Called to Call the Mother of God

No news for anyone on line who is using more than Comcast’s news updates (all about cleavages at the Grammy’s, I’m afraid) that Benedict XVI has resigned the office of pope, effective February 28, 2013. What may be news, however, is the last paragraph of his resignation:

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

It is an odd phenomenon for Protestants to think of praying (i.e., “implore) to Mary. For a recent convert like Christian Smith, Protestant discomfort is simply a symptom of evangelicals’ “allergy” to Mary. He goes on to write (How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic):

Evangelicals trust in the Bible, on which they say they base their beliefs. But, when it comes to things even only remotely and by association “too Catholic,” like Mary, the verses are read over and past and ignored. It is like Mary hardly matters, as if the verses were not in the Bible, as if Mary deserves no theological reflection. (48)

Never mind that Smith never cites any verses associated with Mary, or shows the theological reflection of the apostles (like Peter and Paul’s epistles) on the mother of Jesus. (He does get a lot of mileage in his case for Mary — wow! — out of the discovery that “Faith of Our Fathers” was a Roman Catholic hymn.) Never mind as well that even the Catholic Encyclopedia says of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, “No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture.”

Still, the allergy, if that’s what we want to call it, is the idea of praying to Mary. Praying to Mary is not something that should be surprising to Protestant observers. For instance, this is how Pius IX concluded Nullis Certe Verbis:

And so that God may incline His ear to Our prayers and yours and those of all the faithful, We ask first the recommendation of the Virgin Mary, who is our most beloved mother and most trustworthy hope and ever present guardian of the Church. Nothing is more powerful with God than her patronage. We also implore the support of Peter, then of his co-apostle Paul, and of all the heavenly citizens who reign with Christ in heaven. We do not doubt that in the light of your outstanding religion and priestly zeal, you will obey these Our prayers and petitions. Meanwhile as a pledge of Our burning charity toward you, from Our deepest heart and with a wish for all every true happiness, We lovingly impart Our Apostolic Blessing to you yourselves and all the clergy, and faithful laity committed to each of your vigilance.

And when Pius XI wrote an encyclical (Ad Caeli Reginam) which asserted the queenship of Mary over all other creatures, he closed with this:

Earnestly desiring that the Queen and Mother of Christendom may hear these Our prayers, and by her peace make happy a world shaken by hate, and may, after this exile show unto us all Jesus, Who will be our eternal peace and joy, to you, Venerable Brothers, and to your flocks, as a promise of God’s divine help and a pledge of Our love, from Our heart We impart the Apostolic Benediction.

But since Jesus taught his disciples to pray to God the Father (as in the Lord’s Prayer), the idea of praying to Mary is odd. I know apologists like Smith try to distinguish veneration from worship of saints. I also know that the CTCers have made their peace with Mary as Co-Redemptrix. But I am still wondering how praying to someone doesn’t give the impression that the entity to whom the prayer is being directed is anything less than divine. I also don’t understand why you wouldn’t simply pray directly to Christ, whose work as priest now is to intercede at God’s right hand. Is he too busy to hear?

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145 thoughts on “Called to Call the Mother of God

  1. Darryl,

    But I am still wondering how praying to someone doesn’t give the impression that the entity to whom the prayer is being directed is anything less than divine.

    Because if one believes in the communion of saints (as understood by Catholics and Orthodox), asking for their intercession has no such connotation. Of course it has that connotation (or “impression,” as you put it) if one brings the Protestant assumption that prayer is to be addressed to God alone. So, here again, it is a paradigm issue.

    I also don’t understand why you wouldn’t simply pray directly to Christ, whose work as priest now is to intercede at God’s right hand. Is he too busy to hear?

    No, it has nothing to do with “too busy.” It has to do with the both/and, rather than either/or, aspect of the Catholic/Orthodox paradigm. In the same way that asking the members of your congregation to pray for you does not presuppose that God is too busy, so asking the saints in heaven to pray for you does not indicate that God is too busy, but rather, that we are united to them in union with Christ, and that they continue to pray on our behalf, even in heaven, now beholding God face to face.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  2. Bryan, it’s not a paradigm issue. It’s a matter of fish — the red herring of Scripture.

    Just out of curiosity, how could any Christian here have communion with the saints in heaven since the Christians here are not necessarily going to be in heaven? I mean, if I can lose my justification through mortal sin, how can my communion with the saints be anything other than wishful thinking?

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  3. Darryl,

    Just out of curiosity, how could any Christian here have communion with the saints in heaven since the Christians here are not necessarily going to be in heaven? I mean, if I can lose my justification through mortal sin, how can my communion with the saints be anything other than wishful thinking?

    The assumption in your question is that there is no possible true friendship between persons unless that friendship is perpetually unbreakable. But the Catholic paradigm does not include that assumption. So your question presupposes a question-begging assumption.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  4. Some of us have a paradigm that says to do what Scripture says. Some of us have a paradigm that says do what Scripture says unless certain men tell us to do otherwise. Tell us again why the second is better than the first.

    If Rome gets it’s authority from Scripture (Peter getting the keys and all that) then wouldn’t it have to be subject to Scripture?

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  5. Were apostles allowed to retire? I can just see Paul buying a timeshare, seeing some sights, playing some golf — maybe learning woodworking to go along with his tentmaking skills.

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  6. Bryan,

    it’s interesting you bring it up as not a problem within the catholic paradigm. I remember sitting in Mass, I was about 12, and hearing a priest scold the parishioners for praying so often to Mary, that they never prayed to Jesus and reminding them that Jesus is their savior. Now indubitably, either that priest or those parishioners were poor or ignorant catholics or both. Good thing you came along. But when many cradles and religious don’t recognize your piety, do you really believe the problem lies with them and not you?

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  7. Bryan,

    What is the prot-catholic drinking? When died in the wool RCers struggle with the distinctions you try to make, or maybe you would regard the priest in error in this case, I have to wonder; “who’s really the one who doesn’t get it?”

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  8. Bryan, no question begging. But you baited and switched. I asked about communion. You substituted friendship. When I get sloppy like that I’m guilty of paradigm begging or some such philosophical error.

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  9. Here’s a nugget from Bryan’s piece on Mary:

    “In this way, Mary is a perfect exemplar of the Church, of what we are called to do, namely, to be sharers in His suffering, and in that sense co-redeemers with Christ.”

    Whoa!…

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  10. I am still more shocked about Tom Harkin giving up power and not running again in the Senate than I am about the Pope resigning. After all, for a liberal, government is the church.

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  11. Bryan, if the communion of saints is the grounds for praying to deceased saints for help then does it also apply to living saints? If it doesn’t, if I may only pray for Darryl to receive wisdom while he lives on earth and not to him to gain it until he exchanges his provisional life for eternal, then doesn’t that imply that the dead at least possess semi-divinity? I mean, don’t mortals only pray to entities that are at least a little more than finite?

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  12. Darryl:

    This is an “emergency broadcast,” an “interrupt” to the flow of things.

    Scott Clark has published a salutary, provocation, sensible, pastoral, sage and mooost (I–it’s all about me–hear Granddad’s Canadian and Scots accent) necessary counsel.

    See: http://heidelblog.net/2013/02/a-simple-curriculum-for-parrots-perts-and-poets/

    God help us all, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen.

    Regards to all,
    Donald Philip “The Viking” Veitch (a name USMC officers bestowed while in the mountains of Norway)

    PS…We now return to the scheduled broadcasting.

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  13. Correction to the above, “provocative” rather than “provocation.”

    Yes to the earlier counsel, e.g. WTS-CA, for the lad.

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  14. Darryl,

    But you baited and switched. I asked about communion. You substituted friendship.

    Because in the Catholic paradigm, the communion of the saints is the friendship of God’s family. The conditions for friendship with the saints are the conditions for communion with the saints.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  15. Zrim,

    if the communion of saints is the grounds for praying to deceased saints for help then does it also apply to living saints?

    Yes, that’s why we ask fellow Christian pilgrims to pray for us.

    I mean, don’t mortals only pray to entities that are at least a little more than finite?

    No, not in the Catholic paradigm. Rather, the word ‘pray’ can simply mean request, as in “pray tell …”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  16. Pat, good point. But there must be an solution…

    Since Mary isn’t divine and she is a finite human being. How does she field the thousands of prayers per hour that must come to her? A large and competent staff of heavenly hosts to whom she delegates? And if she is finite, just how do all those prayers get “heard” by her finite ears in the first place? Heavenly Twitter? I’m sure there is a paradigm somewhere that covers this.

