Twitter, World Youth Day, and Indulgences

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

The following post is not intended to offer an academic or theological defense of purgatory or the practice of granting indulgences as Called to Communion has already discussed these doctrines and practices at great length. For readers interested in a thorough treatment of indulgences, purgatory, and pilgrimages, see Bryan Cross’ article from January of 2011. This short post simply aims to offer some reflections in light of Pope Francis’ decree from July 9th concerning the obtaining of plenary indulgences via social media for following the events at World Youth Day in Brazil. My hope is that those who read the post will not see the practice of granting indulgences as a deterrent to Catholicism, but as yet another reason to go deeper in exploring the riches of the Catholic Church and the boldness of her claims.

(Christ the Redeemer, this well known symbol of Catholicism in Brazil will be seen by thousands of young Catholics on pilgrimage to Rio De Janeiro this week for World Youth Day)

Sitting in a Western Civ class freshman year at Louisiana State University I heard, for the first time, the little couplet attributed to Johann Tetzel; “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” The clever rhyme stuck in my head as I walked back to my stinky dorm room. At the time I was in the early phase of processing the distinctives of Reformed theology and this new knowledge fit well into the Reformed narrative of Church history. The Reformers were heroes. They had rescued Christianity and preserved the gospel despite men like Johann Tetzel doing their best to lose it.

Everything about indulgences seemed utterly foreign to what I had read in the New Testament. But more than that, they just seemed weird, in the fullest sense of the word. The practice seemed to be surrounded by other odd doctrines and practices unique to Catholicism; purgatory, prayers for the dead, pilgrimages, and a treasury of merit. In fact, the practice seemed so far down the line of peculiar Roman Catholic beliefs that I dismissed it without another thought.

In seminary, however, a new question presented itself to me that would eventually lead me back to some of the seemingly strange practices within Catholicism. The question I faced demanded an answer; did Jesus establish a Church and what authority did He give to her? I came to the conclusion that Christ indeed established one, single, indivisible Church, with a visible head and His own presence in the Eucharist at the center of worship. More importantly, I discovered the sacramental nature of the Church. The Church wasn’t merely a place to meet in common worship, but truly the vehicle by which God pours his redemptive grace into the world. Along the way I discovered that the odd practice of granting indulgences wasn’t really so odd.

Sure, an indulgence was something additional, but an additional grace, not an additional weight. The Catholic Catechism defines an indulgence as follows;

“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.”

Catholic Catechism 1471

Note that an indulgence does not forgive a sinner of the guilt of their sin. The sin is forgiven already through God’s free grace, merited for us by our Savior Jesus Christ. An indulgence is more grace, not less. To understand this point it’s necessary to understand the double consequence of sin. Again, the Catholic Catechism is helpful;

To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain. – Catholic Catechism, 1472

Common human experience bears witness to the double consequence of sin. A man may receive forgiveness from his wife for adultery, but the forgiveness does not immediately remove all the consequences of the sin (the memories of the other woman, the habitual pattern of lying, broken relationships with extended family and children, and the wounds in her heart may remain for some time.) Likewise, sin has a double consequence. Again, see Bryan Cross’ previous article for a deeper look at the doctrine.

But even if one comes to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Church’s practice concerning indulgences there may still have been some shock with the Pope’s recent decree. When I first saw news of the decree it had been cut down to a sound bite -“POPE TO GRANT PLENARY INDULGENCES BY TWITTER.” To be honest, a bit of that former skepticism towards the Church surfaced in my mind when I discovered this news. Not only a bit of skepticism, but also a bit of incredulity at the tactic! Doesn’t the Vatican know that the conservative crowd that actually believes in the Church’s teaching on purgatory is also the least likely to follow anything on Twitter! But then, as I’ve learned to do, I realized it would be best to read what the Pope actually decreed on the matter.

The decree, released July 9th states;

“The faithful who on account of a legitimate impediment cannot attend the aforementioned celebrations may obtain Plenary Indulgence under the usual spiritual, sacramental and prayer conditions, in a spirit of filial submission to the Roman Pontiff, by participation in the sacred functions on the days indicated, following the same rites and spiritual exercises as they occur via television or radio or, with due devotion, via the new means of social communication…”

A couple points; Pope Francis is addressing a specific audience, the faithful who could not attend World Youth Day due to a “legitimate impediment.” Simply not feeling up to a trip, or disinterest, would not count as legitimate impediments. When this narrower audience is identified it becomes clear that this decree flows from Pope Francis’ love and concern or the poor. In a Church of mercy and compassion Catholics in good health with the financial means to travel shouldn’t have advantages over the sick and poor. As a good and faithful Bishop, Pope Francis imitates the love of Jesus towards the poor and marginalized and this recent decree is merely one example of this compassion.

In conclusion, only when the Church is rightly understood as the vehicle of God’s redemptive grace in the world can the practice of granting indulgences be understood. While it may still feel strange for those new to the Catholic Church or to those considering it, further investigating the practice only leads to a greater appreciation for the superabundant merits of Christ and the gift of the Holy Catholic Church as the conduit of the grace merited by Jesus’ death on the cross.

75 comments
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  1. Thanks for this Jeremy. Even as a non-Catholic Christian, I can imagine the initial shock you must have felt in taking in the media’s muddled portrayal of this announcement! Other non-Catholic Christians have also responded critically based on their own misunderstandings of indulgences within RC. I agree that “only when the Church is…understood as the vehicle of God’s redemptive grace in the world can the practice of granting indulgences be understood”…and I think it would be helpful for those (like myself) to wrestle thoroughly with the RC’s understanding of authority to at least make informed decisions on the matter and create room for understanding.

    I wrote a short response to the media’s announcement from an ecumenical angle the other day if you’re interested. Please feel free to correct any misunderstandings I probably have in the comment section! http://thetension.info/pontifex-followers-granted-indulgences/

  2. Hi Stephen,

    Wow – your spirit of humility and understanding is much appreciated. I can only imagine how much further ecumenical dialogue would be if everyone treated each other with the fairness you have. I took a look at your site and read your post and so far you’re the only Protestant I’ve found who is saying, “wait a minute, let’s take a step back and consider…” Again, I appreciate you being the exception to the common reaction. All the best in your M-Div studies!

    Peace in Christ, Jermy

  3. Stephen,

    Thank you for commenting here and bringing your blog to my attention. Since Michael Spencer passed, I haven’t had a Protestant run blog that I’ve regularly followed or participated in discussions. I’ll add your blog to my aggregator and I’m optimistic that I’ll enjoy reading your posts. My Optimism was increased by several orders of Magnitude by seeing {T} although perhaps you aren’t referring to Mathematics.

  4. You have to be poor to consider plane tickets to and accommodations in Rio for your kids out of reach? Who knew I was poor while making six figures…

  5. Thanks for your kind words Jeremy and GNW Paul! I look forward to more dialogue in the future as I’m now tracking along here. Loved Mathematics so much that it was my minor at university! Unfortunately haven’t used any of it in over 10 years …so no reference :)
    Peace

  6. Erik,

    Notice the contrast in tone between the first three comments and then yours. Sarcasm is generally unhelpful in ecumenical dialogue.

    Remember, Reformed people make pilgrimages as well; they just don’t call them that. I have Reformed friends who have travelled to Geneva to walk in Calvin’s footsteps, usually to return home with their faith revived. A Reformed pastor may even encourage those under his care to make such a trip believing it would be good for their faith. If some in his congregation couldn’t make the trip, while others did, he may even encourage those staying home to participate by following the trip through social media. There’s nothing strange or unfamiliar about a costly pilgrimage.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  7. Tater,

    If I was seeking “ecumenical dialogue” you might be right.

