Rome's Advantage over Amsterdam

As much as Jason and the Callers may think of their crossing the Tiber as the fix to Protestantism’s anarchy, another set of converts finds Rome congenial precisely because it has more resources for transforming culture. This is where the idea that neo-Calvinism is making the world safe for Roman Catholicism has some plausibility. After all, Calvinism only fixes so much. It may get you to 1550 Geneva or 1618 Amsterdam. But what about the problems that Protestantism introduced to Europe by upending Christendom in the West. If you give someone a taste for a Christian society, can they ever be satisfied with the kind of disquiet that Protestantism introduced?

That question explains why Hilaire Belloc thought Protestantism was a heresy and Rome the answer to the West’s problems:

1. It was not a particular movement but a general one, i.e., it did not propound a particular heresy which could be debated and exploded, condemned by the authority of the Church, as had hitherto been every other heresy or heretical movement. Nor did it, after the various heretical propositions had been condemned, set up (as had Mohammedanism or the Albigensian movement) a separate religion over against the old orthodoxy. Rather did it create a certain separate which we still call “Protestantism.” It produced indeed a crop of heresies, but not one heresy_and its characteristic was that all its heresies attained and prolonged a common savour: that which we call “Protestantism” today.

2. Though the immediate fruits of the Reformation decayed, as had those of many other heresies in the past, yet the disruption it had produced remained and the main principle_reaction against a united spiritual authority_so continued in vigour as both to break up our European civilization in the West and to launch at last a general doubt, spreading more and more widely. None of the older heresies did that, for they were each definite. Each had proposed to supplant or to rival the existing Catholic Church; but the Reformation movement proposed rather to dissolve the Catholic Church_and we know what measure success has been attained by that effort! . . .

But let it be noted that this breakdown of the older anti-Catholic thing, the Protestant culture, shows no sign of being followed by an hegemony of the Catholic culture. There is no sign as yet of a reaction towards the domination of Catholic ideas_the full restoration of the Faith by which Europe and all our civilization can alone be saved.

It nearly always happens that when you get rid of one evil you find yourself faced with another hitherto unsuspected; and so it is now with the breakdown of the Protestant hegemony. We are entering a new phase, “The Modern Phase,” as I have called it, in which very different problems face the Eternal Church and a very different enemy will challenge her existence and the salvation of the world which depends upon her.

R.J. Snell, a recent convert, echoes Belloc on Rome’s cultural potentialities while sounding very different from Jason and the Callers on dogma and papal infallibility:

. . . Lumen Fidei is making no claim of empty pietism but rather an acutely prescient observation when stating that “once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim,” for the light of faith provides an illuminating source of “every aspect of human existence,” and thus is integral and non-reductive in its knowledge. Such a light, the encyclical continues, given our sinful state, “cannot come from ourselves but … must come from God.” Further, this light does not merely sweep us out of our troubles and into some serene realm of transcendence, but transforms us by God’s love, giving us “fresh vision, new eyes to see”—faith allows us, again, and also here and now, to begin the recovery of thought, memory, imagination, and freedom.

The faith is about far more than social recovery and advance, for in the end faith gives us an encounter and union with the living God, but faith never provides less than the possibility of social recovery. While God gives us Himself, and this is ultimate, it was not below Christ to heal the lame, teach the unknowing, and work as a carpenter; just as Christ engages us in our natural and temporal concerns, so too does faith, this Humanism of the Cross, bring new vision and light to the spiritual impoverishment surrounding us. . . .

The Church exists not for itself but for others. We exist for evangelization, for the health and welfare of souls. But persons are not souls only, they are, in the words of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, a unity of soul and body so profound that “neither the spiritualism that despises the body not the materials that considers the spirit a mere manifestation of the material do justice … to the unity of the human being.” As such, we exist for others as complete and integral persons—for an integral humanism.

But just as 2kers question neo-Calvinists on cultural transformation, so they ask Rome’s apologists whether the point of Christ’s death was to save Western Civilization. Of course, apologists might think that question too blunt, and that the relationship between Christ and culture requires nuance. It may, but the kind of sensibility that led Christ to say that his kingdom was not of this world or Paul to say that the unseen things are really the permanent things, not philosophy or the arts, were also responsible for figures like Thomas Aquinas writing that:

Some truths about God exceed all the ability of the human reason. Such is the truth that God is trinune. But there are some truths which the natural reason also is able to reach. Such are that God exists, that He is one, and the like.

In other words, not everyone is cut out for a liberal arts education with a major in one of the humanities and you don’t need a B.A. to be a Christian to trust the triune God. Plumbers and farmers understand more truth, if they trust Christ, than the smartest of philosophers. That is, at least, one way of reading Aquinas on faith and reason.

This gap between Christ and culture is also behind the fourth stanza of Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress”:

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

In the world of otherworldly Christianity, a believer goes straight to the head of the class, and gets to by-pass Philosophy 101 and Intro to the Classics, simply by faith (or baptism as Rome understands it).

And yet, neo-Calvinists, who have the memo on the eternal and the temporal, have yet to reflect on it. That may owe to Abraham Kuyper’s own refusal to unhitch Christ and culture and his concomitant demand for integralism:

Hence, as a central phenomenon in the development of humanity, Calvinism is not only entitled to an honorable position by the side of Paganistic, Islamistic and Romanistic forms, since like these it represents a peculiar principle dominating the whole of life, but it also meets every required condition for the advancement of human development to a higher stage. And yet this would remain a bare possibility without any corresponding reality, if history did not testify that Calvinism has actually caused the stream of human life to flow in another channel, and has ennobled the social life of the nations. . .

. . . only by Calvinism the psalm of liberty found its way from the troubled conscience to the lips; that Calvinism has captured and guaranteed to us our constitutional civil rights; and that simultaneously with this there went out from Western Europe that mighty movement which promoted the revival of science and art, opened new avenues to commerce and trade, beautified domestic and social life, exalted the middle classes to positions of honor, caused philanthropy to abound, and more than all this, elevated, purified, and ennobled moral life by puritanic seriousness ; and then judge for yourselves whether it will do to banish any longer this God-given Calvinism to the archives of history, and whether it is so much of a dream to conceive that Calvinism has yet a blessing to bring and a bright hope to unveil for the future. (Lectures on Calvinism, 38-40)

At the end of the nineteenth century, Calvinism’s fortunes may have looked a lot brighter than Rome’s did. The Roman Church was under a virtual lock down from the Vatican amid encyclicals against Americanism and Modernism and church dogma about papal supremacy and infallibility. But that is no longer the case. Not only can Rome boast five U.S. Supreme Court justices, but the texts of Western civilization chalk up more Roman Catholic believers than Protestant saints (and they ARE saints). In another hundred years, the tables may turn again. But Protestantism will never be able to claim that it shaped the West as much as an older version of Western Christianity did.

So if Protestants want to compete in the Christian olympics, perhaps they should forget the events of Great Books and Christian political theology and put their talent and resources into soteriology, worship, and church government. Even if they don’t bring home the gold, they can take comfort from knowing the streets of paradise are paved with it.

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69 thoughts on “Rome's Advantage over Amsterdam

  1. “forget the events of Great Books and Christian political theology and put their talent and resources into soteriology, worship, and church government.”

    That’s what they call aiming low in the Big Apple. Boring. No brand? No special clothes? No logo?

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  2. what about the problems that Protestantism introduced to Europe by upending Christendom in the West. If you give someone a taste for a Christian society, can they ever be satisfied with the kind of disquiet that Protestantism introduced?

    That question explains why Hilaire Belloc thought Protestantism was a heresy and Rome the answer to the West’s problems.

    So did Alexis de Tocqueville on the latter part, predicting that “Our posterity will tend more and more to a single division in two parts- some relinquishing Christianity entirely, and others returning to the bosom of the Catholic Church.”

    “Amongst the various sects of Christianity, Catholicism seems to me to be one of those which are most favorable to the equality of conditions…If Catholicism predisposes the faithful to obedience, it certainly does not prepare them for inequality; but the contrary may be said of Protestantism, which generally tends to make men independent, more than to render them equal.

    America is the most democratic country in the world and at the same time it is the country in which the Roman Catholic religion makes the most progress. Men living in democratic ages are very prone to shake off all religious authority; but if they consent to subject to themselves to any authority of this kind, they choose that it should be single and uniform. Religious powers not radiating from a common center are naturally repugnant to their minds…

    Many of the doctrines and the practices of the Roman Catholic Church astonish them; but they feel a secret admiration for its discipline, its great unity attracts them…our posterity will tend more and more to a single division in two parts- some relinquishing Christianity entirely, and others returning to the bosom of the Catholic Church.”

