Why Does It Take an Election To See This?

But thank the dear Lord for general revelation.

Archbishop Chaput (of Philadelphia) thinks a leaner meaner holier church is preferable to one that is large but not very in charge.

In a stark prognosis for contemporary Catholicism, a leader of the conservative wing of the U.S. hierarchy has said that “a smaller, lighter Church” of fewer but holier believers is preferable to one that promotes inclusion at the expense of orthodoxy.

In a speech delivered Oct. 19 at the University of Notre Dame, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput also suggested that many prominent Catholics are so weak in their faith that they ought to leave the Church.

Chaput singled out Democrats such as Vice President Joe Biden and vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine for special criticism, linking them to the concept of a “silent apostasy” coined by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and saying Catholics who do not champion the truth of Church teaching are “cowards.”

“Obviously we need to do everything we can to bring tepid Catholics back to active life in the Church,” Chaput told a symposium for bishops and their staff members at the South Bend, Ind. campus.

“But we should never be afraid of a smaller, lighter Church if her members are also more faithful, more zealous, more missionary and more committed to holiness.

“Losing people who are members of the Church in name only is an imaginary loss,” he continued. “It may in fact be more honest for those who leave and healthier for those who stay. We should be focused on commitment, not numbers or institutional throw-weight.”

No shrug there and some support for those of us who marvel at the seeming innocence of Bryan and the Jasons and wonder what they are seeing. And kudos for a bishop who is acknowledging what at least Orthodox Presbyterians understood 80 years ago.

The problem though is that Archbishop Chaput doesn’t hold the mirror up to his own visage. Why has his communion become so loose and amorphous? Don’t the bishops have the mechanisms and authority and charism (no less) to make the ship ship shape?

Perhaps the problem is the general problem of our time is that we all want to be victims, from the abused to the bishops. It’s the new source of authority — my victimhood trumps your legitimate authority. But if the magisterium is what Bryan and the Jasons say it is, sure Archbishop Chaput can do more than give a speech.

And the question remains, why would it take a presidential election to provoke the Archbishop’s call to holiness?

Chaput’s main focus, however, was on the wider threat posed by what he said was a secularizing culture and a progressive political agenda that “bleaches out strong religious convictions in the name of liberal tolerance.”

Too many Catholics are guilty of cooperating with that process, he said, transferring “our real loyalties and convictions from the old Church of our baptism to the new ‘Church’ of our ambitions and appetites.”

He named Biden, Kaine and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as prime examples of this phenomenon, as well as Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Catholic and Republican appointee whose deciding vote in the landmark 2015 gay marriage case made him anathema to many social conservatives.

The politics of the U.S. hierarchy are in flux largely because Francis, who was elected in 2013, has begun naming and promoting bishops who embrace his outgoing approach to ministry and evangelization.

That trend away from the “culture warrior” bishops who came to dominate the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over the past three decades was evident in the men Francis chose this month as his first American picks to be cardinals.

The three – the archbishops of Chicago and Indianapolis and the former bishop of Dallas – are known for their moderate tone and pastoral style while hard-liners like Chaput, who in a previous era might have been a strong candidate for a red hat, were passed over.

But Chaput, 72, and other conservatives in the U.S. hierarchy have been speaking out with greater frequency about the election. They tend to lament Trump’s obvious faults while singling out the Democratic ticket for special criticism and noting that opposition to legal abortion – which is part of the Republican platform and a Trump campaign promise – overrides every other policy consideration.

Called to this communion? Is Bryan and the Jasons serious?

15 thoughts on “Why Does It Take an Election To See This?

  1. Archbishop Charles Chaput also suggested that many prominent Catholics are so weak in their faith that they ought to leave the Church.

    Boot ones ‘so weak in faith’? Interesting. I thought the weak were to be strengthened; the unrepentant, a different handling.

