Jason Stellman Tells His Conversion Story

Mar 21st, 2013 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Regular readers of Called To Communion are familiar with Jason Stellman. In September of last year we posted an article he wrote for us titled “I Fought the Church, and the Church Won.” In November of last year, I interviewed Jason regarding his conversion from Presbyterian pastor to Catholic, and posted the podcast of that interview here. On March 9 of this year, Jason Stellman gave a talk at the Holy Family Conference at Holy Family Parish in Kirkland, Washington. Jason had been planning to talk about “The cruciform life” during that session of the conference. But in the hour before his talk was scheduled to begin, he had lunch with Scott Hahn, who convinced him to tell his conversion story instead. So he did, and thankfully the event was recorded:

 

Download the mp3 by right-clicking here.

Jason blogs at CreedCodeCult.com.

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  1. So I found this post at 1:35 a.m. on a worknight. Thanks a lot C2C. Clicking play now.

  2. Thanks, Bryan, (et. al.).
    Very sad to hear him.

  3. “…That moment when you say ‘look, I can fit that verse into my paradigm, but someone holding my paradigm would never say that.’” (22:40)

    Bingo. That paradigm shift is a wild ride.
    Nice to have you on board Francis’ boat Jason.

  4. Jason, I can’t believe you didn’t find my “We’re “ƒ%#@!” answer satisfying.

  5. I appreciated the task of reading the NT again and highlighting phrases and passages that wouldn’t be said if the author held your paradigm. I’d love to see your notes on this. Even if it only got to Mt 18. Has anyone else here made a similar list?

  6. Jason, I listened to all 3 of your recent conversion accounts from your blog. As an ex-”truly reformed” Christian, I can relate to much of what you went through. Your observations on the Catholic bloggers/authors attitudes, in general, contrasted with the reformed attitudes, in general, resonated powerfully to my wife and I. I’ve commented here previously that the arrogance sometimes displayed by many popular reformed apologists (which I was encouraged to read by the reformed to get “both sides”) did contribute to my conversion. Thanks for your testimony.

  7. Hugh (#2):

    What is sad to you about this testimony? He sounds to me to be full of the Lord’s joy. Finding the True Church is in no ways at odds with finding Jesus Himself; quite the contrary, I’d say.

    isaiah.

  8. Did I understand correctly that his wife and kids are still with the PCA, or did they eventually the Church?

  9. Isaiah,

    He sounds like Luther in reverse – running away from the light of Christ to structure, hierarchy, centralized authority, sacred tradition, no eternal assurance, but plenty of temporal and temporary assurance (until he morally sins again), etc.

    Gullible, Jason, you are gullible. Deceiving and being deceived, as Paul put it. There is no way to prove this, any more than you can prove your side.

    You claim no one had a good argument against your queries. I would maintain that you simply don’t believe the arguments of your professors and others. (I loved the reference I believe to Steve Baugh!)

    So be it. Seeing eyes and hearing ears must be granted one from above. May God have mercy on you.

  10. Hugh McCann,

    Why would you speak that way to Jason? You didn’t lay out a single argument as to why your paradigm is preferable to his. No one had good arguments for my queries either, and I was honestly alarmed that its been this long since the Reformation and the Reformed System has so many glaring holes that even a lay person like myself could spot them. I don’t blame the Magisterial Reformers, but I sure was surprised that so much has gotten past so many for so long.
    Since there is no such thing a universal salvation, how do you know that you are not one of those “who went of from us because you were not among us?”
    You’d think that since he can’t help it that God wasn’t merciful to him like He was to you because he doesn’t have seeing eyes and hearing ears, his haters would be really kind so as to win him back with the love of Christ, or ignore him altogether.

    This behavior is so cruel, and people hurt. Please seek to make it right.

    Susan

  11. Hugh,

    Did the Apostles believe in an authority structure? If they did and if they began churches with a structure for authority, then was this authority the kind which can just spring up anywhere and at anytime through the proper understanding of Scripture? If so, which of the many communities which have done this has the structure which if of divine authority that make up the varied groups of Protestantism today? If you are thinking along the lines that all the diverse communities have the number of the elect scattered and sub-grouped within them, then can all the Elect have mutually exclusive understandings about the gospel? If they cannot, then this means that only a sub-groups out of all the protestant groupings are within your standard of being able to be saved or elect. If then there are only a sub-group of communities which are protestant wherein a person who submits to the ecclesiastical teaching authority (which Hebrews 13:7 teaches) can be genuinely saved, which groups are these? How can you know these groups are the ones whom God accepts alone?

    It is clear that you believe that Catholics, who believe in Catholic theology, are lost and condemned because of their doctrine. If this is the case, then you have applied a certain standard to be able to put Catholics on the “hell-bound” line unto the final judgement. If this is case as well, then you have a standard by which to put the Elect on the “heaven-bound” line unto the final judgement. Since there is no choice for you but to accept this logic (unless you deny it in the name of some invisible revelation to the inner senses), could you be a loving person and share with us what the standard of doctrine determining whether someone “can” be saved or definitely lost.

    If you see all these questions as superfluous and inferior to the inner revelation which the Holy Spirit alone gives to man, then do you reject Protestant apologetics to the unsaved? If you reject Protestant apologetics to the unsaved, does this not require the use of reason and fine questioning? If you accept Protestant apologetics, why would you denounce the same kind of logic which undermines and falsifies the protestant conception of the gospel? If you accept Protestant apologetics, then you believe there are arguments which can potentially lead one to see that Catholicism has demonic doctrine, using logic and reason, while not resting on logic and reason as the foundation of persuasion. If you believe that logic and reason can and will do this, given that the person is illuminated by the Holy Spirit, then why would you not provide some reason as to why you believe what you believe?

  12. This is a good time to remind everybody of our posting guidelines.

    That means that you may not criticize or insult or belittle or judge or mock any person, his character, intelligence, education, background, or motivations. Attacking persons is fallacious and uncharitable and will not be permitted here.

  13. Hey Matthew,

    You understood correctly, my wife and kids are still attending Exile Pres, which I planted.

  14. Thanks, Jason. I’m glad Scott talked you into this.

    I can tell you from personal experience that as a new convert, you will come under attack from the Enemy, trying to convince you to leave the Church, or not to pursue it so deeply. So, I will be praying for you and the strength of your family!

    God bless.

  15. I’m listening to your talk now Jason so you may cover this but was your wife willing to convalidate your marriage so you could enter the Church?

  16. That has got to be tough, Jason. Do your wife and children not share your views on Catholicism?

    How do y’all work out your differences in your family life?

    I apologize if this is too personal. I’m in a similar spot myself, almost ready to make the leap, without wife and children.

  17. Dan,

    No, they do not share my convictions. My wife is awesome and totally respects me, but she also thinks I’m kind of nuts!

  18. Jason, I have followed your story for some time now and have prayed for you and your family and also requested prayers for you from our Adoration teams. I came back to the one holy catholic and apostolic church after over 25 years of fully embracing Evangelicalism/Protestism. I am back in the church today for many of the same reasons that you converted. Like you it hasn’t always been easy and many of my friends and family think I have lost my mind and thats ok because to lose myself is to gain Christ. Once the scales fell from my eyes I honestly had no other choice. I finally know true peace and God is sculpting me one day at a time. Thank you for sharing your story. God be with you and grant you peace. P.S. It took 14 years but Tim Staples family finally converted and his brother became a Priest. ; )

  19. (Re #16-18): St. Monica, pray for us!

  20. Jason,

    Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful testimony. Please know there are so many praying for your job search and your family during this time. We all are so excited to see your vocation in the Church take flight.

    Peace of Christ,

    Patrick

  21. Thanks Susan. To your concerns: Why would you speak that way to Jason? You didn’t lay out a single argument as to why your paradigm is preferable to his.
    >You’re right – I wasn’t arguing at all. I wasn’t posting to argue as had Mr Stellman’s seminary profs (many of whom I had in the late 1990s).

    Since there is no such thing a universal salvation, how do you know that you are not one of those “who went of from us because you were not among us?”
    >Only by faith. :)

    You’d think …his haters would be really kind so as to win him back with the love of Christ, or ignore him altogether.
    >No, Ma’am. You might think that, but not we all. But if Mr Stellman wishes to report his being hurt, I will gladly reconsider my comments. As to winning him with the love of Christ – that was laid out by better, more sanctified, more erudite, and I expect certainly more loving teachers of the Word than I; and they (we) all have failed. You last option is a good one. But we also believe that men who defect from Christ (just as your church teaches about those who defect from Catholicism) are actually under God’s curse, barring their repentance & returning to the biblical faith. I won’t try to argue it here. It appears such is a lost cause @ CTC. But I wanted to address your concerns. We are of different spirits, different gospels, different Christs.

    You’d think that since he can’t help it that God wasn’t merciful to him like He was to you because he doesn’t have seeing eyes and hearing ears, his haters would be really kind so as to win him back with the love of Christ, or ignore him altogether.
    >I am close to this last suggestion of yours.

    This behavior is so cruel, and people hurt. Please seek to make it right.
    >You have also made assertions w/o argumentation, just as I have. I believe that unless we violate some other criterion of this site’s posting policy, we are both free to do so.

  22. Thanks for clarifying, Jason.

  23. Hey, Erick (#11),

    Did the Apostles believe in an authority structure?
    >Sure – they instituted bishops and deacons.

    If they did and if they began churches with a structure for authority, then was this authority the kind which can just spring up anywhere and at anytime through the proper understanding of Scripture?
    >Yes, in many cases there are no missionaries to stay behind. Natives have to fend for themselves with only God’s Word – which claims self-sufficiency.

    If so, which of the many communities which have done this has the structure which if of divine authority that make up the varied groups of Protestantism today?
    >Couldn’t tell you. You guys love tidy packaging, I know. Sorry.

    If you are thinking along the lines that all the diverse communities have the number of the elect scattered and sub-grouped within them, then can all the Elect have mutually exclusive understandings about the gospel?
    >You define ‘gospel’ much differently than I. By PAUL’S gospel (1 Cor. 15:3f), no, the elect cannot have “M.U.E.” about the gospel. The gospel and the gospel alone is the way of salvation: Christ dying and rising again for his own.

    If they cannot, then this means that only a sub-groups out of all the protestant groupings are within your standard of being able to be saved or elect. If then there are only a sub-group of communities which are protestant wherein a person who submits to the ecclesiastical teaching authority (which Hebrews 13:7 teaches) can be genuinely saved, which groups are these? How can you know these groups are the ones whom God accepts alone?
    >Answered above. One must believe the true gospel about the true Christ to be saved. S/he may differ with others on baptism issues, church polity, eschatology, etc.

    It is clear that you believe that Catholics, who believe in Catholic theology, are lost and condemned because of their doctrine. If this is the case, then you have applied a certain standard to be able to put Catholics on the “hell-bound” line unto the final judgement. If this is case as well, then you have a standard by which to put the Elect on the “heaven-bound” line unto the final judgement. Since there is no choice for you but to accept this logic (unless you deny it in the name of some invisible revelation to the inner senses),
    >Sounds sound.

    could you be a loving person and share with us what the standard of doctrine determining whether someone “can” be saved or definitely lost.
    >Yes, as the Apostle says in 1 Cor. 15:3f – keep in mind THAT gospel, and you’ll be saved.

    If you see all these questions as superfluous and inferior to the inner revelation which the Holy Spirit alone gives to man, then do you reject Protestant apologetics to the unsaved? If you reject Protestant apologetics to the unsaved, does this not require the use of reason and fine questioning? If you accept Protestant apologetics, why would you denounce the same kind of logic which undermines and falsifies the protestant conception of the gospel? If you accept Protestant apologetics, then you believe there are arguments which can potentially lead one to see that Catholicism has demonic doctrine, using logic and reason, while not resting on logic and reason as the foundation of persuasion. If you believe that logic and reason can and will do this, given that the person is illuminated by the Holy Spirit, then why would you not provide some reason as to why you believe what you believe?
    >”Protestant apolgetics” is a wide field. I reject empiricism and evidentialism. I embrace Scripturalism.
    >You’ll have to be specific about “the same kind of logic which undermines and falsifies the protestant conception of the gospel.”
    >One reason not to go too far in arguing, is that it is fruitless with those who have been trained in Reformed theology, and have even argued for it. Think of Mr Cross or Mr Stellman, for example. But what exactly do you want?
    >Thank you.

  24. Hugh:

    Do you have life in you?

    Keep in mind that in order to have life in you and be raised up on the last day, Jesus says you must eat His flesh and drink His blood.

    Do you, in absolute point-of-fact, do that?

    The Scriptures are perfectly and plainly literal on this point, you know. And it’s the only thing that allows Christianity’s connection with the Old Testament to make sense!

    The people of Israel remained under the covenant and in the people of God because when they celebrated the Passover, they ate the lamb. Christ our Paschal lamb has been sacrificed; we are the People of God; we are bidden to come enjoy the feast; we must therefore Eat The Lamb.

    Likewise we must drink His blood. The Old Testament is very specific: The life is in the blood. God, who never intended to fill His people with the merely organic life of an animal or a man, forbade the drinking of the blood of animals or of men. It is not that kind of life that we are to drink. He desires something better for us: He specifically promises to give us Eternal Life. Not merely everlasting life, mind you, such as every human soul has, but Eternal Life: No beginning, no end. Only one such has that life: God Himself. Is it any wonder that He bids us drink His blood, so that we might have life in us, and be raised up at the last day?

    Nor is this any novel interpretation of Scripture. It’s the way the first-century Christians interpreted it, according to their own writings. And the second-century Christians, according to theirs. And the third-century Christians. And the fourth. And the fifth. And, and, and, and…it is only those who came along fifteen hundred years later, plagued with the errors of human reasoning and divorced from the Jewish roots of Christianity by a vast cultural gap, who are confused enough to see it any other way. It is their modernism, their secularism, their theological liberalism, which prompts them not to Take Christ At His Word, and to deny that He Said What He Meant And He Meant What He Said.

    So I ask you, Hugh: Do you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood? Do you have life in you?

    Or do you have a 16th-century anachronism derived from a watered-down, modernized, and secularized institutional memory? Are you, like Luther, a theological liberal?

    Respectfully, I exhort you: The Lord Jesus Christ thinks it matters.

  25. Hugh,

    Thank you for your responses. I happen to be very open to Protestant arguments, as I do not always appreciate the arguments that Catholics give in response. I particularly have a bit of difficulty with how Protestants can maintain their view of the the Scriptures with a robust logical exegesis of the texts. I happen to believe the texts of Scripture lean more toward a the traditional way of understanding Christianity. If you had to nail it down, what makes you believe that Catholics are hell-bound if they really do believe in Catholic doctrine?

    Is it justification? Well, even as a Protestant, you cannot subjectively “know” you are justified (depending on which reformed church you are in) until you have reached a certain confirmation that your “fruit-bearing” or “repentance” is of a God-accepting level. If you come from a protestant camp which is more reformed baptist or independent baptist (Richard Owen Roberts, etc,etc), you are constantly warned of “false-conversion” or “counterfeit repentance”, to the extant that one is always doubting and questioning one’s own conversion and repentance. If you are hyped up in this kind of “holiness” environment, then your assurance of your acquisition of Christ’s righteousness is not stable, but always dependent upon you passing the bare minimum level of which you think is “true” repentance. At times, the level of your standard can go down or up, depending on what you’ve been learning or who you’ve been influenced by. For instance, those who love RC Sproul and Burk Parsons have a bit of a more easy way of balancing the Christian life so that the person has assurance and yet is still under the fear of God and obligation to live in holiness. But others, who dive into Matthew Meade’s Almost Christian, may find themselves going through a doubting depression for years. You yourself may be in the camp which says, “Amen! The Christian life is Hard! And one must really sacrifice all the desires of the flesh for the glory of God!”…..but you see……one wonders what effectiveness this more “grace-filled” gospel has in the life of the human being. You are consistently taught that human works have no cause in the salvation of the human being, and yet you are constantly being told that only works evidence the prior work of God, and then even more constantly reminded that there are so many counterfeit versions of the evidence, and that there is a very difficult, even impossible, single and genuine evidence which can grant one assurance of salvation. And it becomes an even more difficult rubix cube when a Person who has been serving Christ in this way for years, and then dives into a couple of years of fornication. And the worst part about it is this, God is controlling everything. God is ordaining the doubt in salvation. If you are truly lost, despite all the energy and effort to be saved, this is also an immutable energy of God working in the life of the person.

    At this point, one wonders how Protestants consider themselves to have more “grace” in their gospel. Catholics believe that Jesus loves all people and wishes all to be saved. He doesn’t think that his cross loses glory because some of those for whom He died reject him ultimately and go to hell, because it remains a loving act towards the world, something that is in the heart of God (John 3:16). Calvinists are so proud of protecting God in His glory in the unmitigated and undiluted sovereignty and predestination of God, that sometimes you really do not know if God loves you or if you are one of those Christians who are self-deceived (in the truest sense) for 50 years and then by 51 years of age you become a reprobate, and all along God has hated you and purposed you for wrath and destruction. You take away the very thing which human beings are to know about God, that He loves them and cares for them and wishes them to be saved, by this sovereign salvation and damnation apart from human works. It is almost as if since works play no part in the predestination of the elect, works also play no part in the predestination of the wicked. There is a settled determination before all creation, and everything in our time is simply an outplay of this pre-determined plan. This creates much confusion with the theology of the Old Testament, Jesus, and the apostles.

    What else is it? The Papacy? The wickedness? The lukewarmness? The false holiness? The praying to the dead?

  26. Still waiting for Jason to answer my question in #15 I have a very good reason for asking it so if you could do so I would be most appreciative?

  27. Wayne, (re: #26)

    You may have a very good reason for asking your question. But rather than insist that Jason publicly answer a personal question before laying out that reason, a more charitable approach on your part would be simply to explain your reason, and let Jason see whether it applies to his case.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  28. Dear Susan (@ #10),
    I appreciate your post the more I think about it.
    Prov. 15:1 & 2 Tim. 2:23ff came to mind as I read Titus 2:7-9 today.
    Many thanks for your admonition to caritas!
    Hugh

  29. Erick #25: I will try to reply ASAP, and as I am allowed to here,
    but perhaps we &/ or the moderator may want us to discuss this
    in emails rather than here @ CTC.

    R.C. #24: I will likewise try to reply to you ASAP.

    Both your posts are great, and I am honored to be asked these things.

    Thank you.

  30. Sure Bryan. I am considering converting to the Church but my wife refuses to convalidate our marriage so I may have to seek a radical senation from the Bishop. And yet this situation has also given me pause and I am proceeding with caution as I know I am the Spiritual Leader in our home.

    Hope that helps and my apologies if my question was too personal and would be happy to receive a reply privately.

    In His Blessed Name,

    Wayne

  31. Hugh:

    I find your position rather mystifying. On the one hand, you claim that neither side can “prove” the superiority of its interpretive paradigm as applied to the Bible; on the other, you claim the Bible is “self-sufficient.” How the Bible can be self-sufficient if it doesn’t decisively settle the question which paradigm to adopt for its interpretation is rather mystifying, wouldn’t you say?

    Best,
    Mike

  32. Michael #30,

    The Bible, the Faith, is only discernable to those whose eyes and ears it opens. Faith comes by hearing* the Word of God.

    *That hearing is not from one’s free will, nor a Spirit-aided freed will, but regeneration must precede belief. By proclaiming the true Word of God, we have confidence that it w/ the Spirit will enliven and saved whom God will, and harden whom he will. See 1 Cor. 1:18-2:16.
    Thank you.

  33. Hence, the Bible is self-sufficient and decisively settles the question for those who are first enlivened to believe it.

  34. Hugh:

    I agree with everything you say in #32, but I don’t think what you say in #33 follows at all. In fact, the latter is incompatible with the former.

    You write:

    Hence, the Bible is self-sufficient and decisively settles the question for those who are first enlivened to believe it.

    If something beyond just reading the Bible with literary understanding is necessary for understanding the truth conveyed by the Bible, then the Bible alone does not suffice for understanding the truth it conveys. Indeed, according to you, the grace of the Spirit is also necessary for understanding the truth conveyed by the Bible–a claim I agree with. But in that case, something beyond just reading the Bible with literary understanding is necessary for understanding the truth conveyed by the Bible. Hence, “the Bible” is not self-sufficient for the purpose stated.

    If we can agree on that much, the next question becomes: “How does one know when one is interpreting the Bible by the grace and light of the Spirit?” Your statement: “The Bible, the Faith, is only discernable to those whose eyes and ears it opens” won’t do, for two reasons. First, even though that statement is true, it doesn’t answer the question; second, it assumes one of the very theses at issue, which is whether the contents of the Bible are identical with “the Faith.” Thus your statement is question-begging in two ways.

    Best,
    Mike

  35. Hey Wayne,

    That’s rough, buddy. Have you tried the romance approach: be really sweet, go on lots of dates, dial up the affection? Also, is there a way to bing her to social events in which she will encounter and befriend happy, faithful Catholic women?

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  36. Mike @34 – You are rockin’ it!

    If something beyond just reading the Bible with literary understanding is necessary for understanding the truth conveyed by the Bible, then the Bible alone does not suffice for understanding the truth it conveys. Indeed, according to you, the grace of the Spirit is also necessary for understanding the truth conveyed by the Bible–a claim I agree with. But in that case, something beyond just reading the Bible with literary understanding is necessary for understanding the truth conveyed by the Bible. Hence, “the Bible” is not self-sufficient for the purpose stated0.

    Great point. I erred here. The Bible is sufficient as to things here on Earth – no magisterium or pope (in- or semi-fallible) necessary.

    If we can agree on that much, the next question becomes: “How does one know when one is interpreting the Bible by the grace and light of the Spirit?” Your statement: “The Bible, the Faith, is only discernable to those whose eyes and ears it opens” won’t do, for two reasons. First, even though that statement is true, it doesn’t answer the question; second, it assumes one of the very theses at issue, which is whether the contents of the Bible are identical with “the Faith.” Thus your statement is question-begging in two ways.

    One knows anything spiritual by the Spirit. One knows he is interpreting the Bible by the grace and light of the Spirit by the Spirit’s witness/ testimony, just as one knows his adoption/ sonship per Romans 8:14ff ~ For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

    Are these helpful? I’m not sure I am answering you to your satisfaction.
    Thank you.
    Hugh

  37. > Do you have life in you?
    Hey, R.C. (@24),
    Yep! :)

    > Keep in mind that in order to have life in you and be raised up on the last day, Jesus says you must eat His flesh and drink His blood. Do you, in absolute point-of-fact, do that?
    By faith alone [not transubstantiation]: John 6:35, 40, 47f.

    > The people of Israel remained under the covenant and in the people of God because when they celebrated the Passover, they ate the lamb. Christ our Paschal lamb has been sacrificed; we are the People of God; we are bidden to come enjoy the feast; we must therefore Eat The Lamb.
    “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life” (John 6:40). That is to “eat Jesus Christ.”

    > Likewise we must drink His blood. The Old Testament is very specific: The life is in the blood. God, who never intended to fill His people with the merely organic life of an animal or a man, forbade the drinking of the blood of animals or of men. It is not that kind of life that we are to drink. He desires something better for us: He specifically promises to give us Eternal Life. Not merely everlasting life, mind you, such as every human soul has, but Eternal Life: No beginning, no end. Only one such has that life: God Himself. Is it any wonder that He bids us drink His blood, so that we might have life in us, and be raised up at the last day?
    No, sir.

    > So I ask you, Hugh: Do you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood? Do you have life in you?
    Yes & yes.

    > Or do you have a 16th-century anachronism derived from a watered-down, modernized, and secularized institutional memory? Are you, like Luther, a theological liberal?
    Acc. to you, I guess so!
    Thank you.
    …we may not criticize or insult or belittle or judge or mock any person, his character, intelligence, education, background, or motivations. Attacking persons is fallacious and uncharitable and will not be permitted here.

  38. Hugh, relating to your comment 33,

    Please enlighten me, Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and Wesley had some pretty strong differences on the nature of salvation.
    Calvin, Luther, and Wesley believed that baptism was necessary and that infant baptism baptism was valid. Zwingli did not on either account.
    Calvin believed in once saved always saved. Wesley believed you could lose your salvation.
    Calvin and Luther practiced devotions to Mary and saw this as laudable, but Zwingli saw it as a hell-worthy abomination.
    There are dozens of other salvation related issues which they disagreed.

    These are issues of salvation so one cannot claim they agreed on the essentials and disagreed on the nonessentials.

    Your understanding of salvation also contract Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and Wesley.

    So my question to you is, which of you are Spirit-aided and have truly listened to what scripture says? Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and Wesley all seem pretty sincere in their convictions and you do also, and all believed they were listening to the Holy Spirit. But clearly someone has to be mistaken, since you can’t all be right.

    So how do *you* know you are correct an they are wrong?

  39. Hi Jason S. We have to meet sometime! I just had coffee recently with Fr. Bryan Ochs –this week.
    I am entering the Church next WEEK in fact.

    My wife is not opposed, but neither is she 100% supportive. She is NOT anti-Catholic by any means, she just doesn’t see the point. After all, can’t we just simply be GOOD Protestants. She was fine as long as Catholicism was merely “interesting”. It was only when I started talking about it as if were TRUE that she started to have a problem.

    It hurts for my wife and family to NOT see the beauty and fullness of Catholicism. I’m praying daily she’ll warm up to it.

    I have never heard of “convalidating” a marriage before. Maybe someone could fill me in on that. Our RCIA director didn’t mention anything like that to me.

  40. Wayne,

    I highly recommend that you write the diocesan marriage tribunal for your local diocese and describe in detail the circumstances of your marriage regarding:
    - baptism (or not) of each party
    - previous marriages if any
    -were any of the previous marriages in the Catholic Church
    - whether either party has ever been Catholic
    - whether the marriage was civil or religious

    In addition it will probably be very helpful to speak to a priest at a local parish, and possibly contact a canon lawyer. You could also call Catholic Answer apologists off-air and they will get you started 619-387-7200
    Monday–Friday, 9 AM–4:45 PM, Pacific.

    Still the Diocesan Tribunal is the highest authority and deals with this all the time. Local Priests and knowledgeable can sometimes be misinformed or not aware of certain conditions.

    I hesitate to offer any solid guidance because there are nuances I don’t understand always and I am not an expert BUT…

    In general the Catholic Church does recognize marriages of other Christians as valid. There are however two types of marriage: Simply a valid marriage, or Sacramental Marriage. If I understand correctly your marriage may not be Sacramental without convalidation, but it is very possible that your marriage would be recognized as valid and you would be able to participate in the sacramental life of the Church.

    Particularly, if this is a first marriage for both of you and neither of you was baptized in a Catholic Church and neither of you has ever been Catholic, you probably have a valid marriage from what I understand.

    Non-Catholics are not subject to Canon law, and are not subject to the requirements the Church places upon Her members regarding marriage. Marriage is a Sacrament that is properly instituted by the Couple themselves, not by the priest. The Priest is a witness and blesses the marriage and the Mass is for the marriage and celebrates and solemnizes the occasion, but the marriage itself is contracted entirely between the two partners.

    Sorry for my in-expertise. I hope I am sure I have this mostly correct, but you are best served by going to the tribunal.

    Prayers for you! And really, regardless of your marital status, the Church is still the True Church. In my mind, better to be imperfectly a member and bear the cross of an irregular situation than to remain outside of visible communion with Christ’s Church.

  41. To Hugh and To Wayne

    Dear Hugh,

    Glad you are interested in doing what is good. Your change of heart has touched mine:)
    I can commiserate to some degree, because while I didn’t plant a church and I don’t have his position as authority nor his amount of learning, I am in a situation near to his. I entered that Catholic Church this past December, and I am the only person in my family to go this route. My husband and children still attend a Reformed church in Southern California. We go our separate ways every Lord’s Day and it is terrible hard.
    Those people at their church have been very kind to my family but it I do’t see any of them in social settings anymore. I haven’t seen my former pastors since last summer. The whole situation is very weird.
    I know that I am always welcome to any social situation, but I feel that they think I have the plague:) I don’t want to deal with people showing me sorrowful eyes as if they pity me for my poor choice. I am pleased to have found the Church! But, I also understand how they view me now. They are mistaken however, and so I hand onto the truth, I have received by faith. Also, happy to hear that you desire to continue communicating on this site! Blessings to you.

    Dear Wayne,

    My husband was extremely hostile to me before I converted. He didn’t attend my reception and first communion. It has gotten easier. The yelling has stopped( from both of us) ,and he puts up with my Catholic books. I haven’t even tried to ask him for any icons…it’s too soon.
    He was not willing to have our marriage convalidated, but since we had both been baptized after we were married, it wasn’t needed.
    Hang-in there and keep being a loving husband.
    I will pray for your situation.

    ~Susan

  42. Hi Wayne,

    It really depends on your wife. Scott Hahn converted long before before his wife agreed, and Kimberley Hahn admitted that she was so fixed in her intellectual views that she would have stonewalled his conversion forever if Scott Hahn didn’t act unilaterally. The unilateral conversion forced her to be serious about examining the claims of the Catholic Church.

    For other women (e.g. more “Heart Christian” than “Head Christian”), a hard unilateral approach is the worse possible thing you could do and might do irreparable damage to your marriage. For these women, it is critical that you don’t pressure them and it is important that you first live the Catholic life (i.e. attend mass but abstain from the Eucharist, practice Catholic devotions, care for the family from the Catholic perspective, etc) and give her space before even attempting a conversion. Eventually she will see that Catholicism is “safe”, that you are a better husband, father, and person for being Catholic, and see your suffering at not being able to receive the Eucharist or go to confession that she will support you as a Catholic and all obligations you have as a Catholic. This may take years, the suffering of waiting and constant prayer for full reconciliation will not go to waste.

    You know your wife better than anyone here. But in either case, you can’t force your wife to convert. If it happens, it is by God’s grace and you’re personal piety will play an crucial part in lowering the barriers to her conversion.

  43. Wayne,

    Feel free to write me privately: j(dot)stellman(at)comcast(dot)net.

  44. Michael Liccione: you wrote: “you claim that neither side can “prove” the superiority of its interpretive paradigm as applied to the Bible; on the other, you claim the Bible is “self-sufficient.” How the Bible can be self-sufficient if it doesn’t decisively settle the question which paradigm to adopt for its interpretation is rather mystifying, wouldn’t you say?”

    But how can the pope settle anything when Garry Wills is on the loose?

  45. Sean Patrick (or whomever), RE #36 – thanks! ;)

  46. Dear Anil @38 ~

    Please enlighten me, Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and Wesley had some pretty strong differences on the nature of salvation.
    >I believe that I am in essential agreement with Luther and Calvin, but am not conversant with Zwingli and am not in essential agreement (as far as I know of him) with John Wesley.

    There are dozens of other salvation related issues which they disagreed.
    >Yes. Some issues of salvation and some not. You & i would probably disagree on which these are.

    These are issues of salvation so one cannot claim they agreed on the essentials and disagreed on the nonessentials.
    >That’s your opinion, and you have the right to hold that opinion, but with due respect, I believe it is incorrect. >Infant baptism is not an issue of salvation. But could otherwise good men err on this?

    Your understanding of salvation also contract Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and Wesley.
    > You mean “contradict”? How? I may disagree with Wesley, but how do I differ from Calvin & Luther?

    So my question to you is, which of you are Spirit-aided and have truly listened to what scripture says?
    Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and Wesley —
    >That seems a fair Best-to-Worst rating, as far as I know. :)

    So how do *you* know you are correct an they are wrong?
    >I believe that I am in essential agreement with Luther and Calvin, but am not conversant with Zwingli and am not in essential agreement (as far as I know) with John Wesley.
    >To the best of my knowledge, I am in agreement with Paul and Jesus. Infinitely more important. :)
    >Thank you.

  47. Thanks to each of you who provided me with counsel, prayers, and recommendations above in my particular circumstance. It’s been quite the struggle over the past year or so but God is in control.

  48. Jason, Susan, and Wayne,

    I am very sorry to read of the marital problems your conversions to Rome are causing (exposing or exacerbating). I am writing the following sincerely.

    Given that you are leaving a grace-only religion (that holds orthodox Trinitarianism & Christology), and that claims that one can know whether s/he is destined for heaven through her/ his faith in Christ Jesus, why not for the sake of peace and marital harmony stay in the “lesser” church?

    Rome claims that we’re separated brethren, not the heretics Trent threatened to burn, right? Then why not for your family’s sake stay in communion with your spouse & children in a Presbyterian or Baptist or Reformed church?

    I grant you that Rome has the corner on venerability, incense, liturgy, Latin rite, bonus Bible books, catechism, canons, councils, decrees, dogmas, and promises of sacramental grace, but no sure eternal hope, only maybes.

    Why go where eternal life is merely a possibility (if you’re good enough) and not stay where faith in Christ as the soul’s sole Mediator is the watchword?

    Why leave a church where the family is united, and grace is secure, and separate the family for “maybe”?

  49. Hugh (#36):

    I appreciate your humility, and I mean that. I do not often encounter theological opponents who actually admit they’ve erred when I point out their error. You refresh! Thank you.

    Even so, I’m not sure you’ve taken my larger point. You write:

    The Bible is sufficient as to things here on Earth – no magisterium or pope (in- or semi-fallible) necessary.

    I think what you mean is that no ecclesial teaching authority is necessary for interpreting the Bible correctly, but only the Holy Spirit. At least that’s what I take your position to be; it’s the position of many Protestants. But it doesn’t really answer my question: How you know when you are interpreting the Bible by the Spirit, who has divine authority, and not just according to your own or some other people’s understanding, which has no authority?

    You seem to be getting at an answer by quoting Romans 8:14ff and commenting:

    One knows anything spiritual by the Spirit. One knows he is interpreting the Bible by the grace and light of the Spirit by the Spirit’s witness/ testimony, just as one knows his adoption/ sonship…

    Very well then: How do you distinguish between “the Spirit’s witness” and those of people who just happen to agree with you about how to interpret the Bible for doctrinal purposes? It won’t do to cite the fact–if indeed it is a fact–that you “know” your adoption as a child of God. I too believe I am an adopted child of God (though I hold that belief by faith, not as an item of knowledge), but I don’t think that status guarantees that I’ll be able to tell the difference between the Spirit’s authoritative witness and my own or others’ merely human interpretive opinions. For that, I look to the Magisterium; as a Catholic, I believe the bishops are successors of the Apostles, to whom Jesus Christ gave his divine teaching authority, and who passed that authority on to their successors. To whom or what do you look for the Spirit’s authoritative witness?

    Best,
    Mike

  50. Hey, Mike,

    > I think what you mean is that no ecclesial teaching authority is necessary for interpreting the Bible correctly, but only the Holy Spirit. At least that’s what I take your position to be; it’s the position of many Protestants.
    Yes sir!

    > How you know when you are interpreting the Bible by the Spirit, who has divine authority, and not just according to your own or some other people’s understanding, which has no authority?
    > …How do you distinguish between “the Spirit’s witness” and those of people who just happen to agree with you about how to interpret the Bible for doctrinal purposes?

    > To whom or what do you look for the Spirit’s authoritative witness?

    Again, the Rom. 8 & 1 Cor. 1-2 refs. give us proof that we can know certain terribly important spiritual things.

    I only have the clear passages to help me with the less clear ones. As one Prot. Confession (from Jason’s ex-denom) put it in chapter 1:

    The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word; and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

    All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

  51. Hey, Mike,

    How you know when you are interpreting the Bible by the Spirit, who has divine authority, and not just according to your own or some other people’s understanding, which has no authority?
    …How do you distinguish between “the Spirit’s witness” and those of people who just happen to agree with you about how to interpret the Bible for doctrinal purposes?
    …To whom or what do you look for the Spirit’s authoritative witness?

    I cannot believe there is a higher or holier authority than sacred Writ itself and its Author.

  52. Darryl (#44):

    But how can the pope settle anything when Garry Wills is on the loose?

    I occasionally permit myself that kind of wit, but I don’t take it as seriously as you do. Here’s why.

    Anybody who cares to can learn what the definitive teachings of the Church are. What the Church has taught definitively is thus “settled.” The technical term for that is ‘irreformable’, which does not mean ‘cannot be improved’, but rather ‘may never be contradicted’. By the same token, anybody who cares to can tell that Garry Wills rejects many irreformable teachings of the Church. Materially, he is a heretic. The only reason he isn’t formally branded a heretic by the Church is that the canonically required trial and conviction is ordinarily reserved for clerics and theologians, and even then only rarely, for what I consider sound pastoral reasons.

    Accordingly, from the fact that many “Catholics” are allowed to get away with material heresy, it hardly follows that nothing is settled. Sin and error have plagued the Church since her first generation, and will not be “settled” in the sense you mean until the Eschaton.

    Best,
    Mike

  53. Hugh (#50

    All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

    Isn’t there a problem here? Can we be sure that the things that we think less clear are not themselves necessary for salvation? Evidently the Trinity itself is not that clear; at least millions of JWs, Muslims, and, in the past, Arians, think it clear that the Bible is not Trinitarian. Would you say the doctrine of the Trinity is not necessary for salvation, since it is not clear to many?

    jj

  54. Mike, so you mean the Roman Catholic Church is not disciplined? Sounds like Protestantism.

  55. ‘morning, JJ @ 54 *

    The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture. …those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

    The doctrines necessary for salvation are not clear to those to whom these things are not given. As I referenced in 1 Corinthians (1:18-2:16); 1:18 ~ the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    And 2:14ff ~ the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

    Your examples are of those who not only deny the Trinity, but also the person and work of Christ. Many other doctrines they misunderstand as well. The Confession is not speaking of things in Scripture being understood by all men, but by those whom God enlightens. Or, as I said above, those to whom he first gives eyes to see and ears to hear. Your examples are of apostate (blind) groups.

    Thank you,
    Hugh

    * How’d you do that with the #50?
    I tried copying and pasting the date & time,
    but couldn’t get it to work as a number.

  56. Darryl,

    # 54.

    Human beings are often not disciplined. Paul didn’t get out of Corinth without learning that. But what is your point? You sound like an atheist giving the classic atheist apologetic of, ‘Look at those hypocritical and sinful Christians!’

  57. Sean @56,

    We Prots never claim a boffo Magisterium or infallible Petrine chair, as y’all do.

    I expect that Herr Hart is merely just sayin’ that like Protestantism (regularly slammed by some for its splintered schizophrenia) and the vaunted papacy are more alike in their brokenness than is sometimes allowed by those who contend for protecting beastly priests b/c their office is so holy and their transubstantival ministrations so indispensable.

    Just sayin’…

    Thank you,
    Hugh

  58. Hugh (#55)

    Your examples are of those who not only deny the Trinity, but also the person and work of Christ. Many other doctrines they misunderstand as well. The Confession is not speaking of things in Scripture being understood by all men, but by those whom God enlightens. Or, as I said above, those to whom he first gives eyes to see and ears to hear. Your examples are of apostate (blind) groups.

    OK, but it seems to me this means that it is not true that, regarding the “whole counsel of God,” “…those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” “Ordinary means” are insufficient. You have to be one of those whom God enlightens. That appears to me considerably more than “ordinary means.”

    jj

  59. JJ @ 58 – Good points to clarify!

    Again from the Westminster Confession:

    CHAPTER X. Of Effectual Calling.

    All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ: enlightening their minds, spiritually and savingly, to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.

    This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from any thing at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.

    …Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come to Christ, and therefore can not be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the law of that religion they do profess; and to assert and maintain that they may is without warrant of the Word of God.

    Thanks!
    Hugh

  60. Thanks again for sharing your testimony Jason, and thank Scott Hahn for encouraging you to do so.
    Regarding your wife and family, I just want to tell a quick story. My wife wanted to convert/revert to the Catholic faith and I just about flipped out! I told her that Christ would never be the “head of a church of pedophiles.” It was 2002 and the sex scandals from Boston were making front page news just about every week! To say I was anti-Catholic is an understatement.( I had left the Catholic faith as a young teen reading lots of Chick tracts and became a devout evangelical. ) I asked my wife to throw out all the Catholic books and tapes she had amassed in her pursuit of Truth in the Catholic Church. She never once attempted to cajole, convince or coerce me to join the Catholic faith. She said she only prayed God would allow her to become Catholic, never believing I would ever come home to the Catholic faith. Long story short, 5 years later I was on my knees in confession and then in Mass after having our marriage convalidated and receiving Christ in the Eucharist. It has been 9 years now that I have been blogging about the faith, sharing with family (to some degree) and friends, and writing and performing music about this treasure we have discovered in the Catholic Church. I would encourage you and Wayne to hang in there and pray, and I will join my prayers with others for spiritual harmony to come to your home. I offered my Communion for you and your intentions this AM at the shrine of Saint Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal in Harrisburg. God bless

  61. Hugh:

    As I understand your last several comments, your position is that of the Westminster Confession. Very well. My problem with the WC is the same problem I have with confessional Protestantism quite generally: its interpretive paradigm is neither rationally compelling nor otherwise authoritative. Hence the foundational documents of confessional Protestantism–be it the Westminster Confession, the Augsburg Confession, or any similar confession–can only be presented as theological opinion, not as authentic expressions of divine revelation. As such, they cannot command the assent of faith at all.

    They are not rationally compelling because they fail to achieve the main purpose of any theological IP, which is to enable us to distinguish between authentic expressions of divine revelation and mere theological opinions. They fail to achieve that purpose because those who composed and profess them do not claim to be divinely protected from error in producing them and professing their contents; hence, the documents themselves cannot plausibly claim divine authority, even for their premise that the Protestant canon is divinely inspired and thus inerrant. Given that they cannot plausibly claim divine authority, such documents supply no principled criterion for distinguishing between the authoritative witness of the Spirit to what they say and the merely human belief that the Spirit witnesses to what they say. By the same token, Protestant confessions are not otherwise authoritative. They can claim no more authority than the churches that produced them and believe them, and those churches cannot plausibly claim divine authority, because they do not claim to be divinely preserved from error under any conditions.

    Best,
    Mike

  62. Darryl (#54):

    Following up on Sean’s #56, you seem to be suggesting that nothing is doctrinally settled unless the Church’s discipline ensures that there’s little or no dissensus within the Church. Sts. Peter and Paul didn’t seem to think that. Indeed, whether from a Protestant or a Catholic standpoint, accepting such a suggestion would render any criterion of orthodoxy epistemically useless. And that’s because you fail to distinguish between empirically and deontically normative conceptions of orthodoxy.

    From a Protestant standpoint, one can define “the Church” as the people who, across space and time, concur about the “correct” interpretation of Scripture on matters they deem “essential” and who aim to live accordingly. In fact, that’s what conservative Protestants typically do. And prima facie, it all sounds pretty normative. On such a picture, when people within “the Church” obstinately dissent from the “correct” interpretation of Scripture on matters deemed essential by “the Church,” they are sometimes excommunicated, thus maintaining the doctrinal purity of “the Church.” But whether they are excommunicated or not, the dissenters typically hive off to join or start another church. Having done so, they proceed to define their new church as at least part of “the Church” in the way I described above, often to the detriment of the church they left, which of course continues to claim that it, not the church joined or started by the dissenters, is orthodox. Does such a process “settle” anything, even by the criterion you suggest? Of course not. Accordingly, what counts as “orthodox” doctrine, and with it as “the Church,” becomes purely a matter of opinion, which cannot claim divine authority and thus cannot command the assent of faith. For few Protestant churches claim, and none can plausibly claim, to be divinely protected from error under certain specifiable and concrete conditions. So, what’s considered “orthodox” from a purely empirical standpoint can, does, and must vary considerably among churches, given their objective lack of divine teaching authority.

    Now if the Catholic Church conceived of her own identity and authority as conservative-Protestant churches typically conceive of their own, then she would indeed be just one more denomination, with no more divine authority to define and impose orthodoxy in a deontically normative way than any other denomination. But in point of fact, she does claim to be divinely protected from error under certain specifiable and concrete conditions, so that whatever she teaches with her full authority is inerrant and irreformable. If such a claim is correct, then no matter how many nominal Catholics dissent from such teaching or hive off to join or start another church, the divine authority, and thus the deontic normativity, of Catholic teaching remains intact, and thus with it, the epistemic utility of Catholic teaching for distinguishing between orthodoxy and heresy. Thus Catholic orthodoxy would be normative in a sense in which no Protestant “orthodoxy” can ever be.

    Of course, the above is in no sense a proof that Catholicism is true or even orthodox. Like liberal Protestants, you could always just say that religion is a matter of opinion, full stop. But what I have shown is that the Catholic Church at least has a criterion of orthodoxy that could qualify as something more than a merely empirical norm, thus constituting a truly deontic norm. And that’s what’s necessary for distinguishing between authentic expressions of divine revelation, and mere theological opinions that could turn out be wrong, pending further evidence and historical developments.

    Best,
    Mike

  63. Mike @ 61 –

    As I understand your last several comments, your position is that of the Westminster Confession.
    > Sometimes, yes. I am not wedded 100% to any of ours, but the WCF is generally very much a goody.

    Very well. My problem with the WC is the same problem I have with confessional Protestantism quite generally: its interpretive paradigm is neither rationally compelling nor otherwise authoritative.
    > Right! Only Writ.

    Hence the foundational documents of confessional Protestantism–be it the Westminster Confession, the Augsburg Confession, or any similar confession–can only be presented as theological opinion, not as authentic expressions of divine revelation. As such, they cannot command the assent of faith at all.
    > Absolutely, amen, & smiley icon here!

    They are not rationally compelling because they fail to achieve the main purpose of any theological IP, which is to enable us to distinguish between authentic expressions of divine revelation and mere theological opinions. They fail to achieve that purpose because those who composed and profess them do not claim to be divinely protected from error in producing them and professing their contents; hence, the documents themselves cannot plausibly claim divine authority, even for their premise that the Protestant canon is divinely inspired and thus inerrant.
    > Amen! I love this! Right on!

    Given that they cannot plausibly claim divine authority, such documents supply no principled criterion for distinguishing between the authoritative witness of the Spirit to what they say and the merely human belief that the Spirit witnesses to what they say. By the same token, Protestant confessions are not otherwise authoritative. They can claim no more authority than the churches that produced them and believe them, and those churches cannot plausibly claim divine authority, because they do not claim to be divinely preserved from error under any conditions.
    > Wow! This is awesome! Totally in agreement with you, man. (Darryl might take umbrage, but then he’s an Orthodox Presbyterian. To such, I am neither…)

    > We repuditate the implicit faith explicitly enjoined upon the Romish faithful in their magisterium. I agree with your Pontiff Emeritus that, “The Holy Spirit, who gives life to the Church, enables us to interpret the Scriptures authoritatively. The Bible is the Church’s book, and its essential place in the Church’s life gives rise to its genuine interpretation.” But all who are born from above have the same Holy Spirit. John Chrysostom no more than I; Luther no more than Calvin. I would reverse Augustine here: I would not believe the authority of the Church had not the Spirit’s tranformational power through the gospel led me to do so.
    > So, we are opposed to the following by our biblical hermenuetic:

    …Here we can point to a fundamental criterion of biblical hermeneutics: the primary setting for scriptural interpretation is the life of the Church. This is not to uphold the ecclesial context as an extrinsic rule to which exegetes must submit, but rather is something demanded by the very nature of the Scriptures and the way they gradually came into being. “Faith traditions formed the living context for the literary activity of the authors of sacred Scripture. Their insertion into this context also involved a sharing in both the liturgical and external life of the communities, in their intellectual world, in their culture and in the ups and downs of their shared history. In like manner, the interpretation of sacred Scripture requires full participation on the part of exegetes in the life and faith of the believing community of their own time”.[86] Consequently, “since sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit through whom it was written”,[87] exegetes, theologians and the whole people of God must approach it as what it really is, the word of God conveyed to us through human words (cf. 1 Th 2:13). This is a constant datum implicit in the Bible itself: “No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Pet 1:20-21). Moreover, it is the faith of the Church that recognizes in the Bible the word of God; as Saint Augustine memorably put it: “I would not believe the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church led me to do so”.[88] The Holy Spirit, who gives life to the Church, enables us to interpret the Scriptures authoritatively. The Bible is the Church’s book, and its essential place in the Church’s life gives rise to its genuine interpretation.

    [86] Pontifical biblical commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (15 April 1993), III, A, 3: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, No. 3035.
    [87] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, 12.
    [88] Contra epistulam Manichaei quam vocant fundamenti, V, 6: PL 42, 176.

    But it got better:

    30. Saint Jerome recalls that we can never read Scripture simply on our own. We come up against too many closed doors and we slip too easily into error. The Bible was written by the People of God for the People of God, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Only in this communion with the People of God can we truly enter as a “we” into the heart of the truth that God himself wishes to convey to us.[89] Jerome, for whom “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”,[90] states that the ecclesial dimension of biblical interpretation is not a requirement imposed from without: the Book is the very voice of the pilgrim People of God, and only within the faith of this People are we, so to speak, attuned to understand sacred Scripture. An authentic interpretation of the Bible must always be in harmony with the faith of the Catholic Church. He thus wrote to a priest: “Remain firmly attached to the traditional doctrine that you have been taught, so that you may exhort according to sound doctrine and confound those who contradict it”.[91] *

    [89] Cf. Benedict XVI, General Audience (14 November 2007): Insegnamenti III 2 (2007), 586-591.
    [90] Commentariorum in Isaiam libri, Prol.: PL 24, 17.
    [91] Epistula 52:7: CSEL 54, p. 426.>

    Found @ http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20100930_verbum-domini_en.html#_ftn86

    > We’re agreed that Scripture is not be read apart from wise men who’ve gone before, but none of these are absolutely authoritative when they veer from the Text. Needless to say, we Prots find much such ‘veerage’ in Rome.
    > We Prots cannot receive that there is another source of divine truth on a par with [& able to validate or confirm our understanding of] the Bible. It alone is God’s word to us.
    > Thank you,
    > Hugh
    * Jerry’s here taken from Paul to Titus, 1:9!

  64. Hey Darryl and Hugh.

    Your bible must not really be authoritative because so many Christians fall short of the bible’s precepts.

    Signed – Atheists

  65. S/b: Scripture is not to be read apart from wise men who’ve gone before…

  66. Sean’s atheists –
    Aha!
    You’ve found us out!
    Drat!
    ;)

  67. Sean @ 64,

    The syllogisms DO differ, you realize.

    The atheist claims that our Bible is bogus because some of its admirers are such dogs.
    It only proves that some of its admirers are not living up to what’s written therein.
    It does not prove that the Bible (the very standard of morality the atheist is using against us!) is unauthoritative.

    The Protestant claims that Rome’s claims to an infallible chair and Spirit-sanctioned conciliar dogmas (on a par with the inspired Book) are bogus because
    (1) the Bible doesn’t speak of such post-canonical authorities on a par with Itself, and,
    (2) the popes and councils have erred. Scripture never does.

    Hence, our sins do not vitiate the Bible – they would merely vitiate our claims to occasional infallibilty, if we made such. But your establishment’s claims to occasional infallibilty are seriously threatened by her many scandals.

    Thank you,
    Hugh

  68. Hugh McCann,

    I am happy you are interacting. I would like to hear you respond to my comment #11. The protestant gospel claims to be the gospel of grace which Paul preached, and yet I argued that it actually creates a certain bondage at times. For you are told on the one hand, that you cannot work or earn salvation and that it is faith alone which brings salvation, but then on the other hand, you are told that good works prove your faith and so unless good works are there you cannot know if you are saved or not. Therefore, there is practically the same, in theory, view of assurance between Catholicism and Protestatism. I lean more toward Catholicism providing a deeper assurance of salvation, for in Protestantism, when you are so focused on your works, you then hear a sermon which says that the proud focus on their works and the real elect rest on the works of Christ…..and then you think your faith is not real saving faith because you are so convicted over sin and trying to obey the Lord, when the real faith is recognizing that one cannot be good in themselves….etc,etc,etc. .

    Secondly, the “faith alone” conception of Protestantism makes the “faith” of the human being something which Satan and His demons can exercise. Since protestants see Romans 4:1-4 to prove that faith is has no worth or value in itself, else otherwise it would have a value to barter with God, and that faith is simply resting and trusting in the alien righteousness of Christ…..well then Satan can do this if salvation was opened to him. I understand that salvation has not been offered to fallen angels, but if we were to just compare justifying faith, which is widdled down to have absolutely no merit or worth in itself, then what makes this kind of faith different than what the demons have?

    As soon as you begin to qualify faith as an “obedient faith”, then you insert the requirement of internal righteousness as a necessary co-op to faith, which then moves you into the historic understanding.

  69. I know, I know, Erick Y!

    Yours takes more thought, prayer, & savoir faire, ya know!

    I did #11 in #23. I owe you for #25, correct?

  70. Erick – Short answer tonight for #s 25 & 68:
    The Puritans are not the zenith of Protestant thought. Sure, they got some things right, but they navel-gazed too much and failed (unlike earlier Reformers, Luther, Tyndale, Calvin) to point us to solus Christus!
    At least, the English. I am not conversant at all with the Lutherans.
    Prolly agood thing, too! ;)
    Also, the problem is not the biblical (Protestant) gospel, but in how it’s @ times misunderstood, misrepresented, and misapplied!
    I want to address your questions about assurance, too, but am very busy tonight.
    Also, please email me if you wish: HUGHMC5 [at] HOTMAIL [dot] COM
    Blessings galore,
    Hugh

  71. Sean Patrick, I am not pointing out hypocrisy. I am simply noting that converting to Roman Catholicism does not remove the problems that converts think they are leaving in Protestantism. If Protestantism is so bad, and if Rome has the same problems, then Rome is not superior. In fact, with all that authority, history, and apostolicity, you’d think Rome would be way better than it is.

    Look, people have been looking for Rome to reform itself for 500 years. How long, O Lord, how long?

  72. Mike, you wrote: “Of course, the above is in no sense a proof that Catholicism is true or even orthodox. Like liberal Protestants, you could always just say that religion is a matter of opinion, full stop. But what I have shown is that the Catholic Church at least has a criterion of orthodoxy that could qualify as something more than a merely empirical norm, thus constituting a truly deontic norm.”

    But that is just your opinion. The Eastern Church doesn’t believe this and it is as old (if not older) than Rome and has as much apostolicity. Plus, you never cited an iota of Scripture. Don’t you think it odd that when the apostles write about the assurance that believers can have (Heb. 6), they never mention the church or the apostles but actually rest their claims on the promises of God? And is it not strange that when Christ promises that his people will be preserved from error, he promises the Spirit (John 16).

    So while you keep trusting in the papacy, I’ll keep trusting in God.

  73. Sean Patrick, so you do acknowledge that Rome has a problem with error and hypocrisy. Then exactly how is it superior to Protestantism or to Eastern Orthodoxy (aside from the circular claims it makes for itself)? Communists also claimed to be superior to the liberal West and they had the philosophy and history to prove it.

  74. Erick, Per #25

    > Is it justification?
    Yes sir!
    >
    > Well, even as a Protestant, you cannot subjectively “know” you are justified (depending on which reformed church you are in) until you have reached a certain confirmation that your “fruit-bearing” or “repentance” is of a God-accepting level.
    Some may teach & believe that, but not all of us. Some merely say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”
    >
    > If you come from a protestant camp which is more reformed baptist or independent baptist (Richard Owen Roberts, etc,etc), you are constantly warned of “false-conversion” or “counterfeit repentance”, to the extant that one is always doubting and questioning one’s own conversion and repentance. If you are hyped up in this kind of “holiness” environment, then your assurance of your acquisition of Christ’s righteousness is not stable, but always dependent upon you passing the bare minimum level of which you think is “true” repentance. At times, the level of your standard can go down or up, depending on what you’ve been learning or who you’ve been influenced by.
    Amen! Sadly…
    >
    > For instance, those who love RC Sproul and Burk Parsons have a bit of a more easy way of balancing the Christian life so that the person has assurance and yet is still under the fear of God and obligation to live in holiness.
    J’appreciate Dr Sproul!
    >
    > But others, who dive into Matthew Meade’s Almost Christian, may find themselves going through a doubting depression for years. You yourself may be in the camp which says, “Amen! The Christian life is Hard! And one must really sacrifice all the desires of the flesh for the glory of God!”…..but you see……one wonders what effectiveness this more “grace-filled” gospel has in the life of the human being. You are consistently taught that human works have no cause in the salvation of the human being, and yet you are constantly being told that only works evidence the prior work of God, and then even more constantly reminded that there are so many counterfeit versions of the evidence, and that there is a very difficult, even impossible, single and genuine evidence which can grant one assurance of salvation.
    Bad news, this. It ain’t the gospel!
    >
    > And it becomes an even more difficult rubix cube when a Person who has been serving Christ in this way for years, and then dives into a couple of years of fornication. And the worst part about it is this, God is controlling everything. God is ordaining the doubt in salvation. If you are truly lost, despite all the energy and effort to be saved, this is also an immutable energy of God working in the life of the person.
    Truly God is sovereign. Absolutely.
    >
    > At this point, one wonders how Protestants consider themselves to have more “grace” in their gospel. Catholics believe that Jesus loves all people and wishes all to be saved.
    Erick – reread that sentence of yours: Think about it. How is loving for a god to love ‘em all, wish (sort of) for all to make it, sends his son to die for all mankind, and then, leaves it up to them to find the Catholic Church, receive sacaramental grace, and persevere therein by their synergistic [cooperative] efforts!
    >
    > He doesn’t think that his cross loses glory because some of those for whom He died reject him ultimately and go to hell, because it remains a loving act towards the world, something that is in the heart of God (John 3:16).
    But you have a god wanting to save them, but not to the point of violating their ‘free will,’ thus it’s sadly a religion of works, with nothing but possiblities (no assurances) @ the end of the day.
    >
    > Calvinists are so proud of protecting God in His glory in the unmitigated and undiluted sovereignty and predestination of God, that sometimes you really do not know if God loves you or if you are one of those Christians who are self-deceived (in the truest sense) for 50 years and then by 51 years of age you become a reprobate, and all along God has hated you and purposed you for wrath and destruction.
    Ungospel!
    >
    > You take away the very thing which human beings are to know about God, that He loves them and cares for them and wishes them to be saved, by this sovereign salvation and damnation apart from human works.
    Your religion and the Bible paint different portraits of God. We maintain that he only loves and effectually saves only his elect.
    >
    >It is almost as if since works play no part in the predestination of the elect, works also play no part in the predestination of the wicked.
    By George, I think he’s GOT it! Per Romans 9:11 – “before they had done anything good or bad… that the purpose of God according to election might stand…”
    >
    > There is a settled determination before all creation, and everything in our time is simply an outplay of this pre-determined plan. This creates much confusion with the theology of the Old Testament, Jesus, and the apostles.
    Not really, but it’s a different paradigm, for sure!
    >
    > What else is it? The Papacy? The wickedness? The lukewarmness? The false holiness? The praying to the dead?
    All of the above are problems for us, as you know. But the core issue is what did Jesus accomplish – redemption for some or potential redemption for those who rightly exercise their ‘free will’?
    Thanks,
    Hugh

  75. Hugh,

    It is not a misunderstanding of the protestant gospel. Faith alone, understood as simply receiving benefits from an outside source all the while remaining inwardly dead and enslaved to sin is a false concept of faith. Abraham’s believing in God is his giving of Himself to the will of God and not to whatever his own mind told him. It was a virtue that God was pleased to see, just as any Father is pleased to see a son trust in Him all the way to protect him. Abraham was being tested with all the delays…and yet Abraham did not lack in faith but gave glory to God, and this is why faith was reckoned for righteousness, because He gave God his whole person, mind – body – and will. Abraham could have simply not wanted to hope for a child anymore, could have ceased any relations with Sarah, could have left Canaan for Ur, etc,etc,etc…..and yet his faith caused him to remain in God’s will…and this is why it is righteousness. God gave Abraham this faith, and he no reason to boast, for God called him out of Ur of the Chaldeans to perform for Abraham what only God could do.

    To think that faith is this completely un-virtuous and of no value with God is to say that God reckoned Abraham’s assent to the facts or even his trusting in the facts (aside from obedience) as righteousness itself. Protestants want to maintain the “gift” status of justification by excluding almost any human co-operation, but it is precisely God who calls men to repent in order to be justified. Do you not believe that repentance is a condition for salvation? That right there is giving up the immoral life of sin to live in righteousness and holiness, and such a thing is a condition for the remission of sin and a right relationship with God. Was it a work? Not an outward work, but it is an inward change of the heart whereby man detests sin and moves into the holy life of God…and this is before any works are done. God considers this act of repentance and faith as righteousness, and this puts you into the right relationship with God, and of course this relationship is not one where God controls the will. Protestants like to say that the “elect” cannot die in their sin. What keeps them from dying in their sin? The protestant says God. The Catholics asks: Well then his will is under control? The protestant says no, God is sovereign and there is a mystery to His works….He wills to never allow the elect to choose mortal sin. The Catholic confirms that this is simply a way to avoid the necessary and logical conclusion, that if the justified person cannot enter back into the slave life to sin, then his/her will is under the control of God.

    If however, our wills can re-enter the life of sin, which many protestants have done, he is cut of from Christ Jesus and is no longer a participant in the glory to come. He can regain that status through conversion to Christ, and true genuine repentance. This is the belief of the historic church.

    Protestants also wish not just to procure the responsibility to God in the salvation of sinners, but also in the damnation of the non-elect. Just as God made the decision (positively) that certain men, without considering their own life or faith or holiness or sinfulness, should be destined for salvation, so also he has pre-destined certain men, apart from their own sin, that they should enter into eternal hell. This is the salvation apart from works and the damnation apart from works which is marvelously accepted in protestant circles. In the attempt to rescue God’s glory from human works mixed in the salvation of souls, they also want to rescue God’s glory from human sin in the damnation of souls, otherwise he is not sovereign, in their minds.

  76. Erick, Per #25,
    ~ Cleaning up the italics (I hope…) ~

    > If you come from a protestant camp…the level of your standard can go down or up, depending on what you’ve been learning or who you’ve been influenced by.
    Amen! Sadly…
    >
    > There is a settled determination before all creation, and everything in our time is simply an outplay of this pre-determined plan. This creates much confusion with the theology of the Old Testament, Jesus, and the apostles.
    Not really, but it’s a different paradigm, for sure!
    >
    > What else is it? The Papacy? The wickedness? The lukewarmness? The false holiness? The praying to the dead?
    All of the above are problems for us, as you know. But the core issue is what did Jesus accomplish – redemption for some or potential redemption for those who rightly exercise their ‘free will’?

  77. Erick @ 75 ~
    > It is not a misunderstanding of the protestant gospel. Faith alone, understood as simply receiving benefits from an outside source all the while remaining inwardly dead and enslaved to sin is a false concept of faith.
    Agreed!

    Abraham’s believing in God is his giving of Himself to the will of God and not to whatever his own mind told him. It was a virtue that God was pleased to see, just as any Father is pleased to see a son trust in Him all the way to protect him. Abraham was being tested with all the delays…and yet Abraham did not lack in faith but gave glory to God, and this is why faith was reckoned for righteousness, because He gave God his whole person, mind – body – and will.
    That’s the RCC definition of faith? OK – but it ain’t ours…

    > To think that faith is this completely un-virtuous and of no value with God is to say that God reckoned Abraham’s assent to the facts or even his trusting in the facts (aside from obedience) as righteousness itself.
    The value was not in the believing or in the regeneration of Abe’s spirit, but in Christ alone, the grand object of Abe’s faith!

    Protestants want to maintain the “gift” status of justification by excluding almost any human co-operation, but it is precisely God who calls men to repent in order to be justified. Do you not believe that repentance is a condition for salvation?
    Yes, Mark 1:15. It is given us, as is faith. Regeneration precedes repentance & faith, and necessarily gives both to God’s elect.

