The Problem with Cessationism

Cessationists apparently have the reputation of not believing in miracles after the apostolic age:

No issue has been more controversial among Protestants in the past 40 years than the charismatic gifts and the role of miracles in the post-apostolic age. The issue was controversial in previous eras of Protestant history, too, although theological lines were not usually drawn as hard and fast as they are between “cessationists” and “continuationists” today.

In the 1700s and 1800s, suspicion of claimed miracles was connected to anti-Catholicism. Protestant critics saw the Catholic tradition as riddled with fake claims of miracles. Ridiculing the fake miracle claims of Catholics (such as icons bleeding a liquid that turned out to be cherry juice) became a staple of Reformed polemics against the Catholic Church. So when seemingly miraculous events happened in Protestant churches, even sympathetic observers warned against the threat of bogus miracles.

Odd, but the cessationists I know all affirm the ongoing reality of miracles. How could you ever believe in people lost in sin becoming regenerate without resorting to the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit?

The real problem comes with the “gift” of speaking in tongues. Why do we need ongoing revelations from God if scripture is sufficient?

1. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased. (CofF 1.1 emphasis added)

6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. (CofF 1.6 emphasis added)

Continuationists who want to defend tongues are in the same predicament as Roman Catholics who defend the continuing infallible teaching of the magisterium and the authority of tradition. Does God’s word have all we need for salvation and godliness? Or do we need ongoing revelations for becoming right with God? If you make an infallible pope or a Spirit-filled Christian the arbiter of Christianity, you deny the sufficiency of Scripture.

Selah.

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150 thoughts on “The Problem with Cessationism

  1. Though I was raised in a penecostal church, I’ve never heard the “gift” (scare quotes?) of tongues characterized as a form of continuing revelation. A brief Wikipedia run on “cessationism” shows that some reformed theologians have argued that miraculous gifts were a measure of when the church is receiving legitimate revelation. That’s a convenient way to preserve “sola scriptura” from the argument that the canon is just a function of church tradition, but the possibility of miracles is an unfortunate casualty.
    This post imposes a cessationist view of tongues on continuationists. Continuationists are actually not in the position of arguing that tongues are a justifiable form of continuing revelation, because in my experience continuationists don’t believe they are continuing revelation. If continuationists are in a predicament, it’s that they have to justify sola scriptura without resorting to church tradition. That’s still messy, but it’s a different problem.

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  2. Brett – then can you tell us about your experience with the “second baptism” and just exactly what that means in the entire spectrum of the holy spirit’s involvement in our belief/revelation process?

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  3. I would be fascinated to know how the GC and it’s leaders like Tim, Kevin, Don and John can be earnest about truth and yet encourage charismatics who eagerly peddle tongues and false miracles.
    I saw John Wimber in action close up; it was orchestrated mind games on a big scale. Nowadays the charismatics play a more subtle hand by claiming to be Reformed. In GB Terry Virgo’s New Frontiers is mainstream by claiming to be this and folks are theologically daft enough to go with this falsehood.
    Reformation ministers need to stand against such stuff and not pal up with their leaders. Are you listening Kevin? To support continuationists on grounds of their Gospel claims gives them a free pass to gain credibility, and ministerial colleges which go soft on them betray the clear teaching of the Confessions about them.

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  4. Brett:

    Tongues and interpretation of tongues (spiritual gifts like gifts of healings, working of miracles, etc.) are most certainly considered a “manifestation” of the Spirit of God as He speaks thru the one speaking in tongues.

    Maybe you are referring to “tongues” as the “heavenly language” that you use when you pray so as to bypass your head?

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  5. One of the issues regarding tongues and prophecy have to do with those who were originally in charge. The Apostles had already been appointed by Jesus to guide the Church after he ascended in heaven. But who follows them? Rome says it in some non-biological line of Peter. But there is no guarantee that the teachings of those that would follow Peter would be without error. In fact, we have too many historical examples showing that error plagued those whom Rome said were following Peter.

    With the Protestant approach, the problem lies in rightly interpreting the Scriptures. However, our other commitments and group affiliations along with narcissism can interfere with interpreting the Scriptures. An example of other commitments and group affiliations along with narcissism interfering with correctly interpreting the Scriptures goes back to those European settlers who viewed themselves as the New Israel who were to regard America as their own Canaan and Native Americans as Canaanites.

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  6. Check out the book Truly the Signs of an Apostle on Amazon.com for a unique look at the issue of cessationsism

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  7. I think you guys may have a misunderstanding of what continuationists teach. We see “the New Testament gift of prophecy” (one of the few things John Piper explains well) and speaking in tongues as analogous to what the New Testament says about the proclamation of the Word: it is Spirit-filled, but not infallible. Should people stop preaching because their preaching is not infallible?

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  8. George, a lot of people who hold to a Reformed soteriology do NOT believe in a second baptism. We believe that cessationalism makes good sense from a systematic persoective but is simply exegetically not defensible. It is quite interesting you assumed Brett necessarily believes in a second baptism of the Spirit.

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  9. BJ – My question to Brett was mainly a probe into his past Pentecostal background and how that relates to what he believes nowadays. And I disagree that cessationism is not defensible exegetically based on what it says in Jude 3. Over the centuries Mormonism, Islam, and even Roman Catholicism have provided ample evidence of what happens when people attempt to “add” to what canonized scripture says.

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  10. Jude 3 says nothing of the sort. It is your interpretation that it means that. You appeal to history, but not to Scripture. I do not find any of the relevant passages to this debate to conclude cessationism. From a historical perspective (the abuses you mentioned) and a systematic perspective, it makes perfect sense. I am just not convinced it is exegetically sound.

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  11. @B Jones,
    I’m interested in your observation that cessationism may be well grounded historically and systematically, but fails exegetically (is that the right way to understand what you’ve written?). I wonder if a connection something similar can be said of the canon, doctrine of sola scriptura, and hermeneutical principles. We don’t see any text in scripture explicitly laying out what the scope of the canon is, we don’t have a passage that tells us that scripture is the final trump card (as it were), and we don’t have a passage that indicates that we should restrict ourselves to the historic-grammatical hermeneutic (one might say the same for the trinity).

    However, in the case of sola scriptura (for example), we have a pattern in scripture in which the inscripturated law & prophets were applied as a plumb line against the claims and practices made by religious authorities. We also see how Jesus used scripture. From these examples, we infer this doctrine. Similarly, we can see how miracles/prophecy function throughout scripture (i.e., when they do and do not appear) and infer from the example of scripture something about how we should expect them to show up today. Are you including this sort of analysis under the heading of “exegesis”? I haven’t thought too much about the topic, so I’m not arguing for or against cessationism. I’m just looking to understand what you are getting at here.

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  12. sdb, you raise interesting points. Some of those points I have honestly never considered; I have not been presented with them before. I am thinking more along the lines of the typical “go to” passages cessationists typically point to such as Hebrews 1 and 1 Corinthians 13, among others. I do not see that these passages say what most cessationists state that they say. I do believe Sola Scriptura can be easily argued from Scripture. Interesting thought about the canon though. And as far as hermeneutical principles, I would say that we can and should interpret the Old Testament in the way that Christ and the apostles did. But that sort of leaves the question of how we know to interpret the New Testament, and a lot of other general questions as well.
    I am a little wet behind the ears when it comes to the type of exegesis you are referring to. I am currently taking languages/exegesis classes, so my knowledge is limited.

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  13. When I used to go to Reformed church services, I believed that I was hearing afresh the deeds of God in the lives of His people through the preaching; that is, the way he judged some and saved others(OT) and how those literal acts were also typology pointing to what the Messiah was coming to do( and did). After a time( 10 yrs) I became hungry for what I had left behind in my days as an evangelical. Not the weird Brownville Revival and Vineyard movement so-called “manifestations of the Holy Spirit”, but some kind of doctrine within my Reformed community that acknowledged and encouraged a deep prayer life and closer union with God. It was as if I could get my intellectual needs met at a Reformed church, but my soul was drying out because those intellectual pursuits where an end in themselves, never enjoining people to pray, or fast, or to mortify themselves. There was no Reformed tradition of asceticism, yet I knew that it existed in church history. That awareness was one of the first things that drew me away from Reformed theology, especially since my then assistant pastor was converting to EO. He and I talked one night and when I learned that he( and he’s a very bright man) actually believed some story about a miracle occurring on behalf of an Eastern Orthodox man who was unjustly jailed, I felt like I was coming back to life. I had become a skeptic, and skepticism was not supposed to be part of my religion, but it was at home in, at least, this branch of Christendom. Anyway, my former assistant pastor was clearly moved as he related the story( that I’ve now forgotten), and I was drawn to his faith about the supposed miracle. Here I had read The Golden Legend and thought most of it was fanciful exaggeration. How does one sort truth from myth when our faith( also recorded in scripture) has things that are unexplained by science? I realized that, much like it is impossible to separate the actual founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus and the story of the wolf who nursed them, it is impossible and pointless to distill the miraculous from the ordinary in Christianity. As I tried to do so, I just kept chopping away at my faith.

    Now I am in a church that recognizes that powerful miracles still occur, and it believes that there are still charisms, yet it also can differentiate the authentic from the inauthentic. Plus, I don’t lack anything from the intellectual tradition.
    As they say, it’s Both- And. The best of both worlds.

    https://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/charismatic_renewal.htm

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  14. “There was no Reformed tradition of asceticism, yet I knew that it existed in church history.”
    Hmmm…. if only there were a group dedicated to prayer, fasting, and…ahem…purity (I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader to find evidence of such a group among reformed Christians) or perhaps one of the principle Reformed theologians talked about prayer and fasting.

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  15. sdb, Much of what passes for “THE” Reformed tradition is just a sad caricature of Reformed orthodoxy. We can thank certain Reformed denominations for that.

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  16. @B Jones – I’m not so sure that Sola Scriptura can be *easily* argued from scripture. Certainly not by properly executing individual texts, though I do think that the general thrust of how scripture is used and references itself does imply the doctrine of scripture in the reformed standards generally referred to as “Sola Scriptura”. Agreed that hermeneutics is slippery. I suspect that our approach to how we determine what boundaries to draw around what we determine to be allowable hermeneutical principles will inform our approach to cessationism, but like I said, I’m not all that well versed in the arguments around the topic. I am very sympathetic to cessationism (and very skeptical of virtually all claims of supernatural experience), but I’m just a lowly layman with a whole lot to learn!

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  17. sdb, I am sympathetic to both sides. When it comes down to the brass tax of it, what is normative is Scripture. I do believe miracles happen, I do believe God gives people supernatural insight into situations (“prophecy”, if you will). But I also believe these types of things are exceedingly rare. What do cessationists call it when a pastor spends a lot of time in prayer, has some kind of subjective impression of something he should say in a sermon, says it while he is preaching, and someone’s life is radically changed because of it? I would call that a prophetic utterance. I know some cessationalists call it providence. I believe the New Testament calls that “the gift of prophecy”, which is distinguishable from the Old Testament prophecy. How would cessationalists explain praying for someone who has diagnosed prostate cancer with biopsy results to confirm the diagnosis and they are somehow cancer-free with no medical intervention? I work in the medical field. Doctors see stuff like sometimes; it is not unheard of.

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  18. SDB,

    “Hmmm…. if only there were a group dedicated to prayer, fasting, and…ahem…purity (I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader to find evidence of such a group among reformed Christians) or perhaps one of the principle Reformed theologians talked about prayer and fasting.”

    You know, I asked my former pastor about the Puritan tradition and he said that I won’t get much help there. In fact, I had already been reading the writings of Puritans and was getting “help”. Not particularly liking the outlaw of the west mythos, nor the lack of national symbols and classic architecture( I live in CA), I was always drawn to the east coast for its connections to its English and European history. I read the stories of Princeton and Yale’s founding to my children( Mr. Pipes). I took great pride in my Scottish Covenanter history too because I assumed that all these sects were correct to believe that Luther and Calvin were correct.
    Puritan Piety went too far, which, by the way, clued me in about their inability to rightly interpret scripture and be a true church. Either they were wrong or those who came after them, or those who came before. because of the Calvinists that I knew celebrated Christmas. There was no way of knowing.
    So this story of people leaving the Established Church of England to form their own new establishment that in turn put religious demands on people according to the leader’s interpretation gave me a reason to doubt the whole puritan father’s as upholder’s of the true faith, not to mention the upholder’s of liberty idea.

    http://www.crisismagazine.com/2017/calling-spade-spade

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  19. SDB,

    To put it another way, my former pastor was probably more attuned to the Anglican ethos which placed less attention on emotion and strict asceticism and more on the observance of church-going, liturgy, and common sense morality… He didn’t like navel-gazing that kept a person focused on their sins rather than God’s forgiveness and that is probably why he didn’t want me to get bogged down in Puritan type zealousness.
    The problem that I was attempting to highlight is that in Protestantism it is an either-or proposition, which keeps the pendulum ever swinging and people always arguing( or splitting).

    Anyway, thanks for listening:)

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  20. ” Either they were wrong or those who came after them, or those who came before. because of the Calvinists that I knew celebrated Christmas. There was no way of knowing.”

    You are confusing a discipline with a doctrine…

    Of course Rome has unresolved conflicts as well (though I think the Christmas has been pretty well resolved much to the chagrin of Darryl “G”rinch Hart).

