Development of Doctrine — Protestant-Style

Dust-ups trickling down from recent Protestant conversions to Rome have revealed contrasting views of history. The Called To Communion view seems to involve a church in place — bulletins, pews, and all — just after Christ ascended to heaven. According to Bryan Cross:

[The Protestant convert to Rome] finds in the first, second and third (etc.) centuries something with a divine origin and with divine authority. He finds the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and its magisterial authority in succession from the Apostles and from Christ. He does not merely find an interpretation in which the Church has apostolic succession; he finds this very same Church itself, and he finds it to have divine authority by a succession from the Apostles. In finding the Church he finds an organic entity nearly two thousand years old with a divinely established hierarchy preserving divine authority.

If this is not a Roman Catholic version of Scott Clark’s QIRC I don’t know what is.

In addition to this non-Protestant version of primitivism (could it be that the Called To Communion guys are still affected by the primitivism that many of them knew when Pentecostals or Charismatics?) comes the argument that Protestants believe in ecclesiastical deism. Again, Bryan Cross is instructive (and wordy which is why I have not read the whole post). The logic runs like this. Protestantism came late, not until the sixteenth century. Protestants believed that Rome was a false church and had begun to apostasize about the time that Augustine’s body was buried. This leaves a gap of almost 1,000 years, between the right-thinking early church and the right-thinking Reformation church. In between, allegedly, God withdrew from his saving plan and planet earth was without a witness to (not hope) but Christ — hence, ecclesiastical deism. This is, by the way, the argument that Thomas More used against William Tyndale, a subject of a couple of papers by (all about) me while in grad school.

As effective as this argument might seem — and when I was studying More I found it intriguing — it is not very historical, at least in the way that people who regard the past as a distant country, a place not readily grasped, understand history. From a historical perspective, not to mention the way we understand ourselves, truths don’t simply fall out of the sky, pile up in neatly proportioned columns, steps, and arches, and remain intact for time immemorial. Instead, truths evolve (or develop if you don’t like Darwinian associations). This is true of the Bible. Redemptive history shows the unfolding of the gospel across millennia of salvation history, such that the seed of Genesis 3:15 does not blossom until 2 Samuel 7 which does not bear fruit until Luke 24 which then generates the harvest of Acts 2. The notion of development is also evident in our own lives. I am and am not the same person I was when I was 8. I loved my parents and the Phillies then (in that order) and I still love them but in very different ways (especially this season).

So if development is basic to history — to creation for that matter — why would church history be any different? The development that would make sense to a Protestant runs something like this. The church began among the apostles and disciples in Jerusalem and then spread to the center of the ancient church in Asia Minor and eventually to Europe. The Eastern Church remained relatively strong until the rise of Islam. The Western Church picked up the pieces of the Roman Empire and had fewer threats from Islam. Both of these churches, though different in culture and language, did not formally sever ties until the eleventh century. After 1054 Constantinople went into decline, Rome went the opposite way. The papal reforms of the eleventh century improved the authority of Rome. But even during the heyday of the papacy’s vigor — the high middle ages –Rome hardly controlled what was going on in the British Isles or France. Europe had no trains, not postal service, and little political consolidation. Trying to give coherence to Christianity was an impossible proposition until modernity gave us print, the nation-state, and effective transportation.

In these circumstances in the West Protestantism emerged. It was clearly different from the Eastern Church. The West’s understanding of salvation was always forensic — how am I right with God? — compared to the East’s which was more metaphysical — how am I one with God? Protestants were still asking the West’s question but found Rome’s answer insufficient. At the same time, Rome’s answer was hardly codified. It existed in any number of commentaries and summas. But Rome itself did not begin to rationalize or systematize its understanding of the gospel until the Council of Trent. Then Rome rejected the systems and reasons of Protestants with a fairly heavy hand. Then too Rome began to try to generate, through the activities of the Jesuits for starters, greater uniformity among the faithful and their clergy.

This view of Rome’s development is evident (at least to all about me) at a terrific website that includes a list of all the popes’ encyclicals and all the councils of the early and medieval churches. On the one hand, popes did not begin to send letters of counsel to their bishops until the thirteenth century. And then the encyclicals, which often pertained to matters of ordination and church-state relations, were infrequent. Between 1226, the first papal encyclical (or bull), and 1500 fifteen popes issued only twenty-two such communications. In contrast, Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758) issued 44 encyclicals (and I don’t think he was writing about the First Pretty Good Awakening). It may be a stretch, but the correlation between the papacy’s consolidation of the Western church and the use of encyclicals hardly seems coincidental.

The same goes when it comes to General Councils. Here is the list of councils at Papal Encyclicals Online:

1. The First General Council of Nicaea, 325
2. The First General Council of Constantinople, 381
3. The General Council of Ephesus, 431
4. The General Council of Chalcedon, 451
5. The Second General Council of Constantinople, 553
6. The Third General Council of Constantinople, 680-681
7. The Second General Council of Nicaea, 787
8. The Fourth General Council of Constantinople, 869-70
9. The First General Council of the Lateran, 1123
10. The Second General Council of the Lateran, 1139
11. The Third General Council of the Lateran, 1179
12. The Fourth General Council of the Lateran, 1215
13. The First General Council of Lyons, 1245
14. The Second General Council of Lyons, 1274
15. The General Council of Vienne, 1311-12
16. The General Council of Constance, 1414-18
17. The General Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence, 1431-45
18. The Fifth General Council of the Lateran, 1512-17
19. The General Council of Trent, 1545-63
20. The First General Council of the Vatican, 1869-70
21. Vatican II – 1962-1965

Notice that in the early era, councils were in the East, suggesting the weight of authority and structure among the Eastern Orthodox. Notice also that Rome does not begin to hold church councils until the twelfth century, the same time that the papacy is emerging as the religious authority in Europe.

