic Church are corrupt. I would never accuse an entire Protestant denomination of teaching corrupt moral doctrine if I had evidence that some pastor of that denomination (or even many pastors) failed to live up to the moral doctrine taught by their Protestant denomination. To me, it is a fallacious argument to think that the failure to live up to the moral doctrines of any religion implies that the moral doctrines taught by a religion are corrupt. The Buddhists teach that compassion for all sentient beings is a good thing. If I find many Buddhists that lack compassion, I can’t condemn Buddhism because of the failings of individual Buddhists. I am laying out a general principle here – the principle that people that fail to live the moral life taught by their religion do not, by their failure to live moral lives, provide evidence that their religion is teaching corrupt moral doctrine.

  240. SS, you ask:

    Where you find the sale of indulgences, treasury of merits, Immaculate Conception, purgatory etc in the faith of the Apostolic Fathers?

    Where do we find the Apostolic Fathers writing systematic theology textbooks? The actual writings of the Apostolic Fathers does not constitute a massive corpus of works. We are fortunate to have what little we have of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. You are operating on a specious assumption, that unless an Apostolic Father has explicitly addressed some point of doctrine, we can assume that the early Church had no knowledge of that doctrine. I reject the assumption that you are operating on, since there is no evidence that any Apostolic Father intended to write a systematic theology textbook for his readers.

    The EO are indeed correct in their assessment of the Catholic phronema; it is deeply scholastic, seeing the faith as a series of rational propositions which can be defended or developed much like any of the sciences were developed.

    You are reading into my point about the development of a branch of mathematics way more than I intended. Sorry if I wasn’t clear. My point is that with a few axioms, a whole branch of mathematics can be developed over time. What I am NOT arguing is that we can treat the deposit of faith as a set of axioms, and then using the logic of axiomatic set theory, we can then derive logically necessary theorems from our theological “axioms”. Revelation is supernaturally revealed, and to interpret supernatural revelation with an inerrancy that is guaranteed by God, requires a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit, the charism of infallibility. One can develop logically correct theorems in a branch of mathematics without exercising supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    But that’s precisely the problem: all possible care has not been taken and there has been a departure from the faith held by the holy Apostolic Fathers.

    So you say. But what are you basing your conclusion on? As far as I can see, your conclusion flows from nothing more than your personal interpretations of the scriptures and the assumptions that you bring to the table when you read the Apostolic Fathers.

    Now you say you don’t agree that the points I raise provide the essence of the faith of the AF. It’s easy to make an assertion. Can you support that assertion? That the list is not exhaustive does not prove anything. How much information do you require that a believer needs before he can be saved?

    How does a Christian know what he needs to believe? That question is the same thing as asking me to whom a Christian should listen to. The scriptures are explicit about that point, and you continue to ignore the scriptures that speak to this very point! A Christian must listen to the church that Christ personally founded upon pain of excommunication.

    No Protestant listens to the church that Jesus Christ founded. Protestants can be divided into two categories on the basis of who they listen to. Protestants are either Lone Ranger Christians that listen to no one but themselves; or they are men and women that listen to the teachers of sects that were founded by men and women that have broken away from the church that Jesus Christ personally founded.

    Look, you can strong arm me as much you want with the penalty of excommunication all you want, but you are nevertheless assuming what you are trying to prove.

    I am not threatening you with excommunication because I have no authority to do such a thing. I am trying to hold a sensible discussion here, that is all. I am specifically asking you how you deal with Christ’s teaching in Matthew 18:15-20. Please explain to me how it is that you believe that you actually listen to the church that Jesus Christ personally founded.

    If the church that Jesus personally founded is not the Catholic Church, then please explain to me where I am to find the church that Christ personally founded – the church against which the gates of hell will never prevail, and the church that has the authority to excommunicate me if I refuse to listen to her.

    Blessing to you,
    mateo

  241. Let us define infallibility. Pope Benedict XVI has stated that all dogma is an interpretation of scriptures. I think that we can come up with a working definition of infallibility from that principle. Infallibly taught dogma: An interpretation of scriptures that has a guarantee from God of being inerrant. I don’t believe that the EO or OO would object to that definition of infallibility. In any case, both the EO and OO believe that the dogmas defined at valid Ecumenical Councils have a guarantee from God of being inerrant.

