Oh, What a Tangled Apologetic We Weave

When we convert to Roman Catholicism and wind up with Pope Francis.

Consider Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s recent explanation for the pope’s failure to answer those cardinals asking for clarification of Amoris Laetitia:

It is, if you like a religion based in an authoritative book, a creed, a catechism, a dogmatic systematic theology and, by extension a defined religious law. Those who favor a propositional faith like certainty and clarity.
Critics of propositional faith believe that, at best, the propositions are simply a framework or structure of belief, and that the real experience is far more complicated, but also far more exciting and real. They criticize those who like a propositional faith as being rigid, legalistic or Pharisaical. The critics of propositional faith like to emphasize the more subjective “encounter with Christ.” They advocate getting away from all the debates about doctrine or canon law, rolling up one’s sleeves and getting busy doing God’s work in the world.

Critics of propositional faith also believe that it is divisive. If “the encounter with Christ” is emphasized rather than propositional formulas of doctrine and morals, we will connect better with non Catholic Christians and people of faith and goodwill who are outside the boundaries of Christian belief. In other words, “doctrine is divisive” but if we focus on religious experience we are more likely to find common ground.

They also feel that a “propositional faith” is, by its nature, bound to the historical and philosophical constructs of the time and culture in which the propositions were asserted. So, the theology of Thomas Aquinas (they would argue) was fine for Europe of the thirteenth century, but it is rather clunky for the fast moving, fast changing global culture of the twenty first century. A faith that is not so propositional is more adaptable and fluid.

In reading the gospel it is difficult not to sympathize with those who criticize “propositional faith.” After all, Jesus’ main opponents were the religious people who were indeed legalistic, judgmental and bound to their laws and man made traditions. Jesus, on the other hand, waded in and “made a mess” to use Francis’ terminology. He defied the legalistic technicalities, met people where they were and brought healing, compassion and forgiveness.

Why does Pope Francis not answer his critics? I believe it is because he is not in favor of “propositional faith”. He wants Catholics to move beyond the technicalities, the details of doctrine and the constrictions of canon law to live out a Catholic life more like Jesus’–allowing for the complications and ambiguities of real life, meeting real people who face difficult decisions and are trying to be close to God while tiptoeing through the legalities and rules of being a Catholic Christian.

In other words, he does not answer his critics because he does not wish to play their game. He does not wish to be drawn into their legalistic arguments, but instead wants to continue to challenge them.

When you read Fr. Longenecker, though, on why he left Anglicanism for Roman Catholicism you start to wonder if he might have remained in the Church of England had he not been so propositional himself. Consider his lament about modernism which is non-propositional to the max:

Women’s ordination was a problem and the authority of Rome was the answer, but there was a deeper, underlying problem with the Anglican Church as I experienced it. The problem is modernism — a philosophical and theological position which is deeply opposed to historic Christianity.

The foundational problem with modernism is that it is anti-supernaturalist. The most foundational difficulty with the anti supernaturalism of the modernist is that he has an anti-Christian conception of God. For the modernist God is either totally immanent. That is He is ‘down here’ and not transcendent, or he is so totally transcendent as to be a sort of deist God who is ‘out there’ and does not intervene. What the modernist theologian cannot believe in is a God who is both immanent and transcendent–a God who is ‘out there’ but who touches this world and ultimately enters this world through the incarnation.. . .

If this is true–if Jesus’ death is no more than symbolic image, then the entire ecclesiological structure and sacramental system is no more than an archaic symbolical structure. It is a historic mythology that, at best, unlocks something within the human subconscious. It is a human construct that helps people to transition through their lives. . . .

So when they said they believed in the Incarnation they actually believed that “Jesus Christ was the most fulfilled human who ever lived. He was so self actualized that he achieved a kind of divine status. He, more than anyone else, was one with the god within.” When they ‘affirmed’ the Virgin Birth they really meant that Mary was an especially pure young woman before she had intercourse with Joseph or a Roman soldier. When they proclaimed from their pulpit on Easter Day, “Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!” what they meant was, “In some sort of wonderful way I would want to say that Jesus Christ continued to inspire his followers after his tragic death.”

