Holy Church: Finding Jesus As a Reverted Catholic; A Testimonial Response to Chris Castaldo

Jan 27th, 2013 | By | Category: Featured Articles

This is a guest article by Casey Chalk. Casey was born and raised in a Virginia suburb of Washington D.C. Casey was baptized into the Catholic Church and received the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion before leaving the Church with his parents for evangelicalism at the age of eight. Casey attended the University of Virginia, where he was introduced to Reformed theology. Upon graduation in 2007 (B.A. History, Religious Studies; Masters in Teaching), Casey became a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and enrolled in Reformed Theological Seminary. However, an intensive period of study of the “Catholic question” ultimately resulted in Casey’s reunion with the Catholic Church in October 2010. He was confirmed at St. Timothy’s Catholic Church in Chantilly, Virginia at the Easter Vigil in 2011. Casey works for the federal government, and joyfully also received the sacrament of marriage in August 2012 with his wife Claire.

There is an interesting exchange that takes place all the time in evangelical churches, organizations, and Bible studies, especially in the United States. It is that moment when former-Catholics discover an ally, a fellow journeyman who found his or her way out of the Church and into evangelicalism, someone who can relate to the many negative experiences or unbiblical beliefs they endured during their time as Catholics. These conversations can be a great source of encouragement, discovering that others had experienced what we experienced in our path of following Christ.

As a former Catholic who spent years in evangelical and Reformed circles, I myself had my fair share of those conversations. So has Chris Castaldo, an Italian American and former Catholic who worked full-time in the Catholic Church for several years, and has published a book, Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic (Zondervan, 2009). In this book Castaldo explains his own conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism through a series of chapters assessing what he believes to be the five predominant reasons why Catholics leave the Church for evangelical Protestantism, based on two years of research interviewing Catholics and former Catholics across the United States. Castaldo is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as Director of the Ministry of Gospel Renewal for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.

As a descendant of Catholic Irish and Polish immigrants to the United States, I too was raised Catholic but ultimately chose evangelicalism, and later Reformed theology, in my desire to follow Christ faithfully in my search for biblical Christianity. Except, unlike Castaldo, I’ve come to realize that the five reasons typically given by former Catholics, though I am sympathetic to them, are not sufficient to warrant leaving the Church Christ founded, nor were any other reasons I sought to employ in rejecting Rome’s claims. In sharing some reflections on my reversion to Catholicism, I would like to contrast briefly my own experience with that of Castaldo and those he describes in Holy Ground in order to demonstrate the inadequacy of their reasons for abandoning Catholicism and identify a few concerns with their manner of assessing Catholicism’s claims.

Encountering Christ in Evangelicalism

I was born into a Catholic family, though both of my parents would readily admit that they were not devout, did not accept some Church teachings, and were both drawn to elements of evangelical Protestantism. Following my first communion at age eight, my parents left Catholicism and eventually landed in a non-denominational evangelical community. Their decision was at first disconcerting to me, given that their departure from Catholicism was upsetting to our Catholic extended family. However, I witnessed throughout my adolescence a profound change in them as they fell in love with Christ and His Scriptures and appeared to be transformed into more loving, patient people. I too, in my senior year of high school, was exposed to a classmate whose suffering and personal trials were so overwhelming that I cried out to God to make sense of such evil – and found the answer in Christ’s death and resurrection. As for Catholicism, it was something I had come to distrust and question, especially based on the sermons I heard at our evangelical church declaring the Catholic Church to be in grave theological error. By the time I left for college, I was a fervent evangelical, convinced that I had found the purest form of Christianity.

That fervor met a rude awakening in religion classes at the University of Virginia where I was exposed to strong academic criticisms of the historicity and coherence of Scripture by religion professors who took a particular delight in turning the worlds of evangelical students upside down. Unfortunately, I think many evangelical college students come to grips with the disconnect between what their secular university religion classes teach and what they grew up believing, by embracing the modern, almost Kantian dichotomy between academia and their personal faith. I suppose it’s an easy way to avoid the dilemmas we confront in the wake of several centuries of Protestant scholarship defined by historical criticism, source criticism, and form criticism, as well as a strong distrust of the supernatural.

However, I did not view such a dichotomy between the intellectual and spiritual life as intellectually coherent. Either Scripture was historically reliable, Protestant theology logically consistent, and evangelicalism a defensible form of Christianity, or it was time to abandon the whole project. I took it upon myself to go in search of evangelical scholarship that could provide me with an adequate defense of Scripture. What I found was a wealth of evangelical scholarship, some apologetic, some more scholarly, presenting a formidable defense of Scripture’s historicity and veracity. I confess, of course, my natural bias – within evangelicalism I had experienced a dramatic spiritual communion with Christ through prayer and meditation on Scripture, and matured in my love for others. I wanted to prove to myself and others that my faith was not some sort of wish fulfillment.

This leads me to a reflection that would be influential in my eventual return to Catholicism: neither I, nor I doubt many evangelicals, have systematically engaged every single attack on the historicity or veracity of Scripture. At least for myself, I read enough to be satisfied that there were reasonable defenses of Scripture, and moved on with my life. Was that intellectually lazy? Possibly, but we all must do it, to some degree. It is simply impossible to reserve judgment until we address every single challenge presented against Scripture, or any other belief, for that matter. I think to a degree I justified my lack of comprehensiveness by noting the flawed reasoning of those who attacked Scripture: they refused to accept the possibility that the supernatural could exist, and this predisposed them against the content of Scripture, and inclined them to seek flaws within it. To me this seemed intellectually dishonest and unfair. This reflection would in turn be helpful as I considered the claims of Catholicism several years later.

Amidst my studies to defend Scripture, I was introduced to Reformed theology through the Presbyterian Church in America’s (PCA) Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), as well as through authors like R.C. Sproul, D.A. Carson, and J.I. Packer, among many others. This marked a transition in my faith journey. For one, the Reformed faith seemed to make more sense of Scripture in its entirety than did my non-denominational evangelicalism, and explained many passages neglected by other evangelicals. Secondly, the Reformed faith introduced me to Reformed writers such as John Calvin, John Piper, and Michael Horton, whose reflections on Christ, the gospel, and the Scriptures were far more inspiring and intellectually robust than what I had previously experienced. Finally, the Reformed faith and its links to Calvinist scholars of the previous centuries was the answer to my concerns as a history major that American evangelicalism seemed largely disconnected from the history of Christianity. I became a passionate defender of Calvinism, and upon graduation, enrolled in Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) and became a member of a PCA church. I was ready for a lifetime of theological study and service in the Reformed tradition, and had no doubts or concerns with Reformed theology. To put it simply, I was more proud of being Reformed than I was of anything else in my life.

Encountering Problems in Evangelicalism

Several years later, however, I was confronted with an unusual dilemma when my best friend, a student at Covenant Theological Seminary (PCA) in St. Louis, Missouri, started to question the Reformed faith shortly before finishing his Master of Divinity degree. His concerns with the Reformed faith and his interest in Catholicism led me to employ all the tools at my disposal to counteract what I perceived as one of the gravest theological errors, and to prevent my friend from making what I perceived to be possibly the greatest mistake of his life. I should know, of course, because I myself had been a Catholic and had grown up around many Catholic extended family. So I read Reformed critiques of Catholic faith and practice, engaged the faculty at RTS, and consulted the pastors and elders at my PCA Church, several of whom were, like myself, former Catholics. The enterprise, was, I admit, entirely biased. I was seeking to find the “silver bullet” to demonstrate the errors of Catholicism. However, in less than a year, the tables had turned and I was consistently finding myself on the defensive, seeking to defend numerous theological and historical issues, including sola scriptura, sola fide, and the supposed connection between the faith and practice of the early Church and that of the Reformed tradition.

Catholicism, meanwhile, was at least plausible, if still a very unappealing option for a number of theological and personal reasons. Some concerns seemed larger than life. How was I suppose to assess the Catholic claim that Catholic tradition and the the teaching of the Magisterium had authority that was binding on the conscience? Did I have to read, study, and assess prayerfully every official Church document ever written in order to determine whether its doctrine was compatible with Scripture? I’d have to quit my job and devote the rest of my life to such a pursuit. And meanwhile, was I suppose to abstain from communion or resign from my PCA church and become some sort of “independent” Christian until I had resolved these dilemmas? That certainly seemed contrary to Scripture’s calling to unite ourselves to a visible community of Christians (e.g. Hebrews 10:25). I could spend the rest of my life in some sort of theological limbo, only to find some new scholarly analysis throw the whole Protestant experiment into flux, as the New Perspective on Paul has done since the 1970s. Is this really what Jesus intended for us, that every Christian study Scripture, theology and Church history until we are each able adequately to resolve such controversies as justification? And adequate to whom, exactly? The short history of Reformed denominations such as the OPC and PCA and their own battles with the Federal Vision should be enough even for the casual observer to recognize the complexity of these issues. The complexity certainly seemed at odds with the Reformed understanding of the perspicuity of Scripture, where the ordinary individual Christian is supposed to be able to determine from a “plain reading” of Scripture what is necessary for salvation. (WCF 1:7).

My work sent me overseas to Qatar and Thailand for a time. I viewed the trip as an opportunity to clear my mind, read a number of books and articles that Calvinists and Catholics had recommended, and pray through the theological issues apart from the increasingly emotional conversations at church and seminary. While in Thailand, I journeyed to the historic capital city of Ayutthaya for a day-trip, walking among the ruins and exploring the architecture of Buddhist shrines, an unlikely and entirely unfitting location to reflect on Christian theology, I admit. However, by the time I was on the train back to Bangkok, I had concluded that Reformed theology is not an accurate or adequate explanation of Scripture or Christian history. I returned to the United States, and within two weeks had submitted my formal resignation to my PCA church, received the sacrament of reconciliation (my first in about 18 years), and entered into an RCIA program at a local Catholic parish.

Although there were many reasons that precipitated my return to Catholicism, I think the most foundational were my growing concerns with the Protestant understanding of the formation of the canon, and the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. Concerning the formation of the canon I doubt I can add much to Tom Brown’s analysis of the canon question (see his “The Canon Question“), but I will add that I encountered a very unsatisfying answer to my question of why Protestants do not accept the Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament as Scripture, as Catholics and Orthodox do. The Westminster Confession of Faith’s proof-texts (i.e. Luke 24:27, 44; Romans 3:2; and 2 Peter 1:21) for the rejection of the Apocrypha in WCF I.3 are puzzling and easily refutable, given that none of the passages address the Apocrypha and its inspiration or inerrancy. More substantively, many Protestant and Reformed scholars argue that the Apocrypha contains historical errors and that its theology directly contradicts the rest of Scripture. The claim that the Apocrypha contains historical errors seemed oddly similar to what more liberal Protestant scholars have been saying about the Old and New Testament for several centuries, as I discussed earlier. And the claim that the theology of the deuterocanonical books is at odds with Protestant doctrines such as sola fide (e.g. Tobit 4:11, 12:9) only begged the question, and would have applied no less to James’ epistle in the New Testament. (e.g. James 2:24)

My study of the canon also led me to read and study the Apocrypha myself, something that most Protestants in my experience have never done. What I found was at times notably different in style and content from the Hebrew Bible. However, I also read passages such as Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20, which would be difficult not to see as a prophecy fulfilled in the passion narratives of the gospels. Indeed, the following passage inspired in me a deeper love for Christ:

“Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is annoying to us; he opposes our actions, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, Because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the righteous and boasts that God is his Father. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him in the end. For if the righteous one is the son of God, God will help him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With violence and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” [RSV]

Concerning sola scriptura, I wish to tread lightly, doubting whether I am able to add to Bryan Cross’s, Neil Judisch’s, Matt Yonke’s, David Anders’, and Michael Liccione’s arguments critiquing sola scriptura as neither scriptural, historically defensible, or logically consistent.1 However, I would like to add a few of my own reflections on the inadequacy of sola scriptura. First, Reformed and other Protestants will often argue that it is better to trust in the authority of Scripture alone as opposed to the Magisterium and Sacred Tradition. However, I found that as a Protestant I trusted the authority of historians, biblical scholars, and theologians to provide me with the most reliable texts, the most accurate translations, and the most historically and culturally faithful interpretations of those texts. And yet I had never met any of these individuals, had only indirect access to how they had gone about their research, and was largely ignorant of the biases they may or may not have brought with them in their work. I started to realize that as a Protestant I was just as much trusting in a “magisterium” of Protestant historians, scholars, and theologians as the Catholic who trusts in the Church.

This has become even more noticeable as evangelical scholars have begun to cast doubt on the inspiration of certain texts in the New Testament, such as Mark 16:9-20 and John 8:1-9, because those passages do not appear in the earliest New Testament manuscripts. This assessment of debated passages of Scripture places a problematic emphasis on palaeographist’s present best determination of the chronology of manuscripts as the primary determinant of authentic Scripture, an imperfect science to say the least. Such a method undermines sola scriptura by seemingly placing the equivalent of magisterial authority in the hands of archaeologists and New Testament scholars, and may influence what future generations of evangelical Protestants view as authentic, inspired, Scripture, especially if further archaeological developments unearth further manuscripts, or Protestant scholars decide to employ some other criteria to determine what is true Scripture.

On a more psychological level, I came to realize that no Christian can possibly approach Scripture without a host of predetermined data points that inform his or her interpretation. There can be no “Scripture alone,” because our interpretive lens will be inherently defined by the sermons we’ve heard, books we’ve read, or theological concepts we’ve been taught. The Reformed Christian, in essence, believes in Scripture plus whatever interpretations he inherits from Calvin plus Warfield plus Bavinck plus whomever has informed his interpretive paradigm. The same can be said for the Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, and even Catholic. However, only the Catholic’s interpretive paradigm allows him to reply to such a charge by saying “yes, exactly, that IS how I interpret Scripture; how could I do any other?”

In turn, although I had many strong reservations about the Catholic Church, I had read enough to see the Catholic interpretation of Scripture as plausible, at the very least. However, more fundamentally, I became persuaded that Jesus Christ was actually bodily present in the Eucharist, a belief informed by Scripture, the writings of Catholic apologists, and the testimony of Catholic friends experiencing spiritual transformation through the sacrament. It was an incredibly strange, but ultimately enlightening experience to observe some of the most intelligent and pious people I knew bowing before and worshiping what I had assumed were simply bread and wine. In the midst of my many remaining doubts, I sensed His call in the sacrament, a pull very similar to my initial conversion to know and love Christ when I encountered evangelicalism. I wanted to receive Him, to be united to Him and to His Church.

Initial Reflections on Castaldo’s Project

Given this short background, let’s consider the reasons given by Castaldo and many other Catholics for their rejection of the Catholic faith in favor of Protestantism. They are: (1) former Catholics want a “full-time faith” rather than Catholicism, which draws a sharp distinction between the responsibilities of the clergy and the laity; (2) former Catholics want a “personal relationship with Jesus,” as opposed to a set of rules; (3) former Catholics want “direct access to God,” rather than accessing Him through the papacy and the priesthood; (4) former Catholics want “Christ-centered devotion,” as opposed to what Castaldo argues are the “aspects of Sacred Tradition [that] can eclipse the Christ-centered message of Scripture; and (5) former Catholics want to be “motivated by grace instead of guilt.” Although Castaldo does not state explicitly that these were his own “top five” reasons for leaving the Catholic Church, he intersperses personal anecdotes related to all five reasons, and never raises any objections to these reasons, suggesting that these were very much at work in his own conversion, and may be considered his own.

As a preface, some of Castaldo’s reasons resonate with me given our similar experiences, but for the reasons I explain below, they are largely irrelevant to the more foundational issues dividing Catholicism and Protestantism. Most notably, much of Castaldo’s research demonstrates that peoples’ experiences in the Catholic Church are incredibly varied, and that what they often experienced as Catholicism was in some sense an inadequate or inaccurate reflection of authentic Church teaching. Multiple times, Castaldo refers to some bad experience in a Catholic parish that pulls someone away from Catholicism and toward evangelicalism, but then qualifies the story by noting that the experience or doctrine is not what the Catholic Church formally teaches. Such bad experiences or poor catechesis are unfortunate, but an assessment of a religion’s veracity should not be based on the subjective experience of individuals in a particular place, but on that religion’s official doctrines and authentic practice. Castaldo may not believe such experiences are sufficient grounds for abandoning Catholicism, but these anecdotes consistently obscure , rather than clarify, the true lines of division between Catholic and Protestant doctrine. If I were to reject Catholicism because a priest tells me Scripture is inconsequential in Catholic doctrine, I would not have rejected Catholicism, but a faulty depiction of it. Likewise, if I were to reject Reformed theology because the female pastor at a PCUSA church encourages me to pray to “mother, child, and womb” instead of the Trinity, all the OPC and PCA pastors who hear of it would likely start pulling out their hair. We are all called to seek the truth in honesty and charity, even when it is obscured by poorly-informed or even dissenting religious practice.

Secondly, Castaldo’s project is not so much a systematic analysis of the historical and theological debates between Catholicism and Protestantism than it is a cultural analysis, discussing the values and practices that shape American Catholics and lead many to become evangelicals. Though this presents an interesting vignette of the Catholic-Protestant debate, it suffers from an inherent weakness: examining what former Catholics want from a Christian community or religious experience, rather than what is true or what they truly need. Castaldo recognizes this weakness, acknowledging that evangelicals sometimes form their beliefs to their own tastes, rather than to Scripture. He even jests that some evangelicals act as if they believe in a Jesus “in running shoes sporting a Sergio Tacchini sweat-suit jogging beside us on the treadmill.” Castaldo’s answer to this problem seems to be a more theologically-robust, biblically-informed, and tradition-friendly evangelical Protestantism, built upon the core tenets of the Reformation (pp. 61, 94-96, 103). Yet Castaldo’s research exposes the degree to which Protestant religious experience suffers inherently from a problematic ecclesial consumerism (see “Ecclesial Consumerism“), according to which one is guided by what one perceives one’s spiritual desires to be, and what one perceives to be the best way to satisfy those spiritual desires, according to one’s own interpretation of Scripture. Fundamentally, this project starts with what the individual Christian consumer wants in his spiritual life, rather than “What did Christ establish?”

Cataldo seeks to combat this tendency by urging individuals to base their conversions to Protestantism on Scripture, rather than on spiritual preference. But implicit even in this model is the assumption that individuals have the interpretive authority to determine for themselves from Scripture how best to worship Christ and form Christian communities. Whether one is determining what is most spiritually beneficial or what Scripture teaches, if one is treating oneself as Scripture’s highest interpretive authority one is implicitly taking to oneself more authority than any semblance of Church hierarchy. In essence, even Castaldo’s attempts to avoid ecclesial consumerism in evangelical Protestantism fail, because not believing in a hierarchical Church founded by Christ makes everyone an authority unto him or herself. Yet if following Christ means following Him not according to our own whims or personal interpretations but via the authorities and shepherds He has established, it is spiritually dangerous to establish religious markers based on personal preferences or private interpretations, lest we become like Cain or Korah, two Old Testament personalities known for prioritizing their own preferences in their worship. Choosing to leave a religious faith or join another based on what we want is in that way a subtle form of idolatry, insofar as one creates ‘church’ in one’s own image, according to one’s own judgment of what one needs spiritually and how best to worship God.

Finally, Castaldo invests notable energy in emphasizing the importance of the visible Church to Catholicism’s theological self-understanding. On several occassions Castaldo summarizes the centrality of the risen Christ’s continuing role in the visible Church to Catholic theology, referring to the Catholic understanding of totus Christus, “total Christ,” according to which Christ is manifested through the Catholic Church and her members (pp. 30-31, 97-98, 132). Castaldo further acknowledges the Catholic critique of Protestant tendencies toward individualism, calling this individualism a “legitimate flaw within evangelicalism,” and urges Protestants to take the importance of the visible Church more seriously (133). However, Castaldo fails to provide a positive Protestant alternative to what is or isn’t the visible Church, something that Jesus (John 17:11) and Paul (1 Corinthians 1:10) seem to have believed was a reality.

At times Castaldo appeals to the divergent doctrines that many Protestants have argued separate the orthodox (historical Protestantism) from the heretical (Catholicism), doctrines such as justification, in order to bolster his five reasons. But then he approvingly cites examples of devout Catholics who followed Christ, such as Ignatius Loyola (pp. 77-79). Castaldo appears to waver between viewing the Catholic Church as a perpetuator of heresy or alternatively as just one of thousands of Christian denominations that compose the visible Church. If the Catholic Church is a legitimate part of the visible Church, Castaldo leaves unresolved how this is to be reconciled with five hundred years of Reformed Protestant theology that has argued otherwise. Moreover, if Castaldo approves of these five reasons, it seems reasonable that evangelicals are free to leave their evangelical denominations or churches if they cease holding the five reasons Castaldo outlines in his book. Indeed, it is possible Castaldo has not provided an exhaustive list, and that there are other things individuals are entitled to receive from their Christian religious communities that, if not provided, justify their exit from the Church for a different religious institution. The absence of a Protestant alternative to Catholicism’s recognition of the necessity of the unified visible Church, and what, if anything, obligates Christians to remain united to it calls into question the role this doctrine plays in Castaldo’s thinking.

Full-Time Faith

The first reason Castaldo gives in Holy Ground for Catholic conversions to Protestantism is that former Catholics want a “full-time faith,” something which Catholicism, with its sharp distinction between the responsibilities of the clergy and laity, supposedly cannot provide. Castaldo argues, “for many, the unfortunate result of such a sharp Catholic clergy-laity distinction is an undermining of Christian calling and purpose.” He qualifies this statement by saying that “this is not to say that Catholics can’t enjoy a lay vocation. Indeed some do. However, for many, encouragement to engage in ministry was nonexistent.” He adds, “from Scripture they came to believe that in Christ they are actually spiritual priests whose ministries are on equal footing with ordained clergy” (p. 39).

It is worth noting firstly that Castaldo’s objection is question-begging in that it assumes that every Christian is called to an ecclesial ministry, and that therefore the Catholic clergy-laity distinction prevents lay Christians from fulfilling their ministerial calling. Catholic teaching indeed does not share this assumption. That issue aside, Castaldo readily admits that Catholicism teaches a form of the “priesthood of all believers, which applies to the entire church.” He even notes two documents from Vatican II that addressed the need for more lay ministry participation: Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity and the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World. Although Castaldo is indeed taking issue with Catholic doctrine on the role of the clergy in the Church, he seems more concerned with the poor or varied application of Catholic doctrine at the parish level.

In my own experience, I have been encouraged by Catholic priests, laymen, and literature to view my family, my work, and the entirety of my life as an “apostolate” where I am called to love, serve, and proclaim the gospel. The Arlington Diocese (where I live) is full of opportunities for laymen to invest whatever skills or passions they possess in the work of the Church: to name but a few, Knights of Columbus, Legion of Mary, Regnum Christi, Opus Dei, RCIA, CCD; the opportunities for service are practically endless. The mission of Opus Dei, in particular, is to “spread the message that work and the circumstances of everyday life are occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society,” and is found in nineteen cities interspersed throughout the United States. Of course I am well aware that I am fortunate enough to live in a diocese well known for being one of the strongest, most devout dioceses in the United States, which may give me an unfair advantage over those in parts of the country with less of a presence of devout Catholics. However, as discussed above, to eschew Catholicism because of its varying practice geographically fails to engage Church teaching adequately and creates a standard for determining religious truth based on an assessment of the relative spiritual strength of a Christian community, rather than the trustworthiness of that religious community’s doctrine and authentic practice. It may be the case that some dioceses offer more opportunities than others for lay ministry – but this is an experiential, rather than a doctrinal concern.

On a different level, however, I can relate to Castaldo’s concern with the alleged Catholic clergy-laity distinction. When I was considering the claims of the Catholic Church, I was put off by the high esteem given to the priesthood and consecrated life – it sometimes did feel, as Castaldo argues, that those unconsecrated Catholics could never reach the degree of holiness or importance reserved for those embracing the religious life. Indeed, one will often hear people refer to the religious life as a “higher calling.” However, I came to see that my fears were illogical and overlooked scriptural distinctions between clergy and laity. For one, Christ himself appointed twelve men as apostles, whom Protestants themselves argue had a level of authority unequaled among the rest of the early Church – as their writings were believed to be inspired by God and inerrant. Was the special authority given to the apostles a threat to the role and significance of other early Christians? Or am I jealous that the apostles received such a high calling I cannot attain, something that remains true for all eternity (Revelation 21:14)?

Furthermore, the Church has never taught that the distinction between the clergy and laity means the work of the laity is unimportant or cannot be spiritually significant and rewarding. Indeed, there is a significant distinction between a calling to Holy Orders or religious life, and the calling to sanctity. We are all called to sanctity, and Holy Orders does not guarantee greater sanctity, nor does a lay vocation entail lower sanctity. The Church teaches that all have the opportunity to grow in sanctity and virtue, and Church teaching on the higher calling of religious vocation does not preclude those called to the lay vocation from receiving the grace needed for sanctification or heroic virtue (CCC 1803-1845). An examination of the many saints revered by the Church demonstrates this clearly. Take for example, Saint Germaine Cousin – a poor French girl in the late sixteenth century who prayed the rosary, attended Mass, and was abused by her father and mother-in-law until the point of death at the age of twenty-two. Her life consisted of no formal “ministry” as we might understand it, and she leaves us no writings. Yet her humility and acceptance of suffering stand as a testament to her faith; so much so that a friend of mine who came into the Church last Easter chose her as her confirmation saint. Or examine Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian wife, mother, and physician in the twentieth century who refused to undergo an abortion despite a fibroma in her uterus that threatened her life and the life of the child. She died in childbirth, a testament to her faith in the value of human life. These saints, and many others, demonstrate the clergy-laity distinction does not prevent the Church from honoring lay Catholics for their role in the “priesthood of all believers.”

Castaldo’s first objection to Catholicism thus fails on several grounds, including the question-begging nature of assuming that all Christians are called to ecclesial ministry, elevating the subjective experience over doctrine and authentic practice as a means of evaluating Catholicism’s truth claims, and failing to recognize the strong and ongoing tradition of the spiritually significant roles of the laity in the Catholic faith.

Relationship with Christ or A Set or Rules

Castaldo secondly claims that many former-Catholics want a “personal relationship with Jesus,” as opposed to a set of rules, which is what many former-Catholics experience during their time in the Church. From not eating meat on Fridays to confessing one’s sins, the Church has seemingly created an intricate, overbearing system of regulations that are often seen as straying far from the Bible. Instead, Castaldo claims that in their encounter with evangelicalism Catholics find an intimate and inviting relationship with Christ, where He is a close friend (John 15). As before, Castaldo is quick to note that many Catholics have also taught and exemplified the idea of a deep and personal relationship with Christ, including Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Blaise Pascal, Brother Lawrence, Thomas Merton, Therese of Lisieux, and many others (p. 81).

I can easily resonate with Castaldo and other former-Catholics on this subject, because I remember the great freedom I felt in believing that my status before Christ was determined not by my strict adherence to a long list of Church-concocted rules, but by His work on the cross and my trust in it. However, in returning to Catholicism I have found just as much teaching and exhortation to pursue a deep and personal relationship with Christ. When I meet with my spiritual director on a monthly basis, his response to my reflections, concerns, or anxieties is often simply to ask “have you brought it before the Lord?” Castaldo notes the presence of Catholic saints, priests, and writers who fostered an incredibly intimate love for Christ – there are many such people in dioceses throughout the country. Indeed, there is absolutely nothing in Catholic teaching that discourages us from such a pursuit, and everything in Catholic doctrine is ultimately aimed at achieving the deepest possible communion with Christ. For example, the prologue to the Catechism begins:

God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

So what then of the many rules the Church mandates? Is this not a hindrance to our relationship with Christ, in that we will lose sight of knowing and loving Him in the midst of all these rules? As a former “Christ-Centered” Reformed Christian, I think it is easy to hold this assessment, and I have certainly felt this tension as a Catholic. However, it is worth noting that there are only five precepts of the Catholic Church in the United States: (1) attending Mass on Sundays and the six Holy Days of Obligation; (2) receiving the sacrament of reconciliation once a year; (3) receiving the Eucharist during the Lenten season; (4) observing the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence; and (5) providing for the needs of the Church (CCC 2042-2043). Are these rules “heavy burdens, hard to bear,” unnecessarily laid on the shoulders of the faithful, as Christ condemns in Matthew 23:4? Some of them, such as Sabbath observance and church attendance, are familiar to evangelicals and Reformed – indeed, I knew many Reformed folk who were far stricter in their observance of the Sabbath than what is mandated by the Catholic Church. Other precepts could hardly be considered burdens – to receive the sacrament of reconciliation once a year is unlikely to require more than one or two hours of one’s time, depending on one’s distance from a Catholic parish. Indeed, many Catholics are happy to go to confession monthly, if not more often, as a means of grace in their battle with sin. Likewise, to view the precept to receive the Eucharist during the Lenten season (especially if one is already attending weekly Mass) as a burden would be a strange assessment, especially if it is indeed the body and blood of Christ, the “source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324).

Furthermore, on what basis are these Church-mandated rules to be rejected? If it is because there is no explicit scriptural mandate for Holy Days of Obligation or days of fasting and abstinence, this again begs the question, because it presumes sola scriptura, a problematic doctrine that Called To Communion has addressed elsewhere. As an aside, there is indeed scriptural precedent for the five Catholic precepts mandated in the United States – especially if the Church hierarchy is instituted by Christ and has authority to mandate areas of discipline such as mass attendance or fasting (cf. Acts 15:28-29).

Finally, the Church urges us to view every rule as a means by which to foster closer communion with Christ. The sacrament of confession, rightly understood, is a means by which Christ Himself offers forgiveness, operating through the priest. As the Catechism teaches, “reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament” (CCC 1468). Participating in fasts, be they from meat or otherwise, are a means by which we can unite ourselves more deeply to Christ in His sufferings, deepening our spiritual understanding and union with Him, as well as removing ourselves from undue affections for this world. Fasting helps us “acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart,” freeing us to more fully love and appreciate Christ (CCC 2043). Holy Days of Obligation are also intended to deepen our relationship with Christ, as evidenced most recently in the Solemnity of the Mother of God, celebrated on the first day of January. Though Mariological, it is also deeply Christological, with its scriptural reflections on the sonship Christians acquire through Christ (Galatians 4:4-7) and the wondrous circumstances of the incarnation (Luke 2:16-21). Any and all of these precepts holy Mother Church, acting on behalf of Christ, has the authority to establish as a means of forming the spiritual life of her children, thereby sanctifying them through habits of religious practice.

Who Needs a Priest When I Can Pray to God Myself?

The third reason Castaldo gives is that former-Catholics want “direct access to God,” rather than accessing Him through the papacy and the priesthood. He explains that ex-Catholics have concerns with the “visible authority structure rooted in the popes and bishops,” and the pope’s “clerical function, his relationship to the priesthood” (pp. 72-73). He goes on to provide several scriptural proof-texts to argue that in order to “access God’s presence,” we need only the “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). The argument, essentially, is that the Catholic hierarchy of priests, bishops, and popes is an unnecessary hindrance to direct access to God, and there is no scriptural warrant for the mediatory nature of the priesthood as Catholics understand it.

I confess that this issue was not a major stumbling block in my return to Catholicism, although I remember an elder at my PCA church telling me that he was concerned that in returning to the Catholic Church I had embraced a form of “sacerdotalism” that he viewed as unbiblical and unjustified. Contrary to what non-Catholics, or unfortunately ex-Catholics may believe, there is nothing in Church doctrine that suggests that Catholic laypeople cannot pray on their own, read Scripture on their own, or foster spiritual intimacy with God on their own. Of course ordinarily the sacraments can only be administered by priests or bishops, and the Church does indeed teach that these sacraments are the place where we most fully meet Christ, especially the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Castaldo’s objection was of less concern for me for a few reasons. First, I recognized that the entire Old Testament spoke to a priestly system where some individuals served a mediatory role between God and His covenant people. As one steeped in covenant theology during my time as a Reformed seminarian, it became increasingly strange to believe that with Christ’s role as the perfect great high priest, the priestly system was done away with entirely. Wouldn’t it make more sense, and foster more continuity between Old and New Testaments, for a priesthood to continue, now only greater than that of the old covenant? Indeed, whereas in the old priesthood, priests offered bloody sacrifices for the sins of Israel, and were unable to effectuate God’s redemptive power, priests in the new covenant offer a non-bloody sacrifice, Christ Himself, which is fully effective to forgive sin, unite us to God, and change us within. As I made that intellectual transition, much of the New Testament began to elucidate this idea of a continued priesthood (e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:18; Hebrews 10: 19-22).

Secondly, I was excited, rather than dismayed at the prospect that the priest’s mediatory role could extend to me graces I had hitherto lacked while Protestant. For example, the sacrament of reconciliation does not simply forgive sins. By grace it also strengthens the Christian against whatever sin he or she is struggling with – a very exciting proposition I have found to be true in practice! If Christ established the sacraments, then there is more grace available to us through communion with the Church than through an individualism that makes the Church quite unnecessary.

Finally, I recognized that as a Protestant I had another mediator between myself and God, though few Protestants would ever look at it as such. Whenever I sat down to read Scripture, I read a particular translation offered by a particular group of scholars with a certain theological bent (the NIV, evangelicals; the ESV, Reformed scholars). I had essentially accepted their mediatory role as translators, bringing the vernacular language of the Old and New Testaments to me as an English-speaking American. Not only that, but I had also accepted their mediatory role in determining what is and isn’t Scripture – for example, they had determined to exclude the deuterocanonical books accepted by the Catholic Church. In turn, I had trusted other scholars, theologians, and pastors to mediate to me the meaning of Scripture, especially those passages that were confusing or appeared contradictory. They may not have been priests, but I certainly needed them both to gain access to Christ in His Word, and to understand it properly.

”Christ-centered Devotion”

Castaldo’s fourth reason is that ex-Catholics want “Christ-centered devotion,” as opposed to what he argues are the “aspects of Sacred Tradition [that] can eclipse the Christ-centered message of Scripture,” which he claims is that Jesus is “the one intermediary between God and humanity,” referencing 2 Corinthians 4:6 and 1 Timothy 2:5 (p. 103). Castaldo is referring particularly to such devotions in Catholicism as praying to saints, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and that of the rosary.

I can very much appreciate this argument, as it was a central stumbling block to my return to Catholicism. Even after I started to be convinced that Catholicism had a better explanation for the relationship between Scripture and tradition, and a more biblically faithful theology, when I looked at the Church’s practices, it seemed like Christ often took a backseat to other devotions. To one who wholeheartedly accepted Michael Horton’s “Christ-centered Christianity” as gospel, Catholic devotional life seemed to muddy the waters, if not lead people away from Christ. I wondered, “if we as Protestants have enough trouble keeping our eyes and hearts focused on Christ, won’t devotions to saints and Mary complicate things further?” Even after I had come to accept that asking for Mary’s intercession in the rosary was not a violation of Scripture, I remember thinking “There’s six ‘Our Fathers’ and fifty-three ‘Hail Marys’? How can this be right?” However, a few concepts re-aligned my thinking on Catholic devotion such that I came to realize that Christ still remains the very center of Catholic devotional life.

First and foremost is the centrality of the Eucharist to Catholic devotional life, what the Church has termed the “source and summit” of the Christian life, a topic I intend to address in further detail in a subsequent article. From a Catholic perspective, the Eucharist is Christ himself, and receives far greater honor and attention than anything else in the liturgy or popular devotion. Indeed, unlike Mary or any other saint, the Eucharist is worshipped as God. From the very beginning of my exploration into Catholicism, I came to realize how very central the Eucharist is – it is quite simply impossible to speak too highly of the Eucharist. It is “our daily bread,” the means of salvation, the source of all grace, the remedy for every ill, anxious thought, or sinful habit… and most radically, it is Jesus Himself. There is a reason why every priest and parish is required to offer Mass daily, and why so many spiritual directors, Catholic literature, and Church documents urge Catholics to receive the Eucharist as frequently as possible, and to spend time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. If the Eucharist is Christ, it’s hard to imagine getting more Christ-centered than that.

As for the rosary and devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary or other saints, it is important to keep in mind that the rosary as well is a Christ-centered devotion. In it, the Catholic asks Mary to pray for him or her to meditate on the mysteries of Christ’s life. Although the Catholic verbally says many “Hail Mary’s” the purpose is not to elevate Mary above Christ, but to allow the repetition of the prayers to enable the Catholic to enter into a meditative form of prayer, focused particularly on Christ. Once I understood this, and tried to pray the rosary with this in mind, I saw Scripture and Christ’s life in a way that richly deepened my knowledge and love of Christ. Certainly in Catholicism one may find misapplications or misinterpretations of Marian devotion, or devotions to other saints, that obscure the centrality of Christ. But to reject Catholicism for misapplications of its teaching is to reject a straw-man, just as if I were to reject Reformed theology because some Reformed theologian or pastor advocated something at odds with traditional Reformed theology or practice.

”Grace Instead of Guilt”

Castaldo’s fifth and final reason for the exodus of Catholics to evangelicalism is that ex-Catholics want to be “motivated by grace instead of guilt” (p. 105). In describing another ex-Catholics’ move to evangelicalism, Castaldo explains that “unlike his rules-oriented experience of the Catholic Church, Andy now enjoyed a personal relationship with Christ by faith.” Other ex-Catholics tell Castaldo, “instead of religion, I now have a relationship with God.” Castaldo asserts, “it’s not necessary for one to first get right with the Catholic Church by observing the sacramental stipulations before receiving salvation from Christ. Rather it comes by faith alone” (p. 111). Castaldo then goes on to explain how the Protestant doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone serves as a counteractive force to guilt, by enabling the Christian to rest in God’s salvific work through Christ’s death and resurrection (p. 116-120).

Of Castaldo’s five reasons, I find this one most compelling, as I reflect on the great comfort that came from my acceptance of the Protestant doctrine that I was saved by grace through faith alone. To accept the Catholic position, an internal spiritual transformation had to occur so as not to be overcome with guilt in the face of the depravity and continuance of my sin. It would be impossible to explain fully my spiritual transformation in rejecting the Protestant model that Castaldo and so many ex-Catholics have come to accept and love, but a more modest endeavor would be to highlight a couple key points. First, it is worth noting that the belief that we are saved by “faith alone” in Christ’s redemptive work may be a doctrine that brings great spiritual consolation, but as other CTC contributors have argued, it is a faulty methodology that compares competing versions of the gospel based on how good they seem to us.2 Moreover, if the Protestant conception of justification by faith alone is a novel interpretation that departs from the ancient tradition (cf. “Tradition I and Sola Fide,” and the Catholic understanding is fully compatible with Scripture (cf. “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?“), then it seems we should follow the traditional understanding of justification preserved by the Church at the Council of Trent and more recently in the Catechism.

Furthermore, Catholicism does not teach that being “right with the Catholic Church by observing the sacramental stipulations” is the only way one may receive grace from Christ. It teaches that the sacraments are the “ordinary means” by which this takes place. As CCC 819 teaches, wherever Christians participate in the sacraments, or read, meditate, or preach Scripture, they may access the grace of Christ. Reformed theology likewise has a doctrine of “ordinary means,” claiming that Christ comes to Christians through the preached Word of God, but noting the possibility that Christ may use other means as He sees fit, given His sovereignty.

These issues aside, I think the claim that Catholicism presents a theological model more motivated by guilt than grace is a penetrating one that deserves attention. Although the Church does indeed teach that guilt may be a beneficial force in encouraging Christians to avoid sinful behavior, this is seen as the lowest form of obedience to God – as one who “stands before God as a slave, in servile fear” (CCC 1828). Rather, it is far better for the Christian to act as a free son out of a love for God and love for virtue, precisely because the Christian in fellowship with God is filled with thanksgiving and understanding of God’s gracious movements toward the Christian, and wants to worship Him in thought, word, and action (CCC 1822-1828). Former Catholics do Catholic teaching a disservice when they claim that disregard for Church mandated fasting or Holy Days of Obligation should engender guilt by adding to “Jesus’ suffering on the cross” (pp. 115-116). Any rule in Catholicism is oriented towards deepening our love of Christ, growth in holiness, and participation in the divine nature — the exact “personal relationship with Christ,” ex-Catholics yearn to acquire. Adherence to the law, rightly understood, should be a means of growing in the blessed life, rather than a deterrent to it. Furthermore, the Church encourages consistent return to the sacrament of reconciliation – not simply because it is a great blessing and benefit to receive consistently both absolution for sins and the grace to fight sin, but also because it enables Catholics to better form their consciences precisely so they are not racked by guilt or confusion when they fail to honor a fast or forget to attend Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation. The longer I am Catholic, and the more I go to confession, the more I understand my sin, its gravity, and what it does to my relationship with Christ. Again, we must carefully distinguish between the misapplication or poor catechesis often found in Catholicism, and authentic Catholic practice in accord with what the Catholic Church actually teaches.

Finally, Castaldo’s charge seems to place Catholicism and its alleged guilt-inducing rules at odds with the Protestant faith and its emphasis on God’s gracious acceptance of the sinner, not based on adherence to a set of a religious obligations but solely on the basis of divine favor. Yet Castaldo and other former Catholics could hardly be implying that God accepts even the defiant sinner who has no intention of repentance, and intends to continue actively disobeying God’s commands. Certainly even the Protestant would hold that the converted sinner must desire holiness and seek to reject sinful patterns of behavior. It seems then that Castaldo and other former Catholics equate “rules” with “guilt,” in that one “feels guilty” more often in Catholicism, because there are seemingly more rules to violate, or that there are more opportunities to “incur guilt” in Catholicism because of its rules. Determining which system of doctrine to follow based on which offers the fewest rules or incurs the least guilt again returns us to fashioning a religion according to one’s own desires, rather than receiving the religion Christ has revealed through the Church He founded.

”Final Reflections”

In assessing the conversion stories of those who have left Reformed theology for the Catholic Church I have witnessed a trend. Before I returned to Catholicism, I had my own assessments of these Catholic conversions – assuming they were due either to a desire for the “smells and bells” of a deep, historical liturgy, or the possibility that the convert didn’t really understand the Reformed faith. There were many theories I and others proposed to negate these Catholic conversion stories. Now that I am on the other side, I realize how such hypothesizing failed to further ecumenical dialogue, in the same way that accusing Castaldo or other former-Catholics of not understanding Catholicism, or conjecturing as to their hidden motives would be counter-productive. The reasons given by Castaldo’s study are reflective of general trends in the United States, and Castaldo appears both to have his finger on the pulse of this particular subset of evangelicals, and to possess a much more nuanced view of Catholicism than do many evangelicals. I might also add that upon reading his book, I am inclined to believe that Castaldo is a devoted Christian with a serious mind, that he is after the truth of Scripture and of Christ, and that he is desperate to know Christ more.

That said, the two most apparent problems throughout Castaldo’s analysis are (1) the disconnect between what many experience in Catholicism and what the Catholic Church formally teaches, and (2) evangelical ex-Catholics appear to place their own personal interpretations or consumerist demands over the models of religiosity established by Christ in His Church. Regarding the first, that Catholic catechesis in the United States and elsewhere has been so poor for so long is a very sad reality, and I empathize with my many former Catholic brothers and sisters who found great spiritual benefit in evangelicalism since leaving the Catholic Church. However, evangelicalism presents a new series of intellectual and theological dilemmas that are not easily addressed, including the nature of the visible Church, and what reasons may justify severing oneself from the Church. I think Castaldo would agree that choosing a church is not like choosing one’s favorite ice cream – something formed simply by preference. If there is indeed a visible Church, and that Church is the Catholic Church, and if what that Church offers is Christ and what that Church teaches is scriptural, we must beware of abandoning it for any reason, let alone the five offered by Castaldo.

Regarding the second problem, the assessment Castaldo and other Catholics have made in their decision to choose evangelicalism over the Catholic Church reveals an implicit form of ecclesial consumerism that fails to address the possibility that the Catholic Church is the institution founded by Christ, and that what former Catholics think they need may in certain respects be opposed to what Christ Himself wants for them. If Christ has established a clergy-laity distinction, then wanting a Christianity without such a distinction is wanting something contrary to what Christ has established. If Christ through His Church has given us precepts to obey, then wanting a spirituality without such precepts is wanting something contrary to what Christ has established. If Christ has established a priesthood in the New Covenant by which His grace is given to us through sacraments, then wanting a Christianity without sacraments or without any other human beings acting as channels of divine grace is wanting something contrary to what Christ has established. If Christ through His Church has provided devotions that incorporate the communion of the saints, then wanting a Christianity devoid of such devotions is contrary to the form of religion Christ has provided to us through His Church. And if Christ has established laws that induce guilt when they are disobeyed, then wanting a Christianity in which there is no guilt is wanting something other than what Christ has established.


Claire and Casey Chalk

In each case, therefore, we return to the question of whether or not the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded, and whether Christ teaches and guides the faithful through His Church. I believe evangelicals truly want more of Christ, but our love and desire for Christ should lead us to follow Him and grow in Him in the way He has established. I hope even my Protestant brothers and sisters would agree that Christ knows better than we do what we need. If the Catholic Church is Christ’s Church, then we should follow Him by following His Church, and we may find, surprisingly, that what He provides us through His Church is ultimately what we truly need and want.

  1. See “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority,” “The Tu Quoque,” “Mathison’s Reply to Cross and Judisch: A Largely Philosophical Critique,” “Some Preliminary Reflections on Mathison’s Dialectic,” “Hermeneutics and the Authority of Scripture,” “Sola Scriptura vs. the Magisterium: What Did Jesus Teach?,” and “Sola Scriptura: A Dialogue Between Michael Horton and Bryan Cross.” []
  2. See the blockquoted section in comment #39 of the “Is the Catholic Church Semi-Pelagian?” thread. []
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  1. The problem that Castaldo talks about, of Christians who have a divide between religious life and secular life, is very real. It is not, I think, a special feature of the Catholic Church; it is endemic in any well-established mainline denomination – and, surely, exists in evangelicalism as well. It is less prevalent there because of the self-selection aspect of being an evangelical.

    Still, it is a real problem – but his implied solution – ecclesial ministry – is precisely wrong. Indeed, it seems to me a real misunderstanding on the part of much of today’s Catholic leadership to assume that Vatican 2′s ‘active participation’ means that. It does not, and the place of the laity is in transforming the world. Becoming an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion may – or may not – be a worthy thing for the layman to do (it seems that they are not very extraordinary in most parishes in my experience) – but it is precisely not a call to the laity.

    I remember vividly, when my wife and I had been Catholics for only two years – from an previous Reformed commitment, and, before that, evangelical – one which had been greatly helped by Campus Crusade for Christ – that I went to my first Opus Dei retreat. I was very excited. I came home and told her, “It’s just Campus Crusade for Catholics!”

    It is, in fact, much more than that, as Campus Crusade’s emphasis is very heavily on formal evangelism. That retreat was in 1997. She is now a super-numerary, I a lowly cooperator. We have been so blessed as Catholics to see the Christian call to a call to holiness of life and the oblation of every aspect of life to Jesus.

    Thanks for your article – and God bless you both in your marriage!

    jj

  2. Let me just piggy-back on John’s comment. First, though, excellent review and welcome home Casey!

    The solution to the “part-time faith” problem is precisely, pace Castaldo, the distinction between married/religious/priesthood. In other words, the way to live your faith full-time is to first know what your vocation is. As a father and husband, my vocation is to have children and to lead them to heaven, and to love my wife as Christ loves the Church. I don’t need to play a guitar in the church to “do ministry” — I do it every day of the week when I faithfully work for my family, care for their needs, and lead them spiritually. Failure to do that in any way, in the name of “church work”, is a disservice to my calling by God. Catholicism has cleared this up for me.

    In evangelicalism, the confusion or lack of distinction between married/religious/priesthood leads to many fathers and mothers feeling guilty about their “lack of involvement” in the church. For others, this failure to appreciate the ministry of the married, positively contributes to the contraceptive mentality, embracing less children in the name of doing more of God’s work — implying family is something less than God’s work (evangelicals could live a “full-time” faith by putting down contraception). Still yet, we all know about the infamous “preacher’s kid” — left to himself every Friday night when dad — preacher/pastor/father/ball-coach/mentor/friend extraordinaire — is out with his ministry, and his son picks up the bottle.

    All this to say, I have personally reached balance in my life because of Catholicism. I know, as a father, I have a duty to care for my family — materially and spiritually — and that giving that vocation, that calling by God, 100% of my attention is not a failure to do ministry. I don’t need to look in the bulletin for a way to serve God, I only need to look down my own pew.

    Now, I’m just trying to give it that 100%. Pray for me!

  3. Brent,

    Your first paragraph is absolutely on the money! Beautiful . . thank you.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  4. An excellent article, Casey! I, too, was raised Catholic, found Christ in an evangelical congregation and, after dipping my toe in many different brands of Protestantism, ended up in a Reformed denomination, the PCA. During my time there, I eventually became a small group leader. Our group wanted to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together but I was told by leadership that only an ordained minister could administer the sacrament. I realize now that, with all the complaints of a Catholic “sacerdotalism” thrown our way, there exists within the Reformed tradition a de facto priesthood, that of the ordained clergy.

  5. Gents:

    I’ve actually worked with several guys like Chris Castaldo: ex-Catholics who have become Protestant ministers. The one thing I noticed they all had in common, other than the fact just noted, is that they said they wanted to do full-time ministry while being married. Ironic, considering the difficulties that Casey and Brent point out.

    Best,
    Mike

  6. What is ironic to me is that the Church does have a home for qualified lay people to serve the Church teaching theology, leading Bible studies, RCIA, Adult Education, and a whole host of other types of catechetical and evangelical formation.

  7. Thank you for all the kind comments thus far – it’s an honor to receive from CTC folks who have been so influential in my own growth in the Catholic faith.

    In regards to Castaldo’s religious/secular life distinction, I do agree that many evangelicals err in failing to find their calling in their secular vocation, be it in the family or their work, thinking that anyting less than some form of “ministry” reflects a spiritual deficiency on their part. However, to be fair to the Reformed faith, I do think that Reformed theology historically and in many respects to this day maintains a more nuanced understanding that is closer to the Catholic understanding than more mainstream evangelicalism. I think my seminary professors and the leadership at my former Presbyterian church would be a bit offended if I didn’t acknowledge that they too have a high view of the secular calling to work, family, etc. and that holiness and sanctification can be gained through those callings. So I wonder where, more specifically, the distinction between the Reformed and Catholic perspectives on the secular v. religious life would lie?

    One thing I did notice when Reformed was there didn’t really seem to be a very well-defined place for the single, chaste life in Reformed communities, because of the heavy emphasis on holiness achieved through the family. I knew of a man with a degree from a respected Reformed seminary who could not find a position as a pastor in any Reformed denomination because he was single. I don’t know the specifics, but that does seem far removed from the honor and respect given to those who seek a calling to remain single as a religious in the Catholic Church.

  8. One of the major issues I have this book is his research methodology. It consisted of interviews with ex-Catholics who left the Church. In reality, a Catholic who leaves the Church for protestant denomination has not embraced the fullness of the Catholic faith. Chris Castaldo states that authority is a major reason why people leave. These are Catholics who do not wish to submit to the authority of the Church which we believe is ultimately submitting to Christ. If a Catholic leaves the Church because he doesn’t accept that the Church should dictate to him norms of morality and behavior, than they are a Catholic who has not fully understood their faith.
    I can’t understand how he calls himself a devout Catholic with attending mass for a total of 150 minutes a year since his confirmation (Christmas and Easter). The casual reader will give much more credibility to the conclusions of this book based on Chris self appellation and I am not sure it is accurate, given evidence that he actaully was not devout.

  9. Thank you for sharing your story, Casey, and congratulations to you and your wife!

  10. Great article. Thank you for sharing and welcome home!

  11. Great post Casey. Thank you. You have been bold and courageous on your journey and God will use it to bless others. Congrats to you and your wife as well!

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  12. Casey,

    So enjoyed your story. I kept finding myself nodding and saying “yup”:) You highlighted what the Christian will receive by being in full communion with the Catholic Church and that is bright and encouraging.

    Thank you!

    Susan

  13. I am in Virginia going through RCIA for the first time and planning to join the Church at Easter. I am glad people are writing these articles, because I am married and both sets of parents are PCA. In fact, one parent is an elder and has been a staunch Calvinist. He is not opposing us but does leave Tabletalk and Modern Reformation magazine around for us and tends to put down Catholic faith.

    Because of his high level of learning–he is a lawyer and well read, especially in Scripture–it is so good to read others’ perspectives on the defects of the Reformed faith.

    I am not as articulate, but I can intuit real feelings of overwhelming spiritual shortcomings in the Reformed church structure. Also, is it just me, or is there a great deal of pessimism in Protestantism?

    I also feel like the power structure of the PCA is geared toward “successful” males who have the time and interest to study scripture and feels quite exclusive at times, although I don’t think it is necessarily intentional. The nature of the priesthood, by the fact that they have no “family” but the Church, and that they are/should be celibate, is so different than men who are in the world with families. Brent expresses that so well.

    I guess this is highly personal of my experience, but I think perhaps others could identify, especially in the South and female?

  14. Hello EHB – thanks for sharing your personal experience. I’m glad to hear some other folks in the PCA in Virginia, a state with a proud and noble Presbyterian tradition, are coming into the Catholic Church! I am sorry to hear about your experience with some of your Reformed family who are less than thrilled with your decision. Something that I found helpful as I moved into the Catholic Church was that I at one time had been one of those critical of the Church, who might have sought ways to disaparge others from converting or engaging the Church’s claims. That allowed me to a bit more understanding and sensitive to those who opposed my conversion. Furthermore, as Castaldo points out in his book, there are plenty of cradle Catholics who have acted passive aggressively, or simply aggressively, to family members who abandon the Church for evangelicalism or the Reformed faith. So it cuts both ways, unfortunately. I remember when I was evangelical playing a sermon of a well-known evangelical pastor for my cradle Catholic grandfather – a sermon that had been inspiring and influential in my own spiritual journey – and my grandfather refused to listen. He said the pastor sounded like a used car salesman! In retrospect, he might have been on to something… Be that as it may, following Christ whereever He leads us will inevitably bring conflict – and certainly if and when He leads us back to His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Thankfully, you are not alone in that fight!

    I think you’re definitely on to something regarding the PCA and “successful men” – quite a bit could probably be written on Reformed theology’s relationship to gender roles and social class. I’m sure your experiences and thoughts would be helpful to others, especially women, who get the feeling that the PCA might have skewed perspectives on gender or class…

    I hope that God blesses you with abundant graces as you prepare to receive His son in the sacraments of Penance, Holy Communion, and Confirmation. This is a very exciting time for you!

  15. Exceptional article and comments. This is the sort of positive engagement that gets people to listen.

  16. Great story Casey! Good luck and God bless you and Claire!

  17. I haven’t felt so saddened reading a personal story in a long time. To see someone who was so close to the truth for such a long time, and yet abandoned it for doctrine that tickled their ears after their own desires – this story is the perfect example of 2 Timothy 4:3-4. It’s like actually watching the birds swoop in to snatch up the seed. It’s like reading the personal testimony of Demas himself. To watch someone leave Christian teaching to enter the Roman Catholic Church – it feels like getting sucker punched in the soul. So heart wrenchingly sad.

    Casey, I will pray that God will open your eyes to the truth in His word. And I will pray that He will grant you faith to believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  18. Jonathan,

    It was through reading God’s Word daily and systematically, Genesis through Revelation, year after year, studying it, in prayer, that I came to see that the doctrines I was taught in Evangelical Protestantism were not in accord with God’s Word, and that the truths of the Catholic Church were right there in Scripture all along, either explicitly or implicitly.

    I pray that you will come to see this, too. Be open to God’s Word.

    Grace and peace,
    E.J. Cassidy

  19. Jonathan (re:#17),

    Thank you for your comment, and welcome to CTC. I am not one of the official contributors to this site, but all of them, and many of the regular commenters (including myself) are former Protestant Christians who held to the “Five Sola’s of the Reformation” and to five-point Calvinist theology. (In my case, I am a former “Reformed Baptist.”)

    In your comment, you make a very serious assumption about Casey– that, in returning to the Catholic Church, he was going for doctrine which “tickled (his) own ears after (his) own desires.” How do you know that he was not returning to the Church which he honestly believes to be Biblically sound and faithful to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and to all of the teachings of Christ and the apostles? Why do you assume that Casey was simply returning to the doctrines which tickled his ears after his own desires?

    I used to be a Catholic, and I left the Catholic Church, partially due to challenges from non-Catholic friends that I could not answer and that shook my own faith (largely due to poor instruction that I unfortunately received from more than one person in the Church). I eventually became an evangelical Protestant, and when I found Reformed Christianity, in particular, it was as if a whole world of Biblical theology opened up to me that seemed (at the time) to make better sense of the whole Bible that anything else I had encountered. I jumped right in, joined a Reformed Baptist congregation, and happily found myself in an intense and joyful atmosphere of serious Bible study, prayer, fellowship, and evangelism. This was, it seemed, what I had been looking for for years, because I wanted nothing more than to trust in God alone for my salvation, and to follow hard after him, with the encouragement of brothers and sisters in Christ, growing in obedience and holiness, while spreading His Gospel of justification by faith alone.

    I could not have been more happy as a Reformed Baptist Christian. I had no desire to “justify myself by my own works” or to go after “doctrine that ticked my ears.” I firmly believed that justification by faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone *was* the Gospel, and I shared this Gospel with others, including meeting with a Catholic man and his wife for months, trying to show them the “Biblical, Reformed Gospel” from the Scriptures and praying for them to “see the truth.”

    As the years went on though, I began to be increasingly troubled by more and more Scripture passages that created serious problems for my Reformed, “faith alone,” “imputed righteousness,” “limited atonement,” “Perseverance of the Saints” Calvinistic Biblical paradigm. I could go into all of these passages in this comment, but to do so would require a virtual treatise. (I can go into *some* of them in subsequent comments if you would like).

    Despite being troubled by these passages, I knew that Reformed exegetes knew more about the Bible than I did, and, thankful for their knowledge, I delved further into Reformed exegetical and apologetic works which dealt with these “problem passages.” After reading these works, with my Bible close at hand to make sure they were “Biblically accurate,” I would be encouraged and reassured that Reformed Protestant Christianity did, indeed, still make sense of the whole Bible. Through all of my study, I never doubted that justification by faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone *was* the Biblical Gospel– and it was my Gospel, the Gospel for which I lived, and for which I would have died, if I had been asked to do so.

    Eventually, through continued Bible study, prayer, and the discovery of the writings of the early Church Fathers (which include Biblical exegesis that far predates the Reformation), I began to sense that if I wanted to be truly honest with what God was showing to me, I had to make a commitment to re-study the entire Bible– but this time, setting aside my cherished Reformed presuppositions which I had long brought to the texts.

    To be clear, I had originally *come* to these Reformed views *through* Biblical exegesis (of my own and others), but now, Biblical exegesis (of my own and others) was leading me to question some of these Reformed views, so to be honest with God and myself, I felt that I needed to re-study the Bible without my “Reformed interpretive lenses.”

    After a careful, even agonizing, process of this Biblical “re-study”– involving serious prayer, and regular, lengthy meetings with one of my Reformed elders, and study of both Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox sources–, I realized that I could no longer, in good conscience, be a Reformed Baptist Protestant, or *any* kind of Protestant. The Bible itself had convinced me out of my Protestantism. In particular, through study of the four Gospels, the letters of Paul, 1 John, and Hebrews, I had been convinced that both justification by faith alone and the “Perserverance of the Saints” (the “eternal security” of Calvinists) were/are simply not the teachings of the Bible.

    I had not *wanted* to reach these conclusions. I *wanted* to be reaffirmed that the “Reformed, Biblical Gospel” that I had embraced and spread for years *was* the teaching of the Bible. Reaching a different conclusion, *from* the Bible, was severely humbling, and even shattering, to me on many levels. It meant that I had been wrong about very serious teachings of the Bible for years, and that I had spread these errors to other people. It meant that I could not stay in my current congregation. I already had a strong sense, from my experience with these friends, that in renouncing my former beliefs as “unBiblical,” I would lose most of these friends– and lose them I did (as well as many, many Reformed friends in other parts of the U.S.) . I also lost a hoped-for career in Reformed “Biblical Counseling.”

    Even after reaching my carefully studied, and prayed-through, conclusion that Reformed Protestantism (and Protestantism, period) is not Biblically accurate, I still was not completely convinced of the claims and teachings of the Catholic Church. I knew, though, that I had to leave my Protestant community, in good conscience, so I painfully did. It hurt so much to leave, but being firmly convinced that I was following God and Scripture in doing so, I found a measure of peace.

    For about two months, I didn’t know *where* I belonged, ecclesially speaking, so I stayed home on Sundays and continued to study. On about 85% of what the Catholic Church teaches, I had found her to be Biblically accurate– far more so than any Protestant congregation–, but I had to ask myself, how long was I going to continue subjecting every ecclesial entity in existence to *my* own Biblical scrutiny, when I had once been an Arminian, and then a Calvinist, and now, a “non-Protestant” of some sort, having reached these conclusions through *my* own Biblical study, with other Protestant Christians, and with other sources (including the writings of the early Church Fathers), but still holding the Bible to be my final authority (at least on the matters that I deemed to be “Christian essentials”)? Was this really the way that the early Christian Church operated?

    From reading the early Church Fathers (not as opposed to reading Scripture, but *while* reading Scripture), I had learned that “Sola Scriptura” was most definitely *not* how the early Church had operated. It was not how Jesus and the first apostles had operated– so why should I continue doing so? From 189 A.D., the words of St. Irenaeus rang in my ears:

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

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

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

    I still was not 100% convinced of some of the teachings of the Catholic Church, but again, I had found her to be far more Scripturally accurate than any Protestant denomination (or “non-denominational church”), and the early Church had not operated through “Sola Scriptura” anyway. In that light, was I going to heed what the Spirit had shown me in Scripture (which was, emotionally, *not* what I had wanted to find there), and in the early Church Fathers, and in Church history, or was I going to stay with Reformed Protestant doctrines that, in a sense. tickled my own human desires to not have my life be so incredibly disrupted (by returning to the Catholic Church)?

    I knew what I had to do. I had to follow God, my own desires for career and comfort and the affirmation of friends be damned. Therefore, I returned to the Catholic Church. It was *not* easy, and it has not *been* easy. It was, and is, the right thing to do though, because this Church has the fullness of Christian truth– which is only fitting, because Christ Himself founded the Catholic Church.

  20. Hi Jonathan – thanks for taking the time to read my article and for your contribution. Thanks also to Christopher Lake for sharing his own experiences wrestling with the Reformed/Catholic debate – your story if very much my own, and I resonated with much of what you shared.

    For Jonathan, I have a couple quick comments and questions for you. You compare my conversion story to several passages from the New Testament involving those who believed the truth, or heard the gospel, but ultimately chose to follow a teaching or lifestyle that was more pleasing to them. I would however suggest that such a characterization would be unhelpful at furthering the discussion forward. First, the characterization ignores the arguments explicitly given for the conversion: I argue throughout my paper that my conversion was based on a reflection of scripture, logic, and the history of Christianity. If you find these arguments unpersuasive, please offer why you think so. Second, the characterization presumes to know the “real reason” why someone left Protestantism for Catholicism. Of course, we could make the same characterizations about Luther, Calvin, or anyone who was raised Catholic and then abandoned the Catholic Church for Protestantism. We could suggest that they had abandoned the Catholic faith for a teaching that “ticked their ears.” I would however prefer not to psychologize as to the “real reasons” anyone leaves one Christian tradition for another, but to charitably take their reasons at face value, and then analyze the validity of those reasons.

    On a personal note, it is hard not to chuckle at your suggestion that I abandoned the true gospel of Jesus Christ for the false gospel of the Catholic Church because it was more pleasing to my desires (and presumably not my desires for truth or to know Christ). Among the many things about Catholicism which decidedly did NOT “tickle my ears” would be devotion to Mary, the sacramental system, and purgatory. As a Reformed Christian, I found all of those Catholic doctrines abhorrent, and they were far more a deterrent to my conversion than something appealing to my desires. However, just as the first Christians had to come to grips with a God that took on human flesh, a savior who died on a cross, or a religion that included Jews and Gentiles, so through prayer and reflection I came to the see the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith.

    Finally, thank you for prayers – I’ll gladly take them from whomever will offer them! In light of your encouragement that I “believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ,” I would like to ask you what is the true gospel, and how are you sure that you, as a Protestant, believe that gospel, and I, as a Catholic, do not?

    in Christ,

    Casey

  21. Christopher Lake,

    Sadly, pretty much my exact comment to Casey applies to you as well. It’s just so devastating to read such testimonies. Short of using more biblical sounding terminology, this letter could just as easily have been written by a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness. It’s still the same thing: giving up the word of God for the word of man, the authority of God for the authority of man, the teachings of God for the teachings of man, and the gospel of God for a gospel of man.

    Just so sad.

    I came to this site (and many others like it) because a friend that I work with is Roman Catholic. I’ve been witnessing to him for a number of months, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with him and hoping he will trust in Christ and His gospel for salvation. He’s a good friend, and I truly love the guy, and it saddens me to no end that he follows a false gospel that can’t save him. I’ve spent the last 4 months reading and studying as much as I can about Roman Catholicism, it’s doctrines, it’s history, and I’ve been contrasting that with Christianity, and it’s doctrines and it’s history. I’ve probably spent an average of 2-3 hours a day studying the topic during that time. The more I learn about Roman Catholicism, the more clear it gets about how far from Christianity it really is, and has been since it’s inception approximately 1700 years ago. Rarely does a day go by where I don’t learn something new that Roman Catholicism teaches that is contrary to Christianity. The list is just simply massive.

    Quite honestly, Roman Catholicism is the perfect example of the adage “the most dangerous lie is the one that is closest to the truth”.

    I realize that I’m not likely to change the hearts and minds of those here, since it seems like a very close knit, tightly supportive group. I guess it’s just the verbalization of my sorrow that some seed simply does get snatched up by the birds so easily. And my recognition that the gospel of Jesus Christ is truly the power of God unto salvation – whether that be for the atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, Roman Catholic, Muslim, or anyone else. It simply reaffirms my need and desire to continue sharing the gospel – because there is no end of people who need it.

  22. Jonathan (re:#21),

    Actually, my “reversion story” to the Catholic Church cannot be legitimately compared to the story of a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness, because my story was based largely in study of Scripture, and not in a mangled “translation” such as the “New World Translation” of the JW’s and not in the “burning bosom” and the Book of Mormon that are key parts of Mormon theology.

    Did I read writings of the early Church Fathers? Yes. Did they do the “heavy work” of bringing me to the point of seeing that justification by faith truly might be unBiblical? No. Jesus, St. Paul, St. John, the author of the book of Hebrews, and the Holy Spirit had to do that for me. Moreover, I was working from “sound” Protestant translations, such as the ESV, and I was exegeting the texts, according to the principle of comparing Scripture with Scripture.

    The fact that, from what I could tell, *none* of the early Church Fathers, *when* read in context (not as quoted out of context by Protestant polemicists), teaches the Protestant understanding of justification, was certainly more than a bit interesting to me, especially given that most of those Fathers actually predate the collecting of the New Testament books into a definite canon– but in the end, it was study of the Bible (and the Holy Spirit, of course) that brought me to the point of giving up justification by faith alone.

    You claim that the inception of “Roman Catholicism” was “approximately 1,700 years ago.” How did you arrive at that timeframe ? It seems arbitrary, given that in 107 A.D., St. Ignatius was already writing about “the Catholic Church,” and in 189 A.D., St. Irenaeus was writing that all churches everywhere, in the entire world, must submit to the church at Rome, which has apostolic succession and the teachings of the apostles (and again, the New Testament had not even been collected into a canon yet).

    You write about CTC as though it is such a (in your words) “very close knit, tightly supportive group,” that we could not seemingly be willing to seriously listen to your comments. However, we were willing (some sooner than others– it took years for me) to consider that we might be wrong in our embrace of Reformed exegesis and doctrine. That took some painful humility and openness to truth on our parts Are you willing to admit that you might be wrong about your interpretation of the Bible, and about the Biblical interpretations of your leaders and favorite exegetes, which together, have apparently led you to believe that the Catholic Church is a false church teaching a false gospel?

    About your co-worker who is Catholic, and to whom you are witnessing, I will pray for both of you. As I mentioned in my earlier comment, when I was a Reformed Protestant, I, too, met with a Catholic man (and his wife) for months, reasoning with him from the Bible, and pleading with him to accept the “Biblical” (i.e. Reformed) understanding of Sola Fide. He liked my concern for Biblical truth, I think, but looking back, he did seem more than a bit uncomfortable with what I was urging him to accept. Now I understand why he was uncomfortable. He already had a more truly *Biblical* understanding of justification, and I was trying to get him to accept Luther and Calvin’s *misinterpretation* of the Biblical teaching on justification, which I had (sincerely but very mistakenly) accepted as the “Biblical Gospel.”

  23. P.S. to #22: Jonathan, I unintentionally left out a key word in my above reply to you.

    I wrote of the early Church Fathers, “Did they do the ‘heavy work’ of bringing me to the point of seeing that justification by faith truly might be unBiblical? No. Jesus, St. Paul, St. John, the author of the book of Hebrews, and the Holy Spirit had to do that for me.”

    However, I left out the word “alone”– and that makes all the difference, because the Biblical writers and the Holy Spirit brought me to point of seeing that justification by faith *alone* might be unBiblical. Now, I know that it *is* unBiblical. Luther’s misinterpretation of St. Paul in Romans led to the Reformed Protestant understanding of “Sola Fide.”

    You have probably already heard this, but the only place in the Bible where the words “faith alone” are actually used (in James 2), they are *specifically denied, and specifically in relation to justification.* Now, as a former Reformed Baptist, I know very well that there is a Reformed explanation for this seeming exegetical dilemma. James is writing about about faith as pure “head faith,” intellectual, non-saving belief, and he is writing about works as simply being the “justifying evidence,” before man, of one’s already having been justified by God by faith alone. Meanwhile, Paul is writing about being justified before God by faith alone– even though he never *uses* the words “faith alone.” That is the Reformed explanation of Paul and James on justification, faith, and works that I was taught by my Reformed leaders, and I accepted it and believed it for years. However, after having made a conscious effort to re-study the Bible without those “Reformed interpretive lenses” (well before I ever returned to the Catholic Church), I could see that Reformed explanation as, unfortunately, little more than Reformed *eisegesis*, not exegesis. If God had wanted to tell us clearly in Scripture that believers in Christ are justified by faith alone, it is certainly perplexing that God, the Holy Spirit, inspired James to write man is not justified by faith alone.

    I know that Reformed Christians love to read the letters of Paul. I certainly did, as a Reformed Baptist, and I still do, as a Catholic. The Church has been exegeting those letters for almost 2, 000 years. He is “St. Paul” in our Church after all– and I can assure you that we would *not* so honor Paul if he, in actuality, teaches things in Scripture that are opposed to Catholic doctrine! :-) In truth, he does not teach anything opposed to Catholic doctrine, because Paul himself was/is Catholic. http://pauliscatholic.com

  24. Jonathan,

    A lot of commentors here have sacrificed an awful lot to become Catholic. Some lost their jobs as protestant clergy. Others lost friends. Others saw their relationship with their families suffer a bit. So coming here and inferring that they moved to Catholicism because it was easy (tickled their ears) is to trivialize a lot of seriously challenging things these converts have gone through.

    I’d love to see you interact with some of the actual content on this website, starting with some of the arguments that Casey used. Since you’ve been studying Catholicism so much I think you’ll be able to offer some interesting challenges to our faith. I hope you’ll stick around.

  25. This may be of interest to some here: Chris Costaldo writes, at the Gospel Coalition site, about “Calvin on Lent and Ministry to Roman Catholics.” http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/02/18/calvin-on-ministry-to-roman-catholics/

  26. EJ Cassidy (re #18)

    I still always find this so difficult to fathom, but God does say that there will be those who hear His word but do not understand. It still shocks me when someone spends that much time studying the bible and yet still falls for the contradictions of the Roman Catholic Church. Quite frankly, hundreds of what you call “truths” of the Roman Catholic Church, (which I am going to call doctrines, since I can not call false teachings “truths”) are nowhere to be found in scripture. In fact, many are explicitly condemned, multiple times. To deny such condemnations, and then go through the most fanciful and imaginative reinterpretations to even find the slightest implicit “support” for such doctrines just boggles my mind. But when one submits to a manmade authority that claims to be the only interpreter of scripture, and demands trust and support of it’s interpretation, it shouldn’t surprise me that this is what we end up with.

  27. Casey (re #20)

    // I would however suggest that such a characterization would be unhelpful at furthering the discussion forward. //

    Casey, although you may find such a characterization “unhelpful at furthering the discussion forward”, that presupposes that the proper way to deal with things like this is by avoiding such characterizations and simply furthering discussion. I’m quite comfortable in the biblical support for shining a truthful light on those who follow after false teaching, and calling them out. I can quote Old Testament law, the wisdom found in Proverbs, the examples of Christ, or the instructional teachings of Paul in this regard – but we all know these verses already, don’t we? Would you have me coddle people as they discard truth and follow after manmade doctrines that deny the gospel of Jesus Christ? Let’s be honest now, Casey. You could die in a car crash tomorrow. If you do, when you stand before God in judgement, and you try and convince God that you’ve done enough to merit the graces needed for the attainment of eternal life, you’ll be denying the only advocate you can possibly have in Jesus Christ. I care too much for your soul to coddle you.

    // I argue throughout my paper that my conversion was based on a reflection of scripture, logic, and the history of Christianity. If you find these arguments unpersuasive, please offer why you think so. . //

    Quite simply, scripture does not in any way point to the Roman Catholic Church. Logic does not in any way point to the Roman Catholic Church, since it contradicts itself repeatedly. And the history of Christianity consistently points AWAY from the Roman Catholic Church. The history of the Roman Catholic Church may point to the Roman Catholic Church, but that’s just begging the question. I believe that you are simply confusing the history of Christianity here with the history of the Roman Catholic Church – they are not the same thing.

    But even further, there are very disturbing things that you have written in your paper. You freely admit that your turning point came during a visit to a centre of idolatrous paganism. That’s absurd. Even if you weren’t specifically trying to learn new things while walking around ruins and Buddhist shrines, intentionally exploring spiritual things, while in what is certainly a demonic stronghold, is just plain foolish. That’s like saying “I’m just going to wander through Canaan for a while to ponder the Law of Moses.” Or “I’ll hang out with the Pharisees for a while to see if I can discern what Jesus said.” Or “I’ll just wander around the temple of Aphrodite while considering what Paul preached.” Or even “I’ll just watch this voodoo ceremony while I decide what’s true about God.” Opening oneself up to a place of demonic influence is possibly the most foolish thing to do when searching for truth about God. Is there an easier way to possibly let Satan influence you? Literally, that’s the point in your testimony where I just began to shake my head and cry. And it only got worse from there.

    In discussing your thoughts on sola scriptura, you talk about realizing that you trusted Protestant historians and scholars, so why not trust Roman Catholic scholars instead. The fact that you were living in error on the Protestant side and following man’s authority instead of the Holy Spirit’s in no way justifies crossing over to Roman Catholicism to make the same error! Yet even worse, to make the same error under the guise of authoritative dogma!

    As to the points specifically about Castaldo’s book, I honestly haven’t read it, so I won’t spend the time diving into your response to his individual points.