    As I said above, that you think that the EO agree with you on infallibility is irrelevant since their separation from the CC shows that whatever working definition you use, there is a deep division between EO and CC. Let’s assume that the EO operate within the same paradigm that you do (they don’t, but let’s grant you that), then why do you they not accept Vatican I and II for example? Is one group’s infallibility superior to the other’s? One group has the Holy Spirit and the other doesn’t? The faith of the AF provides all parties an opportunity to be reunited while retaining doctrinal purity and trustworthiness.

    I don’t believe that Newman was mistaken if he believes that the Eastern bishops were at one time overwhelmingly Arian. He is not mistake if he believes that the laity of the East knew that their bishops were in error because of their possession of a gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the sensus fidelium. The laity knew that their new bishops were not teaching what earlier bishops had taught them, and because the gift of the sensus fidelium the knew that the novelties being taught by their new bishops were off base in some way. I totally agree with that. But if Newman is trying to argue that the supernatural gift of the sensus fidelium is a substitute for a supernatural charism that allows bishops to teach infallibly at a valid Ecumenically Council, then Newman is mistaken

    This is very interesting: so you believe that the laity who preserved the truth did so on the grounds of gift of the Holy Spirit, sensus fidelium. You do realize that this is completely question begging right? How do you know that they had sensus fidelium and how is that not a private interpretation/inference of the state of their souls? If you say this is the case because the Church has said so, this is a mere circular argument. Faithful catholic laity preserved the faith because they had sensus fidelium and they had sensus fidelium because the catholic church says so. So the faithful catholic laity of the 4th century preserved the faith because the catholic church has declared it so. Round and circular. The faithful laity, whom Cardinal Newman duly recognizes, preserved the faith against Arianism because they (as Athanasius did) could make an appeal to history and prove that the understanding that there was a time when the Son was not, was never part of the FOFAD. That is why Cardinal Newman valiantly tried to prevent Vatican I’s conclusions from going forward and why he was never comfortable with the process itself saying:

    On his opposition to the declaration of papal infallibility at the First Vatican Council:
    “Why is it, if I believe the Pope’s Infallibility, I do not wish it defined? I answer, because it can’t be so defined as not to raise more questions than it solves.”
    From The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman (Dessain et al., eds.), xxiv, 334.

    On his opposition to the way in which papal infallibility was declared at the First Vatican Council:
    “As little as possible was passed at the Council — nothing about the Pope which I have not myself always held — but it is impossible to deny that it was done with an imperiousness and overbearing willfulness, which has been a great scandal.”
    From The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman (Dessain et al., eds.), xxv, 262.

    On his wish that the declaration of infallibility might be ‘trimmed’ in the future:
    “Let us be patient, let us have faith, and a new Pope, and a re-assembled Council may trim the boat.”
    From The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman (Dessain et al., eds.), xxv, 310.

    Re Khomiakov, somewhat of a red herring here: Newman was not, as far as I understand him, advocating for ‘whole church receptionism’. He advocated for the absence of any formal declaration of papal infallibility by pointing to the history of the papacy, and more importantly the historical fact that there were times in history when the papacy itself was MIA. What I am proposing (this is mere proposal/suggestion, and I know it will be rejected, but nevertheless I must speak up in good conscience) differentiates itself from Khomiakov in the following manner: we ought not to make whole church receptionism the standard ex post (i.e, after the council has concluded). But nevertheless, we ought to make whole church representation necessary ex ante, before the council deliberates. It is obvious that dissent will occur ex post, because truth by definition is absolute and theological relativism is a reality. But ex ante, we must make the effort to seek unity (Heb 12:14). I suggest that the fully salvific faith of the AF can provide all parties with an opportunity to actualize that unity, in the peace and kindness of the Holy Spirit.

    The failure of men to live up to the moral doctrines taught by the Catholic Church is not evidence that the moral doctrines taught by the Catholic Church are corrupt. I would never accuse an entire Protestant denomination of teaching corrupt moral doctrine if I had evidence that some pastor of that denomination (or even many pastors) failed to live up to the moral doctrine taught by their Protestant denomination.