I used to think that his lie was simply being told in the halls of academia, that the rot was really only in the universities, but of course it was not only there. It had been disseminated throughout the Anglican Church through the education of the clergy for the last fifty or sixty years. Of course there were pockets of true belief and there are still. In making this critique of Anglicanism I am not damning all Anglicans.

Now that the pope doesn’t respond to his critics, Fr. Dwight gets non-propositional.

No wonder converts are always winning.

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40 thoughts on “Oh, What a Tangled Apologetic We Weave

  1. Oh, it just keeps getting better:
    http://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/10/11/pope-francis-death-penalty-contrary-gospel

    As per the Pope (emphasis mine):

    It is necessary first of all that the church should never depart from the sacred patrimony of truth received from the Fathers. But at the same time, she must ever look to the present, to the new conditions and new forms of life introduced into the modern world which have opened up new avenues to the Catholic apostolate.
    […]
    …it’s not sufficient to find a new language to announce the faith of always; it is necessary and urgent that, faced with the new challenges and new horizons that are opening for humanity, the church can express the new things of the Gospel of Christ that, while enclosed in the Word of God, have not yet come to light.
    […]
    …this problem cannot be merely reduced to a mere memory of historical teaching without bringing to the fore not only the progress in the teaching by the work of the last pontiffs but also the changed awareness consciousness of the Christian people
    […]
    …the harmonious development of doctrine requires putting aside positions in defense of arguments that already appear decidedly against the new understanding of Christian truth.
    […]
    The Word of God is a dynamic reality, always alive, that progresses and grows because it tends towards a fulfillment that men cannot stop.
    […]
    One cannot conserve the doctrine without making it progress, nor can one bind it to a rigid and immutable reading without humiliating the Holy Spirit.

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  2. Man, here we sit on the eve of the Quincentenary and all I can think about is how much trouble could have been avoided if only Luther had reminded the Council of Trent of the “changed awareness consciousness of the Christian people.” Hindsight 20/20 and all that I guess.

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  3. Why is it that so many converts get squishy about propositional truth and seek to justify stuff the pope is doing that they hated in their former churches? Could it be that their reasons for converting weren’t really an attempt to find a “principled means”?

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  4. Darryl,

    The problem is that you still live in a world where there are choices when it comes to ecclesial authority. Christians are called to live in the hierarchal ecclesial world; a.k.a. “The Church Christ Founded” with its moral actions that run the gamut( Pharisee to the woman caught in adultery), yet responding in such a way that aids the soul toward conversion. There’s a balancing act between Christian mandate and Christian discretion, but the ark will not capsize.

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  5. Susan,

    Looks to me like that balancing act means you can say that homosexuality is not intrinsically disordered (Father James Martin, a papal advisor) and that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered (Catechism of the Catholic Church). Do you understand why that might be confusing?

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  6. Hi Robert,
    I do see how it is confusing. I know that someone is right and another is wrong, and the one who is right is not answering according to their personal opinion. So, yes the landscape is mixed( just like in Protestantism), but there is still a principled answer. I expect this though since the visible church has both wheat and chaff.

    If it is the Church that Christ found, it is meant to exist until the end of the age; and so other questions are pastoral in nature since she will never sanction anything disordered.

    Darryl,
    How was the address by Phil Lawler at Hillsdale?

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  7. “I know that someone is right and another is wrong,”
    Both could be wrong.

    “and the one who is right is not answering according to their personal opinion.”
    One could answer according one’s personal opinion and happen to be right. Faulty reasoning does not guarantee an incorrect conclusion.

    “So, yes the landscape is mixed( just like in Protestantism), but there is still a principled answer. I expect this though since the visible church has both wheat and chaff.”
    This is a non sequitur. The problem is not that there are false teachers among church members. The problem posed is that the pope is teaching something that contradicts what the church has always taught. If the pope is only infallible when he is judged to be correct, then infallibility doesn’t count for much. If the magisterium teaches that he is protected from error, then the magisterium has erred and tge system has fallen apart. Perhaps one should reconsider EO?

    “If it is the Church that Christ found, it is meant to exist until the end of the age; and so other questions are pastoral in nature since she will never sanction anything disordered.”
    Great test. If Francis teaches that the death penalty is immoral and contradicts what the church has taught, then she sanctioned something disordered and is not tCtCF. Ruhoh!!! Thus the pants on fire freakout by certain trads…

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  8. Susan,

    Francis just gave a speech saying that the death penalty is wrong, contradicting the CCC. His excuse: Well, that’s all the tools they had back then, today we know better.