    Good topic, Darryl.
    _______________________________
    But Protestantism will never be able to claim that it shaped the West as much as an older version of Western Christianity did.

    Well, I give the Scholastics a lot of credit for Western Civilization, but the United States of America was impossible without Protestantism, specifically Reformed theology.

    “There no use crying about it — Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson, and that is the end of it.”—Lord Horace Walpole c. 1776

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  3. and then there is “Constantinianism, Reformed for the current situation”
    ·
    Valid “anabaptism” is impossible. If your first water baptism is valid, then your second water baptism is invalid. So you are free to do as many invalid water baptisms as possible, and still be welcomed at our generous table.

    Christians only die once.

    Christ only baptizes Christians with the Holy Spirit once.

    The elect are only justified one time

    The elect are only placed by God’s imputation into the death of Christ once.

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  4. Tom, but even more credit for western civ goes to the pagan Greeks and Romans. And even more impossible without Protestantism and Reformed theology are Reformed churches, you know, the actual point of Protestantism and Reformed theology.

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  5. I listened to an excellent Teaching Company lecture by Michael Sugrue yesterday on Marcus Aurelius. At some point we should discuss the similarities between Stoic philosophy and Old School Presbyterianism.

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  6. Erik, per Wikipedia, “The major difference between the two philosophies [Christianity and Stoicism] is Stoicism’s pantheism, in which God is never fully transcendent but always immanent.”

    Although I can’t deny the effect of stocism at one point, in my own learning.

    Teaching Company is great for those, like me, who commute to work. All the better when you local library has them all, for free.

    Later.

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  7. Zrim
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink
    Tom, but even more credit for western civ goes to the pagan Greeks and Romans. And even more impossible without Protestantism and Reformed theology are Reformed churches, you know, the actual point of Protestantism and Reformed theology.

    Well, the Scholastics bring the West out of the Dark Ages by re-introducing and Christianizing the classical tradition, esp Aristotle–hence my lumping. Western Civilization blossoms, just as the Golden Age of Islam closes–not coincidentally with

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Incoherence_of_the_Philosophers

    I didn’t know what to call “Calvinism’s” [whose Calvinism is it, anyway?] role in developing the American political philosophy without getting somebody tweaked. “Reformed churches” is fine with me and has the virtue of including Congregationalism, a major New England sect.

    Unfortunately, to the general reader without a scorecard for Protestantism’s numerous denominations, “Reformed churches” will probably not convey the intended meaning.

    As always, thx for the considered reply.

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  8. Andrew,

    Tom Wolfe explored the impact of Stoic philosophy on one of the characters in his novel, “A Man in Full”. It was interesting, as was his next book, “I Am Charlotte Simmons”. I haven’t read his latest.

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  9. Tom, your view of Calvinism doesn’t include the Dutch and the Germans and the French. We’ve been here and done that. But you have not been particularly inclined to view the American revolution as coming more from British politics than Calvinist theology. The more I think about the reception of Calvinism among the Brits in the context of the Stuarts and Cromwell, the more I see the American revolution as something that would have left other Calvinists scratching their heads. In other words, 1776 was far more about Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution than it was about the Institutes. Calvinism was merely a cover for some pastors.

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  10. D. G. Hart
    Posted November 8, 2013 at 5:44 am | Permalink
    Tom, your view of Calvinism doesn’t include the Dutch and the Germans and the French. We’ve been here and done that. But you have not been particularly inclined to view the American revolution as coming more from British politics than Calvinist theology. The more I think about the reception of Calvinism among the Brits in the context of the Stuarts and Cromwell, the more I see the American revolution as something that would have left other Calvinists scratching their heads. In other words, 1776 was far more about Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution than it was about the Institutes. Calvinism was merely a cover for some pastors.

    I don’t have a problem with that opinion, Darryl–as a student of history I look to the whole picture, and the theology–right or wrong, “true” or false–is beyond my pay grade. The historian’s “History of Calvinism” is different than a Calvinist’s who has a theological dog in the fight. But to the historian, whatever is normative–and revolution was normative in the Anglo-American sphere–is “Calvinism.”

    As you see above, I’m fine with “Reformed churches” rather than Reformed theology, in no small part because there IS no “normative” Reformed theology we can speak of, as we see from your own battles with the Kuyperians, neo-Calvinists, Presbyterian Church in the USA, and no doubt “reformed” Baptists and whatnot.

    So, unfortunately, the awkward term “Calvinism” fits best for any but the ecclesiatically expert on Protestantism.

    Sort of how “Roman” Catholic came into common use by being an insult by English Protestants; Catholics have grown to live with it.

    http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2013/11/those-bloody-papists-even-term-roman.html

    Thanks for your reply.

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  11. BTW, DG, I see our mutual pal Leithart is fishing from the same pond.

    http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/11/the-end-of-protestantism

    The Reformation isn’t over. But Protestantism is, or should be.

    When I studied at Cambridge, I discovered that English Evangelicals define themselves over against the Church of England. Whatever the C of E is, they ain’t. What I’m calling “Protestantism” does the same with Roman Catholicism. Protestantism is a negative theology; a Protestant is a not-Catholic. Whatever Catholics say or do, the Protestant does and says as close to the opposite as he can.

    Mainline churches are nearly bereft of “Protestants.” If you want to spot one these days, your best bet is to visit the local Baptist or Bible church, though you can find plenty of Protestants among conservative Presbyterians too.

    Protestantism ought to give way to Reformational catholicism. Like a Protestant, a Reformational catholic rejects papal claims, refuses to venerate the Host, and doesn’t pray to Mary or the saints; he insists that salvation is a sheer gift of God received by faith and confesses that all tradition must be judged by Scripture, the Spirit’s voice in the conversation that is the Church.

    Though it agrees with the original Protestant protest, Reformational catholicism is defined as much by the things it shares with Roman Catholicism as by its differences. Its existence is not bound up with finding flaws in Roman Catholicism. While he’s at it, the Reformational catholic might as well claim the upper-case “C.” Why should the Roman see have a monopoly on capitalization?

    A Protestant exaggerates his distance from Roman Catholicism on every point of theology and practice, and is skeptical of Roman Catholics who say that they believe in salvation by grace. A Reformational Catholic cheerfully acknowledges that he shares creeds with Roman Catholics, and he welcomes reforms and reformulations as hopeful signs that we might at last stake out common ground beyond the barricades. (Protestants also exaggerate differences from one another, but that’s a story for another day.)

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  12. I expected nowt else from the warrior children, Andrew–Leithart just plooped in your punchbowl. You’re the Protestant Protestants! The Romish are just one of the entries on your lengthy list of the deranged and confused.

    I’m just sitting here watchin’ the wheels go round and round. As a student of history, I note that “Protestantism” is only 500 years old, and ecclesiastically it’s been entropic, if not centrifugal. Of its fate and future, it’s too soon to tell–Leithart may be onto something.

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  13. TVD, but what was normative for Anglo-American Calvinism? You assume you know what that is. Is it the Covenanters, the Seceders, the PCUSA, the Kirk, Puritans? You can adopt the historian’s pose all you want, but your assumption about what is “normative” is just as arbitrary as the “theologian’s”.

    And if you really want to be friendly, I’d encourage you to drop this “oh, DG, you’ve got a dog in this fight and I know what it is so you’re not really doing history.”

    My ass.

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  14. Tom, there’s some thoughts shared on another thread here at OLTS as well. Leithart has done no such thing. Name one reason why I should care what he says. You know his history, right? This all goes way back, I don’t even know the half of it. Take care.

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  15. D. G. Hart
    Posted November 8, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink
    TVD, but what was normative for Anglo-American Calvinism? You assume you know what that is. Is it the Covenanters, the Seceders, the PCUSA, the Kirk, Puritans? You can adopt the historian’s pose all you want, but your assumption about what is “normative” is just as arbitrary as the “theologian’s”.

    And if you really want to be friendly, I’d encourage you to drop this “oh, DG, you’ve got a dog in this fight and I know what it is so you’re not really doing history.”

    My ass.

    “Normative” Anglo-American Calvinism is what the majority believed–or at least a significant plurality, enough that if you call revolution “not-Calvinism” you’re taking sides with your dog in the fight.

    As for you bringing in the Dutch and German Reformed, that’s fair, but on the other hand, I’m speaking of American history and political history. On the world stage, with 2/3 of its total adherents, Catholicism is the normative Christianity. In America, “Protestantism” is the majority. This is the point where ecclesiastical/theological history and American/world history part.

