Whose Lens Are You Using?

Many people feel somewhat uncomfortable with the idea that the confessions of the church are a lens through which we view Scripture. To them, it smacks too much of putting the confessions on a par with Scripture. There is always danger in elevating man’s words to the level of Scripture. However, is there another way in which we can understand this relationship?

Let’s put it this way: everyone has lenses of some sort when they come to Scripture. No one can interpret Scripture from a completely clean slate. Let me repeat this: everyone has lenses through which they read the Scriptures. The question, then, has been racketing about in the wrong quadrant for a lot of people. The question is not whether one will have a lens through which to interpret Scripture, but rather which lens is the correct lens?

The reason this becomes important is that there are really only two alternatives. Either one takes the lens of a church’s confession, in which case one is entering into the collegiality of the church’s reading of Scripture, or one is inventing one’s own lens that will be on a par with the standards of the church, yet separate from it. At the very least, it could be said to be bordering on arrogance to think that one’s own lens has the same kind of authority as what the church has said.

I can hear the objection already: “You sound Roman Catholic.” On the contrary, for I assume the difference between Scripture as the norming norm, and the confessions as the normed norm. Therefore, the confessions are not infallible and may be changed (as they were when they came across the Atlantic into America in the 18th century). The problem here is that anything other than a biblicistic understanding of Scriptural understanding is often taken to be Roman Catholic. This is simply not the case. The Reformers loved the church and highly respected her opinions. They respected her opinions above their own, in fact. And this is really the point. In submitting to the confessions, we acknowledge that the church is our mother. The irony of all this is that there are some today who claim that confessionalists are not being very courteous to the church. As a matter of fact, it is the non-confessionalists who are being discourteous to the church’s opinion.

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919 Comments

  1. Lee said,

    August 14, 2009 at 10:22 am

    I will go ahead and ask the obvious question. How can the Confessions be an apt summary of the doctrine in God’s word, if they are the lens through which we look at God’s word?

    In other words the people who wrote the Confession probably did not use the Confession of Faith as a lens before they came up with it. And if they did doesn’t that call into question whether or not it is reflective of God’s word? And if they did not, then does not that undermine the idea that the church’s confession should be taken since the makers of the Confession themselves shook off their church’s confession?

  2. August 14, 2009 at 11:14 am

    The Reformers loved the church and highly respected her opinions. They respected her opinions above their own, in fact.

    Well, the RC would respond by saying that the Reformers “highly respected the church’s opinions” provided they agreed with them. But when the church had a view that conflicted with the Reformers’ interpretation of Scripture, they would reject the church’s view, no matter how ancient.

    I bring this up simply because I am dialoging with some Catholic guys on my blog, and we never seem to get past this initial point.

  3. Sean said,

    August 14, 2009 at 11:53 am

    I would humpback Jason’s statement with a question:

    How do you know the Reformed confession lens is the true lens and not some other lens?

  4. August 14, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Sean,

    Our answer would be that the Reformed confessions contain the best encapsulation of biblical doctrine. In a word, if you subject Scripture to rigorous exegesis and interpretation, you will come to Reformed conclusions.

  5. Bryan Cross said,

    August 14, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Lane,

    I agree with your claim that we all use a lens. But, from a Catholic point of view, your following claim seems absolutely self-delusional:

    The problem here is that anything other than a biblicistic understanding of Scriptural understanding is often taken to be Roman Catholic. This is simply not the case. The Reformers loved the church and highly respected her opinions.

    You say you reject biblicism. But then you use a biblicist way of defining ‘church’, and then say “We love the church and highly respect her opinions”. Well, if ‘church’ just means those who agree with your interpretation of Scripture, with marks determined by your own interpretation (or those whose interpretation you share), then, of course it is no big surprise that you “love and highly respect” the ‘church’, because, it is not surprise that you love and highly respect your own interpretations of Scripture. Apart from the biblicist-determined ‘marks of the Church’, what the early Protestants did in the sixteenth century viz-a-viz the Catholic Church (e.g. Luther publicly burning the papal bull) is quite indistinguishable from not highly respecting the Church, even rebelling, against the Church, whether not their treatment of the Church is verbally described as loving and highly respecting the opinions of the Church, and whether or not the early Protestants had well-intentioned motives (which I generally think they did).

    If the FV folks said they loved and highly respected the opinions of the Church, and defined the marks of the Church so that it included themselves, and justified their disregard of the rulings of the PCA, OPC, etc., you would be all over that, immediately. But that’s just what your claim [that I quoted above] looks like, from a Catholic point of view. So your position is, in that respect, ad hoc, accepting biblicist defining of the marks when it suits you (i.e. in the case of the early Protestants), and rejecting it when it doesn’t (i.e. viz-a-viz the FVers).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  6. rfwhite said,

    August 14, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Lane: would you say that the church means those who agree with your interpretations?

  7. Richard said,

    August 14, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    As I am reading it at the moment and it touches on this type of issue (hermeneutics) I would suggest a read of Horton’s Covenant and Eschatology. Reading it provoked me to pick up a copy of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Truth and Method.

  8. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 14, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Jason:

    How do you know the reformers interpretation is infall. ? (Infallible meaning the interpretation is cleared of theol. error.) You assume they have the right conclusions.

    – Another problem,Lutherans have studied the Bible and have decided that Calvinism is a heresy. Jason, I am not trying to be a jerk, but I have heard that line before. (esp. from Greg Koukl)

    -Remember the reformers are the ones that have walked away from the deposit of faith. Also, according to St. Athanasius, the council fathers did not go about finding the truth by reading their indiv. Bibles, but what was the sacred tradition that was handed down to them about the Div. of Christ. This idea is later developed by Cardinal Newman.

    – Jason, later you need to read Newman.Not Perkins! Clark, come out, come out where ever you are.—-Not!!

  9. Paige Britton said,

    August 14, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    If the Scriptures are the mother of the church, then the church’s confessional “lens” is ultimately responsible to the Scriptures. This means the lens is derivative, not primary; it’s a tool, made for a purpose – to summarize and instruct – and tools need sharpening and cleaning from time to time.

    What the Reformers denied was that the Church was the mother of the Scriptures, which meant that they could bring the Church under the scrutiny of the Scriptures, and find her wanting.

    Which begs the question, of course, of whether the lens they used to interpret the Scriptures as they critiqued the church was the right lens. But that’s Protestantism’s dangerous idea, isn’t it, that in interpreting the Bible for ourselves, we may approach a right & sufficient understanding of God’s words, if not an exhaustive one.

  10. rfwhite said,

    August 14, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    As Paige suggests, it looks to me that there is an interplay of three authorities at work in Lane’s post: that of Scripture, that of the church and its officers, and that of individual conscience. How we configure these three relative to one another yields radical ecclesiastical differences.

  11. August 14, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    This post made me think of an article Carl Trueman wrote for the Ligonier Ministries blog last year:

    “…..some Christians have creeds that have been tried and tested by the church over the centuries, while others have those that their pastor made up, or that they put together themselves. Now, there is no necessary reason why the latter should be inferior to the former; but, on the basis that there is no need to reinvent the wheel, there is surely no virtue in turning our backs on those forms of sound words that have done a good job for hundreds of years in articulating aspects of the Christian faith and facilitating its transmission from place to place and generation to generation. If you want to, say, reject the Nicene Creed, you are of course free to do so; but you should at least try to replace it with a formula that will do the job just as effectively for so many people for the next 1,500 years. If you cannot do so, perhaps modesty and gratitude, rather than iconoclasm, are the appropriate responses to the ancient creed.”

    I like the mention of modesty and would also add humility to the list of attitudes by which we could approach a collective understanding that has worked fairly well for the past several hundred years (by collective understanding I refer to the WCF). I hope that alongwith Jason I can claim this confession as the “best encapsulation of biblical doctrine….” without a subtle, smug elitism which tends to borrow my thinking at times. Not that its wrong to be right….just wrong to be me and right on occasion.

    Thanks for the post.

  12. August 14, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    In 1654, less than ten years after the Westminster Standards were finished, John Owen and some other Reformed pastors (some of whom had worked on the Standards) gathered together to take another whack, let us say, at confession-writing. I think this is interesting, in that these men obviously didn’t think that the Westminster Standards were the final definitive word on what the Bible teaches (else why would they be writing?). Confessions and catechisms can always be improved, as they are mere manmade writings and we assume infallibility and inerrancy only of the Scriptures. So, in every generation, Christians have an opportunity to improve their written understanding of what they believe. This is healthy.

  13. August 15, 2009 at 2:37 am

    [...] the norming norm 2009 August 15 tags: Community, Scripture, Tradition by Richard Over on his blog, Lane writes correctly that “everyone has lenses of some sort when they come to Scripture. No [...]

  14. Ron Henzel said,

    August 15, 2009 at 5:08 am

    Bryan,

    You wrote:

    You say you reject biblicism. But then you use a biblicist way of defining ‘church’, and then say “We love the church and highly respect her opinions”. Well, if ‘church’ just means those who agree with your interpretation of Scripture, with marks determined by your own interpretation (or those whose interpretation you share), then, of course it is no big surprise that you “love and highly respect” the ‘church’, because, it is not surprise that you love and highly respect your own interpretations of Scripture.

    You wrote this primarily in response to Lane’s statements:

    The Reformers loved the church and highly respected her opinions. They respected her opinions above their own, in fact.

    You even go so far as to call these words “absolutely self-delusional.” But it seems to me that at the root of your complaint lies a theological mistranslation of the word “church,” which often means something very different in Roman Catholic and Protestant usage. Contrary to your accusation that Lane is resorting to a “biblicist” definition of the word, I find that he is using it in the standard way I have come to expect in the context of this type of discussion.

    As a fellow Reformed Presbyterian, I assume that by “the church” Lane was neither to the current Roman Catholic hierarchy (which seems by implication to be your working definition of “church” given your Luther analogy), nor to the cumulative pronouncements of that hierarchy, but to the historic church as a whole. More specifically, I believe that Lane was not referring to the official pronouncements or positions of the church hierarchy at any given time, but to the entire written legacy of the church, including the writings of the church fathers and medieval doctors.

    If you read Calvin’s Institutes, you’ll find it riddled with citations from and references to the fathers and doctors, along with occasional references to councils and synods. When it comes to this entire corpus of material, we love and and highly respect it, even though we do not always agree with it. If you take the time to see how Calvin treats the fathers and doctors with whom he disagrees, I believe you’ll find that he is very far from defining the church as “those who agree with [his] interpretation of Scripture,” even though he can be very sharp and pointed in his disagreements with them. To smear Lane and other historic Reformed Protestants with your so-called biblicist definition of the church is to slander the entire tradition.

    The only difference between historic Reformed Protestants and Roman Catholics with respect to this definition of the “church” is the way we treat the councils. As far as the fathers and doctors are concerned, Roman Catholics treat them in exactly the same manner as Reformed Protestants: they pick what suits them and reject what does not according to their creedal positions. Reformed Protestants part company with Roman Catholics by extending that same method, to the councils, only with a great deal more caution.

  15. Sean said,

    August 15, 2009 at 5:57 am

    Ron Henzel.

    Those fathers that are quoted in Calvin’s institutes did not define ‘church’ the same way that Calvin defined ‘church.’

    In fact those fathers treated sacred Tradition and defined ‘church’ the same way that the Catholic church defines ‘church’ to this day.

    So, if you are right that the issue hinges on the definition of ‘church’ perhaps we should examine the proper definition of the word ‘church?’

    Like Bryan said, coming up with your own definition of ‘church’ and then submitting to it is no different than biblicism.

  16. August 15, 2009 at 6:29 am

    [...] some more about this quasi-roman-catholic theology, it occurs to me what I rank unbeliever I must seem to those blinded by [...]

  17. ReformedSinner said,

    August 15, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Every Church needs to have a Confession, otherwise the Church will be reduced to mere men’s opinions and theology at the end of the day is nothing more than “what I feel is right” versus the standard that rules our lives.

    Now, of course the counter argument is who’s Confession is perfect? The answer is no one, but that shouldn’t prevent the Church of having a standard of Confession. Humanity doesn’t have a perfect form of government but that doesn’t mean anarchy is the answer either.

    Confessions gives the Church unity. As a person that grew up in “independent” church that think the word Confession is a curse, I have seem so many arguments that can’t be resolved because at the end of the day all of us are conditioned that everyone of our opinions on Scripture “mattered”, and at the end there’s really no “right and wrong, but simply how the Spirit guides you”. No theological disagreement can be solve because there’s simply no place to appeal to a higher standard. What about the Bible you say? While, every reads them and are guided by the Spirit to say what he or she says.

    Confessions give people a sense of seriousness towards theology. I sense an urgency in “independent” churches is that at the end of the day because theology is “what I think is right” and how “The spirit guides me”, therefore theology, at the end of the day, isn’t taken seriously. Afterall, when I sin I’ll explained it away, when I’m good I’ll boast myself. What will you think of the traffic laws when you can reinterpret them at will (when there’s no one and no car I can cross a red light), you will not respect the traffic law. Unfortunately a lack of a standard of Confession generally makes members have no respect to God’s laws.

    I have much to say, but once again at a place like a blog I can’t articular too detailed nor say too much. Bye

  18. Bryan Cross said,

    August 15, 2009 at 7:18 am

    Ron,

    More specifically, I believe that Lane was not referring to the official pronouncements or positions of the church hierarchy at any given time, but to the entire written legacy of the church, including the writings of the church fathers and medieval doctors.

    The problem with claiming that what was meant by “the Reformers loved the church [and] respected her opinions above their own” is only that the Reformers loved the written legacy of the individual church fathers but not the official pronouncements or positions of the church hierarchy at any given time, is that it reduces the Church to a “written legacy.” It assumes that the Church no longer even existed at the time of the Reformation. (See my article titled Ecclesial Deism.) Anyone who claims to love the Church and respect her opinions above his own, but who thumbs his nose at the Church’s councils, either doesn’t understand what the Church is, or is self-deluded.

    You seem to be claiming that the Reformers did not come up with the marks in a biblicist way because their writings contain numerous references to the fathers. The essential problem with biblicism is not its low frequency of references to the fathers. We all recognize that any heretic can cherry-pick from the fathers. Filling one’s writings with references to the fathers does not ipso facto avoid biblicism.

    The biblicist places his own interpretation of Scripture above that the Church. That is the essence of what Mathison calls solo scriptura. (See his “The Difference a Vowel Makes“.) The Church had defined her marks in the Nicene Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic. But the Reformers used their own interpretation of Scripture to make sola fide the sine qua non of the gospel, and used their own interpretation of Scripture to make “the gospel” a new mark of the Church. In thus making sola fide a new mark of the Church, something the fathers and councils had never done, the Reformers placed their own interpretation of Scripture above that of the Church. That’s biblicism. The Protestants thumbed their nose at the Council of Trent regarding sola fide. On what basis? Because, they stipulated (on their own presumed authority, based on their own interpretation of Scripture) that sola fide was a mark of the Church. Since the council denied sola fide, therefore it had not satisfied one of their own stipulated marks, and was ipso facto an invalid council. The lesson is that if you don’t agree with any Church council, you just define your own interpretation of Scripture as a mark of the Church, and then you can disregard that council as having been made by some apostate institution.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  19. johnbugay said,

    August 15, 2009 at 8:57 am

    #14 Bryan: … the official pronouncements or positions of the church hierarchy at any given time…

    It is “absolutely self-delusional” for the Roman Catholic Church to equate itself with “the church that Christ founded” or even that “the church that Christ founded ‘subsists in’ the Roman Catholic heirarchy of today.” See my blog entry posts on the development of the papacy, here and here, for example.

  20. rfwhite said,

    August 15, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Is it the case that “the lesson is that if you don’t agree with any Church council, you just define your own interpretation of Scripture as a mark of the Church, and then you can disregard that council as having been made by some apostate institution”?

    Or is the lesson that Church councils have a derived authority that is accountable to the original authority of Scripture?

  21. johnbugay said,

    August 15, 2009 at 9:10 am

    We all recognize that any heretic can cherry-pick from the fathers.

    For you to suggest that Calvin or anyone who affirmed Sola Scriptura was “cherry-picking” is a gross exaggeration of the process.

  22. Ron Henzel said,

    August 15, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Bryan,

    You wrote:

    The problem with claiming that what was meant by “the Reformers loved the church [and] respected her opinions above their own” is only that the Reformers loved the written legacy of the individual church fathers but not the official pronouncements or positions of the church hierarchy at any given time, is that it reduces the Church to a “written legacy.”

    This is quite unfair. By claiming reductionism here it is you, in fact, who is committing unacceptable reductionism. You are attempting to take one particular usage of the word “church” commonly found among historic Reformed Protestant writers and reduce our entire view of the church to that one usage. And yet Roman Catholics do the very same thing when they use the word “church” to refer exclusively to the church hierarchy—which in many contexts, in fact, is the words predominant referent. Are not all who have been children of God by His grace part of the “church” according to Roman Catholic doctrine? Does that mean that when Catholic theologians and ecclesiastics use the word “church” to refer specifically to the hierarchy they are reducing the church to its hierarchy? Not necessarily (even though I think a case can be made for instances of this occurring), and just as it it would be unfair of me to accuse you of reducing your entire theology of the church to its hierarchy based on that usage, so it is unfair of you to accuse us of reducing it to its “written legacy” when we use it to refer to the historic church down through the ages.

    You wrote:

    It assumes that the Church no longer even existed at the time of the Reformation. (See my article titled Ecclesial Deism.) Anyone who claims to love the Church and respect her opinions above his own, but who thumbs his nose at the Church’s councils, either doesn’t understand what the Church is, or is self-deluded.

    I’ll be happy to read your extensive article when other responsibilities are not so pressing, but once again, not only are you are being quite uncharitable in your caricature of our attitude toward the councils, but you continue to assume a different definition of the church than the one that guides our discussions. We, too, occasionally use the word “church” to refer a church hierarchy, as when we say this church or that has taken such-and-such position on a particular issue, and we are generally referring to whatever ecclesiastical body is authoritative within that denomination. But as Reformed Presbyterians we always do so this the following in mind: “All synods or councils since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred; therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as a help in both” (WCF 31.4). If you choose to deride this as “thumbing one’s nose” at the councils, it simply shows that you choose to unfairly portray our respectful attitude in the worst possible light.

    You wrote:

    You seem to be claiming that the Reformers did not come up with the marks in a biblicist way because their writings contain numerous references to the fathers. The essential problem with biblicism is not its low frequency of references to the fathers. We all recognize that any heretic can cherry-pick from the fathers. Filling one’s writings with references to the fathers does not ipso facto avoid biblicism.

    No, I am not claiming that the Reformers and those of us who follow them avoid biblicism by our citation practices, but rather by our attitude. We do not completely write off church councils as irrelevant to our understanding of Scripture. We include them in our exegetical practice and theological reflection and accept their authority as subordinate to the Scriptures. Biblicists feel free to utterly ignore the councils, fathers, and doctors. We do not. We value what they have to say.

    You wrote:

    The biblicist places his own interpretation of Scripture above that the Church. That is the essence of what Mathison calls solo scriptura. (See his “The Difference a Vowel Makes“.)

    Mathison does not use the words “biblicist” or “biblicism” in his article. Nevertheless, you are equating your usage of the term with Mathison’s solo scriptura neologism. What you are describing by “biblicism” and what he is describing by solo scriptura are, however, quite different. He wrote:

    In contrast with the Reformation doctrine of sola Scriptura, the revisionist doctrine of “solo” Scriptura is marked by radical individualism and a rejection of the authority of the church and the ecumenical creeds.

    The Roman Catholic church not only rejects “solo” Scriptura, but it also rejects sola Scriptura. In fact, I think it is not unfair to say that for past 500 years the Roman Catholic hierarchy has argued that sola Scriptura. is nothing more than a slippery slope to “solo” Scriptura, even though that has turned out to be far from the case among traditional Lutherans, Anglicans, and Reformed. You, on the other hand, are arguing that by our consistent application of the sola Scriptura. principle we are already practicing “solo” Scriptura, which is a bizarre charge.

    You wrote:

    The Church had defined her marks in the Nicene Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

    And Reformation Christianity has continued to affirm these marks. The problem lies in verifying which church is displaying them. The Reformed Church concluded that when the Scriptures are properly preached, the sacraments properly observed, and church discipline is properly practices, there you have part of the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” Roman Catholicism, on the other hand, has insisted submission to the pope and agreement with doctrine in keeping with the “unanimous consent of the fathers” (a fictional entity if there ever was one!) verifies one’s membership in said church.

    You wrote:

    But the Reformers used their own interpretation of Scripture to make sola fide the sine qua non of the gospel, and used their own interpretation of Scripture to make “the gospel” a new mark of the Church.

    Actually, that’s not what happened. They parted company with the semi-Pelagianism of the church in order to follow Augustine’s long-established teaching on grace.

    You wrote:

    In thus making sola fide a new mark of the Church, something the fathers and councils had never done, the Reformers placed their own interpretation of Scripture above that of the Church. That’s biblicism.

    Although sola fide had not previously received the kind of systematic treatment it got from the Reformers, it was nevertheless clearly present in and important to the church fathers and at least some of the medieval doctors. The Second Council of Orange (A.D. 529) clearly asserted that salvation is solely by grace through faith. Except for a few points, Anselm of Canterbury’s tract for the consolation of the dying, with its rejection of depending in any way on works for salvation, could have been written by Luther or Calvin (Opera, Migne, 1:686-687). Were they all biblicists, too?

    You wrote:

    The Protestants thumbed their nose at the Council of Trent regarding sola fide. On what basis? Because, they stipulated (on their own presumed authority, based on their own interpretation of Scripture) that sola fide was a mark of the Church. Since the council denied sola fide, therefore it had not satisfied one of their own stipulated marks, and was ipso facto an invalid council.

    You make it sound as though Protestant anti-aircraft gunners were waiting right outside to shoot down Catholic planes that didn’t have “sola fide” emblazoned on them as they tried to fly out of the council’s hangars. From an historical point of view, this is an extremely puerile assessment of what actually happened. It was more the other way around. It was more like Catholic heavy bombers took to the skies to drop anathemas on pre-selected targets. Let’s face it: Trent was the kick-off the Roman Catholic counter-offensive, a.k.a., the Counter Reformation.

    By the time Trent convened, the debate over justification had been raging for about a quarter century. The council was convened a few years after the collapse of the efforts of reconciliation at the 1541 Diet of Regensberg which led to the Regensberg Interim. The Protestants did not need to wait and see what the Tridentine bishops would say; they already knew the general flavor and many of the specifics. It was a foregone conclusion that the council would not only reject sola fide, but that it would anathematize all who disagreed with their rejection. Prices were on the heads of Protestants all over Catholic Europe, so it’s kind of hard to feel the least bit of sympathy for the Roman Catholic hierarchy when you write:

    The lesson is that if you don’t agree with any Church council, you just define your own interpretation of Scripture as a mark of the Church, and then you can disregard that council as having been made by some apostate institution.

    And, of course, since conciliarism was for all practical purposes dead by the mid-16th century, the council to which you refer was merely a rubber stamp for the pope, who began by refusing to allow it to consider the moral reform of the clergy (Leo X must have smiled from his grave!) and vetoed its first statement on justification. To read Catholic church historian Paul Johnson’s account, it was like the Keystone Cops meet Darth Vader. By the mid-1560s it seems that the council’s chief benefit was that it had led to the expulsion of prostitutes from Rome and severe penalties for simony. Were it not for the founding of new religious orders, especially the Jesuits, who did not allow the inner reform of Catholicism to be left up to either the papacy or the bishops, one has to wonder whether the Counter Reformation ever would have happened.

  23. August 15, 2009 at 10:38 am

    RFW,

    Yes, that is the real question: “Is the authority of a church council infallible, or just derivative?”

    We could answer this in one of a couple ways. On the one hand we could assume an answer in an a priori manner and bring it to bear on the discussion, or we could try to discover what the delegates to the first five ecumenical councils themselves thought about what they were declaring.

    Now, although I think that in the case of the Jerusalem council those in attendance believed they were rendering an infallible verdict, I don’t think the Catholic can just jump from there and apply that to Nicaea or Chalcedon. That would be to beg the question by assuming that there is no essential difference between a council that is attended by apostles and a council that is not.

    So what we need from our Catholic commenters is proof that those who attended the early councils believed the same thing about what they were doing as the delegates at Trent believed about what they were doing.

    And this will not necessarily be the only factor in determining the nature of church authority, but it will be a necessary one.

  24. Paige Britton said,

    August 15, 2009 at 10:42 am

    #13 RS said: “Now, of course the counter argument is who’s Confession is perfect? The answer is no one, but that shouldn’t prevent the Church of having a standard of Confession. Humanity doesn’t have a perfect form of government but that doesn’t mean anarchy is the answer either.”

    And #14, Bryan said: “In thus making sola fide a new mark of the Church, something the fathers and councils had never done, the Reformers placed their own interpretation of Scripture above that of the Church. ”

    I’m juxtaposing these quotes because they both highlight the problem of “whose interpretation rules the day??” Are the Reformers the bad guys who imposed their views on the text, or are they the good guys who saw what the text said and used it as a measuring rod to evaluate the RCC’s teaching and practice? How on earth do we judge between these options?

    Unless we are going to be postmodernists about this and say that texts convey flexible meanings (i.e., no set meaning at all, it says what anybody wants it to say), we need to presuppose that there is stability of meaning in the texts, and that the meaning is accessible to ordinary readers. The fact that groups of thinking people can agree on a confessional statement summarizing the teaching of Scripture indicates that there is widespread recognition that the statement is really representative of the message of the texts.

    The fact that there are other groups of people who disagree (in many ways!) with the aforementioned confessions can mean a number of things, ranging from the ambiguity of ancient vocabulary to unbiblical bottom-line precommitments (e.g., human autonomy, the Church as the ultimate source of doctrine, etc.). All this to say that even though there may be myriad interpretations, all interpretations are not created equal.

    Is the opposite of “biblicist” “unbiblical”?

  25. Andrew said,

    August 15, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Byran,

    Appreciate your comments, and your site. But might not a Protestant respond this way –

    a) If the western church was to blame, or partly to blame in the great schism between East and West, then Trent is not at all a catholic council, merely a regional council, or a council of part of the church (like Westminster).

    b) If Luther was right, or if his errors were not serious enough to anathemize, the papacy commited schism in excommunicating him and those who agreed with him. The papacy and the RC communion is then at best a schismatic remnant of the church, and lacks the authority that catholicity brings.

  26. Ron Henzel said,

    August 15, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Sean,

    You wrote:

    Those fathers that are quoted in Calvin’s institutes did not define ‘church’ the same way that Calvin defined ‘church.’

    Actually, the church’s ecclesiology, including its doctrine of the sacraments, was under development throughout the ancient and medieval periods. One thread of understanding held to a distortion of remarks found in Ignatius’s Epistle to the Smyrneans (8.2) known as ubi episcopus, ibi ecclesia (“where the bishop, is there is the church”), which ultimately led to the notion that the institutional church is the Church. Calvin obviously parted company with that definition (although I’m not aware whether he ever cited Ignatius specifically). If you think you can demonstrate that all of the fathers Calvin cited, with all their diversity, held to definitions of the church that were at variance with Calvin’s, I invite you to try.

    You wrote:

    In fact those fathers treated sacred Tradition and defined ‘church’ the same way that the Catholic church defines ‘church’ to this day.

    I’ve read the church fathers for myself, and I do believe you are mistaken.

    So, if you are right that the issue hinges on the definition of ‘church’ perhaps we should examine the proper definition of the word ‘church?’

    Perhaps. Why don’t we start with Scripture?

    Like Bryan said, coming up with your own definition of ‘church’ and then submitting to it is no different than biblicism.

    Who says I came up with my own definition? Is observing how the word is used in Scripture and then testing my sense with linguistic and historical authorities with a willingness to bow to their wisdom “coming up with my own definition”?

  27. Bryan Cross said,

    August 15, 2009 at 11:39 am

    rfwhite,

    Or is the lesson that Church councils have a derived authority that is accountable to the original authority of Scripture?

    Given that all people have a lens through which they interpret Scripture, claiming that all Church councils have “derived authority that is accountable to the original authority of Scripture” just means in actuality that councils only have ‘authority’ if they agree with your own interpretation of Scripture.

    That’s solo scriptura, as Mathison points out in his article:

    All appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture. The only real question is: whose interpretation? People with differing interpretations of Scripture cannot set a Bible on a table and ask it to resolve their differences. In order for the Scripture to function as an authority, it must be read and interpreted by someone. According to “solo” Scriptura, that someone is each individual, so ultimately, there are as many final authorities as there are human interpreters. This is subjectivism and relativism run amuck.

    So the notion that a council has “derived authority” insofar as it matches your own interpretation of Scripture shows that the council is subordinate in ‘authority’ to the individual interpreter. It matches the well-known line: When I submit (so long as I agree), the one to whom I submit is me. The individualism hides itself from itself under the mask of being under the authority of a council.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  28. johnbugay said,

    August 15, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Yes, that is the real question: “Is the authority of a church council infallible, or just derivative?”… or we could try to discover what the delegates to the first five ecumenical councils themselves thought about what they were declaring.

    Jason — that would be a sensible thing to do. We have the records of the councils. I would point out that the council of Ephesus (431) was a disaster from many points of view. It was called without one side even being present. The bishops who were in attendance were “persuaded” to vote Cyril’s way by armed gangs of thugs. It wrongly anathematized Nestorius, causing an even greater schism than the one of 1054. It was the first to enthrone the “mother of God” language (Chalcedon even backed off of that).

    Who wants to attribute “infallible” authority to something like that?