    This not only is offensive to Scripture which teaches Jesus as our only Advocate and Mediator. But it’s also illogical to any reasoning being, unless of course one just accepts Roman dogma on Mary and puts aside Scripture and logic. Not to mention the absolute lack of any such understanding in the ancient church.

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  17. Reading Bryan weasel his way around the 1,000 pound gorilla in the CTC room (Praying to Mary, saints, dead uncle Joe, etc…) is like reading comments by Washington politicians who argue that they cut the deficit by reducing future budget increases. Very entertaining.

    My personal favorite:

    Brian – “Of course it [praying to Mary] has that connotation (or “impression,” as you put it) if one brings the Protestant assumption that prayer is to be addressed to God alone. ”

    The protestant assumption in this scenario is the only assumption and command given in Scripture. But of course, lets not let the Scriptural paradigm get in the way of some good Papal Bull 🙂

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  18. Bryan writes;

    “No, not in the Catholic paradigm. Rather, the word ‘pray’ can simply mean request, as in “pray tell …”

    Zrim,

    Officially RC’s pray to Mary because she is ‘succesful’ in getting her prayers heard. In the gradations of holiness she’s the Queen. She gets heard more often and ‘successfully’ than you or I or any of the departed saints. You know she’s God’s mom, if mom ain’t happy……………(I’m not kidding btw, this is the wedding at Cana rationale-Mary can solicit miracles and answers from Jesus that you and I can’t, because, well, she’s his mom). But don’t sweat it, most RC’s struggle with the distinctions. It’s an in-house paradigm that those in the house can’t keep straight.

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  19. Jack,

    Since Mary isn’t divine and she is a finite human being. How does she field the thousands of prayers per hour that must come to her?

    She presently enjoys the Beatific Vision, and thus sees in God all that pertains to her, including all requests by the faithful that she pray for them. In the Beatific Vision man is not limited in all the ways we on earth are presently limited, but participates more fully in the divine nature, (2 Peter 1:4). Eye has not seen, nor ear heard …. To limit the capacity of the saints in heaven to what we on earth can now do is to limit by presumption the greatness of the glory of heaven.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  20. Darryl:

    Unlike most Protestants (sober and serious Confessionalists in the Lutheran and Reformed traditions excluded), I’ve faced this cantankerous issue for years, dealing with Tractarians, Newmaniacs, Tractaholics and similar parasites and locusts in the Anglican context. With this prayer, Benedict XVI has insulted the sovereignty, supremacy and dignity of the Son of God, True God of true God, Light of Light, Very God of very God, begotten not made, but born of the Virgin Mary. While the Papists recite the Nicene Creed daily and weekly in the propitiatory Masses, they insult His Majesty with the soteriology day by day, week by week and decades without end. Calvin summarized it: they “dry up the blood of Christ.”

    I’ve lived to watch the Reformed Episcopal Church, my previous home, move from old school Anglican Prayer Book Churchmanship to a posture and position of “signing” an intercommunion document with the Anglican Province of America…the latter “outfit” being a sub-specie in the Anglo-Catholic movement in the USA that continuously invokes Mary and other departed saints. You may and should chalk some of that up to a former Presbyterian theonomist from Westminster Presbyterian Church, a Federal Visionist, a compatriot of Bahnsen and others, named “Ray Sutton.” It’s been most painful, but most instructive to watch sycretists, indifferentists and ignoramuses speak. I offer these comments from one in the Anglican exile.

    And yes, have read the arguments in favour of it, that is, invocation of saints.

    And yes, the degree of “profound wrath” abounds upon the contemplation of it. Darryl, don’t ask me about the level of my disgust with it. Don’t ask me what it means to have a “pissed off Marine on your ass.” If a pietist and offended, too bad. Grow up. I am what I shall be.

    This much, “our” Reformers, be they Scottish, English or Continental (different in some respects) KNEW EXACTLY what they were rejecting. They were schooled in it. They prayed this stuff–invocation of saints–during their “unreformed days.” Poor Cranmer went to Cambridge in 1503 and continued therewith until 1549ish, some 46 years invoking numerous saints. Pity poor Thomas Cranmer in 1549 who, with Bucer’s aid and counsel, “purged” the 1549 BCP of all Collects with the invocation of saints and who gave the West a book pruned of such. He expected to prune this stuff from an entire nation of 9500 parishes. The task was daunting. Well nigh impossible in one generation. Welshmen rebelled and Anti-christ’s recusancy ruled in northern England. Whatever else one makes of the period of 1552 to 1620 in the English drama, including the proto-Puritans, this much. “Christ as our only Mediator” informed English-speaking descendents. Every Collect was Christ alone.” That forever directed the English-speaking Westerners. Simple fact. While we love and revere Mary (and all the early saints), we never invoke them ever, period, end of discussion. It’s a damned and odious pity that these ill-trained moderns, puerile children really, like pity poor Spellman, don’t have the same level of sophistication. We need Scott Clark’s salubrious exhortation to catechesis, hard but necessary work.

    This is said by an old Reformed BCP-man who uses the “Magnificat,” Luke 1.46ff, every evening for Evening Prayer. We love her, the mother of His Majesty. We call her “Blessed,” unusually so, but one who, like her sons (e.g. James and perhaps Jude) needed the salvific ministrations of the Son of God. She was a “mother of mothers,” but she was not our Co-Redemptix and is not our Mediator.

    Let the beauty and power of Fort Romans, Fort Galatians, Fort Colossians, and Fort Hebrews be our citadels.

    This affiant averreth nothing further. I have spoken from Shushan, Medo-Persia, the land of exile.

    Best regards.

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  21. ‘B’ sez: “… Reading Bryan weasel his way around the 1,000 pound gorilla in the CTC room … is like reading comments by Washington politicians who argue that they cut the deficit by reducing future budget increases …”

    Or, for another example, you mean like this? How can over 873,000 people come off the unemployment line when there were only a little over 114,000 jobs created? Luckily I found a transcript of a conversation between two eminent economists discussing this very question!

    Here we go, the recent unemployment report explained —

    COSTELLO: I want to talk about the unemployment rate in America.

    ABBOTT: Good Subject. Terrible Times. It’s 7.8%.

    COSTELLO: That many people are out of work?

    ABBOTT: No, that’s 14.7%.

    COSTELLO: You just said 7.8%.

    ABBOTT: 7.8% Unemployed.

    COSTELLO: Right 7.8% out of work.

    ABBOTT: No, that’s 14.7%.

    COSTELLO: Okay, so it’s 14.7% unemployed.

    ABBOTT: No, that’s 7.8%.

    COSTELLO: WAIT A MINUTE. Is it 7.8% or 14.7%?

    ABBOTT: 7.8% are unemployed. 14.7% are out of work.

    COSTELLO: IF you are out of work you are unemployed.

    ABBOTT: No, Obama said you can’t count the “Out of Work” as the
    unemployed. You have to look for work to be unemployed.

    COSTELLO: BUT THEY ARE OUT OF WORK!!!

    ABBOTT: No, you miss his point.

    COSTELLO: What point?

    ABBOTT: Someone who doesn’t look for work can’t be counted with those
    who look for work. It wouldn’t be fair.

    COSTELLO: To whom?

    ABBOTT: The unemployed.

    COSTELLO: But they are ALL out of work.

    ABBOTT: No, the unemployed are actively looking for work. Those who
    are out of work gave up looking and if you give up, you are no longer
    in the ranks of the unemployed.

    COSTELLO: So if you’re off the unemployment rolls that would count as
    less unemployment?

    ABBOTT: Unemployment would go down. Absolutely!

    COSTELLO: The unemployment just goes down because you don’t look for
    work?

    ABBOTT: Absolutely it goes down. That’s how the current
    administration gets it to 7.8%. Otherwise it would be 14.7%. Our govt.
    doesn’t want you to read about 14.7% unemployment.
    COSTELLO: That would be tough on those running for reelection.

    ABBOTT: Absolutely.

    COSTELLO: Wait, I got a question for you. That means there are two
    ways to bring down the unemployment number?

    ABBOTT: Two ways is correct.

    COSTELLO: Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?

    ABBOTT: Correct.

    COSTELLO: And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a
    job?

    ABBOTT: Bingo.

    COSTELLO: So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the
    easier of the two is to have administration supporters stop looking
    for work.

    ABBOTT: Now you’re thinking like the Economy Czar.

    COSTELLO: I don’t even know what the h— I just said!

