Who Sounds Protestant?

Another upgrader to Rome marvels about continuity between the ancient church and contemporary Roman Catholicism (were the church fathers as sexually confused as today?):

I haven’t officially tweeted this yet, but for the last 5-6 months, I’ve been struggling through a very unexpected twist in my Christian life: the Catholic Church. If you knew me before, you would know that this was the farthest thing from my mind for the past 30 years.

I was as anti-Catholic as they come (James White probably had me beat). The problem was, I knew NOTHING about their actually teachings. All I knew came from other anti-Catholic polemicists. Until I started a class on Church History (via a Reformed grad school). I was blown away.

In addition, I started to read the Church Fathers. Not what people say about the Fathers, but their actual letters and writings. This was HUGE in my dealings with the claims of Catholicism. They actually sounded Catholic and not Protestant.

Along with many, many pages of books, debates, and conversion stories, I started to really think that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded 2000+ years ago. Now I am on the path towards full-communion with the Catholic Church. Crazy!

Have people like this never read Paul? What that apostle recommended to Titus does not sound like Roman Catholicism — eh veh:

1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

Notice Paul says God reveals himself by preaching. He never mentions the sacraments in his instructions to a man who is planting a church. Odd. Though the shot at Jewish myths might make you want to check what you are doing with an altar and sacrifice in worship.

He also says overseers (bishops or presbyters) should be married to only one wife. So much for clerical celibacy.

In chapter two, Paul goes on to bang the gong for doctrine — the meat and drink of logocentric Protestants.

Then in chapter three, Paul tells Titus to be subject to the ruling authorities and to teach Christians to do the same. Let’s just say that the papacy has had a little trouble thinking such instruction applied to them. Heck, they still have a Vatican jail and mete out temporal justice.

But the church fathers don’t sound Protestant. Whatehveh.

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22 thoughts on “Who Sounds Protestant?

  1. Anyone who writes, “I was anti-Catholic as they come” is a punk. Pretty simple. No surprise they then swing wildly from one extreme to the other. The Reformed camp is probably better off without his earnest tweets..

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  2. But what happens when a convert discovers that the modern RCC doesn’t sound like the ancient church fathers when it comes to practice (ie, the current abuse and homosexual scandals)? Or do they not pay attention to that.

    Seems rather glaring. Since Rome says we Protestants are okay anyway now, why not stay in a church body that may not have such problems?

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  3. @Robert

    It isn’t clear that we don’t have similar problems with abuse. I suspect that for a lot of Protestants, Rome looks like a safe harbor from the storm of modernity.

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  4. “He never mentions the sacraments in his instructions to a man who is planting a church.”

    Good to know Presbyterians don’t practice baptism or the Lord’s supper.

    “He also says overseers (bishops or presbyters) should be married to only one wife”

    Was Paul disqualifying himself from ministry? Since Paul also mentions children, are childless married men also ineligible?

    “Paul goes on to bang the gong for doctrine — the meat and drink of logocentric Protestants.”

    Yes the RCC has very anemic doctrine, theology, and philosophy. Does Protestant spiritual life consist of just reading the WCF and Institutes?

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  5. The RCC caved to modernity a long time ago. What will he do when he figures all that out? Why, he’ll become a “trad” , attend the Latin mass and and rail against his co-religionists who haven’t seen the light. In effect, he’ll be a small p Protestant. Yes Cletus, the RCC does in fact have some very anemic doctrine and theology. Philosophy? Meh. I’ll take Holy Scripture any day.

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  6. SDB,

    Sure, although I suspect the problem is more severe among some denominations than others. It’s just pretty glaring to me that those who convert because of continuity with ECF practice have very little to say about areas where modern Rome doesn’t conform at all.

    You’re certainly right about people looking for a safe haven from modernity. Not that Rome has provided that since V2, of course.

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  7. “He never mentions the sacraments in his instructions to a man who is planting a church.”

    Good to know Presbyterians don’t practice baptism or the Lord’s supper.

    No, we just don’t elevate them above preaching (something uniformly terrible in economic churches) or create new ones to solidify social influence.

    “He also says overseers (bishops or presbyters) should be married to only one wife”

    Was Paul disqualifying himself from ministry? Since Paul also mentions children, are childless married men also ineligible?

    No and no. Rather we should not add restrictions on Christians not found in scripture (burdening the conscience with traditions of man). The extrabiblical restriction of celibacy for the clergy is a long running and obvious error on the part of the rcc.

    “Paul goes on to bang the gong for doctrine — the meat and drink of logocentric Protestants.”

    Yes the RCC has very anemic doctrine, theology, and philosophy. Does Protestant spiritual life consist of just reading the WCF and Institutes?

    Agreed. The slavish following of Aristotle, a thinker who was wrong about nearly everything he wrote has made rc philosophy a deadend. NLT miraculously gives the same answers even as the underlying understanding of nature improves. It’s no wonder NLT theorists have such a problem getting taken seriously.