    Jesus (before there were even ‘Catholics’): Wake up and strengthen the things that remain Rev 3:2a


  2. Looks like Bishops won’t fix this since the way the church gets bishops is flawed:

    That the Catholic Church needs a better way to select Bishops is a sentiment that every Catholic, I think, could agree with. It is the headline of an article by Robert Mickens in the National Catholic Reporter, which is worth reading for the way it summarises the Pope’s recurring harsh words about bad bishops.

    The Pope is a Jesuit, and in the Jesuit tradition it is normal for superiors to pronounce regular ‘exhortations’ directed at their underlings to try and knock them into shape.

    In recent times words have been followed up by deeds, and several bishops have been sacked, usually for one of two reasons: financial mismanagement or sexual misconduct (sometimes, no doubt, for both). The sacking of bishops does not really solve the problem, as it is an acknowledgement that the bishops in question should never have been appointed in the first place. What one really needs is a better way of finding good bishops.

    The present system essentially relies on what Italians call ‘raccomandazione’, or what we call the old boys network or cronyism. Men get made bishops because bishops recommend them for promotion; it is not what you know, but who you know.

    This used to be the way of appointing civil servants to public office in Britain until Gladstone’s great reforming ministry introduced competitive examinations. Competitive examinations are, at least in theory, impartial, and an impartial system of appointments would overcome the widely perceived favouritism that disfigures the current system.

    There is something of the Ancien Regime about the way the Vatican works, despite the way the Pope has railed in recent years about the leprosy of courts. Incidentally, the people who work in the Vatican, lay and clerical – how are they appointed? Are they appointed after the same sort of scrutiny used for civil servants in Whitehall and elsewhere?

    You mean the audacious holder of the chair of St. Peter is not up to the job? Someone tell the apologists.


  3. When bishop John Murray is replaced by Norman Shepherd, and bishop Shepherd is replaced by Gaffin, there must be no divisive sectarian questioning of John Murray’s “recasting of covenant theology”.


    -J.V. Fesko— “The Legacy of Old School Confession Subscription in the OPC—-“John Murray did not accept the Standards’ teaching regarding the Covenant of Works… Murray did NOT believe that he held to the common Reformed position that was historically advocated by Reformed theologians or by the Westminster Standards. In fact, he saw himself as a self-avowed revisionist on the subject of covenant theology…”

    Fesko—“Recall that the principle of Old School subscription states that a subscriber may take exception to propositions in the Standards. The subscriber may take exceptions to propositions so long as those exceptions do not undermine the overall system. …This is how, then, Murray can still subscribe to the Standards—his conclusions, though through a reconstructed and revised route, do not affect the overall system.”

    The new sectarian OPC Report on Republication does not reciprocate Fesko’s tolerance for bishops Murray, Shepherd, and Gaffin. The report shows no tolerance for the law-grace antithesis of Meredith Kline or for his distinction between covenants.

    John Cotton—“Will you suffer your Brother’s Ox to lye in the Mire?… I am marvellously afraid of Separation from Churches upon any breach of duty. They who do Separate think they are sprinkled with the water of Separation: but…they are Separated from Christ.”


  4. Sometimes, the call to be leaner and meaner is done out of pride than concern for what is right. I remember talking to a non trad student who was also a marine. before one of our nation’s interventions. When I asked him about it and the speculated loss of life in the marine corps, he said that many of his fellow marines were not afraid of the casualties because they wanted leaner, meaner corp.

    So there is something to be said both for and against one’s own group becoming leaner and meaner through some kind of conflict.


  5. “Boot ones ‘so weak in faith’? Interesting.”

    “Weak” is a polite way of indicating apostasy. The large crowd dissenting in the RC is not repenting, but agitating for change. On that score, Saint Paul was fairly clear on how to handle matters. But really, Chaput is acting like Rome would support his idea, which is crazy. Even when Ratzinger talked about a smaller Church, if you are familiar with the Post-pope’s own oddly nontraditional secondary leanings you’ll know he was not talking along these same lines as Chaput.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The OPC Republication report does a pretty good job of threading a difficult needle.

