Jesus Didn’t Turn the Water into Coffee

Martyn Wendell Jones thinks coffee at church a good indication of communion of the saints:

My own church serves coffee and tea in the cafeteria of the high school building we’re renting after the service ends in the auditorium. I look around: everyone is talking, and almost everyone is drinking from paper cups swathed in napkins for insulation. The scene is one part French salon, one part daycare, and one part indoor picnic. At a glance, it is impossible to tell the specific role played by the coffee, although it clearly gives everyone a common reason for entering the room as well as something to do with their hands (a significant task, as any person on a first date will tell you).

“This coffee is amazing,” my wife tells me, and it’s at this moment that I realize I’m not sure I know what good coffee tastes like. I take another sip. It’s kind of sour and acidic.

“Mhmm,” I reply.

I ask my pastor later to expand on the church’s strategy re: coffee. What does it represent to him?

“Coffee is like a comfort blanket that young professionals carry around after the service, and it gives them courage to interact with one another,” Pastor Kyle replies. “For me, hospitality is guided by the principle that we welcome the stranger as we would welcome Christ. For me, coffee is the way I would welcome Christ.”

Jesus would not be disappointed here—at least not if he were a coffee guy.

But what about wine? Particularly, what about the beverage that accompanies true communion?

1. Our Lord Jesus, in the night wherein he was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of his body and blood, called the Lord’s Supper, to be observed in his church, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of himself in his death; the sealing all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe unto him; and, to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other, as members of his mystical body. . . .

7. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but spiritually, receive, and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then, not corporally or carnally, in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses. (Confession of Faith, 29)

How hipster is that? Imagine confessional Protestants outdoing Protestant urbanists. Doesn’t wine beat coffee any day of the week?

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163 thoughts on “Jesus Didn’t Turn the Water into Coffee

  1. Does the whole “coffee brings everyone together and makes them feel like young professionals,” work with Maxwell House? Also, “young professionals?” what the heck! It really is Manhattan or bust.

    I went to an Anglican church once (they seemed like charismatic FVers) and the coffee they had was some “living wage” coffee made by some people in Africa that they were trying to give stable jobs to. And they made an announcement about it in the service and said you could buy the bags too. Real question for SJWs, would you welcome Jesus with coffee produced by child farmers in a third-world country?

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  2. Well, I go to the author’s church, and I can assure you that 1) We serve wine (good Ontario wine!) for communion, and 2) I always make it a point to provide Calvados on occasion to my mid-week church bible study.

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  3. But what about the Ol’ Timey Types like me who still drink coffee from Styrofoam cups? Plain ol’ black coffee like they used to do back in the day when men were men and women were … I’m afraid I’ll feel so left out of these hipster urban churches filled with artistic creatives and tech savvy foodies.

    Some of us blue collar, physical labor types actually use coffee (black and strong) to stay awake on the hard, long, overnight shifts – something that the typical Kellerite knows nothing about. The milkshakes at Starbucks that masquerades as coffee is suitable for the wicked smart Redeemerite boys and girls with their cool apps in their New Economy “work spaces.”

    But for folks like me who keep the streets clean we’ll stay with the strong stuff.

    Give me back my Ol’ Timey Religion please.

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  4. Day by day (cont) continuing with one mind ( Acts 2:46-47), they loved the Lord and loved (all) His commands (and they are not burdensome) (1 John 5:3) and daily (cont) in awe, realizing and remembering the basic fact that the Lord is not served by human hands as though He needed anything since He Himself is the Giver (Acts 17:25)

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  5. Wait, your church coffee is made *for you*? Must be nice, but I predict this is the first step on the slippery slope to skinny jeans and soul patches. We have to make our own because that’s what work ethic Protestants do.

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  6. Hey now, who were the inventors of your beloved beers( speaking of, Trappists brews look good, but alas no glutten for me)? And what about your much loved spirits?

    Wine has been around since at least the age of Noah, so no dibs there, except to note that Catholic theology notes the reason why wine is the only correct matter for holy communion. Jesus’s new covenant sacrifice of bread and wine was after the order( in the manner of)Melchizadek after all.
    Oh and no baptisms using beer either!:)

    Coffee (and donuts) always good for receptions and meetings.

    http://www.onepeterfive.com/drunk-catholic-history-spirits-and-the-holy-spirit/

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  7. @Susan
    “Hey now, who were the inventors of your beloved beers?” Well I’m not expert in ancient history, but the label on a Dogfishhead beer I had once claimed the recipe came from hieroglyphics, so I’m going with the Egyptians.

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  8. @susan I’m all for the hops, though I have to say that a lot of these new IPAs are over the top. I like beer and I like grapefruit juice. I’m not so crazy about beer that tastes like grapefruit juice. The one “gruit” beer I tasted was a spruce based beer – it was awful. It was the first time I had ever heard of gruit, and I’ve never been tempted to try again. Perhaps it was a bad representation of it. Either way, I’m glad we’ve moved onto hops!

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  9. No lie (I preface because *some *of you Reformed guys are misogynistic). Once a Reformed pastor gave an aside( mic turned off) saying plainly that besides elementary level, women can teach in a high school level Sunday school situation , but that they need to be watched. His rationale was that Eve was deceived.
    My opinion is that since good Catholic men love Mary they are less inclined to mistrust or generalize females.
    But my words are tedious and you guys have got lots of serious scotch surveying and 2k strategizing to do in the OL smoking parlor.

    I pity the all the missus’s.

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  10. Susan, you mischaracterize catholic men, again. I grew up fighting off Friedan catholics, including in my own house, but you trads are something all together different. Y’all are more Doug Wilson than Sister Aloysius. Another sideways glance from someone who knows.

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  11. Hi Sean,

    It may exist in the zeitgeist, but it does not in the theology.
    And you have to admit that makes a way for there to even be a difference.
    How else can one man quiet 200 men pounding pitchforks?

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  12. Susan,

    It may exist in the zeitgeist, but it does not in the theology.

    But is it really the theology of the church if it doesn’t match the zeitgeist? I’m not being just critical of RCs here. Plenty of churches have a theology that doesn’t match their zeitgeist. At the end of the day, it is the zeitgeist that steers the church, as is evident in Protestant liberalism and post-V2 Roman Catholic theology. Heck, it’s even true in Western forms of Eastern Orthodoxy.

    At the end of the day, a church’s theology is really only as effective as a church’s willingness to believe it and act according to it. It’s not good to have Presbyterian governance, for example, even if it is biblical if no one who professes that it’s biblical cares to follow it.

    Orthodoxy and orthopraxy go hand in hand.

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  13. Susan, Robert beat me to it. Your dogma and pastoral application, which includes lay charism, are never to be torn asunder The charism explains the dogma. Then there’s pew practice. You guys really needed to be around for the Vat II training.

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  14. Susan, now I know how a pro-choicer feels with all that “baby killer” jazz. Careful with those loaded words, they lose their natural effect when thrown around too loosely. But last I checked, despite all the Maryology Rome was still patriarchal. Some might wonder if that betrays a misogynistic streak. Meh, doubt it. FWIW, I’ve no idea why a woman teaching high school catechism would have to be “watched.” That’s lame.

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  15. Hi Susan, try not to be too harsh because 1) the heart is desperately wicked – what can a person really do about it until ‘heaven’ 2) getting the Sunday worship regulative principle down with precision covers a multitude of sins Mon-Sat 3) misunderstanding the nature of God the Trinity and other misunderstandings forces some behaviors, again, what can a person really do about it until heaven, except maybe bask in justification and, of course, justify oneself.

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  16. My opinion is that since good Catholic men love Mary they are less inclined to mistrust or generalize females….It may exist in the zeitgeist, but it does not in the theology.

    So was it Augustine’s view of Mary (and his saintly mother) that led him to conclude that women are not created in the image of God? Was mariology why Tertullian equated women to temples over cesspits?

    This is the kind of reasoning that bugs me (as in the Du Mez’s claim that a purported mistranslation of a verse in Genesis has *caused* abuse of women in the other thread). This gets the causal arrow backwards (assuming that there is any connection at all). Correlation doesn’t imply causation. It applies to the correlation between drownings and Nicholas Cage movies, chronological ordering of events, and purported theological beliefs and cultural issues.

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  17. @ali
    1) yes, we will not completely erase indwelling sin until we are glorified. Why the scare quotes around heaven?
    2) Yes, right worship is a means of sanctification. The first two commandments teach us that only God is to be worshiped and he cares how he is worshiped. We worship because our sins are covered Monday – Saturday!
    3) Yes, misunderstanding the nature of the trinity is a bad thing. Especially if one doubles down on that misunderstanding to protect one’s station. We will always struggle with such temptations until we enter that saints everlasting rest.

    Looks like you are finally getting it (though I can’t seem to find your “can’t live with them” verse must be in the apocrypha). HA! Have a great weekend.

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  18. Robert,

    ,But is it really the theology of the church if it doesn’t match the zeitgeist?”

    I agree that the zeitgeist is coming from the philosophy. But is there a Doug Wilson kind of experiment sponsored by the Catholic church?
    Sure there are egotistical jerks whose words and actions converge against the one’s they are given spiritual and emotional charge of, but I assure you it is not flowing from the theology.

    Where do you think my former pastor got the idea women have to be watched, and how is that any different than the stuff Wilson puts out?
    Back when I was in the URCNA I began to notice that what was considered as a legitimate church in my circles was actually as theologically problematic as those kind of experimental communes that my community disappoved of.
    My commune might meet in the heart of Orange County California rather than rural Idaho, but it was ,afterall, a breakaway that had begun in the mid 1990’s.
    As a Catholic, I can now see that all of the theological disagreements that lead to a “new” way to interpret and live, are all harmoniously understood in Catholicism.

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  19. Susan,

    But is there a Doug Wilson kind of experiment sponsored by the Catholic church?

    I’m not quite sure what you mean. Frankly, the hierarchy of the RCC seems awfully misogynistic to me. Not so much the male only priesthood but the celibacy thing. Are women so defiling to men that marrying them makes one incompetent for the priesthood?

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  20. Susan,

    Where do you think my former pastor got the idea women have to be watched, and how is that any different than the stuff Wilson puts out?

    In my Reformed church, both the women teachers and the men teachers are watched, so I don’t know what you’re talking about. But there surely is plenty of misogyny on both sides of the Tiber.

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  21. Robert, celibate priesthood not so much misogynistic as pietistic and monastic. And I think Susan means the female teacher has to be watched in ways the male doesn’t, so I take her point. Which is weird for a misogynist.

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  22. And that leads back to the link that someone provided earlier about the Methodist giving us prohibition and unfermented grape juice. Did anyone read why water and wine is mixed during the Eucharistic celebration?
    What came out of Jesus’s side while he slept on the tree? The bride did. The church.

    Sdb,
    If Augustine was messing up on his theologizing and Tertullian was evidencing his swinish bigotry, well, they could still have access to the Church’s correct zeitgeist that always included a high reverence for the Mother of God.

    “Correlation doesn’t imply causation”

    Interesting that you bring this up.
    I’m doing progymnasmata exercises with my daughter and the chreia that we are working on is a quite by Thomas Jefferson:
    “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just”

    Besides being contradictory since he didn’t go for organized religion and like aspects of Christianity and Deism( a distant God doesn’t causally act in deism), do you know if 2K folks would think that our country could act in a way that led to our own demise?

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  23. Robert,

    Yes, what Steve said, women as teachers are watched in ways that men teachers are not.

    “Are women so defiling to men that marrying them makes one incompetent for the priesthood?”

    Women are not defiling. And that’s a weird way of putting it since virginal in biblical language is only ascribed to women.
    Marriage is a vocation from God but so is the priesthood.
    EO priests and some Catholic priests are married. But married priests is not the norm for the church.

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  24. Susan, Peter was married. So if the first supposed pope was married then why would the norm for priests be celibacy? As I said, pietism and monasticism.

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  25. Thomas Jefferson:
    “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just”

    Besides being contradictory since he didn’t go for organized religion and like aspects of Christianity and Deism( a distant God doesn’t causally act in deism)

    I’m no expert on deism, but it isn’t clear to me that there is necessarily a contradiction here. One might believe that God’s justice is meted out via natural law even if He doesn’t intervene in the day to day affairs of men. Perhaps such a God wouldn’t demand worship, but instead endowed men to fluorish by the light of nature. One might tremble even while a deist without any contradiction. Not my view, and I have no idea if that captures TJ. Perhaps his views evolved?

    do you know if 2K folks would think that our country could act in a way that led to our own demise?

    I’m not sure I’m the best to ask, but I can aketch my view… I think 2k is compatible with the belief that we can make decisions that run our country into the ground. It is also compatible with the belief that a paleo diet will cure what ails you, the minimum wage should be abolished, and gasoline should be prohibited. 2k is not about the content of political views, but rather the scope of the authority of the church. Our elders should not lead us in prayers of repentance of things not forbidden in scripture (forgive us for smoking cigars, etc…), our pastors should not opine from the pulpit about things not taught in scripture (the lord laid it on my heart to tell you to vote for the candidate who will protect our right to bear arms), and churches should not bring believers up on charges for things that are a matter of conscience (no communion for you if you aren’t taking your shift at the planned parenthood clinic).

    Individuals are free to follow their conscience on such matters. I can opine on politics, donate, and vote. I just shouldn’t claim these matters of conscience are binding on other believers – I am not casting a “Christian” vote as if those who disagre are acting anti-Christian.

    So I may be convinced that I will provoke God’s wrath if I vote for a proabortion candidate, but as long as I don’t make that belief a litmus test for other believers I am still 2k.

    Tl;dr not relevant

    I do not believe that modern nations are in a covenantal relationship with God. Thus nations can’t sin. Their behavior should be interpreted through an amoral providential lens. You do dumb stuff your country will suffer (I’m looking at you Venezuela) and if you make good decisions, your country will generally prosper (Go Denmark!). Japan is quite well off despite pretty shoddy treatment of Catholics, Chinese, and the US. It is among the most irreligious nations in history from what I gather and it continues to excel. Such examples should give us pause about connections. But I don’t see that 2k is directly relevant.

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  26. EWTN via Susan: The fact that the apostles were married says nothing about the practice, since they were Jewish and followed the practices of their day, until Christ came along. Tradition affirms that they remained celibates after they followed Christ.

    Doesn’t that seem fishy given Paul’s command for husbands and wives not to withhold themselves from each other except for a short time?

    But the stronger objection is the stsnding objection to binding the conscience to man-made traditions.

    If God has not commanded it, how cam the church over time discern it to be obligatory?

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  27. Jeff Cagle says: But the stronger objection is the standing objection to binding the conscience to man-made traditions .If God has not commanded it, how cam the church over time discern it to be obligatory?

    Yes, read 1 Corinthians 7 this am – love this instructiveness from the Lord (each its context)–

    6 I say by way of concession, not of command.
    7 I wish that all men were even as I myself am, however, each man has his own gift from God..
    10 to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord…
    12 to the rest I say, not the Lord…
    17 as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk and so I direct in all the churches.
    25concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy.
    37 he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will and has decided this in his own heart….
    40 in my opinion…and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.