    The issue is not over the failure of the laity, some indeterminate section of the latter is only attempting to follow instructions from the top down, as faithful believers. The problem is not with them, but with the leadership: 1 Tim 3 states:

    “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach , faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) ”

    The Scriptures through the Apostle state that the bishop must be blameless/beyond reproach. This is not about impeccability, but about being beyond reproach. There is a fundamental distinction between the two. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but nevertheless by the grace of Christ Jesus our leaders, just like the laity, can live a life that is deemed blameless through the empowering of the Spirit as they walk after the Spirit (Rom 8). The problem is that the leadership in the CC has fallen far short of this Scriptural standard in so many respects, and for so long now, repeatedly, down to this very day. I will not reiterate the list because enough has been said already on this and it has never been my intention to inflame anyone. This is a difficult conversation for everyone. Now, the charge will be made that I am nothing but a Donatist. Not true: I am not saying that the CC is not the church that Christ founded, it is indeed. I am saying however that doctrinal and moral repentance is needed, because the two are intrinsically linked. A donatist would declare invalid all sacraments administered by the traditores, I make no such equivalent claim. If your priest has been involved in a scandal, I do not deny nevertheless that God’s grace is greater still and does not nullify your child’s baptism.

    Again it goes back to Matt 7:15ff: the epistemological principle is the fruit which reveals the tree. A good tree, consistently reveals good fruit. Good by an arbitrary standard? Certainly not, good by the standard set forth by Scripture, 1 Tim 3:1-6. Nothing arbitrary about that and this is supported in the writings of the AF:

    Polycarp says:

    Knowing, then, that “God is not mocked,” Galatians 6:7 we ought to walk worthy of His commandment and glory. In like manner should the deacons be blameless before the face of His righteousness, as being the servants of God and Christ, and not of men. They must not be slanderers, double-tongued, 1 Timothy 3:8 or lovers of money, but temperate in all things, compassionate, industrious, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who was the servant Matthew 20:28 of all. If we please Him in this present world, we shall receive also the future world, according as He has promised to us that He will raise us again from the dead, and that if we live worthily of Him, “we shall also reign together with Him,” 2 Timothy 2:12 provided only we believe. In like manner, let the young men also be blameless in all things, being especially careful to preserve purity, and keeping themselves in, as with a bridle, from every kind of evil. For it is well that they should be cut off from the lusts that are in the world, since “every lust wars against the spirit;” 1 Peter 2:11 and “neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 nor those who do things inconsistent and unbecoming. Wherefore, it is needful to abstain from all these things, being subject to the presbyters and deacons, as unto God and Christ. The virgins also must walk in a blameless and pure conscience.

    Peace,
    SS.

  242. SS, (re: #241)

    You wrote:

    I am not saying that the CC is not the church that Christ founded, it is indeed. I am saying however that doctrinal and moral repentance is needed, because the two are intrinsically linked.

    The notion that moral failures by Catholic leaders down through the centuries entail that the Church has formally defined and promulgated false doctrine was not only never part of the apostolic deposit, but is contrary to the very narrative of the apostles, according to which the apostasy of Judas does not nullify the authority and veracity of Christ’s teaching or the subsequent conclusions of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. The notion that moral failures by Church leaders entail that the Church has defined and promulgated false doctrine does not come from Christ, is not of apostolic origin, was never believed by all the faithful or affirmed by any council or by any Church Father, but is a mere tradition of certain unauthorized men. What is present in the apostolic deposit, and has been taught by the Church Fathers and the faithful and the councils, is the doctrine of the indefectibility of the Church, on the basis of Christ’s promise to be with her to the end of the age, to guide her into all truth by His Spirit, to establish her upon a rock whose faith He prayed would fail not, to be her living Head, to establish her perpetually as a light to the nations, and the pillar and bulwark of Truth.