What this means, for the sake of doctrinal development, is that Protestantism emerged out of and did not necessarily break with what was happening in Western Christianity. During the crisis days of the sixteenth century, humanists and Protestants all agreed that the papacy was an institution that needed serious reform. Protestants also began to offer up interpretations of the Bible that were certainly possible in the Roman church but were forbidden after Trent.

It is an arguable point, but the compatibility of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in the late middle ages looks plausible if you read the only existing confession of faith approved by one of the general church councils (it is anyway the only one I can find since all the other church councils in the West appear to be devoted to questions of papal authority, schismatic bishops, and uncooperative emperors). Here is the Confession of Faith of Rome in 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council:

We firmly believe and simply confess that there is only one true God, eternal and immeasurable, almighty, unchangeable, incomprehensible and ineffable, Father, Son and holy Spirit, three persons but one absolutely simple essence, substance or nature {1} . The Father is from none, the Son from the Father alone, and the holy Spirit from both equally, eternally without beginning or end; the Father generating, the Son being born, and the holy Spirit proceeding; consubstantial and coequal, co-omnipotent and coeternal; one principle of all things, creator of all things invisible and visible, spiritual and corporeal; who by his almighty power at the beginning of time created from nothing both spiritual and corporeal creatures, that is to say angelic and earthly, and then created human beings composed as it were of both spirit and body in common. The devil and other demons were created by God naturally good, but they became evil by their own doing. Man, however, sinned at the prompting of the devil.

This holy Trinity, which is undivided according to its common essence but distinct according to the properties of its persons, gave the teaching of salvation to the human race through Moses and the holy prophets and his other servants, according to the most appropriate disposition of the times. Finally the only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, who became incarnate by the action of the whole Trinity in common and was conceived from the ever virgin Mary through the cooperation of the holy Spirit, having become true man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh, one person in two natures, showed more clearly the way of life. Although he is immortal and unable to suffer according to his divinity, he was made capable of suffering and dying according to his humanity. Indeed, having suffered and died on the wood of the cross for the salvation of the human race, he descended to the underworld, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. He descended in the soul, rose in the flesh, and ascended in both. He will come at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, to render to every person according to his works, both to the reprobate and to the elect. All of them will rise with their own bodies, which they now wear, so as to receive according to their deserts, whether these be good or bad; for the latter perpetual punishment with the devil, for the former eternal glory with Christ.

There is indeed one universal church of the faithful, outside of which nobody at all is saved, in which Jesus Christ is both priest and sacrifice. His body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine, the bread and wine having been changed in substance, by God’s power, into his body and blood, so that in order to achieve this mystery of unity we receive from God what he received from us. Nobody can effect this sacrament except a priest who has been properly ordained according to the church’s keys, which Jesus Christ himself gave to the apostles and their successors. But the sacrament of baptism is consecrated in water at the invocation of the undivided Trinity — namely Father, Son and holy Spirit — and brings salvation to both children and adults when it is correctly carried out by anyone in the form laid down by the church. If someone falls into sin after having received baptism, he or she can always be restored through true penitence. For not only virgins and the continent but also married persons find favour with God by right faith and good actions and deserve to attain to eternal blessedness.

Protestant Reformers would have objected to parts of this confession especially in the last paragraph. But it is hard to see how with some Protestant clarifications this might have been a serviceable confession for both Rome and Geneva.

The contention here, then, is that justification came late to debates in the Western Church. Protestants initiated those debates and made proposals. Rome rejected those proposals outright at least at Trent. But prior to Trent Rome had no official position on justification. Protestantism accordingly developed within Roman Catholicism, which developed from relations with churches in the East, which developed from the ministry of Jesus and the apostles in Jerusalem. To say that what we have in Roman Catholicism is what the early church had in the first three centuries is like saying that some angel of God left some gold plates containing the final revelation buried underground somewhere in upstate New York.

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  1. Posted August 4, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Permalink


    I really am gonna be interested to see where you are in say ten years compared to where you are now. So, if you continue to write and grow in your roman catholic faith and God grants you the years it will be interesting to compare and contrast.

    Look, I know I pissed a lot of people off by leaving Protestantism, and whenever I join the CC I’m sure it will only add to the anger some people feel. And I can understand the temptation to dismiss anything I might say on the grounds that I am some kind of Johnny-come-lately (not saying you’re doing this, I’m just saying). But there was a time when I was less than 10 years old in my Reformed faith, having come out of evangelicalism, and I’m sure none of you Reformed guys would have begrudged me my defense of Geneva.

    As far as where I’ll be in a decade’s time, I’ll probably be a Druid.

  2. Posted August 4, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Permalink


    JJS, how about dealing with those of us who said in other places that it seems that the Catholic mind is primarily driven by ecclesia (secondarily by scriptura) and the Protestant mind primarily by scriptura (secondarily by ecclesia)? Secondarily doesn’t mean “not at all.” Do you really think my point is that “the church doesn’t matter to Protestants”? No, not anymore than “the Bible doesn’t matter to Catholics.”

