Teachers without Principals (not without principles)

On this matter of contrasting Protestant and Roman Catholic paradigms of authority, I like Jeremy Tate’s analogy of a school room. Protestants in class have no teacher, only a book. Wrong, but let’s go with it for now. Roman Catholics have a teacher and a book. Therefore, Rome has a teacher to instruct and determine the right answer.

The problem with the analogy for the folks at Called to Communion is the failure to notice that post-Vatican II Roman Catholics seem to ignore their teacher as much as Protestants behave when no classroom authority is present. Granted, a time existed, and Quebec between 1900 and 1960 is an example of that era, when Roman Catholics did heed with deference the church hierarchy. But just as Quebec secularized in the 1960s to become one of the least observant places in the West, so Roman Catholicism in the West has shown a marked hostility to the teaching authority that CTCers tout. According to Mark Noll in what is one of his best essays:

As a final element in Canada’s recent ecclesiastical history, it is important to highlight the significance of the Second Vatican Council. The role of the Council was obviously important for Canada’s Catholics, but may have been almost as significant for its Protestants. In Quebec, but also for Canadian Catholics in general, the Council was destabilizing because it rapidly altered the liturgy, the language, the music, the tone, the disciplines, and the calendrical observances that for a great part of the faithful had simply constituted the meaning of the faith. In this sense, Canada resembled Western European Catholicism, which was also disconcerted by the Council, rather than Eastern European, African, and Asian Catholicism, which was energized by its work.

The lack of compliance among Roman Catholics is a huge problem for those who celebrate Rome’s superiority as a communion with a teacher who can instill order and discipline in this imaginary classroom. If Rome has it, and I don’t doubt that Rome claims it, why won’t it use that authority to make the students sit down and be quiet? Why won’t it teach those students what they are supposed to learn? Well, one big reason is Vatican II (more on that at another time).

Another reason is that no communion since the late 18th century has the school principal to back up its teachers (Protestants do actually believe they have ministers with authority who exercise the keys of the kingdom). Since the separation of church and state in the West, all of us inside the classroom don’t have the fellow with the big stick at the end of the hall who will spank the bottoms of unruly students. That means that Protestant teachers and Roman Catholic popes are left with the same amount of authority — it’s all spiritual. We can exhort, cajole, excommunicate. But at the end of the day, without the state to back up our rulings, the unrepentant sinner is free to walk down the street and attend another church, and over time join and become a member in good standing.

Even so, I wonder what good the CTCers promotion of infallibility does. It seems, given the state of North American and European Roman Catholicism, the main effect is to remind Protestants what we don’t have. Great. I got it. Rome has authoritative authority. Protestants don’t. That may make Rome more orderly and coherent. But then why does the classroom with a teacher look so much like the classroom without one? It sure seems to me this is a question that the serious minded folks at CTC could ponder.

132 thoughts on “Teachers without Principals (not without principles)

  1. I think a concern that must ride alongside the concern for consistency (which it seems is the pillar and ground for CTC RCism) is whether consistency is virtuous in itself. I’m reminded of the demotivator: http://www.despair.com/consistency.html

    IOW, even if I have a teacher in the classroom. If that teacher consistently teaches against the assigned text with mind-numbing “sophistication,” I’d be better off in a room with the book and its author (i.e. the Holy Spirit) among other students.

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  2. It seems that life is livable in the Protestant classroom. We have our questions and we wrestle for answers, knowing that we’re pilgrims and we look for rest in the classroom made without hands. But then there’s those times when itinerant teachers come along, touting a greater teacher, who can expound on the textbook with authority. And she’s really ancient too! Trouble is, she seems to want to divert attention from things in the textbook that don’t fit with her mode of devotion. So she focuses on how we can’t be sure without her.

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  3. D.G. Hart.

    The problems you describe the Western Catholic Church as having in your essay remind me of the problems Paul encountered in Corinth or Ephesus. It has never been our argument that all Catholics follow the magisterium with unwavering fidelity. We’re all aware that this simply is not the reality in the present day Church militant. In every classroom I’ve ever been in there have been a group of trouble-makers in the back throwing spit balls and cracking jokes. That does not make the teacher untrustworthy, however.

    So, the existence of some ‘bad kids’ in the class does not mean that the Catholic Church is not the Church that Christ founded. Similarly, when Israel was thumbing their collective noses at the Judges, Israel was no less Israel.

    Further, I must say that I had many of the same prejudices about the average Catholic lay person before I became Catholic. This prejudice was formed by ‘the Catholic’ in the office or in the neighborhood who maybe was a ‘Christmas/Easter’ Catholic who clearly thumbed their nose at the teaching of the Church. Those people exist but let us not paint with a broad brush. You have argued that the CTCers are somehow fringe. I suggest that you get out more. Every week I see the same several hundred faithful Catholics at mass at my home parish and I am in the only person that has even heard of Called to Communion. Throughout my life as a Catholic since 2007 I have met countless faithful Catholics who love Jesus, love His Church and follow the teaching of the Church. So, we’re not as ‘fringe’ as you might believe. There are millions of faithful Catholics in America and Canada that have never heard of “Called to Communion” and carry on as faithful Catholics without us.

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  4. Sean Patrick;

    “Every week I see the same several hundred faithful Catholics at mass at my home parish and I am in the only person that has even heard of Called to Communion.”

    Sean Patrick, this is kinda the point. The bad kids at the back are generally Vat II adherents, but you’re right, you do have the mass.

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  5. The bad kids at the back are generally Vat II adherents, but you’re right, you do have the mass.

    I adhere to Vatcian II as does every member of Called to Communion.

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  6. D.G. Hart wrote: “The lack of compliance among Roman Catholics is a huge problem for those who celebrate Rome’s superiority as a communion with a teacher who can instill order and discipline in this imaginary classroom. If Rome has it, and I don’t doubt that Rome claims it, why won’t it use that authority to make the students sit down and be quiet? Why won’t it teach those students what they are supposed to learn?”

    GW: Good point. Seems to me that if the Roman church really wants us confessional Prots. to take its pretentious claims to infallible authority and to being the one and only true “Mother Church” seriously, then at the very least it needs to do some serious house-cleaning by exercising some real shepherd-care and ecclesiastical discipline within its own membership and ministry. (Such shepherding and discipline would include, among other things, actually censuring and defrocking priests who misbehave and, when such “problem priests” break the law, turning them over to the civil authorities — for example, I’m thinking specifically of the pedophile priests who were the source of the Catholic clergy scandal a number of years ago — rather than bishops and other ecclesiastical higher-ups simply shuffling these problem priests to other parishes or areas of service within the church, in the “good ole boy” fashion that one would expect in the good-ole-boy club that Rome appears to be.) When was the last time you heard about a local Roman Catholic parish priest (or whoever would have authority in such matters of discipline) bringing formal ecclesiastical censure against a member of the local parish who proved to be an unrepentant adulterer, or fornicator, or thief, or liar, or simply someone who persistently and unrepentantly over a lengthy time has absented himself from Mass? After all, Rome claims to have the “keys of the kingdom”; when (other than in the confessional box) do they actually use the keys to discipline, censure and correct sinning members? And in how many Catholic parishes does the parish priest make an effort to actually visit his parishioners in their homes (and not just when they are sick or in the hospital or in need of “extreme unction”) in order to pray with and for them, instruct them, encourage them, etc.? I’m sure there may be instances of this, but not from what I have observed having lived in a heavily Catholic community where nominal, “cafeteria Catholics” seemed to be the rule and commited, practicing Catholics seemed to be the exception (and where no obvious ecclesiastical discipline of the lapsed “cafeteria Catholics” seemed to be taking place in the local parish churches).

    Of course, the Protestant churches in America today (including even professedly “confessional” ones) are likewise extremely lax in the exercise of a real pastoral/shepherding care and discipline of its members and ministers; so I’m not saying we confessional Prots. don’t have our share of large logs to remove from our eyes as we notice the specks of dust in the eyes of our Romish friends. But at the same time, at least we don’t have the burden of defending the claim of being an infallible church or of being the one and only true “Mother Church.”

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  7. Sean Patrick,

    I’m really gonna have to get the Vat II guys I know(most of them say the mass) with the one’s you know, and just kinda step back and watch. There really is quite the breadth of fealty going on, all the while everyone is claiming to be adhering to Vat II. At some point when the deposit ‘says’ everything, it doesn’t really say anything, and if that’s what unity looks like, I’ll be a sectarian. It seems more honest, and a better unity.

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  8. sean,

    Is that what you have said had you been a Christian in Corinth in AD 55? “Oh, all these Christians are bad at being Christians and half them don’t even listen to the apostles. I’d rather be sectarian.”

    Have you read the documents which were produced by Vatican II?

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  9. Who does the Catholic church think they are kidding? This woman I dated for four had a father who was well respected in the Catholic community of the southern suburbs of Chicago. He was well respected because he owned about 15 business along with a CPA firm and donated lots of money to the Catholic schools in the area he lived in (along with the Catholic church in that area).. His son was pushed over a balcony on a 10 story dorm in downtown Chicago where he was studying to be a Priest. He was openly gay but undisciplined and not kicked out of the seminary because of his influential father. This whole scenario created quite a stir but was hushed up by the powers that be in the Catholic church. The Catholic church is not only a good-old boys club it has elements in it which could almost be considered mafia like. Maybe these CTC guys are big reformers of the Catholic Church but good luck with that one when you run into the big money guys. Huge beaurocracies have a hard time keeping money influenced corruption at bay. Again, who do you think you are kidding?

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  10. Sean Patrick,

    The almost 1000 pages, yea no. But, I was trained by those who had and they drove some pretty progressive reforms through it.

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  11. Sean P., but if Rome has an infallible authority, why wouldn’t it be less chaotic than Protestantism? And why was the Roman Catholic church most in need of reform when the papacy had its greatest authority (14th and 15th centuries)?

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  12. Doctor Hart,

    And why was the Roman Catholic church most in need of reform when the papacy had its greatest authority (14th and 15th centuries)?

    Another question on target. Asleep at the switch?

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  13. D.G.,

    D.G.,

    I’ll admit that I do daydream about what it would be like to live in a period of more widespread orthodox belief.

    You write

    The lack of compliance among Roman Catholics is a huge problem for those who celebrate Rome’s superiority as a communion with a teacher who can instill order and discipline in this imaginary classroom.

    Here’s what I find interesting; These dissenters you speak of who “lack compliance”, aren’t they actually Protestant (people who protestant the teaching of the Catholic Church)? In a very reall sense, it is Protestants, who happen to attend Catholic Mass, that are causing the problems you describe. Hmm.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

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  14. D.G.,

    Sorry for the sloppy mess (cut and pasted) from a word document. Anyway, as Sean Patrick pointed out, the lack of compliance (which I agree is a problem) has no bearing on whether or not the Catholic Church is the infallible interpretter of the Bible.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

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  15. J.T.-

    You wrote: Here’s what I find interesting; These dissenters you speak of who “lack compliance”, aren’t they actually Protestant (people who protestant the teaching of the Catholic Church)? In a very reall sense, it is Protestants, who happen to attend Catholic Mass, that are causing the problems you describe. Hmm.