    As I explained in comment #209 above, God in His omnipotence is able to preserve intact the apostolic faith within the Church, even when Church leaders sin. But affirming that He has in fact done so, is an act of supernatural faith, and requires the gift of faith from above. It cannot be done by human reason alone. The one who does not believe, but wants to believe, should pray as did the father of the possessed boy in Mark 9: “help my unbelief.” The act of faith in the Church (as one makes when one recites “Credo … unam, sanctam, cathólicam et apostólicam Ecclésiam“) in the Creed) would hardly be meritorious if all Church leaders were sinless. What made dipping in the Jordan meritorious for Naaman as an act of faith in what was unseen, was precisely its muddiness to the natural eye, which he did not deny but subordinated while believing in its salutary efficacy on the basis of the Word of the Lord through the prophet. As I wrote in “XII. The Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty” in my reply to Michael Horton:

    Namaan, for example, did not like the muddy Jordan. He would have picked a cleaner river back home near Damascus. (2 King 5) But the issue was not ultimately about some virtue of Jordan’s water but about faith as submission to God, accepting what God had said through His prophet even though it was not the way Namaan would have done it. The obedience of faith required of Namaan by divine prescription that he dip in what to him was the muddy Jordan, whereas he would rather have washed in a cleaner river in his homeland. The Church Christ founded is very much like this. Even her seven sacraments are foreshadowed in Namaan’s being required to dip seven times. That is because the Mystical Body mirrors Christ’s physical body. Isaiah tells us, “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” (Isaiah 53:2-3) The Church, which is the Body of Christ, imitates Christ in this respect. It is so human that one can walk right past it without recognizing it for what it is. Just as when looking at the physical body of Christ on the cross, and seeing the wounds from the nails, the gashes from the scourging, the crown of thorns, we might not see the divinity of that body, so likewise it is easy to look at the tares within the Church, dissenters within the Church, heretical clergy, etc., and conclude that this visible body cannot be the Church that Christ founded. It requires the eyes of faith to believe that this visible body, having the succession from Peter and the Apostles, is the Church that Christ founded and that Christ is found within her.

    Holiness as the second mark of the Church becomes invisible to those whose hearts are fixed on scandal and sin. A focus on the sins of certain Catholic leaders, to the exclusion of the holiness of her saints, is a distorted and inaccurate view of the Catholic Church, as I explained in the second paragraph of comment #433 in the “I Fought the Church and the Church Won” thread. Here the inverse claim to yours could be made: In order to produce such saints, the Church must in fact have faithfully preserved Christ’s doctrine. The lives of the saints recounted in Butler’s twelve volumes so outshine in their brilliance the sins of various Catholics, that they reduce the latter to a mere pebble, as Lewis in The Great Divorce describes heaven’s size compared to that of hell.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  243. SS,

    The first sentence in Bryan’s response in comment #242 is the essence of the issue I wished to raise in our brief exchange, above [from #190-195]. Thus far, you seem not to have been able to distinguish infallibility from impeccability. Is this why you’ve never responded to the questions I asked you in #195?

    In the grace of Christ,

    Chad

  244. Chad,

    That is because I am not presupposing your paradigm. The Tu Quoque is alive and well in the catholic’s appeal to the motives of credibility; it is precisely therein that the mistake lies. Within the MOC, you make a private inference, i.e., the distinction between doctrinal infallibility and impeccability because it allows you to hold in paradoxical tension the history of the CC/papacy and all of the scriptures that speak of what is required of elders. But this paradox cannot be supported scripturally and patristically. Further, you are unable to distinguish between blamelessness (a requirement for our elders as per 1 Tim 3 and Matt 7:15ff) and impeccability because your paradigm has artificially locked you into the aforementioned untenable premise. Hope that clears things up.

    Peace,
    SS.

