Whose Ancient Church, Which Apostolic Succession?

In continuing to reflect on the audacity of Called to Communion’s justification for their attachment to Rome, I was struck by Bryan Cross’ Jesuitical efforts to distinguish the Roman Catholic from the Protestant convert’s determination to join the church he believes is true. In the post on sola scriptura that ran for miles, Cross wrote this:

The objection is understandable, but it can be made only by those who do not see the principled difference between the discovery of the Catholic Church, and joining a Protestant denomination or congregation. Of course a person during the process of becoming Catholic is not under the authority of the Church. At that stage, he or she is like the Protestant in that respect. But the Catholic finds something principally different, and properly finds it by way of qualitatively different criteria. The Protestant is seeking a group of persons who believe, teach and practice what his interpretation of Scripture indicates was the belief, teaching and practice of the Apostles. He retains his final interpretive authority so long as he remains Protestant. No Protestant denomination has the authority to bind his conscience, because [in his mind] the Church must always remains subject to Scripture, which really means that the Church must always remains subject to [his interpretation of] Scripture, or at least that he is not ultimately subject to anyone’s interpretation but his own.

The person becoming Catholic, by contrast, is seeking out the Church that Christ founded. He does this not by finding that group of persons who share his interpretation of Scripture. Rather, he locates in history those whom the Apostles appointed and authorized, observes what they say and do viz-a-viz the transmission of teaching and interpretive authority, traces that line of successive authorizations down through history to the present day to a living Magisterium, and then submits to what this present-day Magisterium is teaching. By finding the Magisterium, he finds something that has the divine authority to bind the conscience.

In other words, part of Cross’ point is that the Roman Catholic converts finds a church that has antiquity and apostolic succession on its side.

Fine. But since other churches also claim to be successors to the apostles, why isn’t the Roman Catholic doing exactly what the Protestant does? The Eastern churches have as much apostolic succession and antiquity on their side (probably more) as Rome. So the convert who comes across the importance of apostolic succession and history now needs to decide whether or not to join Rome or one of the Orthodox communions. At which point, the convert needs to choose a church that aligns with his own understanding of apostolic succession and antiquity. In the case of the convert to Rome, to use Cross’ words, he “retains final interpretive authority” so long as he needs to decide how to apply the standards of apostolic succession to the communions that claim it.

Like I say, coming to truth requires interpretation and personal choice. I understand the appeal of submission to higher authorities and relinquishing the mess that comes with discernment. But the CTC solution (and supporting rationale) resembles Homer Simpson’s wish for a Land of Chocolate.

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128 thoughts on “Whose Ancient Church, Which Apostolic Succession?

  1. I just have to say, the picture together with the post title is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in ages. Thank you for a good morning laugh.

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  2. Nice Alasdair MacIntyre reference.

    “Of course a person during the process of becoming Catholic is not under the authority of the Church. At that stage, he or she is like the Protestant in that respect. But the Catholic finds something principally different, and properly finds it by way of qualitatively different criteria.”

    “True Blood” is a truly awful series, but Cross’s description of Catholic conversion reminds me of the people who fell under the spell of the maenad in season 2. They went from normal people to zombies who could no longer think for themselves.

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  3. Had this exact conversation with a friend who went East and told me “protestants are their own pope”. He didn’t like when I told him that his consent of Eastern tradition trumps Rome was his own papal decree then.

    Good post, good laugh indeed!

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  4. Or, those who become Catholic in the way those at CTC have done so, do so as an act of “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness” in order to flee the inescapable authority of Scripture. The new Catholic convert no doubt finds immense relief from the personally binding claims of Scripture.

    Such relief comes at a high personal cost. “Jesuitical” is so apropos. I went to a Jesuit College (Boston College) and took lots of classes from the Jesuits. Casuistic well defines their approach to all matters of conscience and truth claims of Scripture. The power to deny clear truth and replace it with compromise for the sake of Mother Church bears grave witness to the Father of lies.

    Scripture, also called the ‘fear of the LORD,’ “is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.”

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  5. American Catholicism, or non-American? American Revised Westminster Confession of Faith, or the original attempt to enforce confessional allegiance?

    Stan Hauerwas addressing Roman Catholics “When Catholics came to America you learned—though it is not yet a lesson you have taken to heart—that your “natural law” ethic was community-
    and tradition-specific. You came to America with a moral theology shaped by the presuppositions of Catholic Constantinianism. Natural law was the name you gave to the moral practices and principles you had discovered were essential to Christian living in that barbarian wilderness we now call Western Civilization.

    You could continue to believe in the theoretical validity of a natural law ethic, especially one interpreted through Kantian eyes, as long as you saw the sociological and historical center of your life in Europe. After all, Protestantism, whether in its Lutheran, Calvinist, or Anglican forms, still had to make do with societies that had been formed Catholic—which is but a reminder that
    Protestantism remains sociologically a parasitical form of the Christian faith. Without Catholicism, Protestants make no sense, a hard truth for Catholic and Protestant alike to acknowledge.

    Yet everything changed when you came to America. By “came” I mean when Catholics took up the project of being Americans rather than Catholics who happened to live in America. For when you came to America for the first time, you had to live in a culture that was based on Protestant
    presuppositions and habits now transformed by Enlightenment ideologies. For the first time you had to live in a society that was putatively Christian and yet in which you were not “at home.” The
    church knew how to live in cultures that were completely foreign—as in India and Japan—but how could you learn to live in America, a culture which at once looked Christian but seemed in certain ways more foreign than China?

    It was a confusing challenge for Catholics. You came here with the habits and practices of a Constantinian ethic allegedly based on natural-law presumptions, and you discovered that to sustain those habits you had to act like a sect. Protestant Constantinianism forced Catholic Constantinians to withdraw into your own enclaves—your own ghettos—in order to maintain the presumption that you possessed an ethic based on natural-law grounds.

    For example, you came to America thinking that societies had the obligation to educate children about the true and the good. Yet confronted by supposedly neutral public education you were
    forced to build your own school system.

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/08/004-the-importance-of-being-catholic-a-protestant-view–13

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  6. DGH, I am very grateful that someone with your stature within the Reformed world is so directly addressing these Called to Communion folks. Especially at this point (the point you are making in this blog post), and noting the things you are noting about it. I believe the whole notion of “authority” (and especially papal authority) is the weakest link in their train of thought. And I’ve addressed it in a post that Ii call Bryan’s Excellent Adventure.

    Here is his argument: “”…ideally an adult would come to seek full communion with the Catholic Church only after a careful study of Church history, the Church Fathers, and Scripture. He would start with the Church in the first century at the time of the Apostles, and then trace the Church forward, decade by decade, to the present day. As he traced the Church forward through the centuries, he would encounter schisms from the Church (e.g. Novatians, Donatists). In each case he would note the criteria by which the party in schism was the one in schism from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church Christ founded, and not the other way around.”

    This is the path that Jason Stellman followed. But as I showed with my comments on Ignatius (in the “Teachers/Principles” post), when you make that “careful study of Church history”, you are not likely to find the things that Bryan found on his ride back.

    You are more likely to find (as I noted):

    “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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  7. I think one of CTC’s more persuasive arguments (persuasive to those who convert to Rome, anyway) is the notion that for Protestants to say that they are correct means confessing that the true Christian (i.e. Protestant) church had no representation on earth for a thousand years. As a snarky friend of mine once put it, “You go to a fundamentalist church Sunday school class on church history and the teacher goes from the apostles, to the reformation, to the founding of Buffalo Breath Bible Church.” Is there a book or books that refutes this notion? One that can show seeds of the Reformation throughout church history? I know people point to John Hus, but he lived from 1369-1415. Who can we point to from say, 200-1300 as planting seeds of the Reformation?

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  8. Eric: Who can we point to from say, 200-1300 as planting seeds of the Reformation?

    I think that Protestants can embrace all of church history as our own. and the more we do so, the less we will see that “Buffalo Breath” phenomenon that you mentioned.

