Fulton Sheen’s Biblical Account of the Catholic Church as Christ’s Mystical Body

Dec 9th, 2015 | By | Category: Blog Posts

A review of Venerable Fulton Sheen’s recently re-published The Mystical Body of Christ as it relates to Protestant criticisms of the Church’s sacerdotal nature.

A good friend and elder at my former Presbyterian (PCA) church once invited me over for beers and conversation several months after my decision to become a Catholic. In that exchange, he expressed what he termed as his predominant concern with my entrance into the Catholic Church: that the decision embraced a form of sacerdotalism, effectively putting certain individuals – be they priests, bishops, cardinals, or the pope – or even the institutional church, between the individual and God. This mediated reality, my friend believed, was in some sense an affront to Biblical Christianity, presumably because it obscured or obstructed the primary mediatory role of Jesus Christ, the God-man. Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, one of the most iconic American Catholic figures of the 20th century, would respectfully disagree.

Fulton Sheen died on this day 36 years ago: December 9th, 1979, before I was even born. Yet his influence is felt far beyond the end of his earthly life and reaches far beyond the millions of American radio listeners and television viewers he reached. Even the Redemptorist parish I attend in Bangkok, Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, bears Sheen’s mark. The architectural design of the parish, built to model the traditional Thai Buddhist wat, was an idea suggested by Sheen himself during a visit to Thailand.

Sheen’s writings and teachings likewise continue to influence Christians and non-Christians the world over, largely because Sheen so accurately recognized philosophical and religious trends that increasingly were dominating our culture. Take for example the individualist tendencies of our current age, asserting that no institution or denomination is needed between man and God. Many people, even those with robust prayer lives or strong convictions in historical doctrines regarding Christ or Holy Scripture, hold such a “low church” position. Indeed, some form the limits of their Christian experience around the reading of the Bible or other spiritual literature, listening to podcasts or sermons in the privacy of their homes or cars, and maybe the occasional Bible study or prayer group.1 To this popular, commonly Protestant trend, Sheen’s The Mystical Body of Christ offers a surprisingly Scriptural critique. Indeed, Sheen’s presentation of the Church as Christ intended and directs it stands in contrast even to those Protestants – be they Reformed, Evangelical, or Mainline – who affirm some conception of the visible Church, since, Sheen argues, even these efforts lack a fully Biblical account of the Church as Christ’s very own mystical body.2

Biblical Foundations for the Mystical Body of Christ

Sheen begins by citing Fr. Emil Mersch – who observed that the New Testament’s use of “kingdom,” “mystery,” and “life” all appeal to different aspects of the same reality: the mystical body of Christ3. Sheen argues that the Mystical Body is not an abstraction, but “something visible and invisible, something tangible and intangible, something human and something Divine; it refers to a reality which is the subject of attribution, of properties and rights, to an organism with a supernatural soul, to a prolonged Incarnation, to the extension of Bethlehem and Jerusalem to our own days, to the contemporary Christ: the Church.4 We share a bond with Jesus quite different than what we might share with any other religious teacher or philosopher: a life of which we are partakers, in His earthly life, His glorified life, and His mystical life.5 The third of these, the mystical life, He continues to live through us by means of His Holy Spirit, which was given quite publicly to the visible Church at Pentecost.6

In this reality, Christ is the Head, His people are His body: “Christ is our contemporary.”7 With exacting exegetical detail of the Biblical texts, Sheen demonstrates that one cannot separate Christ from His mystical body, and that the “spiritual, not religious” Christian ideal is untenable. Christ identified Himself too intimately with His followers to believe otherwise: Sheen notes that our Lord taught that He and His body would be one, referring to such Gospel passages as the vine and the branches (John 15:5), or “He that heareth you, heareth me” (Luke 10:16).8

Also central to this argument is Sheen’s analysis that St. Paul’s language of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians must be properly understood not as a post-facto Pauline analogy, but as a reality that preceded the Apostles in the very life of Christ.9 Indeed, it was Christ Himself who said he would assume another body in John 20:17.10 The Church would be this body, not physically or morally, but mystically and intimately united to the risen and ascended Christ. Sheen helpfully articulates:

He said that whatever happened to Him as Head would happen to His Body; if He was persecuted His Body would be persecuted; if He was hated His Body would be hated; if the world did not receive Him it would not receive His Body, for the servant is not above the master…. The relation would be so close between the members of that Body and Himself, that anyone [who performed a work of mercy for one His members] would be doing the service unto Him. It would seem that He had exhausted all analogies to mark the unity between Him and His new body; but the night before He died, He said that He and His flock were not to be one merely as shepherd and sheep, they were to be one as He and the Father are one.11

The Mystical Body of Christ is His Church

Building upon this identification of Christ with His Church, St. Paul and St. John extend these analogies of mystical union to include a building (1 Corinthians 3) and marriage (Ephesians 5, 2 Corinthians 11, Revelation 19, 21).12 The Church effectively extends Christ “beyond the space of Palestine and the space of thirty-three years to prolong His influence unto all times and to all men.” “Without the Church,” Sheen asserts, “Christ would be incomplete,” for the Church continues the Incarnation.13 The “actions of the Mystical body are the actions of Christ.”14 Through Christ, the ultimate prophet, priest and king, the Church would extend “His posthumous Self, His prolonged Personality… Very simply they were to do the same three things as He had done in His earthly life: they were to teach, to govern, and to sanctify.”15 These include the Church’s mission to baptize, to perform the Eucharist, and to forgive sins (Matthew 28, Luke 22, 1 Corinthians 11, John 20).16 Sheen’s analysis strikes at the heart of much contemporary Christian spirituality and Protestant religiosity:

How far removed is this doctrine of the Church from the false conception of those who would accuse the Church of standing between Christ and us? How often we hear it said: “I do not want an organization between Christ and me,” or “True religion consists in union with Jesus of Nazareth without priest, or prelate, or sacrament.” Anyone who understands the Scriptures will see that the Church does not stand between Christ and me. The Church is Christ17

The Church, if she is truly Christ’s mystical body, cannot then be some voluntary organization, as if the Apostles heard Christ’s message and on the “basis of their common faith” agreed to form a religious society. No, Sheen declares, the Church began “the very moment” the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.18 Anyone then who claims the visible, institutional Church and its sacramental system is an “obstacle” to a relationship with Christ has misunderstood “the meaning and beauty of the Incarnation of our Lord.”19 Through the Church, Bethlehem is revived in every baptism, “the Cenacle in every Mass, the instruction of the doctors of the Temple in every definition, the pardon of Peter in every absolution, and the Crucifixion in every persecution.”20 Rather than an obstacle to relationship with Christ, the Church is the very means by which that relationship is fostered.21

The Catholic Church as Christ’s Mystical Body, Preserved by the Holy Spirit

Christ is of course the head of this mystical body – per St. Paul’s teaching in Colossians 1:18. Yet if Christ is the head, one might reasonably ask, which conflicting group or sect within Christianity is the “one Body of Christ”?22 According to Sheen, the “obvious way” for Christ to identify His post-ascension body would be “through a visible head or a primate.”23 This is appropriate, he contends, because the “democratic form of government” visible in many forms of Protestantism is problematically individualistic:

…each individual [is] his own supreme authority, allowing him either to interpret the Scriptures privately or else interpret his own religious experiences without any dictation from without. Religion on this theory is a purely individual affair: each one casts his own vote as to what he will believe, rejects all creeds, beliefs, and dogmas which run counter to his moods and prejudices, determines for himself the kind of a God he will adore, the kind of an altar before which he will kneel – in a word, he worships at the shrines his own hands have made.24

Rather than this subjective, individualist model, Christ gave us what Sheen calls the “monarchical” model, citing Matthew 16, where He rejects both what “men say” about who He is, and even what the Apostles together say about who He is (the “aristocratic model”), but ultimately affirming St. Peter’s declaration that He is the son of the living God.25 Peter had divine assistance, the keys to the kingdom (Matthew 16), and the commission to feed Christ’s lambs (John 21). This is not to say that St. Peter is “a Head apart from Christ.” Rather, he is “one authority with Him,” the “visible representation, the concrete symbol, the vicar of the Sender among the Sent.”26 Sheen further notes that in all of Scripture, only three men were subject to a change of name by God, and “in each instance they were lifted out of narrow individuality to headship over the election.” These are namely Abraham (previously Abram), Jacob (previously Israel), and of course, Peter (previously Simon).27

Sheen further argues that it was the Holy Spirit who conceived the Church in the incarnation, guided St. Peter’s declaration of Christ’s divinity, and who remains its very soul, and speaks first not through inspired writings, but a “voice,” carried by the Apostles and their successors.28 This is to contrast the Catholic conception of Holy Tradition, Holy Scripture, and magisterial teaching, as cooperating spheres of authority, against the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. Indeed, it was the Holy Spirit, acting as the soul of the Church, who inspired the writings of Holy Scripture and guided their collection and inclusion into a canon. The Bible stands not on its own but “within the life of the Church.” It is the Church that “makes its meaning clear.”29 And if the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, “there can be no contradiction, no variety of opinions, no divided loyalties, no half-truths, no schisms, no heresy where God is.”30

Moreover, the Holy Spirit vivifies the Church to maintain its four marks so that neither sin nor scandal within the ranks can nullify her intrinsic holiness.31 Sheen observes, “the world has yet to point out a single age in which the Church has not produced her heroes whom she calls saints.”32 The last mark, the Church’s apostolic character, is best understood within the Catholic paradigm as requiring a discernible “origin or source.” Sheen elaborates: “it would be too late for her to begin sixteen hundred years after the life or our Lord; it would be too late for her to begin even twenty years after the life of Christ. She must be in intimate contact with Him from the beginning.” He cites several pieces of evidence of this from Scripture and history. These include the choosing of Matthias (a witness to the resurrection) to replace Judas in Acts 2 and the centrality of the appeal to Apostolic origin by the immediate successors of the Apostles: “Everywhere in the early Church the test was: ‘What is the source of your authority and truth?’ It if did not come from Christ and the apostles, it was false.”33 What a remarkable testament it is that the Catholic Church, longer than any nation, empire, or heretical movement has withstood the test of time: “Who today venerates Eutyches? Where are his disciples? Who today knows of Novatian?”34 Because it is the Holy Spirit alive within the Church, she cannot be killed.35

Further Implications of the Mystical Body of Christ

Having presented His biblical argument for the Mystical body of Christ — and that it be identified with the Catholic Church — Sheen devotes the remainder of his book to exploring many other realities that flow from this initial truth: the infallibility and unique authority of the Church, the role of the priesthood and individual Christians in this mystical body, the communion of the saints, the value of reparation, and the expansion of the body throughout the entire world. 36 Of particular interest to Protestants investigating Catholicism, Sheen devotes a chapter to the role of Mary, the mother of God, as mother also of His mystical body. The bishop explains that this is a natural logical progress: “if the fullness of Christ embraces not only His historical Life in Galilee but also His Mystical Life in the Church, then should not Mary be not only the Mother of the physical Christ, but also the Mother of the fullness of Christ or the Mother of the Church?”37 Also of potential interest to Protestants are chapters on how the sacrifice of the cross is translated to the sacrifice of the Mass, Sheen arguing that the sacrifice of the Cross is “complete and perfect in it itself,” yet “not complete as regards us; the merits of that great redemptive act have to flow unto us.”38 The Eucharist then serves to project Christ’s sacrifice into the present: “the Mass is the one thing in the world which makes it possible for us who live in the [present age] to share in the sacrifice of Calvary…. The Mass is Calvary realized, made present, contemporized, lifted out of the limit of space and time living in the members of the Mystical Body….”39

The Mystical Body of Christ is a helpful – nay, essential – concept for how Christians should understand their role individually and corporately to Christ their Lord and Savior. This is the way Christ wanted it: for His Church to be the extension of His earthly ministry projected through time and space to our present era. To respond to the legitimate concern of my Presbyterian elder friend: Christianity at its core is sacerdotal — the Incarnation, the beginning of the Church on earth, exemplifies God’s extension of grace to Christians through matter. Christ then, fully God and fully man, is Himself a sacerdotal figure, mediating between man and God in His very flesh. It is entirely fitting then that Christ would appoint members of His own mystical body to do exactly what He had done: bear God’s authority and mediate between members of His body and the eternal God. In Sheen’s analysis, this does not detract from Christ’s mediatory role; it preserves and perfects it.40

Venerable Fulton Sheen, one of America’s great defenders and explicators of the Catholic faith, pray for us!

  1. Sheen’s own critique of Protestantism is quite prescient. In his 1935 introduction to the book, he notes that Protestant churches “no longer claim to be Divine or to be Deposits of Revelation.” He asserts that Protestantism has been reduced to “the individualistic type of religion in which each man’s subjective religious experience determines the God he will worship and the altar he will serve,” or a “purely social form of religion.” See Fulton J. Sheen, The Mystical Body of Christ (Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN, 2015), p. 2. []
  2. The reader should take note that in addition to the extensive Biblical exegesis Sheen offers in the main body of his work, the footnotes of the text supply a wealth of additional Biblical references and analysis that should not be overlooked. []
  3. Sheen, p. 5. []
  4. Sheen, p. 7. Sheen elsewhere argues that “‘Mystical’ is not opposed to ‘real,’ for there are other realities besides those which we touch and see.” See Sheen, p. 296. []
  5. Sheen, p. 15. []
  6. Sheen, p. 18. []
  7. Sheen, p. 20. []
  8. Sheen, p. 56. []
  9. Sheen, p. 37. []
  10. Sheen, p. 27. []
  11. Sheen, p. 29. []
  12. Sheen, p. 41. []
  13. Sheen, pp. 42-43. []
  14. Sheen, p. 45. []
  15. Sheen, p. 32. []
  16. Sheen, p. 33. []
  17. Sheen, p. 48. []
  18. Sheen, p. 49. []
  19. Sheen, p. 50. []
  20. Sheen, p. 51. []
  21. Sheen elsewhere explains that baptism is the mechanism for incorporation into the Mystical Body of Christ. See Sheen, p. 298. []
  22. Sheen, p. 57. []
  23. Sheen, p. 58. []
  24. Sheen, p. 59. []
  25. Sheen, pp. 61-63. []
  26. Sheen, p. 66. []
  27. Sheen, p. 304. Sheen extensively highlights the evidence for the historicity of the primacy of St. Peter and Rome in his footnotes for Chapter Three. See Sheen, pp. 305-308. []
  28. Sheen, p. 75. []
  29. Sheen, p. 79. []
  30. Sheen, p. 81. []
  31. Sheen devotes an entire chapter to explaining how scandals in the Church can be reconciled with her role as Christ’s mystical body. In rhetorical flourish typical of the bishop, Sheen exhorts the Church’s detractors to “reveal the worst, for it will only help to make clear her true nature.” See Sheen, p. 99. []
  32. Sheen, p. 85. []
  33. Sheen, pp. 86-88. []
  34. Sheen, p. 91. []
  35. Sheen, p. 96. []
  36. Sheen argues that “the Infallibility of the Church is nothing more than the Infallibility of Christ,” and asks rhetorically whether the Holy Spirit died after Pentecost or the early councils of the Church. See Sheen, p. 117, 121. On the unique authority of the Church, Sheen observes, “a book could not preserve [Christ’s] authority, for the book needs interpretation, and who would interpret it?” See Sheen, p. 134. []
  37. Sheen, p. 225. []
  38. Sheen, p. 242. []
  39. Sheen, p. 247, 249. []
  40. It is in this book that one of Sheen’s most famous aphorisms can be found: They do “not really hate the Church; they hate only that which they mistakenly believe to be the Church.” See Sheen, p. 140. []

85 comments
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  1. I recently came across a quote from St John Chrysostom that fits nicely with this post. Commenting upon the Lord’s Prayer, St John says: “Christ teaches us to make prayer in common for all our brethren. For he did not say “my Father” who art in heaven, but “our” Father, offering petitions for the common body.” So the very use of “our” and “us” and “we” in the Lord’s Prayer necessitates a Communion of Believers, the Church, as an essential part of the Christian life.

  2. Casey–

    Unfortunately for Sheen (and Gamaliel before him), Eutychianism, Gnosticism, Arianism, Modalism, and a whole slew of other heresies are still very much with us. Why, you Catholics are constantly accusing us Protestants of Docetism, Donatism, Nestorianism, Deism, and on and on. Length of endurance is not correlative with validity. Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism have been around long before Catholicism. (My wife, as a joke panning the incessant Catholic claim of being around since Christ walked on this planet, observed that Presbyterians should claim to have been around since “before the foundations of the earth.” That should clearly make us the proper claimant of the honor of being the first and thus, the one true church!)

    If it is indeed too late to begin twenty years after the death of the Apostles, then we must dismiss Catholic claims to validity. For many, many of her seminal doctrines (purgatory, penance, papal primacy, intercession of the saints, clerical celibacy, and virtually all of the Marian dogmas) do not begin until hundreds of years thereafter.

    Besides, one demonstrably atrocious interpretation of Scripture cannot be shown to be superior to a myriad of alternate interpretations, a few of which at least have the possibility of being correct….

  3. Hi Erik (#2),

    Thanks for the comment. You wrote,

    Unfortunately for Sheen (and Gamaliel before him), Eutychianism, Gnosticism, Arianism, Modalism, and a whole slew of other heresies are still very much with us.

    I would think this would be unfortunate for all of us, but I don’t understand how that is relevant to my article. You also wrote,

    Length of endurance is not correlative with validity. Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism have been around long before Catholicism.

    The Catholic Church does not claim that she represents true religion because she has simply been around the longest, so this is a straw-man. Rather, the Church claims that she is the inheritor of the Apostolic deposit of faith, and as an extension of that, bears the authority of Christ Himself. This claim can be validated via the Church’s evidence for her faithful preservation of apostolic succession and the perpetuation of the sacrament of holy orders as manifested in the NT, a sacrament bestowed by Christ on His Apostles, and in turn passed on to later particular members of the Church. That claim is historically verifiable and perpetual to the present day, unlike any claim made by the various Protestant sects.

    You also wrote,

    If it is indeed too late to begin twenty years after the death of the Apostles, then we must dismiss Catholic claims to validity. For many, many of her seminal doctrines (purgatory, penance, papal primacy, intercession of the saints, clerical celibacy, and virtually all of the Marian dogmas) do not begin until hundreds of years thereafter.

    This misreads Sheen’s point. The relevant quotation from Sheen is as follows:

    …it would be too late for her to begin sixteen hundred years after the life or our Lord; it would be too late for her to begin even twenty years after the life of Christ. She must be in intimate contact with Him from the beginning.

    Sheen is arguing that for any group of Christians to claim to be the visible Church, they should be able to demonstrate an intimate, unbroken connection to Christ from the very beginning, because the Church is Christ’s own mystical body. If the two are identifiable with one another, it would make no sense for His mystical body to be disconnected from Him in history for any length of time, be it twenty years or sixteen hundred years. Pertaining to this same subject, you also wrote,

    For many, many of her seminal doctrines (purgatory, penance, papal primacy, intercession of the saints, clerical celibacy, and virtually all of the Marian dogmas) do not begin until hundreds of years thereafter.