    I think I called you on this on Facebook a few weeks ago, and it looks as though you have modified your language a bit (you used to call the Catholic position “Sola Ecclesia,” but now it looks like you’re giving them a bit more credit for having the Bible as a secondary voice).

    Still, you’re not articulating what Catholics actually say their view is (Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium, sometimes called “Prima Scriptura”). Now, you may be aware that that’s their view and you think it is a misnomer or something, which is fine. But I have never heard you actually characterize your opponents’ position correctly, in a way that they would recognize as their own.

    But all this aside, I think the basics of the Catholic gospel are taught quite clearly in the NT. It was recognizing this, and not some QIRC, that led me out of Protestantism.

  3. Posted August 4, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure how rational it is for Calvinists to be angry about another man’s conversion.

  4. Posted August 5, 2012 at 12:13 am | Permalink


    Jason, ahem, I actually think I am fully aware of the issues. Your side doesn’t seem to be aware of our issue — the sufficiency of Christ.

    The “ahem” tells me I offended you. I am sorry. I didn’t say that you are not aware of the issues, but that you are not demonstrating an awareness of them (at least that’s what I meant, I don’t remember what I actually said). All the “gotchas” you’re throwing out there are things that any first-timer at an RCIA class would ask, and they are all clearly addressed in the Catechism and at CTC. For example, asking why Bryan bothers to talk if he’s not an infallible bishop, or about what to do when there are three popes, are not the questions of someone who has done a lot of thinking about Catholicism (much like the question, “If God is sovereign, why pray?” is not the question of someone who has thought much about Calvinism). If these issues are new, fine. But my point is that you don’t seem to be actually interested in talking about them.

    And we are aware of the issue of the sufficiency of Christ, and virtually everything Catholics say about the Trinity and Fatherhood of God is an attempt to deal with that very important objection on your part. If you cannot rehearse back to me those answers, then it just demonstrates that you are unaware that your concerns are being addressed, and what is said by way of response. And again, that’s fine. But if that’s the case, then why not just ask sincere questions instead of charging us with never having thought of these things before, or of avoiding them altogether? We’re not going to be able to recapitulate a half millennium of debate in a blog combox.

    … infallibility is hardly a big deal even among conservative RC’s.

    That’s like me saying that none of my OPC friends think the IAO matters that much, and that Machen was kinda cute when he talked about it on his deathbed. In other words, I don’t doubt you’re correctly relaying your friends’ attitude, but all it proves is that they’re no better Catholics than FV-ers are Presbyterians.

    I myself find the claims about an infallible officer in the church to be ludicrous. That may suggest a closed mind. It may also be Augustinian since I take sin pretty seriously.

    I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Augustine flatly denied that Mary ever sinned. Just saying.

    You may believe in an infallible pope, but you may also want to consider that lots of people — including RCs in good standing (is that a category that applies) — don’t think it’s a hill worth dying over….

    Look, I’ve always been a gospel guy, and soteriological issues are what get me excited, not issues about papal infallibility. Although I once considered it “ludicrous” too, once I understood the limited parameters of the dogma, as well as its relation to certain biblical and patristic statements, I ceased to consider it silly. But I don’t get a chub over it or anything. I’d much rather talk about Romans or Galatians.

    … in a CtC context, which appears to be one in which you’re now arguing, a biblical argument is window dressing since the bottom line here and at Greenbaggins has been ECF and infallible popes.

    The thread Lane wrote at GB was about infallible popes, which is why that’s what the CTC guys talked about over there.

    As for open-mindedness, is that something that an RC should be recommending?

    … says the guy who’s a part of a small minority in an already tiny American denomination!

    Shouldn’ta said that. That was snarky. But still: Pot. Kettle. Black.

  5. Jeremy McLellan
    Posted August 5, 2012 at 1:03 am | Permalink


    Two questions (shamelessly copied from another conversation):

    Regarding the relationship between church authority and orthodoxy. I’m trying to compare “Protestants throughout history” to “Catholics throughout history before their orthodoxy was vindicated by infallible declaration.” So let’s compare my affirmation of the Trinity to Athanasius’s pre-Nicea. Athanasius had every reason to reject Arianism and publicly call it heretical before it was infallibly declared to be a heresy, so why can’t Protestants do that today? Functionally it seems the same. Many Catholics and Orthodox over the centuries have opposed heresy before they say their positions vindicated, sometimes dying before that. Was their orthodoxy based on a flimsy foundation?

    Of course, in Protestantism there is no human authority that infallibly adjudicates good from bad development, but neither did Nicea just assert it’s power via fiat and establish orthodoxy that way. Arianism was declared a heresy based on a long history of argument about Scripture, why we worship Jesus, etc. and Protestants join you in rejecting it on that basis, but only on that basis. We agree with the reasoning and conclusions of Athanasius, but we only give tertiary significance to the fact that it was established as orthodoxy by the church.

    Second, conversations around here seem to imply an either/or between imputation and infusion. But as you know, there’s also a wide variety of views in Protestantism, ranging from what I think you and I would both reject as a STRICTLY forensic idea of salvation that require considerable exegetical gymnastics ( Piper ) to groups that you might find closer to Paul and the ECF: the Finnish “Orthodox Luther”, certain Mercersburg Theologies, Radical Orthodoxy’s Neo-Platonic view of participation, New Perspectives on Paul, or Michael Bird’s Incorporated Righteousness (my preference in this list). Even Kevin Vanhoozer’s response to NT Wright (describing the “law court” metaphor as an adoption court) would be within the Reformed camp but only rely on imputation language to secondarily explain how Union with Christ justifies. All these folks reject justification as infusion. I think all these schools would have an easier time finding continuity with the ECFs than folks who think only in terms of imputation (though I do secondarily affirm what is meant by imputation). Seeing as how your conversion began in part through questioning Sola Fide.

