Why Worry About Change?

When you can always interpret.

George Weigel tries to get out in front of Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical on the family. But he couldn’t beat Cardinal Kasper (and, oh, by the way doesn’t a Cardinal outrank a layman in teaching authority?):

As is his wont, Cardinal Walter Kasper was first out of the starting blocks, announcing that the apostolic exhortation (whose date of publication he got wrong) would be a first step in vindicating his proposals for a “penitential path” by which the divorced and civilly remarried could be admitted to holy communion—despite the fact that his proposal had been roundly criticized and rejected at both Synods and in various scholarly articles and books in between. The Kasper spin was then picked up by some of the usual media suspects, who called on the usual Catholic talking heads on the port side of the Barque of Peter, who took matters further by speculating that the apostolic exhortation would open up even more revolutionary paths, involving the Church’s eventual acceptance of same-sex marriage and other matters on the LGBT agenda.

But not to worry, the Council that many think unsettled the church has actually settled what popes can do:

By declining Paul VI’s suggestion about a papacy “accountable to the Lord alone,” Vatican II made clear that there are limits to what popes can do. On the bottom-line matters at issue in the two recent Synods, for example, no pope can change the settled teaching of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage, or on the grave danger of receiving holy communion unworthily, because these are matters of what the Council’s Theological Commission called “revelation itself:” to be specific, Matthew 19.6 and 1 Corinthians 11.27-29. Nor has Pope Francis indicated in any public statement that he intends any deviation from what is written by revelation into the constitution of the Church.

Michael Sean Winters is even later to the pre-publication spin and offers his own prebuttal.

But what if the bishop whose job it is to interpret Scripture and tradition interprets dogma so it doesn’t change but its meaning does? This was the option favored by Protestant and Roman Catholic modernists. If modernism could happen once, why couldn’t it happen again (as if it ever went away)?

And then we have the problem of reason and what people with minds do to texts. Sam Gregg recently invoked Benedict XVI’s Regensburg address to call not his communion but the entire West to its former high esteem for reason:

One of the basic theses presented by Benedict at Regensburg was that how we understand God’s nature has implications for whether we can judge particular human choices and actions to be unreasonable. Thus, if reason is simply not part of Islam’s conception of the Divinity’s nature, then Allah can command his followers to make unreasonable choices, and all his followers can do is submit to a Divine Will that operates beyond the categories of reason.

Most commentators on the Regensburg Address did not, however, observe that the Pope declined to proceed to engage in a detailed analysis of why and how such a conception of God may have affected Islamic theology and Islamic practice. Nor did he explore the mindset of those Muslims who invoke Allah to justify jihadist violence. Instead, Benedict immediately pivoted to discussing the place of reason in Christianity and Western culture more generally. In fact, in the speech’s very last paragraph, Benedict called upon his audience “to rediscover” the “great logos”: “this breadth of reason” which, he maintained, orthodox Christianity has always regarded as a prominent feature of God’s nature. The pope’s use of the word “rediscover” indicated that something had been lost and that much of the West and the Christian world had themselves fallen into the grip of other forms of un-reason. Irrationality can, after all, manifest itself in expressions other than mindless violence.

Gregg warns rightly that “irrationality is loose and ravaging much of the West—especially in those institutions which are supposed to be temples of reason, i.e., universities.”

But if Father Dwight is any indication, irrationality also has its moments well within the confines of Roman Catholic parishes (even beautiful ones). If you wonder why the virgin Mary is the Queen of Heaven, just take a rational look at your Bible:

We simply have to read the Scriptures with Catholic eyes and understand the Jewish context of the Scriptures to see how the Catholic beliefs about Mary are all contained in the Scriptures. The problem is, they are not stated explicitly. Instead they are locked in the Scriptures to be understood and teased out. As the church came to understand more fully who Jesus really was they then began to understand more fully the role of his Mother, and as that became clear they also began to see that these truths were already there in the Scriptures. . . . The truths about Mary are subservient to the truths about Jesus because she is always subservient to her Son and always points to her Son. It is about him. It is not about her. . . .

Luke chapter 1:26-38 and Revelation 12. Consider first the passage from Luke. This is, of course, the story of the Annunciation of Jesus birth by the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary. . . . The angel Gabriel is called “the Angel of the Lord”. He is the main messenger direct from God. Therefore his words can be taken as a direct revelation from God. His message to Mary is therefore God’s message to the world. He declares solemnly that Mary’s Son will be the Son of the Most High, but he will also be the heir of David and the King of the Jews and furthermore his kingdom will have no end. In other words, he is king of heaven.