    This line of argumentation confuses the existence of Christ’s Church with that church’s doctrine, which are not one in the same — Sheen argues it is too late for the church to come into existence at some historical point divergent from the life of Christ, not that all her various doctrines must be fully formed and explained at this point. Not even the controversies regarding the Trinity or Christ’s person and nature were defined dogmatically until the 4th and 5th centuries. Be that as it may, the argument also presumes that everything the Catholic Church teaches as doctrine must be fully formed from the very initiation of Christ’s Church. Yet this argument fails if the mystical body of Christ, as Sheen argues, is originally manifested through the historical, bodily person of Christ, since Christ did not provide a full-formed explication of His life or teaching at conception, when He was five years old, or even thirty years old. Indeed, His teaching is at the very least not fully manifested until the completion of the last book of the New Testament, sometime between 90 and 110 A.D. Moreover, the Church claims that all of her doctrines of faith are present in seed form within Holy Scripture, which is itself a faithful representation of Christ’s life and teaching, so these doctrines all owe their origination to Christ Himself, even if a fully-formed explanation of them is not offered for some centuries.

    Finally, you wrote,

    Besides, one demonstrably atrocious interpretation of Scripture cannot be shown to be superior to a myriad of alternate interpretations, a few of which at least have the possibility of being correct….

    This is mere hand-waving. It provides no evidence to substantiate the claim that Sheen’s interpretation of Scripture is “demonstrably atrocious” and does not “have the possibility of being correct.”

    in Christ, casey

  4. Casey–

    1. Sheen says that these heresies have disappeared. They have not. (Even if he means that the hierarchical structure of the original Novatianism faded into history, he still has to cope with a very visible continuation of the Nestorian church coming down all the way to the present day…and claiming Apostolic Succession.)

    2. Sheen states that Catholicism has outlasted these heresies, bolstering its own credibility and diminishing theirs. Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. are generic counter-evidence to such a claim. (You do see them as heretical, do you not?) The Catholic church may not claim validity based on endurance, but Sheen does in her stead. He cannot mean validity based on Apostolic Succession since Novatian would have claimed the exact same line Rome does.

    3. The Roman church cannot even begin to demonstrate that she is the inheritor of the deposit of faith, that she is gifted by extension with the authority of Christ, that she has faithfully preserved Apostolic Succession, or that she exercises the biblical version of ordination. (As far as succession is concerned, the Anglicans, the Swedish Lutherans, the Old Catholics, and all the churches of the East have just as good a claim…though no one but no one can prove an uninterrupted line.) No serious academic–who is not also a traditional Catholic–holds to such a notion.

    4. Physical continuity without doctrinal continuity is a meaningless concept. The Marian dogmas are not there in seed form or any other form during the first three hundred years. There is not one shred of evidence that they are there PERIOD. Not in Scripture. And certainly not in the Apostolic Fathers.

    5. ADDING tenets to the deposit of faith which do not appear in Scripture (or even oral tradition, for that matter) can only be described as “atrocious interpretation.” It is necessarily innovative and therefore without divine authority.

    6. “Dialogues that cross paradigmatic boundaries are inherently presumptuous,” he thundered, emphatically pounding the solid oak table with his tensely clenched fist while, at the same time, motioning his interlocutor away with his free hand. “Point out tautologies and instances of question begging if you wish, but you’re wasting your own blasted fideistic breath!”

    :)

  5. Hi Erik (#4),

    Thanks for the comment. You wrote,

    1. Sheen says that these heresies have disappeared. They have not. (Even if he means that the hierarchical structure of the original Novatianism faded into history, he still has to cope with a very visible continuation of the Nestorian church coming down all the way to the present day…and claiming Apostolic Succession.)

    The heresies of Novatian and Eutyches have been marginalized to the point of irrelevancy and are held by few (if any) Christians in the world. Novatianism has essentially disappeared, it dying out in the 5th century A.D. You seem to be confusing Novatianism with Nestorianism — they are not the same. Eutyches, the other heretic Sheen references, is the progenitor of the monophysite heresy. This too has largely been confined to the dustbin of history: although often accused of agreeing with Eutyches on issues related to Christ’s nature, the Oriental Orthodox churches (Coptic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox) prefer the term “Miaphysites” and reject Eutyches. Moreover, the Catholic Church reached a doctrinal understanding regarding Christology with these communities in the 1970s.

    2. Sheen states that Catholicism has outlasted these heresies, bolstering its own credibility and diminishing theirs. Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. are generic counter-evidence to such a claim. (You do see them as heretical, do you not?) The Catholic church may not claim validity based on endurance, but Sheen does in her stead. He cannot mean validity based on Apostolic Succession since Novatian would have claimed the exact same line Rome does.

    No, I don’t view Buddhism and Hinduism as heretical, because heresy comes from the Greek word for “choice” and within the Christian tradition is used in connection with Christians who choose to reject the authority of the established Church and its orthodoxy and orthopraxy. To call Buddhists or Hindus heretics would be a misnomer. Sheen’s argument is in reference to it outlasting Christian competitors to its claim to unique Apostolic authority. Novatian could not claim the “exact same line Rome does” because he was not elected to his position legally, which is why he is deemed an antipope.

    3. The Roman church cannot even begin to demonstrate that she is the inheritor of the deposit of faith, that she is gifted by extension with the authority of Christ, that she has faithfully preserved Apostolic Succession, or that she exercises the biblical version of ordination. (As far as succession is concerned, the Anglicans, the Swedish Lutherans, the Old Catholics, and all the churches of the East have just as good a claim…though no one but no one can prove an uninterrupted line.) No serious academic–who is not also a traditional Catholic–holds to such a notion.

    This is mostly assertions without any evidence. CTC, as have many other Catholic websites and scholars, has provided extensive evidence for the Catholic Church’s claim to be the inheritor of the deposit of faith. See, for example: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2014/06/the-bishops-of-history-and-the-catholic-faith-a-reply-to-brandon-addison/

    Your comment regarding “serious academics” is nonsensical. If a “serious academic” came to accept the Catholic Church’s claim to Apostolic Succession and ordination, they would likely convert, so the fact that many “serious academics” that are not Catholic reject the Church’s claims demonstrates little. It is essentially a tautology, as if you were to say “no serious Protestant scholar believes the Catholic Church is the true church” — indeed, doing so would make them not be Protestant! And some non-Catholic scholars have deemed the Church to possess Apostolic succession and Catholic ordinations to be historically verifiable. Jaroslav Pelikan, for example, comes to mind. Moreover, non-Catholic scholars have ultimately found the Catholic claims convincing and converted — see for example Robert Louis Wilken, Avery Dulles, and Louis Bouyer.

    4. Physical continuity without doctrinal continuity is a meaningless concept. The Marian dogmas are not there in seed form or any other form during the first three hundred years. There is not one shred of evidence that they are there PERIOD. Not in Scripture. And certainly not in the Apostolic Fathers.

    I never said there wasn’t doctrinal continuity within the Catholic tradition. You would need to demonstrate that the Marian dogmas are “not there in seed form or any other form during the first three hundred years.” There is evidence of Christian Marian devotion within the New Testament itself. See, for example, Luke 1:28, John 19:26, and Revelation 12:1. And there is evidence of Marian devotion in the first three hundred years in the writings of St. Justin Martyr and St. Irenaeus, for example. Anyway, your argument is arbitrary and ad hoc in demanding Marian dogmas be found in the first three hundred years of the Catholic Church. What is so special about 300 years?

    5. ADDING tenets to the deposit of faith which do not appear in Scripture (or even oral tradition, for that matter) can only be described as “atrocious interpretation.” It is necessarily innovative and therefore without divine authority.

    That the Catholic Church “[adds] tenets to the deposit of faith which do not appear in Scripture” or oral tradition is your mischaracterization of what Catholic theology and doctrine claims to do. “Adding” anything to the deposit of faith is not what the Church claims to be doing. I understand that you interpret it to be doing this, but you provide no evidence to substantiate this interpretation, so it is mere hand-waving and needlessly antagonistic. That you make these kinds of claims in spite of explicit statements from Catholic sources stating otherwise suggests you are not willing to consider the Catholic perspective fairly, which will be a significant obstacle to constructive dialogue.

    6. “Dialogues that cross paradigmatic boundaries are inherently presumptuous,” he thundered, emphatically pounding the solid oak table with his tensely clenched fist while, at the same time, motioning his interlocutor away with his free hand. “Point out tautologies and instances of question begging if you wish, but you’re wasting your own blasted fideistic breath!”

    I don’t know what you are citing here (given your quotation marks) or what you are intending to argue. in Christ, casey

  6. Erik,

    You say,

    Physical continuity without doctrinal continuity is a meaningless concept. The Marian dogmas are not there in seed form or any other form during the first three hundred years. There is not one shred of evidence that they are there PERIOD. Not in Scripture. And certainly not in the Apostolic Fathers.

    I want to reply both about the Marian dogmas, and about your disparaging of physical continuity. I’ll hit the Marian thing, first:

    I myself find the Catholic argument plausible, though not in-and-of-itself persuasive, that the Marian dogmas are indeed present, in seed form, in Scripture, and during the pre-canonization patristic era.

    (Which is a highly relevant period, contra Casey’s questioning of it: It’s the period in which, for lack of a New Testament canon, the Church could not even in principle be operating under a Sola Scriptura epistemological paradigm. Their very “carelessness” in taking so long to standardize which books they’d read at Mass reflects that they felt their doctrinal epistemology was enriched by but in no way dependent on knowing which books held the highest levels of authority for Christians. But I am putting “carelessness” in quotes because their lack of sole dependency on the canon for knowing the content of the faith makes their late canonization effort not particularly dangerous after all.)

    But that is an aside. I am mentioning that, were I to try to decide whether I thought the Marian dogmas true or false on the basis of the Catholic arguments alone, I would not be convinced either way.

    But, because the evidence is so strong for the Catholic idea of church authority, and because Sola Scriptura is the kind of thing that, so far as I can tell, is so non-functional as to constitute a solid demonstration of the non-deity of whomever invented it, I felt logically obligated to give the Church the benefit of the doubt regarding Mary.

    In a sense, I became Catholic because, if my only alternative was to believe that Jesus had come up with the idea of preserving Christian unity and truth through Sola Scriptura, then I would have to conclude that He was a fool, and certainly was not God. (But He is God. Ergo….)

    So I disagree in a shrugging kind of way with what you’ve said about the Marian dogmas, specifically. I accept them because Christ’s church tells me they are true; not because the evidence is personally persuasive on that point. (On the point of the authority of Christ’s church, the evidence is entirely persuasive. So I conclude that the Church is doing her “pillar and ground of the truth” thing, and that the Marian dogmas is just one of the areas where I’m a bit too dim, and my upbringing too Protestant, to see the matter clearly.)

    But, your first sentence (in the quote above) was what really caught my eye: “Physical continuity without doctrinal continuity is a meaningless concept.” Au contraire!

    First, it hasn’t been established that there is a doctrinal discontinuity. It’s begging the question to say, “Well, the Catholic interpretation of the Scriptures and the Fathers is wrong and the Protestant one is correct; therefore the Catholic doctrines represent a discontinuity from what Scripture teaches and the Protestant doctrines represent continuity.”

    Second, and more importantly, even if there had been doctrinal discontinuity, it does not follow that physical discontinuity is a meaningless concept!

    On the contrary, when Israel/Judah had a bad king, the people of Israel were never authorized by God to hare off into Persia somewhere and start, on their own say-so, a brand-new Promised Land, peopled with only a like-minded remnant, and declare that to be a new People of God. When Eli’s sons dishonored the priesthood, not a single member of the People of God was therefore authorized to start a new priesthood. If (as I suspect was sometimes the case) the tribal elders and judges made bad decisions during the period of the Exodus, there was no authorization to grab whomever you could, build a new tabernacle with a new ark, et cetera. From Korah’s rebellion, right up until Jesus said, “Salvation is from the Jews,” the visible, organic, organizational continuity of the People of God mattered.

    It may very well be, and in fact would be far more consistent with the intention of God as described in salvation history, that even if the Council of Trent was mistaken, no baptized person should ever start a new visible church, but should retain visible unity with the Church, while insisting she’d gotten doctrines wrong.

    Finally, there is another reason why “physical” continuity; i.e., retaining unity with the existing hierarchy, can matter: It is a necessity for both evangelism and functioning church discipline.

    Jesus’ high-priestly prayer in John 17 explicitly links the ability of the world to perceive the divine origin of the Christian faith with Christian doctrinal unity: “I [Jesus] pray also for those who will believe in me through their word…that they may be one as we [Jesus and The Father] are one…that the world will see, and know that Thou hast sent Me….” Jesus wants us to be one, as an evangelical witness. Can the world look at our unity, and from that unity deduce that Jesus was sent by the Father?

    Apparently not: There’s a lot of atheism going around these days. Lack of physical unity has its consequences, for, in order to have its correct evangelical function, the world must see Christian unity. This requires a visible unity, not an invisible one.

    And so does church discipline. Let’s say that some Christian man’s wife becomes pregnant but decides she doesn’t want another kid, and opts to terminate her pregnancy by abortion. What to do? Matthew 18 lists the steps: You personally try to persuade her otherwise. Then you bring in one or two of the apostles (or, presumably, their successor office-holders) to convince her. And if that fails, you bring it to the Church.

    But…how exactly, do you “bring it to the Church?” If you look up “Church” in the Yellow Pages, will there be only one entry? And how, exactly, do you know when the “Church” has made up its mind and rendered a judicial decision on the matter, and that the final appeal of this decision has been exhausted? Whom, in the Church, has authority to judge such matters?

    And after the judgment is rendered, what then? If she refuses to listen even to the Church, she is supposed to be out-of-fellowship in some fashion. Right?

    But at that point she’ll simply starts attending at the ECLA or PCUSA or Episcopalian church down-the-street. She simply ignores the judgment of her former church. Perhaps she goes on to be an Episcopalian priestess, or to hold some other office of public authority in her new church.

    My point is: If there is not one, exactly one, visible church of Jesus Christ on the planet, containing within it offices of authority for adjudicating such cases, and one final court-of-appeals beyond which there is no further appeal, then church discipline is a non-starter.

    If Jesus invented a system of discipline for His Church which was a non-starter, then He is not God.

    But He is God.

    Therefore, we can conclude that His system of church discipline is one which functions, worldwide, to render decisions which can be recognized as beyond further appeal. And that requires what you call “physical continuity,” because the alternative is necessarily multiple competing judicial systems, in which the believer may go “court-shopping” to find a favorable denomination with a favorable doctrine, and no decision can be made with divine authority.

  7. R.C.,

    It’s the period in which, for lack of a New Testament canon, the Church could not even in principle be operating under a Sola Scriptura epistemological paradigm. Their very “carelessness” in taking so long to standardize which books they’d read at Mass reflects that they felt their doctrinal epistemology was enriched by but in no way dependent on knowing which books held the highest levels of authority for Christians.

    I think this is a statement that would be highly problematic even for the RC position. You are basically saying that a NT book isn’t Scripture until the church declares it as such, but the very fact that a book was read in the liturgy means that its status as Scripture precedes the declaration.

    You are also questioning the so called three-legged stool. If you don’t know what Scripture is and don’t think your doctrine is in any way depended on Scripture, then you’ve arrived at sola ecclesia with a vengeance.

    And as another point, perhaps the church saw no need to talk about the canon because they already knew what it was and just expected everyone else to know as well. This is more or less how all professing Christians have to view Nicea and the Trinity. The Trinity was always believed and every orthodox person knew what it was, it just took Arius to get it nailed down in formal language. That’s basically Athanasius’ argument: everyone has always taught this doctrine even if they didn’t use homoousios and hypostasis to do so.

    So you haven’t actually proven the point. It is a fact that the early church had the OT, and they had delineated the essential NT canon long before anyone said “Matthew is canonical.”

  8. R.C.,

    Please provide the persuasive evidence that Christ commanded the Apostles to appoint men who were intended to receive Dominical-Apostolic teaching authority. I submit that your own inference(s) were treated as evidence during your persuasion process.

  9. Hi R.C. (#6),

    Just a quick response to something in your above comment related to mine in #5. You wrote,

    I myself find the Catholic argument plausible, though not in-and-of-itself persuasive, that the Marian dogmas are indeed present, in seed form, in Scripture, and during the pre-canonization patristic era.

    (Which is a highly relevant period, contra Casey’s questioning of it: It’s the period in which, for lack of a New Testament canon, the Church could not even in principle be operating under a Sola Scriptura epistemological paradigm.

    I did not say it wasn’t a “highly relevant period.” I am rather arguing that choosing a certain period of time in early Christianity, such as “300 years,” to find some explicit mention of a particular doctrine, is an ad hoc and arbitrary means of determining whether a certain doctrine is a legitimate part of the Apostolic deposit of faith. It sets an arbitrary standard, essentially: “if I can’t find explicit mention of a doctrine within a certain period of time, a time period chosen by me, I don’t have to believe it.” Even if we were to set the standard at the formation of the NT canon (which is itself difficult to pin down to a particular date in time), this too would be arbitrary — it could be suggestive, even helpful, but still arbitrary. This is in part because the early Church didn’t view the NT as encompassing all of the Apostolic witness. in Christ, casey

  10. R.C.,

    I think this is a very telling admission,

    In a sense, I became Catholic because, if my only alternative was to believe that Jesus had come up with the idea of preserving Christian unity and truth through Sola Scriptura, then I would have to conclude that He was a fool, and certainly was not God. (But He is God. Ergo….)

    I understand that arguments that led you to this point, but you reasoning is *precisely* why I rejected them. Your presuppositions prohibit you from believing the Gospel if Jesus did in fact *not* establish an infallible Magisterium to guide the Church because he would be “a fool.” Is not the alternative possible, that what Jesus, the Son of God, established is in fact not “foolish?” Is it not possible that *you* are “foolish” for believing that Jesus must have established an infallible church instead of what he actually established?

    If you believe Protestantism is not valid because of its reliance upon private interpretation of Divine revelation, why is your uninspired, fallible philosophical opinion so strong that you feel free to discount Jesus if he does not align with your opinions? That doesn’t sound very principled to me. As a matter of fact, it sounds more individualistic than any Protestant I’ve ever met. And I’m not entirely sure how it is even Christian, since your commitment to your philosophical framework is stronger than it is to following Jesus’s teaching. That, I believe is not something you truly want and it is why I don’t believe such arguments promote faith or love of God.

  11. Robert,

    I’m gonna follow you and Eric over here lol. You said:

    “but the very fact that a book was read in the liturgy means that its status as Scripture precedes the declaration”

    Not exactly. I believe 1st Clement was read in some liturgies (Corinth most likely) but that did not automatically make it cannon. Being read in the liturgy was ONE of the categories used to establish the canonicity of a particular book. Others included: 1st Century origin and orthodoxy (ie, it lined up with their tradition which they had already received). Notice this means that the Early Church already had a standard of the gospel with which to judge the canonicity of the various books! This lead to a book purporting to be scripture into 1 of 4 categories:

    1. Accepted (uncontroversial almost unanimous agreement such as Paul’s 13 letters, the 4 gospels, the protocanonical Old Testiment)
    2. Disputed (Hebrews, 2nd Peter, 2nd and 3rd John, James, Jude, Revelation, and the Deuteroconical Old Testiment).
    3. Rejected (orthodox in content but determined to be uninspired such as 1st Clement, The Shepherd, the Didache ect.)
    4. Condemned (heretical, largely gnostic works such as the gospel of Thomas)

    Moving on you said:

    “If you don’t know what Scripture is and don’t think your doctrine is in any way depended on Scripture, then you’ve arrived at sola ecclesia with a vengeance.”