    The only pilgrimage I make is to church for 52 Lord’s Days.

  8. And I was being serious. Your interpretation that “Francis did this for the poor” doesn’t add up. Calculate the cost of getting to and from Rio plus lodging, meals, Pope souvenirs, etc. and we’ll talk. The problem may be putting that obligation on anyone in the first place.

  9. Erik,

    You said:

    If I was seeking “ecumenical dialogue” you might be right.

    If you are not seeking ecumenical dialogue, then why are you commenting here? You do realize that ecumenical dialogue is the purpose of this site, right?

    The problem may be putting that obligation on anyone in the first place.

    Who said anything about an obligation? Please show me where the Catholic Church obligated anyone to go to World Youth Day, made going to World Youth Day a necessary condition for salvation, or any such thing.

    And of course, the point of your initial comment — that going to World Youth Day is expensive — is exactly why Pope Francis has issued this indulgence for those who wish to go but cannot, as Jeremy explained in the post. No one is arguing that international travel is cheap.

  10. Erick

    There is no “obligation.” No one is required to obtain any indulgence, must less any particular indulgence. Also, there are other ways to obtain indulgences for those that desire to do so. Some are harder some are easier, but many can be done without any expensive travel. There is a indulgence for spending 30 minutes reading the bible for example.

    If one could actually travel to WYD and chooses not to then probably they can not obtain the indulgence by following via media. If a family can actually afford to travel to WYD and instead are vacationing at Disney Land this summer, then that family DOES NOT qualify for the indulgence via media. There is that phrase “Legitimate impediment.” Adding the money to the kid’s college fund instead or buying a new TV are not “legitimate impediment.”

    What this indulgence does allow and encourage, is that a youth in particular whose family actually can not possibly send them to WYD (or who is too sick to travel, or who lives in a country with travel restrictions etc) could follow the events on the prescribed days prayerfully and intentionally, along with the other relevant conditions for obtaining an indulgence, and as far as the indulgence goes, that will be as good as being there.

  11. Pilgrimages are not “obligations” but acts of devotion.
    Catholics are not “required” to do them.

  12. I’ll just rest in Christ’s completed work gentlemen. By all means enjoy yourselves on Rome’s works-based treadmill, though. Let’s just hope you do enough, because Purgatory does not sound like much fun.

  13. If Francis is a friend to the poor, why not direct all the money that is being spent on this event to the poor people of Brazil? Just stay home and send what you would have spent on travel and lodging to a Catholic relief agency. Meetings in general are a waste of time. If Francis has an important message for the Catholic Youth of today, post it on I-Tunes. And throwing in an indulgence as an incentive should not be necessary if people love God and respect the Pope’s authority. One doesn’t even need to be Protestant to see how half-baked this all is.

  14. The whole notion of an “act of devotion is odd”. Why would attending a meeting garner one more favor with God than staying home and working hard at one’s vocation, taking care of one’s kids, and maybe visiting one’s grandmother in a nursing home. We show our devotion to God in our faithfulness to the daily tasks to which we have been called. Visiting a holy place, viewing relics, saying special prayers to saints, etc. makes no sense. It seems like all this does is attempt to foster dependence on the Roman Catholic hierarchy. When you go back to Christ’s completed work on the cross it doesn’t make sense that we should need to add to that to make ourselves acceptable to God. Yeah, I know — different paradigms — but I’m just trying to have a reasonable discussion man to man. I think you guys need to have a bit more skepticism toward your tradition, but I realize that is different when the starting point of your faith is submission to authority and tradition. For the life of me I don’t understand how one goes from the beauty and simplicity of Reformed Theology to Catholicism. I don’t know how the same brain can even be attracted to those two diametrically opposed things in the same lifetime.

  15. Erik,

    For the life of me I don’t understand how one goes from the beauty and simplicity of Reformed Theology to Catholicism.

    Many of the Called to Communion guys who have studied Reformed Theology for years were told that “they never really understood Reformed theology” in the first place once they converted to Catholicism. So I’m not sure how “simple” Reformed theology is to understand. On the other hand, a Catholic trusts the Church as a child trusts their mother. It’s very simple. As a Reformed Christian, there never was a mother to trust, just competing voices.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  16. Jeremy,

    With the Heidelberg coming in at 129 Q&A’s vs. nearly 3,000 in the RCC Catechism I would say Reformed Theology is comparatively simple. Add to that the fact that our Confessions purport to be no more than a faithful summary of Scripture as opposed to your Scripture + Tradition and I think that is evidence of further simplicity. I know that you guys were frustrated by the many competing voices of Protestantism, but welcome to modernity and freedom of religion. I think you confuse the appeal of “one voice” with the necessary truth of one voice. These are ultimately questions we won’t solve because the answers are based on faith, but I do intend to shake your foundations a bit as long as you will tolerate it.

    Reformed Theology is primarily about the gospel and the gospel is really simple. Christ died for sinful people and they belong to Christ merely by faith in his completed work.

  17. As far as “a Catholic trusts the Church as a child trusts their mother”, I would say that a church has to earn one’s trust while a mother gains it merely by the parent-child relationship (although even that relationship becomes c0nditional at some point — if my mother is a crack-smoking prostitute who steals my money that trust is going to break down). One of the motivations for the Reformation was the improper selling of indulgences by the RCC. Clearly the church had other interests in mind than just the good of her members. Clergy are human and your clergy earn their livings purely from the resources of your members. This should breed a healthy skepticism of their motives when they ask you to do things. No one is purely selfless this side of heaven. For instance, how does this confab in Rio benefit the Church’s finances? Maybe it’s a net financial loser, but how would you know. Is your church transparent with you about its finances?

  18. Dan – How can you say it’s not an obligation? Purgatory will hurt worse than any pain you have experienced on Earth. If Pope Francis offers an indulgence you had very well find time to take him up on the offer, shouldn’t you? I would say you are “obliged”.

    This raises the obvious question of why Pope Francis does not give out more condition-free indulgences if he has the ability. Why would he want to see anyone suffer that kind of pain if he has the power to stop it? I thought he was supposed to be one of the most compassionate men alive?

  19. Hi Erik,
    I’m a non-Catholic yet I struggle with where we find God’s authority in the midst of the Protestant cacophony of competing voices and individual interpretation. “Ecclesia semper reformanda est” or “the church is always to be reformed” is the spirit of the Reformation. Protestants continuing in that spirit should not settle for “yesterday’s manna” but press in to better understand and make corrections as necessary. So, Reformed Theology, as authority, may need to be corrected at times and could theoretically be wrong in certain instances. In the spirit of the Reformation and in the light of recent historical evidence, Anglican N.T. Wright (and others), have gone back to some of the assumptions of the Reformation and question whether Luther et al. correctly understood Paul on justification, etc. As it turns out, good deeds, for example, may play a bigger part in justification than the reformers first conceived and could serve to bridge at least some of the Protestant/Catholic divide. Here’s a little piece I wrote on why we should care about what’s called the “New Perspective on Paul” and would love your feedback: http://thetension.info/5-reasons-why-you-should-care-about-the-new-perspective-on-paul/. Now, I realize that Jeremy’s post is not about justification but rather indulgences/purgatory but I think that, with hearts committed to dialogue marked by gentleness and respect , we may find more similarities than originally expected (at least that’s been my experience). Cheers,
    Stephen

  20. Erik (re 14),

    You wrote:

    The whole notion of an “act of devotion is odd”.