    By the way, is there a fast food sandwich chain that we can go to if we want to protest your conversion?

    Presbyterian Jeremy

  6. mark mcculley
    Posted August 5, 2012 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    I am glad that Jason still wants to mainly talk soteriology. Me too. So when I read the “Roman Catholic view” in Justification: 5 views, IVP, 2011, by Gerald O’Collins and Oliver Rafferty, my first questions are not about if they speak infallibly or if they speak for the pope or if they or more or less legitimate than converts to Rome from Westminster East and West.

    Of course the Roman Catholic view in the 5 views book begins by agreeing with Gaffin’s student Michael Bird. “Original sin does not refer personal guilt but to the sinful condition in which and into which human beings are born.” (p128) But ths first denial goes along with an even worse second denial (that Bird would NOT make), that there is no penal substitution in Isaiah 53. “But what about ‘the Lord has handed him over to our sins…Through the discipline of such punishment, they can be turned from their evil ways and healed…In the sixth century bc, no distinction had yet been drawn between the absolute will of God and the permissive will of God. Such a distinction allows us to understand how God may allow even his totally innocent Son to be handed over to sufferings and to be punished by human beings…The meaning of this vivid poem should not be pushed beyond what it actually says or misread as if it were a precise theological treatise about the transfer of personal guilt.”

    A “catholic” view of course claims to be “catholic” in wanting to include everything and not be precise or exclude, but at the end of the day some Roman Catholics are always finally very precise in EXCLUDING PENAL SUBSTITUTION. We want more, they say, but they also always want less. They are motivated not only by a desire to say that Jews are saved apart from the obedience of Jesus Christ but also motivated by a hatred for the just God who cannot and will not justify the ungodly apart from the legal record of God having punished God for sins that God legally transferred to God. Don’t be so mechanical and precise, they say, but they routinely and specifically deny any legal solidarity with guilt or with Christ’s death as a legal satisfaction. Some Roman Catholics will allow “punishment” but not talk about individual guilt being borne by Christ and then taken away.

    So can we be certain that these Roman Catholic’s view of soteriology is to be included, and not excluded? How can there view be included, and it also be agreed that the guilt of Adam is imputed to human individuals?

    These two particular Romans Catholics are very willing to caricature and misrepresent penal substitution. On p 175, the Roman Catholic view explains II Cor 5:21: “supporters of the penal substitution view understand Paul to state that Christ really became a sinner. Our transgressions were counted against him …How could God transform an innocent person into a sinner? What about the possibility of saying, without doing that, God associated Jesus with all sinful men and women and charged him with their sins? …Paul does not use a judicial vocabulary here. God is not said to accuse, charge, judge, or punish.”

  7. Zrim
    Posted August 5, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    JJS, no, what I’m giving you now is what I gave you then (i.e. the primary-secondary point). And when in response you gave me the three-legged stool point (i.e, Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium, sometimes called “Prima Scriptura”), I wondered how honest this really is when all the Reformed converts—and even some cradles I know—always say something more or less like, “I came to see that the RCC is the church Jesus founded,” which is a statement that effectively gives primacy to ecclesia. You say I don’t characterize Catholics’ position correctly, but this is always the refrain. Like Bryan’s comment on page two of this thread: “No, my reason for becoming Catholic was discovering that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded.” How am I not articulating their position when this is what is always said? The Catholic, evidently, says find out which church Jesus founded, then find out what that church says the Bible teaches about the gospel. The Prot says first find out what the Bible teaches about the gospel, then find the church which affirms that.

    So, yes, I understand that you (and the Catholics) think the basics of the Catholic gospel are taught quite clearly in the NT. So what? Theonomists also think the Bible teaches the state should execute homosexuals and theocrats think sit says the state should enforce true religion. You’re all wrong from historic Protestantism’s viewpoint. Everybody thinks their conclusions are clearly taught in the Bible, which is why the Bible doesn’t really solve anything in the end because there always has to be a human interpretation and human sin is as real as the Bible is clear.

  8. Posted August 5, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    JJS – What are you doing for a living now?

  9. Posted August 5, 2012 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Jason, maybe I’m not demonstrating an awareness or maybe you guys (I mean CtCers) are so much of an amen corner that you don’t get out and hear how you sound. I think Bryan especially doesn’t understand that he does sound like HAL — he simply regurgitates at times the RC answer, and then he goes philosophical (perhaps by temperament) and sounds even more abstract. In other words, if you want to be persuasive, try again. And if you want to sound persuasive don’t sound like a know it all — we’ve been there (Protestant land) and now we know so so much better. I’m sure you know, condescension has a certain propensity to elicit snark.

    Now, if you are aware of the sufficiency of Christ why do we need saints to pray to, or why do we have to cooperate with grace? Or why has Rome worked out an agreement with Lutherans? Or why does Evangelicals and Catholics exist? The point is that as clear as the Catechism may be, it isn’t clear what Rome teaches. It could be that you have many catechisms. I still see some RC’s refer to Baltimore. Or it could be that the current one is long (and we thought Heidelberg was tough). For a teaching device, you guys really should reconsider. Or why is Trent so clear in anathematizing our view of Christ’s sufficiency? Or why have the leading RC voices of late been talking about the dignity of the human person (Fortnight of Freedom) and not talking about the gospel (even on your view)? The point is that post Vatican II Rome looks far more like the Protestant mainline than it resembles antiquity. You get social justice, the Trinity, and the superiority of the West without the silliness of liberal Protestantism. Oh, wait. This is the U.S. Roman Catholic church where the nuns were giving a pretty good impression of liberal Protestantism.