    That right there is giving up the immoral life of sin to live in righteousness and holiness, and such a thing is a condition for the remission of sin and a right relationship with God. Was it a work? Not an outward work, but it is an inward change of the heart whereby man detests sin and moves into the holy life of God…and this is before any works are done.
    The change is God’s monergistic work, sans man’s cooperation of any kind.

    God considers this act of repentance and faith as righteousness, and this puts you into the right relationship with God, and of course this relationship is not one where God controls the will. Protestants like to say that the “elect” cannot die in their sin. What keeps them from dying in their sin? The protestant says God.
    Yes. The keeping power of Christ. AS you read John’s gospel in particular (esp. ch. 10), you’ll hear Christ promising his keeping his sheep for whom he died.

    The Catholics asks: Well then his will is under control? The protestant says no, God is sovereign and there is a mystery to His works….He wills to never allow the elect to choose mortal sin.
    We of course consider all sin to be of your ‘mortal’ variety.

    The Catholic confirms that this is simply a way to avoid the necessary and logical conclusion, that if the justified person cannot enter back into the slave life to sin, then his/her will is under the control of God.
    Right

    > If however, our wills can re-enter the life of sin, which many protestants have done, he is cut of from Christ Jesus and is no longer a participant in the glory to come. He can regain that status through conversion to Christ, and true genuine repentance. This is the belief of the historic church.
    I know; at least a big chunk of the visible, institutional part of it…

    > Protestants also wish not just to procure the responsibility to God in the salvation of sinners, but also in the damnation of the non-elect. Just as God made the decision (positively) that certain men, without considering their own life or faith or holiness or sinfulness, should be destined for salvation, so also he has pre-destined certain men, apart from their own sin, that they should enter into eternal hell. This is the salvation apart from works and the damnation apart from works which is marvelously accepted in protestant circles. In the attempt to rescue God’s glory from human works mixed in the salvation of souls, they also want to rescue God’s glory from human sin in the damnation of souls, otherwise he is not sovereign, in their minds.
    In SOME Prot circles (not enough! imho), yes. Well-stated. Cain, Esau, Pharaoh, OT Saul, Judas – all were vessels of God’s wrath made to be destroyed in the fires of hell (Rom. 9; 2 Peter 2:12).
    Thank you,
    Hugh

  78. Erick @68

    >…the “faith alone” conception of Protestantism makes the “faith” of the human being something which Satan and His demons can exercise. Since protestants see Romans 4:1-4 to prove that faith is has no worth or value in itself, else otherwise it would have a value to barter with God, and that faith is simply resting and trusting in the alien righteousness of Christ…..well then Satan can do this if salvation was opened to him. I understand that salvation has not been offered to fallen angels, but if we were to just compare justifying faith, which is widdled down to have absolutely no merit or worth in itself, then what makes this kind of faith different than what the demons have?
    “Whittled,” perhaps?
    Satan does not have salvation open to him as an option. Demonic faith is unsaving because it cannot trust Christ alone, and hence being a bogus ‘faith,’ it produces no abiding fruit. The notion that there is a God is little help, as James points out. 1 Cor. 15:3f is salvific. Much different content!

    > As soon as you begin to qualify faith as an “obedient faith”, then you insert the requirement of internal righteousness as a necessary co-op to faith, which then moves you into the historic understanding.
    Agreed. It is a faith that moves us to work, but not a faith that has works within it. Love is not a component of faith, for example, but a fruit thereof. Etc. Saving obedient faith is a redundancy. But faith that doesn’t produce works is dead, as St James saith.

    Thanks,
    Hugh
    P.S. I will never out-type you, Ybarra!

  79. Erick – let’s do this offsite, in emails.
    Hugh
    HUGHMC5atHOTMAILdotCOM

  80. Darryl,

    “Sean Patrick, so you do acknowledge that Rome has a problem with error and hypocrisy.”

    No. I did not say that Rome has a problem with ‘error.’

    As to the rest of what you’ve written, I might suggest that you actually take a moment to try to understand what the claims of the Catholic Church mean. Nobody has ever claimed that the Catholic Church is a magical place where sinners stop being sinners and all the billion Catholics in the world conform perfectly to the precepts of the Church. We did not leave Protestantism because we thought we’d escape sinful and hypocritical people.

    So, your entire line of argumentation is attacking a straw man. If you want to know why we became Catholic, all you have to do is ask. Jason Stellman described some of his reasons in this interview. Note that he did not at any point say, “Well, all the Protestant churches are full of sinful people who adhere to the bible to varying degrees and some Protestants completely disregard biblical teaching and I heard that Catholics are all better at obeying so I became Catholic.”

    If I do say so myself, you and Hugh are really quite late to the conversation here. You both are playing cards that have played by others on Called to Communion before.

    Instead of playing the same old tired typical apologetics that don’t address the issue at hand and largely rely presuppositions that what we believe is not ‘in the bible’, why not actually engage with what Jason said in his talk?

  81. # 67.

    The Protestant claims that Rome’s claims to an infallible chair and Spirit-sanctioned conciliar dogmas (on a par with the inspired Book) are bogus because
    (1) the Bible doesn’t speak of such post-canonical authorities on a par with Itself, and,
    (2) the popes and councils have erred. Scripture never does.

    All of that begs the question.

  82. Sean,

    Better late than never, as I alawys say! :)

    Et. al.,

    Seriously, and I repeat myself, I know, but the severity of the charges of just the past decade, the payoffs and even confessions, weighed against very lofty claims unheard from any other Christian communion make one dubious about Rome’s unique self-description. Can you at least, please, admit that much wickedness has been carried out under Church leadership protection in the name of holiness and piety and the need to protect the institutional machinery?

    And that this understandably doesn’t sit or play well with not just conservative Protestants, liberals, or atheists, but among the Catholic faithful as well?

    The last time I tried bringing this up, I was castigated and discouraged from posting. I am am pleading with my Romanist friends @ CTC – please own up to Rome’s disgraceful sins, and acknowledge that not all who bring it up are demons.

    The Church MUST reform itself, police itself, even the world sees it. Please.

    Thank you,
    Hugh

  83. Which question is begged, Sean?

  84. Question to all. If the Bible is the only real authority necessary for salvation, what did the earliest Christians do before there was a New Testament, fully defined and certified kosher? You tell me how many 1st and 2nd Century Christians ever saw a written scripture? Yet many were heroic martyrs, were they not saved? Even if they had pieces of the New Testament from say the letters of St. Paul in their community, they certainly never had a full Bible, Old or New Testament. Who could even afford to possess a fully written Bible or any book for that matter? They only had the verbal tradition, taught to them by their bishops and priests. Doesn’t this blow apart the whole Protestant position? Am I missing something?

  85. So God makes men for the purpose of molding them into sinners so that He is the one responsible for their wickedness?

  86. Sean, You’ve avoided my point.

    Your witty atheist gag about Prots’ Bibles is one thing.
    We claim a perfect Book, not perfect followers.

    You claim a sometimes infallible pope and cardinals.
    Yet these who call for implicit and unquestioning fealty
    and who claim to the one true church established by Christ,
    with all the deposit of the fulness of the Holy Spirit,
    with a man [today, two*] claiming to be God’s vicar on earth,
    also commit fairly heinous sins & cover-ups.

    These are quite different things, my question-begging notwithstanding.

    Thanks,
    Hugh

    * I am unclear – has Ben16 forfeited his vicarage?

  87. Darryl, (re; #71)

    You wrote:

    I am simply noting that converting to Roman Catholicism does not remove the problems that converts think they are leaving in Protestantism.

    It does if the fundamental problem one finds oneself in, as a Protestant, is being in schism from the Church Christ founded. It isn’t ultimately about whether the Catholic Church is “better;” it has ultimately to do with the Catholic Church being the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” Christ founded, and the failure within Protestantism to preserve conceptually the very possibility of schism from the Church, and thus distinguish non-arbitrarily between a schism from the Church and a branch within the Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  88. Hugh,

    Question: how do you know you have a “perfect Book? Who told you that it is perfect? Prove it!

  89. Michael J. @84 – They would have had to rely on oral tradition. That was enscripturated in the biblical canon. The church recognized it years later.
    But when Paul speaks of traditions, how do you know that what’s been passed along to today are his (& the Spirit’s) direct commands?

    Erick @85 ~ Some men, yes. St Paul calls them vessels of wrath made for destruction. Romans 9 & 2 Peter 2:12.

    Thanks,
    Hugh

  90. Michael @88 – I cannot do this last request, “Prove it.”
    I answered the first two questions above in #s 50, 55, 59, 63.
    Thank you,
    Hugh

  91. Must be going.
    Goodnight, all!
    Hugh

  92. I asked this very question of a leading Calvinist pastor in Geneva. I have yet to get an adequate response from him. I asked the same question of a Baptist minister, friend of mine from high school….no answer either. The reason is because they both have to admit that some early Catholic bishops in Africa said it like 1600 years ago. The New Testament is our family book, written by Catholics. A part of the truth, but not the complete truth. Yet the Protestants act as if it is the only game in town. I submit that is a form of idolatry…

  93. # 89. So Hugh you’re telling me that the earliest Christians didn’t have the “perfect Book,” and that these earliest saints didn’t have the full truth as you Protestants assert is necessary for salvation? If they did have the “Truth,” it was from their Church, taught by their bishops and priests, who learned it from the Apostles? The very same truth passed down by the very same Church to this day?

  94. #89. How can you ensure that oral tradition, which was later “enscripturated,” was at all accurate in the first place? Prove it to me….It’s the Church( with a capital C) that guarantees it. The same Church whose authority you deny! How do you know the written translations from that same dysfunctional Church weren’t corrupted at some point over the past thousands of years?
    I think that if you were to transport Calvin, Luther, Wesley, any other 16th Century Protestant “scholar” back to the 1st Century and they espoused some of their “truths,” the early Christians would stare at them like they had come from an alien planet, had three heads, or laughed them out of the catacombs!

  95. Michael,

    Just checking in – yes, we believe in the Scriptures as being the written record of all the tradition God wanted the Church to have. Nothing extra-canonical is of the same weight, of divine authority.

    We have implicit faith in the Book, while yours rests on the RCC’s recorded dogmas & rites. All taken by faith, eh?

    We’re not charting new courses, here, but no one will. It’s the ages old argument of the Reformers and Rome.

    @93 – the perfect Book was being assembled as the Apostles died off. It took the Church a few centuries to rightly acknowledge the canon.

    Thanks,
    Hugh

  96. Hey Russ,

    I really appreciate your comments and encouragement.

  97. Not to change the subject, but is this the same “Hugh McCann” that taught my all-time favorite college course (Philosophy 361: Metaphysics) at Texas A&M University?

  98. Sean, who said anything about “the Catholic Church is a magical place where sinners stop being sinners and all the billion Catholics in the world conform perfectly to the precepts of the Church”? I actually brought up the Syllabus of Errors and Unam Sanctum. All I’m asking is for a little coherence from your pontiffs. And the point is that Vatican II changed that but no one on your side seems to know what to do about that.

  99. Bryan, but Jesus was never in Rome. How could Rome be the church that Christ founded? This is all based on what Roman prejudiced clerics say. You don’t find a whiff of it in Scripture. Remember John 16 — it’s about the Spirit, not about the pope.

  100. Bryan, btw, but if you’re saying that Protestants are guilty of mortal sin and so are going to hell, that’s good to hear the straight dope rather than this “separated brethren” liberalism.

  101. Hugh:

    What this centuries-old dispute is really about is the nature of divine faith. As Catholics, we hold that one can only believe God as Revealer by trusting an ongoing human authority as an embodiment of divine authority. The Apostles directly and visibly experienced the primary Authority of that form: Jesus the Christ. We who “do not see, but believe” must rely in part on a secondary extension of that authority. On that point, we are all agreed. That disagreement is about the composition of that secondary authority.

    Like all conservative Protestants, you hold that only a book constitutes that authority. I reply that the grounds for trusting that book as an extension of the Logos’ primary authority are only as strong as the grounds for trusting the human authorities who wrote, collected, and proclaimed the contents of that book as divinely inspired and thus inerrant. The belief that certain writers and not others were divinely inspired and thus inerrant would only be an opinion if the early, post-apostolic Church were not divinely protected from error in holding and teaching such a belief. If said Church could have been wrong on that matter, then said book can no more count as an object for the assent of divine faith, as distinct from that of human opinion, than the authority of the early Church herself. And the same goes for the ongoing interpretation of the Bible. Unless a particular, ongoing ecclesial authority since then is understood to be divinely protected from error when teaching under certain conditions, then neither its nor anybody else’s interpretation of the Bible for doctrinal purposes can amount to anything more than provisional human opinion. And such opinions neither command nor merit the assent of divine faith, “implicit” or otherwise. Therefore, to hold that the early Church was infallible when certifying the Bible as inerrant, but the Church thereafter is never infallible when interpreting the Bible for doctrinal purposes, is to render the Bible useless as a source of doctrine calling for the unconditional assent of faith, as distinct from that of provisional opinion.

    This is why conservative Protestantism is just liberal Protestantism waiting to happen all over again.

    Best,
    Mike

  102. Darryl (#72):

    I had written:

    Of course, the above is in no sense a proof that Catholicism is true or even orthodox. Like liberal Protestants, you could always just say that religion is a matter of opinion, full stop. But what I have shown is that the Catholic Church at least has a criterion of orthodoxy that could qualify as something more than a merely empirical norm, thus constituting a truly deontic norm.

    To that, you first reply:

    But that is just your opinion. The Eastern Church doesn’t believe this and it is as old (if not older) than Rome and has as much apostolicity.

    I’m afraid you’ve missed the point. I was not trying to establish that the Catholic Church actually does constitute the “deontic norm” of orthodoxy. I claimed only that the Catholic Church makes a key sort of claim that’s necessary for qualifying as such. I am well aware that the Eastern-Orthodox communion does the same for itself, in its own terms. And so I’m happy to acknowledge that it too makes the necessary sort of claim. But few Protestant churches do, and none can do so plausibly. So, although the argument of mine I quoted above does not suffice to validate the claim of the Roman over the EO communion to be “the” Church that teaches with Christ’s divine authority, it does suffice to rule out any Protestant church or communion.

    Doubtless you’ll want to reply that that too is a matter of opinion. And as I had said, you can always hold, like liberal Protestants, that the Christian religion in general is a matter of opinion. But even aside from ruling out the assent of divine faith altogether, that stance would be too facile. If either the Roman or the EO communion is “the” Church that teaches with Christ’s divine authority, then the assent to what is taught by said authority is that of divine faith, not of that of opinion. Thus it would be self-inconsistent of me as a Catholic to treat my acceptance of the Church’s claims for herself as a matter of opinion. You cannot say the same about yourself in relation to your own church, whatever that may be.

    You next write:

    Plus, you never cited an iota of Scripture. Don’t you think it odd that when the apostles write about the assurance that believers can have (Heb. 6), they never mention the church or the apostles but actually rest their claims on the promises of God? And is it not strange that when Christ promises that his people will be preserved from error, he promises the Spirit (John 16).

    In the present context, there are two problems with that argument.

    First, it’s a non-sequitur. From the fact that Hebrews 6 doesn’t talk about the Church, it doesn’t follow that the writer didn’t take believers’ reliance on the Church for granted. From the fact that Christ promises the Spirit to keep the Church indefectible, it doesn’t follow that an infallible teaching authority is not one of the means by which he chose to keep that promise. And your argument is that particular form of non-sequitur fallacy known as the “argument from silence.” It takes no account of other passages, such as “He who hears you, hears me” and the Church is “the pillar and bulwark of truth,” that should be understood as part of the exegetical context for the passages you quote. Of course you would want to say that the correct interpretation of the passages I’ve cited is not the Catholic. But that brings me to the second problem with your argument.

    Citing Scripture in this context is merely question-begging for either of us unless and until two things are established: the grounds for holding that Scripture is a normative record of divine revelation, and the grounds for holding certain interpretations of it are authentic conveyances of that revelation, rather than merely human theological opinions. The Catholic interpretive paradigm supplies such grounds as themselves objects for the assent of faith. Your IP does not.

    Finally, you write:

    So while you keep trusting in the papacy, I’ll keep trusting in God.

    That begs the question in two ways: first, by assuming a dichotomy between the teaching authority of the papacy and that of God, which is exactly what Catholics would deny; second, by assuming that you know, without trusting the papacy’s teaching authority, that you’re trusting God’s authority, which Catholics would deny.

    Best,
    Mike

  103. Bryan, but Jesus was never in Rome. How could Rome be the church that Christ founded?

    Is this really what the argument has come to Darryl???

    Jesus founded the Church on the apostles at Pentecost. This was not merely the ‘Roman’ church but it was the Catholic Church. One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. The apostles went out from there and began to preach the gospel and baptize. Peter ended up in Rome and was the first bishop of that city. He died there and is still buried there.

  104. Hey Mike @ 101 – good morning!

    Amen and amen to your opening.

    …the grounds for trusting that book as an extension of the Logos’ primary authority are only as strong as the grounds for trusting the human authorities who wrote, collected, and proclaimed the contents of that book as divinely inspired and thus inerrant.
    > I’d say that the grounds are only as strong as the sovereign Lord who superintended the writing and collecting of his works. Again, you and I assert he’s revealed himself in different ways.

    The belief that certain writers and not others were divinely inspired and thus inerrant would only be an opinion if the early, post-apostolic Church were not divinely protected from error in holding and teaching such a belief. If said Church could have been wrong on that matter, then said book can no more count as an object for the assent of divine faith, as distinct from that of human opinion, than the authority of the early Church herself. And the same goes for the ongoing interpretation of the Bible.
    > So far, I’m with you…

    Unless a particular, ongoing ecclesial authority since then is understood to be divinely protected from error when teaching under certain conditions, then neither its nor anybody else’s interpretation of the Bible for doctrinal purposes can amount to anything more than provisional human opinion. And such opinions neither command nor merit the assent of divine faith, “implicit” or otherwise. Therefore, to hold that the early Church was infallible when certifying the Bible as inerrant, but the Church thereafter is never infallible when interpreting the Bible for doctrinal purposes, is to render the Bible useless as a source of doctrine calling for the unconditional assent of faith, as distinct from that of provisional opinion.
    > Agreed again! That’s why I haven’t said that the chruch never gets anything right, or “is never infallible when interpreting the Bible for doctrinal purposes,” but that your church has erred in many more ways than you guys allow. Most fundamentally, in the source of dogma and in the gospel of Christ.

    This is why conservative Protestantism is just liberal Protestantism waiting to happen all over again.
    :) !
    > When I [briefly] taught N.T. at an Anglo-Catholic Anglican seminary, I recall the Archbishop remarking how Calvinists degenerated into Unitarianism. There are pitfalls all around – I pray I fall into none (tho’ you all would say I’m mired in one TODAY!).

    Thank you,
    Hugh
    Feast of the Annunciation of Mary

  105. Dear Joel, @ 97,

    No, I am not Hugh J. McCann.* But I work with Robert Garcia’s mother-in-law. Does that count? :)

    All Hugh McCanns & all philosophers should read Gordon H. Clark. For my pals @ CTC may I recommend his Lord God of Truth published with “Concerning the Teacher” [De Magistro] by Augustine?

    Thank you,
    Hugh T. McCann
    (not nearly as smart as the TAMU philosopher!)
    * http://philosophy.tamu.edu/People/Faculty/McCann/

  106. Darryl (re: #99, #100)

    Bryan, but Jesus was never in Rome. How could Rome be the church that Christ founded? This is all based on what Roman prejudiced clerics say. You don’t find a whiff of it in Scripture. Remember John 16 — it’s about the Spirit, not about the pope.

    We don’t have to choose between John 16 and Matthew 16, or between the Spirit and Christ, or between the Spirit and Christ’s Vicar, or between the Spirit and Christ’s Body (i.e. the Church). That sort of false dilemma was the notion of the second century Montanist heresy, and I’ve addressed it here. Yes, Jesus was never in Rome, but He did not need to go to Rome to found the universal Church and give the keys of His Kingdom to St. Peter. St. Peter did go to Rome sometime around AD 43, and was martyred there around AD 68, being crucified — though upside down, because he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as our Lord. The Church is the Kingdom prophesied in Daniel 2 and 7, as I pointed out in comment #428 of the “Christ Founded a Visible Church” thread, and thus receives the dominion of all the kingdoms, including the fourth kingdom of Daniel’s prophecies. It is not an accident that the one who had received the keys from Jesus went to Rome, to take the fourth kingdom not with the sword, but by testifying before Caesar, and not loving his life even unto death (Rev. 12:11). Christ’s Kingdom was to be *catholic,* not merely Hebrew, and so it was to be centered in Rome, built right over the heart of the fourth kingdom of men.

    Bryan, btw, but if you’re saying that Protestants are guilty of mortal sin and so are going to hell, that’s good to hear the straight dope rather than this “separated brethren” liberalism.

    I have not said nor am I saying that Protestants are guilty of mortal sin or are going to hell. The One who sees the hearts of men will judge us all on that Day. The Catholic teaching that Protestants who have been validly baptized are attached to the Church by Baptism, but through no fault of their own remain separated from her both in doctrine and communion, are “separated brethren” is not “liberalism,” though if you have *argument* for that claim, you are welcome to lay it out.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  107. Hugh (#104):

    You write:

    I’d say that the grounds are only as strong as the sovereign Lord who superintended the writing and collecting of his works. Again, you and I assert he’s revealed himself in different ways.

    I agree with your first sentence. But since it doesn’t address the issue I’ve posed, it’s irrelevant. As to your second sentence, I do not merely “assert” my position; I’ve argued for it. You don’t give an argument for your position in the above paragraph; instead, you adumbrate such an argument in your next. Thus:

    …I haven’t said that the chruch never gets anything right, or “is never infallible when interpreting the Bible for doctrinal purposes,” but that your church has erred in many more ways than you guys allow. Most fundamentally, in the source of dogma and in the gospel of Christ.

    But the first sentence in that paragraph is irrelevant, and the second simply begs the question.

    The first is irrelevant for two reasons. For one thing, if you are indeed claiming that something called “the Church” is infallible under certain conditions, your claim is empty unless you say (a) which church is “the Church” Christ invested with his teaching authority, (b)under what conditions she exercises that authority infallibly, and (c) how you can present such infallibility as something other than the agreement of “the Church” with your interpretation of Scripture, which is itself fallible. As a Catholic, I can do (a)-(c) because the Church herself has already done so. But you have not. The other reason the above paragraph of yours is irrelevant is that no Catholic would deny that Church leaders have sometimes “erred” in the sense of “sinned,” but you haven’t shown that such moral deficiencies logically imply doctrinal deficiencies.

    Your second sentence begs the question because it merely asserts your position without arguing for it.

    Best,
    Mike

  108. Mike the Meticulous @ 107 ~

    I’d say that the grounds are only as strong as the sovereign Lord who superintended the writing and collecting of his works. Again, you and I assert he’s revealed himself in different ways.

    I agree with your first sentence. But since it doesn’t address the issue I’ve posed, it’s irrelevant. As to your second sentence, I do not merely “assert” my position; I’ve argued for it. You don’t give an argument for your position in the above paragraph; instead, you adumbrate such an argument in your next.
    > Thank you for the correction. Agreed.

    …I haven’t said that the chruch never gets anything right, or “is never infallible when interpreting the Bible for doctrinal purposes,” but that your church has erred in many more ways than you guys allow. Most fundamentally, in the source of dogma and in the gospel of Christ.

    But the first sentence in that paragraph is irrelevant, and the second simply begs the question.

    The first is irrelevant for two reasons. For one thing, if you are indeed claiming that something called “the Church” is infallible under certain conditions, your claim is empty unless you say (a) which church is “the Church” Christ invested with his teaching authority, (b) under what conditions she exercises that authority infallibly,
    > You’re looking for a visible institution. I do not.

    …and (c) how you can present such infallibility as something other than the agreement of “the Church” with your interpretation of Scripture, which is itself fallible. As a Catholic, I can do (a)-(c) because the Church herself has already done so.
    > Right.

    But you have not.
    > I don’t see how I can. Or that I want to. Or need to; except that you folks claim to have it all dialed in, and therefore want us to answer you in kind. I don’t see that we can.

    The other reason the above paragraph of yours is irrelevant is that no Catholic would deny that Church leaders have sometimes “erred” in the sense of “sinned,” but you haven’t shown that such moral deficiencies logically imply doctrinal deficiencies.
    > That there are doctrinal errors in all our communions is not denied, is it? I am not arguing that “moral deficiencies logically imply doctrinal deficiencies,” but both happen in all our communions – we don’t disagree there, do we?
    > Of course, our Prot list of Roman errors is much longer than yours.
    > Hugh

  109. Darryl (re: #98)

    All I’m asking is for a little coherence from your pontiffs. And the point is that Vatican II changed that but no one on your side seems to know what to do about that.

    If you want to ask “for a little coherence,” from our pontiffs, first you’ll need to demonstrate or establish that there is some incoherence between pre-conciliar teaching and Vatican II. You have not yet done that, or even begun to do that. I already addressed (in comment #89 of the Habemus Papam thread) your claim (in comment #87 of that same thread) that pre-conciliar teaching pointed to eternal life as something we obtain in the life to come, while post-conciliar teaches that we receive eternal life in this present life.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  110. Hugh @ 105,

    Thanks for confirming. Our textbook in that course would help Christians from all sides… like squat thrusts for the mind to prepare for theological discussions such as these… William Carter’s The Elements of Metaphysics weighs in at approximately 200 pages, is not a quick read, and will make you think about how you think… about God and how God thinks and whether or not you can even think about God on your own. Reminds me of what C.S. Lewis wrote, when recalling his debates with his logical monster of a schoolmaster, Kirk, “Some boys would not have liked it; to me it was red beef and strong beer.” (in Surprised by Joy, 1955)

  111. Mike, I know, every time I say something it’s ad hominem, a straw man, or a begged question. At least I know a place where I can get the pre-Vatican II apologetic.

    But from my paradigm, your philosophical claims are beside the point since they don’t actually address what God reveals. Sorry, but I still have great attachment for the Bible. But I know that book has not always been available to the RC laity.

  112. Bryan and Sean, but wouldn’t it be nice if you had more than one verse on which to hang your claims or through which to read the rest of Scripture. I know, I have the wrong paradigm. The right one begins and ends with Matt. 16. But given the small role that Peter plays in the rest of the NT after Acts 15 (not to mention that Mary doesn’t even make a cameo appearance), you guys better run for cover to the early church fathers.

  113. Bryan, do the current popes still affirm the Syllabus of Errors? Do they still ban books? Do they still follow Unigenitus?

    One of the great things about being a Protestant is that we have a lot less to explain. You guys have a long history that gives you so many more problems than your average Wesleyan or your kooky Unitarian.

    I recommend you take a look at pp. 281ff of Owen Chadwick’s book on the difficulties surrounding Unigenitus: http://books.google.com/books?id=fIo_5qn2o9kC&lpg=PP1&dq=popes%20and%20european%20revolution&pg=PA281#v=onepage&q=unigenitus&f=false

  114. #112

    Darryl,

    You have been posting here for about a week but I have yet to see you make an argument or present something substantial. Its quick comments that ignore paradigms, as if paradigms are not important, or otherwise stock apologetic quips that do nothing to advance the conversation. “Jesus never went to Rome so He could not have founded the Roman Church.” Sorry Darryl, but that sort of comment isn’t going to get much traction.

    Now you are moving onto stuff like, “You guys base everything on Matthew 16…!” Again, that won’t get you very far either. It begs the question and betrays the fact that the Catholic Church has never placed Her claims on one bible verse.

    The funny thing is that you will show that you’ll post stuff here all day but you won’t engage in Jason’s talk. Why is that?

  115. Joel @110,
    Much smaller but no less profound (I’ll bet) and quite biblical are the works of the aforementioned Gordon Clark – the preeminent Protestant mind of the last century.
    Please see his articles (and books) at http://www.trinityfoundation.org
    Thanks,
    This Hugh

  116. Darryl (re: #112, #113)

    You wrote:

    Bryan and Sean, but wouldn’t it be nice if you had more than one verse on which to hang your claims or through which to read the rest of Scripture. I know, I have the wrong paradigm. The right one begins and ends with Matt. 16.

    The paradigm does not begin and and end with Mt 16, but it does include Tradition, and is not merely “solo scriptura.”

    But given the small role that Peter plays in the rest of the NT after Acts 15 (not to mention that Mary doesn’t even make a cameo appearance), you guys better run for cover to the early church fathers.

    Again, see your “wrong paradigm” comment, regarding the question-begging character of trying to infer the relative importance or truth of a doctrine by the infrequency of its repetition in the New Testament or its non-explicit presence in the NT.

    Bryan, do the current popes still affirm the Syllabus of Errors? Do they still ban books? Do they still follow Unigenitus?

    Books are no longer banned by the Index, but the pastoral principles regarding the right and duty of the bishops to ensure that no harm is done to the faith and morals of the Christian faithful through social communication remain part of canon law. (see canons 822-832) And the errors pointed out in the Syllabus are still errors, and remain condemned. And the errors condemned in Unigenitus are still errors and remain condemned.

    One of the great things about being a Protestant is that we have a lot less to explain. You guys have a long history that gives you so many more problems than your average Wesleyan or your kooky Unitarian.

    Having no history is a “great” thing if the ultimate goal is to have “less to explain,” but not a “great” thing if the goal is to be in the Church Christ founded.

    I recommend you take a look at pp. 281ff of Owen Chadwick’s book on the difficulties surrounding Unigenitus: http://books.google.com/books?id=fIo_5qn2o9kC&lpg=PP1&dq=popes%20and%20european%20revolution&pg=PA281#v=onepage&q=unigenitus&f=false

    Thanks, done. Feel free to specify what you think is a “difficulty” regarding Unigenitus, and why it is a difficulty.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  117. Hear hear, Bryan.

    Darryl – please specify what you think is a “difficulty” regarding Unigenitus, and why it is a difficulty. Amen & please explain.

    Chadwick saith (p 282), “To a numerous body of men, especially in France, the bull was impossible, or only possible to to receive by a feat of intellectual gymnastics in the way of interpretation.” So, what else is new?

  118. Hugh (#108):

    I had asked you how

    …(c) how you can present such infallibility as something other than the agreement of “the Church” with your interpretation of Scripture, which is itself fallible. As a Catholic, I can do (a)-(c) because the Church herself has already done so.

    To that, you replied:

    Right. But you have not. I don’t see how I “can.” Or that I want to. Or need to; except that you folks claim to have it all dialed in, and therefore want us to answer you in kind. I don’t see that we can.

    I know well that you can’t and don’t want to. But unless and until you do it all the same, you have no reply to my arguments. And if you’re going to show that your IP is at least rationally plausible, you “need” such a reply. Of course you might see no “need” to show that your IP is at least rationally plausible. In that case, you’d be stuck in fideism–a stance which supplies no reason for anybody to prefer your beliefs to theirs, or even to share your beliefs at all. That’s not a position I want or need to be in myself, and I don’t have to be.

    Best,
    Mike

  119. Mike @ 118,

    [1] What is “IP”?

    [2] To clarify: You wrote:

    …(c) how you can present such infallibility as something other than the agreement of “the Church” with your interpretation of Scripture, which is itself fallible. As a Catholic, I can do (a)-(c) because the Church herself has already done so. But you have not.

    [3] I get you – please hear me. I am saying that I don’t believe that I can prove our claims apart from sola scriptura. No other authority for us is equal to (much less, surpasses) it. You say that you “know well” that I cannot prove our position beyond what we’ve said for centuries. I agree. Call me “stuck in fideism” (or worse), but aren’t we in agreement here? If so, please stop demanding something that you and I agree I cannot produce!

    Thank you,
    Hugh

  120. Darryl (#111),

    I know, every time I say something it’s ad hominem, a straw man, or a begged question.
    …Sorry, but I still have great attachment for the Bible. But I know that book has not always been available to the RC laity.

    You can add red herring to the list.

    From Henry Graham’s book Where We Got the Bible, Ch.11:
    http://www.catholicapologetics.info/apologetics/protestantism/wbible.htm#CHAPTER XI

    The translators of the Authorised Version, in their ‘Preface’, referring to previous translations of the Scriptures into the language of the people, make the following important statements. After speaking of the Greek and Latin Versions, they proceed:

    ‘The godly-learned were not content to have the Scriptures in the language which themselves understood, Greek and Latin … but also for the behoof and edifying of the unlearned which hungered and thirsted after righteousness, and had souls to be saved as well as they, they provided translations into the Vulgar for their countrymen, insomuch that most nations under Heaven did shortly after their conversion hear Christ speaking unto them in their Mother tongue, not by the voice of their minister only but also by the written word translated.’
    Now, as all these nations were certainly converted by the Roman Catholic Church, for there was then no other to send missionaries to convert anybody, this is really a valuable admission. The Translators of 1611, then, after enumerating many converted nations that had the Vernacular Scriptures, come to the case of England, and include it among the others.

    Much about that time,’ they say (1360), even in our King Richard the Second’s days, John Trevisa translated them into English, and many English Bibles in written hand are yet to be seen that divers translated, as it is very probable, in that age . … So that, to have the Scriptures in the mother tongue is not a quaint conceit lately taken up, either by the Lord Cromwell in England [or others] … but hath been thought upon, and put in practice of old, even from the first times of the conversion of any nation.’

    …people who could read at all in the Middle Ages could read Latin: hence there was little need for the Church to issue the Scriptures in any other language. But as a matter of fact she did in many countries put the Scriptures in the hands of her children in their own tongue. (I) We know from history that there were popular translations of the Bible and Gospels in Spanish, Italian, Danish, French, Norwegian, Polish, Bohemian and Hungarian for the Catholics of those lands before the days of printing, but we shall confine ourselves to England, so as to refute once more the common fallacy that John Wycliff was the first to place an English translation of the Scriptures in the hands of the English people in 1382.

    Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England under Henry VIII who says: ‘The whole Bible long before Wycliff’s day was by virtuous and well-learned men translated into the English tongue, and by good and godly people with devotion and soberness well and reverently read’ (Dialogues III). Again, ‘The clergy keep no Bibles from the laity but such translations as be either not yet approved for good, or such as be already reproved for naught (i.e., bad, naughty) as Wycliff’s was. For, as for old ones that were before Wycliff’s days, they remain lawful and be in some folks’ hand. I myself have seen, and can show you, Bibles, fair and old which have been known and seen by the Bishop of the Diocese, and left in laymen’s hands and women’s too, such as he knew for good and Catholic folk, that used them with soberness and devotion.’

    Combine the above facts with the facts that ANY book in the pre printing press era was worth months of wages, and that literacy was low, and the idea the Catholic Church kept the bible from the people is really strange. In fact, even when I was Reformed, I was defending Christendom on this point against KJV only fundamentalists.

  121. [1] IP = “Interpretative paradigm” GOT IT!

    You’ve got the CIP & I’ve got the PIP!

  122. Darryl (#111):

    You wrote:

    …I know, every time I say something it’s ad hominem, a straw man, or a begged question. At least I know a place where I can get the pre-Vatican II apologetic.

    There’s nothing particularly “pre-Vatican-II” about exposing fallacies as such. And even if there were, that would not be a defect if I’m correct. And you have said nothing to show I’m incorrect.

    You wrote:

    But from my paradigm, your philosophical claims are beside the point since they don’t actually address what God reveals. Sorry, but I still have great attachment for the Bible. But I know that book has not always been available to the RC laity.

    I hardly know where to begin with that. Let’s get the snark out of the way first.

    As a Catholic, I too have “great attachment for the Bible.” Every day, I pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which contains psalms and Scripture readings. Every week, I conduct a Bible study incorporating various passages about timely and apposite themes of practical and spiritual interest to the participants. As an undergraduate, I studied Old Testament with Theodor Gaster, a Jewish rabbi and professor who, as much as anyone else in the world, was responsible for making the content and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls accessible to the general public. I studied New Testament with Elaine Pagels, a liberal Protestant who, more than any other academic writing in English, has been responsible for presenting the content and meaning of 2nd- and 3rd-century Gnostic writings accessible to the general public. I am by no means indifferent to the Bible either confessionally or academically, and I am as familiar with its larger context in the ancient world as with its content. What we disagree about is not the importance of the Bible or the study thereof, but about three other questions: (1) Why should the Bible be considered divinely inspired and thus inerrant, and (2) How should it be authoritatively interpreted? (3) Whatever the answer to (2), why should we accept it? As a Catholic, I can and do answer those questions. So far at least, you have not even attempted to do so.

    Perhaps that’s because, as you further wrote:

    But from my paradigm, your philosophical claims are beside the point since they don’t actually address what God reveals.

    That just adds another layer of question-begging, because we don’t agree on how to “address” what God reveals, nor do we even agree entirely on what God has actually revealed or on how we know it. To stop begging the question, you’d have to show why your paradigm’s not dealing with my philosophical arguments is rationally preferable to mine’s way of using them. That you have no so far done so, and show no inclination to do so, suggests that you aren’t interested in a rational comparison of paradigms. Which, of course, leaves you with nothing but question-begging.

    Best,
    Mike

  123. Hugh:

    Now that you understand that the question is which IP is the more reasonable one, you can appreciate an article I wrote a few years ago for CTC.

    Happy reading!

    Best,
    Mike

  124. David @120,

    Ron Conte writes @ Catholic Planet: “The Council of Toulouse was not an Ecumencial Council, and its order to prohibit possession of the Bible was under the temporal authority, which even Ecumenical Councils do not exercise infallibly. And their order only applied to the local area under the authority of that local Council. The reason was that certain translations of the Bible were being used to promote a particular heresy (Albigensian heresy). The order was temporary, local, and in my opinion erroneous.

    “But in any case, the order is often misrepresented by Protestants.

    Canon 14. We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old or New Testament; unless anyone from motive of devotion should wish to have the Psalter or the Breviary for divine offices or the hours of the blessed Virgin; but we most strictly forbid their having any translation of these books.

    “The order applies mainly to translations of the Latin Vulgate. At that time, many of the laity knew Latin, so they could possess the Vulgate for use in the aforementioned devotions. But even so, I think the Council erred in this order. Toulouse should have only condemned certain versions of the Bible, distorted by translation and by the notes (glosses) in order to promote heresy.

    O.K…

    “No one may possess the books of the Old and New Testaments, and if anyone possesses them he must turn them over to the local bishop within eight days, so that they may be burned…”- The Church Council of Tarragona 1234 AD; 2nd Canon – Source: D. Lortsch, Historie de la Bible en France, 1910, p.14.

    Both quotes found @ http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=272675

    Yours,
    Hugh

  125. Dear ‘Guest Author’ @ 123 –
    Yippee!
    Thanks,
    Hugh

  126. Hugh,

    I’ll let other do the heavy lifting, but out of curiosity I’ve been doing some research on your #124 regarding “The Council of Tarragona, 1234 AD” and D. Lortsch Historie de la Bible en France 1910. This is a new one to me so I’ve been investigating. I haven’t found much so far, but from what I’ve seen I think this instances illustrates quite well how we get so much confusion in our discussion with well intended Protestants like yourself.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I’m guessing you have never read D. Lortsch Historie de la Bible en France 1910? Also, I’m guessing you have little personal familiarity with anything to do with any council of Tarragona or events in that region c.1330 (which is no defect on your part since neither and probably only maybe 20 or 30 people in the world do).

    If my assumptions are true, then you are willing to quote a book making a claim concerning events and documents from a place and time in history that you have no real familiarity with. If I am wrong please feel free to correct me. I am not trying to offend you, or create acrimony. Rather, I want to help improve the dialogue between us all on CtC. I made the point in another thread to DGHart that we really need to go to source documents. I believe this is a particularly vivid example of why that is so.

    Now, I obviously have not read the book either, but from the beginning my “smelltest-O-meter” was in the yellow zone. A book and author I have never heard of, quoting Canons from a “Council” I have never heard of … Regardless of what the actual quotation says, and even if it supports my own case, I want to find and read this in context of what is going on in Tarragona in 1334.

    In my investigation, my first discovery is that there is no Council of Tarragona in 1334. There is a council or synod of Tarragona in 1329 and one in 1242 another in 1292. There is also a slightly more notable “Council of Tarragona in 516. The synod in 1329 was attended by at least 6 members of whom 2 are noted as Bishops. Clearly all of these are local synods (councils). My source is Landon, E. H. (1909). Vol. 2: A Manual of Councils of the Holy Catholic Church Edinburgh: John Grant.

    TARRAGONA (1329). Held on February 26th, 1329, by John, the Latin Patriarch of Alexandria, at the time administering the affairs of the Church of Tarragona. There were also present Raymond, Bishop of Valencia, Gaston of Gerona, Benignis of Tortosa, Raynaldus of Urgel, and Bernard of Lerida. Eighty-six canons were published, chiefly collected from those published in former councils.

    Landon, E. H. (1909). Vol. 2: A Manual of Councils of the Holy Catholic Church (148). Edinburgh: John Grant.

    At this point, if the quote is authentic I know it is addressing local concerns in the vicinity of Barcelona Spain. Also, the dates don’t quite match up. Lortsch could have erred or it could be a typo… The source above, MCHCC for short, mentions that in 1329 “Eighty-six canons were published, chiefly collected from those published in former councils.” MCHHC reproduces or summarizes about 20 of the canons, but does not mention Canon 2, or anything at all regarding banning the bible. That doesn’t prove that Canon 2 does not read as Lortsch quotes it, only that if it does, the editors didn’t think it was significant.

    So with a little more poking I find I don’t have the resources to get much more on a Council of Tarragona in 1329 (or 1334, or 1292) I decided to see what I can find about Lortsch and Historie de la Bible en France. Again, not much, but…. Googling I find that the nearly every single internet references to Historie de la Bible en France are from Protestant websites attacking Catholicism the few exceptions are Catholics refuting Lorscht quotes. Googling and reading about Council and Tarragona I can piece together that the Cathars were active in that region of Spain earlier in the 13th century and that there were conflicts with the Templars in that area contemporaneously with 1329 to 1334. Also, a history of King Pedro of Aragon refers to a “council” at Tarragona in 1334 associated with an armed conflict with the Templars. All in all, I can’t find anything solid either way, but the indications support 1) that (if true) this was a local matter and a decision based (ill advisedly?) on heresy and local politics and strife, and 2) there is a lot of confusion.

    What I find notable and I think you should find disconcerting Hugh, is the very large number of references to Lortsch and Historie de la Bible en France that come from Ellen G. White. It seems pretty apparent to me that this not a work that history scholars are referencing.

    To sum up regarding Lorscht: I find that quote from Historie de la Bible en France to be Highly Dubius and simply without further corroboration from some respectable source, I refuse to acknowledge that a Canon 2 from any Council of Tarragona contains the text quoted by Lorscht.

    Now, on to why I bring this up. It is clear that this text has been cited 100s of times on the internet and again, just guessing, that is where you found it. I assume that the majority of the writers also have not actually read or checked the source.

    This is what Stephen Colbert calls “Truthiness.” A piece of seemingly factual information confirms what someone feels to be true and they accept it as Truth. Unfortunately this kind of practice (by either side) is extremely unhelpful for dialogue.

  127. Hey G,

    I am not an apologist for I merely found it at the Catholic Answers blog. I am not trying to prove anything by it. Sorry if it offends. I thought these were legitimate since they were posted on a Catholic chat blog.

    As I said, Both quotes found @ http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=272675

  128. No problem Hugh. Thanks for the response. I had skimmed through that thread myself. I find Catholic forums interesting. Always a lot going on. Misguided Catholics, and fledgling appologists and bomb throwing anarchists can all coexist. After 2 decades of the online dialogue I really appreciate CtC where Bryan et. al. really make the effort to move the dialogue forward.

  129. Mike, you wrote: As a Catholic, “I too have “great attachment for the Bible.” Every day, I pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which contains psalms and Scripture readings. Every week, I conduct a Bible study incorporating various passages about timely and apposite themes of practical and spiritual interest to the participants. As an undergraduate, I studied Old Testament with Theodor Gaster, a Jewish rabbi and professor who, as much as anyone else in the world, was responsible for making the content and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls accessible to the general public. I studied New Testament with Elaine Pagels, a liberal Protestant who, more than any other academic writing in English, has been responsible for presenting the content and meaning of 2nd- and 3rd-century Gnostic writings accessible to the general public. I am by no means indifferent to the Bible either confessionally or academically, and I am as familiar with its larger context in the ancient world as with its content.”

    Me: ad hominem.

    Mike: “To stop begging the question, you’d have to show why your paradigm’s not dealing with my philosophical arguments is rationally preferable to mine’s way of using them.”

    Me: I’m not begging. I’m not even asking that question. Paul talked about the Greeks who thought the gospel was foolish according to the wisdom of the world. The Pauline-Tertullian-Augustinian-Lutheran-Reformed strain of Christianity (minus the neo-Calvinists) believe that philosophy is overrated.

    But if you want to parade your deontic claims before the working stiffs in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, have a nice day.

  130. David Meyer: this is what is so annoying about you guys. You don’t tell the whole story:

    “Question: You said that the Catholic Church forbade the common people from reading the Bible in their own language. Where’s the evidence for such a claim?

    “Answer: There were times when the Catholic Church officially deprived the common people from reading or even possessing the Bible in their own language. The historical fact is admitted by Catholic writers:

    “‘In early times, the Bible was read freely by the lay people, and the Fathers constantly encourage them to do so, although they also insist on the obscurity of the sacred text. No prohibitions were issued against the popular reading of the Bible. New dangers came during the Middle Ages. When the heresy of the Albigenses arose there was a danger from corrupt translations, and also from the fact that the heretics tried to make the faithful judge the Church by their own interpretation of the Bible. To meet these evils, the Council of Toulouse (1229) and Tarragona (1234) forbade the laity to read the vernacular translations of the Bible. Pius IV required the bishops to refuse lay persons leave to read even Catholic versions of the Scripture, unless their confessors or parish priests judged that such readings was likely to prove beneficial.’ (Addis and Arnold, Catholic Dictionary, The Catholic Publications Society Co., N.Y., 1887, p. 82).

    “The following two quotations are taken from the Council of Toulouse and the Council of Trent in the thirteenth and sixteenth century respectively.

    “‘We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old and the New Testament; unless anyone from the motives of devotion should wish to have the Psalter or the Breviary for divine offices or the hours of the blessed Virgin; but we most strictly forbid their having any translation of these books.’ (Edward Peters. Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe, Council of Toulouse, 1229, Canon 14, p 195.)

    “‘Since it is clear from experience that if the Sacred Books are permitted everywhere and without discrimination in the vernacular, there will by reason of the boldness of men arise therefrom more harm than good, the matter is in this respect left to the judgment of the bishop or inquisitor, who may with the advice of the pastor or confessor permit the reading of the Sacred Books translated into the vernacular by Catholic authors to those who they know will derive from such reading no harm but rather an increase of faith and piety, which permission they must have in writing. Those, however, who presume to read or possess them without such permission may not receive absolution from their sins till they have handed them over to the ordinary. Bookdealers who sell or in any other way supply Bibles written in the vernacular to anyone who has not this permission, shall lose the price of the books, which is to be applied by the bishop to pious purposes, and in keeping with the nature of the crime they shall be subject to other penalties which are left to the judgment of the same bishop. Regulars who have not the permission of their superiors may not read or purchase them.’ (Council of Trent: Rules on Prohibited Books, approved by Pope Pius IV, 1564).

    “This is in stark contrast to the Reformers like Wycliffe, Luther and Tyndale who laboured tirelessly to give the Word of God to the people in their own native tongue. In my country, Malta, which is intensely Roman Catholic, the first efforts to translate the Bible into the Maltese language were done by the handful of Protestants on the island. In fact the first complete Bible in Maltese was published by a Protestant society, despite all the opposition encountered from the Catholic establishment.

    “Thank God the modern Catholic Church has changed its position. I rejoice that many Catholics are now reading God’s Word for themselves, and hopefully, through the message of the Bible, many will come to experience the grace of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

    http://www.justforcatholics.org/a198.htm

  131. Darryl (#129):

    LOL! You’re not even using the phrase ad hominem correctly. I had described my interest in and qualifications for studying the Bible so as to show why your own ad hominem was baseless. That ad hominem is contained in the following, which you had written in #111:

    But from my paradigm, your philosophical claims are beside the point since they don’t actually address what God reveals. Sorry, but I still have great attachment for the Bible. But I know that book has not always been available to the RC laity.

    The dig there was that your “attachment for the Bible” is greater than mine, and your not-so-subtle implication was that, since “that book has not always been available to the RC laity,” my supposed lack of due attachment to the Bible is understandable given the ignorance of it supposedly characteristic of my Catholic background. That’s an ad hominem fallacy, since it didn’t rebut my arguments, but only sought to explain why those arguments should be ignored, given my personal lack of attachment to and understanding of the Bible. In response, I supplied the evidence that I have quite a bit of attachment to and understanding of the Bible, thus exposing your ad hominem as baseless. Now you charge me with an ad hominem for doing that! But my response was not an ad hominem; for I did not meet your argument by criticizing your person or motives, but by addressing the substance of your (fallacious) argument. So anybody with basic critical-thinking skills can see that your new move is itself a tu quoque fallacy.

    Addressing you, I had also written:

    To stop begging the question, you’d have to show why your paradigm’s not dealing with my philosophical arguments is rationally preferable to mine’s way of using them.

    To that, you reply:

    I’m not begging. I’m not even asking that question. Paul talked about the Greeks who thought the gospel was foolish according to the wisdom of the world. The Pauline-Tertullian-Augustinian-Lutheran-Reformed strain of Christianity (minus the neo-Calvinists) believe that philosophy is overrated.

    But if you want to parade your deontic claims before the working stiffs in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, have a nice day.

    So you meet my criticism that you’re begging the question by rejecting the question. But the reasons you give for doing so are irrelevant. Your citation of Paul is irrelevant because, unlike the “Greeks” he cites, I do not regard the Gospel as “foolishness” at all, while you have said nothing about my arguments that would show otherwise. Your citation of a particular strain of theology is irrelevant because it does nothing to show what it is about my arguments that the strain of theology you cite would be justified in viewing as “overrated.”

    I don’t know where you developed your critical-thinking skills, but wherever it was, you need to start from scratch.

    Best,
    Mike

  132. Mike, so is this an ad hominem? “I don’t know where you developed your critical-thinking skills, but wherever it was, you need to start from scratch.”

    BTW, I referred to your personal testimony about the Bible as an ad hominem simply to let you know how it feels. It worked.

    Now for critical thinking skills, you haven’t proved why my rejection of your philosophical questions is irrelevant. As I indicated, I am not the first saint (yes, I am) to question the merits of philosophy over the wisdom of the cross.

    Then again, it does seem that Roman Catholicism is appealing to those who like to think they are the smartest people in Christendom (which does not exist anymore). I see this impulse among the neo-Calvinists. I am sure any Van Tillian or Plantigaian could match philosophical wits with you. I am more interested in history and how Roman Catholic converts have to cover their eyes.

  133. Of RCC Bible prohibition, this thread discusses it from the Catholic perspective and gives many references: http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=1604

    Of Tarragona, I there found this: After the death of Innocent III, the Synod of Toulouse directed in 1229 its fourteenth canon against the misuse of Sacred Scripture on the part of the Cathari: “prohibemus, ne libros Veteris et Novi Testamenti laicis permittatur habere”* (Hefele, “Concilgesch”, Freiburg, 1863, V, 875). In 1233 the Synod of Tarragona issued a similar prohibition in its second canon, but both these laws are intended only for the countries subject to the jurisdiction of the respective synods (Hefele, ibid., 918).

    * Online translators saith: “We forbid that they should not be permitted to have the books of the Old and New Testaments to the laity.”

  134. Mike @ 131,
    What is the proper definition of the gospel?
    (I think we’ll probably differ, so I am curious.)
    Thanks,
    Hugh

  135. All,
    Daryl wrote:

    …[I]t’s not honest to acknowledge the confusion and disorder that exists among Roman Catholics when confusion and disorder among Protestants is a reason to convert to Rome.

    I’ve been following the conversation as it has progressed and, while Daryl’s lack of philosophical argumentation (combined with your dubious historiography) is problematic, I do think he raises a good point here. I know there are many readers of this website who are currently in RCIA preparing to enter the Church this Easter – and since the “moment of truth” with respect to church membership is rapidly approaching, I hope what I write here is of some service to those persons.

    As Chesterton noted at the beginning of Why I Am A Catholic, “The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true”. Ultimately, then, converts have to assent not to the fact that Protestantism is wrong (although if Catholicism is true it is), but to the fact that Catholicism is right. There might well be a billion and one reasons why Protestantism is wrong, or bad, or unlikable – but none of those reasons will be sufficient to join the Catholic church. That’s why, on Easter night, some of you readers will be asked to say the following:

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

    Notice what is not being said here: You are not being asked to believe and profess that Protestants are confused and disorderly. You are not being asked to believe and profess that there are no problems in the Catholic Church, or to believe and profess that all one’s personal problems magically disappear once one becomes Catholic. In other words, don’t become Catholic because Protestantism is wrong! That’s not enough (and I think that’s what Jason was getting at in his talk when he mentioned that – even granting the problems in the Protestant position – it was still better to be a Protestant unauthoritatively right about justification than to be a Catholic whose position was authoritatively wrong).

    Instead, one should become Catholic only if you believe that the Catholic church (and hence those bishops in full communion with the bishop of Rome), constitute the Church founded by Christ. It is in virtue of holding that that one can “believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God”. So in other words, don’t become Catholic because Protestants (or Protestantism) is wrong. Don’t become Catholic because we’ve got incense, or pretty windows, or you met a priest one time who was a real bang-up guy. Don’t become Catholic because you like our views on abortion, or the death penalty, or helping the poor, or whatever. Join if and only if you believe her to be the Church founded by Christ – the Church, in order words, to which you will submit even if she were to ever use her full doctrinal authority to teach something you think is wrong.

    I’m not going to lie: being Catholic rocks. The Eucharist is amazing, our cathedrals are pretty, and (especially among the younger priests), there are a lot of good homilies (sermons) to be heard. It’s by no means the spiritual wasteland I’d heard about (especially if one’s parish is on the ball). But being Catholic for any of those reasons I just listed in this paragraph is intellectually unjustifiable – as is being Catholic because Protestants are confused and disorderly. But if you believe the Catholic Church is the one founded by Christ, join up. Lord knows there’s plenty of work to be done, and a few more hands to help us out would be great…

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

    PS: To anyone having an existential crisis shortly before entering the Church, I found Chesterton helpful (as I usually do) when I was in the same position last Easter. I’d recommend either Why I Am A Catholic (shorter read) or The Catholic Church And Conversion (longer read).

  136. Hugh, re:#133

    Thanks for following up. Since I responded yesterday and no one else has taken up the topic, I’ll keep with it. I have not studied a lot of this in detailed history, but over the years I’ve become roughly familiar with this topic. Personally I find it more disturbing than it seems some Catholic Apologists perceptions. I hope my comments yesterday reflected that I felt the quote regarding Tarragona was plausible even though I thought it might be fake. The reason it is plausible is that there are some actual cases where similar statements are authentic.

    Apologetically the main point is these cases are LOCAL acts. The Church is UNIVERSAL. The Universal Church has never banned or discouraged bible reading. At some places and times local Churches in specific circumstances have banned private bible reading. This is an issue of a few Bishops in a certain geographic area (acting in concert with the local government) prohibiting private bible reading for the good of public order. Again, the main point apologetically is that this was a local, temporary order. Subsidiary to that main point are that the Bishops were confronting a heresy that was detrimental to the faith and the civil society. Also, subsidiary to the main point, the Bishops were also part of the local civil government. So this wasn’t solely a religious action but partly a civil action.

    In the case of the Toulouse statement, that was issued during a time period near the end of the Cathar heresy and in the midst of the Albigensian heresy. The Cathars I know less about I have some interesting ideas and feel more sympathetic towards them mainly I think I read somewhere they were peaceful and their neighbors were sympathetic towards them over the government. Many Cathars were massacred by the authorities. The Albigensians I know a bit more about. They were dualistic manicheans. They were offended by procreation both human and animal. For that reason they preferred concubinage and temporary relationships. They avoided pregnancy. They thought suicide was a good idea. Generally, in society of the middle ages they were disruptive to the order. The Albigensians were particularly strong around Toulouse. Here is the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Albigensianism for starters. The Albigensian’s ended up on the receiving end of the Albigensian Crusade – the only crusade launched on Europe itself.

    I bring this up because the Canon banning the bible in Toulouse, although not doing nearly what anti-Catholic Protestant propaganda alleges, is actually the tip of an ice berg of ugly history.

    Also, at this time the Bishops were officially part of the civil government. There was no separation of Church and state. Bishops were often appointed as favors to political families or might be younger sons of the nobility.

    I find the whole thing shameful.

    Going back to apologetics. The Catholic Church, being formally united, and having a long history, this ties directly to the “us” of Catholics today. Yes, Catholic Bishops made decisions that at least in our eyes today, look pretty bad.

    Protestants have their own historical moments. No one really want to claim Calvin’s actions in Geneva. In the USA right up through c. 1950 protestant school boards wanted to indoctrinate Catholics and opposed Catholic Schools. Catholics had to go to the Supreme Court to be given the right not to be taught Protestantism.

    The difference here is that the Catholic Church has a visible unity and continuous visible existence through history. We have a visible Hierarchy. It is possible to KNOW where (and who) the Catholic Church exists everywhere in history and today. Certainly there are episodes that seem like mistakes. But we can’t deny that they belong to us.

    You may be happier being a Protestant who can join a denomination conceived last year, or join a fragment of a denomination that split from a split, then you don’t have to personally recognize that historically, yes that was my church.

  137. Benjamin,

    Those books by Chesterton are great. The latter was especially helpful to me in those last moments when I was already convinced, but still afraid.

    Hugh (re #133),

    That information comes from the old Catholic Encyclopedia article on Scripture, and can be found in the sub-section, “Attitude of the Church towards the reading of the Bible in the vernacular.” The article provides some of the context necessary for understanding the Church’s various directives concerning the use Sacred Scripture, which are prudential judgments relative to time and place. As you know, some things in the Bible, St. Paul’s writings in particular, are hard to understand, and ignorant, unstable persons twist these things to their own destruction. In some cases, apparently, the ecclesial authorities judged that there was imminent danger of this, should the Bible be made generally available for private reading. Maybe in each case it would have been better to risk it, maybe more good would have come by taking a more liberal stance, but I don’t know enough about the circumstances to make that judgment.

    From a Protestant (and a modern) perspective, any restriction upon the reading of Sacred Scripture will seem tantamount to a restriction upon the Christian life itself. But from a Catholic point of view, those restrictions, even if they were unnecessary or counter-productive (again, I don’t know enough about the circumstances to make that judgment), do not necessarily amount to a restriction on the Christian life, since it is in the liturgy of the Eucharist that the Word of God comes to us in the fullest way (in this life), as spiritual food and drink. At Mass / Divine Liturgy, we step into the world of the Bible, we are (mystically) in the Garden of Eden, walking with God during the cool of the day, with Christ and the disciples in Bethlehem, Galilee, and Judea, at Calvary, and with the saints and angels before the heavenly Throne and the Lamb standing as though it had been slain.

    Ultimately, the Word of God is not words on a page, but the Word made flesh, and he is our life. I like to read, and I love being able to read my Bible at home, whichever version I like best (provided it has 73 books; I don’t use the abridged versions). Still, I don’t want to end up like the theologian who, upon death, was offered the alternative of going to Heaven or going to hear a lecture on Heaven and chose the latter. Anyway, I’m glad to have access to the Word both in the Church’s liturgy and in the privacy of my own home, via the printed page. Bible study in my recliner with coffee and a good monograph on, say, the Abrahamic Covenant in the writings of St. Paul is great; but when its time to go to Liturgy, I don’t stay home for all that.

    Darryl,

    The reforms of Vatican II were certainly changes in the life of the Church, and of course the abuses that accompanied these reforms have not been helpful. I think that Bryan earlier alluded to the difference between a development and a corruption or abuse. In the Catholic Church, we’ve seen both running side by side for the past 50 years. Heck, we’ve seen both for the past 2,000 years. I wrote a little bit about the phenomenon of changes in the Church, in response to a couple of your former colleagues, in this post. Its a bit of a rambler, but at least I acknowledge the Church has changed a lot. Only, I argue that that’s because she is alive and well.

    Oh, and yeah that last bit from Mike looked to me like an ad. hom. That type of thing is contrary to our comment policy. Of course it doesn’t matter where you learned your critical thinking skills. It only matters that we all think critically, in the sense of making and evaluating arguments to the end of arriving at unity in truth. As you know, we believe that this unity is bound to be Catholic. And I know that you disagree. But since we’re not fundamentalists, that disagreement doesn’t have to be a conversation stopper.

    Andrew

  138. Hugh,

    The gospel has already been defined in the Nicene Creed.

  139. Erick -@138: Thanks! The gospel is 1 Cor. 15:3f, which is not about what we do, what’s done inside of us, a universal atonement,* or anything we experience. Nicene only says this, re the gospel: “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” *FOR OUR SINS!

    GreatNorthWestPaul @136: “You may be happier being a Protestant who can join a denomination conceived last year, or join a fragment of a denomination that split from a split…”
    ~ I’ll just start my own cult, and that way can play pope to the lepers in my head… :)

    Benjamin @135: Well put, this: “Join if and only if you believe her to be the Church founded by Christ – the Church, in order words, to which you will submit even if she were to ever use her full doctrinal authority to teach something you think is wrong.” Amen. The authority issue is foundational to the rest of it!

    Thank you, men!
    Hugh

  140. I especially appreciate your gospel summary as you were coming to understand the Catholic faith. I know when I converted I was eagerly looking for an equivalent to the Four Spiritual Laws for Catholics. Something that “could fit on a dime.” I took the opportunity to transcribe your quick summery here. But I’d appreciate if others could point out simple descriptions of how Catholics understand (or communicate) the Gospel — particularly to those who are not even Christian. For example, as a Protestant if someone were to approach me and say, “How do I become a Christian?” I would have a quick, canned Gospel presentation ready. But as a Catholic, I sort of dance around a bit. I’m not as confident as I was as a Protestant. I certainly don’t have it down to “dime sized”. Anyway, I’d appreciate any links or short descriptions of the Gospel that you would use with someone asking how they might become Catholic. (More than, come with me to RCIA — they’ll tell you. ;) )

    Without further ado… Jason Stellman’s transcribed description of the Catholic / Apostolic Gospel during his journey to the Church…

    When it comes to how the Gospel is applied to us…

    The Son of God assumes a human nature and human flesh together with His divine person.

    And he lived and died and rose again and ascended to heaven and gave the Holy Spirit.

    And the Holy Spirit comes and is infused by God into our hearts (Romans 5:5).

    God, in Christ, through the Spirit, does what the Law of Moses could not. Because what the Law could not do is empower. The Law could command. And it’s got 613 different commands. But It couldn’t empower.

    But God, in Christ, through the Spirit has empowered us to not just understand what’s expected of us as Christians, but through the Spirit we are empowered to actually offer to God what it is he wanted all along. Which is love of God and neighbor.

    That’s what Jesus, John, James and Paul all say explicitly.

    That the Law is fulfilled in this, that you love the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength and you love your neighbor as your self. This is what God wants.

    This is what the Holy Spirit makes possible. This is what makes the New Covenant new.

    What makes the New Covenant new is not just that it’s the latest covenant, and that there might be a newer one later on. But what makes it new is the fact that the Spirit is given to the Church to bring about the obedience of faith in God’s people. Such that we can offer not ourselves by ourselves — as Cain tried to offer the fruit of his own hands and it wasn’t accepted. And left to ourselves, we can’t offer to God our own works or our own righteousness and expect it to be accepted either — But in Christ I can offer to God myself. And in the Eucharist I can offer to God my sacrifice of thanksgiving. I can offer to him all that I am. This is what Adam was supposed to have done at the very beginning. He was to offer himself back in sacrificial self-giving love to his Creator. And now in Christ, I can do that.