    Indeed, particularly from the perspectives of naturalism, skepticism, and Judas Iscariot (John 12:1-8). But as Christians we believe that Jesus is God incarnate, and as Catholics we believe that the Bishop of Rome is the Vicar of Christ. Thus, out of love for Christ the King, we honor his steward, the Pope, and are delighted whenever he is present among us.

    Andrew

  21. Hi Erik (#14),

    You said,

    The whole notion of an “act of devotion is odd”. Why would attending a meeting garner one more favor with God than staying home and working hard at one’s vocation, taking care of one’s kids, and maybe visiting one’s grandmother in a nursing home. We show our devotion to God in our faithfulness to the daily tasks to which we have been called. Visiting a holy place, viewing relics, saying special prayers to saints, etc. makes no sense. It seems like all this does is attempt to foster dependence on the Roman Catholic hierarchy. When you go back to Christ’s completed work on the cross it doesn’t make sense that we should need to add to that to make ourselves acceptable to God. Yeah, I know — different paradigms — but I’m just trying to have a reasonable discussion man to man. I think you guys need to have a bit more skepticism toward your tradition, but I realize that is different when the starting point of your faith is submission to authority and tradition. For the life of me I don’t understand how one goes from the beauty and simplicity of Reformed Theology to Catholicism. I don’t know how the same brain can even be attracted to those two diametrically opposed things in the same lifetime.

    I would love to have a “man-to-man” conversation with you, but I have hard time finding coherent arguments that I can respond to in your many comments. It’s more of “Erik’s witty retorts and list of grievances with Catholicism.”

    What could I say in response to your claim that the Catholic devotional life fosters dependence on the Roman Catholic hierarchy? It doesn’t, and I have many reasons for thinking so. You’ve already made it clear you don’t see any profit in ecumenical dialogue, so if I took the time to write my reasons out for you, I’m guessing you’d just move on to the next grievance.

    I also don’t remember Jeremy arguing that the acts of charity you described are inferior to certain Catholic devotional practices, as if we have to choose – will I be a good Reformed Protestant and take care of my aging grandparents, or be a good Catholic and go to Brazil to see the pope? I certainly don’t remember Francis, or any Church teaching, ever suggesting such a dichotomy. Your comments seems more of a “straw-man” that suits the polemic, rather than a reflection on what Jeremy is proposing.

    As for your comment on skepticism, how much skepticism do you have in sola scriptura, or even more generally, the inspiration and infallibility of the Protestant canon? It seems only fair that if you’re demanding that of us, you’d have the same skepticism in your own system.

    in hope of more fruitful conversaion,

    Casey

  22. Hi Eric # 13

    You are right about one thing. You do not “understand” and what you do not understand you condemn, without even once considering that you could possibly be wrong. You yourself said you were not here to have any ecumenical dialogue. What exactly are you here for then? To spout sarcasm? You said that the whole notion of an act of “devotion” is odd and that you will rely on Jesus’ finished work. You are right there is nothing we need do to add to Christ’s work , but that being the case what do you make of those who are Protestants ( of all denominations) who’s devotion is to reading the scriptures daily in an act of devotion to Christ? How about the Apostles themselves who’s devotions to God were such that they travelled the world over and died for Him so as to win converts to Christ . I suppose by your reasoning that was superfluous as well? Did Christ not say to go unto all nations and teach what He had taught them? That is a work my friend, whether you believe it or not. Maybe if you try to “understand” instead of judge you could be more enlightened. No one is attending the WYD to garner more favour with God, they are attending to celebrate God and to celebrate each other in God. I don’t suppose your attending Sunday devotions every week as you stated earlier would be a celebration of God, would it? No one does any devotional to curry more favour with God. It is done to strengthen our faith in God. God loves us no matter what we do but we need to be strengthened in our love for Him. Acts of devotions are one way to do this and yes we do submit to the authority of God. You stated that purgatory does not sound like much fun. You would be right and neither does hell. Take a moment and reconsider what you have said. Just maybe there is more to this than you realize.

    Blessings
    NHU

  23. Andrew,

    I mean it’s odd in light of how Jesus spent his time on earth and our own limited time and resources. It’s also odd in light of Catholic Social Teaching. Let’s just worship on Sundays (whether Reformed or Catholic) and spent the rest of our time doing useful work. God doesn’t need our pious-looking religious efforts.

    Casey – Hang in there. I’ll dialogue and recognize good points when I see them. Unlike some of you guys I’m even willing to question my own basic assumptions when faced with conflicting evidence. As far as “Sola Scriptura” goes, we both except the authority of Scripture so you are not entirely against it (as least the “Scriptura” part). I think the burden is on you to prove why I need to go beyond Scripture. As mentioned to Jeremy, The Heidelberg summarizes the Christian faith beautifully in only 129 Q&A’s. The Belgic adds to that in only 37 articles. Why do I need to go beyond that to a Catechism with nearly 3,000 Q&A’s and a tradition that is quite difficult to make sense of at times. Hard to reconcile a medieval pope with 21st century Pope Francis. My confessional documents have stood up for 450 years with very little need for revision.

  24. Stephen,

    Salvation on any other terms than a perfect sacrifice appeasing a holy God makes no sense to me. That is the pure gospel. Salvation by faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross. If you use the gospel to aid you in finding a church it becomes relatively easy. The NPP & The Federal Vision are not at all compelling to me. I’m either Reformed or an atheist.

  25. Nelson,

    I’m not big into “devotions”, but I do try to read the Bible & Confessions with my family. If we miss a day (or a week) it’s o.k.

    Evangelism, missionary work, and the work of the apostles in establishing the church is a lot different that World Youth Day in Rio. Come on.

    I understand Catholics pretty well. You are free to go to Rio if you want. I just don’t think it will improve your standing with God in any way or have an impact on temporal punishment for sin (nor will following Pope Francis’s tweets while invoking the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Brazil).

  26. Think about this:

    Christ earned us freedom from punishment for sins by dying a bloody death on a cross.

    You can earn freedom from punishment for sins by following Tweets.

    ?????

  27. Andrew,

    In invoking John 12:1-8 are you suggesting that the Pope should be viewed in the same way that Christ was viewed by his followers? Isn’t the Pope’s job to merely point people to Christ?

  28. Andrew,

    Can you give any biblical references to Peter being treated in a similar manner as Christ was treated in John 12:1-8? I seem to remember the apostles doing quite the opposite (refusing worship).

  29. Dear Erik,

    I see that the last five comments have come from you, three of them to the same person. Please kindly consider whether this is good manners. The best conversations happen when the parties engaged exhibit temperance, patience, and forbearance. Thank you.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  30. Tom,

    Two things:

    (1) With moderation I have no idea what will get through and what won’t. For instance, I have two from this morning that are still in moderation and I have no idea why.

    (2) I generally read a comment/question, respond to that person, then move on to the next and do likewise. I’m not intending to be rude.

  31. As far as the question of whether or not I am carrying on “ecumenical dialogue” goes, I am attempting to do evangelism. I would think you guys would be doing the same (although I guess that depends which of your Pope’s you are listening to – Pre-Vatican II or Post-Vatican II). I think that anyone who is looking to anything beyond Christ’s completed work for salvation is on dangerous ground and is leading others astray as well. But this should not be news to you.

  32. Erik,

    You wrote (#23):

    Evangelism, missionary work, and the work of the apostles in establishing the church is a lot different that World Youth Day in Rio. Come on.