    Not necessarily. As we discussed earlier in the “sola scriptura” thread, this would not rule out a “partim-partim” view or Scripture and Tradition. Now that view may or may not be correct, but it isn’t sola ecclesia. As for your thoughts about the cannon, I showed that it actually did become a hotly debated issue going into the 4th century. Earlier, my guess is the apostolic fathers’ proximity to the apostles meant that they had as Ireneaus put it “the Apostle’s teaching still ringing in their ears” and therefore did not consider the canon question of that much importance because they already knew what the apostles taught (without the scripture!). This is a personal opinion of mine and while I love the scriptures, I would personally trade ever reading any of Paul’s letters over knowing him in person and learning at his feet (or the feet of another apostle). In fact, I would trade reading all of Paul’s letters just to spend one day with him! (assuming language was no barrier lol)

    You said:

    ” The Trinity was always believed and every orthodox person knew what it was, it just took Arius to get it nailed down in formal language. That’s basically Athanasius’ argument: everyone has always taught this doctrine even if they didn’t use homoousios and hypostasis to do so.”

    Us Catholics have a term for that. We call it “the teaching of the Ordinary Magesterium”! lol. Even though both topics were disputed, we can say that the Church has always believed in the Trinity (though it was underdeveloped before Nicea) just as we can say we always held to a 73 book canon once it was complete. The council of Nicea is the “Extraordinary teaching of the Magesterium.”

    Finally you said:

    “It is a fact that the early church had the OT, and they had delineated the essential NT canon long before anyone said ‘Matthew is canonical.'”

    By “essential NT canon” I assume you mean the 27 New Testament books? It still took a bit of time to get there formally and like I said, even some inspired books were disputed. They weren’t glowing or something lol. Calvin’s idea of the scriptures being different from non-scriptures as like “black from white” is thoroughly false. The canon is a messy issue which took time to hash out. In the first couple centuries, the apostolic fathers didn’t need to focus on it because they already knew the gospel because they heard it directly from the horses mouth. They had bigger fish to fry (like the gnostics).

    May God be with you.

    Matthew

  12. Eric,

    You said:

    “Please provide the persuasive evidence that Christ commanded the Apostles to appoint men who were intended to receive Dominical-Apostolic teaching authority.”

    Do you believe the Great Commission applied to the Apostles only? The fact is that the Apostles had not finished “baptizing all nations” by the time they died and so as Clement said, they appointed others to “succeed their ministry.” We see this in Acts 1 and in 2 Timothy 2:2. Paul says to Titus to “exhort and reprove with all authority” (Titus 2:15) and in Titus 3:10, Paul says “As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once of twice, have nothing more to do with him.” That’s excommunication. The Apostles did this, and Paul tells Titus to continue doing it. Of course, Jesus said to his apostles “he who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me.” Do you think this is applicable to no one today? Why would the Apostles let that happen if they had a good thing going? lol.

    May God be with you

    Matthew

  13. Casey,

    You claimed,

    Moreover, non-Catholic scholars have ultimately found the Catholic claims convincing and converted — see for example Robert Louis Wilken, Avery Dulles, and Louis Bouyer.

    There is an important distinction here that is being glossed over. These men may well in fact believe that Jesus founded the RCC in a providential way, but no evidence has been provided to substantiate that they believe what has been argued here or other very conservative apologetic sites. Conflating one meaning (1. The historical Jesus established Peter and his perpetual successor as the foundation of the Church) with another (2. Jesus established oversight by the Apostles which eventually developed in the late second century into a monarchical episcopate and in the mid to late second century) deflects the true tension that students of the issue should realize. In order to substantiate that you need substantiation from actual academics. You’ve cited Wilken in the comments thread previously and admitted that you can’t point to anything he’s written to corroborate that he believes your view and I’ve cited numerous scholars who claim they are representing the majority Catholic position.

    You then go on to make the claim championed at CtC in other articles,

    Anyway, your argument is arbitrary and ad hoc in demanding Marian dogmas be found in the first three hundred years of the Catholic Church. What is so special about 300 years?

    Then in Comment #9 you say,

    I am rather arguing that choosing a certain period of time in early Christianity, such as “300 years,” to find some explicit mention of a particular doctrine, is an ad hoc and arbitrary means of determining whether a certain doctrine is a legitimate part of the Apostolic deposit of faith. It sets an arbitrary standard, essentially: “if I can’t find explicit mention of a doctrine within a certain period of time, a time period chosen by me, I don’t have to believe it”… it could be suggestive, even helpful, but still arbitrary

    Well, nothing is special about “300” years *aside* form the fact that it is “suggestive, even helpful.” For someone making a claim about the historical deposit of the Christian faith, silence for 300 years is rather significant. If you wanted to claim that we must remain agnostic about whether or not the Marian dogmas may have been taught, you may have an argument. To assert that they were definitively taught as part of the Apostolic Deposit is another thing and if we can prove a 300 year period of silence (or longer) then this renders your case highly implausible.

    Another point, you are right to state 300 years is an arbitrary point of demarcation, but so is 1500 years or even 2000 years. So lets apply your argument to another area: JBFA

    The Church has always taught JBFA. There is good reason to believe that wicked Catholic Church tried to suppress the true teaching of JBFA and eliminate the written record of its teaching, which is why we don’t find any (or many). In 1519 the true teaching of the Church was finally strengthened and Martin Luther began promulgating what had always been the teaching of the true Church. If you claim that 1500 years is a long time for something to not have historical record that’s simply because you are”demanding JBFA be found in the first three hundred years of the Catholic Church. What is so special about 1500 years?”

    Now, I wouldn’t argue this way, but if we employ your methodology in one area it completely mutes your argument of the alleged novelty of JBFA. While the time periods are “arbitrary” in other sense they are informative and important–and I think everyone knows this.

  14. Casey (and RC)–

    Actually, there is nothing even slightly arbitrary about picking an era AT THE BEGINNING of the Christian era to evaluate any theory of continuity. Once any kind of innovation gets established, it hardly matters that there is continuity from there on out. To weed out the possibility of innovation masquerading as orthodoxy, study of the very earliest years is crucial.

  15. RC–

    Why is it that almost no one converting to Catholicism finds the Marian arguments and evidence convincing, instead relying on supposed church authority? Doesn’t seem quite kosher to me. (And if you find Roman claims for ecclesial hegemony to be a slam dunk, how about explaining it to some of us here on the other side because we just cannot see it, just cannot bring ourselves to buy that particular brand of snake oil. Now, I’ll admit we’re not ultra-sharp, but we’re not the dullest tacks on the bulletin board either.)

    If God often chooses the insights of innocent children and and unschooled peasants to confound the worldly wise, then how could you possibly know that a God who chose Sola Scriptura to effect unity and doctrinal stability is necessarily foolish? God’s messiah was a lowly Galilean with little education, few financial resources, and no military training. Who exactly saw that coming?

    Besides, we could easily counter that picking a human interpretive authority during a time with a paucity of evidence verifying the identity of this entity and its fixed relationship to orthodoxy…ain’t none too bright!

  16. Casey–

    And 300 years ought to be plenty long enough. We have rudimentary trinitarian, christological, and soteriological systems in place long before then. Sheen intimated that a discontinuity of a mere 20 years would negate Roman claims.

  17. RC–

    A couple of other things:

    1. The whole ethos of confessional Protestantism is the retrieval of doctrinal continuity. Had Rome kept it, we would have no reason for being. If Rome still had it, she wouldn’t spend nearly so much time attempting to prove a meaningless physical continuity.

    2. Elijah, one of the premier prophets in the Old Testament, ministered exclusively in the North, with no access to the official cult in Jerusalem. He worshiped on Mt. Carmel. (Elisha likewise was a Northern prophet. Elijah’s successor.) Jesus does not join his disciples in condemnation of those believers operating outside their ranks (those who are not against us are for us). Perhaps you should try worshiping “in spirit and in truth” and quit designating what you believe to be the proper physical mountain.

    3. RC church discipline is about as dysfunctional as it gets. I don’t think you’re anybody’s role model!

  18. Casey–

    I’ve wanted to answer #5 but haven’t had time. I’ll respond a bit at a time:

    First, thanks for the concern, but I wasn’t confused. I used Nestorianism as an example of a heresy which HAS stood the test of time and is still very much with us. Novatian didn’t consider himself to be illegally elected. He felt Cornelius was. Who’s to say? Rome has had the papacy bought and paid for on any number of occasions. Were THESE legal elections? Was ANYBODY legally elected during the Great Schism? Nobody but nobody knew who the true pope was. It all had to be sorted out afterwards.

  19. Hi All,

    I apologize for the delay in approving the above comments from the last couple days. I was flying back from the states to Thailand (approx. 24 hour journey). I will reply to all above comments addressed to me in the next couple days and then delete this comment. thanks, casey

  20. Hey, Casey,

    Yeah, perhaps I didn’t quite interpret what you were saying carefully enough. Allow me to clarify my understanding of things; and given what you just said, I think you and I will agree.

    It does not make sense to confine one’s search for true doctrines to the period between the Ascension and the canonization of the New Testament. It does not, because the true doctrines of the Christian religion are those which:

    (a.) Were known to the Apostles prior to their deaths; and,
    (b.) Those which, through correct reasoning safeguarded by Magisterial infallibility, can be drawn as conclusions by using the doctrines known to the Apostles — described in (a.) above — as premises; and,
    (c.) Those which, through the same kind of reasoning, can be drawn as conclusions by using the doctrines described in (a.) and the conclusions described in (b.) as premises; and,
    (d.) Those which, through the same kind of reasoning, can be drawn as conclusions by using the doctrines described in (a.) and the conclusions described in (b.) and (c.) as premises; and,
    (e.) et cetera, et cetera….

    Thus the doctrines of the Christian religion blossom over time, but retain in all cases their connection to the original Apostolic Deposit, and while over time they begin to say more than the Apostles would have been able to explicitly state, all that they say is implied, directly or indirectly, in what the Apostles conveyed to their disciples (in speech, in writing, and in liturgical practice).

    And as the doctrines blossom into an ever-larger dataset, the individual items in that dataset become new premises from which further conclusions may be drawn. But, it is impossible that any later conclusion should contradict an earlier part of the dataset, for in that case it could not be a true conclusion.

    Because of this process, there is nothing to prevent a logically-necessary implication of the Apostolic Deposit of faith becoming apparent in the year 350, or the year 1350, or the year 2350, or the year 12,350 should the Lord tarry so long. It would therefore be a mistake to say that only conclusions drawn in the first 300 years were worthy of assent.

    So I think you and I are on the same page, there.

    But, for the Protestant contemplating the reality of the Catholic faith, I think the first 350 years are a very important period. In that period, Sola Scriptura cannot, even in principle, have been the official, God-given methodology by which Christians were to know the content of the Christian religion. (And of course there’s no evidence in Scripture of God ever giving Christians such a strange, non-Jewish principle of authority.)

    So when I was on my way into the Church, the examination of that period was critical. In examining what Christians believed in that period, I found that there were…

    (a.) people who agreed entirely with Catholics;
    (b.) people who agreed mostly with Catholics on every point except for some one point-of-doctrine where they disagreed, who then were called out by their bishop or a council or the pope, and who then often began also to deny the validity of the authority of their bishop, or of councils, or of the pope (which previously they’d defended);
    (c.) people who disagreed with Catholics on some point, and whose views on that point would be thought heretical by Protestants as well (e.g. the rigorists who denied that serious sins could be forgiven after baptism);

    …aand, well, that was about it. The critical observation was that I couldn’t find any proto-Reformed-Baptists anywhere. They either didn’t exist, or hadn’t thought their opinions worthy of writing down. The closest I could find was category (b.), where the opposition to authority would sound like the same kind of things a Protestant would say. But those same folks would generally be praying to saints, and praying for the dead, and having their sins absolved by their bishop, and doing years of penance for serious sins, and lots of other things which my Baptist upbringing would have violently disputed.

    It looked as if there were only non-Christians, Catholic Christians, and recently-ceased-to-be-Catholic Christians. Among the Christians, the Catholics were the center-of-gravity.

    Now it might be meaningless if one found that situation to be the case in the year 1000. But to find it in the year 250, had to be meaningful. It meant that, if Protestantism was true, then the true Christian religion had been largely lost a hundred years (at minimum) before the Protestant epistemology (Sola Scriptura) could become functional. It would thus fall to these bishops (Damasus, Athanasius, Augustine), holding positions of authority in a Church smothered in erroneous accretions, to provide the Protestants with the canon they needed for a belated restoration of the true faith over a thousand years later.

    I just couldn’t buy a whopper like that.

    Anyway, that was all that I meant, in asserting that the first 300 years are critical. It’s not that, if you can’t find a doctrine in there, you must deny that doctrine. But if you do find a doctrine universally held or nearly so, in that time, then you need to conclude that it either was part of the Apostolic Deposit, or was an obvious conclusion drawn from it, such that it was non-controversial.

  21. Matthewp,

    Thanks for your reply. From the evidence provided, should I (or anyone) infer that Jesus commanded the Apostles to appoint men like Clement ? And He intended that they receive that teaching authority ? If the inference is not required during this persuasion process, then give more explicit and direct evidence that Jesus did in fact command them to appoint.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  22. Casey–

    Continuing my response to #5:

    You responded to my charge that you were making assertions without evidence by claiming I was making assertions without evidence. And then, instead of supplying evidence, you link to a book-length article by Bryan Cross that I can only describe as tortured, like a keen mind defending a weak argument.

    There is nothing untoward in showing that those scholars without agendas–secularists, liberal Protestants, liberal Catholics, and even confessional Protestants–do not tend to buy a flawless Apostolic pedigree for Roman Catholics. If one doesn’t accept magisterial infallibility, then whether of not a particular church possesses “valid” Apostolic Succession is largely immaterial. Personally, I couldn’t care less if you all have it. (Pelikan, as I’m sure you’re aware, converted to Eastern Orthodoxy, asserting when he did, that he was merely becoming what in truth he had always unconsciously been. It reminds me of Scott Hahn, who in his conversion book, made a big deal out of being a conservative Presbyterian even though he had long doubted Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide. He was basically Catholic all along and simply eventually found his way home.)

  23. Casey–

    Finishing my reply to #5:

    My contention would be that the higher-level Marian doctrines springboarded off the popularity of the designation of Mary as theotokos. We have a virtual “Cambrian Explosion” of Marian devotion following Ephesus, probably fueled by christological speculation.

    Because of the charism of infallibility granted to the magisterium, there is no need to evaluate whether or not anything was added. You accept on trust that they did not innovate. Plus, the leading of the Holy Spirit cannot be distilled into human logic, making the Roman claims unfalsifiable. They could be saints or they could be charlatans, and you would never know. There’s no way to distinguish. It’s difficult enough from a Protestant perspective. What are the exact parameters of a valid development of doctrine?

  24. Eric,

    Responding to your comment in #21, yes you should infer that the apostles appointed Clement and others at Jesus’s command unless you are willing to admit that the apostles could do such a thing without any mandate from Him. Clement is clearly under the impression that the apostles appointed successors to “succeed their ministry.” He says as much a little earlier:

    “Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.”

    “Through our Lord Jesus Christ” is the clincher.

    Also, as a note to your comment in #22, calling Bryan Cross’s article “tortured” does nothing to refute it. I have read that entire article and I have no reason to think that any information he provided is questionable. If you do, please point it out. I also have to say that it is often people like Bultmann who use the same kind of methodology to attach the Catholic Church as many Addison used (the one Bryan was replying to in the article). It’s assuming a massive heresy overtook the church in 150AD and no one complained about it. To be honest, the historical evidence that Jesus established the Catholic Church is almost as good (if not as good) as the historical evidence for Jesus’s Resurrection. And if that is indeed true, in all honesty, that should end the discussion. As a thought experiment, let’s say you were made aware instantly that Jesus did in fact establish the Catholic Church (through a private revelation for instance). Would you then become Catholic? If not, then the problem really isn’t intellectual anymore.

    May God be with you

    Matthew

  25. Robert (#7),

    In reply to my statement, “…taking so long to standardize which books they’d read at Mass reflects that they felt their doctrinal epistemology was enriched by but in no way dependent on knowing which books held the highest levels of authority for Christians,” you say:

    I think this is a statement that would be highly problematic even for the RC position. You are basically saying that a NT book isn’t Scripture until the church declares it as such, but the very fact that a book was read in the liturgy means that its status as Scripture precedes the declaration.

    No, that isn’t quite what I mean. To be sure, a given document either is, or is not, inspired-inerrant prior to the Church letting the faithful know that it’s inspired-inerrant. But one lonely document actually being inspired-inerrant is not sufficient for the Christians of the world to have a working document-based epistemology for knowing the complete required content of the Christian religion.

    What would be sufficient? What would allow Sola Scriptura to really function? To do the job Protestants have assigned it, of being the epistemology for obtaining the required content of the Christian religion?

    First, of course, you need the other documents, such that the set is complete. Secondly, the authors need to have intended to get all the required content into at least one of those documents; or else, to have collectively coordinated the authorship of the documents such that the whole collection exhaustively provided all the required content of the Christian religion, dividing it up amongst the documents in such a way as to ensure that it was all covered. Thirdly, that the authors (who are coordinating their efforts with the intent of providing this exhaustive treatment) need to take special care that the topics being discussed are sufficiently explained so as to make them clear to a person who has little or no prior familiarity with them. (Otherwise, a person trying to derive the content of Christianity from this text will only succeed if he already knows it. That’s helpful for preaching to the converted! …but unhelpful for proving what’s orthodox and resolving disputes.) Fourth, you need to get the documents into the hands of the faithful. If any member of the faithful is missing access to a document, then he can’t know whether the missing document might reverse his current opinion about some disputed doctrine. (I grant that if there is topic-overlap and redundancy between documents, each Christian may not need to have all the documents. He just needs enough so that his collection clearly deals with each topic at least once.) Fifth, you need to ensure that all the faithful can tell relatively easily which documents do, and don’t, belong to the collection. If you don’t do that, they may accidentally exclude something critical, or else introduce a document containing errors. Sixth, the faithful all need either to be able to read these documents, or have someone trustworthy who can, who’s reading the documents to them, regularly. Seventh, you really need to have the authors, or their representatives, on hand to clarify misunderstandings, reject fanciful conspiracy-theories (“Jar Jar Binks is really a Sith Lord!” or “Paul’s being apostle to the Gentiles means Gentiles need only read Paul, and that the teachings of Peter, James, and even Jesus only apply to the Jews!” …that kind of thing), and generally preserve the integrity of the text as perceived in the public mind.