    This is what the Apostles were working with. This was their paradigm.

    And, by the way, it might just fit on a dime…

    Here are the links to the “near dime-sized” gospel presentations…

    http://oi50.tinypic.com/301dpbs.jpg

    http://oi48.tinypic.com/r1bn2c.jpg

    ;)

  141. Eva @ 140 – Cute graphics! :)

    But the the gospel is laid out in 1 Cor. 15:3f ~ Paul delivered to the Corinthians that which he’d received of the Lord: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.

    The Son of God assumes a human nature and human flesh together with His divine person. And he lived and died and rose again and ascended to heaven and gave the Holy Spirit. True enough! But more than this…

    This death was not indiscriminate – it was to actually accomplish the salvation of his people from their sins, as the angel Gabriel had told Joseph he would, Matt. 1:21.

    Not a potential redemption,
    not a first justification to be later ratified through one’s efforts
    (however Spirit-empowered or sacrament-stoked those may be),
    not a possible salvation with a large IF hanging over it.

    But a sure justification,
    a washing of all our sins,
    a definitive sanctification in the SON
    (1 Cor. 6:11, cf. 1:30f).

    Yours,
    Hugh

  142. I’m wondering what my brothers and sisters here think of this phrase as a Catholic understanding of justification by faith:

    We are justified by faith expressing itself through love.

    I think it encapsulates Paul and John and James.

    Peace,
    EJ Cassidy

  143. Erick @138,

    And notice that the Nicene Creed doesn’t say anything about our works contributing to, meriting, or being the reason for our salvation.

  144. Eva,

    Y e a h, I still may need to whittle that down a bit!

  145. E. J. (#142)

    I’m wondering what my brothers and sisters here think of this phrase as a Catholic understanding of justification by faith:

    We are justified by faith expressing itself through love.

    I think it encapsulates Paul and John and James.

    The phrase is Paul’s (Galatians 5:6). I have heard that Luther strongly rejects the possibility that love can play any part in our salvation – that love is an assured result of our faith, but cannot itself be the instrument of our salvation. Don’t know if this is true or not.

    jj

  146. Galatians 6:5

    For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.
    The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. {NIV, 2011}

    For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything,
    but only “faith working through love.” {NAB}
    ~ Or, “faith expressing itself through love,” or “faith energized by [God's] love.”

    ἐν γὰρ Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ οὔτε περιτομή τι ἰσχύει οὔτε ἀκροβυστία ἀλλὰ πίστις δι’ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη

  147. Hugh (re:#146),

    Galatians 6:5 is appropriate for the discussion here in many ways– one of them being that, historically, to my knowledge, the Catholic Church has understood the “circumcision or uncircumcision” issue to be part of what St. Paul means by “works of the law.” That is, works of the Mosaic law. I’ll explain what I mean.

    As a Reformed Baptist, I was taught that what the apostle is addressing in Galatians is the conflict between being “justified by faith alone in Christ alone” and the supposed attempt to “earn one’s salvation through works.” Through my research of both Catholic exegesis and more recent non-Calvinist Protestant exegesis though, I eventually came to a different perspective on Galatians, and I think that it makes more sense of the entire letter and of the New Testament as a whole.

    That different perspective is thus: St. Paul is actually addressing a controversy in the church at Galatia between Jewish Christians (who made up the majority of the larger Church at that time) and newer Gentiles who had been converted to Christ. At least some of the Jewish Christians in the church at Galatia were trying to stipulate that Gentile converts to Christ must be circumcised (as all Jews were, obviously, as part of the Mosaic law) in order to be accepted as genuine followers of Christ. These Jewish Christians were basically saying, “True Christians must be circumcised, Jewish and Gentile.”

    In opposition to this thinking, as a Jewish convert to Christ himself, St. Paul says, “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” {NAB} The apostle is not saying that Christians can be justified by a “faith alone in Christ alone” without *any works of love for God and neighbor* at all. He is stating that Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians are both united by faith in Christ– justified by faith in Christ *alone*, whether they are circumcised or uncircumcised.

    However, significantly, St. Paul does not state that justification is by *faith alone*– and St. James explicitly says that justification is *not* by faith alone in James 2:14-26. Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians both must trust in Christ alone, but trusting in *Christ alone* (which is necessary for believers) does not equate to justification by *faith alone*. If trusting in Christ alone necessarily equated to justification by faith alone, there simply would not be so many passages and verses in the Bible that clearly indicate the contrary, such as Matthew 25:31-46 and Romans 2:6-13 and James 2:14-26, among multitudes of others.

    I never would have imagined it, for most of my time as a Reformed Baptist, but the Catholic understanding of justification (which is not “earning one’s salvation through works,” but rather, faith working through love) actually makes more sense of the whole counsel of the Bible than the Reformed understanding of justification. It is that conclusion (which I found confirmed in the writings of the early Church Fathers) which played a pivotal role in my eventually having to leave Protestantism and return to the Catholic Church.

    I realize that I’ve made some very controversial statements in this comment, and that many of the Protestants reading here will have strong objections. I understand– I used to be a Protestant myself! :-) Alas, for my part in the discussion, I am leaving tomorrow for travel related to a death in my family, and I likely won’t have much access (if at all) to the internet until after Easter.

    In that light, I wish all Christians who observe Holy Week here at CTC a very meaningful one, and I wish a joyous Easter Sunday to all believers! May we all pray for ever deeper unity in Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! In this Holy Week, Good Friday is still to come, but He, in whom we all trust *alone*, is eternally Risen! Thanks be to God!

  148. #129 – An anti-philosophical reading of Paul is a strange reading of Paul, who is significantly influenced by the Stoic philosophy of virtue and by the rhetorical form of the Stoic diatribe, not to mention his famous allusions to the Stoic doctrine of natural law in Romans.

    An anti-philosophical (or non-Platonic) reading of Augustine is a remarkable and rare achievement.

    Tertullian, I grant you.

  149. Benjamin– you nailed it.

  150. Thanks, Chris @147 – Hope your trip is a safe & profitable one.

    Quick query on this (anyone there can answer). You said

    …trusting in *Christ alone* (which is necessary for believers) does not equate to justification by *faith alone*. If trusting in Christ alone necessarily equated to justification by faith alone, there simply would not be so many passages and verses in the Bible that clearly indicate the contrary, such as Matthew 25:31-46 and Romans 2:6-13 and James 2:14-26, among multitudes of others.

    What does Christ’s death and resurrection effect in your scheme?
    Thanks,
    Hugh

  151. Dear Ben @135,

    You write:

    As Chesterton noted at the beginning of Why I Am A Catholic, “The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true”.

    BINGO. As St Joseph said, “You nailed it.” I mean, here it’s G.K.C. “nailing it,” but you have too, and not merely in quoting the big man. BTW, I’ve read his Orthodoxy.

    Ultimately, then, converts have to assent not to the fact that Protestantism is wrong (although if Catholicism is true it is), but to the fact that Catholicism is right.

    …some of you readers will be asked to say the following: “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.”

    Now THAT’S a big reading list! How long is RCIA’s catechesis?! Seriously – is this “merely” learning your latest catechism, or is one to have working knowledge of the Vaticans, the Nicaeas, the Constantinoples, Trent, Chalcedon, Ephesus, etc.? Papal encyclicals? More? Fewer?

    If one needn’t be conversant with the catechism, is one is simply giving implicit assent to Rome’s claims of being the One True Church of Jesus Christ on Earth, and the Pope being his Vicar?

    To profess that one believes EVERYTHING your organization “believes, teaches, and proclaims” without KNOWING it all seems problematic. How do you work around this? Surely you take in illiterates, too. How do they make such a profession?

    …one should become Catholic only if you believe that the Catholic church (and hence those bishops in full communion with the bishop of Rome), constitute the Church founded by Christ. It is in virtue of holding that that one can “believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God”.

    …Join if and only if you believe her to be the Church founded by Christ – the Church, in order words, to which you will submit even if she were to ever use her full doctrinal authority to teach something you think is wrong.

    …But if you believe the Catholic Church is the one founded by Christ, join up.

    Hmm – I think you’re spot on.

    Sadly,
    Hugh

  152. Benjamin, how do you know Rome is the church Christ founded? Why not Antioch? Peter was there. Some think the Church of Cyprus rocks (and it’s like older than Rome’s church).

  153. Hugh,

    When Jesus asked the Twelve whether they would abandon him along with the rest of the crowd, Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have come to believe and are sure that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

    Whatever kind of reckless and potentially dangerous faith Peter exercised there is what every Catholic who enters the Church must exercise. It’s not like in Protestantism. There is only one Messiah, and he has only one Body and Bride.

    (So much for the Tu Quoque!)

  154. Andrew, how do you know what is a development or an abuse when popes themselves shift ground? Do you think Boniface VIII would have approved Vatican II? Do you think Francis will maintain the corrections to Vatican II of JPII and Benedict XVI? Reporters at NCR don’t think so: http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/editorial-francis-election-full-symbols-signs-new-era

    Look, I know it’s hard to run things. Administrators always have to be political animals. But you guys construe the pope as the chief pastor. And what is good for the Curia is not always good for the laity. You would think that subsidiarity might be something the hierarchy might try to implement within the church.

  155. dgh.

    Just FYI, ‘the National Catholic Reporter’ is just about the most schismatic publication ever. They have no approval from the Catholic Church whatsover and even recently the bishop where their main office is located argued that they should remove the word ‘Catholic’ from their publication. If one spends five minutes on NCR’s website its clear that they have two main aims: 1) Gay Marriage and 2) Woman Priests. Most of their contributors are former Catholics including some defrocked priests.

    Lastly, neither JPII or B16 ‘corrected’ Vatican II.

  156. Jason,

    So reckless faith means dismissing the lack of historical evidence for so many of Rome’s claims? Here I thought Aquinas was Rome’s main guy. I guess the work of Hahn and other Roman apologists and theologians is pointless, then.

    Seems to me Jesus was all about telling people to go to Moses to see whether or not what He was saying was true.

  157. Dear Hugh (@151),

    Thanks for writing and for your kind compliments. Not to be too pedantic but, if you wouldn’t mind, please call me Benjamin. For whatever (probably arbitrary) reason, I’ve always preferred “Benjamin” to “Ben”, “Benny”, or any of the other variants. No offense taken on my part – but I thought it’d be okay to make the request. :-) Orthodoxy has been a favorite of mind (and I always read an excerpt from “Heretics” whenever I teach Intro to Philosophy), but frankly my favorite book of his has long been “The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare”. It’s a…strange book, but fantastically adventurous and, so long as one remembers that it’s a nightmare, the ending makes a lot more sense. The interchange between Syme and Gregory at the beginning of the book is amazing.
    More substantively, you asked:

    How long is RCIA’s catechesis?!

    In my case, it was just shy of a full year. (For comparison, to join the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, I attended for awhile and met with the Session once. Once I told them I wanted to join it was a matter of weeks, but I guess I’d been attending regularly for a few months anyways. Then, come the next Sunday, boom! I was OPC). RCIA is partially so long because ours functioned as both an introduction to Christianity as well as an introduction to Catholicism. Our RCIA class was quite good, actually – so while I certainly wouldn’t say we got a “working knowledge of the Vaticans, the Nicaeas, the Constantinoples, Trent, Chalcedon, Ephesus, etc.?”, I’d say we did cover a lot of material contained in those sources (and related encyclicals). One can actually cover a fair bit of catechisis meeting 1x/week for 3 hours for the better part of a year (but our parish is good and I’ve heard horror stories of elsewhere).
    With respect to knowing all those sources, hey, you can’t get everything in RCIA (and, obviously, what is expected of one scales to one’s age, maturity, etc. I’ve seen the same be true of joining reformed presbyterian churches – the level of understanding of Westminster expected of a 12-year old joining is rather less than that expected of an adult). I’d definitely say RCIA familiarized us with the CCC, of course, the CCC does a great job of pointing to its sources too (particular patristic sources, those councils you mentioned, various encyclicals, etc). Hopefully that gives you some idea of what sort of preparation we had. :-)

    If one needn’t be conversant with the catechism, is one is simply giving implicit assent to Rome’s claims of being the One True Church of Jesus Christ on Earth, and the Pope being his Vicar?

    There’s a (potential) bit of ambiguity here. If you are asking must one be conversant with the catechism in order to be Catholic, then I think the answer is that it’s not an absolute requirement. Similarly, must one be conversant with the Bible in order to be a Protestant (or Reformed [or OPC/PCA/RPCNA])? I don’t think it’s an absolute requirement (that is, one can’t join, say, the OPC unless one is already conversant with the Bible) – but any of those denominations (as well as the Catholic Church) would say that everyone should grow in their faith as much as they can. Doing so, one presumes, entails learning more about the Bible and learning more about the Westminster Confession (or the CCC, or Augsburg, etc). Actually, a big part of our last RCIA class involved our teacher encouraging us to keep growing in our faith (and knowledge of what the Church teaches) even though RCIA was finished – and I can easily imagine a solid membership class at, say, the OPC saying basically the same thing.

    To profess that one believes EVERYTHING your organization “believes, teaches, and proclaims” without KNOWING it all seems problematic. How do you work around this? Surely you take in illiterates, too. How do they make such a profession?

    Good stuff – and it illustrates one of the big differences between being Catholic and being Protestant. Since Catholics hold that their Church is the one founded by Christ (and hence cannot err), whatever the Church says is what I believe even if I don’t know all of it here, now, today. (Incidentally, what bothered me more than anything else in becoming Catholic was grappling with that submissive posture – that, in essence, when the Church uses her authority to say something, it’s not my,/i> way or the highway but rather the Church’s way or the highway. As a philsophy Ph.D. Candidate and as a lifelong Protestant, the appropriately submissive posture towards legitimate authority is not something that comes naturally to me). Regardless, insofar as my job is to “think with the mind of the Church” (or some similar formulation), I can do that without knowing every jot and tittle of everything that’s been dogmatically defined, to say nothing of the stuff that hasn’t been dogmatically defined but is still important to believe. But, of course, I am committed to retracting any particular theological position I hold if it can be shown to be contrary to what the Church has taught.
    With respect to illiterates, I actually have no clue how that works in the Catholic church. (Relatedly, I have no clue how it would work in the OPC or RPCNA or whatnot). I assume such persons can join the Catholic church (or the OPC, etc.), but I don’t know how it works with respect to having adequate knowledge of the Bible/CCC/Westminster/whatever. However, obviously, one need not read truths of the faith to know truths of the faith. So, yeah, anybody who knows more than me can feel free to chime in with respect to stuff like this. Particularly Protestants – can illiterates join a conservative Presbyterian church? How does that work?
    Another, hmm, query. You closed off your note by signing “Sadly, Hugh”. Why sadly? (Sadly because you don’t think the Catholic church is the church founded by Christ? That doesn’t seem to call for sadness insofar as it’s a factually true statement. Sadly because you think us Catholics have drunk the kool-aide and you can’t talk us out of it? I guess that might call for sadness. Sadly because you think the Catholic church is the church founded by Christ but you’re scared to join? Brother, if that’s it, you have no clue how much I can empathize). I’m not pretending to read your mind or anything – it just struck me that one generally doesn’t sign off notes “sadly” and I kinda wondered why. No need to reply to this part if it’s too personal. Just wanted to ask. :-) Thanks again for the kind words.
    Yours Sincerely (and tiredly, because my daughter was up early this morning and I had to teach at 8AM!),
    ~Benjamin

  158. Sean @ 55 – Does that mean you guys aren’t too keen on those hilarious, sedevacantist cut-ups the Dimond Bros’ @ @ Most Holy Family Monastery?
    ;)

  159. Eva (140) and Hugh (134),

    The gospel might be hard to fit on a dime.

    .The catechism states:

    1846 The Gospel is the revelation in Jesus Christ of God’s mercy to sinners.

    We do have this good news that Jesus has come to save us. I think it is hard , at times, to make a statement to fit on a dime. When men preached the gospel in Acts the info depended on the state of the people being addressed since not everyone had the same understanding of life– that there is only one God, that we need a blood sacrifice etc. Some of the elements to be preached on might include the following, depending on the people being addressed:

    1. God (who is Triune) is our Creator . Man is responsible to him.
    Created by God Col 1:16
    Made in God’s image Gen 1:26
    Made to glorify God Rev 4:11, Made for God Col 1:16, Rom 11: 36
    God desires our love Dt 6:5, Matt 22:37

    2. Man’s problem
    God is Holy Is 6:3
    Man sinned and men are sinners Gen 2,3, Romans 5:19
    Sin separates us from God Is 59:2
    Sin results in death Rom 6:23
    Sin results in judgment Heb 9:27
    Sin results in eternal destruction 2 Thess 1:8-9

    3. God’s remedy
    God became incarnate (his Son) to make purification of sins Heb1:3
    Christ is the only way to God Jn 14:6
    Blood must be shed for forgiveness of sins Heb 9:22
    Christ payed the penalty 1 Peter 3:18
    Christ was made to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God 2 Cor 5:21
    God provides a new heart and His Spirit Ez 36:26, 2 Cor 3:18, Acts 2:38
    God provides by his divine power a participation in the divine nature 2 Peter 1:5
    God provides a church I Tim 3:15, includes sacraments Jn 6, I Cor 11:23ff, leaders to whom we obey Heb 13:17

    4. Man’s responsibility
    Repent Acts 2:38, Acts 17:30-31, Luke 24:47
    Believe Jn 1:12, James 2:19, Acts 16:31, Jn 3:36
    Baptism Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21
    Walk in the Spirit Gal 5:13-25, Rom 8:12-13, Heb 13:20-21
    Forsake not the church or assembly Heb 10:2-26, includes partaking of the sacraments, obey the leaders etc

    The Gospel then includes the Good news of Christ and the knowledge that we can be joined to him Him 2 Peter 1:4,5 . But there needs to be a fuller explanation of who Christ is, what he has done, and what repentance , baptism, belief means when one explains the gospel to our generation, right?

    Kim D

  160. Jason @53 – Thanks for connecting. I don’t get it, though. Please if you would, connect the dots for me:

    When Jesus asked the Twelve whether they would abandon him along with the rest of the crowd, Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have come to believe and are sure that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

    Whatever kind of reckless and potentially dangerous faith Peter exercised there is what every Catholic who enters the Church must exercise. It’s not like in Protestantism. There is only one Messiah, and he has only one Body and Bride.

    (So much for the Tu Quoque!)

    I get ‘reckless faith’ (like you, you may remember, I too went the “Calvary Chapel–> WTS/PCA–> out” route. I ended up in Anglicanism, you in Rome*). I think I get you, sort of, but please explain. And tie it if you would to what I wrote in #151 replying to Mr Keil. And how is tu quoque applicable. I apologize for being thick, here, but I truly want to understand your points.

    Thank you,
    Hugh
    * Unlike you, I only came under care in the PCA, then trod the “Canterbury trail.”
    I have since bid Anglo-Episcopalianism adieu, too.

  161. Robert,

    So reckless faith means dismissing the lack of historical evidence for so many of Rome’s claims? Here I thought Aquinas was Rome’s main guy. I guess the work of Hahn and other Roman apologists and theologians is pointless, then.

    Seems to me Jesus was all about telling people to go to Moses to see whether or not what He was saying was true.

    My point was simply that the faith required to come into full communion with the Church is akin to that required for Peter and the disciples to trust in Christ. There is always an element of fear and trembling involved since our religion is more than a set of scientifically demonstrable propositions that can be verified in a lab or under a microscope.

    So Hugh’s sense of sadness over how much faith Catholicism requires can also be applied to Christianity as a whole. Faith seeks understanding, but the latter cannot be insisted upon before the former is exercised, that’s just not how revealed religion works.

  162. Hugh,

    My point in bringing up the Tu Quoque was to show how different embracing Catholicism is from embracing some form of Protestantism. There’s no finger-crossing, as though if the Magisterium gets something wrong I am free to simply bail and join some other church (or just start my own). In the same way Peter’s faith entailed the notion that Jesus is not just one religious leader among a host of other options, so the CC is not just one denomination that happens to line up most closely with my theology at a given moment. It’s more than that.

    When conversion to the CC is understood on Catholic terms, the Tu Quoque sounds completely ridiculous, as if all that’s happening is no more significant than switching from Gold’s Gym to 24 Hour Fitness.

  163. Thanks, Kim D @159. We are essentially agreed on your points. Well stated.

    The debate betwixt us is whether 1 Peter 3:18 {Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit} means that

    [1] he suffered to make it possible* for sinful folks to get to God (your story), or,

    [2] “that he might bring us to God,” that is, actually, unilaterally, and securely reconcile us to God by his death on the cross alone.

    As Paul said, God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.{Romans 5:8-11}

    We see God’s love, Christ’s death, our justification, & salvation from God’s wrath as being of a piece.
    A sure peace! Reconciliation, salvation (Paul appears to repeat for emphasis) via a sure atonement.
    All these are inextricable parts of his grace-to-his-elect package for their sure salvation.

    Thank you,
    Hugh

    * By fulfilling his responsibilities to repent, believe, get baptized, walk in the Spirit, attend church -includes partaking of the sacraments, obeying the leaders, etc. (How long should this list be?)

    We Protestants see faith, repentance, & all obedience to be fruit from God’s prior regeneration.
    (Mr Stellman is as versed in Reformed soteriology as any at this site, I imagine!)

  164. Ps to my comment—This comment I just made did not even go into the aspects of grace and how it relates to all of this! Eph 1 :6 “For the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.” Needless to say grace is involved in all aspects, no? Someone needs to come along and make corrections to my outline. ;-)

  165. Jason @ 162 & 153 – Got it.
    Thank you!
    As I read Benjamin’s #157 I will hopefully be better equipped to ask my next question about Tiber-crossing (addressing you both, if that’s OK).
    Hugh

  166. Hugh:

    In #95, you wrote:

    We have implicit faith in the Book, while yours rests on the RCC’s recorded dogmas & rites. All taken by faith, eh?

    That’s basically right. So if “implicit faith” is a problem for Catholics, it’s a problem for you. But I don’t think it’s a problem for you. For the same reason, I don’t think it’s a problem for us.

    Best,
    Mike

  167. Dear Daryl (@152),
    I forgot to mention this in my last note but I read online that you’re teaching at Hillsdale now? I got my BA in Philosophy from there in ’06. :-) Hopefully you’ve had a chance to meet Dr. Stephens by now? On my best day I’m half the philosopher he is on his worst day. Hillsdale’s an amazing place – I hope you appreciate the gift you’ve been given by being able to teach there.

    Anywhoo, you wrote:

    [H]ow do you know Rome is the church Christ founded? Why not Antioch?…Some think the Church of Cyprus rocks (and it’s like older than Rome’s church).

    Well, like all Catholics, we’re Catholics because the Catholic Church said she was founded by Christ, and she said she was right, and if she was wrong she wouldn’t say she was right, so yeah. Also, it helps if you don’t think too hard and just do whatever the Catholic church tells you. (Thanks, folks, I’ll be here all night! Don’t applaud – just throw money!)

    Essentially, I think you’ve asked the million dollar question. I kinda doubt that you’re asking it seriously (meaning, I suspect Bryan’s argumentation hasn’t won you over such that now you’re just trying to figure out if you’ll be Catholic, EO, or Mormon) – but regardless, that’s a good question to ask insofar as you are actually interested in taking the answer seriously.

    As Mike Liccione has argued at great length, conservative Protestantism does not fulfill a necessary condition of Christianity – that is, it provides no principled manner of specifying that which constitutes divine revelation (and hence requires the assent of faith) and that which constitutes human opinion (and hence requires the assent of opinion). But on the assumption that he’s right, and assuming that Catholicism fulfills such a necessary condition, that will not uniquely recommend Catholicism since other institutions also fulfill that same necessary condition. Put simply, if a magisterium is necessary for Christianity, then Protestantism ain’t got one (nor does the OPC, PCA, RPCNA, etc.). But Catholicism has one – as does Constantinople, Antioch, and Salt Lake City. How to choose between them?

    I won’t lie: if a good choice requires that I “know” that the Catholic church is the church founded by Christ, and if by “know” you mean “prove”, I’ll just say that I can’t prove that the Catholic church is the Church founded by Christ (where “proof” is taken akin to geometry proofs – that is, proofs that cannot be rejected unless one is irrational). This is because the constitution of the church is a matter of faith, so geometry-proof like certainty is nowhere to be found (and if geometry-proof like certainty of the Catholic church’s identity were to be found, then it wouldn’t be a truth of faith anymore – it’d be a truth of reason). For what it’s worth, I also don’t think I can prove the divine identity of Jesus (son of Joseph) with geometry-like certainty – but I do know that if proving that “Jesus is the second person of the Trinity” were like proving that “Triangles have 180 interior degrees”, it would be a truth of reason, not faith.

    So I can give no proof (in that strict sense) that the Catholic Church is the church founded by Christ – nor can you with respect to Jesus’ identity, and if you (or I) could do so then we wouldn’t be dealing with matters of faith anymore. But although I can’t prove the Catholic Church’s identity in that way, and we both can’t prove Christ’s identity in that way, neither you nor I are fidiests. We can give some reason (good reasons, in fact) to think that Jesus was the son of God – but such reasoning can be rejected without one’s interlocutor being a “fool or knave”. Similarly, I can give some reason (good reasons, in fact) to think that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ – but just as some persons can reject the divinity of Christ, so too some people can reject the identity of the Catholic Church. In so doing, they are neither fools nor knaves (even if they’re wrong).

    As to what “good reasons” I could give for thinking that the Catholic Church is the church founded by Christ (rather than Antioch or Salt Lake City, et al.), just google “catholic motives of credibility”. Largely what you’ll find at those kinds of sites is what I’d endorse. I’d go into more specifics if you’d like (admins can get you in touch with my email address), but as I mentioned before I’m rather doubtful you’re actually too very interested in what historical reasons I’d adduce to find Rome more plausible than Constantinople or Salt Lake City. When this question has been asked in the past, it’s because the interlocutor has planned on saying “See – you left Protestantism because of a lack of certainty and now you still have no certainty – all you’ve got is those mucky motives of credibility!” If such a view is yours (and, honestly, I hope it’s not), then game, set, match. I can’t prove that the Catholic Church is the church founded by Christ. But since I can’t prove that Jesus is the Christ either, that doesn’t bug me overmuch – since good reasons can still be given to think that Jesus is the Christ and to think that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ. But such reasons can’t rise to the level of certainty insofar as we are talking about matters of faith (that is, revealed by God) as opposed to matters of human reason (where, again, certainty is understood as being generated by the kinds of proofs I mentioned above). But if you or anyone else wants to hear more precisely exactly which motives of credibility I found plausible, just have the admins give you my email. We can talk there for whoever is genuinely curious.

    Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

    PS: If I goofed up something or other with respect to theology, I assume and hope one of the more knowledgeable Catholics will charitably correct me. There’s a reason I do philosophy, not theology. :-p

  168. Dear Hugh (@165),

    Sure ’nuff. If you want to talk offline, email one of the admins and they can give you my email address. And if you want to talk online, post here and I’ll reply as best as I can whenever I can. For what that’s worth. ;-)

    Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  169. Benjamin (#167):

    I agree with everything you’ve written, but I think you omitted something important. The CCC says:

    157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.”31 “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”32

    The content of the deposit of faith is knowledge, in the sense that God knows and reveals it. But for those of us who did not know Jesus the Christ as he walked the earth, our assent to it as the truth is faith, not knowledge. That’s because we can only assent to it on God’s authority, not verify it for ourselves, and we locate God’s authority as Revealer only by trusting some human authority as an embodiment of divine authority. Thus the certainty of faith is the result of a choice to trust–one that is made possible by grace and does not itself constitute knowledge, even though the reasons we should have for making that choice render the choice reasonable enough.

    Best,
    Mike

  170. Dear Benjamin,

    Don’t know that you’re pendantic, but I apologize for my offensive familiarity. Goodness knows I offend enough in many other ways! ;)

    How long is RCIA’s catechesis?!

    > In my case, it was just shy of a full year. …Our RCIA class was quite good, actually – …meeting 1x/week for 3 hours for the better part of a year (but our parish is good and I’ve heard horror stories of elsewhere). …I’d definitely say RCIA familiarized us with the CCC, of course, the CCC does a great job of pointing to its sources too… <

    Thank you for sharing all this. 'Tis helpful! To be forthcoming, part of my reason in asking is that I am also looking at Orthodoxy (the Eastern variety) and their catechetical requirements or recommendations. (It's a year to two, bascially.)

    I agree that Presby and other Prot churches are light-weight on requisite pre-membership catechesis.

    If one needn’t be conversant with the catechism, is one is simply giving implicit assent to Rome’s claims of being the One True Church of Jesus Christ on Earth, and the Pope being his Vicar?

    > There’s a (potential) bit of ambiguity here. If you are asking must one be conversant with the catechism in order to be Catholic, then I think the answer is that it’s not an absolute requirement… Actually, a big part of our last RCIA class involved our teacher encouraging us to keep growing in our faith (and knowledge of what the Church teaches) even though RCIA was finished – and I can easily imagine a solid membership class at, say, the OPC saying basically the same thing. <

    Sure.

    To profess that one believes EVERYTHING your organization “believes, teaches, and proclaims” without KNOWING it all seems problematic. How do you work around this? Surely you take in illiterates, too. How do they make such a profession?

    > Good stuff – and it illustrates one of the big differences between being Catholic and being Protestant. Since Catholics hold that their Church is the one founded by Christ (and hence cannot err), whatever the Church says is what I believe even if I don’t know all of it here, now, today. (Incidentally, what bothered me more than anything else in becoming Catholic was grappling with that submissive posture – that, in essence, when the Church uses her authority to say something, it’s not my way or the highway but rather the Church’s way or the highway. As a philsophy Ph.D. Candidate and as a lifelong Protestant, the appropriately submissive posture towards legitimate authority is not something that comes naturally to me). Regardless, insofar as my job is to “think with the mind of the Church” (or some similar formulation), I can do that without knowing every jot and tittle of everything that’s been dogmatically defined, to say nothing of the stuff that hasn’t been dogmatically defined but is still important to believe. But, of course, I am committed to retracting any particular theological position I hold if it can be shown to be contrary to what the Church has taught. With respect to illiterates, I actually have no clue how that works in the Catholic church. …can illiterates join a conservative Presbyterian church? How does that work? Another, hmm, query. You closed off your note by signing “Sadly, Hugh”. Why sadly? (Sadly because you don’t think the Catholic church is the church founded by Christ? That doesn’t seem to call for sadness insofar as it’s a factually true statement. Sadly because you think us Catholics have drunk the kool-aide and you can’t talk us out of it? I guess that might call for sadness. Sadly because you think the Catholic church is the church founded by Christ but you’re scared to join? Brother, if that’s it, you have no clue how much I can empathize). I’m not pretending to read your mind or anything – it just struck me that one generally doesn’t sign off notes “sadly” and I kinda wondered why. No need to reply to this part if it’s too personal. Just wanted to ask. :-) Thanks again for the kind words.
    > Yours Sincerely (and tiredly, because my daughter was up early this morning and I had to teach at 8AM!) <

    Mine was sick yesterday – we got to sleep around 3:30am, and had to be up & at 'em early today!
    Not sad, but exhaustedly,
    Hugh[uenot]

  171. I do not know why the posts are not formatting correctly, Sean.

    Please remove these 170 & 172 and I will retry.

    170 should read

    Dear Mike @166, [not 156]
    Ought I then sign off:
    “Fideistically Yours,”
    Hugh
    ?

    I apologize for these inconveniences and thank you for your patience!

    Hugh

  172. Benjamin,

    Please email me @ hughmc5 hotmail com

    Thanks,
    Hugh

  173. Benjamin, I am trying to format the ending of # 170…

    HM: To profess that one believes EVERYTHING your organization “believes, teaches, and proclaims” without KNOWING it all seems problematic. How do you work around this? Surely you take in illiterates, too. How do they make such a profession?

    BK: Good stuff – and it illustrates one of the big differences between being Catholic and being Protestant. Since Catholics hold that their Church is the one founded by Christ (and hence cannot err), whatever the Church says is what I believe even if I don’t know all of it here, now, today.

    HM: Bingo – you said as much repeatedly in #135, and I blockquoted in 151.

    BK: (Incidentally, what bothered me more than anything else in becoming Catholic was grappling with that submissive posture – that, in essence, when the Church uses her authority to say something, it’s not my way or the highway but rather the Church’s way or the highway. As a philsophy Ph.D. Candidate and as a lifelong Protestant, the appropriately submissive posture towards legitimate authority is not something that comes naturally to me).

    HM: As a rabid Prot, I can “Amen” this wholeheartedly!

    BK: Regardless, insofar as my job is to “think with the mind of the Church” (or some similar formulation), I can do that without knowing every jot and tittle of everything that’s been dogmatically defined, to say nothing of the stuff that hasn’t been dogmatically defined but is still important to believe. But, of course, I am committed to retracting any particular theological position I hold if it can be shown to be contrary to what the Church has taught.

    HM: Right.

    BK: With respect to illiterates, I actually have no clue how that works in the Catholic church. …can illiterates join a conservative Presbyterian church? How does that work?

    HM: Dunno that, either.

    BK: Sadly because you think us Catholics have drunk the kool-aide and you can’t talk us out of it? I guess that might call for sadness.

    HM: Yes, indeed. Again, you found the nail’s head.

    BK: You closed off your note by signing “Sadly, Hugh”. Why sadly? …Sadly because you think the Catholic church is the church founded by Christ but you’re scared to join?

    HM: Ha ha! Not yet, fer sure!

    BK: Brother, if that’s it, you have no clue how much I can empathize). I’m not pretending to read your mind or anything – it just struck me that one generally doesn’t sign off notes “sadly” and I kinda wondered why. No need to reply to this part if it’s too personal. Just wanted to ask. :-)

    HM: Not at all – and feel free to email if you want ask any personal questions you feel are inappropriate for CTC blog.

    BK: Thanks again for the kind words.

    Yours Sincerely (and tiredly, because my daughter was up early this morning and I had to teach at 8AM!)

    HM: Mine was sick yesterday – we got to sleep around 3:30am, and had to be up & at ‘em early today!
    Not sad, but exhaustedly,
    Hugh

  174. Hugh (163),

    Yes, Christ made an atonement. The question I suppose is how /why to we preach the gospel? “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” Romans 10:14 How is the atonement applied to the individual? Does it have to be applied? Yes. Does God use men to bring the gospel? Usually, Yes.When the gospel is preached in Acts is it necessary to repent, believe and be baptized? Yes. There needs to be a response on the part of man. Can man do this apart from grace? No. We agree it is from Christ’s grace. The unilateral idea–that is the problemo. What does this unilateral belief entail? Does his grace, his sovereignty mean that the application needs no response on the part of man? No. Can man resist God’s grace is perhaps the question? This may be the area of disagreement. Acts 7:51 51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.” 2 Cor 6:1: “Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain” Hebrews 10:29 “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite (or insult) unto the Spirit of grace? ” So then you believe in irresistible grace or effectual grace? ….a grace that is different than these verses indicate I suppose.

    Secondly–the regenerate still need to be exhorted to bear fruit. This happens all of the time in Scripture, and in Church. The New Testament is filled with exhortations of what God desires of us. God uses means . Therefore , although you say, “We Protestants see faith, repentance, & all obedience to be fruit from God’s prior regeneration”……this would not negate God’s use of means and the need to preach the means. This is what I was trying to put forth in the comment I made. There are certain things God gives to or in the Church to bring about growth in grace, correct?? Is there a continual need to repent of our sins? Yes,God uses means. You may say that God ordains these means, nonetheless the means need to be there and used.

    Since, therefore, God uses means to bring about the application of the atonement to our lives, men are responsible to preach these means. The comment I gave showed some of the things we need to incorporate as means that God uses to bring about the salvation of a soul, no?

  175. Benjamin, Jason, et. al.,

    Is this an accurate description? (By James Akin – http://www.ewtn.com/library/answers/how2.htm)

    Preparation for reception into the Church begins with the inquiry stage, in which the unbaptized person begins to learn about the Catholic faith and begins to decide whether to embrace it.

    The first formal step on the road to becoming a Catholic takes place with the rite of reception into the order of catechumens, in which the unbaptized express their desire and intention to become Christians. “Catechumen” is a term the early Christians used to those preparing to be baptized and become Christians.

    The period of catechumenate lasts for a variable period of time—sometimes even years—depending on how much the catechumen has learned and how ready the catechumen feels to take the step of becoming a Christian. However, the catechumenate often lasts for something less than a year.

    The purpose of the catechumenate is to provide the candidates with a thorough background in Christian teaching. . .

    The second formal step is taken with the rite of ELECTION, in which the catechumens’ names are written in a book of those who will receive the sacraments of initiation. At the rite of election, the catechumen again expresses the desire and intention to become a Christian, and the Church judges that the catechumen is ready to take this step. Normally, the rite of election occurs on the first Sunday of Lent, the forty day period of preparation for Easter.

    After the rite of election, the candidates undergo a period of more intense reflection, purification, and enlightenment, in which they deepen their committment to repentance and conversion to the Christian faith. During this period the candidates, now known as the ELECT, participate in several further rituals.

    The three chief rituals, known as “SCRUTINIES,” are normally celebrated at Mass on the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent. The scrutinies are rites for self-searching and repentance. They are meant to bring out the qualities of the candidate’s soul, to heal those qualities which are weak or sinful, and to strengthen those which are positive and good.

    Normally during this period, the candidates are also formally presented with the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, both of which they will recite on the night they are initiated.

    The initiation itself usually occurs on Easter Vigil, the evening before Easter Day. That evening a special Mass is celebrated at which the candidates are baptized, then given confirmation, and finally receive the holy Eucharist. At this point the candidates become Catholics and are received into full communion with the Church.

    Ordinarily the bishop oversees the Easter Vigil service and confers confirmation upon the candidates, but often—due to large distances or numbers of candidates—a local parish priest will perform the rites.

    The final state of Christian initiation is known as MYSTAGOGY, in which the new Christians are strengthened in the faith by further instruction and become more deeply rooted in the local Catholic community. The period of mystagogy normally lasts throughout the Easter season (the fifty days between Eastern and Pentecost Sunday).

    For the first year of their life as Christians, those who have been received are known as “neophytes” or “new Christians.”

    The means by which those who have already been validly baptized become part of the Church differs considerably from that of the unbaptized.

    Because they have already been baptized, they are already Christians and are not catechumens. . . the U.S. Conference of Bishops stated: “The term ‘catechumen’ should be strictly reserved for the unbaptized who have been admitted to the order of catechumens . . . and never used of those baptized Christians who are received into the full communion of the Catholic Church” (NSC 2).

    “Those who have already been baptized in another Church or ecclesial community should not be treated as catechumens or so designated. . .

    For those who were baptized but who have never been instructed in the Christian faith or lived as Christians, it is appropriate for them to receive much of the same instruction in the faith as catechumens, but they are still not catechumens and are not to be referred to as such (NSC 3). As a result, they are not to participate in the rites intended for catechumens, such as the SCRUTINIES. . .

    For those who have been instructed in the Christian faith and have lived as Christians the situation is different. The U.S. Conference of Bishops states: “Those baptized persons who have lived as Christians and need only instruction in the Catholic tradition and a degree of probation within the Catholic community should not be asked to undergo a full program parallel to the catechumenate” (NSC 31). . .

    By James Akin – http://www.ewtn.com/library/answers/how2.htm

    [CAPS were used for words that are new vocabulary to me.]

  176. Dear CTC-ers,

    I think I’m getting it –

    Ultimately, then, converts have to assent… to the fact that Catholicism is right.

    “…there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.” ~ G.K.C.

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

    …believe her to be the Church founded by Christ – the Church, in order words, to which you will submit even if she were to ever use her full doctrinal authority to teach something you think is wrong.

    …believe that the Catholic church …constitute[s] the Church founded by Christ.

    …believe the Catholic Church is the one founded by Christ…

    Hence, one must give assent to the validity, authority, and accuracy of the RCC even if/ when one believes her to be in error.

    One is swearing fealty to Rome, not necessarily asserting the validity & the accuracy of all her teachings, right?

    Thanks,
    Hugh

  177. Benjamin, who says a magisterium is necessary for a genuine Christianity? Do you understand how much of the New Testament is written without any reference to a magisterium or to the supremacy of Peter? No offense to Mike, but I do think the apostles have more authority than he does.

    I appreciate your admission that you cannot prove Rome is the church Christ founded. It is something that needs to be taken with faith. This is different from the way Bryan Cross argues: http://oldlife.org/2013/02/the-limits-of-unlimited-authority/comment-page-4/#comment-73499

  178. Jason, how do you know that your choice of Rome as opposed to Constantinople is any more than choosing Baptist Protestantism over Methodism? The Church of Antioch, where Peter ministered, has as much antiquity and apostolicity as Rome. But you believe what Rome tells you the way Protestants believe the Bible. That may explain why Roman Catholics can’t question the papacy even though they might wish they could when it comes to Unam Sanctum, Unigentius (1713), and the Syllabus of Errors.

  179. Mike @ 169 ~

    Thanks for your side’s take on this. You get us at this point, right?

    The content of the deposit of faith is knowledge, in the sense that God knows and reveals it. But for those of us who did not know Jesus the Christ as he walked the earth, our assent to it as the truth is faith OR, knowledge. That’s because we can only assent to it on God’s authority, not verify it for ourselves, and we locate God’s authority as Revealer only by trusting THE TESTIMONY OF SCRIPTURE as THE embodiment of divine authority.

    Thus the certainty of faith is trust (NOT OUR CHOICE, BUT GOD’S GRACIOUS GIFT) –one that is made CERTAIN by grace, and does INDEED itself constitute TRUE knowledge, SINCE THE SCRIPTURES ARE GOD-BREATHED AND SUFFICIENT TO SAVINGLY REVEAL CHRIST TO THE REGENERATE.

    We equate faith with trust with “true knowledge.”
    Just to remind all…
    Hugh

  180. Hugh (173 et passim)

    To profess that one believes EVERYTHING your organization “believes, teaches, and proclaims” without KNOWING it all seems problematic. How do you work around this? Surely you take in illiterates, too. How do they make such a profession?

    It is impossible to know everything a Christian group believes, teaches, and proclaims, because what every Christian group is Christ – and He is infinite. Either you cannot make an act of implicit faith in a group, and thus always reserve for yourself the possibility of leaving the group if it teaches what you have judged to be error – the normal Protestant approach – or you believe that the group is, in fact, the Body of Christ – the continuation of the incarnation, as it is sometimes expressed (in words that shocked me when I, a Protestant at the time, first heard them). In the latter case, then, of course you can have no fear of making an act of faith. You know that if such a group ever “believes, teaches, and proclaims” something that you think error – it is you who are wrong.

    jj

  181. Huhg (#176)

    One is swearing fealty to Rome, not necessarily asserting the validity & the accuracy of all her teachings, right?

    One is swearing fealty to the Catholic Church because one believes it to be Christ’s ordained full presence in the world – that that Church is protected by Christ from teaching error (as a Church – not as this or that bishop speaking for himself) – and thus swearing fealty to the Church is necessarily asserting the inerrancy of her teachings – including those that have not yet been made explicit.

    I say ‘the Catholic Church’ rather than Rome because it is a little misleading to say ‘Rome’ as though Rome were somehow of the essence. When the Papacy was in Avignon, the Church was still the Church. If Rome were nuked out of existence, the Church would still be the Church. And it is not the Pope personally that one is swearing fealty to (except, if I understand their situation correctly, the Jesuits); it is the Church. And it is not the Church on its own say-so but precisely because we think the Church is Christ’s Mouthpiece in this world.

    You would really profit from reading Ronald Knox’s little book The Belief of Catholics. It is pretty short, very clear, and entertainingly written. You can even read it on-line for free.

    jj

  182. Hugh (#179):

    You write:

    SINCE THE SCRIPTURES ARE GOD-BREATHED AND SUFFICIENT TO SAVINGLY REVEAL CHRIST TO THE REGENERATE.

    Shouting that in caps doesn’t give us a reason to believe it. I believe that Scripture is God-breathed because the Church, as described by JTJ just above, so teaches. Why do you believe that Scripture is God-breathed? After all, you don’t believe that anybody who told you that is infallible. And it’s no good quoting 2 Timothy 3:16 to me either. That only works if that letter too is God-breathed, which just brings us back to my question.

    Moreover, I do not believe that Scripture can be reliably interpreted in isolation from Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church. Why do you think it can?

    You write:

    We equate faith with trust with “true knowledge.”

    Trusting an authority supplies knowledge when you have reason enough to believe that the authority you trust understands how the knowledge is acquired and has acquired that knowledge themselves. Thus, I trust astronomers when they tell me that the Sun is roughly 93 million mile away from us, even though I haven’t discovered that for myself as I could, because in college I acquired independent evidence that astronomers know how astronomical facts are discovered and have discovered such facts themselves. But in the case of divine revelation, its content is not something any of us could have discovered for ourselves; that’s why God had to tell us. Accordingly, access to divine revelation–for us in this life after the Apostles–cannot dispense with trusting some authority, the way science can dispense with that; and the reasons justifying that trust cannot constitute evidence that the authority has the relevant knowledge, because what the authority says is something human methods of inquiry cannot discover by themselves.

    For reasons I explained above in this thread, it’s no good citing the authority of a book; for the book can have only as much authority as those who wrote, collected, and certified it as divinely inspired have themselves.

    Best,
    Mike

  183. JJ @181 -

    Thanks for Ron Knox tip.

    This is curious: “…it is not the Church on its own say-so but precisely because we think the Church is Christ’s Mouthpiece in this world.”

    But don’t you think the Church is Christ’s mouthpiece because she says so?

    Thanks,
    Hugh

  184. Mike @182 -

    The caps were merely meant to delineate where I had added to or changed your post. Sorry to sound loud.

    You say, “Trusting an authority supplies knowledge when you have reason enough to believe that the authority you trust understands how the knowledge is acquired and has acquired that knowledge themselves.”
    > If I understand this sentence (& I am unsure I do!), then OK. In the case of Scripture and its divine Author, I have the internal Holy Spirit witness (“reason enough”) to believe the authority and supremacy of Writ. Nothing above it & Him!

    “…in the case of divine revelation, its content is not something any of us could have discovered for ourselves; that’s why God had to tell us.”
    > Nor can it be externally verified, unlike the 93 million mile claim.

    “Accordingly, access to divine revelation–for us in this life after the Apostles–cannot dispense with trusting some authority, the way science can dispense with that; and the reasons justifying that trust cannot constitute evidence that the authority has the relevant knowledge, because what the authority says is something human methods of inquiry cannot discover by themselves.”
    > The only authority equal to Scripture is its Author who spiritually bears witness to facts stated in above posts. You claim a magisterial power as authoritative as Writ. We deny it.

    Thanks,
    Hugh

  185. Hugh:

    You write:

    In the case of Scripture and its divine Author, I have the internal Holy Spirit witness (“reason enough”) to believe the authority and supremacy of Writ.

    That just brings us right back to the question I posed for you when we started this whole conversation: How do you know that the Holy Spirit is witnessing to your belief, so that it’s not just yours and some others’ opinion?

    Best,
    Mike

  186. dghart, (re: #177)

    I invite Benjamin to clarify what he means when he writes that the constitution of the Church is a matter of faith. Protestants unfamiliar with Catholic teaching might interpret him incorrectly. The existence of God, for example, is a “matter of faith,” but it is also held that that existence of God can be known by the natural light of human reason. In the same way, the divine founding of the Catholic Church can be known by rational investigation. So Bryan is quite right in what he wrote in the linked thread. Here are some quotations from Catholic theologians:

    Rev. George D. Smith, “The Teaching of the Catholic Church” :

    The human mind, then, is able to learn with certainty the existence of God; is able, by the proper investigation of the facts, to conclude that Christ is the bearer of a divine message, that he founded an infallible Church for the purpose of propagating that message; and finally, by the process indicated in apologetics, to conclude that the Catholic Church is that divinely appointed teacher of revelation. These things, I say, can be known and proved, and by those who have the requisite leisure, opportunity and ability, are actually known and proved with all the scientific certainty of which the subject is patient. The preambles of faith, therefore, rest upon the solid ground of human reason.

    Rev. John Brunsmann, “A Handbook of Fundamental Theology”:

    Fundamental Theology must demonstrate with scientific accuracy that the religion which is embodied in the Catholic Church is based on divine supernatural revelation and that, consequently, the belief which the Church demands in the revealed truths which she proposes, can be fully justified before the tribunal of reason.

    And there are many more quotations that could be provided. The point is, what Bryan wrote is not peculiar. The divine founding of the Catholic Church can be known with certainty, apart from faith.

    This threaded is getting a little crowded and going in many different directions, so I am going to drop the subject.

  187. Brian (#186):

    You posed that issue to Bryan and me in the thread on my article. I responded, and would be willing to continue the conversation there.

    Best,
    Mike

  188. Thanks, Kim @174.

    I agree that God uses means (preaching, as you showed). We disagree as to what some terms mean. I would say that irresistible/ effectual grace is God’s grace toward his elect, and would read the verses you quoted a bit differently.

    Hugh

  189. Mike @ 185. I take the Bible on faith, just as you do your authority, the RCC.

    The Bible says that those believing in Christ will be saved.
    I believe in Christ.
    Therefore I will be saved.

    Thanks,
    Hugh

    P.S. Conversely, your Church teaches that the faithful within her bosom have a good chance of trimming time off purgatory.
    You are a faithful son of Rome.
    Therefore. . .

  190. Also, Mike, more to your point – I don’t know how better to answer you than I did way back in posts #32, 33, 36, 50 & 51. Help me here. Where are we misfiring?
    Hugh

  191. Mike, Please see: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=84 | Therefrom:

    While the question of how we can know God is the fundamental question in the philosophy of religion, there lies behind it in general philosophy the ultimate question, How can we know anything at all? If we cannot talk intelligently about God, can we talk intelligently about morality, about our own ideals, about art, politics – can we even talk about science? How can we know anything? The answer to this question, technically called the theory of epistemology, controls all subject matter claiming to be intelligible or cognitive. The present lecture will canvas three such theories and will emphasize their implications for religion, Christianity, and God. . .

    Thanks,
    Hugh

  192. Hugh,

    I had asked:

    How do you know that the Holy Spirit is witnessing to your belief, so that it’s not just yours and some others’ opinion?

    To that, you replied:

    I take the Bible on faith, just as you do your authority, the RCC.

    But that doesn’t really answer my question. For one thing, I too “take the Bible on faith.” But the faith I take it on is my faith in the word of the Catholic Church. She claims divine authority to teach infallibly under certain conditions, which are met by her claims that the Bible contains such-and-such writings, that no other writings are to be added to or subtracted from that canon, and that the contents thereof are God-breathed. And in the article of mine I linked you to, I gave my reasons for trusting the Catholic Church as such an authority. You, on the other hand, cite only “the internal witness of the Spirit” as the basis for your faith. But what I had asked is how you “know” that the Spirit is witnessing within you–more specifically, witnessing to your belief that the Bible contains such-and-such writings, that no other writings are to be added to or subtracted from that canon, and that the contents thereof are God-breathed. To say: “I take the Bible on faith” doesn’t answer that question because, for reasons I’ve explained above, faith and knowledge are not the same thing, You would have partially answered my question if you had said that you trust yourself, or at least something that goes on within you, as a bearer of divine authority to make such claims. I understand why you don’t do that, but in that case, what is the basis of your trust? Why do you think that the strength of your inner conviction is any reason at all to believe that the content of your faith is true?

    In our previous go-round with this, you mostly quoted the Westminster Confession. Very well then: I pose the same question to its authors that I’ve posed to you. How did they “know” by the “internal witness of the Spirit” that their view of the Bible, and their faith generally, is true? Remember, you said your faith is “knowledge.” I don’t make the same claim for my faith, so your task is harder than mine.

    Best,
    Mike

  193. Mike,

    I hope to read your piece today.

    I do not [yet] see the difference between our positions. You write:

    I too “take the Bible on faith.” But the faith I take it on is my faith in the word of the Catholic Church. She claims divine authority to teach infallibly under certain conditions, which are met by her claims that the Bible contains such-and-such writings, that no other writings are to be added to or subtracted from that canon, and that the contents thereof are God-breathed.

    OK, but how do you know the Church is right when she claims divine authority?

    …in the article of mine I linked you to, I gave my reasons for trusting the Catholic Church as such an authority.

    OK, will read. But is there an authority higher than the Roman Catholic Church? She is the norm that norms all norms, no? St Ig said: “We must put aside all judgment of our own and keep the mind ever ready and prompt to obey in all things the true Spouse of Christ our Lord, and Holy Mother, the hierarchical Church.” *

    You also said

    You would have partially answered my question if you had said that you trust yourself, or at least something that goes on within you, as a bearer of divine authority to make such claims. I understand why you don’t do that, but in that case, what is the basis of your trust? Why do you think that the strength of your inner conviction is any reason at all to believe that the content of your faith is true?

    Of course, I trust one thing that the Bible tells us that happens within us believers, and that is the Holy Spirit’s testimony. He bears witness that the words are true which he inspired the human authors to write. I believe this/ I know this.

    As you believe Rome to be the authoritative Church that Christ founded upon St Peter, do you not also know such to be true? Why are not faith & knowledge synonymous in your epistemology. As I read your article, I ask you to please read the article I reference in post #191, above.

    Thank you,
    Hugh
    Maundy Thursday

    * Alternately, “Always to be ready to obey with mind and heart, setting aside all judgement of one’s own, the true spouse of Jesus Christ, our holy mother, our infallible and orthodox mistress, the Catholic Church, whose authority is exercised over us by the hierarchy.” Documents of the Christian Church, 3rd ed. [OUP], Henry Bettenson, ed., pp. 364-367. © 1999. Found at http://wps.ablongman.com/long_longman_lwcdemo_1/0%2C9493%2C1532993-%2C00.html

  194. Hugh (#193):

    I have read the article you linked me to. As a philosopher, I have serious problems with it, but most are not important for our immediate purpose. I shall bring up the one that is important after I frame the context of our discussion.

    You write:

    I do not [yet] see the difference between our positions…how do you know the Church is right when she claims divine authority?

    There are two key differences between our positions. First, I do not claim to “know” that the Church is right when she claims divine authority and uses that as her basis for saying that the Bible is the Word of God in written form. But you claim to “know,” without relying on the word of human authorities, that the Bible is the Word of God. By contrast, my trust in the Church is an assent of faith; but I have reasons for making that assent. Those reasons do not suffice to prove that the Church’s claims for herself are true, but they do suffice to make my assent of faith in her reasonable. And now that I have made an assent of faith in a teaching authority which claims to be divinely protected from error under certain conditions, I cannot see what I thereby assent to as mere opinion; I can only see it as an authentic expression of divine revelation. But in this life, that stance is faith on my part, not knowledge. Here, we only “see in a glass, darkly…”

    Second, and unlike you, I do not claim that the Bible is the sole means by which we can identify the content of divine revelation as such. Rather, I claim that the triad: Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium is that means, where those are understood to be mutually attesting and interdependent. I think that’s historically as well as epistemologically far more reasonable than sola scriptura–a doctrine that is not even consistent with itself.

    The article you linked me to claims that the believer can “know” that the Bible is the Word of God by “presupposing” that belief without evidence, as if it were self-evident. I consider that claim absurd. One cannot even know what such a claim means without holding and making inferences from more foundational beliefs.

    Best,
    Mike

  195. Mike,

    Thank you for reading and interacting with the article. And thanks for your two points.

    As to the 1st, we have such divergent views on nearly every term* we use, it makes meaningful dialogue rather difficult.

    As to the 2nd, I have 66 books, you have an enormous stack! We have such differing authorities!

    Like you, I can also claim, now that I have made an assent of faith in a teaching authority [Holy Scripture, HM] which claims to be divinely protected from error under certain conditions, I cannot see what I thereby assent to as mere opinion; I can only see it as an authentic expression of divine revelation.

    Thanks,
    Hugh
    * Epistemology, knowledge, faith, redemption, atonement, etc.

  196. Hugh (re: #191)

    In addition to what Mike just said, I have addressed presuppositionalism in both “Wilson vs. Hitchens: A Catholic Perspective” and in “Presuppositionalism: Fideism built on Skepticism.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  197. Thank you, Bryan.

    I note that we dialogued on the Wilson/ Hitchens piece late last year and earlier this month. I am repeating myself here with Mike, RE: the Clark article!

    I hope that you & Mike understand the differences between Gordon Clark and Cornelius Van Til. They are at times, pretty significant.

    Thank you all for interacting with me.

    Hugh
    Maundy, Maundy
    (not by the Mamas and the Papas)

  198. Hugh (#195):

    I agree that we use all the relevant epistemological and theological terms differently. That points up the “difference of interpretive paradigm” I discuss in the article of mine I linked you to. The question before us is which IP is the more reasonable one to adopt. If you care to discuss that question, please do so in the combox under the article. Thanks.

    Best,
    Mike

  199. Hugh (#183)

    JJ @181 -

    Thanks for Ron Knox tip.

    This is curious: “…it is not the Church on its own say-so but precisely because we think the Church is Christ’s Mouthpiece in this world.”

    But don’t you think the Church is Christ’s mouthpiece because she says so?

    Absolutely not! What good would that do? It would be absolutely circular. I might as well tell you that I am God’s mouthpiece in the world and that you should believe it because I, who am God’s mouthpiece, say so.

    This is the question of the ‘motives of credibility.’ I have quoted this from Knox several times on this blog before:

    Let me then, to avoid further ambiguity, give a list of certain leading
    doctrines which no Catholic, upon a moments reflection, could accept on the
    authority of the Church and on that ground alone.

    (i.) The existence of God.

    (ii.) The fact that he has made a revelation to the world in Jesus Christ.

    (iii.) The Life (in its broad outlines), the Death, and the Resurrection of
    Jesus Christ.

    (iv.) The fact that our Lord founded a Church.

    (v.) The fact that he bequeathed to that Church his own teaching office,
    with the guarantee (naturally) that it should not err in teaching.

    (vi.) The consequent intellectual duty of believing what the Church
    believes.

    I do not say that these considerations are present to the mind of every
    Catholic, however ignorant, however stupid. I do say that these are the
    considerations which any Catholic teacher would put before him, if and in
    so far as he showed any curiosity about the matter. I would add that a
    glance at the Penny Catechism will disabuse any unbiased mind of the idea
    that the Church, even in dealing with simple folk, conceals from them the
    intellectual basis of their religion.

    jj

  200. jj,
    Is Knox’s 1st point axiomatic?
    How does he (or you) get a basis for #2* before getting to #4?
    Thanks,
    Hugh

    * God “has made a revelation to the world in Jesus Christ.”
    “…our Lord founded a Church.”

  201. Dear Brian (@186),

    You wrote:

    I invite Benjamin to clarify what he means when he writes that the constitution of the Church is a matter of faith.

    Thanks for asking! Bear in mind that I’m a non-professional theologian and I’m also a neophyte (well, for the rest of this week!) So I could well just goof up on theology or use a relatively technical term wrongly. Here’s are two brief excerpts from the CCC that are relevant; I’ll try to explain what I think they mean (and if I mess something up, I trust somebody will let me know).

    First, what are “motives of credibility”?

    What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe ‘because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived’. So ‘that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit.’ Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability ‘are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all’; they are ‘motives of credibility’ (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is ‘by no means a blind impulse of the mind’.
    (CCC 156, citations ommitted)

    As far as I can tell, “revealed truths” are believed because of God’s authority – and these revealed truths are, well, revealed. Thus my contrast from my earlier post between matters “appear[ing] as true…in the light of our natural reason” (such as geometry proofs) and (what I called) “matters of faith”. I don’t know whether or not “matters of faith” is a term of art I’m misusing, but I intended it to denote propositions that are believed because they are revealed by God. However, as the CCC itself notes, there’s not a contradiction between between what is revealed by God and what is intelligible in light of natural reason – God’s revelatory process has conjoined external proofs accessible to all with divine revelation. So, for instance, the Catholic Church’s stability is something intelligible to all (as was recognized by an atheist and fellow grad student in our department the other day: “The most bizarre thing about the Catholic Church is that it’s still here!”) As I understand it, then, we make the assent of faith (rather than the assent of provisional human opinion) to that which is revealed by God, our assent of faith is aided (or perhaps “inclined”) without being necessitated by the motives of credibility.

    Relatedly, then:

    Only faith can recognize that the Church possesses these properties [oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity] from her divine source. But their historical manifestations are signs that also speak clearly to human reason. As the First Vatican Council noted, the ‘Church herself, with her marvellous propagation, eminent holiness, and inexhaustible fruitfulness in everything good, her catholic unity and invincible stability, is a great and perpetual motive of credibility and an irrefutable witness of her divine mission.’ (CCC 812)

    As I understand it, faith is required to recognize that the Catholic Church possesses the four marks of the Church identified in the Apostle’s Creed (and the Nicene Creed, etc.). However, these four marks have certain “historical manifestations” (such as invincible stability – which is what my fellow grad student observed even though he is an atheist). Natural reason, then, allows one to discern the motives of credibility and makes reasonable the assent of faith – but in a very important sense, the motives of credibility underdetermine the conclusions drawn from them. And, as I understand it, this must be the case insofar as we are discussing divinely revealed truths rather than truths of natural reason (geometric truths, say).

    Similarly, as I tried to mention in my prior comment, that Jesus son of Joseph was the Messiah is a revealed truth. There are motives of credibility (his miracles, his ridiculously extensive fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah, etc.), but these data point in a very real sense underdetermine the conclusion that I draw from them: that Jesus son of Joseph was and is the Messiah.

    I hope this clarifies matters sufficiently, at least with respect to my views. If these views evince an inaccurate understanding of matters Catholic, I trust one of the crazy smart people that regularly post here will charitably let me know. :-)

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  202. Dear Daryl (@177),

    You wrote:

    [W]ho says a magisterium is necessary for a genuine Christianity?

    Well, you’re quoting from my simplification rather than the more extensive way of formulating it I’d written earlier in the paragraph. Earlier in that same paragraph, I’d written that if Christianity requires a “principled manner of specifying that which constitutes divine revelation (and hence requires the assent of faith) and that which constitutes human opinion (and hence requires the assent of opinion)”, then Protestantism provides no such method. (Avoid, then, getting hung up on whether or not a “magisterium” is required, but instead focus on whether or not some principled way of distinguishing between divine revelation and human opinion is necessary). If you’re still OPC (or, heck, any kind of robustly confessional Protestant), then you do presumably believe that in fact a principled way to distinguish between divine revelation and human opinion is needed. If so, your disagreement with me isn’t over whether or not such a principled method is necessary – it’ll be over whether or not Protestantism provides such a method. This discussion has already been held at much greater length prompted by Dr. Liccione’s post. (I neglected to link to it in my previous post – my bad). If you want to seriously pursue whether or not Protestantism provides a principled way of distinguishing between human opinion and divine revelation, you’ll probably want to make a post over in that thread and interact with Dr. Liccione directly.

    You wrote:

    Do you understand how much of the New Testament is written without any reference to a magisterium or to the supremacy of Peter?

    Yup. Of course, if the lack of NT reference is what suffices to make a doctrine heterodox, I’d really love to know how you think about the Regulative Principle of Worship. For, it seems that “much of the New Testament is written without any reference [to the Regulative Principle of Worship]” too. But you accept the RPW (presumably). So what’s the difference?

    Of course that’s a bad argument to reject the RPW – the lack of mention in “much…of the New Testament” doesn’t show that a view is heterodox – as presumably we both agree (emphasis mine). Plus, since Catholics reject sola scriptura anyways, the lack of mention in Scripture isn’t a big deal for Catholics. So, if you’re assuming sola scriptura and then using sola scriptura to reject, say, papal supremacy, your argument will be unpersuasive to anyone who either rejects or is neutral towards sola scriptura. (Similarly, if I made an argument for papal supremacy implicitly based on, say, papal primacy, my argument would be unpersuasive to someone who rejects papal primacy already – namely, you. ;-) So if it’s bad for me to argue papal supremacy based on something you reject [papal primacy], it’s also bad for you to argue against papal supremacy based on something I reject [sola scriptura]). Make sense?