    Sophistry, my friend, sophistry…

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  16. Jack, not really. If Protestantism is historically understood as people who protest the teaching of the Catholic Church, then the “non-compliant” people who attend Mass are, in a sense, Protestant. Not your kind of Protestant of course (which is the kind I actually have great respect for), but still Protestant as far as they reject Catholic teaching and assert their own ideas.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

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  17. Jeremy, but admitting that she is both infallible and fallible does have bearing on her being the infallible interpreter of the Bible. As I asked of JJS on another thread, if you have two infallible sources–the Bible and the church–but you also admit that the church is both fallible and infallible, how does this not undermine the very concept of infallibility? It seems to me that the Protestant understanding that the Bible alone is always and ever infallible and the church is sometimes right and sometimes wrong is a much more feasible contention than saying infallibility sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t, which is like saying water is always wet but only in certain spots.

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  18. Jeremy T,

    Then the question still stands; what kind of unity has an infallible magisterium rendered you? And this is the point, you are no better, in Rome, at resolving doctrinal and disciplinary matters than protestantism. And from the perspective of this confessional protestant,cradle catholic, you have a diversity of belief that exceeds conservative, confessional protestantism. I know a number of RC’s who would contest CTC’s claim to representation of roman catholicism. Your issue ultimately lies there, not with confessional protestants. Call your own house home.

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  19. Jeremy T.

    You’ve just cut off from the RCC a very large percentage of “Roman Catholic-non-compliant… Protestants?”

    As someone commeted at Green Baggins on a related CtC explanation-

    ” as Westley told Vizzini in “The Princess Bride”, truly you have a dizzying intellect.”

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  20. Zrim,

    Jeremy, but admitting that she is both infallible and fallible does have bearing on her being the infallible interpreter of the Bible.

    I never said this. I simply agreed with D.G. that there are professing Catholics who reject what the Magisterium teaches.

    Sean

    Call your own house home

    Yes, I hope to work to call professing Catholics back to fidelity to the Magisterium. I actually see God using many former Protestants to call Catholics back to the life of faith. You should join us.

    You write

    And from the perspective of this confessional protestant,cradle catholic, you have a diversity of belief that exceeds conservative, confessional protestantism.

    Did you notice that you had to qualify the type of Protestantism twice (confessional, conservative)? Why can’t you just say Protestantism? I’m sorry for whatever bad experience you had within the Catholic Church. I’ve been amazed myself, however, to find the number of Catholics who love Christ and simply trust the Church. I’m exhausted of Christian skeptics and it’s refreshing to be around people who actually trust that their Church teaches the true faith.

    Jack,

    Protestantism gets its identity through its relationship with Catholicism. You can’t explain Protestantism fully without grounding the abstractions with the Catholic Church. I’ve never heard anybody say, “If you want to understand Catholicism first you have to understand Protestantism”, but I have heard Protestants (R.C. Sproul) say “To understand Reformational Theology you first have to understand Catholicism”. It’s fair for me to call out the irony when Protestants (those who reject Catholic teaching) say that the problem within the Catholic Church is, once again, those who reject Catholic teaching.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

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  21. J.T.-

    As you explain things, in your world the RCC is the sun and Protestantism revolves around her and, from her, receives the light for her identity? As Vizzini exclaimed, “inconceivable!” You cite a convenient quote from Sproul. Can you back that up with Luther, Calvin, Owen, Bavinck, Turretin, Hodge, Warfield, Machen, Horton, and Dr. Hart?

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  22. Jack,

    I’m not sure this conversation is helping anyone at this point. I’m not sure why it matters what the men you mentioned had to say, but here’s Luther.

    [From: J.H. Merle D’Aubigne, History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, 1835; translated into English in 1846, Book Five, Chapter One]

    “That the Roman Church is honored by God above all others, is what we cannot doubt. Saint Peter, Saint Paul, forty-six popes, many hundreds of thousands of martyrs, have shed their blood in its bosom, and have overcome hell and the world, so that God’s eye regards it with especial favor. Although everything is now in a very wretched state there, this is not a sufficient reason for separating from it. On the contrary, the worse things are going on within it, the more should we cling to it; for it is not by separation that we shall make it better. We must not desert God on account of the devil; or abandon the children of God who are still in the Roman communion, because of the multitude of the ungodly. There is no sin, there is no evil that should destroy charity or break the bond of union. For charity can do all things, and to unity nothing is difficult.”

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

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  23. And J.T., you write – It’s fair for me to call out the irony when Protestants (those who reject Catholic teaching) say that the problem within the Catholic Church is, once again, those who reject Catholic teaching.”

    You refute an argument not being made. No one has said that “the” problem is… Rather, that it is an inconsitency, i.e. “a” problem that there are so many Catholics that don’t buy into your definitional paradigm of the Roman Church. You simply want to absolve Rome of any connection and responsibility for the lack of understanding and obedience in the great unwashed to what is, supposedly, the big advantage of Rome – an authoritative, infallible, interpretive teaching office in the person of the Pope, that makes everything so clear and thus provides the basis for unity.

    Could it be the unity is more along the lines of what Darryl and sean have been saying? Just sayin’…

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  24. Why are we relitigating old and settled issues? Must we?

    Time to review Whittaker’s “Holy Disputations on Holy Scriptures,” a Cambridge Professor, a Calvinist and a Prayer Book man. Whittaker is above Warfield’s stature, frankly. Also, the “second Martin” of the Reformation, Martin Chemnitz, to wit, on the “Council of Trent.” Every sensible Churchman needs to read Chemnitz’s 3-volume set on Trent.

    Re: an earlier post on Mt. 16 and the putative claims to Petrine supremacy, Schaff has (somewhere) a lovely statistic about the abundant and overwhelming witness of Mediterranean commentators, a majority, favouring Protestant views on this issue. While Romanists cherry pick, the historic evidence “ain’t” on their side. Augustine is one among many. Calvin in Bk 4 is still eminently sensible. (Do they teach this stuff in Reformed seminaries?
    They didn’t at Reformed Episcopal Seminary, now a haunt for Anglo-Catholic Tractarians.) Rome, as a matter of history, can’t claim supremacism, as they are wont to do. A yawner. The Greeks still loathe and abohor Rome’s claims to universal episcopacy. Yada, yada, old stuff.

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  25. Darryl:

    Perhaps the time is at hand to relitigate the entire front of issues with Rome. That “whore,” to use a phrase from the highly articulate, literate and skilled John Bale, Bishop of Ossory, Ireland, a Reformed Anglican, still is meritorious. The old fellow is quite charming, quite tough, and quite harsh at times. He had to flee Ireland during Mary’s rule. He took residence in Basle. He returned under Old Bess 1 and under her Calvinistic ABC, Matthew Parker, too residence at Canterbury. But, being old and unable to resume his episcopal duties in Ireland, he took a prebend and stall and Canterbury. He died and was buried there. But, an old Calvinist and BCP man too. A cranky old Irish Calvinist, but quite spot on. And, assuredly, no friend to Trent’s obiter dicta over several sessions. But, must we relitigate the matters?

    The entire front is messed over and the first-line warriors, e.g. Bishop Bale and others, saw it clearly. Better than Americans without frontline observations. After all, we are “Protesting Romanists.”

    Let the battle be enjoined across all loci of dogmatics. The Reformers, cognizant of the Catholic fathers, were well read.

    Let the issues be relitigated, I say. Bring it on!

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  26. Jeremy T., if Protestants take their identity in relation to Rome, Rome looks to Jerusalem. If you play with history, it usually bites. You just haven’t gone back far enough. The reason is that the Eastern church doesn’t claim infallibility. If it did, you’d be there. Older and certain. So again, the issue for CTCers is not history or tradition but infalliblity, which could very well be a hangover from Reformed Protestantism’s inerrancy.

    In which case, CTC gets its identity from Reformed Protestantism.

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  27. Donald,

    <blockquote< Let the issues be relitigated, I say. Bring it on!

    This may not be the most helpful attitude to seeking unity (Bring it on!), but Called to Communion, as well as a host of other Catholic websites, study centers, and think tanks, have been asking for this conversation with the Reformed community for years. When I was in seminary the Catholic claim wasn’t even treated serious. In some courses it was just dismissed with a laugh. Dr. Michael Horton flew into D.C. one time and taught a three day intensive of the Church and Postmodernity. He didn’t seriously engage the Catholic question, he just made a few jokes that got a good laugh. Yes, we’re asking for this conversation. Not in a “bring it on way”, but in a “Jesus has called us to unity, so let’s at least start talking” sort of way. For three and a half years Called to Communion has been working to stir up a conversation about Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, the authority of the Catholic Church, and a host of other issues that separate us. We’ve name called and characterized each other’s positions for too long. May both sides, by the grace of Jesus, begin working for clarity and unity as the one visible bride of Christ.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

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  28. “The History and Future of Papal Infallibility”
    Ronald Burke
    University of Nebraska at Omaha

    http://moses.creighton.edu/csrs/news/F96-1.html

    “Not all the bibles, the study guides, and encyclicals in the world can completely contain the spirit and life of Catholic faith. Faith is a habit and language. Sometimes obvious and sometimes subtle, it is an action in the world that cannot be fully communicated by reading about it, or hearing the Pope speak about it, but only by living it.”

    No wonder it’s so hard to pin our Catholic brothers down. For Reformed guys accustomed to the Westminster, Heidelberg, Belgic, etc. it can be maddening. It reminds me of trying to pin down Doug Wilson.

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  29. Jeremy Tate,

    I appreciate that quote from Luther- do you know the date that he said that? Luther seemed to vascillate wildly on his attitude towards the Catholic church of his time. Just like he vascillated wildly on his attitudes towards the “reprobate.” It reminds me of Christ brooding over the temple in Jerusalem (Math. 23:37-39). “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you would not.”

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  30. I never said this [but admitting that she is both infallible and fallible does have bearing on her being the infallible interpreter of the Bible]. I simply agreed with D.G. that there are professing Catholics who reject what the Magisterium teaches.

    Jeremy, but someone on your side of the table said something to the effect that “the church doesn’t speak infallibly every time she speaks.” But shouldn’t an infallible source always speak infallibly, as in the Bible? Or is that to have too high a view of infallibility? Maybe you do think the church speaks infallibly every time she speaks. But Bryan has said that “infallibility only applies to definitive teachings on matters of faith or morals.” But Protestantism says that the Bible is categorically infallible. I’m not sure what the CtC line is exactly, but it does seem to me that Protestantism, with its single infallible source theory, provides what Catholicism seems to be after in its wonky two-source theory. But Protestantism is also comfortable with the discomfort that comes along with fallible interpreters of the one infallible source.

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  31. I don’t understand why after declaring the Pope to be infallible the Catholic Church then shrinks back and says that he has only spoken infallibly once or twice in its history:

    “It is usually agreed that all the stated conditions of papal infallibility were met when Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary, on December 8, 1854, and again when Pope Plus XII declared the Assumption of Mary on Nov. 1, 1950.” – Ronald Burke

    It’s like Ling-Ling & Hsing-Hsing mating or a kid who owns all of the Star Wars action figures but refuses to take them out of the packages. What good is that?

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  32. “In captivity, many male pandas appear uninterested in mating or do not seem to know how.” – Animal Planet

    Maybe Bob the Builder Needs to take Benedict aside and say “Yes You Can!”