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  8. @robert
    Yep. I seem to recall that Dreher had a line about converts expecting their local parish to be an embodiment of FirstThings are bound to be as disappointed as American tourists visiting England and expecting the world of the Inklings. I suspect something similar could be said about evangelicals who attend a PCA church expecting Geneva.

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  9. SDB,

    Yes. A certain amount of “buyer’s remorse” is inevitable when you change traditions with lofty expectations. I’ve been guilty of that to some degree as well. I will say that better understanding total depravity and leaning harder toward amillennialism has helped.

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  10. @sdb,
    “I take it this is not Catholic Susan we all know and love!”

    Hey thanks and right back atcha!
    I’m still out here, peeking in from time to time.

    God bless!
    Catholic Susan

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  11. Hi Darryl,

    Yesterday I commented here using my phone and just now tried to comment with my laptop, but for some reason, it isn’t showing. Can you please tell me what might be causing this hiccup? Thank you!

    Susan

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  12. Hi SDB,
    In the past, we’ve had our conversations about Aristotle and since you mentioned him again, I thought I’d address his importance to the great conversation because it’s hard to believe that you dismiss him entirely.
    First of all, let me say that I agree with you when you point out that he was wrong about things, just as Plato was wrong about some things. And while I admit that I have not read enough from him to know where he is mistaken( nor do I care for the sake of this conversation), I do however understand that there is enough that is beneficial not to throw him out, or worse, miss what he got right that corresponds to revealed faith.
    For instance, I was just listening to a lecture by Lawrence Feingold on the resurrection of the body and he spoke about how the ECF’s had a good grasp of Plato and his understanding of the soul, but not until Aquinas had weeded through Aristotle did the church have a philosophy of the body that corresponded with the theology of the body as put forth in scripture through the resurrection and as described by St Paul. In fact, I learned that Aquinas didn’t study Aristotle out of interest in his philosophy; but rather because, starting by revealed faith, he wanted a philosophy that helped explain the resurrection.
    Now I am appealing to you primarily in this conversation because I don’t consider you as one who would, out of hand, dismiss philosophy as being something that could not help rightly describe reality. In other words, I don’t see you as a fideist. It wasn’t until I came into the Reformed faith that I even considered the worthiness of studying the ancient philosophers. Most of the Reformed people that I spoke to liked Plato, believing that his ideas were not telling an untruth about reality, but it seems that when it came to Aristotle, they didn’t seem to consider him as important. I didn’t understand the reason for this “philosopher preference”, but I began to think that it had something to do with dislike for Catholicism. Looking back on my journey, I think the painting of The School of Athens ( I visited St Peter’s in 2006) spoke to me and helped with my conversion into the Catholic Church by showing the importance of the perennial philosophy to Christianity. I had long been interested in the realm of ideas, and I trusted the inspiration of holy scripture, but I didn’t have a proper understanding of the material world as having God’s law as written in it. But ever since the Justice Clarence Thomas hearing I began to be curious about how it conformed with the written law handed to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
    On the practical side, in relation to this, is that armed with a theology of the body we have a way to dispute (and label) certain sexual acts and concupiscence as being “disordered” by understanding that the body was made for procreation and self-gift. This is an indispensable weapon when people like Fr Stephen Wolf (who believes God made people with same-sex attraction [ see link below] ) are out there interpreting the bible as either condoning or as not actually condemning homosexual acts. This “natural law” as from Aristotle is a reasonable way to combat their misunderstanding and/or immoral obstinacy. This is what makes theology a science and is the only way to avoid the Scylla of being a hated bible thumping bigot and the Charybdis of “let people love how they want and get- with- the- times” ideologue. The church cannot stop dissenters from dissenting, but it can reason with them from general revelation and special revelation.

    Your thoughts?

    https://www.crisismagazine.com/2019/openly-gay-priests-dissent-scandalizes-tennessee-parish

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  13. Darryl,
    Got it to work on the next day after I added a couple more sentences:)

    Oh Darryl. You’re still doing the gotchas. It’s impossible to have a serious conversation with you. Do you really want to discuss the whys of these different scenarios, or are you convinced beforehand and ask questions just to dangle the hope of a conversation?

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  14. In the past, we’ve had our conversations about Aristotle and since you mentioned him again, I thought I’d address his importance to the great conversation because it’s hard to believe that you dismiss him entirely.

    I don’t dismiss him at all. He made a number of important contributions in his day. He was less wrong than some of those who came before him, but he wasn’t right. Nearly every original idea he presented that is subject to empirical testing has been proven to be incorrect. His biology, his physics, his cosmology – all wrong. I don’t see this as a knock on Aristotle. He was obviously a brilliant mind. Rather my critique is of catholic (and protestant) theologians who remain stuck in his metaphysics.