    Finally, you wrote:

    I appreciate your admission that you cannot prove Rome is the church Christ founded. It is something that needs to be taken with faith. This is different from the way Bryan Cross argues…

    See the comment I posted shortly before this one for a bit more of an expansive clarification of what I meant. The sense in which I cannot “prove” the divine origin of the Catholic Church is the same sense in which I cannot “prove” that Jesus son of Joseph was divine. Nevertheless, despite the fact that it cannot be “proven”, it can be given good justification sufficient to constitute knowledge (this justification, however, is not sufficient to make all other options irrational, and hence is not sufficient to make all persons who reject it either fools or knaves). But all this is formed by my acceptance of the proposition that philosophy and theology are not ultimately contradictory – a proposition which I suspect you reject (or at least in #132 of this thread, you seemed to contrast the “wisdom of the cross” over the “merits of philosophy” – and a plausible interpretation of what you wrote is that you believe philosophy and theology are ultimately contradictory). If that is indeed what you hold, then you maintain a position for which no sound arguments can be given. Also, ironically, if that’s what you hold then you’ve managed to adopt a (controversial) philosophical position while simultaneously denigrating the merits of philosophy.

    All that said, I don’t see any disagreement between what Bryan says and what I said – I read the link you provided and thought “Oh, dang, that’s pretty much what I said but a lot clearer”. So if your noting that Bryan and I explain things “differently” was intended to denote that we use different words to make the same fundamental point, then you (Daryl) and I agree. But if you mean that what I wrote and what Bryan wrote are fundamentally contradictory, then I’d love to see your argument supporting that. To demonstrate a contradiction, as K. Doran explained to you in another thread, just give a quote from me, then give a quote from Bryan, and then explain why you think those two quotes are contradictory (such that I am asserting X and Bryan is asserting ~X [not X], or vice-versa). But at least in my first pass through the link you provided, I didn’t pick up on any contradiction between what I wrote and what Bryan wrote.

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  203. Ugh – HTML coding fails in both my comments. Also, Hugh, I sent you an email. If you didn’t get it, let me know and I’ll just drop my address here.

    Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  204. Hugh (#200)

    jj,
    Is Knox’s 1st point axiomatic?
    How does he (or you) get a basis for #2* before getting to #4?
    Thanks,
    Hugh

    * God “has made a revelation to the world in Jesus Christ.”
    “…our Lord founded a Church.”

    If by ‘axiomatic’ you mean does Knox mean the existence of God is presupposed, or something that does not need proof, or something like that – then definitely not. The existence of God must be inferred from our experience (of the world, of ourselves) – standard Aquinas ‘five ways’ stuff. Similarly for the rest. They are all things we have to come to know from understanding the world – including, of course, history. In the case of #2, we are talking about reading the New Testament as history – not, initially, as revelation. We don’t know that yet.

    These comboxes are not the place to go into this stuff in detail. If you want to know what Catholics consider as the reason for trusting the Church, I really recommend reading Knox.

    jj

  205. OK – Cross directed me to his two pieces.
    Liccione’s sent me to the Mathison-bashing piece.
    Thayer Jensen sends me to Knox (and by extension, the angelic Dr).
    Keil is another fast typist I have to contend with in email. (A decided blessing, not a bane.)
    I am again heavily outgunned & outmanned.
    Vastly outnumbered, I fideistically retreat to the solace of sola scriptura,
    curling up with my com’puter to read you stellar RC apologists.

    I hope Jason will write up (or record) his pilgrimage for our side to hear from him.
    I appreciate the above audio, but it’s directed to RCs.

    May God savingly reveal himself this holy weekend to all readers here!

    Forever your favorite fideistic Protestant,
    l’Hughuenot

  206. Benjamin, do you have a Facebook page? Can I friend you so that we can chat?

  207. Ben, thanks for your response. Again, you assert something that is more a desire than a philosophical proof or deontic claim (whatever that is). You say that we must have “a principled way to distinguish between divine revelation and human opinion is needed.” Who says? It would be nice if we had it. But lots of things we would like in life we don’t have. So it seems like you establish a criterion for certainty and then say it exists. Didn’t Kant and Hegel do the same thing? Don’t feminists?

    The lack of mention of the magisterium in the NT may not bother you, but you would think that with the very first pope writing two epistles you might have some mention of the import of the church and its offices — after all, the popes wrote pretty much about their power and ministry for the first 1000 years of encyclicals.

    As for the RPW, it is taught in the Ten Commandments (our second your first). You do believe the 10 commandments are still binding, right?

    I am not sure whether you actually disagree with Bryan or not. But you are actually human and a tad vulnerable in your comments.

  208. BTW, men, it’s Darryl and Benjamin, if you’re keeping scorecards…

    (Not Daryl & Ben.)

  209. Darryl (#207):

    Addressing Benjamin, you write:

    You say that we must have “a principled way to distinguish between divine revelation and human opinion is needed.” Who says? It would be nice if we had it. But lots of things we would like in life we don’t have.

    I figured you’d end up saying that. Here’s what I say: If there’s no principled way to distinguish between divine revelation and human opinion, then the question what God has revealed can only be answered with human opinions. Now what God has revealed is to be believed on divine authority, with the assent of faith; but human opinions bear no such authority. Hence, if there’s no principled way to distinguish between divine revelation and human opinion, then nothing can be identified as calling for the assent of faith as distinct from that of opinion. The assent of faith thus becomes impossible.

    Congratulations.

    Best,
    Mike

  210. Mike, faith isn’t impossible. Epistemic certainty is. You’ve been harmonizing faith and reason so long reason has swallowed up faith, except for implicit faith, which I guess all the non-philosophical types have.

  211. Darryl,

    So you reject my argument that “the assent of faith is impossible” given your premise. Very well: Where’s the flaw in my argument? Which inference does not follow, or if it all follows, which premise of mine is false?

    Regardless of how you choose to answer that, it’s not yet clear how our respective conceptions of the nature, as distinct from the content, of faith differ from each other. To explain what I mean by that, I shall first state the relevant aspect of my conception, which is the same as that set forth in the CCC (§156-157; emphasis added, footnotes omitted):

    What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe “because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived”. So “that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit.” Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability “are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all”; they are “motives of credibility”…which show that the assent of faith is “by no means a blind impulse of the mind”.

    Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.” “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”

    Now, you claim that faith is possible but that we nonetheless lack “epistemic certainty.” Since that assertion is ambiguous, however, it’s not clear yet how we disagree.

    Your claim could mean simply that faith lacks the sort of epistemic certainty characteristic of some forms of human knowledge–for example, the sort which obtains when one knows how something “feels” or “seems” to oneself, or the sort we have about mathematical or scientific propositions that are “true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason.” If that’s all you mean, I agree–but that doesn’t tell against my position, as expressed by the CCC above. Or you could mean that faith lacks certainty because we can never be sure that the propositions we assent to by faith as authentic expressions of divine revelation really are such expressions. If that’s what you mean, then my argument and its conclusion stands–unless you can show what’s wrong with my argument.

    Best,
    Mike

  212. Darryl, (re: #210)

    Mike, faith isn’t impossible. Epistemic certainty is.

    Are you certain that epistemic certainty is impossible? If so, you are contradicting yourself, by possessing the certainty you are claiming cannot be had. But if you’re not certain that epistemic certainty is impossible, then your confident assertion that epistemic certainty is impossible is unjustified.

    Skepticism is always self-defeating in this way, by denying itself in the very assertion of itself.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  213. Mike, the assertion that “this is the church Christ founded” is one that depends more on faith than on epistemic/philosophical grounds. It is also a historical claim, subject to historical scrutiny. When such scrutiny happens, faith usually needs to kick. Philosophy might get you over the hump. But philosophy never proves what happened.

  214. Bryan, knowledge of truth is possible but of ultimate truth it depends on special revelation and the work of the Holy Spirit (not the charism of the pope).

  215. Darryl (#213)

    Mike, the assertion that “this is the church Christ founded” is one that depends more on faith than on epistemic/philosophical grounds. It is also a historical claim, subject to historical scrutiny. When such scrutiny happens, faith usually needs to kick. Philosophy might get you over the hump. But philosophy never proves what happened.

    Absolutely!! This is what I have tried to make clear, that Catholics cannot believe in the authority of the Church based on the Church’s own statement – and no more can Protestants believe in the inspiration of Scripture based on Scripture’s own statement.

    Historical scrutiny (which is, after all, a part of philosophy) provides the ‘motives of credibility’ for believing in the Church – but faith, which is a free gift of God, must provide the certainty. It is precisely this sequence – historical examination (including looking at the contents of Scripture now as part of their history), philosophical reflexion, and then the gift of faith – which leads to trusting the Church – and it is trusting the Church that leads to faith in the inspiration of Scripture. There is no other philosophically acceptable way.

    jj

  216. Hi John (#215),

    You wrote:
    Absolutely!! This is what I have tried to make clear, that Catholics cannot believe in the authority of the Church based on the Church’s own statement – and no more can Protestants believe in the inspiration of Scripture based on Scripture’s own statement.

    Response:
    If we agree that a formal motive is necessary for believing, then your two examples are only material circles. The Church’s statement (faith proposal) about Church authority is the only way Catholics know the Church has authority (a supernatural thing). Protestants say that a scriptural statement is required to believe the inspiration of scripture. I am thinking of explicit statements in both examples.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  217. Darryl (#213):

    You write:

    Mike, the assertion that “this is the church Christ founded” is one that depends more on faith than on epistemic/philosophical grounds. It is also a historical claim, subject to historical scrutiny. When such scrutiny happens, faith usually needs to kick. Philosophy might get you over the hump. But philosophy never proves what happened.

    Well, given what I quoted from the CCC, I agree with all that. So now I’m even more puzzled as to how we disagree on the nature of faith. Perhaps a pair of supplementary notes on my part would help elicit some clarity from you.

    1. What you say of the proposition: “This is the Church Christ founded” (where ‘this’ refers to a particular, visible body) is true of most doctrinal statements believed to express the deposit of faith generally. (I say ‘most’ for technical reasons I’m willing to discuss if you’re interested.) Hence the proposition in question presents no greater a difficulty for human reason than most other doctrines believed by most Christians. Indeed, I would argue that it presents less difficulty than the central doctrines you presumably hold along with Catholics: the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement. The first says that three persons are each the same God as the others; the second says that one man was (and is) a divine person, fully God as well as fully man; the third said that that Person saved humanity from itself by letting a handful of people torture and execute him before he rose from the dead. My mind finds all that much harder to deal with than the proposition that he founded, and intended to found, what is now called ‘the Catholic Church’. And I am by no means singular in that respect.

    2. The thrust of my argument was that “[i]f there’s no principled way to distinguish between divine revelation and human opinion, then the question what God has revealed can only be answered with human opinions,” and that if that’s all we’ve got, then “the assent of faith is impossible.” You rejected my argument in your penultimate comment. But in your last comment, instead of giving your reasons for doing so, you say something I agree with. It would almost certainly be rash of me to conclude that we agree on the nature of faith itself. But I am now clueless as to how that could be. Or not.

    Best,
    Mike

  218. Eric (#216)

    If we agree that a formal motive is necessary for believing, then your two examples are only material circles. The Church’s statement (faith proposal) about Church authority is the only way Catholics know the Church has authority (a supernatural thing). Protestants say that a scriptural statement is required to believe the inspiration of scripture. I am thinking of explicit statements in both examples.

    Huh? There are, I suppose, Protestants who believe in Scripture on Scripture’s say-so. If so, and if that were the real reason they believed it (I don’t think it is), they would be no different from Muslims or Mormons, who believe their Scriptures, apparently, for the same reason – or say they do.

    Not sure what you mean by a ‘formal motive.’ My motive for making an act of faith is the very material arguments for the thing I am believing in – but my formal motive is the act of faith which the Holy Spirit grants and without which I cannot believe.

    I think, in fact, that Protestants mostly believe in Scripture for the same reasons I believe in the Church. They have a variety of ‘motives of credibility’ (which are all material), including the very ordinary ones of having been reared in the faith, the arguments from fulfilment of prophecy, the empty tomb, etc – and they are granted the gift of faith. I really doubt there are any believers who, in the absence of external material motives, picked up a Bible, saw that it said “this is the Word of God” (the very existence of the Bible as a collected book, which does not say about itself as a whole that it is the Word of God is, itself, a material motive of credibility) – who saw that, and said, ok, it must be true. This is not the experience of real people.

    jj

  219. John (#218),

    I agree with your comments about motives of credibility being the usual reasons for believing. The act of faith requires a formal motive or reason that belongs to the supernatural order. MOC don’t rise to this level. The formal motive I have in mind is the True God revealing or the authority of the God revealing. I cannot see how a catholic can affirm scripture’s inspiration without an actual explicit scriptural statement behind it.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  220. Eric (#219)

    John (#218),

    I agree with your comments about motives of credibility being the usual reasons for believing. The act of faith requires a formal motive or reason that belongs to the supernatural order. MOC don’t rise to this level. The formal motive I have in mind is the True God revealing or the authority of the God revealing. I cannot see how a catholic can affirm scripture’s inspiration without an actual explicit scriptural statement behind it.

    Thanks,
    Eric

    OK, understood, and agreed – MOC do not rise to the level of formal motives. The formal motive for the Protestant is the belief in the inspiration of Scripture. The Catholic believes in the inspiration of Scripture, but he does so on the word of the Church. His formal motive, to use your language (which, I hasten to add, is probably the right language – I am no philosopher), is the divine mission of the Church. We believe the Church has been commissioned by Christ to teach the truth. The Church tells us, amongst other things, that Scripture is inspired.

    jj

  221. Eric – PS – we don’t start with the ‘formal motive’ of the inspiration of Scripture and derive the mission of the Church. It is the other way around.

    jj

  222. Eric:

    You wrote:

    The Church’s statement (faith proposal) about Church authority is the only way Catholics know the Church has authority (a supernatural thing)

    and

    The formal motive I have in mind is the True God revealing or the authority of the God revealing.

    All that is true as far as it goes, but an explication is needed to exhibit the relevant epistemic relations.

    The Church’s “faith proposal” about her own authority is not by itself a reason to believe that proposal. Rather, it gives material content to what you call “the formal motive” for faith in general. Thus if the Church is what she claims, then she is the visible, living embodiment of the formal motive: God’s authority as Revealer. Those of us who, unlike the Apostles and other disciples who knew Jesus while he was visibly on Earth, lack direct experience of that divine authority, require such an embodiment in order to identify whom we trust by faith, and to identify all that’s proposed by that authority for the assent of faith.

    As to the role of Scripture, JTJ has got it basically right. The proposition that just these writings are divinely inspired, and in that way inerrant expressions of divine revelation, is one of the propositions we believe by the authority of the Church precisely as a visible, living embodiment of divine authority. But as different kinds of authorities, Scripture, Tradition, and the Church are mutually attesting and interdependent: each points to the others, and the first two, which are the “sources” of divine revelation, can be authentically interpreted only by the last. You might call that a “material circle,” but a better analogy would be that of a three-legged stool holding up the deposit of faith as formal, proximate object of faith (FPOF) for us. To my mind, that makes good historical as well as epistemological sense.

    Best,
    Mike

  223. John & Mike,

    Did the teaching church draw from scripture to know that scripture was inspired ? perhaps from tradition alone or tradition / scripture together ? Vatican I said that it holds the “written books” as sacred and canonical because of there inspiration and divine origin.

    Eric

  224. Eric etal.

    Just to propose my own logic, if its acceptable. It seems to me that Jesus did not write any Scripture. And God the Father only wrote the Ten Commandments. That may not seem significant, but bear with me.

    It is interesting that we frequently ask ourselves, wwjd, what would Jesus do? So, let’s ask, “What did Jesus do? ”

    1. He built a Church.
    2. Taught the members of His Church.
    3. Commanded them to pass on His Teachings.

    Why? Why didn’t Jesus write a document? In my opinion, it is because He wanted us to look to the Church which He appointed to teach what He commanded.

    Furthermore, the Teachings of Jesus Christ are His Traditions. And these Traditions tell us about Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Therefore, it can be said that the Traditions of Jesus Christ are the fulfillment of the Old Testament because they contain the knowledge of He who fulfilled the Old Testament.

    Still more, these Traditions are the basis of the New Testament. Because the authors of the New Testament were writing down the Teachings of Jesus Christ.

    Therefore, in order for one to understand the Scripture, one must understand Sacred Tradition. But in order to understand Sacred Tradition, one must learn from the Church. Because it is the Church which Jesus appointed to teach His Traditions.

    Does that make sense?

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  225. De Maria,

    Thanks for responding. These things do make sense to me, but you highlight only one side of the coin. Continuing with Vatican I, the Apostles learned from the mouth of Christ to pass on His teachings. They were also inspired by the Holy Spirit to write. Do you think the Holy Spirit was continuing a written tradition beginning with the Father ?

    You wrote:
    Therefore, in order for one to understand the Scripture, one must understand Sacred Tradition.

    Respond:
    Jason Stellman recounts how he searched for the gospel in the scriptures (among other christian writings). A search for paradigmatic truths in the mind of an author was supposedly available from writings. His conclusions were judged to be the same as teachings of catholic tradition. Did he not understand tradition from understanding scripture ?

    Why did the Apostles think that scripture was inspired ? Did they discover a paradigmatic truth implicit in Christ’s mind or explicit from His mouth (perhaps both) ? Christ’s command to pass on must have included the command to write.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  226. Eric (#223):

    De Maria has answered you mostly accurately (though I’d exegete the OT by opining that it was God the Son whom Moses saw and heeded). The OT scriptures were interpreted by the incarnate Son’s life and teaching, and the NT records how that played out. Once the overall canon was set, the Bible became the norma normans for the Church’s preservation and interpretation of the Tradition received from Christ.

    The statement of Vatican I that you cite should be construed to mean that the writings contained in the Bible are canonical because the Church has discerned that they divinely inspired and thus inerrant. Their inspiration and consequent inerrancy is independent of the Church’s discernment, but our basis for saying that they are inspired and inerrant is the authority of the Church, which embodies that of her risen Head.

    Best,
    Mike

  227. @Brian (#206):

    Sure enough – just search for Benjamin Keil and I’m the one at the University of Kansas. I did a quick search and saw a bunch of Brian Ortiz’ which whom I have no mutual friends so I’m not sure which one is you. :-p If you can’t find me by searching (since I have my profile fairly locked down), let me know and maybe I can give you my email or some other way. We’ll figure something out. :)

    Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  228. @Darryl (#207),

    Sorry for the delay in replying – Triduum time is busy (but fun!) time. :)

    You wrote:

    Again, you assert something that is more a desire than a philosophical proof or deontic claim (whatever that is). You say that we must have “a principled way to distinguish between divine revelation and human opinion is needed.” Who says?

    Ironically (or not), my former OPC pastor said pretty much the same thing when he and I were talking about Catholicism. Although I agree with what Mike and some of the other interlocutors have said, here’s my own take on this kind of question.

    First of all, I definitely don’t (mean to) establish a criterion for certainty then say that the criterion exists – what I was trying to say was that if such-and-such actually is the criterion, then Protestantism can’t meet the criterion. So the argument I’ve got in mind is something like:

    1) Christianity necessarily requires a principled way to distinguish between divine revelation and human opinion,
    2) All varieties of Protestantism provide no such principled way,

    Therefore, 3) All varieties of Protestantism do not provide something necessary to Christianity

    It seems like you and I agree on premise 2, at least given your comment to me, so then the only disagreement will be over 1 – and you are totally right to say that I gave no argument in favor of 1 in my comment (although Mike has). And something very much like your view is what my former pastor held – that some way to distinguish between revelation and opinion would be swell if it existed, but it doesn’t, so we just need to do the best we can despite being unable to distinguish between divine revelation and human opinion.

    I’ve got to admit – once my Pastor and I came to that point, there really wasn’t much more to say. It became apparent that he and I had pretty fundamentally different conceptions of the epistemic consequences of revelation – and, consequently, of Christianity itself. If we ultimately can’t distinguish between human opinion and divine revelation, then (as Mike said) we can’t give the assent of faith to any theological proposition. All your theological views, then, are held with the assent of human opinion rather than the assent of faith. But insofar as you assent to something via the assent of opinion, you are committed to holding it only insofar as the evidence allows. So, as with all your other opinions, if certain kinds of evidence came along you would be rationally committed to changing your views about your theology.

    Here comes the theological liberalism of a kind, I think, far more insidious than anything you’ve accused Rome of holding. You know those views you have about the Trinity? You are rationally required to reject them (and become, say, a Unitarian) if the right kind of evidence comes along. Your views about number and nature of the sacraments? You hold those only provisionally and you’ll change them if the right kind of evidence presents itself. I could go on, but you get the point: Every theological opinion you hold is, well, an opinion – it’s provisional, and you’ll change it under certain circumstances.

    When my Pastor and I got there, I realized that something was very wrong. Heck, I haven’t read much Calvin or Luther (probably wayyy less than you have), but my limited readings definitely did not give me the impression that Calvin held onto his view of Communion or the Trinity with the assent of human opinion such that, if certain evidence came up, Calvin would have become a Unitarian (or a transubstantiationalist, etc). That’s just not how Calvin rolled – or Luther, or Zwingli, or anybody back then. Both Calvin and Catholics agreed that we needed some principled way to distinguish between divine revelation and human opinion – Calvin thought he could do it, Luther thought he could do it, etc. Heck, I thought the big difference between liberal Protestants and conservative/confessional Protestants was that liberals thought religion boiled down to matters of opinion but confessional Protestants thought that religion boiled down to matters of divine revelation.

    But apparently that’s not what you think – and, as I said, you and my former OPC pastor are expressing basically the same view. My discussions with him (and subsequent discussion with you) led me to conclude that the difference between the OPC (and other conservative/confessional Reformed denominations) and, say, the PCUSA was actually pretty small. That is, both the OPC and the PCUSA apparently hold that religion basically boils down to matters of opinion – and it’s just that the OPC has some human opinions about women’s ordination (they can’t be ordained) and the PCUSA has some other opinions about women’s ordination (they can). But in both those denominations, apparently, there was nothing in sight except merely human opinions about what God has revealed – and hence, the assent of faith was nowhere to be found. Thus, the assent of opinion was everywhere to be found.

    I don’t want to minimize the difficulties of the historical concerns you’re raising. But conversion requires at least a two step process: At first, one has to reject Protestantism. Second, one has to accept Catholicism. What I’ve written above doesn’t say much about the second step since, even if Catholicism provides a principled way to distinguish between divine revelation and human opinion, Eastern Orthodoxy does too (as does Mormonism, etc). But all that stuff above does touch on the first step (the part about rejecting Protestantism) – and once one rejects Protestantism, then that makes Catholicism a viable step in a kind of way it wasn’t previously.

    You wrote:

    The lack of mention of the magisterium in the NT may not bother you, but you would think that with the very first pope writing two epistles you might have some mention of the import of the church and its offices

    Eh, honestly, it used to but it doesn’t much anymore. Yeah, some of the big stuff in Catholic ecclesiology doesn’t get much “airtime” in Scripture as I might like. But once one conceptualizes of the Church as fundamentally a faith community (and a ~2000 year old old one at that), it makes sense that all kinds of important things wouldn’t be in its holy (inspired, God-given) book since the book wasn’t finished until, what, 60 some years after the community’s head ascended into heaven? All of that is to say that this is one of those issues which seems way more problematic from the Protestant vantage point than it is from the Catholic vantage point.

    Oh yeah, and I wasn’t meaning to make too big a deal out of the RPW. It’s one of those nifty issues where, like some Catholic theologies, there just isn’t a lot of good clear scriptural support for it. I mean, I’ve read the 10 commandments plenty of times, but none of them brought to mind that “The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture” (WCF 21.1). Even if you think the RPW is in Scripture, I think it’ll be a stretch to say it’s clearly found in Scripture. Catholics can and have said (it seems to me) effectively the same thing about, say, the Real Presence (actually, the real presence seems to me more clearly in scripture than WCF21.1, but maybe that’s just me). Anyways, I didn’t mean to make too big a deal out of the RPW – I just was trying to show that we Catholics would make parallel moves to Protestants with some doctrines that aren’t so clearly found in Scripture.

    I am not sure whether you actually disagree with Bryan or not. But you are actually human and a tad vulnerable in your comments.

    Hehe – I think that’s a compliment. If so, thanks. :-) My vulnerability with respect to Catholicism hopefully doesn’t come from my seeming to think that Catholicism is false – I’ve got a lot personally riding on its being true, and I think it is true. But even if it’s true, Catholicism isn’t easy or straightforward (like the law of non-contradiction), and I recognize that smart guys like you disagree with me, so…well, it’s just my way of wrestling with the fact that lots of smart people are Protestants and lots of smart people are Catholics. I’m neither and, heck, I’m a philosopher anyways (so I’m really outside of my element). But there are my thoughts, such as they are.

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin :)

  229. Mike (#226),

    If what you say is true, then we can say that the Lord taught “All scripture is inspired by God” and identified some canon. The OT and the incarnate Son’s life / teaching provide no NT records or canon of the records, and the Tradition received from Christ allowed for more Holy Spirit inspired writings. This leads me to ask: Did the Lord reveal the doctrine of scripture’s inspiration or was it taught before His incarnation ? Could someone know which books were inspired without Christ’s authority ?

    Eric

  230. Eric (#225):

    You write:

    Jason Stellman recounts how he searched for the gospel in the scriptures (among other christian writings). A search for paradigmatic truths in the mind of an author was supposedly available from writings. His conclusions were judged to be the same as teachings of catholic tradition. Did he not understand tradition from understanding scripture ?

    Jason concluded that the Catholic “paradigm” of justification and sanctification makes better overall sense of the relevant passages of Scripture than the Reformed. But that was only one step on his journey. He saw that the Reformed view does not exhibit any putative “perspicuity” of Scripture on the matter, but was only one interpretive opinion among others, and not the most defensible. But if he had left things at that, he could well have concluded that his preferred interpretation was itself only an opinion that might be wrong, and remained Protestant. In fact, the substance of the Catholic view is shared by some non-Reformed Protestants; but like the Reformed, they cannot explain why their view is anything more than one rationally plausible opinion among others. Catholicism can, and does.

    Of course it is possible to “understand tradition from understanding scripture.” I believe Jason did understand the directly pertinent content of Tradition through his study of Scripture. But that doesn’t tell us whether Tradition has any normative content behind and beyond Scripture. To get beyond Protestantism, one must acknowledge that it does. But the only way to make that acknowledgement is to acknowledge the binding interpretive authority of the bearer of both Tradition and Scripture, i.e. the Church Christ founded. There is no other epistemic access to the deposit of faith as an expression of divine revelation, as opposed to a collection of human opinions. And that’s what Jason did.

    You also ask:

    Why did the Apostles think that scripture was inspired? Did they discover a paradigmatic truth implicit in Christ’s mind or explicit from His mouth (perhaps both) ? Christ’s command to pass on must have included the command to write.

    Apparently, the Apostles believed that the books contained in the Septuagint are divinely inspired, for that’s the version of “Scripture” they knew and quoted. They probably believed that before meeting Jesus, but their experience of his person, words, and deeds gave them the correct interpretive key to those writings. We do not know whether Jesus commanded them to write, but we do know that he commissioned them as the core of his new Israel, his ecclesia, and commanded them to preach the truth to the world, starting with the Jews.

    Best,
    Mike

  231. Eric

    April 1st, 2013 6:21 am :
    De Maria,
    Thanks for responding.

    You’re welcome.

    These things do make sense to me, but you highlight only one side of the coin.

    I don’t know what you mean?

    Continuing with Vatican I, the Apostles learned from the mouth of Christ to pass on His teachings.

    Continuing with Vatican I? This has continued throughout the history of the Church.

    So, perhaps I’m not understanding your meaning.

    They were also inspired by the Holy Spirit to write.

    To write what? Let us look at Scripture:
    2 Peter 1:19-21
    King James Version (KJV)
    19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy;

    This is St. Peter talking. He says, “we”, meaning the Apostles. And he assures the reader that they have a more sure word than did the Prophets of the Old Testament.

    whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

    And then he says that it would be wise for the reader to obey the prophecy of the Apostles.

    20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

    Now, he speaks of Scripture and says that the reader is not free to interpret the Scripture according to his own whim.

    21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man:

    Notice the distinction between prophecy and Scripture.

    The prophecy did not come by any man’s will.

    but holy men of God spake

    But holy men spoke the prophecy in obedience to God. Let’s take a brief glance at Jesus’ command.

    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.

    Jesus, God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, commanded holy men to speak and teach His commands.

    as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

    Later those same men wrote the prophecies which God had commanded them to speak. They didn’t write anything different than that which God had commanded them to speak.

    Do you think the Holy Spirit was continuing a written tradition beginning with the Father ?

    I think the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostles to write down what Jesus had commanded them to teach. His Sacred Traditions. Yes.

    Respond:
Jason Stellman recounts how he searched for the gospel in the scriptures (among other christian writings).

    Correct.

    A search for paradigmatic truths in the mind of an author was supposedly available from writings.

    Paradigmatic truths? A paradigm is a system of thought. A set of logical deductions or adductions.

    He was comparing paradigms to the Scriptures to see which paradigms fit the Scripture best.

    Namely, he took the Catholic paradigm based upon Catholic Sacred Tradition and the Protestant paradigm based upon the Protestant tradition. He compared both to Scripture and decided that, in his opinion, the Catholic paradigm fit the facts better.

    His conclusions were judged to be the same as teachings of catholic tradition.

    Correct.

    Did he not understand tradition from understanding scripture ?

    He confirmed what he had begun to suspect. That Catholic Tradition is the basis of the New Testament.

    Why did the Apostles think that scripture was inspired ?

    They knew it was inspired because they were so taught, by their Jewish tradition and by Jesus Christ.

    Did they discover a paradigmatic truth implicit in Christ’s mind or explicit from His mouth (perhaps both) ?

    Yes to both.

    Christ’s command to pass on must have included the command to write.

    If it did, why did most of the Apostles and disciples ignore that command?

    Thanks,
Eric

    No thanks necessary,

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  232. # 228 Benjamin,

    I dealt with the same thing when I was leaving the Reformed church where I was a member. My pastors also didn’t think that they needed a principled way to determine human opinion and divine revelation. Protestantism is messy, heck Christianity is messy, I should just learn to live in the messiness. There’s nothing more I can have this side of heaven.
    When I read Darryl’s words, “who cares?” I sorta scrunch my nose and squint me eyes, because I just can’t believe that he doesn’t see the implications in this idea.
    Am I wrong to conclude that unless Reformers believe that their formularies are infallible, they have no way to principled way to critique anyone else’s doctrines?
    You are extremelysharp and very gentlemanly.

    Blessings,
    Susan

  233. Eric (#225 and 229):

    Christ’s command to pass on must have included the command to write.

    If it did, they surely didn’t follow the commandment very well! Of the original Apostles, only three produced a Gospel (St. John, St. Matthew and presumably St. Peter, through St. John Mark), and there are a handful of other letters (St. Peter, St. James, St. Jude). St. Paul was responsible (directly or indirectly) for the rest. But I doubt that the other Apostles should be considered failures for that.

    Did the Lord reveal the doctrine of scripture’s inspiration or was it taught before His incarnation ? Could someone know which books were inspired without Christ’s authority ?

    Mike alluded a little bit to this, but you seem to be conflating inspiration with revelation. Inspiration means that God was a co-author, but it doesn’t mean that one has a complete knowledge of the divinely inspired content. In other words, you can know that something has divine content without knowing what that content is. In fact, the Old Testament is evidence that people can know the Scriptures as inspired *without* knowing their content, since the Scriptures testify to Christ, but this was not apparent until Christ was revealed. And even the faithful, the Apostles themselves, did not understand how the Scriptures testified to His Resurrection until after the fact. So Christ had to lead them along the way, to hold their hands through the process, which is shown in the Gospels. Only after He shows someone in this way and they still refuse to see does He condemn them for failure to know, and even the Apostles themselves are rebuked in the Gospel of Mark repeatedly for their failure to understand. Generally, it is not as if they should have known that the Scriptures testified to Christ, but if they had known the Scriptures for what they *did* say (in terms of teaching love of God and love of one another), then they should have recognized the ultimate expression of God’s love: His own Son.

    In terms of our understanding of the divine content, Pentecost changed everything. That was the birthday of the Church; until then, much of Scripture was hidden. It is no coincidence that the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church was the turning point of understanding Scriptures, because that was the point at which the presence of the One Who Inspired began to dwell in the hearts of Christians. Before then, the community of God recognized that Scriptures were inspired; after, they recognized what they were saying. It was this common witness of the Church that caused people to recognize later additional documents as being inspired, and again, this was a process of collective realization in the Church, not an individual deliverance in the manner of the Old Testament prophets. Of the New Testament, only Revelation is in the prophetic genre, although there are some similar elements in the Gospels.

    From the Catholic perspective, the fact that the Church comes before Scripture themselves in terms of understanding the divine content is itself a Scriptural teaching. People who recognized the Scriptures as inspired, even faithful people, did not understand the content until it was revealed to them by God. That is why St. Paul spoke of the “man of God” being equipped for good works by Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The collective witness of the Holy Spirit as to the content is primary, and because of that primary witness, we know what the content is. Consequently, we know the Old Testament better even than those who wrote it, because we have access to more of its content, even though we ourselves also see “as in a mirror darkly” in terms of ultimate vision. In principle, unlike the community of God before Christ, we could have done without any written revelation of the New Covenant at all, but God provided this as a help to us.

    In short, there is a missing link in your logical chain from “inspiration” to “revelation,” and that link is the Church.

  234. Thanks, Jonathan. I had just wandered back here to write a reply to Eric’s #229, but I see that you did it for me.

  235. Mike (#230),

    You wrote:
    Apparently, the Apostles believed that the books contained in the Septuagint are divinely inspired, for that’s the version of “Scripture” they knew and quoted. They probably believed that before meeting Jesus, but their experience of his person, words, and deeds gave them the correct interpretive key to those writings. We do not know whether Jesus commanded them to write, but we do know that he commissioned them as the core of his new Israel, his ecclesia, and commanded them to preach the truth to the world, starting with the Jews.

    Response:
    Push through the “apparently”, “probably” and “we do not know”. These words indicate a problem within the catholic paradigm. The catholic paradigm still cannot explain how the Apostles believed and identified OT scripture without Christ proposing some canon for belief. Link the “written form”, known as the NT, to Christ’s teaching apart from the content of that form. The “written books” may be a form to transmit Christ’s teaching, but where in Christ’s teaching do we expect this form from His Apostle’s ? Why did the Apostles write anything when their Master wrote nothing ?

    Eric

  236. Eric (#235):

    I see that Jonathan’s comment wasn’t enough. Oh well. Here goes.

    You write:

    Push through the “apparently”, “probably” and “we do not know”. These words indicate a problem within the catholic paradigm. The catholic paradigm still cannot explain how the Apostles believed and identified OT scripture without Christ proposing some canon for belief. Link the “written form”, known as the NT, to Christ’s teaching apart from the content of that form. The “written books” may be a form to transmit Christ’s teaching, but where in Christ’s teaching do we expect this form from His Apostle’s ? Why did the Apostles write anything when their Master wrote nothing ?

    First, we must be careful not to be anachronistic about such concepts as canonicity and inspiration. There was no formal Jewish “canon” when Jesus walked the Earth, and there was no prevailing agreement about what “inspiration” consisted in or what it applied to. The only set of writings everybody accepted as divinely inspired and binding was the Torah or Pentateuch. The Sadduccees, who were the predominant party among the wealthy and priestly families, accepted only the Torah or Pentateuch as inspired and binding, in part because the universal tradition was that Moses, recognized by all as a great prophet, had written it–a tradition which is unlikely to be true for each and every part of the Torah, and for which there is no good, independent evidence in any case. Like the Pharisees–the party Jesus seemed closest to–the Essenes seem to have accepted “the prophets” and “the writings” in addition to the Torah as inspired, or at least as authoritative, though perhaps not of the same degree of authority as the Torah. But the Qumran discovery indicates that they were busy producing writings of their own that they esteemed as highly as the prophets and the writings, which nobody else did. Jesus and his followers seemed to approach this matter, and indeed much of theology, as the Pharisees did, thus accepting the Septuagint as inspired in some sense, even though it was a Greek translation. But we didn’t get a formal Jewish canon until the end of the first century, after the destruction of the Second Temple, when the rabbis accepted only books originally written in Hebrew, and so rejected the Septuagint canon in favor of what later came to be called the “Muratorian” canon. Even today, that’s the canon Protestants accept as “the Old Testament,” rather than the Septuagint canon. So what, precisely, is this “OT” that Jesus is supposed to have taught the Apostles was inspired and canonical? From a purely historical standpoint, that’s a matter of opinion, which will probably never be resolved into knowledge.

    And that brings me to my main point. This is not primarily a question of knowledge; from the standpoint of human reason, we have mostly just opinions about it. But opinions won’t do as answers to the question which writings are divinely inspired and thus inerrant. So for Catholics, the question what counts as inspired, inerrant Scripture must be and was left to the authority of the Church, founded on the Apostles. And that is not a “weakness” of the CIP. Why?

    As God the Son, Jesus Christ is the primordial “Word of God” and thus “the” revelation of God to man. As such, he showed the Apostles how “the scriptures” were about him and what he would do. OT Scripture, whatever its exact contours, is only a written record of the divine revelation that was unfolding, and is not that revelation itself. And neither it nor the NT, taken separately or jointly, were ever meant to be the only authority about revelation, because the exact contours of the biblical canon had not even been set by the time the last apostle died. That’s why it matters little the we have no formal, written record of what Jesus told the Apostles about the concepts of canonicity and inspiration, and not terribly much clarity about how they applied such concepts. All that matters is that what counts as inspired, inerrant Scripture is a question that was left to the Church, the bearer of divine authority in the world, to resolve in due course.

    Some of the Apostles wrote things that the Church has preserved not necessarily because Jesus ordered them to–there’s really no evidence of that–but because they and the Church as a whole found it pastorally necessary for them to do so. Without the four canonical gospels especially, there would have been nothing for the early sub-apostolic Church to point to as a clear record of the revelation in Jesus Christ, so that much would have been forgotten or distorted, thus making the challenge of heresy more difficult to meet. That’s why and how the challenge of the Docetists was met by John’s Gospel. That’s why and how the challenge of the Marcionites in the early and mid-second century was met by the Church of Rome’s setting most of the NT canon, comprised chiefly of writings traditionally read in worship synaxes before the celebration of the Eucharist. That’s why and how the challenge of the Gnostics was met by a reiteration of that canon along with the Church’s rejection of the Gnostic gospels. And that’s why and how East and West had to formally close the canon at Nicaea with the often-disputed Book of Revelation.

    From the standpoint of the CIP, the main point to be made here about Scripture is that it was never meant to function as the sole authoritative presentation of divine revelation. Hence, the question what counted as Scripture for Jesus and the Apostles can, to a certain extent, safely be left to opinion. What matters far more is the question whether some living, visible, divinely commissioned authority is needed for telling those of us who come after the Apostles what is and is not an authentic expression of divine revelation. The Catholic answer is yes, and that the Catholic Church is that authority. If you reject that authority, you are left largely with opinions, even about the significance of such knowledge as we have.

    Best,
    Mike

  237. Mike (re: #236),

    As I have not been involved with the whole discussion, I would simply like to make a few comments on your last post.

    You said, “…that’s why and how East and West had to formally close the canon at Nicaea…”

    This seems to be a historical error or misrepresentation. It would be helpful if you could document what you are referring to, since I find it difficult to see how the canon could be “formally closed” if there were no formal decisions as to what constituted the canon.

    You said, “The Catholic answer is yes, and that the Catholic Church is that authority. If you reject that authority, you are left largely with opinions.”

    This affirmation puts the Roman Catholic in an odd position. Since the Council of Trent provided the only formal and binding declaration of the canon of Scripture, the Catholic seemingly must affirm that all those born before 1500 were left “largely with opinions.”

    You said, “What matters far more is the question whether some living, visible, divinely commissioned authority is needed for telling those of us who come after the Apostles what is and is not an authentic expression of divine revelation.”

    If that matters far more, then the following question also arises: Is some living, visible, divinely commissioned authority needed to tell us that the Catholic Church is the original, authentic, living, divisible, divinely commissioned authority? And then is another authority needed on top of that?Catholics seems to stop this infinite regress with the axiom of natural reason, while Protestants say it stops with with self-attesting Word of God.

  238. De Maria (#231),

    Here are some short answers to your questions and concerns:

    Q. I don’t know what you mean?
    Q. Continuing with Vatican I? This has continued throughout the history of the Church.
    So, perhaps I’m not understanding your meaning.
    A. See #223 for why I continued with Vatican I.

    Q. Paradigmatic truths?
    A. I meant that certain truths of Catholic Tradition must be in the minds of the NT authors.

    Q. If it did, why did most of the Apostles and disciples ignore that command?
    A. A general command to write was given with the Holy Spirit freely determining the specific occasions. If Christ did not command, then the “written form” specific to NT does not originate with Christ’s teaching. In some cases, a command can be given without an imperative.

    Please feel free to respond to comment # 235.

    ———————-

    You wrote:
    They knew it was inspired because they were so taught, by their Jewish tradition and by Jesus Christ.

    Response:
    Is this your opinion ?

    Eric

  239. Jonathan (#233),

    Thanks for responding. Your response was detailed and very informative.

    You wrote:
    If it did, they surely didn’t follow the commandment very well!…

    Response:
    I find this strange. Appeals to scripture show that Christ commanded the Apostles to preach and teach. Tradition is behind this scripture. What explains the fact that the Apostles wrote ? Possibly a command from the same Tradition ?

    ————————

    You wrote:
    In fact, the Old Testament is evidence that people can know the Scriptures as inspired *without* knowing their content, since the Scriptures testify to Christ, but this was not apparent until Christ was revealed.

    Response:
    For the sake of argument, I will grant *without* knowing their content. Consequently, the OT scriptures provide OT evidence that people can know the scriptures as inspired. Since Christ’s authority was not necessary for this, then the Church’s authority follows suit for the NT. If this is not the case, then “All scripture is inspired by God” is a doctrine originating with the incarnate Son or His Apostles.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  240. John D (#237):

    You wrote:

    You said, “…that’s why and how East and West had to formally close the canon at Nicaea…”

    This seems to be a historical error or misrepresentation. It would be helpful if you could document what you are referring to, since I find it difficult to see how the canon could be “formally closed” if there were no formal decisions as to what constituted the canon.

    You are correct that Nicaea made no “formal decision” about the canon, and it was wrong of me to suggest otherwise. My ill-framed statement was, however, an inference from the following. The canon as formally enumerated by the Council of Rome (382) is exactly the same one later defined by the Council of Trent and used by both the Catholic and Orthodox churches even today. That enumeration came very not long after Nicaea I, before which the canonicity of the Book of Revelation was still disputed in some quarters; but after the 4th century, it no longer was. So, I concluded that the canon was effectively closed by joint East-West agreement by the mid 4th-century at the latest. My error consisted in suggesting that said closure was by a formal, joint East-West statement at Nicaea I.

    I had written:

    What matters far more is the question whether some living, visible, divinely commissioned authority is needed for telling those of us who come after the Apostles what is and is not an authentic expression of divine revelation. The Catholic answer is yes, and that the Catholic Church is that authority. If you reject that authority, you are left largely with opinions.

    To that, you reply:

    This affirmation puts the Roman Catholic in an odd position. Since the Council of Trent provided the only formal and binding declaration of the canon of Scripture, the Catholic seemingly must affirm that all those born before 1500 were left “largely with opinions.”

    Given my citation of the Council of Rome just above, your first sentence is false. But even if that council had made no such formal declaration, for Catholics the question which writings belong in the biblical canon had been settled by Tradition long before Trent, by joint consensus of West and East. Formal dogmas propounded by the “extraordinary magisterium” of general councils or of popes are not the only way the Church infallibly teaches. The Apostles’ Creed is an example of infallible teaching by the “ordinary and universal magisterium,” and most of the Church’s irreformable moral teachings have been set forth infallibly by that same magisterium.

    You also replied:

    If that matters far more, then the following question also arises: Is some living, visible, divinely commissioned authority needed to tell us that the Catholic Church is the original, authentic, living, divisible, divinely commissioned authority? And then is another authority needed on top of that? Catholics seems to stop this infinite regress with the axiom of natural reason, while Protestants say it stops with with self-attesting Word of God.

    For Catholics, the formal, proximate object of faith (FPOF) is the triad: Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium, where those are understood to be mutually attesting and necessarily interdependent. Thus the first two transmit the content of divine revelation to us; the third ensures that those are authentically identified and interpreted, by divine authority. As I had written to Eric: “You might call that a “material circle,” but a better analogy would be that of a three-legged stool holding up the…FPOF for us. To my mind, that makes good historical as well as epistemological sense.”

    Arguments of “natural reason” for accepting the FPOF in that sense do not generate an infinite regress. They merely present the Catholic Church’s conception of the FPOF as a more reasonable way of conceiving it than the alternative of a “self-attesting” Scripture. For the latter sort of attestation boils down simply to some peoples’ fallible, non-binding interpretations of Scripture.

    Best,
    Mike

  241. Mike (re: #240),
    Thanks for the reply. I would like to respond to a few things.

    (1) You said:

    The canon as formally enumerated by the Council of Rome (382) is exactly the same one later defined by the Council of Trent and used by both the Catholic and Orthodox churches even today…Given my citation of the Council of Rome just above, your first sentence [that there were no formal decisions before Trent] is false.

    I sense a bait and switch in your argument. You are correct that the Council of Rome (382) formally enumerated the same list later defined by Trent. However, you leave out that this was not an ecumenical council. So, although the council claims to this list is “what universal Catholic Church accepts and what she ought to shun” this council is not protected from error according to Catholic teaching. Moreover, I doubt you are willing to elevate all decrees of local councils to matters of dogma, even if we only count cases where the local council claims to speak on behalf of the universal Catholic Church. If that is the case, then it is accurate to state Catholics are left “largely with opinion” prior to Trent.

    (2) You said:

    But even if that council had made no such formal declaration, for Catholics the question which writings belong in the biblical canon had been settled by Tradition long before Trent, by joint consensus of West and East. Formal dogmas propounded by the “extraordinary magisterium” of general councils or of popes are not the only way the Church infallibly teaches.

    How can a Catholic know that the ordinary and universal magisterium has decided a matter infallibly? I think your answer to that question would approximately parallel to how a Protestant knows what books constitute Scripture.

    (3) You also said:

    “Arguments of “natural reason” for accepting the FPOF in that sense do not generate an infinite regress. They merely present the Catholic Church’s conception of the FPOF as a more reasonable way of conceiving it than the alternative of a “self-attesting” Scripture. For the latter sort of attestation boils down simply to some peoples’ fallible, non-binding interpretations of Scripture.

    The only way someone could know which is “a more reasonable way of conceiving” is if they presuppose natural reason to start. How does the Catholic know that natural reason leads to Truth? It appears faith in God’s word is a more proper starting point. In response to the “fallible, non-binding interpretations” remark, I answer that the Catholic simply seems to prefer his/her fallible, non-binding interpretations of the historical record.

    Peace,
    John D.

  242. John (#241):

    You write:

    You are correct that the Council of Rome (382) formally enumerated the same list later defined by Trent. However, you leave out that this was not an ecumenical council. So, although the council claims to this list is “what universal Catholic Church accepts and what she ought to shun” this council is not protected from error according to Catholic teaching. Moreover, I doubt you are willing to elevate all decrees of local councils to matters of dogma, even if we only count cases where the local council claims to speak on behalf of the universal Catholic Church. If that is the case, then it is accurate to state Catholics are left “largely with opinion” prior to Trent.

    Your argument is unsound. For one thing, a premise of it is a straw man. For I didn’t claim that the Council of Rome was infallible just by virtue of being a local council. And the conclusion of your argument is a non-sequitur. For I would argue that the Council of Rome’s enumeration of the canon was infallible for the reason I give next:

    But even if that council had made no such formal declaration, for Catholics the question which writings belong in the biblical canon had been settled by Tradition long before Trent, by joint consensus of West and East. Formal dogmas propounded by the “extraordinary magisterium” of general councils or of popes are not the only way the Church infallibly teaches.

    As a matter of historical fact, the “consensus” I cited was firm by the end of the 4th century.

    To that, you reply:

    How can a Catholic know that the ordinary and universal magisterium has decided a matter infallibly? I think your answer to that question would approximately parallel to how a Protestant knows what books constitute Scripture.

    There are three difficulties with that. Together, they suffice to rebut your objection.

    First, you assume that Catholics are supposed to “know” when a doctrine has been taught infallibly. But that does not square with the Church’s understanding of the assent of faith. For in this life it is by faith, not by knowledge, that we believe that the Church teaches infallibly at all, and thus it is by faith, not by knowledge, that we believe any article of faith so taught. But for reasons I’ve often given, such faith is by no means unreasonable.

    Second, you take no account of the fact that the Magisterium develops and clarifies particular answers to your question over time. It did so with the Apostles’ Creed in the 2nd century; it did so with the biblical canon centuries before Trent; and it has done so today on the question of women’s ordination. And those are just three examples. Formal definitions of beliefs belonging to Tradition are not always necessary for Catholics to “know” when the traditional conditions on definitive and infallible teaching have been met. If that were not the case, then the entire deposit of faith would have been a matter of opinion before the first ecumenical council, which is absurd.

    Third, my answer to your question does not “approximately parallel to how a Protestant knows what books constitute Scripture,” in part because I would deny that Protestants as such “know” any such thing. In the 16th century, the Reformers rejected the Septuagint canon long established by the Catholic and Orthodox churches in favor of the Muratorian canon. Thus they reversed prior development of definitive doctrine, while citing no visible authority other than their scholarly agreement for doing so. That is unlike what either the Catholic or the Orthodox churches do.

    Finally, you write:

    The only way someone could know which is “a more reasonable way of conceiving” is if they presuppose natural reason to start. How does the Catholic know that natural reason leads to Truth? It appears faith in God’s word is a more proper starting point. In response to the “fallible, non-binding interpretations” remark, I answer that the Catholic simply seems to prefer his/her fallible, non-binding interpretations of the historical record.

    I know neither what you mean by “presupposing natural reason” nor, whatever you mean by that phrase, why you think doing what it describes would be a mistake. It is undeniable that there is such a thing as natural reason, and if one is going to do apologetics at all, one must use it. Thus, what I described as a “more reasonable way of conceiving” the FPOF is what I exhibit as such using natural reason to make an apologetical argument.

    Of course you claim that “faith in God’s word is a more proper starting point.” Well, that depends on the discipline one is engaged in. If one is doing theology proper, then one should indeed take “God’s word”–whatever that may consist in–as one’s starting point. That’s what all theologians as such do, regardless of which theology they profess. But when one is doing apologetics, then one of the issues needing to be addressed is, precisely, how we are to identify “God’s word” as such in the first place, given the widespread disagreement about what that word is and about how to identify it as such. And as I’ve said, that’s what I do using natural reason. There is no logical alternative.

    Now you say that, like the Protestant, “the Catholic simply seems to prefer his/her fallible, non-binding interpretations of the historical record.” But a tu quoque objection of that sort misses the mark. If and when the context of discussion is apologetics, then indeed the arguments that Catholics or Protestants can give will be be “fallible” and “non-binding.” But from that fact, it does not follow that any teachings to which such arguments facilitate assent is itself fallible and non-binding. Arguments only show how and when the assent of faith is reasonable; they do not suffice to make that assent rationally inevitable.

    Best,
    Mike

  243. Mike (#236),

    I want CIP to explain a glaring discontinuity between Christ and the Apostles. Christ did not use his pastoral authority to write. Three things are clear: (1) The Father intended the NT scriptures (2) The law of Christ revealed and mediated the Father’s intentions (3) The actual NT scriptures fulfill the Father’s intention. I conclude that the NT scriptures are necessary by necessity of supposition and precept. Disagree ? If not, then provide catholic sources of revelation to substantiate my conclusion.

    Eric

  244. Eric (#243):

    Your argument is sound. It does not follow, however, that that the Apostles knew your conclusion is true. All that follows is that, once the NT canon was established de facto (probably by the mid-2nd century), the early Church was in a position to verify your premises, and thus reach your conclusion.

    Accordingly, we don’t have to identify something Jesus or the Apostles said in order to show that an NT was necessary or that it would end up containing what it does. All that’s necessary is to identify the Church Christ founded, and her authority. And Scripture helps us do that, while also being validates as such by the Church.

    Best,
    Mike

  245. Hello Mike (re: #242),
    Thanks for the response; here is my reply.

    1. I did not intend to attribute to you the position that the Council of Rome’s pronouncement was infallible by virtue of their being a local council. However, you do go on to claim that the enumeration at the Council of Rome was infallible as the matter had been “settled by Tradition.” Herein lies the rub. Is that conclusion [that the Council of Rome’s enumeration was infallible] an element of the Catholic Faith that is formally protected from error? You seem to reply, yes since it is part of Tradition. However, this is your opinion. Even if it is based on a reasoned argument, it is licit for a Roman Catholic today to hold that the Council of Rome’s decision was not infallible. Therefore, the Catholic is back to square one of a canon based “largely on opinion” prior to Trent. He may accept your argument about the Council of Rome or he may reject it, but either way, he is the fallible agent making the decision.

    2. I’m not married to the thesis that the way Catholics know the binding decisions of the ordinary magisterium is parallel to the way Protestant’s know what constitutes Scripture. Nevertheless, I will respond to some of your statements there:

    A) You said,

    First, you assume that Catholics are supposed to “know” when a doctrine has been taught infallibly.

    Perhaps I was unclear, but I did not intend to assume this. Whether or not Catholics actually are aware of all the things that have been infallibly decided is irrelevant to my argument. Rather, I argue that it is impossible for a Catholic to know, with certainty, whether or not a matter has been infallibly decided by the ordinary magisterium.

    B) You said,

    Formal definitions of beliefs belonging to Tradition are not always necessary for Catholics to “know” when the traditional conditions on definitive and infallible teaching have been met.

    On the Catholic paradigm, individuals cannot know, with certainty, without a formal definition of the belief. The reason is that all of their decisions as to what is in Tradition will be based on their evaluation of arguments that are not protected from error. You cited 3 examples which, conveniently for your argument, have not changed. However, I can cite examples of things that appeared to be settled only to be disputed later. One example is a literal six day creation, which Catholics are now free to disregard.

    C) You said,

    Third, my answer to your question does not “approximately parallel to how a Protestant knows what books constitute Scripture,” in part because I would deny that Protestants as such “know” any such thing. In the 16th century, the Reformers rejected the Septuagint canon long established by the Catholic and Orthodox churches in favor of the Muratorian canon. Thus they reversed prior development of definitive doctrine, while citing no visible authority other than their scholarly agreement for doing so.

    Protestants can know that canon at least as well as a Catholic can know if something has been infallibly decided by the ordinary magisterium. Also, it is not much of a point to say that Protestants, who deny the existence of an infallible, visible authority, did not appeal to one. Before examining the historical record, I would first ask how you interpret Romans 3:2?

    3. (A) By “presupposing natural reason” I mean that a person has a more ultimate commitment to natural reason than to other things. When you say something is a “more reasonable way of conceiving” the FPOF, you are arguing that an individual ought to choose this way. However, how do you know that the “more reasonable way” is more likely to be true? At rock bottom, it seems that you propose natural reason is an axiom that must be accepted. How do you know natural reason is valid? If you give a reasoned argument in response, then you beg the question. Thus, you simply place your trust in it. Well, Reformed Christians place a similar trust in God’s Word at the outset.

    (B) Reformed Christians propose the Word of God as an alternative, ultimate presupposition. Human reason is subordinate to God’s Word, but God’s Word provides the necessary foundation for valid, human reasoning. How do Christians know what the Word of God is? God tells them. He says, “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27). Dr. James White has framed it in the following way, “The New Testament canon developed in the consciousness of the church over time, just as the Old Testament canon did” [http://www.equip.org/articles/what-really-happened-at-nicea/

  246. Eric

    April 3rd, 2013 5:32 am :
    De Maria (#231),
    Here are some short answers to your questions and concerns:
    Q. I don’t know what you mean?
Q. Continuing with Vatican I? This has continued throughout the history of the Church.
So, perhaps I’m not understanding your meaning.
    A. See #223 for why I continued with Vatican I.

    “Vatican I said that it holds the “written books” as sacred and canonical because of there inspiration and divine origin.”

    Then my answer remains the same. The Church has always considered the Scriptures Divine. And the Church canonized the Scriptures. Therefore, this has been true throughout the history of the Church.


    Q. Paradigmatic truths?
A. I meant that certain truths of Catholic Tradition must be in the minds of the NT authors.

    Correct. The Teachings of Christ preceded the NT Scriptures.

    Q. If it did, why did most of the Apostles and disciples ignore that command?
A. A general command to write was given with the Holy Spirit freely determining the specific occasions.

    You are reading a general command to write into the Scriptures. But it is not there.

    If Christ did not command, then the “written form” specific to NT does not originate with Christ’s teaching.

    Correct. It originates with the Holy Spirit’s inspiration.

    In some cases, a command can be given without an imperative.

    Agreed. But this is not one of them.

    Please feel free to respond to comment # 235.

    I’ll try to get to it later.

    ———————-
    You wrote:
They knew it was inspired because they were so taught, by their Jewish tradition and by Jesus Christ.
    Response:
Is this your opinion ?

    It is fact, Jesus said:
    John 10:35
    If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

    Thus teaching that Scripture is the Word of God.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  247. John (#245):

    Addressing me, you write:

    …you do go on to claim that the enumeration at the Council of Rome was infallible as the matter had been “settled by Tradition.” Herein lies the rub. Is that conclusion [that the Council of Rome’s enumeration was infallible] an element of the Catholic Faith that is formally protected from error? You seem to reply, yes since it is part of Tradition. However, this is your opinion. Even if it is based on a reasoned argument, it is licit for a Roman Catholic today to hold that the Council of Rome’s decision was not infallible. Therefore, the Catholic is back to square one of a canon based “largely on opinion” prior to Trent. He may accept your argument about the Council of Rome or he may reject it, but either way, he is the fallible agent making the decision.

    You’re presenting a false dichotomy: either “formal infallibility” or “opinion.” That is understandable, since many poorly catechized Catholics labor under the same misimpression about how infallibility manifests itself in the Church. But the dichotomy is not only false, but demonstrably so. How?

    Suppose arguendo that the dichotomy is true: formal infallibility and opinion are the only epistemic alternatives. If so, then only dogmas formally defined by ecumenical councils or popes, as binding on the whole Church, are suitable for the assent of faith as distinct from that of opinion. But if that is itself a true norm of faith binding on the whole Church, then by its own criterion, it too would have to have been formally defined in the way specified. Yet it never has been. On the contrary, when the Magisterium has addressed the topic of infallibility, it has assumed that “the Church” as such–i.e., the body of the faithful as a whole–is infallible on matters of faith, and speaks of the infallibility of popes, general councils, and the college of bishops only as manifestations of such ecclesial infallibility. And things could hardly be otherwise; for prior to any ecumenical council or unilateral papal definition, the entire deposit of faith was infallibly held and professed by the Church “catholic,” albeit more explicitly by the college of bishops with divine authority over said Church. Thus, what counts as “infallible” teaching must be discernible in principle by Tradition without the intervention of the extraordinary magisterium. The latter only makes the prior faith of the Church more explicit and precise so as to dispel confusions or errors that contingently arise; it does not fashion the Faith along the way out of prior opinions. That’s what the first ecumenical council did, and that’s what all subsequent interventions by the extraordinary magisterium have done.

    The mistake you’re making consists in a faulty inference. Thus, from the fact that many Catholics are unclear or wrong about which non-defined doctrines are irreformable in virtue of having been infallibly taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium, you conclude that everything short of formally defined dogma is a matter of opinion. But given how the Church works as I’ve described, that neither is nor could be the case. When the Magisterium clears up such confusion or error, it is not changing a matter of opinion into a matter of faith. It is making clear what the faith on the matter always was, so that those who don’t recognize it as such, or see the matter only as one of opinion, are better equipped to see that they were wrong (not that they always will). As I had said, there are many examples of that. The fact that not all such cases have been cleared up by formal magisterial statements does not mean that every such case is a matter of opinion until formally made otherwise.

    Again, the biblical canon is a good example of what I’m talking about. What made the Council of Rome’s enumeration of the canon infallible was not the fact that the Council of Rome taught it, but the fact that said council was only articulating what had been come to be recognized as irreformable by means of Tradition as borne, professed, and known by the Church as a whole. The Council of Trent found it necessary to reaffirm the canon accepted by universal Tradition only because the Reformers presumed to delete the “deuteros,” thus treating the exact contours of the biblical canon as a matter of opinion and leading some to do the same.

    Your objection to such a picture is this:

    On the Catholic paradigm, individuals cannot know, with certainty, without a formal definition of the belief. The reason is that all of their decisions as to what is in Tradition will be based on their evaluation of arguments that are not protected from error. You cited 3 examples which, conveniently for your argument, have not changed. However, I can cite examples of things that appeared to be settled only to be disputed later. One example is a literal six day creation, which Catholics are now free to disregard.

    But the example you give is faulty. St. Augustine denied that Genesis had to be interpreted as positing creation in literally six days, and was never condemned for that. The same goes, mutatis mutandis, for the Ptolemaic theory of geocentrism: Copernicus and Kepler were never condemned for proposing the hypothesis of heliocentrism, which was confirmed a few centuries later. The reason most Christians of whatever stripe believed young-earth creationism and geocentrism prior to the development of modern science–and some still do, much to my chagrin–was that there were no confirmed scientific alternatives to the biblical account of such matters. On reflection, the Catholic Church has come to understand that natural science is its own, legitimate form of inquiry whose conclusions need not and should not be understood as contrary to the Faith. So, as the CIP would have it, where exegesis and scientific knowledge conflict, it’s biblical exegesis which should change.

    A better example for your purpose might be contraception, but even that one doesn’t work for you. Prior to the 20th century, the universal consensus of the Catholic Church in particular and of Christendom in general was that intentionally blocking conception where it could otherwise occur is gravely immoral. Since the 1920s, most Christians have rejected that past consensus, thus raising the question whether the consensus was always wrong, or whether it was always right, so that most Christians today–including most Catholics–are wrong. Only the Catholic Magisterium has consistently taught the latter; indeed a recent Vatican document has called the Catholic teaching “definitive and irreformable.” Thus on the CIP, the matter is not one of opinion–and the fact that most people think it is does not make it so.

    You write:

    Protestants can know that canon at least as well as a Catholic can know if something has been infallibly decided by the ordinary magisterium. Also, it is not much of a point to say that Protestants, who deny the existence of an infallible, visible authority, did not appeal to one. Before examining the historical record, I would first ask how you interpret Romans 3:2?

    As I have long argued, the fact that Protestants as such “deny the existence of an infallible, visible authority” renders religion simply a matter of opinion for them, whether some realize that or not. For without such an authority, there is no principled way to distinguish between authentic expressions of divine revelation and what some fallible people believe to be such expressions. The CIP does have such a principled means and uses it when necessary–although for the reasons I’ve given above, recognizing when a given teaching is irreformable is not limited to formal statements by such an authority.

    As to Romans 3:2, my individual interpretation is not what counts. What counts is how the Church as a whole interprets it. The Church as a whole has always understood that verse to be literally true. Accordingly, the fact that most Jews don’t become Christians can only be explained by their unwillingness to see the Christ-event and the Church has the fulfillment of their own scriptures. The question when that unwillingness is culpable is, of course, another matter that cannot be judged in individual cases.