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  21. @b jones
    I agree that scripture is normative. The question is how we arrive at that conclusion. In my experience, the more sympathetic we are to an idea, the more intellectually patient we are to making its case. Ideas we aren’t so sympathetic to get the demand for chapter and verse. Such a demand is not consonant with sola scriptura.

    ” I do believe miracles happen, I do believe God gives people supernatural insight into situations (“prophecy”, if you will). But I also believe these types of things are exceedingly rare.

    “What do cessationists call it when a pastor spends a lot of time in prayer, has some kind of subjective impression of something he should say in a sermon, says it while he is preaching, and someone’s life is radically changed because of it?”
    The means of grace. The principal ways we are sanctified are prayer, word (mainly preaching), and sacrament. This is ordinary not miraculous.

    “How would cessationalists explain praying for someone who has diagnosed prostate cancer with biopsy results to confirm the diagnosis and they are somehow cancer-free with no medical intervention?”

    1. God answers prayer in the course of his ordinary providence.

    2. Sometimes cancers (indeed it seems most) cancers go away on their own…as our ability to detect gets more sensitive, the earlier we find cancers. There seems to be a connection between diagnosis technology improvements and “miraculous” remission.

    3. Muslims, mormons, and atheists have similar stories. In scripture, miracles tend to be obvious to those who witness it.

    Claims of miracles never seem to be public manifestations of rivers splitting, dead rising, or a pastor calling down fire from heaven. The claims are much more subtle for some reason. One might wonder why their scope shrunk. Perhaps there is a good reason. Like I said, I haven’t thought all that much about it. You’ve inspired me!

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  22. Susan, “There was no Reformed tradition of asceticism”

    “Going Dutch”? “Penny pinching Scots”?

    You confirm the line between Pentecostalism and Roman Catholicism is smudged.

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  23. Susan, “Puritan Piety went too far, which, by the way, clued me in about their inability to rightly interpret scripture and be a true church.”

    Oh, but visions of Mary are right in the sweet spot.

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  24. sometimes those “cures” come without prayer. What do you call that?

    God’s prerogative?
    God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.

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  25. Ali, God is in heaven. And he does whatever he pleases. Amen. And by theological definition, if someone is healed via supernatural means with or without prayer, it is a technically considered a miracle. Which is something cessationalists generally deny, if I am understanding correctly.

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  26. Susan, “Puritan Piety went too far, which, by the way, clued me in about their inability to rightly interpret scripture and be a true church.”

    ..and ….sometimes you cannot have unity

    -the Catholic Church is the one true church (CCC 2105), Infallibility of the Catholic Church, (CCC 2035),
    -Only the Roman Catholic Church has authority to interpret Scripture (CCC 100),
    -The Pope is the head of the church and has the authority of Christ (CCC 2034),
    -The Roman Catholic Church is necessary for salvation (CCC 846),
    -Sacred Tradition equal to scripture (CCC 82),
    -Forgiveness of sins, salvation, is by faith and works (CCC 2036,2080 2068),
    -Full benefit of Salvation is only through the Roman Catholic Church (Vatican 2, Decree on Ecumenism, 3),
    -Grace can be merited (CCC 2010,2027),
    -The merit of Mary and the Saints can be applied to Catholics and others (1477),
    -Penance is necessary for salvation (CCC 980)
    -Purgatory (CCC 1031,1475)
    -Indulgences (CCC 1471,1478,1498,1472),
    -Mary is Mediatrix (CCC 969)
    -Mary brings us the gifts of eternal salvation (CCC 969)
    -Mary delivers souls from death (CCC 966)
    -Prayer to the saints (CCC 2677)
    -The Communion elements become the actual body and blood of Christ (CCC 1374,1376).

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  27. Susan – you have a point about Protestants tending to “demythologize” the Christian life. Sure, they may believe in the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, but they discount most – if not all – other aspects divine intervention in daily life. This goes back to a discussion we had about the Lord’s Supper in a different thread: Eeeeevangelicals today – including many/most in the Reformed community – view the sacraments as signs and symbols only, which means they really don’t believe in sacraments at all. If more people realized there is true supernatural action occurring in the sacraments, my guess if they would be taken a lot more seriously in the Reformed community. Too many post-Enlightenment Reformed folk like the intellectual and rational aspects of Calvin, Augustine, Aquinas, et al, but distance themselves from the very strong mystical beliefs of those same authors. The RCC and especially the EOC do a better job of embracing the “mysteries” of the Christian faith than most Protestant and Reformed churches do.

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  28. Vae victis, THANK YOU for acknowledging that. A lot of Reformed Churches are functionally agnostic.

    DG Hart, Is cessationism saying 1. that God does not do miracles any more, or 2. that we have no reliable way of knowing whether God did a miracle?

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  29. vv says …mystery of the Christian faith

    here’s one mystery :
    for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.
    This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

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  30. @VV, a correction. Wrt your “Eeeeevangelicals today….view the sacraments as signs and symbols only, which means they really don’t believe in sacraments at all.” Ftr, yes, the sacraments are viewed to be signs/symbols, but no, that doesn’t mean Eeee’s don’t believe in the sacraments. You won’t find any Eeee deny or not practice the two sacraments. We observe them, albeit w/o whatever extra-biblical mystical aspects you happen to attribute to them.

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  31. The distinction of among protestant views is between those who see baptism and the Lord’s supper as ordinances that are symbols that serve as a remembrance and those that understand these to be sacraments that are inseparable signs and seals of grace that operate by faith as means by which grace is administered to the believer.

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  32. My folks attended an evangelical church that focused on essentials. Baptism was seen as a secondary issue that was not emphsized because of its divisiveness. They would baptize infants or converts on request in an evening ceremony for friends and family. Similary on communion it was deemphasized such that it was reserved for an occasional special event outside of regular services. Not sure how common this is.

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  33. @sdb, yes, that’s a good summary of the distinctives. Viewing the ordinances as symbols for remembrance is more defensible, exegetically (Lk 22:19, I cor 11:24,25), than is the view as “inseparable signs and seals of grace that operate by faith as means by which grace is administered to the believer.” One’s gotta reach, extra-biblically, to wind up with the reformed view. There’s no “do this so that you can receive grace”.

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  34. Petros – again, if you believe Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are “symbols for remembrance” then you don’t believe they are sacraments. Sacraments are by definition physical representations of spiritual reality. Tie Luke 22 with John 6 in conjunction with 1 Corinthians 10 & 11, and you have the basis for the Reformed position that we spiritually partake of the body and blood of Christ. Really the point of my comment wasn’t the Lord’s Supper, but the way in which we neglect the mysteries of the faith in general – the sacraments are just the most problematic example.

    sdb – I understand the different beliefs regarding the sacraments within Protestant denominations. Reformed churches may technically believe there is real spiritual efficacy in the Lord’s Supper, but we sure don’t act like it (for the most part).

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  35. VV,

    The RCC and especially the EOC do a better job of embracing the “mysteries” of the Christian faith than most Protestant and Reformed churches do.

    Not so sure about that. With respect to the RCC, transubstantiation is not an embrace of a mystery but an attempt to explain away a mystery. With respect to both, baptismal regeneration is an attempt to explain a mystery—the connection between baptism and regeneration is always regenerative at the point of application unless there is willful resistance. Reformed say there is no such one-to-one correlation and that there is mystery between the sign and the thing signified that means we can’t connect the two absolutely such that all who get the sign get its benefits.

    With respect to Rome and the EO, God doesn’t ordain whatsoever comes to pass, except for some strains of Augustinian/Thomistic thought. Libertarian free will is king. Compatibilism between divine sovereignty and human free will is much more mysterious.

    If mystery means mysticism, sure. But most strains of mysticism are severely deficient biblically.

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  36. Robert,

    Catholics can explain the mystery that scripture presents through a terminology that doesn’t take away or distract from the mystery itself.Transubstantiation is a miracle. We receive by faith something that the natural man cannot because he isn’t spiritually able to discern( 1 Corinthians 2:14). If a thing is to be received by faith it first has to have something mysterious about it( yet not magical) in and of itself that requires us to exercise our faith(John 6:27-70). You have to assent to it the same way that you have to assent to the resurrection of Jesus. In addition to this, there is the Church’s historical understanding that no one is free to change.

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  37. Susan,

    The Reformed say that Jesus is spiritually present but they don’t explain the exact mode of that presence. Rome has defined the exact way Jesus is present, thereby eliminating the mystery even if it can still be defined as a miracle. And transubstantiation is a late explanation of how Christ is present, one that depends on an embrace of Aristotle that took place long after the first century and the period of the church fathers. There’s a reason why the East rejects it.

    But the assent is not the same in any case with the resurrection. The resurrection doesn’t take Aristotelian categories to explain it.

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  38. Robert,

    “And transubstantiation is a late explanation of how Christ is present, one that depends on an embrace of Aristotle that took place long after the first century and the period of the church fathers. There’s a reason why the East rejects it.”

    Catholicism doesn’t need Aristotle’s input if it is wrong. So the use of Aristotle doesn’t disqualify the explanation. The west continued on( development of doctrine).

    But the assent is not the same in any case with the resurrection. The resurrection doesn’t take Aristotelian categories to explain it.

    True, but again, the use of Aristotle’s categories about such things as substance and accidents in the case of transubstantiation doesn’t disqualify the explanation. Besides, His glorified body had some kind of different shape that made him not immediately recognized by His disciples. And, in the case of those on the road to Emmaus, they only recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.

    “Objection 3. Further, every true body has its determinate shape. But Christ’s body appeared before the disciples “in another shape,” as is evident from Mark 16:12. Therefore it seems that Christ did not possess a true body after His Resurrection.

    On the contrary, It is written (Luke 24:37) that when Christ appeared to His disciples “they being troubled and frightened, supposed that they saw a spirit,” as if He had not a true but an imaginary body: but to remove their fears He presently added: “Handle and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see Me to have.” Consequently, He had not an imaginary but a true body.

    I answer that, As Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iv): that is said to rise, which fell. But Christ’s body fell by death; namely, inasmuch as the soul which was its formal perfection was separated from it. Hence, in order for it to be a true resurrection, it was necessary for the same body of Christ to be once more united with the same soul. And since the truth of the body’s nature is from its form it follows that Christ’s body after His Resurrection was a true body, and of the same nature as it was before. But had His been an imaginary body, then His Resurrection would not have been true, but apparent.

    Reply to Objection 1. Christ’s body after His Resurrection, not by miracle but from its glorified condition, as some say, entered in among the disciples while the doors were shut, thus existing with another body in the same place. But whether a glorified body can have this from some hidden property, so as to be with another body at the same time in the same place, will be discussed later (Supplement:83:4) when the common resurrection will be dealt with. For the present let it suffice to say that it was not from any property within the body, but by virtue of the Godhead united to it, that this body, although a true one, entered in among the disciples while the doors were shut. Accordingly Augustine says in a sermon for Easter (ccxlvii) that some men argue in this fashion: “If it were a body; if what rose from the sepulchre were what hung upon the tree, how could it enter through closed doors?” And he answers: “If you understand how, it is no miracle: where reason fails, faith abounds.” And (Tract. cxxi super Joan.) he says: “Closed doors were no obstacle to the substance of a Body wherein was the Godhead; for truly He could enter in by doors not open, in whose Birth His Mother’s virginity remained inviolate.” And Gregory says the same in a homily for the octave of Easter (xxvi in Evang.).

    Reply to Objection 2. As stated above (III:53:3), Christ rose to the immortal life of glory. But such is the disposition of a glorified body that it is spiritual, i.e. subject to the spirit, as the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 15:44). Now in order for the body to be entirely subject to the spirit, it is necessary for the body’s every action to be subject to the will of the spirit. Again, that an object be seen is due to the action of the visible object upon the sight, as the Philosopher shows (De Anima ii). Consequently, whoever has a glorified body has it in his power to be seen when he so wishes, and not to be seen when he does not wish it. Moreover Christ had this not only from the condition of His glorified body, but also from the power of His Godhead, by which power it may happen that even bodies not glorified are miraculously unseen: as was by a miracle bestowed on the blessed Bartholomew, that “if he wished he could be seen, and not be seen if he did not wish it” [Apocryphal Historia Apost. viii, 2]. Christ, then, is said to have vanished from the eyes of the disciples, not as though He were corrupted or dissolved into invisible elements; but because He ceased, of His own will, to be seen by them, either while He was present or while He was departing by the gift of agility.

    Reply to Objection 3. As Severianus [Peter Chrysologus: Serm. lxxxii] says in a sermon for Easter: “Let no one suppose that Christ changed His features at the Resurrection.” This is to be understood of the outline of His members; since there was nothing out of keeping or deformed in the body of Christ which was conceived of the Holy Ghost, that had to be righted at the Resurrection. Nevertheless He received the glory of clarity in the Resurrection: accordingly the same writer adds: “but the semblance is changed, when, ceasing to be mortal, it becomes immortal; so that it acquired the glory of countenance, without losing the substance of the countenance.” Yet He did not come to those disciples in glorified appearance; but, as it lay in His power for His body to be seen or not, so it was within His power to present to the eyes of the beholders His form either glorified or not glorified, or partly glorified and partly not, or in any fashion whatsoever. Still it requires but a slight difference for anyone to seem to appear another shape.”