    The effect of “Calvinist resistance theory” on American and world history is far more significant than Calvinism’s ecclesiastical history, which is of interest mostly to its adherents. So yes, we get not just “Whose Calvinism is it, anyway” but also “Whose history is it anyway?” What is important, what is not?

    One would write the history of the Roman church quite differently depending on whether it’s ecclesiastical/theological history or world history. A historian would write of Catholic theology hardly atall except where Protestants rejected it!

    As for your ass, Darryl, I’ve been told on good authority that it’s not bad. Peace.

    [At the moment I’m enjoying the unauthorized history of The Old Grudgeologians. You never cease to fascinate me.]

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  16. Andrew
    Posted November 8, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink
    Tom, there’s some thoughts shared on another thread here at OLTS as well. Leithart has done no such thing. Name one reason why I should care what he says. You know his history, right? This all goes way back, I don’t even know the half of it. Take care.

    Yes, I know Leithart’s history of being tried for heresy or whatever they call it. That’s what makes it all the more interesting.

    A lot of R. Scott Clark’s rebuttal was ad hominem on Leithart. To this observer, Scott already surrendered the high ground, if not the whole battlefield.

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  17. Tom, a little humility goes a long way in these theology blog discussions. After all, what doesPaul say:

    The Divine demand is absolute. They are not relative demands, which bring more or less blessedness, but they are the absolute demand: joyfully accept the will of God. And there is only one punishment – not the different degrees between the ecclesiastical satisfactions, between the punishment in purgatory, and its many degrees, and finally Hell. There is nothing like this. There is only one punishment, namely the despair of being separated from God. And consequently there is only one grace, namely, reunion with God. That’s all. And to this, Luther – whom Adolf Harnack, the great historian of the dogma, has called a genius of reduction – to this simplicity, Luther has reduced the Christian religion. This is another religion.

    And if you read that and then see how simple the fundamental statement of Luther was, and how the rabies theologorum produced an almost unimaginable amount of theological disputations on points of which even half-learned theologians as myself would say that they are intolerable, they don’t mean anything any more – then you can see the difference between the prophetic mind and the fanatical theological mind.

    Were you able to make sense out of what Leithart meant by anything he was saying? What on earth is a “reformational catholic”? They reject the papal claims? Tom, I honestly can’t make sense of almost any sentence you posted from Mr. Leithart, here at Oldlife today. If you want to side with him, go right ahead. I welcome you to explain further your thoughts on your and his shared theological positions.

    Regards,
    Andrew

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  18. Andrew, when one fellow accuses the other of incomprehensibility, there’s seldom any point in continuing. Either the fault is yours or Leithart’s.

    As for Tillich, I liked this part

    how the rabies theologorum produced an almost unimaginable amount of theological disputations on points of which even half-learned theologians as myself would say that they are intolerable, they don’t mean anything any more

    and think perhaps Leithart does too. For if

    There is only one punishment, namely the despair of being separated from God. And consequently there is only one grace, namely, reunion with God.

    as Leithart argues, there’s really no Christian who doesn’t believe that, the Romish included. Therefore the rest is needless strife and schism. If “popes” can err, and if Peter was the first pope as the Romish hold, then he did err as per Galatians 2, when Paul corrects him.

    So therefore, if the Bishop of Rome today says he cannot err, he’s wrong. Hence, Leithart writes

    a Reformational catholic rejects papal claims, refuses to venerate the Host, and doesn’t pray to Mary or the saints; he insists that salvation is a sheer gift of God received by faith and confesses that all tradition must be judged by Scripture, the Spirit’s voice in the conversation that is the Church.

    So, mellow out, warrior child. “Protestantism” is not a viable alternative anyway–“Presbyterianism” or “Anglicanism” or the Baptists fragment into hundreds of sects over equally unimportant hairsplitting, or sit cheek-by-clenched jowl together in the same pews every Sunday enduring their differences on much greater issues than the Assumption of Mary.

    If I understand Brother Peter correctly.

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  19. Tom, I know my approach is a non-starter, but you are talking to a confessional reformed protestant. He wants me to change to become a reformational catholic, and continue to reject papal claims as I do. Look, if he is pushing for further dialog between Rome and Geneva, sure, I can agree to that. The problem with such ecumenical efforts, well meaning though they be, tend to reveal the level of ignorance on BOTH sides when they begin to engage. There’s a way forward that glorifies God, Tom. I’m calm so don’t worry. Try engaging more in the theology instead of always being above it. It’s foolish to think that your posting something like won’t elicit a response, unless that’s all your after. We’re not play-things here.

    Regards,
    Andrew

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  20. Andrew
    Posted November 8, 2013 at 7:31 pm | Permalink
    Tom, I know my approach is a non-starter, but you are talking to a confessional reformed protestant. He wants me to change to become a reformational catholic

    Well, Andrew, it says “theological society” on the door here, not “church.” Since Leithart’s work is in the zone of my continuing dialogue with ye warrior children, I stopped by for a bit of your customary pith and vinegar. [Albeit, as is customary, a lion’s share of the latter.]

    And who else would I ask but Brother Darryl and the merry Machen Whoopee men here assembled?

    ?!

    As a student of history, I like the scale of Leithart’s long view–centuries, millennia. You ask me to speak of theology, so where the Church–Christianity–will be in another 500 years or 10,000 is far more interesting to muse upon than say Machen’s battle with the PCUSA. [Although I find that interesting too, but more in its illustration of the entropic quality of the Reformation, which Melanchthon was quite right to fear and Thomas More quick to recognize.]

    Leithart’s distinction between ecclesiastical Protestantism and the theology of the Reformation is worthy of consideration. Whither Protestantism?

    Wither Protestantism? Your own church is the Reformation in microcosm. To the outside observer, the theological details are superfluous, save the rejection of magisterium.

    http://www.pcahistory.org/documents/machentrial.html

    Formation of the independent board in 1924 by the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen, of Philadelphia, rivaling the officially recognized group, precipitated a fight between fundamentalists and modernists. Dr. Machen and several associates already have been tried on charges of refusing to resign from the board, decisions in which are expected to be handed down by the judicial committee either tomorrow or Wednesday.

    Told To Quit Quarreling
    The 1,000 clergymen and laymen attending the assembly heard an appeal today to quit “quarreling about how you interpret the Bible and make God known to the children.” Offered in the form of a floor motion, the appeal came form David Bogue, of Portage, Wis., an elder, after several hours discussion on various subjects, participated in by fundamentalists and modernists.

    Developments Listed
    These were the rapid-fire developments as the one hundred and forty-eighth assembly moved into its fifth day:
    1. Dr. Machen, fundamentalist leader, reiterated that the Judicial Commission decisions last week against his faction “renders inevitable a division in the church,” and charged that the present organization is “dominated by a modernism which is profoundly opposed to the Christian religion.”

    2. Announcement of a meeting tomorrow night of Machen followers to discuss preliminary plans for creation of a separate church, preparatory to the Philadelphia convention late this month of the Constitutional Covenant Union.

    BF mine, a detail I didn’t know. The OPC schism was already in the bag. So it goes. What’s interesting is that where [Roman] Catholicism spins off its heretics, Protestantism spins off its conservatives. At least to date that’s often been the case*. I’m willing to hear Leithart out as he develops his very interesting thesis, which I think is not fully formed yet.

    Perhaps Leithart doesn’t want the Reformation to crawl back to Rome as much as be joyously pulled through the front gate by its denizens. Like, you know, the Trojan horse? ;-P

    Best regards.

    _______
    *As they still say in New England about the Congregationalist schism, the Trinitarians kept the faith, the Unitarians got the furniture.

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  21. Tom, I enjoy talking theology with you. The simple answer is, we actually “spin off” conservstives because, as I understand, that is actually the very thing that promotes peace in the church(!). To me, everyone wants an easy out. Kind of like how sometimes, even the most pious man doesn’t want to go to church on Sunday (I’ll never forget my first OP pastor saying that in his sermon, that even HE doesn’t feel like going to church sometimes). I digress, but come by Darryl’s blog whenever your in the mood for pith and vinegar. Oh, and where will the church be in 10,000 years? That’s a lot of time for a lot more denominations to form. We don’t ant the winsome Tom Van Dykes of 12,013 AD to get bored, now, would we?