    The point Jason is that the Rome you think you’re kicking the tires on is a model that no one makes anymore. Yes, you can buy the parts the way CtCer’s do. But Rome is hardly the monolith of traditional Roman Catholicism that CtC peddles. And it would be good for someone to recognize this, especially with all the triumphalism and condescension.

    Big deal what Augustine said about Mary. Protestant believe that fathers in the faith, not to mention, councils may err. I believe Calvin was wrong. What does Mary or Augustine have to do with infallibility? And how exactly are you defending intellectual openness if you appeal to Augustine that way? So I believe Mary was sinless because Augustine is “just sayin'”?

    Further, what good does infallibility do if so many Roman Catholics disregard it? I’ve had numerous conversations with RCs in which I hear how bad off Protestantism is because we are so fractured. At least Rome has a single authority and order. Then I bring up a particular encyclical that may be disagreeable. And then I hear, well the pope isn’t infallible on everything, just when speaking ex cathedra. So which is it? Does infalliblity give Rome order (hardly)? Or is it just a debating point to show Protestants what they lack even though Rome is really only united around the Mass?

    BTW, did you know that leading RC historians say that the only infallible assertion by the papacy in over 2000 years came in 1950 about the Assumption of Mary? And this is from Eamon Duffy, a favorite of RC conservatives since he beats up the English Reformation.

    You may belittle the littleness of the OPC. I suspect this is a holdover of your PCA days. But maybe Rome would be as big as the OPC if you lined up all the Roman Catholics who thought semi-pelagianism was false. Or maybe, the OPC is simply an example of what Benedict recommended when he established a monastery. To escape the entanglements of a worldly church, you gotta go small. Heck, Jason, I’m a localist. I don’t have Keller envy.

  10. sean
    Posted August 5, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink


    I don’t begrudge you your desire to follow your conscience, though I’m suspicious about the public nature of it(endgames and all), the virtual trophy case at CtC tends to remind me of Calvary Chapel’s propensity for celebrity, which you know all too well. But, all those are relatively minor annoyances in comparison to the condescension shown by CtCers who presume to tell cradle catholics what’s what in Rome. I’m compelled to grant that as big as Rome is, it’s entirely possible and likely the proto-catholics/anglo-catholics are carving out their own niche and I’m sure there are more than a few bishops who enjoy having them on the end of the lead. It still doesn’t negate the fact that Rome is not a ‘word-based’ religious expression. Rome finally melts down to the Mass-sacerdotalism. This isn’t a cause for shame or disappointment among faithful RCers. This is what Rome is and what it is organized to provide, all the way down to last-rites. You think catechetical maturity is lacking in protestantism, just wait till you get settled in, in your local roman communion. The knowledge of Rome’s ‘deposit’, dogma, and ECF not only is almost non-existent, but you will come to find is UNIMPORTANT in the religious life of not only the faithful RC pew-sitter but the religious and priesthood as well.

    I learned protestant liberalism as the expression of V2 scriptural hermenuetics from priests with Cal-Berkeley post grad degrees, Notre Dame post-grad degrees, University of Dallas post-grad degrees et al…littering the walls of their office. They would take great umbrage to y’alls monolithic representation of the faith.

    My interest in where you are in ten years isn’t one of trying to paint you as ‘forever on a journey’, but a real interest with how you’ve dealt with the diversity of belief much less magisterial fealty discrepancies you will encounter every single day. If you are simply following your conscience, fine. But, be careful if what you think you will find is what’s being proferred at CtC and make sure you know what Rome is, before you start proselytizing protestants on the margin much less cradle catholics who, though may have had a much less public conversion heading the other direction, have paid some really steep prices to follow our conscience as well.

  11. Posted August 5, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    D.G. – The word you are looking for is “pedant”. Just have a conversation…

  12. Posted August 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    D.G. – “You may belittle the littleness of the OPC. I suspect this is a holdover of your PCA days.”

    I had to chuckle at that one.

    The OPC is small, but influential beyond its size.

    Thank goodness the attempts they have made to merge with other groups over the years have not come to fruition.

    I am a URC guy with an OPC temperment.

  13. Posted August 5, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    JJS – When I asked what you were doing for a living I wasn’t being sarcastic. I am sincerely curious if you are willing to say.

  14. Posted August 5, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Today in our worship service at El Camino we sang hymn #519 (Red) by A. Toplady, a Church of England Calvinist of the 18th century – a concise presentation of the doctrine of justification by faith alone and what it means:

    Fountain of never-ceasing grace,
    Thy saints’ exhaustless theme,
    Great object of immortal praise,
    Essentially supreme;
    We bless thee for the glorious fruits
    Thine incarnation gives;
    The righteousness which grace imputes,
    And faith alone receives.

    In thee we have a righteousness
    By God himself approved;
    Our rock, our sure foundation this,
    Which never can be moved.
    Our ransom by thy death was paid,
    For all thy people giv’n,
    The law thou perfectly obeyed,
    That they might enter heav’n.