  245. SS, (re: #244)

    You wrote:

    Within the MOC, you make a private inference, i.e., the distinction between doctrinal infallibility and impeccability

    No, we don’t. By the motives of credibility we locate the Church, and then from the Church we learn how to understand the Scriptural teaching regarding the requirement for elders, explained in #199 above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  246. Bryan,

    This is why the charge of presuppositionalism will be hard for you to shake off… The CC teaches the distinction between infallibility and impeccability, and therefore it must be true. Even if the distinction you bring up re placement/location were true, you have merely removed the TQ’s position one step further. This is circular reasoning in plain view;you are in the same epistemic boat as everyone else. See “A Manual of Catholic Theology” by Scheeben, pgs 122-123:

    “But in order that we may fulfil the duty of embracing the true faith, and of persevering therein constantly, God by means of His only begotten Son, hath instituted the Church, and hath endowed her with plain marks whereby she may be recognized by all men as the guardian and mistress of the revealed word. For to the CC alone belong all the wonders which have been divinely arranged credibility of the christian faith. Moreover the church herself, by her wonderful propagation, exalted sanctity, and unbounded fertility in all that is good, by her Catholic unity and invincible stability, is both an enduring motive of credibilty.

    Massive question begging in the above bolded…. that’s where the Tu Quoque is hiding because so much is assumed that is then stuffed into the proof. Kind of like an elephant kneeling under the rug in the living room. ;-) Exalted sanctity? Come on…

    Peace,
    SS.

  247. SS, (re: #246),

    You wrote:

    This is why the charge of presuppositionalism will be hard for you to shake off… The CC teaches the distinction between infallibility and impeccability, and therefore it must be true.

    It would be presuppositionalism if we arbitrarily leaped to the belief that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded, and then inferred from “The CC teaches the distinction between infallibility and impeccability” to the conclusion “therefore [this distinction] must be true.” But, we don’t leap at all. We follow the motives of credibility, which are accessible to human reason.

    You wrote:

    Even if the distinction you bring up re placement/location were true, you have merely removed the TQ’s position one step further.

    I don’t know what you are referring to when you say “the distinction you bring up re placement/location.”

    Regarding the quotation you cite from Scheeben (which presumably you arrived at from the link at comment #77 in the “Wilson vs. Hitchens” thread, which I just recently posted at Jason’s site), that’s a quotation from Vatican I. So that’s a statement of Catholic faith about the motives of credibility. It is not an argument from the motives of credibility to the identity of the Catholic Church. Of course to a non-Catholic, statements of Catholic faith will seem question-begging; such statements are addressed to Catholics, i.e. persons who share the Catholic faith. But that does not mean that the motives of credibility are question-begging, or that the case from the motives of credibility to the identity of the Catholic Church is question-begging.

    I recommend slowing down, and being a little more careful. You can’t put yourself in a frame of mind to understand something rightly if you’re in a hurry to criticize it. Better to ask questions first, before criticizing what you don’t yet understand. That’s more in keeping with the humility you were advocating above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  248. But, we don’t leap at all. We follow the motives of credibility, which are accessible to human reason.

    Your first paragraph is a distinction without a difference. That the motives of credibility are accessible does not imply that they are necessarily self evident and uniformly agreed to by all as true. You have defined the motives of credibility in such a way that they exclude any purported leap and (this is why I am telling you that you cannot escape the charge of presuppositionalism) that is precisely what is question begging.

    One man’s motive is another man’s leap, hence the Tu Quoque.

    That is not to say that there is no resolution to the question, far from it; the epistemological principle I have laid out, that the fruit reveals the tree, can be applied here. After all, it was used by Christ Himself to address those who also believed that they were doctrinally infallible. Matter of fact, the history behind the Scheeben (I did not pull that from the other thread btw) is replete with evidence that suggests that it is certainly not an exalted sanctity which is in view when one carefully considers the claims of the CC. The motives of credibility are the weakest link in your reasoning.

    Of course to a non-Catholic, statements of Catholic faith will seem question-begging; such statements are addressed to Catholics, i.e. persons who share the Catholic faith. But that does not mean that the motives of credibility are question-begging, or that the case from the motives of credibility to the identity of the Catholic Church is question-begging.

    Truth, or truth purported, is supposed to stands regardless of whom it is addressed to, so you the above is both a straw man and a red herring. Call it a straw herring. You are simply question begging re the purported lack of question begging above. I’m afraid that simply stating that the MOC are not question begging is question begging in and of itself.

    Peace,
    SS.

  249. SS (re: #248)

    You wrote:

    That the motives of credibility are accessible does not imply that they are necessarily self evident and uniformly agreed to by all as true.

    I agree, and I never claimed otherwise.