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  33. John – The “Catholicism cannot be contained” notion reminded me of the “All of life is holy” notion in neocalvinism. As Gilbert & Sullivan say “when everyone is somebody, then no-one’s anybody”.

    Maybe I’m just off my meds, though…

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  34. Zrim,

    There is a sense in which the Church is infallible every time she expresses her mind. But the mind of the Church is not expressed in everything said by a member of the Church, including members of the Magisterium, including the pope. The gift of infallibility pertains to the universal Church as such, and therefore cannot be invoked except by those to whom it is given to speak for the universal Church, when they intend to thus speak (e.g., the doctrinal decrees of an ecumenical council, an ex cathedra teaching of the pope). Otherwise, the teaching of members of the hierarchy, the pope in particular, is authoritative, but not infallible.

    This gift of ecclesial infallibility has to be understood in relation to Holy Tradition and Sacred Scripture. The Magisterium is infallible under certain conditions (summarized above), but it is not sufficient. It is the authentic teacher of divine revelation, and is bound by it. I gave a brief account of the difference between inspiration and infallibility in this post.

    Andrew

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  35. By the way, I think the whole idea that Protestantism takes its identity from Rome is an argument that is easily flipped, and convincingly so. It can be argued (and has been) that the modern Roman Catholic Church came into being as a counter-reformation. Trent codified a whole bunch of Catholic dogma that were teachings in response to the solas and other biblical doctrines of the Protestant Reformation; which reformation, initially, was an attempt and hope at reforming the corruption in doctrine and practice that had grown over several centuries within Rome. Rome’s response to Luther et al crystallized her counter-reformational image going forward.

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  36. I think a historical perspective is helpful here.

    Let’s remember the “blasphemy of Sirmium” in the 4th century – The Arian Creed that was received by most of the bishops. Only 7, I believe, refused to sign and to keep fellowship with the Church and the Pope. This caused Jerome to lament, “The whole world groaned and marvelled to find itself Arian.”

    And yet the unity of the Church was never lost, becase Peter is the seat of unity. Catholicity JUST IS the whole world in union with the see of Peter – even if that Catholicity has been small at times.

    -David

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  37. Jeremy,

    That 1519 date puts the quote in better historical context. It occured before Luther was ex-communicated from the Catholic church. He was not the “wild boar” that was loosed from the Catholic Church yet. It has always been a confusing debate on whether the magisterial reformers wanted to reform within the church or break from it. Historical forces made the decision for them and then all hell broke loose.

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  38. John – I think both Catholics and Neocalvinists need to have a little bit less of a grand vision for/about themselves, their ministries, & their churches. 2k Calvinists draw better lines than both.

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  39. Jeremy,

    Luther’s mature theology is believed to not have been developed and in place until about the mid to late 1520’s either. So, it easy to cherry pick anything you want to from Luther before that time. That is what the Finnish interpreters of Luther do. Most of what they drew on from Luther was pre-1525.

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  40. And yet the unity of the Church was never lost, because Peter is the seat of unity. Catholicity JUST IS the whole world in union with the see of Peter…

    Whoa, now think about that statement (shaking my head back and forth…).

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  41. Zrim,

    I don’t think your analogy between the church and the Bible is fair. A better question would be, “If the Bible is always infallible, then why wasn’t the apostle Paul always infallible?”

    In other words, the church is not to be faulted or denigrated because it is not always infallible any more than Galatians should be denigrated because Paul sometimes predicted fair weath and it turned out to be foul.

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  42. Zrim says;

    “It seems to me that the Protestant understanding that the Bible alone is always and ever infallible and the church is sometimes right and sometimes wrong is a much more feasible contention than saying infallibility sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t, which is like saying water is always wet but only in certain spots.”

    Sean M;

    And following the post from Darryl, this is where a ‘conversation’ should be had. It’s one thing to claim it(infallibility) and use it like a club or mute button on your opponent in a syllogism(thus the references to Hal), it’s quite another to have a back and forth conversation about how effective or reasonable a claim it is.

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  43. JJS – I clicked on your name and read about your current writing project. Here is a letter to the editor that I wrote yesterday directed toward recent articles written by our vocal local atheists (both professors at Iowa State — one in religion, one in education). Darwinism and Atheism really have no positive vision to promote. That’s why they just spend most of their time attacking Christianity.

    To the Ames Tribune:

    I hesitate to do this because Hector Avalos & Warren Blumenfeld don’t need any more attention in the Tribune than they are already getting but what the heck, I’m going to make a few comments. First off, if churchgoers read their Bibles half as much as these two apparently do their faith would probably benefit. I’ve never seen atheists so into quoting Scripture. Second, I think both Blumenfeld and Avalos know better when they fail to put any of the biblical passages they quote into their historic and theological context. Yes, God did give commands to Theocratic Israel that no longer apply today. I know, it’s shocking, but true. Lots of reputable biblical scholars (even skeptical ones) will agree with me. Third, as atheists I am amazed with how many statements they make about morality and what people should or shouldn’t do. If there is no god, if man is not judged, if we all die and rot in the ground (as does everyone we know and love) does it really matter what we do or how we treat people? If they are serious maybe they should spend less time attacking Christianity and more time making a case for why people should be good if there is no God. Their antics may be effective on naive undergraduates or with people in their social and political cirles, but most mature adults are not persuaded by them.

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  44. A Summarized Response to Various Posts

    To those who are of Rome,

    Rome has already, in history, witnessed a dialogue on Christian doctrines (such as Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, and the doctrines of grace) but all the while she played the harlot and blasphemed with every sophistry and evasion of Divine Truth. Nonetheless, Rome fell before the sharp double-edged sword of God’s infallible Scriptures as He, by His Spirit, built up His church on the sure foundation of Christ the Chief Cornerstone and the witness to Him of the Apostles, calling the faithful out of the darkness of Sodom and Gomorrah to true communion in conformity to His Word, which endures forever.

    To this day His wrath is against Rome until they submit to His Word. His Word is what brings division between us, even as by His Word God promised to put enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. As it currently stands, you who are of Rome are the seed of the serpent, haters of God who twist His Word to your own destruction. What good is it for you, though apparently with sincerity (as if sincerity were a consolation to the deceived), to cling to evil, calling the plethora of Satan’s subtle deceptions good and calling God’s infallible truth evil.

    It is not reason that questions the infallibility of God’s Word. The Roman church exists to whisper in ears, “Did God actually say?” and then with arrogant reinterpretation of God’s will, erects contrarian boastings against the whole counsel of His Word all the while pointing to a vain visible luster upon the face of disobedience to draw away the simple. See how the fruit is pleasing to the eye, surely ours is the way to unity!

    Unity you do have. Indeed, you are united with all the forces of darkness against the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh how you lap up the dust like your father the Devil. Insofar as you are united to him through fallen Adam, your inheritance is burned like chaff and all your futile labors are swept away by the dusty wind; sure only of passing away. Though the Bible is faithfully proclaimed in your hearing by the saints of the Most High, you refuse to listen! You mutter against God! How you lift up idols upon which you can look with your eyes, falsely attributing to them the mighty works that belong to God alone!

    What words shall we speak to you other than what we say to all the enemies of God who persist in doing evil and speaking lies? What have we to say to those who are enslaved to sin, children of wrath, ruled by the spirit of this age?

    Repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, flee the wrath to come or you shall perish on the Day of Judgment! With such words we declare God’s merciful kindness in long-suffering. Turn away while the patience of our Lord lasts! Repent and believe that you may truly have peace in Christ!

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  45. Andrew, thanks for trying to explain infalliblity, but this sounds like the Masons. Do you guys ever acknowledge that this stuff is not just hard to believe but sounds incredibly arbitrary (and hardly transparent). Mormonism also comes to mind.

    I know that sounds harsh. But it may encourage you to rethink how you communicate and explains this stuff. Because it sure sounds like you are the press secretary for the president trying to explain to journalists why the Army just dropped a bomb on Detroit.

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  46. Jason, and here is why the comparison is fair. We don’t have lots of Paul’s writings that aren’t infallible. We have lots of Romes writings that may or may not be infallible, depending on . . . what? I have heard that at one time the condemnation of Galileo was infallible. Now it’s not. Like I say, not lots of transparency, sort of like the Masons and Mormons.

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  47. D.G.,

    Jeremy T., if Protestants take their identity in relation to Rome, Rome looks to Jerusalem. If you play with history, it usually bites. You just haven’t gone back far enough. The reason is that the Eastern church doesn’t claim infallibility. If it did, you’d be there. Older and certain. So again, the issue for CTCers is not history or tradition but infalliblity, which could very well be a hangover from Reformed Protestantism’s inerrancy.

    In which case, CTC gets its identity from Reformed Protestantism.

    It is true that the authors at CtC feel indebted to Reformed Protestantism. This is pretty clear from the welcome page on the site. For me personally, it was the Reformed faith that taught me the value of Church authority, the need for theological certainty, and the importance of the sacraments. But it is for these reasons though that the Reformed faith falls short. A lost wedding ring can be replaced, but the replacement will always fall short of the ring thing (even if it is new and attractive at first). Reformed Theology at its very best (which I think all the authors at CtC experienced) still only serves as a painful reminder of what has been lost to Protestants.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

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  48. Erik,

    If, as it is written in 1 Corinthians 5, we are not even to eat with those who live in open unrepentant sin (such as idolatry) yet call themselves Christians, I figured warm and fuzzy is quite deceptive while hot and firey is more in accord with truth.

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  49. Luke,

    You just condemned over a billion professing Christians. Sola Dei Gloria? Did you pray through that comment that it would be to the glory of God alone? I don’t even know how to respond to this.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

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  50. Luke – While you have probably not said anything that is untrue, you have used the “nuclear option” when it comes to conversation with those who disagree with you. After using it it is hard to continue the conversation because your opponent has been rhetorically vaporized.

    I would also note that as Reformed people we do accept Roman Catholic baptisms so we must think they have at least something right.

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  51. Erik Charter: I don’t understand why after declaring the Pope to be infallible the Catholic Church then shrinks back and says that he has only spoken infallibly once or twice in its history:

    “It is usually agreed that all the stated conditions of papal infallibility were met when Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary, on December 8, 1854, and again when Pope Plus XII declared the Assumption of Mary on Nov. 1, 1950.” – Ronald Burke

    RS: Infallibility is much easier to defend as a theory than it is when a Pope opens his mouth. So the less a Pope opens his mouth the less ROMAN Catholics have to defend. You know, the less Bob the Builder had to build the easier it was to say “Yes you can!” Anytime something within ROMAN Catholicism is shown to be wrong or hard to defend, it is much easier to simply back off and say it was not uttered in an infallible way. By the way, I “hear” another analogy when Bryan Cross tries to defend the indefensible. I hear a little steam engine saying “I think I can, I think I can” as it goes up the hill. At the top of that hill, however, is the bottomless pit.

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  52. Erik,

    We likely accept their baptisms for the same reasons that Augustine wrote about regarding the Donatist heretics. Even baptisms done by the Donatists were accepted because baptism is a sign established in Scriptures and thus not reliant upon the faithfulness or wickedness of the one who performed it. Nonetheless, the Donatists were heretics and were told to repent of their wickedness. Thus, our acceptance of said baptisms is no commentary on any inherent goodness of the current Roman position. Rather, we must confess that Rome is a synagogue of Satan according to their own positions.