    In the first place, there was a rich heritage of theology from 200-500 (virtually all the theologians whose writings are found in the ANF and NPNF series) — discussions over the Trinity and Christology are fascinating. The doctrines of God and Christ and the Trinity were very important as precursors to the Reformation.

    The real “Great Schism” of the fifth century, over Christology, is fascinating. That one burst the church of the day into major pieces, and very much weakened it right before the birth of Islam. It may not point to the Reformation, except that, maybe, it was a Reformational-style split in the church, with all types of different parties going in different directions.

    From 500 to 1000 there are more scandals than anything, but there is always Charlemagne and Alcuin (~800 AD). There was a Frankish council just following the Nicea II council, that tried to overturn that one (and the turn toward “images”).

    There are the fights between the Romans and the Easterns.

    Medieval theology, from 1000 to 1500, has a lot of ups and downs. But there is a lot to be learned from it.

    None of this is in “a book or books”. Carl Trueman has a lecture series on Medieval theology that would be a good place to start. Mostly it’s just a matter of digging in and looking. You may want to have a look at Steven Ozment’s “Age of Reform: 1250-1500”, though he is not sanguine about the Reformation (thinks it was a tragedy). Really, Rome was the tragedy all those years.

    The way I look at it, the Reformation was an opening of the light of the Gospel into the church. The rest of church history is pretty much tragic.

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  9. Erik,

    Briefly, I think part of tracing a connection is seeing that true apostolic succession is in true apostolic doctrine, not the physical men holding an office. The Church is born of and sustained by the Gospel. As a Reformed Protestant I do not cede that 1,000 year stretch to “Rome” as their sole property. And it was the medeival period where things really got off regarding doctrine and practice (a much shorter time period), not that there weren’t serious deviations from right F & P prior to that.

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  10. We are told by advocates of ECT (Timothy George) that we cannot insist on forensic justification as gospel because to do so would call into question the salvation of all those people before the Reformation.

    I agree with one part: if we say that you must believe in Christ as the justifier of the ungodly to believe the gospel, then we certainly ARE calling into question the Christian status of those who condition grace on something they do.

    If the Reformation should have never happened, then it is clear that we should stop using Reformation language to describe our relation to God. If Reformation language is only a situation gospel, or only an “application of the gospel”, then we must ask if the gospel needs to be applied in our day the way it was in that day.

    Since we can’t say with “absolute certainty” that all Mormons are lost and dead in their sins, on what basis shall we give some of them Trinitarian water? Must they repent of being Mormon? Must Roman Catholics repent of being Roman Catholic, or do we simply invite them to move up to the front seats (reserved for the “Reformed”) on the bus?

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  11. Both Luther and Calvin (and all the other major reformers of the reformation) were very aware of Church history and the major theologians from after the Apostles up until their own time in history. They went to great pains to see if their discoveries in the scriptures about how one is justified before a Holy, Just and Merciful God were hinted at by others in church history. They did find those who were close to saying the same things and they sought to clarify these hinted at insights by others. Van Drunen gives a good survey of those who have tried to claim that there was a pretty well established doctrine of justification in the church before the reformation. Thomas Oden has tried to make that argument from the patristic writings and Van Drunen was not convinced about critical elements in the doctrine of justification. The book that came out of Westminster West on justification, COVENANT, JUSTIFICATION AND PASTORAL MINISTRY, has numerous articles that belabor this point. The reformers of the reformation were convinced that the church had a very confused doctrine of justification by faith alone and that was the main thrust of their reforming efforts.

    I know this is a post about sola scriptura vrs. the infallible church, ie. infallible pope and magisterium; but sola fide follows right beside it. To say that the reformers of the reformation were unaware of church history and what went on between 200-1500 is a pretty wild claim. Luther and Calvin struggled with all the writings of the major theologians in church history, including Augustine and Aquinas. And they disagreed and reformed some elements in both of Augustines and Aquinas’s writings. They then brought these differences up to the major Catholic cardinals and bishops in numerous debates but the Catholic church leadership would have nothing to do with it.

    What boggles my mind is that the Catholic church, through its doctrine of infallibiliby, wants to crush the good news of the gospel and the sufficiency of Christ and his work for sinners, and establish a righteousness through the church foreign to the good news that Christ established through his perfect life, atoning death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. It now has to come through the Roman church instead of through the sovereign grace of God.

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  12. John – “What boggles my mind is that the Catholic church, through its doctrine of infallibiliby, wants to crush the good news of the gospel and the sufficiency of Christ and his work for sinners, and establish a righteousness through the church foreign to the good news that Christ established through his perfect life, atoning death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. It now has to come through the Roman church instead of through the sovereign grace of God.”

    It makes sense to me that it is all about power. If Christ is sufficient why would we need these men and their claims to authority?

    Now you could say the same thing about the Protestant church “hierarchy” but I know of no session, presbytery or general assembly (or consistory, classis or synod) that makes such claims about its own authority — well maybe the Christian Reformed Church (ha, ha!).

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  13. Mark, I don’t think we should be in the business of saying who is and who isn’t saved. I am inclined to believe that God is far more generous with his salvation than we are able to know. Thus, if you look at what “saving faith” is (as it is defined briefly here):

    saving faith includes three elements: knowledge (knowing the facts of the Gospel), assent to the truthfulness of the Gospel message, and trust (a volitional embracing of the promises of the Gospel, casting ourselves and our hope on Christ).

    This is probably just a slightly more elaborate way of saying “repent and believe”. Or “turn and be healed”.

    So what does that mean throughout the history of the church prior to the Reformation? I’m sure it’s true that there were not good articulations of “forensic justification” upon which people could hang their hats. But Christ does not depend on any person knowing those articulations before he saves them.

    So the simple person going to church on Sundays in the third or fifth or eighth or 12th centuries, and learning “Christ died for my sins”, and accepting that in faith, is under the cover of God’s grace.

    We are immeasurably better off because we can know those articulations of “forensic justification”. It’s insight for us, as to how Christ does what he does. But He’s a God who permitted those intervening centuries, too, and I am not inclined to worry about things like that.

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  14. John Y. –

    What boggles my mind is that the Catholic church, through its doctrine of infallibiliby, wants to crush the good news of the gospel and the sufficiency of Christ and his work for sinners, and establish a righteousness through the church foreign to the good news that Christ established through his perfect life, atoning death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. It now has to come through the Roman church instead of through the sovereign grace of God.

    Amen, there can be no Church without the gospel as summed up in Eph. 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

    I know the RCC wants to immediately go to verse 10 to insert “good works” as a necessary ingredient into the Gospel; as if Paul would contradict himself in the space of two sentences. Rather, he simply carries forth from the Gospel, i.e. how one is saved, into the purpose for which we are saved, good works.

    And this is why Rome has it wrong regarding apostolic succession. In the words of John Jewell, the Church of England reformer and apologist:

    … if the pope, and his Roman clergy, by his own friend’s confession, be fallen from God’s grace, and departed from Christ to antichrist, what a miserable claim is it for them to hold only to bare succession!
    It is not suffiecient to claim succiession of place: it behooveth us rather to have regard to the succession of doctrine. St. Benard saith: “What availeth it, if they be chosen in order, and live out of order?”

    -and –

    To be Peter’s lawful successor, it is not sufficient to leap into Peter’s stall. Lawful succession standeth not only in possession of place, but also, and much rather, in doctrine and diligence. Yet the bishops of Rome, as if there were nothing else required, evermore put us in mind and tell us many gay tales of their succession.
    (John Jewell, Defence of the Apology)

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  15. Jack,

    I like Jewell’s analysis. Of course succession is merely presumed by Rome but even if they could substantiate succession, they’ve returned to the type and shadow of sacerdotalism and deny the Christ they claim to represent.

    I read Jason and I hear a lot of the ‘union’ scuffle and the reordering of protestant soteriology and emphasis on the ‘resurrection life’ that’s knocked back and forth in our own circles and of course echoes of Murray’s monocovenantalism(grace and familial), Shepherd’s constructions, implicit and explicit denials of strict justice in the edenic situation so on and so forth. I know he says sola scriptura is what fell for him and that set the protestant dominoes tumbling but I think the ‘union’ reordering and it’s emphasis on the ‘organic’ also helped his journey along. At least I hear it, everytime he writes. But, those are probably comments for another post.