    In short: If there exist a bunch of inspired-inerrant writings whose content, taken together, includes all the required content of the Christian religion, that’s a good start, but it is woefully short of what you need for Sola Scriptura to be workable. To be sufficient, we must have realistic hope of using those documents to reliably get that content out of the text and into our heads.

    To have that reasonable hope, you need all those additional structures I just listed: Each one, as you see, protects against a major thing that could go wrong, rendering your epistemology unworkable.

    And even that isn’t enough. One more thing is required: The faithful also know about those structures. God can’t just put them in place; He needs to tell us that He has put them in place, and why.

    If that need is non-obvious at first glance, then consider: The sacred authors may have provided us with representatives who’ll help us rule out fanciful misinterpretations, but that’ll do us no good, if we’ve no idea that such representatives can exist, are supposed to exist, and who those representatives are! We have to know that that’s how it’s supposed to work, that God has provided us this safeguard, as part of the system.

    Similarly, we might possess a collection of documents which exhaustively and perspicuously details every last required dogma of the Christian religion…but if nobody tells us that’s what we’ve got, we’ll be left wondering whether we’re missing anything, and speculating about what the “missing” texts might say.

    So we need the whole set. We need it to contain everything, clearly conveyed. We need to have people who can and will help us avoid misinterpretations. And we need to know that we have the whole set, and know that it contains everything, and know that we have access to people who’ll help us avoid misinterpretation, and who they are.

    That’s a very heavy set of requirements, for Sola Scriptura to succeed at doing what Protestants claim that it can do.

    What evidence do we have, to argue that those requirements were met?

    Well…none.

    Look again at the list of requirements.

    First, the Christians have to have the full set, and know that they have the full set, and are not including anything erroneous.

    But it’s a very safe bet that, for at least part of the period between the authorship of 1 Thessalonians until Athanasius’ Easter Letter, every diocese in the world didn’t know what the full set was, or else didn’t even have in its possession all the documents which would eventually make up the full canon, or else included in its set various other documents which shouldn’t be included. Yes, most of them had most of the right documents, and comparatively few wrong ones, most of the time. But they didn’t, and couldn’t possibly, know what they did and didn’t have. As a consequence, if they had to rely on the Magisterium to error-check the transmission of the Apostolic Tradition. Without that, they had no sure knowledge of the faith.

    Secondly, the texts they had didn’t meet the need for all the required content of the Christian religion to be conveyed both clearly and completely.

    There’s no reason to believe that any single sacred author intended to clearly convey all the required content of the Christian religion in any text of Scripture, or that he coordinated with other authors to ensure that all the bases were covered piecemeal across multiple documents. On the contrary, Peter complains that Paul’s writings are easily-misunderstood unless you go in already having a good idea what Paul means. John tells us that the “whole world” couldn’t contain the books required to tell us all that Jesus said and did, so he’s not going to try: He’s just giving us the bare minimum to identify who the Messiah is and “have life in His name,” leaving it up to the Church to teach us the liturgy and the sacraments and who can get baptized and what baptism does and whether the Eucharist is a sacrifice, and myriad other critical topics. Paul and the author of Hebrews — if they aren’t the same man — typically assume the basics of the faith are already known by their audience, and skips over them, listing the skipped topics in the briefest and vaguest of ways. (E.g. Hebrews 6:1-2: “Therefore, let’s move past the elementary stuff and not go over the basics again, about repenting of dead works and baptisms and laying-on-of-hands and the resurrection and the eternal judgment….”) If you don’t know these topics already, you won’t learn about them in this text!

    And of course Paul takes pains to admonish the faithful to adhere to the traditions he delivered to them “whether by word-of-mouth, or by letter.” Why bother mentioning the oral teaching, if it didn’t explain things there wasn’t room to explain in his letters? And given the weeks and months Paul spent with these churches, how could the oral teaching they received from him not be a thousand times more detailed than that contained in his epistles (which a single man could recite in a single day).

    Consider how the liturgy itself implies the theology and sacramentology and soteriology and ecclesiology which underpins it. And consider how, apart from the institution narrative, that liturgy is almost completely undescribed in the New Testament. Now consider that each of the apostles would have presided over the liturgies and trained their successors in how to do it properly…none of which is written down.

    A Catholic theologian could say (and some do say) that every, or nearly every, required element of the faith is evidenced in some way in the Bible. But what they mean by this is not that those elements of the faith can be prooftexted with no ambiguity. They mean things like how the New Testament hints at Mary being the Ark of the New Covenant. (That, as any Protestant should be quick to agree, is not the kind of clarity which is required for Sola Scriptura to function!)

    Or, they mean that from Scripture, one can determine that the Church must have an infallible Magisterium which can be located in the world by finding the Apostolic Successors who’re currently in communion with the Petrine Successor, and that in turn allows you to reliably learn the rest of the faith. This, in a sense, allows you to leverage your way from Scripture to the whole content of the religion. (But, again, not in a way a Protestant will be comfortable supporting!)

    So the requirements of a workable epistemology are clearly not met.

    Now, if the early Christians were supposed to be using Scripture to judge the doctrinal correctness of their bishops — and to start competing ecclesial communities any time a bishop didn’t measure up to Scripture — then this non-functional epistemology should have produced panic. It would be the most important thing in the world to get the canon question settled, fast.

    But they simply didn’t act that way. You can see from the relatively late speculation about the canonicity of John’s Apocalypse, or Hebrews, or James, or Jude, or the status of 2nd Peter, or the centuries-long reading of Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians in the liturgy side-by-side with the books which we now have in our canon, that they weren’t stressing out over it. Even Marcion’s adventures in cut-and-paste didn’t provide enough nudging get people worked up about it. Oh, they were energetic enough to call Marcion names, but not enough to do the work of settling the canon once-and-for-all. Marcion died c. 160, but around 200 A.D. Origen is still saying stuff like, “Oh, you know, there are some disputed Johannine letters, and we’re not sure whether the 2nd letter of Peter is genuine, and my best guess is that Clement of Rome wrote Hebrews, but, hey, only God knows for sure. But there’s no need to discuss it further.” (I paraphrase, but I think I capture the tone accurately.)

    You add,

    You are also questioning the so called three-legged stool. If you don’t know what Scripture is and don’t think your doctrine is in any way depended on Scripture, then you’ve arrived at sola ecclesia with a vengeance.

    I don’t think so, although I’m uncertain precisely what problem you’re seeing, here. As soon as you have the ecclesia, the ecclesia teaches you the Tradition, and then shows you that Tradition documented in the Scriptures. From one leg, you necessarily get all three. After all, the ecclesia predated and produced the New Testament just as the kahol predated and produced the Old. (No Church, no Scriptures.) You can’t claim to care about either Apostolic Tradition or the Magisterium of the Church if you reject the Scriptures, because rejecting the Scriptures means you’re rejecting (a.) one of (indeed the better of) the two ways that the Tradition comes to us; and (b.) the premier product of the Magisterium!

    You say,

    And as another point, perhaps the church saw no need to talk about the canon because they already knew what it was and just expected everyone else to know as well.

    No, that’s clearly not the case for Origen. It’s clearly not the case in Clement of Alexandria. As late as Eusebius’ Church History we still see disputes about items we now have in our canon. Remember: We have various canon lists before Athanasius’ Easter Letter, but none of them match the final canon. Athanasius’ is the earliest canon-list we have that matches our own, and it comes three hundred forty years after the Ascension.

    The Trinity was always believed and every orthodox person knew what it was, it just took Arius to get it nailed down in formal language. That’s basically Athanasius’ argument: everyone has always taught this doctrine even if they didn’t use homoousios and hypostasis to do so.

    I agree with you about that doctrine: Trinitarianism was the Apostolic Tradition. But if you grew up in a diocese controlled by two generations of Arian bishops, it wouldn’t seem “traditional” to you. It would seem a novelty. How could you know what was right, other than by making the unfounded assumption that whatever you were taught as a child was correct, and that anything new you heard was false? Both sides argue their case from Scripture, so that doesn’t help you (assuming you’re literate). And at first glance, it seems like logic is on the side of the Arians, not the Trinitarians.

    Unless you already believe that valid ecumenical councils can’t err, then your likely reaction when the council of Nicaea pronounces its verdict is to say they got it wrong. After all, you yourself didn’t personally witness all the preceding centuries of teaching in all the dioceses of the world.

    You only know what you know. If it is your job to judge the Church’s orthodoxy, then intellectual humility requires you to acknowledge the near-impossibility of you judging it correctly in every case. And that’s if you’re a bright, educated guy with a lot of free time. How much more so, if you’re an illiterate North African living in Constantinople? (Or, for that matter, a modern American high-school dropout with four kids and two jobs?)

    Only if the Church’s authority to adjudicate disputes involving the required content of the Christian religion is protected from error by God will you be able to trust Nicaea, and reject all the familiar things of your upbringing in favor of this newfangled (to you) understanding of the faith.

  26. Eric,

    You ask,

    Please provide the persuasive evidence that Christ commanded the Apostles to appoint men who were intended to receive Dominical-Apostolic teaching authority. I submit that your own inference(s) were treated as evidence during your persuasion process.

    Hmm. I don’t think an inference was treated as evidence. Are you staying that I started from Premises, and drew a Conclusion from them? (That’s what an inference is.)

    If you’re talking about Scriptural evidence for the Catholic view; well: The stewards and chief steward of the Kingdom of David, the judges over the kahol (Septuagint: ekklesia) during the exodus (as recommended by his father-in-law, with Moses resolving the difficult cases), and the role of the Al Bayith in relation to the High Priest and the twelve of the Temple Council are all relevant to understanding Matthew 16 and 18. I submit that a well-catechized first-century Jew, looking at the words of Jesus, would have trouble deciding whether Jesus was making Peter and the Apostles (a.) the new judges for resolving disputes (with Peter as the court-of-appeals), (b.) the new stewards for administering the kingdom (with Peter as the “steward who is over the household, who is like a father to the people of (the New) Jerusalem,” or (c.) the new Temple priesthood, with Peter being the assistant-to-the-High-Priest who is responsible for holding the other end of the rope when the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies. All of the above seem to fit the evidence. But the confusion can be resolved by saying: “All of the above: The earlier institutions were the types; the episcopal office is the fulfillment.”

    But of course, all those offices had successors. Why should the New Covenant fulfillment not also have successors? Especially since Acts 1 shows Judas’ “office of leadership” or “episcopate” having a successor (Matthias)?

    Others (e.g. Brant Pitre) have written extensively about the Old Testament precedents for the New Testament offices of leadership. If that’s the kind of evidence you’re asking for, I refer you to them.

    I’m also not certain to which inference(s) you refer. But if I’m making an inference, I’m inferring from premises. One premise I keep using is “God would not put in place an epistemology for knowing the content of the Christian religion that doesn’t, even in principle, work.”

    To further clarify that premise: I don’t mean to say that God would not put in place an epistemology which could be disregarded as an act of rebellion by human beings. (So far as I can tell, God could not avoid that problem without destroying human freedom.) Whatever system God provided us for knowing what Christianity is, will be a system which is neglectable. And widespread disregard of it will have the usual consequences it has in human society: Widespread confusion, and skepticism about whether it’s even possible to know what’s true.

    So I don’t mean a divinely-created religious epistemology would not be rejectable. What I mean is, God would not put in place an epistemology that couldn’t possibly work even if a Christian made a sincere effort to adhere to it. He would not put in place an epistemology which was flawed in principle, making knowledge (not “opinion about the faith,” mind you, but knowledge of the faith) possible.

    I think this premise is defensible because its alternative is, necessarily, to conclude that Christianity is something unknowable, lost in the mists of time, and that latter-day attempts to derive it from original sources, including Scripture, can do more than provide us with partial reconstructions. Oh, sure, one of those reconstructions will be closer to correct than the others, and it’s possible (if somewhat implausible) that one of them is dead-on. But if we can’t know which is which, then the knowledge that one is better than all the others isn’t terribly helpful!

    Jesus said that it was for this reason He came into the world: To bear witness to the truth. He said that He is the Truth. Paul says that the Church is the upholder and defender (pillar and bullwark) of the truth. It is the truth that will set us free. He promised not to “leave us orphans.” If our epistemology leaves us helpless to know what Christianity really is, even if we are wholeheartedly seeking it, then we should conclude that something is wrong with that epistemology.

    Another way of putting it: Christian authority should make it possible to submit. This means that there has to be some objective way to identify both the authority and what the authority is saying on some debatable topic, without “painting a target around one’s interpretative arrow.” This point is made by Bryan and others, elsewhere on this site.

    The rhyme…

    If I submit to an authority
    Only when I agree,
    Then the name of the authority
    To whom I submit, is: Me.

    …is a very-relevant truism, on that topic. (It’s also relevant to the epistemological distinction between the Eastern/Oriental/Nestorian separated churches, and the Catholic Church.)

    Here is yet another way of stating my premise (or perhaps you can consider it an observation about the premise: “God incarnate is smarter than Mohammed.” Christianity isn’t the only religion in the world to have splintered into competing sects over questions of doctrine and authority. Islam uses the “inspiration by dictation” idea for the Koran, together with an insistence on learning a chimerical “classical/Koranic Arabic” which is only taught by persons with a narrow range of opinion, to help preserve some unity. Yet, in spite of this, there is no way for an individual Muslim to know whether he should be a Shiite or a Sunnite, nor is there any way for him to select between different competing schools of Islamic jurisprudence, save on the basis of his own upbringing, prejudices, and best guesses.

    Now, the average plumber or harried homeschooling housewife simply doesn’t have opportunity to engage in a lot of historical investigation and disputed exegesis in order to find out what real Christianity is. Yet the truth is supposed to set these people free, also. Under what system could there exist a single, identifiable source for Christian truth, that’s accessible to tradesmen and washerwomen? Whatever God’s epistemology is, it would need to function for them, as well.

    My point is: Yes, I draw an inferential conclusion. And I draw it from Premises, as one must do.

    To demonstrate the invalidity of the conclusion, one must demonstrate either that it doesn’t follow from the Premises, or that one of the Premises is false.

    In the case of the Premise described above, I hold that it can’t be false, because the only alternative is either absurd (Mohammed’s just as good an organizational-founder as Jesus?!) or simply falsifies the Christian faith.

  27. Hi Brandon (#13),

    Before I reply in full to your comment, would you be able to cite our previous conversation on Wilken? I went looking for it under either your original article critiquing Catholic claims re: the papacy, and the response by Barrett, Bryan, and Ray — couldn’t find it in either place. I remember the back-and-forth but would be useful to see exactly what was said from both sides. thanks, casey

  28. Hi Erik (#14),

    You wrote,

    Actually, there is nothing even slightly arbitrary about picking an era AT THE BEGINNING of the Christian era to evaluate any theory of continuity. Once any kind of innovation gets established, it hardly matters that there is continuity from there on out. To weed out the possibility of innovation masquerading as orthodoxy, study of the very earliest years is crucial.

    What determines the boundaries of “at the beginning of the Christian era” ? This is why your “300 years” demand is ad hoc. You have arbitrarily decided that 300 years is equal to “at the beginning of the Christian era.” For others, “the beginning” might just mean Jesus’ earthly ministry (so concluding in 33 A.D.), or up to whatever one believes is the date when the last book of the NT was written (90 A.D.? 110 A.D.?) Or “the beginning” might be the first ecumenical council (Nicea, 325 A.D.), or alternatively the last (Nicea II, 787 A.D.), or instead the death of one of the individuals often classified as the last early church father: John of Damascus (749 A.D.) or Isidore of Seville (636 A.D.), for example. in Christ, casey

  29. Hi Erik (#18),

    You wrote,

    First, thanks for the concern, but I wasn’t confused. I used Nestorianism as an example of a heresy which HAS stood the test of time and is still very much with us.

    To claim that Nestorianism is “very much with us” is quite the overstatement. The heresy has largely died out, and the Assyrian Church of the East (approx. 500,000 members), the modern-day successor of the “Nestorian” church, has frequently rejected the label of Nestorian, and has repudiated many of the most controversial Nestorian teachings.

    You also wrote,

    Novatian didn’t consider himself to be illegally elected. He felt Cornelius was. Who’s to say?

    In the case of Novatian, a legitimate bishop of Rome had already been elected following the interregnum period caused by St. Fabian’s martyrdom: Cornelius. Novatian then attempted to be named pope by physically forcing a number of bishops to crown him pope. Novatian’s illicit actions, taken after a legitimate bishop had already been determined, is not legitimate.

    Rome has had the papacy bought and paid for on any number of occasions. Were THESE legal elections? Was ANYBODY legally elected during the Great Schism? Nobody but nobody knew who the true pope was. It all had to be sorted out afterwards.

    Please provide specifics regarding when a papacy was “bought and paid for.” There have certainly been several contentious papal elections, and a handful of scoundrel popes, but these are far-and-away the exception to the rule. Yes, there were legal papal elections even during the Great Schism, and even if there was great contention and debate, and even if general agreement across Western Christendom regarding succession was not found until the election of Martin V and after. Information on this can be found in this interview:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2014/04/an-interview-with-dr-thomas-madden-on-the-medieval-catholic-church/

    and here:

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13539a.htm

    in Christ, casey

  30. Hi Erik (#22),

    You wrote,

    You responded to my charge that you were making assertions without evidence by claiming I was making assertions without evidence. And then, instead of supplying evidence, you link to a book-length article by Bryan Cross that I can only describe as tortured, like a keen mind defending a weak argument.

    I’m confused as to why you believe me citing the article by Bryan Cross, Barrett Turner, and Ray Stamper is not “evidence.” The article provides extensive evidence directly related to your earlier questions regarding the papacy and Apostolic succession. Your comment regarding the referenced article — that it is “tortured,” and “defending a weak argument” is an assertion and uncharitable. If you are not willing to read long articles like the one I provided, CTC is likely not for you.

    There is nothing untoward in showing that those scholars without agendas–secularists, liberal Protestants, liberal Catholics, and even confessional Protestants–do not tend to buy a flawless Apostolic pedigree for Roman Catholics.

    So certain kinds of Catholic scholars that I cite to defend my position have “agendas,” but all the other scholars you cited do not? This is ad hominem argumentation. Future comments of this nature will not be approved. in Christ, casey

  31. Hi Erik (#23),

    You wrote,

    My contention would be that the higher-level Marian doctrines springboarded off the popularity of the designation of Mary as theotokos. We have a virtual “Cambrian Explosion” of Marian devotion following Ephesus, probably fueled by christological speculation.

    Contentions like these require evidence. Have you read anything on Marian devotion or theology in the early church period? I would suggest Mary and the Fathers of the Church by Gambero, or The Fathers Know Best by Jimmy Akin.

    What are the exact parameters of a valid development of doctrine?

    There are entire books on this subject — see for example Newman’s An Essay on the Development of Doctrine or the writings of St. Vincent of Lerins — but a starting point would be that all doctrines should be in conformity with the Apostolic deposit of faith, should have a long history of both belief and practice in the life of the Church, and should not contradict any other dogmas, such as those espoused by ecumenical Church councils. This is taught in the Vatican II document Dei Verbum, particularly DV 8. A very brief explanation can be found here:

    http://www.catholic.com/tracts/can-dogma-develop

    in Christ, casey

  32. Hey Casey,

    I don’t recall the specific comment sections (though I think it was under my article), but I do recall that you made a similar claim; Wilken believes Jesus founded the RCC. I noted that nothing in any of Wilken’s published writings *I was familiar with* substantiated that and I asked for further citation. You could not point to anything in Wilken’s writings, but noted that based on personal interactions you thought he’d affirm the claims promulgated here at CtC and not the providential development of episcopal Petrine succession.