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  39. @Petros
    “One’s gotta reach, extra-biblically, to wind up with the reformed view.” Several centuries of reformers would beg to differ. The lack of a bible verse that says God is triune does not mean that one must arrive at the doctrine of the trinity extra biblically. Rather the way the NT describes the effect of circumcision (a sign and seal) and connects it to baptism (the way the covenant is passed along) is the starting point for understanding how the reformed arrived at their understanding of the sacraments.

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  40. “Reformed churches may technically believe there is real spiritual efficacy in the Lord’s Supper, but we sure don’t act like it (for the most part).”
    Agreed. I think this is a major problem with our church today. Of course, even in Catholic circles a slight majority of mass goers think their church teaches that the Lord’s Supper is symbolic. The idea that spiritual = reality is foreign to most modern people. We’ve lost something important for nourishing our faith.

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  41. sometimes those “cures” come without prayer. What do you call that?
    God’s prerogative?
    God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.

    Yes. Most of us understand his ordinary activity in sustaining creation and controlling everything that happens in it as His providence. This isn’t a miracle.

    And by theological definition, if someone is healed via supernatural means with or without prayer, it is a technically considered a miracle. Which is something cessationalists generally deny, if I am understanding correctly.

    I’m not sure that the theological definition of a miracle is that one was healed by supernatural means. I guess I would have to understand what was meant by supernatural. My understanding is that the root for miracle can also mean “sign”. To be a sign, it has to be recognized as such (it has to stand out) and it needs to clearly point to the thing it is a sign to. The need to stand out rules out God’s activity that falls under the category of ordinary providence. The need to be a sign rules out ambiguous events that while amazing do not clearly point to God.

    So no, someone who was sick and suddenly got better for no clear reason would not be a miracle. Someone who was sick and prayed over and suddenly got well such that the message of the one praying gained credibility would be a miracle. Most cessationists as I understand it, do not believe that such events happen now (the words to Thomas are suggestive it seems to me). We have God’s word – prior to the closing of the canon, miracles played a part in authenticating the authority of the apostles. I’m not sure whether the cessationist case is defensible exegetically yet, but I don’t think it is fair to consider it a sort of functional agnosticism.

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  42. @vv, I understand where the Reformed get their ideas of the sacraments. (John 6 is quite debatable as referring to the sacrament, and that text seems to be critical to the reformed position, but no need to re-litigate that here.) More notably, for you to say that the rest of the eeee-world doesn’t believe in the sacraments is quite a statement.

    @sdb, well, I suppose I could say that several centuries of non-reformed beg to differ with you. Again, I’m not here to debate the doctrine, per se, but is it really the reformed view that its doctrine of the sacraments is as exegetically sound, perspicuous, and as essential, as the doctrine of the Trinity?

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  43. sdb says: “Reformed churches may technically believe there is real spiritual efficacy in the Lord’s Supper, but we sure don’t act like it (for the most part).”
    -not sure why you say that
    “When we partake of the elements of communion today, we recognize that they are more than just symbols of something that happened a long time ago. Whenever we gather together to observe the Lord’s Supper, Christ is present with us spiritually. It is not just the memory of Him that is present; He is in the midst of the congregation. The emphasis is upon His presence within the worshiping body, not within the elements of the table.The believer communes with the Lord through the act of remembrance and worship.”

    sdb says: We’ve lost something important for nourishing our faith.
    -but isn’t that the case pretty much all the way around, especially the lack of commitment to His word?:
    -Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you
    -For the word of God is living and active
    -you have been born again of imperishable seed through the living and enduring word of God.
    -long for the pure milk of the word so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation
    -in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
    -my word goes forth from My mouth and will not return to Me empty without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

    re: Roman Catholic belief “The most serious reason transubstantiation should be rejected is that it is viewed by the Roman Catholic Church as a “re-sacrifice” of Jesus Christ for our sins, or as a “re-offering / re-presentation” of His sacrifice. This is directly in contradiction to what Scripture says, that Jesus died “once for all” and does not need to be sacrificed again (Hebrews 10:10; 1 Peter 3:18). Hebrews 7:27 declares, “Unlike the other high priests, He (Jesus) does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins ONCE for all when He offered Himself.”

    Sdb says: So no, someone who was sick and suddenly got better for no clear reason would not be a miracle.
    -That’s ridiculous sdb. Why would you say that with such certainty. Please try not to diminish the glory of God.

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  44. @P The WCF notes that it is a “great sin” to neglect baptism. They seemed to think it was pretty clear. It’s fine to not want to debate a sacramental understanding of Christianity (and the Judaism from which it sprung), but then what gives with drive-bys like “One’s gotta reach, extra-biblically, to wind up with the reformed view.”? Anyway, I don’t think that the doctrine of the means of grace is quite as central to orthodoxy as the doctrine of the Trinity. I don’t see that the orthodox understanding of the Trinity is obvious from scripture though. The Spirit is often described as the Spirit of Christ, Jesus is often understood to be referred to in the passage of Isaiah that describes him as the “Prince of Peace”. That passage also includes “everlasting father”. So the son is the father and the spirit? I think arriving at the orthodox definition of the trinity is at least as subtle as getting the sacraments from scripture. There is a reason that the majority of believers in orthodox churches cannot articulate a doctrine of the trinity that does not fall foul of various early heresies. Sound exegesis is not just a matter of finding a bible verse that says so. It is understanding the overall framework of scripture and how the general flow gives rise to understandings that make sense of the tensions within the narratives.

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  45. sdb says: “Reformed churches may technically believe there is real spiritual efficacy in the Lord’s Supper, but we sure don’t act like it (for the most part).”
    -not sure why you say that

    I don’t say that. VV did. But I do agree with him. The reason is that we administer this means of grace infrequently, minimize its significance, and spend more time explaining what it isn’t rather than what it is. At least that’s been my experience within my own denomination (PCA). It sounds like VV has a similar experience. This is unfortunate. I think we would be stronger in the faith if we were to take the Lord’s Supper weekly, encouraged to examine ourselves weekly, and reminded of the gospel weekly as part of the rhythm of life. Once a month (as it is in my own congregation is not enough).

    sdb says: We’ve lost something important for nourishing our faith.
    -but isn’t that the case pretty much all the way around, especially the lack of commitment to His word?:

    I’m not sure what you mean here. In my congregation, we are very, very committed to the word. It is preached exegetically, we read several selections in service, our Sunday school classes are uniformly committed to studying books of the Bible, we have a robust memory program for our kids (toddlers – high school), and we are regularly encouraged to read through the scripture regularly. I just finished teaching through the book of Hebrews, my teen son and I are memorizing Isaiah 6. My daughter and I are memorizing the 10 commandments, and my youngest has six verses to memorize this year. We are also memorizing the WSC. The goal is to have the entire thing done by the time they graduate high school. So far so good. I don’t think this is all that uncommon in PCA churches or in conservative protestant churches generally. However, the word is not enough. I like how the Belgic confession puts it: “We believe that our good God, mindful of our crudeness and weakness, has ordained sacraments for us….God has added these to the Word of the gospel to represent better to our external senses both what God enables us to understand by the Word and what he does inwardly in our hearts, confirming in us the salvation he imparts to us.”

    All the verses you pasted are true (of course). But none of them claim that the word is sufficient. We also need teachers and sacraments. “For they are visible signs and seals of something internal and invisible, by means of which God works in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. So they are not empty and hollow signs to fool and deceive us, for their truth is Jesus Christ, without whom they would be nothing.”

    Sdb says: So no, someone who was sick and suddenly got better for no clear reason would not be a miracle.
    -That’s ridiculous sdb. Why would you say that with such certainty. Please try not to diminish the glory of God.

    Because it wouldn’t be a “sign” in the hypothetical I provided. Miracles are signs (by definition). That doesn’t mean that God wasn’t involved. God watches over us in such a way that not a hair can fall from our head apart from the will of our Father in heaven. Miracles aren’t the class of events that God does while other events occur independently of God. Everything that happens is under his sovereign control. When a dry leaf disconnects from a branch and flutters to the ground, that is God at work and ultimately that event happens to bring him glory. Recognizing that a sick person getting well suddenly is an act of his providence is not to deny his glory in anyway. Claiming so is to restrict God’s action to the miraculous, and that does understate God’s glory. Answered prayers, sinners coming to faith in Christ, and sick people getting well after being prayed for by the congregation are not necessarily miraculous. They are God’s work in the world.

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  46. Petros: One’s gotta reach, extra-biblically, to wind up with the reformed view. There’s no “do this so that you can receive grace”.

    Except for 1 Cor 10.16, Acts 22.16, Rom 6.3, 1 Pet 3.21, and Gal 3.27.

    “Buttercup: All but your four fastest ships, you mean.

    Humperdinck: Well, yes, naturally, not those.”

    Honestly, it’s actually harder to explain to a 10-yr-old that “get up, be baptized, and wash your sins away” doesn’t actually mean that the act of baptism cleanses us from sin ex opere operato than it is to observe that the Bible ascribes efficacy, at least in words, to the sacraments.

    “According to this, baptism now saves you.”

    The Baptist rushes quickly to explain that “not the washing of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience before God” means that Peter doesn’t actually mean baptism now saves you, when he clearly just said baptism now saves you.

    Getting efficacy right is tricky, since we all (Susan excepted) agree that sacramentalism is off the table. But at least we can agree that Peter says that baptism saves, and that Ananias says that baptism washes away sins, and that Paul says that all who are baptized into Christ are buried with Him into His death. Those words are said; now, what do they mean?

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  47. I was going to point out that if tongues are continuing revelation, then many things are continuing revelation, such as the belief that God is calling one to a particular vocation. Unfortunately, my first comment was out of ignorance–the variety of cessationism with which I’m familiar precludes only speaking in tongues and related gifts. Wikipedia has further clarified that J. Gresham Machen and others advocated for a cessation of all miracles, gift-related or no. If that’s the position we’re talking about, then the reputation for not believing in miracles is well-earned, and the original post may have been protesting too much when it pointed to the work of the Holy Spirit as an instance of the “miraculous,” that word being such a loaded term.

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  48. Brett,

    It’s been my experience that many, if not all, Reformed theologians want to use the term “miracle” only for those things that authenticate individuals as bearers of divine revelation. It’s not so much that they want to say that God can’t or never does anything like he did in the days of the Apostles; they just don’t want to call it a “miracle.”

    E.G. If a church prays for someone with cancer and he recovers without any medical explanation, then many Reformed will say that is a supernatural act of God but not that it is a miracle. It’s more of a terminological distinction. Maybe that’s just hairsplitting, but I’m sympathetic to the view, especially when people use the word “miracle” frivolously for ordinary births, the rising of the sun, etc. Those things are great, but they’re ordinary providences. IE, God doesn’t seem to be involved in them except to sustain the processes to make them happen. He’s not intervening directly like he might do when we see someone recovers unexpectedly from cancer.

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  49. @ Robert, Brett:

    I agree that’s terminological. I had a seminary prof who agreed that God heals people, but declined to call it a miracle on the grounds that a “miracle” is a sign or wonder associated with the giving of revelation. I think the distinction grows out of 16th century apologetics, where Catholics pointed (and still point) to the continuance of miracles, such as miraculous healings in association with relics, as proof that theirs is the True Church.

    Since “miracle” is not a term used in the Bible, I guess we’re free to define it in a particular way, but I find the above to be confusing. God intervenes, but it’s not a miracle. OK.

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  50. Your children are blessed sdb!
    Re: your withholding the word ‘miracle’ reminds me of the theologian who said (not exact words): Luther thought the Lord strike lightening near him purposely scaring him, but now today we know better that lightning is due to (then described the science). Sheesh.
    Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,so that an abundance of water will cover you? Can you send forth lightnings that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?

    Jeff, ha, yeah was just praying the other day how we would like a simple outline and bullets bible but He’s got a better plan to grow His children. Could you explain those verses you mention please 🙂

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  51. @Robert
    “IE, God doesn’t seem to be involved in them except to sustain the processes to make them happen. He’s not intervening directly like he might do when we see someone recovers unexpectedly from cancer.”

    I think this is a mindset that we should guard against. God is always intervening in everything by sustaining it. WSC11 defines providence as, “God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.” This sounds like no virus, cancer cell, or rain drop does anything outside of God’s sovereign rule. A miracle is not what God does while natural things are events that happen autonomously. God is involved (and governs) everything.

    My understanding is that miracle derives from the word sign (Jeff correct me if I’m wrong) so that Acts 5:12 could be translated, “The apostles performed miracles among the people.” Similarly with Acts 2:43 and Acts 19. In the OT we see similar references in Exodus 4:21 and 7:9 and Psalm 105. Some translate the work miracle others use sign & wonder or mighty work. As far as I can tell, the miracles are always performed as a means to authenticate revelation (a prophet or apostle delivering God’s word). Perhaps there are exceptions. I would be interested to learn about them (perhaps Mark 9 come closest, but even there – it is about revelation).

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  52. Petros – by definition you do not believe in sacraments. I’m not trying to be a jerk, just going by the definition of what a sacrament is and using your own words. A sacrament is a physical sign and seal of a spiritual reality. If Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are merely memorials and symbols to you, then you do not believe they are sacraments.