    So either the RCC once sanctioned officially something disordered, or today Francis has taught against the defined moral dogma of the church.

    See the confusion?

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  9. “imagine if you said that — the ark will not collapse — about Protestant churches. ”

    No Protestant church claims to be divinely instituted and protected. Why would someone attribute privileges to entities that explicitly reject and disclaim such? Doesn’t seem reasonable.

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  10. CVD,

    Protestants claim the church is divinely instituted and protected, but since we’re actually catholic, we don’t say that there is only one true church in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. James van Young, you’re wrong yet again.

    “1. Jesus Christ, being now exalted far above all principality and power, has erected in this world a kingdom, which is his church.”

    Thinking of Francis as infallible is more like speaking in tongues than reading Thomas.

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  12. Robert,

    If I gave you the benefit of the doubt that you don’t hate Catholicism, but that you just aren’t convinced she is either The true church( as in Jesus founded a visible church) or a true church( according to Protestant “marks”), could you tell me if a Protestant church that has the four marks, is or isn’t a manmade institution? I would think, if she met the criteria( marks) then she should not be a man-made institution. Or isn’t “the marks” the way to distinguish her from a false( counterfeit)?
    I’ve had a busy day and I’m tired, so I apologize if this is unclear. Does my question make sense?

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  13. Hi Robert,

    I respectfully withdraw my question. I just did a little refresher reading about what the early Reformers considered the “marks”, and since “faithful preaching and hearing of the word, and disciple” is subjective criteria, this isn’t going to be fruitful.
    Sorry:)

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  14. Susan,

    One, holy, catholic and Apostolic are no more and no less subjective than the marks of the church given by the Reformers. Proof of that is the fact that the East also claims those four things, and they define them differently than Rome does. If the East defined them in the same way, there would be no East/West split.

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  15. Susan: could you tell me if a Protestant church that has the four marks, is or isn’t a manmade institution?

    I saw that you withdrew this question, but I just want to make an observation for contemplation.

    The word “man-made” with regard to church as an institution is slippery in the same way that the words “natural“ and “organic” are slippery as applied to food.

    In the technical sense, all foods are “natural” — they consist of protons, neutrons, and electrons in tasty arrangements. Most foods likewise are “organic”.— consisting of carbon compounds.

    But neither term is used technically. Instead “all-natural” and “organic” are ad slogans. We all think we know what they mean (no “artificial” ingredients), but when the FDA comes along to precisely define the terms, it turns out there’s no established meaning.

    “Natural” and “organic” turn out to be more emotive terms that useful technical descriptors.

    The same is true, but in the negative, about “man-made.”

    Jesus created His church, his people, by dying for them. He appointed apostles to proclaim the Gospel, to baptize, and to have and use the keys to the kingdom.

    That’s all.

    He did not establish an institution. No diaconate. No succession. No laying on of hands. No elders.

    All of that is … man-made, as in made by the apostles (or not). No matter RC, EO, or Prot, your institution is in the strict sense of the word “man-made.”

    Nevertheless, the term “man-made” is used as a negative ad slogan: “This is not the church Jesus intended since it was made by man.”

    But they were all made by man. We need some other way to determine God’s intent for His church than to look for the “not man-made” one. There are none of those.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Jeff,

    I agree with you that men are those entrusted with the message of salvation; however, I don’t see that Jesus made the inscripturated portion of that message the rallying point. Of course, I firmly trust that the scripture is holy, inspired, and inerrant on the assurance of men.
    I like your use of “organic” as an analogy because the church does have to have that. Let me add another. Colleges have or can obtain an “accreditation”, and all that means is that there is a group of people who have decided the content of a curriculum and require everyone else to adopt that same standard, and while the content may not have anything harmful in it, it doesn’t mean that the decided upon curriculum is taught in the best way, or that something of vital importance is left out. This is the observation I have made about the practice of laying on of hands. I have witnessed it done in non-denominational churches and in Reformed churches and wondered why they do it if it isn’t a sign of direct continuity, in addition to, of course, a blessing. Where did they get the so-called power to “accredit” another?

    Anyways, that is how I think about what it means to be Apostolic.

    Got to run for now:) Have a great day!