    M.Kline, in his own way and partly in a salutary effort at correcting Murray, along with Murray was a revisionist of covenant theology. Each man ends up with his ardent supporters. Each man is subject to critical evaluation.

    I’ve said for almost 20yrs that M.Kline’s trajectory was toward the Baptists, and he’d end up being their favorite Presbyterian theologian (Owen who?). You can argue that, in comparison to rejecting the CoW, making Sinai a substantive CoW seems less likely to lead to rejecting JBFA.

    How about neither? And that’s why the OPC Repub Report is on target.


  7. Is it necessary to lean away from the baptists, even if the Murray/ Shepherd/ Gaffin side teaches that the justification of the elect is still in the future and depends on the works God will enable us to do?

    Lee irons—-Romans 2:6-13…is not straightforward teaching addressed to believers as part of the exhortation to evangelical obedience. Rather, it is part of an argument leading to the conclusion that “there is none righteous,” but that now there is a way for sinners to be reckoned as “righteous” in God’s sight apart from law-keeping, by faith in Christ. Romans 2:6-13 is part of a so-called “diatribe” against the Jewish interlocutor who presumes that he will fare better than the Gentiles at the day of judgment because of his superior knowledge of God’s will. Thus Paul’s point is not to set forth what actually will happen at the day of judgment but to set forth the impartial principles of divine judgment, and then to show that no one, Jew or Gentile, will match up and that therefore everyone, Jew and Gentile, is equally in need of Christ’s imputed righteousness.

    Irons—Paul’s rhetorical aim in Romans 2:6-13 is to demonstrate the universal impartiality of God, that is, the notion that God judges all humanity, both those under the Law (Jews) and those outside of the Law (Gentiles), on the basis of the same standard, and that, on the basis of that impartial standard, all humanity stands without excuse and subject to God’s judgment. Romans 2:6-13 is… part of an argument the conclusion of which is: “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:19-20)

    Irons—One of the big weaknesses of any attempt to take Rom 2:6-13 as Christian parenesis rather than as a rhetorical diatribe with unbelieving Jews about the universal impartiality of judgment is that it requires one to soften the terms that Paul uses. For example, Cranfield in his commentary writes that final acquittal is on the basis of “those works of obedience which, though but imperfect and far from deserving God’s favour, are the expression of their heart’s faith” (1.156).

    “It is understandable that those who wish to interpret Rom 2:13 in a real sense would want to avoid the implication that perfect obedience is required for final justification. No one claims that perfection is possible. But where in the context does this idea of imperfect obedience come from? It has to be smuggled in to avoid a theologically unacceptable idea of salvation by perfect obedience. (pp. 54-55)


  8. One court trail is about a future court trail by works—

    Gaffin—. so far as the Romans 2 passage is concerned, while a large number of Reformed exegetes have understood the scenario there, the final judgment scenario there, in Romans 2 verse 7 and 10 and 13, have understood that in a hypothetical sense – or as we might put it – as a genuine offer of the law – not the gospel – a genuine offer of the law as a means of justification, or salvation which no one, in fact, can fulfill. While that is an established reformed understanding, there have also been other exegetes, within the reformed tradition, that have questioned that hypothetical understanding. And you see that at least for verses 6 to 11 very clearly in John Murray’s Romans commentary…, the passage in Romans 2 that runs, particularly the segment that runs through verse 11. 2:6 to 11. He understands that to be describing what will actually be the case for believers. At the day of judgment they will … when God’s righteous judgment will be … when God will give to each person according to his works … that will, in terms of verse 7 … believers will be those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality. And they will receive eternal life. That is John Murray’s teaching on that passage.

    AW : But on Romans 2:13. Murray writes—It needs to be noted, however, that at this point the apostle restricts himself to the judgment of condemnation. And this advises us that he is dealing now with the equity of God’s judgment of damnation as it is brought to bear upon men who fall into these two categories. This is significant. Whatever is meant by those who are >without law’ there is no suggestion to the effect that any who are >without law’ attain to the reward of eternal life.