    // I would however prefer not to psychologize as to the “real reasons” anyone leaves one Christian tradition for another, but to charitably take their reasons at face value, and then analyze the validity of those reasons. //

    You may prefer to do so, but quite frankly, I’ll stick with scripture. Jesus tells us in the parable of the sower reasons why people will hear the gospel but then leave it behind for something else. The epistles in the New Testament also tell us why some will leave the Christian faith to follow teachers of their own desires. No offence, but I’m going to take the truth of what God says over what you claim. Just like when an atheist tells me that he doesn’t believe God exists, and the bible tells me that he absolutely KNOWS God exists and he is simply deluding himself (Romans 1:18-21) – I’m going to believe the bible and not the atheist.

    You also presuppose that such people are leaving “one Christian tradition for another”. But this is not true. Quite frankly, Roman Catholicism is not a Christian tradition, since it denies the gospel of Jesus Christ. But even if we were to leave that aside for the moment, and even if I were to grant you that Roman Catholicism were the one true church of Christ, on your own terms you shouldn’t be calling Protestantism ‘another Christian tradition’, since Roman Catholicism has denied the reformation as being Christian, and has pronounced anathemas on literally dozens of foundational Protestant ideologies. If you truly embrace Roman Catholic teaching, you really shouldn’t be considering Protestants as Christians, now, should you?

    // However, just as the first Christians had to come to grips with a God that took on human flesh, a savior who died on a cross, or a religion that included Jews and Gentiles, so through prayer and reflection I came to the see the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith. //

    Interesting. And yet every single one of those things that you listed that the early Christians had to come to grips with, were ALL in the scriptures of the Old Testament. They were ALL argued for and proven from the scriptures. Jesus Himself alludes to this fact. Luke writes in Acts that Paul argued constantly from the scriptures. The New Testament epistles quote the Old Testament non stop in regards to these issues. This makes two points: 1) the principle of sola scriptura is unequivocally and undeniably in effect here, and can be seen clear as day being practiced by Jesus and the apostles; and 2) since many Roman Catholic doctrines can’t be similarly found in scripture, either Old Testament or New Testament, they shouldn’t be something people ‘come to grips with’. There is no truth and there is no beauty in the Roman Catholic ‘faith’.

    // I would like to ask you what is the true gospel //

    I’m sure you likely know the answer, but since you ask, I’ll give it to you in a condensed version here.

    There is one God, who is the Creator of all things. He created mankind to have a relationship with Him. We have sinned against God and His holiness by disobeying his law: both generally, by inheriting a sinful nature from Adam and Eve, the first humans, who disobeyed God originally; and specifically, by our own rebellion against God’s law which we have all broken, and of which our consciences condemn us. This sin creates an unbridgeable chasm between us and God that we can not cross. It causes death – both physical death and spiritual death. This punishment is an eternal separation from God. This is a situation we can not fix.

    In God’s grace and mercy, he sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who is God Himself, to atone for that punishment. He took it upon Himself to bridge that chasm. Two thousand years ago, Jesus came to earth, born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, and was crucified on a cross. He was buried, and on the third day He rose again. He took the punishment of death for the sins of those who would believe in Him. He ascended up into heaven, and will one day come again to pronounce a final judgement upon all the world.

    As such, God calls all people to repent of their sins and place their faith in the sacrifice of Jesus. To repent means to have a change of both mind and heart, and to turn away from sin and towards God. To have faith in Jesus Christ means to accept that there is nothing we ourselves can do to make things right with God, but to accept that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin in our place, and He could do so because of the completely perfect life He lived. God calls us to these two things, repentance and faith, and from these He grants eternal life with Him.

    // how are you sure that you, as a Protestant, believe that gospel //

    By the testimony of the Holy Spirit within me, confirming the promises found throughout the bible.

    // and I, as a Catholic, do not? //

    Casey, I don’t know what you believe. I don’t know your heart, and can’t tell you one way or another. However, I can tell you this. Roman Catholic doctrine does not hold to that gospel of Jesus Christ. It may have many parts of it in place, but it specifically denies that it is sufficient. Roman Catholic doctrine adds many things on top of that gospel which actually deny that it is enough. Even further, Roman Catholic doctrine pronounces anathema, a curse, damning people to hell, on people who actually hold to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As such, the Roman Catholic Church does not preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and explicitly denies it. So I can, with full confidence and the complete backing of the word of God Himself, say that if you put your faith in the Roman Catholic Church and believe what it teaches, you are not believing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I’ll leave that with you to judge on your own.

  28. Christopher Lake (re #22)

    // my “reversion story” to the Catholic Church cannot be legitimately compared to the story of a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness, //

    My comparison wasn’t based on the specific issues that you mentioned in regards to these false religions, but in the general methodology behind them. As mentioned, Roman Catholicism shares many generalities with these false religions, despite differences in the specific applications. Things like claiming to be the only authority that can provide true knowledge or interpretation, or claiming that the gospel of Jesus Christ and the bible aren’t enough and more teachings need to be added. Things like that are common themes from Roman Catholicism, Mormonism and JWs. That’s the comparison I was making, and it holds true.

    // *none* of the early Church Fathers, *when* read in context (not as quoted out of context by Protestant polemicists) //

    This just begs the question. I can easily claim that it is Roman Catholic polemicists that quote the fathers out of context. If you want to get into an “early church father quote war” about any given doctrine, you know we can both throw back and forth dozens of quotes of support from both sides – in context on both sides. So what? Is truth determined by who can quote the most church fathers? Honestly, that’s absurd. The simple question you need to ask yourself is this: Are the church fathers fallible? I hope you answer yes. Is the bible fallible? I hope you answer no. If those aren’t your answers, we have other issues. But if those are your answers, then the final word becomes what the bible says, based on it’s infallibility. And the bible is overwhelmingly clear on the teaching of justification by faith alone, without adding works to it. Overwhelmingly clear. It’s not even close.

    //… teaches the Protestant understanding of justification, was certainly more than a bit interesting to me, //

    Honestly, on this point, I just don’t believe you. If you seriously think that “none” of the early church fathers believed in justification by faith alone, you have sold yourself a lie. I would encourage you to go back and read them again, but I’m not sure if it would matter. Instead, pick up the bible and read it – it will scream justification by faith alone without works as loud as it possibly can!

    // especially given that most of those Fathers actually predate the collecting of the New Testament books into a definite canon //

    Irrelevant, since scripture is based on it’s own ‘God-breathed’ self-attesting authority, not on when people actually had a complete collection (though this was centuries earlier than the Roman Catholic Church claims, and long before the Roman Catholic Church really came into existence in the fourth century)

    // but in the end, it was study of the Bible (and the Holy Spirit, of course) that brought me to the point of giving up justification by faith alone. //

    I’m going to tell it to you straight, Christopher. Pull the bandaid off quick, so to speak. The truth of the matter is this – there is absolutely no possible way that the Holy Spirit brought you to the point of giving up justification alone. The Holy Spirit speaks only truth, and will not contradict Himself. Since He inspired the biblical authors, from Genesis through to Revelation, to write about justification by faith alone without works, and He did it over and over again in an unerringly blatant and clear fashion, there is just no way that the Holy Spirit would ever lead anyone to give up the belief of justification by faith alone. Period.

    If your conviction to give up justification by faith alone and trade it in for a false gospel of justification through faith plus works (being “perfected by the flesh” as Paul warns) – if that conviction came from an actual spiritual source, then quite simply it was demonic. Christopher, I would strongly encourage you to search the scriptures again, and pray that God would remove the scales from your eyes.

    // You claim that the inception of “Roman Catholicism” was “approximately 1,700 years ago.” How did you arrive at that timeframe ? //

    The seeds of where the Roman Catholic Church began to go off the rails and away from Christianity were around before that, but the foundation of what the Roman Catholic Church is today really came about when Constantine tried to merge paganism with Christianity. True Christians resisted and stayed true to the faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who didn’t, who embraced the merger of paganism and Christianity, were the seeds of the Roman Catholic Church. And let’s be honest – you can’t merge Christianity with paganism. Christ says you are either for Him or against Him. So what resulted was simply a Christian-like paganism, and has remained until this day.

    // It seems arbitrary, given that in 107 A.D., St. Ignatius was already writing about “the Catholic Church,” //

    You confuse the generic and original meaning of “Catholic” (i.e., universal) with the idea of Roman Catholic. They are not the same.

    // and in 189 A.D., St. Irenaeus was writing that all churches everywhere, in the entire world, must submit to the church at Rome, //

    Just because false teachings are ancient, that doesn’t make them any more correct!

    // which has apostolic succession //

    This phrase never ceases to amaze me. By definition, this is an oxymoron. Paul defines what an apostle is quite well in the bible – one who received the gospel message directly from Jesus. So by definition, there can be no succession!

    // and the teachings of the apostles (and again, the New Testament had not even been collected into a canon yet). //

    Despite the fact that much evidence shows the books of the New Testament were already completely in use: the Muratorian Canon, Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians, over 30,000 quotations from the New Testament in the writings of the church fathers in the first and second century, long before the timeframe that the Roman Catholic Church has convinced you they gave you the bible. But even putting aside the fact that you are wrong here, it’s still entirely irrelevant, since scripture is its own authority on the basis of what it is, not by the declaration of any manmade authority. And scripture, on it’s own self-attesting authority, doesn’t support the Roman Catholic Church.

    // However, we were willing (some sooner than others– it took years for me) to consider that we might be wrong in our embrace of Reformed exegesis and doctrine. That took some painful humility and openness to truth on our parts //

    Although I don’t doubt you found it painful, it was not “openness to truth”, my friend. It was openness to false teaching that leads away from the bible.

    // Are you willing to admit that you might be wrong about your interpretation of the Bible, and about the Biblical interpretations of your leaders and favorite exegetes, which together, have apparently led you to believe that the Catholic Church is a false church teaching a false gospel? //

    There are many things that I am open to being wrong about. There are things that I am quite up in the air about. For example, I’m quite on the fence on the issue of infant baptism. I lean towards adult believer baptism, since it seems quite clearly taught in the bible. But at the same time, the concept of infant baptism in covenant theology makes some very good points. I honestly don’t know. I plan to research it a lot more. If I ever have a child of my own I will probably spend months reading tons on the issue. As for now, if someone invited me to the baptism of their newborn under a covenant theology premise, I would probably attend. However, if they were doing it under the clearly unbiblical and clearly heretical idea that baptism actually affects justification and is required for salvation, I’d simply say no thanks.

    So there are some things I am absolutely open to. But there are also some things I am absolute closed to. We should be open minded when we don’t know truth. But we should also be closed minded when we do know truth. Closed minded is typically just a pejorative term for confident, but I’m okay with wearing it either way. I admit that I’m closed minded on the fact that 2+2=4, and on the fact that the sky is blue, and on the fact that my mother loves me, and on the fact that God exists. There’s nothing anyone can do to change my mind on these things, because I know they are true. And in the same way, I am closed minded on the fact that justification is by faith alone without works, because that’s what the bible clearly teaches and that’s what the Holy Spirit confirms. For that reason alone (despite the fact that there are literally hundreds of others) I have no problem admitting that I am not wrong about the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is a false Church teaching a false gospel.

    Now, just for clarification, and I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but I’ll clarify to make it evident, I am not claiming that all Roman Catholics are condemned to hell. This isn’t about the individual, it’s about the false doctrine of the Church. There may well be many Roman Catholics who are Christians and whom I will meet in heaven. But they are Christians in spite of Roman Catholic doctrine, not because of it. In the same way, it wouldn’t surprise me if there were Christians in the Mormon church. Not because they teach anything remotely close to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but because such people may simply read their bible and believe what it says, without really getting into the details of Mormonism.

    // He already had a more truly *Biblical* understanding of justification, and I was trying to get him to accept Luther and Calvin’s *misinterpretation* of the Biblical teaching on justification, which I had (sincerely but very mistakenly) accepted as the “Biblical Gospel.” //

    And therein lies a large part of the problem – the belief that it was Luther and Calvin who came up with this. It wasn’t. It is clear as day in Paul’s writing. It is clear as day in Jesus preaching. It is clear as day in the Old Testament prophets. It is even as clear as day all the way back to the book of Genesis. All the way through the bible, from beginning to end, and all the way through history, from the fall of man until now, God’s message has always and consistently been simply this: repent and believe.

  29. Christopher Lake (re #23)

    // Luther’s misinterpretation of St. Paul in Romans led to the Reformed Protestant understanding of “Sola Fide.” //

    You keep thinking that this teaching is new, it began at the reformation, and that the Roman Catholic teaching is correct simply by being ‘older’. And yet the teaching of faith alone has been around explicitly for approximately 4000 years, and implicitly since the fall of man. It seems that you’ve really bought into the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching all the way on this one. But it just simply isn’t true.

    // James is writing about about faith as pure “head faith,” intellectual, non-saving belief, and he is writing about works as simply being the “justifying evidence,” before man, of one’s already having been justified by God by faith alone. //

    Yes, this is true, and easily discernible by the context of James’ message in such overwhelming clarity that most 12 year olds can identify this. It is affirmed in many places in the bible. It parallels Jesus own teaching on the issue when claiming that you will know a tree by its fruit. The fruit in no way affects the life of the tree, but it does evidence the life that is in the tree. Similarly, good works in no way affect our justification, but do evidence the reality of our justification.

    // Meanwhile, Paul is writing about being justified before God by faith alone– even though he never *uses* the words “faith alone.” //

    Irrelevant, and quite honestly, you know that this is deceitful reasoning. For as a Roman Catholic, you’ve been trained well enough that, if I told you that the bible never uses the word “Trinity” or the words “hypostatic union”, your response would be . . . . . . the same response that I will now give to your underhanded point. The bible doesn’t need to use the words “faith alone” to teach the concept of faith alone. It is more than sufficient to say that justification is by faith, and not by works added to it – which the bible does teach repeatedly, non-stop, over and over and over again. Jesus teaches it in its basic simplicity (John 3:16, John 6:28-29, John 6:40, Mark 1:15, among others). Paul gets very explicit about it (Galatians 3:1-7 especially verse 3, Romans 4:1-5 especially verse 5, Ephesians 2:8-10, Philippians 3:9, Romans 11:6, Galatians 5:4). King David sings about it (Psalm 32, Psalm 51). Moses testifies to it (Genesis 15:6). The author of Hebrews teaches it (6:1, 9:14). I could go on and on here, but you likely know the verses. The doctrine of faith without works is simply overwhelming.

    // I could see that Reformed explanation as, unfortunately, little more than Reformed *eisegesis*, not exegesis. //

    When a doctrine of faith without works is repeated so many times, in so many different ways, by multiple authors, spanning many centuries, there’s no credible way you can call that eisegesis. If such a fundamentally obvious doctrine weren’t true, there would be no way anyone could ever believe anything from the bible. It’s just blatantly obvious to those who read the bible. Forget “reformed interpretive lenses” – just read the text!

    // If God had wanted to tell us clearly in Scripture that believers in Christ are justified by faith alone, it is certainly perplexing that God, the Holy Spirit, inspired James to write man is not justified by faith alone. //

    This is out of context oversimplification at it’s very worst. Not to mention that you are implicitly stating that you know how God should write His holy scriptures. Honestly, Christopher, if this is how you approach the bible, you are not listening to what it says. You are allowing your own reasoning to get in the way of listening to the Holy Spirit through the very clear word of God. This kind of selective out of context biblical interpretation is not loving God with all your mind – it’s loving your mind.

    // The Church has been exegeting those letters for almost 2, 000 years. //

    Christians have been correctly exegeting those letters for 2000 years. The Roman Catholic Church has only been exegeting them for approximately 1700 years, and has been doing it wrong, against the overwhelmingly obvious and self-evident teaching, for most of that time. But don’t worry – your Church will disagree with me and the bible on that point, and will reinforce your faith in the Church.

    // He is “St. Paul” in our Church after all– and I can assure you that we would *not* so honor Paul if he, in actuality, teaches things in Scripture that are opposed to Catholic doctrine! //

    Sure the Roman Catholic Church would! That’s how they keep people deceived and following the false gospel! They can’t very well turn around and boot Paul out, that would be too blatant. They can’t very well change the text of the bible (even though they have slipped in a few minor changes to support unbiblical doctrines, but a complete overhaul like changing justification by faith alone would be too noticeable) If they did, it would also be too blatant. So what’s the alternative? Reinterpret what the bible clearly says to claim that it doesn’t actually mean what it clearly says, and then remind people that they can’t understand the bible on their own, but can only accept the bible as interpreted by the Roman Catholic Church! Problem solved!

    They’ve done it all over the place. They honour Jesus, despite denying many of His teachings; they honour Mary, despite denying clear biblical teachings about her, even contradicting what she says and does herself; they honour Peter, despite denying his teachings – it goes on and on and on. When you have a manmade organization that convinces people that they are the only ones that have the real truth, and that salvation can only be achieved through them, and that they are the only ones that can interpret scripture, then we end up with honouring people but denying their teachings, because they just claim that those people actually teach something else.

    // In truth, he does not teach anything opposed to Catholic doctrine, because Paul himself was/is Catholic. http://pauliscatholic.com //

    If Paul was alive today to see the Roman Catholic Church as it is right now, I’m sure he would likely tear his clothes and cry out to God in utter despair. I’m sure he wouldn’t even begin to fathom how the things he taught had been twisted so badly into a Church that wouldn’t even be recognizable by the apostles. And I’m sure he would be completely offended that his name was used to propagate such false teachings. But then again, he saw the same things while he was alive. He struggled against false teachers in his own day, even those who claimed to come under his authority. Solomon was right – there is nothing new under the sun.

  30. Jonathan, (re: #26)

    Welcome to Called To Communion. I have a question about something you said in#26. You wrote:

    It still shocks me when someone spends that much time studying the bible and yet still falls for the contradictions of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Could you specify exactly which “contradictions” you have in mind, and show how they are contradictions? Thanks.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  31. Jonathan (#27):

    You summarize the Gospel thus:

    There is one God, who is the Creator of all things. He created mankind to have a relationship with Him. We have sinned against God and His holiness by disobeying his law: both generally, by inheriting a sinful nature from Adam and Eve, the first humans, who disobeyed God originally; and specifically, by our own rebellion against God’s law which we have all broken, and of which our consciences condemn us. This sin creates an unbridgeable chasm between us and God that we can not cross. It causes death – both physical death and spiritual death. This punishment is an eternal separation from God. This is a situation we can not fix.

    In God’s grace and mercy, he sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who is God Himself, to atone for that punishment. He took it upon Himself to bridge that chasm. Two thousand years ago, Jesus came to earth, born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, and was crucified on a cross. He was buried, and on the third day He rose again. He took the punishment of death for the sins of those who would believe in Him. He ascended up into heaven, and will one day come again to pronounce a final judgement upon all the world.

    As such, God calls all people to repent of their sins and place their faith in the sacrifice of Jesus. To repent means to have a change of both mind and heart, and to turn away from sin and towards God. To have faith in Jesus Christ means to accept that there is nothing we ourselves can do to make things right with God, but to accept that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin in our place, and He could do so because of the completely perfect life He lived. God calls us to these two things, repentance and faith, and from these He grants eternal life with Him.

    As a Catholic, I can and do fully subscribe to all that. So how can you say that Catholicism does not teach the Gospel?

    The answer, I suspect, lies in how we interpret the statement: “…there is nothing we ourselves can do to make things right with God.” Although we agree that, if God the Son had not done what you describe, there would be no way for humanity to get right with God, the disagreement is about precisely what “getting right with God” consists in for the individual believer, and what comes after it for him. Like the Orthodox, we Catholics are synergists; you Reformed are monergists.

    Libraries have been filled with disputes about that difference of soteriology, just as countless pixels have been expended on it even at this site. I do not propose to debate the matter here. All I shall point out is that our disagreeing with how you interpret one statement in your own summary of the Gospel hardly suffices to disqualify us as Christians. To imagine that it does would be the rankest sectarianism.

    Best,
    Mike

  32. Howdy Jonathan!

    I’m Benjamin. I know this might fulfill your prediction that we are a “very close knit, tightg ly supportive group”, but I think you’re being quite unfair to Christopher. (Full disclosure: I’m facebook friends with Christopher, so I’m honor bound by the Secret Catholic Code to defend him to the death against any Protestant criticisms, no matter how well-argued they are). ;-) “But seriously, folks”, a couple things you write strike me as being seriously off-base. You write:

    …[Q]uite honestly, you [Christopher] know that this is deceitful reasoning.

    Wow! Such judgment of a soul you’ve never met. Seriously, you (think you) know that Christopher is aware that his reasoning is deceptive and he (Christopher) is still using it anyways? Just call him a lying knave and get it over with (I mean, you’ve accused him of knowing true reasoning yet still using deceitful reasoning, so I think Christopher’s being a lying knave is entailed by your accusation). Do you have any evidence whatsoever that Christopher knows that he’s using deceitful reasoning? If so, give it. If not (and you’re using rhetorical bluster) you’ve impugned Chris’ character and I think you owe him an apology. You could do so privately, but since you publicly claimed that he knowingly uses deceitful reasoning, I think you at least owe him a public retraction of your claim, or you need to “put up your dukes” (i.e., provide some evidence to show that Christopher has knowingly used deceitful reasoning).

    You also wrote

    The Roman Catholic Church has only been exegeting [the Pauline epistles] for approximately 1700 years, and has been doing it wrong, against the overwhelmingly obvious and self-evident teaching, for most of that time.

    Dude (can I call you dude?), do you think Catholics are retards? I mean, you know the list of people who exegete the Pauline epistles in a way consonant with Catholicism is significant, right? And that a nontrivial number of those persons weren’t idiots? Take St. Augustine, take Aquinas, take de Lubac, take Benedict the 16th, for crying out loud – none of these guys were idiots and they all found support for Catholicism (not Protestantism) in the Pauline epistles. And you think all of these folks (and plenty more!) didn’t understand the “overwhelmingly obvious and self-evident teaching” of scripture? I hate to tell you, but when lots of smart people disagree with you, probably the best way out isn’t to imply that they’re too dumb (or biased) to understand the obvious self-evident teachings of scripture. Probably better to assume that what you thought was obvious and self-evident, in fact, isn’t quite so obvious and self-evident as you thought. That’s okay – that doesn’t mean they’re right and you’re wrong, fr’instance, but it does mean that you’d have to take Catholicism as an intellectually serious option. But so long as you think your interpretation of scripture is obvious and self-evident, I’m wouldn’t be surprised if you concluded that everyone who disagreed with you was either ignorant or willfully deceptive.

    Going forward, I’d second Bryan’s advice. You’ve alleged that there are contradictions between what Scripture teaches and what Catholicism teaches. If these contradictions are so obvious and self-evident as you think, it should take you about 15 seconds to blow Catholicism out of the water. So don’t throw around assertions; give us your arguments. Show that, obviously and self-evidently, the Bible teaches X and Catholicism teaches ~X (not-X). I would suspect that the Bible does not, in fact, obviously and self-evidently teach X while Catholicism teaches ~X; rather, your interpretation of the Bible teaches X and the Catholic interpretation of the Bible teaches ~X, and you think the correctness of your interpretation is obvious and self-evident. But then you’ll have to explain why your interpretation is obviously and self-evidently true and the Catholic one isn’t – and if you have to explain something which is (purportedly) self-evident, I’m pretty sure that means it ain’t self-evident, or at least it ain’t self-evident to us.

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  33. Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comments/questions. You’re getting a lot of other responses and questions, so I’m going to try and be brief and reply specifically to a couple comments directed towards me (#27). I don’t want you to be overwhelmed by comments from too many angles at once or as if you’re being “ganged up on.”

    My request to move the converstation forward was by no means a request for you to “coddle” me. I’m half Irish, and I typically love a good fight, be it a charitable one. I was simply requesting an explanation for why you find Catholicism to not be in accordance with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and why you find your own tradition, which I presume to be Protestant, to be in accordance with Christ. We can both bang our fists on the table and claim the other side is not obeying scripture or Christ, but if we’re going to have a discussion that helps us get closer to the truth, we need to move beyond polemics to specifics. Thankfully I think we’re starting to do that now.

    In ref. to your concern for my soul: you can rest assured that if I were to die in a car crash, my hope for eternal life would definitely be in Christ’s atoning sacrfice for my sins. But I do not take lightly your concern for me, nor your desire that I believe in Christ, so thank you.

    As for my decision to convert to Catholicism while in Thailand – the location of my decision was more anecdotal than anthing else. I did not find any appeal in Buddhism at that time, nor do I now. I just happened to be walking around Ayyutthaya when I was thinking about the Catholic faith. Do you have a set list of appropriate geographic locations to convert to Christianity? Hopefully, like me, you believe God is powerful enough that the Holy Spirit could move any man’s heart, at any place or time, to deeper understandings of the gospel, Jesus Christ, or the Church. There are probably much worse places in this world where people have had some powerful spiritual Christian experience.

    In ref. to my comment about “trusting” in Protestant scholars: I presume you use a Protestant Bible, maybe the NIV or ESV? There are differences between those translations, and plenty of other translations. Which translation is actually God’s Word? Plus there’s the whole issue of what books to include in that Bible and which to exclude. So how exactly do you go about wading through all of those decisions? I presume you haven’t translated the Bible yourself from the original languages, nor gone through the differences in various tests, nor authoritatively decided which books should be in the Bible and which not, in order to create your own “Jonathan’s Standard Version (JSV)” Bible. So you are left trusting those who have made those decisions. So why do you trust certain scholars, and not others?

    As for the Catholic Church’s current teaching on the status of Protestants, I think you may be misinformed – I was told similar things about what the Council of Trent declared concerning Protestants when I was a Reformed Christian. I would encourage you to read the Catholic Catechsim 817-822, which summarizes very briefly how the Catholic Church views Protestants.

    I would humbly disagree that uniquely Catholic teachings cannot be found in the Old and New Testament. Such doctrines as purgatory, the priesthood, the Eucharist, and many others can be found in the scriptures. Other CTC contributors have written on these extensively, and these articles are available on this site, or many others, for that matter.

    I know you’re being asked a lot of questions on CTC, but I would encourage you to reflect on or answer what Bryan Cross and Michael Liccione have written, as their penetrating questions were the kinds that helped me see the issues more clearly when I was myself a Reformed Protestant. God bless,

    Casey

  34. Jonathan (re:#28 & 29),

    Thank you for your replies to my comments. (Thank you for the comment to Jonathan, Benjamin– you might indeed be furthering Jonathan in his suspicions about our supposedly “close-knit, supportive” ways at CTC, but he already believes much worse things about me, seemingly, so I appreciate your engagement!) Jonathan, I note, with interest, as Benjamin also noted, that you spend some time in your comment making the emphatic points that I am, supposedly, knowingly using deceitful reasoning, being underhanded, and not following the self-evident teaching of Scripture.

    However, as Benjamin *also* noted, there are many, many Catholic and Orthodox readers of Scripture (and St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Henri de Lubac, and Pope Benedict XVI are only the tip of the iceberg!) who have not found *your Reformed interpretations* of Scripture to be *at all* self-evident. Now, you can certainly continue to pound the table and simply assert that your interpretations are the self-evident teaching of Scripture. That is what I did, for a time, as a Reformed Baptist. Then, over time, I began to actually attempt to make *exegetical arguments* for my interpretations. This was progress, and it did not, in and of itself, lead me to the Catholic Church.

    Actually, my movement from Reformed table-pounding to genuine attempts at Biblical exegesis helped me to better defend the Reformed understanding of the Gospel– so much so that I admit, with regret, that some of my exegetical arguments may have helped some Catholics to leave the Church and become Protestants. Of course, you would think this to be a good thing– although, according to your statements about me, it also seems that you would virtually have to believe that, in these situations, God was using a knowingly deceitful person (i.e. me) who didn’t *really* believe Reformed theology to argue *for* Reformed theology, *from* the Scriptures, so as to lead Catholics and others to “Sola Fide,” and to the other aspects of Reformed theology!

    Jonathan, when you are dealing with a person who used to be a passionate Reformed Baptist Protestant, who was *firmly convinced*, from his reading of the Bible, that the Catholic Church’s understanding of the Gospel is unBiblical, *and* who seriously attempted to convince others of this view (in other words, when you are dealing with a person who used to hold your views, every bit as passionately as you now hold them!), your reasoning that I am *now* engaging in knowing deceit and not following the self-evident of Scripture is, simply, problematic.

    To be completely clear, seven years years ago, I would have made very similar kind of polemical statements about someone like me (a Reformed Baptist who has “reverted” to Catholicism) that you are now making. I would have said that such a person is obviously deceived and not following the clear teaching of Scripture.

    I don’t know if I would have said, even in my Reformed Baptist years, that a reverted Catholic is being *knowingly* deceitful and *knowingly* not following the clear teaching of Scripture… I might have simply cried for that person’s “descent into heresy,” as you have cried for Casey, and, as mistaken as I believe you to be about Catholicism being heresy, I commend you for your tears for Casey, as they obviously show that you do care about his eternal soul, and that is a very good thing!

    Back to the self-evident teaching of Scripture though! You dismissed my statements about Paul and James on faith and works. Actually, from what you wrote, you appeared to *like* my recounting of the Reformed exegesis (to which I used to hold) of James 2, and your liking is understandable, because that exegesis supports your interpretation *of* James 2! :-) If nothing else though, my recounting of my former position should prove that I can explain and even *defend* the Reformed position, even now, as a Catholic– but I will not do so, because that *would be* deceitful on my part, because I no longer believe that the Reformed position is the true teaching of Scripture! I have no interest in deceiving anyone here. I am interested in people coming to see and embrace the truth of Scripture, as you are interested in the same. We obviously disagree, though, on some important aspects of that Scriptural truth, including certain matters of ecclesial authority. http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/christ-founded-a-visible-church/

    On the matter of the Church, you responded to my question about the time-frame for the “inception of the Roman Catholic Church” in this way:

    The seeds of where the Roman Catholic Church began to go off the rails and away from Christianity were around before that, but the foundation of what the Roman Catholic Church is today really came about when Constantine tried to merge paganism with Christianity. True Christians resisted and stayed true to the faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who didn’t, who embraced the merger of paganism and Christianity, were the seeds of the Roman Catholic Church. And let’s be honest – you can’t merge Christianity with paganism. Christ says you are either for Him or against Him. So what resulted was simply a Christian-like paganism, and has remained until this day.

    Jonathan, your above theory about the Catholic Church is the exact one to which a friend of mine, a serious student of the Bible, holds– although he goes further than you. He believes that the Catholic Church is an heretical blending of some Christian beliefs and much paganism. He believes that the Catholic Church is responsible for most professing Christians around the world being deceived into heretical error (in his view, from his reading of the Bible). However, he includes Reformed Protestants, and Protestants in general, with Catholics, in his view of *all* of them being deceived by the “paganism” which the Catholic Church supposedly introduced into Christianity! He isn’t a Mormon, or a Jehovah’s Witness, or a Seventh-Day Adventist. He is simply a serious student of Scripture who, *through his study of Scripture* (such as the NASB), has come to the conclusion that both Catholics and Reformed Protestants, and non-Reformed Protestants, are *all* not following the teaching of Scripture on essential points!

    As one doctrinal example (there are many others), my friend believes that the doctrine of the Trinity is part of the “Catholic paganism” into which Reformed and non-Reformed Protestants have fallen. I have seriously tried to reason with him *from Scripture* on this subject. I have given him passages and verses which I believe clearly support the doctrine of the Trinity. He has responded with other verses– verses which, he equally believes, “clearly disprove” the Trinity (such as John 14:28).

    Now, I could respond to my non-Trinitarian friend as you have responded to me, by table-pounding and insults– or, I could honestly try to engage him exegetically. I have chosen the latter path, and at this point, it has not, *thus far*, helped him to accept the doctrine of the Trinity as being a Biblical one– but is simply telling him that he is deceived and not following the self-evident teaching of Scripture going to help him see the truth? Of course, I know that, ultimately, *anyone* who comes to supernatural, saving faith in Christ comes to that faith through the grace of God and the work of Christ and the witness of the Holy Spirit, but good exegetical arguments can help. Table-pounding and insults likely will not help.

    On the matter of the Biblical canon, you mention the early Church Fathers including tens of thousands of quotes from Scripture in their writings. This is true, but it does not mean that the *entire Biblical canon*, as such, was *humanly settled* at the time of those early patristic writings. Of course, the canon was already settled in the mind of *God*, as He inspired Scripture infallibly, and He knows all things, including the contents of the canon, before those contents were ever even written– but it took centuries for the canon to be humanly settled by Christian leaders, as guided by the Holy Spirit, in the Catholic Church. That “human settling” of the Biblical canon happened at Church Councils in 382 A.D. (Pope Damasus presided over it) and 397 A.D.

    Also on the matter of the early Church Fathers’ extensive quoting from Scripture, they accept, as books of the Bible, books that Protestants do not accept. The canon that was approved at the Council in 397 A.D. includes the books that the Catholic Church still accepts today. It is a Protestant myth (that I accepted, myself, for years) that, at the Council of Trent, the Church somehow “added” books to the Biblical canon. The truth is that Martin Luther *removed* books from the Biblical canon, books that had been accepted since 397 A.D.– and even long before that, as is evidenced by the fact that Jesus, and His apostles, and the early Church Fathers *quote from* some of these books of the Bible… books that Luther, and today’s Protestants, following him (whether knowingly or unknowingly), do not accept.

  35. Jonathan – a general comment on your approach. I – like, I think, many other Catholic converts – find the most hurtful thing of all in dealing with our Protestant friends, the fact that so many of them appear simply unable to believe that we became Catholics because we believed the Catholic faith to be true and that God demanded of us our submission to the Catholic Church. My Reformed friends – those who have not, as some have, become Catholics – have said that I became a Catholic because of resentment against some in the Reformed Church; that I became a Catholic for the ‘bells and smells’ (a visit to our not-very-well-done local parish Mass would cure them of that!); that I became a Catholic for reasons unfathomable to them, but not because I believe it to be true. I am, some say, ‘wilfully self-deceived.’ I am, one said, a ‘high-handed traitor’ to God.

    What none will do is to interact regarding the actual reasons we became Catholic – I mean, the reasons that we think are why we became Catholic.

    You will find more profit, I believe, in dealing with people as though they were honest, as though they were not simply the dupes of some unacknowledge psychological force, as though they really meant what they said – that the Word of God, in the Bible, that the history of the early Church, that the Spirit of God in them, led them to the Catholic Church.

    jj

  36. Jonathan,

    You said: “…when one submits to a manmade authority that claims to be the only interpreter of scripture…”

    ME: You have submitted to a “manmade authority”; your own interpretation of the Bible. You do not believe in Scripture Alone, you believe in Scripture and your interpretation of it. You can stand up in a pulpit and tell me what the Bible says. I know what the Bible “says.” Any 12-year-old can tell me what the Bible SAYS. It’s when you start to tell me what the Bible “means” that you set yourself up as a teaching authority, a magisterium.

    You said (to Casey): “And yet every single one of those things that you listed that the early Christians had to come to grips with, were ALL in the scriptures of the Old Testament. They were ALL argued for and proven from the scriptures.”

    ME: One of those “things” mentioned by Casey is “…a religion that included Jews and Gentiles…”

    Please show me where in the Scriptures of the OT the Apostles found the truth that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised in order to become a follower of Christ.

    You said (to Christopher): “…Constantine tried to merge paganism with Christianity. True Christians resisted and stayed true to the faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    ME: Please provide historical evidence that:

    1) Constantine tried to merge paganism with Christianity.

    2) That there were “true Christians” who resisted.

    EJ

  37. Fr. Bryan O. (re #24)

    // A lot of commentors here have sacrificed an awful lot to become Catholic. Some lost their jobs as protestant clergy. Others lost friends. Others saw their relationship with their families suffer a bit. So coming here and inferring that they moved to Catholicism because it was easy (tickled their ears) is to trivialize a lot of seriously challenging things these converts have gone through. //

    No offence, but such an argument doesn’t really hold much weight. Take your statement and change the term “Catholic” to the term “atheist”, or “Mormon”, or “Muslim”, or “voodoo priest”. It could just as easily apply, but would you still say the same thing? If people lost their friends by embracing voodoo, how diplomatically neutral do you think Jesus would respond to them?

    The issue is not what people went through. I won’t deny that people may have suffered for their conversion to Roman Catholicism. But the issue is a person turning their back on the gospel of Jesus Christ to accept false teaching. Any empathy that I may have for specific pain someone here may have felt because of their conversion to Roman Catholicism is drowned out by the need to speak the truth in love – which sometimes hurts. Let’s be honest – there were likely some Judaizers who went through some difficult times and suffered some persecution when they returned to a belief of practicing salvation through the law. What was Paul’s response? Did he coddle them? No. He spoke the truth in love, pointing out their foolishness:

    Galatians 3:1–3 “1 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

    The tone of these verses is just as relevant to Roman Catholics today as the message is. Even more so to a community like those here, who claim to have come from a Christian background and then turned to Roman Catholicism. As Paul says, why are you leaving the truth of faith to attempt to perfect yourself by the flesh?

    Bryan Cross (re #30)

    // Could you specify exactly which “contradictions” you have in mind, and show how they are contradictions? //

    Well, Bryan, I fear this is simply going to explode the number of points I am having to respond to beyond a number of my capability, but I will give you an abbreviated answer that I trust will be sufficient to see what I mean. Here are just a few of the contradictions of the Roman Catholic Church, from vitally important core doctrines, down to seemingly trivial side issues that the Roman Catholic Church turns into large issues:

    1) The Issue of Justification by Faith – The Roman Catholic Church teaches that “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.” ( Council of Trent – Session 6, Canon 9) The apostle Paul says these very things in multiple places: Romans 3:28 “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”; Ephesians 2:8–9 “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”, and many others. So the Roman Catholic Church promotes one teaching in the bible, but the opposite teaching in it’s official decrees. Also, the Roman Catholic Church holds Paul up as a saint on the one hand, but pronounces anathema on him on the other hand, contradicting itself twice here.

    2) The Issue of Meriting Grace – The Roman Catholic Church teaches that “…we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life…” (Catechism 2027). The bible says that grace is not something that can be merited: Romans 11:6 “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”; Romans 4:4–5 “4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,” The Roman Catholic church promotes one teaching in the bible, but the opposite teaching in it’s official doctrine.

    3) The Primacy of Peter – The Roman Catholic Church teaches that “a primacy of jurisdiction over the whole church of God was immediately and directly promised to the blessed apostle Peter and conferred on him by Christ the Lord”; and “we promulgate anew the definition of the ecumenical council of Florence, which must be believed by all faithful Christians, namely that the apostolic see and the Roman pontiff hold a world-wide primacy, and that the Roman pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter, the prince of the apostles, true vicar of Christ, head of the whole church and father and teacher of all Christian people. To him, in blessed Peter, full power has been given by our Lord Jesus Christ to tend, rule and govern the universal church.”; and “if anyone says that blessed Peter the apostle was not appointed by Christ the Lord as prince of all the apostles and visible head of the whole church militant; or that it was a primacy of honour only and not one of true and proper jurisdiction that he directly and immediately received from our Lord Jesus Christ himself; let him be anathema” (First Vatican Council – Session 4, Chapters 1 and 3). However, the bible gives no such elevation of primacy to Peter. Peter himself is never seen elevating himself above the other apostles in any way in the bible. He specifically counts himself as only one among elders in 1 Peter 5:1, showing that he does not believe he holds any primacy. Paul shows in 2 Corinthians 11:5 and in two different places and situations in Galatians 2 that he does not consider Peter to have a place of primacy. Both Paul and James don’t show a position of primacy for Peter in Acts 15, nor does Peter exercise such. In Matthew 18, supposedly after Jesus had already promised Peter a position of primacy, the disciples ask Jesus about who is the greatest in heaven. Obviously, the disciples didn’t consider Peter to have a position of primacy, otherwise they would not have asked the question. So none of the apostles viewed Peter as having such a position of primacy, and neither did Peter himself. Yet the Roman Catholic Church states that this is a doctrine that “must be believed by all faithful Christians.” Thus, the Roman Catholic Church is denying that Peter and all the other apostles were “faithful Christians”. Not only that, the Roman Catholic Church states that those who deny Peter’s primacy are anathema – and thus the Roman Catholic Church places anathema upon all the apostles, including Peter.

    4) The Perpetual Virginity of Mary – The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary remained a virgin her entire life (Catechism 499, 500, 510, 721). Yet the bible clearly teaches that Mary had other children. Three of the gospel writers confirm it (Matthew 12:46-47, Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3, John 2:12, John 7:3-5). Luke, the only one who doesn’t confirm it in his gospel, confirms it in Acts 1:14. The apostle Paul confirms it in 1 Corinthians 9:5 and Galatians 1:19. Furthermore, Psalm 69 is identified as a Messianic prophecy in 4 different spots in the New Testament: by Jesus in John 2:16-17, referencing Psalm 69:9, which all his disciples recognized; by Jesus again in John 15:25, referencing Psalm 69:4, by a direct quote; in Matthew 27:34 & 48, referencing Psalm 69:21; and by Peter in Acts 1:20, referencing Psalm 69:25, again by a direct quote. So it is quite clear from multiple sources that all the disciples and Jesus Himself claim that Psalm 69 is prophetically referring to Jesus. And in Psalm 69:8 we have “I have become estranged from my brothers And an alien to my mother’s sons.” So Jesus himself, and all the disciples, are clearly claiming that, not only did Jesus have brothers, that they were Mary’s own sons. The prophecy in this verse is fulfilled in the gospel verses already mentioned above. The bible clearly, unequivocally teaches that Mary was not perpetually a virgin, multiple times over, in multiple places, in multiple ways, and in no way even hints about her perpetual virginity. Yet the Roman Catholic Church contradicts this by teaching Mary’s perpetual virginity as doctrine.

    5) The Immaculate Conception of Mary – The Roman Catholic Church teaches that “By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.” (Catechism 493), and “from the first instant of her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she remained pure from all personal sin throughout her life.” (Catechism 508). There are similar references in the Catechism 491 and 722. But the bible teaches that Mary was sinful. Even apart from clear doctrinal verses like Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, which would cover Mary, the bible also teaches that Mary herself knew she was sinful. She verbally confesses her need for a Saviour in Luke 1:47 “And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”. And in Luke 2:22-24 Mary’s actions confirm that she knew she was sinful. She attends the temple “to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” ” (Luke 2:24). This is a fulfillment of the need for a burnt offering and a sin offering, according to Leviticus 12:8. This is done specifically for atonement for the mother, and as such Mary is clearly acknowledging and admitting her own sin. So the bible teaches that Mary, by her words and her actions, knew she was sinful, and it also teaches by doctrinal statement that Mary was sinful. And yet the Roman Catholic Church contradicts this.

    Now, in each of these cases, I have only listed a couple of specific verses. There are much more, and when all are read and understood in context, the doctrines are immanently clear. I don’t have time to dive into thesis length argumentation on each of these, but the verses referenced are sufficient enough to prove the point made. The Roman Catholic Church contradicts itself on numerous issues, from the foundational gospel issues to otherwise irrelevant issues that it turns into large contradictions. There are just so many similar things like this that I find it so hard to believe that someone can spend years intently studying the bible and not see such glaringly obvious contradictions.

    Michael Liccione (re #31)

    // As a Catholic, I can and do fully subscribe to all that. So how can you say that Catholicism does not teach the Gospel? //

    If you truly subscribe to that, I find that wonderful. It makes me happy to hear that. But Roman Catholic doctrine does not subscribe to that. Roman Catholic doctrine claims that such a statement is not sufficient, and other things are necessary. They deny the effectiveness of such a statement, and they require more beyond the gospel of Christ. If you truly do subscribe to such a statement, I’m glad. However, you would be an anomaly in the Roman Catholic Church, and you would be at odds with Roman Catholic doctrine.

    // Although we agree that, if God the Son had not done what you describe, there would be no way for humanity to get right with God, the disagreement is about precisely what “getting right with God” consists in for the individual believer, and what comes after it for him. //

    As you say, that’s really the point. For the purposes of justification (i.e., salvation, attaining eternal life) there is nothing necessary that comes after this. God’s grace is sufficient, and mankind’s faith is sufficient. But the Roman Catholic Church denies these things are sufficient.

    // Like the Orthodox, we Catholics are synergists; you Reformed are monergists. //

    Once again, labels aside, I’ll stick with the bible. It teaches a monergistic theology, and God is a monergistic God.

    // All I shall point out is that our disagreeing with how you interpret one statement in your own summary of the Gospel hardly suffices to disqualify us as Christians. To imagine that it does would be the rankest sectarianism. //

    So, would the dozens and dozens of Roman Catholic anathemas, (which have condemned me to hell so many times over I have lost count), all based upon disagreeing with one certain statement of Roman Catholic doctrine, also be classed as rankest sectarianism?

  38. Benjamin (re #32)

    (Christopher, since I am responding directly to Benjamin here, I will occasionally refer to you in the third person. This isn’t meant to be demeaning in any way, it is simply for grammatical convenience in response to what Benjamin has written)

    // Seriously, you (think you) know that Christopher is aware that his reasoning is deceptive and he (Christopher) is still using it anyways? Just call him a lying knave and get it over with (I mean, you’ve accused him of knowing true reasoning yet still using deceitful reasoning, so I think Christopher’s being a lying knave is entailed by your accusation). Do you have any evidence whatsoever that Christopher knows that he’s using deceitful reasoning? If so, give it. If not (and you’re using rhetorical bluster) you’ve impugned Chris’ character and I think you owe him an apology. //

    First I would like to point out that my comments about Christopher using deceitful reasoning were narrowly focused on the one issue being addressed at that time – the issue of the phrase “faith alone” not appearing in the bible – and not in regards to his entire comments towards me.

    From Christopher’s multiple posts, he claims that he has spent much time studying the bible and vast amounts of biblical literature, both in reference to Catholicism and Reformed theology. He claims to have years of study on both sides of the issue. He claims to have reasoned with people about these issues from both sides. From this, I am willing to submit that he has a lot of theological knowledge, a lot of doctrinal knowledge, a lot of evangelistic knowledge and a lot of apologetic knowledge. He writes that way, and seems to have the background to back it up. So that’s the way I’m going to treat him.

    On the point at hand, Christopher was making an argument of the form “If the words of doctrine X aren’t stated in the bible explicitly, then it shouldn’t be held”. He is planting the seed that the phrase “faith alone” not being in the bible in a positive sense is important, and by the end of that paragraph, his argument is fully stated. The fact that justification by “faith alone” isn’t explicitly mentioned word for word in the bible means that it isn’t actually taught in the bible. This is a faulty argument, and I’m confident in my claim that anyone with Christopher’s background, level of study, and knowledge knows this. I clarified this by comparing the same formulation of argument in reference to the Trinity. “If the words of doctrine X (i.e., the word Trinity) aren’t stated in the bible explicitly, then it shouldn’t be held.” Now, I’m confident that Christopher can identify this as a faulty argument, and would know the proper way to respond. (I’d be shocked if he hasn’t come across this argument multiple times already) The word Trinity itself does not need to be explicitly included in the bible for the doctrine to be clearly taught. My point is simply that Christopher is doing this exact some thing with his argument for the phrase “faith alone”, and he should know it.

    It’s a faulty argument, and Christopher would never allow someone else to use it against him, so to try and use it here is intentionally using an argument that Christopher knows is fundamentally flawed. I consider that deceitful and underhanded.

    // You could do so privately, but since you publicly claimed that he knowingly uses deceitful reasoning, I think you at least owe him a public retraction of your claim, or you need to “put up your dukes” (i.e., provide some evidence to show that Christopher has knowingly used deceitful reasoning) //

    I feel I have provided more than sufficient evidence to show that Christopher would have known what he was doing. But in the spirit of good faith, I’ll put out a conditionally apology:

    Christopher, if you were unaware of the faulty reasoning behind arguments of this form, hadn’t encountered such arguments before or needed to defend against them, or didn’t make the connection from the general form of argument that is faulty to the specific argument which you made, and you honestly made the comments in good faith to attempt to make your point, then I apologize for claiming that you were using deceitful reasoning and were underhanded. If that is the case, I am sorry. Simply let me know if that is actually the case, and you have my humble apologies.

    // Dude (can I call you dude?), do you think Catholics are retards? //

    No – just mistaken. Sometimes willfully, many times not.

    // I mean, you know the list of people who exegete the Pauline epistles in a way consonant with Catholicism is significant, right? //

    And the list of people who exegete them in a way contrary to Roman Catholicism is also significant. The size of the list is irrelevant – truth is not decided by majority vote.

    // And that a nontrivial number of those persons weren’t idiots? Take St. Augustine, take Aquinas, take de Lubac, take Benedict the 16th, for crying out loud – none of these guys were idiots and they all found support for Catholicism (not Protestantism) in the Pauline epistles. //

    And yet a nontrivial number of those persons also wrote about and supported ideologies that are found in biblical Christianity and which are held in the core foundations of Protestant ideology – contrary to Roman Catholicism. Again, we could get into a quote war of the early church fathers, but it’s irrelevant. They are fallible, the bible is not.

    Take just a single example – the Doctrines of Grace that most people would call Calvinism (I’m not a fan of the term Calvinism, since he’s nowhere near the first to teach it – it could just as easily be called Jesusism or Paulism, since they both expounded on the topic quite a bit). St Augustine wrote extensively on the Doctrines of Grace and the issues of predestination, election, irresistible grace, total depravity, etc. Calvin quotes him constantly. These are decidedly non-Catholic doctrines, yet exegeted extensively by one of the early church fathers who is held up as an in-step Roman Catholic through and through.

    There are many other examples that we could find – for every Roman Catholic exegesis you can find from people throughout the ages, I could find opposite examples just as well. But as mentioned before, the first and final word is always going to be the word of God. Because it’s infallible, and those other people are not.

    // And you think all of these folks (and plenty more!) didn’t understand the “overwhelmingly obvious and self-evident teaching” of scripture? I hate to tell you, but when lots of smart people disagree with you, probably the best way out isn’t to imply that they’re too dumb (or biased) to understand the obvious self-evident teachings of scripture. Probably better to assume that what you thought was obvious and self-evident, in fact, isn’t quite so obvious and self-evident as you thought. //

    And yet the bible says that God allows, and even causes, a darkening of the mind of people on issues like this. He specifically says that some things that are clearly evident, people will still deny. I can have many people smarter than me tell me that the bible doesn’t teach a literal resurrection, or a 6 day creation, or a literal hell – when they start denying things that scripture clearly says, their intelligence becomes much less relevant.

    // That’s okay – that doesn’t mean they’re right and you’re wrong, fr’instance, but it does mean that you’d have to take Catholicism as an intellectually serious option. //

    I can’t take it as a seriously intellectual option for any number of reasons. One large one is that it is simply too self-contradictory, as I have outlined previously. To ignore such glaring contradictions, I would have to give up the intellectual side and submit to a manmade authority and put my trust in them instead of God. And for another reason, I’m not looking for the most intellectually serious option – my intellect is not the determiner of truth. God is.

    // But so long as you think your interpretation of scripture is obvious and self-evident, I’m wouldn’t be surprised if you concluded that everyone who disagreed with you was either ignorant or willfully deceptive. //

    I don’t set myself up as the final authority of biblical interpretation. And there are many things that I freely admit I don’t have a clue about. I’m single, not dating, not pursuing a relationship, and so I don’t really spend much time studying what the bible says about marriage and instructions for husbands or parents. If you asked me a question on those topics, I’d have little by way of a scriptural answer for you, and I’d barely begin to have an opinion. Those aren’t things I have studied, and as such have no interpretation of biblical passages on such texts.

    My comments about scripture being obvious and self-evident in this thread have specifically been geared mainly towards the issue of justification by faith alone and not by works added to it, and in minor ways to other various Roman Catholic doctrines as well. And on these issue, the bible is very obvious. Often overwhelmingly so.

    // You’ve alleged that there are contradictions between what Scripture teaches and what Catholicism teaches. If these contradictions are so obvious and self-evident as you think, it should take you about 15 seconds to blow Catholicism out of the water. //

    Well, probably more than 15 seconds, since the Roman Catholic Church has had literally centuries to build up a fortress of arguments supporting their doctrines! But as per your request, I have already provided 5 abbreviated arguments above showing clear contradictions.

    // I would suspect that the Bible does not, in fact, obviously and self-evidently teach X while Catholicism teaches ~X; rather, your interpretation of the Bible teaches X and the Catholic interpretation of the Bible teaches ~X, and you think the correctness of your interpretation is obvious and self-evident.//

    But this can be claimed by anyone for any reason for anything. I could claim that the bible says Jesus died on a cross, and you could claim that’s just my interpretation. You could claim it’s not obvious and self-evident. You may laugh at that, but that’s precisely the argument a Muslim would put forth – Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, that’s only our interpretation. Or I could claim the bible obviously teaches that God exists, but an atheist would just say that’s my interpretation, and it’s not obvious, because God is really just a metaphor for the sun, or for knowledge, or for existence itself. But this just destroys all level of communication and knowledge on the subject. It makes a mockery of the concept of something being obvious.

    I guess ultimately it comes down to each person’s standard of what ‘obvious’ means.

    // But then you’ll have to explain why your interpretation is obviously and self-evidently true and the Catholic one isn’t – and if you have to explain something which is (purportedly) self-evident, I’m pretty sure that means it ain’t self-evident, or at least it ain’t self-evident to us. //

    Not being self-evident to a set group of people does not mean that it’s not actually self-evident. As mentioned previously, the bible itself says that people can suppress the truth on some issues, even when the truth is actually self-evident.

  39. Casey

    (re #33)

    // I don’t want you to be overwhelmed by comments from too many angles at once or as if you’re being “ganged up on.” //

    No worries – though I fear I may have already done that to myself here!

    // I was simply requesting an explanation for why you find Catholicism to not be in accordance with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and why you find your own tradition, which I presume to be Protestant, to be in accordance with Christ. //

    I’ve clarified this in other posts a fair bit by now, I think. If you still feel that I haven’t, please feel free to ask me to expand further more specifically.

    // As for my decision to convert to Catholicism while in Thailand – the location of my decision was more anecdotal than anthing else. I did not find any appeal in Buddhism at that time, nor do I now. //

    Although this may be true, I don’t think it is something that you should take as lightly as you seem to. Spiritual warfare is a very serious thing, and Satan and his demonic forces are alive and well just as much today as they were in the New Testament times. I have read numerous, well documented encounters of demonic influence that came about from such seemingly harmless and insignificant encounters. And I have had the unfortunate experience of witnessing such things firsthand, involving people that I knew quite well. I’ve read things like a 12 year old who had her palm read at a county fair and from that point on suffered horrific migraines for the next 20+ years of her life, or a woman who watched a documentary about aliens and became intrigued by them, and then started having visits from ‘aliens’ who convinced her to join a cult. In situations like this, the demonic influence may be extreme, but in other cases in may be quite minor, just a slight nudge. But it shows how simple and innocent an initial influence can be, and yet how profound the final result can be.

    As such, whether you meant it or not, I think exposing oneself to such areas of influence, especially when contemplating spiritual things and thus being more open to spiritual influence, is a much more dangerous thing that most people imagine. For example, all you need to do is read some of the works by someone like Neil T Anderson or Gary Bates to see how simple and subtle such demonic influences can be.

    I’m not trying to scare you with this – it’s just one of those things that jumps out of your story. You mentioned it in passing, and you still don’t think it’s a big deal, and yet it seemed to be the time when you had your turning point, and well, I guess I’ll just leave it at that.

    // Hopefully, like me, you believe God is powerful enough that the Holy Spirit could move any man’s heart, at any place or time, to deeper understandings of the gospel, Jesus Christ, or the Church. There are probably much worse places in this world where people have had some powerful spiritual Christian experience. //

    This is absolutely true. Jesus can save anyone at any time in the middle of any situation. But that doesn’t mean we should actively go out and open ourselves up to situations that we should otherwise know are ungodly.

    // So you are left trusting those who have made those decisions. So why do you trust certain scholars, and not others? //

    To dig into the answer to this question would likely get quite deep, and I simply don’t have the time at the moment. Ultimately, I trust the Holy Spirit. He can and has used many people throughout the ages for many things. But Jesus says His sheep hear and recognize His voice. The word of God is self-attesting on it’s own authority, and this is confirmed to believers by the Holy Spirit within them.

    // I would encourage you to read the Catholic Catechsim 817-822, which summarizes very briefly how the Catholic Church views Protestants. //

    But this does little to help. First, it still identifies that heresies must be distinguished from unity, and the Roman Catholic Church still has on the books as official doctrine that many Christian doctrines, which many Protestant churches hold to, are heresies, such as justification by faith alone and not works, or the denial of baptismal regeneration. The anathemas pronounced by the Council of Trent are still held as irreformable doctrine, regardless of what the Catechism says here – Trent was affirmed as recent as the Vatican II council, where Pope John XXIII stated “I do accept entirely all that has been decided and declared at the Council of Trent.” So the Roman Catholic Church still anathematizes those who claim that justification by faith alone and not with the addition of works.

    Second, point 816 immediately proceeding states “For it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained”. So regardless of any ecumenical statements in 817-822, the Roman Catholic Church is still saying that ‘you can’t actually completely have salvation unless you come to us’.

    // I would humbly disagree that uniquely Catholic teachings cannot be found in the Old and New Testament. Such doctrines as purgatory, the priesthood, the Eucharist, and many others can be found in the scriptures. //

    Not to open up even more points to completely explode this conversation, but this simply isn’t true. There is nothing in the Old or New Testament that talks about purgatory at all (without committing serious linguistic gymnastics and eisegesis of the highest order) and there is much in the bible that specifically denies the doctrine of purgatory. The priesthood of the Old Testament is specifically abolished in the New Testament under the New Covenant. It existed in the Old Testament to point to Christ, and He fulfilled it’s purpose. This can be see through the tearing of the veil upon His death, through many teachings in the writings of Paul. In fact, the entire book of Hebrews systematically destroys the concept of a continuing priesthood under the New Covenant. As for the Eucharist, although there is some discussion in the New Testament which can support it, the language used in clearly symbolic, and is specifically identified as such by Jesus Himself, along with others such as Matthew and Paul, and implicitly by Peter and James.

    Such Roman Catholic doctrines as those you’ve listed really don’t come from the scriptures, but come from the ‘authority’ of the Roman Catholic Church, and are then read back into the scriptures. But I doubt that’s a point we’d ever agree upon, since I can only assume that you actually accept the authority of the Roman Catholic Church to do that anyway.

  40. Christopher

    (re #34)

    // Jonathan, I note, with interest, as Benjamin also noted, that you spend some time in your comment making the emphatic points that I am, supposedly, knowingly using deceitful reasoning, being underhanded, //

    As I mentioned to Benjamin above, I have clarified that these comments apply only to the specific point you were making in the argument at hand at that time. I have explained and expanded upon my comments above in my response to Benjamin. Also, I have asked for clarification of your point, and put a conditional apology out there if you were not acting in the way that it strongly seemed you were.

    // and not following the self-evident teaching of Scripture. //

    This is a point I will continue to stand upon, as any Roman Catholic who whole heartedly accepts the Roman Catholic Church’s authoritative doctrine accepts teachings which do not follow various self-evident teachings of Scripture.

    // so much so that I admit, with regret, that some of my exegetical arguments may have helped some Catholics to leave the Church and become Protestants. Of course, you would think this to be a good thing //

    Yes, I will freely admit to smiling with joy as I read this. It warms my heart immensely anytime I hear about someone accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    // although, according to your statements about me, it also seems that you would virtually have to believe that, in these situations, God was using a knowingly deceitful person (i.e. me) who didn’t *really* believe Reformed theology to argue *for* Reformed theology, *from* the Scriptures, so as to lead Catholics and others to “Sola Fide,” and to the other aspects of Reformed theology! //

    And I would have no problem with this, since Paul himself says in Philippians 1:15-18 that, even if people preach the gospel with a less than stellar motive, that mattered not to him. If the truth is preached, he’s happy. And that makes sense – God would deal with those in verse 15 who preach out of envy and strife, and He would use the truth that is spoken for His good purposes. I have no doubt that there have been times and places in this world where even atheists have read the bible in order to mock it, and someone has heard it and God has opened their heart from that hearing to move them to faith in Him. God is truly a remarkable, fantastic God who does amazing things, and there are as many unique ways that He has saved people as there are people saved.

    // when you are dealing with a person who used to hold your views, every bit as passionately as you now hold them!), your reasoning that I am *now* engaging in knowing deceit and not following the self-evident of Scripture is, simply, problematic. //

    Again, this is only in reference to that one point you were making, and I have clarified the issue above.

    // Of course, I know that, ultimately, *anyone* who comes to supernatural, saving faith in Christ comes to that faith through the grace of God and the work of Christ and the witness of the Holy Spirit, but good exegetical arguments can help. Table-pounding and insults likely will not help. //

    Your example is valid, yet I don’t believe it precludes ‘table pounding’, since there is a biblical model for such ‘table pounding’. The Old Testament prophets did this all the time, Jesus pronounced many woes and warned the Pharisees on many occasions, and Paul used strong language in his letters to point out errors to Christians. I’m happy to follow their examples.

    But at the same time, I’m not simply table pounding here. I’ve provided quite lengthy explanations at times here, and a fair bit has actually been ignored. In fact, I provided a large number of verses, from various locations in the bible, supporting the doctrine of justification by faith alone and denying the addition of works as necessary for salvation. And yet, here I am right now, in the middle of responding to 7 different commenters, some of which wrote quite lengthy replies, and yet it appears not one of those responses wanted to address those numerous bible passages I posted.

    // but it took centuries for the canon to be humanly settled by Christian leaders, as guided by the Holy Spirit, in the Catholic Church. That “human settling” of the Biblical canon happened at Church Councils in 382 A.D. (Pope Damasus presided over it) and 397 A.D.//

    First, nothing had to be “humanly settled”, only humanly recognized by the confirmation of the Holy Spirit. You present a false need for a human authority to confirm what God has already declared. That’s extremely dangerous ground to be treading.

    Second, as mentioned, there is substantial evidence that the 27 book New Testament was widely accepted about 200 years before the councils you mentioned, making the Roman Catholic argument about ‘giving us the bible’ entirely irrelevant, again.

    Third, the councils you mentioned were not councils of the entire Roman Catholic Church, and as such didn’t have authority over the entire Roman Catholic Church, and as such were not binding on the entire Roman Catholic Church. The declaration of the council in Carthage in 397 even included the caveat that their pronouncement upon the canon required confirmation by the church in Rome. That confirmation did not finally come until the council of Trent – the first time the Roman Catholic Church made a complete, authoritative, binding, church-wide declaration upon which books should be in the Roman Catholic bible. The details of the true story of the Roman Catholic bible are not as pretty and neatly wrapped up as the Roman Catholic Church likes people to believe.

    // It is a Protestant myth (that I accepted, myself, for years) that, at the Council of Trent, the Church somehow “added” books to the Biblical canon. //

    As just mentioned, it is a Roman Catholic myth that the Roman Catholic Church had an authoritative, church-wide, binding declaration of the canon prior to the Council of Trent. So it’s not an issue as to who added or subtracted what – the Roman Catholic Church didn’t have a binding decree of what the canon was up until that point. That’s why John of Damascus could write in the 8th century that the canon did not include the Apocrypha, but did include the canons of Clement – there was no binding decree. Once that decree came, then, as the Roman Catholic Church often does, people simply went back to find evidence to support the doctrine, and hence the constant pointing to the councils of Rome in 382, Hippo in 393, and Carthage in 397.

    But once again, we don’t even need to look at the Protestant side of things. Let’s just look at the early Christian Church, for which we’ve already seen there is significant support that they had and used the entire New Testament long before the Roman Catholic Church came along and tried to make an authoritative decree. From the first and second century writers alone, hundreds of years before any council got around to making a pronouncement on the issue, there are enough quotes from the New Testament by church fathers that, even if every copy of the bible we’ve ever had went missing, we could reconstruct the New Testament word for word almost in it’s entirety – missing only 17 verses. That alone is enough support to show that the New Testament was widely known as, and widely used as, scripture long before any human council tried to claim the ability to make an authoritative declaration on the issue.

    // as is evidenced by the fact that Jesus, and His apostles, and the early Church Fathers *quote from* some of these books of the Bible //

    Quite frankly, Jesus and the apostles don’t quote from those books. Every time the New Testament writers quote from the Old Testament it is either exact word for word, or only has a very slight adjustment for what would have been a translation or semantic issue. But every time someone has shown me a verse that they claim is a quote from the Apocryphal books, it’s nowhere near close enough to be considered legitimate. It’s either at least half different, or too short to be considered anything more than coincidental. Calling it a quote is so arbitrary that such a method could be used to claim that Jesus at one point quotes Aristotle, or even Euclid’s Elements!

    But even still, a New Testament writer quoting a source does not mean that it is scripture, otherwise our bible is missing out on a book of Enoch and some Greek poetry.

  41. John Thayer Jensen

    (re #35)

    // Jonathan – a general comment on your approach…..…..What none will do is to interact regarding the actual reasons we became Catholic – I mean, the reasons that we think are why we became Catholic. You will find more profit, I believe, in dealing with people as though they were honest, as though they were not simply the dupes of some unacknowledge psychological force, as though they really meant what they said – that the Word of God, in the Bible, that the history of the early Church, that the Spirit of God in them, led them to the Catholic Church. //

    I have addressed this to some extent elsewhere, but I will expand a bit further here. First, I will sadly agree with you that many people may write you off without dealing with you in any viable manner, let alone on the details of ‘actual reasons you became Catholic’. But your comment unfortunately presupposes a Catholic approach to begin with. In effect, it is as if you are asking me to approach you the way you want me to, instead of the way God would have me do so.

    To take it away from the personal, and view it in a third party paradigm, let’s look at the example I mentioned before about atheism. Let’s suppose I have a good friend named Steve who used to casually go to a Baptist church. Then he tells me one day that he has left his church and become an atheist. He says he doesn’t believe that God exists. He’s become convinced that the big bang theory is true, evolution is true, there is a naturalistic explanation for everything and he just doesn’t see evidence for God, but he does see evidence against God’s existence.

    How should I approach Steve? He claims to only accept things on the basis of evidence. He wants me to give him evidence that God exists. He claims that he doesn’t believe in God and can’t believe in God until he has enough evidence that God exists. What approach should I take? Should I accept him on his word? Should I believe his reasons?

    Here’s my dilemma. The bible makes it quite clear that everyone knows God exists. God says in Romans 1 that He has made His existence so self-evident that everyone knows it. He says in Romans 2 that every has a conscience that confirms His moral law. So, Steve tells me that he DOESN’T believe God exists. God tells me that Steve DOES believe He exists. Who’s word do I take?

    I could take Steve’s word, and approach him on his own terms, and try to prove to him that God exists. I could use some natural theology, appeal to design, or causality, or moral objectivity. I could appeal to Steve’s reasoning and his ethics. But all the time I’m doing that, I’m denying what God says about Steve. I’m giving into Steve’s false claim about himself that he doesn’t know God exists.

    Instead, I think it would be much more God honouring to accept what God says about Steve, and approach Steve on God’s terms. I think it to be a much better approach to, instead of trying to prove to Steve that God exists, simply shine a light on the fact that Steve already knows God exists. Appeal to the truth that God declares in his word that Steve already knows God exists. I think the most God honouring approach would be to show Steve that he knows God exists simply by the way he interacts with God’s creation, by his own reasoning reflecting the image of God, and his own conscience confirms the existence of God’s moral law. God says that his law is a tutor to lead us to Christ, so I should use Steve’s own conscience to show him he needs repentance. And God says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, so I should share the gospel with him to bring him to faith.

    I think that’s the best way to approach someone like Steve. That’s not to say I shouldn’t address him where he is. I should be willing to answer questions that he has and I should deal with issues he brings up. But I should never waver from the truth that Steve knows God exists and I should constantly come back to this point, approaching him from God’s point of view.

    Now, let’s bring it back to your comment here. I’m happy to discuss certain issues that people say led them to leave a Reformed church and enter the Roman Catholic Church. But ultimately I’m going to approach if from the same type of biblical viewpoint. The bible talks about people who leave a Christian belief of faith to pursue salvation by works. I would consider this an almost exact parallel to leaving a Reformed church to enter the Roman Catholic Church. The bible presents some underlying reasons as to why this may happen. Paul addresses this in Galatians 3 and asks “Who has bewitched you?”. He’s wanting to know why people have gone after other teachers who didn’t teach the gospel of faith that he originally taught them.

    So when I’m talking to someone who used to be in a Reformed church, but has entered Roman Catholicism, I’m going to consider such reasons as underlying causes, just like Paul did in the bible. I understand that people on the receiving end may not find it the most useful for them, but on my end I’m trying to approach it as best as I can in line with God’s word.

    Hopefully that clarifies things a little as for where I am coming from. I won’t pretend to speak for others who approach you the way you mentioned – I have no doubt some probably don’t have good intentions, but some probably do.

  42. EJ Cassidy

    (re #36)

    // You have submitted to a “manmade authority”; your own interpretation of the Bible. //

    I’m not sure if you are getting the point about the self-attesting authority of the word of God, and the confirming witness of the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus said, I want to read it and hear His voice and know it and follow Him. That’s not “trying to interpret it by oneself”, that’s “trying to listen to what God says and confirms”.

    // You do not believe in Scripture Alone, you believe in Scripture and your interpretation of it. //

    I’m also not sure if you understand the concept of scripture alone. It’s not that scripture is the only authority, it’s better understood as being the final authority. It is the only authority that is objectively infallible, and it is the measuring rod by which everything else must be tested. Including any interpretation I ever have of it.

    It has this quality due to the very nature of what it is – the word of God. God’s very words are self-attesting truth upon their own authority, and need no other authority to authenticate them. And when God wants His word to get through, it gets through. “My sheep hear my voice.”

    // It’s when you start to tell me what the Bible “means” that you set yourself up as a teaching authority, a magisterium. //

    First, much of it, including all the major doctrines, are simple enough that they ‘mean’ what they say, and say what they ‘mean’. Second, Jesus Himself encourages study of the scriptures to know what they mean, as do Paul, Peter, and Luke in their various writings. And third, I’ll be completely honest with you – feel free to deny that I have any teaching authority or self-magisterium. In essence, don’t believe a word I say. I have no such authority. But I would encourage you to take everything I might say and compare it to what the bible says. It is the authority, and you should compare any teaching or doctrine to what is in the scriptures. “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;”

    // One of those “things” mentioned by Casey is “…a religion that included Jews and Gentiles…Please show me where in the Scriptures of the OT the Apostles found the truth that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised in order to become a follower of Christ. //

    Well, I was only talking about what Casey said, “a religion that included Jews and Gentiles”. So allow me to answer that first. This teaching can be found in: Genesis 22:18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”; Hosea 1:10 “Yet the number of the sons of Israel Will be like the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered; And in the place Where it is said to them, “You are not My people,” It will be said to them, “You are the sons of the living God.””; Hosea 2:23 “I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!’ ”; Isaiah 52:15 “Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand.” There are many other places in Isaiah, as well as Jeremiah and some of the other prophets. More than enough to confirm this fact.

    As for the question of Gentiles not being circumcised, I’ll let Paul handle that one directly. He quotes the Old Testament in support of this in Romans 4:9-12. He also makes the point in Galatians chapter 2 through chapter 3, but it is in a round about way: basically you can follow the concept of circumcision from the beginning of chapter 2 through the conflict in the last half of chapter 2, up through to the beginning of chapter 3 where Paul is quoting the Old Testament in regards to being justified by faith or works of the law.

    // Please provide historical evidence that: 1) Constantine tried to merge paganism with Christianity. 2) That there were “true Christians” who resisted. //

    This would take more time that I have at the moment, and as you can maybe see, I’ve just spent many hours responding to many questions on here. But there has been much research done in this area, comparing New Testament Christianity to the writings of the church fathers through the second, third and fourth centuries. It’s not hard to find.

    To give you a couple of very brief quick points, we can see it in the title given to the pope, Pontifex Maximus, which was the title of the pagan priests of Rome prior to Constantine’s conversion. There is much of Mariology that stems from Isis in Egypt, including titles like Queen of Heaven and Mother of God. Much of early Mariology comes from church writings in Alexandria, Egypt. There are the merged holidays, like the selection of December 25th, a previous pagan holiday, as the celebration of the birth of Jesus. And there are others too. The very fact that there were constant schisms in the early centuries after Constantine shows that there were Christians who resisted the rise of the Roman Catholic Church. For some interesting and enlightening reading on the subject, I could provide you some book titles. You almost certainly wouldn’t like them, though.

    But ultimately, there’s a bigger point here. Why do you require ‘historical’ evidence? What authority does ‘historical’ evidence have? Who grants it that authority?

  43. Jonathan (#37):

    Most of what you’ve said in criticism of my #31 consists of giving your theological opinions. In a couple of respects, those opinions are premised on misunderstandings of Catholicism. For example, the “anathemas” pronounced by Catholic general councils do not “damn” anybody to hell. What they do is turn over to Satan for chastisement those among the baptized who, under the authority of the Church and fully understanding her solemnly proclaimed doctrine, nevertheless reject it. But I have found that most Protestants are like you: They don’t fully understand said teaching, and cannot in any case be presumed blameworthy for rejecting it, because they were formed in some established tradition premised on rejecting it, and thus can’t be held fully accountable for rejecting it.

    But all that is ultimately secondary. As I’ve long argued, the primary issue in these debates is about which principled means to adopt for distinguishing between the content and proper interpretation of the “deposit of faith” on the one hand, and mere theological opinions on the other. It only begs the question to assume that the correct answers to such questions as what counts as Scripture, whether Scripture is in fact divinely inspired and thus inerrant, and how Scripture is to be interpreted are somehow obvious or otherwise to be taken for granted by everybody. But you just assume that you already know the correct answers. Thus you beg the question.

    If you want to have a genuine dialogue, as distinct from just a polemical exchange that drains energy while persuading nobody, I suggest that you concede your answers are not obvious and require defense, even if they happen to be true. You have not yet achieved that level of critical reflection. So far, all you’ve expressed is one set of opinions among many others within various Christian traditions, and uncritically assumed that they are identical with the content of the deposit of faith. Until you understand why that is insufficient even in principle, your participation here will be fruitless for all concerned.

    Best,
    Mike

  44. Hi Jonathan (re: #39),

    Appreciate the quick feedback. I think your comments in a number of your responses certainly demonstrate that you’ve put a lot of effort and study into the issues regarding Protestantism and Catholicism. I think I’ll put aside the topic of the geographic location of my conversion and focus on your latter comments on the canon, Catholic teaching on Protestant communities, and the scriptural basis for uniquely Catholic doctrines such as purgatory, the priesthood, the Eucharist, etc.