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  28. Susan, thanks but still not very convincing. I still smell pietism and monasticism, and now add Gnosticism as in there is a first class of Christians and they adhere to a specialized sexuality the rest of coach class doesn’t.

    He quotes from 1 Cor 7, particularly from verse 17 to say that the Pauline order for priestly celibacy is plain there. But read the whole chapter. It’s not a set of instructions to that first class but to all believers and none of it is about the spiritual elevations of celibacy.

    He also says this: “The fact that the apostles were married says nothing about the practice, since they were Jewish and followed the practices of their day, until Christ came along. Tradition affirms that they remained celibates after they followed Christ.” Gulp, what? Read after verse 17, Father:

    Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.

    So if they remained celibate they contradicted Paul’s instruction, as in tried to remove the marks of marriage. Try again, tradition.

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  29. And the followup:

    3 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? — 1 Tim 3

    The word translated overseer here, episkopos, was eventually “rounded off” pronunciation-wise to “bishop” by the English. It refers to elders.

    Paul is explicitly telling Timothy to judge elder candidates by the quality of their family life; an impossible task if they have no family.

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  30. Ali,
    Maybs you hadn’t yet had your coffee this morning because
    you began reading at vs. 6. 😉
    Verse 5 says that husbands and wives should abstain from intimacy for the purpose of prayer. We are also told to go into our rooms and pray in secret, and to pray always with holy hands lifted up etc, so why this setting aside of sex for prayer?
    I always thought that was an odd thing for Paul to command or suggest( why did prayer require a deliberate retreat and why especially from marital relations?), and I was pretty much left to myself to figure out never did hear any sermon or catechesis on it.

    “Ecclesiological Significance

    26. “Laid hold of by Christ” (43) unto the complete abandonment of one’s entire self to Him, the priest takes on a closer likeness to Christ, even in the love with which the eternal Priest has loved the Church His Body and offered Himself entirely for her sake, in order to make her a glorious, holy and immaculate Spouse. (44)

    The consecrated celibacy of the sacred ministers actually manifests the virginal love of Christ for the Church, and the virginal and supernatural fecundity of this marriage, by which the children of God are born, “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh.” (45 46)

    27. The priest dedicates himself to the service of the Lord Jesus and of His Mystical Body with complete liberty, which is made easier by his total offering, and thus he depicts more fully the unity and harmony of the priestly life. (47) His ability for listening to the word of God and for prayer increases. Indeed, the word of God, as preserved by the Church, stirs up vibrant and profound echoes in the priest who daily meditates on it, lives it and preaches it to the faithful.

    The Divine Office and Prayer

    28. Like Christ Himself, His minister is wholly and solely intent on the things of God and the Church, (48) and he imitates the great High priest who lives ever in the presence of God in order to intercede in our favor. (49) So he receives joy and encouragement unceasingly from the attentive and devout recitation of the Divine Office, by which he dedicates his voice to the Church who prays together with her Spouse, (50) and he recognizes the necessity of continuing his diligence at prayer, which is the profoundly priestly occupation. (51)

    A Full and Fruitful Life

    29. The rest of a priest’s life also acquires a greater richness of meaning and sanctifying power. In fact, his individual efforts at his own sanctification find new incentives in the ministry of grace and in the ministry of the Eucharist, in which “the whole spiritual good of the Church is contained”: (52) acting in the person of Christ, the priest unites himself most intimately with the offering, and places on the altar his entire life, which bears the marks of the holocaust.

    30. What other considerations can We offer to describe the increase of the priest’s power, his service, his love and sacrifice for the entire people of God? Christ spoke of Himself when He said: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (53) And the Apostle Paul did not hesitate to expose himself to a daily death in order to obtain among his faithful glory in Christ Jesus. (54) In a similar way, by a daily dying to himself and by giving up the legitimate love of a family of his own for the love of Christ and of His kingdom, the priest will find the glory of an exceedingly rich and fruitful life in Christ, because like Him and in Him, he loves and dedicates himself to all the children of God.

    31. In the community of the faithful committed to his charge, the priest represents Christ. Thus, it is most fitting that in all things he should reproduce the image of Christ and in particular follow His example, both in his personal and in his apostolic life. To his children in Christ, the priest is a sign and a pledge of that sublime and new reality which is the kingdom of God; he dispenses it and he possesses it to a more perfect degree. Thus he nourishes the faith and hope of all Christians, who, as such, are bound to observe chastity according to their proper state of life.

    The Pastoral Efficacy of Celibacy

    32. The consecration to Christ under an additional and lofty title like celibacy evidently gives to the priest, even in the practical field, the maximum efficiency and the best disposition of mind, mentally and emotionally, for the continuous exercise of a perfect charity. (55) This charity will permit him to spend himself wholly for the welfare of all, in a fuller and more concrete way. (56) It also obviously guarantees him a greater freedom and flexibility in the pastoral ministry, (57) in his active and living presence in the world, to which Christ has sent him (58) so that he may pay fully to all the children of God the debt due to them. (59)

    Eschatological Significance

    33. The kingdom of God, which “is not of this world,” (60) is present here on earth in mystery, and will reach its perfection only with the glorious coming of the Lord Jesus. (61) The Church here below constitutes the seed and the beginning of this kingdom. And as she continues to grow slowly but surely, she longs for the perfect kingdom and ardently desires with all her energy to unite herself with her King in glory. (62)

    The pilgrim People of God are on a journey through the vicissitudes of this life toward their heavenly homeland, (63) where the divine sonship of the redeemed (64) will be fully revealed and where the transformed loveliness of the Spouse of the Lamb of God will shine completely. (65)

    A Sign of Heavenly Treasures

    34. Our Lord and Master has said that “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (66) In the world of man, so deeply involved in earthly concerns and too often enslaved by the desires of the flesh, (67) the precious and almost divine gift of perfect continence for the kingdom of heaven stands out precisely as “a special token of the rewards of heaven”; (68) it proclaims the presence on earth of the final stages of salvation (69) with the arrival of a new world, and in a way it anticipates the fulfillment of the kingdom as it sets forth its supreme values which will one day shine forth in all the children of God. This continence, therefore, stands as a testimony to the ever-continuing progress of the People of God toward the final goal of their earthly pilgrimage, and as a stimulus for all to raise their eyes to the things above, “where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” and where “our life is hid with Christ in God” until it appears “with him in glory.” (70)”

    Link to the documenthttp://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_24061967_sacerdotalis.html

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  31. But Susan, read the whole thing!

    “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

    Priestly celibacy is nothing like that. And supposed apostolic celibacy would not be either.

    My dear Susan, all of us — you, me, Zrim (but not Mermaid of course, who has infallible certainty) — can fool ourselves with confirmation bias, which is finding pieces of data that confirm our point of view while ignoring contrary pieces of data.

    The general rule is that unless our data rules out all other options, it is not actually evidence for our view.

    And so here: It is very true that Paul commends abstinence between husband and wife. So you (one) might look at that and say, “Aha! Evidence for apostolic celibacy!”

    But does the data rule out all other options? No — for he follows it up with “for a short time … then come back together…”, which actually rules out long-term apostolic celibacy UNLESS there were some additional evidence that the apostles were somehow exempt.

    Join with me in being careful about confirmation bias. We all can do it.

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  32. Dear Jeff,

    Within the living church, who is guarded by the Holy Spirit, I don’t run into this problem.
    If Christianty was a bible alone religion, then I could concede your point, but it isn’t.
    Read the document that I linked to see how the celibate priesthood was there in germ only to be brought to full fruit with the holy spirit who leads the church into all truth.

    Also, I wasn’t pointing out that portion of scripture as the only proof for the celibate priesthood( that case can be made through the illumination of other scripture AND the precedent of long standing tradtion). I was trying to point out the precedent that anyone should be told that there should be a special break from sex in order to pray.
    The question for us shouod be, “why?”.

    But protestantism threw out the priesthood, so little wonder that they would miss the special nature of celibacy.

    If you must not allow celibacy because even by searching the scriptures, you still have no sight for these things , please give me the scriptural reason that you honor tradition’s decision to switch communal worship from the Sabbath to Sunday?

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  33. Susan says: I was pretty much left to myself to figure out never did hear any sermon or catechesis on it.
    -Not sure why you say that Susan. It’s as if you want to cement the case your own church is the only one willing to help on scripture but that is just not true- the Lord is not constrained and resources abound in His body

    Susan link: (67) the precious and almost divine gift of perfect continence
    -Please Susan. God give gifts- there a variety of gifts- to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good- one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, and each of us is to exercise them accordingly, and with the strength God provides so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.(1 Cor 12, Rom 12, 1 Peter 4:11).
    …not man-instituted, nor man-deemed ‘more spiritual’ gifts

    Susan says: Dear Jeff, I was trying to point out the precedent that anyone should be told that there should be a special break from sex in order to pray. The question for us shouod be, “why?”.
    -the verse (v5) does not say ‘should’ it says ‘perhaps : Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. Possibly said due to that time/context:
    …“Third point. Celibacy is wrong for married people. You say, “Well that’s obvious.” Well I don’t know how obvious it was to Corinthians. Paul had to spend three verses clearing it up. Verse 3. Let me give you the background. What happens is here’s these Corinthians, they get saved and immediately they say, “Well in order for us to be totally set apart unto God we’re going to stop all of our physical relationships. Some overzealous husband decides he’s going to give all of his devotion to God and says, “I’m not going to do anything physical with you dear,” or some overzealous wife says, “I’m now totally committed to Jesus Christ. I can’t have anything to do with you especially since you’re not a Christian. I don’t want a thing to do with you physically.” That’s what was happening in Corinth. So how are you going to deal with it? Verse 3. “Let the husband render to the wife – “ the translation is the debt “ – Let the husband render unto the wife the debt and likewise also the wife unto the husband. “What he’s saying is, “Look, now that you’re a Christian doesn’t change that. You continue in marriage to fulfill the sexual desires of each other.” I believe that’s what he’s talking about here simply because that’s the context that immediately follows and I’ll show it to you in a minute.” MacArthur sermon excerpt

    Susan say: But protestantism threw out the priesthood
    -God: the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. Heb 7:28

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  34. @Susan – There are several problems with the ETWN article you linked. First it does not address Paul’s explicit requirements for bishops in his epistles to Titus and Timothy. He tells Timothy that a bishop must be the husband of one wife and he tells Titus the same thing. Further, he explicitly condemns those who forbid marriage in his epistles as a rejection of the gospel. The Catholic tradition is not problematic because it creates a requirement not found in scripture. It is problematic because it violates what scripture teaches.

    Verse 5 says that husbands and wives should abstain from intimacy for the purpose of prayer. We are also told to go into our rooms and pray in secret, and to pray always with holy hands lifted up etc, so why this setting aside of sex for prayer?
    I always thought that was an odd thing for Paul to command or suggest…I was trying to point out the precedent that anyone should be told that there should be a special break from sex in order to pray. The question for us shouod be, “why?”

    Paul does not suggest that there *should* be a special break from sex in order to pray. He says that *if* one adopts such an extraordinary “fast” (perhaps folllowing Micky’s advice to Rocky that “foolin’ around makes your knees weak”), it must be done briefly and mutually.

    If you must not allow celibacy because even by searching the scriptures, you still have no sight for these things…

    I don’t think the WCF forbids celibacy. It forbids requiring it (it is kinda like the 2k thing). If you are called to a life of celibacy, you should follow that. If you aren’t, you shouldn’t. If one has kids and wants to be a (bishop), then you should manage your kids well (according to God’s word). Your tradition disagrees and thinks a bishop shouldn’t have kids. The tradition contradicts God’s word and is therefore incorrect.

    I don’t say this often (enough), but Ali’s reading of the text is spot on.

    please give me the scriptural reason that you honor tradition’s decision to switch communal worship from the Sabbath to Sunday?

    First, the 10 commandments tell us that one day in seven is set aside. Further, this was not established by the Mosaic law but rather reflects the created order (indeed, the seven days of the week is quite common across most human cultures – probably because there are 7 wanderers (planets) that we can see move across the sky: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn).
    Second, Jesus expands on this and reminds us that the sabbath is made for man, not vice versa.
    Third, Paul tells us that the early church met for worship on the first day of the week, it is referred to as the Lord’s day, and we are admonished not to neglect gathering ourselves together. It isn’t hard to see why we would want to share a common day for worship – as the WCF tells us, “there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.”

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  35. Hi sdb,

    This is from the CCC:

    “Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social. (Luke 14:26; Matthew 10:28-31.) From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming. (Revelation 14:4; 1 Corinthians 7:32; Matthew 2:56.) Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model:
    “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.” (Matthew 19:12.)
    Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away. (Mark 12:25; 1 Corinthians 7:31.) [3]”

    An an article from CtC where the quote is embedded.

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/05/consecrated-celibacy-eschatological-sign-of-the-kingdom/

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  36. Darryl,
    The sin of fallen priests is a shameful thing because it is such a horrible thing. I grieve for everyone involved, especially the victims.
    I don’t hang my head in shame though.
    When Catholics sin the church is not also sinning with them. We are walking opposite the church when we sin. The church is our mother and she is holy.

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  37. @ Susan:

    Knowing that you have previously expressed a desire to wean away from OL and knowing also that it’s time for me to hibernate and focus on teaching, can I propose that we each make two more statements and then retire?

    A value-added benefit of my proposal is that the discipline of a constraint helps us to pick and choose the most important ideas to express.

    To answer your question, the reason Protstants worship on Sunday is that Scripture shows the church doing so.

    Where it comes to worship, example equals pattern.

    The same principle does not extend to actually countermanding Scripture. Do Christian spouses have permission to set themselves apart for a short time for prayer? Yes. 1 Cor 7.5.

    Can that permission be lawfully extended to “the rest of their lives”? No. 1 Cor 7.5.

    So a tradition that the married apostles were celibate would actually set aside the word of God for the sake of tradition. There is a direct contradiction between the alleged tradition and the known hard data point of Scripture.

    Thinking further, we now have to ask, Is the asserted tradition (that apostles were celibate) actually held to be an infallible tradition of the church anyway?

    IIRC, there is no ex cathedra statement to that effect.

    So this raises one of the important questions that I have pressed before: How is a believing Catholic to know (infallibly) which alleged traditions are genuinely Tradition? One would not have to be “Scripture only” to recognize that Scripture is always higher-quality evidence than any purported tradition.

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  38. Hi Jeff,

    Thank you for your serious engagement with the topics we discuss. I appreciate your substantive contribution, your desire that we can form agreement, and your respect for my wish to spend less time here.

    I will look over what you said and respond when I have a chance.
    The hard thing for me, is that I see the interconnectedness of things and ,so since one thing leads to another, I’m always temped to bring that to everyone’s attention as well:)
    This is Brandon’s complaint, and I agree.