In the Jewish understanding of monarchy the Queen of heaven was not the king’s wife, but the king’s mother. Solomon’s mother Bathsheba played this role in the Old Testament. It follows therefore that if Jesus is to be the heir of David’s throne and be king, then his mother would be the Queen. Furthermore, if Jesus is also to reign over the kingdom of heaven, then his mother would be the Queen of Heaven.

At some level, Christians on both sides of the Tiber need to give up the idea that their convictions are rational in the sense that people with well functioning minds will recognize the point of Christianity. Aside from the noetic affects of the fall which predispose unbelievers to suppress the truth in unrighteousness, Christians also affirm truths that defy reason — like the resurrection and the Trinity.

But if what Father Dwight does with Scripture is any indication of the interpretations that attend sacred and infallible texts, no amount of bishops and cardinals bringing their conciliar foot down on papal authority will prevent interpreters from interpreting.


Grammatico-Historical Interpretation of the Constitution

Lots of posts out there about Antonin Scalia as the faithful Roman Catholic. But the man sure sounded like he learned how to read the Constitution from Protestants:

Nonetheless, there is no escaping a verdict on his influence on American jurisprudence, and that verdict is not affected by the fact that he was a good buddy to prominent liberals. He was an advocate of two judicial ideologies, neither of which is intellectually tenable and which conflict with each other. Originalism was Scalia’s core ideological commitment, the idea that the Constitution should be interpreted as it was understood at the time of its ratification. He employed Originalism to question the idea that the Constitution is a “living document,” as liberal jurists held.

To be sure, there was a need for a conservative corrective after the high court starting snooping around the “penumbras” of the Constitution. As Justice Elena Kagan said in mourning Scalia’s death, “His views on interpreting texts have changed the way all of us think and talk about the law.” But, whether the Constitution is alive or not, the people whose government it intends to frame are most certainly alive and their circumstances change. Laws that cannot change with the lived circumstances of a people soon become disconnected from reality, and that disconnect will lead to the law being held in derision or ignored. . . .

Scalia’s other ideological commitment was to Textualism, the idea that the actual words must be interpreted in a kind of fundamentalist manner. This could conflict with Originalism. For example, an originalist would, like an historian, search for explanations as to what was intended by the drafters of a given text, to confirm that original intent and guarantee against latter day misinterpretations. But, Scalia famously loathed citations to legislative history. Textualism rests on the supposition that the Constitution is a self-interpreting text and if that were true, why would we need a Supreme Court? In practice, Textualism resulted in the conclusion that any given text meant exactly what Antonin Scalia thought it meant.

Of course, it’s not clear that Scalia’s hermeneutic was all positive. But it hardly sounds like it’s a product of deferring to the magisterium or to the development of dogma.

Have You Guys Heard of Assemblies?

Maybe not among the Eastern Orthodox bishops or the Anglican ones, but it’s not as if Protestants don’t regularly meet to find a consensus on what the Bible means. Even so, Alan Jacobs and Rod Dreher repeat the Roman Catholic charge that you need tradition to augment Scripture (when in fact tradition comes all balled up in the magisterium — read bishops).

Jacobs worries:

The elevation of method to magisterial principle was supposed to make it possible for scholars to discern, and then agree on, the meaning of biblical texts. Instead it merely uprooted them from Christian tradition and Christian practice — as Michael Legaspi has shown in a brilliant book — and left many of them unequipped to understand the literary character of biblical texts, while doing nothing to promote genuine agreement on interpretation. In fact, the transferring of the guild of interpreters from the Church to the University, given the University’s insistence on novelty in scholarship, ensured that no interpretative consensus would be forthcoming.

But if Christians are supposed to take their cues less from the university and more from churches, the latter still exist and provide interpretive consensuses. Maybe the mainstream media and scholars who identify with the academic guild are not impressed by church synods and councils (though they sure were attentive to the Ordinary Synod of Rome; maybe you need special get ups to gain journalists and scholars’ attention, or you need to meet in buildings suffused with Renaissance art — so much for poor church for the poor). But it’s not as if those assemblies even among Protestants have gone away. Given a recent reminder about the illusion of respectability, maybe the work that existing churches still do could receive more credit.