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  16. D.G.

    But since other churches also claim to be successors to the apostles, why isn’t the Roman Catholic doing exactly what the Protestant does?

    Because the criterion at that point in the inquiry doesn’t shift to “which of these most closely approximates my interpretation of Scripture,” but rather, “according to the criteria of “schism from” found in the Fathers themselves, which of these are schisms from the Church Christ founded, and which of these is the continuation of the Church Christ founded.”

    Here’s just one example: “St. Optatus on Schism and the Bishop of Rome.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  17. John B. – You remind me of my dad. He said to me once, “Whatever it is (the gospel) it has to be pretty simple.” I think I agree with him. God knows his creatures and he knows that most of them aren’t brain surgeons (or Reformed theologians, or Bryan Cross’s).

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  18. sean,

    I know he says sola scriptura is what fell for him and that set the protestant dominoes tumbling but I think the ‘union’ reordering and it’s emphasis on the ‘organic’ also helped his journey along. At least I hear it, everytime he writes.

    I’ve had the same thought. I think when union becomes a central dogma (as it has for some), justification by faith alone is weakened and works/salvation finds a way of slipping in. Fesko, in his book Justification, explains the danger of landing on one doctrine that illumines, or is the key to, all others.

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  19. I believe Morpheus had a different perspective on Mr. Cross’s philosophy of surrendering personal scriptural convictions in favor of the dictum of the extra-biblical magesterium, he called it the “blue pill”.

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  20. “The red pill and its opposite, the blue pill, are pop culture symbols representing the choice between the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue) and embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (red).

    The terms, popularized in science fiction culture, derive from the 1999 film The Matrix. In the movie, the main character Neo is offered the choice between a red pill and a blue pill. The blue pill would allow him to remain in the Matrix, a fictional computer-generated world. The red pill would lead to his escape out of the Matrix and into the “real world”.”

    (Wikipedia)

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  21. It’s actually worse than that, for the RC’s “final interpretive authority” is not once-and-done with the choice of a church.

    Rather, every time the teaching of the church is challenged, he must revisit the question, Have I truly found the ancient and apostolic church, or did I deceive myself?

    So for example, when he (or she) reads ‘Do not make images and bow down to them’, he must ask why the church says, ‘Make images and bow down to them.’

    Is this passage in fact the proof that RC teaching is not infallible?

    The only ways to answer that question are to (a) recapitulate the reasons for believing in church authority, or (b) exert a little interpretive authority on one’s own and decide whether the church got the passage right.

    At every point, the RC must perform the same task of interpreting as the Protestant — but instead of interpreting Scripture, he interprets his choice of Scripture OR history.

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  22. Perhaps those who convert to Rome are doing so in the spirit of the late Rodney King – “Can’t we all just get along?” It can become tiring being one of Machen’s Warrior Children.

    Some of the guys at CTC who were Reformed pastors comment on how it was disheartening for them to have people leave their congregations and move to other Protestant churches without consequence.

    I’m an inactive elder in the URC and during my tenure and since we had people leave for the CRC, The Presbyterian Reformed Church, The Evangelical Presbyterian Church, a Non-Reformed Evangelical church, and I think even a mainline church. Two of these people who left (and who went to the more theologically liberal churches) were elders! Some left for what I would consider to be valid theological issues of conscience. Others left for more personal, non-theological reasons. None were disciplined. People leaving a sound, Biblical Reformed church for something less is indeed frustrating to a pastor, but Rome is not the answer.

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  23. The only ways to answer that question are to (a) recapitulate the reasons for believing in church authority, or (b) exert a little interpretive authority on one’s own and decide whether the church got the passage right.

    At every point, the RC must perform the same task of interpreting as the Protestant — but instead of interpreting Scripture, he interprets his choice of Scripture OR history.

    And anyone who knows any Catholics knows that they really do not believe everything that the Pope says or their infallible church says.

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  24. John Y: And anyone who knows any Catholics knows that they really do not believe everything that the Pope says or their infallible church says.

    They’re supposed to: “Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles: ‘He who hears you, hears me’, the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.”

    CCC 87

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  25. I’m glad the comments in this thread are bringing the focus back to the gospel. From the CTC side, it’s always a contrast between “You find a church that agrees with your interpretation” vs.”We find the church that Christ founded.” No, that’s not quite it. Rather, we hear the gospel, recognize it as truly good news, and join the church where it’s preached. I became Reformed when I realized that the “gospel” of broad evangelicalism was largely obscured. I realized this through an exposure to Reformed literature and then Reformed preaching. I seriously doubt this can simply be reduced to finding the church that agrees with me, but if you want to call it that, well whatever floats your boat. I wonder if Jason thinks the gospel of Rome is better news than the Protestant gospel, or if that kind of thought even enters the equation from the CTC side. Though I admit it’s much cooler to focus the discussion on interpretive authority.

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  26. I know they are supposed to John B. but both you I know that they don’t. I’d venture to say that less than 10% of the Catholic Church are truly adhering to all the beliefs and practices of the Church. Going to Mass (as Sean has pointed out) is the warp and woof of the Catholic faith for most.

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  27. Erik, one place to start is Mark Noll’s Turning Points in Church History. Another is Richard Muller’s work on Protestant scholasticism and on Calvin. Reformed theologians had medieval patterns written all over them.

    But you’re right. Generally speaking, Protestants avoid the middle ages. It’s the fault of the impulse that drives CTC — you can’t stand error. That means Protestants only go the reassuring bits of history and that CTCers only go to infallibility.

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  28. Bryan, how does this possibly resolve the matter. The Orthodox contend that Rome is schismatic (in part because of filioque). It sure does seem that the Eastern Church has a better claim to antiquity when it comes to the creed. So now you need to decide which definition of schism you agree with. It’s always interpreted, words and history, and you as an autonomous rational self decided in ways that would have delighted Finney that Rome’s interpretation was right.

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  29. John Y: I’d venture to say that less than 10% of the Catholic Church are truly adhering to all the beliefs and practices of the Church.

    I’ve seen statistics that that’s the case on the practice of artificial birth control. It’s probably down in that vicinity with some other things. The fact that “they are supposed to” and that they don’t shows just the kind of low regard they have for “the Church that Christ Founded”.

    When I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t believe some of the things they taught, I also decided that I would be taking them more seriously by chucking the whole thing, [and frankly, it is an “all or nothing” thing] rather than just play wink-and-nod and be a “cafeteria Catholic”.

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  30. Jeff,

    Between that and David R’s recognizing good news, is about how that road looks as you leave Rome and then leave broader evangellyfish.

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  31. D.G.

    The Orthodox contend that Rome is schismatic (in part because of filioque).

    That controversy arose in the ninth century, long after the patristic criterion of *schism from.* See Chapman’s book, to which I referred you earlier.

    It sure does seem that the Eastern Church has a better claim to antiquity when it comes to the creed.

    The very same claim could be made of the Pneumatomachians regarding the Nicene Creed over the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. So the criterion is not “antiquity” per se, but authentic authority according to the criterion of “schism from.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  32. Filioque (Ecclesiastical Latin: [filiˈɔkwe]), Latin for “and (from) the Son”, is a phrase found in the form of Nicene Creed in use in most of the Western Christian churches. It is not present in the Greek text of the Nicene Creed as originally formulated at the First Council of Constantinople, which says only that the Holy Spirit proceeds “from the Father” (Wikipedia)

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  33. John B says: “When I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t believe some of the things they taught, I also decided that I would be taking them more seriously by chucking the whole thing, [and frankly, it is an “all or nothing” thing] rather than just play wink-and-nod and be a “cafeteria Catholic”.”