    You have defined the motives of credibility in such a way that they exclude any purported leap and (this is why I am telling you that you cannot escape the charge of presuppositionalism) that is precisely what is question begging.

    No, I have not defined the motives of credibility in such a way that they “exclude” a leap. Anyone can leap at any time. But, for example, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, it did not require an arbitrary leap of faith on the part of Mary and Martha, to believe that Jesus had been sent from God. He had just provided them a motive of credibility accessible to their senses and human reason. In view of this event, it was not irrational for Martha and Mary to believe that He had been sent by God; on the contrary, it was very rational for them to do so, because no one except someone with divine power could have raised Lazarus from the dead. That’s an example of a “motive of credibility,” which is a standard term in theology, not something I have defined or stipulated.

    One man’s motive is another man’s leap, hence the Tu Quoque.

    I don’t see how that conclusion follows from that premise. You’ll need to show your work on that one.

    That is not to say that there is no resolution to the question, far from it; the epistemological principle I have laid out, that the fruit reveals the tree, can be applied here. After all, it was used by Christ Himself to address those who also believed that they were doctrinally infallible.

    I’m not sure what “question” you are referring to, because you do not specify. But if the question to which you are referring is “Where is the Church Christ founded” then I addressed what you are calling your “epistemological principle” both in comment #201 and in comment #242. You are using your own interpretation of Scripture regarding how Matt. 7 is to be applied, as a criterion for determining who counts as the Church.

    Matter of fact, the history behind the Scheeben (I did not pull that from the other thread btw) is replete with evidence that suggests that it is certainly not an exalted sanctity which is in view when one carefully considers the claims of the CC.

    Which institution’s doctrine is more holy than that of the Catholic Church? Which institution’s moral teachings are holier than that of the Catholic Church? Which institution has a higher view of marriage and the family than that of the Catholic Church? Which institution fights abortion more than the Catholic Church? Which institution has produced more saints than has the Catholic Church? Which institution has fed more people, clothed more people, provided medical care to more people, than the Catholic Church? Which institution has produced more persons who have died for their faith, than the Catholic Church? See comment #202 above. If you think the motives of credibility point elsewhere, then to which other institution?

    Truth, or truth purported, is supposed to stands regardless of whom it is addressed to, so you the above is both a straw man and a red herring.

    Supernaturally revealed truth does not “stand” (in the sense of its truth being knowable by the natural light of reason), as do the truths we know through our senses by the natural light of reason.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  250. SS–I hope you’ll get to reply to, and didn’t miss, this part of Bryan’s comment in post #242. Here I believe he’s hit the nail on the head:

    “The notion that moral failures by Catholic leaders down through the centuries entail that the Church has formally defined and promulgated false doctrine was not only never part of the apostolic deposit, but is contrary to the very narrative of the apostles, according to which the apostasy of Judas does not nullify the authority and veracity of Christ’s teaching or the subsequent conclusions of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. The notion that moral failures by Church leaders entail that the Church has defined and promulgated false doctrine does not come from Christ, is not of apostolic origin, was never believed by all the faithful or affirmed by any council or by any Church Father, but is a mere tradition of certain unauthorized men. What is present in the apostolic deposit, and has been taught by the Church Fathers and the faithful and the councils, is the doctrine of the indefectibility of the Church, on the basis of Christ’s promise to be with her to the end of the age, to guide her into all truth by His Spirit, to establish her upon a rock whose faith He prayed would fail not, to be her living Head, to establish her perpetually as a light to the nations, and the pillar and bulwark of Truth.”

    I’d also be interested to know exactly why only the ECF’s up to ca. 150 AD merit our assent or attention. Such an approach eliminates St. Irenaeus of all people and places him on the long list of authors we’re forced to ignore by the Christian-reliability expiration date you’ve chosen.

  251. SS:

    The basic difficulty with your approach, it seems to me, is that it tries to combine two irreconcilable ideas. The first is that there is a “visible” church that Christ founded, as you affirm more than once in this thread. The second is that it falls to you, and to individual believers generally, to decide on the basis of Scripture and the ECFs whether and when that church is orthodox, which is what you imply when you speak of “doctrinal failure.” Well, if the first idea is true, then whichever visible church is the one Christ founded is the one that speaks in his name when teaching with full authority. Thus she is the judge of your orthodoxy, not vice-versa, and the second idea is therefore false.