    In re: to various scholarly approaches to the canon, bibilical texts, etc. – if I’m reading you correctly, your response is essentially that the Holy Spirit will make known to the individual believer what is true scripture, and what is not, and that the true sheep will hear Christ’s voice authentically in His Word. But doesn’t this only beg the question? You are quoting here from John 10, but what is your basis for even believing the gospel of John to be scripture? Is it simply that the Holy Spirit told you so? What about John 8:1-11, which many evangelical and Reformed scholars no longer believe is authentic scripture because it does not appear in the earliest manuscripts? Do you believe this to be scripture, or are you willing to accept Protestant scholars’ determination of what is scripture based on chronology of manuscripts? If the latter, then you have decided to use historical chronology as a determinant for what is or isn’t scripture, which is an imperfect science, and subject to further archaeological discoveries that may further change what is deemed authentic scripture! If it is the former, this seems to amount to a paradigm akin to the Mormon “burning in the bosom,” where one is encouraged to read the Book of Mormon and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to that person whether or not the collection of books is indeed the Word of God. This is an entirely subjective enterprise, with no effective means of arbitration. Or consider: what if I tell you that when I read Wisdom of Solomon, found in the Deuterocanonical books of the Catholic Bible, particularly the block quote in my original article, Wisdom 2:12-20, that the Holy Spirit attests to me that this is indeed the inspired Word of God? You may read the same verses and say, “no it aint.” Who will arbitrate between us in any meaningful way? We are left with “my Holy Spirit” versus “your Holy Spirit.” You seem to believe that God sovereignly ensured the infallible compilation of the Protestant canon, but what basis do you have for this presumption?

    In ref. to Catholic teaching on Protestant communities – you seem to be equating a Catholic anathema or formal declaration of heresy with some sort of papal decree declaring one’s final status as hell. But these are not the same. The Catholic Church has throughout history formally decreed many things to be heresy: monophysism, Nestorianism, etc.; Lutheran conceptions of justification simply join the list of many other heresies. Those in the Catholic Church who preached such things were formally excommunicated and were no longer in communion with the Church. This is not the same thing as condemning them to hell, nor is it claiming they are in no sense Christian. The Church has no list of “heretics in hell,” because the anathema is a tool of church discipline, a handing over of one to Satan in the hope of their repentence (1 Cor 5:5), not a determination of one’s final spiritual state. You are right to say that the Council of Trent is still considered wholly true doctrine by the Catholic Church. But Trent is just as much a historical document that needs to be understood as speaking to a particular group of people – i.e. those within the Catholic Church who sought to teach doctrines formally deemed by the Church as heresy (e.g. justification by grace through faith alone). A 21st century Protestant cannot be anathematized from what he or she was never part of. Neither are such Protestants, whose understanding or relationship to Catholicism is informed by what their parents, local church, or favorite Protestant literature, held accountable in the same way as someone who, teaching or worshipping within the Church, knows what the Church teaches, and actively seeks to undermine Catholic doctrine by believing or teaching heresy. This is explained briefly in CCC 817-818.

    Also, I think you’ve misinterpreted CCC 816, which says that the “fullness of the means of salvation” rests in the Catholic Church alone. This does not mean, as you interpret it to mean, that someone can’t “actually completely have salvation.” CCC 816 teaches that the means of salvation are found most perfectly in the Catholic Church, not that anyone outside of the Church has no access to salvation. Those means are simply most fully available in Catholicism. It is a nature of degree. Salvation is most perfectly found in the Church because that is where Christ is most fully available, especially in the sacraments; not because Christ is not available in Protestant communities. Indeed, Christ can be found in Protestant communities through scripture and interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, so much so that the Church teaches these communities can be “means of salvation”! (CCC 819).

    Finally, in ref. to uniquely Catholic teachings that are found in scripture, you have engaged in several acts of “hand waving,” such , “there is nothing in the Old or New Testament that talks about purgatory at all,” “the entire book of Hebrews systematically destroys the concept of a continuing priesthood under the New Covenant,” and that the language used to describe the Eucharist is “clearly symbolic.” I appreciate that you believe these assertions to be true, but simply saying so does little to strengthen your case. I alternatively find the scriptural evidence for these uniquely Catholic doctrines to be very persuasive. However, there are other articles on CTC that more appropriately engage these topics that might be better suited to that discussion than this forum. One resource that was incredibly helpful to me during my transition to Catholicism was “Answering Common Objections” by Scott Hahn, a six cd-set regarding the biblical basis for purgatory, the Eucharist, Marian devotion, the Pope, etc. I’d mail you my copy, but I just gave it to a friend who is leaving evangelicalism for Catholicism.

    God bless,

    Casey

  45. Jonathan (#41
    FWIW, I wonder whether Steve is still listening to you after you tell him that, as God does, indeed, say, Steve knows enough about God to be condemned. You might think to ask Steve why he had abandoned faith. I think, if Steve were at all interested in talking to me, I would be inclined to talk to him about his basic presuppositions – in this case, that reason and experience (what he would call ‘evidences’) can lead to the truth. If they can – then, I would argue, the very validity of his reason and his experience presuppose God. If he says that, of course, his brain being the product of randomness, there is no reason to be certain that his thought can lead to the truth – then I would point out that even his belief in evolution, etc, cannot rest on anything. He needs to be pointed to a desire for truth.

    But I am well aware that many Steves have been thus challenged to no effect. I would then pray for Steve.

    If I were to be involved with a discussion with you, I think I would start by asking you for the foundation on which rests your apparent belief in the inspiration, and, thus, inerrancy, of the Bible – and to argue that this belief, with which I agree, presupposes the Catholic Church.

    I did just think it worth pointing out that, instead of simply coming to a blog where argumentation, in the best sense of the word, is the norm – that is, presentation of reasons, discussion of their validity, etc – and, instead, simply declaring the truth as you see it, and bemoaning the state of those who don’t see it the same way – that such an approach is unlikely to be helpful.

    jj

  46. Jonathan,
    I have but one comment to make based on my own past experience. You mentioned in #21 that you have been studying Catholicism for 4 months in the context of witnessing to a coworker. I once did similar things and my reading consisted of Protestant writings about Catholicism, often writings of a virulently anti-Catholic nature. I was happy to be armed with “facts” about Scripture and history with which I thought I could easily overcome any arguments from my Catholic friends. I spoke freely about the early church fathers and “what Catholics believe” even though I personally had never actually read the church fathers nor had I ever actually read what Catholics believe from a first-hand Catholic perspective. I trusted my Protestant teachers and the books that they authored.

    Much of what you say in your subsequent comments about history, about the writings of the fathers, about Trent, etc all sound very much like the standard anti-Catholic texts I once read avidly. The problem is that upon actually deciding to read history, Trent, the early church fathers, etc myself first-hand, I very quickly realized that virtually everything I thought was true and obvious about Catholicism and its history was not only wrong but grossly wrong. I am not accusing you of not reading the original texts….I am simply saying that from my own experience, if one does not do so, one can come away with a highly skewed view of reality that leads to strawman arguments against beliefs one’s opponents don’t hold as well as a highly skewed view of history that is primarily “spin” rather than “fact.” It took me years (not months) of study in primary sources to unlearn what I had learned so I would just encourage you to make sure you read about Catholicism, history, the church fathers, Trent, etc first hand and take your time doing so.

    Best to you,
    Jeff

  47. Jonathan,

    At the link provided from The Gospel Coalition, I had a conversation, not long, a few exchanges between myself (god seeker) and a Protestant on the issue of justification. I urge you to read. You can respond here or at my email erickybarra2010@gmail.com

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/02/11/9-things-you-should-know-about-pope-benedict-xvi/?comments#comments

  48. Jonathan, (re: #37)

    Thanks for your reply. Let’s consider those five alleged contradictions, one at a time.

    First, you claim that there is a contradiction between Trent Session 6 Can. 9 and Scripture, namely (Rom 3:28, and Eph 2:8-9). But there is no contradiction. Trent Session 6 Canon 9 is condemning the notion that nothing at all is required on the part of the Catechumen to prepare to receive the grace of justification at baptism, that he need not repent of his sins or pray or love God or resolve to seek baptism. St. Paul, however, in Romans 3:28 is not speaking of what is required to prepare to receive the grace of justification in baptism, but of the impossibility of justification by works done apart from grace. Likewise, what Trent says about the necessity of preparing to receive the grace of justification in baptism is fully compatible with the truth St. Paul teaches in Ephesians 2:8-9, according to which saving faith is a gift from God, and not from ourselves, and that saving faith is not merited by works. So both of those passages are fully compatible with what Trent Session 6 Canon 9 says. And this also shows why your claim that the Catholic Church anathematizes St. Paul is incorrect.

    Second, you claim that the Catechism’s claim (CCC 2027) about the possibility of meriting grace contradicts Romans 11:6 and Romans 4:4-5. In these verses in Romans St. Paul is speaking of dead works, i.e. works done apart from grace. In this particular context he is teaching that no one is justified merely by following the Jewish law, without grace. God has not rejected the Jews. But merely carrying out the Jewish law is not sufficient for salvation; the remnant are (as always) those who have been given grace. Likewise, in Romans 4:4-5 St. Paul is speaking of works-done-apart-from-faith. But when the Catechism speaks of the possibility of meriting grace, it is referring only to works done in a state of grace, by those having living faith. So there is no contradiction between what the Catechism says, and what St. Paul is teaching in these verses. I’ve written a post on the subject of merit titled “The Doctrine of Merit: Feingold, Calvin, and the Church Fathers,” which addresses this objection in much more detail.

    Third, you claim that the Catholic Church teaches a particular primacy concerning St. Peter, and “that the bible gives no such elevation of primacy to Peter.” Even if that were the case, that is not a contradiction. The Catholic paradigm is not based on “sola scriptura,” but draws from both Scripture and Tradition, as explained in David Anders’ post “On the Usefulness of Tradition: A Response to Recent Objections,” and in the section titled “VIII. Scripture and Tradition” in my reply to Michael Horton’s final comment in our Modern Reformation dialogue. So the “that’s not in the Bible, therefore it is false” criticism is question-begging, by presupposing sola scriptura. And the examples of St. Peter’s humility (e.g. referring to himself as a fellow elder, and receiving St. Paul’s rebuke) are fully compatible with his having received the keys of the Church from Jesus, and the full authority of those keys. St. Peter’s having stewardship of the keys does not make him incapable of being rightly rebuked, and so is fully compatible with St. Paul’s actions in Antioch. And St. James’s statements at the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 are fully compatible with Petrine primacy, because St. James was the bishop of Jerusalem, and Petrine primacy is fully compatible with the Catholic principle of subsidiarity. Similarly, the disciple’s question in Mt. 18 regarding who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is fully compatible with Peter’s having received the authority of the keys, for many reasons, one of which being that it is quite possible that at that time they did not understand the meaning of Jesus’s statement to St. Peter, and for another, their question may have been provoked by Jesus’s act in Matthew 16. So all the evidence you put forward is compatible with the truth of the Catholic teaching concerning Petrine primacy. In addition, however, there is a good deal of evidence in Scripture for Peter’s primacy, as Steve Ray lays out in his book Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church, and as shown here.

    Fourth, you claim that the Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary is contrary to Matthew 12:46-47, 13:55, Mark 6:3, John 2:12, John 7:3-5, Acts 1:14, 1 Cor 9:5, Gal 1:19, and Psalm 69. But the terms translated there as ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ have a broader semantic extension than do the terms ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ in English, and can refer to half-brothers/sisters or cousins. (See, for example, Gen. 14:14, 29:15, Lev. 10:4, 2 Sam. 1:26; Amos 1:9) So for that reason alone none of the passages to which you refer here are incompatible with the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity. You referred to Galatians 1:19, which speaks of “James the Lord’s brother,” as evidence of the falsehood of the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity. But this James (i.e. James the lesser) was the son of Mary the wife of Clopas (John 19:25, Mt. 27:56, Mk 15:40), also known as Alphaeus (Mt. 10:3), not the son of the Virgin Mary. This James is called “the Lord’s brother” because according to Hegesippus, Clopas was the brother of Joseph. Regarding Psalm 69, the meaning of ‘brothers’ here is His people (the Jews), and “mother’s sons” has the same meaning (cf. Ezekiel’s use of the term ‘mother’ to refer to Jerusalem in Ez. 19). So the Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary does not contradict any of these verses.

    Finally, you claim that the Catholic doctrines of Marys’ immaculate conception and perpetual sinlessness are contradicted by Rom 3:23, Lk 1:47, and Lk 2:22-24. By ‘all’ [πάντες] in Romans 3:23, the Holy Spirit is not referring to “every human exhaustively, taken individually,” but is teaching that the righteousness of Christ is for both Gentiles and Jews, which is why he says in the previous verse, “for there is no distinction.” He is saying that the need for, and gift of the righteousness that comes through Christ is not limited to Gentiles alone, or to Jews alone, but belongs to both without distinction. Hence the ‘all’ is an all of catholicity. Of course it is true that every human being is either a Jew or a Gentile, and therefore falls under the ‘all.’ But because here this term is not intended to mean that every human individually has sinned, this passage is not in conflict with the Church’s doctrine of Mary’s sinlessness for the same reason that this passage is not in conflict with the Church’s doctrine of Christ’s sinlessness; the ‘all’ is not intended in an individually exhaustive way, so as to rule out exceptions such as Christ and His Mother. Regarding Lk 1:47, in Catholic doctrine, Jesus is Mary’s Savior, and saves her (by His Passion and Death on the Cross) more perfectly than He saves any other human being, namely, by preventing her from contracting original sin and ever falling into sin. I have explained this in more detail in the section on Scotus in “Mary’s Immaculate Conception.” Lastly, regarding Mary’s sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons at the Presentation, in obedience to the Law of Moses, this no more entails that Mary was sinful than does Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist entail that He was in need of repentance, as I explained in “Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.” Circumcision symbolizes the removal of original sin. Yet Jesus who had no original sin, was circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21). So obedience to the ceremonial law does not entail that the one obeying this law is sinful, because Jesus too obeyed the ceremonial law, and yet He was sinless. Thus there is no contradiction between Mary’s immaculate conception and perpetual sinlessness on the one hand, and the Scriptures you cite here on the other hand.

    In short, each of the five “contradictions of the Roman Catholic Church” is no contradiction at all, or is made to be such only by presupposing a Protestant interpretation of the passages of Scripture, and thus begging the question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  49. Jonathan (re:#40),

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I want to say that I really appreciate the time and effort that you are putting in here, both with me, and with many other people at CTC, who have responded to you.

    *Not* that I’m trying to say that any of this “work” will justify you before God– I’m not, and the Catholic Church does not teach that we can be justified by our works! :-)

    In that vein, it might help you to know that the “faith alone” which was/is condemned by the Council of Trent is a “faith alone” that is pure mental assent– emphatically *not* a heart-and-life-transforming faith, of the kind in which I am fairly sure that you hold as “justifying, saving faith” (and which I held to as a Reformed Baptist).

    If you believe that the faith in Christ which *saves* is a faith that is informed by love for God and neighbor, and therefore, a faith which is *naturally accompanied by* works of love for God and neighbor– in short, if you are not an antinomian–, then Trent’s condemnation of “faith alone” is not directed towards you.

    In their historical context, Trent’s anathemas were not directed toward Protestants such as yourself (Protestants who have never been Catholic) anyway. They were directed toward Catholics who had *left* the Church, while *knowing and understanding* the Church’s teaching and willfully rejecting it.

    If you doubt my contention that Trent did not (and does not) condemn today’s non-antinomian Protestants, I urge you (when you have the time, of course, that is– I know that you have many people here to which to reply!) to spend some serious time pondering the information at these two links:

    http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-clarifies-luther-s-idea-of-justification

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_31101999_cath-luth-joint-declaration_en.html

    I could respond to your replies on the subject of the Biblical canon here, but you already have too much to respond to from me and other commenters, so I will save my further thoughts on the canon for (Lord willing!) future comments as our discussion continues. Thanks again for your time and effort spent here. I know that you are doing this out of love for God and for our souls. It is appreciated.

  50. Thanks so much for the feedback to all who commented. First, I must say that I need to take a break from commenting here, as I am heading out of town for an extra long weekend visiting family. I don’t have time to really get started on responding to all the points made here before I have to leave (too much else to get done before heading out – and I do have to respond to 7 times as many posts as each of you do!) :) However, I will hopefully be able to get back to this by the middle of next week.

    Second, I do want to thank those of you who have continued to comment here. From these most recent comments I did have a bit of an epiphany and learned some important lessons about Roman Catholicism. Probably not in the direction that many of you would like, but personally I think it will help me very much going forward. It has opened my eyes more to certain aspects of the disagreements brought up here.

    Have a wonderful and blessed weekend.

  51. Jonathan,

    Thanks for the reply. Thanks esp. for your clarification re: the scope of your comment re: deceptive reasoning. I (obviously) took your comment to be wider in reference than you intended it to be – and I’m rarely sad to find out that someone’s not being insulted. You’re busy (one assumes) as am I, so I’ll jump to what I think most significant. Feel free to reply (or not) as you desire.

    You wrote

    …[T]he list of people who exegete [the Pauline epistles] in a way contrary to Roman Catholicism is also significant. The size of the list is irrelevant – truth is not decided by majority vote.

    Quite so, and of course no rational person thinks truth is decided by a majority vote. But when deciding whether or not a claim is obvious (which is entirely different from its truth), the number of persons who agree or disagree is very relevant. As I see it, you’ve made a stronger claim than you realize: Not merely that your interpretation of Scripture is correct, but that it is obvious and self-evident. And, I suggest, if a nontrivial number of well-informed, well-educated, rational persons disagree with your interpretation, that suggests it’s neither obvious nor self-evident. Put another way, if large numbers of smart people disagreeing with you doesn’t disprove the claim that a view is obvious and self-evident, what on earth would?

    You seem to gesture at this difficult when you write:

    …[T]he bible says that God allows, and even causes, a darkening of the mind of people on issues like this. He specifically says that some things that are clearly evident, people will still deny. I can have many people smarter than me tell me that the bible doesn’t teach a literal resurrection, or a 6 day creation, or a literal hell – when they start denying things that scripture clearly says, their intelligence becomes much less relevant.

    Whether you are exegeting Romans 1 or Ephesians 4, I (and others that are Bible scholars, i.e., not me) think your exegesis is faulty. But regardless, you apparently think that what is obvious to you need not be obvious to everyone, and if someone doesn’t see the obvious correctness of your own position it might well be due to they (or God’s) having darkened their minds. So in other words the vast number of persons who disagree with you (seemingly) doesn’t suffice to prove that your interpretation isn’t obvious or self-evident because, well, for one reason or another their minds are darkened. And, bizarrely, you suggest that the intelligence of persons who disagree with you “becomes much less relevant” when they deny what you take to be obvious and self-evident. So, not only have you utterly closed off any external verification for a Biblical claim’s being obvious and self-evident, you’ve also in one go managed to discard the intelligence of those persons who disagree with you as being “much less relevant” (less relevant, presumably, than your opinion that a given claim is obvious and self-evident).

    That, I take it, is why you write:

    Not being self-evident to a set group of people does not mean that it’s not actually self-evident. As mentioned previously, the bible itself says that people can suppress the truth on some issues, even when the truth is actually self-evident.

    That is, of course, trading on an ambiguity with respect to self-evidence. The standard (quasi-Aristotelian, actually) definition of self-evidence is not that it is apparent to all persons at all times. Rather, it is that to ones sufficiently acquainted with the matter, a claim is known to be true without needing evidence or argument. So, for example, 1+1=2 is not self-evident to my daughter – she’s 11 months old and, for all practical purposes, has no concept of 1, 2, addition, or equality. But when she becomes adequately acquainted with these concepts, it will be self-evident to her that “1+1=2″ is true. So, analogously then, if JBFA (justification by faith alone) is truly in the Bible to the degree that it is “…very obvious[,] often overwhelmingly so”, then all persons who are adequately acquainted with the concept (via studying the Bible, learning good exegetical methods, learning Greek, etc) should agree that JBFA is self-evidently true. But many persons (who are adequately acquainted with the relevant concepts, and who are intelligent), do not agree with JBFA. So, I argue that JBFA is not obvious or self-evident. You reply as above, and then I ask anyone reading to evaluate which has a higher likelihood: That JBFA is so obvious such that anyone who disagrees with it is either ignorant or has a darkened mind, or that JBFA just isn’t obvious.

    For reasons unclear to me, you think my method “destroys all level of communication and knowledge on the subject [and] makes a mockery of the concept of something being obvious.” You argument by example follows:

    I could claim that the bible says Jesus died on a cross, and you could claim that’s just my interpretation. You could claim it’s not obvious and self-evident. You may laugh at that, but that’s precisely the argument a Muslim would put forth – Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, that’s only our interpretation.

    You seem to think that if something isn’t obvious, we’re epsitemically toast. Of course a Muslim will say, in accordance with Quran 4:157, that Jesus didn’t die on the cross but that it was someone who looked like Jesus. To a Muslim friend, then, it isn’t obvious that Jesus died on the cross (instead of someone who just looked like Jesus) and my stamping my feet and telling him it is obvious – can’t you see! will get me nowhere. Alternatively, and I think more reasonably, I should just give my arguments for holding that we should believe the Biblical account (that Jesus died) than to believe the Quranic account (that Jesus’ lookalike died). Far from “destroying all level of communication and knowledge”, then, I would suggest this method makes dialogue possible. In other words, my Muslim friend won’t be much interested in talking if I just tell him it’s obvious that I’m right – but a conversation can actually happen when we sit down and discuss my arguments in favor of believing the Biblical account and her arguments in favor of believing the Quranic account.

    If I may express a bit of personal sympathy, I can dig it when you write:

    I can’t take [Catholicism] as a seriously intellectual option for any number of reasons. One large one is that it is simply too self-contradictory…. To ignore such glaring contradictions, I would have to give up the intellectual side and submit to a manmade authority and put my trust in them instead of God

    I formerly thought that too. Honestly, I think if one is going to disprove Catholicism, this is where it’s at (that is, don’t disprove Catholicism using uniquely Protestant assumptions, and don’t disprove Protestantism using uniquely Catholic assumptions), but try to get inside of Catholicism as understood by intelligent orthodox Catholics themselves and show that it is internally contradictory. Honestly, if you can show me that, as understood by Catholics themselves, Catholics must embrace both X and ~X (not X) at the same time in the same way, I’ll give up Catholicism tomorrow. I’m also pretty sure the site’s admins would do so as well. The trouble is, as Bryan showed, your examples either refute Catholicism using uniquely Protestant assumptions (sola scriptura, etc), or fail to be genuine contradictions (i.e., fail to show that Catholics qua Catholics must hold X and ~X at the same time in the same way). Nonetheless, I’m sympathetic with the project and, if it’s successful, lots of persons (including myself) will give up Catholicism.

    Sorry for writing a small novel. I guess Mark Twain said something about writing a long letter because he didn’t have leisure to write a short one – I’d modify that only slightly to say that the kinds of questions you’re asking are of sufficient import that they merit some length rather than brevity. Hopefully the length was more edifying than my brevity would have been. :-p

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  52. Bryan Cross,

    You mentioned in your response to Jonathan that Paul was rejecting a justification by works that are done without grace. I assume that you would affirm that Paul believed that we are justified by works, which are done from and by grace? So “works” are equally necessary in the process of justification, just the works which are granted through the Holy Spirit? Just wanted to make sure I understood you the right way.

    I understand Jonathan may not be returning to the discussion for a while, so I wanted to take this opportunity to ask you a few questions while making plain some concerns. For a while now, I have been won over into the Tridentine definition of “justification”, but I may not be understanding it correctly, for I disagree with you statements on Paul. Forgive me if I am misunderstanding you, but let me ask you if you could review (or anyone else for that matter) my understanding of justification below and let me know if this is allowable within the authority of the Catholic Church.

    It is my conviction that when Paul speaks about the “righteousness of God”, he is speaking about a “gift” which he actually gives to deadened and sinful human beings in order to replace their state of condemnation (their life in Adam) with the state of grace (being in Christ). This “righteousness of God” is a gift which originates with the God of mercy, who wishes to bestow this “righteousness” upon sinners so that they may become heirs of eternal life.

    As to what makes up this “righteousness” of what it means, I simply read Paul when he says “But to him who worketh no, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works, saying ‘Blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed if the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin’” (Romans 4:5-8).

    In this verse, it is difficult to understand “righteousness” as something which is behavioral or conductal, and it is rather much easier to understand it as a state of forgiveness. In other words, when Paul speaks of the imputation of righteousness, he is also speaking of the non-imputation of sin, which can be also describes as the remission of sins. It has been a very odd to me for some to try and squeeze into this verse or context an idea of “righteousness” which has little to do with the remission of sin, and is rather describes as transformational or behavioral. Why is it not that we cannot simply read this and walk away understanding Paul’s assertion that man is not justified by works because through faith man is cleansed by the forgiveness of sins, which is granted through the sacrament of baptism. Why must we add behavioral aspects here when Paul sees David really describing the very issue of justification in a description of sins being forgiven?

    Personally, I understand “righteousness” here to mean a “state of forgiveness” or as the Early Fathers spoke about it as that “garment of perfection” that we adorn ourselves with through repentance and baptism. Therefore, faith, through the sacrament of baptism, puts one into this blessed state of forgiveness.

    However, because baptism is the means through which this forgiveness is granted, and baptism is a re-birth of the soul, we must understand that the forgiveness of sin comes through, not alongside, the grace of the new birth. The soul’s re-creation works out the soul’s remission of sin. Therefore, I do not totally remove the transformational aspect which is intrinsic to the remission of sin, but I want to remain faithful to the text of Romans which, to me (I embarrassingly confess), shows that Paul thinks of “justification” in terms of the forgiveness of sin.

    I agree that one holds on this garment and can lose it through moral sin, and I accept this. I also understand that repentance, faith, and baptism is conditional for the “bath of regeneration” to issue in this “justification” or “remission of sin”. I understand that on the last day, our works will justify us, with the blood of Jesus. But I just see Paul speaking in terms of covnenant admissions, how one enters the covenant of grace.

    I agree that since baptism is the means of justification that the means of walking in newness of life is the same means for justification, and therefore is no less necessary for salvation. Therefore, our walking in newness of life is as equally necessary as our receiving the forgiveness of sin. But I confess that I do not interpert “righteousness” or “justification” in Romans to refer to the “works” which God gives man to earn the status of being righteous, but rather see it is as a unique reference to the state of forgiveness which is attained at the new initial grace of baptism.

    Is this compatible with Catholic theology?

  53. Jonathan,

    Have a safe trip and a blessed weekend! I look forward to continuing the discussion, Lord willing, when you return.

  54. God Seeker, (re: #52)

    You mentioned in your response to Jonathan that Paul was rejecting a justification by works that are done without grace. I assume that you would affirm that Paul believed that we are justified by works, which are done from and by grace?

    Catholic theology distinguishes between justification in the sense of translation from a state of enmity against God (i.e. being dead in sin) to the state of grace and adoption through Christ, and justification in the sense of growing in grace. Only those already justified in the first sense (which is instantaneous) can then be justified in the second sense (which is ongoing). We cooperate in both senses of justification, but our cooperation in justification-as-translation is non-meritorious, whereas once in a state of grace, our cooperation in justification-as-increase is meritorious. Our reward for acts done out of agape, is a greater participation in agape

    So “works” are equally necessary in the process of justification, just the works which are granted through the Holy Spirit?

    Justification-as-translation is not a process; it is instantaneous. We prepare ourselves for that in the way I explained in my previous comment. Regarding justification-as-increase, yes works are necessary. We grow by cooperating with the grace God gives us, not by doing nothing at all.

    It is my conviction that when Paul speaks about the “righteousness of God”, he is speaking about a “gift” which he actually gives to deadened and sinful human beings in order to replace their state of condemnation (their life in Adam) with the state of grace (being in Christ). This “righteousness of God” is a gift which originates with the God of mercy, who wishes to bestow this “righteousness” upon sinners so that they may become heirs of eternal life.

    Right.

    As to what makes up this “righteousness” of what it means, I simply read Paul when he says “But to him who worketh no, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works, saying ‘Blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed if the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin’” (Romans 4:5-8).

    In this verse, it is difficult to understand “righteousness” as something which is behavioral or conductal, and it is rather much easier to understand it as a state of forgiveness. In other words, when Paul speaks of the imputation of righteousness, he is also speaking of the non-imputation of sin, which can be also describes as the remission of sins. It has been a very odd to me for some to try and squeeze into this verse or context an idea of “righteousness” which has little to do with the remission of sin, and is rather describes as transformational or behavioral.

    You’re working with a forgiveness-or-behavioral-change paradigm, as if those are the only two options. God looks at the heart, and that is why there is a difference between dead works that conform externally to the law, and good works done out of agape. At justification-as-translation, there is not only a forgiveness of sins, but there is also an infusion of sanctifying grace faith, hope, and agape. At that moment, the justified person receives living faith in his heart. And because agape is righteousness, and living faith includes agape, the person having living faith is “counted [by God] for righteousness because he is righteous. The reason why in this verse is it “difficult to understand righteousness as something which is behavioral” is because righteousness is not fundamentally behavioral. It is not fundamentally process; it is who God is. Of course that is expressed in behavior and external conduct, but that’s not the essence of righteousness. That’s the difference between the agape paradigm, and the list paradigm, discussed in some detail in the “Imputation and Paradigms” post, and the comments following it. This is what St. Paul is talking about in Romans 2, in his distinction between circumcision of the flesh, and circumcision of the heart.

    Why is it not that we cannot simply read this and walk away understanding Paul’s assertion that man is not justified by works because through faith man is cleansed by the forgiveness of sins, which is granted through the sacrament of baptism. Why must we add behavioral aspects here when Paul sees David really describing the very issue of justification in a description of sins being forgiven?>

    First, as I just said, righteousness is not fundamentally behavioral. Secondly, righteousness is not fundamentally the absence of sin, or the absence of guilt. Rocks and trees have no sin and no guilt, but they aren’t righteous. No one who does not love God is righteous.

    Therefore, I do not totally remove the transformational aspect which is intrinsic to the remission of sin, but I want to remain faithful to the text of Romans which, to me (I embarrassingly confess), shows that Paul thinks of “justification” in terms of the forgiveness of sin.

    For St. Paul, it is the doers of the law who will be justified (Rom 2:13). There is no forgiveness of sin possible while the person remains at enmity with God, because to be forgiven is to be reconciled to God, and a person who is still at enmity with God is not reconciled to God. So without the infusion of agape (and thus the infusion of righteousness) there is no forgiveness of sin.

    But I confess that I do not interpert “righteousness” or “justification” in Romans to refer to the “works” which God gives man to earn the status of being righteous,

    Neither do I. We do not make ourselves righteous by our works, or from a state of unrighteousness “earn” the status of being righteous. We are given righteousness as a gift, in baptism, received by faith. At that moment, we are made righteous. Subsequently, by walking in that righteousness we grow in righteousness, not from unrighteousness to righteousness, but from righteousness to greater participation in righteousness.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  55. Ok great, that makes a lot of sense.

    For a while I was thinking that Catholics were interpreting “righteousness” in Romans as fundamentally behavioral, a kick start on the path to make one righteous themselves with the help of the holy spirit. I understand that the Magesterium as the gift of interpretation. However, you can never get rid of those few who want to see what their thinking.

    I can see some support for your argument, for the word “righteousness” is used both in Romans 3-5 and more so in Chapter 6 where it is spoken of as the new dominating sphere that we as baptized christians live in.

    So, if “righteousness” is not fundamentally “behavioral”, how should we define it? Is it a quality? Is it a state ?

  56. God Seeker, (re: #55)

    So, if “righteousness” is not fundamentally “behavioral”, how should we define it? Is it a quality? Is it a state ?

    In God, Righteousness is God Himself. When we are made righteous at the moment of justification, we receive by infusion a supernatural participation in God’s righteousness. In God, who has no parts, there is no difference between His very being and His powers. In us, however, our soul is not our will. Rather, our will is a power in and of our soul. We receive infused supernatural participation in God’s righteousness both in our soul, and in our will. As received into our soul, it is called sanctifying grace, and is a habitus entitativus because by participation in the divine nature the soul is given a new nature. As received into our will it is called agape (or charity), and is a habitus operativus, because by participation in the divine nature, the will is given a new operation, namely, loving God as He loves Himself.

    Regarding the distinction between the supernatural virtue of agape, and sanctifying grace, St. Thomas Aquinas explains:

    “[V]irtue is disposition of what is perfect–and I call perfect what is disposed according to its nature.” Now from this it is clear that the virtue of a thing has reference to some pre-existing nature, from the fact that everything is disposed with reference to what befits its nature. But it is manifest that the virtues acquired by human acts of which we spoke above (55, seqq.) are dispositions, whereby a man is fittingly disposed with reference to the nature whereby he is a man; whereas infused virtues dispose man in a higher manner and towards a higher end, and consequently in relation to some higher nature, i.e. in relation to a participation of the Divine Nature, according to 2 Peter 1:4: “He hath given us most great and most precious promises; that by these you may be made partakers of the Divine Nature.” And it is in respect of receiving this nature that we are said to be born again sons of God.

    And thus, even as the natural light of reason is something besides the acquired virtues, which are ordained to this natural light, so also the light of grace which is a participation of the Divine Nature is something besides the infused virtues which are derived from and are ordained to this light, hence the Apostle says (Ephesians 5:8): “For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of the light.” For as the acquired virtues enable a man to walk, in accordance with the natural light of reason, so do the infused virtues enable a man to walk as befits the light of grace. (Summa Theologica I-II Q.110 a.3)

    St. Thomas explains here first that a virtue is a perfect disposition, and that perfection is according to the nature of a thing. For example, it is not a perfection of the bones of a hummingbird to be capable of withstanding the weight of an elephant; the bones of a hummingbird are perfect when they are sufficiently light for flight powered by wings of the size and strength of a hummingbird. But natural virtues dispose man to his natural end (which is to know and love God as First Cause), whereas infused [supernatural] virtues dispose man to know and love God as He knows and loves Himself [as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit]. (On the distinction between man’s natural end, and man’s supernatural end, see “Nature, Grace, and Man’s Supernatural End: Feingold, Kline, and Clark.”)

    So supernatural virtues are perfect in relation to a nature higher than man’s own nature. And it is in receiving this new nature by participation (while retaining our human nature) that we are said to be born again as sons of God, having (by participation) God’s own nature and thus rightly and truly being called “sons of God” and members of His family, not by the human nature we received when we were conceived in our natural mother’s womb, but the divine nature we received when were conceived again in the womb of Holy Mother Church, i.e. in the laver of regeneration. Only by receiving this new nature are the infused (supernatural) virtues (i.e. faith, hope, and charity) perfections according to our [new] nature, because if our only nature were the human nature in which we were first conceived, these supernatural virtues would not be perfections in relation to our nature.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  57. Hi Bryan Cross,

    I appreciate the explanation, that really helps.

    Couple of questions.

    In protestant theology, there is a huge distinction between regeneration and justification. They may, according to John Calvin, be simultaneous graces, but they are not related essentially. For regeneration is as much an interior transformation as the imputation of Christs righteousness is an external putation (accounting) . For Dr. Luther, justification was merely acquittal, received by faith alone. However protestants also hold regeneration, the rebirth of the soul, and the new participation in the divine nature is EQUALLY necessary as their insistence that justification is the remission of sin alone, in order for one to be saved. Some also believe that such a grace occurs through baptism, and also affirm that serious sin cuts one off from fellowship in the body. And so I am trying to understand why catholic theology has a hard time accepting the protestant conception when all they are doing is calling justification the remission of sin and calling the renewal of the interior man regeneration, all along affirming both are equally necessary conditions for salvation.

  58. Bryan,

    Your replies to God Seeker are excellent. It’s too bad so many Catholics don’t understand these things. If they did, there’d be far fewer ex-Catholics.

    Best,
    Mike

  59. Yes. Thanks for #56 Bryan. Very clear and helpful.

  60. God Seeker (re: #57)

    And so I am trying to understand why catholic theology has a hard time accepting the protestant conception when all they are doing is calling justification the remission of sin and calling the renewal of the interior man regeneration, all along affirming both are equally necessary conditions for salvation.

    Notice that by framing your question in terms of having “a hard time accepting the Protestant conception,” you’ve shifted the question from what does the Church teach, or even from the truth or falsity of the Catholic doctrine, to that of the difficulty for the Catholic Church of accepting the Protestant conception of justification, thus presupposing the truth of the Protestant conception, and implying that the problem is one of stubbornness or blindness or incorrigibility on the part of the Catholic Church. So the question is a loaded question. But if we’re going to move away from the question what does the Church teach, and from the question of the truth or falsity of her doctrine, to the reason why she “has a hard time accepting the Protestant conception,” we should first step back and consider whether that’s a well-formed question.

    All the first Protestants were once Catholics, baptized in the Catholic Church. When the Church held an ecumenical council in the middle of the sixteenth century regarding the matters in dispute in relation to the Protestant controversy, these Catholics (called Protestants) rejected the Magisterium’s teaching. So if we’re going to ask the “hard time” question, the well-ordered question isn’t why does the Catholic Church have a hard time accepting the Protestant conception, but why do Protestants have a hard time accepting the Catholic doctrine promulgated at the Council of Trent. That is, why do Protestants “have a hard time” accepting the teaching of [what was at that time] the ecclesial authority to which they were subject and to which they were to submit and obey (Heb 13:17)?

    But if you mean to ask merely what, from the Catholic perspective, is wrong with separating justification from regeneration, I’ve already answered that in my previous comment. There can be no forgiveness of sin while the heart remains at enmity with God. St. Thomas explains:

    [B]y sinning a man offends God as stated above (Question 71, Article 5). Now an offense is remitted to anyone, only when the soul of the offender is at peace with the offended. Hence sin is remitted to us, when God is at peace with us, and this peace consists in the love whereby God loves us. Now God’s love, considered on the part of the Divine act, is eternal and unchangeable; whereas, as regards the effect it imprints on us, it is sometimes interrupted, inasmuch as we sometimes fall short of it and once more require it. Now the effect of the Divine love in us, which is taken away by sin, is grace, whereby a man is made worthy of eternal life, from which sin shuts him out. Hence we could not conceive the remission of guilt, without the infusion of grace. (Summa Theologica I-II Q.113 a.2.)

    The argument goes like this. Sin is an offense against God. An offense is remitted when the soul of the offender is at peace with the offended, and thus a sin is remitted when God is at peace with us. But in the case of the remission of sin, the change is not on God’s side, since God’s love is eternal and unchangeable. Rather, the change is on our side, because in a state of friendship with God we are participating in His love, while in a state of enmity against Him we are not participating in His love. Now our participation in God’s love is grace. Therefore, the infusion of grace is necessary for the remission of sin. And since regeneration is the infusion of sanctifying grace and agape, it follows that there is no remission of sin without regeneration [i.e. without being in a state of grace].

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  61. Bryan,

    I apologize for the poor framing of the question. However I was not implying such things about the Catholic view. As I’ve already alluded, I have come to embrace, I believe, the catholic understanding of justification. I understand the remission of sin as a grace which is effect through regeneration, and not a seperate work alongside regeneration. However my question was not answered. I still have difficulty seeing such a massive divide between the notion of salvation in protestant and catholic circles. If a protestant believes that baptismal regeneration causes the remission of sins, such as Dr. Luther, and if they also embrace that a transformation of the inner nature of the person is also an effect of baptismal regeneration, and if this can be losses through sin, I am having difficulty seeing the massive difference.

  62. Also, I notice that when you were explaining justification, there was no connections made to the death of Jesus. Please do not take this as a way of making the catholic position seem weak, I am simply trying to reinforce what I understand to be an acceptance of the catholic position.

    I find it interesting that a theological paper on justification can be written without any logically necessary connections to the passion of Christ. I see understand that there are, I’ve listened to feingold, but it doesn’t seem logically connected. I see that our union with his death and resurrection can be brought in as the means of this infusion, but I’ve never even heard of this connection made.

    In other words, it would make more sense if justification were understood as the grace of forgiveness with the condition of the infusion of faith hope and love prior to this remission of sin. For this would at least tie the cross to justification, which I didn’t see made in your explanation.

    For example, for the divine infusion of faith, hope, and love to be the basis of the new righteousness given to the human being as the grounds for his/her justification, there is no logically necessary connection to the passion of Christ, at least in my present understanding.

  63. God Seeker (#61):

    There’s no difference worth bothering about. That’s why the Catholic Church and some Lutheran representatives were able to sign on to the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.” But you can find plenty of Protestant diehards who will insist that justification is merely forensic.

    Best,
    Mike

  64. God Seeker, (re: #61,62)

    However my question was not answered. I still have difficulty seeing such a massive divide between the notion of salvation in protestant and catholic circles. If a protestant believes that baptismal regeneration causes the remission of sins, such as Dr. Luther, and if they also embrace that a transformation of the inner nature of the person is also an effect of baptismal regeneration, and if this can be losses through sin, I am having difficulty seeing the massive difference.

    As Michael said, the Protestants who still take issue with Trent 6 do so because they distinguish justification from sanctification, both conceptually and ontologically, such that justification is merely extrinsic, and sanctification is internal.

    Also, I notice that when you were explaining justification, there was no connections made to the death of Jesus.

    This provides an occasion to reiterate the importance of not operating on the presumption of the validity of the argument from silence, but speaking and reading with the *mutual* understanding that the other person knows that the argument from silence is a fallacy, so that every statement need not be qualified with a list of caveats warding off all the possible ways the statement could be misconstrued. Better than making hay out of a focused answer that, on account of its focus (and the limited time of its author) does not include every aspect of justification would be the simple question: What is the relation between justification and the work of Christ?

    I find it interesting that a theological paper on justification can be written without any logically necessary connections to the passion of Christ. I see understand that there are, I’ve listened to feingold, but it doesn’t seem logically connected….For example, for the divine infusion of faith, hope, and love to be the basis of the new righteousness given to the human being as the grounds for his/her justification, there is no logically necessary connection to the passion of Christ, at least in my present understanding.

    For a start you could read “Aquinas and Trent: Part Six (Christ’s Passion),” and “Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement.” And Chapter 7 of the Sixth Session of Trent explains it as well.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  65. Bryan I am not a scholar, so I’m not sure the response as a cold correction or a simple kind word of instruction. But I will take it as a kind instruction. Anyway, thanks for the recommended works!

  66. God seeker,

    I am sure Bryan wants to write with as kind a tone as possible, and I am sure that he likes you and prays for you and would enjoy meeting you in person if he ever got the chance. Please don’t take anything he said to mean that he doesn’t think well of you. It’s so hard to make tone clear with the written word!

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  67. God Seeker, (re: #65)

    As K. Doran, said, my intention is benevolent, and if my tone seemed “cold,” then I apologize. I’m merely attempting to establish an essential plank in the basic framework of mutual understanding necessary for fruitful communication, which I hope, with God’s help leads us to unity in the truth.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  68. Thank you for clarifying.

    With regard to the Council of Trent and the links with the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, I feel that this still falls short of what I am looking for. And what I mean may include that I simply do not understand what I am reading. When I read the corpus of the New Testament and the writings of the Early Church Fathers, there is a direct connection between the death of Jesus as a guilt-removing sacrifice for our sins and our being justified and acquitted from having to face death. In this logic, there is a direct connection, for the blood-sacrifice of Jesus satisfies to cancel the need for my death as a sinner. God has chosen to keep death as the fixed punishment for sin, therefore Christ’s death, as a sinless man, must have been in the place of sinners. By His death, our need to die is removed. This is an accomplishment of both Father and Son working together in love to make satisfaction for the sin of mankind. Do you see how nice the logic fits? Now, when I read Catholics on the issue of justification and how this is directly linked to the interior holiness which comes through the divine infusion of faith, hope, and love, and that these graces make man “really” holy and just in God’s sight. Where is the cross? Oh yes, I understand that they will say “together with the remission of sin”, but really this is a side dish compared to the interior justice that comes through the grace of infusion, which justifies man. To me, this pushes the crucifixion of Jesus to the periphery and attributes it to the accomplishment of only meriting half the grace of justification. For God infusing faith, hope, and love does not necessitate the inclusion of a blood-atonement. However, Paul understands the death of Jesus to be the sole ground of “justification” (Gal 2:20). He explicitly says that we are “justified by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus whom God put forth as a sacrifice of atonement in His blood” (Rom 3:24). As a side note, I do not believe that the final justification, at the last day, will be merely the forgiveness of sin, but also the whole life lived, it must be in keeping with the obedience that is required for entering the kingdom of God (Matthew 7:21).

    When I read the book of Romans or Galatians, Paul speaks about this “righteousness”, and it has to do with the salvation of man. For Lutherans (and some Anglicans/Methodists), this “righteousness” is the free gift of the remission of sins which comes through the laver of regeneration. Therefore this “righteousness” is the state of being in “grace and forgiveness”. Now, these groups of Protestants will also understand that the re-creation of the person is included in the laver of regeneration, and so while forgiveness is one of the graces which come about through baptism, there are others, not least the interior sanctification of the human being. Therefore, justification (otherwise termed acquittal or forgiveness) is a grace with comes to man right next to and alongside the interior sanctity of the person, yet without being equated with one another.

    I see support for this, as I argued above, in Paul’s equation between the “imputation of righteousness” and the “non-imputation of sin”. Is it not a valid argument to say that Paul understands the imputation of righteousness as another way of describing a sin-covering? I mean, just read what he says here “Just as David speaks of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works ‘Blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin’” (Rom 4:6-8). Let’s just consider the descriptions here. 1) Forgiveness of iniquities 2) Sin-covering 3) Non-imputation of sin. Which one of these descriptions describes an interior transformation? Now I am not denying that these things come about as a consequence of the interior sanctification, but I am presently questioning their equality.
    Dr. Luther and the Calvinistic reformers taught that “justification” was an external grace consisting in the forgiveness of sin, and that it was not to be confused with the interior transformation which simultaneously occurred with the Holy Spirit, and also which is equally as necessary to the forgiveness of sin.
    When God “covers sin”, which is exactly what Paul sees as the gift of righteousness (Rom 4:6-8), this is not something that God does inside of man, but rather this is a removal of guilt and the discharge of condemnation. Would you disagree?
    Therefore, however linked this grace of non-imputation is to the interior sanctification of the person, however together this grace of forgiveness is with the soul’s re-creation, however necessary it is that the internal renewal occurs simultaneously with the gift of remission, it seems illogical to me to suppose that the interior sanctification of the person is somehow equivalent to the forgiveness of sin.
    Now you might say that there is no remission of sin where there is no sanctification of the heart. And I believe Calvin would have agreed with this, for he believed that the gift of regeneration changes the heart of man, and he also believed that this heart-change was necessary for salvation. However, to be “justified” is a consequence baptism and repentance, not the state of the soul when it is interiorly changed.

    In conclusion, it is still difficult for me to understand how the “forgiveness of sin” is ontologically equivalent to the interior “sanctifying transformation” of the fallen human being. I mean, I totally understand the forgiveness of sin to come through the laver of regeneration (Which is the sacrament of baptism), and I also understand that in this laver of regeneration, there is an interior transformation of the person into holiness and righteousness. And I also see both being necessary for salvation. However I cannot logically “equate” forgiveness and renewal, for they are distinct operations. For God to forgive his His own decision to release me from guilt. For God to interiorly renew me is to change my very nature from being dead in sin to being alive in righteousness. Now, one might be the condition for the other, particularly, the interior renewal of the person might be the cause of the remission of sin, but they cannot (in my mind) be ontologically equated.

    In addition,would it be compatible to say that the infusion of faith, hope, and love occur not as a process of justification, but the necessary condition. I understand that the council of Trent said that this ”justice” of the interior man created by the infusion of faith, hope, and love is precisely what makes up justification and the righteousness of God. Would it be compatible to say that the infusion of faith, hope, and love are the necessary conditions for receiving the righteousness of God which is forgiveness and freedom from condemnation?

  69. God Seeker (re: #68)

    You wrote:

    When I read the corpus of the New Testament and the writings of the Early Church Fathers, there is a direct connection between the death of Jesus as a guilt-removing sacrifice for our sins and our being justified ….

    And that is Catholic teaching as well: “Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ.” (CCC 2020)

    In this logic, there is a direct connection, for the blood-sacrifice of Jesus satisfies to cancel the need for my death as a sinner. …. This is an accomplishment of both Father and Son working together in love to make satisfaction for the sin of mankind.

    This is explained briefly in the article I linked above, titled “Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement,” and in the comments I wrote below it.

    Now, when I read Catholics on the issue of justification and how this is directly linked to the interior holiness which comes through the divine infusion of faith, hope, and love, and that these graces make man “really” holy and just in God’s sight. Where is the cross?

    Please read the two articles linked at the end of comment #64, if you haven’t already done so, because they explain (although cursorily) the Catholic teaching concerning the relation between Christ’s work on the cross, and our justification.

    Therefore, justification (otherwise termed acquittal or forgiveness) is a grace with comes to man right next to and alongside the interior sanctity of the person, yet without being equated with one another. I see support for this, as I argued above, in Paul’s equation between the “imputation of righteousness” and the “non-imputation of sin”. Is it not a valid argument to say that Paul understands the imputation of righteousness as another way of describing a sin-covering?

    Sin-covering is one way of describing what takes place at justification, because the guilt and eternal punishment due to all our past sins are removed. Man is a temporal being, and we do not escape from our past merely by its being past. Our past eternally remains our past, our history. Justification does not make those past sins never to have happened. They are covered, as it were, through our union with Christ in His satisfactory sacrifice, by which something more pleasing to God than all our sins are displeasing is offered to the Father. But justification-as-translation does effect an immediate *present* transformation.

    I mean, just read what he says here “Just as David speaks of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works ‘Blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin’” (Rom 4:6-8). Let’s just consider the descriptions here. 1) Forgiveness of iniquities 2) Sin-covering 3) Non-imputation of sin. Which one of these descriptions describes an interior transformation?

    Again, these are referring to past sins. He (David) is not at all supporting simul iustus et peccator. The rest of the verse from the Psalm St. Paul is quoting (Ps 32) reads: “and in whose spirit there is no deceit,” meaning that he has confessed his sins to God, and is no longer hiding them from God. And the last two verses in the Psalm shows clearly that a reconciliation with God has already taken place. The person is “righteous” and “upright in heart.” The person St. Paul is describing in Romans 4 is one who has made peace with God in a union of living faith.

    Dr. Luther and the Calvinistic reformers taught that “justification” was an external grace consisting in the forgiveness of sin, and that it was not to be confused with the interior transformation which simultaneously occurred with the Holy Spirit, and also which is equally as necessary to the forgiveness of sin.

    If justification were merely forensic, and simul iustus et peccator were true, there would be no “necessity” that an interior sanctification accompany justification.

    When God “covers sin”, which is exactly what Paul sees as the gift of righteousness (Rom 4:6-8), this is not something that God does inside of man, but rather this is a removal of guilt and the discharge of condemnation. Would you disagree?

    There is a difference between the guilt of sin and the debt of punishment for sin. (See the two paragraphs under the heading “Effects of Sin” at the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Sin.) As I explained in comment #157 of the “Imputation and Paradigms” post, debt is relational, while guilt is internal. But debt cannot be cancelled so long as the person is still in sin, because if a person is still in sin, then He is still contributing to the debt. That is why God cannot declare him to be debt-free, so long as he is continuing to add to the debt. The person must no longer be contributing to the debt, in order to be forgiven. Hence the requirement of repentance for forgiveness. Righteousness likewise is internal. The souls of the faithful who died before Christ’s sacrifice were righteous, but they could not enter heaven, because their debt had not yet been covered by Christ’s sacrifice. The canceling of debt is something that depends on inward renewal (for the reason just explained) but is in itself external, because it is relational [as is any debt], whereas the infusion of sanctifying grace and agape is internal.

    In conclusion, it is still difficult for me to understand how the “forgiveness of sin” is ontologically equivalent to the interior “sanctifying transformation” of the fallen human being.

    If you are focusing only on the debt of punishment for sin (which is external), and not on the guilt of sin (which is internal), then your difficulty is understandable. I have explained the Catholic position in response to a very similar objection, in comment #146 and comment #163 under the “From Calvin to the Barque of Peter” article.

    In addition,would it be compatible to say that the infusion of faith, hope, and love occur not as a process of justification, but the necessary condition. I understand that the council of Trent said that this ”justice” of the interior man created by the infusion of faith, hope, and love is precisely what makes up justification and the righteousness of God. Would it be compatible to say that the infusion of faith, hope, and love are the necessary conditions for receiving the righteousness of God which is forgiveness and freedom from condemnation?

    No. As explained in an earlier comment above, trees and rocks are not righteous. Merely not having guilt and debt of punishment is not sufficient for being righteous. The essence of righteousness (for us) is not the absence of guilt and debt, but the presence of sanctifying grace and agape, i.e. participation in the divine life.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  70. Thank you for your comments. I will review what you have recommended.

    Follow up question: if it is true that the forgiveness of sin does not denote that righteousness has been imputed to the sinner, then why does Paul see a description of the imputation of righteousness in Davids description of a forgiven man? You would have to say that all Paul is doing is showing a fractional component of justification in Psalm 32., and not the whole of what he is arguing. Secondly, that the man in Psalm 32 has been converted and repentant is simply assumed. I’ve never been in a protestant church that denied that forgiveness was conditional upon true repentance. In fact I’ve heard this more from protestants than catholics. No insult intended.

    The man in psalm 32 is described as godly, pure in heart, and a sincere spirit, but these are prerequisites for forgiveness, which Paul sees as the justifying act itself, not a sequence in the process. It is simply assumed the internal change is required prior to remission, I’ve always believed this as a protestant. And I believe that this is what the reformers taught.

  71. God Seeker (re: #70)

    Thank you for your comments. I will review what you have recommended.

    As a general rule and as a courtesy, never ask follow up questions until you’ve read the suggested reading, because often one’s follow up questions are answered in that reading.

    Follow up question: if it is true that the forgiveness of sin does not denote that righteousness has been imputed to the sinner, then why does Paul see a description of the imputation of righteousness in Davids description of a forgiven man? You would have to say that all Paul is doing is showing a fractional component of justification in Psalm 32., and not the whole of what he is arguing.

    I do not know where you got the idea that I was saying that “forgiveness of sin does not denote that righteousness has been imputed to the sinner.” I don’t think I said anything of the sort. Forgiveness of sin does require the imputation of righteousness. But, presumably, when you see or hear the word ‘impute,’ you think of it in the extra nos sense, whereas in Catholic theology it does not have that sense. In comment #140 of the “Imputation and Paradigms” post, I wrote:

    First, Catholics believe in imputation. God forgives our sins, and in that sense does not impute our sins. (Rom 4:8) God also imputes righteousness to us (Rom 4:5), by counting as righteousness the living faith He has given us, by which we truly are righteous. From a Catholic point of view, the problem is not imputation per se, but the extra nos conception of imputation, which, from a Catholic point of view makes God out to be either a liar or self-deceived.

    In justification God does not impute our sins to us, because they are covered by the satisfactory sacrifice of Christ, as explained above. And He imputes righteousness to us by counting infused living faith as righteousness, because, as explained above, the agape that is true righteousness is intrinsic to living faith.

    So why does St. Paul quote Psalm 32 in Romans 4? St. Paul’s point is to show that it is not by meritorious works that man is justified (in the sense of justification-as-translation). (cf. Rom 4:6) That’s why in Rom 4:7-8 he points to the truth that the person whose sins are forgiven is blessed (happy); such a person did not have prior good works by which he was made blessed, but has nevertheless been justified. St. Paul’s intention is *not* to say that justification is merely by canceling of the debt of punishment without the infusion of grace. The forgiveness of sins (in Rom 4:7-8) stands for justification in its entirety.

    I’ve never been in a protestant church that denied that forgiveness was conditional upon true repentance.

    In Reformed theology, there is no distinction between actual grace and sanctifying grace, and justification is both instantaneous and monergistic. The unregenerate person is dead in his sins, and incapable of any good (including repentance), and the next moment he is justified. So if the Protestant traditions you’ve been in teach that forgiveness is conditional on repentance, and define justification as forgiveness, then you’ve never been in a congregation teaching the Reformed tradition, according to which repentance always only follows after justification, never precedes it.

    But it seems to me that this discussion has moved away from the topic of Casey’s article above. So let’s either take it offline, or bring the topic back to the substance of Casey’s article.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  72. Gentlemen:

    Even when I didn’t consider myself Catholic, the question of the precise relationship between such realities as forgiveness, justification, repentance, and regeneration, while important, always struck me as secondary to the primary question: What is the Church Christ founded, and how is she to be recognized as such?

    The Protestant answer struck me soon enough as getting the matter backwards. Thus one first determines by exegeting Scripture, and perhaps using other source material from the early Church, what “the Gospel” is, then one defines ‘the Church’ as the collection of people who accept it and at least attempt to live by it. But that assumes that divine revelation can be properly identified and interpreted without recourse to ecclesial authority. So it’s up to the individual, using whatever spiritual and scholarly resources he can muster, to determine what Christian orthodoxy is, and on that basis pick a church he finds orthodox. I have never understood how that is supposed to avoid reducing religion to a matter of opinion. It renders the assent of faith, as distinct from that of opinion, impossible. By so doing, it lands the believer in fideism, rationalism, or some ad hoc combination of the two.

    Casey Chalk is right to have concluded his post as he did. One must first determine which visible church, if any, was founded by Christ and still teaches with his authority. If one rejects that question, or decides it has no clear answer, then the Christian religion becomes for oneself simply a matter of opinion. And such “faith” is no faith at all.

    Best,
    Mike

  73. God seeker (#68):
    Let me suggest that you are missing the logical connection to Jesus’s blood sacrifice because you may have lost the forest for the trees. The Catholic Church, in the “source and summit” of its entire belief, offers Christ’s very blood as a sacrifice and drinks the chalice of salvation. Believe me, you cannot get any closer to God’s sacrifice than that.

    This goes back to Mr. Chalk’s point of doing what God asks us to do. In John 6, Jesus asks us all to eat and drink unto eternal life, to literally unite ourselves to His sacrifice, and some walked away calling it a “hard saying.” And it is a hard saying, because becoming part of Christ’s sacrifice isn’t just grace, it is also conforming ourselves to that sacrifice to make us worthy to share in it. But that is the only way to *really* become on with Christ; he who does not partake of the Body and Blood does not have eternal life in him.

  74. Jonathan, I am not sure where I denied anything you said. I never denied these things. All I was trying to say is that justification is basically the forgiveness of sin in Romans, whether the conditions for that forgiveness are internal renewal is another question. I believe it is. Justification in Jane’s is the post initial justification by works of righteousness, which is necessary for salvation.

  75. I am trying to reconcile the Catholic view of justification with what St. Paul “says” in Romans. I believe that it is quite understandable, rather than being so mysterious. For some, the process of “justification” IS the process of internal renewal into holiness by the application of sanctifying grace, and what I understand from Paul is the “justification” is the forgiveness, covering, and remission of sin and the freedom from the sentence of death which comes as a RESULT of the application of sanctifying grace. In other words, when the human being turns from their sin to live to the glory of God, and are baptized, they are translated from their first birth in Adam and brought into the mystical body of the 2nd Adam, whose crucifixion and resurrection become ours in a real spiritual reality. Through this process of entering into new life out of death (dying and rising with Christ), we end up with God “Forgiving all of our trespasses and sins” (Colossians 2) as a result of this process of being “made alive” (Col 2).

    According to Bryan Cross, my position is not consistent with Catholic Theology. To put it simpler, we are baptized into Christ, and through this process, we are spiritually reborn and are regenerated, because the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ do not remain something which is outside of us, but rather becomes our crucifixion and resurrection as we partake in the sanctified waters of baptism, and as a RESULT of this, our sins end up being covered and forgiven. From my understanding, Bryan Cross said that “justification” is the process of our souls interiorly becoming holy and just, and hence the grammar “JUST-IF-ICATION”. What I am asking is if what I am saying, namely, that the interior washing and regeneration is not the actual act of justification but is the CONDITION for justification, is consistent and reconcilable with Catholic Theology.

  76. God Seeker (re: #75)

    You wrote:

    From my understanding, Bryan Cross said that “justification” is the process of our souls interiorly becoming holy and just, and hence the grammar “JUST-IF-ICATION”.

    As I said in comment #54, “Justification-as-translation is not a process; it is instantaneous. ”

    You wrote:

    What I am asking is if what I am saying, namely, that the interior washing and regeneration is not the actual act of justification but is the CONDITION for justification, is consistent and reconcilable with Catholic Theology.

    I think I already answered that question in my last paragraph in comment #69. In Summa Theologica I-II Q.113 a.6, St. Thomas writes:

    There are four things which are accounted to be necessary for the justification of the ungodly, viz. the infusion of grace, the movement of the free-will towards God by faith, the movement of the free-will towards [i.e. away from] sin, and the remission of sins. The reason for this is that, as stated above (Article 1), the justification of the ungodly is a movement whereby the soul is moved by God from a state of sin to a state of justice. Now in the movement whereby one thing is moved by another, three things are required: first, the motion of the mover; secondly, the movement of the moved; thirdly, the consummation of the movement, or the attainment of the end. On the part of the Divine motion, there is the infusion of grace; on the part of the free-will which is moved, there are two movements–of departure from the term “whence,” and of approach to the term “whereto”; but the consummation of the movement or the attainment of the end of the movement is implied in the remission of sins; for in this is the justification of the ungodly completed.

    All four of these occur simultaneously. And after that, there is nothing left for God to do, for the person to be justified (in the sense of justification-as-translation). So these four are all part of the one instantaneous movement in which God moves us by the infusion of grace, and our will cooperates in turning away from sin and toward God in love. The terminus of this movement is the forgiveness of sin. Taylor discussed this in “Is Justification Instantaneous?

    Likewise, the Council of Trent (Session 6) teaches the following:

    This disposition or preparation is followed by justification itself, which is not only a remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man through the voluntary reception of the grace and gifts whereby an unjust man becomes just and from being an enemy becomes a friend, that he may be an heir according to hope of life everlasting.

    Justification is not merely the forgiveness of sins, but also the [instant] sanctification and renewal of the inward man through the infusion of grace and the supernatural gifts of faith, hope, and charity, by which man is a friend of God.

    Trent continues:

    [T]he single formal cause is the justice of God, not that by which He Himself is just, but that by which He makes us just, that, namely, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and not only are we reputed but we are truly called and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to everyone as He wills, and according to each one’s disposition and cooperation.

    We either have this justice, or we do not. And the moment we have it, we are justified. There is nothing left for God to do, to make us justified (in the justification-as-translation sense), as soon as we have received this “justice of God.” The reception of the “justice of God” and the forgiveness of sins are not two separate divine acts joined only by divine stipulation.

    According to Trent, the justification of the sinner takes place in this way:

    For though no one can be just except he to whom the merits of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet this takes place in that justification of the sinner, when by the merit of the most holy passion, the charity of God is poured forth by the Holy Ghost in the hearts of those who are justified and inheres in them; whence man through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives in that justification, together with the remission of sins, all these infused at the same time, namely, faith, hope and charity.

    In that moment of justification, man receives the forgiveness of sins and the infusion of the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and charity. At that point, there is nothing else to be done for accomplishing justification (as translation).

    As I said above, a detailed analysis of and debate about justification is off-topic for this thread. If you wish to continue the discussion please continue on a post about justification, such as “Justification: The Catholic Church and the Judaizers in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians,” or “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  77. Hi Bryan,

    I know that it is a bit off topic, but if you would notice in the post “Justification” The Catholic Church and the Judaizers in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians”, I posted some information and questions surrounding the incompatibility of St. John Chrysostom’s exegesis of Romans and the modern day Catholic Exegete back in December last year, but no one responded unfortunately.

    I agree with St. Thomas Acquinas that these four things must be there in the justification of sinners. I guess my question is, do Catholic faithful have the freedom of believing the Thomastic causes for the justification of the sinner, while at the same time reading Paul in a different way ?

    For instance, I can accept what the sessions of Trent affirm in their talk on justification. However, when I am reading Paul’s letter to the Romans, I understand that Paul has more of a reference to the exterior remission of sin, while in other places of Scripture he brings in the interior dimension. When Paul says that we are “justified by His blood” or “reconciled by His death”, I think he is not speaking, in his working, about the interior transformation of man, however this is not dislodged or denied. When you have a blood-atonement such as one accomplished by the death and passion of Jesus, you are speaking of an exterior saving work. When it is said that “we are justified by His blood”, this is referring to the sacrifice of Jesus, and thus has a direct reference to the remission of sins, and would have an indirect reference to interior sanctity, if that indirect reference is even there.
    But I want it to be known that it is through coming alive with Christ, having died with Christ, through baptism, that we attain this forgiveness of sin, and therefore the four elements which are in that quote from Thomas are not denied as essential pre-requisites. All I am saying is that the specific words and meanings of Paul are not submissive to Thomas’ fine argumentation, while never denying it.

  78. God Seeker, (re: #77)

    You wrote:

    I know that it is a bit off topic, but if you would notice in the post “Justification” The Catholic Church and the Judaizers in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians”, I posted some information and questions surrounding the incompatibility of St. John Chrysostom’s exegesis of Romans and the modern day Catholic Exegete back in December last year, but no one responded unfortunately.

    In general, you shouldn’t expect people to take the time to write a response to a comment consisting of a one-sentence assertion. CTC is a place for serious discussion, and a one-sentence assertion suggests that the author isn’t even attempting dialogue, but merely asserting the truth of his own position.

    I guess my question is, do Catholic faithful have the freedom of believing the Thomastic causes for the justification of the sinner, while at the same time reading Paul in a different way ?

    The answer to that question depends on how “different” you “read” St. Paul. If you make him out to be saying something contrary to the Tradition, that would be a problem.

    For instance, I can accept what the sessions of Trent affirm in their talk on justification. However, when I am reading Paul’s letter to the Romans, I understand that Paul has more of a reference to the exterior remission of sin, while in other places of Scripture he brings in the interior dimension. When Paul says that we are “justified by His blood” or “reconciled by His death”, I think he is not speaking, in his working, about the interior transformation of man, however this is not dislodged or denied. When you have a blood-atonement such as one accomplished by the death and passion of Jesus, you are speaking of an exterior saving work. When it is said that “we are justified by His blood”, this is referring to the sacrifice of Jesus, and thus has a direct reference to the remission of sins, and would have an indirect reference to interior sanctity, if that indirect reference is even there.

    That’s precisely the difference Trent Session 6 (chapter 7) speaks of (and St. Thomas as well) between Christ as the “meritorious cause” of our justification, and the righteousness of God as the “single formal cause” of our justification.

    But I want it to be known that it is through coming alive with Christ, having died with Christ, through baptism, that we attain this forgiveness of sin, and therefore the four elements which are in that quote from Thomas are not denied as essential pre-requisites. All I am saying is that the specific words and meanings of Paul are not submissive to Thomas’ fine argumentation, while never denying it.

    Or, St. Paul’s words do actually fit with St. Thomas’s fine argumentation, and you haven’t yet realized how they do so. (See, for example, the “Aquinas and Trent: Part 6″ post I linked in comment #64 above.)

    Again, as I’ve said a few times now, this subject is off topic for this post. I really don’t want to start deleting comments, but I will have to do so if you continue to disregard my request to take the justification conversation to a different thread, out of courtesy to readers who want to discuss Casey’s article (or read discussion of Casey’s article) without having to wade through many comments addressing a tangent.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  79. Bryan (78),

    If you two do go to another post to continuing discussing this subject please let us know (here at this post) where you two are going. This has been very helpful to me and I want to thank both you and God Seeker for the questions and answers.

    Thanks, Kim D

  80. Hi Everyone,

    I apologize for taking so long to get back to this thread. After an extended time out of town, I came back to more of a backlog than I had hoped. However, from everything that was discussed last week, and everything I’ve had a chance to think about and read about since then, this entire process has truly been an eye opener. It has really helped me understand Roman Catholicism much better – both in doctrine, by the material you have provided, and in practice, by the interaction that I have had with you and that I have observed you having amongst each other. In the end, I have learned more that I had actually hoped when I first came here.

    I originally came here (and to many other Roman Catholic resources) looking for a way to witness to my Roman Catholic friend and share the truth about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was frustrated with the way that Roman Catholicism distorts the true gospel of Christ, yet does it in such a subtle way that it becomes so tempting and actually, in some ways, partially resembles the truth. After reading Casey’s ‘conversion’ story, I was so devastated that I had to comment. And that simple initial comment has led to a wonderful exchange that has enabled me to understand so much. I am grateful that I was moved to make that first comment.

    Now, there have been many replies since my last detailed comment (#42). I could go through each of them in detail as I did before, but I don’t really think that’s going to be worth it. It definitely isn’t going to be for me, and I doubt it will for any of you either. However, I will go through some of the points and respond in the way that they led me to a greater understanding of my evangelism with my friend.

    I will go through the responses in the order in which they enlightened my thinking on the subject to help me to see things more clearly. This means they won’t be in order of when they were made, and I may seem to jump back and forth a bit, but hopefully that won’t be too distracting.

    To John Thayer (#45)

    I must admit that you are the first person I have ever come across who has ever attempted to use a presuppositional apologetic methodology to defend the Roman Catholic Church! At first I chuckled – Roman Catholic theology didn’t seem to have an understanding of God nor an understanding of man which would be compatible with a presuppositional methodology. But as I was chuckling, and thinking about how it would even be possible to do, suddenly your comment hit me pretty hard: “to argue that this belief . . . . . presupposes the Catholic Church”. This made me realize to a deeper level one of the fundamental aspects of the Roman Catholic Church – authority. Since you are on this site (a site for Roman Catholics who have come from a Reformed background) and you show an awareness of presuppositional apologetic methodology, I am going to assume that you understand such a topic. As such, you will understand the concept of an ultimate authority. An ultimate authority, by it’s very nature, is accepted as self-attesting. It submits itself to no higher authority, and no other authority is required to authenticate it. And when you commented about presupposing the Roman Catholic Church, that really started the ball rolling.

    It has always been quite clear that the Roman Catholic Church sets itself up as the highest authority. It won’t actually say this outright, but it does say it in many ways in its doctrine, in its evangelism and apologetics, and very heavily in its practice – but it still won’t come out and actually state it bluntly. The Roman Catholic Church will say that God is the ultimate authority, but in practice, it is only God as revealed through the Roman Catholic Church. For example, you will hear about sacred scripture, but it is always the Roman Catholic Church that gave us the scriptures, decided what books would be in there, can tell you what the word of God says, and is the only authority to explain what the word of God means. It’s the same with sacred tradition – the Roman Catholic Church tells us that tradition exists, what it entails, how it affects us, what it says, and what it means. Ultimately, the Roman Catholic Church holds the key, because they say they hold the key, and they get to define what the key is.

    As mentioned, the Roman Catholic Church will say that it holds God as the highest authority, but by being the authority over which everything about God is known, and through which is the only way to God, the Roman Catholic Church actually sneaks God out of that highest position and tucks Him under their own authority. Quite similar to what you claimed, John Thayer, that it’s not God that people presuppose, but the Roman Catholic Church. That’s the ultimate authority. The difficulty is that Roman Catholics don’t actually claim to believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the ultimate authority, despite the fact that in practice it actually is. This is a huge fundamental issue that makes me look at my evangelism efforts with my friend in a whole new light. And I’ll come back to it a little bit later.

    To Benjamin Keil (#51)

    One of your comments struck me even further and took what John Thayer said to another level as well. You said a number of things which I could rebut easily, along with a number of things which are good points also. But in the theme of sticking to what’s actually vitally important in all of this, I’m going to pass over much of what you said and not offer a reply or a refutation. Let’s just jump to the end of your comments, where you said this:

    // Honestly, I think if one is going to disprove Catholicism, this is where it’s at (that is, don’t disprove Catholicism using uniquely Protestant assumptions, and don’t disprove Protestantism using uniquely Catholic assumptions), but try to get inside of Catholicism as understood by intelligent orthodox Catholics themselves and show that it is internally contradictory. Honestly, if you can show me that, as understood by Catholics themselves, Catholics must embrace both X and ~X (not X) at the same time in the same way, I’ll give up Catholicism tomorrow. //

    Here is the issue – Roman Catholicism includes the presupposition that Roman Catholicism is correct, and as such can’t possibly have any contradictions. When you say ‘as understood by Catholics themselves’, you get to another fundamental point at issue here. Roman Catholicism can’t have contradictions, and as such, ‘as understood by Catholics themselves’ means there will never be a contradiction. (We’ll see this more later in practice when I get to Bryan Cross’s comments.)

    So when presented with a situation where a Roman Catholic is shown that their doctrine holds both X and ~X, Roman Catholic doctrine itself holds that the way out is to simply show that X isn’t actually X. Because it can’t be. In reality, it must actually be Y. So what you have is Y and ~X, and as such, there is no contradiction. The fundamental truth of Roman Catholicism is more foundationally held than any otherwise obvious contradictions.

    And this is actually quite easy for the Roman Catholic Church to do, since only the Roman Catholic Church has the authority to interpret what any given doctrine (X and Y) actually mean. So Roman Catholicism gives itself the methodology to define the terms and the authority to do so, thereby doing away with the problem of any pesky contradictions.

    This is quite clear in theory, but now we can see it in practice in the contradictions that I’ve already brought up.

    To Bryan Cross (#48)

    Your replies were all the standard responses that I’ve come to expect from Roman Catholics. When I first read them, I sighed as I usually do at the inability for someone who otherwise seems intelligent to see the obvious right in front of him. It never ceases to amaze me the mental gymnastics that someone will go through to convince themselves and others that X is actually Y.

    I could go into quite lengthy responses to each of the 5 contradictions that I mentioned to show how you actually miss the point (and even contradict yourself at times), but I’ve learned that it will be almost entirely pointless. Vast amounts of books have been written by others outlining each of these contradictions (and dozens of other contradictions in Roman Catholicism). As a Roman Catholic, you must fundamentally believe that there are no contradictions in your faith, and so you will have some explanation for anything that is presented to you as a contradiction.

    For example, on the first point about justification by faith, you take the clear words of Trent and add in extra interpretation. The comment by Trent speaks of nothing in the way of receiving ‘the grace of justification at baptism’, nor do either of the quotes by Paul. The words of Paul match the words of Trent (though in the opposite way) almost perfectly. This goes to the heart of the point I’ve just made above – the belief that something is not a contradiction, combined with the authority to interpret what something actually says, means that any apparent contradictions, no matter how clear the language may be, can simply be interpreted away.

    Again, on the second point, I could point out that Paul makes a clear dichotomy between works and faith in Romans 4:4-5. But you won’t accept that dichotomy, because it would result in a contradiction, which Roman Catholicism must not have. So once again you explain it away under the guise of authoritative interpretation.

    The same can be said of point three and your dismissal of all the counter evidence showing Peter’s non-primacy role.

    The same can be said about point four and your reinterpretation of the terms ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ and ‘mother’ and ‘sons’. I could bring up how you interpret the terms ‘brothers’ and ‘mothers sons’ in Psalm 69 in a non-literal sense, despite all the other aspects of that prophecy that were quoted in the New Testament in a literal sense. Such multiple, repetitive, clear teachings, in multiple gospels and letters by multiple writers is blatantly obvious, but with the authority to interpret however the Roman Catholic Church sees fit, along with the fundamental presupposition that there are no contradictions in Roman Catholic doctrine, there comes an answer for everything.