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  17. Susan,

    I don’t see that Jesus made the inscripturated portion of that message the rallying point.

    Actually, He made the gospel the rallying point:

    “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14).

    Where do we find the gospel but in the Apostolic preaching and where do we find the Apostolic preaching except in Scripture. We have no other source of the Apostle’s words or of Jesus’ words. None. Rome can’t give me anything Jesus or the Apostles said that wasn’t put down in Scripture.

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  18. Susan, The Donation of Constantine is a divine-made grant?

    Why do you have such disrespect for the place where Jesus ministered?

    You can say, Jerusalem. Sure you can.

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  19. Susan, ” I don’t see that Jesus made the inscripturated portion of that message the rallying point.”

    But Paul did. 2 Timothy. Is he chopped liver? He is the apostle that Jesus founded. Think Road to Damascus.

    See how much “the church” has turned your eye from the apostles whom you church thinks it represents?

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Robert,

    The gospel is the rallying point, but we both agree that there is additional “stuff”. How much of the liturgy is spelled out in scripture? Or is that the invention of men?
    Jesus said and did a lot more than the four gospels provide(John 21;25), but that doesn’t mean we get to be innovative when it comes to how to do church either. That means either there is a group that was invested to carry on the gospel and all that membership( as in covenantal group) entails( sacraments), or that there is lots of room for innovation, and no one can argue against it since it is not explicitly denounced in scripture.

    Are you a member of a Reformed denomination? If you are, does your church’s liturgy copy the what Luther or Calvin tweeked, or did it develop according to another man’s( or men’s’) innovation?

    I noticed that you didn’t address laying on of hands in the context of church authority.

    It is modeled in the OT as pertaining to healing, blessings, but also for imparting authority:

    “And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom [is] the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him;”

    So Jeff cannot be correct that laying on of hands in the NT isn’t for impartation of the gift of authority.

    ” Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery”( 1 Tim.4:14).

    “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:”(James 5:14).

    I see the OT precedence for an authority that comes from God the Father. Whether Rome has that authority can be debated; but at least for my purpose here, since there is a biblical precedence we can see that Rome did not get the idea out of thin air. If the world was meant to have a visible authority and Rome lays claim to that position is a step beyond the Protestant model. As someone who saw that solo scriptura( an invention of the Reformation) was untenable, a visible church that claimed to be founded on the Apostles was an answer to my epistemological crisis. You underestimate the Petrine model it until you depend on it for dear life.

    I think I’ve said enough today.

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  21. Susan: So Jeff cannot be correct that laying on of hands in the NT isn’t for impartation of the gift of authority.

    That’s not what I said. What I said was that Jesus did not establish laying on of hands, but rather His apostles did.

    Susan: Are you a member of a Reformed denomination? If you are, does your church’s liturgy copy the what Luther or Calvin tweeked, or did it develop according to another man’s( or men’s’) innovation?

    And that’s really the crux of the ad slogan: “This is the church that Jesus founded, not a man-made church.”

    And yet, like most ad campaigns, we find something different when we look under the hood.

    Jesus did not establish deacons nor elders. Jesus did not establish a church in Rome. Jesus did not establish a liturgy, a mass, legates, canon law, cardinals, nor even creeds. Never once did He tell His followers to bow before icons or to revere His mother as co-redemptrix.

    Men did that. Whether right or wrong, church leaders after Jesus, mere men, did all those things.

    So when you ask whether the church’s liturgy copied Luther or Calvin, you are critiquing yourself in the same sentence, except that your exemplars are Gregory, Pius V, and John Paul II.

    Susan: a visible church that claimed to be founded on the Apostles was an answer to my epistemological crisis.

    Was it? I don’t know you well enough to say. I would expect that the resolution to an epistemological crisis would lead to improved judgment, reasoning, and ability to handle evidence. Without knowing you before and after, I cannot say whether those things are true of you.

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  22. Jeff,

    Again, sola scriptura is not tenable, and it’s not a doctrine from Tradition prior the Reformation. I gave you a number of “reasons” why I believe the church is what she claims to be. That I’m unreasonable, have deficient judgment, and do not know how to weigh evidence, is not an argument, but an attack on me. And I do not need your critique of my cognitive faculties. There are plenty people smarter than me( or you) who converted, so let’s not attack the person, okay. Doing so can appear as a smoke screen.