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  53. D.G.,

    And your responses remind of me conspiracy theory pamphlets. The truth will always seem confusing once you have convinced yourself that “Bush did it.”

    Since Vatican I’s definition of papal infallibility, theologians have had their work cut out for them, applying the Council’s definition to papal teachings by way of discerning, among all the instances of papal teaching, “when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church….”

    But this task is not arbitrary. The criteria are clearly set forth in the definition, and need only be applied to the data of history. The Fathers of Vatican I were well aware of that history, and well aware of the distinction between the pope as a fallible man, and the pope as the Vicar of Christ, that is, in his office of the servant of the servants of God, whose charge includes the task of strengthening the faith of his brethren. The definition, on its own terms, can in principle be falsified by the historical record. But it cannot be falsified by an appeal to the historical record which disregards the terms of the definition.

    So set aside that straw-made voodoo doll that you all love to consult, pick up some books, and start reading. There is a beginner’s guide on the “Suggested Reading” page at CTC, for those who like to attend before they attack.

    Andrew

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  54. Erik Charter: Luke – While you have probably not said anything that is untrue, you have used the “nuclear option” when it comes to conversation with those who disagree with you. After using it it is hard to continue the conversation because your opponent has been rhetorically vaporized.

    RS: But that is what Trent I has done to those who hold to Reformed soteriology. In it Reformed soteriology has been dealt one anathma after another.

    Eric: I would also note that as Reformed people we do accept Roman Catholic baptisms so we must think they have at least something right.

    RS: In history not all accept their baptism. Some have argued that since they baptize with a triune formula, it is acceptable. Others argue that since they deny the Gospel they are not a true Church and should not baptize. I believe James Henry Thornwell argued quite strongly that RC baptism should not be accepted. I say just wait until you see who the elect are when they come to faith and are in the New Covenant and it will prevent problems like that.

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  55. RS-

    I say just wait until you see who the elect are when they come to faith and are in the New Covenant and it will prevent problems like that.

    Let’s not get this thread off on an extraneous topic, but we don’t know definitively who the elect are, either as infants or adults. Profession of faith, though adequate for membership of baptized Christians, still doesn’t guarantee God’s secret election. I know several individuals who professed and were baptized as adults who have subsequently denied the faith. Any way, that’s all I’ll mention about this on this thread…

    cheers

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  56. Richard – “I say just wait until you see who the elect are when they come to faith”

    Wow – You can really see who the elect are when they come to faith? What about when someone renounces their faith 20 years later? Were they not elect after all?

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  57. Jack – I read your comment after I posted mine. We think alike. Should we send Richard over to the Federal Vision guys? Don’t they think they see the elect to? But then some lose their election because they fail to have “faithfulness” along with their faith? Am I doing them justice?

    Maybe Richard should have auditioned for Haley Joel Osment’s role in “The Sixth Sense” – “I see elect people…”

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  58. Jack Miller Quoting RS- I say just wait until you see who the elect are when they come to faith and are in the New Covenant and it will prevent problems like that.

    Let’s not get this thread off on an extraneous topic, but we don’t know definitively who the elect are, either as infants or adults.

    RS: We are certainly agreed on that one.

    Jack M: Profession of faith, though adequate for membership of baptized Christians, still doesn’t guarantee God’s secret election.

    RS: Again, amen and amen. I would also argue that baptizing infants does not guarantee their election either.

    Jack M: I know several individuals who professed and were baptized as adults who have subsequently denied the faith. Any way, that’s all I’ll mention about this on this thread…

    RS: Which is also a great danger which is why we should be careful with those the elders allow to communion and essentially declare as saved. But, without going on and on, I would say that if one is careful about the issue of whether one is a believer or not, they would baptize a lot less unsaved people than those who baptize infants.

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  59. Erik Charter:
    Richard – “I say just wait until you see who the elect are when they come to faith”

    Wow – You can really see who the elect are when they come to faith? What about when someone renounces their faith 20 years later? Were they not elect after all?

    RS: No, those who renounce their faith were not elect after all. However, read I John 3:10 and ask if it fits in your paradigm.
    NAU 1 John 2:4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;

    NAU 1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.

    NAU 1 John 3:24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

    1 John 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

    Erik Charter: Jack – I read your comment after I posted mine. We think alike. Should we send Richard over to the Federal Vision guys? Don’t they think they see the elect to? But then some lose their election because they fail to have “faithfulness” along with their faith? Am I doing them justice?

    RS: I think it is the Bible that you are forgetting about (not totally).

    Erik: Maybe Richard should have auditioned for Haley Joel Osment’s role in “The Sixth Sense” – “I see elect people…”

    RS: Well, I don’t like fiction or plays. Anyway, I do believe that I John 3:10 and 2:29 (and others) need to be reckoned with.

    1 John 2:29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.

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  60. Andrew, and now it gets even more complicated. Infallibility began as a simple assertion of Christ’s statement to Peter. Then it became something that was “proved” by the church fathers, though of course, all of those assertions had to be assembled, verified, and interpreted. Then along came a council and declared the pope infallible, almost 2000 years after Christ’s interaction with Peter. And now we hear that theologians have their work cut out for them to “apply THE COUNCIL’S DEFINITION TO PAPAL TEACHING” [caps for emphasis]. Conspiracy or no, this is like pornography. Someone knows the pope is infallible when someone sees it.

    Sorry for the rough analogy. Again, the point is that lots of interactions here, at Greenbaggins, and at CTC suggest among RC’s that infallibility is so simple that it clearly shows Rome’s superiority to Protestantism. Meanwhile, Rome spends a lot of time trying to figure out what is infallible (or at least CTCers do) and there is all this sin in the world that needs the merits of Christ?

    Where is Jesus in all this?

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  61. Richard – “Which is also a great danger which is why we should be careful with those the elders allow to communion and essentially declare as saved”

    Erik – I think you miss the point on fencing the table. Elders are not declaring anyone as saved when they admit them to the table. They are merely taking their profession of faith and biblical church membership at face value. An Elder can’t do much more than that because they can’t peer into someone’s heart.

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  62. Richard – We can never fully know if someone is justified based on their sanctification because people are sneaky. We don’t see them all the time. People learn to put on a show for the right people at the right time.

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  63. A minister of one of the largest URC churches, Patrick Edouard, was removed within the last two years for commiting adultery with at least 4 of the female members of the congregation. The civil authorites are prosecuting him for rape (although that process appears to be bogged down). Everything “looked” right — homeschooler, great kids, great wife, able preacher — he even headed up the URC’s committee to write the report on the Federal Vision. Was he truly justified? Was he truly sanctified? It would have appeared so at the time. It just goes to show we never know for sure. All we can do is take people’s profession at face value and use church discipline if evidence to the contrary arises.

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  64. Erik Charter quoting Richard S– “Which is also a great danger which is why we should be careful with those the elders allow to communion and essentially declare as saved”

    Erik – I think you miss the point on fencing the table. Elders are not declaring anyone as saved when they admit them to the table. They are merely taking their profession of faith and biblical church membership at face value. An Elder can’t do much more than that because they can’t peer into someone’s heart.

    RS: I know people tell us that we cannot peer into people’s hearts, but there are many things that can be seen about people’s hearts by their words, works, and beliefs. I know it is not the good ole days, but the pastor/elders used to examine all those who were going to partake of the Supper before they took it. If people are sick and some die as a result of taking the Supper improperly, then I would think that it is reasonable to suppose that the elders do consider them as converted. After all, the Lord’s table is for the Lord’s people.

    Erik Charter: Richard – We can never fully know if someone is justified based on their sanctification because people are sneaky. We don’t see them all the time. People learn to put on a show for the right people at the right time.

    RS: What that is correct in many if not most circumstances, maybe there should be more fellowship among the people of God. I still think that the Scriptures teach that we can know (indeed not infallibly) these things.

    1 John 3:24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

    1 John 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

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  65. Erik Charter, speaking of Patrick Edouard, “It just goes to show we never know for sure.”

    RS: What it shows is that some people didn’t know for sure concerning Patrick Edouard.

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  66. Andrew, like Darryl says, thanks, but the nagging sense is that on top of seeming arbitrary is also the feeling that the emperor has no clothes and none of his subjects can admit it. Whatever else can be said for Protestantism, at least one upshot of the one-source theory is that we can say we were wrong. It’s not how the the two-source theory doesn’t end up saying, “Even when we were wrong we were right.” If the analogy is marital, this sounds like one self-absorbed husband.

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  67. I don’t think your analogy between the church and the Bible is fair. A better question would be, “If the Bible is always infallible, then why wasn’t the apostle Paul always infallible?”

    In other words, the church is not to be faulted or denigrated because it is not always infallible any more than Galatians should be denigrated because Paul sometimes predicted fair weath[er] and it turned out to be foul.

    JJS, but as you know, Protestantism doesn’t think of Paul having been infallible every time he spoke, or even every time he wrote. He’s only infallible when he wrote the books attributed to him in the NT canon. If tomorrow we discovered he wrote something to his mother, it’s moot because the infallible canon is closed. So we cannot denigrate Galatians because it’s part of that closed and infallible canon. It’s Catholicism that has the burden of having to defend church infallibility 24/7/365. Well, ok, maybe more like 16/4/187, but still, that’s harder than Bible always and ever infallible, church never.

    But like I suggested to Andrew, I don’t see what is to be gained by defending the doctrine of church infallibility, except egg on face. Why work so hard to defend an impossible doctrine instead of being content with the categories of right and wrong, to say nothing of the humility that comes with being wrong? I get the feeling you’re somewhat embarrassed by Reformed Protestantism’s reputation (earned and imagined) for snobbery, lack of humility and all around jack-assery. I feel your pain. But have you really considered what heights of self-righteousness it takes to exchange being right for being infallible? Holy Moses.

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  68. Richard – I think your view invites legalism. The Pharisees looked really good to everyone but Jesus, who could see their hearts. We can maybe know that someone is “bad” by their actions, but I don’t know if we can ever know they are “good”.

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  69. Jeremy: “it was the Reformed faith that taught me … the need for theological certainty …”

    And there’s the issue.

    The Reformed faith in fact teaches that popes and councils err, and their decisions are not to be taken as a rule of faith.

    The common thread amongst the CtCers is the thirst for a theological certainty greater than that of good and necessary inference from Scripture. The RC church offers certainty; the offer is accepted with alacrity and relief. But can the RCC deliver greater certainty, or only greater certitude?

    If I may ask it, please reflect for a full minute on the theological connection between quest for certainty and the Gnostic desire to have a knowledge that goes beyond the Scriptures.

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  70. Well said, and right on the money… Jeff Cagle’s words bear repeating:

    Jeremy: “it was the Reformed faith that taught me … the need for theological certainty …”

    And there’s the issue.

    The Reformed faith in fact teaches that popes and councils err, and their decisions are not to be taken as a rule of faith.

    The common thread amongst the CtCers is the thirst for a theological certainty greater than that of good and necessary inference from Scripture. The RC church offers certainty; the offer is accepted with alacrity and relief. But can the RCC deliver greater certainty, or only greater certitude?