    ABBOTT: Now you’re thinking like our current President

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  22. Bryan,

    Where did you go to seminary? When you converted to Rome did you send your degree back? It is mindblowing to me to think of where you are at theologically compared to where you were at. Thus the CTC website, I guess. Kindred spirits, as they say. My paradigm shifted some when I joined a URC, but nothing like yours.

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  23. Bryan, to borrow from Mathison, what a difference a preposition makes. My question had to do with praying TO saints, not praying FOR saints. We Prots pray for each other, too, but we limit it to the militant church. You guys expand it to the church triumphant. At least part of our limitation has to do with the implication that to pray TO saints is to suggest they are something more than human. Here is a Catholic prayer to St. Jude:

    Oh glorious apostle St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the name of the traitor who delivered thy beloved Master into the hands of His enemies has caused thee to be forgotten by many, but the Church honors and invokes thee universally as the patron of hopeless cases–of things despaired of. Pray for me who am so miserable; make use, I implore thee, of that particular privilege accorded thee of bringing visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need, that I may receive the consolations and succor of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations and sufferings, particularly (mention your request), and that I may bless God with thee and all the elect throughout eternity. I promise thee, O blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, and I will never cease to honor thee as my special and powerful patron, and to do all in my power to encourage devotion to thee.

    Isn’t that pretty different than me asking Darryl to remember us in his prayers?

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  24. And then there’s Jason Stellman, prosecuting Peter Leithart for the Federal Vision (which has some Catholic leanings) one year, then praying to Mary a few years later. Did he apologize to Leithart?

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  25. Bryan,

    Like I wrote – unless of course one just accepts Roman dogma on Mary and puts aside Scripture and logic. Not to mention the absolute lack of any such understanding in the ancient church.

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  26. Jack,

    Like a true a protestant you get hung up on the solas, it’s the whole ONLY advocate and mediator bit that keeps tripping you up. You need to work on your both/and. Never mind B’s ‘scriptural paradigm’ he’s just a protestant too. You both trip over another sola that of scripture and fail to understand the ‘God-breathed’ inspiration extends to both oral tradition and magisterial supervison of the deposit. Both of you are belligerent about it, and I don’t think either one of you is just begging the question, but are in fact unhelpfully and philosophically unprincipled in your skepticism about the whole enterprise. You too George.

    Bryan, why should I have to clean up your messes?! Here’s a reasonable modern RC view of just the RCC:

    http://catholicexchange.com/vatican-ii-the-view-from-the-pew/

    Lot’s of making choices and coming to their own conclusions, while owning that a lot of it doesn’t really cohere.

    “In the end, I am grateful for the creative whirlwind that was the Second Vatican Council, despite some of the wreckage that came in its wake… and grateful for the millions of faithful Catholics who cheerfully live with its contradictions and internal tensions to this day. We’re all just muddling through, doing our best to separate the wheat from the chaff, trying to discern what is an authentic development of doctrine and what is a dead-end. Bishops and theologians argue about these matters, but we laity vote with our feet. It’s been a wild ride these past fifty years and I can’t wait to see what the next fifty years brings.”

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  27. But there is nothing new under the sun.

    Eimeric, the author of the celebrated Guide to Inquisitors, wrote against Bonet and Mairon, who maintained that St. John the Evangelist became the real son of the Virgin, in consequence of his body being transubstantiated into that of Christ, by the words pronounced on the cross, Ecce filius tuus, Behold thy son (p.45, Thos. McCrie, History of the Reformation in Spain, 1842).

    Wait a minute. Wrong quote.
    I was going to argue for reincarnation on the basis that Bryan is Bonet or Mairon, but theirs is all about John, not Mary though related.

    But hey, what’s a little incorrigible ignorance when it comes to trying to properly frame a non sequitur? Nothing a little devlop (romanspeak for development of doctrine) can’t dismiss with a dignified wave of the hand as the seraphically glinted eye sanctimoniously gazes down the august nose at the protcon simpleton.

    Speaking of George, Bryan does remind me of Sqealer a bit in Orwell’s Animal Farm. After all, both Napolean and Benedict are heads of totalitarian orgs.

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  28. We ask first the recommendation of the Virgin Mary, who is our most beloved mother and most trustworthy hope and ever present guardian of the Church

    When in history has a bride ever had this kind of relationship with her mother-in-law?

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  29. So here’s a question I’m curious about. In Benedict’s relatively short tenure, has he made any ex cathedra pronouncements? Will he be squeezing any out last-minute, like a president signing pardons on his last day of office?

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  30. Dec 12 2012; Pope signs up for Twitter account
    Feb 11 2013: Pope resigns

    Do we need any further evidence, people? C’mon now, back away from the social media…

    (he said in a comment on a blog thread)

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  31. A little more seriously (but not too much), is the Pope’s statement of resignation ex cathedra? Would he be able to hold a press conference on the morning of Feb 28 and say “I take it all back”? How about Mar 1? What if the cardinals were to re-elect him?

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  32. See for instance “having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty”, and “well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome”.

    See also “subject to so many rapid changes”, reading between the lines “I quickly fell into a bottomless Twitter addiction! #anybodywannahireanexpope”

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  33. Sean (sharing a quote) – “In the end, I am grateful for the creative whirlwind that was the Second Vatican Council, despite some of the wreckage that came in its wake… and grateful for the millions of faithful Catholics who cheerfully live with its contradictions and internal tensions to this day. We’re all just muddling through, doing our best to separate the wheat from the chaff, trying to discern what is an authentic development of doctrine and what is a dead-end. Bishops and theologians argue about these matters, but we laity vote with our feet. It’s been a wild ride these past fifty years and I can’t wait to see what the next fifty years brings.”

    Erik – Compare this to Bryan pointing out logical fallacies, trying to make it all fit together. Rome is a big tent indeed.

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  34. Zrim,

    My question had to do with praying TO saints, not praying FOR saints.

    Right, we don’t pray for the saints. They don’t need our prayers, because they have the Beatific Vision. But just as you ask other Christians to pray for you, so we also ask the saints in heaven to pray for us.

    At least part of our limitation has to do with the implication that to pray TO saints is to suggest they are something more than human.

    That’s because your concept associated with the words ‘pray’ and ‘prayer’ is defined as communication only with God. But the Catholic conception associated with the terms ‘pray’ and ‘prayer’ is not limited in that way, and can include even asking a fellow human being to help you, as the word used to be used in English (e.g. “pray tell ..”). That’s why, given the Catholic concept of prayer, asking someone to pray for you (whether that person is in the body or already with the Lord) does not entail that the person you ask is more than human.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  35. That’s a good question, that I’d like to see a cat’licker answer. (Although will his answer be infallible? Quick, somebody tweet @pope and ask him instead…)

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  36. If he was Tweeting he was probably also blogging. In which case it was likely that he read many of the Old Life threads, became exasperated, and decided to throw in the towel.

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  37. Bryan, I’ll try to be more clear. I know you don’t pray FOR the triumphant saints. But I’m having trouble seeing how you’re not praying TO them. And it’s not just because I have a concept associated with the words ‘pray’ and ‘prayer’ defined as communication only with God. It’s also because I am reading a prayer that sure seems like a prayer TO a saint:

    …I implore thee, of that particular privilege accorded thee of bringing visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need, that I may receive the consolations and succor of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations and sufferings…

    I don’t sound like that when I pray FOR a militant saint. I sound like that when I pray TO God.

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  38. As long as we’re having some Protestant fun: Is the Pope still Catholic? I sure hope so, because my worry is that this breaking news will give the green light to bears to not relieve themselves in the woods and shatter cliches the world over.

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  39. Bryan,

    I am glad that you make a distinction in your mind between praying to saints and outright worshiping them.

    But you compare praying to saints to asking other friends to pray for you. Do you ever pray to your friends? “Oh Jeff, patron friend of calculus, assist me to complete my homework in a timely manner and help me that my proofs may be free of persons of straw and the begging of questions.”

    Prostration, pictures on the wall?

    The religious aspect of praying to saints is the part that bothers us Protestants, not the idea of asking friends to pray for us.

    (P.S. the light tone is meant to make you laugh)

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  40. If we can pray to “saints” — fellow humans who are now in heaven in some manner — can these saints also see what we are doing on earth? Can they see our sins? And people complain about drones violating their privacy…

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  41. Zrim,

    But I’m having trouble seeing how you’re not praying TO them.