    If you ever visit a Presb church (any kind), think on us,

    Andrew

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  22. Tom, to add to what I am saying, in the above comment box (emphasis mine):

    Now, I had the opportunity in the book that George Knight was referring to earlier, to reflect on OPC history on the confession and on confessional subscription, and I suggested that the OPC has generally avoided tensions in subscription that beset other denominations because our denomination has established a community of interpretation that enabled it to maintain both peace and orthodoxy without the polarizing effect of a rigorously enforced subscription. Providentially, the OPC has been relative to other communions clear about its theological identity, and that clarity came through some painful episodes that involved certain parties leaving the church, certain failures at merger – all of these things, as disappointing as they were, were at least helpful in this sense. They kept narrow the focus and identity of the OPC. If these episodes had kept the church numerically small, they have also kept it theologically cohesive. This corporate culture in the OPC has developed in a way that has avoided the modern temptations of advanced bureaucracy, high levels of organizational efficiency, and the OPC instead believes that it must engage in the very deliberate, painfully slow and excruciatingly inefficient process of debate on theological issues. In this way, the OPC has demonstrated the principle that the church—Here I want to quote from theologian, Richard Lints, in his book The Fabric of Theology: “The construction of a theological framework and the appropriation of a theological vision are properly the tasks of the Christian community not of isolated individuals. The communal character of interpretation serves to suppress the tendency of an ecclesiastical aristocracy or an academic elite to reign supreme in matters pertaining to the Bible. This construction and maintenance of the theological vision we can put in other words, animus imponentis.”

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  23. Andrew
    Posted November 8, 2013 at 10:53 pm | Permalink
    Tom, to add to what I am saying, in the above comment box (emphasis mine):

    “the tendency of an ecclesiastical aristocracy or an academic elite to reign supreme in matters pertaining to the Bible.”

    Thomas More argued that in the end “Protestantism” just trades one set of “aristocratic” and “elite” authorities for another. You don’t read Hebrew or Greek and neither do I. We’re at the mercy of our Bible translators. Then we’re at the mercy of our Bible explicators. Plus let’s assume you and I have IQ’s under 100, the modern average. Plus we can’t even read.

    That’s the counterargument. First things first. Before widespread literacy and the printing press, before the doctrine of sola scriptura, there were 1500 years of [so-called] Christians. More or less. That is–1500 years more or less, “Christians” more or less, who could not read the Bible “for themselves.” Whatever The Bible said, most people were taking somebody else’s word for it.

    [They still do!]

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  24. Tom,

    They had hundreds of years to think this up:

    All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

    As for the 1500 years before the printing press, all I can say, is, it’s a good thing the printing press finally did come around and Luther’s 95 theses spread like wild fire throughout the land. When’s the last time you received an indulgence to get time off in purgatory?

    Still, the decision to grant indulgences over the Internet strikes both Avella and Rev. John O’Malley, S.J., an internationally acclaimed scholar on the Vatican and professor at Georgetown University, as peculiar. “This Twitter stuff, I have to admit, all sounds very strange to me,” O’Malley wrote in an email. He also stressed that the principle of papal infallibility does not cover such a pronouncement. “The pope is not infallible in everything he says or does but only in a VERY restricted area and under VERY specific circumstances,” he wrote. “The Twitter indulgences does not fulfill those criteria in even the slightest way.” The scholars also seemed to doubt whether, in a maze of Vatican bureaucracy, the directive was initiated or even directly authorized by the Pope himself.

    Speaking of twitter, Patrick Stewart was there ringing the opening bell on Thursday morning.

    What a world,

    Andrew

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  25. Tom, I didn’t mention Dutch or German Reformed — who were in the colonies and a fairly important presence in New York — but I did mention all the varieties of British Calvinism, from the Puritans to the Covenanters. Calvinism was not one thing even in North America, let along in the U.K. You may not have a theological agenda, but you may have an ideological one that gets in the way of history as much as any theology I profess.

    Seems to me you are a lumper and there is a debate among historians about whether to be lumpers or splitters. I myself think the best history takes account of differences instead of the consensus history that skirts differences for commonalities.

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  26. Tom, if you can ask whither Protestantism, we can ask whither Roman Catholicism?

    But the better question is whither Tom? Seems to me Tom does a lot of fighting without even owning a dog.

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  27. Thomas More argued that in the end “Protestantism” just trades one set of “aristocratic” and “elite” authorities for another. You don’t read Hebrew or Greek and neither do I. We’re at the mercy of our Bible translators. Then we’re at the mercy of our Bible explicators. Plus let’s assume you and I have IQ’s under 100, the modern average. Plus we can’t even read.

    We aren’t at the mercy of translators in nearly the same way. Translations can be checked against one another. There exist good quality debates where I can read for myself why translators came down on various sides of an issue and evaluate the evidence. I can examine the evidence on cases where I am familiar with various translators and extrapolate from that towards a general attitude towards their work on issues on which I am ignorant. In short I can engage in a ration evidence based of translations even without myself being an expert.

    And that holds for other commentaries too.

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  28. What’s interesting is that where [Roman] Catholicism spins off its heretics, Protestantism spins off its conservatives. At least to date that’s often been the case*. I’m willing to hear Leithart out as he develops his very interesting thesis, which I think is not fully formed yet.

    I don’t think it is the case often, I’d say it happens the minority of the time. There are cycles of experimentation, conservative backlash and then reaction. Most of the time the conservative backlash overpowers most of the experimentation. There is just a bit of change of growth.

    Take American Protestantism 100 years ago.

    100 years ago Spiritualism was still very much in vogue and there was a strong desire among Americans for spiritualist / Christian hybrids. I’d say that’s almost 100% conservative victory.

    100 years ago mainstream Christians believed that in light of Darwin the mission of Christianity should be to save souls through incorporations into Christian values and Christian practices. That is to say the majority of Christians did not view the cross as central to their faith. Another area where Conservatives have been victorious.

    If you loo at the 5 fundamentals and even examine liberal Christians

    The Deity of Jesus — Most liberals today consider this a fundamental of the faith. The idea of Jesus as just a great moral teacher is considered outside the bounds of Christianity even by liberals. Similarly Blood Atonement is considered a fundamental even by liberals.

    The Virgin Birth — Not even controversial anymore. Liberals who are willing to tolerate any miracles (i.e. aren’t functionally atheist) accept this easily. Similarly the Jesus’ Bodily Resurrection

    The only one still controversial on the liberal / conservative dividing line the inerrancy of scripture.

    Or if we go a generation later we see this more broadly. The focus of Liberal Christian theology between the World Wars was to demythologize Christianity so to recast it in modern terms. Maintain the core of the religion, the ethics and practices but recast the historical and scientific claims in a way consistent with modern science. Today I don’t know of many advocates for this position at all even within the Liberal Churches.

    Would a Pearl Buck, who didn’t just disbelieve but considered most of Christianity’s historical claims to be a “pernicious superstition” be a Christian leader even for liberals today? The conservatives won.

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  29. CDhost, all fair enough, as far as those things go. Then you have the debate over what Karl Barth’s view of Scripture is, and you begin to realize why we appreciate Machen, Bavinck, and on down the list. I think the idea that you get “theological drift” when a church is not held to standards bears itself to be true, in history. When viewing the reformation from this light, of returning to the Church’s standard (the Word of God), the case exists that the project sparked by Luther has been a success, but there’s still much more work to do. A lot more. One might go so far as to say that semper reformanda, the church always to be reformed to the Word of God, is a task for every age. This talk of the reformation being over is silly. It forgets that humans are sinners in need of a savior. But then again, people will say anything on the internet when they think they have an audience, or to try to get a reaction, I suppose. Back to my cave, Andrew

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  30. @Andrew —

    I’d agree that the Reformation was a huge success in getting Christians both Protestant and Catholic to engage with the bible. It transformed Christianity in that direction.

    If one defines the reformation as being drawing Christianity closer to the bible I’d agree with you there is much further to go. I think the more exciting things in that regard are happening on the left fringes of Christianity, and working there ways towards the center slowly. I think it is very good that Christian conservatives in the post WWII era are becoming more willing to engage 1st century Judaism on its own terms. We’ll have to see how this plays out but I think the idea of rolling back the decades and reexamining the choices that church made in the 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd centuries will lead to a much healthier faith. I always supported ecclesia semper reformanda est.

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  31. Cdhost, thanks for the response. I try to keep an eye on the liberal and conservative camps within my tradition.

    Here at Oldlife, I’ve been trying to provide a voice that helps Catholics see that while their communion is important, it is but one grouping in Christianity of many. Tom and I were going a bit back and forth on thoughts from Peter Leithart. I don’t appreciate when people write confusing theological pieces that only create more questions and problems instead of being productive and helpful. Darryl, I find, is a particularly straight shooter when it comes to sharing his views, I hope it’s not only confirmation bias for me. No doubt Leithart thinks he is doing what he thinks is right. He got a pretty quick response from the other side. But something that shows maybe a little about me, as I studied the historical liberal protestant side, I felt their writing was introducing only more questions without being always as helpful as I was finding the conservstives like Machen was, to me. I don’t want everyone to think my way (of course it wouldn’t bother me….), but I’m just here sharing briefly some of my experience with you.