    As all, when Adam sinned alone,
    In his transgression died,
    So by the righteousness of one
    Are sinners justified;
    We to thy merit, gracious Lord,
    With humblest joy submit,
    Again to Paradise restored,
    In thee alone complete.

    This reminds me of another hymn that begins:
    For all the saints who from their labors rest, who to the world their steadfast faith confessed,
    your name, O Jesus, be forever blessed. Alleluia! Alleluia!

  15. Posted August 5, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Darryl, I’m not going to get bogged down on the word “kingdom”. The Kuyperian view flows out of the sovereignty of God and his Lordship over all Creation. It also flows out of the idea of vocation believers (those who are members of the church of Christ) serve their Lord in their individual callings. Thus they bring their Christian faith into all areas of life that are lawful. It seems to me that Van Drunnen and you admit to all of this. As I always have said–we’re not that far apart.

    As for Bratt–we’ve been there already. I’m not sure New Schoolers had any sense of sphere sovereignty. Hodge could be pro-union but against Gardiner-Spring. That already sets Kuyperians apart from New Schoolers and provides some common
    ground with 2Kers.

  16. Posted August 6, 2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Terry, so which is it? Continuity or not? I don’t think you can claim development on your side while simply shrugging your shoulders. The creeds and catechisms have a fair amount to say about the keys of the kingdom. Your response? Whatever?

  17. mark mcculley
    Posted August 6, 2012 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    James 2: 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it

    Romans 2:12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

    Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth will be stopped, and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

    Galatians 3: 10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is
    evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.

    These texts have no “family” exemption, in which less the absolute obedience to the law is still somehow accepted as one cause of our eventual justification. According to Roman Catholics Robert Sungenis, the “familial aspect ” means God is not so strict, and imperfect works are counted as merits by grace. To him, grace means “give me some slack”

    Sugenis rejects any idea of being adopted into the family once for all time on the basis of the perfect complete imputed righteousness (law-satisfaction) of Jesus Christ. So you better get busy. What have you done lately to stay in “the family”? Of course there’s some leeway, it’s not all that tough, you don’t really need to worry, but you gotta give me a little something, or out you go….

  18. Posted August 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink


    Your criticisms of my remarks were duly noted- I have gotten into the habit of laughing at, sneering at, and throwing snark at what I perceive to be a “cloaked” semi self-righteousness. It has been ingrained by years of arguing with my arminian brother and his sanctimonious “holier than thou” family. Also, it has been even more deeply ingrained by my three or so more years that I have regularly tuned in to oldlife. Maybe it is an addiction now- hey, it sure feels good when a good and creative snark manifests itself. My tactics have not worked with my brother and his family (in fact, it has gotten me into more deep do do because we own a family business together- he has more authority than me) so maybe I need to heed your words. I do give you credit for having the integrity to go where your thinking was leading you. And I, like McMark, am glad that you like to focus on soteriological issues. That is what floats my boat too. I would be more than willing to sit down with you over a few “screwdrivers” if we ever cross paths sometime, although McMark claims that being invited to have a drink with someone betrays hidden motives of some sort, so, he refuses those offers. No longer because of his former fundamentalism, but because of some hidden agenda and a word that is not coming to me now (the blogs name that Carl Trueman used to write at Reformation 21). I am going to have to google it- I have killed too many brain cells in my days No, it just came to me, spin. So, what I am saying, is that if there is no spin involved and I get rid of the sarcasm and snark we can be assured that we both really want to know what the Gospel truly is and the implications for what it teaches us. That is easier said than done, but I have to believe that it can be done.

    I have been around and dialoged with too many people who have been brought up in dire circumstances and have made messes of their lives who need the hope of a forensic imputed righteousness to keep them going. They don’t need what I am convinced of as false gospels. Focusing in on what we need to do to convince ourselves of a false assurance does not really help. We have a bent to believe that we are more righteous than we really are- even Walt, in Breaking Bad, is now convincing himself that all will be OK, while his wife is plotting how to get out of the dire circumstances by feigning suicide. Our only hope is the imputed righteousness of Christ. When we have truly been brought to our knees in this regard we will respond accordingly, even though still tainted with our still indwelling sin. I will allow you to try to convince me otherwise. Due to our human natures, the dialog has usually ended in bloodshed. Do you think we are any better now?

  19. Posted August 6, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I also might add that, like you, I spent 19 years in charismania evangelical fantasy land. While 10 of those years were spent reading reconstructionist literature and scratching my head in confusion. I ended up in marital difficulties and losing my family. I dropped out, tuned out and self-medicated for 10 years after, while learning reformation theology from Sproul, Gerstner and Horton and Modern Reformation magazine. It took me awhile to sort out what was Gospel and what was not Gospel in their writings too. What I call grace and what you call grace are two different animals struggling in the same cage. Their is a paradigm problem- I agree; how are you going to get out of the paradigm problem? I find that interesting, I will be listening.

  20. Posted August 6, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Darryl, I don’t get your point. As far as I can tell 2kers and Kuyperians have the same view on the keys of the kingdom. I’ve said this before. The church and her officers decide who’s in and who’s out based on a credible profession of faith. This is how the kingdom language in the WCF should be understood. Thus membership in the kingdom is tied to membership in the church. I don’t disagree with that. But those who are members of the church live before their Lord all the time and everywhere in a Creation over which he is the Sovereign Lord. They do his bidding all the time and everywhere. So the extent of believers’ vocations extend into all Creation. My holy calling extends to my “secular” life if I am not a “full-time” minister of the Word. This is why I don’t see a difference between “vocation” an idea that seems to meet your approval and 24/7/365 Christianity or thinking Christianly about x which seems not to meet your approval.