  29. rfwhite said,

    August 15, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    23 Bryan Cross: thanks for stating your position so clearly. You assert “the notion that a council has ‘derived authority’ insofar as it matches your own interpretation of Scripture shows that the council is subordinate in ‘authority’ to the individual interpreter.” So am I correct in saying that for you the problem to be avoided here is individualism? If so, what is your proposal?

  30. rfwhite said,

    August 15, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    23-24 Bryan Cross: Don’t get me wrong. I agree that autonomous individualism is a threat, but it is not a threat by itself: there is also the threat of coercive authoritarianism. If the churhc is indeed to safeguard the integrity of its faith and practice, it must know how these threats of individualism and authoritarianism can be effectively combated.

  31. rfwhite said,

    August 15, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    23 Bryan Cross: Here is an initial take on how the threats of individualism and authoritarianism are combatted. Essentially, as you’ll see, the Spirit and His gifts help us combat these threats.

    Scripture states that the Spirit of truth has been given to the church as her teacher, to dwell among Jesus’ disciples even as He did (John 14:16 18, 26). Because the one Spirit dwells in the church (1 Cor 12:12 13), all believers have received an anointing that makes each one able to understand the things of God and to discern truth from lies (1 Cor. 2:12 16; 12:1 3; 1 John 2:27; 4:1). It is Christ’s gift of the Spirit, then, makes the many one, one as a body to whose members “all the truth” is being taught by the Spirit of truth.

    This oneness of the church in the Spirit stands as a rebuke to both authoritarianism and individualism. It rebukes coercive authoritarianism by reminding leaders and non-leaders to recognize that they alone do not possess the Mind of Christ; rather, the Spirit is present in all believers to teach all believers the things of God. The work of those who teach, while it is a work of boldness and authority, is nevertheless a work of persuasion with accountability to all others whom the Spirit teaches.

    The oneness of the church in the Spirit also rebukes individualism. It does so to the extent that possession of the Spirit of truth by all believers makes possible a transition from merely private to truly group interpretation. Moreover, to the extent that the Spirit guides believers into “all things” true (John 14:26; 1 John 2:27; “all the truth,”John 16:13), we can and should expect that He will enable us to go beyond fundamental unity in the Spirit to greater unity in the faith (Eph 4:3, 13).

    A firm recognition of the gifts given to the community tempers our temptation to exalt the individual conscience to the point of practical autonomy. For it is through the exercise of these gifts that Scripture is interpreted by consensus to apply to matters of concern to the community as well as the individual. When concrete circumstances — such as a disciplinary matter — arise in the life of the church, something like the following happens: those who are recognized as having teaching gifts bring Scripture (including the history of interpretation) to bear on the situation, those having gifts in the area of human relationships act as mediators and facilitators, and those having gifts of discernment act as judges. This process results in community confession as over against individual confession. Interestingly, this community confession results even if its final decision is to allow liberty of individual conscience on a matter of faith or practice.

  32. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 15, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Jason:

    I have made some keen insights at #8 above,about Church Infallibility.
    Christ is still using his infall. not directly, but through his body the RCC.

  33. Bryan Cross said,

    August 15, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    rfwhite,

    So am I correct in saying that for you the problem to be avoided here is individualism? If so, what is your proposal?

    If you want to see what’s wrong with individualism, read the section in Mathison’s book (The Shape of Sola Scriptura) on solo scriptura. He doesn’t mince words, and he’s a Protestant — an associate editor at Tabletalk. So both Catholics and Reformed Protestants agree that denying the interpretive authority of the Church is a problem; both Catholics and Reformed Protestants recognize that solo scriptura is wrong.

    I agree that the Spirit preserves the unity of the Church, but not in a Montanistic conception of the operation of the Spirit (i.e. apart from matter, apart from the sacraments, apart from the Body, apart from the teaching office of the Church), at least not without miraculous signs that confirm a divine mission. I addressed that idea here, in response to Rick Philips.

    In answer to your question, “what is your proposal?”, at Called to Communion, we’ll be publishing an article in a few weeks in which we argue that the only principled way of avoiding solo scriptura, is by apostolic succession.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  34. johnbugay said,

    August 15, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    the only principled way of avoiding solo scriptura, is by apostolic succession.

    Which, historically is a development (and some would say a bad one) and as practiced by Rome is an offense to the Word of God.

  35. rfwhite said,

    August 15, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Bryan Cross: thanks for the bibliographic note on the essay by Keith Mathison, whom I am grateful to call a colleague and a friend. Perhaps you can help us out too by commenting on how the Roman church avoids the threat of coercive authoritarianism too.

  36. Bryan Cross said,

    August 15, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Ron,

    No, I am not claiming that the Reformers and those of us who follow them avoid biblicism by our citation practices, but rather by our attitude. We do not completely write off church councils as irrelevant to our understanding of Scripture. We include them in our exegetical practice and theological reflection and accept their authority as subordinate to the Scriptures. Biblicists feel free to utterly ignore the councils, fathers, and doctors. We do not. We value what they have to say.

    You are defining ‘biblicism’ as merely an attitude of disregard or disrespect for the fathers and councils, and then distancing yourself from biblicism by noting that you value the fathers and councils. That’s not what I mean by ‘biblicism’. I’m not talking about an attitude. People can rebel [sinfully] against a legitimate authority while maintaining a good and respectful *attitude*. I’m talking about a theological position and practice in which the individual makes himself the ultimate interpretive authority, whether or not he values the creeds, councils, and fathers. When he affirms doctrines condemned by the Church’s councils, and when he denies doctrines affirmed by the Church’s councils, then no matter how much he claims to ‘value’ councils (and no matter how much he claims to respect the Church’s opinions above his own), he shows by his actions that he values his own interpretation more.

    Biblicism is not about whether or to what degree one values creeds or councils when interpreting Scripture; biblicism is about whether or not the Church has interpretive authority. Scott Clark once said, “all heretics quote Scripture.” But he could just as easily have said, “all sophisticated heretics quote councils, creeds and fathers.” Quoting them is easy. ‘Valuing’ them is easy. Submitting to them is something else altogether.

    The reason I commented here on Lane’s post is to point out the contradiction of selecting as ‘authoritative’ only those creeds and councils that agree with one’s own interpretation of Scripture, while claiming not to have made oneself one’s own ultimate interpretive authority but to have respected the Church’s opinions above one’s own. Whether or not you use the word ‘Church’ differently at different times (and I don’t deny that you do), the contradiction I’m talking about is still a contradiction.

    rfwhite,

    In order to answer your question about ‘coercive authoritarianism’, I’ll need to know how you’re defining the term.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  37. rfwhite said,

    August 15, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Bryan Cross: by the threat of coercive authoritarianism, I mean the wielding of interpretive authority without teachability or accountability.

  38. rfwhite said,

    August 15, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    There are authorities that God has appointed over the individual to which s/he owes submission.

    Question: does the duty of submission carry with it an implicit understanding that the individual must obey conscience if a delegated authority’s call for obedience conflicts with the original authority, the revealed will of God?

  39. Ron Henzel said,

    August 15, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Bryan,

    You wrote:

    You are defining ‘biblicism’ as merely an attitude of disregard or disrespect for the fathers and councils, and then distancing yourself from biblicism by noting that you value the fathers and councils.

    You are distorting my clear meaning, which is easily ascertainable from the context of what I wrote. Far from defining “biblicism” as “merely” an attitude, I described the practical theological outcome of that attitude in my next two sentences (which you ignored):

    We do not completely write off church councils as irrelevant to our understanding of Scripture. We include them in our exegetical practice and theological reflection and accept their authority as subordinate to the Scriptures.

    We give the church councils great weight in our interpretive decisions, but we do not hold them to be infallible. You wrote:

    That’s not what I mean by ‘biblicism’. I’m not talking about an attitude. People can rebel [sinfully] against a legitimate authority while maintaining a good and respectful *attitude*.

    You honestly believe that? So, people can rebel against God while maintaining “a good and respectful attitude” toward Him? How does that work?

    I think you’re simply trying to find grounds to justify the harshest possible description of the position you oppose.

    You wrote:

    I’m talking about a theological position and practice in which the individual makes himself the ultimate interpretive authority, whether or not he values the creeds, councils, and fathers.

    And, of course, you have thus far failed to actually demonstrate that Reformation Christians actually make themselves the ultimate interpretive authorities of Scripture. You have simply repeatedly asserted it.

    You seem to be assuming here that there are only two possible options: either bow to the ultimate authority of the Roman Catholic church to interpret Scripture, or make one’s self that ultimate authority. I doubt Eastern Orthodox Christians would be impressed. But in light of what the church fathers and medieval doctors have themselves written about Scripture, this position is ludicrous. The Protestant Reformers did not invent sola Scriptura. Augustine affirmed it when he wrote to Jerome:

    For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the MS. [manuscript] is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it. As to all other writings, in reading them, however great the superiority of the authors to myself in sanctity and learning, I do not accept their teaching as true on the mere ground of the opinion being held by them; but only because they have succeeded in convincing my judgment of its truth either by means of these canonical writings themselves, or by arguments addressed to my reason. I believe, my brother, that this is your own opinion as well as mine.

    [Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430), Letter LXXXII (82) to Jerome, "Letters of St. Augustin," translated by J.G. Cunningham, in Philip Schaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Volume 1, (Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., reprinted 2004), 350.]

    Cyril of Jerusalem affirmed it when he wrote:

    Have thou ever in thy mind this seal, which for the present has been lightly touched in my discourse, by way of summary, but shall be stated, should the Lord permit, to the best of my power with the proof from the Scriptures. For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell thee these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.

    [Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315-387), Lecture IV.17, "The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem," translated by Edwin Hamilton Gifford, in Philip Schaff., ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 7, (Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishiers, Inc., reprinted 2004), 23.]

    And Thomas Aquinas affirms sola Scriptura when he quotes Augustine:

    Nevertheless, sacred doctrine makes use of these authorities [i.e., philosophers who are able to know the truth by natural reason] as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the Church as one that may properly be used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made to other doctors. Hence Augustine says (Epis. ad Hieron.)1: “Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learned to hold in such honor as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them. But other authors I so read as not to deem everything in their works to be true, merely on account of their having so thought and written, whatever may have been their holiness and learning.”

    [Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), Summa Theologica, First Part, Treatise on God, Question 1, "The Nature and Extent of Sacred Doctrine," Article 8, "Whether Sacred Doctrine is a Matter of Argument?", Reply to Objection 2, in Robert Maynard Hutchins, ed., Great Books of the Western World, Volume 19, (Chicago, IL, USA: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1988), 8.]

    It seems from these citations that not only is sola Scriptura part of the heritage of the early and medieval church, but so also is the Protestant doctrine of the perspicacity of Scripture. Not only did Augustine, Cyril, Aquinas and others bow to the authority of Scripture above all else, but they also affirmed that Scripture is clear enough to be understood without another authority, especially a highly coercive one like the medieval church, forcing its interpretations on the reader and requiring implicit faith (translate: checking one’s brain at the door) when those interpretations did not square with the biblical text.

    You wrote:

    When he affirms doctrines condemned by the Church’s councils, and when he denies doctrines affirmed by the Church’s councils, then no matter how much he claims to ‘value’ councils (and no matter how much he claims to respect the Church’s opinions above his own), he shows by his actions that he values his own interpretation more.

    Your complaint about Reformation Christians rejecting “the Church’s councils” is a red herring. The only church council to which we uniformly take major exception is the one that was specifically designed by the papacy to be impossible for us to accept: the Council of Trent.

  40. Vern Crisler said,

    August 15, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    I think the above discussion illustrates what happens when Protestants give up the Berean principle of interpretive authority (individualism) and place it in the hands of institutions (collectivism). The papists will mock you all the way down the line. And to start out with a self-stultifying Wittgensteinian principle –as Lane does — doesn’t help much either.

    Vern

  41. rfwhite said,

    August 15, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    How is it that individual interpretations become a group interpretation?

  42. Ron Henzel said,

    August 15, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Bryan,

    Regarding the final sentence of my previous comment:

    The only church council to which we uniformly take major exception is the one that was specifically designed by the papacy to be impossible for us to accept: the Council of Trent.

    I should have also noted that Trent was not the last time that the papacy had Protestants in its cross-hairs, so I need to add the FIrst Vatican Council (1869-1870), which defined and declared the doctrine of papal infallibility. Vatican II, in the meantime, turned out to be a pleasant little exercise in maintaining the status quo with respect to Protestantism while using nicer language.

  43. Bryan Cross said,

    August 15, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Ron,

    There are so many places showing that Aquinas never supported sola scriptura, it is hard to know where to start. Here’s Aquinas on the last day of his life, when the Sacred Viaticum was brought into the room where he lay dying:

    “If in this world there be any knowledge of this sacrament stronger than that of faith, I wish now to use it in affirming that I firmly believe and know as certain that Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary, is in this Sacrament.”

    Then he added:

    “I receive Thee, the price of my redemption, for Whose love I have watched, studied, and laboured. Thee have I preached; Thee have I taught. Never have I said anything against Thee: if anything was not well said, that is to be attributed to my ignorance. Neither do I wish to be obstinate in my opinions, but if I have written anything erroneous concerning this sacrament or other matters, I submit all to the judgment and correction of the Holy Roman Church, in whose obedience I now pass from this life.”

    The reason why Aquinas says that last line, and Protestants don’t, is precisely because for Protestants, the individual, not the Church, is the highest interpretive authority. No one who would say that last line would ever burn the Papal Bull, as Luther did, or rail against the Church, as Calvin did. It is one thing to seek reform; it is another to rebel against ecclesial authority. The denial of the Church’s ultimate interpretive authority is at the heart of what Protestantism is, because rejecting the Church’s interpretive authority is the basis for Protestantism’s existence. That’s what sola scriptura is, the denial of the Church’s interpretive authority; you submit only when/if you agree with or approve her interpretation. But that’s not what Aquinas believed. And that’s why he never supported sola scriptura.

    You claim that I have “failed to actually demonstrate that Reformation Christians actually make themselves the ultimate interpretive authorities of Scripture.”

    To which interpretive authority do you submit your interpretation of Scripture, and on what basis does this entity have interpretive authority?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  44. johnbugay said,

    August 15, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    The reason why Aquinas says that last line, …

    Yeah, well Aquinas believed lots of forgeries were real too. Consider how much of that factored into his devotion to “the Holy Roman Church.”

  45. TurretinFan said,

    August 15, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Mr Cross wrote: “The lesson is that if you don’t agree with any Church council, you just define your own interpretation of Scripture as a mark of the Church, and then you can disregard that council as having been made by some apostate institution.”

    One of the many problems with his point of view, however, is that the Reformers were insisting on Scripture being the way to discern the true church before Trent. Archbishop Cranmer (martyred 21 March 1556), for example, was one such person. Amongst his works one finds the following statement: “Therefore he that will know which is the true Church of Christ, whereby shall he know it, but only by the Scriptures.”

    Considering how late in the Reformation Trent was called, it is anachronistic at best to suppose that the Reformers’ views of the marks of the true church were a reaction to Trent.

    -TurretinFan

  46. Sean said,

    August 15, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    John,

    …Chalcedon “backed off of the Mother of God language.”

    Where do you get this stuff?

    The Creed of the Council of Chalcedon explicitly calls Mary the “Mother of God.”

    According to this understanding of this unmixed union, we confess the holy Virgin to be Mother of God; because God the Word was incarnate and became Man, and from this conception he united the temple taken from her with himself.

    Chalcedon Session II

    An ecumenical council and one in which Catholics submit to completely.

  47. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 15, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Mr. Ron Henzel:

    Could you read my #8 entry and comment. Again, if the doctrine of Sol. Scrip. is found in the Bible,please tell me where?

  48. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 15, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Bryan Cross:

    I commend your ability to defend our holy Church. Just a thought– maybe you can explaine to the Calvinists that Christ works through secondary causes and that secondary cause is his Holy Catholic Church.

  49. rfwhite said,

    August 15, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    Clarification: do secondary causes have original or derived authority?

  50. Bryan Cross said,

    August 15, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    rfwhite,

    by the threat of coercive authoritarianism, I mean the wielding of interpretive authority without teachability or accountability.

    You’ve asked [at least] two very good questions here. One of them has to do with conscience. (Does the duty of submission carry with it an implicit understanding that the individual must obey conscience if a delegated authority’s call for obedience conflicts with the original authority, the revealed will of God?) The other is this one, regarding ‘coercive authoritarianism’. (How does the Catholic Church avoid the threat of coercive authoritarianism). They are both good questions because they raise fundamental concerns from the Protestant point of view, about possible implications of the Catholic position.

    Regarding the conscience question, according to the Catholic Church an individual must never go against his conscience. But, one also has a duty to inform one’s conscience. Part of informing one’s conscience is determining the rightful ecclesial authority and its basis, and what dogmas have been taught definitively by the Church. If a member of the clergy asked you to do something that went against your conscience, you should not do it so long as it is in conflict with your conscience. But you have an obligation to determine whether your conscience is uninformed, or whether what the person is asking you to do is contrary to the teaching of the Church. If what the person is asking you to do is contrary to the teaching of the Church, then you must not do it. But if you discover that your conscience is uninformed, then you must conform your conscience to the mind of the Church. The Church teaches that by the promise of Jesus, whenever she teaches definitively on a matter of faith or morals as binding on all the faithful, her teaching will be an authentic unfolding of the revelation of Jesus Christ.

    The other question you raise is this: How does the Catholic Church avoid the threat of coercive authoritarianism, i.e. the wielding of interpretive authority without teachability or accountability? But this raises an additional question. To whom would you wish to make the teaching office of the Church accountable? Your very question presumes a democratic way of thinking, as though the Church is equivalent to a merely human institution. The Church is a divine institution, established by Jesus Christ as His Mystical Body. There is no higher interpretive authority on earth than the Magisterium of the Church. So the idea of subjecting the Church to something else falsely presumes that there is something else on earth that has greater interpretive authority than the Church. It would be like asking the first generation of Christians how they avoided the threat of the Apostles wielding teaching and interpretive authority without teachability or accountability. The Christian response would be: “You don’t understand the nature of the authority they have been given.” And the same response is due to those who seek to subject the interpretive authority of the Apostles’ successors, the bishops, to some other interpretive authority in order to hold the Magisterium accountable.

    To whom will this other interpretive authority be accountable? And to whom will that interpretive authority be accountable? You see the potential infinite regress this sets up. Therefore, a person who wants the Magisterium to be accountable to some other body, can only be satisfied if that body is either himself or those whom he approves. Otherwise his dissatisfaction with the lack of accountability necessarily remains. Hence the person who requires that the Magisterium be accountable to some other body is in actuality requiring that it be accountable (directly or indirectly) to himself. And that again, is another way of showing that the requirement is in essence a denial of his own need for a Magisterium.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  51. August 16, 2009 at 12:32 am

    Bryan,

    When you have the time, I’d be interested to hear your reply to the citations from Augustine and Cyril that Ron posted in #39.

    JJS

  52. johnbugay said,

    August 16, 2009 at 1:12 am

    Sean — it is the difference between “mater Theou” and “theotokos.” Check the original languages.

  53. Andrew said,

    August 16, 2009 at 1:54 am

    Byran,

    I can see the attraction and force of what you are arguing. There are two problems that I stuggle with:

    a) dealing with Eastern orthodoxy. There is a body as old as you wish, with apostolic succession etc., and all the claims to catholicity you might want other than papal authority. For the RC posistion to work one has to show, as a matter of historical record, that the schism between east and West was all of the East’s doing. For if it is posible that the West also committed schism, then the Reformation was a split in an already divided church, which could not claim exhaustive catholicity.

    b) the fact the the Papacy effected the division at the time of the Reformation – i.e the reformers did not leave, but were put out as they tried to reform the church. If this was an unfair excommunication, then it was the papacy that committed schism and forfeited all claims to ‘catholicity’. So the discussion becomes one of substance – one must show that the actual doctrines of the reformation were worthy of excommunication.

    Do you understand where I am coming from?

  54. johnbugay said,

    August 16, 2009 at 2:36 am

    Bryan Cross: Speaking of infinite regress …

    The argument that the Scriptures are unclear because people sometimes disagree about their meaning is a species of the absolutely irrational argument that people need a secondary infallible authority to guarantee the intelligibility of the primary infallible authority. I lack the time to spell this out, but anyone who knows Aristotle’s argument about the absurdity of an infinite regress and who applies it to the issue of understanding linguistic communication should be able to readily see why I use the term “absolutely irrational” of that popular Catholic argument. It is irrational because it destroys the intelligibility of causation, and thus, destroys the reliability of reason itself. …

    And of course, as others have been pointing out for many years now, it is a strange thing to see the Catholic skepticism about intelligibility arbitrarily stop at the second link in the chain (the Magisterium), which on the skeptical theory being advanced, ought to be equally considered unclear merely because people sometimes disagree about its meaning. It’s just a dumb argument …

    From here.

  55. johnbugay said,

    August 16, 2009 at 2:41 am

    Andrew: For the RC posistion to work one has to show, as a matter of historical record, that the schism between east and West was all of the East’s doing.

    You must also consider the real “Great Schism” of the churches of Asia, brought on by the council of Ephesus. Roman Catholics conveniently forget this.

  56. Ron Henzel said,

    August 16, 2009 at 3:08 am

    Bryan,

    Regarding your comment 43: it is fascinating the way you pass right over Augustine and Cyril in order to make your point about Aquinas. I see it did not escape the notice of others here.

    It is also fascinating the way you characterize evidence that Aquinas compromised on sola Scriptura as proof that he “never supported it.” This is a non sequitir of the first magnitude.

    The tragic fact is that, as I have shown, entombed within Aquinas’s Summa Theologica is a very clear testimony to what was by his time a much-neglected and compromised sola Scriptura doctrine, one that he himself helped to compromise in 2,2, Q.1.Art.10 of his work. This does not diminish the fact that he calls the Scriptures the only “incontrovertible proof” for sacred doctrine, and none of this should be read without taking into consideration that Aquinas lived in the dark days of Gregory IX’s and Innocent IV’s dreaded Inquisition, which was carried out by his own Dominican order and came complete with papal-sanctioned torture at no extra charge.

    Against this backdrop of intimidation and the need to provide an apologetic for his church and his order, Aquinas capitulated, so that while he held theoretically to the ultimate authority of Scripture, “…in reality, side by side with the auctoritas scripturae, and above it, stands the sola auctoriatas summi pontificis,” (Reinhold Seeberg, Text-Book of the History of Doctrines, Charles E. Hay, trans., [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, reprinted 1978], 2:102).

    Aquinas lived in the day when papal power was reaching its zenith, and struggled mightily not only to harmonize Scripture with Aristotle, but to harmonize it with the ecclesiastical reality of his day. We see this in an issue which is equally foudational alongside Scripture’s authority, i.e., Scripture’s clarity.

    The only reason a normally intelligent might truly need some kind of authority to interpret Scripture is because Scripture is somehow inherently unclear. This, in fact, was a chief argument employed by Roman Catholic authorities even prior to the Reformation on those occasions when it outlawed Bible translations, but it would have not been tolerated by the church fathers.

    Chrysostom wrote, “All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are plain” (“Homilies on Thessalonians,” in Schaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1st series [Grand Rapids: WIlliam B. Eerdmans, 1988], 13:388). And, of course, this is a standard affirmation in Reformation Christianity.

    So, by the 16th century we had an established tradition of teaching within the historic church of sola Scriptura, which made Scripture the ultimate authority over doctrine and included a high view of the perspicuity of Scripture, and we also had a strong tradition of salvation by grace alone through faith alone apart from human merit. But we also had a papal throne occupied by warriors and party-boys who majored in fathering illegitimate children while forcing celibacy on a priesthood riddled with illiteracy—a throne eventually occupied by a certain member of the Medici family who made a deal with Albrecht of Mainz to open a fictitious treasury of merits and send Johann Tetzel round to sell salvaltion to the unwitting masses of Europe so that everyone who was anyone could have all the glory they wanted for present and future generations to admire.

    But gee, when I put it that way, of course it makes 16th century papacy appear corrupt, stupid, and heretical…

  57. Richard said,

    August 16, 2009 at 3:28 am

    Jason: Re #51 – Whilst I’m not RCC I certainly don’t see the quote from St. Augustine to be teaching Sola Scriptura however, as an aside, this quote is somewhat problematic in that for Augustine “the canonical books of Scripture” included far more than those a Presbyterian would count as canonical. Nor do I read Cyril of Jerusalem’s statment as affirming Sola Scriptura, now both quotes could be interpreted as teaching it but that is another issue. In his book The Meaning of Tradition Yves Congar writes,

    A number of good Catholic authors, as I have already said, are of the opinion that it is still possible, after the Council of Trent as before it, to hold that all the truths necessary for salvation are contained, in one way or another, in the canonical Scriptures.

    Further H. U. von Balthasar writes in “The Word, Scripture and Tradition” in Explorations in Theology, vol. 1:

    Scripture is itself tradition inasmuch as it is a form whereby Christ gives himself to the Church, and since there was tradition before scripture, and since there could have been no scriptural authority apart from tradition. At the same time scripture, as the divinely constituted mirror of God’s revelation, becomes the warrant of all subsequent tradition

    The above two quotes demonstrates IMO that Catholic writers can come quite close to sounding very similar to Sola Scriptura whilst at the same time rejecting it, hence just because those statements St. Augustine and Cyril sound like they could affirm Sola Scriptura in that they affirm the primacy of Scripture over Tradition nonetheless this is standard Catholic teaching, cf. the works of Ratzinger.

    BTW, I’ve preordered your newest book and I’m looking forward to it!

  58. Andrew said,

    August 16, 2009 at 3:32 am

    Byran,

    One other point. You are holding up the chuch as an interpretative authority (with which I have a lot of sympathy), but (see Mattison) the RC posisition sees the church as an additional grounds of revelation. No?

    Surely, no one would honestly maintain that the Scriptures actually taught distinctive Roman doctrine (papacy, role of Mary, etc.) . At best we can show these things are consistent with Scripture, but no sane reader could suppose that Scripture was an authority for such things.

  59. Ron Henzel said,

    August 16, 2009 at 3:43 am

    Bryan wrote in comment 50:

    But if you discover that your conscience is uninformed, then you must conform your conscience to the mind of the Church.

    So, once we’re all informed about what the Roman Catholic church teaches, what else can we do but agree with it? Thus the Roman Catholic church avoids coercive authoritarianism by requiring people to submit to its authority. But they need our help, so let’s just compromise and say they’re right! It’s all seems so simple now…

  60. Richard said,

    August 16, 2009 at 3:51 am

    Andrew, FWIW it seems to me that for Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) revelation takes place in Christ and the Church, being the body of Christ is a locus of revelation.

  61. johnbugay said,

    August 16, 2009 at 4:16 am

    Richard — Augustine worked to formalize the Canon of Scripture at the councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397). He held to the same NT that we do, and only omitted Lamentations from his list of OT books. How is it that you say that “his canon included far more than those a Presbyterian would count as canonical”?

  62. Paige Britton said,

    August 16, 2009 at 5:41 am

    #49, Dr. White wrote:
    “Clarification: do secondary causes have original or derived authority?”

    #43 Bryan Cross wrote:
    “You claim that I have “failed to actually demonstrate that Reformation Christians actually make themselves the ultimate interpretive authorities of Scripture.”
    To which interpretive authority do you submit your interpretation of Scripture, and on what basis does this entity have interpretive authority?”

    My thought:
    So Protestants claim that their interpretation is derivative, that it comes from Scripture, which is their ultimate authority. But if any reading of Scripture is already an interpretation (on top of the interpretation of translation), it appears (to some) as if authority rests in the reader. I have to think I’ve heard this argument before, and it’s just as absurd in this setting. If God communicated through writing, and writing by its very nature can’t be authoritative, bearing a stable meaning, then the Bible is worthless (or at best a manual of suggestions) and we should all become Roman Catholics.

    How do we know that a [written] papal bull or pronouncement is authoritative, if our reading of it is just an interpretation?

  63. Sean said,

    August 16, 2009 at 5:52 am

    Ron.

    Earlier somebody said…”Anybody can cherry pick from the church fathers.”

    Neither Augustine nor Cyril were sola scripturist. A rightly held high view of scripture does not make one a sola scripturist.

    “But when proper words make Scripture ambiguous, we must see in the first place that there is nothing wrong in our punctuation or pronunciation. Accordingly, if, when attention is given to the passage, it shall appear to be uncertain in what way it ought to be punctuated or pronounced, let the reader consult the rule of faith which he has gathered from the plainer passages of Scripture, and from the authority of the Church, and of which I treated at sufficient length when I was speaking in the first book about things.”
    Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, 3,2:2 (A.D. 397).

    “But those reasons which I have here given, I have either gathered from the authority of the church, according to the tradition of our forefathers, or from the testimony of the divine Scriptures, or from the nature itself of numbers and of similitudes. No sober person will decide against reason, no Christian against the Scriptures, no peaceable person against the church.”
    Augustine, On the Trinity, 4,6:10 (A.D. 416).

    Augustine’s quote is clearly not about the tradition and authority of the church but specifically about ‘other letters’ which were thought by some to be canonical.

    Cyril was not sola scripturist either.

    “But in learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that only, which is now delivered to thee by the Church, and which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures….Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which ye now receive, and write them and the table of your heart.”
    Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 5:12 (A.D. 350).

    Here is St. Cyril’s Catholic understanding of the rule of faith. Elsewhere, St. Cyril points to the Church not to Scripture for the definition of the canon: “Learn also diligently, and from the Church, what are the books of the Old Testaments, and what those of the New” (Catechetical Lectures ,4:33).