    John Y says: Good incentive to increase efforts to bring the good news of the biblical gospel to the faithful Mass attenders of the infallible Catholic church. Since Catholics are trying to call Prots to communion maybe we should return the favor and seek to call Catholics to the biblical gospel with increased and focused energy.

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  34. Arminians telling people that Jesus loves everybody and died for everybody is very simple—an uncomplicated lie almost every little boy and girl in this country gets taught very quickly. Of course it gets a little more complex a little later when you find out that you have to “decide to accept it” for it to work for you, even if already happened for you.

    Of course telling our small children that Christ died only for the elect is also a very simple thing to teach. The problem is that most professing Christians hate the God revealed in that simple gospel, and will do anything and say anything to avoid the truth.

    Even if we don’t think we should be in the business of saying who is justified (and stick with checking to see if a person is using the ordinary means), this does not mean that we need to deny that the gospel is the power of salvation. And this means that we need to ask what the gospel is!

    This means confessional “refutation of errors” such as you find in the Synod of Dordt. The Scripture (Romans 1, I Cor 1) teaches that the gospel is the power of salvation, so this means we need to
    concern ourselves with defining the gospel.

    Even if you make a judgment that says that God is far more generous with his salvation than you are able to know, it seems to me that you are claiming to know something about this. Perhaps you know that Mormons are saved despite their doctrine, and then you can say all matter of
    judgmental intolerant things about my bigotry for disagreeing with you about that..

    To be tolerant, you need to go in one of two directions. Either, you say that God’s sovereignty means that God saves people apart from the gospel. As one rather famous British preacher said about Wesley: the worse your doctrine is, the more that shows the wonders of God’s sovereign grace to save a person and leave them with that bad doctrine! Or, the second option, you agree with Arminians and Roman Catholics that Christ died for everybody, without that death being
    what saves anybody. In other words, you will not only tolerate the gospel of Rome but defend it.

    Instead of talking about what faith is and how to prove that we have it, we need to attend to the object of our faith. If our faith is in our faith as that which makes the difference, then the object of our
    faith is not only a false gospel but an idol. I disagree with anybody who denies that Christ uses gospel propositions in justifying sinners.

    You wrote: “But Christ does not depend on any person knowing those articulations before he saves them.” This leaves both options for you. Either Christ does not use ANY gospel articulations but sovereignly saves magically apart from means. Or, possibly, God does not use “Reformed articulations” since those are by nature not simple enough, but God does use simple articulations like “Christ died for you, and if you come up here as a sign of your decision to accept it, then it
    will work for you.”

    You wrote: “We are immeasurably better off because we can know those articulations of “forensic justification”. It’s insight for us, as to how Christ does what he does. ”

    mark: I guess this is the “you don’t need to know how the tv works to watch it” argument. You think it’s cool for you to have a cherry on the top of your sundae, but a sundae is still a sundae without it. Of course, it would bring glory to God if God were to be seen as making the difference in salvation, if we knew that God elected some and did’t elect others, and if we knew that justification was not by us being transformed but by God’s declaration. but nevertheless even apart from the gospel message, God has some hidden power of salvation. But the Holy Spirit is sovereign which means that often the Holy Spirit of truth uses a lie to woo people into the kingdom? is that what you are saying? or are you saying that it’s true that Jesus died for everybody?

    If you are not inclined to worry about things like if the Roman Catholics know the gospel, are you now inclined to invest some of your time telling me why I am an intolerant bigot? Do you worry about
    things like me?.

    II Thessalonians 2: 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through
    sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.”

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  35. Bryan, well, if the question is not one of antiquity, then why can you say that the controversy over filioque was “long after” the patristic criterion of schism. No offense, but I’m not going to take your word very well on what the early church said because your view of history tends to be one-dimensional, as if all the Early Church Fathers were contributing to a single album of “Orthodox Sayings.” In other words, your reading of the sources involves your own judgments about what those documents mean and how they fit together. Now, if you have a papal history of all those sources, you might have a point. But then your claim would rest — as it should — on the interpretive powers of the papacy not of your own to read the primary or secondary sources. History speaks with a many splendored tongue.

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  36. Off topic alert: I want to know if there is any way to order blowups (like those fat, whatever they call it, blowups of NFL players) of that picture of Walter, Danny and the Dude at the bowling alley? That has got to be one of top ten photos taken of all time- almost Mt. Rushmore like.

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  37. Erik, you laugh but there are those of us who left the CRC for the URC and were warned to do so was schismatic, which just seems like the blustery flip-side of those who accuse the CRC of being a false church instead of simply a wayward denomination.

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  38. I became Reformed when I realized that the “gospel” of broad evangelicalism was largely obscured. I realized this through an exposure to Reformed literature and then Reformed preaching. I seriously doubt this can simply be reduced to finding the church that agrees with me…

    David R., as one with the same experience, this is one of Cross’s most incredible suggestions. Does he seriously imagine that broad-evangelicals-turned-confessional-Protestants, after realizing the basic bankruptcy, don’t have to grapple with what it means to conform to Reformed church teachings not immediately understood? He seems to seriously underestimate the fact that while private judgment is freely admitted (ahem), Protestants also have both a strong ecclesial sense and a doctrine of limitation that puts private judgment in a proper perspective.

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  39. Zrim,

    He seems to seriously underestimate the fact that while private judgment is freely admitted (ahem), Protestants also have both a strong ecclesial sense and a doctrine of limitation that puts private judgment in a proper perspective.

    Exactly. No need to be ashamed of a properly limited doctrine of private judgment (blush). In response to the tiresome charge that “there are 30,000 Protestant denominations,” it might help to point out that if you weed out the ones that obscure the apostolic gospel, you end up with a much smaller number.

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  40. Zrim- ‘Tis but a short journey from Rome to Grand Rapids. Accusing someone of being “schismatic” for leaving a church after they have decided to have women in office is like accusing a guy who leaves a room after someone has farted of being rude…

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  41. John,

    Off topic alert: I want to know if there is any way to order blowups (like those fat, whatever they call it, blowups of NFL players) of that picture of Walter, Danny and the Dude at the bowling alley? That has got to be one of top ten photos taken of all time- almost Mt. Rushmore like.

    I might just want that picture on a t-shirt with the caption: “I don’t roll on Shabbos!” 😉

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  42. “I guess that’s the way the whole darned human comedy keeps perpetuatin’ itself, down through the generations, westward the wagons, across the sands o’ time …”

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  43. FWIW, I have a small niggle to pick with Mathison. He writes that any appeal to Scripture is ultimately an appeal to an interpretation of Scripture. I understand what he means, but it’s awkward and gets him into trouble — he ends up having to concede too much.

    I would say, Any appeal to Scripture is ultimately an interpretation of Scripture. The appeal is not to my understanding, but to the text itself; and the appeal itself consists of my understanding of Scripture.

    By way of analogy: Any scientific theory is a description of reality. It is not a description of my understanding of reality, but consists itself of my understanding of reality.

    I hope that’s clear enough. What I’m trying to say is that Keith got the meta-levels slightly off, and he ends up sounding as if we are all floating in layers of thought instead of tying ourselves to the text.

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  44. Jeff,

    Are you defending something close to biblicism? 😉 Just kidding. I’ve been appreciating your efforts on GB.

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  45. Jeff,

    Isn’t that where perspicuity is supposed to swoop in and grant the appropriate nuance? I too have enjoyed your engagements at GB, well done.

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  46. David R., it has always seemed to me that Catholics and evangelicals agree that, at least in the west, there are Catholics and there is everyone else and they’re all Protestant. But western Christianity has always broken down generally into three categories: Roman Catholicism, Protestant Reformation, and Radical Reformation. Granted, modernity has given rise to an odd admixture of the latter two (e.g. Reformed Baptists or 3-point Calvinists—where are the Reformed Communionists and 2-point Arminians, by the way?) But, you’re right, once you realize Protestants aren’t evangelicals then the old saw about “as many formulas as there are formulators and 30K denoms” loses its wind.