  33. Casey–

    Obviously, after 300 years there begins to be substantial evidence of Marian devotion. The question then becomes: Is 300 years a significant amount of time at the beginning for a major tenet to virtually go missing? That’s certainly not ad hoc.

  34. Casey–

    Jansenists repudiated Rome’s depiction of them as thoroughly unrepresentative. In other words, Jansenists repudiated Jansenism (at least Rome’s version thereof). It’s debateable whether the Church of the East remains (or ever really was) Nestorian. They most certainly DO NOT reject Nestorius himself though (once again) historians tend to absolve Nestorius of the charge of Nestorianism. But the point is neither here nor there. Insert “Protestantism” into the equation instead. After some 850 years (if we begin, in an ad hoc manner, with the Waldensians), do you somehow think we’ll be going away anytime soon?

  35. Matthewp (#24)

    Unwillingness to admit the Apostles could appoint without a mandate from Christ is the problem. You must infer Christ commanded because more direct or explicit evidence of command is lacking. We should observe how mandate from Christ is a necessary part to help persuade someone that Christ intended successors to have Dominical-Apostolic teaching authority. You need this direct link to Christ and every participant in the persuasion process permits the inference without scrutiny. I think a contrary position seems more persuasive because your inference is supporting what appears to be an a priori requirement of specific Dominical mandate / command / intent.

    I’m Eric, not Erik. Easy mistake.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  36. Casey–

    All scholars have agendas. Certainly, many liberal and secular academics seek to destroy the reputations of Catholicism and any other form of traditional Christianity. This manifest truth must be taken into consideration when evaluating their work.

    What I meant–and I did not mean it uncharitably–was that traditional Catholic scholars are necessarily limited to the confirmation of Apostolic Succession (what you termed tautological) while other scholars are not so circumscribed. Personally, I’m agnostic and apathetic concerning the question. I simply find no reason to care who touched whom.

  37. Casey–

    Gambero acknowledges that Mary “rarely appears” in the Apostolic Fathers and offers as an expanation that either 1.) they were avoiding mentioning her so as to not lead goddess-worshiping pagans into temptation or 2.) venerating her through “mystical silence” on the matter. Most evidence of any sort comes from apocryphal sources. And the “Sub Tuum” is notoriously difficult to date (and thus perhaps shouldn’t count). Traditional Catholic sources (newadvent.org, for example) freely admit that there is almost no early evidence for veneration of the BVM. So why are you contesting the fact?

  38. Casey,

    But a starting point would be that all doctrines should be in conformity with the Apostolic deposit of faith

    The presumes the deposit is fixed, to which I would agree. So you should be able to give me its precise parameters. What are they?

  39. Hi Erik (#33, 37, 36)

    You wrote,

    Obviously, after 300 years there begins to be substantial evidence of Marian devotion. The question then becomes: Is 300 years a significant amount of time at the beginning for a major tenet to virtually go missing? That’s certainly not ad hoc.

    If the point you were making was obvious, I don’t think we would having this discussion. There is plentiful evidence of Marian devotion prior to 300 A.D. — that this devotion “went missing” before 300 A.D. is simply inaccurate. I have previously cited examples from the NT regarding the elevated role of Mary in the early Church, as well as Marian devotion present in the writings of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. There is also evidence of this in the Protoevangelium of James, Melito of Sardis, Tertullian, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, and Hippolytus, all writings that are from before 300 A.D. All of this is recorded in Gambero’s work. If your point is simply that there is more written evidence of Marian devotion in Christian records after the ad hoc designation of 300 A.D., I agree. But you still haven’t demonstrated what is so special about 300 A.D. We could just as easily say “there is more evidence of Marian devotion in 200 A.D. than 100 A.D.” or “there is a more explicit and sophisticated theology in Christian writings that accounts for the Trinity in 300 A.D. than in 200 A.D.” Indeed, this is how the development of doctrine works.

    You also wrote,

    Gambero acknowledges that Mary “rarely appears” in the Apostolic Fathers and offers as an expanation that either 1.) they were avoiding mentioning her so as to not lead goddess-worshiping pagans into temptation or 2.) venerating her through “mystical silence” on the matter. Most evidence of any sort comes from apocryphal sources. And the “Sub Tuum” is notoriously difficult to date (and thus perhaps shouldn’t count). Traditional Catholic sources (newadvent.org, for example) freely admit that there is almost no early evidence for veneration of the BVM. So why are you contesting the fact?

    You seem to keep changing your criteria. You previously were using this 300 A.D. criteria, above you cite criteria referencing the Apostolic Fathers, which is quite different, given that most scholars would say the era of the AF’s ends somewhere between 150 and 180 A.D. Which is it? The Sub Tuum may be “hard to date,” but many scholars date it at 250 A.D. , which would be within your previous 300 A.D. criteria. And again, you say “no early evidence for veneration of the BVM,” but it’s not clear what you mean by “early evidence,” or what objective standard you are applying to determine what counts as “early.”

    You said,

    All scholars have agendas. Certainly, many liberal and secular academics seek to destroy the reputations of Catholicism and any other form of traditional Christianity. This manifest truth must be taken into consideration when evaluating their work.

    What I meant–and I did not mean it uncharitably–was that traditional Catholic scholars are necessarily limited to the confirmation of Apostolic Succession (what you termed tautological) while other scholars are not so circumscribed. Personally, I’m agnostic and apathetic concerning the question. I simply find no reason to care who touched whom.

    I agree, all scholars have agendas. Yet I’m persuaded many scholars, from across the religious spectrum, do their best to do good work that attempts to eschew bias and prove their own preconceptions. What you imply above is still that “traditional Catholic scholars” — whatever you mean by that designation — are so biased that their scholarly work cannot be trusted on certain issues, whole “other scholars,” presumably Protestant scholars you agree with, can be trusted on those issues. This is a double standard. We could just as easily say something like “non-Catholic scholars are biased against apostolic succession, and so will seek to find evidence to prove their own anti-Catholic preconceptions.” And if you are going to be consistent, you would also have to admit, for example, that evangelical Protestant biblical scholars — who conduct their work under a presumption that the biblical texts are inspired, without error, and historically trustworthy — are so biased that they can’t be trusted to do good scholarship. This is a flawed approach to judging scholarship. in Christ, casey

  40. Hi Robert (#38),

    The presumes the deposit is fixed, to which I would agree. So you should be able to give me its precise parameters. What are they?

    The parameters are defined by Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. in Christ, casey

  41. R.C. (#26)

    Anyone considering the “catholic idea of authority” is allowed to infer that Jesus commanded the Apostles to appoint men who were intended to receive Dominical -Apostolic teaching authority. The inference is drawn because more explicit or direct evidence of command is lacking. Not even the content of the inference is a definitive teaching in the catholic paradigm. Search the sources and magisterial teaching.

    After the inference is drawn, it is treated as part of the whole body of evidence designed to persuade others that this teaching authority is given to the successors. It’s a must in order to prove CCC# 77.

  42. Casey,

    Okay, then list the deposit of faith. If it is fixed, then you should be able to identify it. Protestantism can. The deposit of faith is Scripture. I’ve yet to have any Roman Catholic tell me what the deposit of faith is. I’ve yet to have any Roman Catholic tell me what constitutes tradition in its entirety.

  43. Eric,

    In response to your comment 44, I would say that you should check out St. Pope Pius X’s “Lamentabili sane exitu.” Specifically #50 which condemns the following:

    “The elders who fulfilled the office of watching over the gatherings of the faithful were instituted by the Apostles as priests or bishops to provide for the necessary ordering of the increasing communities and not properly for the perpetuation of the Apostolic mission and power.”

    Here’s the whole link: http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius10/p10lamen.htm

    And in regards to comment #35, I believe I did show that Clement believed that his ministry was still instituted “Through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I trust him. And in my defense, you may be Eric but there is an Erik commenting also!! lol.

  44. Robert,

    The deposit of faith is what Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition teach. I do often hear various protestants complain something like “give me a list of traditions.” Sacred Tradition is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 78 which quotes Dei Verbum saying:

    Through Tradition, “the Church, in her doctrine, life, and worship perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.”

    That probably won’t satisfy you though. You want something like “tradition is x,y, and z doctrines whereas scripture is a,b, and c doctrines” right? Even a “partim/partim” system wouldn’t be entirely like that. At most, Tradition covers more subjects than Scripture does but there is still lots of overlap. Tradition can also be seen as what the Scriptures are and what they mean. You said:

    ” If it is fixed, then you should be able to identify it. Protestantism can. The deposit of faith is Scripture.”

    And yet, there is no official Protestant Catechism, no Magesterium, and no list of dogmas. Protestants are a diverse bunch to say the least lol. With thousands of denominations, everyone pointing to the bible saying “that’s our deposit of faith” has not enabled unity in doctrine anywhere near as what the Catholic Church has in hers. I often hear “well we can agree on essentials.” But protestantism has no principled way of binding those “essentials.” If you’re reformed (and I assume you are since this blog is designed for you lol), you believe in TULIP right? You might consider those to be “essential.” Many (if not all orthodox) reformed protestants do. But then the significant majority of all of protestantism will disagree with you. There are all sorts of protestant confessions of faith, each having all the authority of fallible human opinion. We have one Catechism in the Catholic Church and can truly say we have “One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.”

    May God be with you

    Matthew

  45. Matthewp (#43)

    Are you content believing the Apostles appointed men for the “perpetuation of Apostolic mission and power” apart from a belief ( or perhaps an inference) that Jesus commanded the Apostles to appoint ? I mean can you give up the idea that Jesus did in fact command them to appoint ?

    Clement’s “through out Lord Jesus Christ” can be understood as those things implied when Jesus commanded the Apostles to preach. Clement’s outline from ch. 42-44 is a basically the same as CCC #74-77. Where’s the command to appoint ? Is it a teaching found within the catholic paradigm ? If so, then show me where the church teaches it ?

    I think you trust him because he draws the same inference you do. It is left unstated, but both of you lean on it in order to say “succeed their ministry.” I mean Dominical-Apostolic teaching authority.

  46. Hi Robert (#42),

    You wrote,

    Okay, then list the deposit of faith. If it is fixed, then you should be able to identify it. Protestantism can. The deposit of faith is Scripture. I’ve yet to have any Roman Catholic tell me what the deposit of faith is. I’ve yet to have any Roman Catholic tell me what constitutes tradition in its entirety.

    I just told you what the deposit of faith is. The problem, it would seem, is that the Catholic Church’s understanding of Tradition is more nuanced than you would like, because you are looking for a concept of Tradition that fits nicely into a ready-made Protestant sola scriptura-type model, where all authority neatly fits between two covers. In truth, Scripture itself does not work this way (given a combination of Tradition and ecumenical Church authority cooperated to define its contents and an external authority is still required to interpret its meaning), so it is reasonable to expect neither will Tradition. CTC has however explained the nature and scope of Tradition elsewhere, so I’m happy to direct you to those resources:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2013/02/on-the-usefulness-of-tradition-a-response-to-recent-objections/

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/02/the-tradition-and-the-lexicon/

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2014/09/scripture-and-tradition/

    This article from Catholic Answers, particularly the last couple paragraphs, also speak to your question:

    http://www.catholic.com/tracts/scripture-and-tradition

    in Christ, casey

  47. Eric, can you define for me what the phrase “dominical teaching authority” means then? I was assuming it meant something along the lines of the “the authority of the apostles.” Can I give you a specific, direct mandate from Jesus on the matter, no but I can from Paul in Titus 2:15. I do infer that Paul and the other Apostles aren’t making it up but I suppose it’s possible that the mandate came directly from the Holy Spirit but that’s too Raymond Brown-ish lol.

    May God be with you

    Matthew

  48. Hi Brandon (#13),

    I apologize for the delay in responding to your comment. I finally tracked down our earlier discussion, which can be found here. My relevant comments in the below post are #120 and #123:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/09/modern-scholarship-rome-and-a-challenge/

    You wrote,

    There is an important distinction here that is being glossed over. These men may well in fact believe that Jesus founded the RCC in a providential way, but no evidence has been provided to substantiate that they believe what has been argued here or other very conservative apologetic sites. Conflating one meaning (1. The historical Jesus established Peter and his perpetual successor as the foundation of the Church) with another (2. Jesus established oversight by the Apostles which eventually developed in the late second century into a monarchical episcopate and in the mid to late second century) deflects the true tension that students of the issue should realize. In order to substantiate that you need substantiation from actual academics. You’ve cited Wilken in the comments thread previously and admitted that you can’t point to anything he’s written to corroborate that he believes your view and I’ve cited numerous scholars who claim they are representing the majority Catholic position.

    I never “admitted” that Wilken hasn’t written anything to corroborate my view. I expressly argued otherwise in the comments I reference above, one of which (#123) you never responded to. Per your pitting CTC’s position against other scholars – elsewhere you have discussed this contention in great length with folks like Bryan Cross. I’m not terribly interested in reviving that conversation here, because I have nothing to add to what Bryan has already said; namely, that plenty of scholars have affirmed in their research and writings the same position we have articulated here.

    You also wrote,

    Well, nothing is special about “300” years *aside* form the fact that it is “suggestive, even helpful.” For someone making a claim about the historical deposit of the Christian faith, silence for 300 years is rather significant. If you wanted to claim that we must remain agnostic about whether or not the Marian dogmas may have been taught, you may have an argument. To assert that they were definitively taught as part of the Apostolic Deposit is another thing and if we can prove a 300 year period of silence (or longer) then this renders your case highly implausible.

    My argument has been that the Marian dogmas are present in “seed” form in the Apostolic deposit of faith, even if they are not explicitly taught until beyond the 300 A.D. mark. Other dogmas which many Reformed Protestants also affirm, such as Christ having two wills, fall into the same category.

    Finally, you wrote,

    Another point, you are right to state 300 years is an arbitrary point of demarcation, but so is 1500 years or even 2000 years. So lets apply your argument to another area: JBFA

    The Church has always taught JBFA. There is good reason to believe that wicked Catholic Church tried to suppress the true teaching of JBFA and eliminate the written record of its teaching, which is why we don’t find any (or many). In 1519 the true teaching of the Church was finally strengthened and Martin Luther began promulgating what had always been the teaching of the true Church. If you claim that 1500 years is a long time for something to not have historical record that’s simply because you are demanding JBFA be found in the first three hundred years of the Catholic Church. What is so special about 1500 years?”

    Now, I wouldn’t argue this way, but if we employ your methodology in one area it completely mutes your argument of the alleged novelty of JBFA. While the time periods are “arbitrary” in other sense they are informative and important–and I think everyone knows this.

    I never said the three hundred year period was not “informative and important.” I appreciate your JBFA comparison, in that yes, many Catholic apologists, including those on this website, have argued that JBFA’s absence or near absence from the first 1,500 years of Church history is a reason to be suspicious of the doctrine. And I would agree that this is a reason to be suspicious of JBFA. But it is not, on it’s own, conclusive to demonstrate JBFA’s illegitimacy. Such an argument would need to be united with other pieces of evidence, such as the fact that by 1500 A.D. the Church had held a number of ecumenical church councils, none of which had affirmed JBFA, that the Church had a robust tradition of soteriological theology from many Church Fathers, saints, and theologians, a tradition that cannot be reconciled with JBFA and is often in direct contradiction to JBFA. In sum, JBFA is not reconcilable with the first 1,500 years of Tradition and the Church’s exercise of its magisterial authority, and that is why its sudden appearance in the 16th century should be viewed suspiciously. So the argument regarding JBFA’s novelty is closely tied to a particular recognition of the importance of tradition and Apostolically-derived authority.

    In contrast to JBFA, very specific Marian dogmas such as the Assumption or Immaculate Conception may not be explicitly perceivable in the first few hundred years of the Church, but certain beliefs and traditions demonstrating Marian devotion are present, and the movement from those beliefs/traditions towards the explicit affirmations of the former dogmas in Church teaching is something that can be traced and recognized. Moreover, the dogmas can be reconciled with the Tradition, because they flow from Tradition. in Christ, casey

  49. Matthewp (#47)

    A Raymond Brown-ish counter-syllabus to Pius X ? lol…No, just Eric-ish…Dominical-Apostolic refers to Traditions directly from Christ or Spirit revealed to the Apostles. I think the Apostles own position of teaching authority (CCC #77) would qualify. And more often than not, Catholics think Jesus commanded the Apostles to appoint to show he wanted this authority to reach successors. My Brown-ish comes out because I think the Spirit prompted them by a special revelation to appoint. I don’t think Christ commanded them and, if true, it delivers a wound to the catholic position. A popular catholic argument is affected too. Did Jesus command Peter to write ? Why should we not infer a command to write from the FACT of writing ? See how it’s the same as an inference from the FACT of Peter appointing (at least the assumption that he appointed) ?

    I would argue that Clement wrote what he wrote because he knew at least the book of Titus and Acts 20. This source material is in the back of his mind. He’s not trying to say they “knew” through their former, direct contact with Jesus.

  50. Casey,

    I just told you what the deposit of faith is. The problem, it would seem, is that the Catholic Church’s understanding of Tradition is more nuanced than you would like, because you are looking for a concept of Tradition that fits nicely into a ready-made Protestant sola scriptura-type model, where all authority neatly fits between two covers. In truth, Scripture itself does not work this way (given a combination of Tradition and ecumenical Church authority cooperated to define its contents and an external authority is still required to interpret its meaning), so it is reasonable to expect neither will Tradition. CTC has however explained the nature and scope of Tradition elsewhere, so I’m happy to direct you to those resources:

    At this point in my discussion with RCs, I’d be happy with an infallible list of infallible dogma. I can’t even get that.

    Basically, what you are saying is that the deposit of faith isn’t fixed. If it’s fixed, you can give it to me. Rome has done it with Scripture. It has a canon, even if it has been declared late in the game. Where’s the canon of non-scriptural tradition?

    We’ve got two things:

    1. Deposit of faith
    2. Church’s understanding of the deposit

    The former is fixed and delivered once for all, at least that is what most conservative RCs I talk to confess.

    I agree.

    I also agree that the church understanding of the deposit may grow and develop. For the sake of argument, I’ll even accept that Rome can definitively interpret it.

    So what’s the deposit of faith? If it’s fixed, it should be easy: Canon of Scripture; this sentence from Augustine, not this one; this conciliar point, not this one; this form of Marian devotion, not this one; etc. etc.

    If it’s been given once for all, where is it?

    If Rome won’t or can’t give it to me, on what basis do I accept that it is truly fixed?

  51. Matthew,

    That probably won’t satisfy you though. You want something like “tradition is x,y, and z doctrines whereas scripture is a,b, and c doctrines” right?

    The issue really is whether the deposit of faith is truly fixed. If you can’t give something like a canon of what tradition is and is not, I have no reason to believe the deposit of faith is fixed.