Rod makes Jacobs’ point with flair:

what Protestant churches and organizations are really doing in these debates are trying to find out if its membership wants to change, and if so, how much change will it accept. The truth is, says Beck, is that Protestantism is a “hermeneutical democracy,” in which the individual consciences of believers determine what is true and what is false. This, he says, is the “genius of the tradition,” and having to do all this “relational work” is a key part of what it means to be Protestant. The Bible doesn’t speak for itself; it has to be interpreted, and for Protestants, that means that everybody gets a vote.

“Own your Protestantism,” he says. “The ultimate authority in Protestantism isn’t the Bible, it’s the individual conscience.”

Well, it’s not as if hermeneutical democracy doesn’t afflict churches that have episcopal authoritative structures (where exegeting the Bible is not as important as reading the times’ signs). All churches, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox are in the same boat of having members who regularly pick and choose, cafeteria style, what they believe and that they don’t. Having tradition, bishops, or councils doesn’t fix any of this. What would fix this is having magistrates who enforce religion and where civil penalties are bound up with religious teaching and practice. But wouldn’t that be Islamic?

At least give Protestants credit for trying to discern what God revealed through the prophets and apostles. Adding tradition to Scripture has generally meant the dog of tradition wagging the tail of the Bible.

How Far Is the Sidestream from the Main One?

Travels to Hungary earlier this week and a pleasant conversation with a young woman training to be a pastor in the Hungarian Reformed Church got me thinking about women, gender, and how important male clergy is to “the gospel.” This woman could not quite wrap her mind around the idea that a church still places restrictions on ordination. The argument that Paul taught that elders and pastors should be male, since they should be married to only one wife (and Paul wasn’t thinking of Ellen DeGeneres), didn’t seem to be sufficient.

So I started to think, thoughts that took me back to CRC days, what is such a big deal about ordaining women? It is an error and violates God’s word, which is synonymous with sin (“any want of conformity unto or transgression of”). But Covenanters can fellowship with hymn singers which for some exclusive psalm folks is a violation of God’s word. Which means we all look the other way at least ecumenically when it comes to interpreting God’s word.

The experience of conservative Reformed boomers, however, was that the hermeneutic that allowed the ordination of women was one that would lead to cutting and pasting the rest of God’s word and church order. As a boomer this argument — the slippery slope one that almost sent me to Vietnam — makes some sense. But what if a communion decided simply to draw the line at women’s ordination? We will go this far, the women’s ordinationists might say, but no farther. Isn’t that what some communions have done with hymns? We will sing them but not P&W Praise Songs? In which case, what is the threshold that women’s ordination crosses by itself? Or is it simply a case of knowing what history teaches — when women ascend the pulpit doctrine slips.

Along with this set of thoughts went the one about women and head coverings. Should a communion like the OPC be consistent and encourage (maybe discipline) women to cover their heads in worship, with some preference given to those with long hair? Is this another one of those hermeneutical instances where we look the other way? At the same time, doesn’t the reality of women not wearing scarves in OPC churches, along with our hip and up-to-date revision of the Confession of Faith on the civil magistrate — doesn’t this make the OPC mainstream?

Oh yeah. What Christian women today would wear a head scarf? That’s Islam.

When Jamie is Good He is Very Good

From James K.A. Smith’s review of Pete Enns, The Evolution of Adam (thanks to our Florida co-editor):

The meaning of Scripture is not limited to what human authors intended—which is precisely why the meaning of prophetic texts outstrips what human authors might have had in mind. As Richard Hays puts it, in some ways Christians read the Bible back to front. But the dominant methodology that Enns reflects has no functional room for appreciating this point, which is why he seems to think that defining what the “authors of Genesis” had in mind settles the matter. It doesn’t.

This sort of a-canonical approach also explains why Enns sees such a strange relationship between Genesis and the apostle Paul as a reader of Genesis. “Paul’s reading of Genesis,” he comments, “is driven by factors external to Genesis. Paul’s use of the Old Testament, here or elsewhere, does not determine how that passage functions in its original setting” (87, emphasis added). Well, that might be true; and Enns is exactly right to offer a corrective to irresponsibile habits of Bible reading that are little more than baptized eisegesis, reading into the Scriptures what we want to find there. But is the “original meaning” the determinative factor for the meaning of Genesis for us? We receive a canon of Scripture that recontextualizes each book—situating every book in relation to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, which is why the “location” from which we read the Bible needs to be the practices of Christian worship. Worship is the primary “home” of the Bible and it is in worship that we cultivate those habits and virtues we need to read Scripture holistically.[8] That will certainly generate meanings of Old Testament books that could never have been intended by their human authors; but that doesn’t mean they were not intended as meanings to be unfolded “in front of the text” by the divine Author.