    If Cyril DID teach sola scriptura than ya’ll have a problem. Because Cyril’s
    Catechetical Lectures are filled with his forceful teachings on
    the infallible teaching office of the Catholic Church (18:23), the
    Mass as a sacrifice (23:6-8), the concept of purgatory and the
    efficacy of expiatory prayers for the dead (23:10), the Real
    Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (19:7; 21:3; 22:1-9), the
    theology of sacraments (1:3), the intercession of the saints
    (23:9), holy orders (23:2), the importance of frequent Communion
    (23:23), baptismal regeneration (1:1-3; 3:10-12; 21:3-4), indeed a
    staggering array of specifically “Catholic” doctrines.

  64. Sean said,

    August 16, 2009 at 6:03 am

    Ron,

    Your assertion that Aquinas wasn’t after all a sola scripturist because of ‘Papal power’ or something rather is laughable. Sorry. (And this after trying to get everybody to think that he taught sola scriptura.)

    Whenever I see a non Catholic try to show that the church fathers were all good sola scripturists I see the same three or four isolated quotes dragged out and propped up. This attempt is inherently anachronistic because it purposefully isolates the texts and ignores other more clearer texts from the same fathers about scripture and authority.

    PS. Chrysostom was no sola scripturist either.

    ” ‘So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by Epistle of ours.’ Hence it is manifest, that they did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther.” John Chrysostom, Homily on 2nd Thessalonians, 4:2 (A.D. 404).

    “Do not hold aloof from the Church; for nothing is stronger than the Church. The Church is thy hope, thy salvation, thy refuge. It is higher than the heaven, it is wider than the earth. It never waxes old, but is always in full vigour. Wherefore as significant of its solidity and stability Holy Scripture calls it a mountain: or of its purity a virgin, or of its magnificence a queen; or of its relationship to God a daughter; and to express its productiveness it calls her barren who has borne seven…”
    Chrysostom, Eutropius, 2:6 (A.D. 399).

    “It is an easier thing for the sun to be quenched, than for the church to be made invisible.”
    John Chrysostom, In illud: vidi Dom. (ante A.D. 407).

  65. Sean said,

    August 16, 2009 at 6:08 am

    Lastly,

    This article demonstrates beyond a shadow of any doubt that Aquinas was not a sola scripturist.

    Actually, I had never even heard it claimed that he was prior to Ron. Next we’re going to see a quote from our Holy Father Pope Benedict about the scriptures propped up and be told that he too is in fact a proponent of sola scriptura.

  66. Richard said,

    August 16, 2009 at 6:32 am

    John: As I understand it St. Augustine accepted the deuterocanonical books as canonical in his City of God. Augustine’s Old Testament canon (393 C.E.) comprised of:

    Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-4 Kings (1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings), 1-2 Chronicles, Job, Tobias, Esther, Judith, 1-2 Maccabees, 1-2 Ezra (Ezra-Nehemiah), Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel

    In On Christian Doctrine he writes:

    Now the whole canon of Scripture on which we say this judgment is to be exercised, is contained in the following books: — Five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; one book of Joshua the son of Nun; one of Judges; one short book called Ruth, which seems rather to belong to the beginning of Kings; next, four books of Kings, and two of Chronicles— these last not following one another, but running parallel, so to speak, and going over the same ground. The books now mentioned are history, which contains a connected narrative of the times, and follows the order of the events.

    There are other books which seem to follow no regular order, and are connected neither with the order of the preceding books nor with one another, such as Job, and Tobias, and Esther, and Judith, and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Ezra, which last look more like a sequel to the continuous regular history which terminates with the books of Kings and Chronicles.

    Next are the Prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David; and three books of Solomon, viz., Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. For two books, one called Wisdom and the other Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach. Still they are to be reckoned among the prophetical books, since they have attained recognition as being authoritative.

    The remainder are the books which are strictly called the Prophets: twelve separate books of the prophets which are connected with one another, and having never been disjoined, are reckoned as one book; the names of these prophets are as follows: — Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; then there are the four greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel. The authority of the Old Testament is contained within the limits of these forty-four books.

  67. rfwhite said,

    August 16, 2009 at 7:29 am

    Bryan Cross: thanks for commending my questions. Ordinarily, I find it more constructive not to presume anything about another’s position and his argumentation on key questions before agreeing or disagreeing with him. Thus, my questions. As time permits, I’ll ask more questions and/or discuss your answers.

  68. Sean said,

    August 16, 2009 at 11:28 am

    John Bugay,

    Sean — it is the difference between “mater Theou” and “theotokos.” Check the original languages.

    The Council of Chalcedon explicitly calls Mary “theotokos.”. Something that Nestorius would not do which is why he was a heretic. Nestorius, in fact, preached sermons against the title of “theotokos” therefore it is very clear that he was not orthodox.

    See here.

    Council of Chalcedon contra Nestorius.

  69. rfwhite said,

    August 16, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    50 Bryan Cross: I appreciate your analysis of very much. I had to smile when you interpreted my concerns about conscience and authoritarianism as coming “from the Protestant point of view, about possible implications of the Catholic position.” Yes, that is our context, but I smiled because for me these questions arose almost 20 years ago in a Protestant church about the implications of a particular Protestant theory of church government. These issues of authoritarianism and individualism are alive and well within various ecclesial boundaries and not just between or across those boundaries. I submit that if any ecclesial community is to get beyond the stalemate of finding themselves in an uneasy “social compact,” where everyone “goes along to get along,” it must among other things come to terms with their identity and operations as a community whose task is to confess the truth in word and deed, and who to that end must define and defend its consensus on matters of faith and practice.

    Your comments on the requirement that one’s conscience be rightly informed are well taken, though your wording made me think that there was room for elaboration. Two items caught my eye for brief clarification.

    First, you refer to “part of informing one’s conscience” and this expression made me wonder what the other part(s) of informing one’s conscience were. You refer to being informed about the rightful ecclesial authority and its basis and about church dogmas. Are there any other parts to informing one’s conscience?

    Second, you refer to “the promise of Jesus” by which the Church’s teaching is certified as “an authentic unfolding of the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Could you tell us what promise of Jesus you have in mind?

    I have some other thoughts too, but I’ll save them for now.

  70. rfwhite said,

    August 16, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    69, line 1: Sorry for the typo — Bryan Cross: I appreciate your analysis of conscience and authoritarianism very much.

  71. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 16, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Someone suggested that the Roman Catholic Magisterium, as an infallible interpretive authority (with respect to the written word of God), raises the spectre of an infinite hermeneutical regress. I want to briefly address that and to talk on a bit about the nature of ecclesial teaching.

    The argument to infinite regress is of the reductio sort and goes like this: Scripture must supposedly be interpreted for folks by Magisterium, but then someone must interpret the Magisterium’s interpretation of Scripture, and then someone must interpret that interpretation, and so, ad infinitum.

    In fact, we find many cases in which the Magisterium has issued texts explaining and clarifying previous Magisterial teaching–which was also set forth in texts, which were supposed to address some matter of doctrine, morals or discipline not already made sufficiently clear (to some) in previous texts (sacred or ecclesial)!

    However, such Magisterial activity is not predicated upon a blanket assumption of the inherent unintelligibility of texts. If the thesis of the inherent unintelligibility of texts were true, then not only Magisterial documents but every form of communication involving texts (written or spoken), including this post and comment thread, would involve us in an infinite regress of interpretations (i.e., no discoverable meaning).

    So, to take up the Protestant argument along another line: If texts can be read and understood (and they can!), and if individuals must do the reading and understanding (and they must!), why is that individuals cannot just read and understand biblical texts for themselves?

    Well, it is a fact that individuals can read and understand biblical texts for themselves. Many of us do a bit of that daily, even (in some cases) by way of earning a living. Of course, most of us are also taught from Sacred Scripture, by a teacher, who is not our self.

    The interpretive authority of the Magisterium is not predicated upon the inherent unintelligibility of the Word of God. It is predicated upon the perpetual, ecclesiastical office of teaching.

    A teacher teaches. If the student misunderstands, the teacher teaches some more. And so on. This is very far from a case of infinite hermeneutical regress. Such activity does presuppose a living teacher.

    Catholics believe that the teaching of the Church is informed by at least three factors: (1) the necessity of such teaching, (2) the unity of the Church, and (3) the identity of the Church.

    The Church, qua Church, is given to teach; i.e., it pertains to her essence to expound upon the Word of God so that all her members may be built up in faith. The teaching of the Church, which is its interpretation of the Word of God, is in some way necessary, else she would not be given this power and mandate.

    The Church, being one, cannot admit, as being taught by the Church per se, contradictory interpretations of the Word of God. Church teaching is one in substance, else her teaching would cancel itself out and become void, which is contrary to its nature and necessity.

    The Church, being the Body of Christ, knows the Word of God, the substance of which is Christ himself, the way that the spirit of a man knows the things pertaining to the man. Therefore, the Church’s interpretation of the Bible is more open and obedient to the Word of God than any other possible interpretation this side of Heaven.

    The Church’s interpretation of the Word of God, while incorporating in an integral way both scholarship and the spiritual gifts and prophetic utterances vouchsafed to some within the Church, is not reducible to these means of knowing. Rather, the Church, qua Church, knows the substance of divine revelation in an intuitive way, and is able to express that substance, in her role as teacher, without explicit or necessary recourse to the same means whereby the scholar expresses his or her conclusions.

    The scholar speaks on his own individual authority, authority acquired by work. The Church speaks with the corporate authority of the mystical Body, authority acquired by grace. This authority is based upon divine election, impelled by dominical mandate, and empowered by spiritual power.

    The Church’s authority is interpretive authority. It is authority not identical to the Word of God, nor to the word of man, but to the word of the Body of Christ, which has the Mind of Christ, whose Head is Christ.

    This interpretive authority is not contrary to Sacred Scripture, because the same Spirit animates both Church and Scripture, and because the same Christ is both the Head of the Church, which is his Body, and the substance of Sacred Scripture, which speaks concerning him.

    The Church’s interpretive authority is not superfluous with respect to Scripture, because it pertains to Scripture to be read and interpreted, and that by some on behalf of others; i.e., the Scriptures not only teach, they are to be taught.

    The Church’s interpretive authority is not superfluous with respect to the interpretive authority of scholars and spiritual individuals, for the Church, qua Church, is not related to the Word of God in the same way that individuals in the Church are related to the Word; hence, the Church, corporately (organically), has a unique (and epistemically superior) insight into the things of God.

    If the Church’s teaching office is as described above, then it stands to reason that every individual who wishes to know the Word of God should submit his own interpretation of the Word to the interpretation of the Church. The Church’s way of knowing Scripture does not exclude rational exegesis, but it is superior to it. What Bryan Cross wrote earlier about the duty of forming one’s conscience should apply here, especially for Bible scholars, and even more especially for those who presume to teach others (in an ecclesial context).

    I suppose that the degree of submission of self to Church depends upon the nature of the Church’s knowing with respect to the Word of God. Is it such as to exclude error in her definitive teaching? That is nub of the matter. The Reformed Christians holds back from full submission to the Church’s teaching due to his estimation of her potential for error. All ecclesial teaching is more or less probable, never infallible. The Catholic Christian cannot, on pain of deadly sin, thus withold his allegiance to the Body of Christ.

  72. August 16, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Andrew,

    Regarding things like this:

    The Church’s interpretive authority is not superfluous with respect to the interpretive authority of scholars and spiritual individuals, for the Church, qua Church, is not related to the Word of God in the same way that individuals in the Church are related to the Word; hence, the Church, corporately (organically), has a unique (and epistemically superior) insight into the things of God.

    If you remember your days as a Protestant, then you must remember what a power-play this sounds like. If all esle fails and the Reformed opponent demonstrates, say, that dikaioo really is a forensic verb meaning “to acquit,” and not a transformative verb meaning something else, the answer given is that God’s Word should not be interpreted using the lexica of Jews or German pagan scholars, but the Church tells us what dikaioo means (even if what they say it means isn’t really what it means).

    So there’s no way to move forward when arguing with a person who takes your view, since even our lingustic scholarship, or our historians who deny the papacy and apostolic succession (or yours who do) are, at the end of the day, dismissed as being unable to interpret anything correctly since they’re not bishops who enjoy the very apostolic succession that they believe is historically false.

    Can you see the frustration?

  73. Paige Britton said,

    August 16, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Andrew,
    Thanks for clarifying to some extent that texts are not unintelligible in the RC view. I think (if I am interpreting your post correctly) that the conclusion is that biblical texts are intelligible to ordinary readers until one thinks they say something other than the Magisterium has decided, at which point one must submit to the teaching of the teachers of the church. I guess I am too much a product of Protestant thought to ever wish to give up the good debate.

    Here’s a point that maybe bears some unpacking and probing:

    Andrew writes, “The Church, being one, cannot admit, as being taught by the Church per se, contradictory interpretations of the Word of God. Church teaching is one in substance, else her teaching would cancel itself out and become void, which is contrary to its nature and necessity.”

    I have been given to understand that Peter Abelard’s “Sic et Non” was in some respects a statement about the contradictory interpretations given by the Church, so that to say “The Church says such-and-such” begs the question of which era / spokesperson is meant by “the Church.” Which would call into question the unity of teaching spoken of by Andrew and others. I’ll bet Ron knows more: can you or anybody else fill out this bit of history?

  74. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 16, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Jason,

    I can see the frustration, but it is unnecessary for three reasons:

    (1) It may be that the Church, as the Body of Christ, really does have such privileged access to the meaning of the Word. In that case, the response should not be frustration but something else.

    (2) It may be that the Church is thus related to the Word, but that this relation, while involving epistemic advantages, does not necessarily involve the gift of ecclesial infallibility. To establish that (which the Catholic wants to do) might require further theological work.

    (3) A Catholic believes that the Church is thus situated to the Word, and that this situation involves infallibility, which motivates the assent of faith with regards to definitive ecclesial teaching. We think that we have some decent reasons for such faith, but we are open to be challenged on that account.
    After all, as I wrote, the Church’s teaching makes use of scientific exegesis and is open to private, mystical experiences, while not being limited to these ways of apprehending the meaning of the Word of God. Thus, we engage in rational exegesis with aplomb, and are open to correction (as individual interpreters) on those grounds.

    Here is how that might work with respect to the teaching of the Church: Lets say I make an exegetical argument in support of the Church’s teaching on justification (that it essentially involves a present, inward transformation from sin to righteousness) based upon Paul’s use of dikaioi katastathesontai in Romans 5:19. Someone responds by pointing out that the verb is future passive, whereas the Roman doctrine of justification also posits a present righteousness through the infusion of grace. And let’s say that my interlocutor convinces me of his case with respect to Romans 5:19. Should I still believe the Catholic teaching? Of course I should. What I should no longer hold is my opinion that Romans 5:19 demonstrates one particular aspect of that teaching (present, inherent righteousness by grace).

    A more serious case would be where my interlocutor overthrows each of my arguments that a particular passage of Scripture does not contradict a definitive teaching of the Church.

    In the former case (Rom 5:19), I would be in a similar situation to a theist who has been exposed for using a bunch of fallacious arguments in support of his faith in God. I might be disappointed to learn that my arguments for faith were no good, but I would not necessarily be compelled to give up my belief for sake of conscience / intellectual honesty. In the latter case (charge of contradiction) I would be in the same situation as the theist who has been presented with an unanswerable (for him) anti-theistic argument (say, from the existence of evil).

    However, even if someone could knock out all of my reasons for faith in some Church teaching, or present an unanswerable argument to the end that Church teaching is false, I could still hold to that teaching by faith, although honesty would compel me to admit that I have no reasons for my belief.

    Having no reasons for faith is not, of course, the same thing as there being no reasons. Of course, if I looked and looked, and could still find no good reasons for faith, the effect could be an intellectual crisis whose outcome, in keeping with the demands of conscience,intellectual coherence, etc., might be unbelief.

    My purpose in the previous comment was not to make a power play on behalf of the truth of Catholic teaching on some issue. That would be futile. I was actually trying to articulate the reasons why Catholics believe the Church’s testimony concerning the Word. This involved saying something about the nature of the Church, from which, in my opinion, certain epistemological considerations follow.

    The way to move forward would be to engage my claims about the nature of the Church, whether she is such-and-so, and whether that implies what I think it does about her relation to the Word.

    Finally, where did you get the idea that I was implying that your scholars, or anybody’s scholars for that matter, are “unable to interpret anything correctly”? I explicitly wrote that “it is a fact that individuals can read and interpret biblical texts for themselves.” I thought that context showed that I meant “interpret correctly.” I have a high opinion of critical exegesis, but I do not think that the Church’s apprehension of the Word of God (from which her teaching proceeds) is reducible to this mode of knowledge.

  75. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 16, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Paige,

    Good stuff. The RCC has several criteria for discerning when and where the Church, as Church, has spoken its mind. Some instances are more definite, others less so. The dogmatic decrees of the Ecumenical Councils and the ex cathedra teachings of the Popes are, of course, prime examples, and easiest to identify (especially the Councils). The consensus of the Fathers would be another criterion for definitive ecclesial teaching. This does not mean that the Fathers don’t contradict one another (and themselves) at points–they clearly do. Rather, the consensus patrum is discerned where there is virtual unanimity among the Fathers on a matter of doctrine or morals, whatever their disagreements might have been on other matters. In this way, Rome certainly does not pick and choose among the Fathers. The RCC is bound to hold that which has been held by the consent of the Fathers. Protestants are free to reject anything patristic, even if there is a consensus.

    Of course, there is the further question of who counts as a Church Father. But I am out of breath. (So to “speak”)

  76. rfwhite said,

    August 16, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    50 Bryan Cross: to return to your comments … You ask, “To whom would you wish to make the teaching office of the Church accountable? Your very question presumes a democratic way of thinking, as though the Church is equivalent to a merely human institution.” I answer: No, this question does not presume a democratic way of thinking. It presumes the existence of an authority that bears a relationship of “self existent” or “original” authority to the Church and to the individual.

  77. rfwhite said,

    August 16, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    71 Andrew Preslar: I agree substantially with your claim that “the degree of submission of self to Church depends upon the nature of the Church’s knowing with respect to the Word of God. Is it such as to exclude error in her definitive teaching? That is nub of the matter.” In other words, what is the locus of infallibility? Shall we find it in the living voice of the apostolate? or elsewhere?

  78. Zrim said,

    August 16, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Bryan,

    Between this discussion and others elsewhere, there are still a couple of things I have never quite understood from your point of view. First, what is to be gained by simply collapsing the Protestant (sola) and Anabaptist (solo) views together as if there is absolutely no distinction between them? I get that neither are Catholic, but it seems to me you can acknowledge these differences and still keep your Catholic conclusions about the inferiority of both the Protestant and Anabaptist posture (and superiority of the Catholic).

    Second, you regularly accuse Protestants of simply following a tradition with which we agree. I’m not clear on what exactly the problem is with this, especially since Catholics do the same thing.

  79. Curate said,

    August 17, 2009 at 12:07 am

    “All appeals to Scripture are appeals to interpretations of Scripture.”

    What about scripture’s own interpretation? The biblical writers all explain their meaning, often over and over. Paul is the best interpreter of Paul, and he does indeed make his meaning plain with many explanations.

    Therefore there is in fact, not in theory, an appeal to scripture that is pure, not another’s interpretation.

    The statement quoted above assumes that it is impossible to have a pure reading of the scripture without an extra-biblical interpreter, which is classical Trent. The historical Protestant position is that the biblical authors are their own interpreters.

  80. Curate said,

    August 17, 2009 at 12:13 am

    Cont. 79. The Papalist poition is that the Bible is so obscure, difficult, and incomplete, (hence the need for tradition), that it cannot be understood apart from its inspired interpreter, the Papal magisterium.

    We therefore have an obscure scripture, but an inspired and infallible bishop.

    To any Bible believer this is pure heresy and blasphemy.

    It seems to me that the article above this thread is dangerously close to the Tridentine position in principle.

  81. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 17, 2009 at 2:03 am

    Zrim:

    This is the most important question:

    The Reformers taught that all the doctrines of Christianity must be found in the scriptures.Where is this doctrine (SS) found???????? It is a fair question to ask. Where is it found expl. or impl.??????

    -Remember the Bible can’t interpret itself,it needs an interpreter.

    -If Paul believed in SS, why did he teach that the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth.?????
    – The Bible is perspicous???? Then SS can be found in the scriptures!!??

  82. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 17, 2009 at 2:10 am

    Dear “Curate”:

    You believe in Sola Scriptura? OK, give chapter and verse and you win this argument.
    -Scripture interprets scripture??? Gee, tell me where is that found in the Bible.

  83. Ron Henzel said,

    August 17, 2009 at 4:27 am

    Sean,

    Regarding your comments 63 through 65: I have been preparing a response to them, but I’ve also been preparing to return to my role as school teacher today, which has kept me quite busy. I’ll catch up with you soon.

  84. Paige Britton said,

    August 17, 2009 at 5:20 am

    Andrew,
    Thank you for your careful articulation of the RC view. I really appreciate your cogent explanations, even though I find the epistemological assumptions therein entirely unfamiliar and somewhat scary! You can imagine why that might be so. It is good, though, to identify this piece (“ecclesiastical epistemology”?) as a major departure point between the RC & Protestant worldviews. I would indeed be interested in the theological explanation for the special knowledge claimed by the RCC, next time you get your breath back.

  85. johnbugay said,

    August 17, 2009 at 5:56 am

    Sean — re. #68 — the council of Ephesus specifically endorsed the phrase “Mother of God,” (from Cyril’s letters) which Chalcedon specifically did not use. Chalcedon used “Theotokos” which is more literally rendered “God-bearer,” clearly has less baggage attached to it. There is a difference and it is an important one.

    As I’ve written, Nestorius did accept “Theotokos” with the caution that it was wrong to turn the focus of that word away from Christ and onto Mary, which is the very thing that happened.

    The point is, Cyril’s “Mother of God” language (Mater Theou or Mater Dei in Latin) was NOT used at Chalcedon. So there was at least some caution in that direction. Someone other than Nestorius understood the dangers.

    And to my larger point from comment #28 (which you ignored), the Council of Ephesus was a complete disaster from many points of view.

    It was called without one side even being present. The bishops who were in attendance were “persuaded” to vote Cyril’s way by armed gangs of thugs. It wrongly anathematized Nestorius, causing an even greater schism than the one of 1054. It was the first to enthrone the “mother of God” language (Chalcedon even backed off of that).

    This history does huge damage to the concept that councils — even “councils of the whole church” — should be viewed as infallible.

    Which goes back further to Jason’s comment, #23,

    So what we need from our Catholic commenters is proof that those who attended the early councils believed the same thing about what they were doing as the delegates at Trent believed about what they were doing.

  86. Sean said,

    August 17, 2009 at 5:58 am

    OK Ron.

    I only ask you that don’t bother providing quotes from these Fathers, or others, regarding the material sufficiency of scripture because we all know that this is not the same as sola scriptura.

    Yves Congar states, “We can admit sola scriptura in the sense of a material sufficiency of canonical Scripture. This means that Scripture contains, in one way or another, all truths necessary for salvation. This position can claim the support of many Fathers and early theologians. It has been, and still is, held by many modern theologians.” . . . At Trent it was widely . . . admitted that all the truths necessary to salvation are at least outlined in Scripture. . . . We find fully verified the formula of men like Newman and Kuhn: Totum in Scriptura, totum in Traditione, `All is in Scripture, all is in Tradition.’ .. `Written’ and `unwritten’ indicate not so much two material domains as two modes or states of knowledge” (Tradition and Traditions,New York: Macmillian, 1967,, 410-414).

    This is important for a discussion of sola scriptura because earlier you attempted to prove their doctrine by asserting the material sufficiency of Scripture. That is a move which does no good because a Catholic can agree with material sufficiency. In order to prove sola scriptura in the fathers you must prove the different and much stronger claim that Scripture is so clear that no outside information or authority is needed in order to interpret it.

    So, unless you are going to show that the fathers like Augustine and Aquinas did not hold that councils were infallible and that the church did not have the chrism to interpret the scriptures than I would ask that you don’t waste my time.

  87. Sean said,

    August 17, 2009 at 6:02 am

    John.

    I am not interested in fuzzy whitewashed history. “Theotokos” is what it is all about. Nestorius preached EXPLICIT sermons against the title, period. Nestorius maintained that Mary should be called Christotokos. This is false theology and why he was a heretic and the great councils were right all along.

    John,

    If you rely on siding with the heretics to land blows against the great ecumenical councils than our point is proven.

  88. johnbugay said,

    August 17, 2009 at 6:14 am

    Sean — nothing is proven. History has shown that Nestorius was wrongly condemned, and that the council of Ephesus was a farce — a fact that Chalcedon tacitly endorsed.

  89. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 17, 2009 at 7:06 am

    So, unless you are going to show that the fathers like Augustine and Aquinas did not hold that councils were infallible and that the church did not have the chrism to interpret the scriptures than I would ask that you don’t waste my time.

    Sean,

    Here is Augustine (from one of his Anti-Donatist writings) on the relationship of the Scripture to the Councils:

    “But who can fail to be aware that the sacred canon of Scripture, both of the Old and New Testament, is confined within its own limits, and that it stands so absolutely in a superior position to all later letters of the bishops, that about it we can hold no manner of doubt or disputation whether what is confessedly contained in it is right and true; but that all the letters of bishops which have been written, or are being written, since the closing of the canon, are liable to be refuted if there be anything contained in them which strays from the truth, either by the discourse of some one who happens to be wiser in the matter than themselves, or by the weightier authority and more learned experience of other bishops, by the authority of Councils; and further, that the Councils themselves, which are held in the several districts and provinces, must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world; and that even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them, when, by some actual experiment, things are brought to light which were before concealed, and that is known which previously lay hid, and this without any whirlwind of sacrilegious pride, without any puffing of the neck through arrogance, without any strife of envious hatred, simply with holy humility, catholic peace, and Christian charity?”

    So like Augustine we would hold that the Scriptures were abosolutely superior to all letters of the bishops and that even the plenary councils which were for the whole Christian world could be corrected.

    I see no evidnece from the history of the Church prior to Augustine that any councils were held to be infallible. They were authoritative and vital to the life of the Church, but not incapable of error.

  90. Sean said,

    August 17, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Andrew.

    Augustine is describing the Catholic understanding of scripture and councils in the exact same way as we would describe them.

    “Bishops letters” can can be shown to be stray from the truth if a council decides on a matter against them.

    Which letter are you quoting?

    The following illustrate the church’s continuing understanding of the infallibility of the councils:

    “But the word of the Lord which came through the ecumenical Synod at Nicaea, abides for ever.”
    Athanasius, To the Bishops of Africa, 2 (A.D. 372).

    “That you should confess the faith put forth by our Fathers once assembled at Nicaea, that you should not omit any one of its propositions, but bear in mind that the three hundred and eighteen who met together without strife did not speak without the operation of the Holy Ghost, and not to add to that creed the statement that the Holy Ghost is a creature, nor hold communion with those who so say, to the end that the Church of God may be pure and without any evil admixture of any tare.”
    Basil, To Cyriacus, Epistle 114 (A.D. 372).

    “As to those other things which we hold on the authority, not of Scripture, but of tradition, and which are observed throughout the whole world, it may be understood that they are held as approved and instituted either by the apostles themselves, or by plenary Councils, whose authority in the Church is most useful, e.g. the annual commemoration, by special solemnities, of the Lord’s passion, resurrection, and ascension, and of the descent of the Holy Spirit from heaven, and whatever else is in like manner observed by the whole Church wherever it has been established.”
    Augustine, To Januarius, Epistle 54:1 (A.D. 400).

    “What the custom of the Church has always held, what this argument has failed to prove false, and what a plenary Council has confirmed, this we follow!”
    Augustine, On Baptism against the Donatist, 4:10 (A.D. 401).

    “Cleave to the holy synod which assembled at Nicea, nothing added (thereto), nothing diminishing; for that synod being divinely inspired, taught the true doctrine.”
    Isidore of Pelusium, Epistle 99:4 (ante A.D. 435).

    “We confessed that we hold, preserve, and declare to the holy churches that confession of faith which the 318 holy Fathers more at length set forth, who were gathered together at Nicea, who handed down the holy anathema or creed. Moreover, the 150 gathered together at Constantinople set forth our faith, who followed that same confession of faith and explained it. And the consent of fire 200 holy fathers gathered for the same faith in the first Council of Ephesus. And what things were defined by the 630 gathered at Chalcedon for the one and the same faith, which they both followed and taught. And all those wile from time to time have been condemned or anathematized by the Catholic Church, and by the aforesaid four Councils, we confessed that we hold them condemned and anathematized.”
    Ecumenical Council of Constantinople II, Sentence of the Synod (A.D. 553).

  91. johnbugay said,

    August 17, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Sean — all that your quotes do is to reveal that the council of Nicea was held in high regard.

    Here is some background history concerning the 2nd and 3rd “Ecumenical” councils (Constantinople and Ephesus, which I’ve been talking about):

    http://www.puritanboard.com/f24/how-unified-east-really-49859/#post640762

    To whet your appetite, here is a citation from Gregory of Nazianzus, who presided over Constantinople for a time:

    To tell you plainly, I am determined to fly every convention of bishops; for I never yet saw a council that ended happily. Instead of lessening, they invariably augment the mischief. The passion for victory and the lust of power (you will perhaps think my freedom intolerable) are not to be described in words. One present as judge will much more readily catch the infection from others than be able to restrain it in them. For this reason, I must conclude that the only security of one’s peace and virtue is in retirement. Epistle 130 – To Procopium. For translation, see John Harrison, Whose Are the Fathers? (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1867), p. 468. Epistola CXXX – ad Procopium, PG 37:225.