  21. Posted August 7, 2012 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Terry, do believers do his bidding all the time or do they exercise their Christian liberty some of the time and heed his word other times? This is where the keys of the kingdom would give you greater clarity. The Bible is not a handbook to earthly vocations. It is ministered as part of the keys of the kingdom. Reviewing movies for The Banner is not kingdom work because the Bible has little to say about aesthetics of culture (minus the bits about Israelite culture). You may agree with the doctrine of the keys, but you don’t agree with WCF when you make it seem that the kingdom is evident in Christians planting apple seeds.

  22. Posted August 8, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Darryl, all the time. Are you now ready to secularize the Christian life? Believers live before God continually. Who is the one who calls when we speak of vocations? Is it not God who calls me to my various vocations whether they involve church work or not? And does the Bible not inform me concerning the theological foundations by which I understand Creation (where vocations are worked out)–worldview! And does not the Bible inform me of some of the religious/moral how of my daily life–prayer for my daily bread, how I treat others, how I view myself and my vocation before the face of God? I’m all for centering this in weekly worship in the context of the Church as the covenant community. And I’m all for Christian liberty. But I don’t see how Christian liberty frees us from Biblically informed living. “Handbook” is your word not mine. See for a more detailed comment.

  23. Posted August 8, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Terry – “common” is a better term than “secularize”. If “everything” is sacred then nothing is sacred. Just because something is common doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.

  24. Posted August 8, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Terry, secular is not a bad word. It means of this age. Since marriage is of this age, I don’t go knock kneed when I hear callings are secular. The same goes for fathers, mothers, pastors, and likely historians. And since we are going to be it seems doing a lot of worshiping in glory, I’m not sure we’ll need too many other secular callings.

    Again it goes back to kingdom. What is eternal versus what is temporal. That duality runs right through the heart of Paul. And yet neo-Cals want to avoid the problem of fundamentalism by adding spiritual lift to ever secular calling by saying it is kingdom work.

  25. Posted August 8, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Darryl, I don’t object to “secular” (or “common” or “eternal”) as long as for the believer it’s all done in submission to our Lord. I’ve even heard of some Kuyperians seeing secularity as being the logical conclusion of sphere sovereignty.

    It seems our differences really are rooted in our conception of the age to come. I do think we will continue in some of our vocations in the age to come. Gospel preachers, missionaries, and worship leaders will be out of a job. I’m not so sure about scientists, historians, astronauts, etc. I think the Bible teaches a very earthy, Creational “otherworld”. I get this OT and book of Revelation imagery and a sense that the original Creation, while “un-eschatolized”, nevertheless embodied God’s intentions for Creation and humanity. (In anticipation of your mentioning marriage again, I found it intriguing that in my dialogue with Al Wolters that he suggested that the passage in question refers to marriage ceremonies not marriage itself.)

  26. sean
    Posted August 8, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink


    I understand that not every marriage produces children, and we don’t hold that every sexual act must allow for such an opportunity, but where does one arrive at the idea that marriage, particularly in the edenic situation, did not contain the intentionality of producing offspring?

  27. Posted August 8, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Sean, Huh? I’m not opposed to discontinuities. But surely companionship was a key purpose for marriage.

  28. sean
    Posted August 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink


    Without quoting the verse that Wolter’s explains away by parsing ceremony from marriage. If death can terminate the legal bond, I’m not sure we want to argue as the mormons that we are married for time and eternity. ‘Till death do us part. And if we will be like the angels and angels don’t marry………………………. Seem like a difficult wedge for Wolter’s to try to drive.

  29. sean
    Posted August 8, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink


    IOW, one is going to have a tough time severing the legal bond(ceremony in this case) from the companionship therein much less offspring intention. Even in Eden, there’s no reason to believe that marriage was for eternity. Otherwise, Heaven might get dicey with more than one spouse claiming legal propriety when there was remarriage for say death of a prior spouse, such that the 2nd marriage was in fact legitimate as well… Pretty soon we’ll have our own planet.

  30. Posted August 8, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Terry, you really think Jesus will be a lamb?

  31. Posted August 8, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Darryl, nope. But there is something between crass literalism and prophetic symbolism.

    For what it’s worth it’s hard to engage you seriously when your snarkiness is mixed with an unwillingness to see your “opponent” as a reasonable person.

  32. Posted August 8, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Sean, oops. You caught me red-handed in my Mormonism. I was hoping to keep my conversion secret from the world. There is a certainty in those gold plates and a living apostolate, you know.

  33. Posted August 8, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Terry, I don’t think you are reasonable about the problems created by neo-Calvinism. If it’s any consolation, yours is the majority view. Maybe I’m the unreasonable one. But neo-Calvinism like Rome is not going to reform itself if it can always brush away problems as misunderstanding what Kuyper really meant. Could Kuyper be wrong? Is it unreasonable to wonder if he was or to see where the CRC and its institutions (not to mention the GKN which no longer exists) are? For all of my snark, on this one you seem like a pollyanna.

    On the point of continuity between this and the next worlds, I don’t think Revelation helps your case for a continuity of vocations.