    Have a nice rest of your weekend,
    Andrew

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  32. @Andrew

    Frequently when people read the liberal side as being mushy in these theological debates it comes from reading the side of moderates and calling them liberals. You have to remember the context here. The PCUSA in the 1890s was a lot like the PCA is today: conservative and narrow theologically. It was a creedal denomination and proud of it. It easily and quickly excommunicated liberal pastors. It is impossible to have honest debate in an environment of fear. That’s the purpose of the fear. The PCA excommunicates so as to thwart debate in their ranks. Once the Auburn Affirmation (people had the right to subscribe to the words of the creeds using a personal interpretation of those words) was affirmed you did get open debate. But you aren’t going to get it before that.

    The difference between the 1890s and 1926 was that moderates were disaffected in the 1920s. They weren’t theologically liberal but they didn’t like the conservative leadership. Women in particular supported enhancing the roles of women in the church and often women’s ordination. Liberals supported those positions and the conservatives did not. So in Machen’s life you had a situation where Liberals could win the denomination providing they could keep the conversation narrow and not address broader theological themes. The conservatives could win if they could keep the conversation on issues of theology and not on issues of practical application. Both sides are putting their best foot forward because both sides are genuinely viable.

    So I’d say:

    a) When matters a great deal. Pre 1926 liberal ministers are living in an environment similar in attitude (though not in consequence) of people in a dictatorship. They don’t dare speak their full honest opinion or they become one of the disappeareds. So prior to that you have to look at academia, and lay leaders to get clear views. Obviously people who are strong supporters of Rockefeller agree with him theologically mostly. Once the PCUSA adopts the notion of allowing for freedom of conscience then you can start expecting ministers to be honest.

    b) Ministers are a bad choice for liberalism, ministers tend to be moderates because parishioners like their ministers conservative. It is much the same though a mirror reflection of how academia trends liberal.

    c) The PCUSA was a conservative denomination, the theological liberalism influencing it was mostly happening outside of it.

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  33. CD-H, I’m not sure your depiction of the 1890s PCUSA is correct. Yes, the church disciplined Briggs, but he was pretty brazen. But the PCUSA was also engaged in creedal revisions and completed them in 1903 which set up a merger with the Arminian Cumberland Presbyterians (1906, which is how William Jennings Bryan, a “conservative”?, came into the PCUSA). To call the PCUSA creedal and proud of it hardly squares with creedal revision.

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  34. CDH, I’ll read tour thoughts here more closely, and consider again PCUSA history in light of what you are saying, but it’s not as though I haven’t studied the Auburn Affirmation and been revolted by what it says (here’s to confusing double negatives).

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  35. @Andrew —

    The Auburn Affirmation was mainly trying to establish freedom of conscience on five fundamentals. You can’t simultaneously attack people who don’t believe in say the virgin birth for being vague while at the same time arguing they shouldn’t be allowed to freely speak. A policy of enforced orthodoxy among a population containing substantial numbers not in agreement with that orthodoxy requires the amorphous statements you were complaining about.

    Ultimately something has to give. Most frequently people compromise and come to a consensus view that can hold, a new orthodoxy emerges. But if that isn’t happening then honest debate needs to occur which means the policy of enforced orthodoxy has to give. That’s all the Auburn affirmation was asserting, that it was time to stop terrorizing people to maintain an artificial unity that no longer existed.

    IMHO the problem is not the Auburn Affirmation. It is the conflict between:
    a) A church that assumes the children of members should be members
    b) A church that wants everyone to assert belief in and support a creed

    When there is enough churn so that the children of people who believe something will have a substantial fraction who don’t believe it, such a system falls apart. Inherently this is why Presbyterianism is having a few bad centuries. Paedobaptism contradicts creedal christianity you can have one or the other. Presbyterianism sits in this uncomfortable middle ground.

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  36. CDH, there’s a lot of ideas in your last combox. As father raising children in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, don’t for a second believe I haven’t considered my own personal relation to my views on the church in relation to how I raise my children more broadly. But just way of response to one of your thoughts, there is much to be said about your points a) and b). As an outsider, if course you could probably find all sorts of errors with the church, after all, it’s not infallible. The hard work of being a member or officer in Christ’s church is real and I’ve lived it in varying degrees (like how I am teaching the 3rd-6th graders in about 4 hours, as a substitute teacher, and haven’t read over the Scripture yet, though I think I know the hymn I want to sing, we sang “for the beauty of the earth” as a family last night, I digress….). The point is, we can combox all day about Presbyterianism, but at some point, the bell rings, and time is up in the Sunday school class and we move on. I’m happy to keep these discussions going, maybe over email or st a later time. Thanks for your interaction here, I love consider Christ’s church and what people on the outside are thinking. Since I know she has problems, opinions on where improvement is needed are welcome. I’d love to see more thoughtful, helpful people take part, because I have experienced good things when the people of the church are working to serve God. I could go on and on……..

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  37. @DgH

    OK so I googled the 1903 change and that seems mainly to be about the idea that all infants are saved. Spurgeon held this opinion ( http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0411.htm ) I read this sermon and am hard pressed to see how someone can hold Spurgeon’s view and believe in election. The morality of that sort of sermon seems far more consistent with Pelagain theology than modern Christian.

    I think the Presbyterians of the time were excited to make a creedal statement about infants because of the high regard they held for creeds. This whole gave them an opportunity to assert the essential goodness of God. So I see this change as mostly being one of fashion. The creeds and theology in general never goes on at great length about infants or the severely retarded or …. There is a great deal of play there. They took advantage of the play to make their theology more acceptable in a period where where Arminian theology was dominant culturally but the majority of parishioners belonged to churches which upheld Reformed theology.

    Logically though there is no reason to believe a God who deliberately damns the overwhelming majority of humanity to eternal torture in hell would have any particular compulsion towards those people that happened to die as infants. I don’t see this as being deep creedal Reform like what is going on today.

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  38. CD-H, you’re a bright fellow on a lot of subjects, but you are not really up to speed on the PCUSA at the end of the nineteenth century. It was hardly a creedal church and proud of it, no matter what the eternal status of children dying in infancy.

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  39. Dr. Hart,

    The problem is the Reformation, despite its good intentions, blasted Christian doctrine, and therefore our unity to smithereens. We don’t know how our civil society would have evolved without the Reformation, but I’m certain that the loss of Christian unity was too high a price. The world is looking on and doesn’t know where to go; I’m not a sociologist, but I’ve been told that Europe is more secular than pagan. Have you ever thought how bleak the landscape would look without the color of Catholicism? Does the Protestant work ethic trump large Christian families brought about by the Catholic stance on contraception? The coming demographic winter doesn’t terrify you?
    I’m not sure what to think about the idea that neo Calvinism toward the end of the 19th century saved the arts and sciences. As far as I know the Vatican is a perhaps the largest patron of arts. And have you seen the list of Jesuit scientists?

    Today, after Mass, two men and I were talking about the reason why we each became Catholic. I was led to the banks of the Tiber because of the progression of doctrinal decay within Protestantism. It’s a Hydra with thousands of heads. One of the men, a former Presbyterian minister turned Anglican, said that he is on his way into the Catholic Church pretty much because of his appreciation of JP II alone, and the other man said his reason to become Catholic almost 30 yrs ago, was because of the Catholic social teaching. He said that Jesus was pretty explicit. If you give a person a cup of cold water in His name you have done it unto Him. I hadn’t given a lot of thought to the social teaching of the church. Whatever the Catholics were doing they had been doing quietly and successfully while we were still forming committees.
    Protestantism may have given everybody Sundays off to read their newspaper, but that wouldn’t be if it weren’t a holy day of obligation in the first place.

    http://www.chantcafe.com/2013/11/the-catholic-generation-gap.html

    http://www.stjoanvv.org/!_SJOFA_htm/Catholic%20Perspectives/is_liberalism_a_sin.htm

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  40. Susan, when you talk about Protestant disunity, would you also please admit Roman Catholic disunity? First Things, National Catholic Reporter, Commonweal, America — which represents Rome accurately? Then try Roman Catholic colleges and universities — Georgetown, Thomas Moore?

    And please don’t forget about the 14th c. crisis of the papacy when all of that RC unity produced three popes and required a council to fix it. If you want to look for the roots of Protestantism, you need to look in the mirror.