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  47. Erik, but with all the culturalist neo-Calvinism that yet clings, I have also found the URC to often times be “the-CRC-that-doesn’t-ordain-the-fairer-sex.” And to be honest, as regrettable as the egalitarianism was, it was the anti-confessionalism, paedo-communionism, and general trajectory toward broad evangelicalism that stuck in the craw.

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  48. Jeff, is that niggle anything like: “Christians doing education makes more sense than Christian education. I know what the latter means, but it’s awkward and gets us into trouble”? Kidding—can’t let comments go too long without making a 2k point.

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  49. Zrim – Interesting. I went from evangelicalism directly to the URC so I did not experience the changes in the CRC first hand. I went to an RCA college but was a foreigner. Visited an RCA church this summer for my nephew’s baptism. They were doing baptisms and dedications on the same stage at the same time. Definitely fully evangelical with the annoying, loud, praise band and the middle-aged, rocking song leader. Don’t know exactly what I would find in the local CRC’s. I used to be friends on Facebook (before my wife banned me) with a CRC pastor from Newton, IA who was very enthused about paedocommunion. He spent a month promoting Jeffrey Meyers upcoming conference in the area.

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  50. Since Steve turned the discussion in a 2K direction let me take the opportunity to ask for an opinion on an aspect of Article 14 of the URC church order. Does the requirement to “promote God-centered schooling” violate 2K if what this means in practice is that elders have to either homeschool their kids or send them to “Christian” (but not necessarily conservative Reformed) schools? I have 4 kids and have started them all out at home but then end up sending them to public school (mostly because it is close and inexpensive). I am an inactive elder and, practically speaking, I doubt I’ll ever be elected again due to this requirement of the church order (at least by people who grew up in the CRC). The first time I was elected the church was a bit desperate and we had a different makeup of the congregation. As those of you who read my posts know I’m also a bit of a nut, but lets set that aside for a moment… Here’s the Article:

    Article 14
    The duties belonging to the office of elder consist of continuing in prayer and ruling the church of Christ according to the principles taught in Scripture, in order that purity of doctrine and holiness of life may be practiced. They shall see to it that their fellow-elders, the minister(s) and the deacons faithfully discharge their offices. They are to maintain the purity of the Word and Sacraments, assist in catechizing the youth, PROMOTE GOD-CENTERED SCHOOLING, visit the members of the congregation according to their needs, engage in family visiting, exercise discipline in the congregation, actively promote the work of evangelism and missions, and insure that everything is done decently and in good order.

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  51. Unless the local congregation is running its own schools under the authority of the consistory is it not odd to require URC elders to promote the local Baptist, Lutheran, or broadly evangelical school? What about promoting a Christian school on which board members are mostly CRC? What about promoting Dordt, Calvin, Northwestern, etc. when the URC is not in ecclesiastical fellowship with the CRC or RCA?

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  52. My personal approach (which is what my wife & I grew up with) is to go to public school and get inoculated to foolish ideas and foolish people alongside going to a sound Reformed Church to learn that Catechism and Reformed theology. Some of the most clueless adults I have known have grown up in fundamentalist Christian schools. We used to have an adult neighbor who would stand in his bedroom window naked in front of my wife and her sister whenever he came home. It became like clockwork. We finally called the cops on him and he stopped. He grew up in a fundamentalist church and went to a fundamentalist Christian school. In public school you learn what stupid looks like and hopefully you learn not to be stupid yourself.

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  53. Hi Brothers, IMNSHO, I think that Darryl and his many fans, mostly true Christians I think, are unbalanced! Poles are those who stress our political involvement too seldom (or never) AND those who seem to think: “This World Is Not My Home (I’m just a passin’ through!”). Suggestion, Darryl, study IMPRIMIS, your Hillsdale monthly magazine, read by a Million+. Listen more to your President, Larry Arnn! Then get just a little involved in whether Obama-Biden or Romney-Ryan lead in having Christian virtues. I have friends in and out of OLT (and kin out!) who say they can’t vote for a Mormon or RC and certainly not for lying, pro-death (for very young and very old) present Dem leaders). I say that Mormons and RCs have SOME agreements with true Christians. Obama has NONE! And stay-at-home folks help Obama. Seems to me that OLT guys mostly fight about non-essentials like things not mentioned in our OPC 4 basic questions asked of new members. Very few around there ever comment on my quite rare comments. VERY frequent commentator, Erik Charter, managed to give Old Bob a line about me reminding him of a “motivational speaker”! Still scratchin’ my head about THATone! Darryl, How ’bout commenting on Hillsdale stuff just every 5th or even 10th time you broadcast your unbalanced 🙂 offerings? Love 2 U all! Anyhow! Old Bob Morris

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  54. [BRYAN] That controversy arose in the ninth century, long after the patristic criterion of *schism from.* See Chapman’s book, to which I referred you earlier.

    [KM] Do the Orthodox understand the “patristic criterion of ‘schism from'” in the same way you do?

    If I go to an Orthodox apologist, he’ll point to the fathers and say they teach a different criterion of schism.

    There are different claims to apostolic succession and there are different claims of patristic criteria of schism.

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  55. Keith,

    If I go to an Orthodox apologist, he’ll point to the fathers and say they teach a different criterion of schism.

    Of course. But so will Copts and Nestorians and other Oriental Orthodox. The presence of competing claims does not ipso facto entail that we must resign ourselves to skepticism regarding discovering a moral consensus among the Fathers regarding the citerion of schism from the Church. The patristic evidence for a recognition of the successor of St. Peter as having such a unitive role by divine right, is far greater than evidence to the contrary.

    The Reformed position, unfortunately, has been to abandon the very concept of schism from the Church, as I showed here, by redefining it as heresy.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  56. I agree that a big problem here is that Protestant need to better understand and claim church history as their own. Not as a neat little apology for the magisterial Reformation of Luther and Calvin, but as the messy story of the kingdom of heaven intruding its way into the shakeable and confusing kingdoms of this world.

    With regard to Erik’s question, I don’t know a single book that so details 500-1000, but I do know that everyone who had Bob Godfrey as a church history professor thinks he is the best church historian and teller of this story. He has a new history of the church from 100-600 available at Ligonier, and though I haven’t listened to it, I took the seminary version. I’m sure it’s worth its weight in gold.

    http://www.ligonier.org/store/a-survey-of-church-history-dvd/?utm_source=ET&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=eblast

    To preview it, you can listen to his “Lure of Rome” interview at WSCAL:

    http://wscal.edu/resource-center/resource/the-lure-of-rome

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  57. Bryan Cross:

    It isn’t as simple as saying, “the difference between heresy and schism is the difference between rebellion to soteriological doctrines vs. ecclesial doctrines.”

    As Augustine points out, schism is a lack of John 13:34-35 love, the “new commandments.” But since Christ taught it as a commandment, to violate it must also be heresy.

    Have you not read Foxe’s book of Martyrs? No, not for its definition of heresy, which many were accused of by the RCC and killed by the RCC authorities, but for its evidence of John 13:34-35? IOW, for the martyr’s fidelity to John 13:34-35.

    Such love live,s by very definition, in the light (1 John 1:5-9) and has no fellowship with darkness at all, even when both light and darkness are in the same ecclesial community. Light forces a separation. Thus true separation is not ecclesial ultimately (and thereby visible) but spiritual (and thereby invisible).

    The RCC is woefully inadequate here, and is to be roundly condemned for adhering to so much darkness, that many of us conclude it is entirely dark.

    And we don’t even need to mention why. The media reveals a new accounts of perversion, covered up by your ecclesial leaders, almost every day.

    You know how you feel Brian, every time you hear yet another account in the media? That pit in your stomach? Just imagine how much is hidden, and you wish weren’t there.

    Yet you choose to be ecclestically linked with the darkness. And you want to call those who walk in the light to join you.

    Why do you do this, Brian?

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  58. Erik,

    As a URC minister, I thank you for posting the link to Rev. Eduard’s trial. It’s very fitting in this discussion. Not to celebrate the downfall of saints, but to point out that Reformed office-bearers and ministers are sinners to, and subject to the discipline of the church and of the civil magistrate.