    Gaffin— Whether any will be actually justified by works either in this life or at the final judgment is beside the apostle’s interest and design at this juncture. That … I think is to my mind, what needs to be highlighted here….. I think Murray is leaving it an open question here. He’s not addressing … he is saying two things. Number one, no conflict with what Paul teaches later in the letter. Number two, whether or not there will be anyone at the final judgment justified by works – as Paul expressed there – is beside the apostle’s interest and design at this juncture. … my own view in the light of what he has said, and said so clearly about the judgment according to works in Romans 2:6… that would argue for understanding verse 13 here in the same way as describing an actual positive outcome. But he does, as you are pointing out, back away from that.
    AW : O.K., that is fine …

    RG : I think in verses 6 to 11 he does break (with others like Charles Hodge and Haldane), in arguing that the judgment according to works ….will have a positive … it’s describing a positive, a real positive scenario in the case of believers. http://trinityfoundation.org/kinnaird.php

    mcmark—but none of this revisionary thinking about Romans 2 leads to denying justification by faith alone, but saying that those who are justified by faith alone in the time of the Mosaic covenant are justified by the mediator of the new covenant (and not by the Mosaic covenant) DOES lead to denying justification by faith alone??? Is that what you are saying, Bruce?


  9. McMark,
    I don’t think you read what I wrote. I said the mistake of viewing Sinai as substantive may be the *lesser* of two errors, because it is possibly less likely to lead to a denial of a cardinal doctrine like JBFA.

    In my opinion, the *greater* error of denying the CoW appears to have come (relatively antecedent, and therefore reasonably causal) perilously close to vitiating the OPC’s witness on that very doctrine.

    As for you, and the axe-grinders of TF, and the disciple Karlberg, setting up the alter-judiciary in the court of public opinion: Prv.18:17.

    It took only one year (GA 2004) for the OPC to act as a body to remove all references to Rom.2 in the prooftexts for WLC.90. Prooftexts that had only been approved (and thus even present for consideration) since 2001. Hard to believe they weren’t trying to fix their mistake. The grounds for repair included the admission that it was more than probable that among the numerous adjustments made 3yrs before in a 350yr old, largely uncalibrated slate of texts, there was more than just this one failure.

    Your presentation is one-sided, and it already has a particular conclusion to promote. In other words, you appear prosecutorial or prejudicial, take your pick. You’re writing ICHABOD over the door of the OPC–no, actually you are just putting on a fresh coat of paint. The first was slapped on way back in 1937.

    The OPC may not make it to the hundred year mark, intact and faithful. The causes for its demise may be known as issues today, or they may be completely undetectable now. But at least you guys will be there the whole interim standing by, shaking your spraycans.

    I always read your contributions, McMark, because they are typically interesting and provocative. But in this case, you need a broader connection to the narrative.


  10. Bruce, understanding that TF are indeed axe grinders and the judgement of being too tolerant maybe should fall more directly on West East than the OPC, it’s still hard for the OPC to avoid the criticism of playing politics with their influential theological officers, and, in fact, inculcating a rather large(relative-obviously) contingent of members with neo-nomian sympathies if not making outright disciples. Theonomy, anyone? It was rather difficult to get away from it in a large number of OPC churches. However, I’m not as clear on that landscape in the past sixteen years.


  11. Hi Lms-sean,
    In spite of its small size, the OPC being a sinner-infested institution still deals with the seamier side of politics. The curious thing is that she’s managed to keep upright and sailing. What a lady.

    Still, I’ve heard of things in her body that would turn your ears red, and your hair white. Someday, she will go the way of all flesh. We usually love what’s left of our mother, even after it’s just a headstone.

    Time marches on. Theonomy’s popularity wanes right along with eeeevangelical relevance to politics. Christian ethics should and shall always be a part of the whole counsel of God. But, hopefully it will ever take a second-seat to first-order doctrines; and confidence in the Standards’ expressions as “faithful” will stay strong. Just preach “straight” from the Bible….