  92. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 17, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Sean,

    You have given me lots of quotes to show that the councils were authoratiative, not infallible. Since we are talking about Augustine, take the letter To Januarius… you quote from. Where does it say that the writings of the plenary Councils are infallible? They are “useful” and “approved” and “authoratiative,” etc. In other words all of the sorts of things that we Protestants say about our confessions.

    The work I quote from is On Baptism, Against the Donatists (Book II). In Chapter III Augustine argues that even the plenary (ecumenical) councils can be corrected and that Scripture is absolutely superior to all letters of the bishops. But there is no concept of any council speaking with such authority that it cannot be corrected. This is reserved for Scriptures alone.

  93. Sean said,

    August 17, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Andrew.

    “Infallibility” is only a later developed theological term. Just like you won’t find the a Father saying, “Nicea was infallible” you won’t find a father saying, “Only scripture is infallible.”

    What the above do show is that the fathers believed the words of the Council to be ‘the word of God’, ‘the work of the Holy Spirit’, ‘divinly inspired’, ‘preserved by the church’ etc.

    Let me digest Augustine’s quote. It seems that he is refering to a future council furthering the understanding of plenary council by revealing ‘what has been hidden’ and better understood and not ‘reversing’ councils per se.

  94. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 17, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Andrew,

    “… and that even of the plenary councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them.”

    This is very interesting. Does Augustine denote the same thing by “plenary council” that we do by “ecumenical council”?

    If so, how could he say that the ecumenical councils are “often” corrected by later ecumenical councils? There had only been Nicea and Constantinople.
    The latter did “correct” the former in the sense that it expanded upon the Creed in order to make certain matters of doctrine (e.g. the divinity of the Holy Spirit) more explicit. Constantinople did not correct Nicea in the sense of overturning any errors on the part of the former council. (The Constantinopolitan Fathers were quite explicit about affirming Nicea!) So that, the overturning of the decisions of one EC by another, cannot be what St. Augustine means by “correct.”

  95. Sean said,

    August 17, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Andrew McCallum.

    I found this discussion which is helpful on your quote.

  96. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 17, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Paige,

    As to “ecclesial epistemology,” I was thinking of 1 Corinthians Chapter 2, particularly verses 11-13. Also the concluding verse, “we have the mind of Christ.” As to the ontology of the Church, consider St. Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving in Ephesians 1.16-22. The Church is “the Body of Christ, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” In this Church, we have “the eyes of [our] hearts enlightened.”

    Finally, although we can’t go to far down this path (away from the topic at hand), consider the ways in which our Lord and the apostles interpreted the Hebrew Scriptures: not exactly historical-grammatical exegesis! This suggests that Christ, and his mystical Body, has some kind of privileged insight into the Word of God. To consider this should not be scary at all, but rather a blessed consequence of faith in the deity of Jesus Christ and the mystical union between Christ and the Church.

  97. Curate said,

    August 17, 2009 at 10:35 am

    no. 82

    The fact of scripture interpreting scripture is proven simply by reading the Bible, and seeing how it argues and teaches. Over and over the authors explain their points, and the things that they wish the reader to understand.

    A classic example, but one that you will dislike, is Paul’s own explanation of his reasoning on the fact of forgiveness apart from the law in the following words:

    Romans 3.28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

    We have here an explanation of an entire three chapters of rational and biblical argument. Paul is telling us exactly what the conclusion and point of the argument about justification by faith alone, and how it relates to the Jew and the Gentile.

    There are many, many more examples just like that one.

  98. Curate said,

    August 17, 2009 at 10:38 am

    cont. … Paul is his own best exegete and interpreter.

  99. Curate said,

    August 17, 2009 at 10:42 am

    cont. … and I must add here that this was the consensus of the early church, thinking of men like Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Augustine, to name but a few. Every matter of faith and morals must be measured against the scriptures, and whatever is contrary to it, or cannot be proven from it, must be regarded as undecided, or plain rejected.

  100. Sean said,

    August 17, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Curate.

    Measuring truths against the scriptures is not the same thing as sola scriptura. Catholic doctrines are scriptural.

    The church fathers you listed all believed and expressely taught that scripture is only rightly interpreted by the church that Christ built.

    “Those, therefore, who desert the preaching of the Church, call in question the knowledge of the holy presbyters, not taking into consideration of how much greater consequence is a religious man, even in a private station, than a blasphemous and impudent sophist. Now, such are all the heretics, and those who imagine that they have hit upon something more beyond the truth, so that by following those things already mentioned, proceeding on their way variously, in harmoniously, and foolishly, not keeping always to the same opinions with regard to the same things, as blind men are led by the blind, they shall deservedly fall into the ditch of ignorance lying in their path, ever seeking and never finding out the truth. It behooves us, therefore, to avoid their doctrines, and to take careful heed lest we suffer any injury from them; but to flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord’s Scriptures.”
    Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5,20:2 (A.D. 180).

    “Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be adjudged to belong to us, “as many as walk according to the rule,” which the church has handed down from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, the reason of our position is clear, when it determines that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge an appeal to the Scriptures, since we, without the Scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. For as they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians, because it is not from Christ that they get that which they pursue of their own mere choice, and from the pursuit incur and admit the name of heretics. Thus, not being Christians, they have acquired no right to the Christian Scriptures; and it may be very fairly said to them, “Who are you? When and whence did you come?” Tertullian, Prescription against the Heretics, 37 (A.D. 200)

    “But when proper words make Scripture ambiguous, we must see in the first place that there is nothing wrong in our punctuation or pronunciation. Accordingly, if, when attention is given to the passage, it shall appear to be uncertain in what way it ought to be punctuated or pronounced, let the reader consult the rule of faith which he has gathered from the plainer passages of Scripture, and from the authority of the Church, and of which I treated at sufficient length when I was speaking in the first book about things.”
    Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, 3,2:2 (A.D. 397).

  101. August 17, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    A RCC gentleman wrote earlier,

    “Regarding the conscience question, according to the Catholic Church an individual must never go against his conscience. But, one also has a duty to inform one’s conscience.”

    So, in response to this would it not be accurate to say that the individual’s conscience has the higher authority over and against the Church in matters of faith and practice? And if someone (like a Protestant Reformer) had an informed conscience which stood against the doctrines of Rome (in their opinion) then weren’t they simply upholding the same principle discussed here in your quote, and taught by the RCC that people “must never go against” their own conscience? What else were/are Protestants to do?

  102. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 17, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Dear curate:

    Where does the Bible say scripture interprets scripture??
    Your evidence of Paul is very subjective.
    Where is sol. scr. mentioned in the Bible???

  103. Curate said,

    August 17, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    100.

    Sean, you really must let Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Augustine define tradition and the apostolic teaching of the church. It is nothing less than the Apostles Creed, every article of which is proven from scripture.

    When they speak of tradition it NEVER means what your Pope says it is. They simply do not mention your adorolatry of Mary, the transubstantiation, the primacy of the Pope, and the rest of the Medieval innovations of the Papacy.

    They mention instead the fact that God is the Creator, that his Son was born by the Spirit of a virgin, that he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified for us, was buried, and rose in the body on the third day. He ascended to heaven to receive David’s throne, and he is ruling the earth from there until he returns to judge the living and the dead. After that he will establish the life and world to come, which kingdom will never pass away.

    THAT is the tradition of the church.

    What is the authority of the Church? It is by no means authority OVER the Bible, but the authority to teach what is in it. Those men were biblical inerrantists to a man, who taught that scripture is supreme over every tradition of the church.

    If the Bible is the word of God, the oracles of the Most High, how can it be otherwise?

  104. Curate said,

    August 17, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    101

    Robert, before you ask more questions you must read the answers that I have already provided. That way you will avoid having to ask the same thing again.

    Also, the Protestant Churches teach and believe in the supremacy of scripture, NOT that the scripture is the ONLY authority. Scripture is the final and supreme authority, not the only authority. Otherwise there would be no Protestant Confessions at all!

    The Church has authority to make ceremonies, (liturgies), to define doctrine, and to pronounce on morals. However, and it is a big condition, everything must be according to scripture by direct precept or necessary consequence. Nothing maybe done or taught that is contrary to it, or cannot be established from it by necessary consequence.

    That means that it is unlawful to teach and proclaim that it is necessary to submit to the Roman Pontiff for salvation, that one must believe in the so-called assumption of Mary, Papal infallibility, and all the rest of the made-up pseudo-traditions of your sect.

    Worst of all, in direct violation of countless passages of scripture, you teach that the cross of Christ is an insufficient atonement for the sins of all who believe. You insist that human works are necessary to complete the cross of Christ, and in this way you set aside the grace of God.

    You really need to start reading the book that God gave us.

  105. tim prussic said,

    August 17, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Francis Turretin defined three spheres of authority/judgment, which might be helpful: 1) Private, 2) Ecclesiastical, and 3) Supreme

    Private authority is at the individual and/or family level – individually, say, we have to know what we believe and have the individual authority to believe or disbelieve this or that proposition or doctrine.

    Ecclesiastical authority is that of a herald. The herald doesn’t have the authority simply to make up positions or dictates of the potentate, but rather passes them along and applies them. Thus, the church passes along the oracles of God and applies them.

    Supreme authority is the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture. Both private and ecclesiastical authorities hang on this and also tend toward it. They hang on it in that it is God in Scripture that reveals that authority. They tend toward it as both private and ecclesiastical judgments are to be in conformity with this supreme authority and are judged by it.

    Turretin’s famous phrase: “God is not bound to Scripture, but has bound us to it.”

  106. August 17, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    [...] 17, 2009 in Uncategorized Green Baggins makes a helpful point about the role of the Westminster Confession as a ‘lens’ through which we read [...]

  107. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 17, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    If so, how could he say that the ecumenical councils are “often” corrected by later ecumenical councils?

    Andrew P,

    I imagine that Augustine was speaking about the all of the various points of debate within the plenary councils. But I don’t know about the word “often.” Actually I thought one of you might come back with a question about what Augustine meant by “correct.” And I was pointing out to Sean that none of the terms from his quotes were any problem to us. We too believe that the words of the early councils were from God and through the work of the Spirit and so on. But I really wonder how much good it does to try to exegete the words of Irenaeus or Augustine, or Basil or any other individual theologian. We know that the words of Scripture are the very words of God and that they form a comprehensive whole, but since the words of these Church Fathers are not the very words of God we cannot say that they form a true and comprehensive whole when we put them together. As someone pointed out above, the concept of the consensus of the Fathers is highly questionable. So maybe before we try to interpret a specific quote from a given Church Father it would be good to put the collective corpus of the Fathers into context first.

  108. TurretinFan said,

    August 17, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Sean claimed that we don’t see a father calling Scripture infallible.

    Augustine, City of God, Book 11, Chapter 6: “And if the sacred and infallible Scriptures say that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, in order that it may be understood that He had made nothing previously—for if He had made anything before the rest, this thing would rather be said to have been made “in the beginning,”— then assuredly the world was made, not in time, but simultaneously with time.”

  109. Paige Britton said,

    August 18, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Andrew P.,

    Thanks kindly for your response (#96). I take it that what Protestants understand to be true of a Church made up of individual Christians – that we collectively have the mind of Christ – is in the RC understanding reserved for the Magisterium? (Does this mean we are working with different definitions of the word “Church”?)

    I find it curious that you would appeal to Paul’s prayer in Eph. 1:18 for the ontology of the Church, saying that “In this Church, we have ‘the eyes of [our] hearts enlightened.’” As I read Eph. 1:18, Paul is praying here that this *may* be so for the individual & collective Ephesians & other believing readers (i.e., it wasn’t already the case, he was praying that it would be so; and he doesn’t seem to imply that only by appealing to a special body of specially enlightened teachers the rest of the ordinary believers might have this enlightenment, too. He was appealing directly to the Father for them.).

    So, from the RC view, are these crazy Protestants with all of their diverging interpretations simply a product of Renaissance humanism and Enlightenment rationalism, thinking mistakenly that they might be able to come to a close understanding of Scripture without the help of a divinely inspired teacher-in-chief? Where did the epistemological shift come from?

    And my Reformed brothers, I’d love your input, too: where do we Protestants get off thinking we can think for ourselves? Is the epistemology behind confessionalism biblical?

  110. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 18, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Andrew,

    One of my points (#94) was that by “correct” Augustine could not have meant “overturn” (some doctrinal decision) since there were only two ECs and the latter explicitly and unequivocally claimed to affirm the former. I suggested reading “correct” as “supplement.”

    As to exegeting the Fathers: If we are going to call them as witnesses at all, then we had better understand what they are saying.

    As to the consensus of the Fathers: I am not sure what is questionable about this, so long as we know who counts as a Church Father. And this is only questionable for one who deems that the Church cannot speak her mind (which is the mind of Christ) in an irreformable way (e.g., there is no possibility that Marcion or Arius will one day be deemed a Father).

    There is a symbiotic relationship between Fathers and Councils. The Fathers’ interpretation of Scripture inform the Councils, and the Councils bind the Church, including the Fathers. Anyone who will not abide by the definitive decision of the Church in Council (or in whatever way she, as the whole Church, expresses her mind) is ipso facto not a Father of the Church.

    (The matter is a bit more complicated when it comes to reading earlier Fathers in the light of later Councils. Allowances must be made for anticipation and development, which means that some teachings of early Fathers, although not, in their mode of expression [e.g. Justin's christological illustrations], equal to later developments, cannot be condemned by those developments, having anticipated them and in any case not being completely irreconcilable to them.)

    This is to say that we can know who are the Fathers, and those matters upon which there is a consensus among them, and knowing this, they provide the context in which we read Scripture. Anyone who would make his own construal of the meaning of Scripture a basis for contradicting the consensus patrum on the meaning of Sacred Scripture is not an ecclesial Christian. He is an individualist and rank biblicist.

  111. pduggie said,

    August 18, 2009 at 9:33 am

    The doctrine of sola scriptura comes from scripture because scripture points us to no other supreme authority. the lack of any other supreme authority being mentioned in scripture leaves, by reason, scripture being the only thing left.

    It is a truth of the Christian religion that 2+2 = 4, but that isn’t from scripture per se. Nor is it tradition or church authority.

  112. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 18, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Paige,

    The “we” in “we have the mind of Christ” includes everyone who is united to Christ in the mystical Body, the Church.

    One of the differences between Catholics and (many) Protestants is that we think that not just anyone speak as the Body of Christ. We are all called to believe what the Church teaches and to dare I say, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness (in every way), but we are not all appointed shepherds and teachers in the Church. We all have the mind of Christ, but the official teachers of the Church alone have the special charism, not individually, nor as a mere collection of pastors among other collections of pastors, but as a college of bishops in union with the God-appointed president of the college, these have the charism of proclaiming to all Christians throughout the world what is the mind of Christ, i.e., the right interpretation of the Word of God.

    Christ has one mind. He is not a schizophrenic. He established one Church. That Church teaches, per our Lord’s mandate, one Faith, which is an expression of the mind of Christ. The Church has never ceased to be one, or to have the mind of Christ, or to express that mind. One Church, alone, continues to behave as though this were true, as though the mind of Christ continues to be expressed by the Church qua Church, and as though this expression is not subject to being overturned by private interpretations of Sacred Scripture.

  113. August 18, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Paige,

    And my Reformed brothers, I’d love your input, too: where do we Protestants get off thinking we can think for ourselves? Is the epistemology behind confessionalism biblical?

    Well, we’ve all drunk from the wells of individualism and anti-authoritarianism, whether we admit it or not (these things affect all of us, Catholic or Protestant). But what the Catholic would appeal to to debunk our theory of the Bible’s perspicuity is the fact that we can’t seem to agree even on the basic message of Scripture, such what baptism is and does, or how a person gets saved.

    Their premise seems to be that a text cannot be clear if people disagree about its meaning (which, of course, is untrue). But their false premise aside, I do find our myriad of denominations lamentable.

  114. August 18, 2009 at 10:46 am

    [...] “THE AVENUE” – from Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church « Camille does it again Romanism, Presbyterian style August 18, 2009 Mark Horne has written a couple of fine posts here and here regarding the new move by some conservative Presbyterians to become Romanists without acknowledging the Pope (you can see it with your own eyes here). [...]

  115. Richard said,

    August 18, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Re # 109 – Who gave us scripture, or more accurately a canon?

  116. Sean said,

    August 18, 2009 at 11:33 am

    TF,

    Sean claimed that we don’t see a father calling Scripture infallible.

    Actually here is what I said, you won’t find a father saying, “Only scripture is infallible.”

    Curate,

    102. I’ve read the fathers as have many commited Reformed Christians who have come out on the other side sacramentally reconciled to the Catholic Church.

    “To be deep in history is to cease being Protestant.”

  117. Sean said,

    August 18, 2009 at 11:43 am

    The doctrine of sola scriptura comes from scripture because scripture points us to no other supreme authority.

    Scripture says that Christ built a church and that the gates of hell would not overcome her. Scripture says that the Church is the piller and foundation of truth. Scripture says that Christ’s body is the Church.

    Scripture does not say that Christians need to split off into different groups and make their own confessions based on what they think the bible says with no regard for a sacramental passing of authority and then submit to those confessions.

    Some of you are acting as if the Reformed confessions are the answer to Christian disunity and scriptural confusion. How many Reformed Presbyterian denominations in the US alone do we have now? And even added all up you could likely fit most every Reformed Presbyterian in America in Talledega Motor Speedway. And its not like there is a bustling Reformed confessional in any other part of the world. Anybody been to Geneva lately? Dutch Holland?

  118. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 18, 2009 at 11:47 am

    One of my points (#94) was that by “correct” Augustine could not have meant “overturn” (some doctrinal decision) since there were only two ECs and the latter explicitly and unequivocally claimed to affirm the former. I suggested reading “correct” as “supplement.”

    Andrew P,

    The reasons I don’t go with “supplement” here are that firstly, the Latin verb Augustine uses (emendari, a form of emendo) primarily means to correct, that is, to remove a fault from. Secondly, the context of the passage is authorities (i.e. Peter, Cyprian) who were in error and needed to be corrected. And finally Augstine says clearly that Scriptures are superior to the words of the bishops in all cases.

    It is this belief in the superioity of the Scriptures within the context of the work of the Church that is foundational to the concept of Sola Scriptura. When we speak of Sola Scriptura we are referring the Augustinian notion of viewing the Scriptures as superior to all else as the Church formulates her doctines and dogma. The Reformation was in one sense a movement to reassess the theology of the Church through the lens of Scripture instead of through the lens of Aristotlean philosophy or whatever other culturally dominant thought pattern. The matter of our use of Scripture as individuals is a derivative issue and not the primary focus of the Reformation concept of Sola Scriptura. We seem to to be continually correcting our Catholic friends on this issue.

  119. Zrim said,

    August 18, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Re # 112: Who gave us scripture, or more accurately a canon?

    Bingo. Scriptura and ecclesia: Does the church create the Word, or does the Word create the church. It is on the these two considerations which hang all the law and prophets of this discussion.

  120. TurretinFan said,

    August 18, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    “Actually here is what I said, you won’t find a father saying, “Only scripture is infallible.” ”

    Yes, but the reason you gave was that infallibility wasn’t a concept yet. I presume you will at least concede you erred on that point. And while Augustine may not use those exact words (“only scripture is infallible”), you’ll have a beast of a time finding him or his contemporaries calling the Bishop of Rome (or even the church in general) infallible.

    And likewise, Augustine did grant them a unique authority, as can be seen from the following:

    But if it is supported by the evident authority of the divine Scriptures, namely, of those which in the Church are called canonical, it must be believed without any reservation. In regard to other witnesses of evidence which are offered as guarantees of belief, you may believe or not, according as you estimate that they either have or have not the weight necessary to produce belief.

    – Augustine, Letter 147

    -TurretinFan
    -TurretinFan

  121. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 18, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Andrew,

    In that case, to which corrections, in the sense of overturning a doctrinal error, does Augustine refer, vis-a-vis Constantinople and Nicea?

    So far as misunderstanding goes, there is plenty to go around. No one questions the superiority of Sacred Scripture itself (above Councils and such) as the pure Word of God. The issue being discussed is interpretive authority.

    Protestantism allows individual interpretations to trump ecclesial interpretations. The Reformation is founded squarely upon this principle. Catholicism offers another hermeneutical principle: The interpretive authority of the Church. This authority is not considered to be superior to Scripture. It is considered, as a matter of principle (i.e. basic theology), superior to individual interpretation. This is a point on which we are always correcting our Protestant friends, who seem not to distinguish between a text and its interpretation.

    As to Paige’s question and Jason’s response: No one is denying that individual’s can and must think for themselves.

    Some folks might subscribe to the premise that a text cannot be correctly interpreted, or even be reasonably clear, if there is widespread disagreement over its meaning. They are, of course, wrong.

    After all, people disagree about things as crystal clear as the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, justification by formed faith, and the real, objective transformation of the eucharistic elements into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, but these things are nevertheless obviously biblical to anyone who simply allows the Scriptures to speak for themselves.

    Scripture might very well be clear in essentials, but such clarity does not provide for the unity of the Church. The Protestant Reformation has proven this beyond the shadow of any doubt. This last point is not a theory about texts and their interpretation(s).

  122. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 18, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Zrim,

    I have heard other Catholics point out a relevant distinction with respect to the Word of God. There is a sense in which the Word of God is God. (John 1.1) In that sense, the Word creates the Church. (Matthew 16.16-18) There is another sense in which the word of God is not God. In this sense, the Church, which is the Body of Christ, who is God, is prior to the word; hence, not created by the word.

    Often, when Catholics refer to divine revelation, such as when I use (in the comments above) “Word of God,” we are thinking of the Word of God in its plenary sense, namely, Christ himself and all that he delivered to the Apostles, and they to their successors, whether by spoken word or written letter. This includes, but is not limited to, Scripture. It does not include the interpretive authority of the Church, which is not a species of revelation.

  123. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 18, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Dear Andrew McCallum:
    You disagree that the Church Fathers taught that Church councils were infallible?(#92) St. athanasius writes in “De Decretis” that 1st Nicea’s def. of Christ being “homoousios” was an infallible interpretation. He wrote this letter against the Arians, who sayed that the Church taught fallibly.

  124. rfwhite said,

    August 18, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Andrew Preslar: could you explain what you mean by “Protestantism allows individual interpretations to trump ecclesial interpretations”? Do you mean to say that Protestantism does not invoke ecclesial interpretations to discipline errant individual interpretations? If not that, then what is meant? I’m seeking to understand here.

  125. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 18, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Zrim:

    Christ gave us the canon through a secondary cause,his Church. (RCC)

    After his ascension,Christ used his gift of infallibilty through his body, the Catholic church. Christ did teach at Nicea, infally. through a secondary means, his body on Earth, the Catholic Church.-get it?

    Zrim,you seem to be a decent guy,but again, if SS is a Biblical doctrine it must be found implicitly or explicitly in the scriptures. Lets say SS is not really a doctrine, its just a slogan or idea, where is that idea found implicitly or explicitly in the Bible?- Remember, this is what Calvin taught.

  126. Zrim said,

    August 18, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Andrew,

    Re # 119: Yes, those are interesting, finer distinctions. But the larger, more compelling distinction between Rome and Geneva is the necessary priority of either church to Word or or Word to church. This is what all Catholic and Protestant discussions finally turn on.

    And from the Protestant point of view, what ails any other tradition is the elevating of something over revelation: Rome elevates church, liberalism elevates reason, the Radical Reformation (i.e evangelical) elevates experience. It may be that to the high church Calvinist, Rome’s elevation seems the most sensible, but Protestant convictions as to the relationship of Word to church still render it significantly in error.

  127. Sean said,

    August 18, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    TF

    Yes, but the reason you gave was that infallibility wasn’t a concept yet. I presume you will at least concede you erred on that point.

    Maybe my point was well developed but it was not my point was that the fathers didn’t know what ‘infallibility’ meant.

    Further to my point, earlier in this thread, #90, I provided some passages which revealed the fathers believed the words of the councils to be ‘the word of God’ and ‘divinly inspired.’

    Consider the following using Augustine because you quoted him.

    “As to those other things which we hold on the authority, not of Scripture, but of tradition, and which are observed throughout the whole world, it may be understood that they are held as approved and instituted either by the apostles themselves, or by plenary Councils, whose authority in the Church is most useful, e.g. the annual commemoration, by special solemnities, of the Lord’s passion, resurrection, and ascension, and of the descent of the Holy Spirit from heaven, and whatever else is in like manner observed by the whole Church wherever it has been established.”
    Augustine, To Januarius, Epistle 54:1 (A.D. 400).

    To Augustine, those doctrines held by the whole church that are not of scripture are “from the apostles.”

    How did Augustine define ‘church?’

    “I am held in the communion of the Catholic Church by…by the succession of bishops from the very seat of Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection commended His sheep to be fed up to the present episcopate.”
    Augustine, Against the Letter of Mani, 5 (A.D. 395).

    “Number the bishops from the See of Peter itself. And in that order of Fathers see who has succeeded whom. That is the rock against which the gates of hell do not prevail”
    Augustine, Psalm against the Party of Donatus, 18 (A.D. 393).

    From Augustine, scripture is infallible and must be interpreted by the church which is identified through the sucession of the bishops from the seat of Peter. The councils produced by this church are divinly inspired and contain the ‘teaching of the apostles.’

  128. Sean said,

    August 18, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Oops. Meant to say that my point ‘wasn’t’ well developed.

  129. Zrim said,

    August 18, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    SRB,

    Re # 122:

    Yes, I think I “get it.’ I confess the holy catholic church twice every Lord’s Day, much to the chagrin of my evangelicals.

    but we’ve been through this at my “house.” However I tried to point you to scriptural proofs never seemed to take. That’s because you presuppose sola ecclesia, not sola scriptura.

  130. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 18, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Zrim:
    It is not an “either or” delima.Catholics accept both Bible and Church. The Church (RCC) came into being first. That is a historical fact. We recieved the canon from Christ through his body-RCC.

    -Remember, Christ created the Church first. Please read Church history.

    -Zrim, please if you can,respond to this: Christ started or created a church on Earth. That is a fair question. What say you?

  131. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 18, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    I meant to spell “dilemma”

  132. TurretinFan said,

    August 18, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Sean wrote: “To Augustine, those doctrines held by the whole church that are not of scripture are “from the apostles.” ”

    The quotation you provided doesn’t say that. Augustine is not referring to doctrines held by the whole church, but practices of the whole church such as the annual celebration of Easter and the like.

    I don’t see Augustine as defining the church in the quotations you provided – but since that’s a tangential point, I’ll leave it for now.

    -TurretinFan

  133. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 18, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Zrim,

    The Church would be elevated above Scripture if she could correct Scripture, not if she can give the definitive interpretation of Scripture.

    rfwhite,

    I was thinking about Martin Luther’s final speech at the Diet of Worms. Of course Luther and his followers went on to make up and enforce their own standards. Those who did not want to be held to those standards simply followed Luther’s example and invented their own, and so on, ad nauseum.

  134. Zrim said,

    August 18, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    SRB,

    Re #127:

    It is not an “either or” dilemma.Catholics accept both Bible and Church.

    I agree. That’s why I characterized your view as sola ecclesia. This means that you take into account the Bible and the church, but you make the latter superior. Sola scriptura makes the former superior.

    The Church (RCC) came into being first…Christ created the Church first.

    In the beginning was the Word. The Word came way before the church.

    Christ started or created a church on Earth. That is a fair question. What say you?

    Except that I would say he created “the” church (instead of “a” church, I agree completely. And outside of her is ordinarily no hope of salvation.

  135. Zrim said,

    August 18, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Andrew,

    Re # 130:

    The Church would be elevated above Scripture if she could correct Scripture, not if she can give the definitive interpretation of Scripture.

    But she can be said to have elevated herself if she contradicts Scripture, which is what she has done in Trent by anathematizing the gospel, the rule Paul himself gave against himself or angels. When I contradicted my mother as a child she didn’t much quibble as to whether it was different from correcting her; either way, in my disobedience I was in it up to here.

  136. John Bugay said,

    August 18, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Protestantism allows individual interpretations to trump ecclesial interpretations.

    Who let forgeries, such as the Donation of Constantine, Pseudo-Dionysius, and others, into the official ecclesial interpretation? From that perspective, Protestantism was a breath of fresh air.

  137. August 18, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Ah, this merry-go-round is making me dizzy.

    Zrim, here’s the Catholic response: If an ecumenical council anathematized the gospel, that conclusion can only be reached by someone’s private interpretation (or that of “churches” with no authority to make such determinations). Hence Rome’s charge that we elevate private interpretation over ecclesiastical interpretation.

    Our response is that a church is no longer a church once it flushes the gospel down the toilet.

    Rome’s answer is that if the church Jesus founded ceases to the the church, the gates of hell have prevailed, to which we reply, “No, those promises apply to the invisible church, not to a specific visible one.”

    Rome then asks, “Name a church father who understood ‘church’ in that way,” and on and on we go.

    Sigh.

  138. John Bugay said,

    August 18, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Jason: this merry-go-round is making me dizzy.

    What’s your point?

  139. August 18, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Umm, that we keep going around in circles?

  140. Zrim said,

    August 18, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    JJS,

    Precisely. I’m just trying to give the bird’s eye view of the carousel (where the wheels fly and colors spin). Pulling back does wonders for the ad nauseum. Well, for me at least.