    My issue is really that most RCs claim a fixed deposit but then can’t delineate it. If you would affirm ongoing revelation, then the failure to delineate tradition wouldn’t be such a problem. But since you can’t, I’m left with basically only one recourse: Rome affirms a fixed deposit but in practice has ongoing revelation.

    And yet, there is no official Protestant Catechism, no Magesterium, and no list of dogmas. Protestants are a diverse bunch to say the least lol. With thousands of denominations, everyone pointing to the bible saying “that’s our deposit of faith” has not enabled unity in doctrine anywhere near as what the Catholic Church has in hers.

    But I look at the RCC, and I see that the German bishops have a radically different view on marriage and sexuality than this blog would promote. And that’s just one example. I can find professing RCs who run the gamut from die hard conservative Tridentine mass folks to New Agers, and all can get the Eucharist. That’s not doctrinal unity.

    I often hear “well we can agree on essentials.” But protestantism has no principled way of binding those “essentials.”

    The principled way is the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture.

    If you’re reformed (and I assume you are since this blog is designed for you lol), you believe in TULIP right?

    Yes.

    You might consider those to be “essential.” Many (if not all orthodox) reformed protestants do.

    Essential for the well-being of the church. Not essential for salvation.

    But then the significant majority of all of protestantism will disagree with you. There are all sorts of protestant confessions of faith, each having all the authority of fallible human opinion.

    Wherever they accurately present divine revelation and it’s meaning, they have divine authority.

    We have one Catechism in the Catholic Church and can truly say we have “One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.”

    Not as long as you don’t excommunicate all known apostates and give the Eucharist to people such as impenitent abortion supporters, impenitent practitioners of sexual immorality, impenitent people who believe that my Presbyterian church is as valid as the RCC, etc. You don’t have one faith at all.

  52. Robert,

    “Okay, then list the deposit of faith. If it is fixed, then you should be able to identify it. Protestantism can. The deposit of faith is Scripture. I’ve yet to have any Roman Catholic tell me what the deposit of faith is. I’ve yet to have any Roman Catholic tell me what constitutes tradition in its entirety.”

    And RCism can identify it. Scripture and Tradition. Now, given your demand above, can you give me a definitive final list of all Scripture and what constitutes Scripture in its entirety? No, you cannot, because the identification of which books comprise the canon remains provisional, tentative, and subject to change within Protestantism, just as the contents of those books do as well. Which is why you will hesitate on identifying disputed passages as Scripture. So, given you cannot tell us what constitutes Scripture in its entirety, by your own argument, the deposit of faith must not be fixed in your system.

  53. Cletus ( #52)

    Identification with the God-given gift of infallibility is part of RCism. This is why we should see no breach between identifying Tradition as part of the deposit and “what constitutes tradition in its entirety.” You have the answer to all things provisional, tentative, and subject to change ! RCism has no excuse for not being able to identify tradition in its entirety.

  54. Actually, Robert, I think they definitely COULD give you “this sentence from Augustine, not that one; this conciliar point, not that one” by deciding which ones are compatible with the CCC and which are not.

    What they cannot give you is any genuine Apostolic Oral Tradition because they don’t have any. All they have are the results of what the church did with these (supposed) traditions in terms of establishing regularized practices.

  55. Eric,

    Tradition is the common life, worship, practice, faith of the church handed down through the generations. Such a thing cannot be reduced to a list of propositions (regardless of such a list being exhaustive or not); such a demand does not even make sense in the first place. Can you reduce Protestant tradition, or American tradition, or the tradition of your family to a list of propositions? What such a demand really wants is just “more Scripture”, i.e. it is presupposing sola scriptura and then crying foul when things dont mesh with that.

  56. Eric, Erik and whoever else has been asking about the fixed deposit of faith –

    Your request is a little like looking at an oak tree and demanding to see the acorn that gave rise to it. You want a comprehensive written compendium of creeds, dogmas, proceedings of Ecumenical councils, Papal writings? Try Enchiridion Symbolorum. For most of the remainder, I invite you to attend a Catholic Mass, especially one in the Extraordinary Form.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  57. Hi Robert (#50) and Erik and Eric,

    Robert wrote,

    Basically, what you are saying is that the deposit of faith isn’t fixed. If it’s fixed, you can give it to me. Rome has done it with Scripture. It has a canon, even if it has been declared late in the game. Where’s the canon of non-scriptural tradition?… So what’s the deposit of faith? If it’s fixed, it should be easy: Canon of Scripture; this sentence from Augustine, not this one; this conciliar point, not this one; this form of Marian devotion, not this one; etc. etc…. If it’s been given once for all, where is it?… If Rome won’t or can’t give it to me, on what basis do I accept that it is truly fixed?

    To argue that the deposit of faith is fixed, it does not necessarily follow that it can be distilled into a simple list. Your argument is a form of question begging, in that it presupposes a Protestant interpretive paradigm relying on presuppositions tied to the doctrines of sola scriptura and perspicuity, where all infallible data is accessible for the individual to then judge and interpret, and where the individual is able to authoritatively do so. CTC has addressed this particular line of argumentation elsewhere in great detail. See for example the following:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/02/the-tradition-and-the-lexicon/#comment-8054

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/02/son-of-a-tu-quoque/

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2013/11/sola-scriptura-redux-matthew-barrett-tradition-and-authority/#comment-176707

    …and comments #229, #232, #236, and #237 on:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/03/sola-scriptura-vs-the-magisterium-what-did-jesus-teach/

    This sub-thread regarding Tradition and the deposit of faith is only very loosely related to the content of this post, which is on the mystical body of Christ and its identification with the Catholic Church, so I’m going to ask that if you have further objections or questions regarding these topics, that you read the links I have provided above and comment on those threads. in Christ, casey

  58. Robert, (re: #51)

    My issue is really that most RCs claim a fixed deposit but then can’t delineate it. If you would affirm ongoing revelation, then the failure to delineate tradition wouldn’t be such a problem. But since you can’t, I’m left with basically only one recourse: Rome affirms a fixed deposit but in practice has ongoing revelation.

    From the inability of “most RCs” to delineate in propositional form the entirety of the deposit, it does not follow that development of doctrine is either accretion or ongoing revelation. That’s because even given the premise, development of doctrine could still be just that, namely, development of already given doctrine. So, that non sequitur won’t do.

    More broadly, you’ve been commenting here at least since January of 2013. What is your goal here?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  59. Frank, Cletus, RC–

    Personally, I don’t want creeds, dogmas, conciliar canons, or papal encyclicals. I am a reasonable biologist who wants to see the acorns still growing on the RC theological tree and compare them to the acorns that gave rise to it. In nature, these are identical. Particular acorns grow into particular species of oak. In theology, this is not only NOT ALWAYS the case, it is NOT USUALLY the case. Theology tends to grow AND change…into a very different sort of tree.

    I want to study the DNA of Catholicism to see if what we have in terms of development is healthy growth, natural growth…or whether what we see is mutation (like extra legs on frogs which have ingested environmental chemicals)…or cancerous tumors or the results of aging and degeneration.

    (It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that an inflexible policy of switching threads (once the relevance of posts becomes slightly askew) can at times be helpful and, at other times, merely evasive and dismissive.)

  60. Robert,

    It looks like Casey and Bryan both beat me to the punch lol. I will echo what they said and just add that I don’t understand why this bothers you and other protestants. I guess you’re worried about new doctrines creeping in but that’s not the same thing as an old teaching being elevated to the status of dogma whereas it wasn’t dogma before. This happened with the dogma of the Trinity. Trinitarian theology was obviously nothing new at Nicea 1 and Constantinople 1 but that language and thought was underdeveloped beforehand. If you were to ask St. Paul in the first century “Do you believe in the Trinity?” His response would probably be “What’s the Trinity?” Lol. Now I do believe if you asked him “Do you worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?” he would say yes. If you asked him are they all the same person, he would say no, and if you asked him how many Gods are there, he would say one. But they weren’t really focused on that in the 1st and 2nd centuries. They were dealing with judaizers and gnostics. If Arius never came along, we might still never have the more fully developed dogma of the Trinity today.

    Now I will say that the amount of heretics that still purport to be Catholic both pains and angers me. There are plenty of groups dedicated to fighting this and if God willing, you do become Catholic, be prepared to join a battle! Lol. I can only think that God is allowing this like he allowed the Arians to run rampant for a while. They didn’t win and neither will the modernists. Jesus did say to let the wheat grow with the tares and at the end of time, He’ll deal with them. But I do wish there were less tares right now lol. This brings up an interesting point though. First of all, while the Catholic Church in America and Europe is in crises, the faith is vibrant and orthodox in Africa (generally where it’s bro persecuted the most which is not a coincidence). However, let’s say the Church in Europe and in the US did suddenly excommunicate all current heretics. Would you then become Catholic?

    May God be with you.

    Matthew

  61. Hey Casey,

    I never “admitted” that Wilken hasn’t written anything to corroborate my view. I expressly argued otherwise in the comments I reference above, one of which (#123) you never responded to

    I do not see anything in that thread that shows Wilken believes that the Petrine office did not develop in the third century. The statements he makes are exactly the same types of statements that Raymond Brown, Eamon Duffy, Allen Brent, etc., etc., make. Wilken may in fact be someone who believes that providential development of the episcopate is material heresy and that the Petrine office was passed down continually, but you’ve not provided anything to prove to someone who does not know Wilken that he in fact believes that. I could be wrong and I would be very interested in hearing Wilken’s arguments, but what you’ve provided is insufficient for me to make any meaningful conclusions. Your personal knowledge, however, may be sufficient for you to think my doubts are misplaced. That does not answer the challenge I presented of citing scholars who argue for the Petrine office’s existence in the first and second century.

    My argument has been that the Marian dogmas are present in “seed” form in the Apostolic deposit of faith, even if they are not explicitly taught until beyond the 300 A.D. mark. Other dogmas which many Reformed Protestants also affirm, such as Christ having two wills, fall into the same category.

    A point of clarification: the Marian dogmas, particularly the Assumption of Mary, do *not* fall into the same category as Christology. One is an historical claim with theological significance (Assumption of Mary) the other is a theological development of the biblical teaching of the Divinty & humanity of Jesus contained in Scripture. One development can trace it’s lineage directly to Scripture and the other relies upon “seeds” to explain how the doctrines have been latent though not explicitly taught. IMO, one of those is a legitimate development of apostolic teaching and the other is not.

    I never said the three hundred year period was not “informative and important.”

    Good, and it is important to highlight this. 1500 years is every bit as arbitrary as 300 years as it is arbitrary as 5 years. None of these dates are circumscribed, nonetheless, that does not mean that they are not valuable markers for evaluating the legitimacy of a claim. In other words, arguing that a time period is “arbitrary” is not actual an argument against the claim being made. If you want to claim that this time period is unimportant or insignificant you may do that, but dismissing the claim as “arbitrary” is not actually a response.

  62. Bryan,

    From the inability of “most RCs” to delineate in propositional form the entirety of the deposit, it does not follow that development of doctrine is either accretion or ongoing revelation. That’s because even given the premise, development of doctrine could still be just that, namely, development of already given doctrine. So, that non sequitur won’t do.

    The question is whether the development is the deposit. If the development IS the deposit, it’s not a fixed deposit. You are adding stuff to a fixed body of content. If you separate the development of understanding from the deposit, then you can have a fixed, unchanging deposit.

    The only exception I see is if the deposit is something that is more felt than known with the mind. That’s kind of the vibe I get from Roman Catholicism of even the most intellectual variety. The deposit isn’t exclusively propositions and acts and liturgies taught by the Apostles and Jesus but it is also an intuition of the Magisterium or something like that as well.

    More broadly, you’ve been commenting here at least since January of 2013. What is your goal here?

    Now that’s a fascinating question. Of course you have every right to ask it. And I’m happy to answer if you will answer me this:

    Why aren’t you asking this question of Erik, Brandon Addison, Darryl Hart, or any of the other Protestants who comment here and have been doing so more consistently and for longer than I have? Or if you have asked them this, can you point me to where.

  63. Hi Casey,

    My Baptist Father from Texas told me he liked watching Bishop Sheen. As a young boy, he thought his attire was strange. It captured his attention. I did not read this book, but I find him to be very clear and concise.

    I want focus on two things you wrote: (a) The Mystical Body of Christ is His Church (b) The Catholic Church as Christ’s Mystical Body. Is there a reason why the word Catholic is not used in (a) ? Can we attribute universality to the church when it was conceived at the incarnation ? What you wrote under (b) suggests to me that we can attribute it.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  64. Casey,

    Fair enough on the deposit. I don’t think that demanding a fixed deposit necessarily betrays a Protestant view of what the deposit must be. Just want some clarity on what RCs must believe in order to be RC. “All that the church teaches” is vague, and seemingly intentionally so.

    But I do want to comment on this excerpt from Sheen, which he seems to say afflicts only Protestantism:

    …each individual [is] his own supreme authority, allowing him either to interpret the Scriptures privately or else interpret his own religious experiences without any dictation from without. Religion on this theory is a purely individual affair: each one casts his own vote as to what he will believe, rejects all creeds, beliefs, and dogmas which run counter to his moods and prejudices, determines for himself the kind of a God he will adore, the kind of an altar before which he will kneel – in a word, he worships at the shrines his own hands have made

    I haven’t read Sheen’s work, and this quote is quite ambiguous. In one respect, however, that each individual is his own supreme authority is correct. Each individual makes the final decision as to whether or not he will submit to a religion or its teaching, at least if one is a thinking person. You had to interpret Scripture and your religious experience and then decide whether or not to submit to Rome. Every time from that point on when you heard something that sounded strange to your formerly Protestant ears, you had to make the decision as to whether or not you would submit to it. Every day you wake up, you are making the decision (most often unconsciously to be sure) whether you are going to remain submissive to Rome.

    Where Sheen is off the mark is characterizing Protestant theology as giving the person the right to make the decision apart from any external body or influence. In the first place that is quite impossible. In the second place, that’s just not what the Reformers believed. They appealed to the church of the past against the church of their day. One could discuss whether or not they used a sound method to do so, but no one advocated for no external influence. If they did, they wouldn’t have quoted Augustine, Chrysostom, the ecumenical councils, etc.

    The third point that the quote does not deal with is the answer as to why the Roman Catholic system proposed here ends up producing Roman Catholics who are far more individualistic than any Protestants I know. The best example I can think of is someone like Nancy Pelosi, who appeals to teaching of past theologians to support abortion and other issues. And she is free to take the Eucharist whenever she wants. If the church really is anti-abortion, this is a clear example of the church allowing a communing member to believe whatever she wants and retain her good standing.

    The fourth point is similar to the first one and the issue that Protestants submit only where they agree but Roman Catholics don’t (one of Bryan’s favorite arguments I think). That, actually, is false. Every thinking person submits because they agree with what is being proposed. Can you give me one dogmatic teaching of the Roman Church that you deny or disagree with but yet you remain RC? I doubt it. No, you submit because you believe Rome can’t err dogmatically and so you have been able to agree with Rome. You didn’t say “I disagree with this” but I’m going to believe it anyway. At best you said “I don’t understand how this can be, but I know Rome can’t err and therefore I will believe it and seek to understand it better.”

    At least in the PCA, there is an actual way to submit to the church not based on your agreement with its doctrine. You can take exceptions to the Westminster Standards and agree not to teach them when the presbytery allows it. At such points your submission is very clearly not based on your doctrinal agreement. I assume you know something of what I am talking about, given your background.

    So the reality is, Roman Catholicism in practice is at least as individualistic as Sheen argues that Protestantism is, and I don’t know of how Rome provides for a system in which your submission isn’t based on your personal agreement. There’s no provision for disagreeing with dogma. You’re left with either ignorance of a dogma such that you can’t knowingly disagree with it or you have to disregard your disagreement and believe it anyway.

    Perhaps I’m oversimplifying things, but it seems that to be a RC in good standing, you can’t deny or disagree with anything the Magisterium has taught. And if that is the case, then every act of submission is based, at least in part, on your individual evaluation and decision to agree.

  65. Casey–

    And besides, your article clearly involves the church as the living Incarnation of the Holy One, disseminating his and his Apostles’ teaching (both written and spoken) as a living body of doctrine:

    “Sheen further argues that it was the Holy Spirit who conceived the Church in the incarnation, guided St. Peter’s declaration of Christ’s divinity, and who remains its very soul, and speaks first not through inspired writings, but a “voice,” carried by the Apostles and their successors. öThis is to contrast the Catholic conception of Holy Tradition, Holy Scripture, and magisterial teaching, as cooperating spheres of authority, against the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. Indeed, it was the Holy Spirit, acting as the soul of the Church, who inspired the writings of Holy Scripture and guided their collection and inclusion into a canon. The Bible stands not on its own but “within the life of the Church.” It is the Church that “makes its meaning clear.” And if the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, “there can be no contradiction, no variety of opinions, no divided loyalties, no half-truths, no schisms, no heresy where God is.”

    So this discussion is demonstrably NOT “only very loosely related” but is indeed fully on topic. Or are we invited to respond only to certain parts of your article?

  66. Hi Erik (#59, 65),

    (It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that an inflexible policy of switching threads (once the relevance of posts becomes slightly askew) can at times be helpful and, at other times, merely evasive and dismissive.)

    This is not about being “evasive” or “dismissive.” CTC has answered this particular Protestant objection elsewhere and in great detail. If you want to engage with what CTC has argued regarding the Apostolic deposit of faith and Holy Tradition, please feel free to do so in any of the links I’ve provided. I don’t have interest in simply regurgitating what CTC has already written into this thread.

    So this discussion is demonstrably NOT “only very loosely related” but is indeed fully on topic. Or are we invited to respond only to certain parts of your article?

    Well, it’s certainly helpful when you cite something from my article when you comment on this thread. Per what you cited in #65 from my article, I’ve already provided my response to you re: Holy Tradition in #57, and to Robert in #46. If you are not willing to recognize (or don’t agree) that yours and others’ demand — namely, that I or other Catholics provide a comprehensive “list” of what encompasses Holy Tradition — presupposes particular Protestant question-begging assumptions, then it will be difficult to move the conversation forward. in Christ, casey

  67. Hi Eric (63),

    My Baptist Father from Texas told me he liked watching Bishop Sheen. As a young boy, he thought his attire was strange. It captured his attention. I did not read this book, but I find him to be very clear and concise.

    I’ve never seen Bishop Sheen on television, but I’ve heard one or two of his lectures. His accent portrays an older way of speaking in the United States similar to the way folks spoke in movies from a long-past era (30s? 40s?). Quite fascinating!

    I want focus on two things you wrote: (a) The Mystical Body of Christ is His Church (b) The Catholic Church as Christ’s Mystical Body. Is there a reason why the word Catholic is not used in (a) ? Can we attribute universality to the church when it was conceived at the incarnation ? What you wrote under (b) suggests to me that we can attribute it.