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear. We *do* pray to them. But prayer, in the Catholic sense, can mean merely ‘ask’. It doesn’t have the meaning of “speaking only to God.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  42. Jeff,

    Yes, veneration of a saint is not the same as asking a saint to pray for us. The question of veneration is a matter of justice. Since we honor and respect soldiers, athletes and actors, much more honor is due to the saints, who through fidelity in heroic virtue set their minds on things above, and ran the race set before them to the end, not loving their lives even unto death.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  43. Erik,

    Can they see our sins? And people complain about drones violating their privacy…

    As if God’s seeing our sins is of lesser importance. Well, wait until you find out you have a guardian angel.

    Do you think the Final Judgment, when we have to give an account for every idle word and every immoral thought, will be done in a private room? No, the secrets of men’s hearts will be laid bare to all, and all will know that God has judged each person justly. That’s to be feared far more than drones. (That’s why Felix grew frightened as St. Paul explained the gospel and the judgment to come, and sent St. Paul away. Acts 24:25.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  44. This conversation brings to mind one of my favorite quips by Lou Holtz, “God may not care if Notre Dame wins…but his mother does”.

    On a more serious note, like a lot of posters here, I get the logic of asking the saints in heaven to intercede on our behalf even if I’m not ultimately convinced…asking for St. Jude to pray for me seems almost as weird as writing Billy Graham, or the guys on this thread for that matter, and asking for his (their) prayers. Somehow the personal connection feels important. But setting aside the weirdness, it is disingenuous to suggest that RCs and EOs are merely asking for intercession on the part of the saints – that’s not how praying to saints really works in practice. Rather folks pray to the saints to perform miracles on their behalf (e.g St. Christopher – help me get out of this sketchy neighborhood rather than St. Christopher – pray for me that God will direct me out of this sketchy neighborhood). Sometimes one might ask a saint to intercede, but it isn’t simply that.

    Nor is it fair to minimize the extent to which veneration of the saints slips into out and out worship of the saints in practice in many cultures. The spiritual harm of treating saints as demigods strikes me as far more serious than relying on the prayers of saints in this life…even from within the so-called Catholic paradigm (I hear Kuhn spinning in his grave). I know this is condemned, but given the rather serious consequences for syncretism throughout the OT, implementing worship practices that lead many to embrace truly idolatrous practices seems, dare I say, uninspired.

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  45. sdb,

    You’re welcome to send me your prayer requests, along with a few dollars to support my “ministry”, of course…

    Hey, this internet access costs me $40 per month.

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  46. I’m a tellin’ you prot’s, it’s a matter of efficiency and results. The Cath-o-lick prays to saints because of access. It’s like employing abramoff to lobby congress on your behalf in the 90’s, or appealing to Perseus to put in a good word for you to Zeus.

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  47. Men:

    Stop the baloney. The Papists and Greeks actually advocate for this stuff. Get a grip. This nonsense informs 1.2 billion Papists. Y’all are some 400K in NAPARC, a micro-group. Never mind these quibbling neo-whatever-neo-Calvinist-whateverts. Consider the width of the enemy forces without the puerilities.

    These Anti-Christs actually labour to obscure the Person and work of His Majesty.

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  48. Bryan, so there is an expansion of the meaning of prayer from petitioning God to include simply asking another saint to petition God for us. This explains “praying to” triumphant saints, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard of Catholics “praying to” militant saints. It must be that Catholics conceive of triumphant saints as being in a special position to be heard (I suppose that’s where the beatific vision comes in, etc.) That might explain away the deifying of triumphant saints to some, but it perpetuates the class system the reformers and their heirs reject, as in God being no respecter of persons.

    But how does the expansion of prayer to include “just asking” (and what about thanking?) not have the effect of reducing prayer to something unspiritual? It seems to me that the Protestant view of prayer–speaking to God alone–retains a higher view of prayer. Not too unlike expanding boundaries such that we Prots are “separated brethren” reveals a lower view of the church compared to how “no ordinary possibility of salvation outside the true church” reveals a higher view.

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  49. As if God’s seeing our sins is of lesser importance. Well, wait until you find out you have a guardian angel.

    Do you think the Final Judgment, when we have to give an account for every idle word and every immoral thought, will be done in a private room? No, the secrets of men’s hearts will be laid bare to all, and all will know that God has judged each person justly. That’s to be feared far more than drones. (That’s why Felix grew frightened as St. Paul explained the gospel and the judgment to come, and sent St. Paul away. Acts 24:25.)

    Note the quote from scripture, which according to our artful dodger has been performatively amended elsewhere to read:

    If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your dead fathers which are in heaven give good things to them that ask them?

    What travesty, what blasphemy, theological, philosophical or jesuitical is next?

    Baptism for the dead?
    Never mind.

    Nor is there any mention of Matthew 7:21-23

    Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

    Iniquity? Such as cunningly devised tales about the saints, Mary and Tradition?

    Nor the Second Commandment in the Old. Is egregious idolatry of lesser importance than even hypocritical barefaced and brazen lies?

    Perhaps our casuist would care to dialectically distinguish.
    Not that it would make any difference on that day he is so confident of.
    His only hope is Christ, but the cross is not enough. Only the sacrament will do.
    Very well. He shall his wish.

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  50. Bob S.

    I have enjoyed your comments here and over at GB of late, both for their content and rhetorical force, but with stanzas like this:

    Perhaps our casuist would care to dialectically distinguish.
    Not that it would make any difference on that day he is so confident of.
    His only hope is Christ, but the cross is not enough. Only the sacrament will do.
    Very well. He shall his wish.

    I am left wondering just how much T.S. Eliot you are imbibing here – the poetics in your comments lead me to believe that more than just reading is promoting your free form RC polemics. Are you sleeping with a copy of “Choruses From ‘The Rock'” in your pillowcase, rolling cigarettes with papers printed with “The Hollow Men”, making fire biscuits with ashes from “The Waste Land”? Seriously what gives, and where can I get me some?

    I know that Bryan thinks we are sandbagging him, or engaging in the most egregious form of ad hominem rhetoric against him and the CtC crew, but I think you are raising some substantive points that I wouldn’t mind seeing answered. I am less bothered that your discourse with CtC looks more like Elijah v. the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel than a overly saccharine chat on The View. Maybe, given the spiritual realities at stake in choosing Rome or Reformation, the polemical devices of the former are more fitting anyway. I notice they still are playing in Reformed sandboxes in spite of their complaints over charity.

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  51. Bryan, how can you know which saints are in and which aren’t. It is curious to me how some Roman Catholic priests say we can’t be sure who is in hell (we don’t have that kind of knowledge):

    My own conviction is that Balthasar has this more or less right. Catholic doctrine is that Hell exists, but yet the Church has never claimed to know if any human being is actually in Hell. When the Church says that Hell exists, it means that the definitive rejection of God’s love is a real possibility. “Hell” or “Gehenna” are spatial metaphors for the lonely and sad condition of having definitively refused the offer of the divine life. But is there anyone in this state of being? We don’t know for sure. We are in fact permitted to hope and to pray that all people will finally surrender to the alluring beauty of God’s grace.

    So Rome won’t bring us the bad news of who’s in hell. But you can tell us with certainty who is experiencing the beatific vision. (It strikes me that Rome had greater confidence on both sides of the question a century ago.) In both cases only God knows. But the church seems to enjoy only telling half the truth.

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  52. Viking, the, but what if the neo-Cals, with their claims of a comprehensive Christianity (philosophy and all) are making straight the way to Rome? Maybe they are whetting the appetite for something that Cranmer and Calvin can’t sate.

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  53. Zrim and Bryan, and wouldn’t it be simpler just to pray to God, in the name of Christ, with the groanings of the Holy Ghost thrown in for good measure? Sounds pretty good to me even if it leaves our churches empty of images.

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  54. I’m with the man in the horned helmet on this one.

    Bryan – where in the scriptures can I read up on that Beatific Vision thing?

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  55. Do OT prophets count as saints? If so, could one pray to Moses, Elijah, or Abraham (within the RC paradigm anyway)? If so why would it be scandalous for Jesus to cry out to Elijah on the cross? Why didn’t Paul ever pray to Stephen when he was undergoing persecution? Maybe he was afraid Stephen was holding a grudge? Or maybe Luke was a hopeless protestant and left off the embarrassing prayers to the saints? Strange that such an important source of intercessors is never commended by say James.

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  56. Darryl,

    Bryan, do you pray to angels too?

    Of course, as does the Psalmist: “Bless the Lord, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word,” (Ps. 103:20), “Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts!” (Ps. 148:2)

    how can you know which saints are in and which aren’t.