Enns’ approach leaves little room to recognize such recontextualization within the canon—nor does he accord any positive, constructive role to tradition (cf. 114). In fact, if it becomes a contest between “the authors of Genesis” and Paul, Enns sides with “the original meaning” of Genesis as the determinative meaning: “what Genesis says about Adam and the consequences of his actions does not seem to line up with the universal picture that Paul paints in Romans and 1 Corinthians […]. I do not think the gospel stands on whether we can read Paul’s Adam in the pages of Genesis” (92). To use Enns’ language, Paul attributes something to Genesis that the “authors of Genesis” are not trying to give us. Again, this account is entirely “from below,” as if it is Paul alone who “invests Adam with capital he does not have either in the Genesis story, the Old Testament as a whole, or the interpretations of his contemporary Jews” (135).

But now the problem above comes home to roost: what if there is an Author who is the author of both Genesis and 1 Corinthians? What did he intend? And could he intend meanings in Genesis that outstrip what the “authors of Genesis” intended? The church has always staked its reading of the Bible on the conviction that Scripture’s meaning exceeds what the original human authors could have intended. So we can’t neatly and tidily settle the cross-pressures we feel at the intersection of Genesis and contemporary science by simply limiting the meaning of Genesis to what was intended by its Ancient Near Eastern authors.

It seems to this average historian, this point is one that all of the discussion surrounding Christocentric vs. Christotelic readings misses. And Smith points to the importance of reading the Bible as a whole and as a book that may be best understood within the church rather than the Society of Biblical Literature.

When Logic Is Delusional

Sure, I find Bryan Cross’s grading of all my utterances for logical correctness annoying. But aside from my own mental inadequacies, I have trouble understanding how logic can be such a part of the apologetic tactic Bryan (along with Jason and the Callers) brings to the interweb. Have these fellows not heard of Vatican’s Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith or what this congregation said about doctrinal formulations and hermeneutics? Consider this:

First Question: Did the Second Vatican Council change the Catholic doctrine on the Church?

Response: The Second Vatican Council neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine, rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained it.

This was exactly what John XXIII said at the beginning of the Council.[1] Paul VI affirmed it and commented in the act of promulgating the Constitution “Lumen gentium”: “There is no better comment to make than to say that this promulgation really changes nothing of the traditional doctrine. What Christ willed, we also will. What was, still is. What the Church has taught down through the centuries, we also teach. In simple terms that which was assumed, is now explicit; that which was uncertain, is now clarified; that which was meditated upon, discussed and sometimes argued over, is now put together in one clear formulation.” The Bishops repeatedly expressed and fulfilled this intention.

This 2007 explanation, of course, fits entirely with the idea of development of doctrine even if it doesn’t fit with Bryan’s appeal to logic. Part of the difficulty on the latter matter concerns whether what the CDF said in 2007 follows logically from the premise established by Pius X roughly 100 years earlier when he required of any priest an Oath against Modernism which contained this:

Fourthly, I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical’ misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously. I also condemn every error according to which, in place of the divine deposit which has been given to the spouse of Christ to be carefully guarded by her, there is put a philosophical figment or product of a human conscience that has gradually been developed by human effort and will continue to develop indefinitely.

This is merely the policy that followed from Pius X’s condemnation of Modernism and the notion of evolution of doctrine (13).

Maybe someone schooled in upper level logic can reconcile development of doctrine (A) with a condemnation of development of doctrine (not A). Curious minds do want to know. But perhaps Bryan along with Jason and the Callers should consider one of their fellow converts from a semi-Reformed Protestant background who might judge their high view of logic as just one more instance of Protestant rationalism and logocentrism:

For evangelicals, things say what they mean and mean what they say. Lines are drawn, people get clear on where they stand, and clarity and consistency throughout is paramount. That is its literal, either/or, univocal approach at work again. that view also reflects Protestantism central emphasis on the word. . . . Correct words, for Protestants — particularly for evangelical rationalists — are therefore nearly themselves sacred, because Christian truth itself is presented directly in the right words.