    Please make an argument for this. (“Come on” is not an argument.) It seems to me that World Youth Day is a prime example of evangelism, missionary work, and apostolic ministry. In what qualitative ways (other than the church/group organizing it) does World Youth Day differ from, say, a Billy Graham crusade, or Paul preaching in the markets and synagogues? Or is your point simply that Catholicism is false, therefore World Youth Day is not genuine evangelism?

  33. Hi Erik (#21),

    You wrote,

    As far as “Sola Scriptura” goes, we both except the authority of Scripture so you are not entirely against it (as least the “Scriptura” part). I think the burden is on you to prove why I need to go beyond Scripture. As mentioned to Jeremy, The Heidelberg summarizes the Christian faith beautifully in only 129 Q&A’s. The Belgic adds to that in only 37 articles. Why do I need to go beyond that to a Catechism with nearly 3,000 Q&A’s and a tradition that is quite difficult to make sense of at times. Hard to reconcile a medieval pope with 21st century Pope Francis. My confessional documents have stood up for 450 years with very little need for revision.

    I agree, we both do share many of the same scriptures, which I presume we both view as inspired and inerrant. My question is, on what basis do you accept these texts as the inspired Word of God in the first place? When you look at all the options for what is scripture, how do you decide what makes the cut and what doesn’t? I think, alternatively, that you have a burden of explaining how you determine what is scripture, and why you have such confidence that it is indeed inspired and inerrant. If you’ve read much of what liberal Protestant exegetes have been doing for the past couple hundred years, there’s plenty about which we might be skeptical. You urge Catholics to be skeptical of tradition or the magisterium, yet you quote 2 Timothy 3:16 as if the epistle’s canonicity and authority was as plain as day.

    I think there is a certain irony in your moving directly from discussing sola scriptura to discussing Reformed confessional documents, and then asking me to prove why we must move beyond scripture. Anyway, I would hope your criteria for determiming what Christian tradition to accept is not based on the brevity of that tradition’s documents, as you seem to suggest by comparing Heidelberg and Belgic to the Cathechism of the Catholic Church.

    Indeed, medieval popes are different from 21st century popes in many ways. I’ve been listening to a lecture series on the medieval church by Thomas F. Madden, and it’s interesting to see how different of a time that was for the Catholic Church. I fail to see your argument, however, unless it’s simply “different” demonstrates “contradictory.” A quick survey of how God related to man in the Old Testament, or comparing Old Testament to New Testament, would, I think, demonstrate that “different” does not necessarily entail “contradictory.”

    God bless, Casey

  34. Steven,

    A bunch of Catholics gathering in a far-off land that is tough to get to does not impress me as evangelism, unless the targets are hotel maids and hot dog vendors. When we send the youth to Adventureland it’s mainly to eat too much cotton candy and get sick on roller coasters.

  35. Hi Eric,

    In reply, you said you were not big into devotions. That is fine for you if that’s the way you feel about it. That does not mean that others do not feel the need for it does it? I was not trying to say that WYD is the same as the Apostles and evangelism of the world but in a sense it is an evangelism of sorts. It is a coming together of people from all over the world to give praise and glory to God and to strengthen each other in the faith. Maybe you don’t need strengthening in the faith and that’s ok if that’s how you feel but others want it and need it. It seems to me I recall St. Paul advising us to strengthen one another in the faith.

    You say that you think you understand Catholics pretty well but what you state shows that you do not. As I said previously the WYD is not to improve out standing with God but to improve our “understanding of God”. It is a coming together of the faithful to praise and glorify God and to witness to the world. Your statement about the Blessed Virgin Mary seems to me to be sarcasm about the mother of our Lord, if I am wrong about that I apologize. You seem not to understand Catholics devotion to Mary or the reason for it. There are many things that will help to impact on our temporal punishment for sins. One is our better understanding of love and living that love in one another and for one another. Getting to know love is what the WYD is all about.

    Blessings

    NHU

  36. Casey – My question is, on what basis do you accept these texts as the inspired Word of God in the first place?

    Erik – Apostolic authorship, divine attributes, and reception by the early church. The makeup of the Canon has not been in dispute for some time now among orthodox Christians. I’ll own “my” liberals when you’re willing to own yours.

    Casey – I think there is a certain irony in your moving directly from discussing sola scriptura to discussing Reformed confessional documents, and then asking me to prove why we must move beyond scripture.

    Erik – Reformed Confessional documents are not “beyond Scripture” in the sense that they are “in addition” to Scripture. They are a purported faithful summary of Scripture and are subject to change if they can be shown to depart from Scripture. Granted we have no infallible authority to make that call, but when your own purported infallible authority invokes infallibility so rarely I don’t see that we’re in much of a different spot.

    Casey – I would hope your criteria for determining what Christian tradition to accept is not based on the brevity of that tradition’s documents, as you seem to suggest by comparing Heidelberg and Belgic to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    Erik – I pointed in brevity in response to Jeremy’s comment on the relativity simplicity of our theologies.

    Casey – A quick survey of how God related to man in the Old Testament, or comparing Old Testament to New Testament, would, I think, demonstrate that “different” does not necessarily entail “contradictory.”

    Erik – Comparing OT to NT seems quite different than comparing medieval popes to modern popes. Jesus’ incarnation separated the OT from the NT. What separates medieval popes from modern popes? It’s hard to square “Unam Sanctam” to what we saw with JFK telling people there was no need for people to worry about his Catholicism, for instance. And are we Protestants anathema or Separated Brethren?

    I do appreciate your sincere comments.

  37. Casey,

    A really interesting question, not only for your church but for mine, is why Should the church ever need to change? Why should doctrine need to develop? We have debates in my Federation over changes to the article in the Belgic on the Civil Magistrate, for instance.

    It seems like you have a lot bigger burden explaining change than I do, though, since your Church is led by a man who has the ability to speak infallibly. Because of this I think there is great hesitation to admit that the church has changed or needs to change in substantive ways.

    For instance, it appears to most everyone that the requirements that your clergy remain celibate has caused problems. As I understand it you are now willing to accept married clergy who move from the Anglican church. The Priest sex abuse scandal has cost the church untold millions. I know the link between celibate clergy and same-sex abuse is controversial, but it seems that when people are not allowed to express themselves sexually in normal, healthy ways deviancy becomes more likely. It also narrows the field of eligible clergy to exclude those with strong opposite-sex attraction. How does the church change a position it has held for hundreds and hundreds of years and save face, however? It’s a difficult problem and they appear to have painted themselves into a corner.

  38. Dear Erik,

    Regarding comment moderation, your patience would be greatly appreciated. Without comment moderation, among other problems, this combox would devolve into a virtual food fight. No one learns from such exchanges, I’m sure you would agree.

    More importantly, you said:

    As far as the question of whether or not I am carrying on “ecumenical dialogue” goes, I am attempting to do evangelism.

    With or without scare quotes, this is a site for ecumenical dialogue. We run it for that purpose. You and others are invited to comment here for ecumenical dialogue related to the article or post in question. If by evangelism you mean that you wish to preach a message to people who might be reading here, without regard for the topic of the article or post, or without meaning to seek truth and unity with separated Christians, you would not be using the combox for its intended purpose. As our posting guidelines state, “This is to be a forum wherein unity is pursued in the context of humility, charity, respect and prayer.” So please join us in ecumenical dialogue, or refrain from commenting. I hope you choose the former, brother.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  39. Hi Erik (#36/37),

    You wrote,

    Apostolic authorship, divine attributes, and reception by the early church. The makeup of the Canon has not been in dispute for some time now among orthodox Christians. I’ll own “my” liberals when you’re willing to own yours.