    Saints (in the canonized sense, as I explained here last summer in the “Former Saint’s Remorse” thread) are declared by the Church to be in heaven (i.e. possessing the Beatific Vision). So we know through the Church that these persons are in heaven. The Church does not declare any particular person to be in hell.

    In both cases only God knows.

    That’s the Protestant presumption, but is no argument demonstrating that the Catholic Church does not know that her declared saints are in heaven.

    Zrim and Bryan, and wouldn’t it be simpler just to pray to God …

    This notion of determining theological truths by what is “simpler” is a resort to human reason to fashion what is instead to be guided by divine revelation and divine illumination. We don’t make sacred theology conform to how we think it ought to be according to our human reason; that would be rationalism, and making God in our own image. Rather, we accept sacred theology according to God’s divine revelation, as the Holy Spirit guides the Church in understanding the sacred deposit.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  57. Zrim,

    but I can’t say I’ve ever heard of Catholics “praying to” militant saints.

    If you’ve ever heard a Catholic ask other [embodied] Catholics to pray for him, then you have.

    It must be that Catholics conceive of triumphant saints as being in a special position to be heard (I suppose that’s where the beatific vision comes in, etc.)

    It is not so much that they are in a special position to be heard [by us], but that the prayer of a righteous man avails much, and they have been made perfectly righteous. I explained this in “Heroes of the New Covenant.”

    That might explain away the deifying of triumphant saints to some, but it perpetuates the class system the reformers and their heirs reject, as in God being no respecter of persons.

    Right, which is why you ordain women. 🙂 The meaning of that passage, in the Catholic paradigm, is not that the sanctity of every Christian is equal, or that God loves all persons equally, or that every person’s prayers are equally efficacious. Rather, the idea is that God does not make grace depend on race (among other things).

    But how does the expansion of prayer to include “just asking” (and what about thanking?) not have the effect of reducing prayer to something unspiritual?

    That’s an odd question. Every communication between persons, including my writing you right now, is spiritual, because we are spiritual beings, and cannot communicate except through our spiritual faculties (i.e. intellect and will).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  58. Darryl, you only think that because of the Reformed virtue of simplicity (along with reverence for God and a notion of human limitations). I’m channeling Bryan by saying so, which beats praying to him.

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  59. Bryan, still needing that scripture reference for the Beatific Vision. And you actually contend that the Psalmist prays *to* angels? What a stretch.

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  60. Zrim and Bryan, and wouldn’t it be simpler just to pray to God, in the name of Christ, with the groanings of the Holy Ghost thrown in for good measure?

    What makes sense to me, if the rationale for praying to Mary or other saints (although from what I”m hearing, through is a better sense of it) is that God will hear them on our behalf better than just hearing us directly, then (a) it becomes a question of not just God hearing our prayers, but God hearing our prayers better, and (b) wouldn’t Christ himself be the very best intercessor of all? Why pray through a lesser intercessor, when you can pray to the besser intercessor! (a little German there, in honor of soon-to-be Mr. Ratzinger)

    Also Calvin made (I thought) a great point in the institutes about saints; if the Catholics really wanted to venerate all the great men of God from past ages, there’d be a Saint Moses, Saint Elijah, Saint Elisha, Saint David, Saint Isaiah, Saint Jeremiah, etc. Who else could be sitting in the front row of the great cloud of witnesses? (If OT saints are excluded, then by the time Hebrews was written, the gaggle of witnesses would have only a few hundred or thousand martyrs — not much of a “great cloud”)

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  61. If a bear in the woods is chasing us, we don’t have to both be faster than the bear, I just have to be faster than you.

    Speaking of the ursines, it’s baseball season and I have Cubs fans in my life who are hoping to present at least 40 hours of talk about how the Cubs will easily win it all this year. They get this big grin on their face and go to another planet… too many similarities when BC pretends to answer very pointed and obvious questions on this board… the Cubs, it’s all mystical, i just know they will win it all… wheeeeeeeee

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  62. SDB-

    Here’s how I’d come up with a theology of “beatific vision” (BV) from the Bible.

    Matt. 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
    I Cor. 13: 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

    But Bryan’s description of the experience of BV for Mary, which includes her not simply delighting in knowing/known by God, but also sorting through prayers is different. He writes:

    “She presently enjoys the Beatific Vision, and thus sees in God all that pertains to her, including all requests by the faithful that she pray for them. In the Beatific Vision man is not limited in all the ways we on earth are presently limited, but participates more fully in the divine nature, (2 Peter 1:4). Eye has not seen, nor ear heard …. To limit the capacity of the saints in heaven to what we on earth can now do is to limit by presumption the greatness of the glory of heaven.”

    The rub:
    1- How do you know that her experience – anyone’s experience of the BV – must include seeing in God all that pertains to her?

    2 – Bryan scolds us for limiting the capacity of the saints in heaven to what we do on earth. But the circumscription is not by our experience, but God’s Word, i.e. we are not speaking beyond what God has said about BV. Speaking of that, why isn’t there some reservation about doing that? It is equally (more?) egregious to presumptuously declare to be so (Mary’s and the saints powers/knowledge) what is simply not made known.

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  63. Bryan, it’s hard to see how the alleged prayers of the triumphant avail more than those of the militant without also implying a class system based on sanctity. But who’s this “you” in ordaining women? Some us Reformed still know how to balance the equal sanctity across human divisions (contra Rome) and resist absolute egalitarianism which tears down creational norms and gives rise to every member ministry (contra the eeeevangelicals).

    And if every communication is spiritual then no communication is (much like grace). Here is where you sound neo-Calvinist, as in all of life is spiritual, with no apparent category for the temporal.

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  64. Bryan – “as the Holy Spirit guides the Church in understanding the sacred deposit.”

    Erik – This is key. Bryan’s paradigm does not necessitate that Scripture is the final word on these subjects. This is why it’s odd to see Jason Stellman arguing with Lane Keister about Scriptural interpretation at Greenbaggins. It’s nice for the Catholic if Scripture lines up neatly with Catholic practice and doctrine, but not really necessary. Any time we argue with anyone with a different paradigm the argument over the validity of the paradigm is the key, more than the things that flow from that paradigm. If you don’t believe it, spend an afternoon in discussion with a serious atheist. We all have paradigms, we all accept things on faith. Someday we will discover who is right (or we won’t, if my atheist friend is correct).

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  65. I believe these questions always come back to worship. Those who willingly turn to Rome (like Cross and Stellman) do so — in my opinion — because they prefer a fleshly, man-invented form of worship and piety and will do any amount of gymnastics necessary to justify it. This form was developed largely for illiterates and for many centuries was administered largely by illiterates. It continues to swallow and regurgitate pagan practices to this day. Of course, many “evangelicals” are guilty of similar offenses today as images and entertainment take over “worship”. The CTCers ought to know better.

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  66. This is why discussions/debates between people with different paradigms is rarely fruitful. People don’t change their paradigms until they find their own wanting (as Bryan did as a Reformed Protestant). Of course, as Reformed Protestants we believe that the Holy Spirit is involved in these matters (but that’s just my paradigm).

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  67. Bryan, but you didn’t address the idea that the church is reluctant to say who is in hell? Why be so confident about the good news and so reticent about the bad?

    BTW, if you exegete those texts to be prayers to angels, then I guess you think we also pray to the stars and the moon, and cattle and mountains.

    As for rationalism, you engage in your own with your rigged game of paradigms. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, interacting with you is like programming a computer. What if Christianity is not supposed to be as neat and tidy as you present it? I know, my questions are Protestant and so disallowed.

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  68. Okay, Bryan, isn’t it more effective to pray to God instead of the angels? Doesn’t God have more power? Or are you going to tell me that I shouldn’t pray to God? And does honor ever become a consideration, as in God may not be honored by having praise and petitions directed a beings further down the chain of being?

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  69. Brad – It’s more that they found the doctrine of Sola Scriptura wanting and instead placed their faith in the idea that Jesus built the church on Peter who passed it on to the various Popes throughout history. Where Protestants have the Word and the Spirit guiding the church, Catholics have a visible church structure that they believe is divine. As Protestants we say they are going beyond what Scripture promises us about what the church is to be on earth, but it ultimately comes down to questions of authority that depend on faith.

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  70. Zrim: …but I can’t say I’ve ever heard of Catholics “praying to” militant saints.

    Bryan: If you’ve ever heard a Catholic ask other [embodied] Catholics to pray for him, then you have.