    Robert – as Susan said, Catholics certainly believe transubstantiation is a “mystery” – the Eucharistic Liturgy even includes singing “The Mystery of Faith.” I’m not defending transubstantiation, but Catholics certainly view it as a supernatural phenomenon. I wonder what is worse though: the RCC view of transubstantiation, or the Baptist view that it is simply a memorial and symbol? Is having an excessively low view of the Supper worse than an excessively high view?

    Jeff, sdb, Robert, Brett – yeah, I think Jeff is correct that the problem is one of terminology. On the one hand, all of existence and therefore every “natural” occurrence is a miracle because God causes them all. On the other hand, God occasionally suspends or reorders His creation law, such as changing water to wine, raising the dead, causing the blind to see, etc. I would consider these “miracles” – not convinced they need be associated with revelation. I believe I have seen miracles, especially in my practice as a surgeon, but also in personal life. I have seen people die with no explanation and seen people live with no explanation. Sure, there may be some physical explanation (e.g. heart stopped beating), but the cause of their demise or survival was shocking and inexplicable. In the past I would discount the idea that these were “miracles,” but I don’t anymore. They don’t happen often, but when they do I think it is unwise to rationalize them.

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  53. Hebrews 2:3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit … according to His own will.

    Psalm 103 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;3 Who pardons all your iniquities,Who heals all your diseases;4 Who redeems your life from the pit,Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
    5 Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
    22 Bless the LORD, all you works of His, In all places of His dominion; Bless the LORD, O my soul!

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  54. SDB,

    The point is that God doesn’t cause the sun the rise in the same way that He causes someone to be healed from cancer. The manner of intervention in ordinary providence isn’t the same as in a miracle.

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  55. VV,

    I wonder what is worse though: the RCC view of transubstantiation, or the Baptist view that it is simply a memorial and symbol? Is having an excessively low view of the Supper worse than an excessively high view?

    Now that’s an interesting question. I’m inclined to say a low view is worse, but then again transubstantiation has led to a lot of idolatry in ways that the memorial view hasn’t. There’s probably a way to hold to something like transubstantiation without bleeding over into outright idolatry. I’m inclined to view the doctrine itself as wrong but not itself necessarily a danger to one’s salvation. It’s more a problem of what the doctrine can lead to. I mean, once you have some sort of idea of Christ’s physical body being present in the Supper, how much worse is transubstantiation? The Lutherans have an idea of physical presence, and the EO do as well. They just don’t use Aristotle to explain how He is present.

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  56. @vv, perhaps it’s a semantical issue, but you might want to study up a bit on how sacraments have been historically understood in the broader non-Reformed church. The larger eeee (non-reformed) world believes that both baptism and communion are earthly symbols of spiritual reality. We stop short of ascribing your mystical “true supernatural action” to them.

    As Jeff says, “Getting efficacy right is tricky, since we all (Susan excepted) agree that sacramentalism is off the table.” Hopefully you agree with his synopsis. I do. It’s just that the terminology that you and the reformed use sound very sacramentalist to eeee-ears.

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  57. Robert – agree completely. Calvin’s problem with the Catholic Eucharist wasn’t so much transubstantiation (though that is certainly wrong) as it was the idolatry and spectacle associated with it. In his view it directed worship toward the sacrament, rather than the true object of worship: Christ. For what it’s worth, most Catholic masses and EO liturgies I have attended are quite reverent, worshipful, and Christ-centered, theological error not withstanding.

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  58. @VV, fair enough. Fwiw, the more you emphasize that the broader non-reformed eeee-world does not really observe the sacraments (again, this would be breaking news to them, as they/we would certainly claim to observe them), the more you sound like a sacramentalist. Webster’s informs us that sacramentalism is “belief that the sacraments are inherently efficacious ”, which sounds akin to the “true supernatural action” that you say is taking place in the moment of observance. Oddly, I’m largely a huge fan of reformed theology, but the sacramentology retains too much Cat/Lutheran mysticism for my taste. But, it is what it is, I suppose.

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  59. “The point is that God doesn’t cause the sun the rise in the same way that He causes someone to be healed from cancer. ”
    I disagree. The fact that we are more accustomed to one event than the other does not indicate that God is acting differently. If we find a cure for cancer that eradicates death from that disease, have we somehow usurped God’s action? I don’t think so. The fact that I don’t understand something or that I lack a mechanistic explanation for an event does not entail that such an explanation does not exist nor that the event is miraculous.

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  60. VV,

    You said, “Robert – agree completely. Calvin’s problem with the Catholic Eucharist wasn’t so much transubstantiation (though that is certainly wrong) as it was the idolatry and spectacle associated with it. In his view it directed worship toward the sacrament, rather than the true object of worship: Christ. For what it’s worth, most Catholic masses and EO liturgies I have attended are quite reverent, worshipful, and Christ-centered, theological error not withstanding.”

    Can I ask you why what your grounds are for denying transubstantiation? Robert believes Aristotle’s categories are de facto wrong, and so is unable to allow Aquinas to utilize them to explain why worshipping Jesus truly present in the Eucharistic Host is not idolatry.
    Further, if Jesus is not “really” present in EO and Catholic services then those worshipers would be worshipping signs( stand-ins) through their false belief that they were actually receiving Jesus;, and the bread and the wine would not be sacramentals. Their worship then, no matter how reverent, would unwittingly be idolatry.

    I have gone back into nonsacererdotal churches and the physical absence of Jesus is palpable. There simply is no reason for reverence if the “sanctuary” has no tabernacle. Having a bible and a table( no offense) and a preacher does not a church make.

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  61. Nope, just joining in an important discussion. What we believe and why we believe it is of the utmost importance. Plus, I’ve been around here for a good long while and I like the people who comment.

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  62. @Susan
    Is the “spirit” not “real”? It sure sounds as if you are saying only the physical is real. The question for the reformed is whether Jesus’s body was a real physical body that he retained after the resurrection. If it is, then it cannot be omnipresent. He is seated at the right hand of the Father, he went where we cannot follow to prepare a place for us, he is coming back, etc…. He isn’t physically here with us in other words. Spiritually is a whole other ball of wax. Reformed protestants do believe in the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper – we eat his flesh and drink his blood (participate in him) spiritually. Exactly how that works is a mystery. But we do not believe the accidents of the bread and wine change their physical form into physical blood or physical flesh. Suggesting that our understanding of the spiritual presence implies he is not “really” present requires a sort of physicalism that is not consistent with Catholicism or the reformers.

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  63. By the way, did the tabernacle host the physical presence of God? My understanding is that God is a spirit and has not a body like men. The Shekhinah glory referred to in the OT (and understood in the NT as the glory of the Lord) isn’t physical. It’s spiritual. That doesn’t make it not really present.

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  64. Susan – two points. First, there is no need to rehash the numerous criticisms of transubstantiation here, but I will say that for me it boils down to the fact that Jesus Christ was risen, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God – as you recite in every Mass. He has a physically glorified body, but that body is seated at the right hand of God. It is a literal, physical (albeit glorified) body. Thus in my view to believe in transubstantiation one has to reject the Apostles’ Creed. He told His disciplines that He only be with them for a short time, but He would send the Holy Spirit after the Ascension. It is the Holy Spirit Who gives the sacraments their efficacy, not the physical body of Christ. Much more could be said, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

    Second, your point about idolatry is basically the Reformers’ position: the RCC teaches worship of the sacrament rather than the worship of Christ. Even if transubstantiation is correct, the Reformers – most notably Calvin – would still argue that the man-made pomp and ceremony around the Mass has become the object of worship rather than Christ.

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  65. SDB,

    “I disagree. The fact that we are more accustomed to one event than the other does not indicate that God is acting differently.”

    It’s not that we’re more accustomed. It’s that we know that God has made an orderly universe with physical laws that can be quantified and examined. God doesn’t have to work against the physical laws he established in order to make the sun rise. If he raises somebody from the dead after three days, that’s something different.

    None of that means God doesn’t make the sun rise. It just means that the manner in which he makes the sun rise isn’t the same as the manner in which he contravenes natural laws.

    “If we find a cure for cancer that eradicates death from that disease, have we somehow usurped God’s action?”

    No. God sustains, even directs the doctor by means of ordinary providences and such things we might label as coincidences who finds such a cure. But I think it’s one thing to say God works through human instrumentality in ways that conform to nature (in this case, what we know about viruses, chemical reactions, etc.) and another to say God cured Aunt Helen by snapping his fingers and making the cancer goes away. God’s use of means such as medicine to fix some eye disorder isn’t the same thing as Jesus healing the blind man by speaking or by touching him. Both are supernatural, but I wouldn’t classify the second as a miracle.

    “I don’t think so. The fact that I don’t understand something or that I lack a mechanistic explanation for an event does not entail that such an explanation does not exist nor that the event is miraculous.”

    It’s not about lacking a mechanistic explanation. It’s that we know that the laws of gravity and other things make the earth go round the sun and create the phenomena of a sunrise. That doesn’t mean God isn’t working through those laws. It just means he isn’t contravening the general order he has established. By definition, a miracle is something that contravenes natural laws. But something doesn’t have to be a miracle to be a supernatural work of God.

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  66. SDB and VV,

    Bingo. The theological problem with transubstantiation is that it actually compromises the true humanity of Jesus by giving his physical body the divine attribute of omnipresence. Or at least it seems to. If someone can demonstrate how transubstantiation doesn’t make the human nature omnipresent I’m all ears, but once the human nature is omnipresent, how is Christ still truly human. Lutherans have the same problem.

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  67. Cool. I am sympathetic to Roman Catholicism. I know that is a pretty unpopular sentiment in the Reformed world, but it is what it is.

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  68. Robert, I do not think the Platonic metaphysics behind it necessarily require that understanding, if you understand the doctrine correctly. But I do object to the Platonic metaphysics in general.

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  69. “It’s not about lacking a mechanistic explanation. It’s that we know that the laws of gravity and other things make the earth go round the sun and create the phenomena of a sunrise. That doesn’t mean God isn’t working through those laws. It just means he isn’t contravening the general order he has established. By definition, a miracle is something that contravenes natural laws. But something doesn’t have to be a miracle to be a supernatural work of God.”

    I would turn this around and say that the laws describe God’s ordinary actions (to some approximation). Most people have the idea that a miracle is something that cannot be explained scientifically. Someone has a diagnosis of stage IV cancer, they go back to the doctor and discover that they are cancer free. Everyone “knows” that stage IV cancer victims don’t suddenly get better, so it must be a miracle. I think this is a pretty common line of reasoning even for less spectacular events. But I think it is mistaken. First, a miracle is a sign and wonder. To what was the healing pointing? Secondly, the assumption is that science cannot explain the healing. But do we really know that to be true? Do most people know the statistics of the event they claim is extraordinary? The fact that it betrayed their intuition does not entail that the event was truly extraordinary much less unexplainable scientifically. Third, even if the event is currently unexplainable scientifically (we cannot explain the even by appealing to God’s ordinary providence), that does not entail that the event is not explainable scientifically. An eclipse might have seemed quite miraculous to the ancients (explain how it suddenly goes dark during the middle of the day?).

    But is God’s usual way of acting and his extraordinary way of acting really different fundamentally? I don’t think so. Rather we are accustomed to one and not the other. What makes miracles special is that they point to something or authenticate something for the recipient. It is more the timing and unusualness of the event rather than how God is acting in nature.

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  70. Sdb says First, a miracle is a sign and wonder. To what was the healing pointing? What makes miracles special is that they point to something or authenticate something for the recipient.

    Don’t think I’m understanding this. It would always point to the Lord. Who else would it point to?

    And re: you saying So no, someone who was sick and suddenly got better for no clear reason would not be a miracle. Someone who was sick and prayed over and suddenly got well such that the message of the one praying gained credibility would be a miracle.

    Don’t you think the Lord is the one in charge, by His own will, of the timing and of the testimony. You are saying God is constrained by no prayer, by timing, etc.?

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  71. sdb, if that is what y’all mean when y’all say miracles have ceased, then I wholeheartedly agree. I am inclined to say a good portion of the folks I know who say they are “Reformed and charismatic” would agree with you on this point as well. On the “New Testament gift of prophecy” described in 1 Corinthians 14, we might not agree. Although to be fair, there were a few folks who helped compose the Westminster Standards who did/do believe in it in the way that folks like John Piper and Sam Storms teach. It is a small bit of trivia a lot of Presbyterians like to deny or downplay. I guess the only real issue of separation on this then is largely tongues. I appreciate your clarification, by the way.

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  72. SDB,

    Secondly, the assumption is that science cannot explain the healing. But do we really know that to be true? Do most people know the statistics of the event they claim is extraordinary? The fact that it betrayed their intuition does not entail that the event was truly extraordinary much less unexplainable scientifically. Third, even if the event is currently unexplainable scientifically (we cannot explain the even by appealing to God’s ordinary providence), that does not entail that the event is not explainable scientifically. An eclipse might have seemed quite miraculous to the ancients (explain how it suddenly goes dark during the middle of the day?).

    And you can say this about the resurrection of Jesus and, well, anything labeled as a miracle in Scripture.** If it’s something brought about by the ordinary course of events, then we have trouble defining a miracle. Everything can is a miracle at that point.