    You write:

    By “presupposing natural reason” I mean that a person has a more ultimate commitment to natural reason than to other things. When you say something is a “more reasonable way of conceiving” the FPOF, you are arguing that an individual ought to choose this way. However, how do you know that the “more reasonable way” is more likely to be true? At rock bottom, it seems that you propose natural reason is an axiom that must be accepted. How do you know natural reason is valid? If you give a reasoned argument in response, then you beg the question. Thus, you simply place your trust in it. Well, Reformed Christians place a similar trust in God’s Word at the outset.

    Your position amounts to a form of fideism that I don’t believe all “Reformed Christians,” let alone Catholics, would accept. Those who don’t accept it have very good reason to reject it. Why?

    The questions you pose to me are of the form: “How do you know….?” Such questions can only be answered, whether well or poorly, using what you call “natural reason.” I could answer them and we could debate the answers; but given how you have framed the issue, that would be beside the point. The point is that there is no alternative to “presupposing” the validity of natural reason if we are going to conduct any inquiry at all with the aim of discovering truth. “Trust” in natural reason is accordingly justified on that basis, apart from any appeal to an authority one might also trust; to deny that would be to eschew reason altogether, which I don’t think even you want to do. But the same cannot be said of what you present as your presupposition. Unlike trust in reason, your presupposition is trust in what you take to be an authority that undergirds and can trump reason; but you cannot present that as knowledge if you present it as an alternative to trusting reason. Since you do present it precisely as such an alternative, you eschew giving any more basic “reasons” from which we could infer its truth. Accordingly, I can explain why my presupposition is justified as such, but you cannot do the same for yours–unless you argue that the entire system of belief involving your presupposition is, itself, at least reasonable. But that would have you doing the same thing on behalf of your belief-system that I do for mine. And that would be fine by me, since I believe I can make and have made the better case.

    Yet you also write:

    Reformed Christians propose the Word of God as an alternative, ultimate presupposition. Human reason is subordinate to God’s Word, but God’s Word provides the necessary foundation for valid, human reasoning. How do Christians know what the Word of God is? God tells them.

    That is confused–so much so, that it is ultimately incoherent. There is of course a sense in which “human reason is subordinate to God’s word”: Where conclusions reached by the former conflict with the latter, it is the former that needs correction. But human reason has an unavoidable role to play in helping us determine what counts as “God’s word” in the first place. To deny that lands you inextricably in the difficulties I described in my previous paragraph. Indeed, it is simply incoherent to suggest that God’s word is the “foundation” by which we can validate the use of natural reason. Whatever A is a foundation for B can only be exhibited as such by making inferences by natural reason from A. So, where B is natural reason itself, presenting something called “God’s word” as the foundation for natural reason is self-defeating.

    Best,
    Mike

  248. @Susan (#232)

    Thanks for the reply. :) Just a few thoughts of my own, but nothing too serious…

    You wrote:

    When I read Darryl’s words, “who cares?” I sorta scrunch my nose and squint me eyes, because I just can’t believe that he doesn’t see the implications in this idea.

    Eh, at least speaking for my own (former) pastor, he was fully aware of the implications of his theology. He just didn’t think there was any (viable) alternative, and I thought there was. But, yeah, religion reducing to opinion definitely didn’t seem to bother him in a way that it did me. I think there are good reasons that it should bother someone, but, for any number of reasons, my former pastor didn’t find my thoughts compelling. Oh well – as a philosopher, one encounters this not infrequently.

    You wrote:

    Am I wrong to conclude that unless Reformers believe that their formularies are infallible, they have no way to principled way to critique anyone else’s doctrines?

    Well, I’m not a trained theologian, but I think what you have there is a bit imprecise. If the Reformers are presenting their theologies as one human interpretation among many possible human interpretations of the Bible, then not believing your confession (Augsburg, Westminster, etc.) is infallible makes a lot of sense. After all, opinions can (and have!) been wrong plenty of times before. Further, even if one doesn’t think Westminster (say) is infallible, one can still say that it makes better sense of the Bible than Augsburg (say). So it’s not that the Reformers have no principled way to critique anyone else’s doctrines – it’s that their critiques fundamentally cannot rise above the levels of human opinions. And the good (or bad) things about human opinions are, first, one is rationally required to change her opinion if one finds enough information indicating that she was wrong and, second, one should not accept an opinion on authority but on the evidence. (These interrelate with each other, obviously – because opinions are based on the best available evidence, they are changeable if the right kinds of evidence later come into play).

    All of that is how matters go if one thinks that religious matters ultimately devolve into human opinions about divine revelation. I’m not a Luther scholar (or a Calvin scholar, etc.), but I don’t get the feeling that those folks or their early successors thought that Calvinism or Lutheranism was merely the best-supported human opinion but that, in some broad sense, Calvinism or Lutheranism was what God had revealed – and hence, wasn’t to be accepted (or rejected) as an opinion, but was to be received with the assent of faith. Dr. Anders mentions this in his dissertation on Calvin (hopefully I understood his scholarship correctly):

    By 1543, therefore, Calvin argued for the prophetic power and apostolic authority of the Reformed ministry. As long as the church takes the proper measures to prevent ‘tyranny,’ Calvin taught, the church hierarchy should be authorized even to define articles of faith and to compel their acceptance. The laity should submit to these theological pronouncements with an implicit faith (“Prophets from the Ranks of Shepherds”, Anders, 291-292).

    Although Dr. Anders goes into (much!) more detail, my takeaway is this: Once Calvin starts arguing that churches may not only define their own doctrines but also saying that their doctrines must be accepted on grounds of implicit faith, we’re no longer talking about human opinions anymore. We’re talking about a kind of thing that has been given divine authority. In other words, having implicit faith in the proclamations of a merely human institution putting forth one human opinion among many is not only wrong but dangerous. But if an institution has been divinely established and preserved from error under some certain conditions, then its proclamations are not merely human opinions (that is, its proclamations are not merely one opinion among many) but are instead divinely authorized. And as divinely authorized proclamations they aren’t received as opinions but on the authority of the (divine) giver – and thus, our acceptance of such proclamations isn’t with the assent of opinion but with the assent of faith.

    So that was a long and probably boring way of saying that, if the Reformers saw their views as nothing more than merely human opinions, they can still critique others’ views – but their critiques will never transcend human opinions about what God has revealed. But if the Reformers saw their views as (in some sense) authoritative expressions of divine truth (which thus call for the assent of faith), then now they’re sounding like Catholics (who also think that the Church can make authoritative expressions of divine truth which call for the assent of faith). But any Reformed Christian thinking in that kind of way is going to quickly butt up against “All synods or councils…may err; and many have” (WCF 31.3). So Catholics disagree with the WCF there – we hold that general councils may not err (under certain conditions) due to Jesus’ unfailing promise. Hence, whatever doctrines are proclaimed by a general council cannot be in error, and thus we submit to them not because we agree with them (the assent of opinion), but on the divine authority they come from (the assent of faith).

    OK, enough rambling. I need to get back to dissertation writing. Thanks very much for your kind compliments at the close of your note; I hope what I wrote here was of some small service to you (or whoever else reads it). Have a great day!

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  249. Eric

    April 2nd, 2013 3:34 pm :
    Mike (#230),
    You wrote:
Apparently, the Apostles believed that the books contained in the Septuagint are divinely inspired, for that’s the version of “Scripture” they knew and quoted. They probably believed that before meeting Jesus, but their experience of his person, words, and deeds gave them the correct interpretive key to those writings. We do not know whether Jesus commanded them to write, but we do know that he commissioned them as the core of his new Israel, his ecclesia, and commanded them to preach the truth to the world, starting with the Jews.

    Response:
Push through the “apparently”, “probably” and “we do not know”. These words indicate a problem within the catholic paradigm.

    1. You, are jumping to conclusions.
    2. Perhaps Mike is being cautious.
    3. Perhaps Mike simply uses more words than he needs.
    4. But it is simply wrong for you to claim that the problem is with the Catholic paradigm simply because YOU disagree with a Catholic who tries to explain Catholic Doctrine.
    5. There is no problem with the Catholic paradigm.
    6. The problem lies with the person who does not understand the Catholic paradigm.

    The catholic paradigm still cannot explain how the Apostles believed and identified OT scripture without Christ proposing some canon for belief.

    First of all, what makes you think that the Apostles would turn to any Scripture INDEPENDENT OF CHRIST?

    That makes no sense. Christ used the Septuagint, therefore the Apostles used the Septuagint and therefore the Catholic Church uses the Septuagint.

    Link the “written form”, known as the NT, to Christ’s teaching apart from the content of that form.

    What does that mean?

    The “written books” may be a form to transmit Christ’s teaching, but where in Christ’s teaching do we expect this form from His Apostle’s ? Why did the Apostles write anything when their Master wrote nothing ?

    St. Luke explains why he wrote his Gospel:
    Luke 1
    King James Version (KJV)
    1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,

    2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;

    3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,

    4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

    So, it sounds to me as though he wrote his Gospel in order to help others understand the Teaching of the Church.

    De Maria

  250. Mike (re: #247),
    Thanks for the response. Here is my reply to a few things that you said.

    1) You said:

    You’re presenting a false dichotomy: either “formal infallibility” or “opinion.” That is understandable, since many poorly catechized Catholics labor under the same misimpression about how infallibility manifests itself in the Church.

    I admit to presenting a truncated version of church infallibility as you have corrected me. I was actually working off what I heard from a Catholic apologist, Marc Bonocore, in which he breaks down the Catholic faith in the following way. He says there is (1) dogma, which is binding on all the faithful (2) canon law, which the faithful must obey though they are free to disagree with it, and (3) theological opinion, which a catholic may adopt or reject. My mistake was to limit that first category to formal definitions by the extraordinary magisterium. However, I think my argument still holds water after considering this correction. I will elaborate below.

    2) You said:

    Thus, what counts as “infallible” teaching must be discernible in principle by Tradition without the intervention of the extraordinary magisterium. The latter only makes the prior faith of the Church more explicit and precise so as to dispel confusions or errors that contingently arise; it does not fashion the Faith along the way out of prior opinions… When the Magisterium clears up such confusion or error, it is not changing a matter of opinion into a matter of faith. It is making clear what the faith on the matter always was, so that those who don’t recognize it as such, or see the matter only as one of opinion, are better equipped to see that they were wrong

    Ok, herein lies the rub. I would like to draw a distinction between the object of faith and the act of knowing that object. It makes sense on the Catholic paradigm that the magisterium does not change opinion into formal doctrine. Since truth is truth, restating/clarifying something that is true does not make it more true or less true. However, my objection is not that the status of the object of faith is changing, but rather, the status of an individual’s knowing changes when things are formally defined. My main point is that on the Catholic paradigm, outside of formal, dogmatic definitions, an individual’s knowing can never reach any objective certainty. An individual may be convinced in his or her own mind that the ordinary magisterium has decided X. But, that individual cannot declare X to be true independent of human opinion, since he or she has no authority to do so. Sure, the individual might provide reasoned arguments and give evidence that the ordinary magisterium has decided X. In fact, that is parallel to what the Protestant does to say the bible has decided X; he or she provides evidence and reasoned arguments. If there is no objection to this principle when it appears in the Catholic paradigm, it should not be rejected out of hand in a Protestant paradigm.

    3) This last section is of a somewhat different nature, but still very important. You said:

    Your position amounts to a form of fideism that I don’t believe all “Reformed Christians,” let alone Catholics, would accept. Those who don’t accept it have very good reason to reject it.

    You are correct that not all Christians openly accept this position. However, this “form of fideism” is consistent with Reformed theology, since a faith that is generated by God’s spirit in his elect is not a blind, irrational leap, but rather a complete trust in the substance of things hoped for [Hebrews 11:1].

    You also said:

    . The point is that there is no alternative to “presupposing” the validity of natural reason if we are going to conduct any inquiry at all with the aim of discovering truth. “Trust” in natural reason is accordingly justified on that basis, apart from any appeal to an authority one might also trust; to deny that would be to eschew reason altogether, which I don’t think even you want to do.

    This is your “form of fideism.” You say we must trust natural reason, because there is no alternative. But, even if it is true that there is no psychological alternative, that does not show that natural reason leads to objective truth. Your view does not escape the possibility of Descartes’ evil demon.

    Lastly, you said:

    …it is simply incoherent to suggest that God’s word is the “foundation” by which we can validate the use of natural reason. Whatever A is a foundation for B can only be exhibited as such by making inferences by natural reason from A. So, where B is natural reason itself, presenting something called “God’s word” as the foundation for natural reason is self-defeating.

    This is a misunderstanding of the term “foundation” which I did not specify. I did not mean that God’s word is the “foundation in a logical order” of natural reason. Rather, God’s Word and God Himself provide the ontological foundation for the validity of natural reason. Also, when I speak of presupposing God’s Word, I do not mean to imply the “pre” refers to the time at which I hold this supposition. Rather, God’s Word is held preeminently; it is the most ultimate of all the other Reformed Christian’s beliefs.

    Peace,
    John D.

  251. John D (#250):

    You write:

    …my objection is not that the status of the object of faith is changing, but rather, the status of an individual’s knowing changes when things are formally defined. My main point is that on the Catholic paradigm, outside of formal, dogmatic definitions, an individual’s knowing can never reach any objective certainty. An individual may be convinced in his or her own mind that the ordinary magisterium has decided X. But, that individual cannot declare X to be true independent of human opinion, since he or she has no authority to do so. Sure, the individual might provide reasoned arguments and give evidence that the ordinary magisterium has decided X. In fact, that is parallel to what the Protestant does to say the bible has decided X; he or she provides evidence and reasoned arguments. If there is no objection to this principle when it appears in the Catholic paradigm, it should not be rejected out of hand in a Protestant paradigm.

    Thanks for that clarification of your argument. I have several interrelated points to make in reply.

    First, your statement that on the CIP and “outside of formal dogmatic definitions, an individual’s knowing can never reach any objective certainty” is an overstatement. When adults are received into the Catholic Church, they profess their adherence to “all that the Holy Catholic Church professes and teaches.” Nobody thinks the neophyte thus explicitly affirms a comprehensive, completely accurate list of non-defined teachings set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium (‘OUM’), or even such a list of dogmas defined by the extraordinary magisterium. As far as I know, there are no such lists for people to memorize, and in the former case, I doubt there even could be. When I directed RCIA, however, the pastor and I made the standard, twofold presumption about the neophyte: (a) She has significant and generally accurate understanding of the particulars of the Faith, and implicitly affirms those particulars when professing her adherence to “all that the Holy Catholic Church teaches”; (b) She consciously affirms the Magisterium’s claims for itself in particular, such that she pledges her acceptance of whatever the Magisterium has taught and will teach as belonging to the deposit of faith and morals. Of course there will inevitably be cases of such teaching that the neophyte doesn’t know are such cases when she is received into the Church. Indeed most Catholics, whether cradle or convert, never quite reach the point of knowing what all of them are. It does not follow, however, that they can “never” know that a given teaching meets the conditions for having been infallibly taught by the OUM until the Magisterium explicitly says so. For instance, the binding character of the Apostles’ Creed neophytes recite while being baptized has never been formally defined by the extraordinary magisterium, whether piecemeal or as a whole; but it is uncontroversial that its content has been infallibly taught by the OUM. The same goes for the other examples I’ve given before, and for still-less controversial examples such as “God loves everybody.” Often people are vague or otherwise unclear about what such propositions mean, but Catholics as such are by no means uncertain about their truth.

    But second, the content and degree of authority of many such teachings typically is “known” with “objective certainty” by neophytes and by Catholics generally. Of course there are also teachings in which that is not the case. But that is not a difficulty for the CIP. For one thing, the “objective certainty” borne by definitive Church teachings is intrinsic to them, but is not necessarily shared by a given person who knows their content. She might well be in doubt about some of them at particular times, but that is a defect of either the individual’s virtue of faith or the catechesis she has received–not of the objective criteria by which propositions are identified as objects for the assent of faith. For another, and even more important, the CIP contains a principled means of resolving cases in which many people doubt their binding character as authentic expressions of divine revelation as opposed to human opinions. It is that means which the Catholic as such affirms with the assent of faith and relies on.

    Third and accordingly, although there is indeed a parallel between a Protestant’s understanding of the Bible and the Catholic’s of Church teaching, there is also a crucial difference. For many Protestants–mostly “conservative” Protestants, whether confessional or evangelical–and for Catholics as such, the Bible is to a certain degree an object of implicit faith. Both affirm that the Bible is a divinely inspired and thus inerrant record of divine revelation; yet since nobody has fully plumbed its depths and fully understands it, some interpretations, even when true, are reached and expressible only as opinions, and some of those interpretations will be false. Thoughtful Catholics as such often undergo the same sort of process when faced with the large body of Church teaching as well. But the crucial difference is that Catholics as such possess, and Protestants as such do not possess, a way of getting beyond mere interpretive opinions–about Tradition and magisterial statements as well as Scripture–to actual objects for the assent of faith. When the Catholic affirms, with an assent of faith whose object is partly implicit, “all that the Holy Catholic Church professes and teaches,” she is affirming that the Magisterium has the divinely bestowed authority to teach infallibly which theological propositions are authentic expressions of divine revelation and which are only opinions, whether such opinions happen to be true or false. That is the “principled means” by which the Catholic can distinguish between the two classes of proposition. Since, however, Protestants as such deny infallibility, ecclesial as well as individual, they have no principled means of making that distinction. So the mere fact that Catholics often don’t employ such means or do so accurately doesn’t mean it’s not there and not available to Catholics. In fact it is, and it increasingly manifests itself in the Church over time.

    About what I called you “form of fideism,” you write:

    However, this “form of fideism” is consistent with Reformed theology, since a faith that is generated by God’s spirit in his elect is not a blind, irrational leap, but rather a complete trust in the substance of things hoped for [Hebrews 11:1].

    That won’t do even for your own purposes, unless and until you can explain just how the “complete trust” you cite is not itself an irrational leap of faith.

    You write:

    You say we must trust natural reason, because there is no alternative. But, even if it is true that there is no psychological alternative, that does not show that natural reason leads to objective truth. Your view does not escape the possibility of Descartes’ evil demon.

    Our trust in natural reason is not just the only “psychological alternative” available, but the only logically possible alternative as well. That’s what I meant when I said that there is no alternative to “presupposing” the validity of natural reason if we are going to conduct any inquiry at all with the aim of discovering truth. Your objection even to that appears to be: “…that does not show that natural reason leads to objective truth.” But that objection is weak. The undeniable fact is that natural reason often does lead us to truth, even though sometimes it leads us into error. But the fact that it sometimes leads to error is not a reason to distrust natural reason in general. For the only way to know that natural reason sometimes leads to error is to rely partly on it to discover the truths that serve to expose the previous errors. And we do that all the time. Hence natural reason is in general reliable, even though not in every particular case. That’s why we should trust it in general, even though we needn’t trust its conclusions in each and every case.

    Of course, your general skepticism about natural reason as such is motivated by the fact that “it does not escape the possibility of Descartes’ evil demon.” But that is not a cogent reason to adopt your skepticism either. Although human reason cannot rule out the logical possibility of DED, the only reasonable stance is to rule out DED as a real possibility. To see why, consider another example. It is logically possible that the world came into existence five minutes ago, with exactly the observable features it has now; but that is not a cogent reason to believe it did, or even to believe that such is really possible. That’s because we know by experience that natural reason enables us to discover more and more truths over time, even though we may hold many false beliefs at any particular time. And one of those truths is that the world is more than five minutes old.

    The mistake you’re making is to assume that to “know” something is to be certain about it on the ground that there is no logically possible alternative to affirming it. Descartes did not make quite that mistake, because he adopted that assumption only as part of his reconstructive method of “hyperbolic doubt.” But that was only a method for securing what he took (wrongly, in my view) to be the foundations of knowledge, not a criterion for each and every item of knowledge as such. The fact is that we know many things whose negation is logically possible, such as that the shape of our planet is roughly spherical, or that many diseases are transmitted by micro-organisms, or even how something “feels” or “seems” to us. To deny that we know such things is simply unreasonable; hence, so is your skepticism. That some doubt things that are facts, on the ground that the opposite is logically possible, is not a good reason to deny they are known facts.

    You write:

    I did not mean that God’s word is the “foundation in a logical order” of natural reason. Rather, God’s Word and God Himself provide the ontological foundation for the validity of natural reason. Also, when I speak of presupposing God’s Word, I do not mean to imply the “pre” refers to the time at which I hold this supposition. Rather, God’s Word is held preeminently; it is the most ultimate of all the other Reformed Christian’s beliefs.

    Now that you’ve clarified yourself on the question of “foundations,” I must say that I agree as a Catholic. So I suggest you drop the idea that God’s Word is needed to ground natural reason epistemologically. The only possible basis for that idea is general skepticism about natural reason, which I have shown to be unwarranted.

    Best,
    Mike

  252. Mike (re: #251),

    Thanks for the reply. I don’t think I will be able to respond today, but I thank you for clearing up several of my misconceptions regarding the Catholic faith.

    I will respond more critically in the coming days.

  253. JohnD (re: #250)

    The claim that there is no alternative to fideism was addressed in some detail in “Wilson vs. Hitchens: A Catholic Perspective” and the subsequent comments, as well as in the “Faith and Reason” podcast I did with Tim.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  254. Mike (# 244),

    Our exchange has provided good information to help sort out these issues. It’s important to highlight a main point to see what remains problematic for me.

    (# 222) Thus if the Church is what she claims, then she is the visible, living embodiment of the formal motive: God’s authority as Revealer.

    This is really the source of my problems. The authority is like a thread running through every interdependent aspect of FPOF. It explains three things: (1) Christ revealed through it. (2) The Apostles transmitted revelation through it. (3) The Church identifies, interprets and explains revelation through it. At many intersecting points, God inspired Scripture connects with this authority. Moreover, four more things appear: (1) God inspired by His own authority. (2) Christ’s law, received from the Father, excluded Him from writing. (3) The Apostles teaching and preaching includes writing. (4) The Church preaches, teaches and writes when proposing revelation.

    Assuming God’s omnipotence and true free-will, He can and may continue “written books” during the Church age. Only a revealed truth, or necessary truth connected to revelation, limiting this can cause us to believe inspiration has ceased. How can scripture be limited to the Apostolic age when “God’s authority as Revealer” continues in the Church ? I’m unable to see how this authority can be a principled reason for distinguishing “inspired written books” and “uninspired written proposals of revelation”.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  255. Eric (#254):

    Assuming God’s omnipotence and true free-will, He can and may continue “written books” during the Church age. Only a revealed truth, or necessary truth connected to revelation, limiting this can cause us to believe inspiration has ceased. How can scripture be limited to the Apostolic age when “God’s authority as Revealer” continues in the Church ?

    That’s kind of an odd question. Public revelation was closed at the end of the Apostolic age, so there can’t be any kind of further revelation either in written or unwritten form. We might realize additional significance of something else that has already been revealed (that is what development of doctrine is), but there is no new revelation after the death of the last Apostle. That is an (implicitly) revealed truth in the fact that the Holy Spirit, when delivered at Pentecost, led the Apostles into “all truth,” as taught by Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium. That is why everything recognized as Scripture was reported from Apostles during their lifetime, even if the Apostle himself may not have dictated it or authored it verbatim.

    We therefore can’t learn anything beyond what the Apostles knew in terms of the content of the Gospel; rather, we are working out various implications and applications of that content. That is, in essence, the problem of sola scriptura. It leaves us with no coherent path for development, only corruption. Scripture can never be reformulated or interpreted infallibly, so implications and applications can never be certain, meaning that there can be no such fixed public revelation. By contrast, Tradition and the Magisterium, as parts of the initial revelation, provide ways for infallible maintenance and development. In otherwise, the closure of public revelation does not prevent it from continuing to work in the Church, and to provide ongoing “authority as Revealer,” in the manner you described.

  256. Eric (#254):

    If I understand you aright, your “problems” center on what you see as the absence, within the CIP, of a principled distinction between the inspiration of Scripture and the infallibility of the Church. If there were no such principled distinction, then the CIP could not explain why the inerrancy of the Church’s developing, definitive teaching is compatible with the closure of the canon and the reservation of the term ‘inspiration’ for the source of the canon’s inerrancy. Well, the issue here is linguistic and logical, and can be resolved as such.

    As a matter of linguistic usage, theologians and the Magisterium generally reserve the term ‘inspired’ for the men who wrote for the Church as the direct recipients of the revelation in Jesus Christ, authorized by him to teach in his name. The term ‘infallible’ is generally reserved for those who, although not direct recipients of said revelation, inherited the same degree of teaching authority from Christ through the Apostles, thus enabling the faithful to identify and interpret both Scripture and Tradition in ways that supply them with objects for the assent of faith, rather than just that of opinion. It does not follow, however, that the latter class of men–i.e. the college of bishops–is never “inspired” in its acts of teaching, or that the former class of men–i.e. the Apostles and their authorized collaborators–was never “infallible” in their acts of teaching. The former might sometimes be, even though we are not required to believe that; whereas the latter definitely was, and we are required to believe that. The point of maintaining the distinction of usage between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infallibility’ is to remind people that the latter class of men only transmits divine revelation with divine protection from error, while the former not only transmitted it with that protection but also had it because they received said revelation directly from the Revealer in person, who authorized them to transmit it. And that’s what explains why, on the CIP, the biblical canon could and ought be closed. The Bible records the once-for-all divine revelation, whereas the Magisterium only helps people identify and interpret said revelation in the “sources,” which include Tradition as well as Scripture.

    Logically, then, the picture is this:

    (1) Necessarily, whatever teaching is inspired is infallible, but not necessarily vice-versa.
    (2) As the directly apostolic record of the once-for-all revelation in Jesus Christ, the written, inspired teaching of the NT is correspondingly once-for-all, so that the body of writings the Church has discerned over time to be such a record cannot be added to or subtracted from.
    (3) By the same token, the “sources” of divine revelation’s transmission, i.e. Scripture and Tradition, are infallibly identified and interpreted as such by the Magisterium, not augmented by the Magisterium.
    (4) On matters of interpretation, the Magisterium’s infallible teaching nonetheless augments our understanding of the once-for-all revelation transmitted to us through Scripture and Tradition.

    I believe that supplies the necessary “principled distinction” between definitive, once-for-all divine revelation and the ongoing, developing interpretation thereof.

    Best,
    Mike

  257. De Maria (# 246 & 249),

    The reason I wrote “continuing with Vatican I” was to focus my attention on what it said. I was not claiming the Church did not always teach scriptures were divine.

    You wrote:
    You are reading a general command to write into the Scriptures. But it is not there.

    Response:
    See CCC #76. Writing was a way to keep the Lord’s command. NT writings fulfill a necessity of precept because the law of Christ mediated the intentions of the Father. Believers cannot doubt the Father intended the NT scriptures.

    You wrote:
    It is fact…..

    R: Jewish tradition is not the authority of the Church. If JT knew certain books were inspired, then why do Protestants need Church authority to know ?

    ———————–
    #1 through 6 is a rebuke. I accept it and don’t want to offend anyone.

    You wrote:
    First of all, what makes you think that the Apostles would turn to any Scripture INDEPENDENT OF CHRIST?

    That makes no sense. Christ used the Septuagint, therefore the Apostles used the Septuagint and therefore the Catholic Church uses the Septuagint.

    R: Jewish tradition and tests of a true prophet found in the Law are reasons I think they would turn. If the Septuagint was recognized like the Vulgate, then it would make more sense under the catholic paradigm.

    You asked:
    What does that mean ?

    R: Scripture is a written form of transmitting revelation. The words are the content of the form. It is easy to link Christ’s teaching to the content, but what about this form ? Christ did not write, so what made the Apostles think they could ?

    You wrote:
    St. Luke explains why he wrote his Gospel….

    R: This certainly explains why he wrote his Gospel and it serves to fulfill the law of Christ.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  258. Eric on April 6th, 2013 6:49 pm, you said:

    De Maria (# 246 & 249),
    The reason I wrote “continuing with Vatican I” was to focus my attention on what it said. I was not claiming the Church did not always teach scriptures were divine.

    Got it.

    Response:
See CCC #76. Writing was a way to keep the Lord’s command. NT writings fulfill a necessity of precept because the law of Christ mediated the intentions of the Father. Believers cannot doubt the Father intended the NT scriptures.

    This is what CCC#76 says:
    76 In keeping with the Lord’s command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:
    - orally “by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received – whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit”;

    - in writing “by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing”.

    That doesn’t say that Jesus instructed the Apostles to write. Again, as I have mentioned. If Jesus instructed the Apostles to write, it is surprising that so few obeyed His command.

    You wrote:
It is fact…..
    R: Jewish tradition is not the authority of the Church. If JT knew certain books were inspired, then why do Protestants need Church authority to know ?

    Its hard to untie that knot. Let me see.

    1. Before Christ and the Church, the authority was Moses and the Levitical Priesthood. It is they to whom Scripture refers where it says:

    Acts 7:38
    This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:

    And also:
    Romans 3:2
    Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

    Then Jesus came and brought the Mosaic law to fulfillment and closed out the Old Testament:

    Hebrews 9:
    King James Version (KJV)
    16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

    17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

    And the Catholic Church became the new ministers of the Word of God:

    2 Corinthians 3:6
    Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

    1 Peter 4:11
    If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

    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,

    The Protestants came many centuries later and have no authority but their own man made traditions.

    ———————–


    #1 through 6 is a rebuke.

    Its a correction. There is a fine distinction. A rebuke would read something, “…and don’t do it again!”

    re·buke
    /riˈbyo͞ok/
    Verb
    Express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions.

    A correction highlights the error and gives the proper understanding.

    cor·rec·tion
    /kəˈrekSHən/
    Noun
    The action or process of correcting something.
    A change that rectifies an error or inaccuracy.

    In addition, I posed the correction as a question and it is not rhetorical.

    I accept it and don’t want to offend anyone.

    That is a fine attitude. Thanks for your patience and sorry for the misunderstanding.

    R: Jewish tradition and tests of a true prophet found in the Law are reasons I think they would turn.

    To which tests are you referring?

    If the Septuagint was recognized like the Vulgate, then it would make more sense under the catholic paradigm.

    I’m not sure what you mean because the Septuagint is included in the Vulgate.

    You asked:
What does that mean ?
    R: Scripture is a written form of transmitting revelation.

    Agreed.

    The words are the content of the form.

    Where do the words come from?

    It is easy to link Christ’s teaching to the content, but what about this form ?

    What form are you talking about?

    Christ did not write,

    Correct.

    so what made the Apostles think they could ?

    According to Scripture it is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    You wrote:
St. Luke explains why he wrote his Gospel….
    R: This certainly explains why he wrote his Gospel

    In my opinion, we can generalize that the other three Gospels were written for the same reason. St. John says:
    John 20:31
    But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

    and it serves to fulfill the law of Christ.

    Yes, it does. But the primary law of Christ concerning evangelization is that the new disciples should be taught by word. Not that bibles should be handed to them and they learn on their own.

    Thanks,
Eric

    You’re welcome,

    De Maria

  259. Mike (re: #251),

    (1) You write:

    For one thing, the “objective certainty” borne by definitive Church teachings is intrinsic to them, but is not necessarily shared by a given person who knows their content. She might well be in doubt about some of them at particular times, but that is a defect of either the individual’s virtue of faith or the catechesis she has received–not of the objective criteria by which propositions are identified as objects for the assent of faith.

    The Protestant can say the same regarding definitive teaching in Scripture. The Word of God is objectively certain and bears infallible authority.

    (2) You also write:

    For another, and even more important, the CIP contains a principled means of resolving cases in which many people doubt their binding character as authentic expressions of divine revelation as opposed to human opinions.

    And also:

    But the crucial difference is that Catholics as such possess, and Protestants as such do not possess, a way of getting beyond mere interpretive opinions–about Tradition and magisterial statements as well as Scripture–to actual objects for the assent of faith. When the Catholic affirms, with an assent of faith whose object is partly implicit, “all that the Holy Catholic Church professes and teaches,” she is affirming that the Magisterium has the divinely bestowed authority to teach infallibly which theological propositions are authentic expressions of divine revelation and which are only opinions, whether such opinions happen to be true or false. That is the “principled means” by which the Catholic can distinguish between the two classes of proposition.

    I have several critical comments in response to this.
    A. The Protestant paradigm is consistent with itself in that it affirms the perspicuity of Scripture. Here is the WCF to that end, “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all:yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”

    B. The Protestant paradigm is not without a principled way of distinguishing authentic expressions of divine revelation. That principled way is exegesis and hermeneutics which draw upon reason, evidence, tradition, and ultimately the Spirit of God who will guide believers into Truth. Remember, Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice.”

    C. The principled way you speak of on the CIP does not escape the infinite regress of interpretation. That is, once the magisterium defines a dogma formally, that definition is then subject to interpretation. Those interpretations can then be debated. For example, Vatican I said, “If anyone does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, were produced, according to their whole substance, out of nothing by God let him be anathema.” I have seen conservative Catholics argue that this canon makes Catholic belief in theistic evolution illegitimate. Also, would you say that magisterial statements are clearer than the Word of God?

    (3) I will move my comments about presuppositions to the posts where Bryan Cross has directed me.

    Peace,
    John D.

  260. Eric and De Maria,

    Your conversation is deviating from the topic of this post, so please continue your discussion off the thread. Thanks!

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  261. John D (#259):

    I had written:

    For one thing, the “objective certainty” borne by definitive Church teachings is intrinsic to them, but is not necessarily shared by a given person who knows their content. She might well be in doubt about some of them at particular times, but that is a defect of either the individual’s virtue of faith or the catechesis she has received–not of the objective criteria by which propositions are identified as objects for the assent of faith.

    To that, you reply:

    The Protestant can say the same regarding definitive teaching in Scripture. The Word of God is objectively certain and bears infallible authority.

    It’s important here to note that infallibility is a property of persons, not of objects such as books. The infallibility borne by Scripture is that of the persons who wrote, collected, and certified those writings as, together, the normative written record of divine revelation. Writings are neither fallible nor infallible; they either contain errors or they do not. When they do not, that can be because those who wrote, collected, and certified them are infallible in those capacities, by divine gift. When that is the case, the writings are called ‘inerrant’.

    With the above correction made, I agree with your point. But that only reinforces my own point. For conservative Protestants, Scripture is the formal, proximate object of faith (FPOF) inasmuch as it records divine revelation and is, itself, an embodiment of divine authority which must thus be believed with the assent of faith, not of opinion. For Catholics as such, the triad: Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium is the FPOF, where the three elements are understood to be mutually attesting and necessarily interdependent. Both Catholics and Protestants have an FPOF which they take to be the embodiment of divine authority, and thus as the means by which we identify what God has revealed. Hence the fact that Catholics sometimes err, as individuals, in how they interpret their FPOF is no more an argument against Catholicism than the fact that Protestants sometimes err, as individuals, in interpreting their FPOF. The fact in question thus does not settle the larger question.

    The larger question is this: Who has the more reasonable way of conceiving what counts as the FPOF in the first place. I argued:

    …the crucial difference is that Catholics as such possess, and Protestants as such do not possess, a way of getting beyond mere interpretive opinions–about Tradition and magisterial statements as well as Scripture–to actual objects for the assent of faith. When the Catholic affirms, with an assent of faith whose object is partly implicit, “all that the Holy Catholic Church professes and teaches,” she is affirming that the Magisterium has the divinely bestowed authority to teach infallibly which theological propositions are authentic expressions of divine revelation and which are only opinions, whether such opinions happen to be true or false. That is the “principled means” by which the Catholic can distinguish between the two classes of proposition.

    That difference is quite pertinent not only to the question how to interpret Scripture, but also to the question what counts as Scripture in the first place. Since Protestants deny that anybody after the Apostles is ever infallible, they are logically committed to affirming that the way the Church came to identify and close the biblical canon was fallible. And if that is the case, I would argue, then conservative Protestants have no principled basis for claiming divine authority for their belief that Scripture is an inerrant and thus normative record of divine revelation. Whereas Catholics do: the infallibility of the Church Christ founded.

    To what I’ve just quoted from myself above, you reply with three paragraphs labeled ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ respectively. I shall now consider each.

    You write:

    A. The Protestant paradigm is consistent with itself in that it affirms the perspicuity of Scripture. Here is the WCF to that end, “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all:yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”

    Another commenter quoted that sentence from the WCF to me before in this thread. I suggest you check out my replies, especially #61. In the meantime I note two things.

    First, what you call “the Protestant paradigm” is only the paradigm of some Protestants. By no mean do all Protestants affirm the “perspicuity” of Scripture, inasmuch as many Protestants deny, with some reason, that the interpretive method cited by the WCF suffices to settle all significant doctrinal questions. Of course you could try to get around that by suggesting that Scripture is perspicuous only on “essential” doctrinal matters. But that would only kick the can down the road, because there is no agreement among Protestants as a whole about which matters are “essential” and which are not, and the method you cite does not itself suffice to settle that disagreement either.

    Second, even supposing for argument’s sake that Scripture is perspicuous in the way the WCF describes, so that “the Protestant paradigm” is self-consistent, that would do nothing to show that the conclusions reachable by such means are something more than human opinions about what some people have said and done about God–i.e. are actually authentic expressions of divine revelation. That’s because Protestants as such deny that anybody after the Apostles is infallible.

    Nonetheless, you write:

    The Protestant paradigm is not without a principled way of distinguishing authentic expressions of divine revelation. That principled way is exegesis and hermeneutics which draw upon reason, evidence, tradition, and ultimately the Spirit of God who will guide believers into Truth. Remember, Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice.”

    But that won’t do for the purpose. As I’ve just said, the method you describe does not suffice to show that it yields anything more than human opinions. Talk all you want about “the Spirit of God”; everybody claims the Spirit of God for what they confess; what matters here is the method by which they discern that it’s the Spirit of God talking, not just their own opinions. Thus everybody uses “exegesis and hermeneutics which draw upon reason, evidence, tradition,” yet by such means, many reach doctrinal conclusions opposed to those of many others. Who has the authority to say that their conclusions are Spirit-certified? Catholicism answers that question clearly, with reference to the authority of the Magisterium as the authentic interpreter of Scripture and Tradition. To the extent your paradigm answers it, it does so only with an academic magisterium. Having spent a good portion of my adult life in academia, I am not impressed with that. If you put any random selection of people with terminal degrees in theology into a room together, you’ll get as many opinions as there are people in the room.

    You write:

    The principled way you speak of on the CIP does not escape the infinite regress of interpretation. That is, once the magisterium defines a dogma formally, that definition is then subject to interpretation. Those interpretations can then be debated. For example, Vatican I said, “If anyone does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, were produced, according to their whole substance, out of nothing by God let him be anathema.” I have seen conservative Catholics argue that this canon makes Catholic belief in theistic evolution illegitimate. Also, would you say that magisterial statements are clearer than the Word of God?

    What you call an “infinite regress” is nothing of the kind. The mere fact that Catholics sometimes err in how they interpret dogmas does not mean that the dogmas in question settle no questions or that the Magisterium cannot correct interpretive errors along the way. Thus the dogma you quote says only that God creates everything ex nihilo. That settled a question definitively. Bu it does not address the further question whether God creates most of the species he creates by enabling some other species to act as secondary causes thereof. From the standpoint of Catholic dogma, that question remains open, even though from the standpoint of natural science, it’s closing. Although it’s true that doctrinal development is never complete, and that not all errors Catholics make are formally corrected by the Magisterium as they arise, that is not an infinite regress; it is just an ongoing process that is also cumulative in its results.

    Best,
    Mike

  262. This might be a bit odd, but I want to avoid some of the attachment to church names so as to ask the question generally. Because I found this testimony puzzling.

    The speaker testifies that he left church x for church y. He raised some sensible concerns about church x. His main one was that church x doesn’t have clear teaching authority. You can read the Bible and try to figure stuff out on your own, but unless there’s someone who can make the final call on competing readings, you’re just never going to know for sure that your reading is right. (Fair enough, let’s suppose that things are more ambiguous than they seem when we read the Bible. Maybe we’re fooling ourselves when we think certain significant things are fairly clear.)

    His conversion story then goes like this: “I really began to study the claims of church y and read the Bible. And the more I studied things I discovered that church y really does have it right. And, given that they have it right, I now accept church y’s claim to authority.”

    So he read the Bible, as he had before, and determined privately that some position was right. Then he moved to the church that had it right on his own reading. (Which he also did once before when he moved from church w to church x.)

    He now accepts of authority of church y based on his own judgement about what the Bible does and doesn’t say, which is exactly what you’re not permitted to do if you accept the authority of church y. That seems like the wrong way to go about accepting the authority of church y. It can’t be based on your best reasons, otherwise it wouldn’t be authoritatively based. But then how can someone come to accept the authority of y? Is it the testimony of the Holy Spirit, because members of church x already have that in their favor, or so they will claim just as well as members of church y will claim.

  263. Jones,

    Just saw this comment. I will respond later this evening, as I’ve got something going on all day.

  264. Jones,

    While Jason is formulating his response, you can peruse these old articles which address your objection:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/05/the-tu-quoque/

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/02/son-of-a-tu-quoque/

    – dp

  265. Jones,

    The speaker testifies that he left church x for church y. He raised some sensible concerns about church x. His main one was that church x doesn’t have clear teaching authority. You can read the Bible and try to figure stuff out on your own, but unless there’s someone who can make the final call on competing readings, you’re just never going to know for sure that your reading is right. (Fair enough, let’s suppose that things are more ambiguous than they seem when we read the Bible. Maybe we’re fooling ourselves when we think certain significant things are fairly clear.)

    His conversion story then goes like this: “I really began to study the claims of church y and read the Bible. And the more I studied things I discovered that church y really does have it right. And, given that they have it right, I now accept church y’s claim to authority.”

    So he read the Bible, as he had before, and determined privately that some position was right. Then he moved to the church that had it right on his own reading. (Which he also did once before when he moved from church w to church x.)

    This is kind of correct. What I would want to highlight is the fact that it is ultimately not a matter of comparing Rome’s views on each and every issue with Geneva’s, and then concluding that the former “has it right.” While that may correctly describe the move from Geneva to Canterbury or Wittenberg, it fails to capture a move to Rome. More on this below.

    He now accepts of authority of church y based on his own judgement about what the Bible does and doesn’t say, which is exactly what you’re not permitted to do if you accept the authority of church y.

    Not exactly. The convert to Catholicism weighs several strands of evidence when evaluation this issue, one of which is the Bible. But he also considers other matters, both philosophical and historical.

    That seems like the wrong way to go about accepting the authority of church y. It can’t be based on your best reasons, otherwise it wouldn’t be authoritatively based. But then how can someone come to accept the authority of y? Is it the testimony of the Holy Spirit, because members of church x already have that in their favor, or so they will claim just as well as members of church y will claim.

    The authority-claims of the Catholic Church are rendered plausible by the evidence, but like any article of faith and teaching of special revelation, they cannot be demonstrated by the same means you would use to prove at what temperature water boils. Rather, the CC’s claims, once deemed plausible, still must be accepted with the assent of faith.

    This is in no way the same thing that transpires when one switches Protestant denominations, for (as the articles linked above show) a convert to a Protestant denomination still retains his interpretive autonomy once he has changed churches, while the Catholic convert, while having employed his own investigative skills while considering the CC, vows to submit to the Magisterium once he has been convinced of the CC’s claims to authority.

    In a word, there’s a big epistemological difference between submitting to a denomination because they’re right, and submitting to the Church because it is the Church.

  266. I read the first article. If I’m understanding correctly, I would summarize this way:

    “Yes, our own intellectual explorations and judgments play a role in coming to initially find that the Catholic Church, alone, has authority to teach Christian doctrine. The protestant will object, ‘But you’re relying on your own interpretation of Scripture and history to arrive at that conclusion.’ The Catholic responds that the ‘interpretation’ is not a sort of argumentative, deductive sort of conclusion, but something more like a personal discovery. It is like discovering the person of Christ and being moved by him; rather than discovering the doctrine of Christ and intellectually ascending to it.”

    Is that near right?

    If so, I can’t imagine this will be very persuasive. I understand the problem of authority and the question of how orthodox Christian theology comes to be formulated and believed. But if I’m supposed to rely on some mystical discovery, I’m not too optimistic. There are two broad interpretations of the development of Roman authority in the west: 1) it was political development that political leaders in the West’s strongest city baptized or 2) God really gave such authority to Rome.

    I don’t know how one comes to believe 2.

  267. Thanks for your reply, Jason. I was moved by your testimony and your boldness in making such a difficult move. It certainly takes a good bit of courage to do what you’ve done. I’m glad to have the opportunity to get your further comments on it.

    You said: “In a word, there’s a big epistemological difference between submitting to a denomination because they’re right, and submitting to the Church because it is the Church.”

    Yes, this is well-taken. I understand the problem you’re raising and about ecclesial authority, which can be all but non-existent in some protestant groups.

    You say too that the claims that the Catholic church is precisely the Church which has such authority is plausible. I don’t know what else to say but that, according to my (perhaps insufficient) understanding of Christian history, it’s highly implausible. If Alexandria had been more politically powerful than Rome, Roman Catholicism probably not exist. In the very least, monophysitism would be orthodoxy and Chalcedon would have been anathematized.

    In any case, that seems just as plausible to me than that Rome has any special authority. I don’t mean to push the conversation to places that have been thoroughly covered, so don’t feel the need to convince me if my historical knowledge just isn’t sufficient for me to see the authority of Rome the way others do. But, if I do have a point, I hope Catholic apologists will see that the “Return to Rome!” sort of triumphalism just doesn’t really register for so many of us. It’s not a matter of not seeing the clear reasons; as you say, it’s not entirely a matter of grasping the clear reasons.

  268. Dear Jones the Seeker (re#266)

    “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.”

    God gave this authority to no other man, because only Peter is the Vicar of Christ. And Peter – as the first pope – is the visible sign of unity in the Universal Church.

    This is how we know where the true Church is: find the successors of Peter and the Apostles.

    The discovery is not mystical, but historical.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  269. Thank you, Frank. I understand this claim of Catholic theology (I think). But, as you might guess, I don’t find it persuasive. The Catholic doctrine of authority is really built up from this somewhat cryptic starting point. Notice that Jesus doesn’t say anything like what we’re being asked to believe.

    When you ask evangelicals and other protestants to see the clarity of Roman authority in this passage, don’t be surprised that we have a difficult time finding it because, again, it doesn’t really say it. That is, it doesn’t say that therefore Rome has a special privileged in the church and that the bishop of Rome is the Vicar for all Christendom, and so on. It’s just a lot to have to believe on the basis of this small statement. But you probably know all of this.

    The Catholic doctrine is certainly consistent with this passage, but so are any number of ecclesial models. I’m only making the standard non-Catholic point that, “meh.”

  270. Dear Frank and “Jones, the Seeker”

    Thank you, and Amen, Frank. I always need this reminder….at least for now as I still adjust to having recently become Catholic. I feel sometimes I am in a witness protection program, and that my identity has been changed:) Thankfully I was Reformed before and that I was sorta prepared for the transition.
    (btw, your music is beautiful)

    I understand the kind of skepticism that Jones the Seeker has; I had it myself. Mine came when I questioned ( as a seeker must) my own presuppositions about the nature of the church. I am still having spasms of skepticism when I consider the plethora of denominations out there all saying that they are the place where truth resides. But, this is my Protestant self that I am trying to kill, and the only way to kill it is to submit to the historical truth, that God founded a visible church, and that everything…..yes everything… she teaches is the truth. I once thought Rome’s longevity was a matter of contingence too. But it really couldn’t have been otherwise. “I believe in one holy, apostolic church…..” after all:) http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/07/ecclesial-deism/

    ~Susan

  271. Jones the Seeker,

    I just wanted to pop in with a comment. Jason and Frank both refer to history . This was what made me consider the Catholic faith. I am going to give a long quote from a comment made by Ray Stamper which summarizes what started many of us on this journey towards Catholicism. This quote is found in comment 8 here:http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/01/a-response-to-scott-clark-and-robert-godfrey-on-the-lure-of-rome/

    The Catholic approach to the patristic data is capable of accounting for all the doctrines of the fathers, including and especially, those few patristic works to which Protestants sometimes appeal as a means of legitimizing the doctrinal basis for schism – such as Augustinian doctrines on grace, free will, or justification. Doctrines which, upon examination in context (whether according to individual work or the wider Augustinian corpus), turn out to be entirely Catholic – Tridentine-compatible no less! Hence, even those select Augustinian passages in which Protestants think they possess something like a home field advantage, only appear as such to the degree that Protestants carefully avoid surveying the wider explicit, overt, Catholic Augustinian landscape. Inevitably, when an inquiring Protestant reads wider and deeper within the Augustinian corpus, he begins to sense quite clearly that Augustine is an ‘away game’ for Protestantism. That’s what happened to me. But that was only the first shock wave.

    The patristic fathers (East and West), including St. Augustine, explicitly affirm gads of Catholic and proto-Catholic doctrines which most Protestant don’t care to touch with a ten foot pole, such as: apostolic/episcopal succession, Petrine authority, a ministerial priesthood, baptismal regeneration, sacramental confession, the Real Presence in the consecrated host (with plenty of explicit examples of how the host itself was worshiped, adored, protected, etc – which betokens transubstantiation), the restriction of the power of Eucharistic consecration to the ministerial priesthood, veneration and prayers asked of deceased saints and martyrs, monasticism, the value of consecrated virginity, the sinlessness and perpetual virginity of the Mother of God, and the list goes on – all in the very centuries in which many of the fundamental creeds which most Protestants embrace (such as Nicaea and Chalcedon) were formulated and ratified!

    In other words, the Catholic approach to the Patristic data has a way of accounting for all the data – including that small subset of texts which Protestants apply to themselves (at least those Protestants concerned to show some doctrinal basis for the Reformation in the patristic record). By contrast, the Protestant approach makes very selective reference to a quite small subset of patristic passages (mostly St. Augustine) to shore up support for a few distinctive 16th century Protestant doctrines (which Protestants stipulate as “essential”, make or break, doctrinal matters based on a private reading of Scripture), while often ignoring the elephant in the room; namely, the enormous body of texts adverting to Catholic doctrine and ecclesiology circulating everywhere during the Patristic age. If a Protestant reads deep and wide in the patristic literature, yet remains Protestant (assuming it is a firm, permanent decision, and not a Tiber or Bosporus swim-in-progress), his decision to remain Protestant almost always reduces to one of three causes:

    1.) He holds to a theory that the testimony of the fathers is hopelessly corrupt due to widespread doctrinal apostasy and “catholicizing” taking place VERY early (almost immediately) after the apostles. Here he faces two problems. Firstly, dubious dependence upon the argument from silence, whereby he stipulates that the “real” doctrine and structure of the primitive church was basically akin to his own Protestant congregation based on question-begging scriptural interpretation combined with relative post-apostolic documentary silence from say 70ad to 200ad (depending on one’s assessment of the authenticity and dating of the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch); but where the first actual post-apostolic records which do emerge from the earliest centuries are characterized by Catholic, and catholicizing, doctrinal and ecclesial notes. Secondly, if he adheres to some rule of faith derived from an eclectic selection of the doctrinal formulations promulgated within the early baptismal formulas and/or the first few ecumenical councils, he seems to be adverting to something like an ad hoc approach to doctrine, since he embraces some doctrines advanced within early formulas or by “ecumenical” gatherings of bishops (who understood themselves to have doctrine-promulgating authority through apostolic succession via ordination), while rejecting the wide array of Catholic-like doctrines held, taught, and practiced among the very same faithful and bishops responsible for the creeds and formulas he deems orthodox!

    2.) He dislikes the Catholic (or Orthodox) Church to such a degree that, despite the ubiquity of Catholic doctrine and ecclesial organization within the patristic period, he unabashedly admits that he is ad hoc with regard to his embrace of certain creedal doctrinal formulations or the ratification of the canon, over against all the Catholic doctrines held and taught during the very same period.

    3.) He recognizes the inherent problems and inconsistencies involved in 1 & 2, but for family or career, or some other set of situational reasons, cannot bring himself to follow where the data (and he might admit, the logic) leads.

    Accordingly, one common reason that people end up converting to the Catholic Church after reading deeply in the fathers is because adoption of any of the above 3 options strikes them as contrary to personal integrity. I don’t mean to say that all persons who read the fathers deeply, yet remain Protestant, lack integrity. For example, a Reformed theologian, working within the ambit of a Reformed university and faculty, might take the “wide and early corruption” view (option 1) toward the fact of widespread Catholic doctrine and ecclesiology embraced by the fathers, without feeling the force of the two problems I raised in relation to that stance. The widespread embrace of the “early corruption” view – as a matter of course – by his overall tradition and especially by his colleagues and peers, can blind him to the inconsistencies which might seem obvious to another sort of Protestant who has a less entrenched attachment to a cherished doctrine (say sola fide) or ecclesiology (say Presbyterian polity), or even a lessened general animus toward all things Catholic. Still, for those who do leave Protestantism after encountering the fathers, it is very often nothing less than a re-affirmation of Newman’s oft-repeated quip: “to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant”.

    Thanks, no need to respond–Kim D

  272. Dear Jones the Seeker (re#269):

    In Mt. 18, where Jesus founds the Church upon the Rock of Peter (the language could hardly be more clear), Jesus is hearkening back to another moment in Scripture, Is. 22:

    “[20]And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliacim the son of Helcias,

    [21] And I will clothe him with thy robe, and will strengthen him with thy girdle, and will give thy power into his hand: and he shall be as a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Juda. [22] And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open.”

    He is investing Eliacim with the authority (exercised in the King’s absence) to act as Regent – a “vicar” of the King. The image of the keys was understood by the Jews as a symbol of complete authority. And the House of David is the OT prefiguring of the Church of the New Covenant. Jesus appoints Peter and his successors as Regents of his Kingdom in his absence, using language that any Jew who knew his Scriptures would recognize.

    The foundation for the Catholic claim is historical and eschatological. Jesus founded One Church (“one, holy, catholic and apostolic”) and appointed one man as his Regent: Peter. “Christendom” is the Kingdom of Heaven – the Church – with Christ as Her King. So the Regent of the One Church is the head of “Christendom.” “Christendom” is a meaningless construct borrowed from political language. There is only the Kingdom of Christ: and this is the Good News.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  273. Jones the Seeker,

    Further, if I am to believe that there is no continuity between the apostolic age and now,I am forced towards, at the very least, agnosticism concering God. The “Solo” in sola scriptura just doesn’t serve as a theological nexus, as is evident by the result that I can see around me. So, it’s either many churches with varying “essentials”(huh?) OR there really is a church founded by God Himself. Many varying churches each deciding what constitues an essential is harder for a seeker of truth to find viable. One has to jump through hoops to make-up a new definition of what constitutes “the church”( invisible and apostolic at the same time?)But, if one can believe that God, who is truth, wants seekers to find, one could conceive that he would have founded a living institution…..especially since the RCC has found a really clever way to use Matthew 16:18 to its own advantage, being the Roman megalith that it is! Why can’t you allow this in your schema, considering that God is God?
    I’d really like to hear a response.

    ~Susan

  274. Susan,

    You asked for my response, so I’ll give a very brief (and almost certainly inadequate) one. There’s much to be said, much I can say which may not be useful, and much I don’t know. (And I thank those others who have contributed helpful comments. I appreciate your time.)

    I do accept that there is one church which Christ established; after all, there’s only one Christ and, so, only one bride. But I am skeptical that the Roman church in its institutional and political form embodies that one true church. The true church consists of all those persons of all nations and ethnicities who believe in the Lordship of Jesus by the Holy Spirit’s illuminating and regenerating work. Some of those people are Catholics, some are evangelicals like me, and others are other kinds of Christians.

    I realize that there are serious theological differences between Christians. But by “Christians” I mean those who accept the central doctrines of Scripture. Secondary doctrines (typically, the metaphysical explanations of those primary doctrines) are areas of great contention and when we misunderstand what other Christians are saying in explaining primary doctrines we might be apt to think they reject those primary doctrines. In time we often find that they don’t but they’re using terms that misleading to us.

    The norm of Christian theology is the Bible and its perspicuous propositions taught to faithful Christians and Christian communities by the Holy Spirit.

    In any case, I’ve said something that won’t be new to most people and have, no doubt, opened myself up to a number of criticisms. But that seems more plausible to me than that Rome represents the nexus of the one true church. Suppose that the proper ecclesiology is congregational, as I’ve said, and the proper approach to theology is biblicist. There is something radically democratic and even unsettling in that. It’s hard to accept that the Holy Spirit simply leads the church and that his wind blows as God sees fit. It would be tempting, for political reasons to insist that the proper ecclesiology is episcopal; and in times when heresy is hard to answer on biblical and rational grounds (due to a dearth of exegetical and rational tools) it would be tempting to insist that deviation from the institution is itself a heresy so that more difficult heresies need not be meticulously answered.

    But, once again, I understand that I’m not telling any former evangelical/protestant anything that he or she hasn’t already thought through. I, however, can’t see how those doubts and objections might be convincingly overcome.

  275. Jones the Seeker (#274

    … the central doctrines of Scripture.

    How do you know what are the central doctrines of Scripture? How do you know which beliefs, derived from Scripture, are central and which are not? Is the Trinity derivable from Scripture? If it is, is it central? If so, why?

    A lot of questions, but the first one in the series is the real one. When I was Reformed I was told that the sovereignty of God – as explicated by Calvinists – was central, obvious, and to deny it (in its Calvinist form) was to risk damnation. Were they right? Would you agree? Would you call those who disagree not Christians?

    jj

  276. “How do you know what are the central doctrines of Scripture? How do you know which beliefs, derived from Scripture, are central and which are not? Is the Trinity derivable from Scripture? If it is, is it central? If so, why?”

    Yes, I know. That’s why I mentioned that I have opened myself up to many criticisms. This is where I also wish to plead that the sine qua non doctrines aren’t as difficult to ascertain as RCC and EO try to make it out. No doubt, authoritarian (as opposed to biblicist) approaches to theology would like to emphasize the ambiguity of Scripture (as I might like to emphasize its perspicuity). In any case, there it is. I don’t think it’s always entirely obvious but neither is it entirely obscure. I’m sure I won’t convince, however.

    To give some answer, I suppose, yes, the Trinity is a sine qua non doctrine; that is, neither modalists, nor Arians, nor tritheists are Christians. And we know the Trinity is true because Scripture teaches 3 things about God: God is one, the Father is God/Son is God/Spirit is God, and the Father, Son, and Spirit are not the same persons or individuals. Those are all biblical truths that can’t be avoided by the exegete. Heresies all make things more intelligible but they do so by neglecting some perspicuous strand of Scripture about God.

    This should not, however, be confused with say Augustinian, or Cappadocian, or Thomistic accounts of divine triunity. Those accounts seek to answer “how” God is triune. Understanding and affirming those accounts certainly aren’t essential to Christian faith. I’m sure you’ll agree, most Catholics couldn’t explain those accounts.

    Is Calvinist sovereignty a sine qua non? No, the Calvinist account isn’t per se. But a biblical statement of sovereignty is. In other words, I can’t imagine what it would mean to be a Christian while denying that God providentially orders the world according to his own will. A Christian who thinks things happen willy nilly or that God can’t control things as their unfold wouldn’t really be a Christian; barring times of deep confusion. But I can imagine a Christian who neither knows nor affirms double predestination.

    So the “what’s” aren’t so controversial for anyone who has a passable grasp of the biblical God. The “hows” are always quite controversial. But if the “hows” are essential for salvation then very few have any hope.

  277. Really enjoyed listening to this, particularly the point that what most people know of catholicism is obtained from the enemies of the church rather than from the church itself. God bless you.

  278. @Jones the Seeker (#276
    Thanks – I understand, I suppose – but I found myself, at least, unable to respond to my Calvinist elders when they insisted that their understanding of the sovereignty of God was as clear and Scriptural as was the Trinity. Reminds me of Newman in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine – one of the books that made me a Catholic, in which he argues – cogently, it seems to me – that many of the beliefs of the early Church, including the Real Presence in the Eucharist, the grievousness of the sin of schism, and the primacy of the Pope, are seen from Scripture by the early Fathers with greater clarity and conviction than the Trinity itself.

    But, of course, the “ambiguity of Scripture” cannot be a reason for believing in the authority of the Church – though I think it is a motivation for seeking to know whether there are not good grounds for believing in the authority of the Church.

    Anyway, this is probably off the topic of Jason’s conversion. I’d better stop here :-)

    jj

  279. Thank you for your response. I see that you believe that the scriptures are perspicuous and that a teaching authority isn’t required in order to discover what can be easily ascertained from simply reading.You do, however, believe that there are doctrines that a person, who wants to identify with Christ, must give intellectual assent to,but you don’t see the need of an interpretive authority to locate interrelated scripture, define parameters, or declare dogma that is sine qua non. At least, this is what I think you are saying.
    You cite the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as an example of an idea that is easy enough to grasp; easy for us to say, now, after the 1st and 2nd Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople,and Florence. We are all piggy-backing of the apostolic faith. The language used to define the doctrine of the Trinity isn’t even found in the scriptures.

    “In order to articulate the dogma of the Trinity, the Church had to develop her own terminology with the help of certain notions of philosophical origin: “substance”, “person” or “hypostasis”, “relation” and so on. In doing this, she did not submit the faith to human wisdom, but gave a new and unprecedented meaning to these terms, which from then on would be used to signify an ineffable mystery, “infinitely beyond all that we can humanly understand”.82 (CCC 251)

    It couldn’t be that easy to understand if it took hundreds of years to formulate.And who formates, but a body of believers who are moved by God? Somebody had to say, “no” to this or that idea, and “yes” to another. But you said that the Trinity is a biblical truth that can’t be avoided by an exegete, but clearly there were heretics exegeting scripture( and they had all 73 books) and there are heretics still. There are heretics still because they deny some part of the apostolic faith.

    I don’t know…..you are not convinced of the petrine ministry, but you are certain about the “whats’ of Christianity. You must not place the petrine ministry in your category of “whats”, but I wonder how you can do this when even a scriptural canon( which Protestants depend on to get their biblical doctrine) can even be decided without appealing to something outside the scriptures. There are things that cause me to scratch my head about the whole Reformation. These things seem glaring to me, but they don’t bother some Protestants; I was thinking yesterday, how weird it is that Luther was (rightfully) angry about the selling of indulgences, but doesn’t this mean that indulgences was part of Christian belief for some extended period of time prior to the Reformation? The RCC has retained a doctrine of indulgences, but Protestantism has dropped it from their essential doctrines. Same thing concerning the altar; under the authority of Calvin, Catholic altars were destroyed. This makes me very suspicious that men were tweeking things, not to be in accordance with scripture, but to their own intepretation of scripture and I don’t see how this is any different than a private development of doctrine. I have digressed, and this is material for another conversation, but man, I don’t understand why Protestants are not convinced.

    Finally you said: “But if the “hows” are essential for salvation then very few have any hope”

    If there were no sects people could more easily find the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. And this is the direction to search. First believe that God has not left us orphans and then go from there.

    ~Susan

  280. Dear Jones,

    I meant to address you in my last response( #279) Sorry about that:) I realize that I probably sound cranky:), and I don’t mean to come across so upset, but being the only Catholic in my family is very hard. Most of my old friends have been nothing but kind, but I still get jibes about the Papacy and Mariology from time to time. “Papist”is the most recent jab I heard, but it has a negative connotation for no good reason. It rolls off the tongue, so I get why they like say it, but it means nothing other than the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. It doesn’t make a Catholic doctrine false if they say it 1000 times.
    I will let others take over from here. Happy Seeking:)
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/07/the-vatican-files-n-4-a-reply-to-ref21s-leonardo-de-chirico

    ~Susan

  281. I have been very interested in Jason Stellman’s recent post on “Creed Code Cult” entitled “Stuff I Don’t Like That Much: Catholicism Edition”.

    http://www.creedcodecult.com/stuff-i-dont-like-that-much-catholicism-edition/

    I have a few questions about it. (1) Were you fully aware of all of these things when you converted or have you become aware of some of them post-conversion?, (2) Does your post qualify as “private judgment” and to what degree do you believe that private judgment about the church is appropriate for Catholics at this point of your journey?, (3) If you don’t like these things about Catholicism, do you think it is possible that you may at some point not like core Catholic doctrines (concerning justification, the Mass, or indulgences not related to Twitter, for instance). If you find that you do not like them, might another conversion to something other than Catholicism be a possibility? Presumably you discovered some things about Reformed Protestantism that you did not like prior to becoming a Catholic.