    On point five, I could point out that, despite the fact I mentioned there are numerous other verses to support the points being made, you only focused on one: Romans 3:23. I could just have easily provided other verses that clearly show the sinfulness of all mankind (Romans 5:12 or Galatians 3:22, or countless others) I’m sure someone as studied as you knows many such verses, but you chose to ignore them. The bible clearly teaches all have sinned, and yet you want to claim that it’s not true. I could point out that your exegesis of Romans 3:23 is claiming that ‘all’ only refers to both Gentiles and Jews because the previous verse says “for there is no distinction”, despite the fact that if you go back and start at verse 10 and read everything in context, Paul is pounding home the fact, with multiple Old Testament references, that ‘all’ does actually mean all! “Not even one” is a pretty clear statement, especially when repeated for emphasis, no matter how much you want to reinterpret it away. I could point out the fact that your exegesis even goes against your own church’s understanding of Romans 3:23 applying to all men. In the link to the vatican provided by Christopher Lake (#49, right after your post, the second link out to the vatican.va site), point #10 clearly states that “All human beings are in need of God’s righteousness, “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God””. (yes, I do read the articles that are linked) It references Romans 3:23, showing that the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t actually exegete Romans 3:23 the way that you do, in a way that simply means ‘Gentiles and Jews’ without distinction. The Roman Catholic Church exegetes the verse to mean “all human beings”, directly contradicting your comment of “here this term is not intended to mean that every human individually has sinned”. Or I could take a different track altogether. I could point out how your comparison of Mary’s sin offering to Jesus’ baptism is entirely irrelevant, since 1) John’s baptism had nothing to do with Old Testament law; and 2) Jesus’ baptism was clearly a unique event, as evidenced by the Holy Spirit’s descending upon Him and the Father speaking of Him, and as such clearly had nothing to do with repentance. I could also point out that your comparison of Mary’s sin offering to the circumcision of Jesus is also entirely irrelevant, since 1) although circumcision does symbolize the removal of sin, this is not in regards to the individual himself – it is in reality the sign of the covenant in general to Jews (all of Abraham’s household, actually), not to a specific person, and as such was perfectly normal for Jesus to be circumcised; and 2) the act of circumcision is an act of obedience by the parents, not the child (since he couldn’t really do it to himself) and so the circumcision of Jesus speaks to the obedience of Joseph and Mary, and again has nothing to do with any sin of Jesus. (Honestly, I don’t recall the last time I heard a red herring argument so far off course.) I could also point out even further biblical teachings that show Mary wasn’t sinless, like Luke 18:18-19 when a man refers to Jesus as good, but he claims that no one is good except God alone (being sinless would qualify Mary as good – after all, it was enough for Adam and Eve in Genesis 1). Or how in Matthew 11:11 Jesus actually places John the Baptist as greater than Mary (not possible if Mary truly was sinless the way the Roman Catholic Church claims). I could go on and on and on, pouring on contradiction after contradiction, but there’s really no point, is there.

    Bryan, as I said before, when I originally read your replies, I just sighed at how old and predictable they get, but also how frustrating it is to deal with. It’s like trying to discuss math with someone who fundamentally believes that 2+2=5.

    But when I came back to your post again after reading what John Thayer and Benjamin Keil wrote, I was able to understand why Roman Catholicism can’t see the glaringly obvious contradictions. Your responses were the perfect practical example of the truth I was talking about above. Roman Catholicism fundamentally presupposes that there can be no contradictions in its doctrines! As such, it doesn’t matter how blatant something may otherwise be, Roman Catholicism simply can’t accept that it could ever be wrong about such issues. And when we add in the authority to be the sole and final interpreter of everything, Roman Catholicism can redefine any contradictions right out of the way, making it appear internally consistent.

    Now, this is something that I (and hundreds of millions of others) have known about Roman Catholicism for a long time – that the Roman Catholic Church sets itself up as its own authority, presupposing the truth of itself. In many ways, it’s really not that different from Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instead of accepting God as the ultimate authority and the necessary presuppositional starting point, the Roman Catholic Church declares itself as the ultimate authority and the necessary presuppositional starting point. Oh, the Roman Catholic Church will SAY that God is the ultimate authority, but as I mentioned before, they will then tuck Him back in underneath their own authority – they are the only ones who can tell us what God says, who can interpret what He means, can tell us how to live, can provide a pathway to God, and on and on and on. At every point, it all leads back to the Roman Catholic Church, and in doing so, the Roman Catholic Church is putting itself up as the ultimate authority that authenticates God, instead of the other way around.

    (this can even be seen in the ongoing exchange here between Bryan Cross and God Seeker, especially in Bryan’s comment #78 where the response begins to boil down to ‘if what you are thinking isn’t what the Church says, your thinking is wrong’!)

    But this whole conversation has shed a new light on things for me also, and it is this: the typical Roman Catholic will likely never realize this vital point about the Roman Catholic Church being the actual ultimate authority. The typical Roman Catholic will likely go through life thinking that God is their ultimate authority, not realizing that they have actually accepted the Roman Catholic Church as their ultimate authority in God’s place.

    And this is where I come full circle. Now I can think about how to more effectively witness to my Roman Catholic friend. It’s not just about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ – although that’s foundationally important, the Roman Catholic Church has inoculated him against it. It’s not just about sharing with him how God needs to be his ultimate authority – he already believes that He is. Now I can see that it’s also about showing him that what he thinks is his ultimate authority, the place that he puts his faith and hope, isn’t actually his ultimate authority. So the question now becomes, how best to show someone that what they think is their ultimate authority isn’t actually their ultimate authority?

    I’ve got some ideas, but there’s a whole lot more left to research and think about on this. But I do need to thank those of you here for the conversation – you have truly helped me to understand things much better, become closer to God through it all, and move forward better equipped to help evangelize Roman Catholics in general, and my friend in particular, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them.

    And for that I am grateful. God Bless you.

    As you may note, I didn’t respond directly to a number of the posts and posters here that were directed at me. (i.e., Michael Liccione, Casey Chalk, JeffB, God Seeker, Christopher Lake). I also didn’t respond to all the points brought up by those whom I did respond to. Please don’t think that it is because there aren’t answers to the points you made. This is because, given what I have learned here and have expounded upon above, I didn’t feel it very necessary. To discuss such distinctions while ignoring the fundamentally different presuppositions would be pointless. However, for those of you whom I didn’t directly respond to, if you have a point that you made that you would like an actual reply to, please feel free to email me directly and I’ll try to respond. You can reach me at jonathan@aerialdimensions.ca.

    God Bless all of you. I will continue to pray for those I have met here.

  81. Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond (#80). I know you were hit from many angles, so we appreciate the time you did take to reflect and discuss with several people. I am a bit bummed you didn’t respond to my observations in #44 because I do think those observations present substantial difficulties for the Protestant paradigm. I’ll let those to whom you responded deal with your comments and observations on their particular questions/comments, but I did want to respond more generally to a consistent theme through your latest comment.

    You consistently claim that the Catholic paradigm in some sense places God “under” the authority of the Catholic Church. That may be how it looks from your perspective, especially since you do not believe or accept Catholic claims of authority, but that is not what the Church teaches. We view the Lord as supreme authority, but his relevation must be mediated somehow to man – that mediation occurs through scripture and Holy Tradition, but preserved and interpreted by the Church. The Church recognizes what is holy scripture and what isn’t, but still claims to be subservient to it, in that it must preserve and honor the teachings of Christ mediated to His apostles. But yet the Church reserves the authority to properly interpret what scripture means – as my article has sought to argue, scripture’s meaning is not self-evident. You present your own paradigm as in some sense circumventing this, because God mediates his authority through holy scripture, which is then mediated to you as an individual Christian. This is viewed as not “muddying” the transmission of authority through what you view as a fallible Church authority.

    However, in my view your paradigm is far more problematic, because rather than believe that Christ instituted an organization that has proper authority to preserve and interpret scripture (Matthew 16:18), your paradigm amounts to believing that Christ has instituted YOU to define and interpret scripture. You decide what the canon is, you decide what Romans 4:45 means, etc. Because scripture (and even, more broadly, what is or isn’t scripture) is not self-evident, someone or something must be an authority on how God mediates his revelation to the world, and you have determined that that person is you. You can say that scripture is your ultimate authority, but, more specifically, this amounts to scripture as you define it and scripture as you interpret it. Do you think this is accurate, or a misrepresentation of your situation?

    in Christ,

    Casey

  82. Jonathan, (re: #80)

    Thanks for your reply.

    Your replies were all the standard responses that I’ve come to expect from Roman Catholics. When I first read them, I sighed as I usually do at the inability for someone who otherwise seems intelligent to see the obvious right in front of him. It never ceases to amaze me the mental gymnastics that someone will go through to convince themselves and others that X is actually Y.

    One of the things about ad hominems is that they can easily be returned, and thus cancelled out. So if your response to my replies is to attack my intelligence, I could (but I won’t) easily say the same thing to you, namely, that the reason you insist on claiming that there are five contradictions internal to Catholicism, even after I showed that these five cases are no contradictions at all, is merely because of an intelligence problem. So resorting to ad hominems doesn’t make one’s case. It generally indicates that one doesn’t have the evidence or argumentation to make one’s case, so one’s only remaining option (besides conceding the point) is to attack the person, character, intelligence, etc. of one’s interlocutor. Otherwise one would simply let one’s evidence and argumentation do the work of refutation.

    I could go into quite lengthy responses to each of the 5 contradictions that I mentioned to show how you actually miss the point (and even contradict yourself at times), but I’ve learned that it will be almost entirely pointless.

    If you believe I have contradicted myself, then instead of merely hand-waving with a general criticism, please point to the specific place where you think I contradicted myself. Hand-waving general criticisms are easy, but unhelpful. It makes it seem either that you don’t want to help me come to see the error of my position, or don’t want to learn that you might be wrong about your claim that I have contradicted myself.

    Vast amounts of books have been written by others outlining each of these contradictions (and dozens of other contradictions in Roman Catholicism).

    Many books have been written about many topics. And even though you don’t identify the books you have in mind, it is probably the case the many books have been written refuting the ones you have in mind. So, again, merely trading references to books does not make your case for you, because I could do the same. To make your case, you have to show actual contradictions (i.e. x and ~x) within Catholicism. And you have not yet done that.

    As a Roman Catholic, you must fundamentally believe that there are no contradictions in your faith, and so you will have some explanation for anything that is presented to you as a contradiction.

    This too is an ad hominem. If I do have explanations for the alleged contradictions, then this is not a problem for me, but for the person claiming that there are contradictions internal to Catholicism. Your task, in such a case, is either to show how the contradictions remain in spite of these explanations, or to concede that you do not know of any contradictions internal to Catholicism.

    For example, on the first point about justification by faith, you take the clear words of Trent and add in extra interpretation. The comment by Trent speaks of nothing in the way of receiving ‘the grace of justification at baptism’, nor do either of the quotes by Paul. The words of Paul match the words of Trent (though in the opposite way) almost perfectly.

    Here’s one of the general principles of ecumenical dialogue: Out of respect and charity, each person gets to define, articulate and specify what is his own position, such that no one ought knowingly to attribute to or impose upon another, a position the other person denies is his own. So as a Catholic, I get to explain and specify how Trent is to be understood. And if you (as a non-Catholic), insist that Trent means something else, and then criticize that interpretation of Trent, you’re criticizing a straw man of your own making, and the contradictions to which you refer are contradictions only within Catholicism-as-you-interpret-it, rather than in Catholicism as it is believed and understood by Catholics.

    The Canons of Trent 6 are based on the Chapters of Trent 6. And Canon 9 of Trent 6 is based on Chapters 7-8 of Session 6. That’s the source of the “extra interpretation,” as you put it.

    This goes to the heart of the point I’ve just made above – the belief that something is not a contradiction, combined with the authority to interpret what something actually says, means that any apparent contradictions, no matter how clear the language may be, can simply be interpreted away.

    An atheist who thinks Christianity is full of contradictions could say the same to a Christian. In such a case, this is a problem not for the Christian, but for the atheist attempting to demonstrate his claim that Christianity is full of contradictions. Instead of complaining that the Christian can “interpret away” these alleged contradictions, the atheist needs to show how the “interpreting away” does not actually remove the contradictions. Otherwise he is merely conceding that he cannot substantiate his claim.

    And the same is true here. So regarding your first alleged contradiction, you haven’t demonstrated a contradiction internal to Catholicism, but only between Catholicism and your own interpretation of Scripture/Trent.

    Again, on the second point, I could point out that Paul makes a clear dichotomy between works and faith in Romans 4:4-5. But you won’t accept that dichotomy, because it would result in a contradiction, which Roman Catholicism must not have. So once again you explain it away under the guise of authoritative interpretation.

    The “you won’t accept that dichotomy” is an ad hominem, attacking the person of your interlocutor. But neither what you could do (i.e. “point out that Paul …”), and what I allegedly “won’t do” (i.e. “accept that dichotomy …”) show that there is a contradiction within Catholicism. Again, complaining about the fact that I can “explain away” the alleged contradiction does not make your case. It concedes that you cannot substantiate your claim. If you wish to make your case, you need to show how the explanation I have given is false and/or does not remove the alleged contradiction internal to Catholicism.

    So regarding your second alleged contradiction, here too you haven’t demonstrated a contradiction internal to Catholicism, but only between Catholicism and your own interpretation of Scripture.

    The same can be said of point three and your dismissal of all the counter evidence showing Peter’s non-primacy role.

    This too, fails to show that there is any contradiction involving the Catholic doctrine of Peter’s primacy. It just hand-waves by referring generally to “all the counter evidence.” So regarding your third alleged contradiction, here too you haven’t demonstrated a contradiction internal to Catholicism.

    The same can be said about point four and your reinterpretation of the terms ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ and ‘mother’ and ‘sons’. I could bring up how you interpret the terms ‘brothers’ and ‘mothers sons’ in Psalm 69 in a non-literal sense, despite all the other aspects of that prophecy that were quoted in the New Testament in a literal sense. Such multiple, repetitive, clear teachings, in multiple gospels and letters by multiple writers is blatantly obvious, but with the authority to interpret however the Roman Catholic Church sees fit, along with the fundamental presupposition that there are no contradictions in Roman Catholic doctrine, there comes an answer for everything.

    The Pharisees could have said the same to Jesus: “You have an answer for everything.” And yet He is the Truth, and was not thereby refuted by having an answer for everything when they raised objections against His teaching. So the fact that Catholics have an “answer for everything” when charges of contradiction are laid against them does not show that they are wrong, or that there really are contradictions internal to Catholicism. It tacitly concedes that the accuser (in this case, you) is unable to make his case and substantiate his claim.

    Also, regarding the interpretation of ‘brothers’ and ‘mothers sons’ in Psalm 69, you’ll need to present an argument showing why if other passages of the Psalms are prophecies meant in a literal sense, then ‘brothers’ and ‘mother’s sons’ in its prophetic sense Psalm 69 must be taken to mean birth-mother and sons of the same mother. Here, it turns out, your charge of contradiction is not a contradiction internal to Catholicism but a contradiction between the Catholic doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity, and your own interpretation of Psalm 69. But a contradiction between Church doctrine and your interpretation of Scripture is not a contradiction internal to Catholicism. So regarding your fourth alleged contradiction, here too you haven’t demonstrated a contradiction internal to Catholicism, but only between the Church’s teaching and your own interpretation of Scripture.

    On point five, I could point out that, despite the fact I mentioned there are numerous other verses to support the points being made, you only focused on one: Romans 3:23. I could just have easily provided other verses that clearly show the sinfulness of all mankind (Romans 5:12 or Galatians 3:22, or countless others) I’m sure someone as studied as you knows many such verses, but you chose to ignore them.

    What I said concerning Rom 3:23 applies also to Rom 5:12 and Gal 3:22.

    The bible clearly teaches all have sinned, and yet you want to claim that it’s not true.

    No. I do not claim that what the Bible teaches is not true. Rather, I claim that your interpretation of the ‘all’ is not true.

    I could point out that your exegesis of Romans 3:23 is claiming that ‘all’ only refers to both Gentiles and Jews because the previous verse says “for there is no distinction”, despite the fact that if you go back and start at verse 10 and read everything in context, Paul is pounding home the fact, with multiple Old Testament references, that ‘all’ does actually mean all! “Not even one” is a pretty clear statement, especially when repeated for emphasis, no matter how much you want to reinterpret it away.

    The claim that I “want to reinterpret it away” is an ad hominem, criticizing my person. The question has to do the scope of the reference of the ‘all.’ Does the Holy Spirit mean it to include Mary, or not? As Catholics, we believe that babies are persons, both in the womb and already born. And we believe that they have not sinned, not yet, not until they reach the age of reason. So babies are evidently not among the all who “have sinned,” if “have sinned” is understood to mean having committed an actual sin. And in that case the Holy Spirit’s meaning with regard to the ‘all’ is already a much smaller number than all the human persons who have ever lived and will live, because it wouldn’t include all the babies who have died (and will die) prior to reaching the age of reason. If so, then the Spirit’s meaning regarding the ‘all’ isn’t as comprehensive as you claim, but is intended to be interpreted with qualifications, among which could be the Mother of God. So either we must qualify the ‘all,’ or qualify the “have sinned” to mean [in reference to babies] that under the post-Fall economy, they too are in need of a Savior, because they come into the world without grace. And Mary too, was in need of a Savior, because she too was conceived in this post-Fall economy, and according to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, was saved by Christ in the prevenient way I described in the article linked in my comment #48. Either way you take this verse, therefore, either by qualifying the ‘all’ or by qualifying the ‘have sinned,’ the Church’s teaching concerning the Immaculate Conception is compatible with Romans 3:23. And in neither case is there shown to be a contradiction *internal* to Catholicism, but only between the Catholic doctrine and your own interpretation of Scripture.

    I could point out the fact that your exegesis even goes against your own church’s understanding of Romans 3:23 applying to all men. In the link to the vatican provided by Christopher Lake (#49, right after your post, the second link out to the vatican.va site), point #10 clearly states that “All human beings are in need of God’s righteousness, “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God””. (yes, I do read the articles that are linked) It references Romans 3:23, showing that the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t actually exegete Romans 3:23 the way that you do, in a way that simply means ‘Gentiles and Jews’ without distinction.

    One of the paradigmatic differences between Protestantism and Catholicism is that in the Catholic paradigm there are types and levels of causes that can act simultaneously, levels of meanings that can be true of a passage simultaneously, and forms of participation and union by which persons can participate in the life, work, suffering, and even nature of another. Here too, what I said about the distinction between Jews and Gentiles, is fully compatible with the verse applying to the rest of us, who fall into those two categories, with the proper qualifications referred to above.

    The Roman Catholic Church exegetes the verse to mean “all human beings”, directly contradicting your comment of “here this term is not intended to mean that every human individually has sinned”.

    The ‘all’ here is intended in a qualified sense; it is not intended to mean that Mary sinned and fell short of the glory of God. So what you are doing here is criticizing a straw man of your own making, by misconstruing the meaning of a Catholic document, so as to make it seem to contradict a Catholic dogma.

    Or I could take a different track altogether. I could point out how your comparison of Mary’s sin offering to Jesus’ baptism is entirely irrelevant, since 1) John’s baptism had nothing to do with Old Testament law; and 2) Jesus’ baptism was clearly a unique event, as evidenced by the Holy Spirit’s descending upon Him and the Father speaking of Him, and as such clearly had nothing to do with repentance.

    I grant that Jesus’ baptism was a unique event, and that John’s baptism was not required under OT law. But that does not refute my point. My point is that just because someone undergoes a ritual purification, this does not entail that he is or was morally impure. My point is substantiated by the example of Jesus undergoing John’s baptism. And my point demonstrates that from Mary’s obedience to the ritual purification law of Moses, it does not follow that she was morally impure.

    I could also point out that your comparison of Mary’s sin offering to the circumcision of Jesus is also entirely irrelevant, since 1) although circumcision does symbolize the removal of sin, this is not in regards to the individual himself – it is in reality the sign of the covenant in general to Jews (all of Abraham’s household, actually), not to a specific person, and as such was perfectly normal for Jesus to be circumcised; and 2) the act of circumcision is an act of obedience by the parents, not the child (since he couldn’t really do it to himself) and so the circumcision of Jesus speaks to the obedience of Joseph and Mary, and again has nothing to do with any sin of Jesus.

    I agree that circumcision is a sign of the covenant, but it is also a symbol of the removal of sin from the individual incorporated into the covenant, i.e. the infant being circumcised. The example of Jesus being circumcised is one more example substantiating my point that just because someone undergoes a ritual purification, this does not entail that he is or was morally impure. And therefore, just because Mary obeyed the ritual purification law of Moses, it does not follow that she was morally impure.

    I could also point out even further biblical teachings that show Mary wasn’t sinless, like Luke 18:18-19 when a man refers to Jesus as good, but he claims that no one is good except God alone (being sinless would qualify Mary as good – after all, it was enough for Adam and Eve in Genesis 1).

    Jesus wasn’t going all Manichean here, denying the goodness of creation. The meaning of the passage is that God alone is goodness, and the source of all goodness. Otherwise, Jesus was contradicting what He said earlier in Luke when He said, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good” (Luke 6:45), and when He said, “these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart.” (Luke 8:15). And St. Luke himself (and the Holy Spirit inspiring him) would subsequently be contradicting Jesus by referring to Joseph of Arimethea as “a good and righteous man” (Luke 23:50).

    Or how in Matthew 11:11 Jesus actually places John the Baptist as greater than Mary (not possible if Mary truly was sinless the way the Roman Catholic Church claims).

    In Matthew 11:11, Jesus is contrasting the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. John the Baptist was the greatest in the Old Covenant. But, says Jesus, even the least in the New Covenant is greater than he, because he that is least among the children is greater [as such] than he that is the greatest among the bondslaves. (Gal 4:24-25) Hence Jesus says “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.” (Luke 16:16), and “many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them.” (Luke 10:24) This is the greatness of the New Covenant in relation to the Old: “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.” (Gal 3:24) And Mary was within the New Covenant as the Mother of the Church (John 19:26-27 and Acts 1:15). So this passage does not teach that Mary is less than John the Baptist, let alone that she ever sinned.

    So, here too, regarding your fifth alleged contradiction, you haven’t demonstrated a contradiction internal to Catholicism, but only between the Church’s teaching and your own interpretation of Scripture.

    I could go on and on and on, pouring on contradiction after contradiction, but there’s really no point, is there.

    Regarding any future claims you might make regarding alleged contradictions within Catholicism, I cannot say whether there is a point, because you haven’t yet specified what they might be. I can only say that the five you have already alleged, have turned out to be contradictions not internal to Catholicism, but between Catholicism and your own interpretation of the Bible.

    Bryan, as I said before, when I originally read your replies, I just sighed at how old and predictable they get, but also how frustrating it is to deal with.

    I’m not so concerned about how old or predictable my replies are, because old and predictable replies can still be true, and my desire is for truth, not novelty or unpredictability.

    The bottom line, no matter how many sighs, and how much frustration you feel, is that so far you are unable to substantiate even a single contradiction within Catholicism. Instead of sighing with frustration, you should either concede that you cannot show there to be any such contradiction, or show your claims of contradiction stand in spite of what I’ve said.

    It’s like trying to discuss math with someone who fundamentally believes that 2+2=5.

    Again, with ad hominems, I could say the same to you, and they would cancel each other out and we would be right back where we started. So it is better simply to refrain from ad hominems, and focus on the substance of the disagreement.

    But when I came back to your post again after reading what John Thayer and Benjamin Keil wrote, I was able to understand why Roman Catholicism can’t see the glaringly obvious contradictions. Your responses were the perfect practical example of the truth I was talking about above. Roman Catholicism fundamentally presupposes that there can be no contradictions in its doctrines! As such, it doesn’t matter how blatant something may otherwise be, Roman Catholicism simply can’t accept that it could ever be wrong about such issues. And when we add in the authority to be the sole and final interpreter of everything, Roman Catholicism can redefine any contradictions right out of the way, making it appear internally consistent.

    This is all an ad homimen. You have claimed that there are contradictions internal to Catholicism. When I refute each of your claims, you respond by saying that Catholics cannot see them. Once more, I could turn that same kind of ad hominem right back at you: you are blind to the truth of Catholicism, and therefore cannot see its internal consistency, or something like that. And then we’d be right back where we started. So the “you’re blind,” .. “No, you’re blind,” … “No, you’re blind” dialectic is pointless. Again, we have to discipline ourselves to focus on the evidence and argumentation, and refrain from attempting to make our case by relying on an “all who disagree with me are blind” ad hominem.

    Now, this is something that I (and hundreds of millions of others) have known about Roman Catholicism for a long time – that the Roman Catholic Church sets itself up as its own authority, presupposing the truth of itself. In many ways, it’s really not that different from Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instead of accepting God as the ultimate authority and the necessary presuppositional starting point, the Roman Catholic Church declares itself as the ultimate authority and the necessary presuppositional starting point.

    No, Catholicism does not claim or believe that the Catholic Church is the “necessary presuppositional starting point.” The Catholic Church rejects fideism, as I have explained in “Wilson vs. Hitchens: A Catholic Perspective.” The divine authority of the Church is established not by the divine authority of the Church (that would be circular), but by the motives of credibility. So what you are criticizing here is a straw man.

    Oh, the Roman Catholic Church will SAY that God is the ultimate authority, but as I mentioned before, they will then tuck Him back in underneath their own authority – they are the only ones who can tell us what God says, who can interpret what He means, can tell us how to live, can provide a pathway to God, and on and on and on.

    The very same objection could have been made by persons listening to the Apostles preach on Pentecost. This objection presupposes that Christ has not given divine authority to anyone, and thus begs the question, i.e. presupposes precisely what is in question between Protestants and Catholics.

    But this whole conversation has shed a new light on things for me also, and it is this: the typical Roman Catholic will likely never realize this vital point about the Roman Catholic Church being the actual ultimate authority. The typical Roman Catholic will likely go through life thinking that God is their ultimate authority, not realizing that they have actually accepted the Roman Catholic Church as their ultimate authority in God’s place.

    Or, on the flipside, the Protestant who remains Protestant his whole life, will go through his whole thinking that he is submitting to God, not realizing that he is actually merely submitting to his own interpretation of Scripture.

    These question-begging criticisms are unhelpful, precisely because they presuppose the point in question.

    I’ve got some ideas, but there’s a whole lot more left to research and think about on this. But I do need to thank those of you here for the conversation – you have truly helped me to understand things much better, become closer to God through it all, and move forward better equipped to help evangelize Roman Catholics in general, and my friend in particular, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them.

    You’re welcome. By this interchange you’ve also demonstrated that by “the contradictions of the Roman Catholic Church” you are actually referring to contradictions between Catholic doctrine and your own interpretation of Scripture. And so when you say, as you said in comment #26, “It still shocks me when someone spends that much time studying the bible and yet still falls for the contradictions of the Roman Catholic Church,” it turns out that what you really mean is simply that you are shocked when people who spend so much time studying the Bible don’t adopt your interpretation of the Bible. And the same shock was shared by Luther, when other Protestants didn’t adopt his interpretation of the Bible, and the proliferation of Protestant sects (including various Lutheran sects) began, and has continued to this day.

    In a way, this shock is not compatible with itself, because it presupposes that others are no less intelligent and truth-loving than oneself, and that Scripture is perspicuous. Otherwise there would be no shock, but the divergent interpretations by persons devoting equivalent time and effort into the study of Scripture, would be entirely expected. But then, to cope with this discrepancy, the divergent interpretations are “explained away” (as you put it) by imputing to all such persons either a lack of intelligence (see above), blindness, malice, or deceiving spirits. And in this way, the paradigm is propped up and perpetuated. So, again, the same sort of charge of resorting to moves that preserve one in ignorance or deception can be applied to the Protestant as well. And therefore, again, exchanging such charges is pointless. So it is better to evaluate the paradigms on their own terms, according to evidence and standards that are not question-begging.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  83. Jonathan (#80

    To John Thayer (#45)

    I must admit that you are the first person I have ever come across who has ever attempted to use a presuppositional apologetic methodology to defend the Roman Catholic Church! At first I chuckled – Roman Catholic theology didn’t seem to have an understanding of God nor an understanding of man which would be compatible with a presuppositional methodology. But as I was chuckling, and thinking about how it would even be possible to do, suddenly your comment hit me pretty hard: “to argue that this belief . . . . . presupposes the Catholic Church”. This made me realize to a deeper level one of the fundamental aspects of the Roman Catholic Church – authority. Since you are on this site (a site for Roman Catholics who have come from a Reformed background) and you show an awareness of presuppositional apologetic methodology, I am going to assume that you understand such a topic. As such, you will understand the concept of an ultimate authority. An ultimate authority, by it’s very nature, is accepted as self-attesting. It submits itself to no higher authority, and no other authority is required to authenticate it. And when you commented about presupposing the Roman Catholic Church, that really started the ball rolling.

    It has always been quite clear that the Roman Catholic Church sets itself up as the highest authority. It won’t actually say this outright, but it does say it in many ways in its doctrine, in its evangelism and apologetics, and very heavily in its practice – but it still won’t come out and actually state it bluntly. The Roman Catholic Church will say that God is the ultimate authority, but in practice, it is only God as revealed through the Roman Catholic Church. For example, you will hear about sacred scripture, but it is always the Roman Catholic Church that gave us the scriptures, decided what books would be in there, can tell you what the word of God says, and is the only authority to explain what the word of God means. It’s the same with sacred tradition – the Roman Catholic Church tells us that tradition exists, what it entails, how it affects us, what it says, and what it means. Ultimately, the Roman Catholic Church holds the key, because they say they hold the key, and they get to define what the key is.

    As mentioned, the Roman Catholic Church will say that it holds God as the highest authority, but by being the authority over which everything about God is known, and through which is the only way to God, the Roman Catholic Church actually sneaks God out of that highest position and tucks Him under their own authority. Quite similar to what you claimed, John Thayer, that it’s not God that people presuppose, but the Roman Catholic Church. That’s the ultimate authority. The difficulty is that Roman Catholics don’t actually claim to believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the ultimate authority, despite the fact that in practice it actually is. This is a huge fundamental issue that makes me look at my evangelism efforts with my friend in a whole new light. And I’ll come back to it a little bit later.

    Hmm… Highest earthly spiritual authority, yes, but only as the authorised mouthpiece of Christ. Christ is the highest authority, and, yes, His authority is self-authenticating. The Church’s authority is authenticated by Christ. It is what I was trying to say. We discover the authority by history – not by revelation. We find moral binding reasons to believe that Jesus is God’s Son. We find that He sent His Church – the apostles, initially – with His authority (thus theirs is not self-authenticating, but authenticated by His sending). They, reading the New Testament, again, as history, not as revelation, passed theirs on (e.g. St Paul to Timothy) – and they set up an organised body, the Church, that must be listened to.

    You actually go so far – but you think that this organised body, having produced the New Testament, signed off on any further (earthly) authority, leaving you with the New Testament itself and your own understanding to interpret it. Catholics do not think the Church did, in fact, thus cease to possess its (highest earthly) authority.

    “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him Who sent Me.” We think that ‘you’ continues. We think God intended that so that we would not have to hope that we have understood the Scriptures correctly.

    jj

  84. Jonathan,

    If you’re interested, I discuss Rom. 3:23 and what Paul means by “all” here:

    http://www.creedcodecult.com/the-folly-of-pro-semitism/

    Cheers,

    JJS

  85. God seeker (#74 and 77):
    I will comment on “Justification: the Catholic Church and the Judaizers in St.Paul’s Letter to the Galatians,” because I think you are still missing my point to some extent, but that discussion would be off topic.

  86. Bryan what do you mean when you say that rightousness is God? You talk about it being God itself instead of a gift from him or some seperate habit. Is this the position of Aquinas? Did Aquinas understand it as being God instead of something behavioral?

  87. Vincent, (re: #96)

    Bryan what do you mean when you say that rightousness is God?

    God does not receive His righteousness from something other than Himself, or by conforming to something other than Himself.

    You talk about it being God itself instead of a gift from him or some seperate habit.

    In God, righteousness is God Himself. But in us, righteousness is a gift, i.e. a participation in the divine nature, which we receive as sanctifying grace and agape, as explained in comment #56 above.

    Is this the position of Aquinas?

    Yes.

    Did Aquinas understand it as being God instead of something behavioral?

    Righteousness is not an either/or, nor did St. Thomas explain it as an either or. Behavioral righteousness is a participation in the perfect, eternal righteousness of God Himself, who is Love, and in Whom there is no motion. See the Feingold lecture at “Nature, Grace, and Man’s Supernatural End.”

    But, as I explained to God Seeker above, this thread is for discussing Casey’s article.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  88. Re: Jonathan on authority:

    The mouth of Christ, speaking to us, is authoritative.

    If the body of Christ is in some sense present on the earth, then His mouth is in some sense present on the earth, and when His mouth speaks to us, it is authoritative.

    What part of the body of Christ is His mouth? If we cannot say to the hand or to the eye that “we have no need of you,” then surely we cannot say it to His mouth, either.

    A peculiar way of looking it at it? Surely.

    But I think one way of looking at the difference between Catholic ecclesiology and the various Protestant ecclesiologies is to observe that the former takes seriously the notion that Christ has an ongoing visible presence on the earth which is miraculously spread through all those who consume Him: You are what you eat, and each of us is called to “put on Christ,” to have “Christ in us” and to “be in Christ.” The Old Testament said that we were not to drink the blood of animals, noting that the life of the animal is in the blood. Just so: We are higher than the animals, and called even higher to participation in the divine nature, so it is unfitting to drink the blood of animals, and take in a lower animal life, or to drink the blood of mere fallen men and take in the life of mere fallen men (which requires harming them, besides). No, we are called to take into ourselves the life of God…which requires drinking the blood of God. We are called to become part of the one loaf which is Christ by partaking of that loaf. As a Hebrew is cut off from his people if he refuses to eat the Paschal lamb, so we are not of the People of God if, having been offered the Lamb of God, we refuse to partake of Him.

    But if we partake of the bread of life and the blood of the New Covenant, we eat the heavenly manna and are nourished, and take the life of God into us, and become saints: Little Christs. He is in us, and we are in Him.

    And when we are persecuted as the early Christians were persecuted by Saul, the Lord says to our persecutors as He said to Saul, “Why are you persecuting Me?” Not, you notice, “My followers” or “My adopted little brothers and sisters,” but “Me.” For the body of Christ is Christ: Hit one of the baptized and you hit Jesus Christ. We are not Gnostics that we should put up a radical divide between the body and the soul of a person. They are both the person. If we are the body of Christ then we, collectively, are Christ.

    This then is the body of Christ in the world: A body visible in the baptized, which Christ intends to be capable of speaking authoritatively for Him. He has hands still at work in the world, visibly; He has feet still at work in the world, visibly; He has a mouth still speaking in the world, audibly.

    But which mouth? Every cell in His body seems sometimes to be yammering, and they’re often contradicting each other. Only if we know which is the right voice to heed, can we be unified in our understanding of the faith…and that unity is non-optional, according to Christ Himself, who desires that we be one as He and the Father are one.

    Clearly independent reading and interpretation of Scripture are insufficient to bring about this unity: That is only all the little independent mouths buttressing their opinions in contradictory ways, and it produces the thousands of denominations and the multiplicity of different opinions even within denominations which those denominations’ founders would themselves have called scandalous and heretical. If Jesus was such a fool as to have intended that as an ecclesiology to last for all ages, then He was not God. But He was and is God, and God is no fool, and He knew better. He gave us a way to identify His authentic voice in the world. A visible way. An objective way. A way that works.

    I know of no other plausible candidate than the Catholic Magisterium. If it didn’t exist, you’d have to make it up, just to keep the divinity of Christ plausible.

    So Christ’s voice still rings out in the world with authority. His body really is His body.

  89. Casey, I found this discussion on an unrelated website where a current Catholic was seeking advice on becoming a Protestant. I’m a Protestant seeking to, perhaps, become a Catholic. I consider myself a “Christian” although I have been active in the Protestant churhes I have attended all 57 years of my life.

    That said, I feel an emptiness in my soul that is growing worse daily. I’m not finding answers in my current congregation or from my many concerned friends. If this makes any sense, I don’t feel “fed” or spiritually energized. “Church” seems like a social engagement more than a religious experience with litle difference than any other social engagement.

    I want to learn more about the Catholic church but fear the “unknown”. I’ve never been to a Catholic chuch other than weddings and funerals. I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do. Yes, I’m intimidated. Where do I go to get answers? The closest Catholic Church to me is Santa Rosa Catholic Church in Andice TX. I’ve emailed the Priest and he has welcomed me to attend but I’ve yet to do so. My wife was raised Catholic and is ready to return.

    How do I start? The idea of one church ordained by Christ just makes sense to me now but I know there is so much more I need to know and I simply don’t know where to start.

    Sincerely,

    James

  90. James (#89
    It’s kind of hard to know exactly how to respond to your comment, since you are – well, perhaps a bit vague as to what you want to know :-)

    I can say that your description of your feelings remind me very much of my own in about 1992, at a time when I had no idea that the Catholic Church was even a possibility – but felt, in my Reformed church, very much in a blind alley – or something :-)

    If it will help you, you can e-mail me off-list – j dot jensen at auckland dot ac dot nz – or you might find reading what I wrote in 1998 about how I became a Catholic. The page is pretty crudely organised; I can send you a PDF.

    I can say one thing, having come from a pretty straight-arrow Reformed church (one that I helped start, in 1984 – and left, to become a Catholic, in 1995 :-), that if you imagine a Catholic parish to be solid in doctrine, high in liturgy, and warm in fellowship – you must prepare yourself for a possible let-down. There are, certainly, parishes like that. I fear they are a minority. Our own (in a sort of satellite to a major city, Auckland) – well, it’s improving, with a recent change of priest, but my Reformed friends would heap scorn on the music (and I would not disagree with them). No one, these days, is obliged to stick to his home parish church, but I resolved, when, in 1994, I knew I was going to become a Catholic, to do so. As a Protestant, church-hopping, finding the one where one felt fed – or welcomed, or uplifted, or whatever – seemed to me a real problem, and I won’t do it.

    Don’t know if any of this helps! Feel free to e-mail me if you want. I will pray for you.

    PS – just re-reading that, it sounds somewhat discouraging! I must say that I have never known such absolute, solid, deep-seated, unshakable joy – and, I can say, without any moment of its absence – in the 18 years I have been a Catholic. I could never be anything but a Catholic. I am able, thank God, to go to Mass every day – went today (Saturday 9 March 2013) – and to receive the Lord in Holy Communion. If some of the ‘accidents’ of my worship are now, frequently, pretty blah – the ‘substance’ is – well, indescribable. It is the most astonishingly wonderful experience of my life, becoming a Catholic.

    jj

  91. Dear James:
    You have come to the right place and many here have made this same journey. I was born Catholic but left the Church as a 14 year old to follow charismatic evangelicalism after a conversion experience.
    31 years later I returned and have never looked back,( well actually I have looked back with a sadness wishing I never left!)
    There are many excellent books that can help you in your journey. Catholic and Christian by Allen Schreck, Rome Sweet Home by Dr. Scott Hahn, and Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic by David Currie. The Surprised by Truth series edited by Patrick Madrid was excellent as you will read stories of many who made the journey.
    Contact the Church regarding RCIA classes, which are required to become Catholic, but also just go to Mass, and learn about what the Mass is. Please contact me via e mail and I can send you a simple primer on the mass. God bless I will pray for you.
    Russ
    dobrodoc1 (at) Geee Mail dot Com.

  92. James,

    I live down the road from you in Georgetown. I’m a Catholic convert and would be happy to meet with you if you want to talk sometime. The moderators here can connect us via email if you like.

    God bless,
    Devin

  93. Hey James,

    Once you’ve confessed your sins and been forgiven you will never be the same man. Don’t let anyone tear you from this path that God has put you on. Be not afraid!

    In the peace of Christ,

    K. Doran

  94. Casey, (re #81)

    I apologize for not responding directly to your comments. As you mentioned, I did have a lot to respond to from a lot of people. I did actually start to write up a couple of points to respond to each post, but decided not to do so for a few reasons: 1) the conversation began to spread into a web of less relevant topics, so I was trying to narrow the focus back to the main points; 2) to try to answer all the different points brought up would have taken away from the main point of what I was trying to say; and 3) to answer directly would actually have gone against the very point that I was trying to make. Ultimately, I’ll happily agree that we just don’t see things the same way. If we take a step back and see the underlying reasons why, I think that’s more beneficial, and that’s what led me to write my post the way that I did.

    But since you have asked, I’ll go through what you’ve mentioned and provide some replies. I’ll start with this post and then go back to #44.

    You consistently claim that the Catholic paradigm in some sense places God “under” the authority of the Catholic Church. That may be how it looks from your perspective, especially since you do not believe or accept Catholic claims of authority, but that is not what the Church teaches.

    But this is part of the very point I was making. The Roman Catholic Church doesn’t say that it places itself above God’s authority, but in reality it actually does. My point was, how do I as a Christian help Roman Catholics see that what they claim as their ultimate authority (God) isn’t actually the ultimate authority that they submit themselves to (the Roman Catholic Church). As I mentioned, now that I see that distinction much clearer, I have some ideas of where to go with that. But it is going to take some more research and thinking on the subject to figure out how best to present it to Roman Catholics.

    We view the Lord as supreme authority, but his relevation must be mediated somehow to man – that mediation occurs through scripture and Holy Tradition, but preserved and interpreted by the Church.

    But this sort of makes my very point. As soon as you admit that God’s self-revelation requires mediation to man, other than God’s own self-authenticating authoritative mediation, you are claiming that God is not the ultimate authority. Whatever does that mediating would be an authority higher than God, for it would have the authority to authenticate God. When you state that the mediation occurs through scripture and tradition, but then put both of those underneath the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, you have done the very thing that I explained – the Roman Catholic Church has become the authority over the revelation, mediation, preservation and interpretation of God, and as such becomes a higher authority than God. It’s not stated in words or in direct teaching, but it is there nonetheless.

    My difficulty here is that Roman Catholic teaching will even go against what I just said, and so we’re left with trying to figure out how to show someone that what they claim is their ultimate authority isn’t actually what they hold as their ultimate authority. And that’s a bit of a tough one. With an atheist who claims that their ultimate authority is their reasoning, at least we can discuss that directly. Same with a materialistic naturalist who claims that nature and science are their ultimate authority, or a Muslim who claims that the Quran is their ultimate authority. At least they understand and accept what their ultimate authority is, so we can address it and discuss it. With a Roman Catholic, who may not recognize this subtle authority swap in their own religion, this seems to be a much more difficult issue to address.

    The Church recognizes what is holy scripture and what isn’t, but still claims to be subservient to it, in that it must preserve and honor the teachings of Christ mediated to His apostles. But yet the Church reserves the authority to properly interpret what scripture means

    This is simply more of the same comment as the last one. If the Roman Catholic Church reserves the authority to properly interpret what the scripture means, then the Roman Catholic Church is setting its own authority above the very words of God Himself.

    You present your own paradigm as in some sense circumventing this, because God mediates his authority through holy scripture, which is then mediated to you as an individual Christian. This is viewed as not “muddying” the transmission of authority through what you view as a fallible Church authority.

    Although not directly to your point, I do find this slightly ironic coming from a Roman Catholic. One of the fundamental passages of scripture that Roman Catholics hold to in Matthew 16:17 has Jesus actually commending Peter for receiving something mediated directly from God, and not through man.

    But back to your point, I wouldn’t call it “muddying” in theory (although in practice it can be muddying, such as the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses do). What it does do is insert a subjective authority into the middle of the revelation from objective God to subjective man. With an objective -> subjective revelation (as we see in regards to Peter just mentioned, or Paul’s conversion, or Abraham or many other biblical people) the subjective receiver can be sure of truth because the objective revealer can ensure that the subjective receiver actually receives the revelation along with certainty of it’s truth.

    With an objective -> subjective -> subjective revelation (as we see in the God to Roman Catholic Church to man concept that Roman Catholicism holds) the subjective end receiver can’t ever know that they have received actual true revelation, since there is no direct connection from the objective. The subjective receiver only has access to the subjective middle entity, and as such can’t ensure that they have received actual revelation, but must accept it as true on the authority of the subjective middle entity.

    However, in my view your paradigm is far more problematic, because rather than believe that Christ instituted an organization that has proper authority to preserve and interpret scripture (Matthew 16:18),

    Not to start getting off topic here, but that’s so far from the content of Matthew 16:18 – but then it comes down to one person’s interpretation versus another’s, or one church’s versus another’s. But I digress.

    your paradigm amounts to believing that Christ has instituted YOU to define and interpret scripture.

    Not at all. That’s definitely not what I am saying, and I don’t think that’s what the vast majority of Christian churches would say. And it’s not what the bible says (though some may be likely to call that circular reasoning). It is not any individual person that defines and interprets scripture, it is the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that the Spirit would guide us into all truth. This is how His sheep know His voice. This is the only possible way objective truth and revelation can be known by a subjective creature – if it is revealed and confirmed by the objective God who gives it.

    You decide what the canon is, you decide what Romans 4:45 means, etc

    Again, the same answer as above applies here. The Holy Spirit decides what the canon is. The Holy Spirit decides what Romans 4:4-5 means. Because He wrote it.

    Because scripture (and even, more broadly, what is or isn’t scripture) is not self-evident, someone or something must be an authority on how God mediates his revelation to the world,

    This sounds like you are simply claiming that God and His word are not enough, therefore you need another authority to authenticate and interpret God and His word. It doesn’t sound like you are getting this from any teaching, it sounds like a conclusion you are arriving at on your own, then going to look for teaching that will substantiate it.

    and you have determined that that person is you.

    I have not determined this authority is me. It is not me that is the authority, and neither is it me that does the determining. It is God who has determined that this authority is the Holy Spirit.

    You can say that scripture is your ultimate authority, but, more specifically, this amounts to scripture as you define it and scripture as you interpret it. Do you think this is accurate, or a misrepresentation of your situation?

    As I’ve mentioned, I do think this is a misrepresentation of the position. The scriptures are authoritative as the Holy Spirit defines them and as the Holy Spirit interprets them.

    Now, to go back to comment #44:

    your response is essentially that the Holy Spirit will make known to the individual believer what is true scripture, and what is not, and that the true sheep will hear Christ’s voice authentically in His Word. But doesn’t this only beg the question?

    Yes, I will freely admit that this is begging the question. It is circular reasoning, and I am happy to do it. But let me point out a fundamental issue that can’t be overlooked – I am begging the question on the word of God.

    When it comes to the issue of ultimate authorities, everyone reasons in a circle. Everyone. It is the only possible way that anyone can reason about an ultimate authority. If someone accepts X as an ultimate authority, then they are claiming that X is self-authenticating. For if something else, say Y, was required to authenticate X, then Y would actually be a higher authority over X, and as such X wouldn’t be an ultimate authority. So when it comes to a claim of something that is an ultimate authority, we all must beg the question.

    And I will happily beg the question on the word of God. God (and by His very nature the truth of His revealed word to us) is my ultimate authority, and all my reasoning will ultimately start and end there. So to accuse me of begging the question is not something that I need to worry about. I admit it, and happily in this case, because God (who is my ultimate authority) can handle being the foundation of circular reasoning. After all – God uses circular reasoning Himself in passages like Hebrews 6:13 or Romans 11:36.

    This is a very important point – every human being, by our subjective nature, always uses circular reasoning when it comes to an ultimate authority.

    If it is the former, this seems to amount to a paradigm akin to the Mormon “burning in the bosom,” where one is encouraged to read the Book of Mormon and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to that person whether or not the collection of books is indeed the Word of God. This is an entirely subjective enterprise, with no effective means of arbitration.

    On this point, I must respectfully disagree. I think you get this fundamentally backwards. This is an entirely objective enterprise, because it comes from the objective Holy Spirit. You seem to desire a means of arbitration, but in doing so, you are actually looking for something that would have a higher authority than the Holy Spirit. When you settle upon the Roman Catholic Church as that means of arbitration, you are putting the Roman Catholic Church above the authority of the Holy Spirit.

    You are looking for objectivity in a human entity (the Roman Catholic Church), which is subjective by it’s very nature. To make it into something objective is to elevate it to the point of ultimate authority above God – the very point that I’ve been making in my last post and here.

    Now, there is no doubt that there can be false revelation. We can see this in the Mormons as you mention, and the bible even warns of this. False religions can mimic a true methodology, as even Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:13-15). Also, there is no doubt that we can sometimes simply not understand things, as Jesus shows with His disciples in all the numerous times He apparently gets frustrated and asks something like “do you still not understand?” But just because there can be false revelation and there are those who will be fooled and led astray, or there are those who just don’t get something or don’t understand what God says, it does not mean that the Holy Spirit can’t provide true confirmation of the word of God in such a way that the person receiving it can actually know it for certain. Our failures should not mean that we then look for a different means than God’s perfect means. Again, we can bring this full circle back to Peter in Matthew 16 – Peter had absolute knowledge about something that was confirmed within him by God, not by external means. (side note: so did Nathanael before Peter, and John the Baptist even before that; how come neither of them were the first pope?)

    Who will arbitrate between us in any meaningful way? We are left with “my Holy Spirit” versus “your Holy Spirit.” You seem to believe that God sovereignly ensured the infallible compilation of the Protestant canon, but what basis do you have for this presumption?

    And here is another fundamental point of the issue. You seem to be saying that the Holy Spirit isn’t enough by Himself – instead we need a human authority to make an objective determination. I’m going to be frank and blunt and call that completely the wrong way to go. It’s totally backwards.

    you seem to be equating a Catholic anathema or formal declaration of heresy with some sort of papal decree declaring one’s final status as hell.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but is pronouncing anathema upon someone not the equivalent of declaring that they have committed a mortal sin? And if they have done so, are they not then condemned to hell unless they repent of the act that anathematized them? And if they don’t repent or recant, does that not mean that according to Catholic doctrine they will go to hell for the unconfessed mortal sin? I’ve read enough of the Catechism that I am pretty sure that train of thought is all correct and follows logically. So I’m not going to look up all the references necessary to support every step of the way. If there is something wrong in that line of thinking, please correct me.

    A 21st century Protestant cannot be anathematized from what he or she was never part of.

    I’m going to go ahead and call shenanigans on this one. This is pretty clear reinterpretation after the fact. Do you honestly think that the people who were involved at the council of Trent and wrote the documents that made this proclamation would have said “All you reformers who have left the church and believe doctrine X are anathematized, but those of you who come along in the next generation and believe doctrine X, this won’t apply to you.” Let’s be serious now – I find it extremely difficult to believe that anyone can actually think that’s the position the council members of Trent would have taken. But then again, if that’s what the Roman Catholic Church now teaches, I guess I can believe people would think that way, so feel free to show me that I am wrong there.

    Neither are such Protestants, whose understanding or relationship to Catholicism is informed by what their parents, local church, or favorite Protestant literature, held accountable in the same way as someone who, teaching or worshipping within the Church, knows what the Church teaches, and actively seeks to undermine Catholic doctrine by believing or teaching heresy.

    So hypothetical situation here. Two people – Bob and Doug. Bob was born in 1500, was baptized as an infant, brought up in the Roman Catholic Church, became a priest, and at age 35, after many years of study, decided to believe in justification by faith alone in the exact specific way that Trent anathematizes. Doug was born in 1970, brought up in a Baptist church, baptized as an adult at age 19, became a pastor, and at age 35, after many years of study, firmly believes in justification by faith alone in the exact specific way that Trent anathematizes. Two men, both holding to the exact same belief, and yet Trent will anathematize one and consider the other a fellow Christian? Simply upon what ultimately amounts to the circumstances of their birth, which are entirely beyond their control? Do you really think that fits in with the gospel that Roman Catholicism teaches? How about what the bible teaches?

    CCC 816 teaches that the means of salvation are found most perfectly in the Catholic Church, not that anyone outside of the Church has no access to salvation.

    And yet the Catechism would contradict you. (I know, I know, it’s not actually a contradiction, I just misunderstand it – but I’m still going to call it a contradiction for clarity) The heading prior to CCC 846 says “Outside the Church there is no salvation”. And CCC 846 clarifies this with “Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” That sounds like it is clearly contradicting what you just said. But I guess I’ll await the Roman Catholic interpretation as to why this isn’t a contradiction.

    Finally, in ref. to uniquely Catholic teachings that are found in scripture, you have engaged in several acts of “hand waving,”

    Well, I could just as easily say the same thing about many of the comments made back at me. Not all – there are some where people do support their position with detail and references. But there are even more where people simply assert things. To be honest, to respond to each and every point with enough detail to satisfy you would require thesis length documents that I simply don’t have the time for. I’m not going to apologize for not being able to respond to everything in extensive detail and instead addressing some subjects with simpler short replies. If I’m required to provide extensive support for every statement I make, I’d have to scan in my birth certificate and driver’s licence just to prove my name is Jonathan!

    One resource that was incredibly helpful to me during my transition to Catholicism was “Answering Common Objections” by Scott Hahn, a six cd-set regarding the biblical basis for purgatory, the Eucharist, Marian devotion, the Pope, etc.

    I’ve read a handful of Scott Hahn’s articles, and the transcript of a debate. He seems to be just as helpful at confirming my views of Roman Catholicism as anyone else! The more I read of him, the more Roman Catholic errors became obvious. Similar for guys like Karl Keating, James Akin, Robert Sungenis, Tim Staples – it all keeps coming back to something along the lines of ‘the Roman Catholic Church says so’.

    I’d mail you my copy, but I just gave it to a friend who is leaving evangelicalism for Catholicism.

    I can only say that I am eminently disappointed to hear this. Once again, it saddens me to no end when someone discards Christian teaching for the false gospel of Roman Catholicism. If I had his address, I’d mail him a bible instead.

  95. John Thayer Jensen, (re #83)

    Highest earthly spiritual authority, yes, but only as the authorised mouthpiece of Christ. Christ is the highest authority, and, yes, His authority is self-authenticating. The Church’s authority is authenticated by Christ.

    I have no doubt that this is what is taught and believed. However, if we look deeper, we will see the vicious circle. How do I know that the Roman Catholic Church’s authority is authenticated by Christ? Well, because that’s what the Roman Catholic Church tells me. It points me to it’s interpretation of scripture, which it claims is the only valid one. It points me to sacred tradition, which it claims to have the authority to preserve and explain. It points me to history, but its version of history and its interpretation of history. In the end, the Roman Catholic Church is the one who authenticates the ‘authentication by Christ’. And as such, we are right back to the Roman Catholic Church being the ultimate authority.

    It is what I was trying to say. We discover the authority by history – not by revelation.

    I would say that there are multiple problems with this. First, there are many people who will completely disagree with you that history causes us to discover that the Roman Catholic Church is the authority you claim. There will be Protestants who claim otherwise; there will be Buddhists who do so also; as well as Mormons; atheists will say history shows that there is no authority at all. The only way around these disparate interpretations of history is to claim that the Roman Catholic interpretation of history is the correct one. But this goes back to the very point at issue – it would assume the authority of the Roman Catholic Church to then authenticate the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

    But secondly, and more importantly, by what authority do we “discover the authority by history”? Why is history the process of discovering authority? Why isn’t majority vote the proper method for discovering authority? Or throwing dice? How do you support the claim that “we discover the authority by history”? I can see it coming down to only a few options. If you claim that’s the proper method yourself, then you make yourself out to be the authority by which we discover authority, and as such, set yourself up arbitrarily as your own ultimate authority. Or you could claim that majority opinion says it’s the proper method, but then humanity becomes your ultimate authority. Or you could claim that the Roman Catholic Church decides that history is the way that we discover such an authority, but then you are right back reasoning in a circle, and the Roman Catholic Church stands as your ultimate authority.

    We find moral binding reasons to believe that Jesus is God’s Son. We find that He sent His Church – the apostles, initially – with His authority (thus theirs is not self-authenticating, but authenticated by His sending). They, reading the New Testament, again, as history, not as revelation, passed theirs on (e.g. St Paul to Timothy) – and they set up an organised body, the Church, that must be listened to

    This simply expands upon your comments above, and my question about why history is the determiner of the Roman Catholic Church’s authority still stands. But even further, what is your response to those who will simply disagree with you on each of these points? Someone may not find morally binding reasons to believe that Jesus is God’s Son. Someone may not find that He sent the Roman Catholic Church with His authority. Someone may read the New Testament as history and not find anything like what you’ve listed here. To what authority do you appeal to lead someone along this path to come to the same conclusions as you do?

    You actually go so far – but you think that this organised body, having produced the New Testament, signed off on any further (earthly) authority, leaving you with the New Testament itself and your own understanding to interpret it. Catholics do not think the Church did, in fact, thus cease to possess its (highest earthly) authority.

    Actually, I don’t go that far at all. I don’t believe Christ ever established the type of earthly Church authority in the way that Roman Catholics believe. So I don’t even get as far along the path as you would like me to.

    “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him Who sent Me.” We think that ‘you’ continues. We think God intended that so that we would not have to hope that we have understood the Scriptures correctly.

    I have no doubt you think that ‘you’ continues. The question becomes, why? Many would disagree with you, from many faiths, or even those with no faith at all. To what authority will you appeal to continue believing such a doctrine? The authority of the Roman Catholic Church?

  96. Jason, (re #84)

    Thank you for the article that you linked to. In the interest of remaining brief, I will not list the many faults and errors with it, or the whole series it seems to be a part of. I will limit myself to three.

    First, I would offer the advice of not selectively proof-texting to make a point which is not made by the content you are discussing.

    You make a point about “each of the psalms cited” in Romans 3:10-18. You quote Psalm 5:8-12 and use it to make the point that:

    The psalmist here is clearly intending to issue his condemnations in a qualified sense. His point is not that each and every individual in the history of the world is wicked (including himself), but rather he is simply distinguishing betwen the righteous and the wicked in Israel

    (I’ll leave aside your comment about the author possibly not considering himself wicked, since tradition shows King David as the author, and well, he is recorded as doing wicked things, admits to doing wicked things, and paints a pretty bleak picture of himself in Psalm 51 – but I’m getting off topic.)

    However, you don’t quote the reference to Psalm 14 (conveniently or not, intentionally or not, subversively or not, I’ll let the reader decide). So let’s look at Psalm 14:2-3 “The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.” This goes directly against your conclusion. The psalmist here is clearly intending to issue his condemnations in an unqualified sense. His point is that each and every individual is wicked. He is not distinguishing between the righteous and wicked in Israel only, since he is not directing these comments at those within Israel only.

    The same can be said for the reference from Isaiah 59. That chapter is clearly unqualified condemnation aimed at all of Israel, not a distinct subset.

    This is sufficient to demolish the conclusion that you have made, trying to limit Paul’s universal statements in verses 3:10-18 (and hence, I can only assume your resulting interpretation of ‘all’ in Romans 3:23). However, since the Roman Catholic Church has the authority to interpret the bible, and I do not, I can understand why such a clear contradiction with what you have said will be interpreted out of the way.

    Second, I would offer the advice of not making assumptions about scripture that scripture itself disproves.

    You state:

    Now if Paul was a good Rabbi and faithful teacher of Scripture, we must conclude that he would never have ripped an Old Testament text out of its context and used it to prove a point contrary to its original intent.

    You then use this assumption to build the rest of the paragraph towards your conclusion. However, the base assumption is false. As such the argument built on top of it is not logically sound, and the conclusion you make must therefore not logically follow.

    Paul has no problem taking an Old Testament text out of it’s original context to prove a point contrary to it’s original intent. For example, 1 Corinthians 9:9. Paul pulls a reference out of Deuteronomy that is talking about livestock and uses it to make a point about the acceptability of those who proclaim the gospel actually making a living off of proclaiming the gospel. Why would Paul do this? Because the Holy Spirit led him to use this example. The Holy Spirit led Paul to do the exact thing that you claim Paul would never do. This one example is enough to disprove your assumption, and as such your point that was built upon it falls down, rendered void.

    I’ll take the opportunity to point out that these types of arbitrary, unbiblical assumptions appear quite often in Roman Catholic theology. Much of Mariology is built upon such assumptions. Numerous times I’ve had someone give me the argument for the Immaculate Conception based on the ‘assumption’ that God wouldn’t have used a tainted vessel to carry His Son. And yet, in the reference just cited above, we can see how such ‘doctrines built upon assumptions’ are merely arbitrary and unbiblical. Yet, I once again expect that I will be told I am simply interpreting things incorrectly, because it’s not the Roman Catholic way of interpreting things.

    Third, I would offer the advice of considering context on the whole, instead of narrowly limiting it to prove a specific point.

    This entire article is narrowly focused upon building the case that Paul is talking about ‘works’ in reference to ‘works of the law of Moses’. This is a very essential part of Romans 3, and you do bring up some good points. But it appears that you want to stop there. I would suggest you keep reading into Romans 4. (I did read the companion articles you wrote on Romans 4, but it appears you completely missed the point I will make here)

    I will happily submit to you that there are specific spots in Romans 3 where Paul is talking only about works in regards to the law of Moses. However, in Romans 4 Paul takes it even further. He begins Romans 4 talking about Abraham not being justified by works. These obviously can’t be works of the law of Moses, since it hadn’t yet arrived on the scene. Paul is taking the concept of works and expanding it from works of the law of Moses to works of any kind. And this is what your narrow focus on Romans 3 doesn’t allow you to see – in the epistle to the Romans, Paul is talking about both types of works – those specifically of the law of Moses, and those in general not of the law of Moses. For the rest of the book of Romans, when Paul talks about works, this distinction can be seen – he talks about works in general, and not just specific works of the law of Moses. This distinction is clear in in Romans 4:1-5, is seen again in Romans 9:11, and 9:32, and 11:6. Paul effectively drops the ‘of the law’ part, and talks about works in general, because he made this swing in Romans 4 to show that it is all works, not only works of the law of Moses.

    Again I’ll take the opportunity to point out that this is also something I see very frequently in Roman Catholic doctrine – narrowing the focus down to a micro level to prove a point, but then not coming back to the larger level to see if the point even fits in with the overall context. (i.e., the doctrine of transubstantiation comes from this methodology) I would advise against this practice, but I fully expect to be told that my methods are wrong because they aren’t Roman Catholic methods.

    Now, on each of these three points, I’m sure we could go back and forth for weeks hammering out doctrinal opinions. Forget weeks – we could go centuries, as has already been done. But that’s not really worthwhile. Because, when we trace it back to its roots, it’s going to come back to the very point that I have made previously: I disagree with Roman Catholic interpretation, and hence I am wrong because only the Roman Catholic Church has the authority to interpret scripture. It’s always going to come back to the authority of Rome – and as such, Roman Catholicism will appeal to it’s own authority as ultimate.

    I’ll keep God as my ultimate authority.

  97. Bryan Cross, (re #82)

    I must admit, I don’t think I could have possibly asked for a better response to my posts. You’ve provided the quintessential example of the exact thing that I was talking about. Honestly, it could not have turned out any better. I may end up simply printing your comments out and taking them to show my Roman Catholic friend at work.

    I’ll start with your accusation of question begging, since it gets to the heart of the issue. I think you may be a little bit off here, since circular reasoning would be a little bit more accurate. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on this. As such, I’ll happily admit to using circular reasoning on these issues. We’re talking about what is the ultimate standard, and as such, there can only possibly be circular reasoning on the issue! I will freely admit that I start with God and his word as my foundation, and I end with God and his word as my foundation. Completely circular, and happily accepted as such.

    But I don’t think you are understanding the issue. When it comes to an ultimate authority, as I’ve already mentioned, there can only possibly be circular reasoning. If there were another authority that could authenticate the ultimate authority, then it wouldn’t actually be the ultimate authority – this new second authority would be. As such, all ultimate authority claims can only be reasoned about in a circular way.

    So to accuse me of begging the question is redundant – I’ve already previously admitted to it. The question is: what we are all begging the question on; what are we all reasoning in a circle about; what is our ultimate authority?

    As I mentioned last time, the Roman Catholic Church states that it’s ultimate authority is God. But in actuality, it is not God, but the Roman Catholic Church itself. So I’m starting to see that this is what I need to show my Roman Catholic friend – the Roman Catholic Church makes a subtle authority swap and slips itself into the place of God as the ultimate authority. Hopefully, he’ll be able to see it, and hopefully some of your comments here will help him. They really are quite good at exposing the ultimacy of the Roman Catholic Church in its own beliefs.

    So, let’s get on to dealing with your comments directly. I’m going to skim lots, since now that we know that we are dealing with ultimate authority claims, there’s really not much point in getting into too much minute detail.

    One of the things about ad hominems is that they can easily be returned, and thus cancelled out. So if your response to my replies is to attack my intelligence, I could (but I won’t) easily say the same thing to you, namely, that the reason you insist on claiming that there are five contradictions internal to Catholicism, even after I showed that these five cases are no contradictions at all, is merely because of an intelligence problem. So resorting to ad hominems doesn’t make one’s case. It generally indicates that one doesn’t have the evidence or argumentation to make one’s case, so one’s only remaining option (besides conceding the point) is to attack the person, character, intelligence, etc. of one’s interlocutor. Otherwise one would simply let one’s evidence and argumentation do the work of refutation.

    Passive aggressive much? :)

    I think you may need to learn a little bit about ad hominems. It seems that it’s your favourite logical fallacy, so you just throw it out everywhere you can. Allow me to give you a tip – making fun of a person’s argument is different than making fun of a person. Saying that their argument lacks intelligence is different than saying that they lack intelligence. You’ve misapplied the ad hominem concept in many places here, attributing it to some comments I made where it clearly doesn’t apply.

    But you know what, I don’t even care. Go ahead and label some of my comments as ad hominem – explain to me why that’s a bad thing? Is an ad hominem comment always wrong? Always illogical? Always inappropriate? Personally, I have no problem with them being used, when used properly. Why? They’re in the bible. All over!

    King David calls atheists fools. Paul does the same thing to members of the church in Galatia when he calls them foolish multiple times. King Solomon in Proverbs makes multiple ad hominem comments. Elijah was pretty ad hominem with the prophets of Baal. In fact, read any of the prophets in the Old Testament and you’ll likely find lots of ad hominem attacks. Even Jesus Himself used them. He called the Pharisees hypocrites and a brood of vipers. How many times does he get frustrated with the disciples and ask them ‘do you still lack understanding’? He even calls Peter (your supposed first pope) Satan! I don’t know if you can get anymore ad hominem than calling someone Satan!

    So, I’ve got to ask you again – so what? What’s the big deal about ad hominems? They’re quite biblical when dealing with someone who just refuses to understand. ;)

    It makes it seem either that you don’t want to help me come to see the error of my position, or don’t want to learn that you might be wrong about your claim that I have contradicted myself.

    Or, like the biblical persons mentioned above, the time for gentle conversation with someone who refuses to acknowledge the truth is over, and the time to point and declare has arrived. As it has with you.

    Out of respect and charity, each person gets to define, articulate and specify what is his own position, such that no one ought knowingly to attribute to or impose upon another, a position the other person denies is his own.

    You mean like this:

    It makes it seem either that you don’t want to help me come to see the error of my position, or don’t want to learn that you might be wrong about your claim that I have contradicted myself

    Or how about this:

    And so when you say, as you said in comment #26, “It still shocks me when someone spends that much time studying the bible and yet still falls for the contradictions of the Roman Catholic Church,” it turns out that what you really mean is simply that you are shocked when people who spend so much time studying the Bible don’t adopt your interpretation of the Bible.

    Well done, Bryan! Way to not break your own rules!

    Shall I return serve on the straw-man accusations here? Shall we let this devolve into pounding each other with claims of logical fallacies? No – instead, let’s get back to the issue of ‘defining ones own position’.

    So go ahead – you can define all you want. You can define contradictions right out of it. I’ll even grant you that you can make Roman Catholicism internally consistent such that there are no contradictions – just make it one of your doctrines that there are no contradictions, and there won’t be any! Mormonism can do the same thing. So can atheism. Even I do it with Christianity. So what? What I’ve discovered here, and what you have shown beautifully in your response, is that the issue isn’t only internal consistency, because anyone can arbitrarily manufacture that. The issue is, what’s your ultimate authority to determine that internal consistency? And as you have made so blatantly obvious with all your replies here, your ultimate authority is the Roman Catholic Church. That’s a fundamental part of Roman Catholic doctrine. It’s as if you entirely missed what I said in response to Benjamin back in my comment #80. You’ve simply continued to do what I said Roman Catholicism does – appeal to Roman Catholic authority to deny that the contradiction even exists.

    And this is my question going forward – how can I best help lost Roman Catholics realize the subtle bait-and-switch that the Roman Catholic Church does by removing God from His place of ultimate authority and placing the Roman Catholic Church in the place of ultimate authority? How can I help them get out of that false gospel of Roman Catholicism and understand the gospel of Jesus Christ? It’s likely to be very tough, given that the authority swap is so subtle, but it’s important to see it. Showing someone the examples that you’ve given here will likely be a great tool.

    An atheist who thinks Christianity is full of contradictions could say the same to a Christian. In such a case, this is a problem not for the Christian, but for the atheist attempting to demonstrate his claim that Christianity is full of contradictions. Instead of complaining that the Christian can “interpret away” these alleged contradictions, the atheist needs to show how the “interpreting away” does not actually remove the contradictions. Otherwise he is merely conceding that he cannot substantiate his claim. And the same is true here.

    This is categorically false. The atheist can simply keep claiming that it is a contradiction, and the Christian can keep claiming that it isn’t. There is no concession about substantiating a point – both clearly believe that they are correct. The question then comes – by what authority do each make their point? The Christian will stand on the authority of God, who by His very nature and His very authority can verify that no contradiction exists in the Christian worldview. The atheist is likely to stand upon one of many different authorities – their reasoning, science, society or humanity, for example. Yet all will fall down to subjective arbitrariness. And here, a Roman Catholic will stand on the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Millions of people claim that the contradictions listed are actual contradictions. They will stand on the authority of God Himself to make the claim. The Roman Catholic Church claims that the contradictions listed are not actual contradictions. They will stand on the authority of the Roman Catholic Church (oh, they won’t come out and say that, but their doctrine ultimately leads to that). Then it comes down to a question of authorities – God or the Roman Catholic Church? I know which side I’m going to want to be on.

    Again, complaining about the fact that I can “explain away” the alleged contradiction does not make your case. It concedes that you cannot substantiate your claim.

    No, it concedes that I fully expect you to not accept it. It has nothing to do with how well I substantiate my claim. Sometimes, people just dig their heels in and won’t accept truth. Proof does not always lead to persuasion, and I fear that you are getting the two mixed up here. Whether or not something actually is a contradiction is an entirely different question than whether or not a person is persuaded that it is a contradiction. And that’s what’s at stake here. You simply aren’t persuaded – whether or not my comments are sufficient. Why? Once again, the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

    The Pharisees could have said the same to Jesus: “You have an answer for everything.”

    You’re right. And I can say the same thing about Mormons. And about Atheists. And Jehovah’s Witnesses. And Muslims. And, and, and, …

    And yet He is the Truth, and was not thereby refuted by having an answer for everything when they raised objections against His teaching. So the fact that Catholics have an “answer for everything” when charges of contradiction are laid against them does not show that they are wrong, or that there really are contradictions internal to Catholicism.

    I do love the subtle way that you elevate the Roman Catholic Church here to the same level as Jesus. It’s not lost on anyone with an open mind.

    Here, it turns out, your charge of contradiction is not a contradiction internal to Catholicism but a contradiction between the Catholic doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity, and your own interpretation of Psalm 69. But a contradiction between Church doctrine and your interpretation of Scripture is not a contradiction internal to Catholicism.

    And here we get to the absolute perfect example. It can’t get much clearer than this. I’ll happily admit that it appears that there is no contradiction internal to Roman Catholicism here, for the very reasons that you state: Roman Catholic doctrine interprets there to be no contradiction. And we are right back to the most important question of the day: by what authority? And the only answer you have given is: the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Once again, placing the Roman Catholic Church in the place of the ultimate authority, instead of God, is one of the worst things you could possibly do. To anyone reading here, please, I beg of you, recognize this fact and come to the realization that God must forever and always be the ultimate authority – not a Church.

    The ‘all’ here is intended in a qualified sense; it is not intended to mean that Mary sinned and fell short of the glory of God. So what you are doing here is attacking a straw man of your own making, by misconstruing the meaning of a Catholic document, so as to make it seem to contradict a Catholic dogma.

    And I can level the same accusation back. You are simply reinterpreting the same Roman Catholic document in a way such that it fits in with other Roman Catholic doctrines, regardless of the plain reading of the text. And again, I ask, by what authority? The ultimate authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

    The bottom line, no matter how many sighs, and how much frustration you feel, is that so far you are unable to substantiate even a single contradiction within Catholicism. Instead of sighing with frustration, you should either concede that you cannot show there to be any such contradiction, or show your claims of contradiction stand in spite of what I’ve said.

    Bryan, as mentioned, it’s not a question of proof – they stand proven. It’s a question of persuasion. And you simply aren’t persuaded. Why? Because you submit to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church to keep you unpersuaded. Which again comes back to the point I made in my last posts – the Roman Catholic Church sets itself up as the ultimate authority, and as such, replaces God as the ultimate authority. That is probably the biggest reason why the Roman Catholic Church is not a Christian Church – it’s fundamental foundational premise (though subtly snuck in) is the breaking of the first commandment.

    Once more, I could turn that same kind of ad hominem right back at you: you are blind to the truth of Catholicism, and therefore cannot see its internal consistency, or something like that. And then we’d be right back where we started. So the “you’re blind,” .. “No, you’re blind,” … “No, you’re blind” dialectic is pointless.

    Actually, it’s not pointless. It has been exceedingly helpful. Because it has allowed us to get to the very root of the issue. Both people call each other blind. The question then becomes, by what authority does each make their claim that the other is blind. The Roman Catholic Church (and you by extension) makes the claim based upon its own ultimate authority. And I’ll happily stand here and point that out to any Roman Catholics, and tell them to take a good long look at their Church and see whether or not it is true. See whether or not the Roman Catholic Church ultimately appeals to its own authority to authenticate itself.

    No, Catholicism does not claim or believe that the Catholic Church is the “necessary presuppositional starting point.” The Catholic Church rejects fideism, as I have explained in “Wilson vs. Hitchens: A Catholic Perspective.”

    Wow. I’m not sure what else to say. That article (and the accompanying blog on presuppositionalism) was shocking from anyone who calls himself a Christian! But it did shine a light upon things.

    Now that I grasp how you completely misunderstand Wilson’s position, I can see why you would end up in the Roman Catholic Church. At this point, it seems to look like you put more faith in your own reasoning than anything else. Christianity is not simply ‘pick a starting point and throw your faith there’; it’s ‘God reveals truth to you and that is the foundational starting point’. Your counter argument seems to be that, just because there can be (and are) false revelations (whether by man or by spirit), thus there can be no true revelation or true knowledge of divine revelation. That’s no less absurd than saying that, just because there is counterfeit money out there, there must be no such thing as real money. It’s an absurd argument, based upon a false supremacy of man’s reasoning. God’s revelation can get through to fallen human beings based upon the very fact that He’s God, His revelation is self authenticating, and needs no confirmation of it from fallen man! It’s the very same basis for the faith Peter showed in verses I’m sure you know very well – Matthew 16:16-17. Peter could have complete assurance and absolute epistemic certainty, because God gave him complete assurance and absolute epistemic certainty.

    The divine authority of the Church is established not by the divine authority of the Church (that would be circular), but by the motives of credibility. So what you are criticizing here is a straw man.

    No matter what you claim, you can’t get the divine authority of the Roman Catholic Church from anything but the divine authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Once the Roman Catholic Church declares itself to be the sole provider, keeper and interpreter of scripture, and the sole provider, keeper and interpreter of sacred tradition, then it sets itself up as a higher authority than anything revealed in such scripture and tradition. And that means that the Roman Catholic Church does actually set itself up as the ultimate authority, even above the God it claims to reveal. It is circular – contrary to your claim otherwise. It’s just a multi-step, subtle circle that most people will miss.