    For instance this morning I was listening to a podcast lecture on the importance of the sacrificial nature of the Holy Mass which connects to why the blood and wine can even be sacraments, and why a priesthood is needed.The explanation should settle the doubtful mind as well as protesting Christians, if they only heard it explained. There is no offense or detracting from what was done on Calvary. The problem is most people won’t venture to hear it explained. You for instance think that Catholicism is cherry picking for cooberative data, but you will not see how you are doing that everytime you hyper focus on an injunction that bishops be the husband of one wife. You are not considering that that doesn’t mean a bishop has to be married. Add to that Jesus’s talk in Matt about those who make themselves eunich for the sake of the kingdom. Now think of the protestant religion. Is there a nitch carved out for chosen celibacy?

    Those are things I think about:)

    I will get back to you later. But please, if you can, try to read the things I submit. They are helpful.

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  39. Susan, well, I think you should be embarrassed. How does becoming Roman Catholic give you a pass on embarrassment? You simply stamp your foot that the church is holy when everyone knows right now that’s a bit contested?

    Worse, if you are going to cut and paste all these pious affirmations about what priests do and are, don’t you ever consider that the current climate when revelations of abuse are ongoing and when court settlements are pending is not the time to trot out sacred prose as if that settles the matter.

    You guys have not a clue. At least, when you post stuff like that, admit that some readers might not be overly impressed because of the sex scandal in the church.

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  40. Darryl and Jeff,

    Instead of postponing this, I decided to try to quickly give my answers.

    To Darryl- So you expect the church to shut down because of the sex scandal? Judas was there on the night Jesus gave us the new covenant, and his sins didn’t nullify that the church was holy.

    To Jeff-

    “To answer your question, the reason Protstants worship on Sunday is that Scripture shows the church doing so.”

    Scripture is telling us what the church decided. And that decision went against prior scripture that tells us to honor the Sabbath. This shows us that decisions are the prerogative of the church. A thing that is problematic if Jesus didn’t start it and if the Holy Spirt isn’t guiding it.

    “Where it comes to worship, example equals pattern.”

    Yes, and the example was to worship on the seventh day because it represents sevens days from the first day of creation. Do you have the bible precedent or an explicit context from sacred scripture that says we should change the day we worship collectively? Where is it written? So, in your paradigm fallible men abrogated the fourth commandment.

    “The same principle does not extend to actually countermanding Scripture. Do Christian spouses have permission to set themselves apart for a short time for prayer? Yes. 1 Cor 7.5.”

    Yes, and I never said otherwise. Rather, I was pointing out that an existing a prolonged time for prayer that couldn’t also include having sex with one’s spouse, must mean something. For example 1 Cor 7 doesn’t also say, that we should not shower or have unmixed wine or eat during our ” set aside prayer time”.

    “Can that permission be lawfully extended to “the rest of their lives”? No. 1 Cor 7.5.”

    So this letter was speaking only to pastors?

    “So a tradition that the married apostles were celibate would actually set aside the word of God for the sake of tradition. There is a direct contradiction between the alleged tradition and the known hard data point of Scripture.”

    I don’t think that married apostles were supposed to be celibate. The point is that pastors don’t have to be married.
    There is a scriptural precedent for religious and priestly celibacy, though. So if it exists in the tradition one can see why.

    “Thinking further, we now have to ask, Is the asserted tradition (that apostles were celibate) actually held to be an infallible tradition of the church anyway?”

    There doesn’t have to be. It’s a discipline and it’s the better way, as Paul and Jesus said.

    “IIRC, there is no ex cathedra statement to that effect.”

    Same answer

    “So this raises one of the important questions that I have pressed before: How is a believing Catholic to know (infallibly) which alleged traditions are genuinely Tradition? One would not have to be “Scripture only” to recognize that Scripture is always higher-quality evidence than any purported tradition.”

    Celibacy is clearly scriptural. Celibacy is the of calling for some and it is spiritually useful. The Mass requires priests. The true church can’t ignore or overlook a scriptural precedent or a such a spiritual good.

    Hope I have answered your questions.

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  41. Hi Susan,

    I’ll be signing off here. Thanks for your efforts.

    To sum up the response:

    There is a profound difference between may and must, and that difference goes to the heart of Christian liberty expressed in Romans 14.

    Your evidence shows that priests may be celibate and fulfill their calling. I have no problem with that. Paul is a good example of an unmarried apostle.

    However, the Church does not permit priests to be celibate, but requires celibacy of priests and bishops. That’s the sticking point.

    1 Tim 3 clearly shows that it is at minimum permissible and probably preferable for elders to be married, have children, etc. To take away that permission in the name of discipline is literally to forbid marriage (to a certain class).

    So when you say “celibacy is clearly scriptural”, it really sidesteps the question: Is it Scriptural to say that priests must be celibate?

    But I was being even more specific wrt Tradition: is it a genuine Tradition that the apostles, even the married ones, were celibate? That was the claim of your linked article:

    The fact that the apostles were married says nothing about the practice, since they were Jewish and followed the practices of their day, until Christ came along. Tradition affirms that they remained celibates after they followed Christ.

    That is the claim that I am questioning the authenticity of, and you seem to agree with me that having married apostles be celibate would be contrary to Scripture. You, however, seem to think that this is fine, as the church has the authority to set aside Scripture under the rule of the Spirit.

    But now to the question of whether the church can set aside Scripture. You say,

    Scripture is telling us what the church decided. And that decision went against prior scripture that tells us to honor the Sabbath. This shows us that decisions are the prerogative of the church. A thing that is problematic if Jesus didn’t start it and if the Holy Spirit isn’t guiding it.

    We agree on the data point: The church worshiped on Sunday and thereby contravened the Saturday sabbath.

    But why? On your theory, the church has the ability to go against Scripture itself.

    Let’s try a different theory: the day for the Sabbath, like many other regulations in the OT, was a shadow of things to come, and was set aside when the old age gave way to the new.

    It was not that the Church went against prior Scripture; it was that the regulation itself expired and was replaced, not by the Church, but by Jesus’ act of rising from the dead.

    Well, that’s all I have to say. My greatest concern is that you appear to have accepted an authority that claims to be over the Word of God itself.

    Peace.

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  42. Jeff,

    I want to wrap thing up too, but let me try to clarify my answers to the final questions you put forth.

    “We agree on the data point: The church worshiped on Sunday and thereby contravened the Saturday sabbath.

    But why? On your theory, the church has the ability to go against Scripture itself.

    Let’s try a different theory: the day for the Sabbath, like many other regulations in the OT, was a shadow of things to come, and was set aside when the old age gave way to the new.

    It was not that the Church went against prior Scripture; it was that the regulation itself expired and was replaced, not by the Church, but by Jesus’ act of rising from the dead.”

    We are in agreement then. The church would not contravene holy scripture so she must have had insight and authority both to recognize and change the old way. Do you then agree that it was the church that recognized the important acts of the Jesus that replaced the former regulation, and that she it was that sanctioned the new?

    Well, that’s all I have to say. My greatest concern is that you appear to have accepted an authority that claims to be over the Word of God itself.

    You are kind to be concerned, but no, the church isn’t over the word of God itself. That would be contradictory.

    Here’s a closer look at John’s Gospel, and its interpretation-a big clue to why the Church worships on the first day of the week. Hope you will give it a listen.

    https://stpaulcenter.com/studies/audio-lesson/the-lords-day-sunday-is-the-first-day-of-the-rest-of-your-life

    Peae to you too:)

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  43. Susan, you are the one that joined a communion where the mojo of devotion depends on the clergy. Remember all that papal audacity? You can’t back away from it now and act like the scandals of the clergy are just what happens. But you do. You want it both ways. Christian depends on the church Christ appointed. Salvation doesn’t depend on the scandalous church that Christ founded.

    And please notice how antinomian your argument is. Rome blamed Protestants in the 16th century for teaching a doctrine that said good works don’t matter for salvation. Now you do the same. What priests do or whether bishops cover for them doesn’t matter for the church Christ founded.

    Do you see your naivete? Everyone else does. Even Roman Catholics outside your bubble of apologetics websites and podcasts.

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  44. Susan,

    Just to key off of what Darryl says, the answer we’re looking for isn’t necessarily that “priest’s sins means church should close its doors.” What would be a good start is, “I’m Roman Catholic. I believe it is the church Jesus founded. But I understand fully why priestly scandals would be a severe stumbling block. I can understand why, if the church is supposed to be the avenue of salvation, Protestants would be skeptical when the Magisterium doesn’t seem to care about the little children its priests have abused and has done all that it can to rectify the problem and stop hiding it.”

    Your church is supposed to have a high view of confession. Alright, if the church is really on board with he gravity of sin, it’s time to disclose all the records the church has of the abuse and to stop stonewalling. But at every turn in the scandal thus far, it’s been cover up, cover up, cover up.

    You should also look long and hard at your theology of the priesthood and question how much that contributes to the problem. When the priest is an alterchristus and you are told from day one as a child that your very salvation depends on the priesthood because of the sacraments, how likely is it that children, who are often not disposed to reveal abuse in non-religious contexts, are going to come forward when the priest has been harming them? To do so, after all, would “hurt” the church and put one in danger of losing grace. It also creates incentives for the bishops to hide things. Can’t have the church have a bad name, because then people won’t come for the sacraments, and we all know that the sacraments are the thing that saves us. Sinners in any institution are prone to cover up abuse. It seems to me that Roman Catholicism gives you a unique theological justification for doing so.

    Of course, such things happen in Protestant contexts as well. But there’s really no theological justification for hiding it. Salvation isn’t dependent on the sacraments in the same way, and there’s no infallible reputation to protect. When the minister isn’t an alterchristus but merely another ordinary sinner who has been ordained to a position of teaching and has authority only to declare what the Word of God says, you don’t create the same kind of incentive to hide abuse.

    I don’t expect you to change your theology, though that would be nice. It’d be nice to see any of you converts actually wrestle with the very real problems your church has created, particularly in the West.

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  45. Susan say:
    But protestantism threw out the priesthood>>>>>

    Calvinists want to keep St. Augustine, priest and Bishop of Hippo, appointed by Rome.

    If he lived today, they would mock him and call him a heretic.

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  46. Robert, “You should also look long and hard at your theology of the priesthood and question how much that contributes to the problem.”

    Ring a ding a ling.

    It’s as if converts have gone to a universe where the question, “what could go wrong?” makes no sense to anyone. Not much in there that is intellectual or a tradition.

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  47. Here’s what concerns me about Jeff’s line of argumentation. Sure. You guys are staunchly anti-Catholic, so I won’t go into all the Protestant scandals that would tend to prove that the Reformation didn’t “work”, or at least work like it was supposed to. Protestantism doesn’t fix anything, but it has its own special way of messing things up. Sinners are gonna’ sin.

    All of Jeff’s arguments do not lead a person to a living faith. My focus has been the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    Even demons can analyze data and come up with the certain answer – Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Knowing the facts of the Gospel does them no good.

    An example was given of a Jewish man who, after analyzing data, believed that Jesus did raise from the dead. It was no good to him, since he did not believe that Jesus is Messiah.

    Even in your theology, demonic faith is not the kind of faith that justifies.

    So, my question to Jeff was this. If he answered it, then I missed it. Robert answered it with a hearty Amen! What does Jeff say?

    “Can an omniscient God communicate truth such that His child can know with certitude that Jesus Christ rose from the dead?”

    Notice the starting point. Jeff begins all his arguments with what man is able to know and is therefore man centered.

    Start from the point of what God is able to do and see where it leads.

    That is true for all kinds of knowledge, not just theological knowledge. Start with God’s total ability, not with man’s total inability.

    No one claims personal omniscience, so every time Jeff accuses someone of that, it is a straw man he is setting up.

    God claims omniscience for Himself. Open Theists claim that God does not know everything. Is Jeff willing to claim that God is not omniscient? Is Jeff willing to claim that God is unable to give certitude to His child when it comes to the basic fact of the Gospel – Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the 3rd day?

    Both Catholic and Reformed hold to this foundational truth. Our faith stands or falls on this truth.

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  48. @Susan

    This is from the CCC…

    Yes. That is all very nice, and in their zeal to reform the church, many protestants undervalue those who are called to a life of celibacy (though it is to go too far to suggest that one is required to marry or that there is no value placed on those who never marry). However, the question is not whether clergy should be allowed to be single, but rather whether clergy must be single. The prohibition on marriage for those who serve the church is a violation of scripture. The fact that Paul insists that married bishops be “the husband of one wife” and “manage their children well” indicates that bishops should not be restricted to those who are unmarried and that marriage was not sole for the first generation of apostles. We do see throughout the NT that there were already movements attempting to forbid marriage among Christians. Given the abuse that existed in that world in matters related to sex, it is perhaps not too surprising that foregoing marriage would be seen as a relief. But the apostolic witness is clear that it is wrong to forbid marriage. The RCC, compromised and erred on this front.

    I do not believe that the sex abuse scandal is a consequence of celibacy among priests. The scandal is not that some priests committed grave sins (indeed, the abuse rate is lower among priests than the general population in the US). The scandal is the lengths that the Bishops (and the Vatican) have gone to cover up the scandal and destroy the lives of people caught up in the scandal. Perhaps among the gravest instances is the Bishop who threatened a parents with excommunication if they pressed charges over the rape of their son. Law oversaw this and has been celebrated at the Vatican (his 80th birthday celebration was particularly stomach churning). The catholic church is not holy – it is a vile syndicate protecting abusers and in the process throwing children to the wolves (how evil do you have to be to send someone like Urrogity to oversee an orphanage in a thirdworld country?). This isn’t ancient history – even now diocese are fighting tooth and nail to stop laws that would eliminate statues of limitations (PA) and are working with Vatican officials to find ways to minimize exposure to lawsuits intended to ameliorate the damage they have done (WI).

    That the gates of hell will not prevail over those who are called out (the eklesia) does not entail that the organizations grafted in will not be cut off and thrown in the fire (as Paul notes). Clericalism is the problem. There is no biblical warrant for this model that grew out of following the pattern of the roman empire – insofar as it had a role to play in history, it certainly does not now.

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  49. Mermaid,

    Protestantism doesn’t fix anything, but it has its own special way of messing things up. Sinners are gonna’ sin.

    Nobody is arguing that Protestantism is perfect. The problem is you all keep whining about the problem of Protestantism without ever acknowledging your own church’s role in the ecclesiastical anarchy that you so despise.

    Historical fact: There would be no Protestantism without the abuses of Rome, abuses which continue today. So you can whine about Protestantism not being a viable solution, but we didn’t start the problem and your “give peace a chance bishop” obviously isn’t a solution either.

    Maybe if you guys had an actual solution, you’d get more of a hearing. All I see is heads in the sand.

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  50. D.G. Hart:
    It’s as if converts have gone to a universe where the question, “what could go wrong?” makes no sense to anyone. Not much in there that is intellectual or a tradition.>>>>

    John Knox’s prayer in the 16 century.: “Give me Scotland, or I die!”

    John Knox in the 21st century: “What the h happened?”

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  51. Mermaid, “You guys are staunchly anti-Catholic, so I won’t go into all the Protestant scandals that would tend to prove that the Reformation didn’t “work”,”

    said by the steel trap that knows no dents.

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  52. Darryl,

    Is the church holy? If so, given your definition of holiness, when and where was the church ever holy? The Tridentine church? The Genevan church? The Corinthian church? Where’s the holy church today?