    But, as I suggested to Bryan above, it seems to me another antidote would be for our Roman friends to at least admit that the Protestant Reformation isn’t the Radical Reformation. Instead of collapsing us all together, they could distinguish between us as inferior-but-different-from-each-other and keep their notions of Catholic superiority. I mean, that’s what we do. We see theirs as a different species of the same genus (is that the right phrase?): one places church over revelation, the other experience. They’re both inferior, but they have important differences between them very much worth considering. As it is, Rome and Muenster both seem to presume that to not be Catholic is to be Protestant, each mistaking us for frustrated versions of the other. But there’s more to being Protestant than not being Catholic.

  141. Bryan Cross said,

    August 18, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Zrim,

    In #78, you wrote: First, what is to be gained by simply collapsing the Protestant (sola) and Anabaptist (solo) views together as if there is absolutely no distinction between them?

    We look for the truth, whether or not there is anything to be “gained.” As Neal and I will argue in our forthcoming article, there is no principled distinction between solo scriptura and sola scriptura. If you disagree, please show the principled distinction between the two.

    (I’ve been mostly away from internet access for the last couple days.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  142. David Gadbois said,

    August 18, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    RF White said it looks to me that there is an interplay of three authorities at work in Lane’s post: that of Scripture, that of the church and its officers, and that of individual conscience. How we configure these three relative to one another yields radical ecclesiastical differences.

    The difference between the evangelical view and the Reformed confessionalist view is that, while we both ‘start’ with our own interpretation of the Scriptures, we confessionalists allow the church, her officers, and confessions to to become part of the hermeneutical spiral (both in our doctrine and exegesis) as fallible, derivative, second-order data. Evangelicals do not let the church weigh in on the spiral other than as (perhaps) advisory.

    Our own reading of Scripture does determine how we understand the rudiments of the faith and, therefore, how to identify a true Gospel and true church in which to be in submission. So we do select our own ‘lens’ at the outset. We (Reformed types) have all decided that the Reformed confessions are faithful summaries of Scripture, as opposed to, say, the statement of faith of our local charismatic church. So we put ourselves in submission to them since they carry the derivative authority of Scripture.

    When we come to the Scriptures, the Scriptures point us to the church, her teaching authority, and the rule of her elders, so the chain of reasoning feeds back on itself. The church points us back to the Scriptures as she exposits it in her preaching. And round and round it goes, just as spirals tend to do. So in this the church helps form our second-order beliefs on Scriptural teaching and reinforces first-order beliefs. Sometimes the church can even force us to reexamine those more fundamental, first-order beliefs, but we alter those beliefs only on the strength of the biblical merits of the teachings the church presents.

    Non-confessionalists are wrong – the church’s role in interpreting the Scripture is not merely pedagogical, but authoritative. But the Romanists are also wrong, the church’s authority is both fallible and derivative.

  143. David Gadbois said,

    August 18, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    I wrote we confessionalists allow the church, her officers, and confessions to to become part of the hermeneutical spiral (both in our doctrine and exegesis) as fallible, derivative, second-order data.

    This isn’t worded quite right. Obviously, we don’t let the church’s beliefs or interpretations intrude on the historical-grammatical exegesis of Scripture as part of the relevant data.

  144. rfwhite said,

    August 18, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Andrew Preslar: having heard from Bryan Cross in #50 on how the Church handles the threats of individualism and authoritariansism in conjunction with the liberty of conscience, do you have anything to add to what he says?

  145. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 18, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Protestantism allows individual interpretations to trump ecclesial interpretations. The Reformation is founded squarely upon this principle. Catholicism offers another hermeneutical principle: The interpretive authority of the Church.

    Andrew P.,

    You are just repeating the misunderstanding that I was telling you was so prevalent in Catholicism. No, Protestantism never had any time for individuals trumping the ecclesiastical authority of the Church. If you want a good example of what the Reformers thought of someone who believed that he did not need the authority of the Church, take Servetus. Now here was a prime example of a man who thought that he could interpret the Bible solo, outside of the authority of the Church. Needless to say Geneva did not see eye to eye with Mr. Servetus.

    The Reformers disagreed with Rome on whether Rome possessed the proper authority to interpret infallibly. The rejection of Rome’s claim that Rome was infallible on de fide matters did not mean that The Reformers were committed to the primacy of individual interpretation.

  146. Bryan Cross said,

    August 18, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Here’s an observation. In the body of his post, Lane writes:

    “Let me repeat this: everyone has lenses through which they read the Scriptures. The question, then, has been racketing about in the wrong quadrant for a lot of people. The question is not whether one will have a lens through which to interpret Scripture, but rather which lens is the correct lens?”

    Then in #3 Sean asks, “How do you know the Reformed confession lens is the true lens and not some other lens?”

    And in #4 Jason answers: “Our answer would be that the Reformed confessions contain the best encapsulation of biblical doctrine. In a word, if you subject Scripture to rigorous exegesis and interpretation, you will come to Reformed conclusions.”

    The problem is that Lane’s statement does not fit with Jason’s. If Lane is right that everyone has a lens through which they read Scripture, then the rigorous interpretation by which one comes to Reformed conclusions is done through a Reformed-producing lens. But using a Reformed-producing lens to confirm the correctness of the Reformed lens, is obviously question-begging. It would be like using rose-tinted glasses to confirm that the world is rose-colored. But, on the other hand, if the Reformed lens can be confirmed by way of a lensless interpretation of Scripture, then it is not correct that everyone reads Scripture through a lens. My point is simply that given Lane’s statement, the standard answer that Jason gave to Sean’s question, isn’t available. And in that case Sean’s question is still an open question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  147. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 18, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    rfwhite,

    I referred to Bryan’s comment # 50 in the penultimate paragraph of my (really long) comment #71, suggesting that his point about the duty of forming one’s conscience is applicable to scientific (historico-grammatical) exegesis.

    Zrim,

    Yes, if Rome has anathematized the Gospel, then she has indeed placed herself in the position of correcting Scripture. But my point was that she does not so place herself by claiming to have received the charism of final interpretive authority with respect to Scripture.

    Jason,

    The only merry-going-round here is turning on the fact that some folk keep changing the subject. The subject is church authority vis-a-vis private interpretation.

    I make some claims about the nature of the church, you start up on justification. I make a claim about the relation between divine revelation and interpretive authority, Zrim starts up on justification. I understand that you guys are of the opinion that the Catholic Church is wrong on this, but the topic at hand is authority: Is the Church the Body of Christ such that she has unique insight into the Word of God, and what does that involve with respect to infallibility (when she expresses her mind, qua Church), and, if she possesses infallibility, as we claim she does, what does that entail about her relationship to Sacred Scripture?

    If one of you guys wants to start up a thread on justification, have at it. I was under the impression that this one is about interpretive authority. I realize that you think that the Catholic teaching about justification is false, and that this falsifies her claim to be the Body of Christ, which speaks infallibly–but wait, you guys don’t think about the Church like that anyway, even if she did teach in accordance with your personal interpretations of justification (as your own churches do). So there is another issue to be dealt with here aside from begging any questions about the Gospel according to….

    If the Church does have the charism of speaking her mind in an infallible way (as the Body of Christ, having the mind of Christ), and if she has spoken thus on the doctrine of justification, then yes, this discussion (interpretive authority) has profound implications for that doctrine.

    As I have already indicated (#74), Jason does not have a good grasp of what “the Catholic response” might be on a disputed point of doctrine. If the point under discussion is interpetive authority (!) we will talk about that, and try to marshall some reasons for our position, and point out any weaknesses we see in the position(s) of our interlocutors.

    If the topic is the Gospel (by which Zrim seems to mean St. Paul’s discussions of justification, apart from Romans Chapter 2), then we will talk about that, or about justification or whatever.

    Of course we believe the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church’s teaching on these matters (i.e., we mean it when we confess the Creed), but that does not preclude appeals to other lines of evidence (as I have already stated), and admitting where our arguments are weak, or even that we have no good arguments at all (if that could be demonstrated) in support of one of more of the Church’s doctrines.

    But if we do have such arguments (say, for the Catholic teaching on justification), we can use them independently of the arguments for the teaching authority of the Church, especially when dialoging on those subjects with folk who reject the interpretation of the Church.

    You can’t blame us, however, for not pretending that the final interpretive authority of the Church is nonexistent, nor for appealing to that authority, since we are convinced that it does exist, where it has spoken definitively on a matter of doctrine. You could try to argue that the Church is other than the Body of Christ, gifted with the charism of teaching as the Church, expressing the mind of Christ, with the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit, such that your own opinions are potentially superior to hers, norming the normed norm, so to speak. I guess that is exactly what you assert (#139). Hence the charge of rank biblicism.

  148. Zrim said,

    August 18, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    …there is no principled distinction between solo scriptura and sola scriptura. If you disagree, please show the principled distinction between the two.

    Bryan, first, whenever one of us attempts to show the principled difference between sola and solo scriptura it never works for you because you simply presuppose it can never work.

    Second, and this more importantly, my point is that while I would contend that, to the extent they both elevate something above scripture, there is no essential difference between solo scriptura (sola persona?) and sola ecclesia, there are very important distinctions between them. One renders the Roman tradition and one the Radical tradition. While they both have more in common with each other than either would be willing to admit, they are also both very different and stand opposed to the Protestant tradition. I understand it works well for Romanists to conflate Protestants with Radicals, and for Radicals to conflate us with Romanists, but it seems to me that a more careful student would be eager to be, well, much more careful.

    The problem you seem to be having harmonizing Lane’s and Jason’s statements seems to me to be another matter of presupposition. The premise implicit in your statement is one of demanding absolute certainty. What you seem to want Protestants to say is, “We’re right because we say we are right and we may never be questioned, ever.” But that’s a Roman outlook. Why are you holding Protestants to a Catholic system?

  149. August 18, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Andrew P,

    You seem to getting frustrated with me, charging me with “starting up on justification,” though I am not sure where I did any such thing. Then you attribute #139 to me, which was written by someone else.

    All I did was point out what seems rather obvious to me, namely, that this authority discussion keeps going round and round in circles, as it inevitably must unless we appeal to the fathers during a time when both Catholics and Protestants see themselves as having been on the same team.

    But even when such appeals are made, each side seems to cancel the other out. Hence my comment # 134, which you took as an excursus on justification for some reason.

  150. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 18, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Andrew,

    The rejection of Rome’s claim that Rome was infallible on de fide matters did not mean that The Reformers were committed to the primacy of individual interpretation.

    Since the Church is, in your opinion, fallible, it could be that some of her doctrines are false. But, if individual interpretation cannot trump ecclesial interpretation, then the individual who is being subjected to erroneous ecclesial interpretations cannot “trump” that teaching with his own interpretation. How then did the original Reformers trump Rome’s interpretations?

    Zrim and Andrew have made the claim that we are wrongly conflating the Reformed notion of sola scriptura with the more down-home fundmentalist, Baptistic version. But I admit that there is a difference. Reformed tend to be more learned than Baptist folk, to read more widely, and to have different confessions of faith than the Baptists, which confessions they recite more often in assembly. But this is matter of degree, not of kind (with respect to sola scriptura). It is a relative difference, not a principled difference.

  151. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 18, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Jason,

    I referred to your comment #72. No, I realized that #139 was by someone else, but it was cited as an example of the non-distinction (in principle) between Reformed confessionalism and biblicism.

    These discussions can be frustrating for all concerned. A lot rides on the issues (even if the particular discussions are non-impactful), and we are but men.

  152. rfwhite said,

    August 18, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Andrew Preslar: thanks for referring me to 71 in connection with Bryan’s comment in #50. Another question for understanding: what do you mean when you say, “the Church, qua Church, is not related to the Word of God in the same way that individuals in the Church are related to the Word; hence, the Church, corporately (organically), has a unique (and epistemically superior) insight into the things of God.” That is, please spell out, or point me to where you have spelled, the way(s) in which the Church’s way of knowing the Word of God is superior that of individuals in the church. In what does the Church’s unique and epistemically superior insight consist? From what does it derive?

  153. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 18, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Oh man. Conscience compels me to one last comment before bed and a good biography:

    Thanks to all the folk here for this debate (no doubt it is not over), especially to Green Baggins himself for letting this papist carry on (and on). (Maybe he is out of town or something.) Stuff we disagree about makes for good discussions, but I am not sure that GB intended for the RCs to get in on this one. Look forward to more here and wherever. Conservative Reformed and Catholic folk are bound to throw down when in proximity, its part of our traditions being what they are–all dogmatic and incompatible at key points and so forth. I appreciate all the patristic quotes (from everyone).

  154. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 18, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    rfwhite,

    In brief: No individual is the mystical Body of Christ. The Church is the mystical Body of Christ. The individual participates in the Church’s knowledge of the Word through being engrafted into the Body by faith and baptism and to the degree that he or she receives the Church’s interpretation of the Word of God.

  155. Bryan Cross said,

    August 18, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Zrim,

    Whenever one of us attempts to show the principled difference between sola and solo scriptura it never works for you because you simply presuppose it can never work.

    When asked to show the principled difference, you avoid doing so by claiming that I will reason falsely. That is not in keeping with the rules of rational discourse, because it is a [subtle] ad hominem, and not in keeping with the principle of charity (i.e. assume the best of your interlocutor). The proper response, if you are concerned that I will respond fallaciously, is to show the distinction, and then, after I respond, show how my response is fallacious, if indeed my response turns out to be fallacious.

    I didn’t ask whether the principled difference “works”. I simply asked you to show the principled distinction between sola scriptura and solo scriptura. If you can’t, or wish not to, that’s fine. I’m not asking facetiously. I don’t believe that there is a principled difference, but I would be glad to be shown wrong, especially because I’m presently working on an article in which I argue precisely that there is no principled difference.

    As Andrew said just a little while ago, a lot rides on this. The resolution of a long-standing schism largely rests on this.

    Also, the Catholic position is not fairly described as sola ecclesia, as I showed in the comments here and here (both here on Green Baggins) back in June.

    I know Jason pointed out some frustrating going-round-in-circles, above. But, when you step back, and think about the fact that twenty years ago, this kind of frank but commendably civil conversation between Catholics and Protestants couldn’t even have taken place outside of a formal ecumenical gathering, because there was no internet, it is amazing. Obviously technology itself cannot heal the almost 500 year-old Protestant-Catholic schism; we need the work of the Holy Spirit. But the very fact of this conversation, and the manner in which it has been conducted, gives me a great deal of hope for eventual reconciliation and reunion. Thanks Lane.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  156. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 18, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Since the Church is, in your opinion, fallible, it could be that some of her doctrines are false. But, if individual interpretation cannot trump ecclesial interpretation, then the individual who is being subjected to erroneous ecclesial interpretations cannot “trump” that teaching with his own interpretation. How then did the original Reformers trump Rome’s interpretations?

    Andrew P,

    At the point of the Reformation the Western Church was divided into two. Both parts were claiming to be faithful to the historic Christian faith. The Protestants were not arguing as individuals any more than the Catholics were. The Protestants were elders/bishops ordained as per the Scriptures and united by a common faith as is attested to by the remarkable unity of the various Reformed confessions. Many of the Catholic bishops they opposed (including those of Rome) had few or none of the characteristic marks of a biblical bishop/elder (even by the assessment of Catholic historians) and about the only thing that they could claim was literal succession to the first century. For the Protestants, in line with the Scriptures and the Early Church, there was more to being valid than being in literal succession.

    But the debate as to whether the Protestants or the Catholics had proper authority is one of those matters that, as Jason Stellman puts it, goes round and round in circles. But I would be happy if we could just get Catholics to understand the Reformed perspective – it was not a matter of the Protestants appealing to their individual authority while the Catholics were appealing to the Church. Both sides claimed ecclesiastical authority from the Scriptures and the Early Church and were arguing from the perspective of what they believed to be the Church that Christ instituted.

  157. Curate said,

    August 19, 2009 at 12:50 am

    The proof that Rome has departed from the Christian faith is demonstrated when its teachings are compared with scripture. That means that scripture itself is the lens through which we interpret Rome’s claims.

    That was the method used by all of the Reformers.

    Here are just a few examples:
    1. Forgiveness of sins is by faith alone, apart from the law. Rome teaches that it is by works and faith, thus flatly contradicting Paul.
    2. Original sin has so corrupted us the we cannot of our own power turn to God, or even prepare ourselves for grace. Rome teaches that our fallen nature retains the power to do truly righteous acts apart from faith in the true God and Christ. It produces a man who is acceptable to God apart from faith in Christ, hence the teaching that the heathen can be saved by diligently following the light of nature.

    Thus they flatly contradict the Apostle who teaches that apart from faith it is impossible to please God.

    Arguments about who came first, the church or the scriptures, and which of the two has priority, are beside the point and a waste of Protestant time. The scriptures are the oracles of God, regardless of how and when they were given, and thus supreme.

    If the Pope wishes to claim authority over God’s very words, he thereby demonstrates his astounding pride, and his rebellion against God and Christ.

  158. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 19, 2009 at 1:54 am

    Dear Curate:

    I don’t think you ever answered my question. You assume that SS is found in the Bible. As a Calvinist, you believe all five solas are found in scripture. Just tell me where the doctrine of SS is found and you win.

  159. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 19, 2009 at 1:58 am

    Dear Andrew McCallum:

    You should read “Not by Scripture Alone” by Robert Sungenis. You can buy it on Amazon.com

  160. Sean said,

    August 19, 2009 at 5:48 am

    Curate.

    I see that you have shifted the conversation to one in which you indict the Catholic Church because you disagree with Her dogmas (notwithstanding your mischaracterizations) from a conversation about what makes a ‘confession’ authoritative.

    We could just as easily accuse the Reformers of not teaching what scripture teaches and then stand triumphantly say that your teaching does not stand up to scripture.

    There are several glaring problems with you state that ‘Rome’ teaches. I can only hope that level heads prevail and we don’t resort to putting up straw men.

  161. Paige Britton said,

    August 19, 2009 at 5:49 am

    Thanks much, Andrew P. and Jason, for your responses to my queries ‘way back when.

  162. John Bugay said,

    August 19, 2009 at 6:08 am

    Jason: Umm, that we keep going around in circles?

    As you know, I believe such “circles” can be short-circuited by such things as the history of the early papacy and (for example) the circumstances surrounding the council of Ephesus (431) and the wrongful anathema and separation of the “Churches of the East” (that is, farther east than the current Orthodox churches. Both of these are profoundly embarrassing for Catholics, really undercutting the “Church that Christ Founded” authority arguments. Because “the Churches of the East” had NO CONCEPT AT ALL of a “papacy.” And of course, you have seen (and seemingly been influenced) by the historical discussions that I posted on your blog about the early papacy.

  163. Sean said,

    August 19, 2009 at 6:13 am

    John.

    The council of Ephesus 431 is not embarrassing. Nestorianism is a heresy that was rightly condemned as anathema.

    Today there are millions of Eastern Catholic Christians from Eastern Rites whom are in full union with the Bishop of Rome and with Grace the rest of the Eastern Church will be fully reconciled in the not too distant future.

  164. Zrim said,

    August 19, 2009 at 6:38 am

    Andrew P.,

    Re #144: I make a claim about the relation between divine revelation and interpretive authority, Zrim starts up on justification…I was under the impression that this one is about interpretive authority.

    But this is actually the point. The apostle says that he who negates justification sola fide has disqualified his authority. I’m happy to leave finer historical discussions to those who know history, but all I am pointing out are the objective rules Paul laid out, rules to which he subjected even himself, which means that if he sailed to America and feared the circumcision group Peter would every right and duty to get all up in his face ’bout it.

    Zrim and Andrew have made the claim that we are wrongly conflating the Reformed notion of sola scriptura with the more down-home fundmentalist, Baptistic version. But I admit that there is a difference. Reformed tend to be more learned than Baptist folk, to read more widely, and to have different confessions of faith than the Baptists, which confessions they recite more often in assembly. But this is matter of degree, not of kind (with respect to sola scriptura). It is a relative difference, not a principled difference.

    Well, I don’t think this has anything whatever to do with the relative “learnedness” of anybody. I think that’s fairly misguided. Though I highly doubt Paul would see it that way, I suppose I will take “relative difference” for now. It’s more than other Catholics seem willing to give.

  165. John Bugay said,

    August 19, 2009 at 6:47 am

    Sean: For the zillionth time, Nestorius did not believe the things that Ephesus anathematized. They anathematized a myth. Chalcedon backed off the “mother of God” stuff in favor of “Theotokos,” and besides that, good luck to you convincing the Reformed folks here that Mary was “Mother of God.”

    The early papacy was non-existent. This is not historically in question any more, even among Catholic historians. It is a “development” that only succeeded because Rome was capital of the empire.

    For anyone who is interested in “the nonexistent history of the early papacy, see this thread.

  166. John Bugay said,

    August 19, 2009 at 7:09 am

    Lane Keister — If you want to stop this nonsense with the Catholics and their unsupported claims, you should have a thread that explores “the early history of the papacy.”

    Even the Vatican has backed off its contention that it was “immediately given” and in fact has attributed it to “a continuity of development.” (See the Ratzinger statement on this.)

    Check outthe Vatican I statement and search on “permanence”. Here’s that text:

    Therefore whoever succeeds to the chair of Peter obtains by the institution of Christ himself, the primacy of Peter over the whole church. So what the truth has ordained stands firm, and blessed Peter perseveres in the rock-like strength he was granted, and does not abandon that guidance of the church which he once received.

    The problem is, according to all of the current sources of history on the period, there was no “successor to the chair of Peter,” because there was no “successor” for at least a century beyond the death of Peter, according to every legitimate source of history you will find. The city was so large, there was no “church” at Rome, only a network of house churches. This is attested primarily by Peter Lampe, “From Paul to Valentinus” “Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries”. It is supported by every legitimate commentator (including Robert Eno, Eamon Duffy, and Klaus Schatz, all Catholics, as well as Roger Collins of the University of Edinburgh (Scotland) in his recent history of the papacy.

    I believe this is why John Paul II asked for “ecumenical help” to find “a new situation” for the papacy. There was no “there” there.

  167. Paige Britton said,

    August 19, 2009 at 7:18 am

    Here is a (semi) practical observation in the midst of the merry-go-round:

    As a Protestant in a confessional, elder-led church, I agree to submit to the spiritual authority of the men who govern the church, including their particular interpretations of Scripture passages (especially as these have bearing on the praxis of the church I attend). If I were a Catholic, I would also agree to submit to the spiritual authority of the Church (RC) and its interpretations of Scriptures.

    The difference between the settings is really our assumptions about what we can *know* as believers. In both cases I would be assuming that my individual interpretations of Scripture are fallible and therefore correctible. But in a Protestant setting, I would also assume “epistemic parity” between myself and the elders: that is, hypothetically speaking, were I to make a good enough case based on the text of Scripture, I could offer a correction to their view of a passage. I would assume that they are fallible, too, and subject to the authority of Scripture, the final arbiter between us.

    On the other hand, in a RC setting, I could not assume epistemic parity between myself and my teachers, because the teachers of the church possess a charism that I do not possess, and therefore are not correctible.

    It’s fascinating to me to think of this in epistemological terms, not just in terms of authority or perspicuity. We are all “knowing in a dependent position” – the question is, how many levels removed from God’s communication are we?

  168. John Bugay said,

    August 19, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Paige — see my comments #162 and 163. These Catholics don’t really mean “the authority of the church” so much as they mean “the authority of the pope.” If you want to talk about the “charism of authority” of bishops, you must include not only the Eastern Orthodox (those from say Greece and Turkey and even now Russia, which is where the weight of those churches reside), but also, you must consider the historical authority of bishops of “churches of the East,” that is, those churches further east than Jerusalem. That was a larger church than all the churches west of Jerusalem; at the council of Ephesus (431), they were falsely anathematized as “Nestorian,” and eventually they went their own way, only to be largely destroyed by the onslaught from Islam.

    This discussion is far bigger than the Roman Catholics would have it be.

  169. Steven Carr said,

    August 19, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Saint Robert Bellarmine,

    You are not worthy to use that name for yourself; the real Bellarmine was a man much more brilliant than yourself. Your mantra of “where is SS found in Scripture?” is really quite simple-minded and unworthy of any Papistical apologist. It presumes something that Protestants historically never presumed: there needs to be a verse in Scripture that says, “Thou shalt use Scripture and Scripture alone.” Protestants have always retained the right to use sound reason and judgment to deduce doctrines from Scripture not explicitly stated but implicitly affirmed. We can gather a ‘2’ from one part and another ‘2’ from another and put ‘2’ and ‘2’ together. This is how we arrive at Sola Scriptura. We look at the texts that explicitly condemn adding or subtracting from Scripture or condemn the teaching for doctrines the commandments of men or confirm that the Bible is the Word of God, is God-breathed, is useful for doctrine, etc., and is a light unto our paths. The Scriptures are not lacking in such explicit statements; it is not unreasonable, therefore, that we should conclude that the Word of God is the only infallible source for the doctrine that leads to salvation.

    Regarding what Paul said to Timothy about the Church being the ground and pillar of the Church, this is no different from what Paul says in Romans about Israel when he says that there is great advantage being a Jew for the oracles of God (the Word of God) were committed to Israel. The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth because the Word of God has been committed to her. She exists because the Word of God exists.

  170. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 19, 2009 at 7:44 am

    But in a Protestant setting, I would also assume “epistemic parity” between myself and the elders: that is, hypothetically speaking, were I to make a good enough case based on the text of Scripture, I could offer a correction to their view of a passage. I would assume that they are fallible, too, and subject to the authority of Scripture, the final arbiter between us.

    Paige,

    I don’t know what your denominational affiliation is, but I would hope that kind of discussion you speak of extends to more than your congregation. At the Reformation these discussions happened among thousands of bishops/elders and congregations who were connected by (to use Philipp Schaff’s term) the Reformed Family of Churches. The results of these interchanges was the various confessional statements which we are bound to. I’m just trying to focus on the Church in the West outside of Rome and the fact that it was not a collection of individuals making their own decisions.

  171. John Bugay said,

    August 19, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Here is the Google Books version of Lampe’s work, “Christians in Rome the First Two Centuries, for anyone who is interested. Scroll down to page 397, where Lampe summarizes what he knows about the church there:

    The fractionation in Rome favored a collegial presbyterial system of governance and prevented for a long time, until the second half of the second century, the development of a monarchical episcopacy in the city. Victor (c. 189-99) was the first who, after faint-hearted attempts by Eleutherus (c. 175-89), Soter (c. 166-75), and Anicetus (c. 155-66), energetically stepped forward as monarchical bishop and (at times, only because he was incited from the outside) attempted to place the different groups in the city under his supervision or, where that was not possible, to draw a line by means of excommunication. Before the second half of the second century there was in Rome no monarchical episcopacy for the circles mutually bound in fellowship. It would be presumptuous here to wish to write again a history of the ecclesiastical offices that are mentioned especially in 1 Clement and Hermas. My concern is to describe the correlation between fractionation and one factor of ecclesiastical order, the monarchical episcopate. This bridge should be illuminated. What happens across the bridge in the field of history of ecclesiastical offices can only be here briefly sketched – and perhaps motivate one to further investigation.

    Note here that Lampe only outlines the historical situation, he does not make any theological conclusions. He rather says, “This bridge should be illuminated.”

    Note too that every other who has commented on this work has wholeheartedly supported it, and many have even said that this work must be the starting point for any further discussions on the subject.

  172. John Bugay said,

    August 19, 2009 at 8:14 am

    The reason, again, this is important, is because of the claims of Roman authority that have been presented here. The case for Roman authority is slim to nonexistent.

  173. John Bugay said,

    August 19, 2009 at 8:15 am

    So those of you who want to say “we’re going around in circles” are probably not considering the legitimacy of our claims vs. the legitimacy of their claims.

  174. John Bugay said,

    August 19, 2009 at 8:38 am

    For more, see Turretinfan’s excellent discussion of Adrian Fortescue’s “Early Papacy” — Fortescue, who wrote in the 1920’s, is quite confident that “the early papacy can be proved from history.” He is, I am sure now, quite uncomfortable with that argument.

  175. Sean said,

    August 19, 2009 at 9:20 am

    John,

    I have grown tired of offering rebuttals from extant history on all your claims that have been repeatedly ignored so I am not really interested in running through this exercise again.

    It’s a predictable play book and one that we have attempted to address in a spirit of charity elsewhere only to have any evidence we bring into the picture dismissed out of hand or ignored.

    We welcome any discussion about the early papacy, the eastern churches, the ecumenical councils and just about any other hot topic…in fact we’ll be addressing each of those issues in detail on Called to Communion in the near future.

    I don’t think that re-hashing the same things again 150 comments into an unrelated thread is a profitable exercise so I’ll let you have the last word.

  176. Curate said,

    August 19, 2009 at 10:09 am

    no. 155

    Robert Bellarmine: I have already answered you by explaining that scripture is the SUPREME authority, not the sole or only authority, yet you ask me again to prove sola scriptura! Are you actually reading any replies?

    Nevertheless, I will say to you again that God’s word by its very nature is greater than, and superior to, man’s word, because God is greater than man. Is that hard to understand? No, it is obvious enough, unless one is determined to remain deaf.

    Therefore scripture is the supreme authority above all other authorities.

  177. Curate said,

    August 19, 2009 at 10:17 am

    no. 157

    Sean, you are being dishonest. I did not refute the Pope’s teaching with my opinions, but with scripture. Paul says our sins are forgiven apart from works, and you say that it is with works. It is a simple matter of actually reading the Bible, and using its own words, which you have so far refused to do.

    Scripture says that without faith it is impossible to please God, but your church says that without faith it is indeed possible to please God. Again, scripture in its own words proves the heretical teaching of your sect.

    Yet you are asking us to submit to an authority that is in blatant contradiction of the inspired scriptures. I am not mad, and no sane person would submit to a man and an organization that contradicts scripture in the name of God.

  178. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 19, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Sean: “… and with Grace the rest of the Eastern Church will be fully reconciled in the not too distant future.