    I guess I was not clear. I am saying,”unless the visible church is an institution begun by God, then it is a man-made one. If it is begun by God and develops then the changes are a work of the Holy Spirit”
    The bible alone cannot give a person authority to begin a church.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. @ Susan:

    I’m sorry that I came across as making a veiled disparaging remark. I was simply trying to observe that without a baseline, I have no way of understanding the effects of your solution.

    But I can see why it appeared otherwise.

    Peace,

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  24. Susan,

    You are kind of all over the place here. One thing at a time. 🙂

    The gospel is the rallying point, but we both agree that there is additional “stuff”. How much of the liturgy is spelled out in scripture? Or is that the invention of men?

    Why does the liturgy have to be spelled out in Scripture for it to be appropriate? The Jewish liturgy of the synagogue was not spelled out in Scripture but was an application of Scripture to a present circumstance, and Jesus participated in it.

    Jesus said and did a lot more than the four gospels provide(John 21;25), but that doesn’t mean we get to be innovative when it comes to how to do church either.

    Sure. Nobody is arguing otherwise, at least not in the Reformed tradition.

    That means either there is a group that was invested to carry on the gospel and all that membership( as in covenantal group) entails( sacraments), or that there is lots of room for innovation, and no one can argue against it since it is not explicitly denounced in scripture.

    Well strictly speaking, this is a false dilemma. But why are you assuming that we deny that there is a group invested with the authority to preach the gospel, administer the sacraments, and make sure there’s not “lots of room for innovation”?

    I see the OT precedence for an authority that comes from God the Father.

    Sure.

    Whether Rome has that authority can be debated; but at least for my purpose here, since there is a biblical precedence we can see that Rome did not get the idea out of thin air. If the world was meant to have a visible authority and Rome lays claim to that position is a step beyond the Protestant model.

    No it’s not. It is not a step beyond the Protestant model to claim that the world is meant to have a visible authority. The WCF, for instance, is quite clear that salvation is not ordinarily available outside the visible church. The difference between Rome and Protestants on the visible authority is that Rome says the visible authority is infallible whenever it says it is infallible.

    As someone who saw that solo scriptura( an invention of the Reformation) was untenable, a visible church that claimed to be founded on the Apostles was an answer to my epistemological crisis. You underestimate the Petrine model it until you depend on it for dear life.

    Every Protestant church that I know of claims to be founded on the Apostles. The question is, “What does it mean to be founded on the Apostles?” Rome’s answer doesn’t get to be the default, especially when it doesn’t really conform to the actual words of the Apostles and prophets that we do have.

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  25. ” The bible alone cannot give a person authority to begin a church.”
    You are equivocating on what the slogan “sola scriptura” entails for the reformed (most prorestants do not adhere to sola scriptura btw).

    That God’s word is the only infallible revelation we have from him does not entail that we do not have other reliable information. Indeed, your own church has authoritative teachings you are called to submit to that they allow are fallible. The doctors of your church disagree about what teachings are irreformable and how to apply purportedly irreformable teachings.

    The way ctc makes the step to getting a purportedly superior paradigm is by declaring scripture a dead letter and inferior to having access to living personal infallible interpreters. It should be obvious why this line of reasoning fails…scripture is living and active.

    Sola scriptura is grounded in Christ’s example. While he called on people to submit to the religious authorities, they were not infallible. Thus infallibility is not a necessary condition for authority. Secondly, he corrected errant traditions by appealing to scripture even though there was no consensus on what texts should be considered authoritative. Some have claimed that the threefold references he made defined the ot canon, but whatever the case his example indicates that the text should have been understood to be authoritative apart from any purported infallible authority saying so. Why? Because his sheep know their shepherd’s voice.