    Bryan, your response is not fully candid. As I pointed out above, the form that we use in asking other embodied Christians to pray for us is very different from the form that Catholics use in praying to saints.

    Form matters.

    So the equivalence you are drawing between asking others to pray for us on the one hand and praying to saints on the other is a false equivalence. It overlooks the form, which is the point of objection for the Protestant.

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  71. Erik, that’s the cover story. Had you looked at Stellman’s blog two years ago you would have found creepy graphics that were indistinguishable from the cheesiest RC site. We should not discount the worship aspect, ever. How we worship is more important than we think it is, which is why it is so troubling that many Reformed types are playing footsie with Roman, Eastern, and high church Anglican worship practices and forms of devotion, too.

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  72. “Forms of devotion” including a local NAPARC church’s men’s group going on “retreat of sillence” at a Roman monastery. I’m sure no harm was done — to the monks’ faith, at least.

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  73. My Stellman conspiracy theory (we all must have one, no?) is that the Roman Catholic paradigm of justification and sanctification was much more appealing to his conscience than the one he was having to embrace as a Protestant under Sola Scriptura. Rome seems to grade much more on a curve and allows you to “work the steps”. As Reformed Protestants we have the tension that we are justified by faith, we are being sanctified, yet we still have nagging sins that we feel we should not have. For the senistive conscience this is a great burden to bear.

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  74. Zrim,

    And if every communication is spiritual then no communication is ….

    That conclusion does not follow from that premise. As worded, it is a self-contradictory statement.

    Here is where you sound neo-Calvinist, as in all of life is spiritual, with no apparent category for the temporal.

    Like I said above, my communication with you right now now is “spiritual” because we are using our spiritual faculties (i.e. intellect and will) to communicate, and cannot communicate without using these faculties. But our communication is also temporal, because we are doing so in time. In the Catholic paradigm, spiritual and temporal are not mutually exclusive properties.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  75. Darryl,

    It’s a holiness issue. Mary is more holy than others, including saints, plus she’s the mother of God, and as at the wedding at Cana, being God’s mother has benefits, such as miracle requisitioning and access. Officially in Rome, certain saints are more often or better received than others. Nevermind muting the idea of the incarnation and Jesus humbling himself to share space and receiving the company of taxpayers, winedrinkers and other sinners. We’re climbing the ladder here, and there are people much farther up the rung than you.

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  76. Rube, well if you’re going to introduce the OT, then we have to wonder how the OT church could have existed without an infallible pope.

    Are you kidding? Moses wrote five whole books ex cathedra!

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  77. Darryl,

    Bryan, but you didn’t address the idea that the church is reluctant to say who is in hell? Why be so confident about the good news and so reticent about the bad?

    It is not a matter of “reluctance” or “confidence.” It is a matter of what the Church knows and doesn’t know. The Church does not know who is in hell. The Church does know the identity of some saints in heaven.

    BTW, if you exegete those texts to be prayers to angels, then I guess you think we also pray to the stars and the moon, and cattle and mountains.

    Of course we may exhort non-rational creatures to glorify the Lord. The point is that speaking to angels is not forbidden, not only when they are supernaturally visible to us (as many biblical characters reveal), but even when they are not, since even the Psalmist does so.

    As for rationalism, you engage in your own with your rigged game of paradigms.

    Rationalism does not mean the use of reason per se, but rather making sacred theology conform to the standards of human reason. Recognizing the role of conceptual paradigms in the disagreement between Protestants and Catholics is not requiring that sacred theology conform to a standard proposed by human reason, and is therefore not rationalism.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, interacting with you is like programming a computer.

    That ad hominem is fully compatible with everything I’ve said being true.

    What if Christianity is not supposed to be as neat and tidy as you present it?

    In that case you’ll need to make an argument demonstrating this, rather than attempting to make a question do the work of an argument.

    Bryan, isn’t it more effective to pray to God instead of the angels? Doesn’t God have more power?

    Of course God is omnipotent. Again, as I explained above, in the Catholic paradigm, this is not an either/or. If you really believed what you are saying above, you would never ask for prayer from anyone, since it is always “more effective” to pray to God, than to ask other Christians to pray to Him on your behalf.

    And does honor ever become a consideration, as in God may not be honored by having praise and petitions directed a beings further down the chain of being?

    No, so long as each is given its proper due. Otherwise, it would be contrary to God’s honor for you to ask the rest of your congregation to pray to God on your behalf.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  78. Setting aside the work of the Holy Spirit, the way we normally see paradigms change is not through intellectual inquiry (since very few people are intellectuals). The way it normally works is that people have real world problems that they can’t solve (a drinking problem, infidelity, etc.) and they meet someone who seems to have their act together who offers a religious or philosophical solution to this real world problem. This is why Mormons have great success — their clean living. While this is maybe not an ideal way for paradigms to be changed, it does make sense of the biblical commands regarding our personal morality and conduct in dealings with unbelievers. The pastor who has been divorced three times is not likely to win many converts. The pastor who has been married to the same woman for 30 years is an appealing figure. For Rome, the priest sex abuse scandal should be very troubling for this reason.

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  79. Bryan, sure it follows, just like if everybody is special then nobody is or if everything is extraordinary then nothing is. I’m no logician, but this seems simple enough to grasp. I use my intellect and will to tell my dentist which tooth hurts, but how is that interaction spiritual? Sometimes it’s just a conversation; but since you massage language and expand concepts the way you do, one isn’t sure how to differentiate between earthly conversation and prayer to God. For you it seems every verbal interaction can be said to be prayer. But if everything is prayer then nothing is.

    The Catholic paradigm may want collapse the spiritual and temporal, but the Protestant point is that to do so is to make hash of necessary distinctions that keep us from either spiritualizing provisional life or degrading spiritual life.

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  80. Bryan, frankly, knowing that Christ and the Spirit intercede for me (how do I know, God told me not the magisterium or logical deductions from a rightly formed reason) makes me reluctant to request prayers from other Christians (living, of course).

    And of course, nothing that you have said, Bryan, have you proved. It’s your paradigm against mine. Say hello to presuppositionalism.

    How is that the church only knows about saints but not about the damned (and why only some saints, not all of them)?

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  81. D.G. – Sean, then I have found a home in the OPC because in my personal home I am constantly reminded where I am on the ladder.

    Erik – Cats & wives have a way of putting a man in his place. Now all you need are teenage daughters to complete the trifecta.

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  82. Darryl,

    frankly, knowing that Christ and the Spirit intercede for me … makes me reluctant to request prayers from other Christians

    Precisely. That is one of the (but not the only) logical consequences of the Protestant concept of the communion of saints and the work of Christ. We don’t ask for each other’s prayers, because we don’t need each other’s prayers. He’s done it all; there is essentially nothing left for us to do for each other with regard to going to heaven. (Or, if we do ask for prayers from fellow Christians, we’re being inconsistent with our own theology regarding the finished and entirely sufficient intercessory work of Christ.)

    And when grace is mere favor, and you already know you have it, then there is no more need to receive the sacraments as “means of grace.” Putting these two together, since we need neither the sacraments nor each other’s prayers, we don’t need the Church. Ergo, Churchless Christianity.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  83. Bryan – And when grace is mere favor, and you already know you have it, then there is no more need to receive the sacraments as “means of grace.” Putting these two together, since we need neither the sacraments nor each other’s prayers, we don’t need the Church. Ergo, Churchless Christianity.

    Erik – I believe you would call that a straw man.

    “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.” – Hebrews 10:25

    See also Heidelberg 65-82 on the sacraments.

    If you get to address your arguments to generic “Protestants”, do we get to pick which types of Catholics we want to critique?

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  84. Darryl,

    frankly, knowing that Christ and the Spirit intercede for me … makes me reluctant to request prayers from other Christians

    And unless you think of yourself as better than other Christians (and I assume that you do not), then you will be no less reluctant to offer any petitionary prayer on your own behalf, since you’ll know that Christ’s perfect intercession on your behalf makes your own petition pointless and superfluous.

    These are all consequences of the either/or paradigm in which participation in the work of Christ is denied, since all glory (which in Protestant theology is a zero-sum commodity) goes to God alone.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  85. Brian, this is like you calling protestantism, pelagian if we hold to strict justice or true merit before the fall. The theological context doesn’t accommodate the charge. We walk by faith this side of glory. We don’t immanentize the eschaton. Faith, hope, means of grace, marriage, children, pastor, elder, deacon, will all be done away with some day. Just not now. You opted for a religious expression that allows you more sight than faith to say nothing of philosophical ground of certainty that begs the need of faith and hope, in the here and now. You attend to the means hoping to produce ontological change that suits your destiny. We attend the means by faith in hope not of divination but glorification and to be delivered from a real fall and a real torment.