  34. Zrim
    Posted August 8, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Terry, when I hear neos speculate about the next age, I truly have to wonder what they think it means that “no mind has conceived what God is preparing for those who love him.” Is that just pious speech, or should we really be more careful about suggesting, for example, we’ll have astronauts? To be honest, it often seems like the mirror error of the Fundamentalists who speculate on earth history to push back against the Darwinists’ own speculations. It could be the case that all we know about continuity is that we’ll have glorified souls and bodies.

  35. Posted August 8, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Darryl, don’t the kings of the earth bring tribute to the heavenly city which is now on earth? Kings and tribute sounds like politics and economics to me. Isn’t that in the Book of Revelation?

  36. Posted August 8, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    Zrim, indeed it will be better than I can imagine. That doesn’t mean that scripture doesn’t give any clues about the future world.

  37. Posted August 9, 2012 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    Darryl, “neo-Calvinism will not Reform itself” is an interesting thing to say. Wouldn’t you say that any Reformation must occur in an ecclesiastical context. Sometimes you treat neo-Calvinism as a para-church group–one that transcends denominational boundaries. While it may be true that there are many expressions of neo-Calvinism in today’s evangelical world, your desire to see a consistent neo-Calvinism must be in a particular ecclesiastical context. I haven’t given up yet on the CRCNA–perhaps with the discussions of sphere sovereignty that were initiated this year, we’ll have a renewal of genuine neo-Calvinist ecclesiology. If not in the CRCNA, perhaps in the CRCan or even the OPC or URC. Isn’t it at least conceivable that developments in the GKN or CRCNA have nothing to do with neo-Calvinism but with a delayed embracing of theological Liberalism?

  38. Posted August 9, 2012 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Terry, you already admitted that you don’t take Revelation literally. What territories will kings in heaven be ruling when there will be only one king? Sorry, but that seems weak.

  39. Posted August 9, 2012 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    Terry, but liberalism may have actually been a forerunner of neo-Calvinism. Both didn’t like the word secular. Both expanded the kingdom. Both wanted to transform culture. Both were activist.

  40. Posted August 9, 2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Darryl, yes, according to the biographies of both Kuyper and Bavink they had liberal influences first. But liberalism was in the process of abandoning confessionalism. Not so with neo-Calvinism (or New Schoolism). In fact, it’s because they are confessional that they are in the Calvinist camp. No liberal that I know of wants to be a Calvinist by Confession (perhaps by heritage as in Leith or Loetscher).

  41. Posted August 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Darryl, it’s not all or nothing with respect to literalism. The parable of the talents suggests a differentiation of authority based on one’s stewardship. Some will sit at Jesus’s right and left (places of greater authority and honor. I don’t know what all that means but it does suggest that there will be such things. Maybe there will be continued cultural and linguistic differentiation to celebrate the diversity of Creation (tongues, tribes, nations). Perhaps some of that continues in the age to come. You don’t have to be a hyper-literalist to admit to these things. It’s sort of like recognizing the historical character of the early chapters of Genesis and being an evolutionist.

  42. Posted August 13, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink


  43. Andrew B
    Posted August 31, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink


    The contention here, then, is that justification came late to debates in the Western Church. Protestants initiated those debates and made proposals. Rome rejected those proposals outright at least at Trent. But prior to Trent Rome had no official position on justification. Protestantism accordingly developed within Roman Catholicism, which developed from relations with churches in the East, which developed from the ministry of Jesus and the apostles in Jerusalem.

    Prior to reading this blog post just now, you had mentioned the above in this way, in a combox, I think, and I held on to the thought you put forth as I worked on understanding these “ins and outs.” I want to thank you for your labors here at OldLife and in the comboxes of other blogs. You never know who might be reading.


    PS Let’s see after I hit post if my html tags work…(I’m new).

  44. Posted August 31, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    They worked. Thanks, AB. May your drives be long and your putts straight.

  45. Chortles Weakly
    Posted August 31, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Testing tag

  46. Andrew B
    Posted August 31, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Disregard the following:

    Testing, Testing, Testing tag


  47. Andrew B
    Posted August 31, 2013 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    Last tag test.

    Good night.

  48. Posted March 3, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    The contention here, then, is that justification came late to debates in the Western Church.

    The contention here , is that little ol’ AB came late to all y’alls little party out here, but here I am (hello Jason Stellman, Bryan Cross, et al).

    Still workin’ on those long drives and straight putts, D.

    Don’t stop what you do because of us. I mean just read the com box section here with a pipe in hand. Crazay stuff, yo, history and all.

    I’m out. Lates.

  49. Posted March 17, 2014 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    The logic runs like this. Protestantism came late, not until the sixteenth century. Protestants believed that Rome was a false church and had begun to apostasize about the time that Augustine’s body was buried. This leaves a gap of almost 1,000 years, between the right-thinking early church and the right-thinking Reformation church. In between, allegedly, God withdrew from his saving plan and planet earth was without a witness to (not hope) but Christ — hence, ecclesiastical deism. This is, by the way, the argument that Thomas More used against William Tyndale, a subject of a couple of papers by (all about) me while in grad school.

    As effective as this argument might seem — and when I was studying More I found it intriguing — it is not very historical, at least in the way that people who regard the past as a distant country, a place not readily grasped, understand history. From a historical perspective, not to mention the way we understand ourselves, truths don’t simply fall out of the sky, pile up in neatly proportioned columns, steps, and arches, and remain intact for time immemorial. Instead, truths evolve (or develop if you don’t like Darwinian associations).

    I agree. And your personal history here fascinates me. I’ll be reading.

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