    Of course, as far as I can tell you haven’t been prepared to say that any Protestant church–such as the one you’re a pastor in–is the visible church Christ founded. That’s good, because no Protestant church is that church, and therefore no leader in such a church, including you, has any God-given right to judge anybody’s orthodoxy. But neither have you been willing to say whether the Roman or the Eastern-Orthodox communion is that church. That allows you to maintain the stance of doctrinal judge over them all. And that is basically the Protestant stance. But that stance is ultimately untenable if some visible, non-Protestant church is the Church Christ founded. If there is such a church, then your task as a Christian is not to reserve the right to be her doctrinal judge, but to discover and submit to her as your doctrinal judge.

    Doubtless you’ll want to bring up the Tu Quoque again at this point, and point out that it’s up to each individual to judge which church is the visible church Christ founded. But Bryan, I, and others have already explained why the Catholic does not remain on an epistemic par with the Protestant. Once one chooses to be Catholic, one affirms that the Catholic Church is the visible Church Christ founded, and accordingly submits to her teaching authority. One thus gives up the stance whereby one places one’s own judgment over hers. When one chooses to remain Protestant, one remains judge over any church– Protestant and Orthodox as well as Catholic. So the only way to remain Protestant while affirming that there’s a visible church founded by Christ is to decline to say which church that is–thus rendering the very idea of such a church idle.

    At some point, you have to choose.

    Best,
    Mike

  252. Trebor,

    I was very content to give Bryan the last word with post #249. But it seems like there is continuing interest in my participation. At any rate, it seems like you are satisfied with Bryan’s answer, so let’s leave it at that.

    Peace,
    SS.

  253. The basic difficulty with your approach, it seems to me, is that it tries to combine two irreconcilable ideas. The first is that there is a “visible” church that Christ founded, as you affirm more than once in this thread. The second is that it falls to you, and to individual believers generally, to decide on the basis of Scripture and the ECFs whether and when that church is orthodox, which is what you imply when you speak of “doctrinal failure.” Well, if the first idea is true, then whichever visible church is the one Christ founded is the one that speaks in his name when teaching with full authority. Thus she is the judge of your orthodoxy, not vice-versa, and the second idea is therefore false.

    Your argument (especially last sentence above) is exactly the argument that the Arian Bishops made to Athanasius in the 4th century. But this has been discussed already, as is the case with the praescriptio line of reasoning.

    Of course, as far as I can tell you haven’t been prepared to say that any Protestant church–such as the one you’re a pastor in–is the visible church Christ founded. That’s good, because no Protestant church is that church, and therefore no leader in such a church, including you, has any God-given right to judge anybody’s orthodoxy. But neither have you been willing to say whether the Roman or the Eastern-Orthodox communion is that church. That allows you to maintain the stance of doctrinal judge over them all. And that is basically the Protestant stance. But that stance is ultimately untenable if some visible, non-Protestant church is the Church Christ founded. If there is such a church, then your task as a Christian is not to reserve the right to be her doctrinal judge, but to discover and submit to her as your doctrinal judge.

    Not once on this site or elsewhere have I advertised that I am pastor, so forgive me for asking: why do you feel entitled to mention this? You could have made your argument without referring to that, and since I have opted from the beginning of this discussion not to talk about my own background, don’t you think that respecting that would be the charitable thing to do?

    Regarding the judging of orthodoxy: if you have an analytical argument to make (I thought that this was what this site is about, maybe I’m mistaken), then please make it. But hand waving and table pounding does no good to advance the cause of unity in this very sick and fractured church. Is it any wonder that Christ laments “Will the Son of Man find faith on earth when He returns?”