    But is God’s usual way of acting and his extraordinary way of acting really different fundamentally? I don’t think so. Rather we are accustomed to one and not the other. What makes miracles special is that they point to something or authenticate something for the recipient. It is more the timing and unusualness of the event rather than how God is acting in nature.

    But if something happens at an extraordinary moment or in an unusual manner, it is by definition an extraordinary way of acting. If God sets up the universe such that the earth revolves around the sun but he stops the earth without causing the destruction of all life, He has acted in a manner different than he acts when he upholds the rotation of the earth in order to prevent the destruction of all life. Both are supernatural. Both aren’t miracles.

    **Now as far as scientific explanations being possible, that is certainly true theoretically and goes a long way toward showing that so called RC miracles or even the miracles of Scripture aren’t the self-evident, powerful motives of credibility that Roman Catholic apologists think they are. But that’s a different issue.

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  73. @Ali When someone who is sick gets better, it is because God (who governs all of his creation all of the time) makes the sick one better. God’s providence is his governing all his creatures and all their actions. All miracles are providential, but not all providential events are miraculous. Miracles are signs. When I put a pot of water on the stove and the water starts to boil, that is because God caused it to do so. It isn’t a miracle. When Moses performed signs for Pharoh he didn’t throw his staff on the ground and say, “God caused the staff to fall.” That would not have served as a sign. Instead he performed signs and wonders (miracles) like making his staff turn into a serpent.

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  74. Hi again SDB,

    “By the way, did the tabernacle host the physical presence of God? My understanding is that God is a spirit and has not a body like men. The Shekhinah glory referred to in the OT (and understood in the NT as the glory of the Lord) isn’t physical. It’s spiritual. That doesn’t make it not really present.”

    Of course, we could go round and round on this all day, so I look at it this way: there is no principled reason not to hold the Catholic Church’s definition. That would mean that I would either adopt one of the Protestant view’s ot there or, derive my own system of beliefs from scripture. I simply have no reason not to align myself with the Catholic Church’s understanding. And if the EO don’t have the mystery articulated like has happened in the West, they still have words, like metaousious, to denote that a change of substance takes place during the consecration.

    Here’s a portion of a short primer I found online that explains substance and accidents:

    “Because we gain our knowledge of reality through our senses, we can directly perceive only the accidental features of things. Nevertheless, the existence of substance is readily inferred from our experience of individual beings (this man, this horse) and from the impossibility of an abstract quality (whiteness, musicality, justice, six-footedness) existing apart from a subject or individual modified by it. The accidents we perceive point to a more fundamental level of being which enables them to exist. A person can change color or height, can acquire or lose virtue, without ceasing to be the same person; substance is the permanent principle underlying all other characteristics. This leads us to a broader meaning of substance: that which truly is, the essential foundation, as opposed to what is mutable or derivative. In this sense the very nature or essence of a thing is sometimes called its substance, because the nature or essence is that which makes a thing to be what it is; and by extension, the being of a thing can be called substance. When “substance” is used in these extended senses, it no longer signifies a counterpart to or foundation of accidents; hence when God is called a substance, or the Persons of the Trinity are referred to as hypostases, or when we speak of the hypostatic union of the human and divine natures in Jesus Christ, we do not imply that there are corresponding accidents inhering in the being of God or the Word. Things which are accidents in the soul of a rational creature (such as its knowledge and virtues) are, in God, identical with His very being.

    The term “substance” entered into Christian theology very early on, in controversies surrounding the Incarnation and the Blessed Trinity. The Council of Nicea (325), defending the divinity of Christ, speaks of the Son as homoousian (Lt. consubstantialis), that is, of the same substance, the same divine essence, against the Arians who called Him homoiousian, “of a like substance.”3 In the Middle Ages, when the mystery of the Eucharist as the real Body and Blood of Christ was challenged by Berengarius of Tours, the vocabulary of substance and accident was employed to formulate the orthodox teaching(http://catholictradition.blogspot.com/2009/07/substance-accident-and.html)”.

    The whole reason the doctrine and the practice exists is that it’s a fulfillment of prophecy and a way to convey grace to us, and so it’s probably wise to start with a better understanding of how the early church understood the deeds done in the OT as prefigurements, so as to understand why the NT church was doing what it was doing.
    For me there was no getting around it( I was only against it because I trusted that the magisterial reformers were correct), that Catholicism knows typology and spiritual interpretation better.
    I didn’t understand the significance of the incident on the road to Emmaus and how Cleopas and the other man were kept from recognizing Jesus until He broke bread, and gave thanks: “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him,…”( Luke 24:30).

    Here are some more amazing discoveries:

    I. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life

    Pitre didn’t cover this one, but it’s important. In the Garden of Eden, there’s a tree that brings about death — the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:16-17) — and a tree which brings about eternal life — the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22). Pitre doesn’t cover this in his book, but it’s an important prefigurement. It shows us both that damnation can come about through something as simple as disobedient eating (that is, after all, what produces the Fall), and that eternal life can come through eating the Fruit of the Tree of Life. When 1 Peter 2:24 and Galatians 3:13 describe Christ’s Redemption as coming through the “Tree” of the Cross, they’re making an allusion to Eden. Christ is the Fruit of Mary’s Womb (Luke 1:42), the prophesied Seed of the Woman (Genesis 3:15). When we eat the Eucharist, we’re partaking of the Fruit from the Tree of Life, which God has promised us would provide eternal life.

    The idea that eating a certain spiritual food like the Eucharist would do anything seems odd to some. But in light of Eden, that sin entered the world through eating, it’s not so strange at all that it should exit it the same way.

    II. The Passover Lamb

    The Passover Lamb was efficacious: that is, it produced an effect. If you sacrificed and ate the lamb, your firstborn would live. Eating the lamb was part of the ritual, and was commanded by God (Exodus 12:8-11). In the New Testament, Christ, the firstborn of God, is explicitly called “our Passover Lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7), and commands us to eat His Body (Matthew 26:26) to live forever (John 6:54). Like the first Passover lamb of Old, the Sacrifice of our Passover Lamb on the Cross is the Atonement of the world, which we partake of most directly by eating the flesh of that same Lamb in the Eucharist.

    III. The Blood of the Covenant

    In Exodus 24:8, Moses sprinkles sacrificial blood on the people, and declares “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” In the New Testament, Christ declares of the Eucharistic Cup, “This is My Blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”(Matthew 26:28). The fact that Moses was prefiguring Christ wasn’t lost on the New Testament writers, either: Hebrews 9:18-23 connects these two events quite neatly, showing that in both cases, the blood was used for the forgiveness of sins.

    But that’s not all it does. After Moses says those words in the Old Testament, he and a few others are immediately “taken up” where they eat and drink in the presence of God (Ex. 24:9-11). In the New Testament, the Eucharist is a direct Communion with God, the only thing better than eating a Heavenly meal in His Presence. So Exodus 24 shows to us how the Eucharist (1) seals the Covenant, (2) forgives sin, and (3) leads to immediate Communion with God, and (4) leads to Heaven.

    IV. The Manna

    Pitre does great work with old rabbinical writings which show that the manna was tied in with Jewish expectations of the Messiah. It’s the food of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt, the food for the journey. It stops once they arrive in the Promised Land (Exodus 16:35). And significantly, this food comes down from Heaven.(Psalm 78:24), and it’s the food of angels (Psalm 78:25). In the New Testament, Christ is clearly presented as the New Manna. For example, in John 6:48-51, Jesus declares:
    I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
    And in the Lord’s Prayer, we’re to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Mt. 6:11). That immediately sounds like the manna. But it gets better. As Pitre noted, in the English, instead of asking for our bread for “this day,” or our “daily bread,” we’re asking for our daily bread this day. It’s strangely redundant. It turns out that the Greek word here for “daily” is a neologism — we know of no use of it prior to Mt. 6:11 itself. And it turns out that it literally means “super-substantial.” So a more accurate translation would be like St. Jerome’s translation of these words into Latin, in which we ask for our daily, supersubstantial Bread. That makes clear that the new Manna we’re to eat is supernatural food. It also is in keeping with the rest of the Our Father, which consists of six other spiritual requests.

    V. The Bread of the Presence

    Exodus 25 called for the creation of a special Table in front of the Ark of the Covenant in which to place what’s commonly called the “Showbread.” A more literal translation is “Bread of the Presence,” so the NASB translation of Ex. 25:30 reads, “You shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before Me at all times.” It was apparently called this because it was placed in front of the Presence of God, so anyone who saw this bread saw something which was perpetually before Him. Four times a year, on special Jewish holidays, the priests would bring it out to show the people, as a reminder of God’s love for them.

    There are two features which make the Bread of the Presence significant. First, despite the Sabbath prohibition against any work, the Bread of the Presence was offered up every Sabbath by the priest (1 Chronicles 9:32). Second, it was at the heart of a fascinating account in 1 Samuel 21. David’s troops are hungry and go to the Temple for bread. The priest replies, “There is no ordinary bread on hand, but there is consecrated bread; if only the young men have kept themselves from women.” (1 Sam. 21:4). In other words, David’s men could partake of the Bread of the Presence, provided that they had been celibate from women over a specific timeperiod. That’s because the bread was to be consumed only by the priests (Leviticus 24:9), who were required to be celibate during Temple service. So David and his troops are being treated as priests.

    In the New Testament, we see Christ creating a New Priesthood through the image of the Bread of the Presence. Specifically, in Matthew 12, the disciples were eating grain they’d plucked while they walked. The Pharisees rebuked Jesus for letting His Disciples “work” on the Sabbath. Mt. 12:3-8 then relays Jesus’ response:
    He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
    Interestingly, the first two examples both involve the Bread of the Presence. The first is the example I just mentioned, from 1 Samuel 21. The second example is that the Bread of the Presence is offered on the Sabbath. Together, we see Christ treating His Disciples as priests, able to partake of the Bread of Presence on the Sabbath, with the Lord of the Sabbath Himself. Because the Eucharist is tied so fundamentally with the notion of the Priesthood, it’s striking that Jesus draws that connection through the Bread of the Presence here.

    Of course, more fundamentally, the whole notion of a Bread of the Presence at all is intensely Eucharistic. Catholics refer to the Eucharist as the Real Presence of Christ. That is, instead of bread that perpetually sits before the Presence of God, as under the old Covenant, it’s bread that is miraculously turned into the Presence of God.

    VI. Conclusions

    From the Old Testament, we see (1) Redemption through the eating of the Fruit from the Tree of Life, (2) Salvation by eating the Passover Lamb, (3) the Blood of the Covenant which cleanses sins, binds the Covenant, and leads to a communion meal with God Himself, (4) the daily Bread of Angels come down from Heaven, and (5) the Bread of the Presence, which sat before the Face of God, which was sacrificed by the priests, and which the priests ate before God.

    All five of these things point in the direction of the Eucharist. If it’s true that the Old Testament types point to the fuller and more perfect realities of the New Covenant, as Hebrews 8:3-6 says, we should expect nothing less than the reality that the Eucharist is the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ(http://shamelesspopery.com/five-ways-the-old-testament-foreshadowed-the-eucharist/).

    You know I wish you the best:)

    B Jones,

    Nice meeting you!

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  75. @B Jones, Thanks. I don’t know if I would say miracles, tongues, or prophecy have ceased. I lean that way, but that is a bias against the outright fraud I experienced in charismatic circles a lifetime ago. I need to think about the issue more, but my intuition is to understand miracles, tongues, and prophecy as authenticating tools for the vessels of God’s revelation. Since that is closed, I’m inclined to assume that these gifts have ceased.

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  76. Sdb says So no, someone who was sick and suddenly got better for no clear reason would not be a miracle. Someone who was sick and prayed over and suddenly got well such that the message of the one praying gained credibility would be a miracle.

    Glad you’re so confident about it all sdb. I believe God does what He wants, performing ‘miracles’* whenever He wants and desiring us to seek and trust HIM in everything.

    2 Chronicles 16: 12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians. 13 So Asa slept with his fathers, having died in the forty-first year of his reign.

    *MIRACLE:1 :an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs ;2 :an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment

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  77. I agree that God does what he wants. Why would you think anyone would disagree here. The question is what “miracle” refers to. Asa should have prayed. I pray and believe that God always answers the prayers of his elect. That isn’t a miracle. It is ordinary. Do you disagree?

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  78. Petros @ VV: Fwiw, the more you emphasize that the broader non-reformed eeee-world does not really observe the sacraments (again, this would be breaking news to them, as they/we would certainly claim to observe them), the more you sound like a sacramentalist. Webster’s informs us that sacramentalism is “belief that the sacraments are inherently efficacious ”, which sounds akin to the “true supernatural action” that you say is taking place in the moment of observance. Oddly, I’m largely a huge fan of reformed theology, but the sacramentology retains too much Cat/Lutheran mysticism for my taste. But, it is what it is, I suppose.

    Well, let’s get at the difference in this way.

    Would you say that God works through His word, that when the word is preached, God uses it to convert the hearts of hearers?

    If so, would you say that this entails a mystical property to Scripture? Is the Bible, the physical book, inherently “holy” in substance?

    Or would you explain it in a different way?