    We welcome any discussion about the early papacy, the eastern churches, the ecumenical councils and just about any other hot topic…in fact we’ll be addressing each of those issues in detail on Called to Communion in the near future.

    Hmmmmmm……

    Read this recent announcement:

    “A group of Orthodox clergy in Greece, led by three senior archbishops, have published a manifesto pledging to resist all ecumenical ties with Roman Catholics and Protestants.

    “The only way our communion with heretics can be restored is if they renounce their fallacy and repent,” the group said in a “Confession of Faith against Ecumenism” that they circulated recently.

    “The Orthodox church is not merely the true church; she is the only church. She alone has remained faithful to the Gospel, the synods and the fathers, and consequently she alone represents the true catholic church of Christ,” says the document.

    The signatories say they wish to preserve “irremovably and without alteration” the Orthodox faith that the early church had “demarcated and entrenched,” and to shun communication “with those who innovate on matters of the faith”.

    The list of clerics backing the manifesto is said to include six metropolitans, as well as 49 archimandrites (who oversee monasteries), 22 hieromonks (priests or monks), and 30 nuns and abbesses, as well as many other priests and church elders.

    “This pan-heresy of ecumenism adopts and legalizes all heresies as `churches,’ and insults the dogma of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church,” says the group. “All boundaries the fathers set have been torn down; there is no longer a dividing line between heresy and church, between truth and fallacy.”

    The document says that the Catholic papacy has become the “womb of heresies and fallacies” by promoting “dogmatic minimalism” and causing “moral deviations such as homosexuality and pedophilia among clergymen”.

    Posted here.

  179. Richard said,

    August 19, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Zrim, re # 123 – I think you are painting too hard a dichotomy between scripture and church. From what you say it seems as though you see the Protestant as having scripture trumping church whilst the Catholic having church trumping scripture. There is however a far more nuanced position, Douglas Kelly points out that

    The Holy Scriptures arose within a believing community…they came from God to a chosen community of faith in fellowship with God Himself….He [God] gives us the completed revelation of His word to and through the believing community of Israel, with which the Church of God is in continuity.

    Michael Horton writes:

    But if it is true that scripture (as covenant treaty) gives rise to the church (as covenant people) and not vice versa, it is just as true that scripture is prior to the individual. While the community did not create its own canon, the canon was received by the community and was produced within it, and apart from this community there could not even be something called a canon, since ‘canon’ is a context-dependent entity.

    Of the two neither is perfect however both of these modern Reformed theologians find the relationship between church and scripture to be very dynamic, the scriptures coming from the church and in turn shaping it as it exercises a critical norm. Now, to my mind, in saying that the canon was produced within the community means that the canon was created by the community. Horton affirms the former but not the latter and I am not 100% sure how this can be so. God mediates his spoken revelation through his covenant community and as such the Church is a locus of revelation, this is something both Reformed and Catholic can affirm.

  180. Sean said,

    August 19, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Curate.

    174.

    I do not believe that pointing out a mischaracterization of Catholic soteriology is dishonest. You placed Catholic soteriology juxtaposed against ‘works of the law’ and you even referenced the sola fide position as being apart from ‘the law.’ Catholic soteriology is not that we are justified by works of the law.

    Further the second half of your indictment glosses over Catholic teaching on Grace. The Church dogmatically teaches that apart from Grace no man can turn to God. See Here.

    Scripture says that without faith it is impossible to please God, but your church says that without faith it is indeed possible to please God.

    That is false and not even worthy of comment.

    One-line zingers against one another predicated on gross mischaracterizations are not going to get at the heart of the matter are they?

    Truth Unites… and Divides,

    That is interesting. This minority must be reacting against something I would think.

  181. Zrim said,

    August 19, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Richard,

    Re #176: The reason for the “hard dichotomy” isn’t to deny what you rightly call the nuanced and dynamic nature of the relationship between scriptura and ecclesia. It is simply to put things into stark contrast in order that we might see what finally distinguishes the camps. Think of using some infrared light to see where the blood starts and the paint begins.

    Now, to my mind, in saying that the canon was produced within the community means that the canon was created by the community. Horton affirms the former but not the latter and I am not 100% sure how this can be so.

    To the extent that you are portraying Horton accurately (and I think you are), I agree with him. Actually, it seems quite significant and necessary to distinguish between the prepositions “within” and “by.” The former renders a high view of the church, the latter an infallible one. High views are simply not the same as infallible ones. Low view is Muenster, high view is Geneva, and infallible is Rome.

  182. Richard said,

    August 19, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    Zrim,

    I’d be interested in your explaining how we can differentiate between the prepositions, feel free to add them here if it derails this thread.

  183. John Bugay said,

    August 19, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Sean – let’s let the Reformed folks here make the decision as to whether or not that history is important. As far as I’m concerned, sunshine is the best medicine.

  184. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 19, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Curate:

    Gee, you make all these assumptions about SS, but can’t show me where it is taught in scripture. You are going against how the early reformers defended SS, they would sight ch and verse. Then people like More, Bellarmine, would rip up the reformers exegisis about SS to shreds.
    – Luther was the one who thought up SS in 1519 against Eck.
    – I win.

  185. Paige Britton said,

    August 19, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Andrew M., #167: “Paige, I don’t know what your denominational affiliation is, but I would hope that kind of discussion you speak of extends to more than your congregation.”

    I’m a newly fledged PCA person, so of course it does. All those productive GA’s. But I exist & interact at the local level, so that was just the starting point for my thinking here.

  186. August 19, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Scripture passages are not non-theory laden facts that one can just happen upon and interpret so as to build up a model incrementally. The question is then how do we figure out which lens is the correct one since we cannot appeal to theory or model neutral facts to discriminate? Facts underdetermine or fail to select for a model or lens. To put the matter another way, no exegetical methodology is Christologically neutral. From the get go a given exegetical method selects for a specific Christology, So how do we find out which Christology is the correct one is there is no Christology neutral exegetical methodology that we can use?

    Tried and true creeds-the reformers were so bold as to reject key parts of those creeds also-the idea of replacing them with something that “works just as well” endorses pragmatism about doctrine, but inaccurate formulations can do “just as well” since most people lack the ability to detect their serious deficiencies. What works and what is true are not necessarily co-extensive.

    Ron Henzel #14 to talk of the whole historic church, what would that include exactly? Would that include the Fathers of 2nd Nicea too?

    Calvin’s citation of and at times rejection of the fathers on his own judgment is indicative of the problem and point at issue, Calvin has set himself up as a father and their judge.

    To be fair, Cross raises I think problems for his own position in talking about those who claim to love the church but thumb their nose at the decisions of its councils. This would apply to the Pope in 1014 for example who unilaterally rescinded the council of 879-880 which with Roman and Eastern agreement rescinded the filioque and barred anyone from altering the Creed. Here Protestants and Catholics seem to be swimming in the same pool, they just disagree about who gets to flout the decisions of councils.

    On the other hand, do not Protestants also reduce “church” to the hierarchy in their defense against solo scriptura by pitting the hierarchy over against private judgment?
    On what principled basis does “church” denote the hierarchy there?

    If the judgment of councils is subordinate to scripture how does one make ones own judgment subordinate to scripture when it is ones own power of judgment that is doing the judging about what scripture in fact means?

    Ron Henzel, #22 you write that the Reformers have been faithful to the Nicene marks of the church, but this is manifestly not so. What did the Nicene fathers take “apostolic” and katholikos to amount to? Certainly that included a good dose of episcopacy, sacerdotalism and apostolic succession. It also included agreement between the major sees as a sign of the retention of the genuine apostolic deposit. The Reformers repudiated that constellation of concepts along with, in the case of the Reformed, what the Nicene fathers meant by baptism for the remission of sins as well as God of God language the Creed. Secondly, the issue isn’t just between Rome or Protestantism so putting it in terms of the papal demands at the other end won’t move the ball. The Orthodox or even the Laudians hold a higher view of the church without the pope.

    As for solo scriptura, how is it not the case at the end of the day? If no church judgments are infallible, then no church judgments can’t be revised by an individual. Doctrine is a reconstruction, a purely human product, and so a provisional approximation. Therefore no judgment of the church can bind the conscience as God can. Only the judgment of the individual can be normative for that individual and no one else.

    As for semi-pelagianism, the Ockhamist neo-semipelagianism while popular was not officially endorsed by Rome. Part of the problem was that the Reformers were influenced by Okhamism and Scotism and were quite ignorant of Thomism, which is hardly semi-pelagian. Augustine himself includes synergism in justification and he was hardly semi-pelagian. Secondly, the Reformed anthropology was actually more in line with Pelagius than Augustine since the former took righteousness to be natural and Augustine took it to be added to nature. The sin/grace dialectic of the Reformers was not Augustinian. Predestinarianism of itself doesn’t make one Augustinian unless pagans like Plotinus are Augustinian!

    Orange doesn’t teach that faith alone was the formal cause of justification, either implicitly or explicitly. Where you do find the idea of salvation by faith alone explicit repeatedly in the corpus of Pelagius writings, notably his commentary on Romans. Anselm’s works couldn’t have been written by the Reformers since Anselm as a realist thought with Augusine that the declaration of justice was grounded in the soul. Taxonomies picked out essences for him, not sensible particulars or legal constructs.

  187. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 19, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Perry,

    You are coming from an EO standpoint I think? You speak of the “tried and true” creeds as if you are speaking from some unique neutral perspective untainted by any bit of philosophical bias. The writers of the creeds were men like we are and they were children of their ages just as we are of ours. In any field of knowledge there are times when we look back at a theory proposed that the proponents of that theory were absolutely sure of, but we can see in historical retrospective that sometimes they were influenced by their ideological mileau for the negative. Every age has it’s characteristic errors and the Fathers of the Church all lived in eras where there were dominant cultural paradigms, some good and some not so good. So the Reformers held that the “tried and true creeds” could be negatively influenced by such cultural paradigms and were incorrect at various points. You pointed out a 9th century Roman credal decision which you felt was in error. But now do you want to tell us now that only the Pope got it wrong and the EO stayed pure? Trent was wrong but you are right? Come on, everyone has dirty dogmatic theological laundry and sometimes the Church just needs to take it out and clean it.

  188. Reed Here said,

    August 19, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Just a note of caution for some. Please be careful to not let your zeal lead to step over the bounds of gracious speech.

    Not calling anyone comment in question. Just observing that past experience suggests it is right about now that some otherwise well intentioned folks forget themselves.

    If the shoe fits …

  189. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 19, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Sean: “That is interesting. This minority must be reacting against something I would think.”

    That something would be what they call “the heresy of ecumenicism.” As you know, they identified the Catholic papacy has becoming the “womb of heresies and fallacies.”

    Given that, and given the RCC desire for reconcilation, would the Vatican give up the papacy for closer unification with the Eastern Orthodox Church?

    Furthermore, although they are perhaps a “minority” within the EO Church, it is still striking to note that the signatories include three senior archbishops, six metropolitans, as well as 49 archimandrites (who oversee monasteries), 22 hieromonks (priests or monks), and 30 nuns and abbesses.

  190. August 19, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Jason,

    Plenty of texts of the synodal horos speak of the councils as “spirit inspired” “indefectible” and “infallible.”

    The issue isn’t so much about the inability to understand a text correctly, but rather to teach it normatively. It is one thing to have the correct interpretation amongst a group of debators. It is quite another thing to be able to give an interpretation that is normative that brings a halt to the debate as say in Acts 15. Was the authority of the council in Acts 15 merely that of being inerrant? I don’t think so and I don’t think you do either.

    John buggay,

    Ephesus didn’t need to have all present since all had been openly invited, which is well within canonical provisions of the time. Second, ample time had been given for other delegates to arrive. When they didn’t Cyril proceded. Third, Cyril had the ranking see which is why he could head up the council. Wrongly anathematized Nestorius? Do you seriously contend that Nestorius was not a heretic as all Reformed confessions state? I’ve read Chalcedon repeatedly and it nowhere “backs off” the title of Theotokos, which has historically been affirmed by churches of the classical reformation.

    To toss out apostolic succession because it is a “development” would also be sufficient grounds to toss out sola fide. Secondly, its odd that both Protestants and Catholics claim doctrinal development to justify their distinctives, whereas the Orthodox do not. Third, you make it Rome vs the Reformers, but the matter was much wider. It was Rome and the East which condemned a group of priests and laymen.

    Refwhite,

    Scripture also indicates that the spirit is given to ministers through the laying on of hands to teach, correct and reuke.

    Ron # 39

    The citations from Augustine and Cyril do not prove sola scriptura. Noting that all doctrine is derived from Scripture isn’t sola scriptura. Basil makes the same kinds of statements while at the same time speaking of normative practices that came down from the apostles in unwritten tradition. Moreover, the high church Laudians held scripture to be materially sufficient but that the church was an infallible interpreter and that certainly didn’t ring true to sola scriptura in the ears of the Puritans. SS is more than using Scripture as the only infallible rule. It is denying that any use of the rule is beyond possible revision or infallible and that the individual’s conscience as a consequence cannot be bound without their assent.

    As for Aquinas, he certainly did not teach sola scriptura. See Per Erk Persson, Sacra Doctrina: Reason and Revelation in Aquinas. Aquinas thinks that the church is an infallible interpreter of Scripture.

    And the only council the Reformers take issue with is Trent? How about 2nd Nicea? Or Fourth Constantinople of 880 which condemned the Filioque?

    To be fair, Aquinas isn’t trying to harmonize Scripture with Aristotle anymore than Turretin was. Furthermore, Aquinas is not an Aristotelian just because he uses those classificatory terms. Metaphysically, Aquinas is a neo-platonist like Augustine. See Wayne Hankey’s work on Aquinas for example.

    As for Chrysostom, noting the perspicuity of Scripture doesn’t amount to the idea that the individual can only be normatively bound by his own judgment and that the church isn’t infallible. If the Orthodox taught Sola Scriptura, it’d come as great news to all of the church writers such as John of Damascus or Mark of Ephesus.

    Sean,

    It’d be news to the Orthodox like myself that Cyril taught purgatory.

    Andrew Preslar,

    You make much hay about findings of fact that ring contrary to official statements, and perhaps rightly so, but what if the shoe is on the other foot? I routinely find not only Protestant exegetical arguments for the Filioque either non-existent and self admittedly bad. Yet the tradition enshrines the doctrine at a confessional level, practically mouthing the words as Mother Rome pulls the strings, and everyone springs automatically to defend it prior to any investigation of the facts. They are a priori set to defend it. So if dikiao doesn’t mean to vindicate in a transformative sense for Rome and that is a problem I’d posit that Protestants have the same kind of problem with Sola Scriptura and the Filioque. Ekpouresis doesn’t mean hypostatic generation.

  191. August 19, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Perry,

    Was the authority of the council in Acts 15 merely that of being inerrant? I don’t think so and I don’t think you do either.

    No, I think the council at Jerusalem understood itself to have rendered an infallible verdict (and I agree with them). What needs to be proven to us Protestants is that there is no difference between that and Trent, for example.

  192. August 20, 2009 at 12:05 am

    John Buggay,

    Theotokos has been translated by western as well as eastern writers as mother of God or God bearer. On a regular basis the Orthodox use both. Nestorius use of Theotokos was only in reference to the prosopa or single appearance that was the product of the two natures conjoined by a single will. If you wish to endorse such a view, you will find yourself I think at odds with the Reformers themselves…then again maybe not.

    History has shown that Nestorius was wrongly condemned? Which historian proved such a thing? And Nestorius did in fact teach what he was accused of as is shown by modern scholars like McGuckin from Nestorius post-exile works. I suspect you are getting this rehabilitation of Nestorius nonsense from Harold O.J. Brown, which has been shown to be seriously flawed. There was an attempt from a couple of scholars to rehabilitate Nestorius in the 1960’s but that got criticized to death in the literature.

    And your citation of Chrysostom isn’t quite fair. The context is after he was deposed after his elevation to Constantinople violated the canons. One swallow does not a spring make. Chrysostom for example thinks no such thing about Nicea.

    As for Ps Dion. It was probably written by Damascius, a convert from Platonism and the last head of the Platonic Academy. And who wrote Hebrews again?

    And the Churches of the East may have had no concept that maps on to Pastor Aeternus, but they certainly didn’t have Westminster Confession in mind either. Their denial of the papacy is of no help to Protestantism as such.

    And to be fair with the Klaus citation, these same scholars, as a matter of historical data, will deny that Jesus thought of himself as God too.

    Andrew M,

    This might help re councils. Ecumenical, plenary or general can refer to a council convoked by imperial authority. Some of these were deemed “spirit inspired” and some were not. This may be why Augustine, coming at the end of the Arian controversy says that some general councils can be corrected where general may simply refer to imperially convoked councils. By the time of Augustine, Constantinople wasn’t an ecumenical council.

    It would also help to get clear on what “development” means exactly. Usually theories of development depend on a form of idealism, where the earlier source contains in nascent form and is made explicit later.

    The Reformation may have been an attempt to reassess the theology of the church in light of scripture, but there is no non-theory laden exegetical method to be had to do this in a theory neutral way. To wax Van Tillian, Scriptural passages aren’t some theologically neutral facts by which one can incrementally build a case.

    You remark that the Reformers responded as elders, but Calvin for example was a layman his whole life. And as for elders, so was Arius. Presbyters for example were never permitted present as representatives in general councils for example, except by special permission, as legates or to testify.

    Curate,

    The Fathers and early witnesses may not speak of tradition in terms of ideas taught in modern Catholicism, but that is no help for the Protestant position. First, they certainly don’t speak of nominalist taxonomies undergirding their covenantal views or their views of justification. Augustine clearly denies sola fide for example. More to the point, there are more positions available than Rome or Geneva. The things you mention as tradition are so, but so are things like the succession of teachings and office from the apostles, and baptismal regeneration as say taught by the Fathers of Nicea.

    If the church’s judgment is bound by scripture, who stands in judgment on the church other than the individual? If the individual’s judgment can trump the church, how isn’t that solo scriptura?

    Btw, Augustine taught human works were part of justification too. How odd for the doctor of grace. And you write that the proof of Rome’s departure is in comparing it with the Scriptures, but what if I do the comparing and I don’t agree? In fact I think Protestants and Rome are both wrong on justification since they posit a created intermediary between man and God, they just differ about the nature of the intermediary-one is an effect in the soul and the other is a legal principle. And they both adhere to the Filioque which is a product of philosophical theology with zero scriptural support.

    And if it is impossible to please God without faith, is it possible to please him with it? As for the rest of what speak in #154, it is either denied by Augustine as well as in the case of sola fide, or upheld in fact by Rome in Trent via Augustinian teaching. Your criticisms seem to convict the wrong people or miss their mark.

    Tim Prussic

    Turretin seems mistaken for the simple fact that the church isn’t merely an announcer but is apostolic, is sent and hence duly authorized. So the first question is, not what do you teach, but who sent you?

    Jason Stellman,

    Perspecuity is not the issue. Judgment is. Make the bible is perspicuous as you like and it won’t matter for two reasons. First, what matters is the perspicuity of the mind of the person reading it and second the normativity of their judgment.

    As for gospel flushing, I’d add that it isn’t the church when it flushes proper Christology down the toilet a la WCF 8.2 & Calvin Inst 2.14.5

    Sean,

    To dig deep may be to cease being Protestant, but that doesn’t of itself imply Catholicism. And as for the Orthodox being in communion with Rome in the not too distant future, you must mean that the Second Coming is near, because otherwise this is just not accurate.

    Zrim,

    Surely Christ precedes the church, but the order is that the Father sends the Son and the Son sends the Apostles and then the Scriptures come from the Apostles.

    If Rome puts he church above the Scriptures because it says that the church has the right to give normative interpretations, do Protestants put the individual above the Scriptures since they assert that only the individual can be bound by his own judgments of what scripture means?

    And if Trent anathematized the gospel, then it was only because Augustine did it far earlier in his rejection of sola fide.

    And the Apostle says in Gal 1 not that those who contradict sola fide lack authority but those who contradict what was traditioned to those in Galatia. You are begging the question by assuming that they thought that faith was the formal cause of justification.

    David Gadbois,

    If we don’t let the church’s teaching flavor the historical-grammatical method, doesn’t this assume that the methodology is non-theory laden and carries with it no metaphysical or Christological implications? The fifth council condemns something very much like it on that basis. So I doubt that it functions as a neutral method to start with.

  193. August 20, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Andrew M,

    Yes I am Orthodox. I don’t doubt that they had this or that philosophical perspective, more or less. (perspective and bias are not the same things) In fact, I’d argue that the problem with Arianism was prompted by an attempt to develop theology using philosophical content and so Nicea, like all councils undoes such work which is why its key terms are apophatic.

    In some ways they were men like us, in other ways not. Paul, James and John were all men in many ways likeus, but neither your or I am an Apostle and that’s all the difference. I don’t think the church is a merely human thing because of what I believe about Christology. You and I do not share the same Christology which is why we do not share the same view of the church.
    I don’t take theology to be a “field of knowledge” in terms of a science. That is a point upon which Catholics and Protestants are alike and quite different from the Orthodox. I don’t take the church’s teaching to have or be capable of development as posited by either Catholics or Protestants so I reject the idea of it having the kind of provisional standing of given hypothesis that is capable of one judgment and then another through time.

    As I noted, the Reformers did not wholesale accept the Christology and Triadology of Nicea and Chalcedon. As ably documented by say Muller, they modified it and rejected key parts of it. And yes, as Orthodox, sure I think the Orthodox got it right and kept it so. IN the 880 council, it was agreed by both sides and then 120 years later the Franks take over the papacy and scrap it. They broke communion by innovation. The funny thing is that the Protestants accept the very doctrine which justified papal prerogatives since Gregory 7ths insertion of the Filioque was grounded in the doctrine itself. That is, if the person of the Spirit is produced jointly by the Father and the Son as from one principle and the pope is the vicar of Christ, then the Spirit proceeds economically into the church from the Pope. This is why the papacy and the filioque stand or fall together, which is ironic that Protestants still retain it, even though it isn’t supportable by any serious exegesis of Scripure.

    I think Trent is a fair representation of Augustinian teaching. Augustine clearly didn’t teach sola fide. That said, Trent is wrong where Augustine was wrong.

  194. August 20, 2009 at 12:22 am

    Jason Stellman,

    Why Trent? Why not 2nd Nicea? Or how about even better Reformed monoenergism in light of 3rd Constantinople’s Dyoenergism? Or Nicea’s teaching that the Father alone is autotheos against Calvin’s innovation that all the persons are autotheos?

    If Jerusalem can be infallible, then the issue is not a principled one. Protestants must endorse then some kind of cessationist view with respect to apostolic ministry, authority, etc. But then who sends ministers if the apostolic commisisoning has expired?

  195. Curate said,

    August 20, 2009 at 1:24 am

    To all the RCC and EO apologists here:

    Respectfully, you are all not getting the Protestant argument about the clarity of scripture. Not at all.

    Your argument assumes that the scripture is so obscure and difficult that it cannot speak for itself, that it must be interpreted by your particular denomination, whether EO or RCC. To your minds the only alternative is private judgement, which you believe makes everything relative, and thus meaningless.

    Our argument rejects that thesis in all its parts, as did the Fathers and the Reformers.

    Here is the protestant position again: the scripture is plenty easy to understand. For every hard and difficult passage there are scores that are easy and plain. The writers of scripture interpret their own writings for us, like all good teachers do. We do not have to have a council before we can understand them.

    The authors of scripture, the prophets and apostles, were capable of communicating their meaning of their teaching, and did so.

    To you the Bible is in a secret code that has to be deciphered by your chosen human authority, just as the German code had to be broken at Bletchley House during the war. We disagree.

    To us it looks like you have not read the scriptures at all.

  196. Curate said,

    August 20, 2009 at 1:32 am

    Greenbaggins, do you see from the RCC and EO people here how your lens theory has played straight into their hands? If it is all about which lens with which to read scripture, then scripture itself is ruled out in advance as its own interpreter.

  197. Paige Britton said,

    August 20, 2009 at 4:44 am

    Perry,

    Since I am feeling left out, I will ask for your thoughtful answer directly:

    How does the epistemology behind EO interpretations compare with that of the Protestants (an assumption of epistemic parity between clergy & laity) and the RCC (special chrism on pope & colleagues)?

    Thank you!

  198. Paige Britton said,

    August 20, 2009 at 4:50 am

    Andrew M.,

    From #167, where you wrote “I’m just trying to focus on the Church in the West outside of Rome and the fact that it was not a collection of individuals making their own decisions.”

    I have been puzzled, too, by the charge of “individual interpretations,” when I know the interpretations in question (like the WCF) are the products of much group effort. But perhaps it’s the case that to the RCC “individual” simply means “other,” i.e., a departure from “the mind of Christ = the Church (Magisterium),” regardless of how many folks were involved.

  199. Paige Britton said,

    August 20, 2009 at 5:21 am

    Curate #193 wrote, “If it is all about which lens with which to read scripture, then scripture itself is ruled out in advance as its own interpreter.”

    Why are you worried because we all use lenses when we read, and therefore none of us can claim a definitive, normative reading of Scripture? If God wanted to communicate truth to us in writing, then he would take into account the fact that we all use lenses when we read. Perspicuity is about sufficient knowledge, not exhaustive knowledge.

    Yes, we (Protestants, at least) use Scripture to interpret Scripture, and yes, we are already reading with a lens when we do so. But if Scripture, as a text, has a stable meaning, and is made up of identifiable parts (vocabulary, grammar, canonical context, etc.), then it is possible much of the time to discriminate between “good” interpretations and “poor” (or at times “less good”) interpretations on the basis of the data in the text. In fact we should always be checking our lenses against the data, which means that we hold our lens with due humility and teachableness. We can evaluate others’ lenses and interpretations in this way also.

    All of the above presupposes the Protestant understanding that all believers relate to the text of Scripture with a certain “epistemic parity,” that is, none of us has been given special knowledge. (This is not to say that there is also parity between intellects — Calvin was Calvin, and I am I.)

    Once you throw in the “chrism” that the RCC claims for its teachers, you toss the above ability to discriminate between lenses out the window. At this point I don’t think it’s an argument about perspicuity (or even authority) so much as about epistemology.

    I don’t know what the EO view of our knowing is, but when Perry says things like “If Rome puts he church above the Scriptures because it says that the church has the right to give normative interpretations, do Protestants put the individual above the Scriptures since they assert that only the individual can be bound by his own judgments of what scripture means?” (187) I think he is giving a kind of reductionist summary of what Protestants do:

    At the end of the day, yes, I do have to decide for myself what interpretation I will hold – or whether I will make my decision at this point in time or not! But I am not “above” the Scriptures at the point of decision – I am a fallible human being making the best sense that I can of a text, dependent on language and intellect and the input of other thoughtful people, and I am open to correction. Some decisions about interpretations I will make feeling firmly persuaded, and some I will make with less confidence. But either way, confident or less so, I claim moral responsibility before God for my choice and its implications, and I keep listening to others and checking to make sure I have done my homework and not left anything out.

    All of the above being entirely open to correction. :)

  200. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 20, 2009 at 5:36 am

    I don’t take theology to be a “field of knowledge” in terms of a science.

    Perry,

    I do understand the EO skepticism towards speaking of theology as a “science” in the Thomistic sense of the term, but what can I say? We from the Western side of the great theological divide systematize our thinking in ways that I’m sure the EO just don’t want to grapple with. But I don’t want to make it sound like I think that theology is a rationalistic exercise, far from it. And I don’t think asking the questions concerning whether Rome got her assessment of the Early Church correct is engaging in rationalism. We see it as a mistake to accord infallibility to the writings of any group of men unless there is some very good reason why we should. Since we know that Scripture is theopneustos we can be convinced that it is infallible because God cannot err or lie. But why should we take the words of a given council as infallible? We are not going to do this just because the theological reflections of Rome or Constantinople centuries later tell us we ought to. There should be good reason to place a given theological statement on par with the very words of God.

    Within the West, the doctrine of the Filioque has been a rather sterile theological debate. And we just don’t see that papal prerogatives were justified by way of the Filioque. In other words, had there been no debate over this matter, we would have exactly the same issue with Rome and her claims to authority. We part ways with Rome over authority much earlier in the history of the Church, and I think there would certainly be some agreement with the way you and we look at the earlier cyprianic debates over the scope of authority of the Roman See.

    Buy you understand my earlier comments about infallibility? We both reject claims of the Rome’s infallibility when she speaks of her right to rule “over every human creature” to use the Unam Sanctam term. You want to tell us to forget the Romanists, it’s the EO who collectively possess real infallibility. And it is our reply here that maybe it is the concept of infallibility when lifted outside of the context of the voice of God which should be the issue here. Maybe we should question whether what a collection of men said in a given credal statement was perfect. I don’t think this is too radical a proposal nor is it one that the Fathers of the first few centuries would take issue with. Or if they would, it is not evident to us.

  201. John Bugay said,

    August 20, 2009 at 5:40 am

    Curate: Here’s how Catholics do “exegesis”:

    …theologians must always return to the sources of divine revelation: for it belongs to them to point out how the doctrine of the living Teaching Authority is to be found either explicitly or implicitly in the Scriptures and in Tradition. (From Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis, 1950)

    So, the way this works in real life, if you see the word “key” in Scripture, that somehow refers to the papacy, whether or not sound exegesis bears that out. If the word “woman” is mentioned, well, that supports a Marian doctrine. Whether or not sound exegesis bears this out.