    The argument that sola scriptura has led to the multiplicity of denominations fails on several points:
    1) chronological sequence doesn’t imply causation
    2) other religions of the book without purported infallible authorities didn’t see the rise of denominations (at least until they landed in America)
    3) There were many Christian movements in the ancient world until Christianity was able to gain political power and crush dissenting groups. When that power waned, splitting happened.
    4) most protestants do not adhere to sola scriptura. Wesleyans explicitly reject it as do Anglicans. The mainline has cast it aside as well. Among those that do, the relationship among the denominations is more akin to that of various orders within rc-ism or among various national churches among the orthodox.
    5) Currently the RCC is the biggest denom, but given the growth of pentecostalism and plunge in bsptisms in south/latin america, europe, and N. America that won’t be true for long (if you consider the network of various charismatic groups a single denomination).
    6) There is no principled difference between a denomination splitting into two groups and a denomination splitting into a million groups of “spiritual but not religious”. Among the largest religious groups in the US is ex-catholic/none. The superior paradigm hasn’t helped evidently.

    The attempts to get around ss simply kick the can down the road.

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  26. Hi Jeff,
    I accept your apology, of course, and I thank you. ❤

    Robert,

    We've discussed this so many times that it's difficult to find an unturned stone:)

    You said: "Every Protestant church that I know of claims to be founded on the Apostles. The question is, “What does it mean to be founded on the Apostles?” Rome’s answer doesn’t get to be the default, especially when it doesn’t really conform to the actual words of the Apostles and prophets that we do have."

    Okay, this probably is the crux. We've got different "paradigms"( a term and concept that I learned from CtC, but fit the situation perfectly). How could this be and why would it be necessary considering that we all have scripture?
    I quit operating from within my protestant paradigm when sola scriptura became untenable. In other words, I no longer could say that Rome didn't have right to the claim, exactly for the reason for "authority" to make sense it had to be passed on by something more than, "I read the scriptures correctly and you don't, therefore I am the rightful heir( church) of apostolic continuity". Your assumption is that "Rome doesn't conform to the actual words of the Apostles and prophets", is based on either your own private reading or the idea was handed on to you. It doesn't fit my paradigm wherein the body of believers received the spoken and witnessed actions of Jesus and happened to write down some of those events yet that the faith didn't depend on their being written down. The writings must have happened organically since Judaism had a history of writing down certain events, and of course, what was included were the things that the Holy Spirit wanted to be included, but I know that everything that could have been said, didn't need to be because a church was founded. For me personally, surveying the landscape of many protesting( against Catholicism)"churches" yet claiming to have received apostolic authority from scripture, the last line of John's Gospel became existentially open-ended and caused a lot of angst. That was in addition to the "many visible churches" model that left no particular church to vouch for the inspiration of scripture, since there was not doctrinal agreement beyond," the sufficiency of scripture".
    All that said, of course, the church whose members wrote, guarded, and copied the scriptures for two millennia is grateful for, nourished and encouraged by the holy scriptures, but the church would not disappear if there had been no NT.

    I know that we will not agree, but I've tried to explain the differences of our paradigms as best I know how. I appreciate you listening to my "reasons". 🙂

    Wish you the best!

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  27. Hi sdb

    Last evening over at CtC Jeremy de Haan, responded to a man named Paul and I think it may help if I include it here:

    Hi Paul,

    You wrote,

    “It is Scripture alone (Sola scriptura), not any human authority, that must function as the normative authority for the definition of what we should believe.’

    Yet you deny this very standard in the rest of your comment. I believe every word of Romans 3:19-26, just as I believe every word of the whole Bible. What I do not believe is what you say that passage means. I have rejected your words, not Scripture’s words.

    Yet you believe that rejecting your words is an act of apostasy. You believe that your claims about the Bible are normative for others, such that anyone who rejects them has committed the sin of apostasy and needs to repent. You believe that saying no to your mere human interpretation is equal to saying no to God. Apparently, Scripture is not the only “normative authority for the definition of what we should believe.” I need also to accept your interpretation of the Bible, on pain of damnable sin.

    If you are unwilling to abide by your own standard, then why should I?

    – Jeremy

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  28. Its a conclusion, not a premise. Your church claims that various teachings are not infallible but still authoritative. The pope’s authority is not restricted to those times when he is speaking ex cathedra.

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  29. Well I can’t speak for Paul, but I’m pretty confident that his interpretation is not authoritative. He may conclude that Jeremy’s interpretation of a given text of scripture is tantamount to apostasy, but I suspect that he would not conclude that his judgement is incapable of being wrong. Scripture, being God’s word (and the only source of God’s word) is incapable of being in error. In other words, it alone is infallible.

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  30. Susan, “when sola scriptura became untenable”

    So was Jesus appealing to tradition and the papacy when he instructed his disciples on the Road to Emmaus?