    If you’re going to complain about Protestantism, Rome sure better offer a good alternative.

    As for doctrine, what am I to do with Pope Francis’ universalism? Listen to another lay RC explain for the guy who has the task of explaining?

    And when it comes to sex and contraception, are you kidding? Have you not heard about U.S. Roman Catholic sexual practices?

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  41. @Susan —

    What blasted Christian unity was states becoming unwilling to terrify their subjects into conformity with Catholicism. In places where the state hadn’t been willing to implement state terror their wasn’t unity prior to the reformation. The reformers accidentally undermined this use of state terror as political leaders grew increasingly exhausted fighting religious wars.

    We’ve talked about this before and it is simply a Catholic myth that Catholicism was the only form of Christianity prior to the reformation. There were large parts of the world and centuries where other forms of Christianity thrived. For example Islam evolved out of Collyridian not Catholic Christianity. When you last made this claim I mentioned the Bosnian Church during the 7-12 century which while Catholic influenced adopted some thoroughly non-Catholic ideas from Manichaeism.

    The unity you are bragging about is nothing more than the kind of unity that Stalin achieved. At the end of the dark ages the Catholic church was willing to aggressive propagandize in favor of the group of families that had established rule through the use of massive violence as having had a divine sanction for that rule. Consequently the western european states were willing to terrorize their population into conformity with Catholic church as other churches frequently tied themselves to political reforms. With the rise of post-feudal structures that alliance died.

    No one is going back to feudal structures. So whatever unity you would have were it to happen would be an entirely new creation from the 21st century. That is it would be an agreement where people would support unity for entirely new reasons. Just as they did at the end of the dark ages to try and establish some notion of law that went beyond the city state towards a united Christendom.

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  42. Darryl and CD,

    So am I supposed to be caught between the two of you and believe that there just is no way to arrived at a consensus. Warring tribes of “christianities” is the fact of the situation and I can never be sure that the Eucharist is the pinnacle of the liturgy? Your job now is to convince me that Christianity is a viable religion. Your religious pluralism/syncretism is scaring me.
    Q. If this is it…., if this is the situation of the monster called Christianity then on what grounds do you dismiss Catholicm? Can’t I have my preferred tribe and be as triumphalistic in my perceived unity as you are, Darryl in yours?
    BTW, there is a heck of a lot of difference in the church officially teaches a absolute sexual ethis vs. bad Catholics not obeying said sexual ethic. Just like in protestantism.

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  43. Susan, but Protestants never claimed our teachers are infallible, that Protestantism will result in unity of the world, that Protestantism results in a perfect church. You guys set the bar high for Rome by talking about all of Protestants’ faults. Now when we see the same faults among Roman Catholics we hear you are just interested in cheerleading for the home team. (Funny, I already knew that.)

    Your gullibility is scaring me. I thought Roman Catholics were the smart Christians — you know, all that Aristotle, Aquinas, and John Paul II.

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  44. Susan, if so much difference between official doctrine and member practice then what exactly has The Principle solved? It’s all on paper. And so why do you guys get to own up to it without any consequence but when we point it out we’re the sectarians?

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  45. CD Host,

    “At the end of the dark ages the Catholic church was willing to aggressive propagandize in favor of the group of families that had established rule through the use of massive violence as having had a divine sanction for that rule. Consequently the western european states were willing to terrorize their population into conformity with Catholic church as other churches frequently tied themselves to political reforms. With the rise of post-feudal structures that alliance died.”

    I’m sure civil authority yoked itself to the Church, and it did so by terrifiing her or it got the reigns from some wicked church authority, but the evil done when this kind of two headed beast was walking about wasn’t representative of the spirit infused by Christ into his bride. I kind of see an analogy of this in the narrative kind of King David; a murderer and adulterer who was still a man after God’s own heart.

    “So whatever unity you would have were it to happen would be an entirely new creation from the 21st century. That is it would be an agreement where people would support unity for entirely new reasons. Just as they did at the end of the dark ages to try and establish some notion of law that went beyond the city state towards a united Christendom.”

    I see that you are using “Christendom” in the true sense;that is, a political construst. No, there is such a thing as The Church, and it will always be upagainst the world. The more it touches the world the more the world is made beautiful. I will ask again. What would the landscape look like if there were no Catholicism? Do you like this image?
    You probably don’t believe in American execptionalism either. There are no ideals in an atheist’s handbook.
    I mean no offense but from Darryl I get the sense that Christianity is Americanism and looks like a narrative from Peter Marshall that God was acting on behalf of only Protestants. Catholicism doesn’t look like two different locker rooms where each prays that God will help them when the game. Catholics no who the enemy is, and it is not you my dear brothers! Catholicsm says that Christopher Columbus was actually doing a good to go out in search of new lands, conquering them in the name of a godly sovereign. When those bad Spaniards did bad things to the natives it wasn’t Chrisianity’s fault. It was a greater good however that Christianity would eventually infiltrate and that the Mexaca’s Aztecs and the cannibals of the Antilles would be evenually be abolished.
    Jesus is still reconciling the world to Himself.

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  46. Oops, I had all kinds of spelling mistakes.

    ZRIM,

    This is why Catholics use the term practicing Catholics. When someone who is a memeber of a Reformed church doesn’t show up for worship for weeks or months at a time, you don’t have a term. They would be labled “backsliders” if you knew they were in some visible sin. Having it on paper does make a difference and that is that there is a standard and everybody knows it, when it comes to moral teaching. Sure there are plenty of people who don’t know the full catechism but as long as they are going to Mass, and to confession( all part of loving God) then they are practicing their faith and don’t have to know everything. I met plenty of men and women in the Reformed church who didn’t know their confessions, and they certainly didn’t read the ECF’s to see if those confessions lined-up with what the Church has historically confessed.

    Darryl, that is exactly what bothered me. You say that no one in Protestantism claims to be infallible but in the same breath you will say that sola scriptura and sola fide are doctrines I must hold to to be considered of the right church. As much as I wanted to I couldn’t do that, and so your own confession kicked me out of Christianity.
    I will just say that if I didn’t actually see real doctrinal unity in the Catholic Church, I would fear that there was no way on earth to ever find out the Christianity is true. About the church, I would have to be agnostic. I could never know.

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  47. Susan; “Sure there are plenty of people who don’t know the full catechism but as long as they are going to Mass, and to confession( all part of loving God) then they are practicing their faith and don’t have to know everything.”

    Me: Susan, thank you for that. I’m hearing ya. Not so much on the doctrinal unity bit, since most have never purposefully picked up the catechism, nor could they ferret out all the nuance of Thomism if their life depended on it. But yep, they got some unity when it comes to going to mass.

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  48. Susan, I believe you may need a lesson in logic from Bryan Cross, if not some lessons in history. Once upon a time, Rome did think it was up against the world. Vatican 2 changed that with a call to update the church — aggiornamento. But before Vatican 2, Americanism was a heresy. That means that Rome rejected the American exceptionalism that you seem to embrace.

    I don’t know what version of Roman Catholicism you have embraced. But it does not seem at all coherent.

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  49. Susan, another matter of explanation. Confessions are not live creatures. They don’t act. The live creature in the equation between a confession and Susan is Susan. I suspect that you yourself exited a Protestant church when you decided (very much like Luther, no?) that you could no longer agree to Protestant teaching.

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  50. Dr. Hart,

    You need to reread some more CTC, RC converts don’t stop believing in their Protestant confession and then find the RC church because it agrees with their interpretation of Scripture and tradition. As Bryan notes, RC converts DISCOVER the church. Get it?

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  51. Robert, remember to add that they get to keep all the ‘best parts’ of their reformed theology. Course that leaves out soteriology and ecclesiology, but then you get to add the rosary and candles and popes and the mass and pointy hats, so it’s a trade off. We have a pool going to see how long 2k holds up in the translation.

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  52. Sean,

    No way 2K holds up in translation. I don’t think even CTC can pull off explaining how Jesus’ kingdom being not of this world is compatible with the Vatican having a secretary of state. But if they try, it’ll be in the peace of Christ, of course.

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  53. @Susan —

    So am I supposed to be caught between the two of you and believe that there just is no way to arrived at a consensus. Warring tribes of “christianities” is the fact of the situation and I can never be sure that the Eucharist is the pinnacle of the liturgy?

    Well then I’ll scare you more and say it is a lot worse than that. To pick your example of liturgy, throughout Christian history you have anti-liturgical movements in Christianity. There is no consensus that liturgy is even a good thing that Christians should focus on.

    If this is it…., if this is the situation of the monster called Christianity then on what grounds do you dismiss Catholicm? Can’t I have my preferred tribe and be as triumphalistic in my perceived unity as you are, Darryl in yours?