    If I may ask it, please reflect for a full minute on the theological connection between quest for certainty and the Gnostic desire to have a knowledge that goes beyond the Scriptures.

    Jeff, thanks for zeroing in…

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  71. Zrim,

    The references to your squirming insides don’t really advance the issue. But your references to the one-source theory is interesting, given that (a) you claim that Protestants can admit that they are wrong, and (b) you claim that the [Protestant?] canon is infallible. What gives?

    D.G.,

    Intuitive porn recognition: Isn’t that how you guys determine which books don’t get in the Bible? On the other hand, the Church can and has told us which books belong in the Bible, and has definitively settled a number of other disputed matters, from the nature and relations of the divine persons and the natures of Christ, to the number and efficacy of the sacraments and the formal cause of justification, to the governing and teaching authority of the pope.

    It takes time to learn the Catholic Faith, including its authoritative modes of transmission, and of course theologians like to parse everything, which gives those are conversant in the Faith occasion to better understand its structure and content. Your complaints about ambiguity remind one of a wet-behind the ears Evangelical stumbling upon the Reformed confessions, hastily reading through them, then sampling bits of Turretin, Barth, and Berkouwer, and finally sighing: “Doesn’t the world just need Jesus?”

    Of course the answer is yes. Which is why it is so important that those who confess that Jesus is Lord come to unity in faith, including agreement about how the merits of Christ are applied to sinners.

    Andrew

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  72. Andrew, the point is that Protestants can revise their doctrinal statements (a 2k favorite is WCF 23.3 and Belgic 36). But Catholics have to maintain Trent’s anathematizing of Prots on the one hand and V2’s warm embrace on the other. Instead of simply revising Trent and thereby owning up to being wrong, you have to do all sorts of creative calisthenics to harmonize contradictory statements, all to protect infallibility.

    But reading all those effusing Roman conversion stories sounds an awful lot like eeeevangelical testimonials. Why do you guys get to emote so giddily but when Prots use their natural intuition to call you on slight of hand it’s suspect?

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  73. Zrim,

    And here is the sauce for the gander: Why do you allow yourself to wallow in spiritual bathos up to the point of papalism, at which point you fumble for metaphors so to deploy to the world your own emotional butterflies? If that sort of existential testimonial counts as natural intuition, then so do other testimonials. You don’t get to claim the stoic high-ground simply because your public feats of self-indulgent display feature your feelings about what you don’t believe.

    Yes, the point is indeed that Protestants can revise their doctrinal statements. Which is why your claim about the infallible canon remains curious, and unexplained.

    The anathemas of Trent apply to Catholics who reject its definitions. The Second Vatican Council’s teaching on separated brethren applies to non-Catholics who through no fault of their own do not know that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded. If you think that that distinction amounts to creative calisthenics, then I have to question your understanding of words “creative” and “calisthenics.”

    Andrew

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  74. Andrew, if you want to call the Holy Spirit intuition, fine but that might get you a few more millennia in purgatory.

    You can also sniff at Old Life ignorance of Roman Catholic teaching and procedures. Do you also sniff at Roman Catholic ignorance of Roman Catholic teaching and procedures? If you did, you might look a lot more critically at your hierarchy.

    Then again the problem could be that your church says too much and all of it has to be squared with church as “perfect society” and infallibility. It’s hard having a catechism that has no questions, all answers, and runs to almost 700 pages.

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  75. Andrew, if you’re so clear on Trent and Vatican 2, any thoughts on Evangelicals and Catholics Together. Was Chuck Colson a non-Catholic with no fault of his own for not recognizing Rome even though he was married to a Roman Catholic? And was Richard Neuhaus just a bit player in Roman Catholic circles even while recognizing the Protestant members of ECT as brothers in Christ?

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  76. Andrew, Which is why it is so important that those who confess that Jesus is Lord come to unity in faith, including agreement about how the merits of Christ are applied to sinners.

    But isn’t agreement impossible as long as the chasm remains between Rome and Reformed concerning the nature of the gospel? Either Christ’s merits are applied by grace, through faith alone in Him (and his finished work) or by faith in Christ plus some measure of man’s merit accumulated through any number of grace-assisted works in this life and… Declarations of “infallible” RCC doctrine when contrasted with that of Scripture fail to seal the deal. And as you know, this was, and still is, the core argument of the Reformation and of Paul’s in Romans and Galatians.

    It seems reasonable to me that the quest for a visible/institutional unity fuels a need for doctrinal certainty leading one to a require an infallible Church. Rather than the reverse. If the infallibility of the Bishop of Rome cannot be established in Scripture, then there is no final basis for the gospel according to Rome. Rome’s path (in my view), ultimately then, causes my faith to look to her and not Christ.

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  77. Andrew, what is so curious and unexplained? The Bible is always infallible, and the church is always fallible in her interpretation of it. Doesn’t it then follow that when the fallible church gets that interpretation wrong she corrects herself? But how can the two-source theory ever allow anybody to admit being wrong in matters of doctrine and morality? Can you understand how claims of human infallibility seem to far exceed any dogmatic claim to correct interpretation, which is to say “We’re infallible” isn’t exactly humble compared to “We’re right”?

    But according to V2, though separated, we Prots are embraced with love and affection and accepted as brothers by the RCC. But we reject Trent’s teachings, which would seem to mean we then come in for anathema. I know you think my analogies poor, but the way you explain things reminds me of how a human communications prof once summed up the way women relate to men: a simultaneous “come hither, go away” hand gesture.

    But Protestantism doesn’t speak with such a forked tongue. It defines a true church and bids pious souls to cleave to her since outside of her there is ordinarily no possibility of salvation. It does not speak of those who reject the true church as brothers. I know CtCers may think that’s not sufficiently ecumenical, but it’s at least clear. It also seems like a higher view of the church in terms of what being inside and outside her entails, something claims of infallibility might be attempting but only result in more confusion than certainty.

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  78. Andrew,

    God invokes His own authority in establishing His Word. To whom does the I AM point in order to prove His existence? In like manner, to whom does the I AM point in order to prove His Word? The canon of Scripture is infallible, even as God is infallible, and His church submits to His Word and accepts it as truth because they know their Shepherd’s voice and they seek to obey Him by bringing every thought captive to that Word. Rome, on the other hand, having no ears to hear, opposes the Judge of All the Earth to her own destruction; as is the case with all the enemies of God.

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  79. Erik Charter: Richard – I think your view invites legalism. The Pharisees looked really good to everyone but Jesus, who could see their hearts. We can maybe know that someone is “bad” by their actions, but I don’t know if we can ever know they are “good”.

    RS: I would not argue that this view can lead to legalism, but so can virtually any other view. Preaching the Gospel runs the danger of legalism on one side and anti-nomianism on the other. When anything is applied in the wrong way it can lead to a form of legalism. However, iInstead of running from trying to help people see their own hearts because it may invite legalism, it would seem that the elders should strive to help people know how to look at their own hearts. The verses below do mean something.

    John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    1 John 3:24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

    1 John 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

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  80. D.G.,

    Bosom-burning does not amount to the Holy Spirit, so I am doing fine on that count. I am all for ECT and other forms of ecumenical dialogue. God judges the heart; ours is to work together as much as possible to find common ground en route to full communion.

    Zrim,

    What’s so curious and unexplained is your affirmation of an infallible *canon.*

    What you see is a forked tongue is actually the affirmation of two truths: (1) Protestants have preserved and continue to believe elements of the Catholic Faith, and validly baptize in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. On this basis we embrace you as brothers. (2) Other essential elements of the Catholic Faith have been lost by Protestants, such as the Apostolic Succession and the fullness of the Church’s sacramental life and communion of saints. For this reason, we are separated from one another. To recognize this is to recognize the same thing that St. Augustine saw, vis-a-vis the Catholic Church and the Donatists. Of the latter, who were in schism from the Church, that great saint wrote: “We shall not cease to call them ‘brothers’ until they have ceased to say ‘Our Father.'”

    Jack,

    It is indeed essential that we be agreed upon the Gospel. But Sacred Scripture, even apart from the questions of ecclesial authority (and identity), weighs in favor of the Catholic doctrine of salvation, rather than the Protestant. The latter hangs upon a thin thread, spun from Luther’s existential angst. This thread is snapped once one considers that God cannot lie.

    Luke,

    The same Spirit who inspired the written word guides and guards the universal church, which is the Body of Christ, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

    Andrew

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  81. Andrew,

    Your skirt of condescension is showing:
    But Sacred Scripture, even apart from the questions of ecclesial authority (and identity), weighs in favor of the Catholic doctrine of salvation, rather than the Protestant. The latter hangs upon a thin thread, spun from Luther’s existential angst.

    A thin thread? Spun of existentential angst? Really? Then debate Luther’s so-called thin thread of angst with Rod Rosenbladt or… maybe a future post here at OLTS, Darryl?

    I think you may have imbibed too much drink at the bar of slanted-academic-philosophical-Romanism. Have you read “Calvin and Sadoleto: A Reformation Debate?”

    By the way, back-handed dismissiveness is hardly the way to convince Reformed Protestants of Rome’s higher road.

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  82. But, Andrew, that apparent brotherly embrace sure would be more persuasive if Rome could lift the a-word off sola fide. I realize she can’t do that for principled reasons, but you’ll understand that until then the hug seems a little manufactured, even cold. How about we settle for a modest wave when we see each other out and about?

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  83. D.G.,

    Ah, but Christ also gives the Holy Spirit to the Church. Thus, I do find Christ behind the bishop, and you prophesy after the manner of Caiaphas.

    Jack,

    I think that you are mistaking brevity for condescension. In any event, its called a cassock, not a skirt, and I don’t wear one (being a layman).

    I have been drinking for years from the well of Sacred Scripture. The Catholic Church delivers that water most surely, but I discovered that Protestantism was a leaky bucket years before I entered into full communion with the Church.

    “Slanted” and “Romanism” might be considered pejorative. Otherwise, I accept the labels “academic” and “philosophical” as descriptive of sources that I consult on a wide range of issues, not of course to the exclusion of either Sacred Scripture or the Catholic Church.

    The only thing that I am dismissing is the dismissiveness of this blog’s author and Reformed commentors, re Catholicism. I don’t think that there is anything back-handed about my comments. If anything, I am using a high hand, because in this case it has seemed good to answer a fool according to his folly, rather than the other and opposite biblical injunction. If you guys would rather stop trading quips, and resort to an even hand, I am all for it.

    Andrew

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  84. The debate: Calvin signs off to Sadoleto with –

    “The Lord grant, Sadoleto, that you and all your party may at length perceive, that the only true bond of ecclesiastical unity would exist if Christ the Lord, who hath reconciled us to God the Father, were to gather us out of our present dispersion into the fellowship of His body, that so, through His one Word and Spirit, we might join together with one heart and one soul.” – 1539

    Amen.

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  85. Zrim,

    And then we can insert the extra iota back into homoousion?

    No, unity only works when accompanied by truth. But we can still pursue by the former by way of seeking to come to agreement on the latter.

    Andrew

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  86. Andrew writes;

    “But Sacred Scripture, even apart from the questions of ecclesial authority (and identity), weighs in favor of the Catholic doctrine of salvation, rather than the Protestant. The latter hangs upon a thin thread, spun from Luther’s existential angst. This thread is snapped once one considers that God cannot lie.”