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  53. @ Mermaid: Asked and answered, many times. Based on our interactions, I don’t perceive any interest in the answers, so I won’t repeat myself.

    Have a nice fall and winter.

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  54. Mermaid,

    Define Protestantism. See the Problem

    Define Catholicism. Is it the church in communion with Francis? Is the Sedevacantists who believe the see is vacant? Is it the Old Catholic Church? Is it the Most Holy Family Monastery?

    See the problem?

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  55. James Young, buzzzzzzzz. Too many questions.

    So your church isn’t holy. So how do you know when the charism of the magisterium is the arbiter of holiness? You don’t see a problem?

    If you want to claim you know holiness apart from your apostolic successors, welcome to Protestantism.

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  56. Jeff Cagle says:
    September 26, 2016 at 3:17 pm
    @ Mermaid: Asked and answered, many times. Based on our interactions, I don’t perceive any interest in the answers, so I won’t repeat myself.

    Have a nice fall and winter.>>>>

    I just want to hear you confess Christ without qualification. When you do, do you really have in the back of your mind that you are only 99+% certain that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is your Savior from sin?

    It’s just disturbing, Jeff. If I submitted to your demands to apologize to you for whatever it is you think I did to you, or your demands to repent of whatever sin you believe I have committed, your line of argumentation would still be disturbing.

    Your way of thinking could get a person to mental assent, but not to what you would call “justifying faith.”

    That’s why I asked, ““Can an omniscient God communicate truth such that His child can know with certitude that Jesus Christ rose from the dead?”

    I fear your answer has to be “no” .

    It’s messed up, Jeff. Yell at me all you want, but your “epistemology”, – or whatever you call it – is messed up.

    You have a good day, Jeff.

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  57. Mermaid, ever heard of Hebrews 11:1? “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” It’s not apodictic truth.

    But Mermaid needs her club. Let’s hope she confesses before she leaves planet earth.

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  58. Mermaid,

    Can an omniscient God communicate truth such that His child can know with certitude that Jesus Christ rose from the dead?

    Yes. But not certitude without the logical possibility of error, which is what at least some of you think the certainty of faith is.

    Such certitude is not obtainable apart from omniscience. That’s the point.

    The kind of knowledge and certainty you want isn’t analogical to God’s, it is univocal. This is the problem.

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  59. Robert says:
    September 27, 2016 at 11:05 am
    Mermaid,

    Can an omniscient God communicate truth such that His child can know with certitude that Jesus Christ rose from the dead?

    Yes. But not certitude without the logical possibility of error, which is what at least some of you think the certainty of faith is.

    Such certitude is not obtainable apart from omniscience. That’s the point.

    The kind of knowledge and certainty you want isn’t analogical to God’s, it is univocal. This is the problem.>>>>

    Yes, but… = “no.” God is unable to communicate truth to His child. Jesus didn’t really mean it when He said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

    Truth is unknowable in spite of God’s best efforts, then. It seems that you are saying that. A relative degree of certainty – though it may be very, very high – is not the same thing as knowing truth. Truth is not relative to anything. If you aim for a high degree of certainty, your aim is too low.

    See, the starting point of knowledge is the fear of God. The starting point of wisdom is the fear of God. Starting with the fact that man is not omniscient is the wrong place to start.

    I think what you call “certitude without the logical possibility of error” puts man in control of his faith. You allow for a tiny island of human ability it looks like from where I am sitting. Man is able, using human reason, to come to the right conclusion, within a margin of error. Ultimately, you are in control of what you believe and how you believe it.

    In fact, that was the Apostle Thomas’ reasoning. Unless I see, I won’t believe. What did he see? The risen Christ, who rebuked him. Jesus was gracious to him, and Thomas repented of his unbelief. See, there is a tiny bit of unbelief hiding in your argument, it seems to me.

    I do have a clearer understanding of what you are saying.

    Now, for the sake of argument, I will say, yes, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is falsifiable in theory – not in fact.

    Is the existence of God falsifiable? That is the real test of your epistemology. Are you willing to apply it to God’s very existence?

    If you claim that His existence is falsifiable, then wouldn’t you have to make some kind of claim to omniscience?

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  60. Mermaid,

    Yes, but… = “no.” God is unable to communicate truth to His child. Jesus didn’t really mean it when He said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

    Truth is unknowable in spite of God’s best efforts, then. It seems that you are saying that. A relative degree of certainty – though it may be very, very high – is not the same thing as knowing truth. Truth is not relative to anything. If you aim for a high degree of certainty, your aim is too low.

    No. I’m saying that knowing the truth does not depend on knowing without the logical possibility of error. If that is true, you can’t know anything except some elementary logical postulates. If knowing truth means knowledge without the logical possibility of error, then you can’t know your name is Mermaid.

    See, the starting point of knowledge is the fear of God. The starting point of wisdom is the fear of God.

    Yes

    Starting with the fact that man is not omniscient is the wrong place to start.

    Accepting that we are not omniscient and that we should not strive to know as God knows is inherent to the fear of God. Adam and Eve sought to know just like the Lord knows. That is what you are ultimately seeking because the kind of certainty you seek is possible only for God who alone possesses knowledge without the logical possibility of error.

    I think what you call “certitude without the logical possibility of error” puts man in control of his faith. You allow for a tiny island of human ability it looks like from where I am sitting. Man is able, using human reason, to come to the right conclusion, within a margin of error. Ultimately, you are in control of what you believe and how you believe it.

    No. I’m not a Thomist.

    In fact, that was the Apostle Thomas’ reasoning. Unless I see, I won’t believe. What did he see? The risen Christ, who rebuked him. Jesus was gracious to him, and Thomas repented of his unbelief. See, there is a tiny bit of unbelief hiding in your argument, it seems to me.

    All I’m arguing for personally is certainty as is appropriate to creatures and the maintenance of the Creator-creature distinction.

    Now, for the sake of argument, I will say, yes, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is falsifiable in theory – not in fact.

    But once you admit this, you are backing down from your claim of certainty. If something is falsifiable in theory but not in fact, you have conceded most of what all of us have been trying to say. Something can be unfalsifiable in fact and yet still it be logically possible to be incorrect. It’s not falsifiable, I would say, that Barack Obama is president in the year 2016. But it’s not logically impossible that someone else is president. It’s not logically impossible that this entire world is a virtual reality construct of my own mind or of your mind. That doesn’t make it either of those things, nor does it mean that I can’t be certain that the world is real and solipsism is false.

    Is the existence of God falsifiable? That is the real test of your epistemology. Are you willing to apply it to God’s very existence?

    Is it possible to demonstrate empirically that God does not exist? No. But it’s not possible empirically to demonstrate with certainty that he does exist either.

    Is it logically possible for God not to exist? Not without having to transform our fundamental, intuitive understanding of the world and human reason, I don’t think.

    If you claim that His existence is falsifiable, then wouldn’t you have to make some kind of claim to omniscience?

    No, because if I were to claim that, I would not be making the claim “It is logically impossible God’s existence to be falsifiable.” I would be claiming that “God’s existence is falsifiable, and I arrived at that conclusion through a fallible process of knowing.”

    What you all seem to want is to arrive at a conclusion such as “Jesus rose from the dead” through an infallible process of knowing. You recognize that you don’t have that, so you grant that infallible knowing to the church. Because the church came to the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead via an infallible process of knowing, you can be certain without even the logical possibility of error that Jesus rose from the dead.

    But what we’ve all been saying, in any number of ways, is that even if that were true that the church knows that fact infallibly, it doesn’t help you like you think it does. You are not infallible. So if infallibility really is necessary for the certainty of faith, you can never attain it. You can only know fallibly what the church knows infallibly. Game over for having a certainty that Protestants don’t and can’t have.

    In other contexts discussing such matters with RCs, there comes a point where the RC more or less admits that. It usually comes in the form of “It doesn’t matter if believer Joe knows what orthodoxy is. All that matters is that the church knows what orthodoxy is and that Joe is joined to the church.” There’s some kind of mystical way, at least for some RCs, that the laity knows infallibly and then only by joining oneself to the church. That’s the mind meld that we keep talking about. The church knows infallibly, and the laity can participate in this even if they are personally ignorant simply by joining the church and accepting what she says. In other contexts it is called implicit faith.

    But even with that, your epistemology renders it all very suspect. To join the church, you have to first know the church is the church, but as CVD and others have noted, at the point of decision, there is no way to know infallibly that you are making the right decision. You are fallibly joining a church that you fallibly believe professes infallibility. If certainty of faith is dependent on infallibility, then your certainty can never rise above the fallible certainty you have at the point of conversion. So you are left with no epistemological advantage.

    At this point, CVD will usually insert the example of NT believers submitting to Jesus, which is almost entirely besides the point and doesn’t really help you anyway. Because yes the fallible NT believers submitted to the infallible Christ. Which is exactly what we Protestants claim we are doing.

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  61. Robert:
    No. I’m saying that knowing the truth does not depend on knowing without the logical possibility of error. If that is true, you can’t know anything except some elementary logical postulates. If knowing truth means knowledge without the logical possibility of error, then you can’t know your name is Mermaid.>>>>>

    Brother Hart baptized me “Mermaid” as a way to mock me. My name isn’t Mermaid. Anyway, I will look at the rest later, but this paragraph is funny.

    Maybe you meant it to be.

    Like

  62. @ Mermaid: A moment’s reflection on your part would bring to mind the fact that I’ve affirmed Christ without qualification at least twice in my life to people who actually have standing.

    But you knew that. The “concern” is part of your act.

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  63. D. G. Hart says: Mermaid, ever heard of Hebrews 11:1? “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” It’s not apodictic truth.
    -Apodictic? : expressing or of the nature of necessary truth or absolute certainty

    Robert says Yes. But not certitude without the logical possibility of error, which is what at least some of you think the certainty of faith is.
    -?

    Jeff Cagle says: @ Mermaid: A moment’s reflection on your part would bring to mind the fact that I’ve affirmed Christ without qualification at least twice in my life to people who actually have standing. But you knew that. The “concern” is part of your act.
    -people who actually have standing?

    sheesh.

    We’re told we can only “know” things after they have been demonstrated time and again through stringent scientific method, and even then future experiments might change up what we thought was true.

    The Bible offers a different position. True faith is substance. It is evidence. The word “substance” in Hebrews 11 is ὑπόστασις — hypostasis — and it means “confidence” or “assurance.” It has the connotation of a foundation or substructure, something stable and unmoving on which things can be built. It is substance that gives real existence. The word hypostasis was used in ancient title deeds as a guarantee of ownership. It refers to the real essence, the real content. Faith is the essence of a future reality, despite the appearances of the physical world around us. There is more to this physical world than meets the eye, and in this little book we’re going to explore what I like to call the “boundaries of reality.”

    As a scientific term, hypostasis is antithetical to lack of knowledge. Hypostasis is the substance, the reality. It’s something proven. It’s the evidence of things not seen. The word ἔλεγχος — elegchos — is a legal term for evidence that is accepted for conviction. It’s what makes us certain about something. In 2 Timothy 3:16 it is translated “reproof,” but it is the information that leads to our being convinced, that gives us conviction. The person of faith lives out his belief based on what his mind and spirit are convinced is true.

    The writer of Hebrews tells us that our faith is not merely a hope or a fiat system of currency. Our faith is not a dream or wish or fantasy. It’s reality. Our faith is substance. It is evidence. Hope must have a foundation, and that foundation is Scripture, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts gives us a confidence in the events still future and unseen. The writer of Hebrews tells his readers that they must wait patiently until the Word of God comes to pass, but even their faith demonstrates the reality of the things that aren’t yet seen.

    The life of the believer is lived in the assurance of another reality, a reality outside the realm of our immediate experience. Although we cannot reach out and grab the future God has promised us, the person of faith is convinced of its substance.

    In Hebrews 11:1, we are told that faith is the evidence of things not seen. Two verses later, the writer says something else interesting:Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. — Hebrews 11:3 excerpts http://khouse.org/articles/2016/1267

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  64. Jeff Cagle says:
    September 27, 2016 at 6:18 pm
    @ Mermaid: A moment’s reflection on your part would bring to mind the fact that I’ve affirmed Christ without qualification at least twice in my life to people who actually have standing.>>>>>

    Twice? People who actually have standing?

    Jeff Cagle:
    But you knew that. The “concern” is part of your act.>>>>

    I am more concerned now than ever. Naw. I’m right about your epistemology. It gives you a little island of human ability where you control your own faith. It is man centered, not God centered.

    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.

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  65. @ Ali: “people of standing” meaning elders of a church who have a right and responsibility to determine whether a person is making a credible profession of faith.

    Anonymous interneters don’t have that standing. Mermaid’s game is try to get me to defend my being in the faith, trading on a public insinuation that I don’t have genuine faith. I refuse to play. She has no business, and the people who *do* have that business are fully satisfied.

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  66. Jeff Cagle says: @ Ali: “people of standing” meaning elders of a church who have a right and responsibility to determine whether a person is making a credible profession of faith. Anonymous interneters don’t have that standing. Mermaid’s game is try to get me to defend my being in the faith, trading on a public insinuation that I don’t have genuine faith. I refuse to play. She has no business, and the people who *do* have that business are fully satisfied.

    Thanks Jeff, I knew what you are saying, it just seemed like it was also being said for put down, which is not like you. It is obvious (opinion) here to all that you are a man of faith. I think mrsw has taunted you and she likes to do that. – and (opinion), she also uses that as a tool to deflect from problematic Cat. doctrines not supportable from scripture –what else can she do but deflect –as the linked piece says –
    “Our faith is substance. It is evidence. Hope must have a foundation, and that foundation is SCRIPTURE, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts gives us a confidence in the events still future and unseen

    Opinion though too- the not ‘100% certainty’ discussion is hard for the average joe ‘such as’ me- I think we all get troubled and doubts arise in our hearts (Luke 24:38) in various ways here on this difficult planet, so it is always encouraging to be build up in FAITH and great faith (in Him) is what the Lord wants for us all.

    ps. I appreciate all that I have learned from you here.

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  67. mrsw says The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and D G says:Mermaid, the fear of hell is the beginning of humility. You don’t have assurance, you’re Roman Catholic. Why so cocksure? It’s not becoming.

    Bible verses from the Lord this am 🙂 re:

    1 beginning of wisdom
    Proverbs 9:10The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
    Proverbs 4:7“The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.
    Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.

    2 fear of death (no more)
    Hebrew 2:14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

    3 humility
    Isaiah 66: 1“Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? 2 “For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

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  68. Ali: …it just seemed like it was also being said for put down, which is not like you.

    That’s a fair cop. I was indeed irritated, and that led me to include the word “actually” to zing a little bit.

    But take out that word, and the rest was a serious point to both Mermaid and to others, which is that the internet is no place to question the faith of another person.

    P.S. Your post helped me to be less irritated, so praise the Lord for that.