    So let’s start with the motives of credibility (and let’s leave aside for the moment that this concept is one of the furthest things you can get from the idea of ‘having the faith of a child’). Why are the motives of credibility what establishes the divine authority of the Roman Catholic Church? Because that’s what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. Who defines what the motives of credibility are in regards to determining the Roman Catholic Church’s authority? The Roman Catholic Church does. The motives of credibility are built upon the Old Testament and the New Testament – and the Roman Catholic Church claims to have the sole authority to determine what they are, what they say, and what they mean. The motives of credibility rely upon the history of the Roman Catholic Church – which the Roman Catholic Church claims to have the sole authority to reveal and describe. Now – tell me again, even based upon your motives of credibility, how the divine authority of the Roman Catholic Church is not established by the assumption of the divine authority of the Roman Catholic Church?

    Once the light is shined on it in detail, it becomes easier to see. As I mentioned previously, it may be a long, multistep circle, but it is circular nonetheless. The Roman Catholic Church ultimately derives it’s own authority from itself, and in doing so, subtly raises itself above God into the place of ultimacy.

    Thankfully, my time here has provided me with many very good avenues to explore to help lost Roman Catholics out of the vicious circularity of Roman Catholicism and hopefully place their faith in God as their ultimate authority instead.

    These question-begging criticisms are unhelpful, precisely because they presuppose the point in question.

    On the contrary, Bryan. These question-begging criticisms get to the very heart of the matter. Because they expose the conflicting ultimate authorities of the Roman Catholic and the Christian – either the Church of Rome, of the God of all creation. And that, my friend, as the first commandment makes clear, is truly the fundamental question of life.

  98. R.C., (re #88)

    I’ll leave aside all the issues of the absurdity of transubstantiation, since we will just again devolve into a discussion of details we are never likely to agree upon. I’ll simply come back to the overriding issue I’ve been pointing out here. By what authority do you claim all the things you do? Only the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. And as mentioned, I don’t accept it’s self-attestation to divine authority, since no subjective entity can provide such self-attestation.

    The same applies to your comments about what the body of Christ actually is. We can disagree upon details for centuries, but ultimately it’s going to come down to this: by what authority do you make the claims you do? The authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

    That is only all the little independent mouths buttressing their opinions in contradictory ways, and it produces the thousands of denominations and the multiplicity of different opinions even within denominations which those denominations’ founders would themselves have called scandalous and heretical. If Jesus was such a fool as to have intended that as an ecclesiology to last for all ages, then He was not God. But He was and is God, and God is no fool, and He knew better. He gave us a way to identify His authentic voice in the world. A visible way. An objective way. A way that works.

    You seem to think that Roman Catholic doctrine solves this problem. I would point out the hundreds (if not thousands) of different sects in Roman Catholicism which believe different things, hold to different theologies, and each have their own different interpretation of the supposedly infallible Roman Catholic interpretation of things. I could point to wars which were fought in the past over different doctrines within the Roman Catholic Church itself by its own members. There is almost as much disagreement within the Roman Catholic Church as there is outside of the Roman Catholic Church. But you would likely disagree. You would likely claim that there is unity in doctrine and always has been. Why? Because the Roman Catholic Church claims that there is unity in doctrine and there always has been.

    I know of no other plausible candidate than the Catholic Magisterium. If it didn’t exist, you’d have to make it up, just to keep the divinity of Christ plausible.

    Or maybe, just maybe, God’s actually omniscient enough and omnipotent enough to be able to take care of that on His own, without submitting Himself to the Roman Catholic Church and its authority to do it for Him.

  99. Jonathan:

    The heart of your position appears in the following argument, from your #94:

    As soon as you admit that God’s self-revelation requires mediation to man, other than God’s own self-authenticating authoritative mediation, you are claiming that God is not the ultimate authority. Whatever does that mediating would be an authority higher than God, for it would have the authority to authenticate God.

    That is both confused and question-begging. It even counts against your own view of the Bible. Let’s see how.

    It is confused because nothing can “authenticate God,” and Catholics know that as well as you or anybody else. Whatever the actual, propositionally expressible content of divine revelation may be, it is only on the divine authority by which such revelation is given that one can believe that content to be true. So the question needing consideration is how one recognizes divine authority as such in what has beenalleged to be divine revelation.

    Your answer to that question is like that of many other conservative Protestants: the Bible as self-authenticating. But whatever else it may be–such as “the word of God,” which as a Catholic I believe it is–the Bible is a collection of writings produced by men over a period of centuries. The collection itself was put together by men who claimed those writings were divinely inspired and thus inerrant. Thus you already have “mediation” whether you like it or not: a little library called “the Bible,” produced and collected by men, mediates divine revelation to us. But why should we believe those men? It would only beg the question to simply assert: “Because the divine authority of the Bible is self-authenticating as such.” Since that’s exactly what you assert as a presupposition, you beg the question. Yet if no mere human is ever infallible under any conditions, that assertion can only be held and taught as a human opinion, which might be false. Hence it cannot claim divine authority, and thus cannot authenticate the Bible as a medium of divine authority.

    Worse still, you make no distinction between those who received divine revelation directly–i.e., some of the people described in the Bible–and those of us who receive it indirectly, through the media of the Bible and Tradition. Those who have lived after the Apostles can only receive divine revelation through such media. Then the questions become: How do we know what data truly belong in those media, and how they are to be interpreted correctly? Unless there is a living teaching authority which has inherited that of the Apostles, and thus the infallible authority of the God-Man himself, no answer to that question can be anything other than a human opinion that has no binding authority. You can talk all you want about “the Holy Spirit,” but that only kicks the can down the road: How do we know who believes and interprets by the Holy Spirit and who doesn’t?

    On the Catholic interpretive paradigm (CIP), Scripture and Tradition mediate divine revelation to us, and the function of the Magisterium is simply to ensure that the assembly (ecclesia) of believers identifies and interprets their content reliably, by divine authority. That’s not the only way the Holy Spirit speaks to individual believers, but it is a bedrock, indispensable way. And on the CIP, the mere fact that believers cannot do those things simply as individuals, and need a living teaching authority that is Christ’s, does not mean that the Magisterium is above the word of God. Rather, it is God’s gift to us for the purpose of ensuring that our reception of divine revelation through its media is no mere matter of opinion. If that purpose were left to individuals or sub-groups of believers to achieve for themselves, a mere matter of opinion is all it would be and remain. Yet that’s exactly the position you’ve landed yourself in.

    Best,
    Mike

  100. Jonathan,

    I may end up simply printing your comments out and taking them to show my Roman Catholic friend at work.

    Do it. Or just send him a link to the discussion. Either way, I think he has the right to see this. Don’t you?

  101. Hi James (#89),

    Thanks for your post, as well as your honesty and vulnerability. Also appreciate all of those who immediately responded to James to encourage him in his journey towards deeper fellowship with Christ! I’m not sure there is very much I can add to those who’ve already responded, but I can try to offer a couple thoughts.

    First, I would say that I am humbled and honored by your statements, and your current situation. Your descriptions of spiritual dryness suggest to me to a profound yearning for deeper intimacy with the Lord – for all I know, you may have felt that way for a long time, which can be a heavy burden to bear, especially if you are earnestly seeking God. I’ll definitely be praying for your unique situation. I confess my own experience was a bit different than yours – I didn’t feel that spiritual dryness when I was a Reformed Protestant – I very much felt that I was growing deeper in communion with the Lord through scripture, prayer, my PCA church, weekly communion (a rarity even in Reformed Christianity), seminary, and fellowship with other spiritually-mature Christians. So my transition to Catholicism wasn’t so much feeling the spiritual emptiness of Protestantism as finding Protestant answers to a number of foundational theological questions to be unsatisfactory. To be frank, in my few years in the Catholic Church, I’ve felt spiritual highs and spiritual lows. I and all those affiliated with Called to Communion would hope you’d find great spiritual comfort and deeper fellowship with Christ in the sacraments and the Catholic faith if you converted, but there are no guarantees that such a thing would happen overnight or to the degree you would hope. The way God relates to us is mysterious, as I’m sure your many years of following Him have shown. I’ve been told, and am continually finding, that sometimes he removes certain comforts to force us into uncomfortable spiritual growth. Hopefully that won’t deter you from seeking to understand the Catholic faith. If it is true, and if it is indeed the faith handed down from Christ to His apostles, it is worth believing and living for.

    If you do seriously pursue the Catholic faith, I would strongly urge finding strong Catholics who believe Church teaching and seek to live it out. Finding that community was incredibly helpful to me after I converted. When I converted, I practically overnight lost most of support network: the small PCA church where I knew almost everyone, the pastors and elders I trusted and whose counsel I often sought, and the seminary where I took courses. That’s not because I became an outcast or all those friendships were lost – on the contrary, I maintain friendships with many Reformed folk. But I didn’t attend that PCA church anymore, those Reformed friends disapproved of my decision and couldn’t relate to my new experiences, and my seminary plans were scuttled. Catholic friendships and community did come, but there was much loneliness during the transition, too. All that to say, pray more now than ever, my friend, especially through the spiritual dryness!

    Feel free to get my email from the moderators if you like. I would be happy to hear about your experiences and transition. God bless,

    Casey

  102. Jonathan,

    I want to pray for you (and you can pray for me).

    I am not a theologian, so I will keep it brief. *R.C. = Roman Catholic

    I am a candidate for entering the R.C. Church from a Reformed background. You say that the R.C. Church is the authority for R.C.s instead of Jesus Christ, and that basically, they switch the real teachings of Jesus for the false heresies of the R.C. Church.

    As a woman, I would like to bring up authority. In our Reformed Bible studies, we women would talk a lot about the many ways men and women differ, especially in regards to roles of leadership. One of the most difficult teachings is the submission of women to men, in church and in marriage, because we are biblically called to do so. It is right and good, because it is biblical.

    Naturally, men lead mixed sex bible study groups. Men are pastors, elders and deacons. And, it is men who teach what, where, who, how and why in regards to the Bible. It is our husbands, if we are married, we submit to, and if we are not married, our fathers. Therefore, women always, always are properly submitting their understanding of the Word to men. Even when we read the Bible and pray for the Holy Spirit and receive revelation, those revelations are submitted to and corrected by our male leadership in the Reformed church and at home.

    This doesn’t disprove anything you have said. But, I do think there is a lot that is not being said about the male/female roles of the Bride and the Bridegroom, about submission to Jesus Christ for all people, and how that relates to authority. I can’t define specifically, but I do feel these New Testament ideas are being overlooked in all the evoking of the principle of authority.

    I have never been able to put my finger on it, because I am not intellectually coherent and logical enough to do so, but I feel the Reformed church gives many smart, talented, energetic men an outlet to be their own authority, and to reign over others in that authority, especially in regards to Biblical scholarship, but to not necessarily come to the same conclusions as others. In my experience, there is a lot of underground tension and jousting over being the authority in the room, the go-to man on the Bible.

    This doesn’t disprove a thing you are saying, Jonathan. I think you are a strong Christian and highly articulate and bright. You have a gift.

    But to think that everyone in the church is called to have that gift—of interpreting the Bible for themselves, having no other authority but the Bible and the Holy Spirit guiding them–well, for women, it just isn’t so–there is that male mediator of authority.

    It is a different side of looking at things, but as a women, I have submitted to others’ authority on the Bible since I have been a Christian. I find that as you state, about the Holy Spirit, as long as we are in constant communication with Jesus through prayer and reading the Bible, even if others teach us falsely, the truth comes to light in time. Nothing can hide truth if we live in obedience to Him, that is, to believe in Him and love Him.

    Thank you Casey for your article.

    Humbly, sincerely, a fellow Christian.

  103. Jonathan,

    As I told David T. King a few years back, I don’t accept the Bible as the Word of God because of a verse of the Christian Scriptures says something about being “God-breathed…” I accept the Bible as the Word of God because of the Catholic Church… period. The Church may not have to teach in any explicit way that I must have Her as a foundational starting point, an ultimate presupposition, or whatever… but, guess, what… I do. I presuppose that the Catholic Church is what She claims to be, and, mainly, for that reason, I accept the Bible. It’s not the other way around, and, frankly, I think that position is an absurd one. David T. King told me that it was sad that I saw things that way. I’d told him that I didn’t just recognize the Scriptures as God’s Word apart from the Church, that the Holy Spirit didn’t scream anything to me about it being the Scripture apart from the Church. He tod me that I was basically insubordinate because I had the Bible, but was still asking God for “His ID.” I find that type of reasoning to be ridiculous… if that’s what presuppositional pastors have to offer folks… I find it a bit less than pastoral, thank you very much.

    You’re the elect, no? Why come round here to torture us more than your “god” surely will for eternity in hell? Our minds have clearly been darkened, no? And by “god” himself, no less… surely most of us are “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” and have been since before the foundation of the world, right? Has our hell started now… with the elect coming round here to speak down to people who by divine decree CANNOT “get it?” One has to respect that kind of “grace,” I guess…

    I presuppose the Catholic Church is what She says she is, and, ON THAT BASIS, I accept the Bible (properly interpreted) as God’s written revelation to His sheep… and not for ANY OTHER REASON.

    Move on… your “arguments” are falling on deaf (by divine decree, no?) ears here, sir. Your’ religion of penal substitutions, sola scripturas, double imputations of righteousness and sin (all ridiculous and unbiblical notions that I, for one, would have to have an outside will override my intellect to see where they are not), etc is of NO INTEREST to me.

    I am Catholic!

    IC XC

  104. Jonathan (#95)

    John Thayer Jensen, (re #83)

    Highest earthly spiritual authority, yes, but only as the authorised mouthpiece of Christ. Christ is the highest authority, and, yes, His authority is self-authenticating. The Church’s authority is authenticated by Christ.

    I have no doubt that this is what is taught and believed. However, if we look deeper, we will see the vicious circle. How do I know that the Roman Catholic Church’s authority is authenticated by Christ? Well, because that’s what the Roman Catholic Church tells me. It points me to it’s interpretation of scripture, which it claims is the only valid one. It points me to sacred tradition, which it claims to have the authority to preserve and explain. It points me to history, but its version of history and its interpretation of history. In the end, the Roman Catholic Church is the one who authenticates the ‘authentication by Christ’. And as such, we are right back to the Roman Catholic Church being the ultimate authority.

    But of course this is quite wrong. It would be circular. We do not submit to the Church as Christ’s mouthpiece simply on its own word.

    You say:

    Actually, I don’t go that far at all. I don’t believe Christ ever established the type of earthly Church authority in the way that Roman Catholics believe. So I don’t even get as far along the path as you would like me to.

    But – surely! – that is not true! You believe that Christ established the apostles as that earthly Church authority, do you not? It is simply that you think they produced the New Testament, and did not pass on their earthly authority.

    If you do not believe that, then I’m not sure on what authority you believe in the authority of the NT. On its own say-so? But this is the same circularity you accused (wrongly) Catholics of espousing.

    If have known, to be sure, Protestants who do go that far. The NT is self-attesting. We need no authority for believing it to be the Word of God. If you are one such, then I do not see what you would reply to my Mormon and Muslim friends who say the same about their revelation. I suppose you can just compare revelations.

    It is what I was trying to say. We discover the authority by history – not by revelation.

    I would say that there are multiple problems with this. First, there are many people who will completely disagree with you that history causes us to discover that the Roman Catholic Church is the authority you claim.

    Certainly!

    There will be Protestants who claim otherwise; there will be Buddhists who do so also; as well as Mormons; atheists will say history shows that there is no authority at all. The only way around these disparate interpretations of history is to claim that the Roman Catholic interpretation of history is the correct one. But this goes back to the very point at issue – it would assume the authority of the Roman Catholic Church to then authenticate the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

    But secondly, and more importantly, by what authority do we “discover the authority by history”? Why is history the process of discovering authority? Why isn’t majority vote the proper method for discovering authority? Or throwing dice? How do you support the claim that “we discover the authority by history”? I can see it coming down to only a few options. If you claim that’s the proper method yourself, then you make yourself out to be the authority by which we discover authority, and as such, set yourself up arbitrarily as your own ultimate authority. Or you could claim that majority opinion says it’s the proper method, but then humanity becomes your ultimate authority. Or you could claim that the Roman Catholic Church decides that history is the way that we discover such an authority, but then you are right back reasoning in a circle, and the Roman Catholic Church stands as your ultimate authority.

    History is not an authority. History is our experience. We cannot know any authority at all unless we start from experience and reason. The very existence of God Himself is based on reason and experience. This is what St Paul means when he says, in Romans, that “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead…” (Romans 1:20). He does not appeal to authority to say that the pagans know God. He appeals to their experience of creation.

    We find moral binding reasons to believe that Jesus is God’s Son. We find that He sent His Church – the apostles, initially – with His authority (thus theirs is not self-authenticating, but authenticated by His sending). They, reading the New Testament, again, as history, not as revelation, passed theirs on (e.g. St Paul to Timothy) – and they set up an organised body, the Church, that must be listened to

    This simply expands upon your comments above, and my question about why history is the determiner of the Roman Catholic Church’s authority still stands. But even further, what is your response to those who will simply disagree with you on each of these points? Someone may not find morally binding reasons to believe that Jesus is God’s Son. Someone may not find that He sent the Roman Catholic Church with His authority. Someone may read the New Testament as history and not find anything like what you’ve listed here. To what authority do you appeal to lead someone along this path to come to the same conclusions as you do?

    Indeed, they may not. He is that authority – but they must come to see Him as that. They cannot do so by authority. He is the highest authority. There can be no higher authority they can appeal to to prove His authority.

    I have no doubt you think that ‘you’ continues. The question becomes, why? Many would disagree with you, from many faiths, or even those with no faith at all. To what authority will you appeal to continue believing such a doctrine? The authority of the Roman Catholic Church?

    Again, you must start somewhere in order to discover authority. You must discern the authority of Christ; from His the authority of the Church; from the authority of the Church, the authority of the New Testament. There is no other way.

  105. Jonathan,

    Welcome back. I’m glad that you have returned to continue the discussion.

    On the Council of Trent and “justification by faith alone,” you are continuing to interact on this subject as though Trent anathematized the exact position that *you and other Reformed Protestants* hold. However, in one of my earlier comments, I presented evidence that this is not the case, via links to The Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on Justification, and to Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 statement that the Catholic Church can accept a proper understanding of “faith alone,” as long as that faith is informed by love for God and fellow human beings.

    Again, if you believe that the faith which justifies is a faith that, by definition, leads to faith-informed works, then your position does not fall under Trent’s anathema. This is clear from both the Joint Declaration and from Benedict XVI’s statement.

    Do you believe that the Pope would make doctrinal statements in his public addresses that *deliberately misrepresent* what the Catholic Church teaches on justification? If so, why do you believe that he would do so? Do you believe that the Vatican would allow a document on justification to be published on its website that does not accurately reflect what the Church teaches about justification? These are honest questions. I am genuinely curious to hear your view(s) on these matters.

    From your most recent comments here, you continue to state that today’s Reformed Protestants fall under the anathemas of Trent, but there is evidence, from the Catholic Church, from the (now-former) Pope, and the Vatican website, that this is not the case. Yet you still seem to believe that it is the case. Why? Do you genuinely believe that you understand the Pope’s statements about what the Church holds to be true better than he himself understands them? Do you simply think that that the Joint Declaration is misrepresenting the Church’s position on justification?

    Please know that, while I am asking these questions in a very pointed way, they are, again, honest questions. I am asking them in such a pointed way in an attempt to gain clarity on your views.

    From what I’m reading of your comments here, you seem to believe that (at least for people whom God has elected unto salvation) the Bible is perspicuous on the doctrines and teachings that you believe the Bible presents as “the essentials” of the Christian faith. Please correct me if I’m mistaken in my perception of your view here.

    If I am not mistaken on your view, then I must ask, how does one know that one has rightly interpreted the Bible as to what “the essentials of the Christian faith” exactly *are*? The Reformers disagreed *among themselves*as to the “Biblical essentials.” Luther questioned Zwingli’s faith (to put it nicely) for his “symbolic” view of the Eucharist. In Calvin’s book on the subject, he claimed that a proper view of the Eucharist is necessary for salvation. What is the basis of your seeming confidence that you are right, and they were wrong, on this issue, other than your own interpretation of the Bible?

    Continuing on the perspecuity of the Bible, it is an historical fact that, from the 1500s until the early 2oth century, all Protestant denominations stood with the Catholic Church in holding artificial contraception to be a very grave sin– an abomination against God. In 1930, the Anglican Church cautiously accepted the use of contraception, with reservations, in “serious” circumstances. Soon after, most Protestant denominations followed suit– to the point that relatively few Protestants today even view the use of contraception to be inherently sinful at all. http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/07/contraception/

    Were all Protestant denominations simply mistaken on contraception issue for 400 years? The Catholic Church still teaches what she always has on the subject. Again, I genuinely would like to hear your view. Do you believe that Protestants simply missed the “clarity” of the Bible on this issue for 400 years? If not, does it trouble you that most Protestants today contradict the Reformers (and most other previous historical Protestants) on contraception?

  106. James,

    Welcome to CTC. You will be in my prayers. Other commenters have recommended good resources to learn what the Catholic Church teaches, but (and I may well have overlooked something!), I haven’t seen a specific recommendation to buy a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The “2nd edition” of the Catechism is the most recent one. This book is indispensable for inquirers into the Catholic Church. It presents, as Blessed John Paul II, wrote, “a sure norm for teaching the faith.” The entire Catechism is available to read, for free, on the Vatican’s website. http://www.vatican.va/archive/index.htm However, it’s a large book, and you might also want to have your own personal copy for easier reference. https://catalog.osv.com/Catalog.aspx?SimpleDisplay=true&ProductCode=976

    For a Catholic study Bible, there are various options. I have heard that the Navarre Bible is very good from numerous people, but I don’t yet have my own copy, as it is has been published in multiple volumes that are beyond my budget at this point. Here is a link to buy the various volumes (or a complete set that I really could afford!): http://www.navarrebibles.com For a more affordable option for beginning study, the Ignatius Study Bible (New Testament, RSV translation) is a good start. Unfortunately, the Old Testament notes are still in the process of being written, so the Ignatius OT has not yet been published. I highly recommend the NT though. The notes are very, very helpful. http://www.ignatius.com/IProducts/29980/new-testament.aspx

    It’s interesting how God leads people to the Catholic Church (or back to the Church, in my case!) in very different ways. I have certainly had spiritually dry periods in my life, but at the time that I began to have “Catholic questions,” I actually wasn’t discontent as a Protestant at all! As a “Reformed Baptist,” I could not have been more happy, in that I was convinced that my views were true to the teaching of Scripture. Questions about the Catholic Church came into my life in a completely unsolicited way— and I didn’t really want to pursue them, but I soon reached the conclusion that to be honest with God, myself, and others, I had to pursue them. Thus, I began meeting with an elder and friend from my congregation, and the journey began… and, looking back, I don’t regret a bit of it now, other than that I ever left the Church and spent so many years away from her in the first place. Peace and prayers to you in your study of the Church!

    P.S. James, please excuse my typos, brother! Ugh– typing in a hurry! God bless! :-)

  107. Spoils23M (re: #103)

    You wrote:
    I presuppose that the Catholic Church is what She claims to be, and, mainly, for that reason, I accept the Bible. It’s not the other way around, and, frankly, I think that position is an absurd one.

    I am Catholic !

    Response:
    The Catholic Church accepts the Bible because of its nature and origin, and not on the supposition of her self-identifying claims. Based on your words, I have no good reason to believe you are Catholic. Why did Vatican II begin with Revelation ?

    Thanks,
    Eric

  108. Jonathan,

    I just read the comment from “Spoiler23m” to you, and I want to say that I, for one, do not wish that you would “move on” from here. I’m glad that you are a part of this discussion. Yes, your approach is very direct (nothing wrong with that though), and at times, your tone is harsh, and I wish that you would be more willing to assume that the Catholics here really do care about understanding the Bible, but I’m glad that you’re here as a commenter. I don’t personally feel “tormented” by you at all. Strongly and directly challenged, yes– but then, that is part and parcel of being on a Catholic/Protestant site for dialogue and discussion! :-)

  109. Spoils, (re: #103)

    Move on… your “arguments” are falling on deaf (by divine decree, no?) ears here, sir. Your’ religion of penal substitutions, sola scripturas, double imputations of righteousness and sin (all ridiculous and unbiblical notions that I, for one, would have to have an outside will override my intellect to see where they are not), etc is of NO INTEREST to me.

    That’s not charitable, and not helpful for reaching agreement or mutual understanding. That sort of attitude is not what CTC is all about, and is not welcome here. Please see our Posting Guidelines.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  110. Hi Jonathan (#94),

    Glad to see you back in the “fight” and grateful for the time you took to respond to my comments as well as others.

    Thankfully, I think Mike Liccione has already done a lot of the heavy lifting for me in responding to your main line of argumentation. So thanks, Mike!

    Jonathan, you misrepresent Catholic understandings of mediation when you say that scripture and tradition are “underneath the authority of the Catholic Church.” As I argued in #81, the Catholic Church defines itself as being subject to God Almighty, as well as God’s revelation in scripture and tradition. To “mediate” that revelation is not to make itself superior to that ultimate authority. When Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, came to earth on behalf of God the Father, he served as a mediator between humanity and the first person of the Trinity. Likewise, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, now serves as a mediator between both God the Father and Jesus Christ to humanity in communicating the love and grace of God. Indeed, the apostles too served as mediators of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit when they wrote the scriptures, communicating God’s revelation to humanity in written word. In none of these examples are mediators to be understood as authorities above those from whom they receive their message or commission. I’m thus confused by what you mean when you say that the Catholic Church’s “authority over revelation, mediation, preservation and interpretation of God” is “not stated in words or in direct teaching” but “there nonetheless.” If the Catholic Church does not claim the level of authority you speak of, and its ability to serve as a mediator is not in contradiction with its ability to mediate or preserve God’s truth, how is it “there nonetheless”?

    I’m also curious as to how you reconcile your assertion that the Church’s authority to interpret scripture demonstrates its authority over the “words of God himself,” with the fact that you yourself have engaged here on this website in a similar project of interpreting scripture. When you interpret scripture, have you placed yourself as an authority above God? Or have you simply sought, in humility, to understand what scripture teaches so that you can subject yourself to its authority? If the latter, it is no different than what the Catholic Church has sought to do for 2,000 years.

    You also claim to be in a better position than the Catholic, because a Catholic must trust in the Church, a subjective authority, who receives revelation from God, an objective authority. You, on the other hand, claim to receive revelation directly from God. However as I’ve argued in the original article, your position is a bit more complicated than this. I presume you are not suggesting that you are akin to an Old Testament prophet who receives direct revelation from God, or an apostle who is inspired by the Holy Spirit to write an inspired, inerrant text to be added to the canon. If you are neither of these, you have probably received your revelation of God through the 66 books of the Protestant canon. As Mike Liccione has argued, these were written by men – men you trust to have faithfully recorded exactly what God has intended to communicate. In essence, you have trusted in men to serve as mediators between you and God, and are unable to circumvent your reliance on a human mediator with the authority to represent God.

    You argue that the Holy Spirit determines what the canon is and what scripture means. But as myself and others have argued, whose Holy Spirit? Yours? The evangelical Protestant scholar who has decided that John 8:1-9 is not authentic scripture? Or the Catholic, who reads the Wisdom of Solomon and believes it to be divinely-inspired? All believe to be guided by the Holy Spirit, but who is right? You speak of “self-authenticating authoritative mediation” from God, but all that seems to mean is that you read scripture and believe the Holy Spirit guides you to the correct interpretation. Yet I read scripture, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, and come to different, and often contradictory interpretations of scripture. So again I ask, who mediates between our Holy Spirits? Yes, you are right the Holy Spirit is objective, but we are not, and are hearts and minds are not in perfect harmony with God’s Spirit. Surely at some point in your time as an evangelical you’ve read scripture and interpreted it one way, only to find later you were wrong and come to a deeper or better understanding of what scripture means. Was the Holy Spirit wrong, or were you?

    You claim that my assertion that we need an authority to interpret scripture is something I came on my own, not from any “teaching,” by which I assume you mean scripture. But yet such an idea is indeed found in scripture: in Acts 8:26-40 the Ethiopian eunuch requests someone tell him what Isaiah means; in 1 John 4:1-6, John argues that his readers should determine which spirits are of God or of the anti-Christ by “listening to us,” which, in light of 1John 1:3-4 is likely a reference to the apostles.

    In regards to your comments on circular reasoning. If Bryan Cross will let me, I would like to defer a full response to Bryan because I think his reflections on your premise would be far more helpful than my I own, given his philosophical background. I remember reading your line of argumentation for the first time in Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology… I wonder if you read that as well or found it elsewhere! However, here’s my brief response. I think we can both agree that we desire that our ultimate authority be God as historical orthodox Christianity has understood Him: as Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet in your comment you appeal to at least two authorities and claim them all as ultimate. You first claim the Holy Spirit as your ultimate authority. You then claim his word, as revealed in scripture, as ultimate authority. Hopefully you would agree that the Holy Spirit and scripture are not the same. Which of these is your ultimate authority?

    In reference to anathemas, I don’t want to take this discussion too far afield, but I’ll try and briefly address your questions. The Catholic Church has never declared anyone as definitively in hell, nor has the Church ever claimed that someone has committed mortal sin that formally meets all three criteria that are necessary to result in spiritual death that would lead to hell (grave matter, full knowledge, deliberate consent). So no, your train of thought regarding someone being anathematized definitively going to hell is incorrect, according to Catholic teaching. Indeed, teachings of many theologians who have taught some things that the Catholic Church has formally declared to be heretical are still revered in the Church for what good they did teach. The Church Fathers Origen and Tertullian are great examples: both are referenced in the Catholic Catechism and have been honored most recently in the writngs of Benedict XVI (see his “Church Fathers” Wednesday audiences). Yet neither are saints, and both taught certain things the Church determined to be heretical. Furthermore, in reference to your question about the generation directly after the Council of Trent – it’s not that Protestants are “ok.” They are not in full communion with the Church, and this is something to mourn. The point is that no one, including you, can by definition be anathematized from the Catholic Church, if they were never a member of the Church. An anathema is a disciplinary tool of the Church, a “cutting off” of formal communion with an individual or group who teaches heretical doctrine. For the Church to try to discipline someone who is not Catholic would not make any sense – as much sense as if some Protestant denomination of which I was never a member sent me a formal letter of excommunication. Finally, in reference to your hypothetical 16th century Protestant versus 20th century Protestant: the Church’s doctrine develops over time, not to contradict previous teaching, but to provide further clarity or respond to particular theological questions. Just as a first century Christian would have no reference point for a fully-formed theological understanding of the Trinity (since that doctrine was not formalized until Nicea in 325 A.D.), the Catholic Church formalized a fuller doctrinal understanding of Protestant communities at Vatican II. A first-generation Reformer would be recognized as a heretic, but a Christian heretic, so yes, still in some sense within the broader Christian framework. This could be compared to how the Chalcedonian (Orthodox) Church understood non-Chalcedonian communities in the centuries following the Council of Chalcedon.

    You claim that my explanation regarding how Protestants can still be Christians is in contradiction with official Catholic teaching because the Church teaches in CCC 846 that “outside the Church there is no salvation.” The Church teaches that this means that all those who are saved are saved in some sense through the activities of the Catholic Church, because the graces gained for humanity by Christ’s atonement are mediated to the world through the Catholic Church. So even those outside the Catholic Church in some sense benefit from the grace the Church conveys from Christ Himself. Finally, you quote CCC 846: “Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” You say this is also a contradiction of what I previously explained. However, the text says those who know that the Catholic Church was indeed founded by God through Christ and yet refused to enter it or remain in it cannot be saved. As I explained above, the catechism here is implying that “full knowledge” must be present in order to qualify, something that no one but God is able to accurately assess. For example, this may not apply to someone like yourself because you do not appear to know that the Church is the one founded by Christ; indeed, you have argued consistently that it is not the one founded by Christ, and appear to believe this very sincerely. For all we know, this may not have even applied to many of the Reformers, if they legitimately believed the Catholic Church was not the Church that Christ founded. But of course, this is highly speculative and I doubt any of us will know until kingdom come.

    As an aside, I do not share the opinion of Spoiler23M (#103) and his/her exhortation that you “move on” from this discussion. I think I can speak for several people in this thread that we’re grateful you’ve visited the site and are engaging with us on these important issues. Although I am not one of the official CTC contributors, it’s my understanding that this site is exactly for these kinds of conversations where Protestants and Catholics charitably “reason together” on scripture, theology, history, etc.

    Finally, I noticed a certain tone in some recent comments of yours that seemed to be something like “you Catholics have an answer for every objection.” Of course, whatever Christian tradition is true should have answers for every objection, correct? I’m reminded of a conversation with a Jewish high school student when I was a 19-year-old Young Life leader. This student raised a number objections he had with evangelical Christianity and I responded based on my knowledge of scripture, coupled with arguments I had learned from evangelical literature like Lee Stroebels’ apologetic series. He said the same exact thing to me – “you evangelicals have an answer for everything.” And I thought “well, we better!” You yourself will likely have defenses for every Catholic objection we launch at you (at least I hope you would), so I think we’re basically in the same place as far as that is concerned.

    God bless,

    Casey

  111. Jonathan: (re: #98)

    Overall, you’ve hit the nail on the head: The issue is truly about authority.

    But I don’t think you’ve hit the nail on the head when it comes to understanding the Catholic claim to Magisterial authority (and probably not with respect to transubstantiation, either; but that’s off topic so I mention it in passing, as you did). The Church does not say, “We have authority because we say we do; and you have to believe we have authority because we say we do.” That’s silly, but no Catholic tries to base the claim on that. The claim is based on Christ: It is all about Christ.

    I realize that Catholic claims can seem arbitrary and out-of-nowhere, if one is raised as a Protestant (as I was). The Catholic feels he is merely repeating what Christians have been repeating since they heard it preached by Paul, or John, or Polycarp, or Ignatius of Antioch.

    But if you’ve grown up always hearing an edited form of Christianity with those claims excised from it — a sort of Cadillac with all the chrome removed — then these Catholic claims sound like an add-on. You don’t realize that it’s not normal for Cadillacs to have no chrome. Suddenly up comes a Caddy with all this shining stuff…and to you, it looks like a gaudy add-on. But here’s the driver claiming he got it that way, stock, from Jesus’ factory…and the assertion sounds wild, out-of-the-blue. One’s perceptions are deeply colored by what one is used to.

    It certainly sounded out-of-the-blue, to me. I was living my Christian life happily and (relatively, imperfectly) faithfully, and then along came some doctrinal questions that I could not ignore because I needed to make a decision which would affect my family. So I did the research and found that certain denominations (and with them, the Catholic Church) were correct on this matter, and the one in which I’d been raised was incorrect. It was a watershed: Never before had I bothered to draw distinctions among Christian denominations: I’d been perfectly happy doing with C.S.Lewis’ Mere Christianity exactly what Lewis said in the preface not to do: being a mere “Christian” who drew no denominational distinctions. The fact that, on these matters of dispute, there was a knowable correct and a knowable incorrect seems obvious in hindsight, but was startling at the time.

    Truth is important: More important than music style or preaching skill. If one has a choice between attending a church where the style suits one’s preferences but the doctrine is slightly askew, and one where the music is clumsy and the preaching unskillful but the taught doctrine is 100% exactly correct, the serious Christian can only choose to attend the latter. Taking Truth any less seriously would be to show disregard for He Who Is The Truth. (And the Way, and the Life.)

    So as leader in my family I was obliged to consider, as I previously had not, how I could know the truths of the Christian faith reliably, in order to lead my family in them. I had always intended to be a Christian leader of a Christian family: But I was suddenly aware that, perhaps, I did not know what Christianity was. Something that I’d previously thought was correct about it, was incorrect. And there might be other things.

    I think God might have caught me at the right time, when it came to that realization. I have as much pride as anyone. No one is comfortable admitting having been wrong. But by God’s grace I happened to be in a humble frame-of-mind, for once: God got me to admit: I had been wrong, about a tenet of Christianity…and there might be other things.

    In reply to a remark I made earlier, Jonathan, you said I should consider that “…maybe, just maybe, God’s actually omniscient enough and omnipotent enough to be able to take care of [giving Christians a way to reliably know the truths of the Christian faith] on His own, without submitting Himself to the Roman Catholic Church and its authority to do it for Him.”

    Well. “Submitting Himself” (!) is of course jocularity on your part (unless you were straw-manning the Catholic position in a really absurd way…but I’m going to treat you as innocent until proven guilty and assume you were joking).

    But in one sense I agree with you: God is omniscient and omnipotent enough. He’s a big enough God to take care of the matter all by Himself. God could have, through the Holy Spirit, ensured that all Christians knew the truth infallibly on their own, interpreted Scripture infallibly on their own, and could only wind up misunderstanding important doctrines through willful sin. Catholics agree that God could have done that. Obviously!

    BUT, Catholics point out that — even more obviously — God has not, in fact, done that. The evidence is irrefutable: God has not opted to directly guarantee truth in that way; if He had, there would not be so many thousands of different opinions about matters of faith and morals. These differences are not, we know, all a matter of willful and sinful corruption of the Christian truths. Plenty of spirit-filled, humble, holy Christian people with immense knowledge of Scripture, of Greek, and of Hebrew disagree with one another. This is, in a sense, God making matters plain to us: Independent interpretation as a means of knowing the truth is not His will for the Church. God could have adopted Sola Scriptura; but as a matter of history, He clearly chose not to.

    Independent Scripture-reading is good for the soul and has long been recommended in the Church by all the popes and other bishops. Lectio divina is long-standing “best practice” for saint-making. I am not saying otherwise. But I am saying that God has not made it our core epistemology for knowing what is or is not orthodox Christianity. If He had intended it that way, it would work. It does not work; so, He clearly did not intend it that way.

    Returning to my story, I faced a problem: How could I discern what real Christianity really was? Was it Methodism? Presbyterianism? Congregationalism? What? If I knew what it was, I could teach it to my kids. Without knowing that, I could not.

    I could, of course, repeat my earlier research pattern on every disputed doctrine, and try to suss out the truth of each, but I realized that the very need to do such an exhausting thing demonstrated that something was wrong. God clearly could not require that every man go through that process!

    I’m reasonably smart, analytical by disposition, educated, well-read, familiar with Scripture, working on knowing Greek, and at the time, I had some time to kill because of a lull in my business. But some folks aren’t some or any of those things, and yet God wants them, also, to know the truth, that the truth might set them free. Every plumber and public school teacher and investment banker and factory worker needs to find the right church to attend, where they can learn the truth. How can they get there? Must every living soul take up being a scripture scholar, so as to suss it out on their own, doctrine by doctrine? Will there be no Christian painters, doctors, actors…? Because all must attack this vitally-important matter with their whole attention, and take up hermeneutics?

    Thinking about the early Christians, I pondered the significance of the fact that many were illiterate. That many lived before the authoring of the New Testament, yet without an apostle physically present to teach them daily. Or lived after the passing of the apostles, but prior to most of the New Testament books being available for their preachers to preach from. Or, they lived when most of the New Testament books were available to be preached from, along with The Didache and The Shepherd (by Hermas), but prior to any standardization of what was and was not canonical. How did they know what was, and was not, Christianity?

    Apparently not through Scripture study! Jesus was so casual about the apostles writing down any of His teachings, that He seems to never have commanded it…which is why they were so casual that it was probably a decade or two before it occurred to anyone to do so. Jesus apparently did not intend that a reliance on the written word alone should be a guarantor of truth for the Church. No, not even with an interpretive boost from the Holy Spirit in the heart of every Christian reader. We know that that gives no guarantee: Look at history, look at modernity: It doesn’t work.

    And if such a thing was guaranteed to work, we’d expect it to be declared as an important doctrine in Scripture. It isn’t. Neither Jesus or any apostle or any other New Testament author seems ever to have conceived of the Christian faith in that way.

    How then could I lead my family? How could I know the correct interpretation of Scripture?

    The historical approach was the only tool I had, and although I knew God could not possibly expect everyone to follow that path, I chose to keep using it for as long as it remained available to me. So, I began researching the early Christians: What did they believe, on today’s disputed doctrines?

    And that was when I discovered that, on doctrine after doctrine, as far back as you go, as soon as you hear a Christian talking about a doctrine, they sound Catholic.

    That is to say, when they don’t sound heretical both to modern Catholics and modern Protestants (e.g. some of the folks who said that adultery or apostasy under torture were unforgivable and guaranteed hell without possibility of forgiveness), they sound Catholic, not Protestant. (The guys who said there were unforgivable sins were inclined to deny Communion to those who’d committed those sins…no open communion there! And they might re-baptize — for salvation! — those who’d been baptized by clerics they deemed unworthy.)

    In the history of the Early Church, you can — with a lot of work — find people who sound Protestant on a particular topic or two (e.g. Helvedius re: Mary). But you can count on them sounding either Catholic, or heretical-to-everyone, on every other topic.

    Which is an important point: To assert that there were Presbyterians or Baptists in the year 150, or the year 300, or the year 775, requires either adopting as Baptist folks who sound Baptist on point X but Catholic on point Y and heretical-to-everyone on point Z. You can’t find any honest-to-goodness Southern Baptists.

    What did exist, from the evidence we have, is: A bunch of Catholic/Orthodox sounding folks, and a few other folks who sometimes differed from the Catholic folks by sounding proto-Protestant on one point while being either Catholic or wildly non-Christian on all others, and a few whom modern Catholics and Protestants alike would deem heretical.

    That’s the ancient landscape, from the time of the apostles until the Middle Ages. If Protestantism (any flavor) is true, then…where were the Protestants? Why weren’t they most of the Christians…ever, or even now? What was the Holy Spirit doing all that time? Taking a nap? Why wasn’t He out leading His people into truth, like Jesus promised?

    I had to ask myself, “How can I know the truth according to the means of knowing the truth and the source of authority that Jesus put in place from the very start?” I had to use a method of “finding Christianity” that worked in A.D.75, A.D. 125, A.D. 350, A.D. 425, and so on.

    What did the early Christians use, to learn the truth? Sure, some of them had apostles preaching to them directly. (No problem there!) But after Apostle X had left for Asia Minor or wherever his next journey took him, what then? How would they continue to know the truth?

    In my journey, I discovered that the early Christians sounded Catholic.

    But just as importantly, I discovered that their means of accessing Christian truth also sounds Catholic: When there is a dispute about doctrine, their first reaction is to prove truth from Scripture. If that settles the matter, they let it drop. But when there is a dispute about Scripture, their next reaction is to choose between competing interpretations on the basis of continuity of Tradition: “I heard this from X, who heard it from Y, who heard it from Z, who heard it from Peter, who heard it from Christ.”

    And, whenever there is a dispute about which tradition is correct, their habit is best summed up by Irenaeus who, around 180 A.D., wrote the following:

    “For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with [the very ancient and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul...which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops], on account of its preeminent authority.”

    That is the pattern of the Christians of the early years, with the words of the apostles and the apostles’ immediate successors ringing in their ears. That is their epistemology of the faith, so to speak. That’s what they thought was the normal Christian avenue to reliable doctrine.

    And, of course, that approach was integral to how the canon of Scripture was authoritatively set forth for the Christian faithful. Indeed, it could not have been set forth any other way, save by the authority of the bishops. If just any old guy tells you, “Here’s your Holy Writ,” you look at him suspiciously. And if your bishop does it, but you hear that every other bishop is calling him a heretic for including Book X and excluding Book Y, and if his inclusions and exclusions look like deviations from the tradition of his predecessor in that bishopric, then you’re still suspicious. But if your bishop tells you the same thing his predecessor, and all the other bishops, and most especially the Bishop of Rome are saying about the matter, Well…! You can take that to the bank. “Roma locuta, causa finita est!”

    For there had already been heretics (e.g. Marcion) who tried to derail Christianity by offering a spurious canon — which goes to show you that you need a church-wide authority to proclaim such things in a way that the matter is settled for all time. It was only in response to this that the Church was forced to bother with determining what the real canon was. Until then, the matter was of secondary import, for it was expected that the faithful would heed the bishop and the bishop would remain in communion with the successor of Peter, full stop.

    And we need that certainty. In our day, when even non-Episcopalians regularly drift into theological liberalism and express doubts about the Trinity, or about the divinity of Christ, or lapse carelessly into monothelitism or adoptionism, the need is quite obvious: The Church needs a voice that can say, “That topic has already been discussed, and we have already successfully proclaimed what is true apostolic Christianity as opposed to novel innovation. The matter is settled; quit resurrecting old heresies.”

    Without that, in a few hundred years’ time Christianity would become something unrecognizable to us. Lutheranism is already something nigh-on unrecognizable to Luther; Calvinism is so many things as to be unrecognizable to John Calvin…or, say rather that so many things have adopted a scoop or a dash of Calvinism, like adding wasabi to one’s soy sauce. Man’s fallibility is a centrifugal force; time propels us outward, out of communion with one another. What force can counteract it?

    Jesus is the Son of David, the heir to the Davidic Throne. In establishing His Messianic Kingdom, He knows that after His resurrection He will ascend, and like a Ruler who is away traveling in another country, He leaves behind stewards to manage His affairs in His name. Some are faithful, some are not: For all there will be an accounting. But Jesus longs for unity among His people, in the Household of God, the Church. He desires that we should “be one” as He and the Father are one. He knows that a gathering-point, a point-of-unity, is needed. What does He do?

    Well, He incorporates into the Messianic Kingdom the old pattern of the Kingdom of David: There are not only stewards, but there is one chief steward: The al-beit, or “head of household.” His role, to paraphrase from Isaiah 22′s description of the chief steward’s office, is to “be a father” to those who live in the New Jerusalem, and to the people of God. Jesus places on the chief steward’s shoulder “the keys of the Kingdom.” What he opens no one can lock shut, and what he locks shut no one can open…and this unlocking and locking, or binding and loosing, is ratified by Heaven in such a way that what he binds on earth is bound in heaven, and what he looses on earth is loosed in heaven. Jesus sets this office up to be a unifying force for His household, as Isaiah 22:23 says, “I will drive him like a peg into a firm place.” For every tent needs that main-peg that holds the whole thing up.

    That’s the Petrine office. It’s not out-of-the-blue. It’s not even out of Matthew 16 and Isaiah 22, although its assignment to Peter is described in the former and its Old Testament antecedent is described in the latter. No: It’s an assumed thing: Every first century Jew knows about the Davidic kingdom and the stewards and the chief stewards. If the Messiah is to be heir to the throne of David, He will naturally appoint stewards in His kingdom.

    If we had no guarantee that the stewards spoke with Jesus’ voice, of course, we’d be in trouble. Without that, we get no Bible, no reliable teaching. In 2,000 years’ time the word “Christianity” would refer to something that people used to know what it meant, but that original meaning would have been lost in the mists of time, replaced by endless innovations disguised as “rediscovering Christianity” in so many permutations that the original was irretrievably obscured.

    And that is what Christianity is, apart from the tent-peg of Magisterial authority which continually calls us back to communion.

    What, after all, will the faith-life of any given Denomination or Independent Church be in two hundred years, if the Lord tarries? Think of one down the street from you: Yours, or another. Will they be ordaining actively gay ministers? Will they be conducting marriages between two men or two women, or three women, or a woman and a robot? Will one of their deacons be a famous abortion provider? Will their minister express doubts about the divinity of Christ? Will one of their youth leaders say that Jesus and John probably had a gay relationship, “just like David and Jonathan?”

    Or will the world go the other way, perhaps? Things change. Perhaps that church will be the hotbed of persecuting gay folk, or dehumanizing old folk, or a resurgent male chauvinism. Perhaps they’ll insist that only six-day-literal-creationists are real Christians, and anyone who denies that is probably hell-bound.

    Now look at the Catholic church on the permanence of marriage, on contraceptives, on the inerrancy of Scripture, on the Trinity, on the two natures of Christ, on the title Theotokos for Mary, on the communion of saints. My friend, what you have there is continuity, and stability. It’s almost like Jesus founded His Church on a Rock.

    So I conclude by saying: Yes, God could have done it some other way. But experiments in using alternative forms of authority for the Church (e.g. sola scriptura) have obviously led to divisions, to an ever-increasing centrifugal rending-assunder of the Body of Christ. Without that central tent-peg to hold the tent up, the whole house falls apart. God could have maintained unity around the truths of faith and morals in some other way, but He clearly did not.

    Meanwhile, there is a point of continuity and stability, whose origins are “from of old.” That Church can show, as a matter of objective history accessible among historians, that its leadership are successors to offices established by Christ and continuing to the present day. Members of this Church have in all ages been the majority of the Christians on the planet (a meaningless point by itself since truth is not a matter of a majority vote, but worth mentioning if we think the Holy Spirit would lead Christians to have the truth accessible to them). And for the first thousand years, it is impossible to find anyone who, on the topics Protestants and Catholics differ about, agreed with the Protestants on more such topics than with the Catholics.

    How then, are we to know the truth? I submit that if the Catholic Magisterium isn’t the correct Christian method, then there is no correct Christian method because all the other methods have been tried and failed. And it follows that if Catholic Christianity is not the fullest expression of the faith Christ wished us to practice, then it has been irretrievably lost in the mists of time, and we moderns are doomed to unresolvable doubts and unconfirmable guesses.

  112. I apologize for anything offensive that I might have said. I guess that I am tired of reading the posts of the ‘elect’ and feeling as though Catholics are being spoken to as if we were reprobates with darkened intellects who just don’t (read: ‘can’t’) ‘get it,’ and by divine decree no less? It makes one wonder what the point of discussion would be in the first place. That said, I apologize…

  113. EHB! Oh my! I have never put that together until just now! I’d love to see that concept flushed out more. Do you have a website or blog I can follow? The concept of complimentarian roles effecting our disposition to authority is so compelling for me. I can think of so many others that would love to read more about this. Please consider writing more. Thank you so much and welcome to the Church!

  114. EHB, well put, I` ll hope that (male) contributors here will take this aspect of the story into account.

  115. I want to say “thank you” to so many of you who have responded to my comments last Friday. I am awed and humbled by your expressions of support, prayer, concern, offers to help, etc.

    I’ll be reaching out to several of you offline so as not to tie up the current discussion. If you want to reach me directly please do so at jprescott@tmait.org .

    Kindest Regards,

    James

  116. Devin Rose:

    Please do contact me. I would love to visit with you!

    James

  117. Jonathan,

    I didn’t think you were coming back to the site to respond and I did not want to carry on a discussion via email so I did not pursue it. However, since it appears that you are back, here we go:

    Contrary to your assertions, Sola Scriptura is a man-made Protestant doctrine not found in Scripture.

    1 Thessalonians 1:13

    “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.”

    ME: The apostles SPOKE the Word of God.

    2 Thessalonians 2:13-15

    “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”

    ME: During the first century, the oral tradition had the same validity as the written tradition. There is no Sola Scriptura here.

    2 Timothy 1:13

    “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.”

    ME: Again, the oral tradition had the same validity as the written tradition.

    2 Thessalonians 2:1-2

    “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.”

    ME: Here we have three channels for the Word of God to come to the Thessalonians:

    prophecy, pneuma in the Greek;

    report, or logos in Greek;

    and letter, or epistole in Greek.

    The Word of God could come to God’s people through a prophetic utterance, through the preaching/teaching of the apostles, or it could be in writing.

    The believers of the first century did not rely on the written Word of God alone. There is no Sola Scriptura here.

    Acts 15:28a

    “…it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”

    The “us” being referred to is the apostles and presbyters.

    Here we have another channel, besides the oral tradition/apostolic preaching, the written Scriptures, and prophetic utterance, where the Word of God is communicated to the believers of the first century. The Holy Spirit worked through the first church council to communicate truth to the believers.

    The church of the first century did not rely on the written Word alone. The burden is on you to prove that these other channels ceased and the written Word alone took precedence.

    EJ

  118. EHB,

    Along with A.H, I want to thank you for your comment, sister! Recently, I have been *strongly* thinking that it would be wonderful to hear more female voices here at CTC. I’ve even been thinking that it might be important, in various ways, to have more of a female presence on the site.

    Of course, gender, in and of itself, doesn’t determine the objective truth and validity of particular arguments, but men and women do bring different perspectives and experiences to conversations *about* objective truths. These different perspectives and experiences can be so very valuable. I would hate to think that because the articles and conversations here tend to be dominated by men, that some women might be wrongly perceive this site as largely being composed of “men’s conversations,” in the sense that women might somehow be put off from engaging here. The Church is for everyone, and no one should feel “shut out” of, or alienated from, the conversations here.

    To be very clear, I’m not meaning to say, at all, that anything has been deliberately done on the site which would create a sense that CTC is primarily a “male theological/philosophical geek” site, hehe! (Of course, I know many women who are deeply interested in theology and philosophy too!) I would just hope that any woman who is interested in the Catholic/Reformed dialogue that is at the heart of this site would feel free to join in the discussions– and to officially contribute (!). I would rejoice to see more female official contributors to the site too, should anyone feel so led by the Spirit.

  119. Dear Casey,

    Thank you for your insightful review of Higher Ground. My father, an Evangelical Free Church pastor recently read this book to better understand the journey that is leading my husband and myself home to the Catholic Church. After reading Crossing the Tiber (Ray), Higher Ground hardly seemed to deal with the real issues, but rather the sorry results of a lack of understanding of the faith or the unwillingness to live under the authority of the Church. For my dad, it was probably helpful in easing his concern for our eternal state, though perhaps not our temporal one. I’m prayerfully considering sending him your reponse to Castaldo from a Reformed to Catholic perspective.

    I feel like a bit of a latecomer to the party, but your warm welcome to lady contributors is too enticing to reject. I come from a Baptist/PCA background, blessed to grow up in a home where a personal relationship with Jesus Christ was strongly emphasized and the Scriptures faithfully read. Add to that, pastor’s daughter, 3 weekly services, Christian school, Bible college, and married to a former PCA teaching evangelist – well, you get the picture. I prayed the sinner’s prayer when I was 5 years old and rejoiced to know that I was a child of God. Trouble is, I kept sinning, and felt like I needed to pray the sinner’s prayer every time I heard the challenge at the altar call. God’s call on my heart began as a little girl: pondering why I wanted to always pray the sinner’s prayer, why my dad was the one whom everyone listened to and trusted for the interpretation of God’s Word, why preachers often seemed like they were coming up with a new understanding for an ancient passage of Scripture and why that would be considered ‘good’, why I was always seeking someone to emulate in Christlikeness, and I could go on and on.

    One of the things that never bugged me though, was the absence of women pastors. Older women taught the younger women, and there was always a teaching ministry with the children, or in music ministry. Through my local church experience, I actually became apprehensive of women with great influence in church or parachurch ministries, precisely due to their often misguided influence over other women and the resulting breakdown in women seeking understanding from their husband and pastors. Being a woman gives one great insight into this thing called submission. :) As our friend, EHB commented, men typically do most of the studying and teaching. (And, in our PCA/Reformed circles, the ‘magisterium of the intelligencia’ dominated with overwhelming scholarship and intellect.) The fascinating thing about submission, though, is that is a call to all believers. We submit to Christ in living obedience by acknowledging the authority of His Church and our place in it, we submit to the way of faith, the path of wisdom, we submit to each other in mutual submission, we submit to our employers, the law, etc. Christ submitted to the will of the Father and went to the cross on our behalf. Simply put, submission is powerful. And within the Catholic Church there is a wide array of opportunities for women to use their gifts and talents in honor of our King. For some, it is scholarship and writing. For others, it is being active in the local parish and organizations. I hope to compose liturgical music. The Catholic Church is a place where women can thrive, and I look forward to coming home soon!

    Thanks for allowing my ramblings. You are doing a fantastic work here…helping people to understand that the Catholic Church that they hate is only alive in their imaginations.

    Deb

  120. Hi Deb,

    Welcome to Called to Communion and thanks for sharing your story! I hope the Lord abundantly blesses you and your husband’s entrance into the Catholic Church this Easter. It’s very exciting to see more PCA folk coming into the Church and bring their skills and wealth of scriptural and spiritual knowledge. I’m probably not the person best suited to address all the issues you raise, since Reformed/evangelical women would have much more to contribute than myself. However, two brief thoughts come to mind.

    First, I remember a conversation with a close college friend several years ago who, though Methodist, was attending a PCA church in Texas. He noted an interesting trend – that women in the PCA were typically very well educated and often vocationally successful. In his view (and I confess, my own), this made PCA women very picky and cautious about whom they dated or married – they often wanted someone who was at least as well educated, intelligent, and successful as themselves. Especially, as you note, because the man most PCA women would want to marry would be seen not simply as “head” of the family, but also need to be part of the “magisterium of the intelligencia.” In our own day and age, you see Reformed husbands/fathers determining how the family will respond to the Federal Vision. In a previous generation, it was whether or not the family would leave the PCUSA for a splinter Presbyterian denomination that was more faithful to scripture. Talk about a gigantic task! I’m thankful that my wife, who in many respects knows more about Catholicism than myself, respects my theological training and insights, but does not view me as a magisterium unto myself.

    Also, I’ve often wondered about leaders in Reformed or other Protestant movements who “branch out” and form new ecclesial bodies becuase of some newly debated theological issue. I suppose they begin afresh with the perspective that their conscience is the ultimate authority of scripture, allowing them interpret and teach with authority to others. But what about their wives? Do they simply throw up their hands and say “well, you apparently know more about scripture than I do, so I’ll trust you, even if your new revelation or belief is contrary to what I believed or was taught”? I can think of several such figures in the last ten years whose wives would probably have a very interesting story to tell. Maybe that’s a book waiting to be published!

    Thanks again for sharing your story on CTC! in Christ,

    Caseyh

  121. Hi Jonathan,

    I’m responding to your comment #97 addressed to Bryan Cross.

    I left out most of the discussion and only addressed the point of authority because the rest seemed to be about ad hominems. I didn’t see any point in entering that part of the discussion. Perhaps you and I can come to a better understanding.

    You said to Bryan Cross on
    March 9th, 2013 3:27 am :

    Bryan Cross, (re #82)
    I must admit, I don’t think I could have possibly asked for a better response to my posts….. We’re talking about what is the ultimate standard, and as such, there can only possibly be circular reasoning on the issue! I will freely admit that I start with God and his word as my foundation, and I end with God and his word as my foundation. Completely circular, and happily accepted as such.

    I’ll have to challenge you on two points you made there.

    1. That appealing to an ultimate standard must by by way of circular reasoning.

    There is more than one way to appeal to an ultimate authority.

    a. The Protestant methodology is circular. It is me and my Bible. If a Protestant is asked a question, the answer is invariably, “The Bible tells me so.”

    b. Whereas Catholic methodology is many and varied. It can be circular, inductive or deductive, depending upon the situation.

    i. Circular reasoning is not necessarily wrong. It is simply not persuasive when it is the only type of reasoning employed.
    ii. Inductive reasoning is reasoning from the specific to the general.
    iii. While deductive reasoning is reasoning from the general to the specific.

    The Catholic methodology is robust and persuasive than the Protestant methodology because we don’t rely upon Scripture alone. But upon Sacred Tradition, Scripture and Magisterium.

    So, to contrast the Catholic situation with the Protestant. A Protestant will say, “the Bible tells me so.” Whereas a Catholic will say, “The Bible tells me so and that is confirmed in Sacred Tradition and in the Teaching of the Church (Magisterium). In addition, the Catholic methodology also admits historical and archaeological evidence. In fact, all branches of science are admissible in the Catholic court.

    2. That you begin with God and his word as my foundation, and I end with God and his word as my foundation.

    In practice, you don’t. You begin with your own understanding and end with your own understanding. That is why Protestants accuse Catholics of checking their brain at the door of the Catholic Church.

    Let’s compare the Protestant and Catholic methodology again.

    Say to Christians have a dispute upon what it says in Scripture. If they are Protestant, they debate. If neither is persuaded by the other, they simply go their way.

    If two Catholics dispute about Scripture, they go to the Church for an authoritative decision. The Church tells them which is right and which is wrong. This is confirmed historically. See the debates between St. Athanasius vs Arius; and St. Augustine vs the Pelagians.

    You also said:

    As I mentioned last time, the Roman Catholic Church states that it’s ultimate authority is God. But in actuality, it is not God, but the Roman Catholic Church itself. So I’m starting to see that this is what I need to show my Roman Catholic friend – the Roman Catholic Church makes a subtle authority swap and slips itself into the place of God as the ultimate authority. Hopefully, he’ll be able to see it, and hopefully some of your comments here will help him. They really are quite good at exposing the ultimacy of the Roman Catholic Church in its own beliefs.

    I’ll have to dispute that one also.

    The authority over the Catholic Church is God. Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church and Jesus Christ is God. And it is Jesus Christ who empowered the Catholic Church to be the authority over His flock.

    This is based upon the principle established by Jesus Christ:
    Luke 10:16
    King James Version (KJV)
    16 He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.

    Jesus Christ was sent by the Father:
    John 20:21-23
    King James Version (KJV)
    21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me,…

    And He sent the Church:
    … even so send I you.

    Again, Jesus was sent by the Father:
    Matthew 28:18-20
    King James Version (KJV)
    18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

    And He sent the Church.

    19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

    20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

    And that Church is the Catholic Church.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  122. Hi Jonathan,
    Again, I’ll leave out most of the stuff which I don’t need to get into.

    I’m responding to your message #98 addressed to R.C. on March 9th, 2013 3:43 am :
You said to R.C., (re #88)

    
I’ll leave aside all the issues ….. I would point out the hundreds (if not thousands) of different sects in Roman Catholicism which believe different things, hold to different theologies, and each have their own different interpretation of the supposedly infallible Roman Catholic interpretation of things.

    I’m not sure to what you refer. Would you provide an example please?

    I could point to wars which were fought in the past over different doctrines within the Roman Catholic Church itself by its own members.

    I can name one. The Protestant Revolution. But how does that disprove the Doctrine of the Church.

    There is almost as much disagreement within the Roman Catholic Church as there is outside of the Roman Catholic Church. But you would likely disagree. You would likely claim that there is unity in doctrine and always has been. Why? Because the Roman Catholic Church claims that there is unity in doctrine and there always has been.

    It is you making the claim. We see one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and we see what it teaches in the Catechism. Sure, there are dissenters. But there were dissenters in the time of Jesus and in the time of the Apostles.

    But the Catholic Church continues as one, under one Pastor appointed by Jesus Christ.

    So, please provide an example of what you are talking about to see if it is valid.



    
Or maybe, just maybe, God’s actually omniscient enough and omnipotent enough to be able to take care of that on His own, without submitting Himself to the Roman Catholic Church and its authority to do it for Him.

    Well then, why did He establish a Church. Scripture is clear that He established a Church. And Scripture says of the Church:
    Ephesians 3:10
    King James Version (KJV)
    10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

    And also:
    Matthew 18:17
    King James Version (KJV)
    17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

    Is it your opinion that Jesus established the Church simply so you could snub your nose at her?

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  123. Hi Jonathan,

    You were discussing Scripture with Jason and authority with Bryan and others. In fact, authority comes into many of the discussions. I was reading those and I noticed that we come from different sets of presuppositions. I think you also admitted so in your discussions. Especially, you made that clear to Bryan.

    So, then, it is paramount to discover which presupposition is true. The one you function under. Or the one we function under.

    Does that sound logical?

    My fellow Catholics can correct me if I’m wrong. But I believe the Catholic Church teaches us the following.

    1. Jesus Christ did not write any Scripture.
    2. Jesus Christ established a Church.
    3. Jesus Christ commanded the Church to teach all which He commanded.

    Do you deny any of these three?

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

    We can also see this presupposition confirmed in Scripture and how the Apostles applied it:

    Matthew 28:19-20
    King James Version (KJV)
    19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
    20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

    Luke 24:44-46
    King James Version (KJV)
    44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
    45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
    46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

    Acts 17:1-3
    King James Version (KJV)
    1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:
    2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
    3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.

    So, to summarize, we believe that Jesus Christ established a Church and commanded that Church to pass on His Sacred Tradition. That Sacred Tradition includes the knowledge that the Old Testament Scriptures reveal Christ. In other words, the Sacred Tradition of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament in the sense that it contains and explains how Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecies.

    But that is not all. Sacred Tradition is the basis of the New Testament. Jesus Christ did not write it. His followers wrote it based upon what His life, deeds and Teachings.

    Therefore, one must know and understand Sacred Tradition in order to understand the Scriptures. And since the Church is the one which has maintained these Sacred Traditions, she is the one which best understands the Scriptures.

    Would you explain the presupposition you function under so that we may compare it to Scripture and see which lines up better?

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  124. Being Catholic is hard, amen?

    Joined the Church this Easter! But I can really feel for people like Casey and Jason. Converting is an extreme move. To do so, and to write about it, without being anonymous. Wow.

    Thank you everyone who speaks out. It is hard to be a (Catholic) Christian, these days. Let’s all persevere in faith!

  125. Casey,

    Interesting article. I have not read it all yet. And I don’t know whether this has been addressed in these comments. But I thought I would chime in on one (relatively minor) thing you said:

    The Westminster Confession of Faith’s proof-texts (i.e. Luke 24:27, 44; Romans 3:2; and 2 Peter 1:21) for the rejection of the Apocrypha in WCF I.3 are puzzling and easily refutable, given that none of the passages address the Apocrypha and its inspiration or inerrancy.

    These passages address the Apocrypha indirectly. The Protestants, in adopting a trimmed down canon, did not make an arbitrary decision as to what was in that canon. Rather, they adopted the Jewish, i.e Hebrew, canon for the OT. In Rom 3:2, Paul teaches that the Jews are entrusted with “the very oracles of God.” In Luke 24:44, the structure of the Jewish canon (Tanak) is referred to by Jesus’ description of scripture as tripartite (law, prophets, and psalms).

    The view that the Hebrew text is the inspired text was a somewhat minority position in the church, but had important precedents. See Jerome. It was quite a claim to make in the time of Reformation, because it implied that the church had not handed on its own text. That is, all the medieval manuscripts we have of the Hebrew OT, are, of course, written by Jews. Very few Christian biblical exegetes would have followed Jerome’s example and bothered to learn Hebrew, though among Protestants this became the rule. Today Catholics who want to be recognized as OT scholars have to know Hebrew–one effect of the Protestant reformation in the Catholic church, at least.

    Dave

  126. Hello Dave (#125),

    Thanks for taking the time to read the article, and for your comments. Hope you get a chance to read the entire article, and the following discussion.

    I appreciate your comment that the Reformers did not make an “arbitrary decision” regarding the Protestant canon, and purposefully adopted the Hebrew canon as it was understood in the 16th century. However, I do not think it is accurate to claim that the New Testament affirms using only the Hebrew canon as understood in the time of the Reformers. Furthermore, the history of the development of the Jewish canon is complex, and a reflection on that development does reveal a certain level of arbitrary reasoning on the part of the Reformers.

    First, your reference to Romans 3:2 can just as easily be applied to the Septuagint (LXX), which appeared to be the predominant version of the scriptures used by Jews throughout the Roman Empire at the time of Christ. Note that the New Testament writers consistently use the LXX rather than the Hebrew text when they refer to Old Testament books (for example, Matthew 3:3 quotes the LXX version of Isaiah 40:3, rather than the Hebrew text). Also, your reference to Luke 24:44 provides no definitive clarification by Jesus as to the contents of the canon, only that the Torah, Nevim, and Ketuvim prophesied Jesus’ passion and resurrection. As I argued earlier, Wisdom 2:12-20 is also a resoundingly beautiful prophesy of Jesus that also comes true in very specific detail. What is the basis for rejecting the Book of Wisdom? The problem with the proof-texts provided by the WCF for the Protestant canon is that the reader must read beyond the original context of the passage, and assume, for no substantive reason, that the NT author’s intention is to address the formation of the canon. I’ve also heard 1 Corinthians 13:10 used as a proof-text for the canon. We encounter the same problem there – in context, Paul is talking about what it will be like when he sees God face to face (see 1 Cor 13:12), not when the Protestant Reformers will decide the parameters of the canon. Of course, on a more meta-analytic level, we’re still left with determining who has the authority to infallibly interpret scripture – individual Christians, an assembly of English theologians in the 17th century, or the Church instituted by Christ?

    Meanwhile, the definitive setting of tbe Jewish canon is a highly contested scholarly subject, given quite a bit of questioning of the alleged Council of Jamnia at the end of the 1st century. Regardless of the historicity of Jamnia, what is clear is that the Jewish religious leadership in the 1st or 2nd century AD rejected the additional LXX books, and placed a curse on the “Minim,” which probably including Jewish Christians. Many historians view these actions as an attempt at self-preservation, by focusing on Hebrew, the original language of the Jewish people, and more distinctively separating themselves from the Christian sect that had come out of Judaism. So, interestingly enough, the formation of the Hebrew canon was in part a reaction to early Christian worship, which used the LXX. Furthermore, to determine what will or will not be in the Christian canon based on a movement within Judaism in the first two centuries seems arbitrary. Why should the Church look for guidance to the Jewish religious leadership’s opinions several generations after Christ? Why not instead look to the writers of the New Testament? Or to common Church practice in the early centuries? Or, alternatively, to what the leadership of the Church, guided through the bishops, determined at such regional councils as Carthage, Hippo, and Rome in the late 4th century?

    Finally, it may be true that the Protestant Reformation had some positive impacts on Catholic scholarship. I’m unfortunately not terribly familiar with that subject and not able to comment substantively on that issue. However, I certainly don’t see that in any way presenting a problem to the authority of the Church; God willing, we can always learn from others, even if they may be in error on some things. I think I am still learning quite a bit about prayer, love, and service from my Protestant/evangelical friends and family!

    in Christ,
    Casey

  127. Hi Casey,

    I guess my point on Lk 24:44 was that Torah, Nebiim, Ketuvim is the structure of the Hebrew Bible. It is not the structure of the Greek Bible, which is Law + Historical Books + Wisdom + Prophets at the end. Of course the NT uses the LXX–translations are fine, that is certainly also something Protestants would affirm!–and of course none of these texts specifies definitively which books are “in” or “out”. If, however, Lk 24:44 provides a clue about the normative shape of the OT scriptures, it is a clue that leads towards the Hebrew Bible.

    As you say, Jamnia is a myth. Against what you say, there is no basis for the view that the Jews held to the authority of the Hebrew text because of the rise of Christianity and its use of the LXX. For one, Jews sponsored new translations of the Scriptures in Greek after the birth of Christianity (Aquila). So the rise of Christianity did not initially prevent them from using Greek scriptures, though admittedly as the doctrinal debate progressed both sides retrenched in the inspiration of their respective scriptures (the famous debate over Isa 7:14 is the leading example here). A parallel phenomenon occurs in the Reformation period: in response to Luther’s critique of the Vulgate’s poenitentiam agite, the two sides retrench by insisting on the inspiration/authority of their respective NT’s (Greek vs. Latin).

    It seems that works such as Wisdom and Tobit lacked the antiquity and authority of “the law and the prophets” at the time of the NT. This is certainly represented in citation statistics. Jude cites 1 Enoch–but that is a work received in neither Catholic nor Protestant canons. It was undoubtedly considered scripture because of its supposed antiquity (going back to Enoch!). The same view, however, would tend to leave works like Tobit out of the canon. Furthermore, when the church became more self-conscious about the problem of pseudepigraphy (also in view of the many spurious apostolic documents being published), Enoch and books like it would be excluded.

    The view that what is authoritative is what is ancient raises a problem for the NT. Its reception as authoritative, I would argue, was grounded on the conviction on its eschatological character. Prophecy had re-awakened with Jesus (John, actually), the last verses of Malachi point to the next instantiation of true prophecy, which the NT claims is fulfilled in John and Jesus. So again this reading would tend to minimize the canonical/authoritative/prophetic status of writings between Malachi and Jesus.

    The whole issue is complex. It certainly is not just a matter of arbitrarily siding with a Jewish movement in the first two centuries. It has to do with conceptions of the nature of prophecy and religious authority, the production of pseudepigrapha in the second temple period, and related debated topics over whether prophecy came to a temporary halt or not. The dominant view, in both Judaism and early Christianity, appears to be that while the apocryphal works may be helpful, they do not have the normative status accorded to “the law and the prophets,” and which would later be accorded to the NT scriptures as well.

    blessings

    Dave

  128. Hi Dave (#127)

    Thanks for the response. In reference to your first comment, regarding Lk 24:44 providing a clue about the normative shape of the OT scriptures: I’m willing to grant that Jesus’ statement could in theory provide a clue. But wouldn’t NT writers relying on the LXX rather than the Hebrew Bible be just as much a clue in the other direction? Furthermore, NT writers rely on books in the deuterocanon as well. Wisdom 2:12-20 is so closely aligned to the Passion Narratives of the synoptic Gospels the writers must have had it in mind; Paul alludes to Wisdom 12 and 13 in Romans 1:19-25; Hebrews 11:35 refers to 2 Maccabbees 7, and so on. These are strong clues for LXX being canonical. However, I would suggest that looking for “clues” in the letters of the NT for which books to accept in the canon may not be the best way to define the canon. This is for several reasons. For one, we still haven’t addressed the question of what factors we use to determine which books should be in the NT, and what confidence we could have in those factors. Secondly, what is your basis for believing that individual Christians, rather than the institutional Church with authority from Christ, get to make the determinations of what is authentically the inspired, infallible Word of God? As I argue elsewhere in the paper, the perspective that scholars, even well meaning Christian scholars, get to determine authentic scripture, allows for a continual shift in what is believed to be God’s Word, as scholarly opinion changes with time. We’ve seen that already in the now widely held opinion, even among Christian scholars, that half of the Pauline epistles are pseudepigrapha. We’re seeing that also with scholars who argue parts of John 8 and Mark 16 are not authentic. This seems a very perilous foundation for determining scripture.

    You argue that there is “no basis for the view that the Jews held to the authority of the Hebrew text because of the rise of Christianity’s use of LXX.” Unfortunately I am not in a place where I have access to my library, but I’d read from several historical sources exactly that the Church’s use of LXX was a contributing factor to their rejection of its use. The scholars I read explained that the Jewish religious leadership were desiring to keep their religion and practices pure, especially of Gentile and “Nazarene” influence. They believed their way of life increasingly threatened after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, in addition to the tremendous influence of Greek language and culture on many Jews, which was heightened by Christianity’s embrace of Gentiles, many of whom, after converting to Christianity, worshiped in the synagogue (see Robert Louis Wilken’s recent book “The First Thousand Years” and “Backgrounds of Early Christianity” by Everett Fergusson). If your argument is correct, I would be interested to know why the Jewish religious leadership would so strongly reject the LXX, despite its widespread use by Jews throughout the Roman Empire in the 1st century, as evidenced by the fact that Jesus and the NT writers were using it.

    I’m not sure I follow your argument regarding Wisdom and Tobit. Are you saying that we should look to NT citation statistics to determine which Jewish books should be included in the canon? If that is your line of argumentation, there are a number of OT books in the Protestant canon that are never cited in the NT, such as Esther. But again, on what baisis would citation statistics be an authoritiative means of determining what is scripture? In reference to your claim that Wisdom and Tobit lacked the authority or antiquity of other OT books – what is your basis for this? I’m also unsure on what basis you argue that the pseudepigraphal book of Enoch is akin to Wisdom, Tobit, or other deuterocanonical books?

    You also argue that because the last verses of Malachi are fulfilled in John the Baptists’ ministry, that this somehow negates any Jewish scriptures written after Malachi, because it fits best into your “eschatological” perspective on the canon. But why do you hold this position as normative? If as you argue, prophesy again begins with John and Jesus, who is to say when it ends? Or, who is to say which books should be in the NT, considered part of the new prophetic revelation, or not?