    Paul;

    For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
    (Romans 5:6-9 ESV)

    It’s not transformation because of infusion that we are declared righteous. But outside of us and before us in the 2nd Adam on account of Christ inspite of the TRUTH of who we are. Enemies and ungodly are declared righteous for the sake of Christ. AT THE RIGHT TIME-while we were still weak. That thin thread is a steel cable as it turns out And that on the apostolic authority of Paul himself

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  87. Andrew…

    yo wrote: If anything, I am using a high hand, because in this case it has seemed good to answer a fool according to his folly, rather than the other and opposite biblical injunction. If you guys would rather stop trading quips, and resort to an even hand, I am all for it.

    Certainly on our side of the debate, foolishness may sometimes be exhibited. After all, this is a blog, and we are but sinners saved by grace. But again, I must protest your pressumption of teacherly-pure-pristine-ness. Rather than taking the high-road, you are coming across as high-handed to the very ones you are trying to convince.

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  88. Jack,

    Actually, it has been my express intention not to take the high road, but to walk along with you guys for a spell, and to speak in your manner of speaking.

    sean,

    That passage of Scripture is beautiful. What you infer from it, i.e., that we are saved in spite of the truth, is wrong-headed. What God declares to be so, is so. God cannot lie.

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  89. Andrew, I appreciate your hutzpah, but no Protestant would ever write what Ignatius of Loyola did: “To keep ourselves right in all things, we ought to hold fast to this principle: What I see as white, I will believe to be black if the hierarchical Church thus determines it” (The Spiritual Exercises and Selected Works, ed. George E. Ganss, S.J. (Paulist Press, 1991), p. 213. As philosophical as CTC tries to be, behind the scene is an infallible human figure who can turn all of your reasoning to mush. And you have the nerve to talk about truth?

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  90. Andrew Preslar: Ah, but Christ also gives the Holy Spirit to the Church.

    RS: He does give the Spirit to the Church, but why are you so sure that Rome is the Church? It goes back to the Gospel of grace alone which Trent I declared anathema.

    Andrew P: Thus, I do find Christ behind the bishop, and you prophesy after the manner of Caiaphas.

    RS: Just because Christ is behind the bishop is not a good thing. The bishop should be following Christ, but instead the bishop is blindly following the traditions of men rather than Christ.

    John 11:49 ” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”

    RS: In this prophesy Caiaphas was right on both statements. I am sure Dr. Hart will appreciate that.

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  91. Jeremy Tate: Luke, You just condemned over a billion professing Christians. Sola Dei Gloria? Did you pray through that comment that it would be to the glory of God alone? I don’t even know how to respond to this.

    RS: Luke did not condemn them he is just pointing out that they deny the Gospel. A proper response would be repentance.

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  92. It’s ok Andrew we have these same problems in our own camp with the rational-biblical types extending themselves rationally beyond what the scriptures say. Something about drawing circles on a chalkboard. Of course between sacred tradition and historical fideism much less ‘maturation’ of the deposit you have a lot more breathing room on that side of the river than we have stomach for on this side. BTW, as you rationalize you guys need to tighten up on the false dichotomies you erect at different times between apostolic authority and apostolic succession vis a vis the magisterium. The former we affirm the later we deny. Try harder to paint us arightly.

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  93. Andrew says: “That passage of Scripture is beautiful. What you infer from it, i.e., that we are saved in spite of the truth, is wrong-headed. What God declares to be so, is so. God cannot lie.”

    That is a statement of faith (as opposed to a statement that flows naturally from evidence that has just been presented) if I have ever heard one.

    It’s like me saying “the moon is made of green cheese. Have a nice day.”

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  94. D.G.,

    The sense of St. Ignatius’ statement is explained by Ed Feser here. In short, its hyperbole.

    Erik,

    The claim that God cannot lie is true by definition. One need only understand the terms. It is also a thing that has been divinely revealed (cf. Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2), but of course depending upon such revelation in the way that we do presupposes that God cannot lie. So my statement is a statement of faith, but it is grounded in reason.

    That God exists can be know from the things that appear. (Ed Feser rounds up some of the arguments on this page.) In so knowing that God exists, we discover that God is an infinite being–having no limitations. But a lie implies a limitation with respect to goodness. Therefore, God cannot lie.

    The claim that “God cannot lie” is therefore not analogous to “the moon is made of green cheese.” I am inclined to think that you should seek out some basic sources of Christian theology proper, and read these carefully. On the other hand, if you do have some grasp of basic theology, then you need to work harder on your would-be witticisms.

    Andrew

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  95. Andrew, thanks for the link but Edward Feser’s explanation is hardly clarifying:

    For one thing, he says nothing about “tradition” in the passage quoted. He speaks instead of what the “Hierarchical Church” decides. True, when the Church formally pronounces on some matter in a fashion that requires the assent of the faithful, she always does so in light of tradition. But tradition per se is not what is at issue in this passage. What is at issue is the epistemological status of the Church’s pronouncements themselves. That narrows things considerably, because while the Church does pronounce on many things, and while it is by no means only those pronouncements presented as infallible to which the faithful are expected to assent, the range of actual pronouncements is still narrower than the deliverances of tradition. (For example, there is support for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in tradition, but you will not find a formal pronouncement on the matter until relatively recently, which is why Aquinas was in his time free to disagree with it.)

    So when the church pronounces it’s infallible but the range of pronouncements are narrow except when they are wide. Huh?

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  96. Andrew, agreed that unity only works when accompanied by truth. But the trouble I’m having is that on top of your explaining away Trent’s anathemas on us, your church, by way of V2, has embraced us as brethren. I’m left wondering what gives with the call to communion. All I can think is that you fellows haven’t shaken off all the Protestantism yet, with its idea that unless one is formally situated within the institutional church there remains the work of witness on the parts of the faithful. That’s fairly Protestant for such sold out Catholics.

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  97. D.G.,

    Keep reading. Here is another excerpt from Feser’s article:

    “It should be clear, then, that the Church – and Loyola, in summarizing the Church’s view of her own authority – are not saying ‘tradition trumps sense perception,’ nor, contrary to what skeptics suppose, are they advocating a shrill fideism. The claim, stripped of hyperbole, is rather: ‘Given the Catholic understanding of revelation – an understanding the Church herself insists is and must be in harmony with reason – we are obliged to assent to the Church’s formal pronouncements on matters of faith and morals rather than to any private interpretation that might conflict with those pronouncements.’ Whether or not one agrees with this claim, it is hardly the jarring call to irrationalist dogmatism skeptics make it out to be.”

    Zrim,

    Explaining Trent is not explaining it away. The anathemas are still there, they just don’t apply to you–never have.

    To be precise, Vatican II accepts Protestants as *separated* brethren. The call to communion is intended as a step towards overcoming the separation. I don’t understand what you are saying after “All I can think of….” But let that be. I’ve just explained “what gives.”

    Andrew

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  98. Andrew, maybe it’s just me, but “brother” trumps “separated.” And so it seems to me that where the RCC puts the accent on “brother” (at least when I read its Decree on Ecumenism), CtC is putting the accent on “separated.” As a Prot, I get putting the accent on our division. What is curious is how a faction within the RCC doesn’t follow the apparent accenting of the church it claims is infallible. In other words, it sure seems like the RCC is saying the Reformation is mainly over. I don’t agree (there goes that pesky private judgment again), but my point is to wonder why CtC acts like it isn’t…because that sure seems like a Protestant-y thing to do in light of V2’s overwhelming ecumenism.

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  99. Andrew: The anathemas are still there, they just don’t apply to you–never have.

    It’s a little hard for me to grasp why Catholics and Protestants slit each others’ throats from 1525 to 1648 over anathemas that didn’t apply.

    My read of history is perhaps limited, but it seems that Catholics and Protestants really did regard one another as damnable heretics during that time period, and that Trent reflects this view.

    And anyways, if grace is dispensed through sacraments and Zrim and I are not receiving sacraments from the Roman Church, then aren’t we pretty much devoid of grace? If you are correct, the anathemas might not apply formally, but our separation from the sacraments of the church accomplishes the same thing pragmatically.

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  100. Andrew, I read that. It still seems like infallibility dies the death of a thousand qualifications, most of which seem to come from the interpretations of minds that haven’t been told what to think.

    I asked Bryan. I’ll ask you. Is there an index of Rome’s dogma that goes through all the councils, encyclicals, catechisms. It would be handy for clarity. Then again, it might be like publishing a phone book.

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  101. Zrim,

    I’ve read the documents of Vatican II, and did not see any accents. As for the rest of your glosses: If you interpret Sacred Scripture in the same manner that you interpret these documents, then I can better understand your own theological position. You get out what you put in. Its Zrim all the way through.

    Among the things that I did see in the Council documents is this:

    “This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth”. This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.”

    Thus, when we appeal to you as brothers, even as St. Augustine appealed to the Donatists as brothers, we are appealing for you to enter into the catholic unity to which the Council fathers referred, which is the one Church that Christ founded. We are not at all denying those elements of sanctification and truth that are found among you. In fact, we deeply appreciate them, both as Catholics, per the teaching of the Council, and as former Reformed Protestants, per our experiences in various P & R denominations. I wrote briefly about my own (short) experience in a Presbyterian Church in the very first lead article posted as Called to Communion: “Remember the Sabbath: A Catholic Appreciation of Reformed Christianity.”

    Jeff,

    If you have been baptized, then you are not cut off from the sacramental life of the Church. You are, however, estranged from the fullness of that life, including its source and summit in the Holy Eucharist.

    D.G.,

    If you reread the quotes from one of your recent articles, you will find that the qualifications are somewhat less than a thousand, something more like five.

    Yes, there is such an index. It was compiled by Heinrich Denzinger, and is entitled, Enchiridion Symbolorum: A Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations of the Catholic Church.

    Erik,

    By “in spite of the truth” I meant in spite of the fact that in (traditional) Protestant theology, God declares us to be righteous even though the truth is that we are not righteous.

    Andrew

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  102. Andrew: Your offer of a “Catholic-Convert” document and the McGuckian piece is an extraordinarily lame response to Sullivan’s work, which has been confirmed by many other. Look at the phrase from the abstract, for example, “a most basic [question] regards whether or not the conclusion reached by the book fits with the faith of the Catholic Church”. This is the point in question, and of course, Sullivan’s conclusion does fit with the facts of the documents he looks at. The real question is why the current Roman dogma has “apparent inconsistencies” with these documents. This telegraphs McGuckian’s “method”, which I’m sure will be very much like the CTC “method”, which, when offered “an apparent contradiction”, will be to explain it away by suggesting some “sense” which may exist (but which really isn’t there) by which you can equivocate on some word or phrase, and say, “we use this word in a different way, and if you ignore the author’s original meaning in the text, we can get away with reconciling these documents”.

    we are appealing for you to enter into the catholic unity to which the Council fathers referred, which is the one Church that Christ founded.

    How is this phrase not “begging the question” at this discussion board?

    The anathemas are still there, they just don’t apply to you–never have.

    Of course CCC 846 applies fully to someone like me: Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.

    Some have told me, “you were not properly catechized”, but after being a cradle Catholic, contemplating a “vocation to the priesthood” for a number of years, and spending another several years attending Opus Dei “evenings of recollection”, I hardly think that is the case.