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  69. Look, Robert explains his views in a way that is much clearer. I may not agree, but I get the basic idea of what he is talking about. He didn’t think I was so beneath him to answer my concern about whether he believes the existence of God is falsifiable. On that point, I agree. He sees it like I do. Thanks, Robert.

    Also, he stated clearly to me more than once that he indeed believes Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Whatever the epistemology means to him, it doesn’t affect his faith in Christ.

    I understand that you guys are opposed to Catholicism. Robert does not come across as anti Catholic. He doesn’t stoop to personal attacks in order to make his points. Sometimes he expresses annoyance or frustration, but he does not degrade those who disagree. In fact, he does not disagree with Catholicism on every, single point. I like Robert just fine. I read what he says and think about it.

    As far as my standing with Jeff goes, I trust it is at the same place – the foot of the cross.

    Now, you guys and gal have thrown everything you can at me, which I actually appreciate. My views of Reformed theology have not changed. There are many fine Bible teachers and Christians in your ranks. I have been blessed by many of them – some of them on your hit list, even. Even Catholic teachers have been known to quote some of your good men in support of specific teachings or Bible passages. In fact, after doing some reading on the subject, the only thing I know of that is heretical as far as the Doctrines of grace go is double predestination. I doubt that any of you hold to that anyway. Most Calvinists I have talked to do not, and definitely do not.

    I was never a huge fan of Luther, but I actually like him better now than I ever did. He was a complex man. In a weird way, he was used to bring about many necessary reforms in the Church. God moves in mysterious ways.

    I have no real explanation for the idiosyncratic views of Brother Hart. Fortunately others are very busy protecting his religious liberty in the public square so he can continue to freely hold to his views. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
    ————————————————-
    It is written (1 John 3:2): “When He shall appear, we shall be like to Him; and [Vulgate: ‘because’] we shall see Him as He is.”

    I answer that, Final and perfect happiness can consist in nothing else than the vision of the Divine Essence.

    St. Thomas Aquinas on happiness
    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2003.htm

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  70. Darryl,

    “So your church isn’t holy.”

    Doesn’t follow from what I said. I agree the RCC isn’t holy according to your apparent definition of holiness. Thus my questions.

    Robert,

    “If that is true, you can’t know anything except some elementary logical postulates.”

    We finally have a concession. Only took a billion comments. And no one became omniscient or God in the process.

    “If knowing truth means knowledge without the logical possibility of error”

    Knowing truth just means knowing truth. Truth is inerrant.

    “All I’m arguing for personally is certainty as is appropriate to creatures and the maintenance of the Creator-creature distinction.”

    The Apostles were creatures. So were they not absolutely certain of their doctrine they delivered since they weren’t God? Further, why did they command their non-inspired hearers to test future messages, even by angels, against what they originally delivered to them if those hearers could not be absolutely certain of their doctrine by mere virtue of their creatureliness?

    “Barack Obama is president in the year 2016.”

    Yes, he is. Do you view this as only highly probable and likely? Or do you view it as (inerrant) truth?

    “Game over for having a certainty that Protestants don’t and can’t have.”

    Dogma is inerrant. Protestantism doesn’t offer it. Articles of faith are only offered as highly probable. Faith is only probable.

    “If certainty of faith is dependent on infallibility, then your certainty can never rise above the fallible certainty you have at the point of conversion.”

    This is confusing faith in the object and divine authority the motives of credibility point to with faith in the motives of credibility themselves. The assent of faith is not a conclusion. Faith is not logically compelled and rationally necessitated from the MoC. That would make faith evident rather than obscure and divorce it from grace and voluntary submission. The certitude of faith comes as a result of the assent of faith, not as a prior condition of that assent.

    “At this point, CVD will usually insert the example of NT believers submitting to Jesus, which is almost entirely besides the point and doesn’t really help you anyway.”

    It’s precisely the point. Christ was infallible. His followers and hearers were fallible. Your argument: “Let’s grant the RCC is infallible. You’re still fallible.”

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  71. Jeff:
    But take out that word, and the rest was a serious point to both Mermaid and to others, which is that the internet is no place to question the faith of another person.>>>>

    Which is why I have not taken your personal attacks seriously. No hard feelings.

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  72. James Young, so you think your church is holy no matter what church officials do? That sounds like antinomianism, sort of like what Rome accused Protestants of. You know. It doesn’t matter what you do, you’re saved anyway.

    A little late in the day to rely on Luther.

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  73. Darryl,

    Is the church holy? If so, does the church have sinners? If so, what’s your definition of holiness to reconcile the two positions?

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  74. Ali: Opinion though too- the not ‘100% certainty’ discussion is hard for the average joe ‘such as’ me- I think we all get troubled and doubts arise in our hearts (Luke 24:38) in various ways here on this difficult planet, so it is always encouraging to be build up in FAITH and great faith (in Him) is what the Lord wants for us all.

    That’s a GREAT point. Let’s summarize “our” side (meaning specifically mine, Robert’s, and SDB’s, if they don’t mind my speaking for them).

    * The Scripture is the infallible word of God.
    * It is written to be clear on matters that are necessary for salvation. So it is entirely possible to read the Bible, and with careful study understand faith, justification, etc. The work of the Spirit also assists in our understanding, and is necessary for believing what we have read.
    * Our understanding of Scripture — our own personal beliefs — are subordinate to Scripture, and must always give way if it turns out they are in conflict with Scripture.

    That means that our own personal beliefs are not infallible, because they are subject to correction by Scripture.

    Now against this position comes Mermaid and CVD. They have slightly different arguments, and CVD’s is more sophisticated. Mermaid’s argument is that the Spirit gives the individual believer infallibly certain beliefs through submission to the infallible interpreter, the Church. To believe otherwise — to believe that our own beliefs, properly submitted, could be in error — is to be “man-centered”, according to Mermaid. She comes along and questions how, without an infallible judgment, one can know that the Bible is Scripture; how one can know what it means; and how one can be certain-without-possibility-of-error of one’s own beliefs.

    The intent of this line of questioning is to place Reformed folk on the horns of a supposed dilemma. If we admit to the truth that our own beliefs are fallible (because subject to correction by Scripture), the RC questioner uses this as ammunition to tout the supposed superiority of a system that promises infallible truths. If we on the other hand assert (falsely) that our own beliefs are infallible (because based on Scripture), the questioner plays the “own interpretive authority” card.

    My own approach, whether good or bad, has been to (1) bite the bullet and freely admit that my own beliefs, and the beliefs of my church, are subject to revision by Scripture.

    I believe that this is the only way to uphold the supremacy and authority of Scripture, for if I were to claim infallibility for myself, or for my church, then I would necessarily place my beliefs or my church’s beyond the possibility of correction by the Word of God.

    To repeat: The mere claim of having infallible beliefs or infallible interpretations is to place oneself above Scripture.

    But having bitten the bullet in (1), I must now (2) justify why I have great confidence that Scripture is the word of God.

    This I do by explaining that in real life, we actually have great confidence in many beliefs that we don’t know infallibly.

    Ex.: We know that bats won’t fly out of my nose. We have great confidence in this fact, even though there is a remote possibility that there is a species of bat small enough to fit inside a nose and fly out.

    Ex.: We know that all the air in the room will not rush to one corner of the room, leaving us to die of suffocation. We have great confidence in this fact, even though there is a REALLY remote possibility of this happening.

    Likewise here: I have GREAT confidence that the 66-book canon is the Scripture. Why? Because each book in that canon has been accepted by the vast, vast majority of the entire church as Scripture. Is it possible that the whole church has been wrong? Remotely, yes — but it is not a reasonable possibility.

    My riposte to the RC questioner is that I don’t have an infallible canon, and I don’t need one. It is enough to have a fallible list of infallible books, recognized by the church as the word of God.

    Mermaid decries this as “not really having faith.” Her proposed alternative is to place the church over the Scripture by creating and infallibly declaring the canon. This proposal is unacceptable; it makes the word of God subordinate to the decisions of men.

    Man-centered indeed!

    The discussion has ranged on for years — since 2007, IIRC — with various interlocutors coming and going. But in the end, the substance of all of that discussion is pretty much what I’ve summarized above.

    So to summarize the summary for those who are not interested in the philosophical side:

    * The Word of God is true;
    * Our beliefs are subject to correction by it.

    Peace,

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  75. The Apostles were creatures. So were they not absolutely certain of their doctrine they delivered since they weren’t God? Further, why did they command their non-inspired hearers to test future messages, even by angels, against what they originally delivered to them if those hearers could not be absolutely certain of their doctrine by mere virtue of their creatureliness?

    You would have to tease out more what you mean by absolute certainty.

    Me: “Barack Obama is president in the year 2016.”

    Cletus: Yes, he is. Do you view this as only highly probable and likely? Or do you view it as (inerrant) truth?

    I view it as an inerrant truth that I arrived at through a fallible process of watching the news, analyzing election results, etc.

    Dogma is inerrant. Protestantism doesn’t offer it. Articles of faith are only offered as highly probable. Faith is only probable.

    You are confusing inerrancy and infallibility. Protestantism offers doctrine it believes to be inerrant but that was arrived at through fallible people searching the Scripture.

    This is confusing faith in the object and divine authority the motives of credibility point to with faith in the motives of credibility themselves. The assent of faith is not a conclusion. Faith is not logically compelled and rationally necessitated from the MoC. That would make faith evident rather than obscure and divorce it from grace and voluntary submission. The certitude of faith comes as a result of the assent of faith, not as a prior condition of that assent.

    So simply believing gives you certitude now?

    It’s precisely the point. Christ was infallible. His followers and hearers were fallible. Your argument: “Let’s grant the RCC is infallible. You’re still fallible.”

    Christ is also an organ of divine revelation and everything he said was infallible. No one had to figure out what he said was infallible and what he said wasn’t. So substituting the church for Christ is not only idolatrous but also doesn’t help since there’s no (as of yet) way to sift with certainty that precludes the logical possibility of error between what is actually infallible and what isn’t.

    Furthermore, unless we add something to Christ to transcend or mitigate infallibility, simply having Christ isn’t an advantage. Not everyone who saw and heard from Christ believed. The work of the Spirit is necessary.

    Relative to Protestantism, I don’t see a real advantage of Rome as Rome defines herself and identifies dogma. At the end of the day, you have to count on the Holy Spirit to overcome your fallibility in some way so that you can place your faith in a fallibly determined canon of infallible statements/doctrines. If Rome were to set out an infallible canon of dogma, we might then be able to reconsider this, but as it is, your canon of dogma is no less fallible than mine is. Both of us can produce statements/dogmas from our fallibly determined canon that purport to be infallible. Neither one of us can produce a complete, infallibly determined canon of all that must be believed for salvation. The best either of us can do is present a fallible canon of infallible truths that must be believed for salvation.

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  76. Jeff:
    * The Word of God is true;>>>>

    Yes.

    Jeff:
    * Our beliefs are subject to correction by it.>>>>

    Here we go again. You don’t mean the Bible you hold in your hand. The Bible you have in your hand contains a fallible list of infallible books. Furthermore, the Bible you hold in your hand has parts that you do not accept as the Word of God. That would include the pericope adulterae.

    Just so people know that. You do not mean that the Bible you have right now is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. The real Bible is out there somewhere. You, Jeff Cagle, reserve the right to determine what parts are and what parts are not the real Word of God.

    That is the legacy of Martin Luther.

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  77. James Young, that’s easy: simul justus et peccator. You don’t have that option. What’s yours?

    Don’t forget your faith is mediated by the clergy (and more). If the clergy can screw up in evaluating clergy who screw up, how do you know that they didn’t screw up in evaluating the faith? No fair appealing to your own understanding. I know you want to be Protestant. But you can’t until you show some embarrassment.

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  78. Robert,

    Did the apostles have inerrant understanding of divine revelation they delivered to followers, or only probable understanding? If the former, did this distort the creator-creature distinction? Did Peter tell the house of Israel to know that it’s highly likely Christ was Lord and Messiah, or most certainly beyond all doubt?

    Did Paul deliver divine revelation to his followers in Galatia? If so, why would he command and expect them to test any future messages delivered by man or angel against what he delivered, given they could not have an inerrant, but rather only probable, understanding without distorting the creator-creature distinction? Further, how could he even ask that of them since not only would they be unable to inerrantly understand and be absolutely certain of his message, but they also couldn’t inerrantly understand the hypothetical angelic message either, since every belief and article of knowledge can only be held according to a degree of a probability since it must pass through fallible minds and processes?

    “I view it as an inerrant truth that I arrived at through a fallible process of watching the news, analyzing election results, etc.”

    Fantastic. You can get to (inerrant) truth despite your fallibility.

    “Protestantism offers doctrine it believes to be inerrant”

    Protestantism offers doctrine that is acknowledged as subject to revision and possibly in error.

    “through fallible people searching the Scripture. ”

    And what constitutes Scripture is itself offered by Protestantism as something subject to revision and possibly in error.

    “So simply believing gives you certitude now?”

    No. Faith works with reason. That does not mean faith is rationally necessitated or some logical conclusion, which would make faith not faith at all – mysteries of faith are called mysteries for a reason. Nor does that mean one gives “faith” to premises that point to the object of faith; the assent of faith is given to the object of faith, not arguments.

    “No one had to figure out what he said was infallible and what he said wasn’t.”

    Your argument is no one could even figure out what he said or meant with absolute certainty, but only probability. Simply because they are fallible.
    Further, you don’t follow everything the infallible Apostles commanded such as head-coverings, men and women’s hair and clothing, eating blood and strangled animals, etc. so you still had to figure out a distinction.

    “Furthermore, unless we add something to Christ to transcend or mitigate infallibility, simply having Christ isn’t an advantage. Not everyone who saw and heard from Christ believed. The work of the Spirit is necessary.”

    So Christ gave no advantage over a random rabbi. Yup, the work of the Spirit is necessary (which is what I alluded to earlier with the assent of faith). You don’t follow through on that though, since even with the work of the Spirit, you still disclaim any certitude of faith and everything remains probable or likely. Because if something didn’t remain probable (well, except for elementary logical postulates), that would entail you became God. Or something.

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  79. James Young, “Did the apostles have inerrant understanding of divine revelation they delivered to followers, or only probable understanding?”

    Once again, the magisterium is like the apostles so Rome must be true. And once again, we have encyclicals as ongoing revelation that add to the canon in violation of what Scripture says.

    Doh!

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  80. Darryl,

    I don’t have the option that the church is full of tares and wheat? I think I do (this should make you happy since your side likes to criticize the RCC for immanentizing the eschaton). But the church is still holy despite that, just as you think the church is holy even with sinners in it. So there must be some other distinction in your definition of holiness, or your definition of sinners.

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  81. Darryl,

    Once again, follow the bouncing ball. Robert’s argument of “you’re fallible, so there” undermines not only Rome’s infallbiility, but also Christ and the Apostles, and ultimately Christianity itself as a divinely revealed religion. D’oh indeed.

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  82. James Young, so how do you know that when the pope rules bodily assumption of Mary is dogma he is not doing that as tare? You don’t have any mechanism for that with “the shrug.”

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  83. Darryl,

    Infallible authority of any type, be it inspired or not, falls prey to Robert’s argument. Why? Because anyone following any such authority is human and a creature.