    There is a very particular reason I wrote what you deem as (a) without the word “catholic.” I wanted to make a logical progression in my summary of Sheen’s work; or, more accurately, part of Sheen’s work — there are a significant number of chapters I neglected to discuss because I wanted to just focus on one section of the book that I deemed would be of most interest to Reformed Protestants. So we move from the idea that (1) there is a Biblical foundation for the idea of the mystical body of Christ, to (2) there is Biblical warrant for concluding that this mystical body is identifiable with the broader idea of Christ’s church, to (3) that this church is identifiable with the Catholic Church today. Making the progression this way is an attempt to appeal to Protestant’s strong Biblical convictions, by first using Scripture to justify the idea of a mystical body of Christ and it being identified with a physical group of Christians. If Protestants follow that reasoning for (1) and (2), then the next reasonable question is something like “where is this body?” or “what now would be included in this body?”

    That is a longer answer to what you wanted, but explains why there is a progression and why it is described as it is. But ultimately yes, I would argue that the universality of the Church is already present in the Incarnation. in Christ, casey

  68. Hi Brandon (#61),

    I do not see anything in that thread that shows Wilken believes that the Petrine office did not develop in the third century. The statements he makes are exactly the same types of statements that Raymond Brown, Eamon Duffy, Allen Brent, etc., etc., make. Wilken may in fact be someone who believes that providential development of the episcopate is material heresy and that the Petrine office was passed down continually, but you’ve not provided anything to prove to someone who does not know Wilken that he in fact believes that. I could be wrong and I would be very interested in hearing Wilken’s arguments, but what you’ve provided is insufficient for me to make any meaningful conclusions. Your personal knowledge, however, may be sufficient for you to think my doubts are misplaced. That does not answer the challenge I presented of citing scholars who argue for the Petrine office’s existence in the first and second century.

    I don’t think I can make the argument that Wilken in his book The First Thousand Years believes the historical record sufficient to demonstrate that Christ founded the visible Catholic Church through Peter any clearer than I have already in the thread previously referenced. Moreover, in reference to my original review of Dr. Wilken’s book (http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2013/08/review-of-robert-louis-wilkens-the-first-thousand-years-a-global-history-of-christianity/) I sent him a draft of the review, including the third section on the preeminence of the bishop of Rome, requesting if I had mischaracterized his position in any way. He provided no substantive comments or concerns with any of my judgments regarding his book.

    All this aside, your demand remains a distraction from the most important disagreement between you and CTC authors on this topic: whether the historical data confirms Jesus establishing the Catholic Church, rather than what some percentage of scholars or Catholic scholars ascertain regarding that data.

    A point of clarification: the Marian dogmas, particularly the Assumption of Mary, do *not* fall into the same category as Christology. One is an historical claim with theological significance (Assumption of Mary) the other is a theological development of the biblical teaching of the Divinty & humanity of Jesus contained in Scripture. One development can trace it’s lineage directly to Scripture and the other relies upon “seeds” to explain how the doctrines have been latent though not explicitly taught. IMO, one of those is a legitimate development of apostolic teaching and the other is not.

    Point taken, though both dogmas are citing Scripture as their ultimate origin, and neither doctrine is “explicit” in Scripture. I doubt if the doctrine of Christ’s wills was “explicit” in Scripture that there would have been such long-standing, contentious debate over monothelitism in the early Church. Both sides were citing Scripture to substantiate their positions on the exact nature of Christ’s humanity and divinity.

    Good, and it is important to highlight this. 1500 years is every bit as arbitrary as 300 years as it is arbitrary as 5 years. None of these dates are circumscribed, nonetheless, that does not mean that they are not valuable markers for evaluating the legitimacy of a claim. In other words, arguing that a time period is “arbitrary” is not actual an argument against the claim being made. If you want to claim that this time period is unimportant or insignificant you may do that, but dismissing the claim as “arbitrary” is not actually a response.

    Sure it’s a response. And a legitimate one at that. The original demand was “show me that X doctrine is present in writing in the first 300 years of the Church.” Actually, to be specific, it was that “the Marian dogmas are not there in seed form or any other form during the first three hundred years. There is not one shred of evidence that they are there PERIOD. Not in Scripture. And certainly not in the Apostolic Fathers.” Albeit to say this claim isn’t even accurate — there is plenty of evidence of Marian devotion in the first 300 years of Church history, even if certain Marian dogmas aren’t explicitly present. But getting to our point of discussion, the demand presupposes that if one cannot show X doctrine to be present in a certain time period, than the doctrine must be illegitimate to the Apostolic deposit of faith. But who is the one deciding on the number 300? The person making the initial demand. And that person has chosen 300, instead of 250, or 350, or 400, or any other period of time. There is nothing special about 300, except that it’s polemically useful for the requestor. Sure, the historical record of the first 300 years of the Church are important for determining the Apostolic deposit of faith. Does that mean the first 400 or 500 years are not? Or some other random year? There is no objective way to evaluate how much more strength to give the historical record of something available in the first 300 years versus the first 400 years, or any other period of time, except to simply observe that one is earlier than another. The original request is using the number 300 to set the boundaries of the discussion, which is a way to stack the deck in the argument and enable the requester to “wash his hands” of historical data that might appear after that date. By way of comparison, is the Gospel of Mark a more accurate description of Jesus’ life and teaching because we believe it was likely published several decades (even most likely an entire generation) before the Gospel of John?

    in Christ, casey

  69. Casey–

    It is simply not “good faith” dialogue for either side seemingly to respond to every inquiry: asked and answered…and then to provide a link to a book or article. I find your links helpful, and I read them. But they often simply do not explicitly answer the specific question I had.

    The 300-year absence of evidence was not pointed out for pragmatic polemical purposes as you uncharitably assert, but merely because this is the actual duration of the absence. You all do not point out the 1500-year “absence” of JBFA for arbitrary polemical purposes.

    You have not shown anything approaching RC-style Marian “devotion” in the first 300 years. You must remember that Protestants likewise greatly honor this woman and, without equivocation, call her theotokos.

  70. Casey–

    I have made it so much more than clear that I am not requesting a grocery “list” of authentic Sacred Traditions. That would be Robert. I am merely looking for acknowledgement that what you all call “tradition” is but commentary ON tradition. Rarely does any church father actually quote an Apostle’s verbal instruction.

    In fact, the only one I have found thus far is from the pen of Irenaeus, citing John the Evangelist as having spoken the phrase contained herein:

    “There are also those who heard from [Polycarp] that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, ‘Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.'”

    Irenaeus, by the way, claims that catholic tradition is a matter of public record–an open book, if you will–accessible to all genuine believers, all sincere lovers of the truth. C2C, on the other hand, describes the “moral consensus of the fathers” as known infallibly only by the magisterium…though it may be surmised in large part (though fallibly) by the Catholic faithful through diligent study.

  71. Casey, Eric:

    Casey, you reply to Eric’s statement: “the Marian dogmas are not there in seed form or any other form during the first three hundred years. There is not one shred of evidence that they are there PERIOD. Not in Scripture. And certainly not in the Apostolic Fathers.”

    I would think that the widespread use of the Sub Tuum as a hymn in Christian worship, represents strong evidence of the Christian belief in either Mary’s perpetual virginity, her perpetual victory over personal sin, or both. And it certainly shows that by the year 250 A.D., Christians in Egypt were in the habit of seeking her intercession. This in turn shows the early Christian, almost certainly the apostolic, provenance of (a.) seeking the intercession of the saints, and (b.) thinking that Mary’s intercession was the most important and presumably the most helpful.

    Beyond that, we see that there was no condemnation of this hymn, or the practice it represented, by the other Christians in contact with the Egyptian particular churches. On the contrary, even if we presume that the Sub Tuum was written as late as the earliest manuscript we have of it — not impossible, but unlikely since most manuscripts we have today from that era are copies-of-copies of popular and widely-disseminated manuscripts — even if we presume that the Egyptians were the first to adopt that hymn in their liturgies, then we must be surprised at how it spread widely, from Ethiopia (okay, that’s not so surprising) to Assyria (more so) to the Slavs, and of course the Latins. Apparently, wherever it spread, it encountered not outrage — as it would have if it were evidence of some heresy — but grateful acceptance. Apparently, the notions about Mary and about the intercession of the saints evidenced in the Sub Tuum were universal wherever there were Christians.

    And of course the Sub Tuum is just one minor example of this New Covenant amplification of the Old Testament habit of praying at Rachel’s tomb, et cetera.

    So I don’t know if Eric isn’t familiar with this, or if he’s just saying that it doesn’t count as evidence of “the Marian dogmas” because by “the Marian dogmas” he means only the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption.

    But, sorry, Eric, I shouldn’t be speaking of you third-person. Were you looking specifically for something about the Assumption, or about the idea that Mary was protected from the consequences of Original Sin? Or do you mean the whole of what differentiates Protestant conceptions of Mary from Catholic and Orthodox conceptions of her? Because, while the Sub Tuum doesn’t address the whole, that which it does address certainly seems to fall in favor of Catholic/Orthodox practice, rather than Protestant.

  72. Hi Erik (#69, 70),

    It is simply not “good faith” dialogue for either side seemingly to respond to every inquiry: asked and answered…and then to provide a link to a book or article. I find your links helpful, and I read them. But they often simply do not explicitly answer the specific question I had.

    I suppose we have different definitions of what “good faith” dialogue is. I can’t answer every question in the detail necessary in the combox, which is the reason to cite books or articles that present more thorough argumentation and evidence.

    The 300-year absence of evidence was not pointed out for pragmatic polemical purposes as you uncharitably assert, but merely because this is the actual duration of the absence. You all do not point out the 1500-year “absence” of JBFA for arbitrary polemical purposes.

    You said earlier in comment #4 the following:

    The Marian dogmas are not there in seed form or any other form during the first three hundred years. There is not one shred of evidence that they are there PERIOD. Not in Scripture. And certainly not in the Apostolic Fathers.

    Yet you initially provided no explanation as to why 300 years is important. When I ask you to explain why you chose 300 years, you claim (#23) it’s because after 300 years there is evidence. This is the classic definition of a tautology. So it is reasonable to assess you are choosing this number for rhetorical effect. I’ve already addressed your claim that there is no Marian devotion prior to 300 A.D. in comments #5, 28, and 39. There is evidence of Marian dogmas in seed form in the first 300 years of Church history. As explained above, the absence of JBFA prior to Luther is only useful in coordination with other presuppositions regarding the role of Holy Tradition and magisterial authority. Of course, if one holds to “ecclesial deism,” that absence is less important.

    You have not shown anything approaching RC-style Marian “devotion” in the first 300 years. You must remember that Protestants likewise greatly honor this woman and, without equivocation, call her theotokos.

    Then you and I disagree over what the word “devotion” means. Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian call Mary the “new eve” in c. A.D. 155, c. A.D. 189, and c. A.D. 210, respectively (Dialogue with Trypho 100; AH) 3:22:4; The Flesh of Christ 17). Indeed, Irenaeus explicitly declares, “And thus also it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience by Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bond fast through unbelief, this did the Virgin Mary set free through faith.” He elsewhere in AH claims “as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a Virgin; virginal obedience having been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience.” The Ascension of Isaiah and the Odes of Solomon claim she gave birth without pain. The Protoevangelium of James (c. A.D. 150) and Origen in his commentary on Matthew (c. A.D. 249) claim Mary was ever-Virgin.

    I do know, and am grateful, that many Protestants affirm that Mary is Theotokos. That reality is a reason hope for ecumenical dialogue on the role of Mary in salvation history.

    I have made it so much more than clear that I am not requesting a grocery “list” of authentic Sacred Traditions. That would be Robert. I am merely looking for acknowledgement that what you all call “tradition” is but commentary ON tradition. Rarely does any church father actually quote an Apostle’s verbal instruction.

    I didn’t know that was what you were looking for. I’m afraid I can’t give it to you, because your definition of what constitutes “tradition” and how the Catholic Church understands “tradition” are different. The Church does not believe a Church Father has to explicitly cite “an Apostle’s verbal instruction” for something to be considered part of the oral Apostolic tradition. You have personally decided this is the criteria necessary to determine oral tradition. I find it a bit odd and self-defeating, given Protestants don’t cite similar criteria when determining what constitutes written tradition (i.e. Scripture). NT books, including Hebrews and possibly even Jude, for example, provides no explicit reference to their being Apostolic.

    Irenaeus, by the way, claims that catholic tradition is a matter of public record–an open book, if you will–accessible to all genuine believers, all sincere lovers of the truth. C2C, on the other hand, describes the “moral consensus of the fathers” as known infallibly only by the magisterium…though it may be surmised in large part (though fallibly) by the Catholic faithful through diligent study.

    This pitting of Irenaeus against what CTC has argued is inaccurate. Irenaeus says Holy Tradition is to be accessed through the Church as recognizable through Apostolic succession and Apostolically-derived episcopal authority (see AH 1:10:2, 3:4:1, 3:3:2). Moreover, Irenaeus expressly argues in AH 3:3:2 that part of that tradition is Apostolic succession itself. in Christ, casey

  73. Robert, (re: #62)

    The question is whether the development is the deposit. If the development IS the deposit, it’s not a fixed deposit.

    Defining one’s terms allows one to avoid both ambiguity and equivocation when raising objections. If by ‘fixed’ you mean, among other things, “is already fully developed” then sure, but if you wish to attack development of doctrine you would need to show why not being ‘fixed’ in that sense is a problem. If, however, by ‘fixed’ you mean ‘not closed to further divine revelation’ then your assertion just begs the question, by presupposing that development is [accretion or additional revelation].

    You are adding stuff to a fixed body of content.

    That mere assertion simply begs the question. It presupposes that development is not development but accretion.

    The deposit isn’t exclusively propositions and acts and liturgies taught by the Apostles and Jesus but it is also an intuition of the Magisterium or something like that as well.

    And that’s a straw man.

    Regarding my question about your goal here, your choice to evade answering the question answers my question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  74. Casey,

    Thanks for your reply. Watch Bishop Sheen when you get a chance.
    ____________________

    Cletus (#55)

    You wrote:
    Such a thing cannot be reduced to a list of propositions (regardless of such a list being exhaustive or not); such a demand does not even make sense in the first place.

    See Dei Verbum, Chapter II, Article 8 for why this is not even true within the Catholic paradigm.

    Article 8
    Now what was handed on by the Apostles includes…and so the Church…hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes.

    I see it reduced to a list of two propositions. Each one begins with “all.”

  75. Bryan,

    Defining one’s terms allows one to avoid both ambiguity and equivocation when raising objections. If by ‘fixed’ you mean, among other things, “is already fully developed” then sure, but if you wish to attack development of doctrine you would need to show why not being ‘fixed’ in that sense is a problem. If, however, by ‘fixed’ you mean ‘not closed to further divine revelation’ then your assertion just begs the question, by presupposing that development is [accretion or additional revelation].

    That mere assertion simply begs the question. It presupposes that development is not development but accretion.

    Simple question: Is our growth in understanding the deposit of faith or is it not? The Reformed say no, the deposit is distinct from our understanding of it.

    I said: The deposit isn’t exclusively propositions and acts and liturgies taught by the Apostles and Jesus but it is also an intuition of the Magisterium or something like that as well.

    You replied: And that’s a straw man.

    Well, then maybe you can tell me what the fixed deposit of faith is. I’ve had other RCs tell me revelation has ceased and that the deposit has been delivered once for all. The Apostles are dead. There’s only so much they taught before they died. It should be easy to give it all to me. Absent that, I have only a few possibilities:

    1. The Magisterium knows the full content of the deposit and is hiding it.
    2. The Magisterium doesn’t know the full content of the deposit, which would make it difficult to see what is a development and what is an accretion.
    3. The deposit includes some things that can’t be put into words, like an intuition.
    4. The deposit isn’t fixed.

    Maybe there is something else, but from my vantage point Rome’s failure to actually delimit the deposit of faith is highly questionable.

    Regarding my question about your goal here, your choice to evade answering the question answers my question.

    Not an evasion, just curious as to why all of a sudden you seem to have a problem with me commenting when you don’t seem to have a problem with others who hold the same or similar position.

    But as to why I am here:

    1. To learn about what your version of Roman Catholicism has to say. It’s very different than the Roman Catholicism I have seen practiced elsewhere and from the Roman Catholicism held by my Roman Catholic friends and family members.

    2. To provide a Protestant witness to where you all have intentionally or unintentionally misconstrued the Protestant position.

    3. To point out where the arguments of you and your contributors may be lacking.

    My goal isn’t to gain “converts.” I have no illusion of convincing any of you who actually contribute content. Your commitments are at a fundamental, presuppositional level, and I don’t know any of you personally so the odds of my words having an impact are low. But others are reading.

  76. Eric,

    DV 8.2 states ” Now what was handed on by the Apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the peoples of God; and so the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes.”

    Please tell me how the “life and worship” of the faithful through the generations can be reduced to a list of propositions. Please tell me how the tradition of America, or of your family, can be reduced to a list of propositions. It makes no more sense than reducing a living person to a list of propositions.

  77. Robert, (re: #75)

    Is our growth in understanding the deposit of faith or is it not?

    No, our growth in understanding is not the deposit.

    Absent that, I have only a few possibilities:
    1. The Magisterium knows the full content of the deposit and is hiding it.
    2. The Magisterium doesn’t know the full content of the deposit, which would make it difficult to see what is a development and what is an accretion.
    3. The deposit includes some things that can’t be put into words, like an intuition.
    4. The deposit isn’t fixed.

    This is a false quadralemma, because there is a fifth option involving the conjunction of the following: (a) the Church (and her Magisterium) does not have exhaustive knowledge of the deposit but continues to grow in her understanding of the deposit, (b) it is possible to distinguish authentic development from accretion, (c) developments can be put into words, and (d) the deposit is fixed, in the sense that there is no more divine revelation.

    See comments #216 and #218 in the Tu Quoque thread.

    2. To provide a Protestant witness to where you all have intentionally or unintentionally misconstrued the Protestant position.

    3. To point out where the arguments of you and your contributors may be lacking.
    My goal isn’t to gain “converts.” I have no illusion of convincing any of you who actually contribute content. Your commitments are at a fundamental, presuppositional level, and I don’t know any of you personally so the odds of my words having an impact are low. But others are reading.

    That’s not what CTC is for. CTC is for finding unity with those who participate here, which includes those you refer to as “any of you personally.” Of course that purpose can (and should) include presenting a Protestant witness/perspective, and correcting errors we sometimes make. But CTC is not for debate, or to be used as a forum for addressing those “others” who are reading (“scoring points with the crowd”), because that’s not authentic dialogue, as I’ve explained in “Virtue and Dialogue.” So if writing for the crowd is your purpose here, and not unity with your interlocutors, you need to find another forum.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  78. Bryan,

    This is a false quadralemma, because there is a fifth option involving the conjunction of the following: (a) the Church (and her Magisterium) does not have exhaustive knowledge of the deposit but continues to grow in her understanding of the deposit, (b) it is possible to distinguish authentic development from accretion, (c) developments can be put into words, and (d) the deposit is fixed, in the sense that there is no more divine revelation.

    If you don’t know the boundaries of the deposit of faith, how do you know when something isn’t an accretion? Intuition? Vision? Uncover a lost part of the deposit under a rock in Rome?

    If Rome can’t delimit the boundaries of the deposit, I have no principled reason to believe it is fixed.