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  79. sdb, I agree that there is a serious problem of fraud and manipulation surrounding the so-called charismatic gifts of the Spirit. But… does the misuse of something negate the proper use of it? This is how fundamentalists relates to alcohol: lots of people misuse it, therefore we should not (or will not) use it at all. I get that the problems with these things are manifold. No disagreement there. And food for thought: part of the purpose of the miracles/signs was to show that their message was from God. What about places where the gospel has not yet been preached? Is it possible God might do this in such a circumstance?

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  80. whole discussion minds me- reason #20 to pray for revival – eating : believing, taking in, receiving, appropriating

    John 6: 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 48 I am the bread of life
    -John 15:4-5Abide in Me (Jesus), and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
    -1 John 4:15Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
    -1 John 2:24b If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.
    -1 John 2:14b the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
    -1 John 2:27a the anointing which you received from Him abides in you…and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
    -John 14:17b you know Him (the Spirit) because He abides with you and will be in you.
    -2 John 1:2the truth abides in us and will be with us forever:

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  81. sdb – given your definition of miracle, was the parting of the Red Sea a miracle? Exodus 14:21 says God caused a “strong east wind all night” to make a passage for the Hebrews. One could argue God providentially used a natural phenomenon to save His people. Was this a miracle any more than using a liver transplant to cure someone on their deathbed from liver failure? If you argue that the parting of the Red Sea was a means of confirming His power to the Egyptians and the Hebrews, might the use of a liver transplant to cure liver failure be a means of confirming His power as well? Both are “natural” phenomena, and both may confirm the power of God and cause people to know Him. Is there a distinction between the two?

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  82. VV and sdb, herein lies the problem: we have no divine revelation to tell us what is a true miracle and what is God’s providence during this period of redemptive history. By avoiding calling something a miracle cessationists are doing the very thing they claim NOT to be doing: saying we have knowledge we really do not have. It is ironic that they do that. The position taken by people who say they are Reformed and charismatic is that God very well may be doing miracles. We do not believe it is normative. But we do not exclude the possibility.

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  83. Another issue I have with cessationism is that they say that signs and miracles ended with the apostles, and yet we have records of people after the apostles claiming that these things happened. It would be greatly appreciated if cessationists would either 1. acknowledge that this is true, or 2. just outright say that all of these people were lying. If you acknowledge these things happened, then the whole argument falls; history is not on your side.

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  84. @B Jones Just confessing my own bias. Not intended to justify rejecting modern accounts of miracles.

    “What about places where the gospel has not yet been preached? Is it possible God might do this in such a circumstance?”
    Could be. Like I said, I’d have to think about that.

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  85. BJones,

    “1. acknowledge that this is true, or 2. just outright say that all of these people were lying. If you acknowledge these things happened, then the whole argument falls; history is not on your side.”

    Completely agree with you. Catholics take jabs from nonChristians and from Protestants for believing in church approved miracles, not because they have proof against these miracles, but because they don’t see a rationale for believing God would perform( or allow saints to perform) certain kinds of miracles. For instance, a Marian apparition is mocked because people think God should instead save a child from hunger or a people from massacre.
    Personally, I might rather God saved us without our freewill cooperation so that no one would be damned, and that God didn’t curse us with death after the disobedience of our first parents, but that’s not the reality we live in.

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  86. @VV The parting of the Red Sea was a wondrous sign. When we get to the 10 commandments, it is prefaced by “I’m the one who brought you out of Egypt”. Whether it was natural or supernatural is largely irrelevant. Indeed, I’m skeptical of the distinction. The liver example may or may not be a miracle. Is it confirming special revelation? If not, then I would say that it isn’t a miracle. The distinction is not whether God was behind the even or not, but rather how God was using the event. All miracles are acts of God’s providence. Not all acts of God’s providence are miracles. Do miracles happen today to confirm the veracity of the gospel message? I’m not sure. I lean towards no, but I need to think more carefully about it.

    My main point in this thread is that miracles are not just unexplained(able), weird, or otherwise unusual events, and miracles aren’t God’s interruption into a world that is otherwise running autonomously.

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  87. @ B Jones,

    “we have records of people after the apostles claiming that these things happened.”

    We also have records of people from other religions claiming to have witnessed supernatural events. I think confirmation bias and memory formation play a much stronger role in how we remember reality than people like to admit.

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  88. @Jeff, I know I’ll gain a new perspective from you. Let me take a stab. Yes, God works through His Word. When that Word is received by faith from its hearers, the hearers are converted. The Text itself both promises this and gives any number of examples of it. I would say that this phenomenon has a mystical aspect insofar as it cannot be duplicated say in a chemistry lab. I would not locate the mystery of this in the physical Book of the Bible, particularly since it didn’t exist in such form nor was accessible to most people in that form for hundreds of years. The physical book is not ‘holy’, per se. Its content is holy, however, whether communicated in oral or written form.

    I realize that the reformed seem to attribute similar mystery to the sacraments. Exegetically, the case seems far weaker.

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  89. @ Petros: I think we’re mostly on the same … erm … “page” with regard to Scripture.

    * Preaching of the word is efficacious (“the word of God is living and active …” “you are clean because of the word I have spoken to you”, etc.)
    * That efficacy is the direct work of the Spirit, and not from a property inherent in the symbols or particular translation.

    I would add, the efficacy has to do with faith — faith on the part of the one preaching, faith on the part of the one hearing (“but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.”)

    I would also add, that while the direct work of the Spirit *can* happen by any means, such as the word of a donkey, God is specially pleased to use Scripture because it is given to His people for nourishment. So we distinguish: God *can* work through anything, but *He has promised* to work through His word.

    The big divide between baptists and other Protestants concerns the meaning of the sacraments (McMark, we’re back to your question about the meaning of baptism). For baptists, the sacraments, or “ordinances”, are primarily a message from us to others, whether God or the outside world.

    Baptist: The meaning of baptism is that the one receiving it has been cleansed.
    The meaning of communion is to proclaim the Lord’s death

    (see Piper, “How and Why we Celebrate the Lord’s Supper”).

    For the Reformed, the sacraments are primarily a message from God to us.

    Reformed: Baptism is a word from God that he cleanses the sins of those who believe.
    Communion is a word from God that we are united to Him in His death and life by faith.

    And so the efficacy of the sacraments occurs when the effect takes place, whether at the moment of application or at some other time entirely. When we are baptized, we receive a seal confirming the Gospel promise. When we believe, the promise sealed by baptism takes effect, and we are cleansed.

    When we receive communion, we receive a seal that we are nourished by Christ by faith. When we partake in faith, we are nourished by Christ.

    So the efficacy of the sacraments is exactly parallel to the efficacy of Scripture, because they are doing the same thing: what Scripture proclaims in words, the sacraments proclaim in symbol. The sacraments are powerful, because the promises they proclaim are from God and are true.

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  90. Petros says: I realize that the reformed seem to attribute similar mystery to the sacraments. Exegetically, the case seems far weaker.
    Jeff Cagle says: So the efficacy of the sacraments is exactly parallel to the efficacy of Scripture, because they are doing the same thing: what Scripture proclaims in words, the sacraments proclaim in symbol. The sacraments are powerful, because the promises they proclaim are from God and are true.

    What does baptism do? In other words, we might ask, “What does it actually accomplish? What benefit does it bring?”
    -Roman Catholics have a clear answer to this question: Baptism causes regeneration.
    -Baptists have a clear answer: Baptism symbolizes the fact that inward regeneration has occurred.
    -Paedobaptists cannot adopt either of these answers. So the most accurate pedobaptism explanation of what baptism symbolizes is that it symbolizes probable future regeneration at some time in the future (from Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem)

    could baptism be equated with the word, then, for those not part of the’ future regeneration’ as such, eg:.
    – So will (baptism) be; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
    -foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
    -if (baptism) is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing

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  91. Susan – listened to first 3 minutes of the 1 ¼ hour video you link. That was enough.
    “Mary has a crucial role as the mother of Jesus in the connection between the old and the new covenants, Israel and the church. Mary is at one and the same time the perfect order of Zion and the mother of the church precisely by being the mother of the Messiah. So Mary knits together the Old Testament and the New, the old covenant and the new. She’s the fulcrum.

    no.

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  92. @Jeff, thanks. I appreciate your depth of reasoning and agree with you on most everything….just not the reformed sacramentology stuff.

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  93. @ Ali:

    Notice that all three of Grudem’s answers, including his supposed Reformed answer, are locked into the “baptism says something about (or does something to) me” model that I mentioned is at the root of the baptist understanding.

    The Reformed answer, quite contrary to his assertion, actually starts from the premise that baptism says something about God’s promise.

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  94. Amen Jeff.
    What then is the positive meaning of baptism? In all the discussion over the mode of baptism and the disputes over its meaning, it is easy for Christians to lose sight of the significance and beauty of baptism and to disregard the tremendous blessing that accompanies the ceremony. The amazing truths of passing through the waters of judgment safely, of dying and rising with Christ, and of having our sins washed away, are truths of momentous and eternal proportions and ought to be an occasion for giving greet glory and praise to God. If churches would teach these truths more clearly, baptism would be the occasion of much more blessing in the church. (from Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem)

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  95. Ali,

    “Susan – listened to first 3 minutes of the 1 ¼ hour video you link. That was enough.
    “Mary has a crucial role as the mother of Jesus in the connection between the old and the new covenants, Israel and the church. Mary is at one and the same time the perfect order of Zion and the mother of the church precisely by being the mother of the Messiah. So Mary knits together the Old Testament and the New, the old covenant and the new. She’s the fulcrum.

    no.”

    Well, what can I say. You have your blinders on because all of it is fully scriptural, orthodox, historical Christianity. Those women in the OT are definitely typological for Mary.

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  96. “Those women in the OT are definitely typological for Mary.”
    Why did all of the epistles miss this…especially the one to the Hebrews?

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  97. Ali – don’t be so dismissive without analyzing Susan’s position – that’s not helpful to anyone, especially you in your understanding of these issues. Catholics have an exegetical basis for claiming OT women (most notably Bathsheba) are types of Mary. The basis for their beliefs is the idea of queen mothers in the OT and their role as queens in the OT Kingdom of Israel. They point out that Bathsheba serves as an intercessor on behalf of the people to her son, Solomon, the way Mary serves as an intercessor to Christ on behalf of the Church. It seems like a bit of a stretch to me, but they also note the way Matthew repeatedly refers to the intimate relationship of Mary and Jesus in his infancy, again underscoring her role in the Kingdom – another of Matthew’s major themes.

    The problem, of course, is sdb’s point: there is no clear Scriptural support for any of this. Catholics of course appeal to Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium for most of their Marian doctrine, which is problematic for those of us who reject the Magisterium. We’ve been ’round this block with Susan before.

    In my view the problem isn’t so much the veneration of Mary as it is the idolatry that follows among your average lay Catholic, especially those who are inclined to superstition. The claims about a statue of Mary crying blood or other such nonsense only underscores how the object of their worship has become Christ’s mother, rather than Christ Himself. If miracles occur (and I believe they do), they point directly to God, not to another person or a statue of that person.

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  98. v says Mary serves as an intercessor to Christ on behalf of the Church.
    Vv says The problem, of course, is sdb’s point: there is no clear Scriptural support for any of this.

    another no.
    and exactly.

    and what would be the point of a lecture like this one about the” ‘fulcrum’ Mary who knits together the Old Testament and the New, the old covenant and the new.” As sdb says the only ‘fulcrum’ is:
    Hebrews 1 ‘God’s Final Word in His Son’
    1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high

    There is only One worthy. Revelation 5: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

    We are given clear calibration by Jesus of any misunderstanding about Mary : Luke 11:27 While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” 28 But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

    Not that the Lord didn’t say Matthew :11 Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

    Also for Susan – saw this post this am:
    https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B171115

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  99. Susan,

    The historical position is that Christ is the fulcrum of the Scriptures. I believe that good RC theology would say that Christ is the fulcrum and Mary participates in that insofar as she is the Theotokos and the mother of Jesus, but just the bare statement “Mary is the fulcrum” seems awfully problematic even from orthodox RC theology.

    The statement does illustrate what happens in Mariology, however. The more exalted one’s view of Mary, the more she ends up eclipsing Christ in at least popular piety.

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  100. Ali – I didn’t say that Mary serves as an intercessor to Christ on our behalf – that’s the position of the RCC, and I was simply stating their views, not mine. That said, is it possible Mary has a special role – including an intercessory role of sorts – in the Kingdom? Sure, it’s possible, but not defensible from Scripture. It certainly isn’t dogma the way the RCC makes it out to be.

    Robert – exactly right.

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  101. Robert,

    “The historical position is that Christ is the fulcrum of the Scriptures. I believe that good RC theology would say that Christ is the fulcrum and Mary participates in that insofar as she is the Theotokos and the mother of Jesus, but just the bare statement “Mary is the fulcrum” seems awfully problematic even from orthodox RC theology.”