    To your second post, because the RCC has defined criteria as to when infallibility applies. The criteria does not entail clergy cannot and will not sin, hence wheat and tares. So, since we both agree the church is holy and also has sinners in it, why do you think the RCC with sinners is not holy but some church out there you have yet to define also with sinners is?

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  84. D. G. Hart says:
    September 28, 2016 at 1:53 pm
    James Young, it only undermines the infallibility of Christ if you assume that church infallibility is the same as Christ’s.

    What fool does that?>>>>

    The Church is the body of Christ. He is her Head. The Holy Spirit has been given to her to lead her into all truth. Does the Head fail His Body? His will does not fail. It is His will to present His Bride holy and spotless.

    What does One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church mean to you? It has to mean something to you if you are a confessing Protestant. Sure. You don’t believe the Catholic Church fits those 4 marks.

    If not her, then who or what? Those marks have to mean something to you. It only undermines the infallibility of Christ to deny the fact that He is infallibly perfecting His Bride. So, where should one go to find truth? To Him and His people, His beloved, His body, His Bride. There you will find answers.

    Ephesians 5:27
    so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

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  85. Did the apostles have inerrant understanding of divine revelation they delivered to followers, or only probable understanding?

    This is a vague question so I’m not sure how to answer it.

    If the former, did this distort the creator-creature distinction? Did Peter tell the house of Israel to know that it’s highly likely Christ was Lord and Messiah, or most certainly beyond all doubt?

    One can have an inerrant understanding without being infallible or omniscient. As for the second question, Peter didn’t speak in probabilities and he also gave divine revelation. So Peter’s words simply aren’t in the same category of anything you’re talking about. But in any case, Protestants don’t speak in terms of probabilities, and if fallibility requires such, then all you can say is “It is highly likely that Rome claims to be the church Christ founded,” and yet you don’t do that.

    Did Paul deliver divine revelation to his followers in Galatia? If so, why would he command and expect them to test any future messages delivered by man or angel against what he delivered, given they could not have an inerrant, but rather only probable, understanding without distorting the creator-creature distinction? Further, how could he even ask that of them since not only would they be unable to inerrantly understand and be absolutely certain of his message, but they also couldn’t inerrantly understand the hypothetical angelic message either, since every belief and article of knowledge can only be held according to a degree of a probability since it must pass through fallible minds and processes?

    You are confusing all sorts of categories here. You can be and believe inerrant without being infallible, but you can’t be infallible without being inerrant. I believe that I, for the most part, inerrantly understand what you are saying but that doesn’t make me infallible even if it is true.

    We aren’t claiming that Protestantism can’t make inerrant statements. We are claiming that the inerrant statements don’t result from any kind of guaranteed infallibility whenever we say we are infallible. That is the claim, essentially, that you are making.

    Fantastic. You can get to (inerrant) truth despite your fallibility.

    I’ve never denied that. You are confusing categories. Human beings can be inerrant without being infallible.

    Protestantism offers doctrine that is acknowledged as subject to revision and possibly in error.

    The doctrine that we propose is as inerrant as the doctrine you propose, particularly sense you deny that Rome is an organ of divine revelation and since, as Jeff has pointed out, you have chain of transmission issues. What is actually inerrant is your autographa, which for the most part isn’t even accessible.

    And what constitutes Scripture is itself offered by Protestantism as something subject to revision and possibly in error.

    Without a closed canon of tradition and dogma, what you offer is as subject to revision and as much possibly in error, since not everything Rome proposes for belief is stamped out explicitly as dogma.

    Seems to me you are much in the same position. My canon includes Hosea, which makes a direct claim to infallibility/being divine revelation as well as Esther, which makes no such direct claim. Your canon includes things such as the definition of the Assumption, which makes a direct claim to infallibility, and a host of other traditions that you accept as infallible but to which the Magisterium has never formally defined as such (ordinary teaching, etc.). You’ve got your own fallible collection of infallible traditions. And in fact, it’s actually worse for you since you have this nebulous body of tradition that no one has ever defined in any kind of coherent way that can create assent. I bet if I were to sit down with you and with Mermaid and ask for a list of tradition, the lists would be different. Meanwhile, Al Mohler and I will give you the same list of divine tradition even though he is a Baptist and I am a Presbyterian.

    No. Faith works with reason. That does not mean faith is rationally necessitated or some logical conclusion, which would make faith not faith at all – mysteries of faith are called mysteries for a reason. Nor does that mean one gives “faith” to premises that point to the object of faith; the assent of faith is given to the object of faith, not arguments.

    Thank you. That’s helpful.

    Your argument is no one could even figure out what he said or meant with absolute certainty, but only probability. Simply because they are fallible.

    No. My argument is that no one can figure out what has been said without the logical possibility of error. That doesn’t mean we can’t know truth. That doesn’t mean we can’t know when we have arrived at truth and when we haven’t. Your entire argument is that we cannot know when we have arrived at truth and when we haven’t unless we have an infallible organ to infallibly define the extent of our rule of faith.

    So Christ gave no advantage over a random rabbi. Yup, the work of the Spirit is necessary (which is what I alluded to earlier with the assent of faith). You don’t follow through on that though, since even with the work of the Spirit, you still disclaim any certitude of faith and everything remains probable or likely. Because if something didn’t remain probable (well, except for elementary logical postulates), that would entail you became God. Or something.

    All I’m claiming is that the certainty to which human beings can attain, at least on this side of glory, is certainty with the logical possibility of error. I don’t know why that should be so controversial or why it means rank skepticism with respect to religious matters, but that is what your side keeps insisting. But then you’ll admit that there are some things that, if Rome were to do them, would invalidate Rome’s claim. So the only certainty you have is certainty with the logical possibility of error. Even after the assent of faith.

    You are the one that keeps using language of probability. I don’t find the language particularly helpful. I don’t think it’s merely probably true that God exists or that Jesus rose from the dead. Maybe that is inconsistent on my part from your point of view, I don’t know.

    What I don’t get is the shifting standard. You’ll freely concede that you don’t have an infallible canon of dogma, but it’s okay because you have at least one. But when you are given direct statements that claim infallibility/to be divine revelation, demonstrating that I and other Protestants have at least that, it’s not enough. So it is entirely unclear to me why your fallible canon of STM teaching is sufficient to be a principled means for you, James, to figure out what’s what but my fallible canon isn’t. At this point, I’d really like that question answered.

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  86. James Young, you didn’t answer the question. You have no way of knowing if Rome sins when it defines infallibility. Somehow you think the light goes on when good things happen, goes off when it doesn’t. You have no access (nor does Rome) to the light keeper.

    That’s why Ignatius could say, if the church says white is black, the church wins. So if the church says an abusive priest is a good priest, who are you to judge?

    Come on. You really do want to be a Protestant. Admit it.

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  87. mrsw says St. Thomas Aquinas on happiness link

    Can’t get thru all that mrsw, but this is good
    Surprised by Joy by C.S.Lewis
    But what in conclusion, of Joy? For that, after all, is what the story has mainly been about. To tell you the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian. I cannot, indeed, complain, like Wordsworth, that the visionary gleam has passed away. I believe (if the thing were at all worth recording) that the old stab, the old bitter-sweet, has come to me as often and as sharply since my conversion as at any time of my life whatever. But I now know that the experience, considered as a state of my own mind, had never had the kind of importance I once gave it. It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer. While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts.
    When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, “Look!” The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold. “We would be at Jerusalem.” Not of course, that I don’t often catch myself stopping to stare at roadside objects of even less importance.

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  88. Ali, the idea is that everything a person does is because he or she is seeking happiness. True happiness is found only in the presence of God Himself and seeing Him as He is – the beatific vision. That is what makes Heaven heavenly. Heaven is man’s true home.

    Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.

    Blessedness, true happiness, true joy, rest, and all we are seeking are only found in knowing God Himself and ultimately seeing Him as He is. Mt. 6:33, Mt. 5, and so forth.

    Lewis also said this.:
    “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

    “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
    ― St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in his Confessions

    Augustine’s Confessions are kind of like his spiritual autobiography. His testimony if you will. The line I quoted is towards the beginning of his Confessions. He tells how lost he was, how his mother prayed for him, and how God sovereignly intervened in his life. Beautiful stuff.

    Maybe you have read it.

    It would be up your alley. No pun intended. 😉 Or maybe it was.

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  89. @Jeff
    An excellent summary! I might add just one thing. You wrote,

    I believe that this is the only way to uphold the supremacy and authority of Scripture, for if I were to claim infallibility for myself, or for my church, then I would necessarily place my beliefs or my church’s beyond the possibility of correction by the Word of God.

    To repeat: The mere claim of having infallible beliefs or infallible interpretations is to place oneself above Scripture.

    But having bitten the bullet in (1), I must now (2) justify why I have great confidence that Scripture is the word of God.

    It seems to me recognition of our fallibility is a bit more fundamental. It is true that if we are incapable of error, then we are setting ourselves up to be equivalent to God. But what we see in scripture in the example of Peter is that he is able to persist in the truth only because he is protected from Satan. If God were to remove that protection, he would (and did) fail. While it is true that all of the elect must by definition persevere, we don’t know who are among the elect a priori. But as we work out our salvation in “fear and trembling” we gain increasing certainty. Claiming infallibility is like the kid learning to ride the bike who thinks he cannot fall while forgetting that dad is holding onto the bike seat.

    This is why I think it is wrong to say that the prophets or apostles were ever infallible. They were absolutely capable of error as we see in the case of Peter when he is confronted by Paul. Moses gives us plenty of examples as well. However, God used these fallible vessels to transmit and preserve his word. The reason that the scriptures are infallible is that their origin was not in the will of fallible prophets and apostles, but in the Holy Spirit – the author of scripture. Councils, popes, and synods are not in the same category. All can fail and have done so to varying degrees. That does not in itself undermine their authority, rather it places it in subjection to God’s word.

    We do not need an infallible declaration of what constitutes the scope of scripture. Jesus appealed to the scripture as an authority (something he took to be self-evident) even though the authorities disagreed vociferously over what counted as scripture. Indeed, the various greek translations of religious hebrew writings in circulation (collectively known as the Septuagint) were inconsistent in both scope and translation. Yet Jesus made appeal to the Law, Writings, and Prophets central to his ministry. This recognition is crucial for establishing the biblical basis for sola scriptura – I find it very, very convincing.

    Of course fallibility is not the same thing as wrong, and one can be quite fallible and have a great deal of certainty. But it is a mistake to think of certainty as a binary state, but rather reflects a continuum in confidence. My confidence that Jupiter orbits the Sun at 5.2au is much higher than my confidence that electrons are fundamental particles. My confidence that the WCF correctly describes the canon is very high. I am unlikely to take the time to consider arguments that certain books do not belong. My confidence that the apocrypha should be considered part of the canon is not as strong. I am open to new evidence and would take such a case seriously (which is what we really mean when we talk about degrees of certainty – if someone were to argue the Earth is the center of the Solar System, that the moon landing is a hoax, or that he can bend spoons with mental powers, most of us would dismiss that person as a crackpot – the likelihood that they are right is too low to spend time taking seriously). Of course our willingness to consider objects to items we are confident about depends on who it is doing the questioning. I am more likely to reconsider the apocrypha if recommended to do so by JI Packer. Thus our certainty is strongly influenced by our social connections. The role of developing and maintaining plausibility structures is an under explored topic in epistemology from what I can tell.

    Recognizing that we *could* be wrong is thus adopting epistemic humility. I only believe what is true (insofar as I do) because God works in my heart, not because I have achieve some epistemic power of infallibility.

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  90. sdb:
    Recognizing that we *could* be wrong is thus adopting epistemic humility. I only believe what is true (insofar as I do) because God works in my heart, not because I have achieve some epistemic power of infallibility.>>>

    See, that is where you need to guard from false humility. It is true that any individual could be wrong, and is wrong about any number of things.

    The point of infallibility is that God cannot be wrong. The point of claiming infallibility for the Church is not that the human beings that make up the body of Christ cannot ever be wrong. The Church does not teach that, and you should know it by now. The Church teaches that the Holy Spirit is infallibly leading the Church into all truth. He is the One who is infallible. Jesus’ promises to the Church are not in vain. His will will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

    God is omniscient. The point is that God is able to communicate truth to His child such that he or she can have certitude that He exists & that He rewards those who seek Him. The point is that God is able to communicate truth to His child. He does not promise that His child will know everything in the is life, but he or she will know enough for salvation. That includes the fact that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, and rose again on the third day… Sure. An unbeliever can come to the conclusion that Christ died and rose from the dead. It’s the heart belief that He death was “for our sins” that makes all the difference. That is a gift that God gives to His child.

    We walk by faith in the One who does know all things and is able to accomplish His will infallibly.

    Well, there is also the fact that Jeff has been consistently setting up straw man arguments, since no one has claimed personal omniscience. Also, both of you have used personal attacks to try to prove your points. So, where is that humility you brag about again?

    You do need to guard against man centeredness in this when you allow the philologists to determine your canon of Scripture. You do need to guard against man centeredness when all your epistemology seems to be focused on what man is able or not able to do. You *could* be wrong, you know.

    Hebrews 11:6
    And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

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  91. Ali, I love Dr. John Piper. He is a man who has faith working through charity – love and good works. No, I don’t agree with all he says, but he is a man of great faith. Thanks for the link. He did a series a few years back on famous Christians. You might enjoy his article on St. Athanasius.

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  92. Mermaid,

    The Church teaches that the Holy Spirit is infallibly leading the Church into all truth.

    But this isn’t complete. Protestantism makes this claim as well.

    The RCC claims that the Church is infallibly following the HS whenever it says it is infallibly following the Spirit.

    The claim isn’t really about God but about the church, hence SDB’s point.

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  93. Robert says:
    September 29, 2016 at 12:51 pm
    Mermaid,

    The Church teaches that the Holy Spirit is infallibly leading the Church into all truth.

    But this isn’t complete. Protestantism makes this claim as well.>>>

    Which Protestantism? Are you willing to accept all the weird and wonderful world of Protestantism as your own?

    I know you do not accept the quote I provide below from the CCC, but here is what the Church says about you. I think you say this is a change, showing that the Church’s claims cannot be true since she changes all kinds of stuff all the time. I understand.

    Actually, there is precedence going all the way back to the words of Christ “there are sheep not of this fold.” and the Church fathers, esp. St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo that I have posted here before.

    I understand that you disagree. However, you do profess the Catholic faith in some sense and we do share a common baptism. If I remember right, you accept Catholic baptism as true baptism. Right? I don’t know what your particular congregation says about allowing a Catholic to take communion in your church.

    838 “The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.”322 Those “who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.”323 With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound “that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist.”324
    – the CCC – check the Holy See

    Robert:
    The RCC claims that the Church is infallibly following the HS whenever it says it is infallibly following the Spirit.

    The claim isn’t really about God but about the church, hence SDB’s point.>>>>

    Actually, if you read the CCC, I think you will see that the claim is about seeking the leading of the Holy Spirit.