    On what basis/authority have you decided these are sufficient markers for determining what is or isn’t scripture? Furthermore, you are probably aware that the apostolic authorship of many NT books is questioned by the majority of NT scholars. This includes 2 Tim, which you’ve cited as containing a text you believe is a “slam dunk” proof-text for sola scriptura. My reference to liberal Protestant theologians wasn’t a personal jab or demand that you “own” them. My point was rather that within the broader tradition of Protestantism, there is great skepticism regarding the contents and authenticity of the NT. You have demanded Catholics be skeptical of tradition and the magisterium. Are you willing to be skeptical regarding sola scriptura or the canon?

    Comparing OT to NT seems quite different than comparing medieval popes to modern popes. Jesus’ incarnation separated the OT from the NT. What separates medieval popes from modern popes? It’s hard to square “Unam Sanctam” to what we saw with JFK telling people there was no need for people to worry about his Catholicism, for instance. And are we Protestants anathema or Separated Brethren?

    Well, let’s back up and consider just the OT. There is quite a progression from the way God relates to Adam, then Abraham, then Moses, then David, and then 2nd Temple Jews. I’d label those various relationships have “different” in many regards. Yet you and I don’t cry “foul” and demand God explain why He chose to do things one way with Adam, and then a different way with Moses. We recognize a progression in salvation history, and as long as we don’t find these differences to suggest a deeper contradiction in God’s methods, we are satisfied that He has chosen to do one thing at one time, and a different thing at a different time. That’s where I was going in the previous comment, and I think the same holds true for comparing OT and NT. Medieval popes existed in a different context, with different concerns, goals, and threats to their authority than those in the 21st century. I think I’ll wait for further clarification from you on your concerns with Unam Sanctam, given that JFK’s Catholicism has absolutely no bearing on Church doctrine. You are separated brethren, and not “anathema,” for reasons Mike Liccione and I addressed with two separate Protestant visitors in my article “Holy Church: Finding Jesus as a Reverted Catholic.” See comments #43, 44, 110, 182, 184.

    You also said,

    A really interesting question, not only for your church but for mine, is why Should the church ever need to change? Why should doctrine need to develop? We have debates in my Federation over changes to the article in the Belgic on the Civil Magistrate, for instance.

    It seems like you have a lot bigger burden explaining change than I do, though, since your Church is led by a man who has the ability to speak infallibly. Because of this I think there is great hesitation to admit that the church has changed or needs to change in substantive ways.

    For instance, it appears to most everyone that the requirements that your clergy remain celibate has caused problems. As I understand it you are now willing to accept married clergy who move from the Anglican church. The Priest sex abuse scandal has cost the church untold millions. I know the link between celibate clergy and same-sex abuse is controversial, but it seems that when people are not allowed to express themselves sexually in normal, healthy ways deviancy becomes more likely. It also narrows the field of eligible clergy to exclude those with strong opposite-sex attraction. How does the church change a position it has held for hundreds and hundreds of years and save face, however? It’s a difficult problem and they appear to have painted themselves into a corner.

    This is a huge question worthy of a dissertation and not a combox, so I’m hesitant to even begin answering. In short, the Church “changes” for many reasons – doctrines develop as new heresies or questions arise that require answers. Is Jesus fully God, fully man, or both? Should Christians use contraception or not? Other practices that are not doctrinal may change as culture or society changes, or if the Church believes it needs to emphasis one thing more than another. For example, the English translation of the Mass used after Vatican II was not entirely faithful to the original text. The Church, finding this to be case, made changes that went into effect two years ago to help Catholics in the English-speaking world better understand or appreciate the Mass. Doesn’t any Protestant denomination do the same thing when it holds a synod or General Assembly to react to new issues, doctrinal or other?

    In ref: to priestly celibacy, in addition to recent examples of Anglican converts, eastern branches in communion with the Catholic Church, such as the Melkites, have allowed priests to marry for centuries. This is not the same as an issue of doctrine that can never be altered, but an issue of discipline that the Church determines for any number of reasons. I can’t tell you all the reasons the Church, particularly the Latin Rite, has determined priests should be celibate. What I can tell you is that in my mind, it makes a lot of sense. Priests have many responsibilities; more, typically than any Protestant minister or other lay vocations. The sacraments alone are a huge time and emotional commitment: daily Mass, confession several times a week, being available at a moment’s notice to perform Last Rites, baptisms, weddings, teaching religious education, etc. Factor in trying to maintain one’s own spirituality in order to feed others, and there’s not much left for a spouse. I have a hard enough time giving my wife and daughter the time and energy they deserve, and I only work 45 hours/week. I can’t imagine being a priest and taking care of a family. All that to say, there are good reasons priestly celibacy will continue. Though who knows, maybe someday it won’t. This all seems less than relevant to evaluating Catholic doctrine on indulgences, which I think is the purpose of this article.

    In Christ, Casey

  40. Casey – This includes 2 Tim, which you’ve cited as containing a text you believe is a “slam dunk” proof-text for sola scriptura.

    Erik – I did? Remind me where. I’m not a big slam dunk proof-text kind of guy.

    Casey – My point was rather that within the broader tradition of Protestantism, there is great skepticism regarding the contents and authenticity of the NT

    Erik – Where did I say I was arguing for “the broader tradition of Protestantism”? Are you arguing for “the broader tradition of Catholicism which includes whoever I choose to throw in who calls themselves Catholic?

    Casey – Medieval popes existed in a different context, with different concerns, goals, and threats to their authority than those in the 21st century.

    Erik – So “Unam Sanctam” was necessary under Christendom when the Roman Catholic Church was shown great deference and was pretty much the only show in town, but is not needed today when she is but one player in a crowded religious marketplace (30,000 Protestant sects alone, not to mention other non-Christian religions, according to you guys)? I would think this would make the Pope all the more worried about claiming his rightful authority over all things spiritual and secular.

    Casey – doctrines develop as new heresies or questions arise that require answers.

    Erik – Can doctrines develop in response to abuses that the church identifies within her own ranks as well?

    Casey – This all seems less than relevant to evaluating Catholic doctrine on indulgences, which I think is the purpose of this article.

    Erik – I see relevance in that both indulgences and priestly celibacy are issues that go beyond what Scripture teaches.

  41. Tom,

    Evangelism in context. I make no bones about the fact that I would like you guys to return to Presbyterian and Reformed churches. As a Calvinist I realize that’s not up to me, though. As far as “ecumenical dialogue” goes, someone is going to win and someone is going to lose on some of these irreconcilable differences. Either Peter was the rock whose apostleship was meant to be passed on or he wasn’t. Justification is either by faith apart from works or it isn’t. We’re all big boys and should be able to accept this.

  42. Another interesting question is to what degree you guys believe the Magisterium has to have Scriptural warrant. Occasionally I’ll find a Catholic doing Biblical exegesis and I kind of wonder why. Bryan was just doing it yesterday. Unless you have to have biblical warrant for everything I’m not sure why you need it for anything. For instance, I believe David Van Drunen wrote that Pope Boniface VIII cited the passage where Jesus told Peter to put away his sword as justification for Unam Sanctam. Boniface didn’t focus on the fact that Peter was to put away his sword, however, but on the fact that Jesus did not tell Peter that he could not have a sword. What? That’s the point of that passage?

  43. Casey,

    Re: the OT/NT distinction.

    Tom,

    I’ve been thinking about the entire RCC sacramental and penitential system. In Acts 15 the apostles had a chance to impose the entire Mosaic system on the gentile converts, but chose instead to only put a few, minimal requirements on them (refraining from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from what has been strangled, and from blood). Is it not odd to go from there to where Rome is today?