    I’m dismissing your historical claims because they are provably false. Once you accept the historical realities you still have the freedom to associate with what community you like. Your apologetic dies, but there are still other reasons to choose your community.

    I’m sure civil authority yoked itself to the Church, and it did so by terrifiing her or it got the reigns from some wicked church authority,

    Those wicked church authorities were quite often Popes and saints. More importantly the magisterium in every official capacity encouraged and demanded the civil authorities act in that way, continuing to do so well after the reformation where they had the power to do so. The very same mechanisms that declare the creeds or declare the Marian doctrines declare the importance of state terror for the faith. You can’t distance yourself from the feudal arrangement and declare your support for the church’s teachings, the church unambiguous taught the widespread use of state terror as the proper means of governing Christians. Let me quote you from your very next post, “Catholicsm says that Christopher Columbus was actually doing a good to go out in search of new lands, conquering them in the name of a godly sovereign”.

    What would the landscape look like if there were no Catholicism?

    From when? No Catholicism ever? Well I’ll answer that one with the understanding I don’t own a crystal ball…. Without Catholicism, Christianity probably never develops into a religion from one of the early Roman Empire sects. Which means it likely doesn’t survive the fall of the empire. One of the other contenders for the faith like: Stoicism or Neo-Platonism plays the role as a replacement for the sacrificial cults in paganism and becomes the dominant religion of Europe. From there is hard to say, potentially the great emphasis on this world might mean that the dark ages are averted. The anti-slavery of many of the other movement likely mean that debt and the corresponding quasi-slavery of the serfdom system don’t develop. On the other hand mercantilism might not develop. So we have something more like the development of the Islamic world happening in Europe. But without the battle over slavery and debt and I don’t know if Islam ever develops and without Islam or the dark ages its hard to know what the world looks like at all.

    So who knows? I’d say probably a better world. On the other hand there are negative scenarios. Without the unity of Catholicism, if the west does go into a dark ages it might not come out and Europe ends up looking like Africa. What if is a tough game.

    When those bad Spaniards did bad things to the natives it wasn’t Chrisianity’s fault.

    Not entirely. But Christianity encouraged those bad things. So yes it was partially responsible and at least institutionally was mostly supportive of the genocide when it was occurring.

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  54. Susan, you don’t have to convince me of the unfortunate categorical absence in Protestantism for the observant and practicing:

    http://confessionalouthouse.wordpress.com/2009/01/25/the-well-kept-benefit-of-observant-protestantism/

    But I’m not sure how that relates to what I was saying. What you had said was that there is a great gulf between Roman principle and practice. But your side of the table continues to make great hay over the way in which The Principle yields great visible unity and cohesion in ways Protestantism can’t. Maybe we can’t but by your own admission, you don’t. So if the draw is supposed to be what The Principle can do, what happens to the draw when it doesn’t? In other words, what’s so great about The Principle when it doesn’t deliver?

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  55. CD Host,

    There are many things that are being said between us and it’s hard for me to keep up.
    I’d like to respond to one thing that you said:

    My Q. What would the landscape look like if there were no Catholicism?

    Your A. ” From when? No Catholicism ever? Well I’ll answer that one with the understanding I don’t own a crystal ball…. Without Catholicism, Christianity probably never develops into a religion from one of the early Roman Empire sects. Which means it likely doesn’t survive the fall of the empire. One of the other contenders for the faith like: Stoicism or Neo-Platonism plays the role as a replacement for the sacrificial cults in paganism and becomes the dominant religion of Europe”

    I’m trying to figure out your starting point. In your book is there the arrival of a Messiah, or a person claiming to be the Messiah, or at very least, did the Jews of the 1st century believe that the man Jesus claimed that he was God? Are you arguing that the gospels aren’t true? It appears to me that you deny that Christianity ever understood itself as being called by God.
    If that is the claim you are making then what follows in history is unimportant. Who cares about the in and outs of our divisions, and our splits if it isn’t true, right? I’m certainly not gonna waste my time on a blog debating religious nuts if the world is only material.
    But the truth is that I can’t get away from the fact that God does exist, and then there’s the adjoining fact that Jesus is a historical figure who makes a miraculous claim. After that, it’s Catholicism all day long! IOW, if Christianity isn’t true, I’ve latched onto something remarkable, something beautiful and holy; it has a better morality than the rest of the worlds religions, I mean if a man must worship, then I can think of no better expression. If I’m wrong I just die and I would have never known the difference. Of course, I could not live in existential angst for very long. The only reason I have an anchor is because I’m certain not only that God lives, but that the Catholic Church is the true church.

    You said yourself that without Catholicism Christianity probably never develops into a religion.

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  56. ZRIM,

    What I’m saying is Catholics who have ever gone to confession understand very well what is morally acceptable and what isn’t. If they fail in practice it’s because they are (surprise) sinners who slipped up for the umpteenth time or they choose to ignore Christianity for liberalism. One is moral weakness and is terrible because we can chose not to commit grievious sins, and the latter is denial of the Church’s authority.
    I don’t fault Protestants for sinning. Catholics sin. But what is in place is a sacramental system that is there for the whole purpose of helping us become saints. You believe, that while at the end of your life you will still have sin, that some of your sins will have been sloughed-off by that time, right?
    The sacraments are our aids to do this,but it isn’t magic, a person does have to believe.

    The doctrinal unity that Catholicm has is: a known morality( when you confess you actually name your sins); a definitive view of the sacraments; a definitive teaching on angels, saints, and Mary; a visible head pastor( and even if the seat is vacant for years or fought over by antipopes it doesn’t matter, the aformentioned list of dogma is still there and the faithful will continue to practice, same as ever). Catholicism will never say that same sex marriage is ok, it will never say abortion, invetro fertilization, euthanasia, or cloning is ok, it willl never ordain women. The Church is all about loving God, and loving our neighbor, and it’s all about the protection of life. If formally changes it teaching, then God hasn’t given us a church.
    http://www.stjoanvv.org/!_SJOFA_htm/Catholic%20Perspectives/christianity's%20Struggle.htm

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  57. Susan,

    What I’m saying is Catholics who have ever gone to confession understand very well what is morally acceptable and what isn’t.

    What about those Catholics who hear from their priest that they should practice birth control?

    The sacraments are our aids to do this,but it isn’t magic, a person does have to believe.

    What happened to ex opere operato? I thought the sacraments worked as long as their was no conscious impediment to faith. IE, one can take the mass and their mind can be elsewhere as long as they don’t consciously resist grace.

    The doctrinal unity that Catholicism has is: A known morality( when you confess you actually name your sins);

    Whose morality? The Council of Women Religious? Nancy Pelosi’s? The pope’s? The majority of U.S. RCs who practice birth control? Oh wait, it only matters what the Magisterium says. Ok. But apparently the magisterium has almost no problem with any of the aforementioned people since they’re all members in good standing. And if you want to say that they excommunicate themselves by abandoning church teaching, that’s fine too, just don’t tell us how vital and important the visible church is in RC and how meaningless it is in Protestantism when it is confessional Protestants whose visible churches’ enforce their doctrine.

    a definitive view of the sacraments;

    The Westminster view is quite definitive, thank you. Does Rome win because its bigger?

    a definitive teaching on angels, saints, and Mary; a visible head pastor( and even if the seat is vacant for years or fought over by antipopes it doesn’t matter, the aformentioned list of dogma is still there and the faithful will continue to practice, same as ever)

    Oh, we have the former, as in you shouldn’t pray to these creatures and pretend its not idolatry. Now I’m confused. The visible head pastor is key to orthodoxy and visible unity but it doesn’t really matter if he’s an apostate or not. Looks like you can have it both ways!!!

    Catholicism will never say that same sex marriage is ok, it will never say abortion, invetro fertilization, euthanasia, or cloning is ok, it willl never ordain women. The Church is all about loving God, and loving our neighbor, and it’s all about the protection of life. If formally changes it teaching, then God hasn’t given us a church.

    You have seen that the Vatican is going to be surveying parishes about how it can better minister to its gay parishioners, right? For decades the PCUSA and ECUSA were looking into how they could better minister to gay members, and look where that got them.

    And again, why do all these churches remain in good standing with the RC Church if the teaching on homosexuality, for example, is fixed and vital:

    http://www.newwaysministry.org/gfp.html

    If the visible church is important and vital in RC in a way that it isn’t in confessional Protestantism, it needs to discipline its heretics. If it doesn’t, you have nothing as a RC that we don’t have as Protestants.