  282. Hi Erik (#281),

    I’m not sure if Jason will respond to you; I got the impression he was recently on vacation, and your comment may get lost in the mix. I read on Old Life your frustration with no one responding to your questions here at CTC. If it’s not too rude to interject, it seems that you are suggesting through your questions that Jason’s concerns with some aspects of Catholicism indicate that he may be simply choosing the next “flavor of the month,” having already moved from Calvary Chapel to the Reformed faith, and now to Catholicism. Is that accurate? It seems similar to your previous speculation that many Reformed-turned-Catholic folk will end up atheists. I think the short answer to the heart of your question is probably something like “many things are possible.” However, I’d say it’s unfair to question someone’s conversion by claiming that because they’ve been on a spiritual journey that has involved several different theological systems, this somehow weakens the trustworthiness of their conversion. Wouldn’t it seem more appropriate to consider the reasons why they converted, and assess the relative merits of those reasons?

    It may be worthwhile to reflect on why Jason or other CTC contributors converted. I don’t think anyone would say they converted because they “liked” one thing more than another, but that they found Reformed Protestantism no longer intellectually/theologically tenable, and commensurate to that realization, or later, became persuaded that Catholicism was indeed a coherent and believable faith system. If you became convinced sola scriptura was neither intellectually coherent or scriptural, what would you do?

    cheers, Casey

  283. Casey, there you go again trashing Protestantism.

  284. Dr. Hart (#283),

    What is the “protest” against in Protestantism? Or what was the basis for the need for a “Reformed” theology? Both seem, by definition, to be reactions against Catholicism. Even when I was a Reformed Protestant I realized that intrinsic to my Christian faith was a foundational belief in Catholicism’s errors and the necessity for “reform” or “protest.” Isn’t it Carl Trueman who says all Reformed Protestants, by virtue of their historical/theological heritage, must understand why they’re not Catholic? Your comments suggest we’re just looking to target some random fellow on the street corner to whom we have no prior relationship. cheers, Casey

  285. Casey,

    Thanks for your response. I just want to see some interaction with Jason’s post here because I see it as a bombshell and very un-Called to Communion-like. I would like to see you guys take Jason on on his criticisms. If not, can I conclude that you agree with them? Reformed guys on Old Life argue with each other all the time. You guys here seem to present more of a united front and Jason’s post was a divergence from that. I wonder if you guys have some buyer’s remorse in elevating him to the status of Catholic apologist within hours of his conversion. I’m not trying to be a wise guy, either.

  286. Erik, (re: #285)

    If you see Jason’s post as “a bombshell and very un-Called to Communion-like,” then you don’t adequately understand the distinction between disagreements of faith, and disagreements not of faith. I have explained that distinction in “The Catholics Are Divided Too Objection.” Jason’s objections are in the “not of faith” category, and are for that reason fully compatible with what we have said here at CTC. (And, by the way, we did not “elevate him” to any status; we just talked with him.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  287. Casey, but while single out Reformed Protestantism? Why not feature Methodists who convert to Rome? Why no critiques of Lutheranism? Why is the foil always Reformed Protestantism? http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/11/lawrence-feingold-on-gods-universal-salvific-will/

    But we are supposed to feel affirmed and empowered?

  288. Bryan,

    Were Luther’s 95 These of “of faith” or “not of faith”? Sometimes disagreements that begin as the latter end up as the former. That’s what make’s Jason’s post extremely interesting in light of his past.

    I would also note that Jason received some rebukes from Catholics on “Creed Code Cult” for his piece. Do those Catholics not understand the distinction between the types of disagreements?

  289. Erik, (re: #288)

    Were Luther’s 95 These of “of faith” or “not of faith”?

    Some were “of faith”.

    Do those Catholics not understand the distinction between the types of disagreements?

    I don’t know, because I don’t know what they said. But people can (and do) often have firm convictions about matters “not of faith.” So their expression of their disagreement with Jason doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t understand the distinction.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  290. Hi Erik (#285),

    I agree with some of Jason’s frustrations, and disagree with others. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a Catholic who didn’t agree with Jason’s dislike of priests guilty of pedophilia. None of his frustrations have to do with doctrine though, so Jason and I remain united in our full communion with the Catholic Church. I do think he’s missing out for not having a devotion to the image of Divine Mercy associated with Sister Faustina Kowalska, but I’m biased since I’m half-Polish. cheers, Casey

  291. Hi Dr. Hart (#287),

    Casey, but while single out Reformed Protestantism? Why not feature Methodists who convert to Rome? Why no critiques of Lutheranism? Why is the foil always Reformed Protestantism? http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/11/lawrence-feingold-on-gods-universal-salvific-will/

    But we are supposed to feel affirmed and empowered?

    Bryan addressed the substance of your question on another thread, and I agree – we are former Reformed Protestants seeking to encourage our friends from those communities to join us. I’ve seen some dialogue with Lutherans on this website, but it’s certainly a minority. The weight of our analysis on Lutheranism or Methodism would, I think, have a little less currency with Lutherans or Methodists, since we cut our theological teeth in the Reformed tradition. That said, I know Lutheran Rod Rosenbladt is a contributor to White Horse Inn (and Methodist William Willimon makes many apperances), and that there are plenty of non-Reformed with an affinity with certain aspects of Reformed theology. I think your suggestion to discuss some more uniquely Methodist or Lutheran issues is worth considering and feasible to do in the future. cheers, Casey

  292. Hey Erik,

    Just saw your questions (I have been on vacay for the last couple weeks). I will respond soon.

    JJS

  293. Erik,

    I have a few questions about [Jason’s post at Creed Code Cult]. (1) Were you fully aware of all of these things when you converted or have you become aware of some of them post-conversion?

    Most of them I was fully aware of, others of them I became more aware of after investigating Catholicism and converting to it. If you have questions about specific things I listed, feel free to narrow the question down.

    (2) Does your post qualify as “private judgment” and to what degree do you believe that private judgment about the church is appropriate for Catholics at this point of your journey?

    I think all that I mentioned comes from my own private judgment, against which there is no prohibition from the Church. IOW, the Church never tells me de fide that I need to enjoy this song, or appreciate that work of art. Private judgment is only a problem when I use it like a Protestant and elevate it above things that the Church has taught with her full authority (for which nothing I have listed qualifies).

    (3) If you don’t like these things about Catholicism, do you think it is possible that you may at some point not like core Catholic doctrines (concerning justification, the Mass, or indulgences not related to Twitter, for instance). If you find that you do not like them, might another conversion to something other than Catholicism be a possibility? Presumably you discovered some things about Reformed Protestantism that you did not like prior to becoming a Catholic.

    To be clear, I absolutely love (or am coming to love) what the CC teaches, although there were many things that I initially submitted to merely because of the Church’s authority. When we follow the pattern of faith seeking understanding, often times things that at first seem totally foreign and weird become the very things we learn to both embrace and treasure. I am sure the same was the case for the apostles who, after the resurrection, had to learn how to read the OT through completely new lenses. That kind of thing takes some getting used to.

    As far as converting to anything else, like Casey said, anything is “possible,” however unlikely. The thing about the CC is that it is a lot like Jesus himself (it is his Body after all, which makes the observation pretty uncontroversial from the Catholic point of view). Once the Jews of Jesus’ day were confronted with his unique, and uniquely audacious, claims, their choices were pretty much whittled down to two: become believing Christians or disinherited Hebrews. “To whom shall we go,” and all that.

    (I love Chesterton’s remark about how if he abandoned the Christian Church he would just become a pagan bowing before a tree in a forest, since that would eventually lead him back to bowing before a cross in a church anyway.)

    I would like to briefly address the idea—one that I have come across a lot over the last year—that I have this pattern of hopping around from one expression of the faith to another. I was baptized in 1986, I became a serious Christian in 1989, I became a Calvinist in 1996, and I became a Catholic in 2012. To whatever degree people want to consider that as unstable or restless, I don’t really care. My guess is that if I had never become a Catholic, but had just made the switch from evangelical to Reformed, my instability would be greatly welcomed by Presbyterians (as it indeed was). So the issue is not really that I hop around too much, it’s the destination of my most recent hop.

    And concerning your presumption that I had found things about Geneva that I didn’t’ like before relocating to Rome, that’s actually not the case, believe it or not. I really, really like Old School confessional Protestantism. It suits my personality almost perfectly. In fact, I doubt I’ll ever be even close to as good a Catholic as I was a Presbyterian. I had that stuff wired.

    In reality, the only dislikeable thing I discovered about Reformed theology was that it wasn’t true. Everything else was rad.

  294. Jason, careful, you can’t say that about Reformed theology any more. You know, evangelicals and Catholics together, Vatican 2, separated brothers. If you want Old School Roman Catholicism you need to go back to Pius X.

  295. JJS, the destination of your most recent hop is certainly an issue, but I doubt it’s everything. I mean, my guess is that even if even if you hopped back over here there would still be some serious concern over the hopping. I’m not sure coming from one tradition or another to Reformed is necessarily considered unstable, and I’d hope that while we’d be glad to welcome anyone who landed here, I also hope that we’d take into consideration a background that was more or less checkered when it comes to assessing maturity. My point is that while it may be true that some of us let sentimentality trump discernment one way or another, there are others of us who aren’t quite as given to it.

  296. Bryan – I don’t know, because I don’t know what they said. But people can (and do) often have firm convictions about matters “not of faith.” So their expression of their disagreement with Jason doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t understand the distinction.

    Erik – Sounds like some Presbyterian & Reformed people I know (ha, ha).

    Jason – Private judgment is only a problem when I use it like a Protestant and elevate it above things that the Church has taught with her full authority (for which nothing I have listed qualifies).

    Erik – Of the close to 3,000 Q&A’s in the Roman Catholic catechism, how many would you say are things that the Church has taught with her full authority?

    Do you think a “pro choice” Catholic politician like Tom Harkin, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, or the late Ted Kennedy were acting contrary to something that the church has taught with her full authority in their enthusiastic embrace of abortion on demand? I’m being sincere in asking.

    How are people in the cheap seats supposed to distinguish the difference?

    After spending a year plus thinking about our (Reformed & Catholic) differences it has become clear to me that 95% of our disagreement comes down to the nature of the true church (“duh”, you probably say). You are more concerned with locating the true church in time and space, linking it back physically to Christ) and less concerned about it’s fruits being in accord with Scripture. We are more concerned with the marks of true churches being in accord with Scripture and less concerned with the time and space correlation (thus the accusations of ecclesiastical deism). It’s a fascinating and probably intractable debate.

    Personally I’m not very swayed by the ecclesiastical deism argument because we are talking about a God who saw fit to reduce the true church to one not overly virtuous family on a big boat at one time. We’ll keep talking, though.

  297. Darryl, (re: #294)

    Perhaps you were being sarcastic, but in case you weren’t, ECT is not magisterial, and nothing in VII forbids saying what is true or false in the area of theology.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  298. Bryan, CTC is not of the same tone as post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism. Anyone without an tin-ear can see that. In case you haven’t noticed, First Things is far more representative of conservative Roman Catholicism in the U.S. and they are always kind to Protestants and don’t point out their errors. And then there is Francis who loves everybody and only says kind things. You are an SSPXer without the PX.

  299. Darryl, (re: #298)

    You would have to define what you mean by ‘tone.’ If you mean civility, respect, charity, and grace, then I don’t see any difference. If you mean something else by ‘tone,’ then you’ll need to specify.

    they are always kind to Protestants and don’t point out their errors.

    Indeed there is a time and place for finding and focusing on common ground, and for working together in various ways in moral and social issues, and in opposition to actions or ideas we mutually oppose. But there is also a time and place for working out disagreements between us. And that’s a venue we are providing. The Church is large enough to allow and include both of those at the same time.

    If it really needs to be said, we are not like the SSPX because we are in full communion with, and submission to, the Magisterium of the Church. If you don’t agree, feel free to point out some claim or belief we hold that is contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  300. Dr. Hart, (@298)

    Surely you’ve had occasion to meet Dr. Turner (from Hillsdale’s “Philosophy and Religion Department”; back when I was getting my undergrad, it was just the Philosophy Department). One of the (many) virtues he helped inculcate in me is the recognition that an argument’s “tone” has nothing to do with its soundness. Put bluntly, who cares if CtC’s tone is different from First Things’ tone? Who cares if CtC’s tone is different than Vatican II’s tone? CtC has presented arguments and the way to refute their deductive arguments is to show either that their conclusion does follow from their premises or to show that one of their premises is (in fact) false.

    When you first arrived on this website, you argued that the change in tone between Vatican II and (say) Trent constituted a doctrinal contradiction. If true, this would be significant (since, if Catholicism is true, its doctrines over time cannot contradict each other. Thus, if such a doctrinal contradiction genuinely existed, Catholicism would be false). You’ve abandoned that (after some arguments from Bryan showing that changes in tone do not constitute doctrinal contradiction), and now you’ve moved on to…well, of a truth, I’m not quite sure what you’ve moved on to. You’ve argued that CtC’s tone is different from FTs, that CtC deals with Reformed theology too much, that CtC is too logical, and that Bryan’s relationship with his wife is revelatory of…something?

    Honestly, Dr. Hart, I’m not sure where you’re going. At first you had an argument that would entail the falsity of Catholicism. Now I’m not even sure if you’re giving arguments anymore, much less arguments showing Catholicism to be false. Speaking for myself, I want to believe true things. If Protestantism is true, I want to be Protestant. But I became Catholic because I found the arguments on this site (and from other resources) to be sound. If you’ve got some whiz bang knock down argument to present, I’d love to read it. But most of what you’ve written lately is just irrelevant to whether or not Catholicism is true – and that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin Keil

  301. One of the things that has frustrated me, as a Catholic, reading a lot of these posts and dialog is that they’re not really representative of Catholicism (But with over a billion served it’s difficult to find any representative sample). They’re certainly representative of a certain strain of American Catholicism. It’s one I disagree with but still have a lot of respect for certain facets of it. It’s certainly the strain that is most similar to confessional protestantism.

    I’m wondering what both the CTC folks and their protestant detractors would think of liberal/modernist or radical traditionalist/SSPX Catholic responses to a lot of these critiques. It seems they would both share a position that mistakes were made and would place less of an emphasis on the papacy as the source and summit of the Catholic Faith.

    In short a lot of the arguments and counter-arguments here seem non-unique to Catholicism in general but a particular strain of Anglo-American Catholicism in particular.

  302. Dan, (re: #301)

    One of the things that has frustrated me, as a Catholic, reading a lot of these posts and dialog is that they’re not really representative of Catholicism.

    How so?

    They’re certainly representative of a certain strain of American Catholicism. It’s one I disagree with but still have a lot of respect for certain facets of it.

    It would be more helpful if you would specify in particular what it is you disagree with, instead of merely hand-waving with generalities while saying you have a lot of respect for certain facets of it (if you truly want to discuss these points of disagreement, rather than just mentioning them without intending to discuss them).

    I’m wondering what both the CTC folks and their protestant detractors would think of liberal/modernist or radical traditionalist/SSPX Catholic responses to a lot of these critiques.

    You’re going to need to specify (a) what critiques you have in mind, and (b) what responses you have in mind.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  303. Brian,

    One argument made at CtC that I believe is unrepresentative of Catholicism is that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded. The claim itself is not unrepresentative but it’s literal understanding is (Jesus of Nazareth ordained the Twelve, the Twelve ordained an unbroken line of bishops etc.) For a more nuanced understanding see here:

    [Raymond Brown on Apostolic Succession]

    Again there are a great many Catholics that share the more literal view as held by many at CtC but the Catholic Church as a whole does not subscribe to this view. Protestant criticisms of this view are really not valid criticisms of Catholicism but rather a particular belief held by the Catholics at CtC.

    Many arguments made at CtC also rely on the notion of development of doctrine. I personally am sympathetic to these arguments but traditionalists from Cardinal Manning onward are hostile. There is a fideistic tradition within Catholicism which frowns upon the sort of historical speculation and reconstruction used to ground the Catholic Faith in the “Early Church”.

    Lets start with those too critiques. The first modernist the second traditionalist.

    The first admits historical ambiguity but believes the Catholic Faith does not stand or fall on the particular literal historical claim that the Catholic Church is the literal Church Christ founded.

    The second rejects the whole notion that one can has access to the “Early Church” and that any attempt to establish the validity of the Catholic Church through historical study is always already a protestant project. The Church IS the deposit of faith and any idea of a historically reconstructed “Early Church” that one could compare, even favorably, to the Catholic Church as it exists is one that already admits rupture. Is in fact designed to undermine not strengthen the claims of the church.

    I actually think Protestants (At least the Protestants commenting here) would be more sympathetic to both of these critiques.

  304. Bryan, the difference in tone (and meaning) is that you say Protestants are wrong and the Vatican doesn’t (any more).

  305. Benjamin, but who knows what truth is any more (and this from a former Reformed evangelical convert to Rome)? http://oldlife.org/2013/08/when-logic-is-delusional/

    The change of tone goes to the change of stance on the truth. Have you not heard, Rome changed at Vatican 2? I used to be a heretic, now I am a separated brother. I’m not sure how you work it out, but something changed and it has a lot to do with the merger of tone and equivocating on truth.

  306. Darryl, (re: #304)

    If that is what you mean by tone, I would describe that as an [alleged] difference in *content.* But even so, the Catholic Church does not have to keep repeating her dogmas, in order to preserve their truth. They remain true. Moreover, while recognizing many truths and gifts within Protestantism, as well as the work of the Holy Spirit within Protestantism, the Catholic Church still believes and teaches that Protestantism is deficient in certain respects, for example, in not having valid orders, and thus in not having a valid Eucharist (and the other sacraments besides baptism and matrimony). This is why she said (in 2007) that Protestant ecclesial communities are not particular Churches — see Responsa quaestiones, and the accompanying Commentary.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  307. Dan (re: #303)

    One argument made at CtC that I believe is unrepresentative of Catholicism is that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded.

    That’s not an argument; that’s a claim. Your objection to this is, apparently, that Christ did not found a Church. But Unitatis Redintegratio teaches that “Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only.” (UR, 1) It further teaches that “large communities came to be separated from full communion with the Catholic Church” (UR, 3), also described as “Christ’s Catholic Church, which is “the all-embracing means of salvation,” (UR, 3). As Pope Leo XIII taught, the Church came forth from the side of the second Adam (cf. Divinum Illud Munu, 5). And Pope Pius XII taught that “But our Divine Savior governs and guides the Society which He founded directly and personally also.” (Mystici Corporis Christi, 39) and

    Christ our Lord, when about to leave this world and return to the Father, entrusted to the Chief of the Apostles the visible government of the entire community He had founded. Since He was all wise He could not leave the body of the Church He had founded as a human society without a visible head. Nor against this may one argue that the primacy of jurisdiction established in the Church gives such a Mystical Body two heads. For Peter in view of his primacy is only Christ’s Vicar; so that there is only one chief Head of this Body, namely Christ, who never ceases Himself to guide the Church invisibly, though at the same time He rules it visibly, through him who is His representative on earth. After His glorious Ascension into Heaven this Church rested not on Him alone, but on Peter, too, its visible foundation stone. That Christ and His Vicar constitute one only Head is the solemn teaching of Our predecessor of immortal memory Boniface VIII in the Apostolic Letter Unam Sanctam; [61] and his successors have never ceased to repeat the same. (Mystici Corporis Christi, 40)

    Likewise, the Responsa ad quaestiones of 2007 affirms “the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church.” (Responsa ad quaestiones, 3) This is the one Church to which all men must be joined for salvation, excepting invincible ignorance, as the Catechism explains:

    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. (CCC 846)

    The Catechism itself teaches that the Catholic Church was founded by God through Christ. This is the unchanging teaching of the Church. To claim that Christ didn’t found a Church, or that the Church He founded is some other Church than the Catholic Church, is to deny a dogma of the Catholic Church.

    Regarding your second criticism, you wrote:

    The second rejects the whole notion that one can has access to the “Early Church” and that any attempt to establish the validity of the Catholic Church through historical study is always already a protestant project.

    This claim conflates inquiries of reason and inquiries of faith. I’ve already addressed the error of fideism in the “Wilson vs. Hitchens” post, and in the comments following it. Historical investigations can be done by the light of reason alone, and that is perfectly legitimate for those having only that light. In such a way they can find the motives of credibility by which to recognize the divine authority of the Church. Historical investigation can also be done both by the light of reason *and* the light of faith, and this is perfectly legitimate for sons and daughters of the Church, by which to understand more deeply the Tradition we have received within the Church.

    The Church IS the deposit of faith and any idea of a historically reconstructed “Early Church” that one could compare, even favorably, to the Catholic Church as it exists is one that already admits rupture.

    Again, we have to be aware of the distinction between inquiries of reason, and inquiries of faith. Such an historical reconstruction by one having only the light of reason, and making use of historical evidence accessible through rational investigation, is perfectly legitimate. On the other, an inquiry undertaken by the light of faith is already aware of the historical continuity of the Church, and therefore his inquiry need not presuppose any sort of rupture.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  308. Dan (re #303),

    In order for the “Catholic Church as a whole” to “subscribe” to a view, it is not necessary that there be no Catholics who dissent from that view. It is only necessary that the doctrine in question be taught with the full authority of the Magisterium, in one way or another.

    The Magisterium has clearly taught that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded. This was most recently reaffirmed in the documents to which Bryan linked in #306, above.

    Concerning the Catholic Church’s understanding of Apostolic Succession, here are some authoritative statements:

    1563 Trent, Session 23, Chapter IV.
    1947 Pius XII, Sacramentum Ordinis.
    1964 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, Chapter III.
    1965 Vatican II, Christus Dominus.
    1983 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Sacerdotium Ministeriale [To view this document in English, use Google translator].

    Development of doctrine, on the other hand, is not itself a doctrine but a theory about doctrine. As such, Catholics are free to disagree over the question of how successfully this theory, in one form or another, accounts for the data. However, your gloss of the theory re the early Church reflects only one particular strand of thought, that associated with Cardinal Manning, and not necessarily the implication of the theory itself. Newman, for example, was pleased to stake his claim upon the Church Fathers:

    For myself, hopeless as you consider it, I am not ashamed still to take my stand upon the Fathers, and do not mean to budge. The history of their times is not yet an old almanac to me. Of course I maintain the value and authority of the “Schola,” as one of the loci theologici; nevertheless I sympathize with Petavius in preferring to the “contentious and subtle theology” of the middle age, that “more elegant and fruitful teaching which is moulded after the image of erudite Antiquity.” The Fathers made me a Catholic, and I am not going to kick down the ladder by which I ascended into the Church. It is a ladder quite as serviceable for that purpose now, as it was twenty years ago [i.e., when Newman converted]. Though I hold, as you know, a process of development in Apostolic truth as time goes on, such development does not supersede the Fathers, but explains and completes them. (Letter to Dr. Pusey, p. 24.)

    To “establish the validity of the Catholic Church through historical study” would be a “protestant project” if having discovered the Catholic Church and believed her claims, one then operated as though the basis of those claims is their agreeing with one’s own interpretation of the data of history, including but not limited to the canonical texts, instead of the divine authority of the Catholic Church herself.

  309. Brian,

    The objection to the Church that Christ Founded rhetoric was one of it’s literal interpretation not it’s spiritual truth. Most of the documents you cite use that language spiritually but not necessarily literally. Some of them were certainly meant to be interpreted literally when they were crafted but the notion that Jesus of Nazareth literally laid his hands on the apostles, that the apostles did so to their successors, etc. etc. is simply not dogma. Faithful Catholics often believe, teach, and confess that the Church is Founded by Christ in a more spiritual way (Note that the book mentioned earlier by Fr. Raymond Brown received both a Nihil obstat and Imprimatur). I don’t believe your literal interpretation of the doctrine is outside of the bounds of the faith but that’s all that it is, YOUR literal interpretation.

    CtC arguments often hinge upon literal interpretation of this teaching which quite simply cannot be historically verified as has been pointed out by Protestant critics here. I claim that while it cannot be historically verified it is not the dogmatic teaching of the church that it must have literally happened.

    As to development of doctrine I’d agree with you that, “Historical investigations can be done by the light of reason alone, and that is perfectly legitimate for those having only that light.”, but I’m sympathetic to traditionalist arguments that this cannot simultaneously be done with what you call the light of faith. I’ll check out your piece on fideism though!

    Again the point was originally that CtC represents merely a slice of the Catholic pie and that the arguments and positions of CtC are not necessarily the arguments and positions of the Catholic Church.

  310. Andrew,

    “The Magisterium has clearly taught that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded.”

    Again my objection was to the literal interpretation of that statement and not it’s spiritual reality. Fr. Raymond Brown’s position is not some marginal position in the Church and the book has both a Nihil obstat and Imprimatur. The Magisterium has endorsed non-literal views as valid just as it has endorsed literal views.

    I’m not particularly concerned, for the purposes of this post, if Cardinal Manning was correct in his assessment or not but the fact remains that development of doctrine is a theory that has and still generates a lot of controversy among Catholics. That’s not the impression that one gets at CtC. A lot of objections raised by Protestants here to development of doctrine would be sustained by Catholic traditionalists.

    This is where the debate really fails for me as ecumenical dialog. The Catholics here present arguments as “the Catholic argument” rather than “our Catholic argument”.

    Lots of the arguments made here I believe can be rejected in good faith by Catholics as well as Protestants.

  311. Dan,

    The objection to the Church that Christ Founded rhetoric was one of it’s literal interpretation not it’s spiritual truth. Most of the documents you cite use that language spiritually but not necessarily literally. Some of them were certainly meant to be interpreted literally when they were crafted but the notion that Jesus of Nazareth literally laid his hands on the apostles, that the apostles did so to their successors, etc. etc. is simply not dogma. Faithful Catholics often believe, teach, and confess that the Church is Founded by Christ in a more spiritual way … I don’t believe your literal interpretation of the doctrine is outside of the bounds of the faith but that’s all that it is, YOUR literal interpretation.

    If you think that what I said depends upon Christ laying His hands on the Apostles, then you misunderstood me. I never said that Christ founded the Church by laying His hands on the Apostles. So you’re criticizing a straw man insofar as you are construing what I said above as depending in some way on Christ laying His hands on the Apostles. The question is actually quite simple: Did Christ found the Church, or did He not found the Church? The Catholic Church’s dogmatic answer (which we affirm), is yes, He did.

    CtC arguments often hinge upon literal interpretation of this teaching which quite simply cannot be historically verified as has been pointed out by Protestant critics here.

    Hand-waving with generalities is very easy, but not helpful. If you sincerely wish to discuss these “CtC arguments” that “hinge upon literal interpretation” (rather than engage in drive-by criticisms), please specify which arguments you have in mind.

    I claim that while it cannot be historically verified it is not the dogmatic teaching of the church that it must have literally happened.

    That depends on what the “it” refers to.

    Again the point was originally that CtC represents merely a slice of the Catholic pie and that the arguments and positions of CtC are not necessarily the arguments and positions of the Catholic Church.

    That remains to be shown, because you haven’t shown where we depart from the “arguments and positions of the Catholic Church.” You’ve only shown, at most, that on certain points we do not agree with Raymond Brown. But Raymond Brown isn’t “the Catholic Church.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  312. Brian,

    It appears I haven’t even demonstrated that you disagree with the late Fr. Brown! I’ve evidently misinterpreted what you mean when you say that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded!

    In another thread Jeremy Tate was using the language of Jesus establishing himself the Church while on earth. I had assumed this meant by the laying on of hands establishing the institutional church. I’m not sure if you and Jeremy disagree on this issue or not. Could you point me to a resource on CtC that spells out exactly what you mean when you use the language of “The Church that Christ Founded”? Does the claim make a distinction between Christ and the historical person and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth?

  313. Benjamin – Honestly, Dr. Hart, I’m not sure where you’re going. At first you had an argument that would entail the falsity of Catholicism. Now I’m not even sure if you’re giving arguments anymore, much less arguments showing Catholicism to be false. Speaking for myself, I want to believe true things. If Protestantism is true, I want to be Protestant. But I became Catholic because I found the arguments on this site (and from other resources) to be sound. If you’ve got some whiz bang knock down argument to present, I’d love to read it. But most of what you’ve written lately is just irrelevant to whether or not Catholicism is true – and that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?

    Erik – I think part of our point is that if you think you are Catholic because you’ve found a “better argument”, you’re kidding yourself. You are just accepting different faith-based propositions than you were before. The Motives of Credibility purport to be rational and not fideistic, but they’re not. You have to presuppose Catholic doctrine to find them credible. This is why you (and perhaps us as well) need to lose the attitude of intellectual superiority and the (in your case) “I’ve found the one true church that Christ founded schtick”. I think this is what Hart might be getting at in comparing First Things and Francis the Nice to CTC.

    And if Catholic arguments are so superior to Refomed arguments, then why are we always getting our “paradigm” thrown in our faces whenever we make an argument? If things we are saying are clearly not true they should be easily falsifiable using either your paradigm or ours. The answer is that religious truth claims (at least those with any age on them) are generally not falsifiable, that’s why we read about them in the religion section of the bookstore and not the physics section. So again, if some of CTC’s writers would just lose the attitude we could all get along a lot better.

  314. Erik,

    Would you care to elaborate on how the ‘motives of credibility’ need the presupposition of Catholic doctrine in order to be credible?

    Thanks,

    Dan

  315. Dan H. (re: #312)

    Ah, well, that’s progress. I don’t think there is any disagreement between Jeremy and myself on this point. A good place to look, to understand what is meant by Christ “founding” the Church, is paragraphs 26-33 of Mystici Corporis Christi. The claim does not make or depend upon any distinction between “Christ and the historical person and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  316. Dan H. (#301)

    One of the things that has frustrated me, as a Catholic, reading a lot of these posts and dialog is that they’re not really representative of Catholicism (But with over a billion served it’s difficult to find any representative sample). They’re certainly representative of a certain strain of American Catholicism. It’s one I disagree with but still have a lot of respect for certain facets of it. It’s certainly the strain that is most similar to confessional protestantism.

    I think a great deal of the confusion – or apparent confusion – amongst interlocutors here is connected with the fact that the word ‘Catholicism’ is being used, often within the same comment, with two different meanings:

    1) What the Catholic faith is – what is real, official, etc
    2) What some (larger or smaller) group of Catholics do, believe, preach, teach, etc

    I think it essential that we make clear what we are talking about.

    jj

  317. Darryl (#305)

    The change of tone goes to the change of stance on the truth. Have you not heard, Rome changed at Vatican 2? I used to be a heretic, now I am a separated brother. I’m not sure how you work it out, but something changed and it has a lot to do with the merger of tone and equivocating on truth.

    Dear Darryl, there is no change. The second is a consequence of the first :-) It is both/and, not either/or!

    jj

  318. Darryl (#304)

    Bryan, the difference in tone (and meaning) is that you say Protestants are wrong and the Vatican doesn’t (any more).

    It doesn’t??

    jj

  319. Erik,

    You wrote (#313):

    If things we are saying are clearly not true they should be easily falsifiable using either your paradigm or ours.

    In fact this is why I ceased being Protestant months before I was even remotely interested in what the Catholic Church says about herself: the Protestant claims do not hold water on their own terms. Not meaning to pile on; just sayin’.

    Peace,

    Fred

  320. Fred,

    The link you posted got truncated. Here is the link to your article: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/07/the-accidental-catholic/

    Dan

  321. Brian,

    Looking over Mystici Corporis Christi again I have to say I’m not finding exactly where my initial characterization was mistaken. The precise language of the laying on of hands isn’t there sure but the notion that Christ in history calls the apostles, appoints Peter as the head, and institutes the sacraments is there. The Spirit is sent at Pentecost etc.

    What I’m failing to see is how this definition does what you think it does. It doesn’t address how we get from Point A “The Church that Christ Founded” to Point B “The Catholic Church in 2013 A.D.”

    Is what bridges point A and B apostolic succession through the literal laying on of hands which Fr. Brown believes to be overly simplistic and doubtful (And which I believed the CtC apologetic necessitated) or is it more the sort of process that Fr. Brown thinks took place (Which I believe successfully dodges some Protestant objections)?

  322. Dan H. (re: #321)

    Looking over Mystici Corporis Christi again I have to say I’m not finding exactly where my initial characterization was mistaken. The precise language of the laying on of hands isn’t there sure but the notion that Christ in history calls the apostles, appoints Peter as the head, and institutes the sacraments is there. The Spirit is sent at Pentecost etc.

    Right.

    What I’m failing to see is how this definition does what you think it does.

    What, exactly, do you think I think it does?

    It doesn’t address how we get from Point A “The Church that Christ Founded” to Point B “The Catholic Church in 2013 A.D.”

    Oh, well that’s a totally *different* claim. We were discussing whether Christ founded a Church (and you were trying to claim that He did so not literally, but only spiritually). Now you’ve switched to a different claim, namely, whether the Catholic Church (of 2013) *is* that same Church Christ founded. So, no, those paragraphs of Mystici don’t answer *that* question. That question is addressed in the quotations I provided in #307 above (and see paragraph #13 of Mystici).

    You wrote:

    Is what bridges point A and B apostolic succession through the literal laying on of hands which Fr. Brown believes to be overly simplistic and doubtful (And which I believed the CtC apologetic necessitated) or is it more the sort of process that Fr. Brown thinks took place (Which I believe successfully dodges some Protestant objections)?

    It is a dogma of the Church that the Sacrament of Holy Orders was instituted by Christ. (Canon 3 of Session 23 of Trent.) The matter of the sacrament of ordination is the laying on of hands, and that is essential to the validity of the sacrament. But, as there is baptism by desire, so there is also a moral contact possible in the sacrament of ordination, on the part of the one ordaining, as Pope Pius XII notes when he says, “We command that in conferring each Order the imposition of hands be done by physically touching the head of the person to be ordained, although a moral contact also is sufficient for the valid conferring of the Sacrament.” (Sacramentum Ordinis, 6) Without that matter and the essential form, there is no valid conferring of the sacrament. And he who lacks Orders, cannot give them. Hence, it follows by necessity that there can be valid Orders today only if there is an unbroken succession of ordinations extending back to the Apostles.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan (with a ‘y’)

  323. Dan,

    Thanks! Fixed.

    Fred

  324. Erick (@313):

    Thanks for the thoughts. Incidentally, blockquotes are totally the way to denote what someone else has said. You can see how to do blockquotes by clicking here.

    You wrote

    You are just accepting different faith-based propositions than you were before.

    This seems to express the view that fideism is at the root of the Catholic/Protestant dispute. That is, rational reasons are insufficient to justify Catholicism or Protestantism. I struggle to see why you think this’ll lead us to give up Catholicism – if reason is insufficient to adjudicate between the two, why do you care whether I choose to be Catholic or Protestant? My reasons for Catholicism are, by your lights, just as bad as your reasons for Protestantism (are as bad as a Muslim’s reasons for Islam, are as bad as an atheist’s reasons for atheism, etc.) Also, although you’re willing to concede the essentially fideistic nature of religion, it’s worth nothing that a wide swath of Christians (say, every OPC pastor I’ve had occasion to talk to) would strongly reject the assertion. Not just OPCers, of course, but the point still stands: Lots of people think they have rational reasons to prefer Protestantism to Catholicism, or their flavour of Protestantism to any other flavour. I don’t quite know what arguments you have in mind for arguing that religion is essentially fideistic, but if they’re anything like Kierkegaard, W. James, or Hume’s arguments, I’ve examined them and already found them to be false.

    The Motives of Credibility purport to be rational and not fideistic, but they’re not. You have to presuppose Catholic doctrine to find them credible.

    Well, I’d disagree (and for what it’s worth, I did disagree with that even as a Protestant). Let me give you two examples I worked through personally.

    1) Supposed contradictions in doctrine. If the Catholic Church’s claims for herself are true, then there will exist no contradictions between authoritatively-taught doctrines. This is to say that there will never be a time when doctrine X is taught as divinely revealed (hence binding on all the faithful) and a future time when the opposite of doctrine X is taught as divinely revealed. If such a contradiction genuinely exists, then Catholicism is false. But, significantly, one need not be Catholic to examine whether the Catholic church has in fact taught two doctrines that directly contradict each other.

    Having a finite amount of time, it seemed rather unreasonable to read each and every document put out by the Catholic Church to determine if it contradicted another. So the shortcut I opted for was to examine the purported contradictions (pointed out by Protestants and others) to see if, in fact, they were contradictions. I discovered that, of all the examples I could lay my hands on, they turned out to be other than genuine contradictions (many involved taking particular phrases out of context or were otherwise changes without being contradictions [which could be explained either via the development of doctrine, or via shifts in tone but not content, or via shifts in content about disciplines instead of doctrines, etc). To say what should be obvious, the lack of doctrinal contradictions does not prove that the Catholic Church is what she claims to be, but they ain’t called motives of proof anyways. :-p

    2) Marian apparitions. As a Protestant, I took an *extremely* skeptical stance towards the possibility that Mary would appear anywhere or say anything. Needless to say, some supposed appearances of Mary are clearly so much crazed rantings (and it was these that I tended to overweight in my analyses). But when I started to look at a wider swath of evidence, others of them are harder to dismiss.

    “Who cares?”, you might ask. I bring this up for two reasons: First, one doesn’t need to be Catholic (or have uniquely Catholic presuppositions) to examine the evidence for a purported apparition (say, at Lourdes) and decide on its likelihood of being genuine. Second, if indeed Mary did show up on Earth and say something (say, at Lourdes or Fatima), then the credibility of Catholicism/EO shoots way up (and the credibility of Protestantism falls down fast). Again, Mary’s appearing on Earth doesn’t *prove* that Catholicism is true, but it definitely makes it more likely than it would otherwise be – and you don’t have to be Catholic to take a good hard look at the evidence for, say, Fatima and decide that the reports are plausibly true (or not).

    This is why you (and perhaps us as well) need to lose the attitude of intellectual superiority and the (in your case) “I’ve found the one true church that Christ founded schtick”. I think this is what Hart might be getting at in comparing First Things and Francis the Nice to CTC.

    Well, if “intellectual superiority” = arrogance, then that definitely wasn’t what I was shooting for. Apologies extended. But if “intellectual superiority” = “I think I’m right”, well, I kinda do (and I have what seem to me good reasons for believing as I do). But if everyone who thinks they’ve found the Church founded by Christ inappropriately thinks himself “intellectually superior” (by your lights), you do realize you’ve just branded like 1.5 billion people with that label (and there are only like, what, 800 million protestants?) :-p

    And if Catholic arguments are so superior to Refomed arguments, then why are we always getting our “paradigm” thrown in our faces whenever we make an argument? If things we are saying are clearly not true they should be easily falsifiable using either your paradigm or ours.

    Uhm, paradigms come up whenever you’re comparing two belief systems that disagree about the first principles. If CtC and the Reformation has shown nothing else, it should have taught us that Catholics and Protestants disagree about first principles (Did Christ found an essentially visible or invisible church, say). As such, if you use Protestant first principles to disprove Catholicism, your argument won’t be compelling to Catholics (and if you use Catholic first principles to disprove Protestantism, the argument won’t be compelling to Protestants). Also, I dunno if I’d say that the best Protestant arguments are “clearly not true”; I think the best Protestant arguments are unsound (or the best ones I’ve encountered are unsound), but a reasonable person could disagree with me. In other words, you ain’t dumb for being a Protestant (even if I do think, ultimately, you’re wrong). :)

    The answer is that religious truth claims (at least those with any age on them) are generally not falsifiable….

    Uhm, unless you’re a liberal Protestant, you might want to be careful there. That the son is consubstantial with the father is not falsifiable, but plenty of religious truth claims are perfectly falsifiable (which is why I ain’t no fideist). That there was a dude named Jesus is an empirical claim. That he was executed by Romans is an empirical claim. That he rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures is an empirical claim (a claim which, if empirically falsified, means we’re all just wasting our time like St. Paul says). (Incidentally, that the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith is an empirical claim – one I have reasons for thinking rather less than plausible, but I wonder if on your view there’s any rational reason whatsoever to prefer Christianity to Mormon tritheism).

    if some of CTC’s writers would just lose the attitude we could all get along a lot better.

    Once again, though, who cares? CtC has presented arguments – and if those arguments are true (or false) nobody’s attitude matters. Bryan could be the world’s biggest jerk (he’s not) or I could be the world’s most obtuse nogoodnik (hopefully I’m not!) and it wouldn’t matter one whit. Validity and soundness (for deductive arguments) don’t depend on the speaker’s attitude. Likelihood (for inductive arguments) doesn’t depend on the speaker’s attitude.

    Honestly, I personally think we’d all get along best if we could ignore everyone’s attitude and get down to the arguments. Find one on this site (there are plenty) and show that it’s wrong. Show that the premises are false or that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises. Or, for inductive arguments, show that the likelihood of the premises does not justify accepting the conclusion. If Dr. Hart does that (rather than attacking Bryan’s marriage, for cryin’ out loud) then that’s the kind of thing that has a chance of convincing me that Protestantism is true. But ignoring an article’s arguments to take issue with its tone’ll get you nowhere.

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

    PS: Sorry for writing a novel. I accuse my parents? ;-) (MST3K joke, for those of you who don’t know…)

  325. Erik,

    I wrote, “Private judgment is only a problem when I use it like a Protestant and elevate it above things that the Church has taught with her full authority (for which nothing I have listed qualifies).” You responded:

    Of the close to 3,000 Q&A’s in the Roman Catholic catechism, how many would you say are things that the Church has taught with her full authority?

    I fail to see how that question is relevant to my overall point, which is that I wrote the post in question so as to counter Hart’s claim that all we converts talk about is the rosy parts of the CC, while never being willing to admit there are problems.

    Do you think a “pro choice” Catholic politician like Tom Harkin, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, or the late Ted Kennedy were acting contrary to something that the church has taught with her full authority in their enthusiastic embrace of abortion on demand? I’m being sincere in asking.

    Without being fully aware of what these politicians have actually said on the matter (if anything at all), my initial response would be to say yes.

    How are people in the cheap seats supposed to distinguish the difference?

    It’s a lot easier for a Catholic to know what counts as de fide dogma than it is for a Protestant to determine what counts as an “essential doctrine.” There are official documents he can consult, and there are priests and bishops from whom he can seek clarification. It’s not that hard, and it’s not as if the presence of disagreement proves the impossibility of there being an answer. Your liberal slip is showing again.

    After spending a year plus thinking about our (Reformed & Catholic) differences it has become clear to me that 95% of our disagreement comes down to the nature of the true church (“duh”, you probably say). You are more concerned with locating the true church in time and space, linking it back physically to Christ) and less concerned about it’s fruits being in accord with Scripture. We are more concerned with the marks of true churches being in accord with Scripture and less concerned with the time and space correlation (thus the accusations of ecclesiastical deism). It’s a fascinating and probably intractable debate.

    Yeah, the way I put it for the purposes of pithiness and brevity is saying that the Reformed view is “The church is where the gospel is,” while the Catholic position is that “The church is where the bishop is.” It’s more complex than that on both sides, of course, but it does come down to authority. As Paul says, “How shall they preach unless they are sent?” That said, the idea that a lack of piety, or the presence of bad fruit, negates ecclesial authority is both Donatist and non-Reformed (at least if the second Helvetic has anything to say about it).

    Personally I’m not very swayed by the ecclesiastical deism argument because we are talking about a God who saw fit to reduce the true church to one not overly virtuous family on a big boat at one time. We’ll keep talking, though.

    Cool. I would humbly suggest, though, that both the OT and NT teach that the new covenant is to be greater than the old, and that the Church (whatever is may be) is to be a worldwide and universal thing. Just saying.

  326. Erik (#313):

    You wrote:

    The Motives of Credibility purport to be rational and not fideistic, but they’re not. You have to presuppose Catholic doctrine to find them credible.

    I’ve often heard that assertion from Protestants, but rarely have I heard an argument for it that amounts to more than hand-waving. When I do hear a substantive argument, I rebut it. Have you got one?

    This is why you (and perhaps us as well) need to lose the attitude of intellectual superiority and the (in your case) “I’ve found the one true church that Christ founded schtick”. I think this is what Hart might be getting at in comparing First Things and Francis the Nice to CTC.

    Well, I’ve written a bit for First Things, and even worked there on contract for a while several years ago. In keeping with the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’ vision of a conservative journal of “religion and public life,” it places more emphasis on what Christians and Jews have in common than on what divides them. I was happy to contribute to that brand of ecumenism, because it makes the most sense when one’s audience is the broad “public square” where religion and politics meet. But that’s compatible with what CTC does, which is no different from what Fr. Neuhaus used to do when explaining, in the pages of FT and in a few of his books, why he converted to Catholicism from Lutheranism. This site just has a narrower, more focused mission than FT. To the extent CTC’s mission succeeds, it too will have contributed to the reunion of Christians in its own way.

    Pope Francis has not publicly expressed interest in getting Protestants to become Catholic because, as pope at this stage of history, he is far more concerned with getting the Catholic house in better order, where the “order” is understood in the terms he elaborates. I believe that too is a vital contribution to ecumenism. For if Catholics grow and change in the ways he advocates, the Church will be a more credible witness to that vast majority of people who either don’t know much or don’t care much about the sorts of theological considerations characteristic of this site.

    Best,
    Mike

  327. That said, the idea that a lack of piety, or the presence of bad fruit, negates ecclesial authority is both Donatist and non-Reformed (at least if the second Helvetic has anything to say about it).

    Right. But the claim isn’t that impiety negates ecclesial authority. It’s that impiety does a number on infallibility, which is entirely different. If the Bible is found to lie in one part, then it’s no longer infallible. It’s just wrong about which it lies and right about which it doesn’t. The same would seem to be true for the Magisterium or the General Assembly—if it is at any point impious then all claims to infallibility evaporate. The best it can be is sometimes right, sometimes wrong.

  328. Zrim, (re: #327)

    The best it can be is sometimes right, sometimes wrong.

    And that’s what we believe about popes. They are sometimes right and sometimes wrong. But when they speak with their full authority, they are protected from error by the Holy Spirit, as Lumen Gentium 25 explains. If you think that it is impossible for popes to be sometimes protected from error, then you cannot think that the authors of Scripture were at one time protected from error, in which case you lose the inerrancy of Scripture (or turn all the biblical authors into persons who never sinned).

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  329. Bryan, maybe the church doesn’t have to keep teaching what it taught, but is that wise (from an institution that is supposed to protect the church from error)?

    “. . . over the past four decades, self-reported church attendance has declined among “strong” Catholics as well as among Catholics overall. The share of all Catholics who say they attend Mass at least once a week has dropped from 47% in 1974 to 24% in 2012; among “strong” Catholics, it has fallen more than 30 points, from 85% in 1974 to 53% last year.

    “Among Protestants as a whole, self-reported church attendance has been fairly stable, although the share of those who attend at least once a week was somewhat higher in 2012 (38%) than in 1974 (29%). Self-reported church attendance among “strong” Protestants has fluctuated over the years, but the share of frequent attenders was not significantly different in 2012 (60%) than in 1974 (55%).” http://www.pewforum.org/2013/03/13/strong-catholic-identity-at-a-four-decade-low-in-us/#attend

    Sorry but this kind of denial is not at all intellectually satisfying (even if it works existentially for you).

  330. Darryl, (re: #329)

    Bryan, maybe the church doesn’t have to keep teaching what it taught, but is that wise (from an institution that is supposed to protect the church from error)?

    You’re misrepresenting what I said in #306. I didn’t say that the Church does not need to proclaim the truths she believes; of course she does. Rather, I said, “the Catholic Church does not have to keep repeating her dogmas, in order to preserve their truth. They remain true.”

    Sorry but this kind of denial is not at all intellectually satisfying (even if it works existentially for you).

    I don’t know what “denial” you are referring to, because you do not specify. And, again, it is not about anything being “intellectually satisfying;” it is about truth.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  331. Bryan,

    Thanks for your last response. I think we’re back on track now.

    Oh, well that’s a totally *different* claim. We were discussing whether Christ founded a Church (and you were trying to claim that He did so not literally, but only spiritually). Now you’ve switched to a different claim, namely, whether the Catholic Church (of 2013) *is* that same Church Christ founded. So, no, those paragraphs of Mystici don’t answer *that* question. That question is addressed in the quotations I provided in #307 above (and see paragraph #13 of Mystici).

    I don’t think confessional (Or for that matter many liberal) protestants are arguing that Christ didn’t found a church the question is exactly what that looked like and how close it is to the Catholic Church of today (And as a result is the same Holy Catholic Church). Unsurprisingly Mystici Corporis Christi’s description is that it looked pretty much like the 20th century Catholic Church. By the third century I think Mystici Corporis Christi’s description is a pretty accurate one. Early than that it’s dicier, and modern Catholic scholars (Like Raymond Brown) acknowledge that. There’s not nearly as many sources for the period and they’re really mixed (See Brown citation up thread). Obviously I don’t believe this rules out the Catholic Church from being the Church Christ Founded but it’s not an open and shut case.

    It is a dogma of the Church that the Sacrament of Holy Orders was instituted by Christ. (Canon 3 of Session 23 of Trent.) The matter of the sacrament of ordination is the laying on of hands, and that is essential to the validity of the sacrament. But, as there is baptism by desire, so there is also a moral contact possible in the sacrament of ordination, on the part of the one ordaining, as Pope Pius XII notes when he says, “We command that in conferring each Order the imposition of hands be done by physically touching the head of the person to be ordained, although a moral contact also is sufficient for the valid conferring of the Sacrament.” (Sacramentum Ordinis, 6) Without that matter and the essential form, there is no valid conferring of the sacrament. And he who lacks Orders, cannot give them. Hence, it follows by necessity that there can be valid Orders today only if there is an unbroken succession of ordinations extending back to the Apostles.

    Again I don’t think it’s controversial (Among confessional and liberal protestants) that Christ instituted Holy Orders (Or at least called and sent the Apostles who then did some calling and sending of their own). The question is how and how this is historically verified. Sacramentum Ordinis problematizes this a little by acknowledging the historical reality that there wasn’t always and everywhere the sort of physical contact that is customary today. This is fortunate as the paper trail on Holy Orders is really spotty. So the general rule in evaluating the validity of Orders winds up being moral and not historical. And the Catholic Church recognizes the validity of literally dozens of churches orders from Old Catholic, to Orthodox, to Oriental Orthodox churches.

    So the Catholic Church itself ends up arguing that there are literally dozens of churches which are the Church(s) Christ founded. Mainline and Confessional Protestant churches make the same sort of argument that Sacramentum Ordinis makes about moral contact for the validity of their own orders.

    This is why I think the whole Church that Christ Founded argument brings more heat than light to these discussions. I think the notion that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded is an important theological statement of the Catholic Faith. As far as a historical and ecclesiastical argument that dog isn’t going to hunt.

  332. Dan H. (re: #331)

    And the Catholic Church recognizes the validity of literally dozens of churches orders from Old Catholic, to Orthodox, to Oriental Orthodox churches.

    So the Catholic Church itself ends up arguing that there are literally dozens of churches which are the Church(s) Christ founded.

    No she doesn’t. Again, as I mentioned in #307, Unitatis Redintegratio teaches that “Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only.” (UR, 1) You are conflating the distinction between the Catholic Church, and *particular* Churches. The Oriental and Orthodox Churches are *particular* Churches. So is the Church at Rome. So is the Church in New York, the Church in Chicago, etc. Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis Christi, wrote (quoting Pope Leo XIII):

    But it is not enough that the Body of the Church should be an unbroken unity; it must also be something definite and perceptible to the senses as Our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, in his Encyclical Satis Cognitum asserts: “the Church is visible because she is a body. Hence they err in a matter of divine truth, who imagine the Church to be invisible, intangible, a something merely “pneumatological” as they say, by which many Christian communities, though they differ from each other in their profession of faith, are united by an invisible bond.

    Likewise Mysterium Ecclesiae (1973) says,

    The followers of Christ are therefore not permitted to imagine that Christ’s Church is nothing more than a collection (divided, but still possessing a certain unity) of Churches and ecclesial communities.

    In other words, the universal Church is not just a collection of particular Churches, however divided from each other they may be. The universal Church is that visible Body of those particular Churches in full communion with the successor of Peter. That’s the one and only Church Christ founded. To separate from Peter is to separate from the universal Church. No one can separate himself from full communion with Peter and yet remain a member of the universal Church. And the same is true of particular Churches. If a particular Church separates from Peter, it places itself in schism from the universal Church, as the Catechism teaches in CCC 2089.

    What is tripping you up regarding the claim that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded is your conflation of the universal Church and particular Churches.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  333. Bryan,

    No she doesn’t. Again, as I mentioned in #307, Unitatis Redintegratio teaches that “Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only.” (UR, 1) You are conflating the distinction between the Catholic Church, and *particular* Churches. The Oriental and Orthodox Churches are *particular* Churches. So is the Church at Rome. So is the Church in New York, the Church in Chicago, etc. Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis Christi, wrote (quoting Pope Leo XIII):

    I understand that this is the situation in the mind of the Catholic Church and is the underlying spiritual reality but it is not how these particular churches exist in the fallen world. In history these churches have at various times and in various places been in and out of communion with each other.

    But if I’m a Protestant and I say,

    “Bryan, why should I be Catholic?”

    And you say,

    “Because the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ Founded.”

    And I say,

    “Says who?”

    And you say,

    “The Catholic Church.”

    And I ask,

    “Why?”

    And you give me the argument you’ve given me, and I make the leap of faith from the third to the first century in terms of the historical record and then say,

    “How about that Assyrian Church of the East?”

    And you tell me,

    “No.”

    And I ask,

    “Why.”

    And you say,

    “Because the Catholic Church says so.”

    I’ll start to think that this is a shell game.

    I don’t think this is a problem with the Catholic Church, I think this is a problem with the argument.

    Historically it gets you back to the third century which is, I think, really really awesome. But there’s no straight ecclesiological and historical line back to the apostles. It’s really messy. And if I’ve got other issues (like justification) it’s going to be really tough to make that leap based on spotty evidence.

    And then Catholic Church, as she and the particular churches exist in the real world, isn’t the only church on the block that looks a lot like the third century. That historically speaking looks as much if not more like the Church Christ Founded.

    I think it’s a weak argument for Catholicism structurally in that it is non-unique. It’s also an argument both liberal and traditionalists Catholics would be really reluctant to make. I don’t really think there are any sort of “slam dunk” arguments for Catholicism. It’s too big, beautiful, and downright strange for that. There’s a lot of interesting approaches to the New Evangelization that don’t have these sorts of issues. There’s ways of talking about the Catholic faith that don’t result in historical and philosophical impasses.

  334. Dan H., (re: #333)

    I wrote everything I wrote to you on the presumption that you are Catholic, and therefore affirm by faith everything that the Catholic Church teaches about herself. Of course, if I were speaking to a non-Catholic, I wouldn’t appeal to the Church’s authoritative documents as *evidence* that she is the Church Christ founded. I would appeal to the motives of credibility.

    But at this point, I don’t know what exactly is your point.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  335. Dan H. you found it. Shell game. Motives of credibility? Another shell game. But an intellectually satisfying one, of course.

  336. Dr. Hart (#329),

    What conclusion am I to draw from your latest data element(s)? We could also site the explosion of Mormonism over the period, the strong increase in flavored oxygen bars, or the surge of organic food stores. Again, what is the conclusion?

    I think this is a case of a damned if we do, damned if we don’t. Examples:

    1. Note that other religious institutions or society at large suffers with sexual deviance, and that the bad-priest issue is not unique to the Catholic Church. We are putting our head in the sand. Come down hard on priests who are bad, and the Church is defectible, gotcha!

    2. Point out that society as a whole has moved away from traditional mores and practices, and that all institutions that hold fast to those (liturgy, morality, etc.), are losing a foothold in the culture — we are in denial. Show you that despite all of these trends in America, the developing world Church is growing at enormous rates and still good things are happening here — we are skirting the issue.

    I could go on. What you don’t think we all realize (I’m guessing), is the state of the Church in the western world in particular. However, we do. The West has a contracepted view of faith — give me what I want without any of the repercussions. Again, though, this is not a Catholic problem per se. It is, however, a BIG Catholic problem.

    We all see the problems in the Catholic Church. However, unlike Luther, we seek to solve those problems from within — not in schism from the Church Jesus founded. And, just like 400 years ago, the Church will go on, She will not fail, and the gates of hell will not prevail.

    There you go, triumphalism and all. : – )

  337. Dan H (#331):

    As I finished reading the latest contributions to this thread, I shared Bryan’s puzzlement about what, exactly, your point is. On second thought, however, it seems to me that your point is that the Catholic Church’s claims to be the Church Christ founded and to have valid Holy Order cannot be “historically verified.” Thus:

    Unsurprisingly Mystici Corporis Christi’s description is that it looked pretty much like the 20th century Catholic Church. By the third century I think Mystici Corporis Christi’s description is a pretty accurate one. Early than that it’s dicier, and modern Catholic scholars (Like Raymond Brown) acknowledge that. There’s not nearly as many sources for the period and they’re really mixed (See Brown citation up thread). Obviously I don’t believe this rules out the Catholic Church from being the Church Christ Founded but it’s not an open and shut case.

    and

    Again I don’t think it’s controversial (Among confessional and liberal protestants) that Christ instituted Holy Orders (Or at least called and sent the Apostles who then did some calling and sending of their own). The question is how and how this is historically verified. Sacramentum Ordinis problematizes this a little by acknowledging the historical reality that there wasn’t always and everywhere the sort of physical contact that is customary today. This is fortunate as the paper trail on Holy Orders is really spotty. So the general rule in evaluating the validity of Orders winds up being moral and not historical.

    Notwithstanding the rather Catholic-sounding things said by Sts. Ignatius of Antioch (early 2nd century) and St. Polycarp (early to mid-2nd century) and St. Irenaeus (late-2nd century), you see it as a problem that the documentary evidence prior to AD 200 does not suffice to actually verify the aforementioned claims. I shall now explain why that should not be seen as a problem.

    First, and as you acknowledge, the documentary evidence after AD 200 presents an essentially Catholic picture on the two points at issue: the Church’s foundation, and apostolic succession of orders. This suggests that, if the Church before 200 was different enough to have lacked a Catholic self-understanding on those points, the later developments must have been a pretty sharp break with the past. But there is little evidence to show that such a break occurred. Of course the sparsity of such evidence does not show that such a break did not occur. By the same token, however, one cannot infer, from the sparsity of evidence showing continuity, that such a break did occur. From the standpoint of deductive logic, the matter is a wash. From the standpoint of inductive logic, however, the evidence we have from after 200, along with the sparsity of evidence for discontinuity, makes it more likely than not that what came after was continuous with what came before.

    Second and in general, inductive support from purely empirical data (historical or otherwise) is the most we can expect for matters de fide. If what is “of faith” could be proven by human reason alone, the gift and virtue of faith would be unnecessary. Now the Catholic Church’s teachings concerning her foundation and apostolic succession are de fide. Assent to them is by faith, not by reason alone. So we should not expect that they could be proven or “verified” simply by examining the overall body of historical data available to us. But faith is not and should not be contrary to reason. Accordingly, we should at least expect that such teachings make sense of the data we do have, typically in terms of that form of inductive reasoning called “inference to the best explanation.” And, for the reason I gave in the previous paragraph, that is indeed the case. So the fact that the Church’s claims for herself cannot, for the reasons you give, be “historically verified,” is not a problem. In a way, it is just what one should expect.

    Best,
    Mike

  338. And that’s what we believe about popes. They are sometimes right and sometimes wrong. But when they speak with their full authority, they are protected from error by the Holy Spirit, as Lumen Gentium 25 explains. If you think that it is impossible for popes to be sometimes protected from error, then you cannot think that the authors of Scripture were at one time protected from error, in which case you lose the inerrancy of Scripture (or turn all the biblical authors into persons who never sinned).

    Bryan, it’s the “sometimes” that bothers. How can an infallible source, textual or personal, ever be said to be sometimes wrong (as opposed to always right)? What happens when you apply that bog standard to the Bible? I don’t see how its reliability goes out the window. If ever wrong then never infallible. But it’s not impossible for popes to sometimes to be in some sense “protected from error.” They can speak truthfully just as much as I can, but how either of us are said to be more than inerrant but also infallible when we do is the problem. It’s a question of inherent nature. It’s also a question of how a speaker is judged to be speaking right or wrong. I’m judged by my lining up with the Bible, the pope is judged by the authority of his succession. In other words, it’s a double standard and one designed to give the pope a status of uber-humanity or what Paul called super-apostleship.

  339. Zrim (re: #338)

    How can an infallible source, textual or personal, ever be said to be sometimes wrong (as opposed to always right)?

    As I already explained, unless you think all the authors of Scripture were sinless throughout their whole lives, you already have your answer.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  340. Michel,

    Re: The Motives of Credibility

    I don’t want to be too hard on Bryan because he’s willing to come into hostile territory and debate, but I don’t think this particular one went well for him. You’re welcome to disagree, of course.

    http://literatecomments.com/2013/02/28/do-roman-catholics-use-circular-reasoning-a-good-debate-with-bryan-cross-at-oldlife-org/

    Jeff Cagle, who doesn’t come around Old Life much anymore, does a particularly good job of holding Bryan’s feet to the fire.

  341. Erik – Of the close to 3,000 Q&A’s in the Roman Catholic catechism, how many would you say are things that the Church has taught with her full authority?

    Jason – I fail to see how that question is relevant to my overall point, which is that I wrote the post in question so as to counter Hart’s claim that all we converts talk about is the rosy parts of the CC, while never being willing to admit there are problems.

    Erik – Does that mean you can’t or won’t answer my question? I’m not asking for an exact count. What I am getting at is the hedging that we constantly have to deal with from Catholics. You guys are shape shifters and it drives us nuts. I would assert that a Catechism with close to 3,000 questions is part of the problem. You guys can pull about anything you want out of your hats to justify what you do or believe as it suits you, but then deny virtually the same thing you have previously affirmed as it suits you as well. We, on the other hand, with much shorter Confessions and Catechisms lay out what we believe relatively clearly and simply and invite you to have at it.

  342. @Zrim (#338):

    If ever wrong then never infallible.

    To expand on what Bryan said a bit, if this is your operating principle then it’ll require you to give up on Biblical inerrancy. But if it won’t require you to give up on Biblical inerrancy then Catholics are out of hot water. Here’s why.

    You’ve asserted that if someone is ever wrong then they’re never infallible. But Peter was wrong at least once in his life (and, if he was sinful, he was wrong rather more times than once!) So if Peter was wrong at least once in his life, he is never infallible. Peter also wrote the Petrine epistles (1st and 2nd Peter). He (their author) was never infallible, so the texts themselves must be fallible. And if 1st and 2nd Peter are fallible, buh bye Biblical inerrancy for 1st and 2nd Peter. (And, obviously, this argument is not unique to Peter – it could easily be iterated for every author of Scripture who has ever been wrong once in his life, which is to say all of them).

    But if you hold that Scripture is without error despite the fact that its authors were ever once wrong, then you’ll need a principled reason for that. And whatever principled reason you give will be a Catholic’s grounds for holding that ex cathedra proclamations are without error despite the fact that its author was ever once wrong. Capisce?