    Of course I count this and “all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

    Yes, there is such an index. It was compiled by Heinrich Denzinger, and is entitled, Enchiridion Symbolorum: A Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations of the Catholic Church.

    I was still told [by Bryan] that this was only “Sources” … it still needed to go through the magisterial meat grinder because, still, some “apparent contradictions” lurk in the pages there.

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  103. Andrew, if as you say I have eternal life through baptism then pleas that I am “estranged from the fullness of that life” seem wanting. To be honest, applying Trent to me would actually be more compelling than telling me they don’t. And that’s because eternal life is the point. The way you are putting it, we Prots have a share in the riches of eternal life but just aren’t relishing in it enough in the here and now. Sorry, but that’s just not incentive. You need to tell me my eternal riches are at stake. Until then, I’m just a lazy rich man without much to lose.

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  104. John,

    Your guesses about what those documents might say doesn’t count as a response to the authors’ arguments concerning Sullivan’s (et al) faulty reasoning on these points. You’ll have to do better than that, if you want to do more than bang the pulpit. (I could not find my comment featuring the links to those articles on this thread. It might be on another thread.)

    If you did indeed know that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded, and left her anyway (in this knowledge, and with full consent), then, yes, the condemnation mentioned by Vatican II (cannot be saved) would apply to you.

    Erik,

    God declares us to be righteous “because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost who is given to us.”

    Zrim,

    You must be thinking of Heaven as if it were a high-level amusement park, and eternal life as if it were a ticket to get in. In reality, Heaven is the consummation of our union with God in Christ Jesus, and eternal life is our sharing in God’s life, by grace through faith. If there were a greater means of participation in that life (greater than you currently make use of), and if it were ordinarily necessary for all Christians to make use of these means, and if you found that to be not enough incentive, because, well, you simply prefer to keep on doing what you are doing, then you have chosen some created thing over God, and cannot be saved, so long as you persist in that choice. Additionally, for that and any other mortal sin committed after Baptism, you do not have recourse to the sacramental means appointed for forgiveness and reconciliation, which places you and all Protestants in a very dangerous situation, re eternal salvation. But that consideration will remain secondary so long as you maintain your current line of thinking about Heaven and eternal life.

    Andrew

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  105. Andrew, I see that you believe me to be innocent of any mortal sin. I appreciate the compliment, but having perused the list of mortal sins, I doubt it.

    For how else could you believe me to be connected to the church by baptism alone, without subsequent penances?

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  106. Jeff,

    I don’t know whether or not you have committed any mortal sins, and nothing that I’ve written implies that you haven’t. But if you have been baptized, then you are in any case still connected to the Church by virtue of the sacramental character. This makes it possible to participate in the sacramental life, including the sacrament of reconciliation, whereby those who have fallen into mortal sin are forgiven and restored to a state of grace.

    Andrew

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  107. Andrew: Your guesses about what those documents might say doesn’t count as a response to the authors’ arguments concerning Sullivan’s (et al) faulty reasoning on these points.

    Your mere linking to those documents, the substance of whose arguments you don’t recount here, don’t count as a response to the elaborate work of Roman Catholic individuals such as Raymond Brown, Francis Sullivan, Klaus Schatz, and other Roman Catholic Biblical Scholars who all have come to the same conclusion. You’ll have to do better than that, if you want to do more come here and demagogue about it.

    If you did indeed know that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded, and left her anyway (in this knowledge, and with full consent), then, yes, the condemnation mentioned by Vatican II (cannot be saved) would apply to you.

    I knew and believed everything that one could be taught in the places where I was taught them, and with full consent, I reject to the uttermost extreme that I can reject them the unique Roman Catholic teachings as well as the anathema that I cited from CCC 846.

    I say this just so you know where I’m coming from.

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  108. Andrew Preslar said to Zrim: If there were a greater means of participation in that life (greater than you currently make use of), and if it were ordinarily necessary for all Christians to make use of these means, and if you found that to be not enough incentive…, then you have chosen some created thing over God, and cannot be saved, so long as you persist in that choice. Additionally, for that and any other mortal sin committed after Baptism, you do not have recourse to the sacramental means appointed for forgiveness and reconciliation, which places you and all Protestants in a very dangerous situation, re eternal salvation.

    From a Protestant point of view, it may be helpful to consider two different paradigms here regarding what it means to receive grace from God. Call one the spigot paradigm, and call the other the Ephesians paradigm.

    Under the spigot paradigm, the Roman Catholic Church has authority over the Sacraments, which means you can only get God’s grace when an authorized official of the Roman Catholic Church opens the spigot and lets dribs and drabs of grace out. This is evidenced in the source and summit of God’s Grace in the Holy Eucharist, (to which Andrew helpfully has pointed us). However, as James White has noted, “the effect of the Mass is limited, and … a person can draw near to the Mass over and over again” and still die in mortal sin. And yet, this ineffective “re-presentation” of supposedly the “source and summit” of Christ’s grace is enough for the less-than-totally-committed Roman Catholic to have to constantly be worrying for his or her salvation.

    Under the Ephesians paradigm, God, is far more generous with his grace. “He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us….

    So, if you make use of the Roman Catholic “spigot” paradigm of grace, you necessarily exclude yourself from the Ephesians paradigm of grace.

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  109. We confessed Heidelberg #60 this morning:

    Question: How are thou righteous before God?

    Answer: Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.

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  110. John,

    Sobrino’s article can be dowloaded by clicking this link: http://www.catholic-convert.com/documents/PeterInRome.doc.

    I have read the men to whom you refer. And I have read the above article. When you can say the same, get back to me.

    Regarding the comments you interjected into my exchange with Zrim:

    Our Lord Jesus also makes use of the spigot paradigm of grace: “Jesus answered and said to her: Whosoever drinks of this water shall thirst again: but he that shall drink of the water that I will give him shall not thirst for ever. But the water that I will give him shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting.”

    Also: “Then Jesus said to them: “Amen, amen, I say unto you: unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father has sent me and I live by the Father: so he that eats me, the same also shall live by me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers ate manna and are dead. He that eats this bread shall live for ever.”

    Likewise, St. Paul: “For we are buried together with him by baptism into death: that, as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life.”

    “Neglect not the grace that is in you, which was given you by prophecy, with imposition of the hands of the priesthood.”

    Likewise, St. James: “Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick man. And the Lord shall raise him up: and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him.”

    And, for good measure, St. John: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar: and his word is not in us.”

    However, you err when you claim that the Catholic doctrine of the sacraments “means you can only get God’s grace when an authorized official of the Roman Catholic Church opens the spigot…..” The Catholic Church teaches that there are are extraordinary means of grace, such that even those who are not formally a part of the Church, or who have never heard the Gospel, can be saved (CCC 847).

    Andrew

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  111. Andrew Preslar, regarding your citation of Christ’s words in John 4, this is more in line with the freely flowing fountain of grace given in Ephesians – that which is “freely given” and “lavished on us”, than the choke-hold, “drip-drip-drip” of grace admitted by the Roman sacraments, which, once given, must be given again, and again, and again, and even so, the practical result of this is that one must always fear that it is never enough.

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  112. Andrew Preslar, your use of Scripture to somehow support the Roman sacraments is a prime example of the anachronistic use of Scripture – reading modern Roman dogma back into verses that have nothing to do with Roman dogma – that I have related many times, Roman Catholic Hermeneutic. This is a dishonest use of Scripture.

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  113. Andrew Preslar, regarding the Peter in Rome document, it is fascinating to see Sobrino citing Raymond Brown with such approval. I hope you did not show that article to Sean Patrick.

    Nevertheless, the author takes disjointed snippets from what Brown says about the use of the words episcope and episkopos, and comes to conclusions that are very much at odds with the things that Brown actually said. And Sullivan actually cites Brown’s conclusions approvingly and pretty much verbatim, precisely to the effect that [as “most Catholic scholars agree”] that “the episcopate is the fruit of a post-New Testament development” (230).

    Your author’s overall argument is roughly, “Peter was a “pre-eminent” apostle, the word episcopos means bishop; the word is used of Peter, Peter was in Rome, there is no reason to deny early Church tradition about all of this, therefore Peter was the first and founding bishop of Rome”.

    All of this has been strenuously challenged every step of the way, and in fact, there is good reason to deny what your writer says here.

    Along the way, he makes an effort to look at “all five occurrences of episkopos, whether singular or plural, to derive a first century definition of bishop”. He says “The challenge is to compose a first century definition of a bishop, his office, and his function by considering all of these occurrences. This approach is quite different from the hyperanalytical method of much scholarly discussion. In other words, we are trying to construct a definition, not deconstruct the text into unrelated pieces.”

    The problem is, there is no singular “definition” of “a bishop, his office, and his function”, neither in the New Testament, nor within the “tradition” which you cite. There are three things to consider when coming up with anything approaching a “definition of a bishop, his office, and his function”.

    The first is to study the historical backgrounds of the terms. How they were used culturally. To do that, I’ve relied heavily on F.F. Bruce (“New Testament History”) and Roger Beckwith (“Elders in Every City”) to trace the backgrounds and development of “elders” (“presbyters”) and “overseers” (“bishops”) in first century Palestine, both in Jewish usage and in Christian usage. This is given here:

    Elders Chairs Prologue Florilegia

    Elders Teachers Chairs 1

    Elders Teachers Chairs 2

    Elders Teachers Chairs 3

    Elders Teachers Chairs 4

    The New Testament data on the meaning of the word “bishop” is much broader than simply how that particular word is used. You must also take into account contexts, functions of the individuals who hold those “offices”, etc. Thus the meanings and functions of “overseers” and “elders” is interchangeable in New Testament usage, and “leadership” and “oversight” and “shepherding” are used in different ways.

    This lack of a precise definition, especially in second century Rome, is clearly seen in two of the extant documents we have from that city, from that time period.

    First Clement presupposes presbyterial governance:

    1:3 – “submitting yourselves to your leaders (“πρεσβυτέροις”) and giving to the older men among you the honor due them…”

    21:6 – “Let us respect our leaders (“πρεσβυτέρους”); let us honor the older men…”

    44:5 –“Blessed are those presbyters (“πρεσβυτέροι”) who have gone on ahead …”

    47:6 – “It is disgraceful … that it should be reported that the well-established and ancient church of the Corinthians … is rebelling against its presbyters (“πρεσβυτέρους”).”

    54:2 – “Let the flock of Christ be at peace with its duly appointed presbyters (“πρεσβυτέρων”).”

    57:1 – “You, therefore, who laid the foundation of the revolt must submit to the presbyters (“πρεσβυτέροις”).”