Catholics also care very much about right words. But their approach to words is a bit different in a way that turns out to make a big difference. Catholicism, in short, recognizes a gap between words and what the words express or represent. For Protestants, the words are the truth. That is why one must get them exactly right. For Catholics, by contrast, words formulate expressions of truth. There is not in Catholicism a literal, exact, univocal correspondence or identity between words and truth. Much of the truth, especially truth that directly concerns God, is in Catholicism a mystery. Ultimately the truth is God. And God is not words. (Christian Smith, How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic, 104-105)

Tell that to Pius X.

Smith goes on to quote from the CDF (quoted above) and goes on to say:

Catholicism can thus at once claim infallibility for some of its teachings and at the same time revise the verbal expression of those teachings. Even the doctrine of papal infallibility does not claim that the verbal formulations per se that are promulgated by popes are infallible. Rather, it is the real truths which their verbal formulations express that are infallible. In short, we haven’t gotten at all wrong what we say is true, even though the way we say the truth might not be quite right or adequate. (106-107)

I for one don’t know what Smith’s hermeneutic means for the status and authority of a papal encyclical or for Bryan Cross’ love of logic, but it has all the marks of theological modernism and the way that Protestant and Roman Catholic liberals said that words and their meanings wobbled across time without needing to be pinned down. H. L. Mencken, by no means a Protestant or a Roman Catholic, like Pius X saw through the hockum of modernism and recognized its threat to all forms of knowledge:

I confess frankly, as a life-long fan of theology, that I can find no defect in his defense of his position. Is Christianity actually a revealed religion? If not, then it is nothing; if so, then we must accept the Bible as an inspired statement of its principles. But how can we think of the Bible as inspired and at the same time as fallible? How can we imagine it as part divine and awful truth, and part mere literary confectionary? And how, if we manage so to imagine it, are we to distinguish between the truth and the confectionary? Dr. Machen answers these questions very simply and very convincingly. If Christianity is really true, as he believes, then the Bible is true, and if the Bible is true, then it is true from cover to cover. So answering, he takes his stand upon it, and defies the hosts of Beelzebub to shake him. As I have hinted, I think that, given his faith, his position is completely impregnable. There is absolutely no flaw in the argument with which he supports it. If he is wrong, then the science of logic is a hollow vanity, signifying nothing.

If You Can't Stand Superiority, Get Off the Top Shelf

The chief deficiency of Protestantism, according to Jason and the Callers, is that we only have a Bible that needs to be interpreted while they — Roman Catholics — have a pope who is the final word on interpretation. In other words, Protestants have multiple opinions about the Bible’s meaning while Roman Catholics have one truth thanks to its one pope (please don’t notice, by the way, when the church had more than one).

Given this anti-Protestant polemic (the new acceptable prejudice), I had a good chuckle when devout Roman Catholics had to come to the rescue to explain what Francis meant in his recent universalistic sounding homily.

Andrew Preslar did a pretty good impersonation of a Protestant reading his Bible when he wrote:

The key to understanding the Pope’s remarks is to understand that there is a difference between being redeemed–as are all men (objectively), because of Christ’s death and resurrection–and being saved or in a state of grace–as are only those who receive God’s grace by faith and abide in his love. It is also important to notice that the Pope was not teaching that atheists can be saved merely by doing good works. He made two distinct though related points; namely, that atheists can do good works and that Christ has redeemed everyone. For these reasons, we can “meet one another in doing good.” [1] Of course, the Pope’s point about the universality of the Atonement is disputed by Calvinists, and the teaching of Vatican II concerning the possibility of salvation apart from explicit faith in Christ is widely debated in non-Catholic Christian circles. Without here entering into these debates by way of argument, I want to describe how I think about this matter now, as a Catholic, with special reference to evangelism.

Bryan Cross couldn’t resist getting in on the fun of private interpretation:

Whatever the merits of these explanations of Francis, they flatly contradict the claim that Protestantism suffers from a diversity of opinions. Roman Catholicism does as well. You have the former Protestant line of Francis’ meaning, and then you have the cradle-left-leaning-social-justice Roman Catholic version. Link to NCR comments on homily. Protestants have to interpret the Bible and Roman Catholics (post-Vatican 2) have the freedom to interpret their bishops. Without any temporal power to enforce the right interpretation – whether Geneva’s City Council or the Roman Inquisition, we’re all Protestants now.

If Jason and the Callers had the slightest awareness of history, they would know that they jumped from the frying pan of denominationalism into the fire of Roman Catholic opinion making. But to justify their rational, autonomous decisionism, they continue to think they have chosen the church of Cappadocia circa 389 AD.