    Come to think of it, that’s what has kept this leaky bucket afloat. That, and the humble conviction of many that she only keeps plowing the waves by faith. Or she woulda sunk by now.


  12. Bruce, I don’t know you. But I don’t know anybody here. I am a stranger here and everywhere else, except perhaps in my own little congregation (and a couple other ones) . I certainly was not part of the in-group with John Robbins or his successors. I do NOT agree with Mark Karlberg that all those who deny that God promised immortality to Adam for a successful probation must also deny the antithesis between law and grace.

    But I have noticed that there are always axe grinders who want to shut down any discussion in which the Trinity Foundation or Mark Karlberg or David Engelsma or the Protestant Reformed are mentioned. Maybe I don’t know enough about Karlberg. I have only read what Karlberg has written and that he hasn’t agreed to stipulate that what John Murray did with the covenant will have no harmful effect.

    One way maybe I could “connect to the narrative” is to know, Bruce, why you are prejudiced in ways that make you a witness for the defense rather than the prosecution. No, I am not Reformed and have never claimed to be, but I do believe that the gospel is not only about Christ’s death for the elect alone but also about the elect being taught that faith alone in Christ’s death is NOT faith which is not alone, Faith is not works. Bruce, in your eyes, who is connected enough to the narrative to have any warrant to even talk about it?


  13. MCMark,
    I don’t know you either. You’ve linked to an incredible variety of interesting reads on this site over several years of my acquaintance. Your selection so eclectic, I decided long ago you cannot be pigeonholed. Other than to note you are not Reformed* (by your own strong declaration, many times in fact), and you favor a few Baptist distinctives. You might be in agreement or disagreement with something to which you draw attention, but choose not to explain which, or how much. That’s part of your internet-obscure persona. Cool.

    I’m a defender of the church, one small part of it; more than one particular congregation, still an instance of the church consistent with my affirmation of connectional polity in biblical terms. So, I see these descriptions and assertions of the OPC’s stances and conditions being set forth at best acontextually, at worst misleadingly. And so I rise to defend my mother. She doesn’t have to be perfect, and I don’t have to pretend she is. I have pointed to additional facts that challenge the consequential arguments set forth with half the data.

    In 1937, the BPs walked out after one year, because fundamentalists know not affirming premillenialism and teetotaling are sure signs of apostasy. In 1948, G.Clark left, and joined the UP for conscience sake (which church promptly joined the mainline); and the TF has spent decades tying every OP failure small and great to Clark’s reasons for being right, and because… VanTil! In the 80s Francis Schaeffer pleaded with the PCA to refuse union with the apostate OPC. In 2003, a handful of disaffected ministers and churches left the “hopelessly apostate” OPC because of the Kinnaird debacle.

    Now, in 2016 it’s Republication–affirming it or denying it, one or the other depending on who is charging whom–which (depending on which past crisis issue it can be tied to) is the latest reason to dash off an unflattering ecclesiastical obituary: “For immediate release….” I’m not a witness for the defense of some individual; but for the church which I believe continues to struggle to do and affirm only that which is true and right, missing the mark more than once. But for every perceived failure by some, they look to hang the millstone around the collective neck.

    Better no OPC than the one we have, apparently.


  14. Bruce, that seems a bit overwrought. All sorts get shot around here, including my PCA, and most often deservedly. Still, the host is OPC so it seems appropriate to give more room than not. Nevertheless, it’s beneficial to health to point out the maladies that stubbornly afflict. It’s a tough room by design and participation.


  15. And besides, who but the TF can help us OPC to see how ridiculous we can be? Our detractors slung ‘only perfect church’ to wound, but dang if we didn’t like it just a bit too much…
    It truly is ‘just’ another church. And it no doubt struggles with denominational selfrighteousness- like every other denomination out there. But what are you going to do? What’s true is true, and all the rest will decay and fade. Can I get an amen?


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