    Boy, are you a stickler for precision:)
    Of course if you listened to the whole thing you’d hear the reasons why he referred to Mary as the fulcrum. He explains the why( ark of the new covenant being one big one) behind Mariology, thereby making sense of the OT types.
    I was a protestant for 27 years and my only understanding about women like say, for instance, Esther, was that she saved her people from the machinations of Haman. I didn’t see a parallel between queen Esther and Mary. There simply is no stretching of scripture involved in this interpretation. I fact, since it is the way scripture has always been interpreted and it harmonizes with both Catholicism and the EO’s reverence for Mary, it seems that the burden of proof against such a reading is on your side.
    I’m not trying to be argumentative my friend, just trying to get you to see that if you believe a hermeneutic bias is coloring the Catholic and EO interpretation, the resistance to this interpretation can just as easily be asserted of your hermeneutic.
    For instance, how do you know when and where typology is being employed and does your interpretation jive with tradition?

    “The statement does illustrate what happens in Mariology, however. The more exalted one’s view of Mary, the more she ends up eclipsing Christ in at least popular piety.”

    Actually, the more scripturally is elucidated, the more exalted one’s view of Mary. This, at least, is what I’ve found.

    https://udayton.edu/imri/mary/o/old-testament-types-of-mary.php#anchor5

    @ Ali

    Hi Ali, you must be good at reading scripture in the morning because you often post what you’ve read “this am”
    That’s very good of you; I could stand to have more discipline in this area.

    I want to let you know that I’m going to bow out of this conversation now since I see that we got stuck once again. My oldest daughter is expecting her first child the end of this month, so I’m going to be crazy busy:)

    Of your charity, pray for her and her baby girl. She’s a beautiful evangelical young woman.

    God bless!
    Susan

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  102. Susan,

    If you believe a hermeneutic bias is coloring the Catholic and EO interpretation, the resistance to this interpretation can just as easily be asserted of your hermeneutic.

    Sure. We can all be biased. Even us Protestants.

    For instance, how do you know when and where typology is being employed and does your interpretation jive with tradition?

    It’s a case by case basis, but I’d give two basic rules for helping to discern where it is being used properly:

    1. If the typology is leading to something that the Bible explicitly denies, then the typology isn’t there.
    2. If the suggested typology is found across many different theological traditions, then the likelihood that it’s being used rightly is stronger than if the typology is not found across many different theological traditions.

    The problem I see with a lot of the suggested Mary typology is not that there can’t be any types of Mary in the OT but that that Mary is really not very prominent in the New Testament. Yes she has a key role as the Theotokos, but for someone who is supposed to play the role she does in RCism and the EO church, why do we not hear anything about her outside of the birth narratives, the crucifixion and resurrection, and a passing reference to her in Acts? I’ll even give you the woman in Revelation. That’s it. There just isn’t any evidence from the Apostolic era that she was afforded the role while the Apostles were alive that she has later come to have in church history. We get a ton about Jesus, obviously. We read a lot about Peter and Paul. But hardly anything about Mary.

    I don’t want to minimize her; it’s just that the NT doesn’t seem to maximize her the way later theology has.

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  103. Hi Robert,

    Thanks for your response, and I’m sure that you don’t intend to minimize her role.

    So do you think that there is enough typological evidence to call Mary “The Ark of the New Covenant”? In other words, do you think there are parallels between the ark of the covenant that contained manna; Aaron’s rod; and two tablets of the law written with the finger of God, and Mary containing the bread of heaven; the priest after the order of Melcezadich, and the fulfillment of the law?

    To me, that is a remarkable parallel.

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  104. Susan, if you believe in transubstantiation, the wafer becomes the body of Christ irrespective of your faith. It depends on the priest, not you.

    Stop thinking like a Protestant. What’s faith got to do with it?

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  105. Petros, just so you know you reject the Shorter Catechism:

    Q. 96. What is the Lord’s supper?
    A. The Lord’s supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.

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  106. Susan, “Of course if you listened to the whole thing you’d hear the reasons why he referred to Mary as the fulcrum.”

    There you go again, denying the sufficiency of Christ.

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  107. @ DGH re Petros:

    No biggie. It took me 8 years to transition from Southern Baptist to Presby, and infant baptism was the last issue for me to be convinced on.

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  108. Robert: I don’t want to minimize her; it’s just that the NT doesn’t seem to maximize her the way later theology has.

    Ali: We are given clear calibration by Jesus of any misunderstanding about Mary : Luke 11:27 While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” 28 But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

    Ding, ding.

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  109. Susan says I was a protestant for 27 years
    Susan says My oldest daughter is expecting her first child the end of this month, so I’m going to be crazy busy:) Of your charity, pray for her and her baby girl. She’s a beautiful evangelical young woman.God bless ! Susan

    Susan, wow, 27 year and then you left. Well, I’m pretty sure we all (most!?) here want for each other the same – eternal life- and John 17:3 This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent!.

    Congratulations on your grandchild! We are in the same place- we await our first too in a few months – what a miracle and I know for us both – 3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children (and grandchildren) walking in the truth.
    Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  110. Susan, also forgot to add – as I understand – a type is always identified as such in the New Testament. Typology is determined by Scripture. The Holy Spirit inspired the use of types. Illustrations and analogies are the result of man’s study.

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  111. Ali!
    You’re gonna be grandma too!
    Is it a son or a daughter who is awaiting their child?
    Btw, I’ve wondered, is your name shortened from Allison? I had a caregiver when I was around 5 whose name was Allie( She’s now 100 yrs old), and a cousin named Allison. Never completely understood the lyrics, but as a child of the 80’s theirs that pretty ballad by Elvis Costello, ‘Alison’. Anyways, it’s a beautiful name:)

    To your question: “Susan, also forgot to add – as I understand – a type is always identified as such in the New Testament. Typology is determined by Scripture. The Holy Spirit inspired the use of types. Illustrations and analogies are the result of man’s study.”

    Typology is a literary technique, of course, that is used by an author to foreshadow a person or event. So since God is the author of history He caused those events and people in the OT to come to pass in the NT. So, typology is certainly present in scripture, but not everyone can find the parallels. But when man discovers a typological parallel ( and it is a parallel) there is nothing subjective about it, even if it isn’t a point-by-point mirror image of the OT type.

    For instance, there are parallels between Joseph of the OT and Joseph in the NT. While there are differences, there are similarities for some reason( that I don’t understand, but I know that scripture is the work of the best literary artist and poet…..God).

    Joseph in the Old Testament, Joseph in the New Testament

    Both had fathers named Jacob.

    Both received messages in dreams.

    Both went to Egypt under duress.

    Both returned from Egypt later on (http://www.catholicbible101.com/biblicaltypology.htm).

    Congratulations to you and your family, Ai!
    I will keep you all in my prayers:)

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  112. Hi Jeff,

    You said, “Robert: I don’t want to minimize her; it’s just that the NT doesn’t seem to maximize her the way later theology has.

    Ali: We are given clear calibration by Jesus of any misunderstanding about Mary : Luke 11:27 While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” 28 But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

    Ding, ding.”

    For your attention, because yours and Robert’s( and anyone else for that matter) interpretation of Luke 11:27,28 contradicts tradition.

    1) “Mary is more blessed in receiving the faith of Christ, than in conceiving the flesh of Christ. … For his brothers, his relatives according to the flesh who did not believe in him, of what advantage is that relationship? Even her maternal relationship would have done Mary no good unless she had borne Christ more happily in her heart than in her flesh.” (Of Holy Virginity -3 – St. Augustine).

    2) In His answer, He did not disgrace His mother, but showed that His birth would have profited her nothing, had she not been really fruitful in works and faith. – St. Chrysostom

    3) She was the mother of God, and therefore indeed blessed, in that she was made the temporal minister of the Word becoming incarnate; yet therefore much more blessed that she remained the eternal keeper of the same ever to be beloved Word. – St. Bede

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  113. Hey Susan,

    I dunno, it seems to me that Catholic doctrines of Mary contradict your quotes from tradition more than Robert does.

    For if Mary was blessed for receiving the faith in Christ and for being fruitful in works in faith (both of which Robert and I would affirm), then she has the same blessedness as you or I would have.

    Where then is there room for exalting her as Jesus’ mother? That role is inferior, according to Augustine, to receiving Christ by faith.

    But about types and antitypes: It’s easy to see connections where none is intended. That’s why Chrysostom veered away from the allegorical interpretations of Origen.

    A non-biblical example: people sometimes want to read The Lord of the Rings as an allegory for WWII. Look at all the connections! An evil leader (Hitler) threatens the entire world (WWII) from his kingdom in the east (Germany) while searching for a weapon of vast power (atom bomb) that will ensure his dominance by wiping out the free races. It’s all right there.

    Except: Tolkien hated allegory and thought none should be written; and he explicitly denied in a letter that LOTR was allegory; and the beginnings of LOTR were written prior to the rise of Hitler

    Oops.

    The moral is that not all connections that glitter are exegetical gold.

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  114. Jeff,

    I’m I wrong or were you not saying that Jesus was contradicting( or scolding)the woman who called out? Was he or wasn’t He is the answer I’m looking for from your side.

    No one is denying that it’ easy to see types where none are intended, but you seem to be denying the ones that tradition has uncovered( or maybe you missed the examples that I included). If you missed the examples above, I would be happy to give them to you again.

    About Tolkien’s use of symbols and theme’s; he had a sacramental view and saw the archetype of good vs. evil in the world and put it to use in his Catholic imagination. So anyone who would construe TLOR as being about WWII would be missing JRRT’s Catholicism. Of course though, since he experienced war, he could express the pathos of destruction and death in his stories, but other than that general analogy the story is a modern-day myth( mythopoeia) full of a Catholic view of the world.

    But for the purpose of our discussion, do you agree with tradition’s exegesis about the Ark of the Covenant in the OT prefiguring Mary? If not, why?

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  115. Susan: I’m I wrong or were you not saying that Jesus was contradicting( or scolding)the woman who called out?

    Scolding? No.

    Contradicting? In the narrow sense that Augustine also contradicts the woman, yes.

    Jesus is not saying that Mary is not blessed. He is rather saying that she is blessed along with all those who hear and believe the word. She is not blessed because she bore Jesus, but because she believed the word of the Lord.

    Susan: But for the purpose of our discussion, do you agree with tradition’s exegesis about the Ark of the Covenant in the OT prefiguring Mary? If not, why?

    Disagree, but not as strongly as I disagree with “Mary as second Eve.”

    Yes, one can find parallels between Mary and the ark of the covenant (no, I didn’t miss your examples above). As mentioned in the Tolkien example, the mere existence of parallels does not show that they were intended by the author. There needs to be a control on the method; in the case of Scriptural exegesis, we can only *know* that a parallelism is intended if God Himself says so.

    So we have warrant for thinking that Israel the nation is a type of Christ because Matthew says so under the inspiration of the Spirit.

    Speaking of general literary method, we might *suspect* that parallels are intended, and the more strongly that those parallels tie into the main themes of the story, the more likely they are to be intended.

    In this case, the ark held the word of God and was placed in the Holy of Holies in order that God’s presence might dwell there within the temple.

    Mary contained the Word of God … for nine months. And then, nothing. She is not given a place within the new temple of God, the church, in order for God to dwell there, because God dwells now among His people by His Spirit (Eph 2; Jer 31).

    The parallel simply falls off, and it goes nowhere within the story told in the New Testament.

    All of the Marian doctrines that came about within the church were viewed as necessitated by the parallelism; but the parallelism is incomplete without those doctrines. So there is circular reasoning (of a rather egregious sort) that says that the ark is “clearly intended” as a type of Mary: the stories of the ark and of Mary diverge, and the ark is given a prominence in the OT that Mary does not have in the NT.

    So I disagree with the exegetical method on the “ark = Mary” point.

    On the “Eve = Mary” point, I have a much stronger disagreement. Literary parallels that get crossed in their details are no parallel at all. In this case, Jesus is most definitely the second Adam (Rom 5). Adam’s *wife*, not mother, is Eve. To posit that Eve is a type of Mary is to demand, by parallel, that Mary should be Jesus’ spouse and not mother. That would just be wrong.

    So I hope you can understand that I have a much stronger objection to the Eve typology than I do to the ark typology.

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  116. Susan,
    Tradition can err. Consider the traditional teaching on women by Augustine that women only bear the image of God when united to a man, Tertullian’s view of women in his work on modesty, and Magnus and Aquinas on women as misbegotten men. I would think most RCs would say this may be part of their tradition, but not of *S*acred tradition. So where are the threads of tradition that comprise the magisterium distinguished from the threads that are potentially errant? The reason I ask is that you already concede that the existence of a parallel does not guarantee a type. It is of course the more general problem of determining causation from correlation.

    So we are stuck with a few questions:
    1)What is the value of an exegetical method that cannot reliably ever draw a conclusion?
    2) What do I gain from the parallels if I just need to go to (an I’ll defined) sacred tradition anyway?
    3) what new knowledge do I get from the parallels? The aren’t identical, so one must be careful about illegitimate conclusions from spurious details. What’s the criterion? Scripture doesn’t tell us.

    We do have examples of new revelation reveling types. It isn’t clear to me that this is provided as an exegetical tool though.

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  117. Susan,

    I’d echo most of what Jeff and SDB said. The question for me about some of your examples is the “So what, question?” Let’s say that a typology points to Mary as the ark of the new covenant. What then? And if Mary is the ark, why is Jesus described as the mercy seat (the key part of the ark for atonement)?