    Rome, surely, can take a similar line toward sexual scandals in their ranks. But I think they are hard pressed to claim that their difficulty in dealing forthrightly and swiftly with such abuses is not related to their view of authority, not to mention the unbiblical insistence on a celibate clergy.

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  59. The thing that struck me most the first time I visited St. Peter’s in Rome was that there were brass lines in the floor, recording the size of other competing cathedrals around the world (St. Paul’s, et al). I’ve often wondered if my memory served me correctly, but a quick google search led to a travel guide (below) that suggests I was right.

    By implication, of course, the lines argued “Size matters.” Rome is the true church because our cathedral is biggest (our this worldly glory / history / narrative is more impressive and beautiful than everyone else’s).

    In a nutshell, this is Bryan’s argument. It’s not about the historical definition of schism, it’s about the size of their fish story. It’s an aesthetic argument, which is why it is so hard to defeat in those who have come to believe its veracity. De gustibus nils disputandum.

    From “Time Out Rome” (granted, a lame source, but it confirmed my memory):

    “Inside, the basilica’s size is emphasised on the marble floor, where a boastful series of brass lines measure the lengths of other churches around the world that haven’t made the grade (second longest is St Paul’s, London).”

    http://www.timeout.com/rome/rome/venue/1%3A6645/st-peters-basilica-di-san-pietro

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  60. Of course, Time Out nails it.

    “Boastful.”

    Who puts lines in the floor of their churches to show their superiority over other Christians? Moneychangers in the temple, anyone?

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  61. Bob – I can only speak for myself, but I would say I am politically conservative. Watching and being a part of the political process for 24 years or so now has convinced me that the things that can be gained through politics are pretty limited. They are definitely limited as compared to our work in the Church.

    Another thing I’ve learned is that politics is all about trying to make other people do things. The quickest way to become frustrated with life is to try to make other people do things. It’s a pretty fruitless effort in the end.

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  62. Hi Bryan,

    [BRYAN] Of course. But so will Copts and Nestorians and other Oriental Orthodox. The presence of competing claims does not ipso facto entail that we must resign ourselves to skepticism regarding discovering a moral consensus among the Fathers regarding the citerion of schism from the Church.

    [KM] I didn’t say it reduced us to skepticism. The point is that it leaves each of us an individuals evaluating those competing claims, and we inevitably and unavoidably base our evaluations on what we as individuals believe to be the strongest arguments.

    [BRYAN] The patristic evidence for a recognition of the successor of St. Peter as having such a unitive role by divine right, is far greater than evidence to the contrary.

    [KM] According to your interpretation of the evidence that is the case, but according to an Orthodox interpretation of the same evidence, such a statement is not true. Our imaginary Orthodox apologist would rephrase your statement something along the lines of “The patristic evidence for a recognition of the successor of St. Peter as having such a unitive role by divine right, is not greater than evidence to the contrary.”

    Maybe I’m not communicating my point clearly. I used to participate in an online forum that included Roman Catholic and Orthodox apologists. They went back and forth on these kinds of claims. Both claimed to have the legitimate apostolic succession. Both claimed the other one was guilty of schism as the fathers defined it. Both claimed to represent the true tradition of the fathers.

    That’s why I find appeals to apostolic succession and “criteria of schism” less than helpful. Those making the claims believe they are making an appeal to an objective criteria, but they end up choosing one apostolic succession over another, one criteria of schism over another, and they do so on the basis of their individual interpretation of apostolic succession or schism.

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  63. Bryan: The presence of competing claims does not ipso facto entail that we must resign ourselves to skepticism regarding discovering a moral consensus among the Fathers regarding the citerion of schism from the Church.

    That’s correct. It would make sense, as a reasonable procedure, to believe that competing claims can be adjudicated by considering evidence.

    Once we grant this point, it would also make sense, as a reasonable procedure, to believe that competing interpretations of Scripture can also be adjudicated by considering evidence.

    No?

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  64. David R, well, actually, yes, I’ve been percolating an essay entitled “Confessional Biblicism” for a time now. Who knows if it’ll happen.

    But thanks for the encouragement, as well as your patience on the many union threads.

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  65. Bryan, who says that competing claims render skepticism? The point is that you still have to decide, the way a Protestant does when looking for a church in the phonebook.

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  66. D.G.

    The point is that you still have to decide

    And we’ve been saying that all along, as you know from having read the very article referred to in your post. So, you’re still taking down strawmen, and apparently not trying hard to avoid doing so.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  67. Bryan, where is the historical evidence that persuaded you that the Roman Catholic Church really existed back there in 33 AD? Or did you decide that you found “the Church that Christ Founded” based on your need or desire for “certainty and infallibility” in the “interpretive paradigm”? They sorta offered something like certainty and infallibility, and you sorta had a hankerin for that (not having been able to fend off some aggressive Mormons)? So you took the leap, and golly, everything they say seems so right now.

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  68. Bryan Cross: The patristic evidence for a recognition of the successor of St. Peter as having such a unitive role by divine right, is far greater than evidence to the contrary.

    The Reformed position, unfortunately, has been to abandon the very concept of schism from the Church, as I showed here, by redefining it as heresy.

    RS: Whatever you may think the Reformed position is, you might think about your position very carefully. The Church is no longer a Church when it does not preach the biblical Gospel which is the one and only Gospel. One Reformed position is that the one and holy Catholic Church was the one with the true Gospel and it continued on with the biblical Gospel as set out by the Reformers. The Roman Catholics declared the biblical Gospel to be anathema and so left the true Church. Rome was schismatic in one sense, but in another it just demonstrated that it had left the true Gospel behind.

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  69. D.G.

    Bryan, but your point is that converts to Rome don’t decide the way Protestants do. Which as Stellman used to say is crazy.

    My point is not “converts to Rome don’t decide the way Protestants do.” That is far too ambiguous to be of any help. The essential difference, as I explained in the The Tu Quoque article, is in the nature of what is discovered.

    Unfortunately I don’t have time at present to carry on a conversation about it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  70. (Erik, re the URC and CE, it was just a joke. But as long as you ran with it, the language of CO14 should be revised. It has something to learn from the RCC Catechism 2229, which reads in part: “As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators.” I wonder if I can get any props from Cross on such a suggestion, or am I still employing private judgment in an erroneous fashion?)

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  71. Bryan Cross:
    My point is not “converts to Rome don’t decide the way Protestants do.” That is far too ambiguous to be of any help. The essential difference, as I explained in the The Tu Quoque article, is in the nature of what is discovered.

    RS: But the Holy Spirit illuminates the Scriptures and those reading the Scriptures rather than illuminate what people have said in the history of the Church. A person converts to a true Church only because of the Gospel and only the Holy Spirit can truly open a person’s eyes to the Gospel. It appears that you want people to convert because of the writings of men in history while Protestants want people to be converted according to the Gospel found in the Scriptures. The Scriptures declare that they are “God-breathed” while men declare that men are infallible. You will have to admit that following Scripture itself is the safest way.

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  72. Zrim – That is great. If I start the process of challenging this with my consistory can I bring you, D.G., and Cross in as expert witnesses? From what I know of Nelson Kloosterman he would really fight a change like this (if it somehow got to Synod).

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  73. Erik, Dr. K. has left the URC for the PCA. But I wonder if he knows that part of what kept the PCA from affirming RC Sproul, Jr.’s request for membership transfer was his own educational legalism (i.e. the sinfulness of secular schooling). But good luck if you really decide to formally challenge it–the Dutch Reformed regard schooling the way Baptists regard personal holiness. Intellectual asceticism is just as hard to fight as its moralistic cousin.

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  74. Bryan, and you seem to think that the nature of what is discovered is pure because of the history, the infallibility, the charism. But I think the same features apply to the Bible and the churches that proclaim it. So again, no difference, except for what is discovered. But who didn’t know that Protestants and Roman Catholics discover different truths?

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  75. D.G.

    But who didn’t know that Protestants and Roman Catholics discover different truths?