  343. Michael,

    Second and in general, inductive support from purely empirical data (historical or otherwise) is the most we can expect for matters de fide. If what is “of faith” could be proven by human reason alone, the gift and virtue of faith would be unnecessary. Now the Catholic Church’s teachings concerning her foundation and apostolic succession are de fide. Assent to them is by faith, not by reason alone. So we should not expect that they could be proven or “verified” simply by examining the overall body of historical data available to us. But faith is not and should not be contrary to reason. Accordingly, we should at least expect that such teachings make sense of the data we do have, typically in terms of that form of inductive reasoning called “inference to the best explanation.” And, for the reason I gave in the previous paragraph, that is indeed the case. So the fact that the Church’s claims for herself cannot, for the reasons you give, be “historically verified,” is not a problem. In a way, it is just what one should expect.

    Exactly!!!

    I don’t have a problem, as a Catholic, saying that I’m a Catholic because the Church is the Church Christ founded but in doing so I am making a faith claim.

    I have a problem telling a Protestant that they should be Catholic on the basis of historical study. The Catholic Church itself recognizes particular Churches that exist in the world as separate churches and in their own self understanding as the Church/and or Churches that Christ Founded. There are other churches/ecclesial communities which the Church does not recognize as particular churches that could make similar historical claims (Church of England, many of the Lutheran Churches, etc.).

    At the end of the day however, as Bryan pointed out (Sacramentum Ordinis, 6), continuity can be preserved by “moral contact” as well. Isn’t this sort of “moral contact” exactly what Protestant’s claim they have to Christ and the apostles through the Scriptures?

    So the argument falls back onto what constitutes “moral contact”, what’s a valid link the the Church Christ founded? And that’s how we return to the impasse.

  344. Erik (#340):

    After the half-hour or so I’ve been able to devote to following that Old Life thread, it seems to me that Bryan did pretty well. Could you sum up for me here exactly where, after all is said and done, you think he fails?

    Best,
    Mike

  345. Benjamin, I’m saying there is an essential difference between the Word of God and human beings, such that the infallibility of the former isn’t dependent upon the piety of the latter. So it doesn’t matter if the authors of Scripture were ever wrong about something or otherwise impious. I don’t see how your reasoning isn’t subject to the Donatist charge, namely that the efficacy of the Word of God turns upon the piety of its writers, nor how your reasoning isn’t simply the flip side of Donatism, which is to say that since Peter wrote an infallible text it must mean he was himself infallible (as are those who come after, which is odd since they never wrote any Scripture).

  346. Dan H (#343):

    Thanks for the clarification. We agree that Catholics cannot convince Protestants to be Catholic on the basis of historical considerations alone, and must fall back on theological considerations. But I’m still unclear about what the problem is supposed to be.

    Your use of the universal/particular distinction in ecclesiology strikes me as beside the point. In terms of Catholic ecclesiology, “the” Church Christ founded, which is the universal Church, “subsists” as a unitary whole only in the Roman communion. But that is fully compatible with there being “true, particular churches” that have gone into schism with Rome, and thus are not in full communion with her. The Church Christ founded consisted from the beginning in the universal Church represented and governed by the Apostles he appointed, with Peter as their leader; the particular churches they founded belong to said Church; but that doesn’t mean every particular church founded by the Apostles or their successors will always remain in full communion with the universal Church. The universal or “Catholic” Church remains what she is: the communion of churches in full communion with the Church of Rome. Can that be proven by historical considerations? Of course not. It’s an ecclesiology: a set of interlinked theological doctrines, for which historical considerations are always relevant yet never decisive. But I do not understand why that is supposed to be a problem, and you haven’t really explained why.

    The real problem bothering you, it seems to me, is this:

    So the argument falls back onto what constitutes “moral contact”, what’s a valid link the the Church Christ founded? And that’s how we return to the impasse.

    The apparent “impasse” arises from the fundamental difference of interpretive paradigm between Catholicism and Protestantism. On the Protestant one (the “PIP”), one strives to answer your question by examining the early “sources” and deciding for oneself which church’s way of interpreting them is correct. But since the PIP no more admits ecclesial than individual infallibility, such theological conclusions as we may draw from the early sources must, on the PIP, remain a matter of opinion. And that’s something quite different from assenting to articles of faith on divine authority–even on the (fallible) supposition that Scripture inerrantly records divine revelation. No amount of historical study and interpretation is going to yield such articles. On the CIP, however, the early sources–i.e. the New Testament and writings from the first few generations after the Apostles–can be so interpreted as to yield articles of faith by accepting how the teaching authority of the Church interprets them when teaching with its full and thus infallible authority. Needless to say, the early sources cannot, taken in isolation from said authority, prove its claims for itself. Nor are those claims proven by the mere fact that said authority makes them. So prima facie, there does appear to be an “impasse.”

    But there isn’t, really. What we should assent to, as believers, are not just human theological opinions but articles of faith proposed on divine authority. Since it eschews ecclesial as well as individual infallibility, the PIP has no room for that. For all the PIP can tell us, we could all be wrong even when affirming scriptural inspiration and inerrancy. We could all be wrong in distinguishing between what belongs in Scripture and what does not, between what it’s “essential” to believe and what it’s not. The only way to get theological conclusions that are not merely human opinions, but articles of faith propounded on divine authority, is to locate and identify “the” Church which Christ founded and to which transmitted his infallible teaching authority through the Apostles. Does that seal the case for the Catholic Church? Of course not. If one premises that all mere humans are fallible all the time–which is not an unreasonable premise–then one is going to see the Catholic Church’s claims for herself as false, and eventually be forced to admit that these matters must ultimately remain ones of opinion. But if one is to believe articles of faith propounded on divine authority–as I think believers should–then the CIP is a far better way to go.

    Best,
    Mike

  347. Michael,

    Awesome. This really helps me see where your coming from. I’m reminded of how once Karl Rahner was asked what he thought about converts to Catholicism and his response was basically, “I’m not even sure how one would do that.” Basically he couldn’t see how one could leave PIP or enter CIP. Upon learning of my conversion to Catholicism a Catholic friend responded, “I thought we were like the Jews, you just sort of are.”

    It seems to me that both PIP and CIP are like the Hotel California, you can check out but you can never leave. The Catholic Church’s sacramental theology makes this explicit (Aside from this curious detour: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formal_act_of_defection_from_the_Catholic_Church), you can be a bad Catholic, you can be under discipline, but you can never be not Catholic. You’re indelibly marked.

    But how can one convert into the Catholic Church without, “examining the early “sources” and deciding for oneself which church’s way of interpreting them is correct.”? That is a tough nut to crack.

    As a convert your religious assent to the claims of the Catholic Church are necessarily the product of PIP. This is always something chosen in a way that it’s not for a cradle Catholic.

    Or is it…

    Canon 891 of the Code of Canon Law stipulates that confirmands reach, “the age of discretion” prior to being confirmed. This implies an individual choice or judgement being made. Does not the Catholic Church itself mandate that all those seeking confirmation engage in PIP?

  348. @Steve/Zrim (#345),

    Hey man. I’m a bit busy here so I’ll briefly reply and if I miss something please let me know. Incidentally, do you prefer to be called Steve or Zrim? (Or something else?) :-)

    I’m saying there is an essential difference between the Word of God and human beings, such that the infallibility of the former isn’t dependent upon the piety of the latter.

    I don’t know if we’re talking past each other now (‘cuz that’s never once happened in the history of Protestant/Catholic dialogue ever), but I agree with what you write there. Not only do I agree with that, I also agree with the following claim: “There is an essential difference between ex cathedra proclamations and human beings, such that the infallibility of the former isn’t dependent upon the piety of the latter”.

    See, I thought you were saying (and maybe I was wrong?) that you were accepted Biblical infallibilty but rejected ex cathedra infallibility. The reason I understood you to give for accepting one but rejecting the other was that popes are sometimes wrong (which I agree with), and “If [someone is] ever wrong then [they’re] never infallible.” I then replied (trying to) point out that if that was correct, then your argument will indeed dismantle ex cathedra infallibility – but it’ll also destroy Biblical infallibility (inerrency) as well.

    But the Catholic isn’t in the same boat since he accepts both Biblical infallibility and ex cathedra infallibility. You accept the former but not the latter. I was trying to show that the reason you gave for rejecting the former but not the latter would in fact lead you to reject both. So all of what I wrote was trying to examine an implication of your claim that one’s ever being wrong prevents one from being infallible. Hopefully that makes more sense now?

    If so, I suspect that’ll clear up some of your worries about Donatism. (Also, I loves my Augustine, so I’m a real hater when it comes to Donatism). Catholics/I don’t believe that Biblical efficacy relies on the holiness of its authors, nor do Catholics/I believe that Peter was infallible in all he did. What I was trying to spell out was not my view but an implication of your view (namely, that the argument you gave entails the rejection of both Biblical and ex cathedra infallibility).

    Gotta dash, but hopefully that helps somewhat. Have yourself a great day!

    Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  349. Michael – Could you sum up for me here exactly where, after all is said and done, you think he fails?

    Erik – I don’t think he ever answers Cagle’s challenges and in the end has to resort to appealing to Jeff’s (and the other P&R guys’) lack of charity. This is noteworthy because it is the only time I can recall in debate where Bryan has done this. Normally he is on the offensive, attacking the other side’s logical shortcomings from the get-go. This was the first time I have seen him take what I would characterize as a defensive posture for most if not all of the debate. If you want to revive the same debate there and think you can do better, feel free.

    To quote Hart on that thread:

    Bryan, what could be better evidence of circularity than your rejection of Jeff’s claims by attributing them to a lack of charity for the church? If Jeff has proper charity he’ll interpret the article correctly. So his reason depends on his love. That is not logical. The logic depends on something extra to the propositions.

    I think you are so wound up in circles that you don’t see how fideistic you sound.

  350. Hey Erick (@340),

    If I could second Mike L’s request, I definitely would. You sent a link to a link to an article with 200+ comments on it. If you were suggesting just reading the article, I could make that happen. But since my time isn’t as infinite as I’d like it to be (ha!), the odds of my reading the article, the 200+ comments on it, and figuring out which of Cagle’s comments contain the arguments you’re alluding, are basically zilch.If you want to point me to one or two particular comments (which have the argument you found compelling in them), or just summarize whatever argument you found compelling, that’d be super helpful for those of us with three kids. :-p

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  351. Benjamin,

    If you think your Catholic faith is justified by reason alone you owe it to yourself to read the debate. If you aren’t really concerned, that’s fine. The topic of the debate is to what degree the motives of credibility rely on circular reasoning. Those holding to “Sola Scriptura” admit that we are using circular reasoning (at least somewhat) and are fine with that. Catholics seek to deny it because an admission would be fideism, which the church has condemned. We don’t think it can be denied, though. Another fascinating debate.

  352. I think Bryan’s problem in that debate is the same problem that CTC (and some of the more dogmatic & stubborn Popes throughout history) suffers from in general. It’s like you have a football team and you’re not content with going 6-3 and making the playoffs — you have to go 12-0, win each game by 50 points, and win the state championship or the season was a waste of time.

    Apologetics (which the MOC are) are not so much to rationally convince a skeptic as they are to bolster the faith of those who already want to believe. This is why it’s no shame for them to contain elements of circularity. Bryan (in faithfully trying to defend what the church has said about fideism) insists on no circularity whatsoever and is fighting an unwinnable battle.

    It’s interesting to compare the MOC to Van Til’s presuppositional approach to apologetics which basically says that we as Reformed people are to proclaim the Word of God as true not only because of the impossibility of the contrary (no ground for laws of logic, laws of nature, or laws of morality), but because that Scripture itself teaches that no one will embrace the gospel unless God has called them to. In other words, we have nothing to lose because if we are successful it is God’s doing and it we are unsuccessful it’s God’s doing. In essence it’s all highly circular, and we readily embrace that.

  353. Benjamin, it seems to me you’re using words interchangeably here and it ends up moving goal posts. What I am saying is that when a pope speaks correctly that is all he is doing and that just because he speaks correctly it doesn’t mean he speaks infallibly. It means he speaks at times inerrantly and at others errantly.

    But if we’re talking about implications, it also seems to me that when you say an infallible personal source can speak errantly, e.g. the pope, then how does that not imply that we could say the same thing about an infallible textual source, e.g. the Bible? In other words, if the pope can retain inherent infallibility even when he’s wrong then so can the Bible, in which case biblical reliability goes out the window. But unlike the efficacy of the Bible depending on human piety, infallibility does depend on inerrancy, which means a source (personal or textual) is only as infallible as it is inerrant. That is to say, I am working with a more strident definition of infallibility than you seem to be. The one you’re working with seems to put the Bible on the block by expanding it to errant sources able to retain their infallibility. The only way to do that is hocus-pocus.

    Ps sorry about the name mix up, used different machines with different default settings or something. “You can call me Ray or you can call me Jay, but you can’t call me Jackson.” Or whatever.

  354. Mike (re#337),

    I agree that the Catholic Church’s claims about herself cannot be strictly proved, but I think merely saying so without further clarification will mislead a lot of your Protestant readers. I think they will be confused by how Catholics seem to say, on the one hand, that the motives of credibility are independent facts that rationally support the truth of the Catholic Church’s claims, but say, on the other hand, that they fall short of a proof. I think this is why, in comment #313, Erik Charter thinks that the motives of credibility are “fideistic” and why, in comment #335, dghart thinks that the motives of credibility are a “shell game.”

    If I understand Catholic teaching correctly, the motives of credibility serve to make the Catholic Church’s claims “evidently credible.” As an analogy, let us take a witness that relates to you events that you did not experience. The motives of credibility for that witness do not serve to make those events evident to you. Rather, what they establish is that the witness is credible, and you can assuredly trust what he says. In this analogy, the Catholic Church is the witness and the testimony she offers is God’s revelation. The motives of credibility establish that the Catholic Church is a credible witness, or worthy of belief. What is interesting about this is that anyone can interrogate the witness in this way and arrive at a kind of “natural faith” just based on lines of evidence. I think this was always implicit in the theology of divine faith found in Aquinas, but it was fully brought to my attention by the theologian Louis Billot.

    So everyone agrees that the testimony cannot be made evident or proved, but I think where you have disagreed with others, Mike, is what can be known about the witness by reason alone. Vatican I seems to teach that the divine origin of the Catholic Church can be “known” and “proved” by at least external signs like miracles. And that’s pretty much all we need to know about the witness, right? And I agree with Vatican I – whether we’re talking about the Resurrection, post-apostolic miracles like Marian Apparitions, Eucharistic miracles, healings, etc. – all of these things can be investigated by reason alone and seem to establish the credibility of the witness.

    Just my thoughts.

    -Cormano

  355. Steve,

    The dogma of papal infallibility includes inerrancy, but not in the tautological sense that whenever the pope happens to say something true he is not saying something false, nor in the sense of being “inherently” infallible in his person, such that whatever he happens to say or write is ipso facto without error. Rather, the teaching of the pope is without error under certain specified conditions, namely:

    … when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

    The relevant similarity between papal infallibility / inerrancy and biblical infallibility / inerrancy is this:

    The human authors of sacred scripture are protected from writing error, not in the merely tautological sense that whenever they happen to write something true they are not wrong, nor in the sense that they are inherently infallible in themselves, such that anything that they happened to write would be ipso facto inerrant. Rather, the human authors of sacred scripture were infallible under a specific condition; namely, whenever they were writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, the biblical authors were inerrant.

    It should be easy to see that neither papal infallibility / inerrancy nor biblical infallibility / inerrancy depends upon the piety of the pope or of the biblical authors. Both depend upon the gift of the Holy Spirit. (It is important to note that, although inspiration implies infallibility, infallibility does not imply inspiration. These are two distinct spiritual gifts, the differences being the subject of this post.)

  356. Ben, (re: #350)

    I’ll summarize the discussion that took place between Jeff Cagle and myself on that thread. Jeff initially made the claim “It’s not hard to establish the circularity of your position.” So then he offered an argument which he presumed to be mine, and showed that it was circular. I pointed out that it was not my argument, and that what he was treating as “motives of credibility” were actually articles of faith, and thus that he was constructing a straw man. He kept offering revised versions, and in each case I pointed out that what he was treating as motives of credibility were actually articles of faith, and wasn’t avoiding the strawman problem. Finally he gave up trying to make that argument, and asked, “What are the claims to authority that can be warranted by the motives of credibility?” And that’s where we left it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  357. Bryan,

    I just got through reading all the comments on that post. I have to point out that unlike most of your other interlocutors on that thread, Jeff Cagle was charitable in his responses and engaged you civilly in debate without resorting to ad hominems and derisive scoffing.

    Keep the faith,

    Dan

  358. Andrew, you seem to be saying that just as when the biblical authors wrote the books of the Bible they were divinely protected from error thus infallible so is the pope protected and infallible when he speaks ex cathedra. You then want to say that infallibility doesn’t imply inspiration, such that whatever the pope says isn’t tantamount to Scripture. But that just seems arbitrary and your case not very compelling.

    If I tell me wife the sky is blue and God is one and she should believe me not just because I am right but because I speak infallibly, she would be right to question my implication that I speak with divine speech. She would also be right to tell me to be satisfied with simply having it right and to stop short of this infallibility business. And I would be passive-aggressive to at once deny implying divine speech and insist on having spoken infallibly. And she would be questing for a kind of certainty not afforded in this age if she could only believe that the sky is blue and God is one if on top of simply affirming what is true also had to assign infallibility to my speech.

  359. Hello Dan (re: #357)

    Jeff, Brandon, and Justin were all quite charitable.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  360. Zrim (@353:)

    You wrote:

    it seems to me you’re using words interchangeably here and it ends up moving goal posts…

    The sentiment is mutual, but I do think I have a better grip on what you’ve been trying to argue all along thanks to your last comment. Just to make sure we’re on the same page, though, I’m going to explain what I think your thesis is, and then I’m going to explain what I think your argument for it is. Then, in a reply, you’ll (hopefully) indicate whether my summary is accurate or inaccurate. We can then proceed appropriately.

    Your thesis is: If Papal infallibility is true, then Biblical Reliability is false.
    (where “Biblical Reliability” is something like the thesis that “Everything in the Bible is reliably true”)

    Your argument for this thesis is:
    1. If an infallible person can be errant, then an infallible text can be errant
    2. An infallible person can be errant (Assumption accepted by Catholics – the Pope is such a person)
    3. So, an infallible text can be errant (1,2)
    4. The Bible is an infallible text (Assumption accepted by Catholics)
    5. So, the Bible can be errant (3, 4)
    6. If the Bible can be errant, then Biblical Reliability is false (assumption)
    7. So, Biblical Reliability is false. (6,5)

    This is my attempt to summarize your position (thesis + argument) as best as I understand it. Have I done so accurately? Have you any modifications to make to what I’ve written?

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  361. Prophecy and miracles are divine facts. Is the virtue of divine faith a divine fact or motive of credibility ? If not, then how does the individual catholic know they have it ?

    Thanks,
    Eric

  362. Bryan (at 338) you likened the sinfulness of the biblical writers to that of the popes. So are you likening the teaching of the papacy (and magisterium) to that of Scripture. Is the church infallible the way Scripture is? I mean, Scripture is infallible all the time. So far the papacy has spoken infallibly only twice (out of a lot of speaking).

  363. Steve,

    That is an accurate summary of what I am saying. However, your illustration does not show that the distinction between inspiration and infallibility is arbitrary, nor does it show the latter gift to be needless. What your illustration does show is that when confronted with a claim of infallibility (or inspiration, for that matter) a wise person will test that claim to see whether and to what degree it is plausible. In your illustration, the claim to inerrancy does not seem to be plausible at all. But the Church’s claims that the Bible is inspired and inerrant and that the pope is inerrant under specified circumstances, though of course many people find one or both claims to be implausible, are significantly different from your example (in form and content), so the analogy fails.

  364. Eric,

    The virtue of faith is not a motive of credibility since, as a habit of the soul, and unlike fulfilled prophecies and miracles, the formal habit of virtue is not something open to public investigation so as to lend credibility to the one who possesses it. The virtue of faith is a supernatural habit of the soul. Habits are, in general, ordered toward action. One knows he possesses a habit when he acts in accord with that habit. When one acts naturally and spontaneously in accord with a habit that fulfills human nature, one is said to possess a virtuous habit – or a virtue. In the realm of natural virtues, one knows he possesses a virtue such as temperance when he finds himself naturally and spontaneously guiding his appetites in accord with what fulfils his nature. Likewise with the supernatural virtue of faith, one knows that he possesses the virtue of divine faith when he is in the habit of naturally and spontaneously assenting with the will to the articles of faith – i.e. when he naturally and spontaneously makes acts of faith. For the habit of willful assent, or making acts of faith, is precisely what the “virtue of divine faith” entails.

    Pax Christi,

  365. Benjamin (re 360), seems more or less what I am saying. The basic point is that infallibility seems inherently to preclude a source may ever err at any point. But if the human source may err at any point then why not the textual source (unless you allow for double standards for infallibility)? And if the textual source may err then infallibility seems to disintegrate.

    Andrew (re 362), the test of the claim to infallibility is whether the claimant is inherently divine, and since I am not in any way divine but only human then my claim to infallibility fails. I am simply correct in saying the sky is blue and God is one.

  366. Which Protestants claim the bible’s infallibility and do they speak for all Protestants? among the 47 different reformed groups Is there an authoritative source or confession agreed upon and on what grounds?

  367. Steve,

    I am not sure what you mean by a claimant to infallibility being “inherently divine.” Do you mean that the claimant must be God, in order for the claim to be true? This seems to be problematic for the doctrine of the infallibility of scripture, since not all of the authors of scripture are God. In any case, some of the human (i.e., not inherently divine) authors of scripture claim, at least implicitly, that what they are writing is infallible, their own non-inherently-divine status notwithstanding.

  368. Brent, I don’t know what blog you’re reading, but I never hear about the sexual abuse scandal or any social decline at CTC. Remember, it’s all about an intellectually satisfying faith. That’s why so much talk about theory and little notice of the real world.

  369. Dan H (#347):

    You wrote:

    It seems to me that both PIP and CIP are like the Hotel California, you can check out but you can never leave. The Catholic Church’s sacramental theology makes this explicit (Aside from this curious detour: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formal_act_of_defection_from_the_Catholic_Church), you can be a bad Catholic, you can be under discipline, but you can never be not Catholic. You’re indelibly marked.

    I do not agree. From the fact, if it is a fact, that “once-Catholic-always-Catholic” (exceptions aside), it does not follow that one will always accept or even understand the Catholic interpretive paradigm. In fact, many nominal Catholics neither understand nor accept the CIP, and end up joining Protestant churches. From the fact, if it is a fact, that one is or becomes a Protestant, it does not follow that one will never see a way out of the Protestant interpretive paradigm, follow it, and then adopt the CIP. In fact, the main authors at this site were all Protestants who did just that.

    But how can one convert into the Catholic Church without, “examining the early “sources” and deciding for oneself which church’s way of interpreting them is correct.”? That is a tough nut to crack. As a convert your religious assent to the claims of the Catholic Church are necessarily the product of PIP. This is always something chosen in a way that it’s not for a cradle Catholic.

    Or is it…

    There are many respectable ways in which people decide to become Catholic, without conducting a careful scholarly examination of the early sources. Some of them are quite striking. Surely you know that. Or are you prepared to argue that the only respectable way would involve conducting such an examination?

    But let’s suppose, for argument’s sake, that we’re dealing with somebody who has decided to become Catholic on just such a basis. She studies Scripture and the early Church fathers in an academically respectable way, reaches the conclusion that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded, and joins said church. Now what? Is her belief still just an opinion of hers that could just as well change, if further evidence from 1st- and 2nd-century Christianity emerges and causes her to doubt that belief? Well, if that’s how she sees the matter, then she hasn’t really converted to Catholicism. She is still a Protestant, an adherent of the PIP, who happens to believe for the time being that the Catholic Church is the denomination with the strongest credentials.

    Becoming a Catholic means that one recognizes the Magisterium as the “sole authentic interpreter” of the Word, written or otherwise, handed on to us from Jesus through the Apostles. In that capacity, the Magisterium is divinely protected from error when teaching with its full authority. But such conclusions are not ones that can be reached merely by an academically respectable study of the early sources. For the Catholic as such, studying the early sources can and should confirm the Church’s claims for herself, but it cannot establish them to be begin with; it can only provide some reasons for believing them. For the Catholic as such, it is only by encountering and submitting to the authority of Christ embodied in the Church, which is his Body, that one can assent to what is proposed to us by God as being “of faith,” as opposed to just a theological opinion.

    Given all that, it’s perfectly OK for a Catholic as such to study and interpret the early sources, if she has the opportunity and inclination to do so, so long as she doesn’t think that’s either necessary or sufficient to justify being Catholic. From that point of view, the PIP goes wrong not by studying and interpreting the early sources, but by insisting that such a procedure, conducted without relying on some allegedly “infallible” authority, is the supreme and normative way by which the Christian comes to learn and understand what God has revealed.

    Best,
    Mike

  370. Joseph,

    Which Protestants claim the bible’s infallibility and do they speak for all Protestants? among the 47 different reformed groups Is there an authoritative source or confession agreed upon and on what grounds?

    Between* 59-88% of Evangelicals, between 22-60% of Mainline, and between 62-84% of Historically Black Protestants believe in the bible’s infallibility. So on the low end 46% and on the high end 78% of Protestant’s believe in the infallibility of the Bible.

    Some Protestant denominations explicitly affirm the Bibles infallibility, some explicitly deny it, and some do not hold to any one position.

    Some Protestant’s hold a wide range of different confessions and attitudes toward the authority of those confessions. Others affirm no authoritative confession or explicitly forbid confessional or authoritative statements of any kind.

    *Low end are people who tell Pew that the Bible is “Word of God, literally true word for word” while the high end also includes those who answer that the Bible is “Word of God, but not literally true word for word.” I haven’t seen any large surveys that use the language of infallibility.

  371. Erik Charter:

    Answering my request, you wrote in #349:

    I don’t think [Bryan] ever answers Cagle’s challenges and in the end has to resort to appealing to Jeff’s (and the other P&R guys’) lack of charity.

    Well, that’s not how I saw the discussion. I saw it the way Bryan describes it in #356:

    Jeff Cagle initially made the claim “It’s not hard to establish the circularity of your position.” So then he offered an argument which he presumed to be mine, and showed that it was circular. I pointed out that it was not my argument, and that what he was treating as “motives of credibility” were actually articles of faith, and thus that he was constructing a straw man. He kept offering revised versions, and in each case I pointed out that what he was treating as motives of credibility were actually articles of faith, and wasn’t avoiding the strawman problem. Finally he gave up trying to make that argument, and asked, “What are the claims to authority that can be warranted by the motives of credibility?” And that’s where we left it.

    Are you prepared to argue that Bryan is summarizing the discussion inaccurately?

    In #350, you write:

    Apologetics (which the MOC are) are not so much to rationally convince a skeptic as they are to bolster the faith of those who already want to believe. This is why it’s no shame for them to contain elements of circularity. Bryan (in faithfully trying to defend what the church has said about fideism) insists on no circularity whatsoever and is fighting an unwinnable battle.

    It’s interesting to compare the MOC to Van Til’s presuppositional approach to apologetics which basically says that we as Reformed people are to proclaim the Word of God as true not only because of the impossibility of the contrary (no ground for laws of logic, laws of nature, or laws of morality), but because that Scripture itself teaches that no one will embrace the gospel unless God has called them to. In other words, we have nothing to lose because if we are successful it is God’s doing and it we are unsuccessful it’s God’s doing. In essence it’s all highly circular, and we readily embrace that.

    Suppose for argument’s sake that the purpose of “apologetics” is just what you say: “not so much to rationally convince a skeptic as they are to bolster the faith of those who already want to believe.” Even if that were true as stated–and I think it needs severe qualification–it would not follow that apologetical arguments must involve some “circularity.” Whether one goes in for Reformed “presuppositional” apologetics or some distinctively Catholic approach, one could argue roughly as follows: “If you honestly studied and understood my belief-system as a whole, you would come eventually to understand that it does a far better job of making sense of things than the major alternatives.” Now if and when that statement is true, then for the person one is addressing, one’s apologetics would afford the means by which their initial skepticism is overcome, and thus reason enough to adopt one’s belief-system. That’s why the aforesaid supposition needs severe qualification. Such an apologetical approach is not circular, even when the apologist adheres to the premises of his belief-system without adducing any other argument for those premises. To borrow Al Plantinga’s phrase, the apologist is “within his epistemic rights” to proceed in that manner. That would not be the case, however, if his arguments were circular; for circular arguments are the primary way in which people commit the fallacy of begging the question, and one is not within one’s epistemic rights to commit fallacies.

    Best,
    Mike

  372. Cormano (#354):

    Addressing me, you concluded:

    So everyone agrees that the testimony cannot be made evident or proved, but I think where you have disagreed with others, Mike, is what can be known about the witness by reason alone. Vatican I seems to teach that the divine origin of the Catholic Church can be “known” and “proved” by at least external signs like miracles. And that’s pretty much all we need to know about the witness, right? And I agree with Vatican I – whether we’re talking about the Resurrection, post-apostolic miracles like Marian Apparitions, Eucharistic miracles, healings, etc. – all of these things can be investigated by reason alone and seem to establish the credibility of the witness.

    I would not deny that “the credibility of the witness” can be known by “reason alone”–if and when the inquirer is able to marshal a sufficiently large body of the relevant evidence cited by the standard inventory of MOCs. But few inquirers are actually in that position. And even for the few who have been and are, the conclusion that the witness is credible is not established apodictically, as a result of deductive reasoning, but only with what Catholic theology calls “moral certainty.” Thus the MOCs provide inductive reason enough to justify choosing to make the assent of faith in the Catholic Church’s claims for herself, but they do not provide premises from which the truth of those claims would follow.

    Best,
    Mike

  373. Michael,

    From the fact, if it is a fact, that “once-Catholic-always-Catholic” (exceptions aside), it does not follow that one will always accept or even understand the Catholic interpretive paradigm. In fact, many nominal Catholics neither understand nor accept the CIP, and end up joining Protestant churches. From the fact, if it is a fact, that one is or becomes a Protestant, it does not follow that one will never see a way out of the Protestant interpretive paradigm, follow it, and then adopt the CIP. In fact, the main authors at this site were all Protestants who did just that.

    OK this helps. So what you’re saying is that the CIP exists apart from really existing Catholics (Hereafter REC)? I have a really big problem with the notion of “nominal Catholicism” as the language undermines the Church’s sacramental theology. One is Catholic by virtue of Baptism and Confirmation. Full stop. So I’m not going to use that language.

    You’ve already stated that RECs don’t necessarily hold to CIP.

    Could CIP exist without any RECs? (Let’s say a giant asteroid strikes earth wiping out all REC but some catechumens who hold to CIP survive)

    Could a Protestant (Or Hindu or Muslim) hold to CIP and not join the Catholic Church?

    There are many respectable ways in which people decide to become Catholic, without conducting a careful scholarly examination of the early sources. Some of them are quite striking. Surely you know that. Or are you prepared to argue that the only respectable way would involve conducting such an examination?

    This is an interesting question and I agree that not everyone comes into the Catholic faith with the same amount of study. But they do all come into the faith with SOME study (RCIA anyone?). And what if from that limited study they find something that just doesn’t seem right to them. Let’s say they’re like Charles Sanders Peirce and the more they think about transubstantiation, the more they study about it in RCIA, they just can’t help but believe it’s a distinction without a difference. Could they still become Catholic? I mean the Bishops going to ask you questions like, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?” How do you answer that without examining sources?

    Is her belief still just an opinion of hers that could just as well change, if further evidence from 1st- and 2nd-century Christianity emerges and causes her to doubt that belief? Well, if that’s how she sees the matter, then she hasn’t really converted to Catholicism. She is still a Protestant, an adherent of the PIP, who happens to believe for the time being that the Catholic Church is the denomination with the strongest credentials.

    So what you’re saying is that the sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist) are not sufficient to be a REC. So CIP is, along with the sacraments (I would hope!), a necessary condition of REC. Would that not then make CIP the source and summit of the Catholic faith?

    This is honestly completely new to me and I’ve been Catholic going on ten years.

  374. Andrew (re 367), I’m saying that the one claiming to possess infallibility must also possess divinity. We both agree that the Bible passes this test. We disagree that any human being does. And I don’t see how this poses any problem for the infallibility of the Bible since, as I’ve said, the efficacy of the Bible does not depend on the inherent natures of its authors. To say so seems to be a form of Donatism.

  375. Michael – Are you prepared to argue that Bryan is summarizing the discussion inaccurately?

    Erik – Yes, and I think Cagle does it adequately. If Cagle hadn’t, why does Bryan have to resort to appealing to charity? He would have just kept appealing to logic and reason.

    One question for you guys: If Catholicism is inherently rational and Protestantism is inherently irrational, why does it seem that the primary way that CTC dismisses Protestant criticisms of Catholicism (and defenses of Protestantism) is to dismiss the Protestant “paradigm”? If it’s purely a case of one system being rational and the other irrational the paradigm shouldn’t matter. Just demolish the Protestant arguments using reason and logic.

    The truth is you can’t do it because the rationality of your Catholic position is in the same position as our Protestant position. It rests on faith-based propositions that cannot be confirmed purely by logic and reason. This is why we have a 500 year stalemate. Duh.

    You guys suffer because you have so much to defend (3,000 Q&A’s in the Catechism) and your method of defending them is informed by your past as Protestant Fundamentalists. You’re playing a huge, unwieldy game of whack-a-mole that, as Sean frequently points out, is not necessary if you will just embrace sacerdotalism and the Mass apart from reason and logic. This makes it tough to win over skeptical Reformed guys like me, though.

  376. Steve,

    I do not understand what you mean by “possess divinity,” so I am not sure that we agree that the Bible passes that test. In my view, the Bible is not God, but it is the word of God written by human beings in such a way that it is also their words, written at particular places and times and for reasons of their own. These human beings were not inherently divine, nor infallible in general. Yet they produced an infallible and inerrant text, under the guidance (specifically, the inspiration) of the Holy Spirit. In a similar way (though with crucial distinctions that I have noted elsewhere) the pope sometimes teaches infallibly, though he is not inherently divine nor infallible in general. In short, you have yet to raise an objection to papal infallibility that is not also an objection to biblical infallibility, nor have offered an explanation of the latter (except for the qualification of being “inherently divine” or “possessing divinity”, which I still do not understand) that would not also apply to the former.

  377. Erik, (re: #374)

    why does Bryan have to resort to appealing to charity? He would have just kept appealing to logic and reason

    Because truth as a value, depends on love for the truth. Only those who love the truth have the right motivation to avoid fallacies, such as the straw man fallacy. Without charity, no one would have an internal reason to avoid fallacies. So what motivates vigilance to avoid fallacies is ultimately charity.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  378. Cormano (in #354) makes a lot of sense. If you guys agree that the truth of Catholicism can not be proved solely by reason and logic I think I’m happy.

    I wonder if Michael Liccione is a cradle (lifetime) Catholic or a convert? I admit my question is biased by his last name. In Des Moines there are a lot of Italian-Americans who are very much Catholics and have been their whole lives. Big football rivals (Dowling Catholic) of my alma mater, Ames.

    The reason I ask is that I suspect that this need to defend Catholicism purely via reason and logic is more important to the Protestant converts here than the lifetime Catholics. Why? Because I suspect that many of these guys (Jason being one) suffered a severe epistemic crisis as Reformed Protestants that was a huge factor in their conversions. They found themselves in small, marginal Conservative Reformed Protestant denominations, ignored by the larger pentecostal and evangelical churches that many of them had come out of, perhaps discouraged in ministry by infighting and slow or non-existent growth, troubled by the fractured nature of Protestantism, sincerely wishing for something more. Roman Catholicism became very appealing because if its antiquity, claims to be the one true church that Christ founded, and its large size and cultural influence. The biggest hurdle they faced, however, was overcoming their own previous skepticism of Catholic claims and training as Reformed Protestants, skeptical of religious truth claims that can not be clearly proven from Scripture. The antidote to these hurdles is proof that Catholicism is objectively true apart from their sincere WISH that it be true so they could have relief from the shortcomings of Protestantism that they were suffering under. If Catholicism is no more than a different system, a different paradigm that is no more rational or logical than Reformed Protestantism, then the epistemic crisis is not ultimately resolved and their minds can not be fully at rest. Maybe they will rest for a time, while in the honeymoon stage, but ultimately those epistemic doubts will re-emerge and who knows where the next stop will be. Perhaps atheism or nihilism? Very unpalatable choices indeed for one who has been in churches their whole lives.

  379. Bryan – Because truth as a value, depends on love for the truth. Only those who love the truth have the right motivation to avoid fallacies, such as the straw man fallacy.

    Erik – I don’t know, plenty of really nasty people can do high-level math. I don’t see the relationship.

  380. You guys need to make your case for Catholicism based on a “preponderance of the evidence” as opposed to “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Lower burden of proof and enough for most people. Maybe not enough for yourselves, though. Most of the people at CTC (and at Old Life) are smarter than the mean.

  381. Dan (re #310),

    You wrote:

    Raymond Brown’s position is not some marginal position in the Church and the book has both a Nihil obstat and Imprimatur. The Magisterium has endorsed non-literal views as valid just as it has endorsed literal views.

    Neither is Raymond Brown the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Our intention is to be faithful to the Magisterium in presenting and defending Catholic doctrine, which is defined by the Magisterium. In the case of Apostolic Succession and the episcopacy, I have provided a few links to magisterial statements on the matter (comment #308). As can be gleaned by perusing those documents, the Church does not subscribe to a “non-literal” view of AS in any sense that dispenses with Apostolic Succession via sacramental ordination by bishops, themselves ordained by bishops, in unbroken succession from the Apostles.

    You wrote:

    This is where the debate really fails for me as ecumenical dialog. The Catholics here present arguments as “the Catholic argument” rather than “our Catholic argument”.

    Lots of the arguments made here I believe can be rejected in good faith by Catholics as well as Protestants.

    You will need to be more specific about places in which we have claimed that a particular argument we are making is *the* Catholic argument, rather than an argument intended to support the claims of the Catholic Church. As for the latter, those claims are a matter of record. There are, of course, many different kinds of arguments that can be made in support of those claims, and certainly each of the arguments made on this website can be rejected by anyone. But to reject any argument on good faith requires making an honest and charitable attempt to refute the argument in question. Blanket statements or generalizations do not suffice for that purpose.

  382. Erik (re: #378)

    plenty of really nasty people can do high-level math.

    True. But the need for love of truth in order to pursue mathematical truth is not refuted by the co-presence of disorder or deficiency of love in relation to other goods, persons, or even in relation to Truth Himself. The disorder or deficiency of love in relation to other things does mean or entail that love for truth is not necessary for pursuing truth.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  383. Dan H (#372):

    You write:

    So what you’re saying is that the CIP exists apart from really existing Catholics (Hereafter REC)? I have a really big problem with the notion of “nominal Catholicism” as the language undermines the Church’s sacramental theology. One is Catholic by virtue of Baptism and Confirmation. Full stop. So I’m not going to use that language.

    Your question is ambiguous. Taken in one sense, it calls for a negative answer. Thus the CIP is an interpretive paradigm, employed by both the Magisterium and Catholics loyal to the Magisterium as they interpret the “sources” of divine revelation: Scripture and Tradition. If there were no “really existing Catholics” who are members of the Magisterium and/or loyal to it, there would be no CIP. But there are and always have been such Catholics, and the CIP does not “exist apart from” them. So the CIP exists, and will exist, as long as the gates of hell do not prevail against the Catholic Church.

    On the other hand, there are many Catholics who either don’t use, don’t understand, or don’t accept the CIP. The CIP certainly exists “apart from” those “really existing Catholics.” Thus, regarding those Catholics, your question calls for an affirmative answer.

    You write:

    You’ve already stated that RECs don’t necessarily hold to CIP. Could CIP exist without any RECs? (Let’s say a giant asteroid strikes earth wiping out all REC but some catechumens who hold to CIP survive) Could a Protestant (Or Hindu or Muslim) hold to CIP and not join the Catholic Church?

    For the reason already stated, my answer to your first question in that paragraph is “Yes.” To the second, my answer is also “Yes.” It is possible for a non-Catholic to believe that the CIP is the correct way to receive and interpret the “sources” of divine revelation, but at the same time to fail to join the Catholic Church for either lack of opportunity or plain old fear of the consequences for their lives. I actually know several such people personally.

    I agree that not everyone comes into the Catholic faith with the same amount of study. But they do all come into the faith with SOME study (RCIA anyone?). And what if from that limited study they find something that just doesn’t seem right to them. Let’s say they’re like Charles Sanders Peirce and the more they think about transubstantiation, the more they study about it in RCIA, they just can’t help but believe it’s a distinction without a difference. Could they still become Catholic? I mean the Bishops going to ask you questions like, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?” How do you answer that without examining sources?

    I should point out first that when I speak of the “sources” of divine revelation, I am using a theological term of art. So used, the term denotes Scripture and Tradition; and given as much, I agree that a non-Catholic cannot choose to become Catholic without some “study” of those sources. For without some degree of such study, one cannot know what it is one is supposed to be assenting to. But that is beside the earlier point of mine to which you are responding.

    My point was that it is not necessary, in order to choose to become a Catholic, that one conduct a study of Scripture and other ecclesiastical documents from the sub-apostolic period so as to answer, on one’s own, the question: “Is the Catholic Church, as that phrase is understood today, the Church Christ founded?” There are many respectable ways to reach that conclusion without conducting, for and by oneself, a specific study of that sort. I truly doubt that you, as a Catholic, would deny that.

    All the same, an inquirer’s doubt about this-or-that Catholic doctrine, such as transubstantiation, should normally be addressed by both further study of the sources and sustained prayer. Such a one might indeed reach the conclusion that transubstantiation is “a distinction without a difference.” Thus, many Catholic theologians believe that that technical term is only one possible, accurate way to formulate the Church’s ancient conviction that the consecrated elements of the Eucharist are the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. As long as one believes that ‘transubstantiation’ is an “appropriate” (Trent) term for the mystery, one is within the bounds of Catholic orthodoxy. But if one rejects the term on, say, a Peircean basis, then one’s prior philosophical commitments preclude one from embracing Catholic orthodoxy. One then needs to decide between the two.

    You write:

    So what you’re saying is that the sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist) are not sufficient to be a REC. So CIP is, along with the sacraments (I would hope!), a necessary condition of REC. Would that not then make CIP the source and summit of the Catholic faith?

    Once again, your summation of my point is ambiguous. It is possible–and indeed, in the Eastern-Catholic churches, it is typically the case–that a person receive the three sacraments of initiation without even having reached the age of reason. Such a child is certainly Catholic–and one who may well be in holier than you or I, because they have not yet reached that stage of cognitive development in which actual sin is even possible. When we’re talking about freely choosing adults, however, the matter is a bit different.

    I was an RCIA director for several years; we followed the published norms for the reception of adult catechumens and candidates. Thus, when such a one is received into the Church, they profess believe in “all that the Holy Catholic Church professes and teaches.” That phrase refers to all that the Church has taught with her full authority. Even if the one being received does not know each and every such teaching, they are at least professing docility to such teaching whenever they are or become aware of it. If they are not thus docile, then their profession is insincere. If their profession is insincere, then even though they are formally Catholic by virtue of their receiving the sacraments of initiation, they are materially heretical, so that their faith is radically defective.

    That said, the CIP is not “the source and summit of the Catholic faith.” Jesus Christ is, as God the Son and Revealer. Of course, as Vatican II said in Sacrosanctum Concilium, it is the Mass that is “the source and summit of the Church’s life,” which is a much larger reality than that aspect of faith which consists in intellectual assent. Thus without the Eucharist, there would be no Church. But without the Church, there would be no Catholic faith to assent to. Now the Catholic faith includes the CIP. Without accepting and using the CIP, one would not be able to receive and understand the “sources” of the Catholic faith precisely with the gift of faith, as opposed to the vagaries of human opinion. So in that sense, the CIP is objectively indispensable for the Catholic faith, even though it is quite possible for many to be Catholic without even being aware of the CIP.

    Best,
    Mike

  384. Erik (#374):

    I had asked whether you’re “prepared to argue” that Bryan has summarized his discussion with Jeff Cagle accurately. Here’s your answer:

    Yes, and I think Cagle does it adequately. If Cagle hadn’t, why does Bryan have to resort to appealing to charity? He would have just kept appealing to logic and reason.

    Well, Bryan kept showing how Jeff kept committing a category mistake: treating what are really only “motives of credibility” as “articles of faith.” I think Bryan was correct. He “resorted” to an appeal to charity because Jeff simply refused to admit he was misrepresenting Bryan’s position and thus erecting strawmen. Now fruitful dialogue is possible only when each participant makes a sincere effort to understand and state the other’s accurately, instead of erecting and re-erecting strawman, as if the other guy simply does not understand his own position. Making such an effort is an act of charity, while standing with strawmen is an act of uncharity. For that reason, I believe Bryan was perfectly correct to appeal to charity. Not that it did much good….

    You write:

    One question for you guys: If Catholicism is inherently rational and Protestantism is inherently irrational, why does it seem that the primary way that CTC dismisses Protestant criticisms of Catholicism (and defenses of Protestantism) is to dismiss the Protestant “paradigm”? If it’s purely a case of one system being rational and the other irrational the paradigm shouldn’t matter. Just demolish the Protestant arguments using reason and logic.

    Your question is loaded because its premise is a strawman. Neither I nor anybody else I know who writes articles for this site–and I know a number of them personally, as well as online–believes that “Protestantism is inherently irrational.” As far as I know, however, they do believe that the CIP is more reasonable than the PIP, by virtue of the CIP’s affording, unlike the PIP, a principled distinction between divine revelation and human theological opinion. If you want to know how I argue that the CIP has and deploys a needed distinction of the sort the PIP lacks, you can focus on sections IV and V of this CTC article I wrote a few years ago.

    That the CIP is more reasonable than the PIP, if true, does not entail that it’s irrational to be Protestant. I’ve know plenty of intelligent Protestants, for example, who agree the PIP has no “principled means” of making the aforesaid distinction while the CIP does, but who think that’s perfectly OK. That’s because they think Catholicism is untrue, so that even if the CIP can make the aforesaid distinction while the PIP cannot, it’s better to be right than to be able to make such a distinction, if one has to choose between the two. Now of course I reject that position, but I don’t think it’s “inherently irrational.” Careful argument is necessary to show what’s wrong with it, and not all reasonable people are going to appreciate or accept such arguments.

    Best,
    Mike

  385. Michael,

    I think I’ve got it. Let me know if I’m being fair here with this outline (I’ve added #5):

    1. Magisterium (the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him CCC#100) – Proclaim/develop/elucidate CIP +Sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Holy Orders)

    2. Catholics Loyal to the Magisterium – CIP + Sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist)

    3. Catholics who have not yet reached the age of reason/cognitively impaired or otherwise unaware of CIP – Sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist)

    4. Catholics that are materially heretical – Sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist)

    5. Catholics that are formally heretical – (Baptism, Confirmation, should not receive Eucharist)

    6. Catholic that are formally heretical and also fall under Canon 915 (“Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”) – (Baptism, Confirmation, denied Eucharist)

    It’s really easy to determine who #1 is and it’s really easy to determine who #6 is if they have been excommunicated or interdicted by #1.

    It’s actually pretty difficult to tell the difference between #’s 2-6b (Excluding, of course 6a).

    And this brings us to Andrew at #381.

    The late Fr. Raymond Brown did not hold to literal Apostolic succession in the way that Andrew interprets CIP requiring. But Andrew is not the magisterium (Either himself the Pope or a Bishop in communion with the Pope), and Fr. Brown was never excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and I’ve never even heard it alleged that he ever obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin.

    So while I understand the categories you’ve outline and appreciate them at a theoretical level on a practical level how do we determine if and where CIP exists outside of the magisterium itself?

  386. Darryl (#368):

    Addressing Brent, you wrote:

    I don’t know what blog you’re reading, but I never hear about the sexual abuse scandal or any social decline at CTC. Remember, it’s all about an intellectually satisfying faith. That’s why so much talk about theory and little notice of the real world.

    I infer you haven’t noticed that there was an article on CTC mentioning the “sexual abuse scandal”: Children and the Catholic Church. Also, that issue has been broached many times in the comboxes, both as an objection to Catholicism and by those of us who defend Catholicism. I myself broached it more than once in the comboxes by stating that I too was a victim of sexual abuse as a pubescent at the hands of a priest. I explained why that crime alienated me from the Church for years, and why all the same I returned to the Catholic Church toward the end of my college years, having double-majored in philosophy and religion. I add here something I have not said at CTC before, but have publicly said elsewhere: I found out after college, when I tried to enter the seminary, that the abuser’s superiors had at first tried to deny the abuse and then, when that didn’t work, blamed me for it. That blaming, which was a gross calumny, was why I didn’t get into the seminary.

    Of course we can’t expect you to have read every single thing posted at this site or by me elsewhere. Thus I’m neither surprised nor offended that you didn’t notice what I’ve cited above. Nor do I expect from you any curiosity as to why I returned to the Catholic Church after being a victim of clerical sexual abuse. But it is rather disedifying that you posted your potshot without having done your homework.

    Best,
    Mike

  387. Michael,

    Would you say that :

    (1) The Motives of Credibility are objective evidences for the truth of Catholicism that any reasonable, open-minded person should be able to understand, and in so doing, should grasp and affirm the truth of Catholicism based on the Motives of Credibility alone.

    or

    (2) The Motives of Credibility are objective evidences for the truth of Catholicism that those who are willing to have faith that Catholicism is true can look at as evidence that their faith is reasonable.

    or neither?

    If neither, can you put in your own words what one is supposed to ascertain from the Motives of Credibility?

    Maybe another way to phrase the question: Am I supposed to look at the MOC and say “Catholicism is obviously true!” or do I put my faith in the truth of Catholicism first and then look at the MOC and say, “I knew my faith made sense!”. Do you see the difference?

    As Calvinists we would say that no one can grasp the truth of Christianity without the Holy Spirit first convincing them of it. A work of the Spirit proceeds belief. I’m not sure if you affirm that notion or not.

  388. Dan H (#384):

    Your summary of my points is largely accurate, and I don’t want to spend time quibbling about where it is not. What interests me is your last two paragraphs:

    The late Fr. Raymond Brown did not hold to literal Apostolic succession in the way that Andrew interprets CIP requiring. But Andrew is not the magisterium (Either himself the Pope or a Bishop in communion with the Pope), and Fr. Brown was never excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and I’ve never even heard it alleged that he ever obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin.

    So while I understand the categories you’ve outline and appreciate them at a theoretical level on a practical level how do we determine if and where CIP exists outside of the magisterium itself?

    I shall let Andrew himself speak to how far Fr. Brown’s explication of apostolic succession differs from his own. Unless and until he does, juxtaposing their views does not present a difficulty for the CIP as I present it. All it means is that they respectively include somewhat different opinions on the matter. The CIP does not rule out differences of theological opinion, so long as neither party maintains a thesis that’s logically incompatible with what the Church has irreformably taught.

    As to your question, I think it’s misframed. The CIP certainly does “exist outside the magisterium itself,” if by that is meant that some Catholics who are not hierarchs accept and deploy it. I do myself. Many theologians have. The real concern behind your question, it seems to me, is the difficulty of determining, in many cases, when a given Catholic is materially heretical if they have not been convicted of formal heresy under canon law.

    Well, sometimes that is difficult to determine. Perhaps the person has not given voice to views which are materially heretical, but holds some such views anyway. Or perhaps they have published views whose orthodoxy is questionable, but which have not been shown to be logically incompatible with what the Church has irreformably taught. Then there are cases where it’s pretty clear that a person’s stated views are materially heretical, but not at all clear that they can be held morally accountable for that–either because they’ve never been taught the truth of the matter, or because, even though they have been so taught and believe what they’ve been taught, they don’t realize that the truth they accept is logically incompatible with what they have said.

    My response to all such cases is that none of them cast doubt on the “existence” or usefulness of the CIP as a theological norm for non-hierarchs, any more than sin casts doubt on the “existence” or usefulness of the moral norms given us by God. To me, that seems self-evident.

    Best,
    Mike

  389. Jason (#325) – It’s a lot easier for a Catholic to know what counts as de fide dogma than it is for a Protestant to determine what counts as an “essential doctrine.” There are official documents he can consult, and there are priests and bishops from whom he can seek clarification. It’s not that hard, and it’s not as if the presence of disagreement proves the impossibility of there being an answer. Your liberal slip is showing again.

    Erik – Ahem, do you remember the Reformed Confessions? That’s what I subscribe to and consider “essential doctrine”. You can even check me on it by reading them yourselves (and the book isn’t even that fat).

    It’s also ironic that you say, “It’s not that hard, and it’s not as if the presence of disagreement proves the impossibility of there being an answer.” because I hear you guys saying that one of the big reasons you left Protestantism is that there wasn’t agreement on correct answers. You just didn’t like that there were a lot of opinions with the possibility of the number of people with correct answers being small. So you went to a big church with one guy purporting to have the correct answers and a lot of people agreeing with him. I don’t see that your epistemic problem is solved.

    Jason (#325) – Yeah, the way I put it for the purposes of pithiness and brevity is saying that the Reformed view is “The church is where the gospel is,” while the Catholic position is that “The church is where the bishop is.”

    Erik – I have no problem with that notion.

    Jason (#325) – That said, the idea that a lack of piety, or the presence of bad fruit, negates ecclesial authority is both Donatist and non-Reformed (at least if the second Helvetic has anything to say about it).

    Erik – Looking at Fruit is valid, although we are told in the Heidelberg that our fruit will be a small beginning. When we see rampant scandal or immorality (without pointing fingers at any particular scandal or acts) I do think we have to take note and ask if something is badly off at the core of that particular religion.

    Jason (#325) – Cool. I would humbly suggest, though, that both the OT and NT teach that the new covenant is to be greater than the old, and that the Church (whatever is may be) is to be a worldwide and universal thing. Just saying.

    Erik – You hung around with Peter Leithart and the postmillennialists too long. Think aliens and strangers, brother.

    I do enjoy reading you & talking with you. Thanks.

  390. Ray (# 364),

    Catholic unity is a motive of credibility and is expressed in the corporate creed (we believe). Similarly, the individual creed (I believe) expresses the unity between habit and act for the individual. Habit and act together evidence the credibility of the confessor and are subject to public investigation. It is true that subsisting catholic unity is not a firm habit, but both are supported by divine omnipotence. Also, it seems that one does not have knowledge of possessing the habit unless he can identify which acts are from habitual or actual grace.

    Eric

  391. Michael,

    This has been super helpful, thank you for all of your responses.

    This brings me back full circle to my original expressed frustration that the views expressed by CtC do not necessarily represent the magisterium (and by extension) CIP. I realize and appreciate that that is what CtC is striving to do but I think it’s important to stress the sort of difficulties you’ve outlined (I believe these difficulties are more substantial than you do but that is, in many ways, beside the point).

    There’s a lot of theological issues which CIP doesn’t solve and there are a lot of tensions in Catholic theology, it’s a big church in more ways than one. I count that to be a feature and not a bug.

  392. Darryl,

    I asked you once over on the “Evangelicals getting high” thread about your reasons for affirming Reformed Protestantism over Catholicism. You never answered the question there, but I’ll repeat it here.

    I think that in your view “intellectual satisfaction” is elusive in either tradition, and that a fair measure of “cognitive dissonance” is unavoidable in any religion. You don’t actually assert this, but it seems to me that you think theological coherence is not achievable. Have I accurately represented your position?

    If so, then I’ll ask again, “Why choose one tradition over the other?”

    Thanks,

    David

  393. Michael,

    Re. #385

    First off, I admire your ability to forgive your abusers and I’m sorry that happened to you.

    Secondly, Tate’s “mentioning” the scandal is not really adequate. In the thousands and thousands of words that you guys have written here, if that’s all you can point to as far as addressing the scandal, you have a long way to go. What is needed is a full article or articles in which you help people understand how something as devastating and apparently widespread could take place in the Church that Christ founded.

    In #325 Jason says: “Cool. I would humbly suggest, though, that both the OT and NT teach that the new covenant is to be greater than the old, and that the Church (whatever is may be) is to be a worldwide and universal thing. Just saying.”

    You guys have very high expectations for (and contentions about) your church and the scandal does not match those expectations and contentions. You can’t get selectively gnostic on us if you hope to win us over.

  394. Erik (#392):

    I can’t speak for other CTCers, but the reason I don’t spend much time talking about the sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church–which is being energetically addressed by the hierarchy–is that I don’t believe it’s theologically significant. For it does not follow, from any Catholic doctrine, that clerics are likely to be better or holier people than the rank-and-file laity in the pews. Hence, it is reasonable to expect that one will find every sort of sin among clerics, just as one does among the laity. As we do, in fact.

    Of course, it is also reasonable to expect that clerics will at least strive for holiness more consistently than others of similar education and professional training. That the measured rate of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests is lower than that among public-school teachers is, I believe, evidence that priests do so strive.

    Best,
    Mike

  395. Hey Zrim (#365),

    seems more or less what I am saying. The basic point is that infallibility seems inherently to preclude a source may ever err at any point.

    Glad I understood you well. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, I think that such an argument as yours is unsuccessful. Here’s why :-p

    As you probably recognize, the premise doing the most (controversial) work is the one I labeled 1). Other than it, everything else is pretty straightforward. So why is 1) false? The reason is that texts are essentially static while persons are not.

    Lookit, we both agree that, when St. Luke wrote Acts, he wrote infallibly. But we also both (I think) agree that, for the vast majority of his whole life, he did not write infallibly. (His grocery lists, if he had any, were not preserved from error). ;-) So why is the text of Acts infallible despite the fact that, for most of his life, St. Luke could err in his writings? It’s because at the time he was writing Acts he could not err. Having written Acts, St. Luke could “slip back” into his normal (able-to-err-when-writing) mode and, since Acts was already written, the book of Acts remained free from error.

    The same is what we Catholics would assert takes place when Popes pronounce ex cathedra. The overwhelming majority of the time, when Popes write, what they write could err. But when they’re making the ex cathedra proclamation, they can’t err. Having made the proclamation, they return to able-to-err status. Kinda just like St. Luke when he was writing Acts (which is, I take it, what Bryan was getting back in his original comment on this matter).

    So, when you wrote:

    The basic point is that infallibility seems inherently to preclude a source may ever err at any point. But if the human source may err at any point then why not the textual source (unless you allow for double standards for infallibility)?

    I think you misstep. Infallible texts don’t just pop out of thin air. They are written by people, and the texts are only as infallible as the author. So “if the human source may err at any point then why not the textual source ”? Because the human source needs to be infallible only so long as he’s doing the writing. He can be fallible before and fallible after – but so long as he’s infallible while writing, the text’s words will remain infallible even if the author goes back to being fallible. And again, that’s presumably what you think happened with St. Luke. St. Luke’s writings could err at many points in his life (like when writing his grocery lists), but when writing Scripture his writings couldn’t err. So too Pope France’s writings could err at many points in his life, but if Pope France were to proclaim an ex cathedra dogma he couldn’t err.

    Or, to say the same thing a different way, “if the human source may err at any point then why not the textual source ”? Because both St. Luke and Pope Francis could *not* err at any point – St. Luke could not err when writing Scripture, and Pope Francis could not err if he were to make an ex cathedra proclamation. And the texts (Scripture/ex cathedra pronouncement) resulting from those periods when they could not err will also be preserved from error through the power of the Holy Spirit

    Does this help at all? Do you sense I’m still accurately understanding you? (I’m trying to!) Do you have any thoughts in reply? I do hope these writings are of some small service to you.

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  396. Dan H (#390):

    You write:

    This brings me back full circle to my original expressed frustration that the views expressed by CtC do not necessarily represent the magisterium (and by extension) CIP.

    Well, here’s how I described the CIP a few years ago on CTC:

    Though necessary, studying the early written sources and making inferences from them can only yield human interpretive opinions, unless validated by some clearly identifiable authority whose interpretation of the relevant data is divinely protected from error under certain conditions — a gift which, all sides would agree, is at least logically possible, given what and who God is. That interpreter is, of course, understood to be the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, which consists in the “college” of bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome. The Magisterium is not only the divinely appointed authority that distinguished which early writings were divinely inspired from which were not, but is also the authoritative custodian and interpreter of the inspired books and all else that has been handed down from the Apostles, which includes extra-scriptural Tradition such as the liturgy, creeds, and certain pious beliefs and practices. Those are taken to cohere with Scripture to form one “deposit of faith,” even though, in many cases, they are not inferable from Scripture by rules of logic alone. Hence, as Vatican II says:

    “Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers, so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort.

    But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission; and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.

    It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together, each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit, contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.” (Dei Verbum §10; references omitted, emphasis added).

    The general conditions on infallible teaching are described in another document of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium (§25 ff). Now as a matter of history, only rarely does a pope infallibly teach unilaterally. A more common way in which infallibility is exercised is in the issuance of dogmatic as distinct from disciplinary “canons” of “ecumenical” councils. And ordinarily, the college of bishops as a whole teaches infallibly when “though dispersed throughout the world, they are in agreement that one position is to be definitively held.” That was the situation for the entire time before the first ecumenical council, that of Nicaea in 325, and remains the situation in many cases of doctrine today.

    Now with the exception of my very first sentence, almost all of that presentation consists in either quoting, citing, or summarizing what the Magisterium says. And I know of no magisterial document or representative who would be inclined to contradict my first sentence. So I don’t believe you should be “frustrated” that ” the views expressed by CtC do not necessarily represent the magisterium (and by extension) CIP.” I’m the one who coined the phrase ‘Catholic Interpretive Paradigm” and described that paradigm as above. No CTC author disagrees with me, any more than the Magisterium itself does.

    You write:

    I realize and appreciate that that is what CtC is striving to do but I think it’s important to stress the sort of difficulties you’ve outlined…

    The “sort of difficulties” I’ve “outlined” are those posed by material heresy, whether intended or unintended. I don’t understand how the frequency of such heresy is supposed to pose a problem for the CIP. It poses a pastoral problem, but not a doctrinal problem. Of course you seem disinclined to draw that distinction as sharply as I do. You seem inclined to think that, if the pastoral problem of material heresy is widespread enough, that casts doubt on the usefulness of the CIP. But in my previous comment, I explained why I don’t believe that to be so.

    Best,
    Mike

  397. Michael (#393) – That the measured rate of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests is lower than that among public-school teachers is, I believe, evidence that priests do so strive.

    Erik – Are you suggesting that public school teachers teach in the Schools that Christ Founded? Of course you aren’t. I just think your apologetic for the glories of Rome break down at this point. If you are constantly defining down the expectations for the one true church supposedly led by an apostle, the expediency of conversion gets really low. An apologetic that devolves to such an abstract, intellectual level is appealing to very few people. In fact, it’s pretty much only people like me who primarily live their lives between their ears (and we’re rare).

    It’s also ironic that Tate’s post is all about experiencing the glories of Catholicism in a visible, hands on way. Those who suffered at the hands of deviant priests had very damaging, negative experiences of the church in a visible, hands on way.

  398. Erik Charter:

    Like I said elsewhere, we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Either the abuse scandals are a sign of the humanity of the Church, a mirror of society, or they are the sign of the pseudo-Church’s demise. Heck, this all went down in the new media age – or at least has come to light in as much. Nobody can claim some long term medieval coverup. So, heads, I win and the Church goes on even emerges stronger because She is who She says She is, or tails I lose (you don’t win) and bye-bye Catholic Church.

    Let’s call it a rational draw. We can disagree. But let’s not make one of us into a kool-aide kid while the other gets to throw punches to a tide up target. Fair?