Modernity does make its demands.

Let the Interpretation Resume

Or Jason Stellman has some ‘splainin’ to do.

Jason is still justifying his realignment by trotting out the familiar refrain that sola scriptura doesn’t solve anything, thus making Protestantism the road to ruin and mayhem.

For the confessional Presbyterian, the reason the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches is “not a [true] church” is that its theology disagrees with the interpretation of the Bible espoused by confessional Presbyterians, and therefore CREC pastors are not truly ordained and thus ”don’t have the sacraments.” But of course, this is completely circular: “Our view is that the marks of a true church include properly understanding the gospel [or, agreeing with our interpretation of the Bible concerning what the gospel is], and since the CREC falls short in this regard, it therefore fails to meet our criteria of what a true church must be.” But this is a perfect recipe — indeed a license — for anarchy and schism. Any fallible group of people can now gather together, decide what counts as a true church, and then dismiss from that category everyone else who disagrees with them.

This is why Sola Scriptura — even in its more churchly expressions — ultimately fails. As long as there’s some sincere, Bible-believing Christian who disagrees with the church on some issue, all that will result from an ecclesiastical decision on that issue (even from a church’s highest court) is a never-ending “yeah-huh!” / “nuh-uh!”, he said / she said dispute.

In fact, it’s not just that this may be the result, it’s that it must be, for the irresolvability of any theological controversy is built into the whole Protestant system from the get-go. So even if the proper formula is not Solo but Sola, the “A” at the end still stands for Anarchy.

If Protestants suffer from interpretive discord, what is the affliction that Roman Catholics experience when confronted with the statements of their interpretive authority? For instance, I wonder if Jason believes the following affirmations and denials from various popes (or does he have to explain them)?

From Boniface VIII (1305) on the church’s supreme power which includes wielding both swords:

We are informed by the texts of the gospels that in this Church and in its power are two swords; namely, the spiritual and the temporal. For when the Apostles say: ‘Behold, here are two swords’ [Lk 22:38] that is to say, in the Church, since the Apostles were speaking, the Lord did not reply that there were too many, but sufficient. Certainly the one who denies that the temporal sword is in the power of Peter has not listened well to the word of the Lord commanding: ‘Put up thy sword into thy scabbard’ [Mt 26:52]. Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered for the Church but the latter by the Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.

However, one sword ought to be subordinated to the other and temporal authority, subjected to spiritual power. For since the Apostle said: ‘There is no power except from God and the things that are, are ordained of God’ [Rom 13:1-2], but they would not be ordained if one sword were not subordinated to the other and if the inferior one, as it were, were not led upwards by the other.

From Nicholas V (1455) with global political power trying to arbitrate which Roman Catholic monarch gets to colonize the “new” world and vanquish the Saracens (i.e. Muslims):

The Roman pontiff, successor of the key-bearer of the heavenly kingdom and vicar of Jesus Christ, contemplating with a father’s mind all the several climes of the world and the characteristics of all the nations dwelling in them and seeking and desiring the salvation of all, wholesomely ordains and disposes upon careful deliberation those things which he sees will be agreeable to the Divine Majesty and by which he may bring the sheep entrusted to him by God into the single divine fold, and may acquire for them the reward of eternal felicity, and obtain pardon for their souls. This we believe will more certainly come to pass, through the aid of the Lord, if we bestow suitable favors and special graces on those Catholic kings and princes, who, like athletes and intrepid champions of the Christian faith, as we know by the evidence of facts, not only restrain the savage excesses of the Saracens and of other infidels, enemies of the Christian name, but also for the defense and increase of the faith vanquish them and their kingdoms and habitations, though situated in the remotest parts unknown to us, and subject them to their own temporal dominion, sparing no labor and expense, in order that those kings and princes, relieved of all obstacles, may be the more animated to the prosecution of so salutary and laudable a work.

Condemnations from Clement XI (1713) which repudiate the Augustinian convictions of the Jansenists:

41. All knowledge of God, even natural knowledge, even in the pagan philosophers, cannot come except from God; and without grace knowledge produces nothing but presumption, vanity, and opposition to God Himself, instead of the affections of adoration, gratitude, and love.

42. The grace of Christ alone renders a man fit for the sacrifice of faith; without this there is nothing but impurity, nothing but unworthiness.

43. The first effect of baptismal grace is to make us die to sin so that our spirit, heart, and senses have no more life for sin than a dead man has for the things of the world.