    There is no “bishop” in the church of Corinth. It is the “presbyters” who exercise “oversight”:

    42:4 “They appointed their first fruits … to be bishops (“ἐπισκοπους”) and deacons…”

    44:1: “Our apostles likewise knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife over the bishop’s (“ἐπισκοπῆς”) office …”

    44:4-5: “For it will be no small sin for us if we depose from the bishop’s (“ἐπισκοπῆς”) office those who have offered the gifts blamelessly and in holiness. Blessed are those presbyters (“πρεσβυτέροι”) who have gone on ahead…”

    The words ἐπισκοπῆς and πρεσβυτέροι are used here interchangeably, and the presbyters (“πρεσβυτέροι”) exercise oversight (“ἐπισκοπῆ”)

    Some time during the first half of the second century as well, maybe as many as 50 years later, in the “Shepherd of Hermas”, it is still presybters (“πρεσβυτέροις”) who preside (“προισταμένων”) – plural leadership) over the church (Vis 2.4)

    There are more citations that I could provide, along these same lines, but these should be enough to show you the confusion, in Rome, among the concepts of “overseers”, “elders”, and “leadership”. To say that there was one “bishop” over all of this is to introduce a concept that is foreign to all these texts.

    Finally, confirming this, are the two letters, spread some 50 years apart (Paul’s letter to the Romans and Ignatius’s letter to the Romans), neither of which can identify an individual who is leading the church at Rome. This is despite the fact that Paul names 23 separate people, with the intention of providing formal greetings to them, and Ignatius both identifies the concept of “bishop” and also names a number of other “bishops” in other cities.

    All of these factors considered together should provide a picture of the leadership structure of the church at Rome that is totally at odds with the picture that your author (Sobrino) provides (“there could still have been the role of head bishop”).

    Many years after the apostles appeared in Rome, there was confusion as to the leadership there.

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  114. John, when Andrew tells me there remains “a sacramental means appointed for forgiveness and reconciliation,” I’m partial to the Hebrews 10 paradigm:

    “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

    Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

    “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
    in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
    Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

    When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

    And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

    And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

    “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, declares the Lord:
    I will put my laws on their hearts,
    and write them on their minds,”

    then he adds,

    “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
    Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
    Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

    For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

    But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,

    “Yet a little while,
    and the coming one will come and will not delay;
    but my righteous one shall live by faith,
    and if he shrinks back,
    my soul has no pleasure in him.”

    But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”

    I’m sure there is a way to conform this text to the Catholic construal of matters. But when I read it, it sure sounds like Jesus is the once for all sacrifice for sins of whatever variety.

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  115. Zrim,

    There is no need “to confirm this text to the Catholic construal of matters.” It is already so confirmed as it stands, as are the texts that I cited.

    John,

    You did not address Sobrino’s main criticism of Brown, Sullivan, Duffy, et al, which is their anachronistic definition of the term “bishop,” which confuses that which is accidental to the office with that which is essential, so to conclude that there were no bishops in the first century church.

    Interchangable use of the terms “presbeuteros” and “episkopos” in the New Testament is exactly what we would expect to find if (a) every bishop is also a presbyter and (b) these terms are used both descriptively (of the ministry performed) and to denote a kind of office. The Catholic doctrine of Holy Orders is compatible with both (a) and (b), so the New Testament and some of the early patristic descriptive or interchangeable uses of these terms is not evidence against the Catholic doctrine.

    The fact that St. Paul does not include a greeting to St. Peter in his Epistle to the Romans does not show that Peter had not already established his episcopal chair in that city (cf. Romans 15:20). It could have been that Peter was known to be away from Rome at the time that Paul wrote the Epistle. George Edmundson argues to that effect in The Church in Rome in the First Century, where he also argues that Peter was the first bishop of Rome.

    It is remarkable that you would call Ignatius to witness while arguing against the Catholic understanding of the episcopacy. Here are some excerpts from his writings:

    “Let the bishop preside in God’s place, and presbyters take the place of the apostolic council, and let the deacons…be entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ” (Epistle to the Magnesians 6.1).

    “Pay heed to the bishop, the presbytery, and the deacons…. Do nothing apart from the bishop; keep your bodies as if they were God’s temple; value unity; flee schism; imitate Jesus Christ as he imitated his Father” (Epistle to the Philippians 7.1-2)

    “Flee from schism as the source of mischief… Nobody must do anything that has to do with the Church without the bishop’s approval…. In that way everything you do will be on the safe side and valid” (Epistle to the Smynaeans, 6-9).

    Given Ignatius’ ecclesiology as expressed in these statements, he could not plausibly have written to a “church” in Rome that did not have episcopal leadership.

    Tim Troutman goes into more detail on the distinction between Orders in his article, “Holy Orders and the Sacrificial Priesthood.” See especially Section III on the distinction between the orders of bishop and presbyter.

    Andrew

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  116. Andrew Preslar:

    You did not address Sobrino’s main criticism of Brown, Sullivan, Duffy, et al, which is their anachronistic definition of the term “bishop,” which confuses that which is accidental to the office with that which is essential, so to conclude that there were no bishops in the first century church.

    Your use of the word “anachronism” would be funny if I didn’t know how seriously you take all this. I certainly did address it, in the grammatical-historical way.

    How in the world do you know what was “essential” to the office of bishop in the first century? I sincerely want to hear it from you. Because you can’t know this except for two things: 1. a study of the history and linguistics, or 2. a ride in Bryan’s magic phone booth. I’m convinced that for you, it’s the latter.

    And of course, you are here in all seriousness, reporting your fiction as if it were 100% historical fact.

    This is a cautionary warning for any Reformed folks who may not be aware of this type of anachronistic usage among Andrew and his friends. Roman Catholics generally, but CTC folks particularly, are guilty of using contemporary concepts [for example, “that which is essential” to the bishop’s office], and simply assuming that today’s meaning of the word in Roman dogma was “in essence” the same as it was in the first century.

    And here is the secret to their success: gullible people believe them.

    It could have been that Peter was known to be away from Rome at the time that Paul wrote the Epistle. George Edmundson argues to that effect in The Church in Rome in the First Century, where he also argues that Peter was the first bishop of Rome.

    Edmundson wrote in 1913; imagine going to a medical doctor who’s most recent training was in 1913. He may get a few things right, but he’s not going to be able to give you an x-ray or do a modern lab test. He has no antibiotics to prescribe.

    It is remarkable that you would call Ignatius to witness while arguing against the Catholic understanding of the episcopacy.

    I can do this because Ignatius doesn’t mean the same thing by the word that you do; I am able to study this and know this and as a result, I do not have to be afraid of a single moment of history in the church. I do not need to look for reasons why contractictions may be “apparent” instead of “actual”. I don’t need to obediently submit my intellect to nonsensical, non-historical, non-Biblical dogmas like the Assumption of Mary.

    I may embrace all of church history as my own.

    Given Ignatius’ ecclesiology as expressed in these statements, he could not plausibly have written to a “church” in Rome that did not have episcopal leadership.

    Given the unsettled leadership in Rome during those years, (evidence provided from Clement and Hermas, above, which you ignored), it doesn’t surprise me at all that Ignatius didn’t know who to write to over there.

    Tim Troutman goes into more detail on the distinction between Orders in his article, “Holy Orders and the Sacrificial Priesthood.”

    I go into more detail on the distinction between various orders in my article, Roman Bait-And-Switch on Orders.

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  117. Ignatius on the “visible church” and other topics:

    It is possible for a church to be without a bishop: “Remember in your prayers the church in Syria [Ignatius’s home church], which has God for its shepherd in my place. Jesus Christ alone will be its bishop–as will your love.” (9.1)

    But while Rome’s “bishop” is not in view at all, the political connections of the church at Rome are repeatedly in view; this (rather than any other reason) is why the church at Rome “presides over love”.

    1.1 For I am afraid of your love, in that it may do me wrong; for it is easy for you to do what you want, but it is difficult for me to reach God, unless you spare me. [There’s that “love” that is, through its political connections, going to either save his life, or, if it holds its tongue, and fails to pull its political strings, along with Christ, going to be “bishop” of Antioch in his absence. So the place of love,” has a reference to Rome’s political connections.]

    2.1 For I will never again have an opportunity such as this to reach God, nor can you, if you remain silent, be credited with a greater accomplishment. For if you remain silent and leave me alone, I will be a word of God, but if you love my flesh [and spare my life], then I will again be a mere voice. [There’s Roman “love” again.]

    2.2 Grant me nothing more than to be poured out as an offering to God while there is still an altar ready, so that in love you may form a chorus and sing to the Father in Jesus Christ, because God has judged the bishop from Syria worthy to be found in the west, having summoned from the east.

    3.1-2 You have never envied anyone; you taught others. [Many believe this is a reference to 1 Clement.] And my wish is that those instructions that you issue when teaching disciples will remain in force. Just pray that I will have strength both outwardly and inwardly so that I may not just talk about it but want to do it, so that I may not merely be called a Christian but actually prove to be one. [That is, “teach self-sacrifice,” and in doing so, “my death will confirm your “teaching” “in force”?]

    3.3 Nothing that is visible is good. [Did Ignatius believe in a “visible church”?] For our God Jesus Christ is more visible now that he is in the Father. The work is not a matter of persuasive rhetoric [1 Clement?]; rather, Christianity is greatest when it is hated by the world.

    4.1 I am writing to all the churches and insisting to everyone that I die for God of my own free will–unless you hinder me [through your political connections]. I implore you; do not be unseasonably kind to me. Let me be food for the wild beasts; through whom I can reach God.

    4.3 I do not give you orders like Peter and Paul: they were apostles, I am a convict; they were free, but I am even now still a slave. [It is important to note that here, as in other places, Ignatius does not see any kind of “succession” of apostolic authority. He acknowledges himself — he has repeatedly said he is a bishop — to be far, far less, in every way, than Peter and Paul.]

    6.1 It is better for me to die for Jesus Christ than to rule over the ends of the earth. [Of course, the Roman government currently rules over the ends of the earth.]

    6.2 Bear with me brothers and sisters: do not keep me from living; do not desire my death. Do not give to the world one who wants to belong to God or tempt him with material things.

    7.1 The ruler of this age wants to take me captive and corrupt my godly intentions. Therefore none of you who are present must help him. [That is, you at Rome are eminently capable of doing the wrong thing.]

    In this letter to the church at Rome, does Ignatius see even a bishop, much less someone who might be “the chief bishop, primate, and leader of the whole Church of Christ on earth?

    When a bishop is mentioned here, that bishop is Christ. And the “love” of the Romans involves political connections that could either spare him the martyrdom he so desires, or confirm it.

    When a “visible church” is in view, “nothing that is visible is good.” When “teaching” is in view, he fears the Romans will teach wrongly. When “apostles” are in view, there is no succession, but a great gulf between apostle and bishop.

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  118. John,

    Your first comment is very sad. Instead of a substantive response, you offer red herrings, para-rational dismissiveness, and braggadocio. By this routine, you might deceive some; but genuine truth-seekers will not be impressed or persuaded by your antics.

    Your second comment is an improvement, but it still features poor exegesis (built up of non sequiturs, featured in the bracketed material) which offers conclusions incompatible with what St. Ignatius says elsewhere about the place of the bishop in the church.

    Regarding Syria without a bishop, St. Ignatius can very well be referring to the fact that they will be without his own ministry of oversight in the church in that region. This would be perfectly compatible with there being other bishops who had served with Ignatius, but did not exercise the same jurisdiction.

    Yes, Ignatius did believe in the visible church, which is why he wrote to visible churches, telling them that the bishop presides in the place of God, and to the visible Roman church, which we says “presides in love.”

    I recommend to you (or at least to others who might be willing to read carefully, without prejudice and rancor) Bryan’s post on the ecclesiology of St. Ignatius of Antioch.

    Andrew

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