    You think the Catholic Church is apostate. I understand.

    sdb thinks he might be wrong. I think he is wrong. Therefore we share some degree of consensus.

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  94. D. G. Hart says:
    September 29, 2016 at 1:29 pm
    Mermaid, “I love Dr. John Piper.”

    I pity the man.>>>

    Brother Hart, you are so funny! Everything you say makes me laugh.

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  95. Mermaid,

    Which Protestantism? Are you willing to accept all the weird and wonderful world of Protestantism as your own?

    What I am accepting is that the Holy Spirit is leading His church infallibly but that His church is following this leading fallibly at every point. This is not the RC claim. The claim is that at certain, hard-to-define points, the RCC is following the church in an infallible manner.

    Because the true church follows the Spirit fallibly, there is visible division. If the following was infallible, there would be no visible church division.

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  96. Robert,

    “One can have an inerrant understanding without being infallible or omniscient.”

    Bingo. So RCs can have inerrant understanding, just as NT believers could, without being infallible or omniscient. Reason and the work of the Spirit works. Natural truths can be inerrantly understood by pagans without being infallible or omniscient. Reason works.

    “Peter didn’t speak in probabilities and he also gave divine revelation. So Peter’s words simply aren’t in the same category of anything you’re talking about.”

    Yup and Peter was still a creature. I agree he and Paul didn’t speak in probabilities (nor assumed their followers would and must simply because they were creatures), your side contends everyone must – thus Jeff’s “We have great confidence in this fact, even though there is a REALLY remote possibility of this happening.” and “I have GREAT confidence” and “Is it possible that the whole church has been wrong? Remotely, yes — but it is not a reasonable possibility.”
    So the best creatures can do is some probability approximating truth.

    “You are confusing all sorts of categories here.”

    Nope. The confusion was all on your side. Creatures can have absolute certainty. Creatures can know (inerrant) truth. The apostles did. Their followers did.

    “We aren’t claiming that Protestantism can’t make inerrant statements.”

    Is something inerrant possibly errant? Everything Protestantism offers is offered as possibly in error. Faith is probability.

    “you have chain of transmission issues.”

    You just undermined yourself again. When would there not be a “transmission” issue given our senses and mind are used in gaining knowledge? The Galatians and Peter’s audience had “transmission” issues. The Apostles and prophets had “transmission” issues. Jeff’s Cosmic TextBook has “transmission” issues. Yet you already agreed one can have inerrant understanding.

    “That doesn’t mean we can’t know when we have arrived at truth and when we haven’t. ”

    Why doesn’t Protestantism ever know when its arrived at truth then? Dogma should be readily forthcoming and offered, instead of every teaching qualified with “this might be in error”.

    “All I’m claiming is that the certainty to which human beings can attain, at least on this side of glory, is certainty with the logical possibility of error. ”

    Did the Apostles have 100% certainty or not in the doctrine they delivered? Could their hearers have 100% certainty in what they heard and processed or not? And what happened to your assertion that “I’m saying that knowing the truth does not depend on knowing without the logical possibility of error. If that is true, you can’t know anything except some elementary logical postulates.”?

    “You are the one that keeps using language of probability.”

    See Jeff above. I don’t know why this is controversial. If you deny absolute certainty and that inerrant understanding is possible, which you sometimes do, sometimes don’t, then everything is just some degree of probability and likelihood approximating truth; we can’t actually ever get to truth.

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  97. Cletus,

    Why doesn’t Protestantism ever know when its arrived at truth then? Dogma should be readily forthcoming and offered, instead of every teaching qualified with “this might be in error”.

    Read any Protestant confession, which is a confession of what it believes to be truth.

    Dogma is offered in the WCF, go read it. It’s not offered as “this might be in error” except in the barest of way (“councils MAY err”). But even here, I’m not sure that Rome does anything all that different. Rome lists some criteria, but does it say before giving the criteria “Here ye, here ye, this what I am about to say is infallible.” Even then, there’s no universal way that the criteria is applied. You’ve got people dissenting from what you would say is infallible holding higher positions in your church than you do and teaching theology in its universities.

    Which is why in some cases when I’ve pressed certain RCs far enough (Stellman and Kenneth), they basically concede that the Rome is better than Protestantism not because it offers infallible dogma but because—if it wanted to—it could. Whoop de doo.

    Did the Apostles have 100% certainty or not in the doctrine they delivered? Could their hearers have 100% certainty in what they heard and processed or not? And what happened to your assertion that “I’m saying that knowing the truth does not depend on knowing without the logical possibility of error. If that is true, you can’t know anything except some elementary logical postulates.”?

    Logical certainty or moral certainty?

    You are confusing categories. I can be morally certain and inerrant that Barack Obama is president today. But I am not certain beyond all logical possibilities. I don’t even have access to all logical possibilities because I’m not omniscient. I don’t know every possible world. There’s lots of stuff I don’t know.

    No human being has logical certainty except of elementary logical postulates. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead is not a logical postulate. I don’t even know how you are defining absolute certainty. It seems that for you that means no possibility in any sense whatsoever, not even in theory, that what is being set forth is in error. Not even the Apostles present that, hence Paul being able to entertain the possibility that Christ wasn’t raised from the dead at least for the sake of argument.

    Theology isn’t mathematics, but that’s what you treat it like.

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  98. CVD: The confusion was all on your side. Creatures can have absolute certainty. Creatures can know (inerrant) truth.

    Actually, CVD, I think you are the one who is confused here. Having absolute certainty obtains only for creatures with infallibility: Those who have no possibility of being wrong.

    Inerrancy is weaker, and means only “free from error.”

    You have been speaking as if inerrancy implies absolute certainty; it does not.

    Consider a student who turns in a 10-question multiple choice math test. At the moment of submission, she knows that she is fallible and therefore does not have absolute certainty that she got all questions correct.

    Now the teacher marks up her test. Assume hypothetically that the teacher is an infallible grader for the purposes of discussion. The student gets 10 of 10 questions correct. So, retrospectively, her paper was inerrant at the moment of submission. But our student did not know this fact, which is why she lacked absolute certainty.

    Conclusion: Inerrancy does not imply certainty. Knowing that one’s knowledge is inerrant implies certainty. Certainty is not knowledge, but knowledge about one’s knowledge.

    So when you argue,

    CVD: If you deny absolute certainty and that inerrant understanding is possible…

    you are treating two different concepts as if they were synonyms. They aren’t; inerrant understanding is possible, absolute certainty is not.

    Or to quote the SEP: It is possible that a subject may have a belief that enjoys the highest possible epistemic status and yet be unaware that it does. (More generally, a subject’s being certain that p does not entail that she is certain that she is certain that p; on this point, see Van Cleve 1979, and see Alston 1980 on level confusions in epistemology.) Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Certainty

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  99. Robert: “Peter didn’t speak in probabilities and he also gave divine revelation. So Peter’s words simply aren’t in the same category of anything you’re talking about.”

    CVD: Yup and Peter was still a creature. I agree he and Paul didn’t speak in probabilities…

    What Paul did do was to rebuke those who claimed certain knowledge.

    Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. — 1 Cor 13

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  100. James Young, it really is good to see you defending infallibility so rigorously. That way you can close your eyes to the real debate:

    Every time someone tries to defend communion for the divorced and remarried, the reform they are proposing sounds more and more like heresy. John F. Crosby’s response to me is no exception. To the question of how the reform could possibly be compatible with Catholic teaching, Crosby replies with a story of doubtful relevance (or accuracy). As for my argument that, in practice, it would undo the Church’s sacramental discipline, his response confirms it.

    Crosby claims that opening communion to some remarried Catholics would be no great disruption, because “the discipline of the Church” has already undergone a “huge change” courtesy of St. John Paul II: “In his 1983 reform of the Canon Law of the Church, he lifted the excommunication that had for centuries been automatically imposed on persons who remarry without having their first marriage annulled.” The same story has been told by Crosby’s colleague Rocco Buttiglione. It happens to be inaccurate: The Pope who lifted the excommunication was Paul VI, in November 1977. And the excommunication only dated from 1884, when it was enacted in one country, the United States—hardly a “discipline of the Church” that had existed “for centuries.”

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  101. Jeff:
    What Paul did do was to rebuke those who claimed certain knowledge. [1 Cor. 13]>>>>>

    In the context of spiritual gifts of which 1 Cor. 13 is a part, the knowledge that will pass away is the gift of knowledge. It will not be necessary in eternity.

    How did Paul know that love was not going to pass away? How could he be so certain? How could he dare to say something so absolutist? Why didn’t he scold himself for being so certain?

    “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. “

    Besides, what we now know in part through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we really do know. It’s just not all there is. No one says it is.

    I think that in your efforts to refute what you understand to be the claims of the Catholic Church you undermine – or at least weaken – everything regarding faith and practice.

    You seem to be flailing.

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  102. Robert,

    “It’s not offered as “this might be in error” except in the barest of way (“councils MAY err”). ”

    WCF: “All synods or councils, since the Apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred… which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission”
    This disclaimer of course includes the WCF itself, given it was produced by a council.

    “I’m not sure that Rome does anything all that different”

    Rome doesn’t claim every teaching it offers is possibly in error.

    “There’s lots of stuff I don’t know.”

    Yes, you’re not omniscient. That doesn’t mean you can’t know anything. That doesn’t mean all knowledge reduces to probability and (inerrant) truth remains inaccessible.

    “No human being has logical certainty except of elementary logical postulates”

    Which already undermines your argument. You, Jeff, sdb went all in on this for a billion comments. Now you’re (finally) conceding exceptions. Having “logical certainty” of elementary logical postulates didn’t make you God or omnisicient.

    “Not even the Apostles present that”

    So the Apostles presented their doctrine only as highly probable and that it might be wrong. Yet above you already classed them with: “he also gave divine revelation. So Peter’s words simply aren’t in the same category of anything you’re talking about.” So apparently their words are in the same category as every other piece of knowledge attained or delivered by creatures.

    “Theology isn’t mathematics, but that’s what you treat it like.”

    Yep it isn’t. Not sure why your side treats it as such. Thus, we get Jeff’s comments above already cited about everything being probable and confident. We get other statements like his reply to my “By virtue and exercise of Christ/Apostles authority, those errors and misunderstandings could be definitively clarified and corrected – iteratively if necessary.”
    Jeff: “Iterative methods (the topic of my Master’s work) don’t produce certainty [He bolded this]. Instead, they give results that (under good circumstances) produce ever-decreasing, non-zero errors.”
    and
    “If 99.9% is not good enough for you, then I have bad news.”
    “An inductively derived proposition with 99.9999% confidence (which is the confidence level required in particle physics) is not certain”

    We get sdb’s
    “it is a mistake to think of certainty as a binary state, but rather reflects a continuum in confidence.”
    “My confidence that the WCF correctly describes the canon is very high.”
    “My confidence that the apocrypha should be considered part of the canon is not as strong.”
    “the likelihood that they are right is too low”
    “I am more likely to reconsider ”
    “Thus our certainty is strongly influenced by our social connections”

    So much for the supposed work of the Spirit. Faith is probability.

    Jeff,

    “Having absolute certainty obtains only for creatures with infallibility”

    The apostles were creatures. Did they have absolute certainty of the doctrine they delivered? Since you posit later Paul argued against such certainty, the infallible Apostles did not have absolute certainty. So this statement or the other has to go.

    Further, when you said “if we could somehow check the back of a Great Big Textbook of the Universe, then we could actually assess error or not. If you could, somehow, check your belief that Robert’s name really is Robert, then you would not only have knowledge, but (infallible) certainty as well.”
    you apparently left out that Susan would also have become infallible before she checked the book.

    “But our student did not know this fact, which is why she lacked absolute certainty.”

    When she gets the grade back from the infallible grader, can she have an inerrant understanding that she got the grade she received? Or does she only ever reach a high confidence and probability?

    “inerrant understanding is possible”

    Right. And the the Apostles had inerrant understanding. Paul and Peter assumed their hearers could have inerrant understanding of the message they delivered and know it “most certainly beyond all doubt.” It wasn’t offered as probable or highly likely.

    “What Paul did do was to rebuke those who claimed certain knowledge.”

    Did Paul not have certain knowledge? Why did he charge the Galatians to test hypothetical angelic gospels against the message he delivered to them if they couldn’t have certain knowledge of it or, for that matter, the hypothetical message?

    I already pointed out above faith is obscure, not evident. There is nothing contradictory about walking by faith not sight, seeing in a mirror darkly and the certitude of faith. The Apostles and Christ would be incoherent if there was such a contradiction.

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  103. CVD: Paul and Peter assumed their hearers could have inerrant understanding of the message they delivered and know it “most certainly beyond all doubt.”

    That isn’t what the word “inerrant” means. You’re just confused about the meaning of words.

    To have inerrant understanding simply means to understand without error. [Paul, by the way, did not assume that about his hearers, which is why he moves to correct misunderstandings in 2 Thessalonians.]

    It does not mean “to know it most certainly and beyond all doubt.”

    I may inerrantly believe that Annapolis is the capital of Maryland, yet doubt my memory of that fact.

    You have a profound level confusion in your theory of knowledge. You are conflating people’s knowledge with their knowledge about their knowledge.

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  104. @ Robert: CVD is correct that I have been pushing hard on the concept that our certainty is probabalistic. I think SDB would take that approach also. Feel free to separate yourself from that idea if you wish.

    Another approach that doesn’t appeal to probability directly is to consider contingencies in knowledge: My knowledge of X is justified by Y; hence, it is contingent upon Y being true.

    In CVD’s case, his knowledge of the infallibility of the church is contingent upon

    (a) his correct interpretation of the motives of credibility,
    (b) his correct interpretation of Vat I
    (c) his correct identification of the church in 2016 with the church described in Vat 1 (i.e., no sedevacantism)

    etc.

    Unless he can have absolute certainty about each of those contingencies, he doesn’t have infallible knowledge, hence no absolute certainty.

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  105. CVD: There is nothing contradictory about walking by faith not sight, seeing in a mirror darkly and the certitude of faith.

    One of these things is not like the others…

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  106. @cvd You seem to be under the mistaken impression that Robert, Jeff, and I are in total agreement on matters of epistemology. I don’t think it is fair to say that we are. Nor is it right to infer a “protestant” epistemology anymore than one should assert a “catholic” epistemology (van Fraassen an Fr. McMullen both quite faithful catholics had rather sharp disagreements here).

    “So much for the supposed work of the Spirit. Faith is probability.”
    Why is only 100% certainty the work of the spirit? Hope and trust suggest that one can conceive of a way that things wouldn’t work out as you expect. Do you hope that all the O2 molecules in your room don’t concentrate in the corner? To you have trust that when you inhale that there will be air for you there to breath? Of course not. You “know” that to be the case (even if your knowledge isn’t inerrant and it is possible in principle that it wouldn’t be, such possibilities are so remote that we dismiss them…assuming you don’t live in ignorance of statistical mechanics). But the narratives we have of the prophets (particularly, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and David) paint a very different picture from what you seem to allude to in your semi-rhetorical loaded questions.