  202. John Bugay said,

    August 20, 2009 at 6:29 am

    Perry — a couple of general comments and then I’ll respond to some of the points that you make. I don’t have a lot of time to go deeply into this right now, but I did read more thoroughly some months ago, and I had a fairly decent interaction with your patner Photios on this same subject matter. A lot of this will be working from memory and some citations that I have handy.

    The main works that I’ve read on Nestorius are NOT (as you suggest) Brown, but rather Moffett (Reformed) “A History of Christianity in Asia”; Mar Bawai Soro, “The Church of the East” (2007); and Philip Jenkins, “The Lost History of Christianity.” And at Photios’s suggestion, I read the work on Loofs (1914), which is one of the first works published after the discovery of the Book of Heraclides.

    In the discussion of Nestorius, Soro relies in part on McGuckin’s 1996 essay, “Nestorius and the Political Factions of Fifth-Century Byzantium.” Soro says, “McGuckin’s hypothesis is succinct, but startling: ‘long before the Council of Ephesushad ever opened, the fate of Nestorius had largely been sealed and predetermined.'”

    It seems that Nestorius himself was quite the hunter of heretics, and had made many enemies for himself.

    Nevertheless, Cyril’s charges against Nestorius had “fine disregard for anything Nestorius had said” (Moffett 174). This “fine disregard” made its way into the Canons of Ephesus. Was that “well within canonical provisions of the time”? “Bearing false witness” as an infallible canonical statement. Yes, I think it was. Misrepresentation of opponents’ views, the use of armed gangs of thugs to enforce one’s opinion. These were not exclusive to Cyril. In fact, emperors regularly exiled both sides of the warring factions who vied for the office of bishop of Rome. It was horrible. Yet such horrors were “well within canonical provisions of the time.” The church as a whole — the “conservative” church, needs to take another look at all of that. It is pitiful and pitiable what Catholics defend, when they defend the papacy.

    But I digress. From here, your comments in Ital, followed by my response.

    Do you seriously contend that Nestorius was not a heretic as all Reformed confessions state?

    You’ll have to show me which Reformed Confessions claim that Nestorius was a heretic. I don’t find his name mentioned.

    I’ve read Chalcedon repeatedly and it nowhere “backs off” the title of Theotokos, which has historically been affirmed by churches of the classical reformation.

    You are misreading what I said. I know that Chalcedon said “theotokos.” What Chalcedon did not use were the “Mater Theou / Mater Dei” constructions that were found in Ephesus. That is significant. Because the literal translation “God-Bearer” does not give offense to Reformed ears. But as you are into “Reformed Confessions” and “the classical Reformation,” try finding “Mother of God” language in there.

    To toss out apostolic succession because it is a “development” would also be sufficient grounds to toss out sola fide.

    No, to call it a “development” is to take it off its sacrosanct pedestal. Let “Sola Fide” and “Development” then compete for legitimacy on Scriptural grounds.

    Secondly, its odd that both Protestants and Catholics claim doctrinal development to justify their distinctives, whereas the Orthodox do not.

    Nevertheless, the Orthodox did “develop” such doctrines as the use of icons. Just because you don’t call it development, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t.

    Third, you make it Rome vs the Reformers, but the matter was much wider. It was Rome and the East which condemned a group of priests and laymen.

    Don’t forget that even “Rome and the East” wasn’t the whole of Christianity. The “Church of the East” — further east than Jerusalem — which was wrongly condemned at Ephesus was at one time larger than both put together. That part of the church, of course, has suffered a martyr’s death at the hand of Islam. But It was “Rome and the East” which caused the schism that effected that death sentence.

    On a regular basis the Orthodox use both. Nestorius use of Theotokos was only in reference to the prosopa or single appearance that was the product of the two natures conjoined by a single will. If you wish to endorse such a view, you will find yourself I think at odds with the Reformers themselves…then again maybe not.

    Good luck finding Reformed writings that really make a big deal about “Mother of God.”

    As for Ps Dion. It was probably written by Damascius, a convert from Platonism and the last head of the Platonic Academy. And who wrote Hebrews again?

    your citation of Chrysostom isn’t quite fair.

    You’re getting things mixed up. I didn’t cite Chrystostom. But it’s not just one Chrysostom citation. The Webster/King (Vol 3) offers more tha 50 pages of Chrysostom citations, with context. You’ve got whole flocks of swallows there.

    As for Ps Dion. It was probably written by Damascius, a convert from Platonism and the last head of the Platonic Academy. And who wrote Hebrews again?

    Pseudo-Dionysius was clearly a sixth-century work of fiction that the Orthodox have included among their greatest theologians (see Photios’s list). Meanwhile, what are you trying to say about Hebrews? Are you trying to say THAt wasn’t Scripture? It is par for non Protestants to try to absolutely trash the Scriptures any chance they get.

    And to be fair with the Klaus [Schatz] citation, these same scholars, as a matter of historical data, will deny that Jesus thought of himself as God too.

    That is a Catholic problem. Because the Vatican sanctions his work. Nevertheless, they are at least trying to be honest with history. Which is more than can be said for Bryan Cross, Sean, etc.

  203. John Bugay said,

    August 20, 2009 at 6:33 am

    Oops: Let “Sola Fide” and “Development” then compete for legitimacy on Scriptural grounds. should read, “Let ‘Sola Fide’ and ‘Apostolic Succession’ then compete for legitimacy on Scriptural grounds.”

  204. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 20, 2009 at 7:18 am

    Perry Robinson: “And as for the Orthodox being in communion with Rome in the not too distant future, you must mean that the Second Coming is near, because otherwise this is just not accurate.”

    Thank you Perry.

  205. Curate said,

    August 20, 2009 at 7:30 am

    no. 196 said: Why are you worried because we all use lenses when we read, and therefore none of us can claim a definitive, normative reading of Scripture? EOQ.

    That is not the Protestant position. It is a modern, even a post-modern take. We do indeed claim a definitive and normative reading of scripture, one that is faithful to the text.

    If one adopts your theory, all we are left with is doubt, which is the opposite of faith.

  206. Zrim said,

    August 20, 2009 at 7:43 am

    Re 202: If one adopts your theory, all we are left with is doubt, which is the opposite of faith.

    Agreed that the Protestant tradiiton claims a definitive and normative reading of scripture and that modern attacks which suggest anything less is worrisome, but the opposite of faith isn’t doubt but sight. This may sound like a petty, even irrelevant thing to point out, but the flanking western traditions (Catholic and Radical) are projects in striving after sight. Both want to relieve the inherent tension of faith by making either the church or the individual the final word on the Word instead of the Word itself.

  207. Sean said,

    August 20, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Truth Unites and Divides.

    I don’t know you think its a good thing that the Church does not come into union with one another and repair the great schism. At least I get the impression that you don’t want this to happen.

    Some friends of ours (PCA) recently went to a Greek Orthodox Church and inquired about conversion. The priest said, “Why? You aren’t Greek. Just become Roman Catholic because we’ll be united again soon anyway.” So, clearly, there is reason to believe that Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is working in the real world.

    Beyond that are a lot of very positive developments between Rome and Constantinople as well as other small churches coming into full communion recently such as here.

    The gospel compels us to unity. Being happy about schism or indifferent is in opposition to Christ’s prayer.

    John,

    Your Nestorius quest recalls the following quote from Ronald Knox, dearly departed Anglican Convert:

    “Has it ever occurred to you how few are the alleged ‘failures of infallibility’? I mean, if somebody propounded in your presence the thesis that all the kings of England have been impeccable, you would not find yourself murmuring, ‘Oh, well, people said rather unpleasant things about Jane Shore . . . and the best historians seem to think that Charles II spent too much of his time with Nell Gwynn.’ Here have these popes been, fulminating anathema after anathema for centuries—certain in all human probability to contradict themselves or one another over again. Instead of which you get this measly crop of two or three alleged failures!” (Difficulities)

    While Knox’s observation does not establish the truth of papal infallibility, it does show that the historical argument against infallibility is weak.

    For you to try to land blows against the Catholic Church you resort to siding with the heretics of past centuries and anathematizing the great councils because they cause offense to ‘Reformed ears.’

    You then try to land blows because the structure of the church indeed included development in understanding. Something that nobody denies. Not the Popes. Not SATIS COGNITUM. Not Vatican I. Nicaea claims to affirm the ‘constant faith’ but everybody knows there was development of understanding in regards to the Trinity. Modern Arians, they actually still exist, write volumes about the Trinity is a departure from the true faith because it was a development. Sounds familiar huh?

    Your pet topics (the early papacy and development and Nestorius) are paper houses not standing on any foundation other than what you think offends ‘reformed ears.’

    If you are so conversant with the Fathers, why don’t you adopt a more historical Church theology, if not Catholic, why not Orthodox or Anglican? Where are your bishops, your priests? Where is your respect for tradition? Are you claiming that your particular Protestant church’s doctrines and beliefs are those of the Fathers? Or do we simply dismiss the Fathers on Baptism, Eucharist, Church government, Bishops, priests, etc ?

  208. John Bugay said,

    August 20, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Sean — the Ronald Knox quote you cite has nothing to do with anything. The papacy that you defend — not just infallibility, but the whole institution is a sham. That is the point of the arguments I make.

    As far as “development” in the papacy, that too is the laughable claim. The (fictitious) notion of an early papacy was foundational — FOUNDATIONAL — to Roman thinking for centuries. Now that “there was development,” it is a huge opening for our side to press Rome for further “developments.”

    As for Nestorius, he is not a heretic, and the real “Great Schism,” that which occurred in the 5th century, you should note, is a *schism* and not a heretical divide. To argue as you do supports not a sham such as the papacy, but also an unwarranted death sentence on more than half the church at the time. (You are aware of the document signed in 1994 by John Paul II which affirms “a common Christology” with those Eastern churches? I’m not in the habit of citing popes, but you are so clearly out of line on this one that it’s funny.)

  209. August 20, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Sean,

    The comments by a local priest do not amount to the teaching of the Orthodox any more than the local Catholic priest who favors women’s ordination represents Roman teaching.

    In fact the priest is wrong on material grounds alone. The thinking that the gospel is limited by ethnicity was condemned by the Orthodox about a century ago as phylitism. I’ve heard such things too and there are historical reasons why some Orthodox, particularly from the old countries think this way

  210. August 20, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Andrew M,

    It is not that we do not wish to grapple with Latin ways of doing theology. We have done so before they were distinctly Latin, specifically when they were Origenistic. We aren’t averse to thinking about matters or giving rational arguments. What we oppose is doing theology using a method that presupposes a false view of the world and a false Christology, namely dialectic, where objects are distinguished via opposite properties.

    Part of the problem on judging the matter from my perspective is that you are presuming a place of an ecclesiastical judge. I am not sure how such a position is justified. Part of the problem is the assumption that councils of the church are not divinely guided and are merely human entities. This means that we are starting with different ecclesiologies and in fact, different Christologies. This argument is really misplaced.

    Why would you take the decisions of Acts 15 council as infallible simply on the judgment of the church centuries later that Acts was inspired? The fact that it was widely accepted doesn’t imply that it was inspired or that most people thought that it was. And no real work is done by appealing to self authentication since one can be duped into thinking that something is self authenticating when its not. So the formal canon is a product of centuries later theological reflection. Do you think the formal canon is revisable and subject to human judgment too?

    As for the Filioque, I am sure that the Reformed don’t see how it grounds papal prerogatives, but a study of the “reforms” of Gregory 7th I think will yield a different result. Secondly that of itself leaves the question of the justification of the doctrine untouched. So given the thread topic, in light of the Reformed lenses, how can the doctrine of the Filioque be justified by Scripture alone and what if it turns out that its not? What goes, the doctrine or the lens? And this again gets us back to the question of how we can know which lens is correct, given the fact that scripture is not some bare self interpreting fact, but is interpreted through a lens? The lens cannot be derived from Scripture without the lens in the first place since there is no non-theory laden exegetical methodology to be had. Or to put it in Van Tillian terms, there are no neutral facts.

    I don’t think my position is lifting infallibility out of the realm of the divine voice and placing it among humans anymore than the inspiration of men in scripture does so. I am not saying that conciliar decisions are inspired in exactly the same sense that Scripture is. Rather I am rejecting the dialectical positioning of the question, either divine or human as if they were to be distinguished by opposite properties. This framing betrays a presupposed anthropology, doctrine of creation and Christology that I reject.

  211. August 20, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Curate,

    I don’t have to assume that scripture is opaque. Make scripture as clear as you like and it won’t matter and here is why. What matters is the clarity of the individual mind making the judgment as to what Scripture in fact means. If the bible were a mirror, you can’t have an ape looking in and an apostle looking out.

    Second, the issue is not whether one can come to a correct interpretation on their own, but whether one can come to a normative one on their own and whether only the individual can be normatively bound by their own judgment or whether they can be bound by the church’s judgment.

    Can one’ individual conscience trump that of the church? And if so, why? What is it about my own conscience and judgment that the church supposedly lacks? And why suppose that the church is somehow a collection of equally normative (perhaps not equally good) judges? Why do Protestants get to simply assume this kind of egalitarianism about normativity here?

    And if the individual conscience can’t trump the church’s judgment, what were priests like Luther and laymen like Calvin doing exactly?

    On your reading no doctrine is stable. All doctrines, including the canon are revisable, provisional and capable of being over turned formally speaking. All doctrines are human reconstruction projects That looks a lot like humanism and not very much like early Christianity. What seems preferable is teaching that isn’t human, that is divine and hence binds the conscience whether I agree with it or not, for that is how God teaches.

    None of that though touches the question, if the Reformed interpret Scripture through a lens, and it is not possible to interpret Scripture apart from a lens, how does one find out that the lens one has is correct? It can’t be by reference to Scripture anymore than an atheist can check the veridicality of his experience by more experience or that there are causes in the world by giving more examples of events.

  212. John Bugay said,

    August 20, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Perry #207: What matters is the clarity of the individual mind making the judgment as to what Scripture in fact means…if the Reformed interpret Scripture through a lens, and it is not possible to interpret Scripture apart from a lens, how does one find out that the lens one has is correct?

    Are you suggesting that somehow those who wrote the Reformed confessions are radically incorrect in their interpretation of Scripture?

  213. August 20, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Paige,

    Well its complicated but let me give you a sketch. Our view of infallibility is different because we endorse a different view of God and Christology than either Rome or Protestantism. Infallibility is an energy or divine activity. It isn’t limited to the clergy as the church has designated specific writings of some laymen as representing infallibly the teaching of the church, such as Maxims the Confessor.

    It can be exercised by the episcopate under certain conditions as outlined in 2nd Nicea. To get an authoritative answer it is often supposed that the source must be simple, lacking parts, otherwise its possible that one “part” might disagree with another part. Much of the Catholic apologetic for the papacy and Protestant arguments for the normativity of private judgment rest on this metaphysical assumption of equating simplicity with permanence, stability and unity. In either case, the source is singular and simple, either in the pope or the individual, since barring schizophrenia, an individual can’t disagree with himself.

    We think that plurality isn’t opposed to unity since in the Trinity all of the divine persons are really distinct but are in perfect unity. Likewise all of the divine energies are distinct in themselves (knowing isn’t the same as willing for example) but they all interpenetrate each other without reducing one to another. Consequently we reject the Platonic and unscriptural doctrine advocated by Catholics and Protestants that God is metaphysically absolutely simple.

    Likewise in the church under the appropriate conditions, all of the apostles or all of the bishops can exercise the divine power or energy of infallibility. That’s more of the metaphysical backdrop.
    You can see it here I think in the decree of the fifth council about none of the apostles requiring the counsel of the others to execute their work qua apostle and so likewise with the bishops, but to establish things, councils are the best and only way to do it.

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.xii.vi.html

    For epistemology I’d say that the phronema or mind of the church is seen in the scriptures and in continuity with them in the fathers and the councils. This does not mean simplistically that everything a Father says is normative. There are criteria for weeding out false views of individuals-say by what is taught in all of the major apostolic sees together or in councils. What matters for us though is maintaining continuity rather than the Catholic or Protestant idea of development since we reject the idea that doctrine develops along Idealistic lines.

    So the test is if a doctrine has been taught before by the tradition or not, rather than it being some supposed logical extension “implicit” in previous content.

  214. Curate said,

    August 20, 2009 at 10:55 am

    no. 208 Perry said: EOQ.

    Perry, we are not apes, but Christians who have been given the Holy Spirit in baptism. Paul to the Corinthians says that God has revealed the things that did not enter into the mind of man to us, who have the mind of Christ.

  215. Curate said,

    August 20, 2009 at 10:56 am

    no. 203 Perry said: If the bible were a mirror, you can’t have an ape looking in and an apostle looking out. EOQ.

  216. Curate said,

    August 20, 2009 at 11:14 am

    No. 208. Perry said: if the Reformed interpret Scripture through a lens, and it is not possible to interpret Scripture apart from a lens, how does one find out that the lens one has is correct? EOQ.

    I agree that this states Greenbaggins’s problem very well, not excluding the entire RCC and the EO.

    My position is that the Bible is its own lens, and that it actually has the effect of exposing our lenses to us, and in doing so, correcting them. This is one of the things that the Holy Spirit does.

    When ones lens is the Bible’s lens, then you are in agreement with God, and you can have the epistemological assurance that you need.

    Again, the Bible is not written in an inaccessible code known only to the Pope. It is very plain on most things, so much so that even a child can understand what he needs to know for salvation.

  217. August 20, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Curate,

    The apes was an allusion to the saying from Ocar Wilde. And some people are dupes. Not everyone is equally intelligent.

    Really? You were given the Spirit in baptism? I didn’t think that the Reformed thought that that was necessarilyso. The Spirit May come with baptism but not necessarily. One can be regenerate prior to baptism, isn’t that Reformed teaching or no?

    Paul is speaking to those in the church. I don’t take the Reformed to be in the church but schismatics and heterodox.

    I am not sure what it means to say that the bible is its own lens. Do you mean that the reader doesn’t interpret it from a presuppositional frame of reference? Or that the text can trump the presuppositional interpretative grid of the reader? If the latter, then doesn’t that mean that the bible is a self interprting fact? I am not sure how that squares with Van Til’s apologetic since no sensory data is self interpreting.

    Furthermore, if theSpirit does the work, then the bible isn’t doing the work and this is in line with Reformed Christology which posits the Spirit comes to the humanity from the outside and creates effects in the humanity of Christ and this is the basis for the Reformed adherence to the Catholic doctrine of “created grace.” Consequently your gloss here depends on your Christology. We don’t agree on Christology, which is why we don’t agree here. (See Muller’s Christ and the Decree, on how the Reformed dissent from Chalcedon.

    Epistemological assurance, I am not sure what that is supposed to mean, but being assured isn’t co-extensive with knowledge. One can be assured and not in fact know. And one can think they have divine assurance and in fact not have it, so it doesn’t look like assurance isn’t doing any work here.

    As for how the bible is written I think depends on how one views inspiration. Since I reject the Reformed view of the relation of the Spirit to the humanity of Christ, I also reject the Reformed view of inspiration from which it is derived.

    Inspiration is Christological or theanthropic which is why methods like the grammatical-historical methods are inadequate and lead to heterodox Christology-see Theodore of Mopsuestia for example-http://thirdmill.org/newfiles/jul_grisham/CH.Grisham.theodore.mopsuestia.pdf

    I don’t think one could get Paul’s allegorical interpretaiton in Gal 4 by just reading the OT text. to think that a natural methodology can just read off the meaning of a divine text like any other assumes that either the divine and human aren’t essentially different or a kind of naturalism.

    Again, the difference is really found in our different Christologies.

    And the quesiton isn’t whether the bible is clear or not, the question is how does one arrive at a normative interpretation. This point you seemed to ignore when I posed it above.

  218. David Gadbois said,

    August 20, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Perry wrote If we don’t let the church’s teaching flavor the historical-grammatical method, doesn’t this assume that the methodology is non-theory laden and carries with it no metaphysical or Christological implications? The fifth council condemns something very much like it on that basis. So I doubt that it functions as a neutral method to start with.

    If by ‘the church’s teaching’ you mean other doctrines that are derived from Scripture, sure. But that’s just the analogy of faith, the interplay between systematic and exegetical theology.

  219. August 20, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    John B,

    I do think that the Reformed confessions are in fact wrong in key areas, which is just to say that I am Orthodox and not Reformed. But even on Reformed principles, the Reformed confessions are not infallible and are always open to revision. Its certainly possible that the Reformers were in fact in error at any given point.

    My point was that the perspicuity of the text is not really germane. What is germane is the perspicuity of the mind who is making a judgment about the text and the normativity of the judgment made by the individual. Why should Calvin’s judgment be any more binding on my conscience than the pope’s?

    I let the Reformers be what they were, fallible men and not some once for all illumined individuals who gave some unrevisable interpretation. Doctrine on Reformed principles is a reconstruction process and given sin and error, it is not implausible to think that the confessions are in fact in error. It’s entailed by the Nominalistic humanism of Reformation. I think doctrines like simplicity and the Filioque are key examples of unscriptural doctrines which are products of Catholic and Platonic philosophical theology. Where is the hypostatic eternal procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son as from one principle clearly stated in Scripture or implied for that matter? And where is the idea of simplicity in scripture? And I am still waiting for White’s biblical exegesis that the Bible teaches that God has libertarian free will.

    And I don’t have to show that the Reformed confessions are in fact in error, for given the lens of Reformed confessions as a presuppositional grid by which the bible is interpreted, that would be impossible from within the system. The grid will come up with alternative interpretations for any scriptural exegesis I would proffer. Bare facts don’t overturn or discriminate between models. Any system is capable of admitting contrary evidence, it just depends on how much one wishes to give up or how one wishes to re-interpret the data in light of the system a la Quine and Van Til.

    Even if all the interpretations of the text by the Reformed confessions were correct in fact, it wouldn’t give us a reason to think that the lens was the right one, anymore than the fact that modern science proposes in fact working models confirms that the models are right and work for the reasons that the scientific models proffer. Something can work, but not for the reasons you think it does. So we need a reason for thinking that the lens gets us to the right interpretation even if the interpretations were to be assumed correct, so we are right back to the question of how we are to know that the Reformed confessions are the right lens?

    So what do you offer to answer that question?

  220. August 20, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    David G,

    if the exegetical method isn’t theory neutral, then it will select a priori and interpret data according to a specific theological model. It still seems to me that you are positing an incrementalist apporach to building up a theological model. I am not sure how that is possible if exegetical methodologies aren’t theory neutral.

  221. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 20, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Mr. Perry Robinson:

    What do you think of Demetrios Kydones’ Apologia?

  222. August 20, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Bellermine,

    I don’t think much of Akindynos’ criticisms of Palamas. If he were right, then the Fifth and Sixth council are wrong. Second, I’d recommend reading the position first from its own advocates rather than reading apologetic material against it.

    Without the e/e distinction dyoenergism and dyothelitism are false. But given the theology of Maximus and the 6th council, they aren’t false. You can’t affirm dyoenergism and deny the e/e distinction.

  223. August 20, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    John B.

    Moffett, Soro and Jenkins’ works are not monographs on Nestorius or his theology. McGuckin’s work is. I’d recommend his full volume via Brill or SVS.
    I’d have to see Soro’s full comments rather than snippets. Second, what you have cited doesn’t show materially that Nestorius’ theology was orthodox but at worst that he faced insurmountable odds or that he got a raw canonical deal. Such was true of Arius for example given the make up the Nicene council. Nestorius still retained the difficulty of saying the shibboleth of Theotokos nonetheless.

    To be fair, Cyril set aside Rome’s judgment against Nestorius. He didn’t just rubber stamp the judgment of other sees. The decision was made synodally. And then we have the agreement of John of Antioch after the council, who wasn’t exactly disposed towards Cyril’s position. Nestorius’ aligning himself with Western enemies like the Pelagians certainly didn’t help him. How ironic that you are defending an ally of Pelagius.

    As to the matter of his theology, he takes hypostasis to mean substance or nature. The two substances come together to form the subject or prosopa, a single appearance. Each nature retains and preserves its own prosopa or appearance but these are conjoined through an act of divine will into one prosopon or concrete appearance. Consequently, Nestorius’ theology is inconsistent in its use of hypostasis between triadology and christology (for hypostasis denotes person in the Trinity, not essence) and tends to confuse the categories of person and nature as a result. The single appearance is the product of the divine will, which is why Nestorius and his followers also advocated Monothelitism. Do you wish to advocate monothelitism?
    Moffett’s comments are only as good as his arguments and until I see the arguments, the comments don’t support your claim. Its true that Cyril misread some points of Nestorius, but that went both ways as it often does in theological disputes. Nestorius wasn’t free from misreading Cyril or free from disregarding clear statements by Cyril that the divine essence was and remained impassable, which was one of Nestorius’ primary concerns.
    Cyril’s convening of the council without all participants present was well within the canonical requirements for councils since the conditions on invitations and other matters had been met. Cyril even gave them extra time. You confuse Cyril’s error with an outright lie. Cyril made mistakes, but so did Nestorius and to slide from mistake to deception is rather fallacious.
    Cyril didn’t use armed gangs to enforce John of Antioch’s opinion or other Antiochians that Nestorius as wrong, so what I suspect you are referring to is irrelevant. The same is true of the judgment of other sees like Rome for instance.

    I am Orthodox and I am not defending the papacy, so all of your complaints about the papacy are irrelevant and they are materially irrelevant to the case of Nestorius.

    Reformed confessions either allude to or outright condemn Nestorius as a heretic. Try the second Helvetic Confession for instance, XI,

    “And indeed we detest the dogma of the Nestorians who make two of one Christ and dissolve the unity of the Person. Likewise we thoroughly execrate the madness of Eutyches and of the Monothelites or Monophysites who destroy the property of the human nature.”

    The condemnation is quite pervasive in standard Reformed works as well as Confessions. I wouldn’t think I would have to do that leg work for Calvinists. If you think its wrong and wish to correct it, good luck overturning Reformed tradition.

    Mater theou isn’t of itself problematic. It is so only so if you confuse person with nature so that Mary gives birth to the divine nature. So long as Mary gives birth to a divine person, there’s no problem Christologically with either Mater theou or Theotokos. Mother of God or God-bearer are acceptable. Perhaps if the Reformed like yourself were clearer in their own minds that the term refers to a divine person their ears wouldn’t be so easily offended.
    Protestants have for quite a long time appealed to the idea of doctrinal development to explain, that supposedly like the Trinity, sola fide was implicit in earlier works and made explicit at the Reformation. If I thought doctrine was a human re-construction, I might agree to a scriptural competition. Of course, the question is, who is the judge of such a competition? You or me? Who is the judge that applies the rule or standard?
    Your claim that the Orthodox did “develop” such doctrines is a bald assertion. I can’t address unsupported claims. Just because you baldly assert there was conceptual development, doesn’t imply that there was. Second, you don’t seem to grasp the concept of doctrinal development as an Idealistic theory.

    If we are talking within the confines of Roman, Orthodox and Reformation theology then this will exclude the Copts and the Assyrians and probably the Armenians at that time too. Of course, if you can get the Reformed to back off their condemnations of the Copts and the Assyrians, that would open up the playing field as you suggest. Good luck with that.

    In any case, it is irrelevant since the Copts and Assyrians both reject Protestantism. Size doesn’t matter since the church is not a democracy. There were probably more Christians in Antioch for example than Jerusalem when Acts 15 occurred, but that didn’t imply that the authority of the Jerusalem council was lessened in any way.

    You’re correct that you didn’t cite Chrysostom, but rather Gregory, in which case my argument in the main applies. It has a specific context and he doesn’t say the same about say Nicea, but quite the opposite. Second, I own the Webster King texts. I’ve read them and I was unmoved. They consistently make the error of identifying necessary conditions for Sola Scriptura with sufficient conditions. Scripture may be good, clear, the ground for all doctrines, the only infallible rule and so forth, but that of itself is not the concept of Sola Scriptura. The Laudians for example as I pointed out above agreed with all of that and yet they denied Sola Scriptura against the Puritans. Someone who affirms Prima Scriptura can affirm all of the above without Sola Scriptura. The vast majority of the citations in the King/Webster volumes only prove that Primma Scriptura of some form was believed. But of course, being Orthodox, I am just fine with that as were the Laudians. It’d be helpful to you to read some of their arguments against the Puritans contained in the hundred volume or so series, the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology. I’d also suggest Rupert Davies little book, The Problem of Authority in the Continental Reformers.

    Oh, I don’t think Ps Dion. Divine Names or Mystical Theology were works of fiction. Rather I think they were genuine treatises in philosophical theology by a Proclean who converted to Christianity. That the Severan monophysites picked it up and mistakenly took it for a disciple of Paul is unfortunate, but that doesn’t of itself make it a forgery per se.

    Secondly, I’d be careful how you trash Ps Dion’ theology since a good amount of the theology of God in Protesantism is derived from it and particularly from scholastic readings of it from coming through Albert the Great. If Dion is to be rejected then a whole mess of Protestant theology proper goes out the window too. When was the last time you tried to derive the notion of analogical predication, apophasis and divine simplicity as found in Reformed Confessions and Reformed writers from Scripture alone? Where do you think the idea of the divine ideas comes from or the doctrine of divine timelessness as simultaneity?

    I am not trashing the Scriptures by simply disagreeing with your view. You seem to impute to me many bad motives without even knowing me. I’d kindly suggest that you try to follow the scriptural injunction to speak to others with kindness and respect and to think better of others than yourself. That said, I was only using your own argument against you. If a false attribution of authorship is sufficient to discount a work as authentic, then by your own argument, Hebrews should be removed from the canon. And I don’t “trash” the Scriptures. I probably read and pray five times the amount of Scripture every Sunday than the average Presbyterian does.