    I agree with you that the issue is complex. But I do not agree that the dominant view in the early Church was the deuterocanonical books were viewed as helpful, but not normative. As I’ve argued above, the NT writers seemed to view the deuterocanonical books as authoritative. The early Church viewed them the same way. Quoting Protestant patristics scholar J. N. D. Kelly:

    “It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive than the [Protestant Old Testament] . . . It always included, though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called Apocrypha or deuterocanonical books. The reason for this is that the Old Testament which passed in the first instance into the hands of Christians was . . . the Greek translation known as the Septuagint. . . . most of the Scriptural quotations found in the New Testament are based upon it rather than the Hebrew.. . . In the first two centuries . . . the Church seems to have accept all, or most of, these additional books as inspired and to have treated them without question as Scripture. Quotations from Wisdom, for example, occur in 1 Clement and Barnabas. . . Polycarp cites Tobit, and the Didache [cites] Ecclesiasticus. Irenaeus refers to Wisdom, the History of Susannah, Bel and the Dragon [i.e., the deuterocanonical portions of Daniel], and Baruch. The use made of the Apocrypha by Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian and Clement of Alexandria is too frequent for detailed references to be necessary” (Early Christian Doctrines, 53-54).

    And finally, as I argued in #126, three Church councils in the 4th century recognized the deuterocanon as scripture. Together, these evidences make a strong case for the deuterocanon.

    In Christ,

    Casey

  129. Hi Casey,

    A brief response:

    1. Granted apocryphal texts are alluded to in the NT. But are they cited, with a formula such as “for the scripture says”? Allusion is not enough to determine canonical authority…in Acts 17, Luke alludes to Greek texts in Paul’s Areopagus speech. Other scholars have claimed Luke alludes in places to Homer, particularly in Paul’s “Odyssean” sea voyage (Acts 27). Nobody would say that these works are thereby treated as canonical. NT writers could allude to a wide range of contemporary literature. Citation is a better marker, however, of what was considered normative.

    2. What factor we use to determine books in NT.
    It seems to me that the early church’s principle was quite simple: if a book was apostolic, or had apostolic connections (e.g. gospel of Mark connected to Peter), it was accepted as canonical. If a book claimed to be apostolic but was thought to be spurious it was rejected (e.g., gospel of Thomas). There were several books that were disputed (2 John, 3 John, 2 Peter), precisely because their apostolic origin was in doubt. Some disputed books made it in, others did not (Hermas). Relevant here was whether the teaching of the book was thought to conform to the apostolic preaching (as Eusebius informs us).

    There is, therefore, no tremendous difficulty about the canon. Perhaps difficulty arises in the judgment of modern scholarship that, in fact, many of the books the church accepted to be apostolic are probably not apostolic, including such important works as the Gospel of John. 2 Peter is also almost certainly pseudepigraphical. Certain Paulines are disputed: it is doubtful that Paul wrote the entire corpus attributed to him. Hebrews made it in on a false Pauline attribution. What are we to do?

    Well, for one, the early church was far more reticent in its claims than is usually acknowledged. They were honest about the fact that there were “disputed” books whose authorship was uncertain. So the position of modern scholarship is not entirely without precedent. Second, the providence of God undoubtedly guided the church. If at times the church accepted a book into the canon based on the mistaken belief that a certain book had apostolic origin, God guided that as well. Ultimately, we can be confident that the church has received the canon that God wanted us to have.

    Modern scholarly judgments can not overturn this providentially guided history. As it happens, the shorter ending of Mark may be original: what is canonical is Mark, not a particular form of its text. As well, if you have gone from conservative Reformed to Catholic, you have gone from a context where scholars would emphatically deny Pauline pseudepigrapha to one where they would be quite happy to permit them. So I’m not sure if/how/or why the presence of Pauline pseudepigrapha in the canon would trouble you as a Catholic. As you say, if these modern scholarly judgments were taken to have implications for the canon, it would be a “perilous foundation” indeed. But in fact none of these scholars propose removing texts from the NT. They simply argue that pseudepigraphical texts are in fact present in the accepted NT. So Scripture has already been determined, by the providential history in which it was received by the church.

    3. Other matters.
    Wisdom: it is clear that this book does not have the antiquity/authority of the other scriptures. The grandson in his prologue specifies when his grandfather was writing- about 180 BC. Canonical books (even if written later) were presented as being pre-exilic, exilic, or early exilic, certainly not later than the 5th century BC. Daniel is a case in point: written around the same time as Ben Sira, but it presents itself as an exilic work.

    Tobit: I think some would have fallen for the narrative setting (in the Assyrian exile) to think that this was actually a historical work, and therefore early, and therefore canonical.

    Esther: not cited. Obviously, it is “less canonical” than other works. Nevertheless the ongoing celebration of Purim in the Jewish community, which the book establishes, as well as the interpretation of it as a historical text, would have led to its acceptance.

    I would say that citation statistics are a better marker of canonicity than allusion or other modes of referring to ancient scriptures. This is because the aspect of the text’s authority is foregrounded in a citation.

    Inspiration is not something that can admit of degrees. One might say, either a work is inspired or it is not. However, canonicity ought to be able to admit of degrees, because it has to do with the reception of inspired works by the church, which always involved some uncertainty and disputes. In that sense I could accept the term “deuterocanon” for the apocryphal works. The term itself already acknowledges their secondary position. The fact that these works have been used by some (but not all) is reflected in the term, as opposed to the Hebrew scriptures, which are unreservedly accepted by all. I suspect it was the early Protestants’ critical sense that led them to reject the deuterocanon: works like Judith, Tobit etc are obviously historical fiction (to early Reformation figures, not necessarily to the exegetes of antiquity), and so they did not conform with what was deemed fitting to be canonical. In today’s age we may be more open to the presence of historical fiction in the canon. But I do think these works –while they ought to be read and studied– cannot claim to have the normative status of either the Hebrew canon or the NT.

    thanks for the conversation,

    Dave

  130. Hello Dave (#129)

    Thanks for continuing the dialogue. I’ll respond to each of your points.

    1. You write, “Granted apocryphal texts are alluded to in the NT. But are they cited, with a formula such as “for the scripture says”? Allusion is not enough to determine canonical authority.” You also write, “NT writers could allude to a wide range of contemporary literature. Citation is a better marker, however, of what was considered normative.” I agree that if I were independently trying to determine the canon, I’d personally prefer citation than allusion (although as an aside I’d say that alluding to popular Greek literature and alluding to books many Jews viewed as scripture is a bit different). But according to whom is allusion “not enough to determine canonical authority?” This seems to be nothing more than a conjecture. It may be a well-informed conjecture, and it may be an attempt to make the best guess with the available data, but it has no authority, nor have you shown it to carry more weight than alternative hypotheses. I argued in the previous post that the early Church’s widespread use of the LXX and acceptance of it as divinely-inspired scripture is a pretty big “clue.” Or, I could just as easily say “allusion to books in the LXX is enough to determine their canonical authority.” And there would be no one to authoritatively arbitrate between our two opinions. Again, I could say “the NT writers cite the LXX as scripture, so I find that to be a sufficient reason to include all the books of the LXX in the canon.” You may like your “citation” premise better, but how could we in any authoritative way determine which is better? As you seem to agree, we have only hints, or “clues,” as you say, to determine the canon. However, the canon is supposed to contain those books which Christians believe to the inspired, inerrant word of God. Is the best we can do to conjecture with equally plausible competing hypotheses as to its contents? Alternatively, the Catholic Church presents itself as an authority that represents the apostolic teaching faithfully, and, by virtue of the apostles’ authority, Christ himself. If the Church’s claim to this authority is reasonable and historical, it has a much stronger basis from which to recognize and determine the canon than yours or my competing hypothesis regarding citation of Jewish texts.

    2. You refer to the early Church’s methods to determine the canonicity of NT literature, recognizing books according to apostolic connections and conformity to apostolic preaching. However, Tom Brown CTC article “The Canon Question” raises several significant issues with this line of reasoning. Here is the link:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/01/the-canon-question/

    I will not review all of Tom’s arguments for the sake of brevity and because you’re free to read it at your leisure. However, one point he makes regarding the NT is that even respected Reformed theologian Herman Ridderbos recognized that the early church was not using the criterion of apostolic origin when it recognized the letter to the Hebrews as canonical. Furthermore, you refer to Eusebius’ note that the teaching of a book must conform to apostolic preaching. However, this seems to substantiate a Catholic, rather than Reformed perspective, in recognizing the significance and authority tradition plays in such issues as determining the canon.

    Your response to the problem of modern scholarship’s questioning of the authorship of NT letters seems to essentially be “so what?” What I mean is, you claim “modern scholarly judgments can not overturn this providentially guided history,” because “the providence of God undoubtedly guided the church.” As I have asked of other assertions you have made regarding citation statistics or the eschatological nature of scripture as a proof for why there is no prophesy or inspired writings from Malachi until John the Baptist, what is your basis for believing this is the case? You believe God in his sovereignty has guided the formation of the canon, but what is your basis for this assumption? And why, if God guided the formation of the canon, did he not also guide the early Church in other issues, such as ecclesiology, Church councils, etc? You also seem to want it both ways: the Church, by God’s preservation, gets the NT right, but the Church does not get the OT right, given, as I argued in #127, the evidence is overwhelming that the early Church recognized the Deuterocanon as scripture. Why do you assume that God would ensure a faithful NT canon, but not other things that Protestants typically reject as providentially guided?

    The presence, or possibility or Pauline pseudipigrapha does not “trouble” me as a Catholic. What troubled me as a Protestant was that certain texts in the NT were considered inauthentic, and thus not inspired or inerrant. So, if John 8 or the end of Mark 16 is not actually inspired, it shouldn’t be binding on the conscience or be preached in Protestant congregations. That seems strange and unprecedented, and who is to say when scholarship starts questioning other texts as authentic? This paradigm allows for scholars to progressively cut the canon apart, with changes in what texts are to be believed and obeyed, and which are not. This, in sum, is a Christianity of our own making, rather than something authoritatively passed down from Christ, through his Apostles, to the Church.

    3. In reference to Wisdom and Tobit, I appreciate your comments on historical details regarding their authorship, but you still have not explained why their antiquity is the basis for which we should determine what is the inspired Word of God. You argued that Esther is included because the celebration of Purim in the Jewish community demonstrates its historicity. Yet the Festival of Lights is celebrated as well, a religious observance described in Maccabees, a deuterocanonical book, as well as being mentioned in the NT (John 10:22). So that criterion could be used to demonstrate the canonicity of Maccabbees. However, as I posed before, using such criteria to determine canonicity is subjective, in that you or I or anybody else could make up a list of criteria, without any official authority to do so. On what basis are you certain your criteria are sufficient or correct? Also, the Hebrew scriptures were not, as you argue, “unreservedly accepted by all.” Some Jewish communities, like the Sadducees, only accepted the Torah, while others, like the Essenes, seem to have accepted more. Jewish communities at the time of Christ and the early Church had great variance in what scriptures they accepted.

    in Christ,

    Casey

  131. Hi Casey,

    Thanks for the link to that article. I will read it, in time, and perhaps comment there.

    I think to some extent we are talking past each other. This is because, on point 1, for example, I would not look for a binding and authoritative arbitrator to tell me what the canon is. Yes, I am using the evidence of reason. You say,

    I could just as easily say “allusion to books in the LXX is enough to determine their canonical authority.” And there would be no one to authoritatively arbitrate between our two opinions. Again, I could say “the NT writers cite the LXX as scripture, so I find that to be a sufficient reason to include all the books of the LXX in the canon.” You may like your “citation” premise better, but how could we in any authoritative way determine which is better?

    One can “just as easily” say anything, but not all opinions have the same rational or logical force. It simply does not hold that allusion contains the appeal to authority necessary to establish canonicity. Explicit citation does. That’s just a matter of a good rational argument. No authority to arbitrate between the opinions is necessary other than reason itself.

    You keep on asking me on the basis for my “assumptions.” Well, the points I am trying to make are not necessarily “assumptions”–some of them perhaps are, others may be interpretations of the historical evidence. One question was: “You believe God in his sovereignty has guided the formation of the canon, but what is your basis for this assumption?” My basis is the belief that God in his sovereignty guides all of history. Obviously that’s not a belief that can be settled by appeal to an authoritative arbitrator–is it? And I figured that assumption was a pretty safe one on which Catholics and Protestants could agree?

    Then you said,

    And why, if God guided the formation of the canon, did he not also guide the early Church in other issues, such as ecclesiology, Church councils, etc? You also seem to want it both ways: the Church, by God’s preservation, gets the NT right, but the Church does not get the OT right, given, as I argued in #127, the evidence is overwhelming that the early Church recognized the Deuterocanon as scripture. Why do you assume that God would ensure a faithful NT canon, but not other things that Protestants typically reject as providentially guided?

    God did guide the early church in other issues as well. God guides everything. Of course, as I said above, sometimes God uses the mistaken beliefs of the church about apostolic authorship (e.g. 2 Peter) to have a book accepted into the canon. So the fact that God is providentially guiding the church and indeed leading her into all truth is not the same as saying the church is right about everything, or infallible, or anything quite that strong.

    In #127, you pointed to specific church fathers who use specific books as scripture. One thing that is remarkable about the early church fathers, however, is the lack of unanimity on the canon. Some churches receive Hermas, others do not. Some receive 2 and 3 John, Revelation, Hebrews, others do not. (My impression was that Hebrews was accepted in places where Pauline authorship was assumed, but I will check your appeal to Ridderbos on this point.) What the church fathers seemed to have maintained in disputed cases was their right to exercise their critical judgment: if they doubted a writing was apostolic, they may not have received it, even though other parts of the church (including the church of Rome!) had received that book as Scripture. So the church fathers’ approach is not wholly analogous to modern Catholicism.

    As for John 8, Mk 16: those Protestants who believe only the original author of a text can be inspired and not subsequent editors are surely lacking in theological imagination. Text-critical issues do not affect inspiration. “This paradigm allows for scholars to progressively cut the canon apart, with changes in what texts are to be believed and obeyed, and which are not.” Only if one accepts the false assumption that what is “original” to the text (or, for that matter, “original” to Paul) is to be accepted as authoritative. This is to smuggle modern standards of authorship/intellectual property into the ancient world. I do reject that modern scholarship can, in principle, change the shape of the canon, though that does not mean some do not try (I refer to the recent announcement of The New New Testament).

    In reference to Wisdom and Tobit, I appreciate your comments on historical details regarding their authorship, but you still have not explained why their antiquity is the basis for which we should determine what is the inspired Word of God.

    Here we are talking past each other, because we are conversing in different registers. To be clear: I am not saying that antiquity furnishes an adequate basis for canonicity. I am saying, however, that *in the crucial period of the canon’s formation, antiquity was believed to be a prerequisite for authority.* I am not commenting on the reasons why we today might accept a work as canonical, I am commenting the reasons that people in the ancient world used. Of course from our perspective the reasoning seems arbitrary, and we can see cases in which books were probably written much later than they are set (e.g. the fictitious ascriptions of Ecclesiastes to Solomon, of Daniel to Daniel).

    Nevertheless, the most remarkable salient difference between the Hebrew canon and the Catholic canon is precisely this, that while the Hebrew canon may include books written more recently, such as Daniel, these books are set in the exilic or early Persian periods, so that there is no book in the Hebrew canon explicitly set later than 450 BC or so. That is important and interesting simply as a datum that requires explanation. We may reject the principle of “antiquity as prerequisite for authority” but it seems to have been operative in the ancient world.

    You are of course right about Sadducees/Essenes etc. I was thinking of “all” early Christians when I phrased that but it was clearly imprecise.

    this ended up being a little longer than I anticipated…sorry. blessings.

    Dave

  132. Hello Dave,

    Yeah, glad you’ll take a look at the article. Not that I haven’t enjoyed our conversation thus far, but I think a lot of the issues we’re discussing Tom Brown has addressed more fully and helpfully than I’ll be able to do in these short comments.

    As for our debate over the contents of the OT canon, I’ll take a stab and trying to differentiate our positions and you can tell me if you think we’re still talking past one another. Your premise seems to be something like this:

    1. A good, if not the best marker for determining which books to include in the OT canon is what books are cited explicitly as scripture in the NT.
    2. Although there are some books in the Hebrew canon not cited in the NT, Jesus in Luke 24 uses the three general categories of the Hebrew canon when he refers to those scriptures in which his passion and resurrection are prophesied: the Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim.
    3. Furthermore, the Hebrew canon contains the original scriptures, unlike the LXX, which is a translation, and thus not to be considered as authoritative.

    I would respond like this:

    1. I will grant that if my choices were only which books are cited explicitly as scripture in the NT, or which books are alluded to in the NT, the “citation” premise would be more appealing, and, as you argue, more logical force. However, I have also offered that the NT cites the LXX as scripture. If the NT authors cite the LXX as scripture, this would suggest that the NT authors viewed the LXX as scripture, and not just an imperfect translation. Indeed, some citations rely very specifically on the LXX version of a prophesy to demonstrate its fulfillment in Christ (e.g. Isaiah 40:3), because the Hebrew text reads differently. When I was Protestant, as I reflected on these competing hypotheses, I realized I had no “slam dunk” reason to view one theory as superior to the other.
    2. Jesus’ words in Luke 24 do indeed suggest that he is claiming the Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim as scripture. The fact that He and NT authors quote from all three sections of the Hebrew Bible is further proof they viewed these as scripture. But this doesn’t rule out the Deuterocanonical books as scripture. It demonstrates only that they viewed those three groups of texts as scripture, not that they didn’t view the Deuterocanonical books as such.
    3. I hopefully addressed this point in my first point, that the NT writers seem to view the LXX not simply as a translation, but authentic scripture.

    I agree with you that God in his sovereignty guides all of history. But assuming that He will guide the Church to define the canon without error is not the same thing, nor have you presented your reasons for your certainty that this is the case. I’m confused as to why you seem so certain that God would ensure the canon is infallibly defined by the church, but God would not ensure that the Church councils are preserved from theological error, or ensure an infallible teaching authority in the bishops, or any number of scenarios that would demonstrate God’s sovereignty. That God would do one, and not the other, certainly fits well with your Protestant interpretative paradigm, but it seems arbitrary.

    I recognize that the Church Father’s approach to determining scripture is not wholly analogous to modern Catholicism. However, some trends are I think suggestive. For one, most Church Fathers did recognize the Deuterocanonical books as scripture. Secondly, we have many examples of Church Fathers and other early Church leaders deferring to bishops, or in some cases, to the Church in Rome, for guidance regarding such issues as scripture, doctrine, discipline, etc. As Wilken has noted in his recent magnum opus on the early church, the presence of bishops, and the universality across the ancient world with which they wielded authority over the Church, is far more analogous to a Catholic understanding than a Protestant one.

    I think you are correct when you say that to only believe or obey what is “original” to a text is to accept a false assumption about what one should accepted as authoritative. But I would be curious for you to explain more specifically your perspective on this issue. What I mean is, do you as a Protestant think only the Apostles had the authority to write inspired scripture, or is that umbrella broader? You seem to be suggesting that the umbrella is indeed broader, and may include those within an Apostle’s community, early Christian leaders whose names are lost to history, etc. Yet if this is the case, you are assuming a pretty fluid understanding of who could write inspired scripture in the early Church. Why do you assume this to be the case? And if you do assume this, as I asked earlier, why is it so much harder to believe that the Apostles passed on their authority to subsequent generations of bishops who retained an infallible teaching authority? It doesn’t seem like much of an intellectual jump for you, if you’re willing to grantthat others in the early Church besides the Apostles could somehow write inspired scripture.

    In regards to the issue of antiquity being a prerequisite for authority during the canon’s formation: I’m not sure I understand your argument. Plenty of Jews in the first century as well as early Christians accepted the LXX as scripture. Is the fact that the books of the Hebrew Bible are set earlier than 450 BC, while the Deuterocanonical books are set later, sufficient cause to reject the Deuterocanonical books? I’m guessing this is related to your prevoius point regarding the prophetic witness suppossedly ending with Malachi and beginning again with John the Baptist, but I’m not sure how it furthers your argument.

    The reason why I continue to ask you for the basis for many of your assumptions is because I am trying to move beyond the specific historical and logical arguments for why or why not to accept the Deuterocanonical books as inspired and inerrant. We can debate those specifics all day, and as I’ve tried to present to you, our competing hypotheses appear equally valid. You can tell me if you disagree, but you have not presented an incontrovertible case for rejecting the Deuterocanonical books. I’m willing to grant that I don’t think I’ve presented a case that the Deuterocanonical books are incontrovertibly inspired scripture either; my Catholic brethren can disagree, but I’m not sure that I could. However, if this is the case, we may have reached a stalemate. My follow-up question for you would then be, do you think this is what Jesus intended, that Christians lack so little clarity over how to determine what is His inspired, inerrant Word? If we can do little more than conjecture with our personal opinions as to what is scripture or what is not, Christianity lies on very weak ground indeed – especially if the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura is our guide. According to your paradigm, God guides the Church to infallibly preserve the canon, but little else. And even that He did this is an assumption that remains unproved. However, according to the Catholic paradigm, Jesus providentially gives His Church authority to preserve true doctrine and faith (which indeed has basis in the NT writings), which then enables the Church to infallibly determine the canon. This, on the whole, is more coherent, more logical, and, based on arguments made in articles on CTC by Tom Brown and Bryan Cross, more scriptural.

    In Christ,
    Casey

  133. Hi Casey,

    I would say your three points summarizing my view are fair. On point two, a further element can be added. It is not only that Jesus uses the “categories” of the Hebrew canon. It is that he thereby lends his authority to the tripartite structure of the OT. This structure is not simply a loose categorization into which books are to be slotted. It is a normative framework that coordinates revelation to Moses, the standard for revelatory authority in the OT. I actually think that a Protestant Bible ought to be printed in which the books of the OT are presented in the order they are in the Hebrew Bible (i.e., from Genesis to Chronicles).

    On to your responses:
    1. I haven’t responded yet to your assertions about the LXX. The fact is, your argument as stated is anachronistic. You are saying, “the NT authors cite the LXX. Therefore the whole LXX is normative.” That assumes the LXX existed as a collection at the time of the NT, which it certainly did not. The NT authors are not quoting from a “Bible” (the LXX), they are quoting from scrolls, i.e., individual books of the Bible. So, a quotation from Genesis can only establish the authority of Genesis.

    The Hebrew Bible also (as a collection of books) did not exist at the time of the writing of the NT. What did exist was a mode of expressing the theological relation between these books, which led to the tripartite structure of the OT.
    2. Not quoting the deuterocanonical books can prove nothing. It cannot prove that they were or were not viewed as scripture.
    3. I agree that Greek translations are considered authentic scripture, just as I quote scripture in English in conversation with you. That doesn’t mean, however, that I ascribe the same authority to the English translation as I would to the original text.

    Further comments:
    “I’m confused as to why you seem so certain that God would ensure the canon is infallibly defined by the church…” I don’t think this. Actually there is no instance in the early church where any writer suggested the church infallibly defined the canon. That is why Eusebius has a category of disputed books, in which are many books currently accepted as canonical. As I said before, I think canonicity admits of degrees, which seems counter-intuitive. Some books, however, certainly are “more canonical” than others, e.g. Genesis than Esther; Romans than Jude.

    What I mean is, do you as a Protestant think only the Apostles had the authority to write inspired scripture, or is that umbrella broader? You seem to be suggesting that the umbrella is indeed broader, and may include those within an Apostle’s community, early Christian leaders whose names are lost to history, etc. Yet if this is the case, you are assuming a pretty fluid understanding of who could write inspired scripture in the early Church. Why do you assume this to be the case? And if you do assume this, as I asked earlier, why is it so much harder to believe that the Apostles passed on their authority to subsequent generations of bishops who retained an infallible teaching authority?

    It seems, on historical grounds, that some works in the NT canon are pseudepigraphical (e.g. 2 Peter). So, the umbrella is broader indeed. I do think the Apostles passed on their authority to a subsequent generation of bishops, who retained teaching authority. Infallible? I don’t see that claim made anywhere in the early church.

    “Plenty of Jews in the first century as well as early Christians accepted the LXX as scripture.” Again, this statement is meaningless as formulated, since the LXX as a collection did not exist in the first century. Various Jews accepted various permutations of scriptural books, some of which included apocryphal and pseudepigraphal books. The author of Jude apparently treated 1 Enoch as Scripture. Tobit was probably accepted at Qumran, but it is very doubtful that it was considered authoritative by any of the writers of the NT. My only point in all this is that antiquity OR the perception of antiquity (e.g. 1 Enoch) was one of the main criteria used in these decisions. It is this criterion, as far as I can tell, that gives the “deuterocanonical” books their “deutero” status. Otherwise, what in your view makes them “deutero”?

    best,

    Dave

  134. Hi Dave,

    In regards to our continued conversation on the LXX versus the Hebrew Bible as scripture…

    I still am not convinced that your theory for determining the OT canon is somehow superior to the one I have proposed. You argue that because Jesus says in one place in the NT that his passion fulfills prophesies made in a “tripartite structure of the OT,” and because that tripartite structure is the same as the Hebrew Bible, that it therefore means the LXX could not be inspired scripture. I might suggest that your portrayal of the tripartite structure of the Hebrew Bible referred to by Jesus is also anachronistic, in that because he refers to these three categories of scripture, it comprehensively encapsulates what is or isn’t scripture. You yourself have admitted that there are a number of books in the Hebrew Bible that make no appearance in the NT, and have acknowledged that “a quotation from Genesis can only establish the authority of Genesis.” This would suggest you have little basis for assuming the canonicity of those books in the Hebrew Bible not cited in the NT, except that the Jews after Christ eventually accepted them as scripture. Furthermore, your statement that you do not ascribe the same authority to a translation, rather than an original text, is also potentially anachronistic – why should we assume the NT writers or early Christians held this perspective? The NT writers often seem to purposefully choose to cite the LXX rather than the Hebrew Bible, indicating something more is at work than simply choosing a linguistically-convenient translation.

    I’m glad you provided more clarity on how you view the canon’s creation; but if you don’t believe that God enabled the Church to infallibly define the canon, then what is the canon, other than your personal opinion? What exactly does it mean that some books are “more canonical than others”? Do you believe them all to be inspired, inerrant scripture, or no? And if not, are certain teachings in the canon not binding on your conscience?

    You agree that your umbrella of who could write inspired, inerrant scripture in the NT era is broader than the Apostles. What is your basis for believing this, how can we know who these people were, where their authority came from, where that authority stopped, and why it stopped? I’m not saying that isn’t an accurate reflection of what happened, but I’m curious as to how you come to assess that these extra-apostolic inspired writers excited, but that any semblance of their authority, or that of the apostles, is not passed on through subsequent generations. If you’re willing to grant extra-apostolic writers with the power of writing inspired scripture, why not extra-apostolic leaders in the church with the power of teaching infallibly or the authority of the apostles? What is your basis for arguing that it is “doubtful” that any NT writers believed Tobit to be authoritative? I don’t see how we could know such a thing, unless the NT writers told us as much. I know you don’t put much weight in allusions, but Luke 14:13 seem to be alluding to Tobit 2:2, as is Revelation 21:19 using language strikingly similar to Tobit 13:17, and there a host of other places in the NT that use language found in Tobit.

    I know there are a lot of questions in the above paragraph, but I keep asking for the premises for your arguments because much of your position seems to be based off of assertions that take the Protestant understanding of the canon or church history as normative, while assuming the Catholic understanding is incorrect. I get this impression because I’ve asked why you are so wedded to the assumption that God would providentially guide the church to determine the canon, but so averse to the suggestion that God would providentially guide the church to do anything else, including maintain any form of infallible teaching authority, or even create a visible church authority that can be discerned by Christians throughout history.

    You argue that there is no evidence for an infallible teaching authority in the early church. Do you think there was any authority given by Jesus, to the Apostles, that was then passed to subsequent priests/bishops preserved through the early church? To address these issues in any meaningful way would take us far afield from the content of this article, but I would present to you that I do not think that assertion is accurate. One scripture that comes to mind in refutation of your assertion is 2 Tim 2:2. However, more substantively, several articles on CTC have addressed issues related to the topic of the early church and the nature of the churches and bishops authority – I’ve provided links below.

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/02/the-chair-of-st-peter/

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/05/holy-orders-and-the-priesthood/

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/christ-founded-a-visible-church/

    in Christ,

    Casey

  135. Hi Casey

    I might suggest that your portrayal of the tripartite structure of the Hebrew Bible referred to by Jesus is also anachronistic, in that because he refers to these three categories of scripture, it comprehensively encapsulates what is or isn’t scripture.

    But I specifically did not say this. I said:

    The Hebrew Bible also (as a collection of books) did not exist at the time of the writing of the NT. What did exist was a mode of expressing the theological relation between these books, which led to the tripartite structure of the OT.

    So, a) I am not being anachronistic; b) you are being anachronistic if you argue, as you have, that a citation from any particular LXX book shows the authority of the LXX-as-collection, because the earliest collections we have of LXX with deutero-scriptures are from the 4th century CE or so, and in fact we know that in the 1st century scripture was transmitted in individual scrolls.

    This would suggest you have little basis for assuming the canonicity of those books in the Hebrew Bible not cited in the NT, except that the Jews after Christ eventually accepted them as scripture.

    This is flawed. Who do you think was copying these scrolls for centuries? Do we really think that the Jews only accepted certain books as scripture after Christ? That makes no historical sense. In fact in his debates Jesus often appeals to scripture as a given.

    I’m glad you provided more clarity on how you view the canon’s creation; but if you don’t believe that God enabled the Church to infallibly define the canon, then what is the canon, other than your personal opinion? What exactly does it mean that some books are “more canonical than others”? Do you believe them all to be inspired, inerrant scripture, or no? And if not, are certain teachings in the canon not binding on your conscience?

    I hope there is some room for a middle ground between “infallible definition” and “personal opinion,” as undoubtedly the church fathers thought. That is where I sit. “More canonical than others” = “more received than others.” Tom Brown’s article points to the dubious status of Esther in the church fathers. Do you deny that some books are “more canonical than others”? Yes, I do believe they are all part of inspired scripture.

    any semblance of their authority, or that of the apostles, is not passed on through subsequent generations. If you’re willing to grant extra-apostolic writers with the power of writing inspired scripture, why not extra-apostolic leaders in the church with the power of teaching infallibly or the authority of the apostles?

    My feeling at this point is that you are not reading what I wrote very carefully, since I explicitly said that I thought apostolic teaching authority was passed on. The only way I would modify this statement would be to remove the word “infallibly.”

    I know there are a lot of questions in the above paragraph, but I keep asking for the premises for your arguments because much of your position seems to be based off of assertions that take the Protestant understanding of the canon or church history as normative, while assuming the Catholic understanding is incorrect.

    I am making no assumptions, Protestant or Catholic. I simply respect historical evidence. I have appealed in my discussion with you to historical evidence. If you have historical evidence, e.g., that the early church thought the apostles passed on an *infallible* teaching authority, I would be glad to hear it. (I agree that the early church thought the apostles passed on teaching authority, but not an infallible teaching authority: there is obviously a difference.)

    You argue that there is no evidence for an infallible teaching authority in the early church. Do you think there was any authority given by Jesus, to the Apostles, that was then passed to subsequent priests/bishops preserved through the early church?

    Again, above, I said:

    I do think the Apostles passed on their authority to a subsequent generation of bishops, who retained teaching authority.

    If we are going to have a productive conversation, it is important to hear each other’s positions.

    What, in your view, makes the “deutero” books “deutero”?

  136. Hello Dave,

    I am sort of following yours and Casey’s conversation. Maybe this will help?

    http://catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0120.html

    Best,
    Susan

  137. Susan,

    Thanks for the link. There are serious problems with this article. Under myth 1, the author says: “But there’s the rub: The Septuagint version of Scripture, from which Christ quoted, includes the Deuterocanonical books, books that were supposedly ‘added’ by Rome in the 16th century.” And: “The Septuagint, complete with the deuterocanononical books, was first embraced, not by the Council of Trent, but by Jesus of Nazareth and his Apostles.” This is a massive anachronism. There was no “Septuagint, complete with deuterocanon” at the time of Jesus and the apostles. The very concept of such a Bible requires codex technology, not used until later. Our earliest preserved codices are from the 4th century. This is the same anachronistic argument that both Casey and Tom Brown make.

    The other “myths” pointed to by the author may have more or less validity. For instance, one cannot necessarily discount Tobit on the charge that it is historical fiction, since Esther would fall under the same judgment. The key thing I have been emphasizing, however, is that it doesn’t matter whether you or I think a writing is historical fiction or ancient and reliable. The key is the perception of the ancient church in the time of the canon’s actual formation, no matter whether that perception was right or wrong. This is what I have been emphasizing. For me the canon therefore has nothing to do with “private judgment”: I happen to think that OT books such as Job, Esther, and Jonah are in fact artful historical fiction, later misapprehended as actual history. I may be mistaken in that private judgment. But I am not at liberty to remove these books from the canon, even if a belief in their historicity was a motivating factor in their inclusion.

    Dave

  138. Hi Dave (#135),

    I submit that I should have made a closer reading of your comment to avoid some of the miscommunication here. My apologies both for not reading more carefully your comments and for mischaracterizing your position in a couple places in my last comment. Let me see if I can clear things up here…

    But I specifically did not say this. I said: The Hebrew Bible also (as a collection of books) did not exist at the time of the writing of the NT. What did exist was a mode of expressing the theological relation between these books, which led to the tripartite structure of the OT. So, a) I am not being anachronistic; b) you are being anachronistic if you argue, as you have, that a citation from any particular LXX book shows the authority of the LXX-as-collection, because the earliest collections we have of LXX with deutero-scriptures are from the 4th century CE or so, and in fact we know that in the 1st century scripture was transmitted in individual scrolls.

    If I’m understanding you correctly, you seem to be arguing that what makes my position weaker than yours is that, in your favor, at least there was a tripartite understanding of the OT at the time of Christ, which was based on an understanding the Hebrew Bible, written in Hebrew and excluding the LXX. In contrast, an understanding of the LXX-as-collection does not appear until 4th century CE, so to claim, as I have, that because the NT relies primarily on the LXX rather than the Hebrew Bible when it cites OT literature, is anachronistic. However, I think there are a couple of problems here. For one, even if the idea of the Hebrew Bible “as compilation” is older than that of the LXX, Jewish scholars even into the 2nd century were debating some parts of the Palestinian canon. If that is the case, it would be fair for us to have doubts as to whether all books in the Palestinian canon are inspired and inerrant, especially if we wanted to take a more critical view of the canon formation process. You seem to assume the Jewish religious leadership eventually got it sorted out correctly, separating the inspired from the not inspired. But again, why assume so? Secondly, I think there is a little more historical evidence for the LXX being a collection earlier than the date you claim. As the Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges, “the oldest extant copies [of the LXX] date from the fourth and fifth centuries of our era, and were therefore made by Christian hands; nevertheless scholars generally admit that these faithfully represent the Old Testament as it was current among the Hellenist or Alexandrian Jews in the age immediately preceding Christ.” If it reasonable to assume the LXX we have from the 4th century is the same , or at least largely the same, as what Alexandrian Jews had in the 1st century, than I would say it is reasonable to assess that if the NT writers largely rely on the scriptures as they were presented in the Alexandrian canon, rather than the Palestinian canon, than they viewed the Alexandrian canon, including deuterocanonical books, as scripture. Indeed, of 350 OT texts cited in the NT, 300 favor the language of the Greek over the Hebrew.
    You argue that my question to you regarding certain books in the Hebrew Bible not being cited explicitly in the NT is flawed, because I seem to be assuming Jews only accepted certain books as scripture after Christ. Again, if I’m understanding you correctly, you are arguing that just because the NT doesn’t cite certain books in the Hebrew Bible, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t understood at the time of Christ that those books weren’t included in what they understand the canon to contain. In response, I think I’ve addressed this in the above comment, but I’m certainly willing to grant that books not cited in the NT were still viewed as in the Hebrew canon by Jews at the time of Christ. Indeed, I believe they were. What I’m arguing is that we don’t necessarily have to assume this is the case, just as you don’t necessarily have to assume that the LXX was viewed as a collection in the first century. We could take a more skeptical or more generous view of the data on either side, because there doesn’t seem to be overwhelmingly strong evidence to guide in a specific direction one way or the other.
    You also present your position that the Apostles did indeed pass on an authority to subsequent generations, but that this authority was not infallible – I’m guessing that would mean it would not be infallible under any circumstances. I do think there is historical evidence that the early Church believed bishops under certain circumstances could teach doctrine infallibly. Not to beat a dead horse, but I would refer you to the Catholic Encyclopedia’s article on infallibility, which outlines the evidence from scripture and early Church history (citing a number of Church fathers) for the doctrine of the Church’s infallibility, conveyed through the bishops acting corporately. The decisions of Nicea and Chalcedon, and the manner in which they were promulgated seems to assume as much. However, for the purposes of this conversation, I am focusing on why you are so wedded to the belief that God in his sovereignty preserved the canon. Your answer seems to be that there is more historical evidence that the Church believed this to be the case, and not as much evidence for believing God would also guide the Church in other issues, such as infallible teaching authority. Is that a fair assessment of your position? If it is, I would counter that the early Church believed in lots of things that don’t easily correlate with a Protestant interpretive paradigm: besides an infallible teaching authority, there’s the Eucharist as the actual body and blood Christ, veneration and prayer to saints, etc. And yet you don’t accept these (at least, I presume you don’t). You don’t think you making an exemption for the formation of the canon is arbitrary?

    If you are willing to grant that some books are “more canonical than others,” in that some are “more received” than others, it doesn’t seem like you should have a particularly difficult time accepting the premise that the deuterocanonical books also fit along that spectrum. Maybe we can say that Genesis or Deuteronomy are “more canonical” than the Book of Wisdom, because they are widely cited as scripture in the NT and were broadly accepted by Jews and early Christians. But the Book of Wisdom was widely accepted as scripture by early Christians, and likely many Jews – as are many other Deuterocanonical Books. Per the Catholic Encyclopedia, “sub-Apostolic writings of Clement, Polycarp, the author of the Epistle of Barnabas, of the pseudo-Clementine homilies, and the “Shepherd” of Hermas, contain implicit quotations from or allusions to all the deuterocanonicals except Baruch,” and these writings “quote protocanonical scriptures in precisely the same way.” If this puts the deuterocanonical books on the canonical “spectrum,” then where do you suggest drawing the line between what along that spectrum should be accepted in the canon, and what should be rejected? And wouldn’t that line be a “best guess” personal opinion? (as an aside, the chapter on the canon of the Old Testament in the Catholic Encyclopedia would be well worth reading if you have not).
    As for what makes the deuterocanon “deutero”: the books of the Hebrew Bible are understood as the protocanonical books because they were established as canonical before the deuterocanonical books. That they were established later is not a difficulty for the Catholic position; indeed, the NT books were not recognized by any Church council until the latter half of the 4th century. And besides, if there is indeed a church with authority to recognize the canon, the chronology in which they choose to do that is not an insurmountable difficulty. Just because the Church didn’t declare the Trinity until Nicea didn’t mean the concept wasn’t widely understood or taught prior to 325 A.D.

    In Christ,
    Casey

  139. Dave,

    If the key is the ancient church’s perception in the time of the canon’s actual formation, then I take it that you hold to the canon of the ancient church. So, everything that the first and second century fathers thought were scripture you also think was scripture? What about the third century or the fourth century? Do they count as well?

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  140. Dear Dave,

    I enjoy talking about the formation of the canon. You have charged that Casey and I are engaged in a “massive anachronism” by arguing that deuterocanonical texts were contained in the Septuagint. I invite you to read the text of my Canon Question article accompanying footnote 50, and what follows in that immediate subsection. I don’t follow your codex-technology argument, since I’m not sure what you mean by the “very concept of such a Bible”?

    You say that the “key is the perception of the ancient church in the time of the canon’s actual formation, no matter whether that perception was right or wrong.” Who, for you, had the authority to set this as the rule or criterion for canonicity?

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  141. Hi Tom,

    I read your essay, but not the hundreds of comments below it, so I’m not sure either a) whether it would be more productive to comment there, or b) whether this has already been raised with you. You pointed me to footnote 50, which states:

    As no original manuscript of the Septuagint exists, scholars have the burden of reconstructing its original contents through later manuscripts…

    There were no “original contents” of a unified collection known as the “Septuagint,” definitely not at the time of Christ. There were, rather, various translations of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek, made at varying times. Again, a few paragraphs down, you say:

    The rapid and ubiquitous way in which Christians made use of the Septuagint is more reason, not less, to trust its contents. These Christians’ use of the Septuagint indicates their conviction that it was authentically divine, and therefore authoritative. Absent the doubts of ecclesial deism, the widespread use of the Septuagint by first-century Christians reveals not only that this was the Old Testament of the early Church, but also that it therefore remains authoritative today.

    The anachronism here is the notion that “the widespread use of the Septuagint” is equivalent to “the widespread use of a corpus of books including the deuterocanon.” What I mean in my previous comment about “the very concept of such a Bible” is the very idea that one can “use” a Bible (say, by citing from one book of it) and thereby indicate one’s allegiance to the entire corpus. That is possible with fourth-century codices such as Sinaiticus, because this technology allows one to think of the Bible as “one book.” In the first century, however, the best evidence we have is that biblical books were kept on individual scrolls (cf. Jesus reading from the scroll of Isaiah in Lk 4). I googled “codex technology” and came across this article which seems to state the point I was trying to make, though I only skimmed it:
    http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/gopher/other/journals/kraftpub/Christianity/Canon
    You can also find discussion of codex technology and its use by early Christians in standard recent discussions of the development of the canon.

    “Who, for you, had the authority to set this as the rule or criterion for canonicity?”

    It was precisely because in the decisive period the church did not regard itself as having the authority to set a rule or criterion for canonicity that the rule that prevailed was, in the case of the OT, perception of antiquity, and in the case of the NT, apostolic authorship or close association with an apostle. These criteria are ones that seek to ascribe the canon’s legitimacy to something other than the assent of the church.

    Dave

  142. K. Doran,

    It is not that I hold to everything they held as canonical. For one thing, trying to align yourself with all of the fathers would result in contradiction, as they all accepted a common core, but adopted various permutations of books on the fringe. If one accepts Revelation or Hebrews, one is automatically taking a stand with some fathers against others.

    What I am interested in is the common reasons they give that underlie their disagreement. For example one father may accept 2 Peter, another may reject it, but the criterion would probably be the same (apostolic authorship, with the father that rejects it being somewhat suspicious).

    Dave

  143. Hi Casey,

    Your quotation from the Catholic Encyclopedia is dated. Scholars no longer generally admit any such thing. What scholars require is evidence. The fact of a change in technology (from individual scrolls to codex) in the intervening centuries is enough to cast serious doubt on the quotation as formulated.

    The only first century evidence we have, such as it is, overwhelmingly favors Jewish Bible/Protestant OT. This is the tripartite TANAK, attested in the prologue to Ben Sira, 4QMMT from Qumran, Josephus’ Against Apion, and 4 Ezra 13. The latter two give specific numbers of books (Josephus, 22; 4 Ezra, 24) that are very close to the Protestant OT/Jewish Bible. Josephus also gives chronological indicators (prophecy extends from Moses to Artaxerxes) that rules out the deuterocanon, unless of course some believed a book like Tobit actually dated from the Assyrian exile. The NT evidence fits perfectly with this broader spectrum in Judaism. There may be allusions to deuterocanonical works, and in fact elements attested in them may surface in the NT as part of a common Jewish piety of the time (one notes the trio fasting/prayer/almsgiving which appears in Tobit and the sermon on the Mount), but it is really quite unthinkable for an NT author to state, “this is to fulfill that which was written in the book of Sirach/Tobit/Wisdom.” It just doesn’t happen: the books did not yet have the perception of antiquity and authority required to treat them as canonical scripture.

    None of this ought to bother you, on Catholic presuppositions, development of doctrine is fine. It is Protestants who are somewhat primitivist in always attempting to “recover” the beliefs of the first century. Anyway, the clear evidence, such as we have it, is much more in favor of a Jewish Bible/Protestant OT in the first century. The canon may, as you say, be even smaller than that (Song of Songs), though it is doubtful that Song of Songs would have ever made it in the canon if it was not already considered scriptural by then (by virtue of its association with Solomon, and the fact that it was faithfully copied for centuries as part of the heritage of Jewish literature). The deuterocanonical works were, as you say, received later — not officially, in fact, until Trent. This is fine on Catholic presuppositions, it is we Protestants who have the hang-up with going back to a “pure” original Christianity. So I wonder why we are arguing? Why do you even want “Jesus and the apostles” to have considered the deuterocanon Scripture? That seems rather Protestant of you.

    I think this will be my last post on this matter. Thanks for the conversation; I enjoyed it.

    Dave

  144. Hi Dave,
    Thanks for continuing the conversation. Sorry to hear that you’re bringing the conversation to an end. Even so, for the sake of readers of our exchange, I’d like to briefly respond to several of your statements.

    You claim that my quotation from the Catholic Encyclopedia is “dated,” and that scholars “no longer generally admit any such thing.” I’m not sure what has changed, or how your appeal to the change in technology from individual scrolls to codex, somehow disproves the possibility that the LXX existed as a collection of books at the time of Christ, just as did the Hebrew Bible. It seems like yours is more an argument from silence. Why should we emphatically doubt the possibility that the LXX existed as a collection of books amongst the Alexandrian Jewish community? If the NT cites the LXX far more than the Hebrew Bible, and alludes to most of the deuterocanonical books, it would suggest many NT writers had access to them as some sort of cohesive unit. The sources you give for favoring the Jewish Bible/Protestant OT all seem to come from the Palestinian Jewish community (Qumram, Josephus, 4 Ezra), which as the Catholic Encyclopedia’ article recognized, favored the modern Hebrew Bible rather than the LXX. My argument in the previous post acknowledged this and appealed to the Alexandrian Jewish community as an alternative strong voice in 1st century Judaism, especially in the diaspora.

    However, more broadly, your interpretive paradigm is concerning. You seem to place your confidence in what your perception of what historical scholarship says, right now in the 21st century. As a fellow student of history, I am aware of (1) serious ongoing debates over the data points we have discussed, which will likely continue until kingdom come (2) the shifting sands of historical scholarship, particularly concerning the era we are describing – the years preceding and following Christ’s life and the NT writers. Think of how much the New Perspective on Paul has shifted our understanding of Judaism during the time of Christ, and that’s a scholarly enterprise that only started in the 1970s! Given this, to put our trust in what is or isn’t scripture based on historical study, or even, more honestly, our flawed perspective on what we think is the best historical study, is a very problematic paradigm indeed. What if archaeology unearths another major find like Qumram that dramatically shifts our understanding of 1st century Judaism or Christianity? We would be back to the drawing board with our assessments of what is or isn’t scripture. The inspired, inerrant Word of God is subject to the latest scholarly opinions. Do you think this is what Christ intended, rather than relying on the Church He himself founded, and which has faithfully preserved that canon, throughout history?

    Secondly, you have not answered some of the foundational questions I asked of you regarding your assumptions. For example, you assert that God in His sovereignty enabled the Church to accurately determine the canon – but you have not explained why you have such a strong belief that this is the case, nor have you explained why you believe God would ensure the Church got the doctrine of scripture correct, but not other doctrines correct. Or, you appeal to what the early Church believed about canon formation to strengthen your argument, but you neglect to acknowledge what it would mean that the early Church at a chronologically early widely date accepted the deuterocanonical books as scripture. Both seem arbitrary distinctions for you to make.

    You ask me why we are arguing, and why I want “Jesus and the apostles” to have considered the deuterocanon scripture. I never said that it was imperative that this is the case. I certainly think it is useful and helpful for the Catholic position if this is the case, and would lend stronger weight to accepting the deuterocanon as scripture. But certainly not necessary. What I have been trying to do is to debate you on what I presume are the terms of your Protestant interpretive paradigm, in order to suggest to you the inconsistencies and incongruities within your system.

    in Christ,
    Casey

  145. Dear Dave,

    You said:

    The anachronism here is the notion that “the widespread use of the Septuagint” is equivalent to “the widespread use of a corpus of books including the deuterocanon.”

    But I have not made that equation per se. I have said that the Jews of the Diaspora used the Greek Septuagint, and I do believe that the collection of books in their use included deuterocanonical texts as well as texts we would agree are apocryphal. Perhaps it would help to clarify that the Catholic position is *not* that Old Testament books used by Greek-speaking Jews of Jesus’ time are, de facto, canonical. But I believe this history bore an important witness as the Church developed its doctrine about Sacred Scripture, and then went about discerning which books were a part of that corpus.

    Thanks for your clarification on the concept of Bible; I think we agree about Sacred Scripture not being handled as “one book” in the first century the way it is treated today. I am aware that the Jews of Jesus’ time used scrolls, and would have kept certain texts-on-scroll in the synagogue for Sabbath reading. Some of the Reformed scholars I relied upon for the Canon Question article gave good explanations of that process and history.

    But what I really love to discuss is the basis for how a Christian can answer the canon question. You said:

    It was precisely because in the decisive period the church did not regard itself as having the authority to set a rule or criterion for canonicity that the rule that prevailed was, in the case of the OT, perception of antiquity, and in the case of the NT, apostolic authorship or close association with an apostle. These criteria are ones that seek to ascribe the canon’s legitimacy to something other than the assent of the church.

    I think you’re saying that because the church lacked authority to set criteria for canonicity, the rule that prevailed [in the passive voice] was some criteria that didn’t involve the assent of the church. It’s a really interesting answer. A few thoughts. First, how do we know the church did not regard itself as having this authority? Have you studied the early Church Fathers discussing Sacred Scripture and discussing which texts are regarded as canonical? They spoke with conviction and authority. Second, if the “church” couldn’t set criteria for canonicity, who was it that made it such that the rules you gave “prevailed”? Lastly, who’s to say, or how do we know, that the criteria you gave (the ones you say generally prevailed) are correct? “Perception of antiquity” in particular is awfully subjective.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  146. Hi Casey

    It is not necessarily that I need to end the conversation (due to time constraints or other concerns) but sometimes there comes a point where one has said all one has to say on a matter. If you think it profitable, we can carry on yet.

    It seems like yours is more an argument from silence. Why should we emphatically doubt the possibility that the LXX existed as a collection of books amongst the Alexandrian Jewish community?

    Well, let us just say there is no positive evidence for this. As the Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges, Philo, the most prominent first-century Alexandrian Jew, nowhere cites or alludes to the deuterocanonical works. I don’t know what more to say on this topic. There is no evidence that anything called the Alexandrian canon ever existed. There is, actually, very little to be said for explicitly linking the deuterocanon with Alexandria at all.

    The only argument from silence employed here would be the argument in favor of the existence of the Alexandrian canon, not the argument against it. (You accused me of making an argument from silence. I suppose any statement of the form “We have no positive existence that x existed in the first century” (say x is an automobile) is a sort of argument from silence. But, it is simply better than adopting the hypothesis that “x” did exist in the first century, absent explicit testimony to the contrary.

    However, more broadly, your interpretive paradigm is concerning. You seem to place your confidence in what your perception of what historical scholarship says, right now in the 21st century. . . . Given this, to put our trust in what is or isn’t scripture based on historical study, or even, more honestly, our flawed perspective on what we think is the best historical study, is a very problematic paradigm indeed. What if archaeology unearths another major find like Qumram that dramatically shifts our understanding of 1st century Judaism or Christianity? We would be back to the drawing board with our assessments of what is or isn’t scripture. The inspired, inerrant Word of God is subject to the latest scholarly opinions. Do you think this is what Christ intended, rather than relying on the Church He himself founded, and which has faithfully preserved that canon, throughout history?

    If archaeology came along and found a major find that had relevance for the canon, we would have to take that into account, yes. For example, if they found another letter of the apostle Paul, and somehow determined it to be genuine, and in this letter Paul said, “in conversation with Cephas and James, these are the writings we have decided to use as scriptural…”: well, that would be pretty important for canon, don’t you think? And I happen to believe that Christ is Lord of historical scholarship as well, so that the dilemma you posed (the church relying on historical scholarship or on Christ) is false.

    As it is, it is not so much historical scholarship that I am beholden to, but evidence. Historical evidence is quite important.

    you have not answered some of the foundational questions I asked of you regarding your assumptions. For example, you assert that God in His sovereignty enabled the Church to accurately determine the canon – but you have not explained why you have such a strong belief that this is the case, nor have you explained why you believe God would ensure the Church got the doctrine of scripture correct, but not other doctrines correct.

    You have asked this question a number of times. I have been avoiding it because I think the premise is weak. The premise is that I somehow admit the church’s authority in determining the canon – but do not do so elsewhere. I do accept the church’s authority elsewhere, however, including the authority of the early councils. I deny both that this authority was infallible, and that the Spirit guarded the church in such a way that she could never be led into error. But these are matters that will sidetrack our conversation.

    Thanks for pointing me to the Catholic Encyclopedia article. Though it is certainly dated, it is a helpful read. And I think quite intellectually honest – with a few rough spots that I may point out later on (like saying it is a matter of faith that the last living apostle must have committed the deuterocanon to the church???).

    Best,

    Dave

  147. Tom,

    But I have not made that equation per se. I have said that the Jews of the Diaspora used the Greek Septuagint, and I do believe that the collection of books in their use included deuterocanonical texts as well as texts we would agree are apocryphal.

    OK. But the key thing to acknowledge is that there was nothing called the “Greek Septuagint” in the first century, unless we are referring to the Pentateuch as discussed in the Letter of Aristeas. We have no evidence of a unified collection of books, including law, prophets, writings, and apocrypha, referred to as the Septuagint, for that time period. What we have are citations of individual scriptures, and some references to broader collections (“law,” “prophets,” “writings”).

    I think you’re saying that because the church lacked authority to set criteria for canonicity, the rule that prevailed [in the passive voice] was some criteria that didn’t involve the assent of the church. It’s a really interesting answer. A few thoughts. First, how do we know the church did not regard itself as having this authority? Have you studied the early Church Fathers discussing Sacred Scripture and discussing which texts are regarded as canonical? They spoke with conviction and authority. Second, if the “church” couldn’t set criteria for canonicity, who was it that made it such that the rules you gave “prevailed”? Lastly, who’s to say, or how do we know, that the criteria you gave (the ones you say generally prevailed) are correct? “Perception of antiquity” in particular is awfully subjective.

    1) To the degree that the church had authority in receiving the canon, the fathers listened to the witness of the whole church. It was well-known that not all books were received universally. This was why the deuterocanonical books were regarded with suspicion in the 4th and 5th centuries, as the Catholic Encyclopedia makes clear. I think the fathers, generally, were loathe to claim authority in determining the canon. Rather, they wanted to assent to the canon that all had received because of its unimpeachable authority.

    2) I think the rules I gave are natural consequences of accepting the apostles as Christ’s designated authorities. Nobody had to “make” these rules, just as no one had to make the rule that the early church had to listen to Paul: he was authorized by his call to be an apostle. The apostles were authorized to write the NT: that is why works by an apostle or associated with an apostle were admitted into the canon. They were also authorized by Christ as interpreters of the OT: that is why the church received these scriptures, withstanding the marcionite challenge.

    3) As far as whether these criteria are correct or not, that’s not mine to judge. I am most interested in discussing what were the reasons the ancient church used to determine canonicity. As you say, these criteria may be subjective. Overall, however, I think they show a remarkable concern to ward off the charge that the church was a recent heretical movement, a religious innovator. The criterion of antiquity is precisely a self-effacing criterion: it is saying, we are no innovators, we have a connection to this ancient tradition. The awareness that the Jews did not accept the deuterocanon, therefore, would have acted as a consistent deterrent for many Christians, such as Melito, Jerome, Athanasius, and others.

    Best,

    Dave

  148. Hi Dave (#146),

    I started to draft a response to your latest comment, but my father, who had been suffering with cancer for several months, died this morning. I’ll be offline for several days, but wanted to let you know I’m not abandoning this, and I plan to continue the conversation when things calm down.

    To the CTC community, your prayers for my family are appreciated. in Christ,
    Casey

  149. Casey,

    You and your family, and your father, are in our prayers. May the Lord comfort and console you.

    Eternal rest grant unto him Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  150. Dear Casey,

    I am sorry to hear of your loss. May God be with you and your family in these days, weeks, months of grieving. May the hope of the resurrection sustain you.

    “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.’” John 11:25-26

    Dave

  151. Casey:

    I’ve been following this thread with interest and will comment in due course. In the meantime,

    Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.

    Best,
    Mike

  152. Casey:
    My prayers are with you as well.

    May the peace of Christ console you in your time of grief.

    Jonathan

  153. Casey,

    So sorry for your loss.

    May our Sorrowful Mother console you and yours. Requiem aeternam…

    David M.

  154. Dear Casey,

    May God grant your father eternal rest, and may His peace comfort you and your family.

    Frank

  155. Casey wrote:

    “If Christ has established a priesthood in the New Covenant by which His grace is given to us through sacraments, then wanting a Christianity without sacraments or without any other human beings acting as channels of divine grace is wanting something contrary to what Christ has established. If Christ through His Church has provided devotions that incorporate the communion of the saints, then wanting a Christianity devoid of such devotions is contrary to the form of religion Christ has provided to us through His Church. And if Christ has established laws that induce guilt when they are disobeyed, then wanting a Christianity in which there is no guilt is wanting something other than what Christ has established.”

    But the 16th century Protestant Reformation wasn’t about Christ minus the Sacraments. At least Luther had wanted to *sacramentalise* the Word *and* sacramentalise the Sacraments. Zwingli was wrong to deride the Sacraments as “ordinances” and empty rites; Calvin didn’t go far enough far enough to insist or rather he was also sorely mistaken in thinking that the Sacraments were signs and seals of an inward faith/ grace. But both the Zwinglian and Calvinistic views have something in common with Rome, namely that grace (and faith) is (are) *infused* by the Sacraments.

    Therefore the Sacraments aren’t (really but metaphorically/ figuratively) the Sacraments of the *death & resurrection of Jesus Christ.* Infused grace precludes (although not necessarily intentionally militates) against a real actual participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    But infused grace presupposed and implies a distance between Jesus Christ and sinners. It presupposes and implies *created* grace.

    How does created grace comport with the character of Baptism as per Romans 6 and the Trinitarian formula alongside the character of the Lord’s Supper as the very self-giving of the very Body and Blood of Our Lord and Saviour?

  156. Jason L, (re: #155)

    Infused grace precludes (although not necessarily intentionally militates) against a real actual participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    No, it doesn’t; it is this participation.

    But infused grace presupposed and implies a distance between Jesus Christ and sinners.

    If by ‘distance’ you mean a Creator-creature distinction, then yes; we’re not pantheists. But if by ‘distance’ you mean a denial of participation in the divine nature and communion with the Persons of the Holy Trinity, then no.

    It presupposes and implies *created* grace. How does created grace comport with the character of Baptism as per Romans 6 and the Trinitarian formula alongside the character of the Lord’s Supper as the very self-giving of the very Body and Blood of Our Lord and Saviour?

    Created grace just is that participation, by which we share in Christ’s life and death and resurrection and glorified body. See comment #45 in the “Imputation and Infusion: A Reply to RC Sproul Jr” thread.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  157. Is this discussion an either/or topic? Are these the only two options, infused versus imputed? Could it be both?

    We are in union with Christ through our baptisms. I am “in Christ” and Christ is in me. Both are true. It is like the Titanic lying on the bottom of the Atlantic. The Titanic is in the Atlantic but the Atlantic is definitely in the Titanic.

    Peace,
    EJ

  158. @Jason Loh (#155):
    You might want to take a look at Chapter VII of the canons on justification (sixth session) of Trent. It is clear that the alone formal cause of justification is the justice of God. That rules out created grace being something other than God’s righteousness; that righteousness just inheres in us in a different manner, via the presence of uncreated grace (the Holy Spirit) in our souls. Hence, it is not the righteousness by which He Himself is righteous (viz. by virtue of the divine nature) but by participation in that righteousness.
    http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct06.html

  159. Hi Dave (#146),

    Thanks for the continued conversation, though I think you may be right that we may be reaching a natural conclusion here, because I’m starting to repeat myself. In ref. to the Deuterocanon…

    Well, let us just say there is no positive evidence for this. As the Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges, Philo, the most prominent first-century Alexandrian Jew, nowhere cites or alludes to the deuterocanonical works. I don’t know what more to say on this topic. There is no evidence that anything called the Alexandrian canon ever existed. There is, actually, very little to be said for explicitly linking the deuterocanon with Alexandria at all.

    I’ve already made this point previously, but if the NT writers in 300 out of 350 citations of the OT rely on the Greek, rather than Hebrew translation, this would be an indicator that the LXX existed in some form at the time of Christ and the early Church. I know the testimony of the Church fathers regarding the deuterocanon is checkered, in that some Church fathers questioned the inspiration of the deuterocanon. However, as Tom Brown has argued in his canon article, the testimony for the acceptance of the deuterocanon among Church fathers, Church councils, and the early Church, is strong. This also suggests to me the use and acceptance of some form of the LXX at the time of Christ.

    If archeology came along and found a major find that had relevance for the canon, we would have to take that into account, yes. For example, if they found another letter of the apostle Paul, and somehow determined it to be genuine, and in this letter Paul said, “in conversation with Cephas and James, these are the writings we have decided to use as scriptural…”: well, that would be pretty important for canon, don’t you think? And I happen to believe that Christ is Lord of historical scholarship as well, so that the dilemma you posed (the church relying on historical scholarship or on Christ) is false. As it is, it is not so much historical scholarship that I am beholden to, but evidence. Historical evidence is quite important.

    You argue that if we were to discover more documents that had “genuine” authorship by Paul or other apostles, that we could change the parameters of the canon and include them. That is very surprising to hear! That seem to make scripture beholden to our best archaeological/historical evidence – what seems to be genuine to one generation of scholars may be deemed a fake by another. Furthermore, what if scholars determined that an unearthed text was written not by an apostle, but by a “Pauline community,” such as some books included in the canon. You argued earlier you accept those books that are not authentically Pauline because the early Church generally agreed on their inspiration/inerrancy. Yet we would have no evidence for them accepting such a new, unearthed text. Should it be included, or no? I only go down this rabbit-trail in the hope of demonstrating that your criteria for what is or isn’t scripture has more to do with your personal assessment of how the early Church understood itself and what it was doing when it determined the canon. I would prefer, and I would think Christ would prefer, a more authoritative means of determining what is or isn’t his inspired Word. Also, I think the dilemma between Christianity relying on historical scholarship or on Christ is real; many Protestant communities have rejected doctrines they previously taught, in part from their following cultural trends, but often justified by trends in historical scholarship. That’s true on doctrines related to sexuality, ecclesial authority, salvation, and many other theological issues. I remember a book I read for a Pauline epistles class in college where the author argued that Christians had misread Paul on homosexuality, and that he, and Christ, were indeed in favor of homosexual behavior. I don’t doubt that certain Protestant communities rely upon such historical analysis for their doctrinal shifts…

    You have asked this question a number of times. I have been avoiding it because I think the premise is weak. The premise is that I somehow admit the church’s authority in determining the canon – but do not do so elsewhere. I do accept the church’s authority elsewhere, however, including the authority of the early councils. I deny both that this authority was infallible, and that the Spirit guarded the church in such a way that she could never be led into error. But these are matters that will sidetrack our conversation.

    Maybe so, but you presumably believe the Church infallibly determined the contents of the canon, since, as you say, Christ is lord of the canon. If you believe the Church could infallibly determine the canon, why couldn’t they infallibly define the Triune nature of God, the hypostatic union, or other theological issues that were great controversies in early Christianity? If Christ were to grant the Church the ability to infallibly do anything, why would we believe He only did this regarding the canon? Your distinction seems arbitrary. Alternatively, on what basis do we believe that Christ ensured the canon would be determined correctly? I don’t see any evidence from NT writings that Christ envisioned a canon. As a matter of faith, I don’t deny He did, but I don’t think we find positive evidence for it in the NT. Why are you so sure Christ envisioned a canon as the basis on which a Christian faith would be formed, and not an organic community that preserved the faith through some other means, such as oral traditions, religious practicies, cultic rites, etc.? It seems equally as plausible…

    God bless,

    Casey

    p.s. Thanks to all for the prayers and kind words, from both Catholics and Protestants regarding the death of my father, Daniel Francis Chalk, from cancer on 29 April. I think everyone’s comments shows that ecumenism is a reality. Although I grieve my father’s loss, we also rejoice – less than 24 hours after the funeral, my wife went into labor and gave birth to our first child, Annemarie Frances. Praise be to God!

  160. Hi Casey,

    I’ve already made this point previously, but if the NT writers in 300 out of 350 citations of the OT rely on the Greek, rather than Hebrew translation, this would be an indicator that the LXX existed in some form at the time of Christ and the early Church.

    You’ve made this point previously, and I’ve answered it previously as well (see, e.g., 131, 133, 135, 141). I just don’t see what Paul’s use of LXX Isaiah or Matthew’s use of LXX Psalms (to take two examples) establishes about the deuterocanon. NT authors primarily cite Greek translations of the scriptures in the Greek texts they were writing. This could be for a number of reasons: a) books were expensive and they only had Greek copies available to them, b) their recipients spoke Greek and used the Greek texts, c) they didn’t know Hebrew, d) it was practical (just as, in conversation with you, it would be practical to cite English translations). What this does not establish is the NT authors’ view of the deuterocanonical books.

    You argue that if we were to discover more documents that had “genuine” authorship by Paul or other apostles, that we could change the parameters of the canon and include them. That is very surprising to hear! That seem to make scripture beholden to our best archaeological/historical evidence – what seems to be genuine to one generation of scholars may be deemed a fake by another.

    It certainly wasn’t my intention to suggest that the parameters of the canon can still be changed. I think I chose a poor example. A better (actual) example would be the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Certainly the archeaological and historical evidence has contributed to our understanding of what books might be considered “canonical” in Judaism of the first century. (You’ll be pleased to know that Tobit fares quite well at Qumran.)

    I only go down this rabbit-trail in the hope of demonstrating that your criteria for what is or isn’t scripture has more to do with your personal assessment of how the early Church understood itself and what it was doing when it determined the canon. I would prefer, and I would think Christ would prefer, a more authoritative means of determining what is or isn’t his inspired Word.

    I am certainly committed to the self-understanding of the early Church in regards to canonical formation. In some ways I would prefer a more clear-cut authoritative way of determining the canon as well: but as a Protestant I don’t believe we have one. What Christ would prefer is presumably what he has given us, since he has the ability to make his preferences reality.

    On historical scholarship (homosexuality, etc): abusus non tollit usum.

    Maybe so, but you presumably believe the Church infallibly determined the contents of the canon, since, as you say, Christ is lord of the canon.

    I don’t think the church claimed infallible authority in accepting books as canonical or not. So I do not think that the church “infallibly determined” the canon. Yes, Christ is Lord of history, and I believe we can trust the canon we have, but it does not follow from this that the church has an infallible authority (it clearly does not follow, because Protestants believe the former but not the latter).

    As far as NT evidence goes, it is true that Christ did not necessarily envision a second corpus of scriptural writings, to be called the New Testament, but there is good evidence to suggest he designated 12 apostles as his official representatives, delegated with his authority, and that he conferred on them the gift of interpreting the scriptures. It is in response to this that the church received apostolic writings as holy and canonical.

    Blessings, and congratulations on the birth of your daughter,

    Dave

  161. Hi Dave (#160),

    Thanks for the congratulations on my daughter; she’s a life-changer for sure.

    I just don’t see what Paul’s use of LXX Isaiah or Matthew’s use of LXX Psalms (to take two examples) establishes about the deuterocanon. NT authors primarily cite Greek translations of the scriptures in the Greek texts they were writing. This could be for a number of reasons: a) books were expensive and they only had Greek copies available to them, b) their recipients spoke Greek and used the Greek texts, c) they didn’t know Hebrew, d) it was practical (just as, in conversation with you, it would be practical to cite English translations). What this does not establish is the NT authors’ view of the deuterocanonical books.

    Couldn’t the NT authors use of Greek translations of the scriptures suggest that they had access to some compendium of the Greek scriptures? If not the LXX, something very much like it, that included the Deuterocanon. That seems plausible.

    Certainly the archaeological and historical evidence has contributed to our understanding of what books might be considered “canonical” in Judaism of the first century. (You’ll be pleased to know that Tobit fares quite well at Qumran.)

    Well, maybe there will be more archaeological and historical evidence unearthed in the future that will suggest many 1st century Jews, or even the Church of the apostolic age, viewed the Deuterocanonical books as canonical. I suppose the rub is that I’m persuaded there’s already plausible historical, scriptural, archaeological indicators for this reality, and you are not.

    I am certainly committed to the self-understanding of the early Church in regards to canonical formation. In some ways I would prefer a more clear-cut authoritative way of determining the canon as well: but as a Protestant I don’t believe we have one. What Christ would prefer is presumably what he has given us, since he has the ability to make his preferences reality.

    The testimony of the early Church indicates wide acceptance of the Deuterocanonical books as scripture, and that acceptance only grew until the Reformation era. That suggests to me that Christ made his preferences reality by giving us the Deuterocanonical books as part of the deposit of inspired, inerrant scripture.

    On historical scholarship (homosexuality, etc): abusus non tollit usum.

    True, but why must we assume that historical scholarship on issues that directly affect Christian doctrine or practice is an “abuse?” I would think that many scholars who have suggested alternative (and granted, heterodox or heretical) understandings of what scripture means believe themselves to be doing good scholarship. I doubt many would admit that their scholarship on scriptures’ teaching on homosexuality, etc. is an “abuse,” or a purposeful attempt to “stack the deck” in favor of their own personal theological or political beliefs. I raised this issue to suggest that if our perception of the best historical scholarship is the basis for what is or isn’t scripture, or what scripture means or doesn’t mean, we subject ourselves not to Christ, or His Church, but to the shifting sands of scholarly opinion. Indeed, even if we are both well-meaning, we would only be making our “best guess” as to the contents of the scriptures to which we should bind our consciences, rather than entrusting ourselves to the infallible authority Christ has given us.

    I don’t think the church claimed infallible authority in accepting books as canonical or not. So I do not think that the church “infallibly determined” the canon. Yes, Christ is Lord of history, and I believe we can trust the canon we have, but it does not follow from this that the church has an infallible authority (it clearly does not follow, because Protestants believe the former but not the latter).
    As far as NT evidence goes, it is true that Christ did not necessarily envision a second corpus of scriptural writings, to be called the New Testament, but there is good evidence to suggest he designated 12 apostles as his official representatives, delegated with his authority, and that he conferred on them the gift of interpreting the scriptures. It is in response to this that the church received apostolic writings as holy and canonical.

    Why don’t you think the Church was claiming an infallible authority in accepting books as canonical? Were the three regional ecumenical councils that met in the late 4th century simply offering their suggestions to those under their authority, and the Church at large? Given the nature of the declarations and anathemas made at early Church councils, I’m inclined to think their determinations were viewed as infallible, binding on the conscience of Christians, and markers to determine what was to be understood as formally orthodox and what was to be understood as formally heresy.

    As for the apostles, I’m not denying that what you say is true. But previously we have agreed that not all NT writings were written by the apostles; even, possibly, apostles didn’t even know such documents were written. Rather, some writings, and even parts of writings that were likely written by communities that followed the apostles, were recognized as scripture by the early Church – maybe even a generation or two after the apostles. Where does your confidence that all of these other unknown authors had similar authority to write inspired, infallible scripture come from? It seems this authority was not only reserved for the 12 apostles, but others to whom they conferred some sort of authority. If you’re willing to accept the apostles passed on some authority of infallibility, it seems arbitrary to argue that such authority did not continue to be passed down. At what point do we close the door to inspired, infallible scriptures being written, or at what point do we close the door to some sort of infallibly authority being conferred to subsequent generations? It seems whatever we line we draw is an arbitrary one. Based on the apostles’ calls that the early Church accept the authority of those whom they had installed, and the keys to the kingdom being given to Peter in Matthew 16:18 (among other things), I think we have good reason to infer a continued Church authority to which Christians were to subject their consciences.

    In Christ,

    Casey

  162. Casey,

    Couldn’t the NT authors use of Greek translations of the scriptures suggest that they had access to some compendium of the Greek scriptures? If not the LXX, something very much like it, that included the Deuterocanon. That seems plausible.

    I’m really quite amazed that you’re still trying to press this point. What would make this view plausible would be some evidence that the LXX existed as a unified collection in the 1st century. We have no such evidence, as I have repeatedly pointed out. See my conversation with Tom Brown.

    The fact is, you have never adequately replied to my point that any such postulation of “LXX-as-canon” in the first century (rather than LXX as individual books of scripture) is anachronistic. The only way for us to make any progress is to respect the historical evidence. If we can’t agree on that, then dialogue is going to be futile.

    Most of the other issues you raise (historical scholarship, infallibility, etc) are not directly relevant to the question of the deuterocanon. I will however respond to your final paragraph, hopefully with some clarity:

    As for the apostles, I’m not denying that what you say is true. But previously we have agreed that not all NT writings were written by the apostles; even, possibly, apostles didn’t even know such documents were written. Rather, some writings, and even parts of writings that were likely written by communities that followed the apostles, were recognized as scripture by the early Church – maybe even a generation or two after the apostles. Where does your confidence that all of these other unknown authors had similar authority to write inspired, infallible scripture come from? It seems this authority was not only reserved for the 12 apostles, but others to whom they conferred some sort of authority.

    If we followed this line of argument, we would have to admit 1 and 2 Clement into the canon. As you say, “this authority was not only reserved for the 12 apostles, but others to whom they conferred some sort of authority.” Why, then, on your account, is Clement not in the canon? Why not Ignatius?

    The problem with this approach is that it misunderstands the nature of pseudepigraphy. You say, “Where does your confidence that all of these other unknown authors had similar authority to write inspired, infallible scripture come from?” The answer is, of course, that I have no such confidence, nor did the Church, nor did the writers themselves. That is why they wrote in the name of the apostles. Then, you might say, if you don’t have confidence that these unknown authors have authority, why do you accept their writings as canonical? My answer is: because through a process of testing and sifting these are the writings that the church has accepted. If you say, but the church accepted them as apostolic and you think some of them are pseudepigraphal, I say: that is true, but God can use even the mistakes of the church to give us the canon he wants us to have.

    f you’re willing to accept the apostles passed on some authority of infallibility, it seems arbitrary to argue that such authority did not continue to be passed down. At what point do we close the door to inspired, infallible scriptures being written, or at what point do we close the door to some sort of infallibly authority being conferred to subsequent generations?

    Again this misunderstands pseudepigraphy. If the early church thought that the apostles infallible authority had been passed down, why would they have written in the apostles’ names? If they believed they had equivalent authority, they would have just written in their own names. [Many, of course, did write in their own names. But these have not been received as scripture.]

    Dave

  163. Hi Dave (#162),

    To continue our conversation on the LXX, you say,

    I’m really quite amazed that you’re still trying to press this point. What would make this view plausible would be some evidence that the LXX existed as a unified collection in the 1st century. We have no such evidence, as I have repeatedly pointed out. See my conversation with Tom Brown.

    and,

    The fact is, you have never adequately replied to my point that any such postulation of “LXX-as-canon” in the first century (rather than LXX as individual books of scripture) is anachronistic. The only way for us to make any progress is to respect the historical evidence. If we can’t agree on that, then dialogue is going to be futile.