  44. Eric,

    I’ll be short, I know there are plenty of other comments you are engaging, but I wanted to get back to you from earlier.

    You wrote;

    I think you confuse the appeal of “one voice” with the necessary truth of one voice.

    This is exactly what’s problematic for Protestants. For a Young Life convert like myself, there is no way to know which Church to go to. The believer must decide who to listen to and who to submit to for himself. I discovered, after several years of moving around (from charismatic to Baptist to Lutheran to Bible Church to Reformed) that all I was doing was following what I found most appealing. At first I was following around an emotional appeal, but as I matured I began following around a more academic appeal (Reformed). Either way I was following what appealed to me most. I don’t see any way out of this dilemma other than the Catholic Church. Only the Catholic Church requires you to surrender chasing after whatever one happens to find most appealing at whatever stage in life.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  45. Jeremy,

    I had some experience with Young Life, too.

    The splintering of Protestantism is frustrating, but I found good things in all the Protestant churches I have been a part of. Protestants also live at peace with each other (and with Catholics) in the American context. Like all things worth having, finding a (more-or-less) true church takes work, however. There is no TV dinner approach to making a great meal.

    Another thing I would like you guys to reckon with is the impact of Constantine on your church being (1) Old, (2) Big, and (3) One. You had a big head start enabled by magistrates with swords, did you not?

    And if God intended it to remain Big and One why would he allow cataclysmic events like the Reformation, 1789, The Enlightenment, and modernity, to happen?

  46. Dear Erik,

    Again, your invitation to comment here is to engage in ecumenical dialogue related to the article or post in question (in this case, Jeremy’s World Youth Day post). You ask us to “reckon with” something-or-other about Constantine, and then use a question to do your rhetorical work. You are not engaging with the substance of this post. Your questions do not appear (to me) to be charitably worded. We can do better than this, and we owe it to God to give this dialogue our very best effort at love and charity. Please, brother, I’m asking you to temper the tone so that we can continue the conversation in a way that is mutually edifying.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  47. Tom,

    Please give an example of uncharitable wording or intemperate tone.

  48. Erik (#41)

    I make no bones about the fact that I would like you guys to return to Presbyterian and Reformed churches.

    I think you will have more people actually listening if you make some actual arguments – and arguments for why the Presbyterian and Reformed churches are what God intends people to be in, rather than simply complaints about what you think is wrong about Catholicism.

    Lines like this:

    We’re all big boys and should be able to accept this.

    are quite frequent in your comments and do not make it seem as though you are really interested in arguments.

    jj

  49. John,

    What is it that big boys should be able to accept?

    Do you agree or disagree with that?

    You guys seem to attract a lot of humorless people.

    What is wrong with Catholicism is a valid place for conversion to start. Many Catholics who have converted have started from that point. When Cross, Stellman, and Tate converted did it not begin with seeing alleged shortcomings of Reformed Protestantism?

  50. Eric (#49

    What is it that big boys should be able to accept?

    Do you agree or disagree with that?

    You guys seem to attract a lot of humorless people.

    I’m not sure what boys of any size should be able to accept. I am sure that your frequent witty remarks (as someone else called them) seem to indicate that you are not serious about arguments. This is not kid stuff, nor is it really the place for humour.

    What is wrong with Catholicism is a valid place for conversion to start. Many Catholics who have converted have started from that point. When Cross, Stellman, and Tate converted did it not begin with seeing alleged shortcomings of Reformed Protestantism?

    What is wrong with Catholicism and what you think is wrong with Catholicism are not the same thing. Almost all of what you have complained about has not been anything to do with Catholicism but with Catholics, including their practice. To show something is wrong with Catholicism requires at minimum dealing with what the faith itself is – it is not, for example, a matter of faith that World Youth Days are a good thing – and secondly some argumentation to show that these things about the faith are false.

    jj

  51. John,

    This is what I was referring to:

    “Either Peter was the rock whose apostleship was meant to be passed on or he wasn’t. Justification is either by faith apart from works or it isn’t.”

    Do you agree or disagree that there is no middle ground on these questions? How is “ecumenical dialogue” going to answer these to everyone’s satisfaction?

    John – What is wrong with Catholicism and what you think is wrong with Catholicism are not the same thing.

    Erik – So you agree that there are things that are wrong with Catholicism?

  52. John,

    Do you disagree that World Youth Days are a good thing? I think several Catholics here have said they are. If they are not a part of Catholicism, why is the Pope promoting it, tying indulgences to it, and making an appearance there?

  53. Eric – the point is that when you take this tone in things – either a kind of sneering (it comes across like that) enumeration of what you see as Catholic problems, or a flippant talking about ‘big boys,’ it becomes difficult to take seriously your expressed desire to bring us back to the Reformed religion.

    jj

  54. John,

    So why not just not take me seriously and ignore me? Commenting online is optional, is it not?

  55. Erik (#48, 49 and 50)

    Do you disagree that World Youth Days are a good thing? I think several Catholics here have said they are. If they are not a part of Catholicism, why is the Pope promoting it, tying indulgences to it, and making an appearance there?

    My point is that ‘Catholicism’ means two things: “what Catholics do” and “what the Catholic faith teaches.” When I place a statue of Our Lady on my desk, that is Catholicism in the first sense. It may or not be a good thing. It is not part of what the Catholic faith teaches. Any Catholic might legitimately argue against the first; not (legitimately) against the second.

    This blog is intended for discussions regarding the second – and for arguments intended to bring our separated brethren into the Church. Arguments – well, most of the stuff isn’t even arguments, just expressions of personal opinion – about the first are not relevant and simply obscure the principle point.

    But you have said that you would like to bring us all back to the Reformed faith. Thus your question:

    So why not just not take me seriously and ignore me? Commenting online is optional, is it not?

    belies that expressed intention. If that is your intention, then on a site promoting Catholicism you would do best to present arguments either against what the Catholic faith teaches (not expressing opinions about what Catholics do which may or may not be good), or – more cogently – in favour of what the Reformed faith teaches that is opposed to the Catholic faith.

    I have not commented on your comments until now, precisely because you have not been doing that. Bryan has been responding to your comments. He is taking a week off and I saw your stated intention to bring us all back to the Reformed faith, so thought it worthwhile noting that if that is your intention, I do not think you are going about it in a very useful way.

    jj

  56. Hi Erik (#41, 46),

    You said,

    I’ve been thinking about the entire RCC sacramental and penitential system. In Acts 15 the apostles had a chance to impose the entire Mosaic system on the gentile converts, but chose instead to only put a few, minimal requirements on them (refraining from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from what has been strangled, and from blood). Is it not odd to go from there to where Rome is today?

    I don’t really know if it’s odd or not, or why that matters. As I argued previously, change or difference does not necessitate contradiction.

    You also said,

    Another thing I would like you guys to reckon with is the impact of Constantine on your church being (1) Old, (2) Big, and (3) One. You had a big head start enabled by magistrates with swords, did you not?

    I reckon Constantine had a notable historical impact on the stability and growth of the Catholic Church. I also reckon that other historical political leaders had a notable impact on the instability and decline of the Catholic Church. I reckon I’m done reckoning with this question.

    You also said,

    And if God intended it to remain Big and One why would he allow cataclysmic events like the Reformation, 1789, The Enlightenment, and modernity, to happen?

    God wants all men to be saved as well (1 Tim 2:4), but that may not happen. God’s ways are mysterious, as I’m sure you’ve discovered in your years walking with Christ. If God intended it to not remain big and one, it sure is confusing that his only begotten Son said the opposite in John 17:20-26.