    And like Jeff, I have a bigger problem with Mary as the new Eve than with her as an ark. Jesus is clearly paralleled with Adam, whose wife is Eve. Who is Jesus’ wife? Scripture very plainly says Jesus’ wife is the church. So maybe Mary is the new Eve insofar as she is part of the church, but then so am I, Jeff, SDB, Darryl, Susan, etc., etc. If we want to be consistent, the metaphor should actually have the opposite effect and bring Mary “down” more to our level.

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  118. Robert,

    Well, the way I see it is that since God is the author who created the parallels then those parallels have spiritual import.
    If the parallels can be drawn then they have to have significance. This was one of the hints that I got that when scripture spoke of ‘the church” it wasn’t meaning it in the way Protestantism believed.
    What I mean is, I was reading a Catholic author( can’t remember who now) and they showed the scripture references for Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant and Mary as the new Eve and thought to myself, ” If Protestant scholars missed this then they are either unaware, or they are denying scripture that because it doesn’t conform to their theology. Because if you become aware you are forced to relate to it in some way. If you stick it under the bed, so to speak, you( and I don’t mean you) are being disingenuous or to the truth and to the notion that scripture is sufficient.

    Further, imagine that on the face of the earth there is no visible apostolic church, in the Catholic sense, and some guy, at any point in the timeline of history after the death of the apostles discovers the parallels and brings his findings to the attention of his pastor. Should he stick to his guns believing that he has uncovered something of importance that nobody in his tradition knows, and go start a new church based on what he’s discovered, or does he adapt his findings because his pastor doesn’t see( or doesn’t admit) the significance?

    “And like Jeff, I have a bigger problem with Mary as the new Eve than with her as an ark. Jesus is clearly paralleled with Adam, whose wife is Eve. Who is Jesus’ wife? Scripture very plainly says Jesus’ wife is the church. So maybe Mary is the new Eve insofar as she is part of the church, but then so am I, Jeff, SDB, Darryl, Susan, etc., etc. ”

    With all due respect, that any of us have a “problem” with biblical typology is beside the point. The parallels do not have to be 100% the same. I see your argument but my mind thinks, “Well, okay, but what do I do with the scripture that does easily lend itself to the Catholic interpretation?” I clearly have the “woman” in the garden. And right after Adam and Eve disobeyed and were handed their respective curses, the serpent( Satan) got his and it was that he would be at enmity with the woman. What woman? Not Eve, but the ‘woman” whose offspring would crush the serpent’s head. When did this crushing take place and who was there? It took place on a “tree” right after the woman offspring was in a ‘garden’ What did he call this female who participated in His obedience? “Woman”.

    Again, I need to scoot! Take care!

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  119. History is just the story about what happened. Since the ordinary magisterium is fallible and part of your tradition, tradition can be errant. Sacred tradition is something else. But who declares what is and isn’t part of sacred tradition? As far as I can tell the extraordinary magisterium consists of the pope speaking “ex cathedra” and universal councils speaking in unison with the pope.

    Was there a council that established the proper hermeneutic for determining types from spurious parallels?

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  120. sdb,

    I cannot presuppose that everything that belongs to the truth of Christianity is written in scripture(Scripture doesn’t tell me to do that). However, I profess that everything that written in scripture is the truth. So the church is the institution that has the scriptures and anything else that was passed on from Jesus thus supporting 2 Thessalonians 2:15:

    So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter [a]from us( 2Thess. 2:15).

    “But who declares what is and isn’t part of sacred tradition?”

    Doctrinal purity has to be a mainstay in the church or else the gates of hell prevailed against her.

    But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth( 1 Tim:15).

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  121. Susan, “I cannot presuppose that everything that belongs to the truth of Christianity is written in scripture”

    So how do you know Christ gave the keys to Peter and his successors?

    Sometimes, prooftexts come in handy.

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  122. Susan: Well, the way I see it is that since God is the author who created the parallels then those parallels have spiritual import.

    OR

    We humans are finding patterns that weren’t in God’s intent to begin with.

    You kinda pulled a fast one here: First, you conceded that people can find false parallels; then you confidently assert that God is the author of the parallels that may be false.

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  123. Susan,

    Well, the way I see it is that since God is the author who created the parallels then those parallels have spiritual import.
    If the parallels can be drawn then they have to have significance.

    Okay, but what is the significance here. Mary is the ark of the covenant, so what? And then, if Mary is the ark, why is Jesus the mercy seat (hilasterion). Are they both the ark?

    If Protestant scholars missed this then they are either unaware, or they are denying scripture that because it doesn’t conform to their theology.

    What about the possibility that the parallel really isn’t there? There are lots of parallels and allegories that people are sure they have found throughout church history that Rome would not endorse.

    Further, imagine that on the face of the earth there is no visible apostolic church, in the Catholic sense, and some guy, at any point in the timeline of history after the death of the apostles discovers the parallels and brings his findings to the attention of his pastor. Should he stick to his guns believing that he has uncovered something of importance that nobody in his tradition knows, and go start a new church based on what he’s discovered, or does he adapt his findings because his pastor doesn’t see( or doesn’t admit) the significance?

    Well, it depends on the finding. Christians are free to believe that they’ve found all sorts of things in the Bible provided they don’t force their views on others when their views have not gained ecclesiastical approval and/or are directly contrary to the commands of Scripture.

    The parallels do not have to be 100% the same.

    Agreed. If they were 100% the same, you wouldn’t have a typology but the same event.

    I see your argument but my mind thinks, “Well, okay, but what do I do with the scripture that does easily lend itself to the Catholic interpretation?” I clearly have the “woman” in the garden. And right after Adam and Eve disobeyed and were handed their respective curses, the serpent( Satan) got his and it was that he would be at enmity with the woman. What woman? Not Eve, but the ‘woman” whose offspring would crush the serpent’s head. When did this crushing take place and who was there? It took place on a “tree” right after the woman offspring was in a ‘garden’ What did he call this female who participated in His obedience? “Woman”.

    But what if Scripture doesn’t easily lend itself to that. That’s kind of my point. The whole idea of Mary as the new Eve would seem to be rendered invalid by the Christ-church relationship if Christ is the new Adam. At best, for Mary, we could call here the new Eve insofar as she is a member of the church but that, in reality, it’s the church that’s the new Eve.

    What has done with Mary as the new Eve is also problematic. For example, read the literature on her as the new Eve and its very common to get the sense that all of redemptive history was dependent on her libertarian free decision to become the Theotokos. That if she said no, all would have been lost. In that respect, it’s Mary who functionally becomes responsible for our salvation. That’s very idolatrous in practice even if not intended that way theologically.

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  124. Susan says: So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us( 2Thess. 2:15).

    Susan, thanks for the reminder to read 2 Thessalonians 2. It’s a timely prompt, as I read this am :”Russian Church Says ‘End Of History’ Is Near by Newsweek
    excerpt: “The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church said Monday the world is on the brink of slipping into “the abyss of the end of history,” according to a state-run news agency. The apocalypse “is already visible to the naked eye,” Patriarch Kirill told congregants after a service at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, reported RIA Novosti .He said there could be a saving grace for the world -society uniting.”

    Society uniting is the savior?
    It would have been a good opportunity to talk about JESUS.

    and JESUS is exacting who Paul talks about in 2 Thessalonians 2. I read this sermon this am. https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/53-12/the-coming-man-of-sin-part-6
    Which you might enjoy reading, since it is such an encouraging proclamation of the gospel of our LORD JESUS CHRIST – as Mac Arthur says there “You have the theology of salvation here in a microcosm” in v13-17,
    and that is the ‘so’ context of v15 – the clarity of JESUS

    As Mac Arthur says there:
    “Now today for us the apostolic message handed down is in this book. As I said, in the gospels and Acts we have the record of what was spoken. In the epistles we have what was written. And this is the once for all delivered to the saints faith. This is, Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:20, he said, this, Timothy, is what you must guard. “Oh Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you.” And then in the 2nd epistle of Timothy, chapter 1 verse 14, “Guard through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” It is the tradition that came down, that was handed down from God to the apostles to the church. Now he says if you do this, you stand firm and hold onto the word of the living God which you’ve been given, you’re not going to waver and be confused and ignorant and insecure.”

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  125. I cannot presuppose that everything that belongs to the truth of Christianity is written in scripture(Scripture doesn’t tell me to do that).

    It is a necessary consequence of Jesus’s method. Of course, the real issue is what is God’s Word. What are the non-inscripturated bits. Unwritten apostolic teaching is fine to claim, but I always get crickets when I ask what doctrines come from this. Further, even if we allow for noninscripturated apostolic tradition, this does not account for novel doctrines that developed in the post-apostolic era.

    However, I profess that everything that written in scripture is the truth. So the church is the institution that has the scriptures and anything else that was passed on from Jesus thus supporting 2 Thessalonians 2:15:

    So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter [a]from us( 2Thess. 2:15).

    Of course, that oral tradition is what was eventually turned into the gospels (which came after Paul’s epistles were written). The assertions that everything written in scripture is truth and that not all the truth of Christianity is inscripturated does not entail that “the church is the institution that has the scriptures and anything else that was passed on from Jesus”.

    “But who declares what is and isn’t part of sacred tradition?”
    Doctrinal purity has to be a mainstay in the church or else the gates of hell prevailed against her.
    But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth( 1 Tim:15).

    The gates of hell did not prevail against the church in the old covenant either. When Elijah was in despair, God pointed out that there were still 1000’s that hadn’t bowed the knee to Baal. Jesus promises that there were always be worshipers even if that means the rocks have to cry out. Institutional fidelity is not what Jesus has in mind here as we see this thread of the gates of hell not prevailing throughout the old and new testament. But all that being said, avoided the question – how does one know what is part of sacred tradition and what is not? Who says, and what is the content of that sacred tradition? This all is hotly disputed among theologians in the RCC. There are plenty of theological controversies (past and present). You continue to assert that truth must out to maintain the coherence of your system, but it seems to me that you are left in the very same epistemological boat as we poor sola scriptura reformed protestants (though your boat may have better art and architecture).

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  126. SDB said:

    But all that being said, avoided the question – how does one know what is part of sacred tradition and what is not? Who says, and what is the content of that sacred tradition?

    It’s the million dollar question, especially since Rome hasn’t defined the content of tradition.

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  127. sdb – “But all that being said, avoided the question – how does one know what is part of sacred tradition and what is not? Who says, and what is the content of that sacred tradition? This all is hotly disputed among theologians in the RCC. There are plenty of theological controversies (past and present).”

    Exactly! This is also concerning because of the similarity to Islamic theology. Most Islamic beliefs are derived from the ahadith, or extra-Koranic writings, most of which are of disputed authenticity and were written centuries after Mohammed. Islamic theologians have always quarreled over those the way Catholic theologians have quarreled over what should be included in Sacred Tradition.

    Going back to a discussion we had months ago, Susan, it still boggles my mind that you had an epistemological crisis, and decided to resolve that by embracing Tradition and the Magisterium of the RCC. You are an intelligent person, but this seems irrational to me.

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  128. “It’s no secret. The content of sacred tradition is what is there presently in the Catholic and EO church today.”

    But the Catholic and the EO disagree on lots of things and come to opposite conclusions about what sacred tradition teaches on matters such as the papacy, the Eucharist, and other such things. The EO aren’t all that keen on Augustine, but the RC would think that he represents sacred tradition on a great many things.

    So what is the sacred tradition?

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  129. VV,

    Most Islamic beliefs are derived from the ahadith, or extra-Koranic writings, most of which are of disputed authenticity and were written centuries after Mohammed. Islamic theologians have always quarreled over those the way Catholic theologians have quarreled over what should be included in Sacred Tradition.

    Exactly. I would say, however, that at least the Muslims have made some attempt to collect and evaluate what is an authentic tradition and what isn’t. I’m not aware of anything similar among Roman Catholicism. Effectively, tradition for the RCC seems to be “Tradition is what the Magisterium says is tradition, but we’re not going to pin ourselves down with anything approaching a canon of tradition.”

    Islamic legal scholars will disagree on which hadith collections are reliable, but they’ll be able to point you to sacred tradition in some kind of definitional way. I don’t see Roman Catholics doing that. The best they’ll do is maybe the ecumenical councils and papal decrees, but as far as I understand it, sacred tradition for Rome is much more than that.

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  130. Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: You are an intelligent person, but this seems irrational to me.

    All who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

    He who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.

    “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in the councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience “ Martin Luther

    Susan:
    just as this below is sorrowful (that is, that what should be in parenthesis is JESUS)
    dgh’s tweet by ‎@oldlife do you believe in magic? http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/rosary-brings-miraculous-help-for-family-in-napa-wildfire
    -And they credit (the Blessed Mother, the Rosary and St. Joseph) for their safety.
    -The (Rosary) has always been my comfort, working through any challenge that came up.”
    -Kenny believes his house was saved (by the Rosary), too.
    -She recounted her family’s devotion (to St. Joseph) as well as “always being close to the (Blessed Virgin Mary).”

    So too, is sorrowful, if you were to replace the testimony of the Spirit of the Lord which is in you with the below:
    Susan says Robert, sdb: It’s no secret. The content of sacred tradition is what is there presently in the Catholic and EO church today.

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  131. @Susan
    That is inconsistent with what your church teaches. Not everything that the Catholic Church teaches at any given time is part of sacred tradition. There is a difference between the ordinary and extraordinary magisterium.

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