44. There are but two loves, from which all our volitions and actions arise: love of God, which does all things because of God and which God rewards; and the love with which we love ourselves and the world, which does not refer to God what ought to be referred to Him, and therefore becomes evi

Pius IX’s condemnation of the separation of church and state:

Others meanwhile, reviving the wicked and so often condemned inventions of innovators, dare with signal impudence to subject to the will of the civil authority the supreme authority of the Church and of this Apostolic See given to her by Christ Himself, and to deny all those rights of the same Church and See which concern matters of the external order. For they are not ashamed of affirming “that the Church’s laws do not bind in conscience unless when they are promulgated by the civil power; that acts and decrees of the Roman Pontiffs, referring to religion and the Church, need the civil power’s sanction and approbation, or at least its consent; that the Apostolic Constitutions,6 whereby secret societies are condemned (whether an oath of secrecy be or be not required in such societies), and whereby their frequenters and favourers are smitten with anathema — have no force in those regions of the world wherein associations of the kind are tolerated by the civil government; that the excommunication pronounced by the Council of Trent and by Roman Pontiffs against those who assail and usurp the Church’s rights and possessions, rests on a confusion between the spiritual and temporal orders, and (is directed) to the pursuit of a purely secular good; that the Church can decree nothing which binds the conscience of the faithful in regard to their use of temporal things; that the Church has no right of restraining by temporal punishments those who violate her laws; that it is conformable to the principles of sacred theology and public law to assert and claim for the civil government a right of property in those goods which are possessed by the Church, by the Religious Orders, and by other pious establishments.” Nor do they blush openly and publicly to profess the maxim and principle of heretics from which arise so many perverse opinions and errors. For they repeat that the “ecclesiastical power is not by divine right distinct from, and independent of, the civil power, and that such distinction and independence cannot be preserved without the civil power’s essential rights being assailed and usurped by the Church.” Nor can we pass over in silence the audacity of those who, not enduring sound doctrine, contend that “without sin and without any sacrifice of the Catholic profession assent and obedience may be refused to those judgments and decrees of the Apostolic See, whose object is declared to concern the Church’s general good and her rights and discipline, so only it does not touch the dogmata of faith and morals.” But no one can be found not clearly and distinctly to see and understand how grievously this is opposed to the Catholic dogma of the full power given from God by Christ our Lord Himself to the Roman Pontiff of feeding, ruling and guiding the Universal Church.

And Pius XII’s condemnation of evolution (complete with a reassertion of the loyalty that folks like Jason owe to the papapcy):

37. When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which through generation is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.

(19. Although these things seem well said, still they are not free from error. It is true that Popes generally leave theologians free in those matters which are disputed in various ways by men of very high authority in this field; but history teaches that many matters that formerly were open to discussion, no longer now admit of discussion.

20. Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: “He who heareth you, heareth me”;[3] and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.)

Now maybe Jason agrees that the papacy holds both swords, the spiritual and temporal, or that the pope has power to grant the colonization of new lands around the world to European powers, or that something apart from grace prepares a believer for faith, or that church and state should be united, or that evolution is false and that the papacy has the power to rule on matters of science.

Or perhaps, he needs to interpret the very words of his source of supreme interpretation. Then again, he can always appeal to the theory and ignore historical reality.

If George Washington Gets A Pass, Why Not William Ernest Hocking?

Well, one reason is that Washington was the nation’s first president and the U.S. Capitol has a whole lot of hullabaloo about him as a divine-like being (see the image of Washington’s apotheosis). Hocking, by contrast, was merely a professor of philosophy at Harvard University. As positions go, teaching at Harvard is not too shabby, but it runs well behind the founding president of the greatest nation on God’s green earth.

But when you read the religious statements of each man, you do begin to scratch your head about the relative orthodoxy of George Washington, regarded by most professional historians to be a deistical member of the Masons, compared to the theological liberalism of Hocking, who wrote the controversial report on American Protestant foreign missions, Re-Thinking Missions (you know, the report that led Machen to found the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions and to Machen’s conviction and suspension from ministry in the PCUSA).

Here is Washington’s statement regarding a national day of thanksgiving

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor–and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be–That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions–to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

And here is a statement from Hocking about the aim of missions:

The goal to which this way leads may be variously described, most perfectly perhaps in the single phrase, Thy Kingdom come. This is, and has always been, the true aim of Christian missions.