    @Robert I think it is highly unlikely to say that we will ever have 100% certainty on anything on this side of glory.

    @Robert & Jeff: I don’t see that it makes sense to refer to “inerrant” beliefs. The connotation when used in the context of the bible wars is that the Bible is without error in all that it contains (no accommodation or verisimilitude perhaps?). My stopped watch is not inerrant at 8:47am and 8:47pm. At least inerrant seems to be the wrong word to say that it happens to be right about that trivial fact on accident twice a day. Rather, an inerrant watch would keep perfect time all the time. It would be impossible for an infallible watch to get the time wrong. To say that a believer has an inerrant understanding of the faith is to claim a lot more than that they have the correct understanding to this proposition or that (or inerrancy isn’t all that interesting a quality to assert).

    Infallibility is a much stronger claim – namely that one cannot err. I do not see how it can be correct to say that the prophets and apostles were ever infallible. They were most definitely fallible – after Moses delivered the 10 commandments (which were infallible), he almost immediately sinned and proved he didn’t fully understand what he was on about himself. As Peter notes, the scriptures we have are infallible because they are God’s word delivered by fallible vessels. The key thing is that these words did not originate in the will of these fallible men, but they transmitted what they were given (and were protected from error). This is why I recoil from the idea that the Pope, Council, or catholic church could ever be infallible. Obviously they are capable of error they have erred on a great many things. Claiming that under some set of conditions, certain teachings, proclamations, etc… are infallible (though perhaps it isn’t so clear when those conditions have been met as the determination of whether those conditions have been met are themselves fallible right? The canon lawyers determine that) is to claim that black is white. Now if what they are claiming to do is transmit what the Holy Spirit is revealing through them (i.e., these proclamations are not originating in their own will), I need much stronger evidence than they offer. It isn’t clear to me though that this is what they are claiming to do when the say the Pope speaks ex cathedra.

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  107. Jeff & SDB,

    I’m just not sure that probability is a useful term because it seems to turn faith into mathematics. I don’t necessarily have a better one. The WCF does speak of infallible assurance, which would seem to imply a complete 100% certainty of some kind, though I’d love to hear your thoughts on what that means. It would seem to point to 100% moral certainty but not logical certainty.

    Maybe contingency is a better word, I don’t know. There is the inherent weakness of the RCC interlocutors in that the MOC can give only probable certainty, and if that is the case, Rome at least can have no better certainty than any other group that can make a convincing but not surefire empirical case for its truth. I think the fundamental problem of the CTC apologetic and with the MOC in general is that it seems to lack all self awareness about the problem of induction. It’s like none of them have ever read anything even elementary in the philosophy of science.

    At some point, the whole principled means discussion becomes very silly. I keep asking for a principled means to distinguish between Rome and Mormonism, but all I get is arguments that rest finally on the exercise of our private judgment, but for some reason that’s okay at the entry point. But if your choice of Rome rests finally on your opinion, there is nothing fundamentally different about choosing Rome over Geneva, at least from a human perspective.

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  108. Cletus,

    If the MOC cannot compel faith, then wouldn’t the certainty of faith that you have be identical to that of the Mormons or any other group claiming infallibility? If not why?

    The only answer I see is that you could say you have better MOC, but that’s just to make your certainty of faith grounded in a higher probability than others, which you seem to reject.

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  109. @Robert
    Great question. I’m not entirely sure, but I think it is helpful to clarify a few things that I think we convolve in colloquial language (at least I have). For example, we should separate ontological certainty, epistemic certainty, and psychological certainty. I would also want to distinguish what we can demonatrate and what we “know”.

    Looking at wcf 18.1 we see that unbelievers may be quite certain about their salvation and be totally wrong (like when I was certain my son was riding homefrom church with the Mrs, and vice versa. Big surprise when we got home!).

    18.2 talks about the believer’s infallible assurance. This is an inward work of the spirit.

    18.3 Note though that this assurance grows as part of our sanctification.

    18.4 here is why I believe the infallible assurance we receive from the spirit’s work in our heart as we are being sanctified is notthe same as 100% certain. The object and source of our confidence is infallible, but our subjective state is subject to, ” True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God’s withdrawing the light of His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in darkness and to have no light…”

    I think the canons of dort are helpful on this theme as well,

    Assurance of their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation is given to the chosen in due time, though by various stages and in differing measure. Such assurance comes not by inquisitive searching into the hidden and deep things of God, but by noticing within themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unmistakable fruits of election pointed out in God’s Word—such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on.

    This indicates that our assurance is in differing degres. This certainly rings true to me. Further, we can lose that assurance by sin or by “God withdrawing the light of his countenance”.

    But in top of this are the things I learn from “the light of nature”. What I can know by scholarly investigation is likely limited to degrees of certainty. There is much we can learn from the study of nature, but we do not have legitimate certainty about our salvation from this. That is the work of the spirit.

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  110. Interesting discussion of assurance. Back when I used to read books, I remember that there was some disagreement about assurance being essential to the nature of justifying faith. Iow, it was innate to the supernatural gifting. There seemed to be some disagreement about that understanding, at least in the English reformation. I recall there being some heartburn in some camps as to the description of assurance in 18.4. The extreme example was the Edwardsian ferreting out of religious affections and a level of introspection that in essence drove you back to the RC monastic/contemplative setup and left you without the ability to have assurance.

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  111. @sean
    Interesting. Was the idea by those who disagreed with WCF18.4 (and Dort) that a true believer couldn’t have his assurance swayed?

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  112. sdb, I believe the debate was over whether assurance was innate to justifying faith(so acquired/possessed from conversion) or attained later through growth and effort and thus easily or capable of being lost as faith faltered or sin was relatively unabated.

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  113. So, yes. The contention was that necessary to a protestant idea of soteriology over against RC was that assurance was an essential element of justifying faith and a marked difference between RC and protestant as regards salvation.

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  114. @ LMSS: Interesting and helpful.

    @ SDB: The object and source of our confidence is infallible, but our subjective state is subject to, ” True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken…

    That’s how I understand it also. The object is Christ — infallible. The source of our assurance is the Spirit — also infallible, and works over time so that the elect never finally fall away. Our subjective state — well…

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  115. SDB and Jeff and LMSS,

    In response to SDB on WCF 18

    18.1 I’m not sure this says that unbelievers are “quite certain” of their salvation. But moving on:

    18.2 Yes

    18.3 Yes

    18.4: The problem I have with saying that this means we can’t be 100% certain is in this clause: yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.

    This seems to indicate that even at the lowest moment of assurance, one can have it and it be an infallible assurance.

    The issue is this, and that is if infallible assurance is not 100% certainty, then how are we materially different from Roman Catholicism on this point. If you are a Roman Catholic and a hypocrite, then you can have a false hope of salvation. But if you are a Roman Catholic and faithful to the church, you can have a strong hope of salvation but not 100% certainty of being in a state of grace.

    What I read both of you as saying as that you can be sure that you are probably saved but not sure that you are certainly saved, and if that is the case, the Reformation doesn’t make sense because it seems to me that one of its major points or at least driving forces is that the believer can be sure beyond all doubt that one is in a state of grace. At least that is what motivated Luther.

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  116. @Robert
    Regarding 18.1:

    Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish)…

    I don’t see how to understand that as anything other than what we might colloquially refer to as “false assurance”. Jesus refers to those who are shocked when they stand before the judgment throne and discover that they are counted among the Goats. We see this in the parable of the Lazarus and the rich man too. Lot’s of people may have no doubt that they are headed to heaven when they die (may even fly a plane into a building or blow themselves up to secure that place), but be totally wrong. Their hope isn’t infallible though. It will perish as the wcf puts it. I think the contrast is important for understanding 18.4

    The problem I have with saying that this means we can’t be 100% certain is in this clause: “yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.”

    This seems to indicate that even at the lowest moment of assurance, one can have it and it be an infallible assurance.

    I don’t read this quite the same way. First, this text indicates that “this assurance may…be revived”. This suggests that it is in need of being revived. What does certainty look like when it is in such a state as to need reviving? The plain meaning of the text is that a person in such a state is likely suffering from rather severe doubts. I don’t see how that can be read to be 100% certain. But such a believer is never utterly destitute of the seed of [hope] by which the Spirit can work in the life of the believer…

    The issue is this, and that is if infallible assurance is not 100% certainty, then how are we materially different from Roman Catholicism on this point. If you are a Roman Catholic and a hypocrite, then you can have a false hope of salvation. But if you are a Roman Catholic and faithful to the church, you can have a strong hope of salvation but not 100% certainty of being in a state of grace.

    The object of our hope is Christ’s finished work on our behalf, not the merit of our own works. That is a pretty big difference. I’m not so sure the distinguishing ourselves from RCs is really the point though.

    What I read both of you as saying as that you can be sure that you are probably saved but not sure that you are certainly saved,

    That only rings true in a seminar. I think a more realistic way to think about it is that there are moments when I am 100% certain that I am saved and there are moments when I doubt and my assurance is shaken. I don’t ride around at 78% hoping to eventually rise to 99% and perhaps hit that magical 100% when I have full arrived.

    and if that is the case, the Reformation doesn’t make sense because it seems to me that one of its major points or at least driving forces is that the believer can be sure beyond all doubt that one is in a state of grace. At least that is what motivated Luther.

    Luther’s angst about how he could know that he is right with God may have triggered his repudiation the ecclesiastic abuses of the RCC and led to his efforts to reform the system. But I don’t see how the question of certainty was really one of its driving forces. I would place the centrality of scripture as the final arbiter of religious disputes, a proper understanding of the relationship between faith and works (faith precedes and gives birth to works not that works merit the reward of faith), and perhaps most importantly a biblically grounded system of church government (rather than one rooted in the pagan Roman system). One of the consequences of the reformation is the discovery that we have an infallible assurance because it comes from the Holy Spirit. Our assurer can make us 100% certain, but can also withdraw that certainty to discipline us for certain sins or to remind us of our reliance on him (I think this is what 18.4 is getting at).

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  117. SDB,

    What does certainty look like when it is in such a state as to need reviving? The plain meaning of the text is that a person in such a state is likely suffering from rather severe doubts. I don’t see how that can be read to be 100% certain.

    I’m not sure saying 100% certainty is helpful, though I said it. I can’t think of another way to express what I’m asking.

    Perhaps certainty looks like this in such a state—periods of severe doubt, punctuated with hope that one is yet in the arms of Christ.

    The object of our hope is Christ’s finished work on our behalf, not the merit of our own works. That is a pretty big difference. I’m not so sure the distinguishing ourselves from RCs is really the point though.

    Well it is the point when you are talking to RC interlocutors who say that Reformed assurance is as good as RC assurance, as CVD and Stellman and others have said on this site and elsewhere. But in any case, a smart Roman Catholic will say that the merit of our own works is, at the end of the day, properly speaking, Christ’s merit. It is Robert’s merit, for example, only in a very derivative sense. So a RC could say that his hope is in Christ’s finished work and talk about his own merits. Now I don’t think they are being consistent. It would be a more coherent position if they did not deny irresistible grace. If grace is resistible, I don’t see how you can say your merit is really Christ’s merit. But be that as it may, they will say what I have just said.

    Luther’s angst about how he could know that he is right with God may have triggered his repudiation the ecclesiastic abuses of the RCC and led to his efforts to reform the system. But I don’t see how the question of certainty was really one of its driving forces. I would place the centrality of scripture as the final arbiter of religious disputes, a proper understanding of the relationship between faith and works (faith precedes and gives birth to works not that works merit the reward of faith), and perhaps most importantly a biblically grounded system of church government (rather than one rooted in the pagan Roman system). One of the consequences of the reformation is the discovery that we have an infallible assurance because it comes from the Holy Spirit. Our assurer can make us 100% certain, but can also withdraw that certainty to discipline us for certain sins or to remind us of our reliance on him (I think this is what 18.4 is getting at).

    Many have spoken of the quest for assurance as a driving force of the Reformation. You don’t have Luther without it, and without Luther, you don’t have what we call the Reformation today. That’s not to say it wouldn’t have happened anyway, but the way it has happened is not separable from this quest for assurance. You are right on the other driving forces, I’m just saying the quest for assurance was one of them. If it weren’t, we all wouldn’t be talking about the peace of justification.

    That being said, Rome does say that you can have infallible assurance from the Holy Spirit, they just limit it to certain saints. The Reformation says all of God’s people can be 100% certain.

    Perhaps a major difference is in the means of attaining assurance. For us, it would center on the promises of God and the proclamation of His Word. For the RC, it is tied up with works of satisfaction and meriting the grace of perseverance through participation in the sacramental treadmill.

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  118. Y’all here’s an example of the tension in the reformed community

    Heidelberg Catechism
    Q. 21. What is true faith?
    A.True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

    Westminster Larger Catechism
    Question 81: Are all true believers at all times assured of their present being in the estate of grace, and that they shall be saved?
    Answer: Assurance of grace and salvation not being of the essence of faith, true believers may wait long before they obtain it; and, after the enjoyment thereof, may have it weakened and intermitted, through manifold distempers, sins, temptations, and desertions; yet are they never left without such a presence and support of the Spirit of God as keeps them from sinking into utter despair.

    I think you lose something integral in the Pauline gospel if you don’t have assurance of the ESSENCE of faith.

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  119. Sean,
    Are you saying that assurance is an essential component of saving faith or assurance of what faith entails is an essential component of saving faith?

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  120. Sdb, I’m arguing that assurance of faith(confidence in the salvation of my soul) is of the essence of saving/justifying faith. It’s not a second blessing, if you will. From what I remember this was a point of contention not only with Rome where assurance wasn’t even desired but also with the puritans who sought to keep people’s moral reform animated.

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  121. True fulfillment of the law of Christ is one of being compelled by the love of Christ, not a compulsion born of the fear of the destiny of my soul. Assurance must be had in order for progress in sanctification. The soul must be at rest.

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  122. LMSS,

    Though it is hard for me to conceive of saving faith being a faith that is wholly lacking in assurance, it is difficult to square it being the essence of faith with the experience of people who are afflicted by severe doubts or psychological-chemical medical conditions. The person with OCD may profess Christ and yet compulsively doubt his salvation, if assurance is the essence of faith, then wouldn’t that mean all OCD people lack faith even if they profess it?

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  123. Robert, saying it is of the essence of faith is different from saying it is the essence of faith. However, even the WCF would define the predominate characteristic as inclusive of a soul at rest (peace-free from fear of eternal death)

    “…….But the principle acts of saving faith are, accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.”

    I guess I don’t worry about how this plays out for the psychologically unstable or malformed because this is a supernatural work and if God can raise my dead soul, I’m confident he can overcome my mental illness. Plus, I’m not at all sure that the procurement of supernatural grace and favor is meant to convey that my psychological self is healed. Despite the ongoing illicit application of redemptive gifts as therapeutic remedies, it seems Jesus solves the salvation of my soul and reconciles me to God. I’m not at all convinced that that means I’m now free of my need of counseling, medication and a swift kick in the ass or pat on the back as I negotiate this life. Or even sleep, food, sex, money, etc. as I manage the hierarchy of needs in this life.

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