    I admit I am no expert of the history and development of the LXX, but I have read scholarship that suggests the LXX existed as a unified collection in the 1st century. For example, the prologue to the book of Sirach in the Deuterocanon, which was written somewhere between 200 and 175 BC, suggests the existence of the LXX. Jobes and Silva on p.34 of “Invitation to the Septuagint,” write,

    The Greek text of the Wisdom of Joshua ben Sira (also known as Sirach or Ecclesiasticus)… contains a prologue that makes reference to a [Greek] translation of ‘the law, the prophets, and the rest of the books.’ “

    Furthermore, in “The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible,” M. Abegg, P. Flint, and E. Ulrich note on p.xi that that fragments of the Greek text include the John Rylands Papyrus 458, which dates from the 2nd century BC, and Papyrus Fouad 266, which originated about 100 BC. Furthermore, other fragments of the Greek text include 2nd century BC fragments of Leviticus and Deuteronomy (Rahlfs nos. 801, 819, and 957), and 1st century BC fragments of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and the Minor Prophets (Rahlfs nos. 802, 803, 805, 848, 942, and 943). All that to say, I’m not convinced there is “no evidence” for LXX as a unified collection in the 1st century AD or earlier. At this point we may have to agree to disagree on the strength of the evidence.

    In response to my comments re: the passing on of authority to write inspired scripture, you say,

    If we followed this line of argument, we would have to admit 1 and 2 Clement into the canon. As you say, “this authority was not only reserved for the 12 apostles, but others to whom they conferred some sort of authority.” Why, then, on your account, is Clement not in the canon? Why not Ignatius?

    I don’t think that we would “have to admit” books like 1 and 2 Clement into the canon – only consider them as possible in light of criteria which a Church with infallible doctrinal authority has provided. I’m simply asking you to explain how it is that people who were not the apostles had authority to write inspired, inerrant scripture. Your response based on the below quote seems to be that they did not:

    The problem with this approach is that it misunderstands the nature of pseudepigraphy. You say, “Where does your confidence that all of these other unknown authors had similar authority to write inspired, infallible scripture come from?” The answer is, of course, that I have no such confidence, nor did the Church, nor did the writers themselves. That is why they wrote in the name of the apostles. Then, you might say, if you don’t have confidence that these unknown authors have authority, why do you accept their writings as canonical? My answer is: because through a process of testing and sifting these are the writings that the church has accepted. If you say, but the church accepted them as apostolic and you think some of them are pseudepigraphal, I say: that is true, but God can use even the mistakes of the church to give us the canon he wants us to have.

    So you’re saying these other early Christian writers who wrote some of the New Testament did not have any authority to write inspired, inerrant scripture? Yet we trust that they did indeed write such scripture because we trust that God in his omnipotence allowed the early Church to mistakenly assess that certain NT writings were apostolic, when they actually weren’t? Either I am not understanding your reasoning, or this is highly speculative conjecturing based on the presumption that God “just had” to make sure the Church got the canon correct. You again appeal to your personal belief that God would ensure the Church got the canon correct. I have before, and now again, say that this belief seems arbitrary, and upon further reflection, even fideistic, in that I do not think there is any positive evidence that this would inevitably happen. Furthermore, I question your argument that the pseudepigraphal writers did not believe they had any authority to write scripture, and that is why they used the apostle’s names. How are you so sure? They seemed to think they were being guided by the Holy Spirit. Either other people besides the apostles had some manner of authority to write inspired, inerrant scripture, or they didn’t. If they didn’t have such authority, even if they weren’t fully aware of that their authority, their writings could not have the character of inspiration or inerrancy.

    You also say,

    If the early church thought that the apostles infallible authority had been passed down, why would they have written in the apostles’ names? If they believed they had equivalent authority, they would have just written in their own names. [Many, of course, did write in their own names. But these have not been received as scripture.]

    First, some books in the NT are explicitly not written by apostles: Hebrews (even if many in the early Church viewed it as Pauline) and Jude come to mind. So I’m not sure your argument is so clear-cut that everyone believed they had to write in the name of an apostle in order to have their writing be considered scripture. Secondly, I am not suggesting that those early Christian writers who wrote pseudepigraphy had equivalent authority in every sense of the word; indeed, they were not apostles. I think you are right to note that the apostles were viewed as having a very special and unique authority that was not be replicated in every sense. Indeed, later Catholic bishops/councils who claimed apostolic authority did not claim to be writing inspired scripture, only infallible doctrine. Yet those other unnamed writers of the NT did have some sort of authority to write inspired scripture. I’m not claiming to understand the exact nature of that authority, but it seems evident they believed themselves to have it. How else do we explain someone coming along and adding John 8:1-9 to the Gospel of John, the last verses of chapter 16 in the Gospel of Mark, or the letter to the Hebrews? That is suggestive that they believed themselves able to be guided by the Spirit to edit or add to the deposit of inspired scripture. And if they believed they had that authority, they probably believed themselves to have inherited it from the apostles. My argument for considering the possibility of a continued infallible teaching authority is based off of this premise – that if some kind of authority to write inspired scripture could be passed on to another, it’s not implausible to consider the transmission of an authority to teach infallible doctrine.

    God bless,

    Casey

  164. Hi Casey,

    Interesting selection of quotations. Do any of these scholars that you cite claim that this historical evidence (Ben Sira, etc) has implications for the deuterocanonical books? I just ask because I haven’t seen anyone use, e.g., the prologue of Ben Sira, as part of an argument for an LXX collection including deuterocanonical books. In general I don’t dispute the evidence you cite; I do dispute its relevance to the discussion we are having, and would be interested to know if there are scholars who make the sort of claim it seems you are making (that this evidence may be relevant for the status of the deuterocanon).

    Dave

  165. Hi Dave (#164),

    I’m afraid I do not have a readily accessible answer to your question re: scholars’ assessment of the Book of Sirach having implications for the deuterocanonical books. I’m read that the prologue of Sirach is not formally part of the book and was likely included afterward. Even so, the foreward was likely written around 117 BC, which would make his statement regarding a Greek translation suggestive of the idea of “LXX as collection” prior to Christ. The quote from Jobes and Silva seems to say as much.

    in Christ,

    Casey

  166. Just read the article. The differences between Christians who leave Rome versus Christians who go to Rome is quite interesting. The former lack catechesis and devotion (in the Protestant sense, i.e., a “relationship”), the latter have both. I remember reading an interview with Evangelical historian Mark Knoll and Ignatius Press wherein he admitted to seeing this kind of transferal as well. It makes me think that if one has a relationship with Christ as a Catholic, and Catholicism is cultivating this relationship, then there is no good reason to leave.

  167. Indeed, Frank.

  168. It seems to me that a lot of conversion and renewal among Catholics happens in the context of the lay ecclesial movements and in the third orders. Anyone else feel the same way?

  169. Frank (re:#166),

    Thanks for your comment, brother. As a “reverted” Catholic who spent many years as a Protestant, I can say that I did have a relationship of faith in, and devotion to, Jesus Christ before I left the Church (i.e. when I was “initially Catholic”).

    I loved Christ, as a Catholic, and He was changing me, both internally and externally. I had devotion, at least to some degree, but I was lacking in catechesis. In retrospect, part of this was probably my own youthful fault, not always being as diligent to personally study the Faith, via Scripture and Tradition, as I should have been. A good bit of the problem was also priests who pointed me in the exact opposite direction of what the Catechism teaches, *when* I did try to study it as a young adult Catholic.

  170. Wow, is this guy long winded!

    Note that in the thousands of words his article employs, only a miniscule number of them cite scripture to back up his view.

    Since the whole Roman apologetic is really, “Because we say so”, his lack of Biblical reference is not surprising.

  171. Just read much of Jonathan’s posts, and the responses he has received.

    Hey Jonathan, I’m very impressed with your erudition. You do true Biblical Christianity a very good service in you attempt to enlighten our friends here on this site. I’m with you, my brother.

    May God help all of you (and me) in your (our) search for the true faith.

  172. Hi Joe,

    I found after 30-plus years in different Protestant congregations that the pastoral apologetic was usually, “Because I say that’s what the Bible means.”

    Peace,
    EJ Cassidy

  173. But there is a chasm of a difference, E.J.

    The Protestant pastor leaves room for his, and his denomination, being wrong. The Roman Church doesn’t.

    In fact, says Rome, “If anyone shall say that the good works of a justified person are in such sense the gifts of God that they are not also the good MERITS of that justified person: let him be anathema” (Sess. VI., can. 32).

    That, my friend, is a man-made religion.

  174. That is not my experience, Joe. How many times have you heard a pastor/preacher say, “I could be wrong”?

    Protestant preachers act like a magisterium when they stand in the pulpit and tell me, “This is what the Bible means.”

    And, I can back that statement from Trent up with Scripture but then we are getting off track.

    EJ

  175. Hi Joe (#170, 173),

    I’m sorry that you found my article long-winded and lacking in references to scripture. I hope, however, that you will judge my arguments not based on how many times I quote scripture, but on the argument’s merits. I certainly could have used more scripture, but it didn’t really fit well with my goals of a personal testimony/book review article. If you’re looking for more articles that discuss scriptural doctrine, there are other articles on this website that you may find more applicable to your concerns. Particularly in ref. to your comment regarding Trent in #173, if you go to the site’s index, there are a number of articles on the site that explain the Catholic Church’s teaching on justification, its scriptural warrant, and how Trent furthered that teaching.

    I think I’d also take issue with your comment that the Protestant pastor and his denomination “leave room” for being wrong. Are you willing to leave room for your particular beliefs about justification to be wrong?

    God bless,

    Casey

  176. Joe Keck –

    You said:

    Wow, is this guy long winded!

    Note that in the thousands of words his article employs, only a miniscule number of them cite scripture to back up his view.

    Since the whole Roman apologetic is really, “Because we say so”, his lack of Biblical reference is not surprising.

    I can’t help but notice that 1) you do not use any scripture to cite that Casey’s arguments need to be more scriptural to be valid and 2) you make this argument that Casey’s piece needs more scripture “because you say so.”

    Who is anyone (let alone you) to judge whether or not his argument is “scriptural” enough. I think there is enough content for you to interact with without ignoring it because it doesn’t contain an arbitrary number of scripture references.

  177. Regarding Casey, #175,

    No offense meant, Casey, just a bit lengthy. I’m a writer as well, so I take this advice for myself as well. With something that long, you might think about making it a two or three part series next time.

    As far as Trent goes, that’s one of the problems I have with Romanism. You want to obfuscate the issue by claiming that what was declared has been, well, clarified. I would be embarrassed to make some of the arguments that the Roman Catholic Church makes regarding the anathamas against Protestantism. Your church challenges my ability to respect her with such contradictions as Vatican I has with Vatican II.

    To say, Well, we didn’t really mean ‘anathama’, we really meant . . .

    Sorry, no.

    As far as leaving room for being wrong, sure. I can always be wrong. I can even be wrong that the Bible is the Word of God. But the Bible can’t be wrong. Man can. And when it creates an organization that gets to a monumental level, he usually is.

    In fact, I’ve made the point that there is only one singular thing in this world that is without fault. That is the Bible. For it has proven itself with prophecy after prophecy, proving its miraculous Divinity. No Pope, priest, pastor, or church has ever been %100 perfectly right. The Bible has. Show me a priest or Pope that has given numerous prophetic future predictions with a %100 accuracy every time.

    Scripture. My point is this. It seems to always be those trying to pound the square peg into the round hole that have so little reference to scripture. For the Reformed Pretestant, he simply quotes the Bible to make his points.

    Regarding Fr. Bryan O., #176,

    I don’t want scripture because “I say so”, I want it because that is what our Lord himself used to combat Satan in the wilderness. He didn’t cite Tradition, He didn’t cite The Church, He didn’t cite encyclicals or syllogisms or priestly sayings. When Christ wanted to combat falsehood (Satan), He cited scripture.

    You would do well to follow His example.

  178. Hi Joe,

    Thanks for the kind words of encouragement. Despite not being involved in this thread any further for quite a while, I have remained subscribed to receive email updates of it, and have read all that have come through. As you can probably tell, after my last correspondence, I simply decided to stop trying any further here. One against many is often quite tiring, and it didn’t seem like any further attempts on my part would be beneficial – I decided to simply let the truth that was spoken stand as it was. Shake the dust off my feet and move on, so to speak.

    I was able to learn a lot though, and have some productive conversations with the Roman Catholic friend that I mentioned at my work. Recent developments in the Roman Catholic Church have helped generate prodcutive conversation also. So my original purpose for coming here has been beneficial, even if this conversation didn’t help those here who remain in the Roman Catholic Church. But I haven’t stopped praying for those here – any time a new message comes through, it reminds me to pray for people like Casey, John, Jason, Bryan and others.

    Thanks again for the encouragement, Joe. I appreciate it. God Bless.

  179. Joe, #177

    Could you elaborate on a comment in #177?

    You said,
    ” I can always be wrong. I can even be wrong that the Bible is the Word of God. But the Bible can’t be wrong.
    Man can.”

    How is this not self refuting?

    Hunter

  180. Joe (#<a href="http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2013/01/holy-church-finding-jesus-as-a-reverted-catholic-a-testimonial-response-to-chris-castaldo/#comment-52250"177)

    As far as leaving room for being wrong, sure. I can always be wrong. I can even be wrong that the Bible is the Word of God. But the Bible can’t be wrong.

    Surely can’t both believe that you could be wrong that the Bible is the Word of God and believe that the Bible can’t be wrong.

    jj

  181. Jonathan #178,

    Thanks, buddy. Keep fighting the good fight.

    Hunter #179,

    We can always be wrong. All of us. Now, if there is a God, then the only logical God rationally available to us is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God, Jesus Christ. If then that, then He must be immutable, omni-powerful, all-knowing and perfect. If then that, then His word must be perfect, for how can imperfection come from perfection less that perfection be flawed, and therefore, not perfect.

    The point is, God’s ‘rightness’ is not dependent on my or anyone’s belief.

    If God, then perfect and unimpeachable, and His word.

    If not God, then all is merely academic and, when boiled down, useless.

    So, I believe in God, and therefore, His perfection and His perfect word. Therefore that word as I see it, the Bible, must also be perfect. But I can be wrong due to my humaness and imperfection. But I have faith that God is, and His word is, and that word is perfect as He is perfect, and cannot be wrong.

  182. Hello Joe (#175),

    It’s an ironic blessing that I came down with a fever and don’t have to work today, so I have time to respond to your comments!

    As far as Trent goes, that’s one of the problems I have with Romanism. You want to obfuscate the issue by claiming that what was declared has been, well, clarified. I would be embarrassed to make some of the arguments that the Roman Catholic Church makes regarding the anathamas against Protestantism. Your church challenges my ability to respect her with such contradictions as Vatican I has with Vatican II. To say, Well, we didn’t really mean ‘anathama’, we really meant . . . Sorry, no.

    I’m sorry if you’ve heard a Catholic apologist claim that the anathemas declared at the Council of Trent were not “really meant.” I do not think that is an accurate description of Church teaching. Please see Michael Liccione’s comment in #43 and my comment in #44 of this thread for what I hope is an accurate explanation of how to understand Trent’s anathemas.

    As far as leaving room for being wrong, sure. I can always be wrong. I can even be wrong that the Bible is the Word of God. But the Bible can’t be wrong. Man can. And when it creates an organization that gets to a monumental level, he usually is.

    I agree, as an issue of faith, that the scriptures cannot be wrong. Though I would like to ask you what you consider to be scripture, how you determine it to be scripture, and on what authority you are able to determine scripture’s contents?

    Furthermore, you seem to be creating a false dilemma by pitting the Church against scripture. I think there have been very few Popes and priests in the business of “prophetic future predictions,” nor does the Church teach that she, or any of its leaders, are in competition with scripture over who is a better prophet. Popes and priests’ goal is to preserve and teach the doctrines of sacred scripture, not lord over scripture or replace it as the foundational, inspired, and inerrant text of the Christian faith. CCC 66 might be a good brief read for you on the Church’s teaching regarding “private revelation.” Furthermore, CCC Part One, Article 3 on sacred scripture is very helpful in demonstrating the Church’s incredibly high view of scripture, and how any Church teaching must build upon scripture and not contradict it.

    Finally, I’m skeptical of your claim that the Reformed Protestant “only quotes the Bible to make his points.” There have been plenty of Catholic and Reformed debates, many on this website, where Catholics have been more than happy to go “toe-to-toe” with Protestants on the meaning of various scriptural texts, and, in my view, made more compelling cases for the Catholic view. Additionally, per my question above regarding the content of scripture, I’m afraid it’s not as easy as “me and my Bible,” because the question of what is or isn’t sacred scripture is itself a complicated question that requires more than simply finding a proof-text in scripture that answers that question. If only Jesus had given us an inspired “table of contents”!

    God bless,

    Casey

  183. On Liccione, #43

    “They don’t fully understand said teaching, and cannot in any case be presumed blameworthy for rejecting it”

    Let us look at the actual anathama as written by the Church, rather than take a secondary lone opinion of one particular Roman Catholic.

    Here’s the writ:

    “If anyone shall say that the good works of a justified person are in such sense the gifts of God that they are not also the good MERITS of that justified person: let him be anathema” (Sess. VI., can. 32).

    Okay. I, Joe Keck, say that “the good works of a justified person are in such sense the gifts of God that they are not also the good MERITS of that justified person”.

    I do not need to “understand” the Church’s teaching to comprehend the meaning of that sentence. Nor does anyone else with even the most modest of intellects. According to that sentence, Sess. VI., can. 32, I, and all who would hold to that same view (virtually every Reformed Protestant on the planet) are “anathama”. Is this not correct?

    Casey #44,

    Thanks, Casey for giving me this opportunity to engage you on this topic.

    You said, “if I’m reading you correctly, your response is essentially that the Holy Spirit will make known to the individual believer what is true scripture, and what is not, and that the true sheep will hear Christ’s voice authentically in His Word. But doesn’t this only beg the question? You are quoting here from John 10, but what is your basis for even believing the gospel of John to be scripture? Is it simply that the Holy Spirit told you so?”

    Let’s quote another scripture. 1 John, 2:27. It goes like this, “But the anointing you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.”

    Now, either that is a true statement, or it is a false statement. Either I do not need anyone to teach me which would make that verse true, or indeed, as the Roman Cath0olic church claims, I DO need someone to teach me, which would make that verse false.

    Not rocket science, here. Just straight forward gospel of Jesus Christ.

    But to your larger epistemological point. Do not fool yourself that somehow you and your Roman brethren somehow avoiding the solipsism of which we are all guilty. You are doing the exact same thing we Protestants – and indeed everyone on the face of the earth are doing, i.e., choosing for ourselves what you will or will not believe. You are! It is YOU who chose the Roman church, of your own volition and without force and coercion. This is America. We have the right to choose this day, and days ahead, whom we will serve. The way this country is going, I’m not sure how long that will last. But for now, such a freedom still holds.

    I am choosing to hold the Bible as Supreme and supra-authoratative as well as the only infallible Divine arbiter of truth. You are employing the identical cognitive move, but rather with the Roman Church and her magistrates in the Bible’s stead; where I go to the Bible alone for such finality, you go to your church and her Papacy.

    Your thoughts?

  184. Hello Joe (#183),

    You say,

    “If anyone shall say that the good works of a justified person are in such sense the gifts of God that they are not also the good MERITS of that justified person: let him be anathema” (Sess. VI., can. 32). Okay. I, Joe Keck, say that “the good works of a justified person are in such sense the gifts of God that they are not also the good MERITS of that justified person”. I do not need to “understand” the Church’s teaching to comprehend the meaning of that sentence. Nor does anyone else with even the most modest of intellects. According to that sentence, Sess. VI., can. 32, I, and all who would hold to that same view (virtually every Reformed Protestant on the planet) are “anathama”. Is this not correct?

    Mike Liccione is best equipped to defend his statement in #43, but I would offer that often the rhetoric and emotions that come with these topics can often obfuscate the meaning of terms and their application. The joint statement on justification between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church in 1999 suggests that further discussion and explanation of what theological terms mean and how they operate can often clarify to a degree where agreement is possible. Per my comment in #44, one cannot be “anathema,” from something of which they are not a member. For the Catholic Church to anathematize a born-and-bred Protestant would have as much meaning as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod excommunicating me from their denomination, of which I have never been a member. Given the context of the Council, the anathema is directed towards those in communion with the Catholic Church who teach a particular understanding of justification, in that they are viewed as not in communion with the Church. It doesn’t speak to their eternal destiny, only where they stand in view of church discipline. Besides, given what a confessional Reformed Protestant believes about the Catholic Church, would he or she really want to be able to receive communion?

    You also say,

    Let’s quote another scripture. 1 John, 2:27. It goes like this, “But the anointing you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” Now, either that is a true statement, or it is a false statement. Either I do not need anyone to teach me which would make that verse true, or indeed, as the Roman Cath0olic church claims, I DO need someone to teach me, which would make that verse false. Not rocket science, here. Just straight forward gospel of Jesus Christ.

    In the above statement, you have created a false dilemma: either I accept your interpretation of 1 John 2:27, or 1 John 2:27 is wrong; however I disagree that this verse suggests that scripture teaches that Christians do not need teachers to illuminate scripture’s meaning. First, the mere fact that you and I might debate the meaning of the text negates the idea that the scripture is “false;” indeed, it would suggest that an arbiter, or teacher, is needed to tell us what it means, unless it is Christ’s desire that we remain separated brethren. I do not think this is the case, given his statement in John 17:22-24; notably, Christ’s words suggest that the unity of Christians will be a proof to the world of His divinity! Secondly, there are plenty of verses in both the OT and NT that demonstrate the need for continued instruction regarding the meaning of scripture. In Acts 8:28-40, Philip instructs the Ethiopian eunuch regarding the meaning of Isaiah 53, and the eunuch himself says in verse 31 that he cannot understand scripture unless someone explains it to him. Or, consider the Pauline pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Tim, Titus), filled with exhortations from Paul, who has taught Timothy and Titus the Christian life and doctrine, regarding how they in turn can instruct the brethren in the faith – consider particularly 1 Tim 4, 2 Tim 3:10-17 and Titus 2. Third, John’s statement in 1 John 2:27 must be understood contextually: why would John bother to write a letter five chapters in length, full of teachings on love, sonship, God’s nature, testing doctrine, and faith, if he wasn’t seeking to teach his audience? John’s comment is also within the larger context of testing doctrine to see if it is of the “antichrist” (1 John 2:18-26), so needs to be understood in light of his previous words; in essence, I take 1 John 2:27 to mean a Christians’ connection with the Holy Spirit will assist them in recognizing false teaching, and in light of the rest of the letter, and other scriptures, cannot mean that a Christian does not need anyone to teach them.

    But to your larger epistemological point. Do not fool yourself that somehow you and your Roman brethren somehow avoiding the solipsism of which we are all guilty. You are doing the exact same thing we Protestants – and indeed everyone on the face of the earth are doing, i.e., choosing for ourselves what you will or will not believe. You are! It is YOU who chose the Roman church, of your own volition and without force and coercion. This is America. We have the right to choose this day, and days ahead, whom we will serve. The way this country is going, I’m not sure how long that will last. But for now, such a freedom still holds. I am choosing to hold the Bible as Supreme and supra-authoratative as well as the only infallible Divine arbiter of truth. You are employing the identical cognitive move, but rather with the Roman Church and her magistrates in the Bible’s stead; where I go to the Bible alone for such finality, you go to your church and her Papacy. Your thoughts?

    Your statement that you “hold the Bible as Supreme and supra-authoratative as well as the only infallible Divine arbiter of truth” is complicated by difficult questions regarding what is the Bible, and who has authority to interpret it, which you have not answered. I agree with you that we are both using our free will and cognitive abilities to discern what is true, what scripture means, and what is Christ’s church. However, I do not believe I am employing the same “cognitive move” that you are employing. The Protestant, in essence, declares that he or she has the authority and ability to define and interpret scripture, and, by effect, what Christianity is or isn’t, who are Christians and who are not, etc. The Catholic, using the motives of credibility, recognizes his or her lack of authority to do this. Indeed, I have found nowhere in any version of Christian scriptures a verse that suggests individuals have the authority to infallibly interpret scripture’s meaning. In turn, the Catholic humbly asks if there is anyone or anything who claims such authority, and in virtue of the motives of credibility, considers the Church to be a reasonable and believable authority. It is an act of humility and faith, but it is reasonable.

    The more I studied the scriptures and Catholic teaching as a Protestant, the more I realized that my Reformed theological position granted me a remarkable authority. An authority which based on my own study of scripture, I had no reason to believe I possessed. However, strangely, if I strayed from certain core tenets of Reformed theology, I was a heretic, according to the Westminister Standards or Heidelburg Catechism. So, in effect, I was the authority on what scripture meant, as long as I didn’t stray too far from Reformed teaching, in which case I was no longer a Christian. That seemed, and still seems, very strange to me – as if I’m free to do what I want, unless I mess too much with the Westminister Divines or Dutch Reformers. I suppose I could have started “Casey’s Church,” with my own particular bent on scripture’s teaching, as others have done, but that only seems to further demonstrate the weakness and gross individualism of the Protestant system.

    God bless,

    Casey

  185. Joe,

    You wanted Scripture.

    Please interpret 1 John 2:27 in light of these passages.

    Romans 12:6-7

    “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach…”

    1 Corinthians 12:28

    “And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.”

    Colossians 3:16

    “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

    1 Timothy 1:3

    “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

    1 Timothy 3:2

    “Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…”

    1 Timothy 4:11

    “Command and teach these things.”

    2 Timothy 2:2

    “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”

    2 Timothy 2:24

    “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.”

    Titus 2:1

    “You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.”

    Hebrews 5:12

    “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!”

    James 3:1

    “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

    Grace and peace,
    EJ

  186. Casey #184,

    Your statement, “The joint statement on justification between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church in 1999 suggests that further discussion and explanation of what theological terms mean and how they operate can often clarify to a degree where agreement is possible” is yet again an obfuscation. You do not address the point, but send us to outside sources. You should be able to point to the Sess. VI, can. 32 words and show where they are in error or mean not what I took them to mean. Again, it says, “If anyone shall say . . .”. I know what the word ‘anyone’ means and I would venture so did the writers of those words. It is no longer Politically Correct to render such strong words against another in these days of the ‘lets just all get along’ philosophy. Therefore it’s no wonder the Roman church has backed off from it and tried to alter its meaning.

    On 1 John 2:27,

    You said, “I disagree that this verse suggests that scripture teaches that Christians do not need teachers to illuminate scripture’s meaning.” I didn’t say that scripture “suggests” anything. I said, and still do, that it explicitly in no uncertain terms boldly declares that . . . well, again, being a Reformed Protestant, let me simply let God’s words make the case: “. . . you do not need that anyone teach you.”

    I will give you the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps unwittingly, you are using a bait-and-switch technique, here. You said, “. . . indeed, it would suggest that an arbiter, or teacher, is needed to tell us what it means”. As well as supplanting the idea, “suggest”, for the idea of, ‘explicitly state’, you have subtly moved aside the word “need” in the sentence. The Word is not saying, as your false point would want to demonstrate, that teachers are not useful. They are. All the verses that you use let us know that there is great use and much to be gained from those that could teach us. But the word used, again, is “need”. We do not “need” anyone to teach us. The Protestant holds to every word of God’s Word knowing that is is written by the Holy Creator of the univers, and therefore is Holy and of grave import. As 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17 states, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (17) so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

    “. . . you do not need that anyone teach you.” 1 Jn. 2:27
    “. . . so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:16
    “. . . when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” Jn. 16:13
    “No more shall every man teach his neighbor . . . for they shall know Me.” Jer. 31:34
    “Therefore let us . . . have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.” Phil. 3:15
    “The Holy Spirit . . . will teach you all things.” Jn. 14:26

    Note that in all of the above verses there is no mention of a church being necessary. In fact, there is no mention of a church at all!

    No, my friend, no church, Pope, or priest is ‘needed’ for “every good work” in the life of the Christian.

    Such a creation of a ‘necessary’ magisterial entity is not taught by God. As did the Pharisees of old, it is the creation of man.

    You said, “The Protestant, in essence, declares that he or she has the authority and ability to define and interpret scripture, and, by effect, what Christianity is or isn’t, who are Christians and who are not, etc. The Catholic, using the motives of credibility, recognizes his or her lack of authority to do this.”

    How can you not see this? Just because you use words like ‘motives of credibility’ for your own side only re-states your case, it does not add evidence to it. We Protestants use ‘motives of credibility’ recognizing our lack of authority, and therefore go to the Word of God. The Catholic, “. . . declares that he or she has the authority and ability to define and interpret” who will define and interpret scripture for them. Where’s the difference? You determine the Pope will tell you what the Bible means, I determine the Bible will tell me what the Bible means.

    There is no difference of kind, only one of direction. We both have decided of ourselves in which direction our determinative needle will point. You point yours at a man, the Pope, I point mine is at the Holy Word of God.

  187. Joe (re: #183),

    You are teaching Casey about the illegitimacy of teachers and teaching. Thus, you are a teacher. (If that is not enough to show the incoherence of your interpretation, EJ Cassidy above provides many scriptures which show the legitimacy and place of teaching.)

  188. Joe (re: #170)

    Since the whole Roman apologetic is really, “Because we say so”, his lack of Biblical reference is not surprising.

    If you wish to learn why this is a straw man of the Catholic position, see the discussion of fideism and the motives of credibility in “Wilson vs. Hitchens: A Catholic Perspective,” and in the comments following that article.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  189. Hi Joe (#186),

    You say,

    Your statement, “The joint statement on justification between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church in 1999 suggests that further discussion and explanation of what theological terms mean and how they operate can often clarify to a degree where agreement is possible” is yet again an obfuscation. You do not address the point, but send us to outside sources. You should be able to point to the Sess. VI, can. 32 words and show where they are in error or mean not what I took them to mean. Again, it says, “If anyone shall say . . .”. I know what the word ‘anyone’ means and I would venture so did the writers of those words. It is no longer Politically Correct to render such strong words against another in these days of the ‘lets just all get along’ philosophy. Therefore it’s no wonder the Roman church has backed off from it and tried to alter its meaning.

    I believe I did indeed address the point when I explained the definition of the word “anathema” within the context of an official Church document (see #184). I believe the onus is on you to demonstrate how the Catholic Church’s teaching has changed; indeed, if someone within the Catholic Church were to publicly teach something contrary to Trent or any other Church teaching, they would risk being disciplined with excommunication, and these things do happen today. In regards to your emphasis on the word “anyone,” consider John 12:30-32, where Jesus says that his death will enable all men to be drawn unto Himself. A universalist might say “see, Jesus is teaching all people will be saved, because he clearly says all men will be drawn unto him.” Other verses in the NT might suggest just as much: 1 Cor 15:22 or 1 Tim 2:4-6. I do not bring this up to argue for universalism, as I do not believe in it, nor does the Church teach it. My point is that what we might see as clear, such as a statement from Trent Session VI or the NT’s teaching on salvation, might need further explanation in light of vocabulary, context, other documents, etc.

    On 1 John 2:27, You said, “I disagree that this verse suggests that scripture teaches that Christians do not need teachers to illuminate scripture’s meaning.” I didn’t say that scripture “suggests” anything. I said, and still do, that it explicitly in no uncertain terms boldly declares that . . . well, again, being a Reformed Protestant, let me simply let God’s words make the case: “. . . you do not need that anyone teach you.” I will give you the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps unwittingly, you are using a bait-and-switch technique, here. You said, “. . . indeed, it would suggest that an arbiter, or teacher, is needed to tell us what it means”. As well as supplanting the idea, “suggest”, for the idea of, ‘explicitly state’, you have subtly moved aside the word “need” in the sentence. The Word is not saying, as your false point would want to demonstrate, that teachers are not useful. They are. All the verses that you use let us know that there is great use and much to be gained from those that could teach us. But the word used, again, is “need”. We do not “need” anyone to teach us. The Protestant holds to every word of God’s Word knowing that is is written by the Holy Creator of the univers, and therefore is Holy and of grave import. As 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17 states, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (17) so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

    “. . . you do not need that anyone teach you.” 1 Jn. 2:27
    “. . . so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:16
    “. . . when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” Jn. 16:13
    “No more shall every man teach his neighbor . . . for they shall know Me.” Jer. 31:34
    “Therefore let us . . . have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.” Phil. 3:15
    “The Holy Spirit . . . will teach you all things.” Jn. 14:26

    Note that in all of the above verses there is no mention of a church being necessary. In fact, there is no mention of a church at all! No, my friend, no church, Pope, or priest is ‘needed’ for “every good work” in the life of the Christian. Such a creation of a ‘necessary’ magisterial entity is not taught by God. As did the Pharisees of old, it is the creation of man.

    I disagree with your interpretation of 1 John 2:27; my interpretation of how John is using the word “need” in this verse is contrary to how you interpret it, per the reasons I gave in #184. I don’t think that my current interpretation of that verse is particularly Catholic, anyway, since plenty of Protestants see the “need” for teachers to help Christians understand what scripture means, and interpret 1 John 2:27 within the larger context of the letter. I’m sorry if you do not find it persuasive. Per the many verses you cite, I’m not sure they will do the leg-work you want them to do, given the context of those passages, what idea or issues the authors or speakers are addressing, etc. None of those verses negate the idea of a Church with magisterial authority. The Catholic Church appeals to other verses and themes in scripture for its basis, which is discussed in many articles on this website, including “Christ Founded a Visible Church,” by Bryan Cross.

    The type of posturing for rhetorical effect you are doing in your latest post (e.g. accusing me of a “bait-and-switch”) is not helpful in furthering this discussion. I am not playing word games with you, nor am I trying to confuse or “obfuscate” the discussion; words and ideas many times need to be clarified, as Jesus and his apostles demonstrated many times in their failure to understand his earthly mission until after his death. Furthermore, I did not argue that the Catholic Church, a pope, or a priest is needed for every good work in the life of the Christian, and I’m not sure why you are accusing me of teaching this. You also claim that the magisterium is “not taught by God,” and is a “creation of man,” but you provide no basis for this assertion. I would encourage you to read articles on this website that discuss the scriptural warrant for the magisterium, and, if you find them unsatisfactory, engaging the authors.

    How can you not see this? Just because you use words like ‘motives of credibility’ for your own side only re-states your case, it does not add evidence to it. We Protestants use ‘motives of credibility’ recognizing our lack of authority, and therefore go to the Word of God. The Catholic, “. . . declares that he or she has the authority and ability to define and interpret” who will define and interpret scripture for them. Where’s the difference? You determine the Pope will tell you what the Bible means, I determine the Bible will tell me what the Bible means. There is no difference of kind, only one of direction. We both have decided of ourselves in which direction our determinative needle will point. You point yours at a man, the Pope, I point mine is at the Holy Word of God.

    To claim that I rely on the Pope to “tell me what the Bible means” is quite a bit of a generalization. Catholics submit to the teaching of scripture, tradition, and the magisterium, the third sometimes coming in the form of papal decree, but more often comes through Church councils, such as Nicea or Chalcedon. All three cooperate and are mutually affirming. The Church declares that everything it teaches is based on scripture and is not in contradiction to it. You may disagree with the Church’s interpretation of scripture, but the Church does declare its submission to the inspired word of God revealed in scripture. Furthermore, I do not think it is as easy as you use the Bible to tell you what the Bible means; this Protestant idea is, in my view, a cover for the individual determining what scripture means, because the individual has the authority to interpret scripture however he or she sees best. I think a better characterization would be that the Catholic asks the Church to help him interpret scripture, while the Protestant relies on himself to interpret it. More to the point, I ask again, how do you determine what is the Bible? If you’re unwilling to answer that question, I think it will be difficult to make headway here. And, furthermore what do we do when we disagree with what the Bible tells us the Bible means, especially on questions of who is or isn’t a Christian? To what, or whom, will we appeal? Or will we simply call each other heretics and go our separate ways? Jesus’ teaching in John 17, I believe, exhorts us to something better and grander.

    In Christ,

    Casey

  190. Briefly, Brian #187,

    Again, Brian, God is not saying that teachers and teaching are not valuable. What He is saying, and the list of verses by E.J. #185 don’t mitigate against it, is that teaching and teachers are not ‘necessary’ so that ” the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:16.

  191. Joe (re: #190),

    If teachers are not necessary, then individual Christians should be able to come up with the correct meaning of Scripture by themselves without need of a teacher. Casey is an individual Christian. He can come up with the correct meaning of Scripture by himself. He doesn’t need you to teach him, so why are you doing just that?

  192. Just some thoughts on 1 John 2:27:

    I think that we can all agree that persons who are not anointed Christians need someone to teach them the revealed principles of the faith, else they could never receive the anointing in the first place. So there is a sense in which John’s readers needed John to teach them, i.e., before they became Christians. A question that arises at this point is “Whether or not 1 John 2:27 implies that teaching such as that contained in John’s Epistle, and the indeed the entire Bible, is unnecessary for those who are already anointed Christians?”

    Obviously, John is teaching things in this Epistle, and his teachings are explicitly addressed to anointed Christians. The same goes for the rest of the New Testament and indeed the Old Testament (“these things were written for our instruction”). But John says to the anointed: “you have no need that anyone should teach you.” Thus, it would follow, on one reading of this passage, that while Sacred Scripture and pastors and teachers might be useful, they are not necessary.

    But I suspect that that interpretation, at least as regards Scripture, might be a bit too much for all but the most individualistic, subjectivist Protestants. But is the radically subjectivist, individualistic position, in which even the Bible is unnecessary for anointed Christians, really a straightforward reading of 1 John 2:27? Given the context, including the fact that John is teaching these Christians by means of this very Epistle, I think that such a reading is unwarranted.

    For one thing, it seems natural to understand that by “anyone” John is referring specifically to teachers coming to his readers from outside the company of the Apostles (cf. 2:18-19). For another, the phrase “his anointing teaches you about everything” does not necessarily render John’s letter or the rest of Scripture unnecessary; rather, this anointing which teaches us about everything could be such that it only remains and / or properly functions within a certain context; i.e., the Body of Christ.

    Obviously, it is not enough to claim to have the Holy Spirit to actually have the Spirit. Furthermore, the Spirit is not divided against himself, nor is he divided against the Body of Christ, or the teaching of the Apostles, or the sacraments, or the Church’s interpretation of divine revelation. Rather, it is the Spirit who gives life (including understanding of spiritual things) in and through all of these needful gifts of God. Thus, John’s readers would not need anyone *from outside the Body of Christ* to teach them anything. All things, including the deposit of faith, are theirs in Christ, and the Church is the Body of Christ, the “fullness of him who fills all in all.”

    I sum, it seems to me that far from rendering the Church and the Bible unnecessary, this verse presupposes that the readers are squarely in the Church and being nourished by the Scriptures, as taught–and written–by Apostles and Apostolic men such as the author of 1 John.

  193. Andrew #191,

    You said, “I think that we can all agree that persons who are not anointed Christians need someone to teach them the revealed principles of the faith, else they could never receive the anointing in the first place. So there is a sense in which John’s readers needed John to teach them, i.e., before they became Christians. A question that arises at this point is “Whether or not 1 John 2:27 implies that teaching such as that contained in John’s Epistle, and the indeed the entire Bible, is unnecessary for those who are already anointed Christians?”

    No, we cannot all agree on that. The thief on the cross had no one to teach him “the revealed principles of the faith”. The apostle Paul rejected “the revealed principles of the faith”. We have the Word and the Holy Spirit to teach us, exactly as 1 John says.

    You also said, “But is the radically subjectivist, individualistic position, in which even the Bible is unnecessary for anointed Christians, really a straightforward reading of 1 John 2:27? Given the context, including the fact that John is teaching these Christians by means of this very Epistle, I think that such a reading is unwarranted.”

    What is it with the people on this message board? Andrew, baby, sweetheart . . . how many times do I have to say it? No one is saying that God does not need to teach you. In fact, that is is exactly what we Protestants are saying! “For the Holy Spirit will teach you.” Now surely, Andrew, you know the difference between the Holy Spirit and some Pope or priest or church.

    Just to clarify: Yes, we need teaching from the Holy Spirit. NO WE DON’T NEED TEACHING FORM MAN! Teaching from man, priest, pastor, mother father, brother and friend is all useful, according to the Bible. But teaching form all of those is not “NEEDED”, according to the Bible.

    Now I hope I don’t have to defend ‘teaching’ anymore. Teaching is not in question. MAN’S teaching is, and it is, as 1 John 2:27 states, not NEEDED.

    Are we all clear on that?

    Now, as to what you said,

    “For one thing, it seems natural to understand that by “anyone” John is referring specifically to teachers coming to his readers from outside the company of the Apostles (cf. 2:18-19).

    Sorry, Andrew, wrong again. It is bewildering to me how you people think that by just making a statement it somehow miraculously imparts weight. It does only if you can demonstrate it with the text. Here’s 2:18 & 19 to which you refer, along with surrounding scriptures,

    1 John 2:15-23
    New International Version (NIV)

    15) Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16) For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17) The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 18) Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19) They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. 20) But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21) I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22) Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23) No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

    Do me a favor, Andrew. Put your finger on where any of those verses show that it, “seems natural to understand that by “anyone” John is referring specifically to teachers coming to his readers from outside the company of the Apostles”?

    Note the number of times the word “teacher” is mentioned. Try ZERO (0), Andrew. And why would someone consider the start of verse 18, “Dear children”, teachers? When you look at a preschool or kindergarten class, would you call them ‘teachers’?

    Your last paragraph, “I sum, it seems to me that far from rendering the Church and the Bible unnecessary, this verse presupposes that the readers are squarely in the Church and being nourished by the Scriptures, as taught–and written–by Apostles and Apostolic men such as the author of 1 John.”

    No offense, but this comment does not deserve a response.

    But thanks for you input.

  194. Joe Keck (re#192)

    Just to clarify: Yes, we need teaching from the Holy Spirit. NO WE DON’T NEED TEACHING FORM MAN! Teaching from man, priest, pastor, mother father, brother and friend is all useful, according to the Bible. But teaching form all of those is not “NEEDED”, according to the Bible.

    .
    Then what of Acts 8, 26-40?

    26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[a] eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

    30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

    31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

    32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

    “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
    and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
    33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
    Who can speak of his descendants?
    For his life was taken from the earth.”[b]
    34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

    36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” [37] [c] 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

    Here the Holy Spirit Himself is placing Philip alongside the eunuch – to teach him.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank La Rocca

  195. Joe,

    Two points.

    First, you said: “Again, Brian, God is not saying that teachers and teaching are not valuable. What He is saying…”

    ME: You’ve gone way over the line here. Not only are you contradicting your own belief that you don’t need anyone to teach you, you are acting as a “mouthpiece” for God by attempting to speak for Him. Shouldn’t you have just said, “I believe this verse means…”?

    Second, you said: “… and the list of verses by E.J. #185 don’t mitigate against it, is that teaching and teachers are not ‘necessary’ so that ” the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:16.”

    ME: Let’s take a closer look at one of the passages.

    Ephesians 4:11-13

    “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

    The offices of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher were established by Christ to “equip His people for works of service.”

    I think maybe you might want to consider the interpretation of a fellow Reformed Protestant, John MacArthur on 1 John 2:27:

    “So what was the apostle John saying? He was attacking an embryonic form of Gnosticism. Gnosticism taught that there is a secret knowledge that is not even contained in Scripture. If you weren’t initiated by some “enlightened” person into that secret knowledge, according to the Gnostics, you had not arrived spiritually. John was attacking that claim, saying that real spiritual enlightenment cannot be given by one person to another. He was not attacking study or learning. He was not advocating a subjective, mystical, existential approach to Bible interpretation.”

    Peace,
    EJ

  196. Joe,

    In response to my claim that teachers are necessary at least for unbelievers, you wrote:

    The thief on the cross had no one to teach him “the revealed principles of the faith”. The apostle Paul rejected “the revealed principles of the faith”. We have the Word and the Holy Spirit to teach us, exactly as 1 John says.

    Perhaps we understand different things by “revealed principles of the faith” and “necessary.” By the former phrase I am referring to those truths that have been divinely revealed, which we need to know in order to be saved. By human teachers being “necessary” I mean that in ordinary circumstances these truths are communicated to unbelievers by human teachers. God could of course infuse revealed truth directly into a human mind apart from all external mediation of word and sacrament. But ordinarily, he uses human teachers. Thus, the Apostle Paul writes to the Romans: “But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?”

    In response to my suggestion that the anointing of the Holy Spirit does not render the teaching of the Bible unnecessary, you wrote:

    What is it with the people on this message board? Andrew, baby, sweetheart . . . how many times do I have to say it? No one is saying that God does not need to teach you. In fact, that is is exactly what we Protestants are saying! “For the Holy Spirit will teach you.” Now surely, Andrew, you know the difference between the Holy Spirit and some Pope or priest or church.

    We do agree that anointed believers need God to teach them. Thus, “you do not need anyone to teach you” does not rule out divine teaching. The question, then, is, “Does this verse imply that all human teachers are unnecessary?” I think that the answer to this question, given the necessity of divine teaching, then turns upon the answer to the question, “By what means does God teach anointed believers?” By means of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, to be sure. But how is this anointing administered–apart from word and sacrament? I think that we can agree that God teaches men by means of sending his Son, who became human, and by means of prophets and other inspired teachers, who convey the word of God to the people of God.

    But notice that these persons, such as the Apostle John himself, are human beings. In fact, in writing his Epistle, John is explicitly teaching his readers things that they need to know. What is happening, in the inspiration of the Bible and (on the Catholic view) through the teaching of the Church, is that God is teaching his people by means of divinely authorized human teachers. This is ordinarily how the Gospel is shared, and in this way divinely authorized human teachers are necessary, i.e., in sense that the ordinary means of grace (word and sacrament) themselves are necessary.

    With reference to my claim that in 2:27 John is referring specifically to the persons mentioned in 2:18-19, you wrote:

    Do me a favor, Andrew. Put your finger on where any of those verses show that it, “seems natural to understand that by “anyone” John is referring specifically to teachers coming to his readers from outside the company of the Apostles”?

    Well, John has to be referring to someone, and I have given reasons to think that he is not referring to everyone (else he would not himself have taken the trouble to the write the Epistle). When we look back at the context, in the verses that you quoted in your reply to me, we see that “antichrists have come” who “went out from us” and who deny that Jesus is the Christ. These persons are not referred to as teachers, but they are obviously going about and teaching something; namely, that Jesus is not the Christ. As I said, it therefore seems natural to understand that these are the persons to whom John is referring in 2:27.

    You wrote that the concluding paragraph in my previous comment does not deserve a response. Okay, let’s say it does not deserve a response. But maybe you would consider giving me something I don’t deserve; namely, a response to the following question: Do you agree that John assumed that the persons to whom he was writing were squarely in the Church and being nourished by the Scriptures as taught and written by the Apostles and their associates, including John himself?

  197. Joe Keck, you write:

    Just to clarify: Yes, we need teaching from the Holy Spirit. NO WE DON’T NEED TEACHING FORM MAN!

    A man that is anointed with a particular charism of the Holy Spirt is a man that is capable of giving me a teaching from the Holy Spirit:

    And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ …
    Ephesians 4:11-12

    Note that Paul writes that charismatic spiritual gifts are given unequally to Christians, and that only some should be teachers. Furthermore, Paul writes that the men anointed with the gift of teaching exist within the body of Christ “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”

    Joe, I agree that we need teaching from the Holy Spirit. But I disagree with your contention that the body of Christ has no need for teachers.

  198. Joe, #181

    I merely wanted to at least open a concept for you in that question.

    You said, “If then that, then He must be immutable, omni-powerful, all-knowing and perfect. If then that, then His word must be perfect, for how can imperfection come from perfection less that perfection be flawed, and therefore, not perfect.”
    Also,

    1. “So, I believe in God, and therefore, His perfection and His perfect word. Therefore that word as I see it, the Bible, must also be perfect. But I can be wrong due to my humaness and imperfection. But I have faith that God is, and His word is, and that word is perfect as He is perfect, and cannot be wrong.”

    Without addressing all the problematic statements in those sentences, I just wanted to share one area that initially got me questioning. Scripture was written by imperfect men, inspired by God, yet it was specific imperfect men who wrote those letters. God entrusted his word to be written by human hands. If we have faith that the word of God(scripture) is perfect, we must first define what qualifies as scripture, and how does that determination take place. How did the Bible you use today come into existence? Begs the question for Authority? Historically speaking there is no denial that for centuries there was one agreed upon canon. Now the (Protestant) Canon looks slightly different. Certain books are no longer present in Protestant Bibles. So if books were deemed not Canonical at a later date, how can you claim perfection if theoretically more could be taken out today? What ground do you stand on? I listened to a local Protestant podcast defending the Protestant Canon. I was baffled, yet impressed by their honesty. Basically they admit that it doesn’t really make sense, and it is evident to those who “hear correctly.” But then, if what you say about men, that we can be wrong and are imperfect, how can you be sure? I know that as a Catholic I do have History, and a Magisterium to look to.

    I will end my little rant. I’m not the most eloquent writer, and tend to be scatter brained, but hopefully you can at least see where I’m going with this. I think the most important thing is that we remain open to the Holy Spirit and continue to ask HIm to guide us and lead us into all truth. Also to remain open to dialog with Catholics on these issues. Hey, your on this site, so I commend you! Most of my friends say “read this”, and in return I’ll read something of yours. I do, but they rarely ever do. I usually return their book, only to find a book I give them collecting dust on a shelf or “misplaced.” I was once in your shoes, and it was a hard painful transformation, but I’m grateful for it today.

    I will leave it at this. I don’t want to add to the number of people dialoging with you. I know that can get overwhelming. Unless you specifically want my input, though there are many here more qualified and dedicated than I. If you do have time though, I really do pray you will at least read one, or both of these articles prayerfully and with an open heart.

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/01/the-canon-question/

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

    Hunter

  199. Joe,

    Regarding 1 John 2:20 and 1 John 2:27, I recommend listening to the first five minutes of the following Q&A period by Prof. Feingold (Professor of Theology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary):

    Prof. Feingold: Sacrament of Confirmation Q&A

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  200. Joe (re: #173)

    You wrote:

    In fact, says Rome, “If anyone shall say that the good works of a justified person are in such sense the gifts of God that they are not also the good MERITS of that justified person: let him be anathema” (Sess. VI., can. 32).

    That, my friend, is a man-made religion.

    I don’t see how you reached that conclusion from that premise. You seem to be implying that any talk of merit is ipso facto an indicator that God could not have revealed this as true. But I don’t know how you are reaching that conclusion. Both the Scriptures and the early Church Fathers speak a great deal about the merits of good deeds done out of love for God, by those in a state of grace, as I explained in “The Doctrine of Merit: Feingold, Calvin, and the Church Fathers.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  201. Joe (re: #177)

    You wrote:

    With something that long, you might think about making it a two or three part series next time.

    Two other options are (a) not reading articles too long for you, or (b) developing your capacity to read longer articles. This website is aimed at persons who read books and longer articles. If you don’t like that sort of thing, you don’t have to read it.

    As far as Trent goes, that’s one of the problems I have with Romanism. You want to obfuscate the issue by claiming that what was declared has been, well, clarified.

    It seems uncharitable to assume that any Catholic wants to “obfuscate” anything.

    I would be embarrassed to make some of the arguments that the Roman Catholic Church makes regarding the anathamas against Protestantism.

    If the arguments are sound, then why are they embarrassing? But if they are not sound, then please show how they are not sound. Claiming that an argument is embarrassing does not refute the argument.

    Your church challenges my ability to respect her with such contradictions as Vatican I has with Vatican II.

    Feel free to attempt to demonstrate that there is an actual contradiction, rather than merely alluding to there being contradictions. Anyone can hand-wave to alleged contradictions; it is something else entirely to demonstrate a contradiction.

    To say, Well, we didn’t really mean ‘anathama’, we really meant . . .

    Sorry, no.

    Then in #183 you wrote similarly:

    I do not need to “understand” the Church’s teaching to comprehend the meaning of that sentence. Nor does anyone else with even the most modest of intellects.

    First, see the “ground rule” in “Virtue and Dialogue: Ecumenism and the Heart,” and reflect on that ground rule. Second, if you are serious about the possibility that you are wrong (as you say in comment #177 above), then you’ll be open to the possibility that you have completely misunderstood and misinterpreted the meaning of the term ‘anathema’ as it is used by the Catholic Church, explained in some depth at the link to the Akin article in comment #39 of the “Branches or Schisms” post. Your presumption of perspicuity regarding Catholic terms and documents is like the fresh American GI who upon arriving in Germany for the first time sees a bottle labeled “Gift” and wants to buy it for his girlfriend. When his buddies tell him that in German ‘gift’ means poison, he says, “I don’t need to understand German to comprehend the meaning of that word. Nor does anyone else with even the most modest of intellects.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  202. Hi Joe,

    Since you seem to want to engage here, I’ll give you a couple of pieces of advice that I have learned in dealing with Roman Catholics, both here on this site, and in general.

    1) I applaud your desire to use scripture to show people the truth. I would caution you that it will often be frustrating, as Roman Catholics will always defer to the interpretation of the bible given by the Roman Catholic Church, and as a result any interpretation given that goes contrary to what the Roman Catholic Church says will be deemed incorrect by default. That doesn’t mean that it’s not valuable to give it. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and it can save Roman Catholics just as much as atheists. On that note, you will probably find it just as frustrating giving scripture to Roman Catholics as it is giving it to atheists. Both will disregard it in essentially the same way, just on opposite ends of the spectrum: the atheist will often dismiss your scriptural references due to denying any authority the bible has, whereas the Roman Catholic will often dismiss your scriptural references due to denying any authority anyone has to give them other than the Roman Catholic Church. But as I said, keep up the good work in sharing the Word of God with those who need it.

    2) You will also find that many, if not most, of the biblical terms that we use have different meanings for the Roman Catholic and the Christian. Conversation will likely be repeatedly frustrating because when you say “faith” and they say “faith”, the two of you actually mean slightly different things. It’s like this with many terms: justification, sanctification, apostle, teacher, baptism, works, church, and even the term Christian. It will make it very tough to have meaningful conversation when people think different things when such terms are used. I have found it difficult at times – it seems that, more than any other group of people that you may evangelize, Roman Catholics are inoculated against the gospel due to the teaching that they have been given about it. It’s tough, but I applaud and encourage your efforts.

    3) Don’t be afraid of standing alone against the tide – you will be thrown many additional references that may seem overwhelming, but they really aren’t that much to worry about. For example, it was recommended that you have a read through Bryan Cross’s article “Christ Founded a Visible Church”, http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/christ-founded-a-visible-church/. It’s an interesting read, and I would actually encourage that you do go through it if you have the time. It shows some of the thought processes behind some Roman Catholic beliefs. But then hop over and read a rebuttal by Keith Mathison that systematically dismantles the premises that Bryan puts forth, found at http://turretinfan.blogspot.ca/2011/02/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and.html. There’s plenty of sound biblical responses to the positions that the Roman Catholic Church puts forth, such that there’s no reason to feel overwhelmed by what’s presented here.

    4) Don’t worry too much about the rabbit trails that the conversation starts to go down. When you are dealing with many people, and so much incorrect information gets put out there, you may feel the need to try and correct it all. It’s tough to pick and choose what to address, and unless you have unlimited time, you end up simply having to leave things unanswered. For example, when Bryan asks you about contradictions, it’s not worth the time to even discuss it. If you have a look up further, I already went over this topic with him. Roman Catholic doctrine presupposes it’s own truth, and as such presupposes there are no contradictions in the things that the Roman Catholic Church teaches. As such, any contradiction you could show is never going to be accepted as a contradiction as long as a person holds to the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church. So there’s no point in showing them – it will get nowhere. Or as another example, Hunter brings up the issue of the “Protestant Canon looking slightly different” than the Canon that for centuries was agreed upon. He puts forth the claim that Protestants took books out of the bible. But this is merely a red herring, since the current Canon that Roman Catholics use, as decided upon at Trent, is also missing certain texts that were supposedly canonical for centuries. The Roman Catholic Church itself admits about 1 Esdras that “The Council of Trent definitively removed it from the canon”. (New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967). So when a Roman Catholic says that Protestants took parts of the bible out of the canon during the Reformation, they have no leg to stand on, since the Roman Catholic Church did the same thing the accuse others of doing. But to go down this road will take a lot of time, many details, much supporting documentation, and in the end, even if you get them to accept the point, it’s simply going to be deemed irrelevant – the fallback position will always be that the Roman Catholic Church has the authority to define the canon anyway, so it doesn’t matter if the canon approved by Trent is different than the one in use for a thousand years before that. Such issues are likely to lead you nowhere – stick to the main issues.

    And on that note, I would simply say respond to the Roman Catholic the same way you would respond to an atheist, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness – just share the gospel. It’s tougher, since as I’ve said the Roman Catholic Church works very hard inoculating it’s adherents against the gospel of Jesus Christ by making them believe that they’ve already accepted it. But ultimately, the gospel of Jesus Christ is what saves people, and tens of millions of people have been saved out of the Roman Catholic Church by the preaching of the gospel to become Christians. So once again, all I can do is encourage you, Joe. Keep the faith, and keep pursuing the Great Commission. God Bless.

  203. Joe, (re: #183)

    You wrote:

    But to your larger epistemological point. Do not fool yourself that somehow you and your Roman brethren somehow avoiding the solipsism of which we are all guilty. You are doing the exact same thing we Protestants – and indeed everyone on the face of the earth are doing, i.e., choosing for ourselves what you will or will not believe. You are! It is YOU who chose the Roman church, of your own volition and without force and coercion.

    Catholics are not solipsists. Nor is the claim [that Catholicis are solipsists] entailed by anything you have said here. It is possible to make choices, even choices about religion, and not be a solipsist. As Casey said, of course persons who become Catholic are using their own cognitive faculties in doing so. But that does not entail that Catholics are subsequently in the same epistemic boat as Protestants with respect to ecclesial authority, private judgment, etc. This particular objection was addressed in the post titled “The Tu Quoque.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  204. Brian #191,

    I’m not teaching Casey. I’m following the Word of God, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”.

    Also, as God commands in the book of Jude, I am following the verse, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.”

    I am one of “God’s holy people,” and I’m giving an answer, contending for the faith.

  205. Frank #194,

    Well, Frank, the case with the Ethiopian is not an ‘imperative’, nor a ‘declarative. That’s yet another problem with the Romans and the Eastern Orthodox, as well as many non-reformed Protestants. They don’t seem to be able to distinguish different grammatical forms.

    In the case of the Etheopian, we have the Word showing us one person who was having trouble understanding what he was reading. Philip helped him. That encounter does not “declare” anything, nor does it impart a definitive axiomatic standard by which we are to understand a particular dogma or theological structure. 1 John 2:27 does. It makes a ‘declarative’ statement. “You do not need . . .”. See the difference?

    The problem with aberrant religions or denominations is that they allow the ‘implied’ to inform the ‘explicit.’ Put another way, they use verses like the one with Philip and the Etheopian to override a command, imparative, or declarative so that they can justify their particular or general deviance from the true Biblical hermaneutic.

  206. E.J. #195,

    Okay, EJ, here you go. The verse says, “You do not need anyone to teach you.” Now, here’s what I think that means. I think that means, “You do not need anyone to teach you.”

    Good enough?

  207. EJ #195 on Ephesians 4:11-13,

    Again, that is not an imperative, nor declarative, but an informative. Yes, teachers server a very valuable purpose. But 1 John 2:27 is contending against the Roman Catholic idea that their Church is a “necessary” component to Christianity and spiritual learning and growth.

    God says no it isn’t.

    As to MacArthur, I believe he is right. But you seem to show yourself deceptive when you imply that MacArthur is in opposition to me on this. He’s not. In fact, he is much more critical of Romanism than I am. He would agree with me on all I have said. If you know that, then your are in fact trying to deceive us here on this site. If you don’t know that, then perhaps it would do you a great service to not speak from ignorance and check you sources before you employ them.

  208. Mateo #197,

    Well, mateo, I think you should hold the Word of God more reverent than you apparently do. You do not have the right to think as you will. Your thinking is, or should be, a slave to the Word. When you say that you, “disagree . . . that the body of Christ has no need for teachers”, you are disagreeing with God Himself.

    That is where the Roman Church has egregiously led all of her followers astray. She has set the example that mere men can re-write God’s word to fit her corporate desires.

    I pray you’ll be led back to the Bible, and back to God.

  209. Johnathan, you advise Joe:

    And on that note, I would simply say respond to the Roman Catholic the same way you would respond to an atheist, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness – just share the gospel.

    What gospel is Joe supposed to share? Protestantism consists of thousands upon thousands of divided sects that cannot, as a whole, agree upon a single point of doctrine. Which means that it is an undeniable fact that a multitude of corrupted gospels are being preached within Protestantism. How is one supposed to know if there is any Protestant sect that teaches completely orthodox doctrine?

    Jonathan, I pray to God, that you would directly dialog with Casey Chalk about the following points that Casey has raised in his article:

    How was I suppose to assess the Catholic claim that Catholic tradition and the the teaching of the Magisterium had authority that was binding on the conscience? Did I have to read, study, and assess prayerfully every official Church document ever written in order to determine whether its doctrine was compatible with Scripture? I’d have to quit my job and devote the rest of my life to such a pursuit. …. I could spend the rest of my life in some sort of theological limbo, only to find some new scholarly analysis throw the whole Protestant experiment into flux, as the New Perspective on Paul has done since the 1970s. Is this really what Jesus intended for us, that every Christian study Scripture, theology and Church history until we are each able adequately to resolve such controversies as justification? And adequate to whom, exactly? The short history of Reformed denominations such as the OPC and PCA and their own battles with the Federal Vision should be enough even for the casual observer to recognize the complexity of these issues. The complexity certainly seemed at odds with the Reformed understanding of the perspicuity of Scripture, where the ordinary individual Christian is supposed to be able to determine from a “plain reading” of Scripture what is necessary for salvation. (WCF 1:7).

  210. Hunter #198,

    First of all, you said, “I know that as a Catholic I do have History, and a Magisterium to look to.”

    Do you mean evil men of an imperfect History? Do you mean an evil and imperfect Magisterium? I hope so. If not, you have a much greater problem than is discussed here.

    Second, you said, “God entrusted his word to be written by human hands.”

    That may be wherein lies the heart of our difference. I believe that statement is in error. God did not “entrust” anything to man. Think about it logically. Why would a perfect, omni-powerful and Holy God “entrust” anything to, as He puts it, “black-hearted, evil men, continually seeking after decadence”?

    No, he “entrusted” nothing to us evil humans. He ‘utilized’ us evil humans to ‘pen’ the Bible for Him and His perfect will, but not a jot or tittle that is found in His Holy Word, the Bible, is not without his authorship and intention. It is exactly as He want’s it rendered.

    The Romans and Eastern Orthodox are full of themselves and horrifically arrogant to think that THEY are the ones, that THEY are the one true holy church, that THEIR Pope, that THEIR council, THEIR teachings the ‘chosen ones’ of God and are the keepers of His message.

    And sadly, that haughty and Pharisaic attitude has sent many to un-sound doctrine.

    As to this statement of yours, “I think the most important thing is that we remain open to the Holy Spirit and continue to ask HIm to guide us and lead us into all truth.”

    You are, unfortunately, employing a bit of cognitive dissonance, here. You DON”T believe that statement. But what you believe is that you will rely not on the holy Spirit, but on the mere men you’ve given your allegiance to, i.e., the Pope and the Roman Church. THEY are the one you are trusting! And I pray that you come to the light BEFORE you stand at the Bema Seat of Christ. For when He calls you out for straying from His holy Word, you will be all alone. There will not be the Pope, or you priest, or the Roman Church standing there to answer for you.

    There will be only you.

    And when you point behind you and find nothing there, and say to God, “But they told me that this is what I should believe,” He may very well say, “But I gave you my Word. Why didn’t you believe that?”

    Again, you will turn and look behind you only to find you are all alone.

    I truly hope He enlightens you before such a tragedy takes place.

    But on a lighter not, thanks, Hunter, for you kindness. I will look at those articles and as the Bible tells me, I am an evil, selfish and flawed human being, so therefore will pray for His guidance on those, and with everything everything else I read and learn from.

  211. Bryan #199,

    I’ll listen to that, thanks.

  212. Bryan #200,

    I reached those conclusions, Bryan, because I have a working knowledge of the English language.

    “If anyone shall say that HORSES AND COWS are in such sense MAMMALIAN ANIMALS that they are not also FOUR-LEGGED CREATURES of that FARM IN LOGAN COUNTY: let him be anathema”

    “If anyone shall say that THE GOOD WORKS OF A JUSTIFIED PERSON are in such sense THE GIFTS OF GOD that they are not also THE GOOD MERITS OF THAT JUSTIFIED PERSON: let him be anathema”

    I hope that clears it up. Regardless, that sentence is saying that ANYONE who shall say . . .

    You have no argument.

  213. Bryan #201,

    Perhaps those on this site are more receptive to such long articles. That is theoretically possible. However, in the art of writing in general and articles in particular, Casey’s was, by any critique in any periodical, far too long. I challenge you to pick up any newspaper, magazine, or even an anthology of essays and find something that lengthy.

    But yes, if that is what those on this site prefer, who am I to suggest they not.

    But to be clear, I was speaking from the point of view of a writer and would have made the same critique of any such piece, be it Protestant or Catholic.

  214. Bryan #201,

    I’m sorry Bryan, but as former Presidential candidate, Alan Keyes once said, I will always defer to charity and kindness, EXCEPT at the expense of the truth!

    I would be lying if I characterized it any other way but obfuscation.

  215. Bryan #201,

    You said, “If the arguments are sound, then why are they embarrassing? But if they are not sound, then please show how they are not sound. Claiming that an argument is embarrassing does not refute the argument.”

    Fair enough. Here you go. To say that Rome is not calling all Reformed Protestants anathema is obfuscation, given the line, “If any shall say . . . let him be anathema.”

    I kn0ow what ‘anyone’ means. I know what ‘shall’ means, and I know what ‘say’ means.

    From what I’ve seen, Rome says that that is NOT saying what is it clearly saying. That is ‘Obfuscation,’ and for me, would be an embarrassment to attempt such a rationalization.

  216. Joe, (re: #212)

    Yes, you know English. But what you do not yet realize, painfully so at this point, is that Catholic documents are written in a technical language within a theological context that specifies and qualifies the meaning of the terms therein. Without knowing that theological context and technical language, you’re flying blind. But since you don’t even realize that terms like ‘anathema’ and ‘anyone’ have specific qualified meanings in this technical language and theological context, you think that simply knowing English equips you sufficiently to interpret correctly Catholic documents. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    But the bottom line is the “ground rule” I referred to in #201. Are you willing to abide by that ground rule? If not, then no real dialogue is possible. But if you are willing to abide by that ground rule, then you’ll need to be willing to defer to Catholics regarding whether our documents are written in a technical language and a theological context that specifies and qualifies their meaning. And a good explanation of that technical meaning of ‘anathema’ can be found in the Akin article I mentioned in #201.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  217. Joe Keck, #108
    “I think you should hold the Word of God more reverent than you apparently do. You do not have the right to think as you will. Your thinking is, or should be, a slave to the Word.”
    When you, as a reformed Christian say that you disagree that the true Blood and Body of Christ become really present whenever the words of institution are said in the memory of Him, “you are disagreeing with God Himself.”
    That is where the reformed denominations “have egregiously led all of their followers astray. They have set the example that mere men can re-write God’s word to fit their corporate desires.
    I pray you’ll be led back to the Bible, and back to God.
    That, my friend, is a man-made religion.”
    J 6 and the three descriptions of the Last Supper + the Pauline account thereof are in so plain English, that there is no ”rocket science, here. Just straight forward Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
    And I know it to be true every Sunday “by the testimony of the Holy Spirit within me, confirming the promises found throughout the Bible.”

  218. Joe,

    Are you a teaching elder or ruling elder in a congregation that considers itself to be following in the tradition of John Calvin?

    The reason I’m asking is that you declare yourself to be a “Reformed Protestant” and you also make a distinction in what you believe to be the truth over against those Protestants who are “non-reformed.”

    EJ

  219. Can I just add this bit, which may have already been mentioned? In discussions with Catholics, the term “ROMANISM” tends to be viewed as a pejorative term by Catholics. The term is used extensively by many internet anti -Catholics. Personally speaking, when my church is addressed as “Romanism” in a discussion, I have a difficult time accepting that the person I am speaking with is truly interested in honest dialog. It’s Bryan’s blog, here but in the spirit of charity, I would prefer to not be referred to as a Romanist. Correct me freely if I have overstepped my bounds here.Thanks.

  220. Hi all,

    Thanks to all for the continued conversation on the article, particularly of late in talking with our Reformed Protestant friends Jonathan and Joe. I’ve very much appreciated some recent comments from Bryan, Andrew, Fr. Bryan, EJ, and the many others. However, I’m getting a little concerned that Jonathan and Joe might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of posts to which they are being asked to respond, which I fear might be creating a bit more tense or antagonistic of an environment than CTC intends. This is not to say that I don’t want people to feel free to discuss, engage, and reflect, but would encourage folks to give Jonathan and Joe a little breathing space so they’re not hit from 6 or 10 sides at once. We want to facilitate Catholic/Protestant dialogue rather than drown it out.

    Joe, please feel free to respond to folks at your leisure and get to our conversation when you are able, but I am still anxious to hear your perspective on scripture, per my question in #182 and #184. I’m also particularly interested in your conversations with Bryan Cross and Andrew Preslar, and hope you continue to talk with them on this thread. Also, it would be helpful to me, and I hope many others, if you might help us understand a bit more your own place within the Protestant spectrum so folks can better engage with you and appreciate your perspective. A couple times you have seemed to suggest you are operating from a Reformed background, but could you give us some further details regarding your particular Protestant background, convictions, denomination, etc. Simply using the term “Reformed” can still cast a pretty broad net, as I learned when I myself was Reformed, and I think some details on your background may help this conversation.

    God bless,

    Casey

  221. Hunter #198,

    Hey, Hunter, just read much of one of those articles you linked. Here’s part of the author’s problems:

    He says, “St. Paul actually says that the Church is built on the foundation of the prophets and the apostles themselves. For Calvin, a teaching has authority, not the teacher. He treats Paul’s statement that the Church is “built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles” as referring to a set of teachings, not any persons.”

    And,

    “Calvin’s whole doctrine of Scripture revolves around this insertion of the word “teaching” into St. Paul’s statement to the Ephesians, and upon seeing the teacher as having authority derived from the teaching only insofar as he holds to that teaching. But it is the prophets and apostles themselves who were given divine authority.”

    Again, according to the Word of God, St. Paul applauds the Bereans for questioining him in defference to his teachings, holding the teachings higher than even an apostle. Here’s the verse: Acts 17:11
    “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

    This is clearly teaching that Paul, a true humble apostle, puts himself secondary to the Scriptures and is pleased that the Bereans thought the same.

    The author also made a mistake in one of his analogies. He said,

    “For example, the U.S. Constitution is not authoritative apart from its source, but represents the authority of the People who promulgated it.”

    That is inaccurate. It is indeed the Founding Documents that is our authority, not The People. For if The People wanted to bring back slavery, it is the 15th amendment that would have the authority to stop them.

    John Adams, Founding father and the first vice president of the United States and the second president said, We are a nation of laws, not men.

  222. Bryan #199, Feingold,

    Well, I listened to it, at least the part on 1 John 2:27. I am amazed at your aplolgists. He didn’t give anything, and mean, NOTHING! that dispels the idea of taking the verse for what is says. All he did was say, No, see, what that really means is blah, blah, blah.

    So, using that same model, would you find useful if I say, No, what Romanism really is, is blah, blah, blah?

    You wouldn’t, and rightly so.

    My Eastern Orthodox friend does the same thing. He thinks that if he just tells me that Mary never had children other than Jesus using a different set of word but saying the same thing, somehow that is adding evidence.

    Again, for me to believe that the Bible means the opposite of what it is saying, you must have COMPELLING evidence. Even then, I’ll be skeptical, but compelling evidence would at least make me look.

    Your guy Feingold gives no evidence at all. NONE!

    I beg of you people. Please. Give me something of substance.

  223. Jonathan #202,

    Thanks, brother. I know of what you say.

    And worry not for me, I have a logical mind – sometimes too logical for my own good – but is serves me well in apologetics. Given that, and a reasonably well working knowledge of the Bible, I enjoy the hermaneutical exercise such debates gives me. Such calisthenics also strengthen my faith, making me delve into the true Word, demonstrating it’s Divine veracity against falsehood and misguided understanding.

    But thanks again, and you keep up the good fight as well.

  224. Bryan #203,

    What I mean is this: For you to say that Protestants are deciding what is true for themselves but Romans are following the some higher lofty Spiritual leading is absurd. You might as well say, I know you are, but what am I.

    Let us realize that all of us follow our own minds. Romans seem to think they ‘own’ rightness and objectivity. It is not objective to believe that certain men are the ‘real’ guys and tell others that their certain men, themselves, are the fake ones.

    I believe in only one infallible: the Word. Which all Romans believe is infallible also. You believe in two infallibles: The Word AND the Pope.

    I believe mine to be the more objective, for it is not cited by God as evil and black-hearted. Your Pope is.

  225. Mateo #209,

    mateo, yuou said, “How is one supposed to know if there is any Protestant sect that teaches completely orthodox doctrine?”

    According to Romanism, just ask one guy, the Pope.

  226. Bryan #216,

    You said, “. . . since you don’t even realize that terms like ‘anathema’ and ‘anyone’ have specific qualified meanings in this technical language and theological context, you think that simply knowing English equips you sufficiently to interpret correctly Catholic documents.”

    Ahhh, now we get to the heart. From your statement, the arrogance of the Roman has shown itself! I’m sorry, but even Popes don’t get to make up new definitions to the language in order to wriggle out of guilt.

    I don’t accept things like that. I don’t accept, ‘Well, it’s not really a baby’ from the abortionists. Or, ‘Well, you have to understand what we mean when we say Brother of Satan’ by the Mormons. And I reject such things as ‘Well, you have to understand what we mean when we say anyone’ by Roman Catholics.

    Catholics have no more right to contort words than Protestants, Mormons, or any other group.

    We all must abide by the same grammatical demands of our language as everyone else.

    No free ‘get out of jail’ cards for anyone. Sorry.

  227. Jan #217,

    Regarding the Last Supper, first of all, if we take that literally, it makes no sense. Here’s the verse:

    Luke 22:20
    New International Version (NIV)
    20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

    Note that His blood hadn’t been “Poured out for you” at the time of His saying that! He hadn’t yet been crucified or even scourged.

    Weak argument, Jan.

  228. EJ #218,

    “Are you a teaching elder or ruling elder in a congregation that considers itself to be following in the tradition of John Calvin?

    The reason I’m asking is that you declare yourself to be a “Reformed Protestant” and you also make a distinction in what you believe to be the truth over against those Protestants who are “non-reformed.”

    No, EJ, I’m neither. Just a Christian.

    But I do believe any religion or denomination that denies the sole salvific work of the cross to be aberrant at best and blasphemous at worst.

  229. Russ #219,

    russ, you said, “the term “ROMANISM” tends to be viewed as a pejorative term by Catholics.”

    My apologies, russ. I was unaware of that. I will be happy to accommodate you and refrain from using that term if you wish (please forgive me if I make the mistake of using it in the future and I welcome your reminder to not use it when I do).