    It’s also pretty funny how sola Scritpura works pretty well when you want to claim Petrine supremacy. I haven’t yet seen an RC apologist appeal to “tradition” for that.

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  31. sdb,

    “Its a conclusion, not a premise”

    Thanks for not making my error a big deal. 🙂 I understand that it’s a conclusion in your sentence construction, but I meant that I don’t accept your thesis. Or am I wrong?

    ” Your church claims that various teachings are not infallible but still authoritative. The pope’s authority is not restricted to those times when he is speaking ex cathedra.”

    But what it does say it knows, it guarantees. So things in the tradition that protesting people( inside or outside the Catholic Church) take issue with are infallible, and that’s why the church can issue anathemas. You can’t issue anathema if you aren’t certain which doctrines are antithetical the ones received( Gal 1:9).

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  32. Susan,

    I quit operating from within my protestant paradigm when sola scriptura became untenable. In other words, I no longer could say that Rome didn’t have right to the claim, exactly for the reason for “authority” to make sense it had to be passed on by something more than, “I read the scriptures correctly and you don’t, therefore I am the rightful heir( church) of apostolic continuity”.

    But this misunderstands the Protestant argument. The Reformers thought they were in direct continuity with the ecclesiastical authority that had been passed down. The best one can argue is that they are wrong. But point of fact is that their argument wasn’t “I read the Scriptures correctly and you don’t, therefore I am the rightful heir of apostolic continuity.”

    What is ironic is that when push comes to shove, Rome says, “The Magisterium reads the Scriptures, history, and tradition correctly and you don’t, therefore, the Magisterium is the rightful heir of apostolic continuity.

    For me personally, surveying the landscape of many protesting( against Catholicism)”churches” yet claiming to have received apostolic authority from scripture, the last line of John’s Gospel became existentially open-ended and caused a lot of angst.

    You keep talking about this angst of seeing so many different churches. Have you ever stopped to consider whether perhaps your angst is ill-founded? Just because something causes anxiety doesn’t mean that it should.

    That was in addition to the “many visible churches” model that left no particular church to vouch for the inspiration of scripture, since there was not doctrinal agreement beyond,” the sufficiency of scripture”.

    But Rome has a “many visible churches” model as well. The EO is a legitimate church, as are several other denominations in the RC model.

    And further, there’s a whole lot of agreement among Protestant churches beyond “the sufficiency of Scripture.”

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  33. Susan,
    You’re wrong…no biggie. Last I checked, to enter the RCC, you have to accept all that the church teaches. But not everything the church teaches is infallible and irreformable. The “solemn magisterium” (if I recall correctly) is the irreformable stuff that was either declared in an ecumenical council (e.g., Trent) or by a Pope ex cathedra (the immaculate conception). But this is not the sum total of all that the church teaches. There is the “ordinary” magisterium as well. It requires the submission of the mind, intellect, and will, but it is not infallible. Such teachings could be declared thus at some point, but they are not necessarily infallible. The ordinary magisterium would include things such as encyclicals and so forth.

    Now of course, there is a great deal of debate within the RCC about what is and isn’t the infallible and thus irreformable stuff. Father James Martin has a stance on that at odds with trads on issues tied to marriage and family. Indeed, several of your bishops think that the current pope has taught things contradicting infallible tradition. Obviously he disagrees.

    While some things we protestants take issue with are infallible, there are other teachings we take issue with that are not defined as infallible (for example: limbo, reference to Mary as co-redemptrix, the efficacy of the sale of indulgences, naming of saints and attribution of miracles, etc… are all things the church teaches or has taught at some point in her history that protestants have disagreed with).

    My point is narrow – namely infallibility is not a necessary condition for being authoritative. I think the real hang up is actually exclusivity. We prots don’t claim to have a corner on the market. We recognize that others who disagree with us and call themselves “Christian” may be more or less pure. In fact, we might be wrong on some things they are right about. This more than Sola Scriptura is what has allowed the proliferation of denominations. Once you accept that you don’t have the corner on truth, freedom of conscience is right around the corner. Once you accept that you can’t enforce doctrinal conformity with the sword, the game is up. Freedom of religion ( something the RCC came to pretty late) means the proliferation of religious expression.

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