    Doubtless you’ll want to bring up the Tu Quoque again at this point, and point out that it’s up to each individual to judge which church is the visible church Christ founded. But Bryan, I, and others have already explained why the Catholic does not remain on an epistemic par with the Protestant. Once one chooses to be Catholic, one affirms that the Catholic Church is the visible Church Christ founded, and accordingly submits to her teaching authority. One thus gives up the stance whereby one places one’s own judgment over hers. When one chooses to remain Protestant, one remains judge over any church– Protestant and Orthodox as well as Catholic. So the only way to remain Protestant while affirming that there’s a visible church founded by Christ is to decline to say which church that is–thus rendering the very idea of such a church idle.

    You anticipate well, Michael, re the TQ. I will leave it to the readers to be the judge of that, afterall, wasn’t it Cardinal Newman who said that our conscience is the final arbiter of things. That you and Bryan have explained your stance does not prove anything in and of itself. That said, I appreciate the opportunity afforded to me to discuss matters with the staff here.

    I will conclude my comments with a summary of my thoughts on this thread:

    – The need for unity in the church is more pressing than it has ever been in history.
    – The church is in need of repentance, both doctrinally and morally.
    – The doctrine/praxis/tradition of the earliest church/AF provides a unique ecumenical opportunity:
    – The epistles of the AF are a proxy for that tradition and it offers all a path of return to the FOFAD (Jude 3).

    Luke 9:49-50

    49 “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”

    As the EO remind us, the longest journey is one from the head to the heart.

    This is my final post,
    Regards to all and Merry Christmas,

    Peace,
    SS.

  254. SS–you wrote,

    “I was very content to give Bryan the last word with post #249. But it seems like there is continuing interest in my participation. At any rate, it seems like you are satisfied with Bryan’s answer, so let’s leave it at that.”

    OK, as you wish. :) But you didn’t answer my question about why absolutely all the Christian writers after ca. 150 AD–including St. Irenaeus–are disqualified from being taken into account. You mentioned that Christian collusion with state power corrupted the Church, but did the Christians of the late second and all the third centuries not still face persecution every so often, living in an empire where Christianity was still illegal?

    God bless,
    Trebor (an Eastern Orthodox catechumen)

  255. SS,

    You wrote:

    – The church is in need of repentance, both doctrinally and morally. [bold emphasis mine]

    After countless posts, you have yet to provide anything remotely close to an argument explaining the principled basis upon which is achieved that exalted viewpoint from which you are able to assess that some collective called “the church” is in need of doctrinal repentance. What everyone clearly sees, is that by making this gratuitous assertion, you explicitly elevate yourself to a position of doctrinal superiority, as if possessing a unique macroscopic vision by which you gaze across the landscape of the entire Christian world and are thus capable of promulgating this sweeping doctrinal pronouncement: “Behold, I see that all Christian communions are in some form of doctrinal error requiring repentance” (implicitly excluding yourself from the possibility of error on precisely this all-encompassing claim). But you have given no grounds, whatever, for thinking that you are graced with this lofty vision or the authority to make such a grand and universal pronouncement. It is hubris, plain and simple. A better example of “hand waving and table pounding” I cannot imagine.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  256. […] this par­tic­u­lar edi­tion?  It’s been a while since I lis­tened to Jason Stellman’s pod­cast with Bryan Cross, or Dr. White’s multi-Dividing Line response to it, though I’d be sur­prised […]

  257. Not computer literate; never interested in tweets and blogs (don’t even know what they mean, really) but read in today’s Independent that the monks at Barroux, in Provence, have put their sung office on the internet. So, I tried to get hold of it; particularly as I once visited the abbey. Saw a reference to your interview and was fascinated. An hour plus later – and I am stunned at your journey and your bravery, and your quiet submission to the huge cross that He has given you. I am the fabled “cradle Catholic”. I love my church. I am driven mad by my church. I have no illusions whatsoever as to the dreadful hurdles we place in peoples’ way to the church. All I can say is how proud I am to have you as a fellow member of the family. How you have humbled me. How you have provoked me about calling myself Catholic. How grateful I am to you – and to the God we both (along with all your wonderful previous Protestant/Reformed brethren) love. Old monastic custom to put on ones letters “Oremus pro invicem” (“Let us pray for one another). I will sign off with that sincere wish.

    Peter

  258. For readers following this thread, the video of Jason telling his story on EWTN’s The Journey Home, can be seen here.

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