    Thanks for letting me know.

  230. Casey #220,

    Thanks for your kind words, Casey, I appreciate them. And yes, it is overwhelming to try to answer all of the posts, but I very much appreciate the frank but kind attitude of those on here. I do not feel like I have been attacked or disrespected, and that’s nice. And I do love apologetics and anything to do with God’s Word. I truly see God’s holy and gracious gift of the Bible as yet another example of His amazing love He has for His people.

    Glory be to Him.

    My background. Thank you for asking. I started out as an partial Arminian, being saved int the Southern Baptist denomination at the age of 14. I asked about salvation and he gave the same anfractuous runaround that all Arminians give about how it is ‘Our’ choice. God only offers. Of course, I accepted it, being young and not familiar with Biblical teaching.

    Then I started reading.

    I was asking myself, if it is indeed, ‘Our choice’ whether or not we accept that gift, then logic would demand that I get – however little – credit for my own salvation. But the Bible says all through it that it is Christ alone that saves.

    That word ‘Alone’ got to me.

    If it is Christ ‘Alone’ then how can I have the power to ‘accept’ without partnering with Christ in my salvation. When I came to Ephesians 1:4, “4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[a] predestined us for adoption to sonship[b] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will”, I questioned the elder’s ‘Free Will’ words. It even confused me.

    “That can’t be right,” I thought as I stared at the text. Then I mentally slapped myself. It HAS to be right . . . that is God Himself speaking. And therefore, that elder has to be wrong. That started a years long study, including Romans 8 and 9, and many other books including the old testament, until I finally came to a 5 point Calvinistic view of soteriology.

    Still looking at Covenentalism, but I don’t know where I’ll end up on that.

    So, there you have it.

    One might say that I am in the area of a ‘Reformed Baptist’ in my theology.

  231. Great discussion, guys. And I want to thank Casey for starting it with his article, and all of you for giving me the opportunity to respond. I hope it make all of you run like crazy from the Catholic Church and high-five me with your new Protestant conversions.

    But I’m not holding my breath.

    But it was great, I loved it. Thanks, Jonathan, for you encouragement.

    Let us all keep studying His Word, as the Old Testament says, When rising up and going to bed, when walking in the field when . . . well, you get the picture.

    I’m sure wall all need it.

    Later

  232. Joe, (re: #226)

    Ahhh, now we get to the heart. From your statement, the arrogance of the Roman has shown itself! I’m sorry, but even Popes don’t get to make up new definitions to the language in order to wriggle out of guilt.

    The qualified meaning of theological terms in Catholic documents has nothing to do with arrogance, as though it is based on some assumption that Catholics think they are better than others. It is rather that within a community (in this case a community defined by its shared faith), the language within the community takes on nuances and qualifications and senses that are not known or recognized by the broader community which does not participate in the religious life of that faith community. In order to learn the language of this faith community, it is not enough to know the language of the broader community in which this faith community resides. To know what Catholics mean by ‘faith,’ for example, it is not enough to know what non-Catholics mean by ‘faith.’ In order to know what Catholics mean by ‘tradition,’ it is not enough to know what non-Catholics mean by ‘tradition.’ In each case one must study the meaning of the terms as they are used in that faith community. To construct one’s arguments against Catholicism, on the basis of an assumption that all terms used in Catholic documents mean only what they mean in non-Catholic contexts, is to set up straw men. If you wish to read more about this, see “The Tradition and the Lexicon.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  233. Joe Keck, you write:

    Well, mateo, I think you should hold the Word of God more reverent than you apparently do. You do not have the right to think as you will. Your thinking is, or should be, a slave to the Word.

    Why is it “apparent” to you that I do not hold the Word of God with the proper reverence? I believe what the Catholic Church teaches about the Sacred Scriptures:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”

    107 The inspired books teach the truth. “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.”

    Joe, you wrote:

    He [GOD] ‘utilized’ us evil humans to ‘pen’ the Bible for Him and His perfect will, but not a jot or tittle that is found in His Holy Word, the Bible, is not without his authorship and intention. It is exactly as He want’s it rendered.

    It seems, Joe, that we both have a very high view of Sacred Scriptures, since we both agree that God is the author of Sacred Scripture and that Sacred Scripture is “exactly as He want’s it rendered.”

    The problem that I have is not with Sacred Scripture, the problem I have is with particular Protestant interpretations of Sacred Scripture. And that is a problem that everyone has, because there are thousands of Protestant sects that believe as we do, (that God is the author of Sacred Scripture, and that Sacred Scriptures are without error), and yet, that common belief does not prevent the members of these Protestant sects from interpreting the Sacred Scriptures in wildly contradictory ways. Which leads me to ask you this question: Do you believe that your private interpretations of Sacred Scripture are free from error, and if so, why are you prevented from misinterpreting Sacred Scriptures, and not the thousands of Protestant sects that disagree with you?

    When you say that you, “disagree . . . that the body of Christ has no need for teachers”, you are disagreeing with God Himself.

    No, I am not disagreeing with God, I am disagreeing with your peculiar interpretation of Sacred Scriptures. My argument against your assertion that the body of Christ has no need for teachers is coming straight from the scriptures, and you have yet to address the scriptures that I quoted that refute what you are contending.

  234. Joe (re: #226),

    I share Casey’s concern about “piling-on,” so I will bow out of this conversation. Before I do, though, I must say that I am very confused by your comment. It should not be at all surprising that theological terms can have different meanings depending on the faith community using them. What you mean by “faith,” for example, is probably different by what I mean by “faith.” And the atheist thinks “faith” means something different from either of our definitions: “belief without evidence.” Suppose the atheist insists that we are arrogant for “[making] up new definitions,” just as you are saying we Catholics are arrogant for developing our particular nuances and qualifications. Would you agree with the atheist that you are arrogant? Or would you think that the atheist is being unreasonable in not allowing you to articulate your views on your own terms?

  235. Hi Joe (#226, 230, 231),

    Thank you for sharing your own story and Protestant perspective, that is helpful in understanding where you are coming from and what position you are seeking to defend. I myself went from an Arminian/Baptist non-denominational church into the Reformed faith, though our paths differ in that I went the way of Presbyterianism/paedobaptism. I wonder, when we were both Protestant, if you have told me that scripture’s teaching on the mode and application of baptism was obvious, and accused me, as you have done to myself and others on this website, of being too ignorant or too malicious to see the truth?

    In hope of bringing further clarity to your conversation with Bryan Cross, I offer to remind you of what I proposed to you in #189. Namely, that scripture itself sometimes uses words in ways that require clarification or further scriptural context to tease out the meaning. I ask you, more directly, to explain your interpretation of the following verses, especially in light of your claim to be a 5-point Calvinist, which I assume means you uphold Definite/Limited Atonement. What Jesus did mean in John 12:32 when he said “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (NIV)? Or, what Paul did mean in 1 Cor. 15:22 when he wrote “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” ?

    It seems, based on #231, that you are ending your participation in this discussion. This saddens me, given that you have left several of my questions, particularly those regarding the contents of scripture, unanswered. Nevertheless, thank you for stopping by CTC, and we pray that the Lord brings you, as we pray He brings all of us, closer to the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    in Christ,

    Casey

  236. Casey #233,

    No, Casey, not stopping. Just taking a break. I will get to you question on the other #’s you had. Can you remind me again what number they were?

    As far as pedo-baptism goes, yes, I do think the Presbyterians have it wrong. But there is no actual explicit prohibition of baptizing infants, so it would not be an egregious error, as is Arminianism.

    Regarding John 12:32 when he said “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (NIV)? Or, what Paul did mean in 1 Cor. 15:22 when he wrote “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive”

    We know that it can’t mean all people literally because Judas will not be lifted up. So we have to reject an all-encompasing ‘all’ and opt for one of the man other ‘all’s available to us. In the Greek, there is more than one meaning of that word. The Bible says that ‘all were in the temple.’ Now we know that every person on the face of the earth that ever lived past present and future were not int the temple.

    ‘All’ can mean all Christians, all Jews, and sometimes does mean all people on the face of the earth. We must check context to see what it means.

    Christ said He would love to gather Israel under his wings. Does that mean he is of the avian species. No. We recognize hyperbole when we see it. Hopefully.

    And, we know that the rich man was in hell when Lazerus was in Abraham’s bosom. So Christ can’t have meant he will lift up – at least not in the soteriological sense – all people.

    Only the Universalist would give me an argument on this, and I doubt you are one of those.

  237. Joe,

    As a follower of this discussion, I just want to point something out. In comment # 204 you said:

    I am one of “God’s holy people,” and I’m giving an answer, contending for the faith.

    Then in comment #210 you said:

    The Romans and Eastern Orthodox are full of themselves and horrifically arrogant to think that THEY are the ones, that THEY are the one true holy church, that THEIR Pope, that THEIR council, THEIR teachings the ‘chosen ones’ of God and are the keepers of His message… And sadly, that haughty and Pharisaic attitude has sent many to un-sound doctrine.

    Without getting at the actual substance of your position(s), it seems to this observer that that you are, like it or not, guilty of the very things you’re criticizing… It’s just that the tables are turned. Instead of the Orthodox or the Catholic having a handle on the faith, it’s you who’s in that position. You are God’s holy one, endeavoring to “contend for the faith.” And they are arrogant… even “pharisaical” for calling you to the “true faith”…

    herbert

  238. JoeK (re #227)

    Note that His blood hadn’t been “Poured out for you” at the time of His saying that! He hadn’t yet been crucified or even scourged.

    Not according the Book of Revelation (13:7):

    And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

    Do you not realize that, as the Second Person of the Trinity, Christ not bound by the laws of time and space?

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  239. Hi Joe (#234),

    Thanks for responding to my question, which, I can understand, might seem off-topic.

    Regarding John 12:32 when he said “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (NIV)? Or, what Paul did mean in 1 Cor. 15:22 when he wrote “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive”

    We know that it can’t mean all people literally because Judas will not be lifted up. So we have to reject an all-encompasing ‘all’ and opt for one of the man other ‘all’s available to us. In the Greek, there is more than one meaning of that word. The Bible says that ‘all were in the temple.’ Now we know that every person on the face of the earth that ever lived past present and future were not int the temple.

    ‘All’ can mean all Christians, all Jews, and sometimes does mean all people on the face of the earth. We must check context to see what it means.

    So, according to you, the Protestant is allowed to interpret the world “all” in a passage of scripture to mean different things, depending on context, vocabulary, and what he or she knows from elsewhere in scripture. Even though, one might argue, as you have here, that the meaning of the world “all,” as with the world “anyone,” is clear and straightforward. But the Catholic, according to your responses to Bryan Cross and my’s comments in #184, 189, 216, and 232, (#184, 215, 224, 226), is not allowed to do this, and is guilty of “arrogance” and disregarding the rules of grammar. Upon reflection, your approach here smacks of “double standard.”

    You are correct that I am not a universalist, and that the Catholic Church does not teach universalism. I only asked to demonstrate that what you have accused the Catholic Church of doing in reference to its own church council documents, you yourself do. You have rightly recognized that scripture uses language in a way that often requires an understanding of context, language, and what has been taught or explained elsewhere to explain an idea or belief. That you emphatically prohibit the Catholic Church from doing the same thing is strange and unfair.

    in Christ,

    Casey

  240. Joe,

    What is your main objection to Catholicism? Like if there were 1,000 demons, which one is the biggest? Or if it is a couple, what are they?

    Erick

  241. Casey #235,

    You said, “So, according to you, the Protestant is allowed to interpret the world “all” in a passage of scripture to mean different things, depending on context, vocabulary, and what he or she knows from elsewhere in scripture.”

    Not quite. I don’t believe we are ‘allowed’ to interpret any word as we wish. We have to abide by the ‘available’ definitions of the Greek lexical rendering.

    For instance. Cosmos. That’s the Greek word for world. Now, may we interpret it as we wish? No, we may not. There are, I believe, 7 different definitions available to us that we may employ. And only those 7. We must choose, by context, which of those 7 will best fit the context. We may not use an 8th, 9th, 10th, and so, definition. We are given 7 and those 7 we must stick to.

    Same with the word ‘anyone’. Let us see what the English definitions are available to us, and stick to those only.

    Regarding, “You have rightly recognized that scripture uses language in a way that often requires an understanding of context, language, and what has been taught or explained elsewhere to explain an idea or belief. That you emphatically prohibit the Catholic Church from doing the same thing is strange and unfair.”

    Not at all, and this is part of the overall problem with the Roman Catholic religion. First of all, Scripture is God, and only God, breathed. All other religions, including the Roman Church, is not. Now I do understand that the Roman Catholic Church thinks itself ‘God breathed’ or the equivalent, but you must understand that I and millions like me believe it most certainly is not.

    Therefore, it is not unfair of me to allow privileges to the Holy Scriptures that I do not allow the Roman Church.

    But even if I did, still, I hold the Bible to its own language, as the above shows. I do not bleed away a meaning of a word by ‘interpreting’ another definition using ‘context’ as cover. If it says ‘all’, given the available definitions, then I employ that meaning. So, when you say, “I invited all the people to my birthday party” we know you don’t mean all the people on the planet. But when the encyclical says ‘anyone’, it is nothing but cognitive dissonance to try to ameliorate the implications because of our omni-tolerant culture today.

  242. Joe, #210

    As for my comment “I know that as a Catholic I have History, and a Magisterium to look to”
    Yes, of course I have the Bible, and I do believe it is inspired by God. But having the history and Magisterium of the Church gives me a more solid foundation to say, I know this is the inspired word of God. As a protestant I had to say I just feel it is the right one, that feeling is no different that of a Morman or even Muslim. (I’m not comparing Protestantism to mormonism, so don’t fret). The Canon that Catholics use is the Canon was in existence before the current one used by Protestants. Yes, it is simply the Old Testament that is different, but other New Testament letters were questioned and temporarily tossed as well. Some of those “evil men of an imperfect history” as you said, were the very men whom helped compile the Canon. The Canon that Catholics still use today.

    You said,
    “Do you mean evil men of an imperfect History? Do you mean an evil and imperfect Magisterium? I hope so. If not, you have a much greater problem than is discussed here.”
    Honestly? Do you really think I’m implying that Catholic clergymen were, or are perfect? Try not to read into my comments so much, and assume I mean something that no Catholic doctrine has ever taught. Does the fact that they were sinful make them illegitimate? Does this mean that God could not use them and entrust them to hear Him and respond to which books are the ones He inspired? I’m aware of how flawed the disciples were and how Jesus said, “get behind me satan” to Peter. Should I toss 1 Peter, and 2 Peter because he was as you say “evil”?
    Yes I said “God entrusted his word to be written by human hands”
    I’m not sure if this has more to do with the result Original Sin, Original Justice difference of view, or if you are just trying to find an argument? On some levels you seem to be taking what I said out of context. I did say His Word, as in God’s word. From what I’m aware of, the Church does not teach that Peter, or Paul, or any author of those letters was some drone who was basically didn’t have any consent in the matter. I believe as created beings, we can and do cooperate with God because of the work on the cross. (That may be where where the heart of this is, not sure) Its not as if God shut their brains off and moved there hands for them. I”m not implying it was Paul, not God who wrote Romans, but God working through Paul. Paul with grace being infused to him, being made more able to respond to God.

    You keep referring to men as “evil and blackhearted”. You mention this about the Pope as some sort of false dichotomy that we have a Pope, you have a Bible. We have both. Though you may misunderstand what Catholic teaching about the Pope is. You may want to ask a Catholic questions about this instead of merely throwing out every cliche assumption. Again with the Authors of scripture, were they not “evil and blackhearted men” in your opinion? If so how can you read a Bible. As Catholics we believe God protected those sinful men from error with regards to scripture. Why could God not do the same for a sinful Pope in times of important doctrinal teaching? I’m not asking if you think there is continued teaching right now, just if it is plausible that God could “utilize” Paul, and a Pope, in communicating a truth to His people? If not, then why can you trust Paul, seeing as He addresses himself as the author of his letters?

    Its puzzling that for someone who can’t stand the “horrifically arrogant” Catholics and Eastern Orthodox with our “haughty and Pharisaic attitude” that you can respond the way you do. I’m kind of questioning if I should choose to go further from here, seeing as this combox is trending to be more of accusations and finger pointing, than charitable dialogue. I see none here displaying that attitude towards you. If I simply missed where someone has, I apologize.

    I said in #198 I think the most important thing is that we remain open to the Holy Spirit and continue to ask Him to guide us and lead us into all truth.

    By proclaiming in #210 that I “DON’T believe that statement”, how is this not arrogance on your part?

    Honestly I don’t quite now how to go forward with you. Its not the substance, but the tone you keep bringing to the conversation with people. Quite honestly its hard to see through the brashness of your text, and all caps typing, which is a form of yelling in text. So many subjective assumptions, like writing how Christ is going to address me after I die. Your not as bad as some of those preachers I see from time to time on a college campus or holding up signs telling everyone their going to hell. But it sure does make dialogue with you difficult.

    Hunter

  243. Folks, presently in the queue are about seven comments by Catholics, responding to comments by Joe. At Casey’s request in #220, and to prevent the ‘pile-on’ problem, I’m limiting the Catholic participation in the conversation with Joe to only a few people. So, Catholics, feel free to read, but please respect Casey’s request in #220.

  244. Hi Joe, (#236),

    You said,

    I don’t believe we are ‘allowed’ to interpret any word as we wish. We have to abide by the ‘available’ definitions of the Greek lexical rendering.

    For instance. Cosmos. That’s the Greek word for world. Now, may we interpret it as we wish? No, we may not. There are, I believe, 7 different definitions available to us that we may employ. And only those 7. We must choose, by context, which of those 7 will best fit the context. We may not use an 8th, 9th, 10th, and so, definition. We are given 7 and those 7 we must stick to.

    Same with the word ‘anyone’. Let us see what the English definitions are available to us, and stick to those only.

    Regarding, “You have rightly recognized that scripture uses language in a way that often requires an understanding of context, language, and what has been taught or explained elsewhere to explain an idea or belief. That you emphatically prohibit the Catholic Church from doing the same thing is strange and unfair.”

    Not at all, and this is part of the overall problem with the Roman Catholic religion. First of all, Scripture is God, and only God, breathed. All other religions, including the Roman Church, is not. Now I do understand that the Roman Catholic Church thinks itself ‘God breathed’ or the equivalent, but you must understand that I and millions like me believe it most certainly is not.

    Therefore, it is not unfair of me to allow privileges to the Holy Scriptures that I do not allow the Roman Church.

    But even if I did, still, I hold the Bible to its own language, as the above shows. I do not bleed away a meaning of a word by ‘interpreting’ another definition using ‘context’ as cover. If it says ‘all’, given the available definitions, then I employ that meaning. So, when you say, “I invited all the people to my birthday party” we know you don’t mean all the people on the planet. But when the encyclical says ‘anyone’, it is nothing but cognitive dissonance to try to ameliorate the implications because of our omni-tolerant culture today.

    So “all” doesn’t always mean “all,” but “anyone” always means “anyone”? On what is that conclusion based? You have given me no reason to believe this is the case, and it seems perfectly arbitrary to suit your hermeneutic needs. Your claim that the Catholic Church is engaged in “cognitive dissonance” on the issue of the interpretation of Trent lacks any evidence, except your assertion that it just has to mean what you think it means. On what basis are you judging that different understandings of the Greek word for “all” are operating in these NT passages, and that your personal interpretation of the “all” used in John 12 is the correct one? I’m calling “foul” on your arbitrary use of Koine Greek here to suit your own hermeneutic purposes, in that you seem to think that referring to the Greek is a magic hermeneutic fix to this dilemma.

    I think you have misunderstood me if you think the Catholic position is that the Church is able to “make up” meanings of words that have no relationship to how they have been understood. The idea was simply that the word “anyone,” just as the word “all,” might be “all people in all places in all times,” or it might mean “some persons in some places, some of the time,” and that the way to determine which version is operative is dependent on context, intention of author, how a certain organization or author is commonly using a word, etc. You also refer to the “English” definitions of words, though I am presuming you know that Trent was written in Latin and that you are reading a translation into English. Have you studied the lexicon of the Latin employed Trent, or the disciplinary nature of certain texts within Church councils, in order to best determine what the council meant by “anyone”?

    What I am asking you to do in your reading of Trent is no different from what I would ask you to do if you were reading any text – that there exists between ourselves and that text a distance that we must approach in humility. You seem to have some of knowledge of Greek. If that is the case, in your studies of languages, you’ve come to realize that moving from one language to another is always difficult, and that meanings or intentions are almost inevitably lost. I have found this to be the case in my studies of Latin, Spanish, Koine Greek, and Dari. We can often get very close to what an author or speaker intends, but it’s simply impossible to replicate meaning with any sort of exact science. This doesn’t mean we don’t attempt it all the same; simply that we demonstrate some humility in our limitations at perfectly capturing meaning when moving from one language to another. This is of course further complicated when we incorporate the distance of time into the equation; if you’ve studied history, you’ll know that any number of factors, including context, historical events, audience, etc. make it difficult to know exactly what an author intends to express or to whom he is speaking. And that’s the case even in reading something in English written a couple centuries ago, as I found when writing my undergraduate thesis on African American religion in the Civil war.

    Several of your comments throughout our conversation have demonstrated the limits of your knowledge of Catholicism. In #186, you claim Catholics believe popes or priests are needed for every good work, and that Catholics rely exclusively on the Pope to tell them what the Bible means, neither of which are accurate. In #236 you say Trent is an encyclical – it is not. I think it may be time for you to study some of the Church’s teachings and self-understanding before we further this conversation. Your commentary on Trent’s language on anathemas suggests you have not understood Bryan’s comments in #216 regarding church lexicon, nor read Bryan’s article on the Tradition and the Lexicon. The simple fact, which plenty of your Protestant brethren (myself included when I was Protestant), is that communities, sub-cultures, governments, and plenty of other institutions, often take language and use it in particular situations or contexts to mean something specific to a given scenario. All governments on the face of the earth do this with laws. Indeed, just as with an anathema, a country does not suppose that just because it makes a law, it is applicable to anyone, at any place, regardless of their standing in relation to that government. If the US Supreme Court makes a ruling, it uses words that have a particular meaning to a particular circumstance, that are not applied universally, nor are all people everyone subject to it. Furthermore, governments recognize that they have no right or ability to prosecute or judge someone outside its jurisdiction who violates their law. Rulings in the Catholic Church typically operate in the same fashion. That you are putting up so much resistance on this issue I think reflects a lack of understanding of how Catholic Church discipline and government operates.

    I wonder if part of the problem is that you seem to think that in the Catholic understanding, church council equals scripture, which is not the case. The Church does not teach that its official documents are “God-breathed,” as you argue. Nor is the Church today seeking to be “omni-tolerant,” in explaining how Trent is to be interpreted. If the Church were in the business of seeking to be “politically correct,” I doubt the US Conference of Bishops would be engaged in a battle with the US Government over the new health insurance law that mandates all businesses provide contraceptive coverage, or alternatively organize the yearly March For Life on the Mall in DC against abortion. Nor would the Catholic Church be battling Western institutions in Africa over the distribution of contraceptives, nor would she be fighting in the Philippines for the rights of the unborn, nor would she have led the recent movement in France against the legalization of gay marriage. That you would accuse the Church of “political correctness” further suggests you have not done the due diligence of studying the Church or her teachings.

    Please take the necessary time and energy to study the Catholic Church’s teachings and positions on the topics you have raised here in this discussion thread before continuing this conversation. Otherwise there is no hope of helpful dialogue, and I fear there will only be further mischaracterizations of Church teaching and practice that further obscure the conversation.

    In Christ,

    Casey

  245. Casey #238,

    Y0u said, “The Church does not teach that its official documents are “God-breathed,” as you argue.”

    Casey, I will do as you ask and study further on the Roman Church so as to have a better understanding of its teachings. The last thing I want to do is argue from ignorance. That is a mark of stupidity. And although I’m not any more than average in my intellect, I would prefer not to look any less.

    By the way, I was not saying that the edict I quoted you was an encyclical, I was using encyclical generically. I could have used ‘document’, ‘paper’, ‘edict’, whichever. I was merely referring to Roman dogma and statutes.

    But I would ask YOU to quote me correctly. It seems that many on this site have trouble doing that. And so did you. I didn’t say that the Roman Church’s ‘documents’ are believed by the Roman Church to be God-breathed.

    Here are my exact works from #236, 3rd to the last paragraph:

    “Now I do understand that the Roman Catholic Church thinks itself ‘God breathed’ or the equivalent,”

    I will extend you the benefit of the doubt and not attribute ‘deceptive tactics’ to you, bur rather I will take your misrepresentation to be simply a lack of plenary attention to my post.

    But let me ask you. Even if an anathema is not a relegation to hell, as it would seem from the text, still, how can Romans consider Protestants who believe in Sola Fide to be Christians?

  246. Hi Joe, (#238),

    You said,

    Casey, I will do as you ask and study further on the Roman Church so as to have a better understanding of its teachings. The last thing I want to do is argue from ignorance. That is a mark of stupidity. And although I’m not any more than average in my intellect, I would prefer not to look any less.

    By the way, I was not saying that the edict I quoted you was an encyclical, I was using encyclical generically. I could have used ‘document’, ‘paper’, ‘edict’, whichever. I was merely referring to Roman dogma and statutes.

    But I would ask YOU to quote me correctly. It seems that many on this site have trouble doing that. And so did you. I didn’t say that the Roman Church’s ‘documents’ are believed by the Roman Church to be God-breathed.

    Here are my exact works from #236, 3rd to the last paragraph:

    “Now I do understand that the Roman Catholic Church thinks itself ‘God breathed’ or the equivalent,”

    I will extend you the benefit of the doubt and not attribute ‘deceptive tactics’ to you, bur rather I will take your misrepresentation to be simply a lack of plenary attention to my post.

    But let me ask you. Even if an anathema is not a relegation to hell, as it would seem from the text, still, how can Romans consider Protestants who believe in Sola Fide to be Christians?.

    My apologies for misunderstanding what you meant by saying that the Church, and not her documents, are God-breathed. Honestly I stumbled over it because it seemed out of joint with what you had been arguing previously concerning Trent and 1 John 2:27, and figured you were still speaking about Church documents. If you are saying that the Church has taught that she is “God-breathed,” I am unaware of this idea. It may be found in some church council or encyclical of which I am unaware. It doesn’t appear to be the in the catechism. If you believe this phrase is from a Catholic document, I would be interested to know where you read it and the context, and then I’d be happy to explore it with you.

    Your willingness to humbly desire to better understand Catholic teaching for this discussion is admirable, and I thank you for it. No one here is questioning your intellect or religious fervor; you’ve made both of those very evident throughout your comments.

    As for your question regarding anathemas, a brief discussion of the Catholic Church’s use of the word can be found here, and explains its use a tool of excommunication, rather than, as you claim, a “relegation to hell”:

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01455e.htm

    I am not entirely sure I understand what you are asking when you ask how the Catholic Church is able to call Protestants who believe in sola fide to be Christians. Are you asking because it seems problematic to reconcile the idea that the Church would on the one hand excommunicate those who hold to sola fide, yet alternatively refer to people who hold that belief as Christians? I think I can see where that would seem contradictory. As a preface, I think reading CCC 817-822 and the Decree on Ecumenism from Unitatis Redintegratio (http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19641121_unitatis-redintegratio_en.html) would be helpful in providing some context on Catholic teaching on ecumenism. That aside, I think there are a couple dimensions to the issue. For one, I would want to know how you view a disciplinary action by any Christian community operating. If your particular church or denomination were to formally discipline someone, how would that person be viewed? Would that person be viewed as no longer Christian in any sense? I think there may be a difference from how that person would be viewed from a Catholic perspective.

    From a Catholic perspective, to hold a particular doctrine that the Church has deemed heretical does not automatically mean that any individual holding it is not a Christian. He or she may formally meet the criteria for a heretic, but nonetheless that person is a Christian heretic, and still falls within the larger umbrella of Christianity. Indeed, that person may still believe many things the Church upholds as true, and that person may do many good things that the Church is able to laud. He or she is no longer free to formally commune with the Catholic Church, but it isn’t as if the entire relationship to Christianity is washed away. Consider the Church Fathers Origen and Tertullian, both ultimately deemed to have taught what the Church deemed to be heretical doctrines. Yet much of their writings are revered, even cited in official Church documents such as the catechism. Both men operated within the Catholic community, but strayed from it on particular teachings. When the Church determined some of their teachings to be heretical, it didn’t throw out the bad with the good, but recognized what value many of their writings and teachings offered, and still considered them part of the greater Christian heritage. Notably, that trend happened very early in Church history. Consider also that despite the eroded relationship between East and West during the Middle Ages, the strong rhetoric often employed by both sides, and the progressively dissimilar doctrines, that the Catholic Church on many occasions has engaged in ecumenical dialogue and sought to reconcile with the East.

    Furthermore, as CCC 818 teaches, the initial offense of schism caused by the person who is within the Catholic Church and is formally anathematized by teaching doctrine not in accord with Catholic teaching is not attributed to subsequent generations. Those future generations may believe the same formal heresy, but it was not a separation they themselves chose, and the nature of multiple removed generations over extended periods of time creates a distance in which future generations have little relationship or understanding of the initial separation. Consider, for example the virulent anti-Catholicism of Protestant America, such as among the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. The things they accused the Catholic Church of teaching or practicing bear little resemblance to the actual Catholic Church. Or, if you prefer an example closer to home, consider how so many Baptist churches in the United States have little connection with their Reformed roots, and don’t really even understand the ideas or history of why their denomination was created. I’ve met so many Protestants who abhor the label “Protestant” because they claim they aren’t protesting anything, and certainly not the Catholic Church. Not that they are sympathetic to Catholicism, but that the Reformation is so far removed from their own self-understanding that it effectively means nothing. Do we categorically blame them for not understanding Protestantism, or do we recognize that Protestantism has changed in 500 years, and that their denominations and leadership have changed, as well? The Catholic Church cannot hold future generations so far removed from the schism responsible in the same manner as the original offenders.

    Finally, as the Vatican II and CCC reference I provided you show, the Catholic Church in any ecumenical conversation would look for commonality with separated Christians before looking at differences. In the case of Protestants, particularly evangelicals, the Church would find many areas of commonality: high view of scripture, baptism, faith in Christ, the Trinity, reverence for communion, etc. It recognizes, upon reflection, that Protestants have formed their own ecclesial communities, that, though different from Catholicism and lacking from what Catholicism views as the fullness of faith, maintain many praiseworthy and scriptural practices. That doesn’t mean the differences are overlooked or marginalized; as articles on this website argue, these differences are real and they have consequences.

    This is by no means comprehensive, but I hope provides some explanation to your question. In Christ,

    Casey

  247. Joe #236
    As to the ‘anathema’ question once again, let me offer a really simple explanation. If the Constitution of my country says “Anyone shall have the right to free education”, you would not argue that “anyone” here in fact means “anyone all over the world”, would you not? Obviously, in this statement the term “anyone” refers exclusively to the citizens of my country. Mutatis mutandis, the same is true for the statements of Trent, which, by the very context of the document, apply to Catholics only.
    Anyway, it seems to me that it is a really secondary issue. I refuse to think about it as a kind of intentional distraction on your part, but it seems to me that even if, after so much effort on our part, you could be brought to concede that perhaps after all, we, Catholics, know better what our Church teaches, it will not change anything in the main points of discussion.

    Joe #227
    The reason I have come up with this seemingly unrelated issue is that unless one comes up with “It all depends what ‘is’ means” style of reasoning, the plainest meaning of the text is very clear.
    “This IS my Blood.” “This IS my Body”. As eternity is not a very long time but rather lack of time as we know it, so it follows that for God there is no time sequence of events as we see them. Hence, the addition of “poured out for you” does not change anything in the plain meaning of Christ’s words. “Is” means “is”, that’s it.
    You can certainly ARGUE for another INTERPRETATION of the Last Supper scene. That I do not question, but it is you who claim that only arrogance, ignorance or hard-heartedness can make people refuse to believe what a plain text of the Scripture says. I agree that there can be a number of more or less logical interpretations of many issues and scenes in the Scripture, and I even readily concede that the plainest INTERPRETATION is not always true, but it is really hard to deny that by plain reading of the Last Supper scenes you can simply come to believe what Christ is saying: that it was really his Blood and his Body, and will always be whenever the same is done in memory of Him.
    Moreover, for me, this plain and clear meaning of Christ’s words of institution in the Scripture is confirmed every week by the Holy Spirit.
    Now, how can you convince me that your more convoluted interpretation is true and that it is you not me in whom the Holy Spirit confirms the right understanding? On a meta-level, that is the clue of the matter.

  248. Well, Casey, I guess we can leave it at that. We’ve had a very nice and vigorous discussion and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. But be forewarned, I will check on some of the past encyclicals, documents, teachings, early rulings, and the like and get back to you. Would it be here, on this particular blog that I would bring my findings? And please, if you would rather I didn’t, I will not at all be offended. I’m not trying to be provocative, here. It might be that you don’t see any point to a furthering of our exchange, and I would understand that.

    But if you would like, I will bring some things I’ve read but don’t have the documentation at present.

    Regardless, it was a lot of fun. I always thoroughly enjoy any discussion of theological and doctrinal issues with whomever. And you and your colleagues have been great to talk to.

    Thanks, and may God grant us ALL more and more understanding of his Holy Word.

  249. Hi Joe (#241),

    Yes, please feel free to respond to any of the comments I have offered. Indeed, I have asked you several questions for which I am still awaiting answers, such as on the nature and content of scripture, but even in my latest posting, #240, asking for clarification on some of your questions/concerns. So yes, you are welcome to continue the conversation on what we’ve discussed. But I would indeed urge you to read some of the Catholic sources we’ve suggested, as charitably as you can muster, so that our conversation can be as fruitful as possible, rather than the often and quite typical “theological grenade throwing” that happens between Protestants and Catholics.

    For the last few days, I wanted you to have some breathing room so that you could engage myself, Bryan Cross, and Andrew Preslar on some particular issues we had raised without those conversations being lost in the mix. I think there are some still some issues that you have yet to address in those particular threads (e.g. #196 from Andrew). Be that as it may, I will be out of town for the long 4th of July weekend, so I’ve asked Bryan to “open the floodgates” on Tuesday night and allow the comments in the queue from Catholic folks who have been patiently waiting to be posted. I think they’re likely all responding to you. Feel free to engage them, as well. I hope to be back and ready to respond to any comments/questions you have for me specifically by next Monday, 8 July. Have a blessed 4th of July – a good time to reflect that we live in a country where we can have this conversation without fear of violence, incarceration, etc.

    Casey

  250. Casey #249,

    Thanks, Casey, and stay safe.

    Jan, #247,

    The idea that Christ is saying the the cup is His blood or the bread is His body is absurd. If He were wanting us to take away such an idea, don’t you think, given that it would be such a weird thing, such a strange and abnormal transformation, that He would have explained it more thoroughly? And the whole ‘God is timeless, and time to God is beyond . . .’ is just absolutely silly, and one of those arguments I’d be embarrassed to make.

    And note that none of the apostles with their historical Jewish prohibition on cannibalism ever asked, “Why, what do you mean, Lord, you mean that is actual blood we’re drinking? Actual flesh we’re eating?”

    The Pharisees did what you Roman Catholics do, trying to insinuate that it is real flesh and blood, although I realize they did it to trap him and your are doing it out of misguided inference. And Christ’s response was one of indulgence to their stupidity.

    He says “I am the vine” and “I am the door”. So, are we to take it that Christ is some species of plant and not human? Or do we understand Him to be make of wood with hinges and a knob?

    And if, as you say, it is to be taken literally, then why don’t you have your parishioners “drink the blood”?

    Mark 14:24, 25 says, “And he said to them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. 25Truly I say to you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

    So, according to Roman Catholics, Christ will drink His own blood in the new kingdom.

    I’m sorry, but that is ridiculous.

    Transubstantiation is an example of the corporate man-made dogma taking over the Word, and it’s quite tragic that all of you don’t fight against such fatuous beliefs.

    A few other points:

    http://www.justforcatholics.org/a181.htm
    transubstantiation in the ninth century. He was opposed by Ratranmus, a contemporary monk at the monastery of Corbie. Ratranmus wrote: “The bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ in a figurative sense” (De corpore et sanguine Christi). This controversy between two Catholic monks shows that both views were present in the Catholic church at least up to the eleventh century. The debate continued until the thirteenth century when the final decision was taken by the Lateran Council in 1215. Eventually Radbertus was canonized while Ratranmus’ work was placed on the index of forbidden books. The Doctor of the Church, Duns Scotus, admits that transubstantiation was not an article of faith before that the thirteenth century.

    http://www.bible.ca/ntx-communion-transubstantiation.htm
    Transubstantiation is a false doctrine because Jesus is not a liar: In Mt 26:29 after Jesus had said, “this is my blood” and prayed, he still referred to the contents as, “fruit of the vine”. If transubstantiation of the juice into blood had occurred, as both Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches say it was at this time, then Jesus would never have referred to it as “fruit of the vine’ but rather “blood”. This proves that when Jesus said “take eat & drink” he LITERALLY gave them bread and juice.

    Obviously Jesus words, “this is my body” should be taken symbolically because it falls within a long list of symbolic statements Christ said: “I am the bread,” (John 6:41), “I am the vine,” (John 15:5), “I am the door,” (John 10:7,9), “I am the good shepherd,”(John 10:11,12), “You are the world the salt, (Matthew 5:13), “You are the light of the world the salt, (Matthew 5:14)

    We wonder why Roman Catholics and Orthodox doubt God will grant his full grace and love in the symbolic elements of the bread and the juice? Why is it so hard for them to believe that He grants us the full grace of His Body and Blood via symbols? The water of baptism washes away sin: Acts 2:38; 22:16. You don’t get your sins forgiven until you are immersed in water! Water is a symbol of the blood that literally removes sin. For Roman Catholics and Orthodox to believe in “real presence”, is as logical as the idea that water of baptism turns into literal blood!

  251. Erik #240,

    Objections to Catholicism: Infallibility of an evil man, i.e., the Pope – priests being able to forgive sins, something only God can do – the deification of a sinful woman, Mary – the list goes on.

    As to the second part of your post, I’m not understanding the question.

  252. Hunter #242,

    First of all, let me apologize if I come off too strong. I just happen to be one who has an amazingly tough skin, and tend to see everyone else the same way. I really don’t mean to be nasty, just truthful.

    And I used all caps at times only because I don’t know how to italicize. I was substituting caps for italicization. Sorry, didn’t mean to offend.

    But you said a lot of stuff, so let me try to address as much of it as I can.

    You said, “Again with the Authors of scripture, were they not “evil and blackhearted men” in your opinion? If so how can you read a Bible.”

    I can’t emphasize this enough. Because the the apostles are writing down the inspired Word of God. The Pope is not. Nowhere does the Bible call Paul’s writings the Word of Paul. All the Bible is the Word of God. All of all the Popes are the words of men. Simple as that.

    You said, “From what I’m aware of, the Church does not teach that Peter, or Paul, or any author of those letters was some drone who was basically didn’t have any consent in the matter.”

    The Church may not teach that but the Bible does. It always refers to itself as ‘the Word of God’. Not ‘the Word of God and a little of Paul, or Peter, or John’.

    You said, “I believe as created beings, we can and do cooperate with God because of the work on the cross”.

    Then you believe wrong. No one cooperates with God on writing His word. No one. If you can find a verse that says the Word of God is part Him and part man, I’ll be convinced.

    Regarding “You DON’T” in #210, I have no choice but to make that statement. If I tell you I’m a brain surgeon, and you ask where I operate on people and I say, Well, I don’t operate on people. You say, Well then, where is your practice? And I say I don’t have one. And you say, Okay, where did you go to medical school? And I say, I didn’t. WOuld you be arrogant in concluding that I am in fact not a surgeon?

    It is the same with you claiming to rely on the Holy Spirit. You rely on what your priests, bishops, and Popes tell you. If they tell you that this verse doesnt mean what it is saying, you are bound to accept that. As a Protestant, I am not. I have no one that is my Father but God.

    You said, “Quite honestly its hard to see through the brashness of your text . . . So many subjective assumptions, like writing how Christ is going to address me after I die.”

    You should be more worried than I for your eternal soul. What I said about how you will answer when you die is a valid point, and one that you should address. I’d like to have your response on the substance of the challenge, but even if not for me, then for yourself. You will die one day. You will stand before a Holdy God and give an aswer for yourself . . . ALONE! No priest, no Pope, no church. Just you. And I hope my word make you unsettled enough to examine your loyalties. Your eternal soul depends on it.

    I hope I haven’t been too harsh. I don’t mean to be, but but more than that, I don’t want to whitewash the truth.

    Better a hard truth than a soft lie, yes?

  253. The Merriam-Webster’s definition of absurd is “ridiculously unreasonable.” So, if one believes in what is revealed by the Holy Spirit in Scripture regarding the Holy Eucharist, why would that belief be considered absurd?

    1 – In the Bread of Life discourse of John 6, Jesus explains what He means “more thoroughly” than He does anywhere. This is NOT just a mere symbolic reference as in “I am the Door” or “I am the Gate.” He goes into graphic detail about eating, using words in the Greek that mean crunching. And when those following Him say it is a hard teaching and walk away, Jesus does not run after them and tell them it’s only a symbolic teaching. No, we are not allowed to believe that. If it IS only symbolic, why doesn’t He tell them so?

    2 – The Bread of Life discourse really comes to life at the account of the Lord’s Supper. Now we know what He is referring to when He says we are to eat His flesh and drink His blood. He holds up bread and says, “This is My Body,” and holds up the cup of wine and says, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood.” But how can bread become His body and wine become His blood? Well, if God made something (the universe) out of nothing, then certainly He can make something out of something else. It’s that simple. To doubt this is to doubt the omnipotence of God.

    3 – 1 Corinthians 10:16

    “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?”

    If someone thinks that we are stretching this a bit too far, then St. Paul the Apostle is in the same boat. Paul believes that when we eat the bread, we share in the body of Christ, and when we drink the cup, we share in His blood.

    4 – 1 Corinthians 11:23-32

    “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.”

    Paul even goes so far as to say that if we eat and drink in an unworthy manner, and by unworthy he says we do not discern the body of the Lord we are consuming, then we are SINNING against the body and blood of the Lord. This is not mere bread and wine anymore. It’s right here in Scripture and when I finally realized it, I knew I could no longer stay in any Protestant congregation that didn’t believe this.

    5 – Hebrews 13:10

    “We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.”

    Now this is the real clincher for me. The author of Hebrews states clearly that we Christians have an “altar” and that eating takes place at this altar. The only even that I can think of where eating takes place is at the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Eucharist. And if this eating takes place at an altar, then there is something deeper going on than just eating. An altar implies a sacrifice, and a sacrifice implies a priest.

    Absurd? Well, this is what God the Holy Spirit has revealed through the Sacred Scriptures. Are we really allowed to say that such a teaching is absurd? What does this say about our understanding of Who God is, if we deny His omnipotence to bring about such a change in bread and wine?

    Peace,
    EJ

  254. Hi Joe, if no one else picks up the discussion, I’d like to question your claims and problems in #240.

    1. In what verse does scripture say a sinful man cannot be infallible? Isn’t Peter a sinner, and doesn’t Jesus pray to God that Peter’s faith will not fail him? (Luke 22:32) Are we not all sinners, and doesn’t God give special gifts to members of the Body?

    We believe the successor to Peter is infallible not because scripture says so, but rather if the pope has NOT been infallible throughout the ages, then he would have led the whole of Christendom into a false gospel, and the gates of Hell would have prevailed against the Church. But the Church is the pillar and foundation of the Truth, and scripture promises that the gates of Hell will never prevail against her. Therefore, the pope, who in history has been responsible for treasuring the apostolic faith, must be infallible.

    2. You say God alone can forgive sins. Does that make Jesus wrong when He gives the apostles authority to forgive sins (John 20:21)? And if Jesus can give authority to the apostles, how do you know God did not pass on this authority when the apostles laid hands on their successors?

    3. Where does scripture say that Mary sinned? You say we worship Mary, but we say we worship God alone and that there’s a difference between honoring your mother (which is a commandment) and worshiping her (idolatry).

    4. You acknowledge that Roman Catholics believe the Church’s interpretation of scripture. Why do you believe your interpretation is better? Isn’t the Church the “pillar and foundation of the Truth”, hasn’t she held fast to the traditions passed on by word of mouth and by letter? Isn’t she in agreement with the early church fathers who were taught by the apostles? Doesn’t scripture condemn dissent and schism? Doesn’t scripture condemn insisting on your own way?

  255. Joe, #242

    Thanks for the reply. No worries, I could of worded my response better as well. Sorry about that.

    I am a newer Catholic who is seeking to continue to know the truth about God, wherever it may lead. Do I claim to know for sure, no. Thats why I continue to search. So when I dialogue with someone who claims to know things like my state with God when I die, I tend to say, eh not interested. What I am interested in is humbly learning and listening with people of even different views of Christianity. Not because I’m wishy washy, but simply because I care about being open and willing to hear God. But I think for me that is in part a reason I was lead here, to the Catholic Church. It was the moment I stopped trying to accuse the Church, and instead was open to listening and understanding it.

    I will try and narrow down to one or two things to respond to since it is a bit taxing to follow all the replies.

    In #252 you said,
    Regarding “You DON’T” in #210, I have no choice but to make that statement. If I tell you I’m a brain surgeon, and you ask where I operate on people and I say, Well, I don’t operate on people. You say, Well then, where is your practice? And I say I don’t have one. And you say, Okay, where did you go to medical school? And I say, I didn’t. WOuld you be arrogant in concluding that I am in fact not a surgeon?
    I’m having trouble understanding how your analogy applies? Could you explain further? Are you implying that I can claim to be a Christian who knows the truth or how to listen to the spirit if and when I graduate from a seminary? If so, which seminary would qualify?
    I do not think that a Priest, or Pope will be standing to defend me before Christ one day. However I do see the value in having a speaking Magisterium, and someone to look to for guidance in understanding the truths in scripture. Everyone does it with someone. Before I was Catholic, I had those like John MacArthur, Michael Horton, Keith Mathison, and a plethora of others to help me understand the scriptures and what they are saying. As I mentioned above, would you give me a pass if I said I was being guided by the spirit, but learned what I know to be truth at a place like Westminster?
    One more thing. If one would say, I don’t listen to anybody but “me and my Bible”, doesn’t that simply imply that they would be relying on their own understanding? Aren’t they the arbiter of truth? how would two Protestants who have apposing views on Romans 3:28 reconcile that the Holy Spirit is revealing different truths?

  256. EJ #253,

    Point 1-

    EJ, John 6 is clearly talking about ‘salvation’, not communion. I could detail that for you, but I don’t think it will do any good. I think you have a mindset, and when the Father chooses to, He will teach you the Truth. But just a word on it, If we are to take those words literally, as you would have, then one need only take communion, and, as it says in verse 51 of John 6, “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” So, if you were to be honest and consistent, then you would have to say mere taking of the bread is a guarantee of heaven.

    4 – 1 Corinthians 11:23-32. And just what is the ‘body of Christ’? The church, is it not?. 1 Corinthians 12:27, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.” If there, why not John 6? Especially since John 6 mentions absolutely nothing about communion.

    Hebrews 13:10. Let’s quote the entire passage, shall we?

    “7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
    17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

    Now, EJ. Somehow, you get a message on communion from that passage? I don’t know how to help you, my friend. Seek Him, and perhaps he will ‘grant you repentance.’

  257. J. Brumely #254,

    Hi Jonathan, good to talk to you.

    You said, “1. In what verse does scripture say a sinful man cannot be infallible? Isn’t Peter a sinner, and doesn’t Jesus pray to God that Peter’s faith will not fail him? (Luke 22:32) Are we not all sinners, and doesn’t God give special gifts to members of the Body? ”

    No verse in the Bible says that Jesus did not steal. However, when we have it stating that He “Did not sin” we can logically ascribe perfection to him. In the same way, when the Bible tells us that man is wicked, evil, sinful, his heart is deceitful above all things, there is none righteous, no not one, I think we can be safe in saying any man does not have any ‘perfection’ option.

    And to your next point, if Peter can be infallible and have been given ‘special gifts’, why can’t I? Or you? Or anyone? And if we can be infallible once, why not twice? Why not thrice? Why not 20 times, a hundred times, a thousand, a million?

    Praying that his faith will not fail him is not saying he is infallible.

    You said, “We believe the successor to Peter is infallible not because scripture says so . . .”

    That is wherein lies the problem, Jonathan. All of this discussion is merely academic. You don’t need the Bible to defend your beliefs. If you Pope says it, you must believe it. End of story. If he tells you that the verse that says “Do not call any man on earth father” (Matt. 23:9) doesn’t really mean “Do not call any man on earth father”, then you must believe it, and not question the Pope’s word.

    You trust him. I trust Him. That’s the difference.

    You said, “2. You say God alone can forgive sins. Does that make Jesus wrong when He gives the apostles authority to forgive sins (John 20:21)? And if Jesus can give authority to the apostles, how do you know God did not pass on this authority when the apostles laid hands on their successors?”

    If the apostles can forgive sins, that verse says nothing about apostolic succession. Nor does anywhere else in the Bible. So, you must first establish succession before any such argument can be made.

    Mary sins. Luke 1:46-47, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my savior.” That was Mary speaking. Only the sinful need a savior.

    You said, “4. You acknowledge that Roman Catholics believe the Church’s interpretation of scripture. Why do you believe your interpretation is better?”

    Because my interpretation doesn’t defy scripture. The Roman church’s does, i.e., “Call not man father”.

    You said, “Isn’t the Church the “pillar and foundation of the Truth”, hasn’t she held fast to the traditions passed on by word of mouth and by letter?”

    Not the Roman church. The church of Rome has had a whole host of terrors throughout history, and I think it’s because of her straying from the Bible.

    “Isn’t she in agreement with the early church fathers who were taught by the apostles?”

    Augustine believed in Calvinistic Predestination. The Roman church disagrees with him on that, as well as other church fathers in other areas.

    “Doesn’t scripture condemn dissent and schism? Doesn’t scripture condemn insisting on your own way?”

    No, it doesn’t. Christ Himself was the first reformer. As your church has done, the Pharisees strayed from truth and Christ started His own ‘schism’ with His teaching of truth the church of the time. He taught the apostles to ‘insist on their own way’ taught them to defy the church leaders and their evil ways, even to the point of death, just like medieval believers did when the Roman Catholic church put them to death and tortured them when they dissented for truth.

  258. Hunter #255,

    On my brain surgeon analogy. I meant that when you say you believe in the Word of God as the supreme and final arbiter of truth, that is just not the case. I know you say it, I apprehend your claim. But it must be false. Because if you find something in it that your church is at odds with, you look to then for their “interpretation”, regardless of how far off it is from the clear meaning of the words used. Therefore, I must conclude that you DON’T in fact believe that scripture is the final arbiter of truth. In fact, you believe that the Pope is.

    It’s inescapable.

    You said, “I do not think that a Priest, or Pope will be standing to defend me before Christ one day. However I do see the value in having a speaking Magisterium, and someone to look to for guidance in understanding the truths in scripture.”

    See Hunter, buddy, you don’t seem to realize what you are saying. When you say you “value . . . someone to look to for guidance . . .” that is a misrepresentation of your beliefs. You don’t merely ‘look to them for guidance’, you trust in them implicitly without reserve or challenge. If all you did was look to them for guidance, all of True Christianity would not have a problem with the Roman church. I look for guidance form John MacArhtur, R.C. Sproul, and many others. However, if they tell me that the Bible says this, but I see that they are wrong, I don’t follow their council on that. I defy them. And when I do, they say, Well, I suppose we’ll just have to disagree on that. But your Pope demands that you believe whatever he tells you to and you swallow it, no matter what the Bible says.

    So, I would ask you to be brutally honest with yourself and say, Yes, I do follow them, even if the Bible says differently.

    The Roman church does not allow dissent. It never has, and I presume it never will. If the Pope says it, it must be followed.

    You said, “. . . would you give me a pass if I said I was being guided by the spirit, but learned what I know to be truth at a place like Westminster?”

    No. I’ll give you a pass if you show it to me in the Bible.

    You said, “One more thing. If one would say, I don’t listen to anybody but “me and my Bible”, doesn’t that simply imply that they would be relying on their own understanding? Aren’t they the arbiter of truth? how would two Protestants who have apposing views on Romans 3:28 reconcile that the Holy Spirit is revealing different truths?”

    If own person says that 2 + 2 = 4, and another says 2 + 2 = 3, are they relying on their own understanding? No. One is relying on truth and logic, and the other is relying on a falsehood. So, if two people have differing opinions on a verse then one is right and one is wrong, or both are wrong. Again, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

    If someone tells me that the man of God will NOT be equipped for every good work by scripture, and that 1 John 2:27, “you have no need for any man to teach you,” really means you need Roman church to teach you, then he is saying 2 + 2 = 3.

  259. Hunter #255,

    On my brain surgeon analogy. I meant that when you say you believe in the Word of God as the supreme and final arbiter of truth, that is just not the case. I know you say it, I apprehend your claim. But it must be false. Because if you find something in it that your church is at odds with, you look to then for their “interpretation”, regardless of how far off it is from the clear meaning of the words used. Therefore, I must conclude that you DON’T in fact believe that scripture is the final arbiter of truth. In fact, you believe that the Pope is.

    It’s inescapable.

    You said, “I do not think that a Priest, or Pope will be standing to defend me before Christ one day. However I do see the value in having a speaking Magisterium, and someone to look to for guidance in understanding the truths in scripture.”

    See Hunter, buddy, you don’t seem to realize what you are saying. When you say you “value . . . someone to look to for guidance . . .” that is a misrepresentation of your beliefs. You don’t merely ‘look to them for guidance’, you trust in them implicitly without reserve or challenge. If all you did was look to them for guidance, all of True Christianity would not have a problem with the Roman church. I look for guidance form John MacArhtur, R.C. Sproul, and many others. However, if they tell me that the Bible says this, but I see that they are wrong, I don’t follow their council on that. I defy them. And when I do, they say, Well, I suppose we’ll just have to disagree on that. But your Pope demands that you believe whatever he tells you to and you swallow it, no matter what the Bible says.

    So, I would ask you to be brutally honest with yourself and say, Yes, I do follow them, even if the Bible says differently.

    The Roman church does not allow dissent. It never has, and I presume it never will. If the Pope says it, it must be followed.

    You said, “. . . would you give me a pass if I said I was being guided by the spirit, but learned what I know to be truth at a place like Westminster?”

    No. I’ll give you a pass if you show it to me in the Bible.

    You said, “One more thing. If one would say, I don’t listen to anybody but “me and my Bible”, doesn’t that simply imply that they would be relying on their own understanding? Aren’t they the arbiter of truth? how would two Protestants who have apposing views on Romans 3:28 reconcile that the Holy Spirit is revealing different truths?”

    If own person says that 2 + 2 = 4, and another says 2 + 2 = 3, are they relying on their own understanding? No. One is relying on truth and logic, and the other is relying on a falsehood. So, if two people have differing opinions on a verse then one is right and one is wrong, or both are wrong. Again, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

    If someone tells me that the man of God will NOT be equipped for every good work by scripture, and that 1 John 2:27, “you have no need for any man to teach you,” really means you need a man from Roman church to teach you, then he is saying 2 + 2 = 3.

    And I will NEVER accept that.

  260. Hello Joe,

    Nice to make your acquaintance! Hey, you are being diligent by replying to so many people on here. Thanks for hanging out and talking.
    I wish I could get some people that I know to go as far as you have. Why I disagree with your reasoning, I do commend you for engaging.

    You see, I left a Calvinist church and became Catholic in December, and no one that I know, not even, my former pastors has joined in on *any* of the discussions at the site. And I sent them loads of articles! This really hurts me because I don’t see them as even trying to understand how I began to entertain the idea that the Catholic Church is true. Seriously, Joe, they act as if every argument from articles written here by former Reformed/Presbyterian ministers no less, are so completely alien to their framework as not to be worth the bother, I guess; even though taking the time to parse them out for me could have(from their perspective when the perspicuity of scripture should yield uniform results) resulted in my having been convinced and remained Reformed. I feel that I wasn’t worth the bother. If people are reading articles and listening to lectures from this website shouldn’t Reformed pastors be engaging with the arguments that are convincing their own parishioners?

    Now, I’m thought of as complete sucker for being fooled by what is so blatantly a deception. They did not do due diligence with me at all. They gave up when I told them that I was unable to give intellectual assent to sola scriptura because I found it an untenable doctrine. Because it is one of the five solas, an “essential dogma” according to the Reformed, I was immediately and irrevocably outside the camp.( If it were tenable it would be convincing in practice, right?) Further, I asked to be able to email Dr. Michael Horton, whom I hoped could help, but wasn’t allowed. So I wasn’t exactly treated fairly or lovingly.
    I was placed under silent censure and accused of proselytizing those within that community, just last week. Now I ask, how do we talk to each other if sharing articles or discussing our differences is considered proselytizing? Will you be scolded if your pastors find out that you are engaging on a Catholic website?

    They said how sorry they were for me that I was being led to believe that Catholicism was true, but not one of them ever addressed the material in one of the articles that I linked them to. But they wanted me to read this book or that book( which I did), and those books were always from a distinctively Reformed supposition. I’m sure that you can appreciate how hard it was that I should be stuck in the middle if I have definitively Catholic dogmas on one side and definitively Reformed formularies on the other. This is what the whole disagreement comes down to, right? You are defending a Reformed perspective of scriptural interpretation, are you not? Saying that your view is scriptural is all fine, but I see you as one voice amoung many at a table of opposing views. But what does one do when they recognize that all of the rest of the churches in the East, those that were not affected by the Reformation, have doctrines in common with the RCC? Shouldn’t this provide a clue that Christianity should look more like the East than like the modern Protestant churches of today? Shouldn’t things look more sacred and shouldn’t Christianity look more like an ancient religion? This historical way of approaching things puts one in contact with an orthopraxy that is unfamiliar to his modern sensibilities. For me to say, “Nah, that’s all a bunch of Romanish accretions!” is in all honesty, chronological snobbery. What’s more, coming at the data with a Reformed/modern sensibility is really stacking the deck. I can’t twist the evidence because I don’t like something. Take for instance that the Eucharist as the Sacrifice of the Altar, looks the same everywhere in Christendom, EXCEPT, every Protestant Church. A revealed religion doesn’t work this way.

    If the Reformation was about the selling of indulgences, which of course was wrong, please do note that an indulgence was after all a teaching of the Church. Did Luther have the right to change *everything* in the process of reforming a single bad? If the church had historically had pulpits rather than altars, why were altars even inside churches for so many hundreds of years? If altars weren’t furniture from the very beginning, when did Christians begin installing them and why?

    Why was is it safe to dispense with a practice that had been in place for soooo long, all on the whim of a few men who could plausibly been dissenters? You see, it is many things coming together that reveal that Catholicism is true.
    I’m attempting to show you that you are operating from a particular presupposition which you can only ever defend by a Reformed formulary, and that is the same as having a paper pope.
    Thanks for the discussion!
    ~Susan Vader

  261. Joe,

    Perhaps, I should have refrained from beginning a discusion with you. I won’t be able to converse a whole lot. I have young children still, and they need me. I will do my best to respond. I don’t want a discussion to keep you away from reading articles though, and would really like to encourage you to peruse the material here. There is so much rich reading!

    God Bless!
    Susan

  262. Hi Joe,

    1. It’s interesting that when I asked you to disprove apostolic succession from scripture, you asked me to prove apostolic succession from scripture. It seems like we’re stuck on that one.

    2. Please don’t misunderstand what Catholics mean when they say “papal infallibility”. We certainly don’t mean “papal sinlessness”. “Papal infalllibility” is a special gift of teaching authority, by which God ensures the Church will remain the pillar and foundation of the Truth. If the Church has passed on falsehood throughout the centuries, then she is not the pillar and foundation of the Truth. But she is the pillar and foundation of the Truth, therefore she has not passed on falsehood. I think this is a simple conclusion from what scripture says about the Church.

    3. I agree calling a man “father” seems to defy a literal interpretation of Jesus’s words. But I can’t believe Jesus meant this to apply literally in all relationships, because scripture makes plenty of exceptions to this. Paul calls himself “father” when he says “For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:14–15)”, and John says “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.” (1 John 2:13), and when Elisha calls to Elijah “my father, my father!” (2 Kings 2:12). Not to mention the numerous references to “elders” and spiritual “children” of the apostles. You’re free to interpret this verse however you want, but I’m going to continue to call my elder “Father”, because the apostles passed on this tradition.

    4. Augustine certainly believed that the elect are predestined, as does the Catholic Church. But if you think Augustine believed what Calvin believed about “double predestination”, then we’ll have to differ. http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/11/lawrence-feingold-on-predestinatio/

    5. You said scripture does not condemn dissent and schism. However, these sins are explicitly condemned in Galatians 5:19: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

    We could continue comparing your interpretation of scripture with the Catholic Church’s interpretation – but if you’re trying to find a contradiction, then I think you’ll have to look a while. Catholics have been reflecting on scripture for 2000 years, so I think you’ll find it difficult to come up with something that hasn’t already been studied in depth.

  263. Susan #260,

    And so mice to meet you as well.

    Susan, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. It may be that you Reformed pastors are quite busy. Who knows. And, it may be that they don’t care. Until I get an actual confirmation of someone’s insouciance, I try to think the best of them, bending over backwards in giving them an out. Not that you don’t and already haven’t. Perhaps you have, I’m just saying . . .

    You said, “If it (sola scriptura) were tenable it would be convincing in practice, right?”

    Not at all. You see, human behavior and more specifically, failure, has nothing to do with logical reasoning. Any human “practice” is subject to the fallen state of the individual. Logic is not. Logic and rational reasoning is constant. So, something can be tenable and yet not humanly practicable.

    I don’t know what denomination you were in, Susan, but it doesn’t sound like a Reformed one to me. Grace Community church of John MacArhtur, Ligonier ministirs of R.C. Sproul, and Micheal Horton himself would never stop you from emailing anyone. Now, like all churches, even Roman Catholic, they would not allow anyone to disrupt the service or engage people in any sinful activity, but to ask questions would never be hampered. They even have practicing Roman Catholic people that have attended their churches.

    If they were doing as you say, they were not a Reformed church, regardless of what they may have told you.

    About Christianity “looking like” something, or as you say, “Shouldn’t things look more sacred and shouldn’t Christianity look more like an ancient religion?”

    I don’t mean to be harsh, here, but that is a ridiculous and dangerous reasoning. What in the blankety blank difference does it make how anything looks!? Lord in heaven, I beg God to give you wisdom. The Pharisees “looked” like they of God. They weren’t. Judas “looked” like he loved Christ. He didn’t. Satan “looks” like an angel of light. He’s not. The Roman Catholic church “looks” like it’s swamped with pedophiles. The Mormon church “looks” like a true Christian religion.

    Dear, dear Susan, you need to abandon you view of how things of people or churches should “look” and utilize the mind God gave you and read His holy inerrant Word to find out how the church should think and act and believe.

    You said, “Why was is it safe to dispense with a practice that had been in place for soooo long, all on the whim of a few men who could plausibly been dissenters? You see, it is many things coming together that reveal that Catholicism is true.”

    When I came to the reformed understanding, I had never even heard of Luther, Calvin, Augustine, or or any other church father. I simply read the Bible. I was told by an Arminian Baptist church that it is ‘we’ who choose to be saved, we who make the final decision of where we will spend eternity. Then I read Ephesians 1 and thought that this verse must be wrong. “But,” I thought, “It can’t be wrong. It’s God’s word.” That’s how I came to know what I know. Not any historical or otherwise church leader.

    So, all you condemnation of Calvin and Luther and all that played no part in my salvation nor my theology. It wasn’t until much later did their works come in front of me and I found them to be telling the truth. It was I, on my own with nothing but the Word of God that led me to the beliefs I hold.

  264. J. Brumley #262,

    You said, “1. It’s interesting that when I asked you to disprove apostolic succession from scripture, you asked me to prove apostolic succession from scripture. It seems like we’re stuck on that one.”

    No, not so, Jonathan. I’m go0ing to use a word here, and I don’t want you to be insulted by it. You are ignorant of how logic works. Again, no insult, we are all ignorant of something. A brain surgeon is ignorant of how to frame a house.

    I once had a Muslim hold up the Koran and demand that anyone disprove that it was not the word of god. You are doing the same thing. If you assert that the Bible teaches something, then it is encumbent upon YOU to prove your case. One cannot say I think there are gray pebbles a thousand feet beneath the sea, now it’s up to you to prove it’s not so.

    If there is succession, the burden of proof is on you.

    I, Joe Keck, claim that God predestined we Christians to our heavenly destiny before the world was even created. I do not say, as you do, now prove that we weren’t. I give the proof: Ephesians 1:4, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”

    Understand my point?

    You said, “. . . by which God ensures the Church will remain the pillar and foundation of the Truth.”

    Notice that very little of your defense is from scripture. In point number 2 you use much words but little scripture. If all the Roman church’s claims were true then they would merely do as we Reformed do and quote scripture. You guys hardly ever do. I think it’s because you have use syllogisms instead of scriptures to strain and pull to get the Roman view to add up. I mean, if you could, you would just show where the Bible says, yes, Rome is where truth lies, or, the church of Rome is the true church.

    “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.” (1 John 2:13).

    Then we have Christ saying “Call no man on this earth father.”

    Now, which is more gravitous and direct? Which is a simple statement from an apostle and which is a command to NOT DO IT from our Lord!

    I think you know, regardless of what you may say.

    Point 4, I have nothing to say on that. It would be futile for both of us.

    About point 5. Seriously?

  265. Hello Again, Joe @236

    Well, I do appreciate your talking to me, but I’m not sure how to approach your insistance that the bible is clear to anyone who can reason and use logic.

    The church of which I was a member is a confessionally Reformed denomination the same as the one Dr. Horton attends. It holds to the Three Forms of Unity. But, I was steered clear of Dr. Horton because he was a busy man and my pastor felt that he and the assistant pastor could deal with my confusion or objections, not with scripture, but their own particular take on scripture, that must surely be on par with what the Confessions state, which were “undoubtedly” on par with the scriptures…
    I hope you might be able to see the circular reasoning here. If the Confessions are wrong, how would you know? More pointedly, as a ruling body to which a Christian is supposed to obey, is the Reformed denominations that uphold all that the confessions say, closest to understanding what scripture teaches? If you disagree with the confessions are you outside of Christianity?
    I disagree with sola scriptura, so where can I worship where I don’t have to confess a peculiarly Reformed dogma?

    Susan

  266. Hi Joe,

    To be fair, I did not assert that the Bible teaches apostolic succession. I don’t believe in sola scriptura. I believe in the FULL apostolic tradition which was passed down “by word of mouth and by letter” (2 Thess 2:15), to which the Church holds fast. I agree that if I were trying to convince you of apostolic succession, then I would have to prove it from scripture, because you believe in sola scriptura. But I’m not trying to do that. However, if you want to prove to ME that the apostolic successors do not have the power to forgive sins, then you need to convince me that apostolic succession is NOT true. And you have two ways to do that – either, you can show that apostolic succession contradicts what scripture says about the faith, OR, you can show definitively that bishops in the early church, after the apostolic era, did not forgive sins.

    When I showed you in point 5 how scripture shows that dissent and schism is a sin, and you reply “seriously?”, that tells me you don’t want to dialogue. So maybe we should end it at that.

  267. J. Brumley #262,

    You, Jonathan, are being UN-fair. Rather than incessantly and stubbornly defending every statement you make, you should have said, Yes, Joe, you are right. It is an illogical fallacy to ask someone to prove a negative, i.e., “disprove apostolic succession”. Unless you were ignorant of such a proposal, unaware that such a request breaks the rules of logical reasoning. If so, you should have had the intelligence to admit your mistake and own up to it. When Hunter told me that the use of the word “Romanism” was a pejorative in the mind of the Catholic, I admitted that I was ignorant of that and would refrain from its use. You should have done the same when you realized proving a negative was an illogical and unreasonable demand in intellectual circles.

    But you didn’t.

    The fact that you lack the courage to do so tells me that yes, indeed, perhaps we are not suited for debate with one another.

    Regarding point 5. Yes, I don’t want to dialogue with someone that would use such an out of context and scant evidence to back their point.

    I once had a Jehova’s Witness tell me that the Bible says to “Hate your mother.” She was right, it does say that. But it is a foolish tactic that seeks not truth, but only trickery.

    I am seeking truth only, wherever that leads. If it leads to Satan as the true creator, then so be it.

    When you do things like, “5. You said scripture does not condemn dissent and schism. However, these sins are explicitly condemned in Galatians 5:19: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

    You know full well – at least I hope you do – that the term ‘schism’ in that passage does not mean any and all schism. If it did, Christ Himself would be guilty, for He started a schism by instituting (schisming, if you will) Christianity from the religion of the day.

    I thank you for your comments, but as I said, we may be unable to converse in the future.

  268. Susan # 265,

    You said, “. . . he and the assistant pastor could deal with my confusion or objections, not with scripture, but their own particular take on scripture, that must surely be on par with what the Confessions state, which were “undoubtedly” on par with the scriptures…”

    No, Susan, you either misunderstand or are under a misconception. Horton, Sproul, MacArthure, and every other Reformed advocate will tell you that NOTHING is on par with scripture. NOTHING! Not the Confessions, not Augustine, not ANYTHING!

    Scripture is the one and only holy and immutable tangible thing extant. Period!

    Another problem. You said, “More pointedly, as a ruling body to which a Christian is supposed to obey . . .”

    WE are the ruling body. Christians. Not the church, not the pastor, not the elders. The holy Spirit and the Bible is our ruling body. Not, having said that, we do have our local church that we are to listen to and learn from. And if those elders’ teachings are consistent with the Bible we are to follow their teaching. However, if it isn’t, we are to NOT follow their teaching.

    This is proved beyond a shadow of a doubt (provided your thinking is rational) with Acts 17:11. “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

    Paul praised the Bereans for making sure what HE was saying was correct. He also said in Galatians 1:9, “As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!”

    Now, if you are to be honest, you HAVE to infer that Paul is leaving it up to the RECEIVER to decide if “what Paul (or any apostle) said was true.”

    There’s just no getting around it.

    You said, “If you disagree with the confessions are you outside of Christianity?”

    If the Confessions align with scripture, then yes. If they do not align with scripture, then no.

    You said, “I disagree with sola scriptura, so where can I worship where I don’t have to confess a peculiarly Reformed dogma?”

    If you disagree with sola scriptura, then any church and any religion is a candidate for you. Mormon, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Muslim, Witness, Bahai, Wicca, just pick one. Let them tell you whatever they want you to believe, let them interpret the Bible for you, or whichever book they think is right, and follow them.

    It really doesn’t matter.

    Or you can believe the Bible.

    I pray ‘God grants you repentance’ 2 Timothy 2:25, and you believe His word.

  269. Joe,

    You say that “everyone is ignorant of something”. Are you open to the possibility that you, yourself, are ignorant of something? I am sure that you are, since all the reformed kneel down before the word of God and await any godly correction or admonition. Now, it seems as though you are coming from a reformed baptist calvinistic viewpoint. And I have to hand it to you, the most scientific and logical viewpoint is this one, if we restrict ourselves to the text of the Scripture. I will give you that one. Being 21st century human beings, as rational and logical as we can be, we cannot answer for ourselves dogmatically unless there is a teaching so explicit and clear that it is beyond question.

    For instance, when the reformed speak of baptism, they simply argue that it is a scandalous idea that material water flowing over the skin of the body causes grace into the very soul of the human being, and from this deduce that when baptism is spoken of in salvific categories (Such as Paul “…there is one baptism…” – Ephesians 4) in the New Testament, the authors must be referring to some invisible spiritual event which cannot be exactly linked to any known time, place, or in conjunction with anything in the physical world. Now, they do not begin here of course. There are many others reasons why they reason that references to baptism are purely spiritual, not least the issue of election, predestination, justification, and faith.

    Now, I used to be in your shoes, and I used to view Catholics as you do. Yes, it is possible for someone to have been in your shoes at one point in time. Currently, you believe that you are presently under the guiding force of the invisible Holy Spirit to believe in a hidden and mysterious truth that is not openly revealed to anyone but only to those, like yourself, who have been “elected” to believe. In addition, you do not believe that such a process can be canceled in the future. Therefore, without knowing it, you have attributed to yourself the absolute assurance of salvation, absolute infallibility (which is interesting because this is what you find scandalous about the Catholic Church) when it comes to the essentials for salvation, and the inability for you to ever lose these graces. You do not even allow a reformation to your own state. You may say that your conscience is bound to the word of God, and are always open to it’s correction, but you have claimed that God has already revealed to you the truth since you claim you are saved and you tell others you will pray to God for them to have their eyes opened like He did yours. So which is it? Is your state reformable, or is it not? It seems it is not.

    You believe that at one miraculous instant in the past, you have been sovereignly taken over by God to believe what you currently believe for His own purpose in saving your soul. Now, of course you attribute the cause of all this to God alone and nothing to yourself. But sometimes you have to take a step back and realize that what you yourself are claiming is not much different than what the Catholic Church claims about herself (minus the claim to never lose salvation), just not in a visible physical way, but rather just in a purely spiritual invisible falsifiable way. Moreover, all of this is tied to your view of the Scriptures. Your present state of mind is permanently tied to your convinction that you, in a very unique way, have been given the eyesight to rightfully read the Scriptures and interpret them in the way that God had intended.

    But there is still hope in your discussion with Catholics. For you still rely, a bit anyway, on the rules of grammar, logic, sound reason, and sound argumentation. I am not quite sure what your view of historical evidence is worth, but my assumption is that you do not give it much worth, not enough to change your mind about anything anyway. I know you honor logic, reason, and grammar because all of your reformed heroes do this in their commentaries. Everything is about the text.

    But given this situation and your assumptions, there is not much a catholic can offer you unless we speak to you on the field of the Holy Scriptures. And one way of doing this is topic by topic. And you have to do it one at a time. What doctrine would you like to discuss in relevance to Casey’s testimony?

  270. Joe,

    Let’s look at the text again, shall we?

    “We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.”

    “We…” – followers of Christ

    “…have an altar…” – a place of sacrifice

    “…from which those who minister at the tabernacle…” – Jewish priests

    “…have no right to eat.” – Self-explanatory

    Now, where in the corporate worship of the local congregation does eating take place?

    EJ

  271. Re: #267

    Hi Joe,

    I’m confused why you don’t want to disprove apostolic succession, because if apostolic succession is true, then the Catholic Church is indeed the Church founded by Christ. And if apostolic succession were untrue, then you would be able to convince any Catholic to leave the Church.

    I studied computer science in school, and no one ever told me it is illogical to “disprove a negative”. We frequently had to disprove a hypothesis for homework, sometimes that hypothesis had a negative in the statement. I also don’t understand why you call apostolic succession a “negative” assertion. So I don’t see why it would be illogical for you to try to disprove apostolic succession, just as you are attempting to disprove other Catholic beliefs.

    Regarding schism, I certainly don’t know “full well” that when Paul condemns “division”/”schism” that he is condemning something other than actions which attempt to divide the Church. I don’t see any evidence that he is defining schism in that way, nor do I believe Jesus created a “schism” with the Old Covenant.

    The New Covenant is not a “schism” from the Old Covenant because it is a fulfillment of that covenant. God made a promise, fulfilled it, and made a new pr