    Then there’s abortion. You realize, of course, that the teaching that life begins at conception is not the universal historical position of Rome. Your chief theologian—Aquinas—believed life didn’t really begin until quickening.

    I’m not trying to be rude, but reading your words is like reading who is in the land of fairytales and rainbows. You need to wake up and realize that the church you have chosen is not what you think it is.

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  58. @Susan —

    ’m trying to figure out your starting point. In your book is there the arrival of a Messiah, or a person claiming to be the Messiah, or at very least, did the Jews of the 1st century believe that the man Jesus claimed that he was God? Are you arguing that the gospels aren’t true? It appears to me that you deny that Christianity ever understood itself as being called by God.

    I think you are treating some questions which to my mind are unrelated as related. Let me unpack the last one. No I absolutely believe that Christianity considered itself called by God from the earliest days. The transformation from sects (primarily Encratite) to a religion (Catholic) was a moderation in the viewpoints of the followers not them more extreme. The rejectionist movements from which the sects emerged where often even more extreme. Much early Christian writings make frequent reference to living in the end times or the last days and the authors often think they are called to special action directly by God or Jesus during those last days.

    As for an arrival of a messiah most of Christianity’s unification and accretion of theology around Jesus happened after the period of messianic activity in Palestine. Probably some of the early proto-Christianities had messianic claimants in positions of high leadership so for example John the Baptist may have been a messianic claimant and James the Just probably was, etc… When Jesus starts to become a historical figure those legends start to accrete to him and so in that sense yes there was a 1st century messianic figure who had Jewish followers, but I suspect that’s not what you mean. I don’t think Catholicism existed until the 2nd century.

    But for most of the arguments we are having what Christianity looked like 100 BCE – 200 CE doesn’t matter. Your theory of Christian unity doesn’t hold up even after this period. Even if the purpose of argument I grant that Jesus forms the Catholic church, how does it change the historical reality of wide diversity during the later centuries. Manichaeism exists. Arianism exist. Islam exists. Bogomils exist and spread their faith widely. Unity doesn’t exist in the history until the Reformation even if we dismiss all of the history of early Christianity and assume the Catholics are right about everything that happened until 200 CE. A claim of historical unity is a historical claim, not a theological one. You have to deal with historical issues.

    I asked you on Jason’s blog: where did the Bosnian church come in your theory? We know what they believed, we have their writings, we have their art, and they are non-Catholic Christians. Under your theory where Luther destroys the unity they can’t exist but they obviously did.

    You said yourself that without Catholicism Christianity probably never develops into a religion.

    Let me strengthen that. Catholicism is the first form of Christianity that views itself as a religion. Prior to Catholicism there are Christian sects and before those (proto-)Christian movements and theological ideas. But at some point if this sort of movement is going last centuries someone needs to lay the groundwork for a stable religion and the people who did that in the west were the Catholics. Where you and I are going to disagree is that your theology looks anything like early Christianity.

    Let me take a simple example. Why is it important that Paul and Peter were crucified? Why is there so much focus on this in Catholic art particularly symbolic art and the early church fathers. Their method of death plays no role in your theology but it plays a huge role in your artistic tradition. Why the discrepancy?

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  59. CD Host,

    I’m sorry that you think that my questions are unrelated to the premises that you make, but I am seriously trying to follow you.
    The reason I will mostly concentrate on you, rather than Robert, is that I am curious about the historical chain of events since this seems to be your hang-up about the credibility of Christianity as a unified religion. Robert on the other hand postulates untruths about Catholicism almost as if he is a rationalist.

    I know nothing of Bosnian Christians, but I understand that there could have been sects early on. But doesn’t it interest you that to speak of “sects’ implies an orthodoxy somewhere?
    Catholicism claims to be the Christian faith that is passed on by the apostles and Christian history bears this out. But, I also don’t look to strict history to tell me what to believe; I assume a chrisma protecting what is important to the faith. According to the scriptures Christianity was never supposed to be a movement. It claimed something radical and that is why those who knew Christ willingly suffered at the hand of Roman persecutors. I don’t see any problem that Christian art shows Peter being crucifed( Paul was beheaded). It is significant to our theology. A servant is not greater than his master.

    “”Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” 19Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!””

    Is this not beautiful? We can all relate to Peter and so this encourages our faith. We can stand fast because we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.
    Now, take a look at this from New Advent, and tell me what should do with Catholic theology. Where do I put it? You can’t answer this because you choose not to believe, but if you already possess faith then getting a hold of this is mind boggling. I didn’t have a category for it before, it wouldn’t fit into my Reformed system, but it seemed to be better done theology, more nuanced and wider in scope. I knew I had hit upon Truth. You can guffaw and my Reformed brothers can guffaw, but maybe you all can see how I would be convinced that this was the truth. It’s more than plausable if your a supernaturalist.
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11744a.htm

    <<For the record, Robert, Catholics are not idolaters.A priest that tell a parishioner that she and her husband can use contraception is misinformed or willfully disobeying Christian morality. The morality is still objective. Catholicism doesn't make up morality willy-nilly. Aquinas was set right by The Church, but he remained Catholic. The Church does discipline but it is also interesting in helping and healing, so it doesn't throw someone out immediately. Bad Catholics cannot be members in good standing. You need a better Catholic informant than you've got. I really wish that you'd hear Jonathon Prejean. He's given you ample explantions and you keep playing the old record. Please let Catholicism answer for itself. If you're getting contrary information from me, please feel free to show me the CCC so that I can be set straight.

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  60. Susan,

    I’m listening to Jonathan. What I’m denying is that what Roman Catholics say is grace alone is actually grace alone. That is something you all don’t seem to get. The Reformed definition of grace alone and the Protestant definition of grace alone are fundamentally different, and only one of them is biblical.

    Look, I know what the catechism says about self-excommunication. Here is the problem. You and other RCs bemoan the fact that Protestantism has no visible church but then when it comes to a point where visibility is so important—the visible and magisterial excommunication of heretics—Protestantism of the confessional variety wins hands down.

    In other words, you can’t tell me we have no meaningful visible church and no way principial way to determine truth from opinion because we deny ecclesiastical infallibility and then tell me to look the other way when outright heretics remain members in good standing—as in, freely admitted to the Eucharist, even the Eucharist at the inaugural papal mass—for DECADES before anything is done (and rarely, anything is done).

    This is one of the points of Dr. Hart’s postings on this subject, namely, that you cannot bemoan the failures of Protestantism and offer Rome as the cure all when Rome does the same things you find wanting in Protestantism.

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  61. @Susan

    The reason I will mostly concentrate on you, rather than Robert, is that I am curious about the historical chain of events since this seems to be your hang-up about the credibility of Christianity as a unified religion.

    That is true. My problems with Catholicism are primarily historical. More than that the historical issues are some of the main ones that made me stop being Christian all-together. While there were other issues historical difficulties aren’t a minor issue for me.

    I know nothing of Bosnian Christians, but I understand that there could have been sects early on. But doesn’t it interest you that to speak of “sects’ implies an orthodoxy somewhere?

    I’m using the word “sect” in the sociology sense I’m not implying any kind of orthodoxy. A sect is protesting aspects of a religion so there has to be a religion it exists in opposition to. In the case of early Christianity the religion was Judaism. Catholicism is structurally a later stage of a sect when the sect begins to focus on youth retention i.e. young people born into the religion raise their children in the religion. Christianity can’t be a religion in the proper sense until Christians had stopped viewing themselves as Jews unhappy with the establishment.

    But, I also don’t look to strict history to tell me what to believe; I assume a chrisma protecting what is important to the faith.

    That’s fine. But that’s a theological position not a historical one. Strict history should tell what to believe about history. And of course there is also the middle issue that history does teach history of theology, and if the charisma exists it doesn’t show itself very well in history.

    I don’t see any problem that Christian art shows Peter being crucifed. It is significant to our theology. A servant is not greater than his master.

    Why is Peter’s crucifixion significant to your theology. What theological fact hinges on it? You seem to indicate that you find it inspiring that Peter would suffer torture and death for Jesus, but why does crucifixion as opposed to say:
    held in a dark prison for a month and trampled to death (Saint Perpetua)
    burned in water and then cut till she slowly bleeds out (Saint Cecilia)
    quartered and then clubbed to death (Saint Cyriacus)
    matter? No question Catholicism considers martyrdom to be a source of inspiration but the number of depictions of Peter’s martyrdom and the method go way beyond that, why?

    BTW I do find Christianity very beautiful. I don’t think it is true, that doesn’t mean I don’t find it awesomely emotionally inspiring.

    I’m not sure what in particular in the New Advent St. Peter article you wanted me to hit on.

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