Its detail varies as we learn more of what is involved in it. It means to us now, as always, saving life. It means representing to the Orient the spiritual sources of western civilization, while its other aspects, technical and material, are being represented so vigorously in other ways. It means paving the way for international friendship through a deeper understanding. It means trying more definitely to strengthen our own hold on the meaning of religion in human life. Should we try to express this conception in a more literal statement it might be this: To seek with people of other lands a true knowledge and love of God, expressing in life and word what we have learned through Jesus Christ, and endeavoring to give effect to his spirit in the life of the world.

Whatever the merits of either statement, it is curious to note that Hocking at least mentions Jesus Christ while Washington rarely referred to the second person of the Trinity, except when using the conventional language of the Book of Common Prayer. (It is odd, by the way, for evangelicals to cling to the language of formal prayers when defending Washington’s piety when that same liturgical language was and is off limits in born-again worship where sincerity demands extemporaneous prayers and repudiates merely going through the motions of “prayer-book” religion.)

Which leads to the question: if we can make allowances for George Washington’s religious statements, don’t we have to extend the same generosity to Harry Emerson Fosdick, Hocking, and Pearl Buck? In other words, if you show charity to the American founders, don’t you have to extend the same to Protestant liberals? In which case, if we believed in the orthodoxy of the Founders, would we actually have communions like the OPC and the PCA?

The Return of This and That

kitchen sinkHide it under a bushel? No! But under camouflage? Yes. At least that the implied message of the new “Camo” edition of the American Patriot’s Bible. (Thanks to our mid-West correspondent.)

This pocket version of the popular American Patriot’s Bible reminds Christians of the Bible’s living legacy in the history of America, a nation built on the biblical values of God and family.

If it is fair to describe The Law is Not of Faith book as embodying the Escondido Hermeneutic, would it also be fair to describe the Kerux Apologetic as evidientialist?

And if union was as important to Calvin as many allege, why does he bury his catechetical instruction on the topic in the section on the Lord’s Supper? (Do a word search of the 1545 Catechism – who wants to read all 340-plus questions? – and check it out.)

(BTW, if we’re going to follow Calvin on union, why aren’t we also following him on eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ? If you’re going to take Calvin literally on union, don’t you also have to take him literally on Christ’s real presence in the Supper?)

Master. – Do we therefore eat the body and blood of the Lord?

Scholar. – I understand so. For as our whole reliance for salvation depends on him, in order that the obedience which he yielded to the Father may be imputed to us just as if it were ours, it is necessary that he be possessed by us; for the only way in which he communicates his blessings to us is by making himself ours.

Master. – But did he not give himself when he exposed himself to death, that he might redeem us from the sentence of death, and reconcile us to God?

Scholar. – That is indeed true; but it is not enough for us unless we now receive him, that thus the efficacy and fruit of his death may reach us.

Master. – Does not the manner of receiving consist in faith?

Scholar. – I admit it does. But I at the same time add, that this is done when we not only believe that he died in order to free us from death, and was raised up that he might purchase life for us, but recognise that he dwells in us, and that we are united to him by a union the same in kind as that which unites the members to the head, that by virtue of this union we may become partakers of all his blessings.

Master. – Do we obtain this communion by the Supper alone?

Scholar. – No, indeed. For by the gospel also, as Paul declares, Christ is communicated to us. And Paul justly declares this, seeing we are there told that we are flesh of his flesh and bones of his bones-that he is the living bread which came down from heaven to nourish our souls-that we are one with him as he is one with the Father, &c. (1 Cor. i. 6; Eph. v. 30; John vi. 51; John xvii. 21.)

Master. – What more do we obtain from the sacrament, or what other benefit does it confer upon us?

Scholar. – The communion of which I spoke is thereby confirmed and increased; for although Christ is exhibited to us both in baptism and in the gospel, we do not however receive him entire, but in part only.

Master. – What then have we in the symbol of bread?

Scholar. – As the body of Christ was once sacrificed for us to reconcile us to God, so now also is it given to us, that we may certainly know that reconciliation belongs to us.

Master. – What in the symbol of wine?

Scholar. – That as Christ once shed his blood for the satisfaction of our sins, and as the price of our redemption, so he now also gives it to us to drink, that we may feel the benefit which should thence accrue to us.

Master. – According to these two answers, the holy Supper of the Lord refers us to his death, that we may communicate in its virtue?

Scholar. – Wholly so; for then the one perpetual sacrifice, sufficient for our salvation, was performed. Hence nothing more remains for us but to enjoy it.