    You also said,

    You guys seem to attract a lot of humorless people.

    I’m not sure that’s accurate. There is plenty of room for a good joke or humor here. I think it’s more that we have a hard time finding your comments very amusing. Earlier you referred to CTC’s call for ecumenical dialogue as a “game,” which I’m guessing is why you move so quickly from one issue to the next, offer lots of attempts at witty retorts, and demand we reckon with lots of questions you deem important. But this is not a game, but a matter of the most important things in life: faith, hope, and love, all of which we have found most fulfilled by union with the Catholic Church.

    God bless, Casey

  57. Dear Erik,

    This is largely off topic, but I’ll indulge (note: humor) just a little. You said:

    When Cross, Stellman, and Tate converted did it not begin with seeing alleged shortcomings of Reformed Protestantism?

    Speaking for myself, the beginning of the process had nothing to do with alleged, perceived, or actual shortcomings of Reformed Protestantism. It started with conversation with a Catholic whom had an appetite for dialogue and truth. I planned to help him by showing certain truths from Scripture, and by sharing excellent insights into Scripture provided by the Westminster Confession. I was forced into the defensive when the debate became about the canon question.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  58. Erik, Hey my friend I attend a urc and am on DGH’s website often, so I recognize your avatar! This is my first time to this site and I happened upon your comments. I sounds to me like you are railing at these guys, not trying to dialogue. No offense but you are coming across as rude and offensive. They on the other hand are being cordial and un- offensive. just saying, that anyone ( protestant) who might be reading these threads and is having questions in their mind, would be immediately drawn to their arguments as more Christian and charitable.

  59. Erik (#51)

    This is what I was referring to:

    “Either Peter was the rock whose apostleship was meant to be passed on or he wasn’t. Justification is either by faith apart from works or it isn’t.”

    Regarding the first, yes; the second depends a lot on what you mean by ‘apart from works.’ I am not able to spend the time to discuss the latter.

    Do you agree or disagree that there is no middle ground on these questions? How is “ecumenical dialogue” going to answer these to everyone’s satisfaction?

    Again, the first has no middle; the second hasn’t, either, but is not framed there with sufficient precision to answer (and, as I said, I can’t spend the time to discuss it).

    Ecumenical dialogue is not a way of finding out that we don’t disagree after all. It’s a way of understanding our differences, and finding out if one (or both) of us is wrong. That’s why argument – meaning giving reasons, following the rules of logic, etc – is necessary. Ecumenical dialogue then satisfies everyone only when they reach agreement – and if one (at least) is wrong, he must change his mind for there to be agreement.

    And again, even with regard to the first, I have not time get involved in the discussion. My only reason for commenting at all was to suggest that if you want to persuade us to become Reformed, you ought to give arguments, not attacks – or quips.

    John – What is wrong with Catholicism and what you think is wrong with Catholicism are not the same thing.

    Of course I believe that Catholicism in the sense of the faith the Catholic Church teaches, I do not believe there is anything wrong with it. If I did, I would not be a Catholic. Some of the practices of some Catholics I may or may not think are right, but insofar as I have no responsibility to judge, I do not need to give my opinion at all. Sufficient for me to judge the things that are wrong with my own Catholic practice.

    Erik – So you agree that there are things that are wrong with Catholicism?

    See above.

    jj

  60. Yeah Jay, you’re a real regular. That’s why I don’t recognize your name after spending over a year there. Nice try, though.

    As for the rest of you (other than Casey), try making arguments rather than just whining. It’s more effective.

    Casey – God wants all men to be saved as well (1 Tim 2:4), but that may not happen.

    Erik – That’s not one to throw out to a Calvinist, you know that! Anyway, thanks for the discussion.

  61. Dear Erik,

    Regarding your comments #42 and 43, they do not relate at all to this post. For the benefit of people following the conversation in the combox, it’s important to stay on-topic. So please feel free to e-mail me privately with those questions about Catholicism, or find a post or article where they’re on-topic, and I would be happy to respond. Please also revisit my comment #38 about the scope of the invitation for guests to comment at Called to Communion.

    Regarding your comment #47, I invite you to reconsider your questions that ended #45. A good definition of charity, which virtue is the standard for commenting here, is available here.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  62. Hi Erik (#40),

    I’m catching up here, so apologize for answering out of order. You said,

    Casey – This includes 2 Tim, which you’ve cited as containing a text you believe is a “slam dunk” proof-text for sola scriptura.
    Erik – I did? Remind me where. I’m not a big slam dunk proof-text kind of guy.

    Check the 18 July posting on your website, which I believe was a re-post from something you wrote on Old Life.

    Erik – Where did I say I was arguing for “the broader tradition of Protestantism”? Are you arguing for “the broader tradition of Catholicism which includes whoever I choose to throw in who calls themselves Catholic?

    Well, as a Protestant, who, in your eyes, has authority to write on the issue of canonicity? From a Catholic perspective, only those with authority to write on the canon would have to be considered when determining what is or isn’t canonical. From my time as a Protestant, I figured I at least had to consider the arguments from other Protestant scholars, given we existed within the same tradition, so that an Albert Schweitzer had just as much as right at the table as a D.A. Carson. Within the Catholic framework, a Gary Wills does not have the same authority as the Council of Trent, so what he says about the Book of Hebrews may be interesting for conversation or reflection, but his writings have no bearing on what is or isn’t canonical.

    You also said,

    Erik – So “Unam Sanctam” was necessary under Christendom when the Roman Catholic Church was shown great deference and was pretty much the only show in town, but is not needed today when she is but one player in a crowded religious marketplace (30,000 Protestant sects alone, not to mention other non-Christian religions, according to you guys)? I would think this would make the Pope all the more worried about claiming his rightful authority over all things spiritual and secular.

    I never said whether Unam Sanctam was necessary or not. The point is that the context of why a Pope issues a papal bull has a lot to do with historical and cultural context, intended audience, etc. that we should consider. Unless the goal is to be so skeptical towards every Church claim that we look back at every papal decree or church council for the “gotcha!” part. You don’t seem to do that with scripture, or Darryl Hart’s blog posts, for that matter. Maybe Unam Sanctam doesn’t mean what you think it means. Also, the Catholic Church was hardly the “only show in town” in Medieval Europe, as if its authority was unquestioned and irresistible. Consider the Albigensians, the investiture crisis, the Avignon Papacy; there were some rough years for the Church. Thomas Madden argues the authority of the Catholic Church could have easily collapsed at several points in the Middle Ages. It’s a miracle it was preserved.

    Erik – Can doctrines develop in response to abuses that the church identifies within her own ranks as well?

    I don’t see why not. Jansenism grew up within certain communities within the Catholic Church in France, and it was two papal edicts that declared it heretical.

    Erik – I see relevance in that both indulgences and priestly celibacy are issues that go beyond what Scripture teaches.

    On indulgences, consider the implications of Matthew 9:8, John 20:21-23, and Matthew 18:18. Saint Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 are helpful on the issue of priestly celibacy. Those aren’t “proof-texts” but they do serve as part of the basis for how these practices developed within the Church.