  399. Erik – I’m not sure what belief background you come from, but the arguments that you are adducing are the same that atheists employ against any religion whatsoever. “You say ‘My religion is from God’? How do you explain the Crusades? The repeated televangelist scandals? The adulterous pastor? The Westboro Baptists? They’re all solid Bible believers! Ergo, Bible is wrong.”

    You state that the apologetic for Rome has ‘devolved to such an abstract intellectual level’. The expectation that all members of a religion/church act perfectly at all times with the official teaching of its head is itself a very abstract (read: unrealistic) intellectual conceit. To my understanding (I am not a Catholic), Rome’s understanding of infallibility is very limited and operates only in certain situations. These situations are similar to those the apostles and their scribes were in when they wrote the NT – protected from error doctrinally, but not everywhere else. Witness Christ’s rebuke of “Get behind me, Satan,” or Paul’s rebuke of Peter over fraternising with the Judaizers. Yet we hold 1 and 2 Peter as infallible. Remember too that Paul secured Peter’s sanction before embarking on preaching and teaching – if Peter hadn’t been infallible when checking Paul’s doctrine, all our Pauline epistles could be flawed.

    Why is the idea of fallible men acting infallibly to produce an infallible book less of an abstract intellectual concept that that of a fallible church adhering to a sometimes infallible head?

  400. Erik (#386):

    Sorry, I overlooked that comment as this combox quickly grew.

    You ask me:

    Would you say that :

    (1) The Motives of Credibility are objective evidences for the truth of Catholicism that any reasonable, open-minded person should be able to understand, and in so doing, should grasp and affirm the truth of Catholicism based on the Motives of Credibility alone.

    or

    (2) The Motives of Credibility are objective evidences for the truth of Catholicism that those who are willing to have faith that Catholicism is true can look at as evidence that their faith is reasonable.

    or neither?

    I would say “both”–if (1) be suitably reformulated as

    (1*) The Motives of Credibility (MOCs) are objective evidences for the truth of Catholicism that any reasonable, open-minded inquirer should be able to understand, such that, if presented to her as a body in substantial depth and breadth, she should inductively infer the truth of Catholicism from them.

    I say “both” because, if (1*) is true as I believe it is, then (2) is true as well, even though the converse does not hold. And I reformulate (1) as (1*) because I think (1) is too much of a stretch.

    You write:

    Maybe another way to phrase the question: Am I supposed to look at the MOC and say “Catholicism is obviously true!” or do I put my faith in the truth of Catholicism first and then look at the MOC and say, “I knew my faith made sense!”. Do you see the difference?

    I see the difference. And my answer to your first question is this: One can legitimately do either or both. But God does not require most people to do the first because, given (1*), it is not practically possible for most people to do it–though it is possible for a privileged minority, who should do it. I should say that the second is normally required of Catholics, who are expected to be able to give “reasons for the hope that is in you” (2 Peter 3:15). It’s sad that many Catholics see no need to equip themselves for that.

    Finally, you write:

    As Calvinists we would say that no one can grasp the truth of Christianity without the Holy Spirit first convincing them of it. A work of the Spirit proceeds belief. I’m not sure if you affirm that notion or not.

    I’m not sure what that means. Perhaps it means that one cannot understand the reasons for believing that Christianity is true without already being convinced, by the Holy Spirit rather than by reason, that Christianity is true. If that’s what you mean, I’d say that it’s true only in a sharply qualified sense. Thus, if somebody is presented with the body of MOCs as a whole, but still is not moved to believe that Christianity is true, that is because she does not want to believe–probably because she has declined the gift of faith given to us by the Holy Spirit. But perhaps the Holy Spirit wills to use her reason, not just her will, to help her come to believe the truth. In fact, with adult converts, I’d say that is often the case. It’s not as though the Holy Spirit convicts us rather than reason; more often, he convicts people partly by means of reason. But reason alone never suffices. That’s because faith is a gift of the Spirit, freely accepted or rejected. What leaves room for such freedom to be exercised is the fact that the MOCs do not establish the truth of Christianity with apodictic certainty, but only with moral certainty, which is not always available anyway prior to the assent of faith.

    Best,
    Mike

  401. Erik (#396):

    I asserted, in #393, that “it does not follow, from any Catholic doctrine, that clerics are likely to be better or holier people than the rank-and-file laity in the pews.” You have not gainsaid that assertion. Nobody I know of does–because it is clearly true. Hence, there’s no reason to expect that one won’t encounter some degree of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clerics. It is reasonable to expect only that one won’t encounter as much of it among Catholic priests as among other groups of people with a similar degree of education and training. So it is not reasonable for you to claim that my approach to the sex-abuse scandal “breaks down” my “apologetic” for the “glories of Catholicism.” Of course there are “glories” in Catholicism–such as the saints and miracles–but I have not cited those specifically in this thread. In general, my arguments for Catholicism over against both Protestantism and Orthodoxy are strictly epistemological.

    As to scandals in the Church, sexual or otherwise, my attitude is pretty much that of Cardinal Consalvi, Pope Pius VI’s Secretary of State. When informed that Napoleon was threatening to destroy the Church, Consalvi replied to this effect: “We bishops have been trying to do that for centuries. He cannot succeed where we have failed.” I believe that one MOC for the divine origin of the Catholic Church is how well she has managed to survive her leadership. A business or secular government run like the Church wouldn’t last very long. The Church has lasted two millennia and shows no sign of going away.

    Best,
    Mike

  402. Dan (re #384),

    We have found some common ground: Raymond Brown is not the Magisterium, nor am I. Certainly we could add many more names to this list, agreeing all the while. But it might be more to the point simply to identify the Magisterium; specifically, to cite magisterial teaching on Apostolic Succession by way of coming to understand the Catholic doctrine of Apostolic Succession (over and above any individual’s understanding of AS, at any stage of development). Thus, the links in comment #308.

    Naturally, I am glad to hear that Brown was “never excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty”, and that you’ve “never even heard it alleged that he ever obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin.” Nevertheless, his theories about AS and the episcopacy in the first two Christian centuries do not amount to anything binding upon Catholics. Brown’s views can be taken or left based upon merit, judging from the quality of his arguments and (for Catholics) the consistency of his conclusions with the doctrinal formulations of the Catholic Church. The same goes for any non-magisterial arguments and conclusions, including of course the ones made on this website, which brings us back to the point I made at the end of #380.

  403. Dr. Hart:

    Brent, I don’t know what blog you’re reading, but I never hear about the sexual abuse scandal or any social decline at CTC. Remember, it’s all about an intellectually satisfying faith. That’s why so much talk about theory and little notice of the real world.

    This blog, unlike other blogs, deals primarily with doctrinal issues. Nevertheless, as Mike pointed out, there was an article on this site addressing the sexual abuse scandal. So I guess the double sided tails coin came up tails again. We lose. : – (

    I wish you would just answer David Anders. That might help me understand what you mean by “intellectually satisfying.”

  404. Steve (zrim):

    You agreed to Benjamin’s summary of your argument as:

    1. If an infallible person can be errant, then an infallible text can be errant
    2. An infallible person can be errant (Assumption accepted by Catholics – the Pope is such a person)
    3. So, an infallible text can be errant (1,2)
    4. The Bible is an infallible text (Assumption accepted by Catholics)
    5. So, the Bible can be errant (3, 4)
    6. If the Bible can be errant, then Biblical Reliability is false (assumption)
    7. So, Biblical Reliability is false. (6,5)

    Let me redact this argument to this, where:
    1. A is Biblical authorial infallibility.
    2. B1 is Biblical inerrancy
    3. B2 is Magisterial inerrancy

    If A, then B1
    therefore
    If not B2, then not A

    Which is more or less what Benjamin’s criticism was. It is a basic formal fallacy (affirming the consequent). What you would have to demonstrate is that B2 is entailed or implied by B1 and why A follows necessarily from B and not just the converse. However, that is a part of our dispute. To prove your criticism, you (would have to) prove B2. If your argument stands (whatever it would be), then not-B1 is true, which should make us both uncomfortable. I would argue that B2 is not entailed or implied by B1 nor does B follow necessarily from A because A is circumscribed to a finite period of time, but rather that B2 is more plausible because of B1. In other words, an inerrant (at times) Church is not a necessary consequent of an inerrant Scripture but rather a plausible consequent. This means that my Protestantism makes reasonable my Catholicism. The same act of faith that says St. Peter, petulant as he may have been at times, was graced by a special charism and wrote 1 Peter without error, can be applied to the Teaching Office (Magisterium) of the Church at those times when She teaches with her full authority.

    As another noted, saying that A follows from B, therefore, not B leads to not A, is the argument of the atheists.

    Here’s my argument against A necessarily following from B. Where T stands for time.

    1. Someone acts infallibly at T1 (A)
    2. Therefore (from A) there is some inerrant product (B)
    3. At T2, the same person acts contrary to B
    4. It does not follow that B is impossible at T1

    Let me put it another way by example.

    1. Jim runs a mile under 5 minutes.
    2. Therefore he wins race “X”
    3. Jim runs a mile over 5 minutes
    4. Therefore, he did not win race “X”

    This is false. 4 does not follow from 1-3.

    It could be cleaner, but it is my best attempt this morning. Thanks for your patience.

    Peace!

  405. David, I am a Protestant because I am a sinner who needs an alien righteousness if I have any chance of ever standing before God’s throne. Rome had a chance to embrace the Reformers’ teaching at a time before Trent “fixed” Rome’s dogma of salvation. No offense, but the Roman scheme is no salve to a sin-plagued soul. It puts way too much power in the arbitrary decisions of a Roman pontiff (who if he has the power to get people out of purgatory with indulgences should — if he were really loving — just let them go anyway).

  406. Darryl, (re: #405)

    I am a sinner who needs an alien righteousness if I have any chance of ever standing before God’s throne.

    If you think God is incapable of making you righteous now, then what reason do you have for thinking He will acquire the ability to do so in the future? (Or do you think you will you be unrighteous eternally, always under the cover of an alien righteousness?)

    No offense, but the Roman scheme is no salve to a sin-plagued soul.

    On the contrary, that’s exactly what it is, the removal (not just the hiding, but the actual removal) of sin from the soul, and the infusion of the divine agape which is Christ’s righteousness.

    It puts way too much power in the arbitrary decisions of a Roman pontiff (who if he has the power to get people out of purgatory with indulgences should — if he were really loving — just let them go anyway).

    That’s a dangerous thing for a Calvinist to say, because since Calvinists believe in monergism and irresistible grace, such a claim entails that if God were “really loving” He would save everyone. And since Calvinists deny that God saves everyone, such a claim entails that God is not “really loving.” (A.W. Pink comes quite close to admitting this, as Jerry Walls shows.)

    But regarding the pope, he does not have the power per se to “get people out of purgatory.” He has authority (as steward) over the administration of the sacraments, and thus through the sacrament of penance to grant indulgences to the faithful, who can, through charity and the communion of the saints, apply the *temporal* benefit they have received to souls in purgatory.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

    Solemnity of the Assumption, 2013

  407. “1. If an infallible person can be errant, then an infallible text can be errant”

    You need to make some clarifications here. When we say a person is infallible do we mean in every aspect of their life and at all times (e.g. Jesus ) vs infallible for a specific task(e.g. apostles )? The text is equivalent of the former, because it is static. It will not be inerrant one day and make a mistake the next.

  408. Michael,

    Thanks again for the clarification. I’m new to these debates and CtC. I think it’s safe to say I’m out of my element on what exactly is meant by CIP and I’ll look into the link you’ve provided.

    When I say that the disclaimer, the views expressed by CtC are not necessarily those of the magisterium I was particularly thinking of Andrew’s comments which I interpreted as stating that Fr. Raymond Brown’s beliefs on apostolic succession go against the teachings of the magisterium. Andrew corrected that misunderstanding @402. I never claimed that a more literal view of apostolic succession was against the teaching of the magisterium but merely that the teaching didn’t exclude all other interpretations.

  409. Andrew,

    Thanks for the clarification!

    As can be gleaned by perusing those documents, the Church does not subscribe to a “non-literal” view of AS in any sense that dispenses with Apostolic Succession via sacramental ordination by bishops, themselves ordained by bishops, in unbroken succession from the Apostles.

    I’m trying to figure out exactly how you’ve using subscribe here (Is this in the way Protestants subscribe to confessions?). The Church has taught many things, in many ways, at various times about apostolic succession. As the Church as grown and developed its presentation of the deposit of faith has also grown and developed.

    Brown’s work, I submit, is an example of that growth and development. Again, his work has recieved both a Nihil obstat and Imprimatur. The Pope Emeritus has also stated that he, “”would be very happy if we had many exegetes like Father Brown”.

    His theories are certainly not binding but they most certainly do not go against magisterial teaching.

    He is to legit to quit.

  410. Darryl,

    I am a Protestant because I am a sinner who needs an alien righteousness if I have any chance of ever standing before God’s throne.

    I’m reminded of the ol’ Baltimore Catechism:

    361. What are the purposes for which the Mass is offered?

    The purposes for which the Mass is offered are: first, to adore God as our Creator and Lord; second, to thank God for His many favors; third, to ask God to bestow His blessings on all men; fourth, to satisfy the justice of God for the sins committed against Him.

  411. Dan,

    I am using “subscribe” in a way similar to that in which Protestants subscribe to confessions. But I would have been better off using the word “believe” since Catholics are supposed to receive Catholic doctrine with the full assent of faith, whereas Protestants only subscribe to their respective confessions as human opinions which do not, of course, warrant faith, as Mike L. has been pointing out.

    Brown’s work may be helpful in some respects, but I am sure you know that neither the “nihil obstat”, “imprimatur”, nor the approbation of a pope raises anyone’s work to the level of magisterial teaching. My point is very simple: In order to understand *the* Catholic teaching on Apostolic Succession, and not merely someone’s opinions about AS at some point in its development, one should turn to those documents in which the Church has expressed its mind concerning the same.

  412. Andrew,

    What do you think a Nihil obstat, Imprimatur, and mad props from a then sitting Pope “do”?

    Where do you think Magisterial teaching comes from?

    Where do Nihil obstats, Imprimaturs, and mad props from the Pope come from?

    I’m not saying that Fr. Brown’s writings have been enshrined as dogma merely that it seems pretty clear that they do not run counter to “*the* Catholic teaching on Apostolic Succession” and that should inform how we interpret the teaching.

  413. Dan (re #412),

    Here are my answers to your questions:

    1. In this post, Taylor Marshall has pithily explained what a Nihil obstat and Imprimatur do. In short, they indicate that a local bishop or bishops did not find anything objectionable in the book. What Pope Benedict’s remarks do is to express his personal opinion, namely, that he wishes we had more exegetes like Fr. Brown. As Fr. Brown was scholarly and insightful, this opinion is unsurprising.

    2. Magisterial teaching comes from the Magisterium.

    3. Nihil obstats and Imprimaturs come from bishops, and “mad props” from the Pope come from the Pope.

    But again, to get the horse before the cart: To understand Catholic teaching, we should first and foremost read those documents in which that teaching is given.

    Lest this exchange should spiral further down a chasm of useless generalities, or simply recapitulate your exchanges with Bryan and Michael, I invite you to continue the discussion, with reference to the Christian Ministry and Apostolic Succession, under my recent post on Apostolic Succession or Tim Troutman’s article on Holy Orders.

  414. Andrew,

    To understand Catholic teaching, we should first and foremost read those documents in which that teaching is given.

    I think we just have different ways of reading Catholic teaching.

    I follow Rahner in making an anthropocentric turn on these matters. To understand what it is to be Catholic we have to begin with our experience *as* human person, then *as* persons existing in our cultural context, then proceed to our experience *as* a concrete religious community (Parish life), etc.

    I think it’s hermetically impossible to, “first and foremost read those documents in which that teaching is given.” And if one could where would ones reading begin? Does one begin reading the tradition on the Assumption of Mary with the Book of Revelation, Ethiopic Liber Requiei, or Munificentissimus Deus?

    But these are big shaggy baggy questions that take us pretty far afield.

    Thanks (Also thanks to Bryan and Michael) for helping to illuminate CtC contributors methodologies. I’ll continue to follow the dialogue with interest but will limit any commentary to points of fact or questions.

    It’s been a trip and you learn something new every day.

  415. Hi DGH,

    I appreciate the response, but you only obliquely get at my question. You have objected several times over several threads that the CTC apology for Catholicism is illegitimate because it posits a spurious coherence, and fails to take account of the real (to your mind) divergence between traditional Catholic thought, and contemporary Catholic faith and practice. You have also stated that this kind of “cognitive dissonance” is basically ubiquitous across religious communities. This makes it sound like rational considerations must be ruled out in choosing a religious tradition.

    From your response it would seem (and I don’t want to put words in your mouth) that you prefer Reformed Christianity because it provides more of a balm for the wounded conscience, but not necessarily because you think it is true, or rational, or coherent. Am I representing you accurately here?

    thanks,

    David

  416. Darryl,

    [If the Roman pontiff] has the power to get people out of purgatory with indulgences should — if he were really loving.

    The God of Calvinism also had the power to elect all men to eternal life, but chose not to. Is he as unloving as the pope?

  417. Dan (re #414),

    We might have different ways of reading Catholic teaching, but I was trying to point out the surest and simplest way to identify Catholic teaching, as such.

    You go on to talk about understanding what it is “to be” Catholic. That is a much broader topic than the one we had been discussing; i.e., identifying and understanding Catholic teaching and presenting arguments in support of that teaching. I believe that there is a sense in which understanding anything must begin with experience. However, I do not agree that it is “hermetically [hermeneutically?] impossible” to do what I suggested doing when it comes to understanding Catholic teaching; namely, “first and foremost read those documents in which that teaching is given.” By “first and foremost” I do not mean first in the order of time (either sequentially or quantitatively), but in the order of priority.

    Regarding where to begin in reading those documents in which Catholic teaching, as such, is set forth, one could begin with whatever topic he is most interested in (or skeptical about, etc), and find those instances (if any) where the Magisterium has taught on that matter, with particular attention to instances in which the Magisterium has taught with its full authority (i.e., a manner that calls for the full assent of faith). For example, regarding the Assumption of Mary, one could begin by reading Munificentissimus Deus, in which it is declared and defined as a divinely revealed dogma “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

  418. Erik,

    I wrote, “It’s a lot easier for a Catholic to know what counts as de fide dogma than it is for a Protestant to determine what counts as an essential doctrine.” You responded:

    Ahem, do you remember the Reformed Confessions? That’s what I subscribe to and consider “essential doctrine”. You can even check me on it by reading them yourselves (and the book isn’t even that fat).

    That doesn’t help you. Do you consider “in the space of six days” as essential? Or the idea that casting lots is one way to determine God’s will? If not, then you either don’t subscribe to the Westminster Standards, or you exclude those parts from the core of their teaching. And either way, what “you consider essential” is beside the point (especially if your neighbor “considers” Joel Osteen’s books as “the essentials”).

    It’s also ironic that you say, “It’s not that hard, and it’s not as if the presence of disagreement proves the impossibility of there being an answer.” because I hear you guys saying that one of the big reasons you left Protestantism is that there wasn’t agreement on correct answers. You just didn’t like that there were a lot of opinions with the possibility of the number of people with correct answers being small. So you went to a big church with one guy purporting to have the correct answers and a lot of people agreeing with him. I don’t see that your epistemic problem is solved.

    The difference is that Protestantism, by its own admission and according to its own rules, cannot definitively settle a doctrinal matter with anything that transcends fallible human opinion. The Catholic paradigm claims to be able to do that, and therefore appealing to disagreement about what the Church teaches proves no more than what liberals accomplish by appealing to disagreements about what Jesus taught. IOW, just because some people didn’t like or obey what Jesus taught doesn’t mean he taught nothing in particular. And likewise, just because people don’t like or obey the CC’s teachings doesn’t mean those teaching can’t be known.

    I wrote, “That said, the idea that a lack of piety, or the presence of bad fruit, negates ecclesial authority is both Donatist and non-Reformed (at least if the second Helvetic has anything to say about it).” You responded:

    Looking at Fruit is valid, although we are told in the Heidelberg that our fruit will be a small beginning. When we see rampant scandal or immorality (without pointing fingers at any particular scandal or acts) I do think we have to take note and ask if something is badly off at the core of that particular religion.

    This is just special pleading. There are HUGE scandals, both moral, sexual, and financial, within evangelicalism as a whole. Does this mean they are wrong about their non-Catholicism? There are scandals in politics on both sides of the aisle, does this mean their view are incorrect? Moreover, there is also an abundance of positive fruit in Catholicism that outnumbers its scandals in a huge way. Why doesn’t that get factored in?

    Again, a lack of piety does not negate ecclesial authority, both according to Augustine’s anti-Donatist writings and the second Helvetic Confession. Just admit that the real problem you have with the CC is that you consider her teachings false. That’s at least an honest position that can be debated.

    I wrote, “I would humbly suggest, though, that both the OT and NT teach that the new covenant is to be greater than the old, and that the Church (whatever is may be) is to be a worldwide and universal thing. Just saying.” You responded:

    You hung around with Peter Leithart and the postmillennialists too long. Think aliens and strangers, brother.

    I do enjoy reading you & talking with you. Thanks.

    You are welcome.

    And Leithart had zero influence on me, especially with regard to postmillennialism. There is nothing triumphalistic about insisting that the NT speaks of the Church as something bigger than the remnant of eight soul on Noah’s ark (which is what I was responding to). It numbered in the thousands and was universal from the day it was born in Acts 2.

  419. Infallible texts don’t just pop out of thin air. They are written by people, and the texts are only as infallible as the author.

    Benjamin, agreed they don’t just pop out of thin air. But it may be more accurate to say that they are at once penned by men and inspired of God. And if that’s true then they are only as infallible as they are inspired of God. The way you put it, their infallibility depends not on the divinity of God but on the infallibility of creatures. In other words, Protestants put the emphasis on God’s divinity while Cats put it on the piety of men. In which case, I still don’t see how you guys avoid a form of Donatism.

  420. Dan H (414),

    You wrote:

    I follow Rahner in making an anthropocentric turn on these matters. To understand what it is to be Catholic we have to begin with our experience *as* human person, then *as* persons existing in our cultural context, then proceed to our experience *as* a concrete religious community (Parish life), etc.

    I don’t want to misrepresent you, but the notion you are advocating seems self-destructive precisely due to its overly (in my estimation) anthropocentric emphasis. If one hundred different people all consider, and then describe and compare their personal experiences as individual humans, then as members of this or that cultural milieu, then as members of this or that parish; how would that bring one closer to understanding what it “is to be Catholic”? Given the wide variances in personalities, individual experiences, cultural mores and institutions, parish atmosphere, etc; it seems likely that such a procedure will yield nearly 100 (or at least many) different answers to what it “is to be Catholic”; in which case one would be no closer to under-standing what is meant by the term “Catholic”.

    I have great respect for much of Rahner’s theological work but am substantially less enthused about the fundamental epistemology and ontology which underwrite some of his theological theses. He strikes me as sometimes exhibiting a tendency toward overplaying the degree to which human knowledge is necessarily modified by cultural contextualization.

    Obviously, one does not want to deny that human understanding of reality is often colored or obstructed in significant ways by cultural influences. That fact largely drives the need for engaging in careful philosophical analysis – i.e. to reflect so as to distinguish between what we think we know and what we really know.

    But on the other hand, one does not want to champion the notion that our grasp of reality is entirely conditioned by culture, for the obvious reason that such a proposition would be self-nullifying. But if some aspects of reality are in fact knowable as such, and in spite of cultural influence (even if differentiating the two takes some effort on our part); then it seems possible that understanding the meaning of the term Catholic may be one such aspect of reality.

    That is why myself, and presumably others on this site, think it possible in many cases to actually know what the Catholic Church teaches on a given matter – i.e. to know what beliefs or propositions fall within, and which fall without, the bounds of Catholic orthodoxy (at this date in human history) on this or that issue. Which, of course, is not to deny that cultural influences have played a part in the formation of Catholic teaching over the centuries; or that such influences continue to significantly form the way in which individuals perceive or relate to the Church and her teaching.

    I wonder, then, if part of your discomfort with the approach you encounter here at CTC does not arise from deeper epistemological divergences?

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  421. Ray,

    I wonder, then, if part of your discomfort with the approach you encounter here at CTC does not arise from deeper epistemological divergences?

    Totally agree. I’m reluctant to go to deeply into this as I think it would exceed CtC’s posting guidelines maximum word count!

    That is why myself, and presumably others on this site, think it possible in many cases to actually know what the Catholic Church teaches on a given matter – i.e. to know what beliefs or propositions fall within, and which fall without, the bounds of Catholic orthodoxy (at this date in human history) on this or that issue.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the Assumption today (Go figure) and thinking about all the poor Saints who denied it, sometimes vigorously, before Munificentissimus Deus. I’m thinking about all the people today making arguments back and forth about Mary as Mediatrix of all graces and/or Co-Redemptrix.

    And I’m thinking of how exactly we can best think about the “teaching of Church” while at the same time having and experiencing a “Church that teaches”.

    Is our responsibility to the teaching of the Bishops and Pope to the teaching of the Bishops and Pope of 800 A.D., 15oo A.D., 1880 A.D., 1950 A.D., 2013 A.D., or 3000 A.D.?

    I want to say all of them but I know that’s impossible.

    So I wind up thinking being Catholic is messy, I say a Hail Mary, and try and not make baby Jesus cry.

  422. Jason (#418) – The difference is that Protestantism, by its own admission and according to its own rules, cannot definitively settle a doctrinal matter with anything that transcends fallible human opinion

    Erik – Why do we need someone to definitely settle a doctrinal matter with anything that transcends fallible human opinion?

    I imagine that you go through the day making lots of decisions for yourself on which you have no one to guide you who transcends fallible human opinion.

  423. Jason (#416) – The God of Calvinism also had the power to elect all men to eternal life, but chose not to. Is he as unloving as the pope?

    Erik – This really isn’t a good answer unless you are willing to equate the Pope’s holiness with God’s holiness. I think Hart’s question is a good one.

    Is it Catholic doctrine to say that Protestants (Calvinists) worship a different God than Catholics (“The God of Calvinism”)? This wouldn’t allow us to be considered as separated brethren, would it?

  424. Some of you above point to the longevity of the RCC as evidence for it’s truth. Have you considered the impact of Christendom on that being the case? You generate a lot of inertia when you have a monopoly for 1,000 years. Exactly how would the church unwind it’s affairs today when (1) so many people depend upon it for their livelihood, and (2) The people who are living off donations hold the power of heaven & hell over the heads of the donors? Sounds like a perpetual motion machine.

  425. Jason, God is inscrutable. The pope is supposed to clarify.

    You guys keep comparing the pope to God, and the magisterium to Scripture. Talk about drinking the kool aid good and hard.

  426. David (#415),

    I’ll answer your question. I am a Reformed Protestant because I learn of Christ from Scripture and the churches that I find to be most in line with Scripture are Reformed Protestant Churches. I find what they teach to be “true, rational, and coherent”. I can read & understand 129 Q&A’s in the Heidelberg, 37 articles in the Belgic, and 5 Heads of Doctrine in the Canons of Dort way easier than the 3,000 Q&A’s in the Roman Catholic Catechism. Someone needs to explain to your leaders the difference between a catechism and an encyclopedia. Private judgment? Absolutely, but I’m not alone in my judgment.

    Oh, and I am not troubled by the lack of “one to guide me who transcends fallible human opinion”.

  427. Jason, btw, you wrote, “The difference is that Protestantism, by its own admission and according to its own rules, cannot definitively settle a doctrinal matter with anything that transcends fallible human opinion.”

    So Rome by its own admission and according to its own rules can settle a doctrinal matter with something that transcends fallible human opinion. That’s like, Rome’s opinion, dude. And Rome would have a tad of vested interest in construing of itself this way.

    And you wonder why the church creates a culture that protects the hierarchy. Hmmmm.

  428. Brian speaks above of limits placed on the Pope with regards to granting indulgences. Who has placed those limits upon the Papacy?

    Would Popes in the past have said “who am I to judge?” when asked a question about homosexuality by a journalist? If not, it appears that Pope Francis may be throwing off limits. If so, please provide precedent.

  429. Steve –

    The way you put it, their infallibility depends not on the divinity of God but on the infallibility of creatures. In other words, Protestants put the emphasis on God’s divinity while Cats put it on the piety of men.

    Infallible texts do depend on the infallibility of creatures at the time of inspiration, which in turn depends on God’s divine powers. Catholics also rely on the same powers of God to protect the Magisterium, and would readily acknowledge ‘there but for the grace of God goes the Magisterium’. I’m not sure how that leads to Catholics putting the emphasis on the piety of men, since both Catholics and Protestants rely on God to prevent their sources of knowledge from teaching error.

  430. Dan,

    Thanks for the response. I agree that this is not the forum (or a least not the thread) in which to discuss fundamental epistemological differences and their impact on theological method or science.

    However, you wrote:

    “Is our responsibility to the teaching of the Bishops and Pope to the teaching of the Bishops and Pope of 800 A.D., 15oo A.D., 1880 A.D., 1950 A.D., 2013 A.D., or 3000 A.D.?”

    ISTM that the answer is, in fact, all of them. For so long as there are no inherent contradictions between the teaching of the bishops and pope throughout post-apostolic history, a Catholic is bound to adhere to the Magisterium’s authoritative teaching at whatever stage of development that teaching happens to stand during his day and age. There are no retroactive heretics, only here and now heretics; for one is only responsible to give the assent of faith to the teaching of the Church as it is known to him in his own time and place. Nor, obviously, can one assent to a teaching not yet promulgated.

    Hence, before the Assumption was promulgated, Catholic theologians could legitimately debate its status as part of the de fide deposit of faith without fear of being labeled heretical. However, after it was promulgated as a dogma, the option to deny its truth is off the table (for Catholic theologians). So I am not sure what is necessarily messy about understanding the relationship of Catholics to Catholic teaching across time. Of course, if one thinks that the teaching of the Church over time on some issue has given rise to logically incompatible dogmatic statements, then that would indeed be messy, and would, in fact, be a grave problem for Catholic theology generally. But I don’t think you are suggesting that scenario.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  431. Erik,

    You wrote:

    “Why do we need someone to definitely settle a doctrinal matter with anything that transcends fallible human opinion?

    That is an extraordinary response. I am curious, would you be willing to stand before your congregation next Sunday and openly confess – with no hedging – that both the doctrines of sola scriptura and sola fide are merely “fallible human opinions“? How do you think most Reformed pastors and congregations would respond to such an admission? I think your stance toward doctrinal matters would come as a real “shocker” to most (conservative) Reformed Christians. I think many Reformed Christians would be quite surprised to learn from their theologians or pastors that a careful evaluation of their fundamental theological principles entailed that they must acknowledge that all doctrinal matters, all creeds, all statements of faith, come down to fallible human opinion. Of course, I think your stance is indeed necessitated by Reformed theological principles, and I respect your consistency in acknowledging what must be acknowledged. However, I think the unavoidable conclusion (on Reformed principles) that doctrine=human opinion is something poorly advertised – and understandably so – from a pastoral POV.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  432. Bryan, if God can remove the the pollution of the soul apart from the imputed righteousness of Christ, then why have Christ die for sinners. Why not simply send the Holy Spirit to infuse righteousness? If you give up imputed righteousness, you give up the vicarious atonement and turn the cross into a big flannel graph about how God hates sin.

    As for the pope’s power, its all arbitrary. Sometimes he’s bound by the “rules,” sometimes though he can turn Christians into saints (of course, after vetting the proposed saint through the bureaucracy of the Italians who run the Vatican).

  433. Dan H., like the author to the Hebrews, I don’t believe the mass is a sacrifice but that Christ offered one sacrifice — full stop.

  434. David, what I believe about Reformed Protestantism I believe to be true and capable of defense — though I also believe that no one believes without the work of the Holy Spirit because the gospel is folly to fallen human reason. What I believe to be dishonest about Jason and the Callers is the partial evidence they give for the truth of Roman Catholicism, and the neglect of those historical realities that could (and do) give even reasonable Roman Catholics pause about the claims of the papacy or those of high papalists. Whether they (or you) read Roman Catholic historians (like John O’Malley, John McGreevy, Mark Massa, or Francis Oakley), I don’t know. But I do think these Roman Catholics (some lay, some priests) would guffaw at the allegedly air-tight arguments that Jason and the Callers make for Rome. It would be like my reaction to the arguments of young-earth creationists. Even if I can see the use of reason, logic, and evidence, I find creationists to be simplistic.

    In other words, I think it is better for me to be modest about the truth claims of Reformed Protestantism. I see no such modesty on Jason and the Callers part. And this comes at a time when the RC hierarchy itself has abandoned its former immodest claims. But then again, no one here ever acknowledges the detour that Rome took with Vatican 2. (It’s as if Jason and the Callers believe post Vatican 2 is really no different from the church for which SSPXer’s pine.)

  435. Ray, how could a modest take on all doctrinal matters, all creeds, all statements of faith be shocking with WCF 31.4 in mind: “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.”

  436. Ray, Erik, and Darryl:

    Going by their most recent responses, it seems to me that both Erik and Darryl admit that, from their point of view, all these things are a matter of opinion. To me that’s pretty devastating for whatever opinions they happen to hold. Clearly, they think there’s no sensible alternative. But I suppose that’s why Ray and I are Catholic and they are Protestant.

    Best,
    Mike

  437. Darryl (re: #432)

    Bryan, if God can remove the the pollution of the soul apart from the imputed righteousness of Christ, then why have Christ die for sinners.

    Because Christ’s sacrifice is that offering of love by which He obtained for us the grace and love that is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (and by which sin is removed from our souls). There is a third possibility besides (a) the extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness from Christ’s work on the cross and (b) Christ’s work on the cross being superfluous. See “Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  438. Hi Darryl,

    Thanks for the response. I understand your criticism of CTC and what you take to be our naive approach to the evidentialist challenges to Catholic faith. I also understand that you think Reformed Protestantism is true and defensible, though ultimately dependent upon the Spirit’s witness.

    What I do not yet understand is this: Do you think that Reformed faith is in a superior intellectual position to post-Vatican II Catholicism when considered against evidentialist challenges? Does Reformed faith do a better job of accounting for the biblical, philosophical, and historical data? And would this be a reason to prefer the Reformed to the Catholic faith?

    It seems to me that this is crucial in order for me to appreciate fully your critique of CTC. For unless you answer my questions in the affirmative, I cannot see how your preference for Reformed Protestantism amounts to anything other than fideism and/or illuminism.

    Thanks,
    David

  439. Steve,

    You wrote:

    ”Ray, how could a modest take on all doctrinal matters, all creeds, all statements of faith be shocking with WCF 31.4 in mind: “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.”

    WCF 31.4 does not cover all the items you list in your first sentence. That line from the WCF does not, in fact, include “all doctrinal matters”. Rather, it asserts that all ecclesial bodies since apostolic times may err and many have. It was penned to establish a contrast between Catholic or Catholic-like notions of the rule of faith and the Reformation’s foundational doctrine of sola scriptura (upon which the Reformation is said to stand or fall). It explains that ecclesial sources cannot be looked to as the “rule of faith”. In so doing, it implies that the “rule of faith” is something distinct from post-apostolic synods and councils, and is thereby not covered by this WCF clause.

    It is (generally speaking) a theological principle (read doctrine) of Reformed Protestantism that the “rule of faith” is ultimately the bible, which is just another way of stating the doctrine of sola scriptura. That doctrine is not, I believe, normally viewed as subject to err within Reformed Protestantism. On a practical level, neither is the doctrine of sola fide (to deny it one is said to be denying “the gospel”). To see my point, suppose you were to reword WCF 31.4 to read as follows:

    “All doctrinal matters, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, are subject to err; and many doctrinal matters have been errant. Therefore, the doctrines of sola scriptura and sola fide might be in error; therefore, they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.”

    How many Reformed congregations would receive such a position with a casual ho hum?

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  440. Ray, the point isn’t that such statements would be received with an ho-hum. It’s that whatever is confessed is done so at once with confidence but also without the brazen arrogance that it could never ever ever ever be wrong no matter what black magic infinity (cross my heart hope to die).

    So, yes, I take both the formal and material principles of the Reformation to be included in WCF 31.4’s statement. They could be wrong, but they’re not. Evangelicals take that kind of confidence as evidence of arrogance. Catholics take that kind of modesty as proof that Protestantism cannot assure anybody of anything. But the Reformed know how to toggle between confidence and humility. It’s all in the wrist.

  441. What if?

    What if the terms of the RCC-Protestant dialogue here were NOT:

    1. Centered on answering the question “what is the church that Christ founded”, (with CTC folks asserting the best answer being the RCC)

    2. About “whether Catholicism or Protestantism has the better and more robust, principled way of determining ultimate truth?” (with the CTC folks asserting the best answer being the RCC)

    3. “to what extent does the available historical evidence support (or not) any variety of RCC claims about Apostolic Succession or other dogma” (with CTC folks arguing that the evidence does comport with RCC claims about itself)

    Each of those questions merits study and thoughtful discussion, to be sure.

    But rather, what if the following very simple question were the most important question that each of us should answer?

    To wit, “Has the cause of Christ in bringing redemption to a fallen world been well served because of the efforts of Billy Graham, or not?”

    [I use “Billy Graham” as ‘shorthand’ for all Protestant evangelical outreaches – whether by churches, parachurch organizations, or individual believers.]

    It can be entertaining and at times instructive to parse out perfectly logical and reasoned methods for discerning truth. CTC does this quite well.

    But, I suspect I’m not the only schismatic evangelical who believes this question is (or should be) far more influential in our personal decision of which church with which we should affiliate.

    May I ask how Jason and other CTC folks would respond to that question, and why. It seems to be a question that, amidst all the argumentation and dialogue on the CTC site, has been “begged” to date, and yet its answer has many implications.

    Many thanks.

  442. Steve (#440):

    It’s that whatever is confessed is done so at once with confidence but also without the brazen arrogance that it could never ever ever ever be wrong no matter what…

    OK, so it’s a set of theological opinions you feel confident are true. That’s not the same as believing oneself to be confessing divinely revealed truth. If one really believes one is confessing divinely revealed truth, then allowing that what one confesses might be wrong would make no sense.

    Best,
    Mike

  443. CC (#441)

    To wit, “Has the cause of Christ in bringing redemption to a fallen world been well served because of the efforts of Billy Graham, or not?”

    [I use “Billy Graham” as ‘shorthand’ for all Protestant evangelical outreaches – whether by churches, parachurch organizations, or individual believers.]

    It can be entertaining and at times instructive to parse out perfectly logical and reasoned methods for discerning truth. CTC does this quite well.

    But, I suspect I’m not the only schismatic evangelical who believes this question is (or should be) far more influential in our personal decision of which church with which we should affiliate.

    Hmm… I wonder if this doesn’t actually assume that ‘bringing redemption to a fallen world’ is simply a matter of numbers. Perhaps you don’t mean that – but it seems possible to think that what you are asking is whether more men come to Christ in some sense of the word through evangelicalism, Catholicism, etc.

    If so, I would think it essential to know in advance what ‘bringing redemption to a fallen world’ actually means.

    Of course in one sense one does not have to bring redemption to anyone; it is already there. Christ died for all men.

    Nevertheless, we do not assume that the fornicating agnostic is in as close a relation to Christ as the devout … well, that is the point, isn’t it? a devout what? Catholic? Evangelical? Jehovah’s Witness? Mormon?

    If it is in fact true that the fulness of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church – and that bringing redemption to men means uniting them with Him in that Church – then I think your alternatives ultimately point to the same thing. The factual question is still there: what is the Church that Christ founded?

    jj

  444. Corn-Czar (re: 441),

    I see where you’re coming from. Another question: what church has been in the business of producing saints? (not pronouncing but making, you get the idea.) I am familiar with shining stories of Protestants – Hudson Taylor and Brother Andrew come to mind. But the Catholic Church’s track record of heroically virtuous men and women shouldn’t be taken lightly. Remember Moody’s quote, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him”? Actually, we have seen this, and many times over. The golden legend continues to astound me!

  445. Mike (re 442), you’ve heard we are to live by faith and not by sight. But since sight is the opposite of faith, faith necessarily includes doubt. The way you speak, though, it’s as if to live by faith is to live by sight, as in nothing you believe could ever possibly be wrong. Some may wonder how one whose faith includes doubt can be maintained. The Reformed emphasize the power of God to do so; the Reformed are fine with living with doubt. The Catholic conception seems unsatisfied with that and replaces the power of God with the power of sight to swallow up all doubt. Appealing maybe, but it’s just not how faith works in the present age.

  446. Steve, (re: #445)

    But since sight is the opposite of faith, …

    Starting points are important. Why assume that faith is the “opposite” of sight, or the “opposite” of reason? That is, why presuppose a Manichean conception of the relation of faith and reason right from the start? If grace builds on nature and perfects nature, then faith is not the opposite of reason, but the perfection of reason beyond its own light, by a divine revelation that one accepts on divine authority because God is supremely trustworthy and can neither lie nor err. In that case there is no doubt intrinsic to faith. Not seeing for oneself does not entail doubt *if* one has the sure testimony of God Himself. Doubt means either one does not know *whether* God has spoken, or *what* has God spoken. So if doubt is intrinsic to the Reformed conception of faith, it entails that the Reformed do not know whether or what God has spoken. That is altogether different from the Catholic paradigm, in which we know *that* God has spoken and *what* God has spoken (i.e. the content of divine revelation), because God spoke for that very purpose (i.e. that we would know what He said), but as pilgrims on the way we do not yet see the *object* of divine revelation (i.e. God Himself, face to face).

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  447. Steve (#445):

    In addition to Bryan’s apt and incisive reply, I want to acknowledge a phenomenon that Protestants and Catholics share as believers in Christ: the “journey of faith.”

    Objectively speaking, and for the reasons Bryan gives, the assent of divine faith is inconsistent with doubt. All the same, that assent belongs to the “virtue” of faith, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit to be freely accepted or rejected. Even when accepted, that virtue needs to grow over time, and requires nurturing like anything that grows. If we do not nurture the gift of faith through prayer, worship, sacrifice, and study, it atrophies. Intellectual or existential difficulties can easily morph into doubt, at which point faith is destroyed. That is exactly what happens to many Christians–Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox. That is how they “lose their faith,” even when they remain nominally Christian. As divine grace is necessary for the initial gift of faith, all the more is it necessary for the restoration of faith. That too happens sometimes. So the journey of faith can be one of loss and return.

    Among those who never quite lose their faith, however, the journey takes other forms. Regardless of the particular form, it always involves deepening one’s surrender to God in trust. For Catholics, that occurs in part and necessarily by submission to the Church’s divine authority. But for all of us, it occurs mainly through prayer, self-denial, and growing out of selfishness through the divine gift of “charity” or agape-love. Growth in love drives growth in faith; indeed, faith without love is dead, even when intellectual assent to the truths of faith remains.

    From a Catholic standpoint, however, Protestants have an additional task. Sincere, believing Protestants have the gift of faith to a degree, by virtue of believing and striving to live by much of what is, in fact, divine revelation. What they lack, however, is assent to the living teaching authority of the Church which Christ founded, which is his Body, and to which he gave his own infallible teaching authority. Thus they lack the principled means by which divine revelation precisely as such is to be distinguished from human theological opinions about what the “sources” of revelation are and about what they mean. They often profess what is in fact divinely revealed truth, but without accepting the means needed to believe it on divine authority, as opposed to that of the opinions of men, and thus with the assent of divine faith, rather than that of always-fallible human opinion. Consequently, to the extent Protestants have the gift of divine faith, they have not because of, but in spite of, their epistemology. To grow in the gift of faith, then, Protestants also need to accept that authority submission to which is what makes the assent of divine faith possible, even for those who do not accept that authority.

    I have noticed, however, not only that most Protestant not do that–otherwise, they wouldn’t be Protestants–but also that some Protestants think it’s just fine and dandy to admit that religion is a matter of opinion and leave things at that. (In fairness, some ignorant Catholics think that way too.) For the reasons Bryan and I have given, to think that way is to remain mired in a fundamental misunderstanding of what’s objectively necessary even for the assent of faith. It reduces the confession of faith to nonsense, even when the confessor has the gift of faith to a degree, without being aware of what makes it possible. For such a confession presents what are admittedly opinions as if they were divinely revealed truth. One cannot advance far on the journey of of faith, and thus grow consistently in the virtue of faith, without becoming aware of that cognitive dissonance and doing what’s needed to resolve it.

    Best,
    Mike

  448. Bryan, if ” Christ’s sacrifice is that offering of love by which He obtained for us the grace and love that is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit,” that doesn’t answer the question of why God became man. There’s no reason God could not have infused love without Christ’s death. Plus, if infusion depends on Christ’s death on the cross, what happens to the OT saints (yes, they didn’t need a pope to determine their sainthood).

  449. David,

    “Do you think that Reformed faith is in a superior intellectual position to post-Vatican II Catholicism when considered against evidentialist challenges?”

    Yes.

    “Does Reformed faith do a better job of accounting for the biblical, philosophical, and historical data?”

    Yes.

    “And would this be a reason to prefer the Reformed to the Catholic faith?”

    Yes, but I would not use the word preference (intentionally) to describe anyone’s faith.

    The fideism comes in when folks at CTC attempt to use logic and reason to show Reformed Protestantism’s errors and motives of credibility to make it seem that becoming Roman Catholic is as easy as algebra. In other words, I don’t see enough modesty in CTC’s truth claims, not simply in a contested polemical environment (which voila at CTC becomes “ecumenism”). But I don’t see enough acknowledgement that becoming Roman Catholic is more an act of faith or a mystery than following a syllogism. Ultimately I would not believe without the work of the Holy Spirit. Does the Holy Spirit use means like words and reason and authority, sure? But those aren’t the primary agent of creating saving faith.

    What’s curious about the conversion narratives at CTC (the ones I’ve read), I don’t hear much about the Spirit. A lot about reason, authority, intellectual satisfaction, but not much about how once I was blind but now see thanks to the wonder-working power of God.

  450. Steve Z. (#445)

    But since sight is the opposite of faith, faith necessarily includes doubt.

    On the contrary, faith and doubt cannot co-exist. I think that by ‘doubt’ you mean the sense of lack of fulfilment that goes with faith.

    Faith is not believing something that might be false. It is believing something on the word of a trustworthy witness. In the case of theological faith, the witness is God, Who is absolutely trustworthy, and cannot lie or be mistaken. Thus Thomas Aquinas’s famous faith is more certain than knowledge. Excellent on this point are Newman’s classic Grammar of Assent, and Josef Pieper’s Faith, Hope, Love (which isn’t available on-line as Newman’s book is, but that reference there is to a Kindle edition, in English translation).

    jj

  451. Ray (#431), Michael (#436),

    What Darryl said (#434).

    Can I assume that Jason was 100% convinced of the truth of Reformed Protestantism when he made vows as a Presbyterian minister? And now he is 100% convinced of the truth of Catholicism?

    In reality, if we’re honest with ourselves (and not typing on a blog for public consumption) we really aren’t 100% convinced of the truth of much in this life. We don’t have to be 100% convinced, though, and we don’t need an alleged fallible interpreter to find something to stake our lives on. We only need to be convinced that what we have found is better than the available alternatives. Reformed Protestantism is clearer and better than both atheism and Catholicism. That’s why I’m a Reformed Protestant.

    As I’ve said many, many time, I think you guys have epistemological problems that you think Rome has an answer to. I disagree.

  452. Michael (#444),

    If the Catholic church has produced saints has it not also produced scoundrels? If it has produced both, what does that prove?

  453. Corn-Czar (re: #441)

    To wit, “Has the cause of Christ in bringing redemption to a fallen world been well served because of the efforts of Billy Graham, or not?” … But, I suspect I’m not the only schismatic evangelical who believes this question is (or should be) far more influential in our personal decision of which church with which we should affiliate.

    I know you want to discuss the answer this question, but it seems to me more important to discuss what is presupposed by the combination of the question and the notion that the answer to the question is determinative regarding “which church with which we should affiliate.” This combination presupposes certain things, among which are (a) that what it means to “bring redemption” to a fallen world is entirely vertical and does not include the horizontal dimension of reconciliation and union with one’s fellow human beings, and (b) that Christ did not found a Church into which all men are called to be united in full communion, as the very expression of that horizontal reconciliation and union. Both those presuppositions themselves presuppose the falsehood of Catholicism. So the question-answer combination you offer is not neutral, but theologically loaded. Regarding the horizontal dimension of redemption, see “Pentecost, Babel, and the Ecumenical Imperative.” From a Catholic perspective, an essential part of the Gospel is the call to incorporation into the Body of Christ. In this way the Church is not merely that which is entrusted with the Gospel, but is part of the Gospel itself. (Jason Stellman touches on this in “Evangelium et Ecclesia.) My point is simply that the notion that “which church with which we should affiliate” should be determined by asking which “church” best serves “the cause of Christ in bringing redemption to a fallen world” is theologically loaded (not neutral), because of what it assumes about what it means to bring redemption.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  454. Darryl, (re: #448)

    if ” Christ’s sacrifice is that offering of love by which He obtained for us the grace and love that is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit,” that doesn’t answer the question of why God became man.

    It does answer that question, because Christ made this sacrifice (by which He obtained for us the grace of redemption) through His human nature, which He wouldn’t have had if He had not become man.

    Plus, if infusion depends on Christ’s death on the cross, what happens to the OT saints (yes, they didn’t need a pope to determine their sainthood).

    I assume that by “what happens to the OT saints” you mean “How would they benefit from Christ’s sacrifice?” The grace they received, and by which they were brought to faith and walked by faith, was also through Christ’s sacrifice. (God is not limited by time.) Unless you think they worked their way to heaven Pelagian style, you also must believe that the benefit of Christ’s work was applied to them ‘retroactively.’ So this retroactive application of Christ’s work isn’t a problem, even according to your own position.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  455. There’s no reason God could not have infused love without Christ’s death.

    God became man (and died as a man) not only to atone for our sins, but also to show us His love for us. If you want to show someone your love, you show them in person. This example of God’s love for us -from his humble incarnation as a human child all the way to His sorrowful atonement for our sins on the cross – shows us His great love and inspires a greater love in our hearts than if we did not know that example.

    Perhaps God could infuse love into our hearts without knowledge of Christ’s death, and surely with the saints of the Old Testament, they loved Him without direct knowledge of Christ’s example. But for us, He chose this channel of grace so that we would know His love in a very tangible way with our hearts and minds. So that we would _really_ know what He means when He says – “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

  456. dghart, #449

    You said, “What’s curious about the conversion narratives at CTC (the ones I’ve read), I don’t hear much about the Spirit. A lot about reason, authority, intellectual satisfaction, but not much about how once I was blind but now see thanks to the wonder-working power of God.”

    The Holy Spirit has been working in my life, opening my eyes to see the truth about who God is and where his Church is. Thus the Spirit moved me to become Catholic. Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! I was blind, but now I see!

    Does this satisfy you? Would you not challenge me with reason, my view of authority, and intellect now?

    One of the obvious purposes of this site is to engage in reason and intellectual discussion. There are many other Catholic blog sites that the main purpose is sharing their faith and sharing what God is doing in each others lives.

    I dont see how this is any kind of argument.

    Hunter

  457. Erik (#451, 452):

    In response to my last few comments, you write:

    What Darryl said in #434.

    That comment by Darryl makes two main points. The first is:

    What I believe to be dishonest about Jason and the Callers is the partial evidence they give for the truth of Roman Catholicism, and the neglect of those historical realities that could (and do) give even reasonable Roman Catholics pause about the claims of the papacy or those of high papalists.

    Leaving aside the ad hominem accusation of dishonesty, that overlooks a deeper epistemological issue: What should be counted as evidence for and against Catholicism? Having been Catholic most of my life and read my share of church history, I am well aware of the sorts of problems that have plagued the Catholic Church, both today and over the centuries. As I’ve pointed out before, I was even sexually abused as a pubescent by a priest. That counts as a pretty big negative right there. In fact, I’d say for myself what Jason has said elsewhere for himself: I am Catholic not because I like it–my feelings are mixed, to say the least–but only because I believe Catholicism to be true. But my reasons for for reaching that conclusion include no belief to the effect that Catholics in general are better than other people, or that the Catholic hierarchy generally consists of better people than either Catholic laity or other clergy. Even if those beliefs are true–which I doubt–I would not know how to argue for them. My reasons are strictly epistemological, and I have repeatedly explained what those are. So, without speaking for Jason, I’d say that I on the one hand and you and Darryl on the other simply disagree is about what would count as evidence for and against the truth of Catholicism.

    That disagreement is of course epistemological, but the epistemological issue runs still deeper. Again, and as I often say, it arises from a fundamental difference of interpretive paradigm (IP). We simply have mutually incompatible ways of interpreting the relevant data-sets for theological purposes, before we even get to the question of relative evidential weight–a question that cannot be usefully addressed without first addressing the overall difference of IP. So if we’re going to discuss what counts as evidence for and against Catholicism, we need first to assess the CIP and the PIP against each other, without begging the question by evaluating either one in terms of the assumptions characteristic of the other. But I can detect little interest, on your part or Darryl’s, in doing that. You merely proceed as though the evidential criteria characteristic of your IP are the only ones worth bothering with. To my mind, that begs the question and is thus a waste of time.

    Darryl’s other main point was this:

    I think it is better for me to be modest about the truth claims of Reformed Protestantism. I see no such modesty on Jason and the Callers part. And this comes at a time when the RC hierarchy itself has abandoned its former immodest claims. But then again, no one here ever acknowledges the detour that Rome took with Vatican 2. (It’s as if Jason and the Callers believe post Vatican 2 is really no different from the church for which SSPXer’s pine.)

    Now for one thing, it is simply false that “no one here ever acknowledges the detour that Rome took with Vatican 2.” Bryan has posted several articles which, among other things, address that issue; both he and I have addressed it repeatedly in the comboxes since this site started. In my experience–which is far broader than my experience at CTC–it is one of the most common objections to Catholicism I face from people who consider themselves believers. And it’s worth taking seriously, because at its heart, it holds that the Magisterium teaching with its full authority has contradicted itself–which could not be the case if it were infallible when teaching with its full authority. But Bryan, I, and many others have repeatedly addressed just that point–as have many contemporary Catholic authors–showing that the Magisterium has not contradicted itself when teaching with its full authority about ecclesiology.

    Of course, the critics’ response to that defense typically is that we defenders are “re-interpreting” the pertinent ecclesiological claims so as to make them appear mutually consistent, when they actually are not. That is basically what the SSPX’s response to Pope Benedict was, which is why that organization is not reconciled with Rome, and still considers itself more Catholic than the Pope. I can assure you that they won’t fare any better with Pope Francis. But notice once again that the dispute is about how to interpret certain statements and facts. One can do that in terms of the “hermeneutic of continuity” (HoC) advocated by Ratzinger and the consensus of the Catholic hierarchy as a whole, or one can do it in terms of the “hermeneutic of discontinuity” (HoD) advocated by Catholic rad-trads, Catholic progressives, and many conservative Protestants such as Darryl. I favor the HoC because I believe it takes account of a wider range of theologically relevant facts, and explains them in a way that makes more sense, than does the HoD. Of course Darryl, the SSPX, et all disagree. But my main point is that one cannot even address the disagreement rationally if one simply assumes, as Darryl et al do, that the HoD is correct and that the advocates of HoC are simply burying their heads in the sand. Once again, it’s an issue of clashing IPs; and once again, the question is being begged by the critics of the Roman Magisterium.

    You write:

    In reality, if we’re honest with ourselves (and not typing on a blog for public consumption) we really aren’t 100% convinced of the truth of much in this life. We don’t have to be 100% convinced, though, and we don’t need an alleged fallible [sic]interpreter to find something to stake our lives on.

    Although, like Darryl, you’re suggesting that we at CTC are being dishonest, I would not say you’re being malicious (though, for all I know, you might be). I just think that the way you conceive the nature of the assent of faith, which fundamentally differs from ours, is so obvious to you that you simply cannot imagine that we might honestly adopt ours for reasons we honestly believe to be good. Once again, that’s a paradigm difference. But once again, you’re not not really addressing that sort of difference; you simply assume that our paradigm must be a dishonest fiction.

    In reality, it is nothing other than the teaching of the Catholic Church. Consider these two paragraphs from the CCC, especially the second:

    156 What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe “because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived”.28 So “that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit.”29 Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability “are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all”; they are “motives of credibility” (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is “by no means a blind impulse of the mind”.30

    157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.”31 “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”32

    You ought to have some sympathy with the first paragraph at least. Thus you finish the above-quoted paragraph as follows:

    We only need to be convinced that what we have found is better than the available alternatives. Reformed Protestantism is clearer and better than both atheism and Catholicism. That’s why I’m a Reformed Protestant.

    So we agree that one ought to have reasons for making whatever religious commitment one chooses to make. But in view of what I’ve just quoted from the CCC, we disagree on three points: (a) What should the reasons should be? (b) What is the relative strength of the reasons for and against our respective religious commitments, and (c) Can a faith commitment entail certainty? That kind of disagreement points up still-more-basic epistemological differences. So when you conclude:

    As I’ve said many, many time, I think you guys have epistemological problems that you think Rome has an answer to. I disagree.

    you are quite right. But if this discussion is to make any progress, you need to understand how the basic disagreement is one of IP, and what is involved in assessing our mutually incompatible IPs against each other. You’re not there yet, any more than Darryl is.

    Best,
    Mike

  458. Michael (#457) – But Bryan, I, and many others have repeatedly addressed just that point–as have many contemporary Catholic authors–showing that the Magisterium has not contradicted itself when teaching with its full authority about ecclesiology.

    Erik – Why would the Magisterium waste its own and everyone else’s time by teaching WITHOUT its full authority about ecclesiology (or anything else)?

    Michael (#457) – That is basically what the SSPX’s response to Pope Benedict was, which is why that organization is not reconciled with Rome, and still considers itself more Catholic than the Pope. I can assure you that they won’t fare any better with Pope Francis.

    Erik – How do you know what Francis will or will not do without being able to predict the future? Bryan touches on the subject of the unpredictability of future popes in his own conversion story. Is there truly any Papal action that could shake your guys’ faith or would you merely adjust your faith to match any future Papal action? It’s a serious question.

    Michael (#457) – Although, like Darryl, you’re suggesting that we at CTC are being dishonest, I would not say you’re being malicious (though, for all I know, you might be).

    Erik- I don’t think many people promote religious dogma that they know to be wrong. It’s possible you have such cynical people in your midst, but I have no reason to think that you do. I think you guys have bought into something that you have a deep need to be true and you do what you can to put things in the best light to convince yourselves and others that what the Roman Catholic Church teaches is true. What is the next stop for many of you if it’s not true? Back to Protestantism? Atheism? The public nature of your conversion stories makes these options difficult and quite humbling.

    Michael – (#457) – 157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.”31 “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”32

    Erik – Ironic that Rome would ground faith in “the very word of God” when she promotes things that are not found in the Word of God. Why should that not shake my faith in Rome?

  459. Michael,

    Your whole discussion of HoC vs. HoD shows how much you presuppose that Rome is what it says it is. This is why we say that all you guys have done is substitute “Sola Ecclesia” for your prior faith commitment of “Sola Scriptura”. Nothing that is superior to the “Protestant Paradigm” is in effect. It’s just a different “Catholic Paradigm” that rests on faith. Epistemologically you are no better off than before.

    Look at this from the Motives of Credibility:

    “But if the history of the Church since New-Testament times thus wonderfully confirms the New Testament itself, and if the New Testament so marvellously completes the Old Testament, these books must really contain what they claim to contain, viz. Divine revelation. And more than all, that Person Whose life and death were so minutely foretold in the Old Testament, and Whose story, as told in the New Testament, so perfectly corresponds with its prophetic delineation in the Old Testament, must be what He claimed to be, viz. the Son of God. His work, therefore, must be Divine. . Indeed, we can truly say that for every truth of Christianity which we believe Christ Himself is our testimony, and we believe in Him because the Divinity He claimed rests upon the concurrent testimony of His miracles, His prophecies His personal character, the nature of His doctrine, the marvellous propagation of His teaching in spite of its running counter to flesh and blood, the united testimony of thousands of martyrs, the stories of countless saints who for His sake have led heroic lives, the history of the Church herself since the Crucifixion, and, perhaps more remarkable than any, the history of the papacy from St. Peter to Pius X. ”

    How many of these things are truly self-evident without PRESUPPOSING that Rome is who she says she is?

    (1) “But if the history of the Church since New-Testament times thus wonderfully confirms the New Testament itself.”

    Not self-evident. We find Roman Catholic practices and doctrines with no New Testament precedent.

    (2) “The Church which He founded must also be Divine and the repository and guardian of His teaching”

    Not self-evident.

    (3) “the marvellous propagation of His teaching in spite of its running counter to flesh and blood, the united testimony of thousands of martyrs, the stories of countless saints who for His sake have led heroic lives”

    Not self-evident. One would have to compare Christ’s teaching to that taught by the Roman Catholic Church to establish that what has been propogated is “marvellous”.

    In order to assess martyrs, saints, and those who have led heroic lives one would also need to take into account Catholics who were scoundrels who led unheroic lives. Examining actions of Catholics has to work both ways.

    (4) “the history of the Church herself since the Crucifixion, and, perhaps more remarkable than any, the history of the papacy from St. Peter to Pius X.”

    Not self-evident. If we’re doing history we need to look at the bad along with the good.

    And no fideism allowed as we undertake all this.

  460. Bryan, I’m still going to stand by the vicarious atonement and its forensic nature (against your infusion view). Here I would remind you of what the old Encyclopedia conceded:

    “In their general conception on the atonement the Reformers and their followers happily preserved the Catholic doctrine, at least in its main lines. And in their explanation of the merit of Christ’s sufferings and death we may see the influence of St. Thomas and the other great Schoolmen.”

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02055a.htm

  461. Michael,

    I am genuinely sorry to hear of your experience as a teen and I do respect your commitment to Rome despite your circumstances. I don’t think that confessional Protestants necessarily think that RC’s believe they are more virtuous than others, nor that the authority of the church hangs on the morality of its clergy. I do think that CTC does set up the problem of Protestantism in such a way that RC’s wind up being the smartest guys in the room because of all that coherence. And that’s where the problem precisely lies. If you want to say that you believe in the church because you trust God, fine. But then you go and say that the issue is really epistemological and about paradigms and then it does look like you are truly the smartest guys in the room. But it doesn’t look smart to us when Rome is incoherent in a number of ways, such that you guys become the true interpreters and take over the duty of interpretation (from the magisterium).

    For instance, you write: “Bryan, I, and many others have repeatedly addressed just that point–as have many contemporary Catholic authors–showing that the Magisterium has not contradicted itself when teaching with its full authority about ecclesiology.” Well, when does the magisterium turn on the light to let you know when its speaking with full authority as opposed to the times when it’s only “just saying.” Just because you and Bryan say so doesn’t mean a thing. It really depends, in your paradigm, on the church being that clear about when it’s teaching with full authority and when it’s not. And if, as I constantly hear, we have only two instances of infallible teachings from the papacy, then what happens to all the talk about church councils and early church fathers? In other words, where does the magisterium provide a program for understanding the rank of church authorities and their teachings in descending order, like a baseball lineup.

    The weakness of your paradigm approach is really evident when you write: “the critics’ response to that defense typically is that we defenders are “re-interpreting” the pertinent ecclesiological claims so as to make them appear mutually consistent, when they actually are not. That is basically what the SSPX’s response to Pope Benedict was, which is why that organization is not reconciled with Rome, and still considers itself more Catholic than the Pope. I can assure you that they won’t fare any better with Pope Francis. But notice once again that the dispute is about how to interpret certain statements and facts. One can do that in terms of the “hermeneutic of continuity” (HoC) advocated by Ratzinger and the consensus of the Catholic hierarchy as a whole, or one can do it in terms of the “hermeneutic of discontinuity” (HoD) advocated by Catholic rad-trads, Catholic progressives, and many conserva