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  86. Christ’s perfect intercession on your behalf makes your own petition pointless and superfluous.

    Your previous comment was the closest to “a hit” I’ve ever seen from you, but then you go off the deep end. The “inter” in intercession means between. If there’s God on one end, and us on the other, than Christ can intercede. But if it’s just God, and nobody on the “other end”, then “inter”/”between” doesn’t make sense, and Christ cannot intercede.

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  87. Bryan, question for you: Is Benedict’s resignation a good thing or a bad thing? Is it theoretically possible that his resignation is actually a sinful abdication?

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  88. Bryan, who is this “we” CTC man? Don’t you mean “you”? And thanks, btw, for the caricature of Protestantism. If that’s the religion from which you converted it may make some sense. But that is not Reformed Protestantism. We pray because God tells us he wants to hear our petitions and praise. And if you think there is much for us to do — as opposed to God — why would you ever pray for the cancer patient? Why not just take matters into your own hands and heal the person?

    Funny how uninformed you sound when trying to describe Protestantism. We do have catechisms and creeds you know, that are a lot easier to understand than Rome’s.

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  89. Sean, it is no comfort since if Rome really cared, they would be concerned about my eternal state and telling me I am going to hell I mean, telling me I am not going to be a saint. Something I also hear at home.

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  90. Sean, but doesn’t Bryan really have to have a lot of hope to wade through all of those conflicting notions in papal encyclicals — especially the ones about earthly power. Not by sight indeed.

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  91. Bryan – And unless you think of yourself as better than other Christians (and I assume that you do not), then you will be no less reluctant to offer any petitionary prayer on your own behalf, since you’ll know that Christ’s perfect intercession on your behalf makes your own petition pointless and superfluous.

    These are all consequences of the either/or paradigm in which participation in the work of Christ is denied, since all glory (which in Protestant theology is a zero-sum commodity) goes to God alone.

    Erik – Straw man. From the Heidelberg:

    Question 116. Why is prayer necessary for christians?

    Answer: Because it is the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us: and also, because God will give his grace and Holy Spirit to those only, who with sincere desires continually ask them of him, and are thankful for them.

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  92. Bryan, that Christ and the Spirit intercede on our behalf is actually cause for comfort (especially in those static seasons), not a cause for allergy to the saints. And for an otherwise complicated interlocutor, you sure seem to draw short, sharp and shocked lines from a doctrine of comfort to churchless Christianity. Maybe you’ve missed the suggestions from resident low churchers that confessionalist’s emphasis on the church, her creed and sacraments are crypto-Catholics, which is the flip side of Catholics suggesting we’re latent no-creed-but-Christers.

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  93. Darryl,

    I’ve studied the Reformed confessions in great detail. My argument was not based on them, but explicitly on your expressed reluctance to ask Christians to pray for you, on account of your theology of non-participation. Of course you can cover over everything with divine stipulations. (God wants to “hear” petitions and praise, and wants us not to forsake assembling, etc., etc.,) But when a theology makes you reluctant to ask fellow Christians for prayer, and undermines any reason for Church, there is a problem, and patching it over with divine commands doesn’t solve the problem, especially when there are other paradigms in which the data of revelation and universal Christian practice coheres without arbitrary divine stipulations.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  94. D.G. – Erik, cats, wife, and daughters, can I buy you some testosterone?

    Erik – Cream or injections? Unfotunately I have no cats, and I do have sons as well as daughters (and a son-in-law in August).

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  95. Bryan – But when a theology makes you reluctant to ask fellow Christians for prayer.

    Erik – Our Reformed Church makes serious prayer requests known by e-mail and from the pulpit. Our pastor prays specifically for needs of the (living) saints each Sunday (for too long, some would criticize). I pray for family, co-workers, church leaders, and church members each night with my family. If I have a serious need I will let my pastor know so he and others in the church can do likewise. Hart can answer for Hart on this matter. I suspect his reluctance may come from the “prayer meetings” of his evangelical (Baptist) youth, but I’m just guessing.

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  96. Bryan, I may have a problem, though I’d have thought you a more traditional Christian and not given to the gab of Protestants praying for everything from hang nails to busted carboraters. I believe that Christ’s instructions on praying so as not to draw attention to ourselves is worth considering. But your praying to a co-mediatrix I regard as a much bigger problem and I’m betting the early church fathers would agree.

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  97. Darryl,

    Hang nails and carboretors are more red herrings. Here’s the bottom line. If your criticism of the Catholic doctrine of the communion of saints is based on a theology in which you are reluctant to ask fellow Christians to pray for you, and even reluctant to pray for yourself since it would imply that Christ’s intercession is insufficient or imperfect, your criticism is self-defeating, and other paradigms in which the practice of Christians praying for one another coheres with the theology, start to appear superior.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  98. Bryan, your attempt to make this about me is a blue fish. I object to Rome’s teaching about praying to saints on the basis of how our Lord taught us to pray — which was straight to God the Father. If you want to dither around with saints the church tells you are experiencing the beatific vision, fine. But you have interpreted away the pope’s claims at other times — Unam Sanctum, for instance — so why get so feisty on this one?

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  99. Bryan,

    The bottom line has been articulated several times but never addressed: Prayer to saints is different from asking embodied saints to pray for us.

    The difference is evident in the language and posture that is used in each case.

    Why not address this point, which has been raised several times, instead of continuing to press the idea that Reformed Christians somehow don’t believe in corporate prayer? Surely you haven’t forgotten so much of your Reformed past that you have forgotten corporate prayer in worship?!

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  100. When we develop complicated models (paradigms?) we check the impeccable logic coded in our algorithms against “knowns”…sanity checks as we call them. A useful sanity check when one argues that this or that theological stance motivates some behavior is to ask the obvious sociological questions. lf your reasoning leads you to conclude that RC doctrine leads the laity to be more likely to request prayer from fellow believers than protestant theology you have failed your sanity check. The culture of prayer chains, prayer meetings, etc… is far more common among protestants. Rather than jump to the conclusion that one’s discomfort with requesting prayers from fellow believers follows directly from protestant theology, you might consider the possibility that something else is going on and address the substantive point regarding the differences between how saints are approached versus fellow believers. But perhaps your shtick of scoring cheap rhetorical points and bogging down discussions with tiresome pedantry doesn’t allow for charitable readings of your “dialog” partners? It isn’t a very compelling paradigm…

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  101. Hang nails and carboretors are more red herrings.

    More blather from the chief roman fishwife and shrew on the site.

    Matthew 6:7  But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

    Rosary beads. Performative Tiberian prayerwheels. Check.

    Matthew 6:9  ¶After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. . . .

    After this manner. Not a rote prayer but in like fashion and not to anybody besides the Father in the name of Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit.
    But Rome prays the Lord’s Prayer in a rote fashion and to others besides God.
    ∴ Rome is disobedient/doesn’t know how to pray.

    [Re: praying to angels]
    Of course, as does the Psalmist: “Bless the Lord, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word,” (Ps. 103:20), “Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts!” (Ps. 148:2)

    More damnable and doddering nonsense.
    1. The angels are not dead saints.
    2. Because angels are sinless members of the heavenly host, they are set before our eyes, that by their most willing and prompt obedience we would be taught to do our duty. Of praising and praying to God, not the non sequitur of praying to angels.

    Next sinfully stupid question.
    Do angels pray to dead saints?

    how can you know which saints are in and which aren’t.

    It’s pretty hard if you’re not a saint. Bryan is not a Roman saint yet and he may never be. (Sorry)

    And in light of the deceitfulness of the human heart and tendency toward self /works righteousness pandered to by the Roman system, much more Bryan’s ample testimony here that he is a simple “True Believer”, there’s probably a lot of people in hell who didn’t think they were going there. I am sure your average most romanists think they are good people and St. Peter will let them in the Pearly Gates because of that. Bryan’s assurance is built on something a little more sophisticated than that, but it’s still damnable nonsense and superstition, i.e. anything contra or along side what is taught in Scripture. IOW popery.