    In Christ, Casey

  63. Hi Erik. you don’t recognize my name because I have never commented on harts blog. but thanks for proving my point for me. You “attack” people ( with different views than you) the same way I did when I was a John Macarthur/Paul Washer type of Baptist. You make us reformed folk look arrogant and prideful. just sayin

    jay

  64. One thing I was thinking about yesterday re. the need for an “infallible interpreter”. I’m an accountant who does a lot of tax returns every year. Now if you put 100 accountants in a controller position and have them do all of the data entry, make all of the judgment calls required, and file the tax returns for a business you are going to most likely get returns with 100 different bottom lines. This is in the context of only one governing text, mind you — the Internal Revenue Code. In spite of the fact that 100 different accountants would likely come up with 100 different answers, tax returns do get filed each year, businesses continue operating, and company owners manage to stay out of jail for tax evasion. My point – I think your quest for “one infallible interpreter” is overrated. We live with some ambiguity in all areas of life. Why must the church be any different?

  65. Casey (#33),

    Do you have a link to that lecture series by Thomas F. Madden?

    Ryan

  66. Erik Charter, your post #64 questions the need for an infallible interpreter. As I thought about this, I asked myself what would happen to Christianity if all Christians began claiming that an infallible interpreter is not necessary? It seems to me that the answer is obvious, Christianity would devolve into something similar to Protestantism as it exists in our era. That is, Christianity would become the scandal of thousand upon thousands of bickering and divided denominations, which, as a whole, could not agree upon a single article of faith.

    My point – I think your quest for “one infallible interpreter” is overrated.

    And my point is that the greatest argument that I can give against Protestantism’s claim that no infallible interpreter is necessary is Protestantism itself.

  67. Dear Erik,

    Regarding your comment #64, you continue to press — without any regard for the topic of this post — with pet issues about which you wish to have people hear your thoughts. I have asked you in two comments in this very combox to refrain from doing that. In #38 I said:

    You and others are invited to comment here for ecumenical dialogue related to the article or post in question.

    In #61 I said:

    Regarding your comments #42 and 43, they do not relate at all to this post. For the benefit of people following the conversation in the combox, it’s important to stay on-topic. So please feel free to e-mail me privately with those questions about Catholicism, or find a post or article where they’re on-topic, and I would be happy to respond.

    Now you come forward in #64 and say: “One thing I was thinking about yesterday re. the need for an “infallible interpreter”. . . . . My point – I think your quest for “one infallible interpreter” is overrated.” But this post is about World Youth Day and indulgences, and has nothing to do with infallible interpretation. I am truly befuddled. Brother, please, if you cannot relate your comments to the post, we will no longer be able to approve them. This is for everyone’s betterment, that the quality of the conversation here could be preserved.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  68. Hi Ryan (#65),

    Thanks for asking about the Thomas Madden lectures. Unfortunately I don’t think you can find it free, unless you check your local library, which is where my wife found it. Here’s the link:

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6354664-one-holy-catholic-and-apostolic

    Thomas Madden’s website, thomasmadden.org, does seem to have a few lectures you can listen to for free. While we’re on the subject, I’d also put in a plug for his “The New, Concise History of the Crusades,” which is a great read and very helpful for how to understand the Crusades within the larger history of the Catholic Church. Medieval history if fascinating!

    blessings, Casey

  69. Ryan #65,

    I was able to pick up a couple of Thomas Madden’s lectures at my local library like Casey. I also downloaded a couple through Audible.com. They are expensive, however I just used member credits for the purchase.

    God bless,
    Brian

  70. Casey (#68) and Brian (#69),

    Thank you both for your help, especially the idea about checking the local library. It didn’t occur to me to check there.

    Thanks again,

    Ryan

  71. I just stumbled onto this blog about an hour ago and did a hasty perusal. It appears it’s all about Erik so I would like to comment on some of his statements.
    First, Since he objects to the money spent on WYD and thinks it would be better spent on the poor, I need to know how much of his income goes to those same poor. He reminds me of the passage in scripture where the woman’s act of devotion to Christ was scorned because the ointment could have been beter spent on the poor.
    Secondly, I would encourage Erik and anyone else to study up on how the revenue from indulgences was used in the middle ages. Remember, there were no state funded hospitals or orphanages. Kings did not repair the roads or build bridges to keep travel and trade moving. Poor girls whose fathers could not afford a dowry would be spared the shame of spinsterhood by the Church supply the funds needed from indulgences. Also, it is edifying to learn that everybody sought indulgences which were given for doing charitable and socially minded works such as fixing a bridge or road, defending a city from saracens, burying the dead, etc. If one was physically unable to do the task, he could give an alms instead. Indulgences were not sold but given for an alms much as Protestant ministers give a “free” copy of their book in exchange for a freewill offering to their ministry. Even abbotts of monasteries and kings wanted to avail themselves of indulgences. St. King Louis IX of France gained an indulgence for carrying mortar in his cloak to repair the walls of Acre. Indugence money kept Europe alive.
    Third, not just hotel maids and hot dog vendors are evangelized by WYD. Everyone with a TV, including Erik, is.

  72. Can you guys help me work through the indulgences thing? I am a Protestant but I am slowly coming around to Catholicism. It definitely requires a paradigm shift as most people say.

    Would it be helpful to think of the Church as being an “announcer” of God’s grace, rather than a vehicle of grace? If you think of it this way, the Pope, when he grants an indulgence, is only announcing that God is pouring out some particular grace on someone rather than acting as a sort of gatekeeper of that grace. That sounds better to my skeptical Protestant mind, but maybe I am not understanding some crucial piece. What do you think?

  73. Hi Jason,

    Thanks for commenting. I think both terms, “vehicle” and “announcer” can be helpful in describing the Church. The Church has the prophetic voice of Christ to proclaim/announce Christ coming to save us, but then it is also through the Church that believers recieve the fruits of Christ’s redemptive work. I hope this helps. I remember finding it strange when I began to understand the Catholic belief about the Church as the vehicle of God’s grace, but I encourage you to keep investigating.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  74. Jason (#72)

    Would it be helpful to think of the Church as being an “announcer” of God’s grace, rather than a vehicle of grace? If you think of it this way, the Pope, when he grants an indulgence, is only announcing that God is pouring out some particular grace on someone rather than acting as a sort of gatekeeper of that grace. That sounds better to my skeptical Protestant mind, but maybe I am not understanding some crucial piece. What do you think?

    FWIW – possibly not all that much – I don’t think it can be that. Either the Church’s power of binding and loosing is real or it is not. Indulgences, as I suppose you are aware, are not forgiveness of sin. They are release from some or all of the temporal penalties due to sin.

    But I must confess as a once-Protestant, now-Catholic (18 years and counting) Christian, I don’t resonate with indulgences. I believe in them, on the word of the Church. I try to remember to ask, at least once a year, for all the indulgences I am eligible for (a canon lawyer once told me that a condition for receiving an indulgence is that you must ask for it, and he said it was a good idea to ask for them at least once a year), but I don’t really easily think in those terms.

    I would love to hear from someone on this blog who knows about them. As I said, I believe, on the basis of the word of the Church (and becoming a Catholic had to mean that I had come to believe that the Church was truth-telling thing); but I don’t really understand that well.

    jj

  75. Jason:

    Indulgences were a natural development in the Church, whereby God’s vehicle of grace (the Church) empowered the laity to know that their good works were efficacious. For example, reading the Bible merits an indulgence. As a Protestant, I would say, we all felt (or feel) an impetus toward them: doing some good act to straighten out our heart that was marred by sin — re-orienting ourselves toward the world in charity. Of course, only God’s grace can do that, but in the case of temporal just punishments due sin, God cooperates with our actions — He perfects nature.

    So yes, in a certain sense, indulgences are the Church announcing “doing this is meritorious of God’s grace to remedy what we mess up here on earth.” Therefore, by loosing it on earth, it is loosed in heaven.

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