    That’s not what CTC is for. CTC is for finding unity with those who participate here, which includes those you refer to as “any of you personally.”

    As long as that unity means that you leave Protestantism for Rome, right? You guys are out to make converts. That’s okay. Just be upfront about it.

    Of course that purpose can (and should) include presenting a Protestant witness/perspective, and correcting errors we sometimes make. But CTC is not for debate, or to be used as a forum for addressing those “others” who are reading (“scoring points with the crowd”), because that’s not authentic dialogue, as I’ve explained in “Virtue and Dialogue.”

    Your comment boxes are filled with debate.

    So if writing for the crowd is your purpose here, and not unity with your interlocutors, you need to find another forum.

    Fair enough.

  79. Bryan and Robert,

    (re: 75, 76)

    Perhaps an analogy can help to illustrate the idea of the development of our understanding of the deposit of Faith.
    Like all analogies, it will be imperfect, but perhaps its merits will outweigh its shortcomings.

    Consider the work of physicists. These are scientists who try to understand and describe the the natural principles which govern natural phenomena in the universe. Of course, Nature already exists and she is not being replaced in any fundamental way. There are not new Physical Laws arising here and there; there will not be another force of gravity which will begin acting on bodies this coming Wednesday.

    Nature, as she exists in the world, we might call the “deposit” of Physics. But looking at the moon in the sky is not the same thing as understanding the principle of Universal Gravitation. Our understanding of Nature grows with time and study. However, the deposit (Nature herself, in the analogy) doesn’t change.

    But how do we know whether the new ideas we have about Nature are true “developments of the deposit”? There exists a method (the scientific method) by which we can distinguish true developments from false accretions. Thus the electron is vindicated, the aether dissolved.

    In short, I claim that in the case of Physics, the following things exist:
    1) Nature, who exists as an unchanging object of knowledge
    2) A body of people (Physicists) who have true but not exhaustive knowledge of Nature
    3) A Method (the scientific method) by which they may verify the development of their understanding as true
    4) Verbal statements this body of people is able to make about such true developments.

    My intention in making this observation is that I may make it easier to understand the claim that:
    1) The Deposit of Faith is an unchanging object of knowledge
    2) The Magisterium has true but not exhaustive knowledge of the Deposit
    3) A Method (prayerful recourse to Scripture, Tradition, the Sensus Fidelium etc.) exists by which they may verify the development of their understanding as true.
    4) Verbal statements of doctrine are published successively by the Magisterium as they grow in their understanding of the deposit.

    I must be clear – I am not claiming, for example, that the Method of the Scientists and the Method of the Magisterium by which they come to greater understanding of their respective bodies of belief are altogether similar; they are indeed different. The important thing is that a Method exists in each case.

    I hope this analogy may be beneficial in some way.

    In Christ
    J R

  80. Robert, (re: #77)

    If you don’t know the boundaries of the deposit of faith, how do you know when something isn’t an accretion?

    This is a loaded question, because it presupposes [falsely] that the Catholic Church does not know the boundaries of the deposit of faith.

    As long as that unity means that you leave Protestantism for Rome, right?

    I addressed that question in Virtue and Dialogue, and came back to it in comments #6 and #8 in that thread.

    Your comment boxes are filled with debate.

    What we (CTC contributors) write is not ‘debate’ as I am using the term, i.e. as defined in the “Virtue and Dialogue” post, in part because we all consciously and prayerfully write for unity with the interlocutors in our comboxes. Any ‘debate’ [in that sense of the term] that is found in our comboxes comes from critics, and we give them some leeway.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  81. I quite like J R Wagner’s analogy.

    Another, more straightforward, analogy would be:

    IF the “deposit of faith” consists of…

    (a.) All men are mortal; and,
    (b.) Socrates is a man;

    …THEN, it would be an accretion, if one were to add something utterly different from the information conveyed in (a.) and (b.), such as…

    (c.) My hovercraft is full of eels.

    BUT, if the “deposit of faith” consists of…

    (a.) All men are mortal; and,
    (b.) Socrates is a man;

    …then, it would NOT be an accretion to add…

    (c.) Socrates is mortal

    …because (c.) is already implicit in the deposit of faith, even if it might not have yet been fully appreciated by most of those who know (a.) and (b.).

    Now, this is a bad analogy in the sense that it’s TOO obvious. Even if the formulation weren’t a cliché, nobody could look at (a.) and (b.) and not become immediately aware of (c.) “Socrates is mortal.”

    In contrast, such doctrinal development as the Immaculate Conception isn’t as obvious. The Apostles certainly knew that Mary seemed utterly righteous: So sin-free as to invite comparison with the Lord Himself. But Catholics are permitted to hold the opinion that the Apostles might not have known for sure that she had been free from personal sin even before they first met her. And it seems far more likely than not that they didn’t know (and had never even considered the question) that she’d been fully-graced from the moment of her conception, unless at some point the Lord Himself commented on it.

    Catholics are likely to say, and are permitted to hold, that such conclusions only became clear later, after further ruminations on her role as New Eve and New Ark, which in conjunction with the requirement that every New Covenant antitype fulfill its Old Covenant types more gloriously, implies that Mary was as much or more graced at her conception as Eve, and as corruption-free and corruption-resistant as the gold and acacia wood of the Ark. The natural conclusion from that would be: Lacking the stain of original sin from conception and never committing any personal sin.

    And that conclusion would still be a further exhibition of the implications of (not an addition to) the deposit of faith, in the same way as “Socrates is mortal” further exhibits the implications of its premises. But it would involve a not-immediately-obvious conclusion, unlike “Socrates is mortal.”

  82. Hi Casey,

    I guess we’ll have to remain at an impasse then because I can’t find any indication that Wilken believes what CtC does. I think we will have to agree to disagree. You may be right about Wilken, but there isn’t sufficient reason for me to make that judgement at this time. If you go back and read #123 in that thread, you’ll see your argument is that Wilken is not “as explicit as we would like,” but “Wilken is working from the assumption that later Roman bishops has a right to call themselves successors of Peter.” Of course, that’s exactly what all Catholics who hold my position on presbyterial governance of the Church believe as well, so it isn’t clear at all.

    Also, the “challenge” is also not a distraction from the main point, though for those just jumping into the discussion, I can understand why it would seem that way. It’s functioned to accomplish three purposes. First I was attempting to expand my knowledge on the topic and asked for sources. Second, I was attempting to understand the sources that CtC had utilized. Third, after evaluating the sources offered (and if you read the Modern Scholarship thread you’ll see various stages of this discussion) I noticed that the sources recommended actually did not work in favor of the thesis promoted by CtC. There were some points where scholars disagreed about the dating of the episcopate or the level of fractionation, but all the modern academic sources agreed about the initial presbyterial governance of the church in Rome. I could overlooked the sources provided, but the responses I have received explicitly endorse the presbyterial governance I proposed in my initial article (e.g. Bernard Green, Dom Gregory Dix, Robert Williams, J.B. Lightfoot). The new challenge was to provide material that actually provided a defense of CtC’s views, but that was to serve purposes 1 & 2.

    I’m still open to reading new material on this topic, but I am not open to disingenuous lists of names that have no history in publishing anything on early Christian history, let alone early Christian ecclesiology. Such responses are not answers and they are even potentially defamatory. Serious engagement on this issue is a way to further ecumenical dialogue. Continued avoidance of it only expands the wounds of division.

    I am also disheartened by responses such as this,

    But who is the one deciding on the number 300? The person making the initial demand. And that person has chosen 300, instead of 250, or 350, or 400, or any other period of time. There is nothing special about 300, except that it’s polemically useful for the requestor.

    As we’ve already established, *any* number used is “arbitrary” in the sense that it is not circumscribed, so you’re not actually saying anything meaningful. . Furthermore, you’re pre-judging the reason for the selection of the time period “it’s polemically useful for the requestor.” Well, perhaps, but couldn’t it also be that the requestor finds 300 years to be a rather significant gap in the Apostolic Deposit? In this sense, then, the number “300” is chosen for two reasons: 1) No evidence before this time period exist for historical event “X” & 2) Given all of the historical data available from this period, 300 years makes the likelihood that “X” occurred at time 0 very low.
    Thus, 300 is not an entirely “arbitrary” number, but it is based on subjective assumptions about the data and historical methodology. The proper way to handle such a claim is thus to either introduce evidence earlier than 300 years *or* provide evidence after the date that demonstrates reliability given its distance from the events (all data, regardless of date, needs to be critically evaluated). Your response does not allow the conversation to move forward or provide clarity. Instead, it stifles discussion.

    You then go on to make a methodologically confused statement that is representative of numerous comments and articles at Ctc,

    There is no objective way to evaluate how much more strength to give the historical record of something available in the first 300 years versus the first 400 years, or any other period of time, except to simply observe that one is earlier than another. The original request is using the number 300 to set the boundaries of the discussion, which is a way to stack the deck in the argument and enable the requester to “wash his hands” of historical data that might appear after that date.

    Yes, there is an objective way: using historical tools and methods. Now, these objective tools are employed by subjective individuals and do not necessarily spit out objective results. To claim that chronology is of no use for the historian in determining the historicity of an event is a truly curious claim. It’s certainly true that the older a purported event is, the larger the potential margin of error (like dating the last ice age or even the age of the earth). When sources are limited, a source 400 years removed from the event can be highly useful and the most reliable piece of evidence in the data set. Depending on the data set and the dating of the event, however, sources 400 years removed from the events can be virtually useless. It’s up the historian to determine the value and consequences of the evidence.
    Your claim that it enables Erik to “wash his hands” of historical data that appears after is another hasty judgment of someone’s rationale. As I’ve read Erik, he does not want to “wash his hands” of the later data, but he does want to argue that it is not evidentially relevant for examining whether or not it was a constituent component of the Apostolic Deposit. Has the Church always believed Mary was immaculately conceived and has the Church always believed that Mary was assumed to Heaven? In my judgment 300 years is actually quite a liberal offer.

    It is clearly much different 300 years is actually significantly different than 40-50 years. Thus, if we used your comparison, the historical veracity of John has numerous reasons to commend itself. It is written by an eyewitness. The content is new and different than earlier (Synoptic) material, however, it still has significant overlap with the other Gospels. In other words, the account is corroborated. Comparing eyewitness testimony to centuries (even assuming it is only 3 centuries) of silence in the Apostolic Deposit is not truly comparable—at least in a way that is advantageous to your position.

  83. Hi Brandon (#81),

    I guess we’ll have to remain at an impasse then because I can’t find any indication that Wilken believes what CtC does. I think we will have to agree to disagree. You may be right about Wilken, but there isn’t sufficient reason for me to make that judgement at this time. If you go back and read #123 in that thread, you’ll see your argument is that Wilken is not “as explicit as we would like,” but “Wilken is working from the assumption that later Roman bishops has a right to call themselves successors of Peter.” Of course, that’s exactly what all Catholics who hold my position on presbyterial governance of the Church believe as well, so it isn’t clear at all.

    Fair enough, though I would think the fact that Wilken would start his chapter on the development of Roman episcopal primacy with an extended discourse on why Peter was preeminent among the Apostles and that he died in Rome — and then immediately goes into a discourse on early Christian leaders who claimed Petrine authority would be evidence enough to prove Wilken is convinced the historical data is sufficient to demonstrate monarchical episcopacy. He certainly makes no statements to suggest otherwise.

    I’m still open to reading new material on this topic, but I am not open to disingenuous lists of names that have no history in publishing anything on early Christian history, let alone early Christian ecclesiology. Such responses are not answers and they are even potentially defamatory. Serious engagement on this issue is a way to further ecumenical dialogue. Continued avoidance of it only expands the wounds of division.

    I believe this comment is directed towards Bryan Cross, not me, given Wilken is an early Church historian. If you have further comments regarding this topic please take them up with him in the “Bishops of History” thread.

    As we’ve already established, *any* number used is “arbitrary” in the sense that it is not circumscribed, so you’re not actually saying anything meaningful. . Furthermore, you’re pre-judging the reason for the selection of the time period “it’s polemically useful for the requestor.”

    I’m not prejudging the reason — if you look at my comment to Erik (#72), you will see that his reason for choosing 300 years is because he is willing to admit that beginning in the 4th century A.D. there is a significant increase in Christian literature containing Marian devotion and reference to Marian dogmas. That’s tautological.

    Well, perhaps, but couldn’t it also be that the requestor finds 300 years to be a rather significant gap in the Apostolic Deposit? In this sense, then, the number “300” is chosen for two reasons: 1) No evidence before this time period exist for historical event “X” & 2) Given all of the historical data available from this period, 300 years makes the likelihood that “X” occurred at time 0 very low.
    Thus, 300 is not an entirely “arbitrary” number, but it is based on subjective assumptions about the data and historical methodology. The proper way to handle such a claim is thus to either introduce evidence earlier than 300 years *or* provide evidence after the date that demonstrates reliability given its distance from the events (all data, regardless of date, needs to be critically evaluated). Your response does not allow the conversation to move forward or provide clarity. Instead, it stifles discussion.

    Your comment suggest you are not following my responses to folks in this thread, because I have provided plenty of evidence for Marian devotion prior to 300 A.D. See for example comment #72.

    Yes, there is an objective way: using historical tools and methods. Now, these objective tools are employed by subjective individuals and do not necessarily spit out objective results. To claim that chronology is of no use for the historian in determining the historicity of an event is a truly curious claim.

    What “historical tools and methods” would you be referring to? Also, please don’t put words in my mouth. I never claimed that “chronology is of no use for the historian in determining the historicity of an event.” Indeed, I said the opposite of this in #9 and hinted at it again in #28.

    When sources are limited, a source 400 years removed from the event can be highly useful and the most reliable piece of evidence in the data set. Depending on the data set and the dating of the event, however, sources 400 years removed from the events can be virtually useless. It’s up the historian to determine the value and consequences of the evidence.

    I agree, though it’s much better when historians employ an objective methodology.

    Your claim that it enables Erik to “wash his hands” of historical data that appears after is another hasty judgment of someone’s rationale.

    If you read the back-and-forth between Erik and I, I think you’ll find this judgment was not “hasty.”

    It is clearly much different 300 years is actually significantly different than 40-50 years. Thus, if we used your comparison, the historical veracity of John has numerous reasons to commend itself. It is written by an eyewitness. The content is new and different than earlier (Synoptic) material, however, it still has significant overlap with the other Gospels. In other words, the account is corroborated. Comparing eyewitness testimony to centuries (even assuming it is only 3 centuries) of silence in the Apostolic Deposit is not truly comparable—at least in a way that is advantageous to your position.

    I think you may be missing the point of my comparison. My point was that “later’ data, in the case of the Gospel of John to the Gospel of Mark (removed from one another by entire generation), can still be relevant, even if certain “aspersions” might be used against that data. As you and I both know, John has had plenty of aspersions thrown at it’s historicity by scholars. So — theoretically — what if we go with this 300 year request… and then there is some very powerful evidence in 310 A.D. or 320 A.D.? Are we going to exclude it because it’s outside this arbitrary boundary we’ve created? Hopefully you can see the problems here, and why this 300 A.D. demand is not fair or reasonable. And please take note, as I explained above, and in several previous comments, I contend that in the first three centuries A.D. there is significant evidence for Marian devotion and the seed of Marian dogmas later clarified by the Church. in Christ, casey

  84. Casey–

    Since 300 years is clearly a significant period of time, your pointing to my rationale for picking such a boundary as “tautological” is specious and uncharitable. As for all the evidence you have produced for RC-style Marian devotion, all I have seen are vague biblical passages and ambiguous early texts which show no such thing…or quotes from apocryphal works, which are irrelevant to the development of orthodoxy.

    Besides, I think the most difficult aspect of your task would be showing hyperdulia “in seed form.” Protestants accept the honoring and even the veneration of saints, including the BVM. What exactly would a “baby step” be, moving on from veneration to hyperdulia? Either you have hyperdulia or you do not. (One cannot be just “a little bit pregnant.”) In other words, the concept is really not compatible with development, making its absence at the start compelling.

    I don’t have a problem with Mary as an antitypal Eve…or as the new Ark of the Covenant. I don’t see how such OT types and foreshadowings can act as evidence for your claims. In no way, shape, or form do they require (or even really fit with) hyperdulia. Melito of Sardis, whom you cite, clearly keys in on Mary as the source of Christ’s humanity and only his humanity (as does Chalcedon, for that matter). There’s nothing there even in the same universe as hyperdulia.

  85. Hi Erik (#83),

    Since 300 years is clearly a significant period of time, your pointing to my rationale for picking such a boundary as “tautological” is specious and uncharitable.

    As I have already explained, you admitted that you chose 300 years because you acknowledge that after 300 years there is evidence for what you consider Marian devotion. You thus expose that your choice of 300 years is tautological. If you believe that exposing an argument that violates a principle of logic is “uncharitable,” than fruitful dialogue is not possible at this juncture, and further discussion would merit little.

    As for all the evidence you have produced for RC-style Marian devotion, all I have seen are vague biblical passages and ambiguous early texts which show no such thing…or quotes from apocryphal works, which are irrelevant to the development of orthodoxy.

    Besides, I think the most difficult aspect of your task would be showing hyperdulia “in seed form.” Protestants accept the honoring and even the veneration of saints, including the BVM. What exactly would a “baby step” be, moving on from veneration to hyperdulia? Either you have hyperdulia or you do not. (One cannot be just “a little bit pregnant.”) In other words, the concept is really not compatible with development, making its absence at the start compelling.

    What you say above is begging the question, because the evidence I have provided — within the Catholic paradigm — fits the definition of Marian devotion. You apparently have a different definition of “devotion” than Catholicism — or, for that matter, even how many Protestants would define “devotion.” That aside, your above comment demonstrates your goal in commenting here is not the same as that of CTC. This is a forum for dialogue, not demanding one’s interlocutor prove this, that, and the other to one’s personal satisfaction. You keep demanding I provide an extended discourse on Catholic evidence for Marian devotion and the seed of specific Marian dogmas in the early Church. I have consistently explained to provide this kind of information in a combox would be quite unwieldy. If you are interested in understanding the Catholic position on this, I encourage you to consult resources I’ve already mentioned. Moreover, Bryan Cross in comment #453 of David Anders’ “Sola Scriptura vs. the Magisterium” thread just a few days ago directed you to another comment laying out a sequence of threads in which to approach that question.

    I don’t have a problem with Mary as an antitypal Eve…or as the new Ark of the Covenant. I don’t see how such OT types and foreshadowings can act as evidence for your claims. In no way, shape, or form do they require (or even really fit with) hyperdulia. Melito of Sardis, whom you cite, clearly keys in on Mary as the source of Christ’s humanity and only his humanity (as does Chalcedon, for that matter). There’s nothing there even in the same universe as hyperdulia.

    I would be willing to explain this, but I’m no longer convinced it would be fruitful for me to invest the energy to do so here, per my earlier comments. Your comment also demonstrates you do not understand the Catholic position on Mary. The Church does not teach that Mary is anything but the source of Christ’s humanity. She is certainly not the source of His divinity, as she is not divine, nor does the Church teach that she is. Further comments regarding this topic will not be approved on this thread. in Christ, casey

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