    Besides he’s in the wrong church. Mormons baptize for the dead and they really call their performative bishop/pope an Apostle. As an American, Bryan has a shot in the one, as a non Italian convert zip in the other. Though to be honest Acquinas is his performative ideal.

    cheers

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  102. Jed, what, no mention of toxic hostile vitriol?
    No Eliot here, just a little choler at adept/highly accomplished spiritual liars.
    Justin gets points for necromancy tho. An apt and economical summary of B’s schtick [pronounced sh*t].

    cheers,

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  103. sdb, your description of “sanity checks” fits within an empirical paradigm, which is very welcome to my ears. Sadly, it is not welcome in all circles, including

    * Clarkians, for whom all Truth is deductive and empirical results are all equally unreliable.
    * Roman Catholics, for whom all Truth is referred back to the axiom of faith: “I accept whatsoever the church teaches to be true…”

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  104. Hey Jeff,

    I generally like what you have to say but I think that your statement is *gasp* “question-begging” when you say,

    “Roman Catholics, for whom all Truth is referred back to the axiom of faith: ‘I accept whatsoever the church teaches to be true…'”

    I think Brian is right to point out that Protestants do the same thing with Scripture. If you presuppose that Scripture is God’s Word then whatever Scripture teachers we accept. Of course, we have “motives of credibility” for this claim as the Roman Catholic does for theirs. I don’t find Rome’s credibility all that persuasive but I think both sides are open to dialogue on the issue. I don’t presume to speak for Bryan, but I believe that Bryan would acknowledge that if the RCC was not the Church that Christ founded (i.e. the motives of credibility were found wanting) then he’d stop being a Catholic immediately.

    But because of the motives of credibility, Bryan believes the axiom of faith, “I accept whatsoever the church teaches to be true” in the same way that Protestants have the axiom of faith, “I accept whatsoever the Scriptures teach to be true.” I don’t think either of these is averse to “sanity checks” per se.

    In practice, my own perception is that the RCC is more prone to ignoring (read: re-interpreting or “developing”) paradigm shifting evidence, but I can certainly do that as a Protestant as well.

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  105. Hi Brandon,

    Thanks for the remark, and I agree in part.

    Let’s distinguish two different ideas.

    (A) “On what ground do I believe X?”

    For this question, the Protestant and Catholic have similar-looking grounds.

    The Protestant says,

    “Because the Bible, God’s Word, says X.”

    The Catholic says,

    “Because the Bible and/or tradition, God’s Word, says X.”

    This was your point, I believe, and I would agree that these are similar in function.

    But now the meta-question: “How do I know that God’s Word actually says X?”

    Here, the RC, the Clarkian, and the classic Prot are very different.

    The RC says, “Because tradition tells me that God’s Word has said X.”

    This is clear in Bryan’s description of his own epistemic process. He asks the priest to clarify; the priest if necessary asks the bishop; the verbal feedback process happens until everyone is saying the same thing.

    Hence, the system is effectively deductive. Not only does the Catholic rest on tradition to ground his confidence, *why* he believes the content, but he also rests on tradition to know *what* the content of his belief is.

    The Clarkian arrives at a similar position from a different claim: that language is immediately apprehended into the brain, so that “the axiom of Scripture” together with laws of logic generate all the doctrine we need, which has the same epistemic status as Scripture itself.

    In both instances, sanity checks are not feasible without abandoning the system. Since the method includes the assumption that we know *what* God’s word says, the sanity checks are epistemically suspicious.

    But the classic Prot, at least insofar as Calvin and Hodge are representative, answers this question in an inductive manner: we use evidence, inference, and falsification to come to “best inference from evidence.”

    Here, sanity checks are useful. In fact, that’s been the thrust of DGH’s method here, if I’m reading him right.

    The way it works in practice for me is that I begin with “boundary markers” — Clear Scriptures that bound my reading of less clear Scriptures.

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  106. Brandon and Jeff, here’s the difference as I see it. Rome is not critical of its authority but Protestants are. That is, we study the Bible and over time we have come to recognize the host of human and historical factor that shaped the canon or Scripture and even in some cases the writings of the prophets and apostles themselves. But if you ask Bryan and other CTCers about the history of the papacy, the process by which medieval popes made claims that earlier ones did, the historical factors that led popes to assert such supreme authority, you largely get, “this is the church Christ founded, Peter was the first pope.” It is worse than a Harold Lindsell defense of biblical inerrancy. Confessional Protestants can concede that some of Scripture’s wrinkles are hard to smooth out. I have yet to hear from a CTC that the papacy has a single wrinkle. They can’t. This is the ground of their certainty, their reason for poping. Protestants don’t believe because the Bible is inerrant. They believe because of what the Bible reveals. In other words, inerrancy looks to something beyond itself. Papal infallibility is the last stop.

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  107. Brandon,
    I “think” the bottom line for Bryan is he wants something he can see. It’s not a scriptural faith. It’s an apostolic office and tradition that can trump Utah. He said as much in his article about how the Mormon missionaries got him to thinking about and ditching protestantism. (Neither do I think he will end up an atheist as per Erik. JJS? Another story.)

    Jeff,

    But now the meta-question: “How do I know that God’s Word actually says X?”

    What does the WCF say in that it presupposes if we can know it is God’s Word, we can know what it says, because miracle of miracles, it actually says it is God’s Word, no? WCF 1:4,5

    Since the method includes the assumption that we know *what* God’s word says, the sanity checks are epistemically suspicious.

    ? What happened to perspicuity?
    And empiricism/inferences trump “Clarkianism”?

    Every system inescapably presupposes its axiom. Between Scripture, reason, the senses, history/the Church what will it be? Clark said Scripture, as did Van Til. It is the principium cognoscendi, with every other choice of an axiom self destructing/contradicting its own internal logic/rules/POV/paradigm.

    And while logic/reason is inescapable, and the Roman system is that – a system however confused, popery is essentially fideism, an unscriptural, unreasonable and unhistorical faith in Rome, much more the empirical visible sacraments as per DGH’s very helpful quote from ALane on the Logocentric post.

    thank you

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  108. It’s interesting that the only example in Scripture of one trying to contact/pray-to a deceased saint was that of Saul contacting Samuel via the witch of Endor. The idea of praying to the saints is absent from the Bible. There’s not even a hint of it anywhere. Darryl, are you aware of when/where the historical records indicate the beginning of this idolatry?

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  109. Guess what. It’s still not a prayer. It’s just like asking a friend — you know, your friend who is the queen of the universe — to pray for you:

    To this claim, we should first answer that we do not teach a substitutional mediation in invoking the saints, as if we were trying to go to the Father apart from Jesus’ mediation.

    Rather, we speak of a subordinate mediation, in which we seek the prayers of the saints, or of one another. For indeed we could have no communion with them or one another if it were not for Jesus Christ, who as the Head of the Body, the Church, unites all His members and facilitates our communion with one another.

    Objectors seem to speak of there being one mediator in an absolute sense, excluding any other possible interaction or any subordinate mediation. But consider that if there is only one mediator in an absolute sense, then no one ought to ask ANYONE to pray for him; and neither should the objectors attend any church, read any book, listen to any sermon, or even read the Bible (since the Bible mediates Jesus’ words to you).

    A “mediator” is someone or something that acts as a “go-between,” acting to facilitate our relationship with Jesus. And though Jesus mediates our relationship to the Father, He also asked Apostles, preachers, and teachers to mediate, to facilitate His relationship with us.

    Thus Jesus sent Apostles out to draw others to him. St. Paul says, How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ (Rom 10:14-15, 17).

    And thus Jesus has His relationship with us mediated through His Word and through the Apostles and others who announce that Word and draw us to Him.

    But since some Protestants say that there is absolutely only ONE mediator, and no subordinate or deputed mediators, there is therefore no need to ask ANYONE or ANYTHING to mediate. So should they not burn their Bibles, stop asking anyone to pray for them, and seek no advice, since NO ONE can mediate a single thing? No one can do this because there is, as they say in an absolutely unqualified sense, only ONE mediator—one and only one.

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  110. DGHart: “It’s just like asking a friend to pray for you”

    Thank you DG. I noticed that too when it was said by Mrs W. (I forget where) recently – an apparent denial or misunderstanding of what seems to be the real Catholic belief – that Mary ‘empowers’ ?
    which is truly reserved only for the Lord, according to the Lord.

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  111. Not Hail, Caesar but Mary:

    I have been asked to pray for you and I want to do so now, with you. You Mexicans have something extra; you run ahead with an advantage. You have a Mother, la Guadalupana. She wanted to visit this land and this gives us the certainty of her intercession so that our dream, which we call the family, may not be lost through uncertainty or solitude. She is always ready to defend our families, our future; she is always ready to put her heart into it by giving us her Son. For this reason, I invite you to join our hands and say together: “Hail Mary…”

    Like

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