    First of all, let me say that I agree with you when you point out that he was wrong about things, just as Plato was wrong about some things. And while I admit that I have not read enough from him to know where he is mistaken( nor do I care for the sake of this conversation), I do however understand that there is enough that is beneficial not to throw him out, or worse, miss what he got right that corresponds to revealed faith.

    So let’s see if I have this right. You haven’t read much of Aristotle, but you know he got some things wrong. However, since some of his work is consistent with your Catholic faith, you conclude that his work is beneficial. Do you see the circularity here?

    For instance, I was just listening to a lecture by Lawrence Feingold on the resurrection of the body and he spoke about how the ECF’s had a good grasp of Plato and his understanding of the soul, but not until Aquinas had weeded through Aristotle did the church have a philosophy of the body that corresponded with the theology of the body as put forth in scripture through the resurrection and as described by St Paul.

    See, this is why Paul is >> than the ECFs. He was inspired by the Holy Spirit rather than Plato or Aristotle. It’s not that the ECFs are therefore wrong about everything, but the only way to know whether they are right is to scrutinize their ideas against the data. Whether that data is nature or the bible — the only sources we have. Just as astronomers were wrong about the solar system for 1500 yrs because they didn’t (in their case couldn’t) scrutinize the Aristotelian claims against the source material, the RCC was wrong about the sacraments, mary, soteriology, ecclesiology, etc… for 1500yrs because they scrutinize their claims against the source material.

    In fact, I learned that Aquinas didn’t study Aristotle out of interest in his philosophy; but rather because, starting by revealed faith, he wanted a philosophy that helped explain the resurrection.

    Aquinas’s track record on his empirically verifiable isn’t so hot either. Why believe his metaphysical claims if everything else he said (that we can check) was wrong?

    Now I am appealing to you primarily in this conversation because I don’t consider you as one who would, out of hand, dismiss philosophy as being something that could not help rightly describe reality. In other words, I don’t see you as a fideist.

    No, I’m an empiricist in the vein of Bas van Fraassen (a Catholic convert as well). As he notes, metaphysics is something to be avoided. It does not help rightly describe reality. It is in freeing oneself from the chains of metaphysics that we have been able to make empirically valid descriptions of the Universe.

    It wasn’t until I came into the Reformed faith that I even considered the worthiness of studying the ancient philosophers. Most of the Reformed people that I spoke to liked Plato, believing that his ideas were not telling an untruth about reality, but it seems that when it came to Aristotle, they didn’t seem to consider him as important.

    My experience is just the opposite. Under the influence of guys like Adler, Sproul, Lewis, and other C-list thinkers, Aristotle’s realism was taken to be the end-all be-all of philosophy. I’ve never been convinced.

    I didn’t understand the reason for this “philosopher preference”, but I began to think that it had something to do with dislike for Catholicism. Looking back on my journey, I think the painting of The School of Athens ( I visited St Peter’s in 2006) spoke to me and helped with my conversion into the Catholic Church by showing the importance of the perennial philosophy to Christianity. I had long been interested in the realm of ideas, and I trusted the inspiration of holy scripture, but I didn’t have a proper understanding of the material world as having God’s law as written in it. But ever since the Justice Clarence Thomas hearing I began to be curious about how it conformed with the written law handed to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

    Hmm… How does study of the material world allow one to derive the 10 commandments – particularly as they have bene clarified by the SOTM?

    On the practical side, in relation to this, is that armed with a theology of the body we have a way to dispute (and label) certain sexual acts and concupiscence as being “disordered” by understanding that the body was made for procreation and self-gift. This is an indispensable weapon when people like Fr Stephen Wolf (who believes God made people with same-sex attraction [ see link below] ) are out there interpreting the bible as either condoning or as not actually condemning homosexual acts. This “natural law” as from Aristotle is a reasonable way to combat their misunderstanding and/or immoral obstinacy.

    Hmmm Have you read Sullivan’s critique of this line of reasoning? I would be interested in your rebuttal. So far, all I’ve encountered is stammering and denunciations. The theology of the body and its justification in NLT is not at all convincing as witnessed by the way in which these thinkers have been absolutely steamrolled.

    This is what makes theology a science and is the only way to avoid the Scylla of being a hated bible thumping bigot and the Charybdis of “let people love how they want and get- with- the- times” ideologue. The church cannot stop dissenters from dissenting, but it can reason with them from general revelation and special revelation.

    I can guarantee you that adhering to the RC theology of the body is not going to keep you from being a hated bigot. I for one prefer to stand on the Bible whatever others think of me. God’s Word is perfect, nature is fallen. Deriving moral precepts from nature is a fool’s game.

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  15. Susan, I don’t think you are the one with whom to have the conversation since it is above your paygrade. If you could get your bishop to talk, though, I’d be grateful.

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