    That’s another strawman. What is discovered in the two cases is not “different truths.” I explain this in “The Tu Quoque” article. But I don’t have time to lay out the article here.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  76. Zrim – There are pretty big differences between the Dutch members of the URC and the converts (like me) in how we view these things. For instance, I would imagine there are very few men who grew up in the URC who blog or post on blogs like I am doing. The men and women I know are wonderful people, though, and I have no real desire to rile them up.

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  77. Soon winter will be upon us and Bryan can accuse D.G. of building snowmen in addition to straw men…

    D.G. – The sooner you just accept that Bryan is right and that the R.C. Church is the Church that Jesus Christ Himself Founded (TM) the sooner we can go back to fighting about 2K or something. He won’t give an inch no matter how valid your points are.

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  78. Tu quoque ( /tuːˈkwoʊkwiː/),[1] (Latin for “you, too” or “you, also”) or the appeal to hypocrisy, is a logical fallacy that attempts to discredit the opponent’s position by asserting the opponent’s failure to act consistently in accordance with that position; it attempts to show that a criticism or objection applies equally to the person making it. This dismisses someone’s point of view based on criticism of the person’s inconsistency, and not the position presented.[2] Thus, it is a form of the ad hominem argument.

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  79. Bryan – I read your article and you stake a ton on the idea of apostolic succession. On what basis do you assume that Christ intended apostolic succession? Would you agree that the Roman Catholic Church stands or falls on the doctrine of apostolic succession?

    Your argument about Tu Quoque kind of boils down to your view that Protestants can’t say Catholics are going about determining truth the same way that Protestants do because Catholics have found the true church and Protestants haven’t. That really doesn’t tell me much, though. If I like vanilla ice cream and you like chocolate and you tell me that you’re correct that chocolate is better because it’s better am I just supposed to agree with you that we haven’t made our choice in the same way?

    It seems that one always come back to D.G.’s argument that we are both interpreting history.

    You say in your article: “Just as the Messiah is not an interpretation, so lines of succession from the Apostles are not interpretations. And just as the Messiah has His divine authority from Himself, and not from any agreement between Himself and the one who discovers Him, so likewise, the magisterium of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded has its authority in succession from Christ through the succession from the Apostles, not from any agreement between itself and the one who discovers it. So while the inquirer must use his own reasoning and judgment to interpret Scripture, history, and tradition, and while he may err in doing so, this does not entail that through his inquiry he cannot discover something [outside the text] bearing divine authority. And for the reasons explained above, if through his inquiry he discovers something [outside the text] bearing divine authority, his position is not subject to the tu quoque.”

    What is the correct way for “the inquirer (to) use his own reasoning and judgment to interpret Scripture, history, and tradition?

    You say later “the practice of apostolic succession exists in the extra-mental world, not just in his mind. The bishops and their relations to the Apostles are not interpretations that exist in the prospective Catholic’s mind; the bishops are real, flesh-and-blood men, and there is a real, historical, organic and sacramental continuity between them and the previous generation of bishops, and between those bishops and the generation of bishops before them, and so on, extending all the way back to the divinely-authorized Apostles.”

    Earlier in the piece you say, “But if through and beyond his interpretation he discovers the actual Church that Christ founded, filled with the Holy Spirit and retaining divine authority through an unbroken succession from the Apostles, spanning through twenty centuries ‘terrible as an army with banners,’ bearing the trophies [relics] of the apostles and martyrs, and spread out over all the whole world, then he has discovered something that isn’t merely human. He has discovered the divine society on earth, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded, to which not only his interpretation but his whole life must submit and conform.”

    If these men are truly on par with the apostles, if the Roman Catholic Church is truly “the divine society on earth” wouldn’t we expect it to be more obviously pure and glorious? It kind of reminds me of my post-millennial brothers in Reformed churches. If things are getting better and better would we really have just come through a 20th century of mass slaughter?

    You guys never want to engage with the critiques Reformed guys (often former Catholics) make about reality on the ground (nominalism, abuse, inconsistency…). You want to keep things at a high, intellectual, academic level. Yet in your article you make claims about real flesh and blood men, in real history, in an actual apostolic succession — and claim these men are filled with the holy spirit. Like postmillennialism does this really line up with the reality we see? Could both be over-realized eschatologies?

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  80. Erik, word. The Dutch are fantastic (windmills are the bomb, and people laugh but I’m serious when I say Grand Rapids is the best looking town I’ve ever been in). But they’re even better when riled up.

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  81. Bryan – It seems like that if you are serious about winning converts you should lay out a really good case for apostolic succession. Use timelines, biographies, etc. Make the link from Christ to Peter all the way to Pope Benedict. At what level does the doctine apply? Only to the Pope or to Bishops as well? You need to fully account for any rogues along the way and explain why such mistakes could have been made if the Church is truly what you say it is.

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  82. Bryan – One critique I would make (not that you asked for one) is that your article could really use an editor and your posts here are way too short (if you are serious about communicating). You always complain you are being misinterpreted and this “too long or too short” problem may be the issue.

    That and you could stoop to address someone besides D.G. from time-to-time. Spending time here is worth your while. These are some of the best converts you could get. OPC & URC ministers and elders.

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  83. Erik Charter: Bryan – One critique I would make (not that you asked for one) is that your article could really use an editor and your posts here are way too short (if you are serious about communicating). You always complain you are being misinterpreted and this “too long or too short” problem may be the issue.

    That and you could stoop to address someone besides D.G. from time-to-time. Spending time here is worth your while. These are some of the best converts you could get. OPC & URC ministers and elders.

    RS: The best converts are OPC and URC ministers and elders? What would be a bad convert from Bryan’s point of view? What distinguishes the best converts from the non-best converts?

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  84. Richard – OPC & URC ministers & elders are hardcore and will seriously consider the issues. Most evangelicals are content with some tasty waves and a cool buzz and aren’t that into theology.

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  85. I skimmed Bryan’s piece on how the teenage Mormon missionaries crushed his faith. What the heck is going to happen when the girl scouts come around in the spring peddling cookies?

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  86. “There are pretty big differences between the Dutch members of the URC and the converts (like me) in how we view these things.”

    And, Erik, your congregation isn’t Dutch, or not much. Seriously, it will be interesting to see how the URCNA grows and how the relative emancipation from ethnicity will affect that growth.

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  87. Hi, Erik and Darryl (only 2 OLT Guys who replied (sorta 🙂 ) to my original comment about my sugesstion for Darryl to make use of Hillsdale’s thoughts @ OLT about Christian involvement in THIS, God’s and Jesus”s, world via their Creation activity. Darryl, I voted against JFK in 1960, partly because he was avidly following his Dad Joe’s counsel– “Get laid as often as you can!” And FOR Nixon because I didn’t know as much about him as I did later! Erik— I feel sure that you and I and Darryl have a few views similar to Mormons like Mitt, and R.Catholics like Ryan— for me, 60 years of real and beautiful Biblical marriage. I assume you both have similar but shorter like experiences. I regret that Darryl, I guess, never had the blessings of kids and grandkids. Also Mormons generally have a high view of human life for all folks of ANY age made in His Image. There is more common ground! With Obama, NO common ground! (Maybe a pulse 🙂 ) Erik and other of my friends and relatives— I will try to be brief. Many of you say that laws don’t change HEARTS). Therefore a waste of time for believers. I say “NO”. Laws change BEHAVIOR in many cases. Worthwhile! —- More abortions when “legal”—- unsafe speeds by cars when no speed limit signs—- On and on! ‘ Nuff said?” C’mon. Darryl, tell us if you are completely at home in the Hillsdale atmosphere! With Love! Anyhow! Old Bob

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  88. Erik Charter: I skimmed Bryan’s piece on how the teenage Mormon missionaries crushed his faith. What the heck is going to happen when the girl scouts come around in the spring peddling cookies?

    RS: That is how the cookie crumbles?

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  89. Bob – If it makes you happy I’m voting for Romney. I’m not out campaigning for him, though. I voted for Ron Paul in the Caucus. Last election I wrote in Paul instead of voting for McCain. I’m more pragmatic now.

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  90. Bob, on your criteria — JFK was sleeping around — then you should not oppose Obama. But I think your autobiography is flawed. Not many Americans knew about JFK’s dalliances. It was still a culture that thought such matters should be kept private. So I’m betting you opposed JFK for the reasons most American Protestants did — he was Roman Catholic. And now you tell me that I should support a public declaration signed by Protestants and Roman Catholics?!? Hey, what gives!

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  91. Dear Erik and Darryl, Darryl— I did NOT vote against JFK because he was RC. I like some RC’s more than U2, I am sure. How about a post on my thoughts about you and Hillsdale? Vote for Obama because we have no info that he was anything like Bill Clinton in his vile treatment of Hillary and JFK’s treatment of Jackie? Gotta be kiddin, Darryl!” Erik— Vote for Ron Paul with his rank isolationism? Hitler would have loved him! And RP’s hatred of Israel? No, I don’t think 1948 was a time of fulfillment of Israel’s promise of victory! You fellows amaze me! Love, anyhow! Old Bob

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  92. Erik, About the Mormon Missionaries; my best friend, a Deacon in the PCA, was approached by some Mormon missionaries about a ago. As he was recalling the conversation he had with them to me I got the feeling he was leaving something out. I’ll never forget putting him on the spot and asking him, “Did you pretend you were Catholic in this conversation?” His answer, “uh, maybe, yeah I did.”. The Reformed person is left no better than the Mormon I tryng to explain their denomination. The Reformed and the Mormon both hold that the ancient Church lost the true faith along the way and that their hero (be it Calvin or Joseph Smith) had to come along to re-establish things. When the Mormons came to Bryan’s door he had already graduated seminary and reali2d he still had nothing more to appeal to then they did. Peace in Christ, Jeremy

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  93. Bob, so let me get this straight, you’re showing all that love you advocate when you disdain anyone who votes for Obama? Could it be that you are as combative as I except we have different concerns?

    BTW, I’m fine with the education here at Hillsdale. I’m fine with the U.S. Constitution. I just don’t need to baptize the college or the law to have respect for it.

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  94. Old Bob,
    You’re concerned about the state of morality, and rightly so. I’m a little puzzled though that you seem much quicker to judge someone’s politics than their doctrine. Surely, you don’t believe that earth is more important than heaven?

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  95. Jeremy, please do not spread slander. Some Protestants do say that Rome fell after Augustine. Some don’t. It is possible to say that Rome had problems without saying that it ceased to be a church.

    But your difficulty is that you believe an institution cannot err. That’s where the difference between Rome and Geneva is. Reformed Protestantism has no creedal position on how to interpret history. Though we do believe it needs to be interpreted as opposed to CTC’s view that it just falls out of the sky.

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  96. Jeremy – Why do you presume that God had to keep the visible church on the right track the whole time it has been in existence? Isn’t this the same God whose plan of salvation was merely expressed in type and shadow for thousands of years?

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  97. Hey, Ol’ Bob, I don’t like either candidate because of their track records. Romney was pro-choice before he flopped over to the pro-life side. Why was he pro-abortion? Because he was running for governor in one of the most liberal states in the union. Doesn’t sound like conviction to me, sounds like expediency.” Whatever will get me elected” should be the campaign motto for each candidate. Do you agree with Romney’s state healthcare system in Massachussets ? He is an insider, a country club Republican, one for the good ol’ boys. I would vote for Ron Paul over him. As for Paul’s “rank isolationism” and your “Hitler would have loved him” comment, those are cheap shots. There is no threat like Hitler in the world today, so to insinuate Ron Paul would do nothing to help an ally is pure speculation. Where has all of our intervention got us? I have some skin in the fight.(My son is in Afghanistan) and he is not fighting for American freedom. Call it “peace-keeping’ or nation building, but whatever you call it don’t call it protecting America. I am not a liberal and I don’t like Obama, but I will not blindly follow the Republicans just because there is no one else to follow. I learned my lesson with “W”. He had republican majorities in congress for his first two years and he did nothing to further a conservative agenda. The federal government became larger, meddled in more areas and spent more money than ever. For an old gospel kind of guy you’d think you would point to the gospel instead of politics for the real answer to changing men’s hearts.

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  98. D.G.

    as opposed to CTC’s view that it just falls out of the sky.

    The only problem being that none of us has said that, or thinks that.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  99. D.G.

    If you want Old Life (and your comments here) to be understood as a Reformed version of Monty Python or the Onion or Letterman or the Wittenburg Door (which I used to read in seminary), that’s fine with me. But, then it seems to me that you need to update your “About” page to reflect that. Otherwise, presenting yourself as offering serious theological appraisals and evaluations while actually offering comedic parody could be misleading to readers who think your accusations and characterizations of other’s positions (with which you disagree) are meant to be taken seriously, and as truthful. Hyperbole becomes misrepresentation when it is presented as serious commentary.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  100. Jeremy,
    Regarding the similarities between Romanism and Mormonism,
    Sola Scriptura means the Bible and the Bible alone is the infallible rule of faith.
    Not the Bible and the infallible Book of Mormon. Not the Bible and</b the infallible teachings of the pope or the magisterium, not to mention Rome's infallible (lost) oral traditions.

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  101. Bryan, you may want to consider that your reflections are overly serious and claim way too much. To bring them down to earth, you can appeal to history (not your strong suit because of the way you think history and historical knowledge work). You can also appeal to humor.

    Look, I doubt you have much of a taste for H. L. Mencken or P.J. O’Rourke. But I’d encourage you somehow not to take yourself too seriously. The matters you discuss are serious often. But the way you describe them is frankly laughable considering that we do not live in the age of John Henry Newman. If not O’Rourke or Mencken, try Chesterton.

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  102. Mr. Cross appeals to our private judgement in regard to Mr. Hart’s hyperbole, but somehow fails to mention his own hypocrisy.
    And that’s not hyperbole.

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  103. Dear Darryl, Erik, John Sizer, & Darren. I thought that as a teacher for 31 years, I was at least adequate in expressing my thoughts clearly. I guess I was wrong! Examples: Darryl— Says that I think I am showing love when I disdain Obama. Darren— That I think earth is more important than heaven. My list goes on! Go read some my few former posts, please. Why do I keep going back to OLT? Hoped my comments would be read carefully and bring a bit of balance. I guess I was wrong! Again. Love, (I mean it!). Old Bob. But (PS) I think I can better spend more time with my sweet wife, 25 grandkids and mates of 7 of them. And the movie 2016. And Bill Bennett’s History books and talk program “Morning in America”, And books by J.I. Packer. And Larry Arnn. And Francis A. Schaeffer. And John Murray. And Dr. Machen. And Bio Prof. Son Tim’s book “Science and Grace”. (Crossway). And Charles Colson. On and on! As we used to say in my NJ days of youth 1928-1950, “So-long, youse guys!”

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  104. The same Bill Bennett who writes books about virtue while being a gambling addict? An illustration why we’re not crazy about mixing the church with politics.

    Machen was a 2K thinker, wasn’t he?

    I do salute you for your family. That’s a great legacy.

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  105. Jeremy Tate wrote: “The Reformed person is left no better than the Mormon I tryng to explain their denomination. The Reformed and the Mormon both hold that the ancient Church lost the true faith along the way and that their hero (be it Calvin or Joseph Smith) had to come along to re-establish things.”

    GW: An utterly false and ignorant assertion. Comparing Calvin to Joseph Smith is like comparing apples to oranges (or, better yet, comparing gold to dung). As I have pointed out elsewhere, historic Protestants are reformationists, while traditional Mormons are restorationists. (Not to mention that historic Protestants are orthodox Trinitarian Monotheists, whereas traditional Mormons are polytheistic and anti-trinitarian.) The church can become corrupt, degenerate in doctrine and morals, and thus be in need of reformation, without ceasing to be a genuine expression of Christ’s visible church. The Reformers sought to reform the church, not to restore the church.

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