    As to the Klaus citation, not it isn’t a Catholic problem exclusively and here is why. If you think his method for arriving at that conclusion is truth preserving then you should also endorse their other conclusions. If not, then I see no reason why Catholics should be bound by it either. Second, while I am not defending the papacy, I think people do not pay attention to what Klaus says. As a matter of historical data, certain doctrines lack sufficient data to establish them as a matter of reason or fact along the lines of a demonstration. That said, Rome doesn’t claim and I’d wager plenty of Protestants wouldn’t either that as a matter of history various doctrines are proved in terms of a logical demonstration. This is why they are matters of grace, revelation and such.

    Second, I have no idea who Sean is, but I do know Bryan Cross. And while Bryan and I have serious disagreements, so much so that I think Catholicism is more like Protestantism than Orthodoxy, Bryan is an honest person. I have spent time with him and he has a good character and personally has born up under personal suffering that few here could possibly imagine. So before you go demonizing people and attributing to them motives that you have no possible way of knowing, I’d suggest taking a step back and stop giving Calvinists a bad name.

  224. John Bugay said,

    August 20, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Perry — I’ll answer most of your stuff later. But I have a couple of things.

    Consider this statement, from Andrew Preslar, #121:

    After all, people disagree about things as crystal clear as the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, …

    Now, is that a statement, do you think, that is honest with history?

    The only reason I mentioned Sean and Bryan Cross is because they make the same kinds of statements.

    The second thing is, my exact contention was that theologians like Schatz “are at least trying to be honest with history. Which is more than can be said for Bryan Cross, Sean, etc.”

    Can you tell me with a straight face that I have done more harm to “Calvinists” than Cyril did to Christianity with his armed gangs?

    And whatever you say, know that I don’t care. If I get a sanction from Reed or Lane, then I’ll worry.

  225. August 20, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    John,

    I understand that clarity and truth are not co-extensive. Things can be clear and yet people not see them for whatever reason. For example it seems fairly clear that sola fide is an artifact of late medieval scholasticism, specifically Okhamism wedded to Augustinian pre-emption.

    I am sure that Andrew thinks its clear and he probably has epistemic justification for thinking so. That doesn’t mean its true or that he has in fact met the conditions on knowledge. I recognize that people like Bryan are quite intelligent. i have sat in graduate seminars with Bryan and I can say from experience that I don’t take arguing with him lightly. Andyet Ithink he is wrong, just like I think you are wrong. I recognize that Bryan thinks he has good reasons for thinking what he does. That doesn’t make him dishonest, just human and limited, like you or me.

    I am sure things look very clear to you, but this usually is the case when read literature that favors their own position and ignore serious material that doesn’t. I have seen quite a few howlers from Catholics about Orthodoxy because they read only their own sources. I just think its harder to find the truth about things, to actually prove things than most people think, because they have never had to do it at a professional level.

    As for Cyril and “gangs” I am not sure what this proves anymore than the Reformed mob that tore apart the tomb of Ireneaus of Lyon. With Cyril I think you play this card far more than it is worth and most scholars on Cyril I think would agree with my judgment. I’d go read what Luther and Calvin say about Cyril.

    You do harm to your cause when you impute the worst motives to someone who is arguing in a dispassionate manner and who concentrates on the arguments rather than the personalities. Besides, I would think Scripture would be worth more to you than anything I could say. give an answer with gentleness and respect. blessed are the meek. There is more than one way to “trash” the Scriptures after all.

    If you do not care what I say, then why bother talking? If you are infallible, I could see why that might be the case. But it is quite striking to me that people who deny infallibility very often act as if they have it. Rather if you are fallible, all the more reason to listen to dispassionate and informed persons on a topic. You might be wrong or you might win a worthy ally to your cause.

  226. Paige Britton said,

    August 20, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    From Curate’s #205:
    no. 196 (Paige) said: Why are you worried because we all use lenses when we read, and therefore none of us can claim a definitive, normative reading of Scripture? EOQ.

    That is not the Protestant position. It is a modern, even a post-modern take. We do indeed claim a definitive and normative reading of scripture, one that is faithful to the text.

    If one adopts your theory, all we are left with is doubt, which is the opposite of faith.”

    Sorry, Curate, for tipping the balance over to the modern-postmodern side there: I did not word that phrase well. I liked how Zrim put it — that the opposite of faith is sight, and that the RCC and the EO are trying to realize full sight this side of eternity. All I mean to expand on is the idea that at this time we “see through a glass darkly,” that we have real choices to make sometimes regarding interpretations, and that some choices will be made more confidently than others. Even the WCF, as confidently as we may hold it, is just derivative, just a lens. A good, good lens, but just a lens. I DON’T mean to say “it’s all relative,” or that we should doubt everything we believe, but that as readers we (individually and collectively) are fallible — unlike the claims of those who are not Protestants.

    Pax?

  227. Paige Britton said,

    August 20, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Thank you, Perry for your response to my question (#213). I look forward to reading more.

  228. Kevin said,

    August 20, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Curate said:

    “Again, the Bible is not written in an inaccessible code known only to the Pope. It is very plain on most things, so much so that even a child can understand what he needs to know for salvation.”

    Very plain, as in the Beatitudes? Or very plain, as in the rich man who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life? Plain like that? Or is that complicated?

    Blessings and peace.

    KB

  229. Paige Britton said,

    August 20, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Curate again (#205):
    Just to clarify: when you said “We do indeed claim a definitive and normative reading of scripture, one that is faithful to the text,” you meant Protestants — but which Protestants? Are you thinking only of certain doctrines (Christological, soteriological, etc.), or of everything that is taught?

    Is it just me, or do we all have to wade through and weigh the different takes of different Protestants on any number of Scriptures and theological points?

  230. Paige Britton said,

    August 20, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    You know, brothers here, I was not going to waste your time by explaining my involvement in these dialogues, but I will bet that (speaking of interpretive lenses) you who do not know me have no idea how to read my participation. I am regrettably not a seminary student, but because I have a tendency to study, I’m sometimes asked to teach or write so as to explain theological things to laypeople. It is not impossible that some of your Reformed congregants will bump into my writing sometime, and I do hope that I will have dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s (and not the opposite) for your sakes. So I’m beholden to you when you catch my errors, sharpen my thinking, and respond to my questions. Think of me as having to scratch an education out of whatever is handy, so as to turn around again and offer some of it to others.

    pax,
    Paige B.

  231. Sean said,

    August 20, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Perry.

    Thank you for your cogent interaction here.

  232. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 20, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Part of the problem on judging the matter from my perspective is that you are presuming a place of an ecclesiastical judge. I am not sure how such a position is justified.

    Perry,

    The RC’s are forever making this kind of statement and I just don’t get why. It’s not me who is making any judgments, or at least no more than you are. We of course both have to judge which tradition is faithful to historic Christianity. Your judgment is that the RC’s and Prot’s are wrong. Now I don’t want to state your reasons for this belief, I will let you do that. From my standpoint, at the time of the Reformation in the West there were two branches of Christendom both claiming to be the true Church. From the Protestant standpoint the RCC of the late Medieval era was something fundamentally different than the Christian Church of the first few centuries AD. I often encourage RC’s to read the theology of Clement and compare vs.that of some of the Medievel popes to demonstrate this. But it’s not me making this judgment, it is the Church making this judgment. Now of course it’s not the whole of Christendom that was making this argument, it was half of Western Christendom. The other half (the RCC) felt that the Protestants were out of accord with the theology of the Early Church (based generally on just succession sorts of arguments). So if I tell an RC that his belief is based on his personal judgment he will tell me that no, he is just agreeing with the judgment of the Church (RC). And if he tells me that my belief is based on my personal judgment I will tell him that no, I am just agreeing with the judgment of the Church (Prot). Now along comes you who tells us that we are both wrong and the EO Church is correct. So maybe I should tell you that this is just your judgment, but I bet you won’t be impressed by that argument, no? So why try the same tact on me?

    Part of the problem is the assumption that councils of the church are not divinely guided and are merely human entities.

    I didn’t say that they are not divinely guided. Being divinely guided does not guarantee infallibility. There are all sorts of examples from the Scriptures where God divinely guides His people and they go in the wrong direction. I am just saying that I see no reason to ascribe infallibility to a promulgation of a council. The defense of the infallibility of Scriptures is clear, but why do we want to hold to the infallibility of a council? If you do want to equate the words of Scripture which were God breathed with the words of men assembling at a council which were not God breathed, there ought to be some very good reasons for doing so. And now that you are bringing in the EO side of things, I would add that there ought also to be a very good reason why you believe that it was only the bishops of the Eastern Church who got blessed with infallibility while the bishops of the Western Church did not.

  233. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 20, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Sean: says: “Truth Unites and Divides.

    I don’t know you think its a good thing that the Church does not come into union with one another and repair the great schism. At least I get the impression that you don’t want this to happen.”

    Sean, you need to learn that uniformity and unity are not necessarily the same thing. You also need to distinguish between true unity and false unity.

    Again, I have to ask you: If you think uniformity = unity and that such “unity” is to be highly prized, *and* you also know that there are EO’s who flatly state in their writings that the Catholic papacy has become the “womb of heresies and fallacies,” then are you willing to jettison and abandon the Catholic papacy to achieve greater unity with the EO’s? Your answer to that will tell me how committed you are to your professed commitment to unity.

    Frankly, I’d be impressed if the Roman Catholic Church started calling Sedevacantist Catholics to be in full communion with Rome.

    Andrew McCallum: “And now that you are bringing in the EO side of things, I would add that there ought also to be a very good reason why you believe that it was only the bishops of the Eastern Church who got blessed with infallibility while the bishops of the Western Church did not.

    An excellent observation. After all, both sides recognize each other as having valid apostolic succession. Is there a two-tiered system of apostolic succession whereby the EO bishops occupy a higher tier than the RCC bishops?

  234. Curate said,

    August 21, 2009 at 12:37 am

    No. 229. Paige said: Is it just me, or do we all have to wade through and weigh the different takes of different Protestants on any number of Scriptures and theological points? EOQ.

    First, thanks for your general input.

    Second, most people are unaware of the overwhelming agreement among the Protestant churches of the Reformation. Comparing the Confessions it turns out that they agreed on everything, with the sole exception of ONE point under ONE head of doctrine.

    That degree of agreement is unprecedented in history. Among the delegates to Trent, on the other hand, there was such a diversity of opinion on just about every point that the decrees were carefully worded to make room for everyone there – except the Reformation.

    The agreement amongst the Protestants is due to the fact that they were all studying the Bible, whereas their opponents hardly bothered to open it. The same tendency continues today, as evidenced by the EO and RCC people on this thread. I couldn’t see any actual scripture in their posts. When I use it it is simply waved away.

    The diversity amongst Protestants today is down to a general scriptural illiteracy. The secret to agreement amongst us is for us to go back to the Bible, and stop putting the scholars above it.

  235. Curate said,

    August 21, 2009 at 12:43 am

    No. 228. Kevin B: Yes as plain as the beatitudes, and the account of the rich man. Also as plain as James’s teaching that a living faith obeys God’s law.

    Peace.

  236. Paige Britton said,

    August 21, 2009 at 5:27 am

    Thank you, Curate, for your thoughts.

    I am not sure I totally agree with this: “The diversity amongst Protestants today is down to a general scriptural illiteracy. The secret to agreement amongst us is for us to go back to the Bible, and stop putting the scholars above it.”

    Scriptural illiteracy and prior commitments to things like human autonomy are, indeed, the big sources of regrettable diversity between Protestant denominations, churches, and individuals. But I think that, to be fair, there will still be passages of the Bible that literate, Reformed people will puzzle and debate over. (And I think the Reformers recognized this, too — see I.vii, “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves…not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a SUFFICIENT understanding of them.”)

    You and I are in agreement, though, that consensus among the various Reformed confessions indicates that the Bible contains in the main a message that careful, humble readers can agree upon. (But since we are not infallible, we do need to keep checking with the text and with each other to make sure we are on — and stay on — the right track.)

    As one of the chapter headings of his book “The Clarity of Scripture,” James Callahan gives a parable by Kierkegaard which paints what would happen if the NT said that everybody should get $100,000. Everyone would immediately recognize the clarity there, without debate or commentary. But since the NT doesn’t promise riches, but asks us to give up not only our greed but our boasting, everybody hems and haws and hopes the scholars will obscure those passages with their commentaries…

  237. Sean said,

    August 21, 2009 at 5:43 am

    Truth unites.

    Where have I said that I only want “uniformity?”

    What we should be praying for is full communion amongst all Christians. One table for the Lord’s Supper.

    See here.

  238. johnbugay said,

    August 21, 2009 at 5:54 am

    Perry, #219
    My point was that the perspicuity of the text is not really germane. What is germane is the perspicuity of the mind who is making a judgment about the text and the normativity of the judgment made by the individual. Why should Calvin’s judgment be any more binding on my conscience than the pope’s?

    Well, consider this from Augustine (354-430): Therefore what He [i.e., Christ] has deigned to speak to us, we ought to believe that He meant us to understand. But if we do not understand He, being asked, gives understanding, who gave His Word unasked. NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate XXII, §1.

    When you consider who is the author of Scripture (God), and to whom He is writing, you must acknowledge that He is able to speak to us in a language that we would understand. I saw you cite Ockham in another posting, and the two are simply not on par with each other as “perspicuous” writings.

    I let the Reformers be what they were, fallible men and not some once for all illumined individuals who gave some unrevisable interpretation.

    And who here doesn’t believe this?

    Doctrine on Reformed principles is a reconstruction process and given sin and error, it is not implausible to think that the confessions are in fact in error.

    It is also not implausible to think that the writers of the confessions were very intelligent, very devout, very much in tune with what God HAS made perspicuous in the Scriptures.

    I think doctrines like simplicity and the Filioque are key examples of unscriptural doctrines which are products of Catholic and Platonic philosophical theology.

    I very much dislike how Rome edited the creed by itself, but this is one area where you can’t lift up God’s robe and just see what’s under there. That is to say, this is just another kind of theological speculation that may or may not have Scriptural warrant, and given the condition of the church right now, especially the “middle east” portions of it (and the real “Church of the East” is quite dead), it is probably less important to take a stand (one way or the other) on this.

    given the lens of Reformed confessions as a presuppositional grid by which the bible is interpreted

    There is a difference, Perry. The Confessions are “out there”; anyone may see and comment on and try to disprove by Scriptural means what is said there. Compare this vs. the type of “presuppositional grid” by which Catholicism “interprets” the Bible. I’m taking this from Jason Stellman’s #72:

    If all esle fails and the Reformed opponent demonstrates, say, that dikaioo really is a forensic verb meaning “to acquit,” and not a transformative verb meaning something else, the answer given is that God’s Word should not be interpreted using the lexica of Jews or German pagan scholars, but the Church tells us what dikaioo means (even if what they say it means isn’t really what it means).

    So there’s no way to move forward when arguing with a person who takes your view, since even our lingustic scholarship, or our historians who deny the papacy and apostolic succession (or yours who do) are, at the end of the day, dismissed as being unable to interpret anything correctly since they’re not bishops who enjoy the very apostolic succession that they believe is historically false.

    So, you have clarity on the one hand, and then you have some sort of secret, mysterious, “infallible” process by which the meanings of words are mysteriously changed. That’s “the house built on sand” if ever there was one.

    And I am still waiting for White’s biblical exegesis that the Bible teaches that God has libertarian free will.

    Here is probably all that you will get, or that you deserve for an answer.

    Even if all the interpretations of the text by the Reformed confessions were correct in fact, it wouldn’t give us a reason to think that the lens was the right one, … so we are right back to the question of how we are to know that the Reformed confessions are the right lens?

    So what do you offer to answer that question?

    There is history, there is linguistic scholarship, and above all, there is honesty. Steve Hays asks the question, “what’s the difference between an authoritative interpretation, and a correct one?”

    As in the example Jason gives above, what are you to do when the very best historical and linguistic studies say that “100% of the time, the word means this,” and then you have an “infallible authority” that says “nuh uh, cause we say so.” “Dikaioo” is not the only instance in which Catholicism does this. It is well known that Catholic doctrines are riddled with this kind of misunderstanding.

    You won’t find this kind of muddled doctrines in the Reformed confessions.

  239. johnbugay said,

    August 21, 2009 at 6:01 am

    Heh, that’s funny; I didn’t close that link properly above, and as it were, “all roads lead to Triablogue.”

  240. johnbugay said,

    August 21, 2009 at 6:24 am

    Perry, #225

    I certainly agree with you that Bryan is a smart fellow, and that he has “been through some things” in his life. I would say that he is extremely and thoroughly “limited” by the Roman Catholic lens that he uses.

    As far as Cyril’s armed gangs — and my trotting them out too frequently, well, I’m certain that the Reformed gangs you compare them with (those who tore up Irenaeus’s tomb?) did far less damage, official damage and in the number of people they killed, than “official” and even officially sanctioned gangs did throughout history.

    I’ll leave you with this little timeline — “armed gangs” are a part of Christian history, and we would do well today to disavow them, not to support them in their efforts:

    From my blog post:

    150 ad: the church at Rome is ruled by a plurality of presbyters who quarrel about status and honor. (Shepherd of Hermas). “They had a certain jealousy of one another over questions of preeminence and about some kind of distinction. But they are all fools to be jealous of one another regarding preeminence.”

    Also note in Hermas: “Clement’s” “job” is to “send books abroad.” — Peter Lampe does not think this Clement is the same individual from 1 Clement, but the time frame is appropriate.

    235: Hippolytus and Pontianus are exiled from Rome by the emperor “because of street fighting between their followers” (Collins citing Cerrato, Oxford 2002).

    258: Cyprian (Carthage/west) and Firmilian (Caesarea/east) both go apoplectic when Stephen tries to exercise authority outside of Rome.

    306: Rival “popes” exiled because of “violent clashes” (Collins)

    308: Rival “popes” exiled because of “violent clashes” (Collins again).

    325: Council of Nicea: Alexandria has authority over Egypt and Libya, just as “a similar custom exists with the Bishop of Rome.” The Bishop of Jerusalem is to be honored.

    381: Constantinople: Because it is new Rome, the Bishop of Constantinople is to enjoy privileges of honour after the bishop of Rome. (This indicates Rome’s “honour” is due to its being the capital.)

    431: Cyril, “stole” the council (Moffett 174, citing “Book of Heraclides) and “the followers of Cyril went about in the city girt and armed with clubs … with yells of barbarians, snorting fiercely, raging with extravagant arrogance against those whom they knew to be opposed to their doings…”

    451: Chalcedon, 28th canon, passed by the council at the 16th session, “The fathers rightly accorded prerogatives to the see of Older Rome, since that is an imperial city; moved by the same purpose the 150 most devout bishops apportioned equal prerogatives to the most holy see of New Rome …” (Rejected by the pope. But what were these “devout bishops” thinking?).

    Schatz, summarizing: In any case it is clear that Roman primacy was not a given from the outset ; it underwent a long process of development whose initial phases extended well into the fifth century. The question is then: can we reasonably say of this historically developed papacy that it was instituted by Christ and therefore must always continue to exist?

    His response is that the institution of the Church “must be understood in such a way that an awareness of what is essential and enduring … develops only as a result of historical challenges and experiences.”

    That is there was no notion of an enduring office beyond Peter’s lifetime. There was no notion that Jesus expected Peter to have “successors,” nor that Matthew expected a successor to Peter (Schatz, pg 1).

    Only after there was no longer a political power in the west to challenge papal claims, did the “awareness” of the “essential and enduring” nature of the papacy take hold.

  241. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 21, 2009 at 6:49 am

    Sean: “What we should be praying for is full communion amongst all Christians. One table for the Lord’s Supper.”

    Heh. For this “one table for the Lord’s Supper”:

    (1) Will you accept an Episcopalian priest confecting the Elements? After all, the RCC doesn’t recognize Anglican orders, nor does it consider their sacraments valid.

    (2) Will your one table admit Christians who don’t believe in the Real Presence? If not, then why does a sizable percentage of Catholics who don’t believe in the Real Presence still able to receive the Host when they go to Mass?

    (3) Will your one table admit Christians who think that the Catholic papacy has become the “womb of heresies and fallacies”?

    Again, I ask you: Are you willing to jettison and abandon the Catholic papacy to achieve greater unity with the EO’s? Your answer to that will tell me how committed you are to your professed commitment to unity.

    Why do you continuously duck the question?

  242. curate said,

    August 21, 2009 at 6:57 am

    NO. 236. Paige: Yes, I think that we are saying the same things about sufficient clarity. There are many dark passages, but not many when compared with the plain ones.

  243. Sean said,

    August 21, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Truth Unites.

    Your name is ‘truth unites’ but you seem to expect that unity is only acheived by jettisoning truth. You seem to be saying that we could all worship together if we all agreed that all is fair game theologically. Unitarianism is not unity. Its nothing.

    Given your username I find that ironic.

    Maybe all the Christians and Moslums could all worship together if everybody agrees that Mohammed was not a prophet and that Jesus is not the Son of God? Hey, why not. We wouldn’t want to be snobby would we?

    I ask you to read the article I linked in #237 to understand what we mean and what we do not mean.

  244. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 21, 2009 at 7:35 am

    After all, both sides recognize each other as having valid apostolic succession. Is there a two-tiered system of apostolic succession whereby the EO bishops occupy a higher tier than the RCC bishops?

    Truth Unites…,

    Well for the West, the Bishop of Rome certainly occupies a higher seat than the other bishops. The other bishops historically referred to the Bishop of Rome as the “first among equals” but this was, and is still, purely titular. The increase in power of the Roman Bishop is one of those areas of disagreement between EO and RC that is still a major sticking point and I think, as some of Perry’s points illustrate, the disagreement is not going away. There has been some mending of the rift – The pope finally got around to apologizing for sacking Constantinople – 800 years after the fact! And the Patriarch accepted the apology a few years later. That was nice, but the basic theological divides are still there.

    It’s interesting to read someone like Perry since he represents a tradition that we just don’t interact with much. The history of Christianity is a Western history for us, and since Athanasius, the peculiarities of Eastern theology have been relegated to foot notes to the greater history of the Western Christian Church. So we in the West tend not to have much understanding either of their particular theological concerns (i.e. Filioque), or some of their particular theological methodologies (apophaticism, theosis, etc). Then you pile on the issue with icons and you have a system which is rather foreign to us. Actually, since the EO tend not to systematize (there is no Summa…. or Institutes…. for the EO), they would probably rather not their theology be characterized by the word “system” with it’s connotation that it is a body of “science” that can be analyzed. Anyway, I’m entirely uncomfortable in talking in any detail on the historical development of the Filioque. If have to admit that I really don’t care that much about it, but I suppose that’s because I don’t talk to EO’s.

  245. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 21, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Sean: “Your name is ‘truth unites’ but you seem to expect that unity is only acheived by jettisoning truth.

    That is a remarkably stupid statement. It is *YOU* who seems to expect that unity is only achieved by jettisoning truth. I’m actually trying to help you become aware of your own stupidity.

    And then to see you project your own stupidity onto me is simply hilarious.

  246. Reed Here said,

    August 21, 2009 at 7:40 am

    No. 243: Sean, I for one am curious as to why you haven’t yet answered TU’s rather straightforward questions? Reference to another site for answers is more that merely bad netiquette. It gives at least the appearance of avoiding.

    I suspect you’re able to answer his questions. I suspect you think some simple one or two sentence answers are sufficient. I also expect you recognize that different paradigms may be at work here.

    O.k. then – answer one way or the other. Do not waste time posting a comment that at most disparages TU’s screen name – unless of course you make a substantive comment to back it up.

    And no, I do not think you have.

  247. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 21, 2009 at 8:03 am

    That degree of agreement is unprecedented in history. Among the delegates to Trent, on the other hand, there was such a diversity of opinion on just about every point that the decrees were carefully worded to make room for everyone there – except the Reformation.

    Curate,

    Now this is a very interesting issue. I spent a little time on one of the Catholic blogs with some nice RC’s who were talking about how the concept of justification by faith alone was something invented by Luther. So I asked them to tell me just how much development there had been on justification, on the relationship between faith and works and grace and free will, between Carthage (early 5th century) and Trent. This was sort of a trick question since there was no development and at the end of the Medieval era there was a huge degree of latitude in the various theologies of justification, all of which were within the pale of Catholic orthodoxy. I think this a genuine surprise for Catholics. There seems to be an assumption that there was essential agreement within the RCC even before Trent on the major issues that divide Protestant and Catholic. But on justification and so many other issues this is just not true. And as you point out, even after Trent there was still quite a degree of latitude of allowable theologies. On justification, this is evidenced by the Thomist/Molinist debate – Semi-Pelagianism is still alive and well in the RCC as it is in Evangelicalism.

  248. Sean said,

    August 21, 2009 at 8:08 am

    Truth Unites.

    And what is the ‘truth’ that you are trying to get me to see? (Let us try to remain in charity here. Calling one another ‘stupid’ isn’t called for)

    Reed Here,

    What question are you referring to?

    I do not believe that schism is repaired by the Church acquiescing to all varying beliefs and practices. This has already been tried. It’s called Unitarianism.

    So, no, I do not believe that schism is repaired by just letting every varying person come to the table and commit sacrilege.

    Reference to another site for answers is more that merely bad netiquette.

    No it isn’t. The issue is not as basic as ‘Truth Unites’ is trying to make it. It is not simply an issue of “Well, golly if the Catholics would just allow everybody else to have their beliefs and accept them unity would be accomplished.” It is also a straw man to suggest that this is what Catholics want.

    Do not waste time posting a comment that at most disparages TU’s screen name – unless of course you make a substantive comment to back it up.

    And no, I do not think you have.

    Maybe I am missing the ‘truth’ that he is trying to get me to see. I am willing to listen.

  249. Todd said,

    August 21, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Sean,

    Do you hold to the doctrine of implicit faith?

    Thanks

  250. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 21, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Sean: “And what is the ‘truth’ that you are trying to get me to see?

    Re-read my previous comments.

    Otherwise, I’ll respond to you much later this evening. I have to go to work. (I wish I could get paid to write comments on blogs!)

    P.S. FWIW, and speaking only for myself, as a conservative 5-Sola Protestant I feel that I have more in common with a devout conservative Roman Catholic and a devout conservative Eastern Orthodox than I do with a liberal mainline Protestant or a liberal emerger.

    Although I hold that RCC’s and EO’s have a marred understanding of following Christ, at least I recognize that they are following a Christ I recognize. I oftentimes cannot say the same thing regarding militant LibProts.

    Pax.

  251. Sean said,

    August 21, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Sorry if I’ve misunderstood your point.

    To me it seemed that your questions were of the ‘Why can’t the Catholic Church just let go of their doctrines’ variety. If that is the case then, no, the Catholic Church will not change its teaching on holy orders (thus those pastors not possessing the sacrament of holy orders cannot consecrate the Eucharist). This also goes for the real presence and other Catholic doctrines that serve as perceived road blocks to unity.

    The Catholic Church abandoning orthodoxy would not result in unity but only confusion.

  252. Reed Here said,

    August 21, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Sean: thanks for the substantive resposnes. It does help advance things.

    I think TU is trying to see your desire for unity, as previously expressed, is too simplistic and in need of some of the refining you’ve offered.

    I’d observe, combining his list of questions (call the case examples at least confounding your affirmation),

    Coupled with your qualifications here,

    Makes your previous confidence in a unification of the branches of the Church this side of eternity rather meaningless.

    E.g., the RCC won’t have unless until the rest of us return to orthodoxy.

    Of course, neither will we have have, until y’all abandon your defects from orthodoxy and return to it.

    So we’re back to square one.

  253. GLW Johnson said,

    August 21, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Curate
    Actually, Trent did exclude a lot more than the Reformation in its canons .The Augustinian Bishop Michel de Bay ( Baius) was briefly in attendance at Trent but was not allowed to have any say and left in disgust. He , along with the likes of Cornelius Jansen (Jansenius), were later condemned as heretics.Regretfully, individuals like John Armstrong are now whitewashing all of this in the name of ‘being catholic’ and establishing ‘unity’ among all Christians and have no reluntance about putting the Reformers and the Reformation in the dock to accomplish this..

  254. Sean said,

    August 21, 2009 at 9:25 am

    What is an “Augustinian Bishop?”

  255. GLW Johnson said,

    August 21, 2009 at 9:32 am

    That is how Baius is described by the noted 19th. cent. German historian Leopold von Ranke in his masterful three volume work ‘The History of The Popes’ ( see esp. vol.1, pp.136-142)

  256. Zrim said,

    August 21, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Sean,

    The issue is not as basic as ‘Truth Unites’ is trying to make it. It is not simply an issue of “Well, golly if the Catholics would just allow everybody else to have their beliefs and accept them unity would be accomplished.” It is also a straw man to suggest that this is what Catholics want.

    Do you think it’s fair to say that a project like Called to Communion is really about everyone coming home to Rome? That is the sense I certainly have. The way I see it, there are really two options: 1) an ongoing “village green” dialogue that is not naive about the essential differences and actually sees the uber-value of everyone staying put and girding the loins of his tradition, or 2) each calling the other to repentance.

    I can live with both happening at the same time but in different venues, but what I don’t understand is the second option masquerading as the first. If Romanists want Genevanists to come home, just say so, but don’t collapse the two options and patronize us that this is all about unity.

  257. Sean said,

    August 21, 2009 at 9:44 am

    What does von Ranke say about Baius’ Pelagian teaching?

    Sources I’ve consulted indentify Bainism with a mix of Pelagianism, Calvinism and even Socinianism.

  258. Sean said,

    August 21, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Zrim,

    I don’t think its any secret that those who have sought the Church that Christ founded and identified it as the Holy Catholic Church believe that the only cure for schism is being in communion with the Catholic Church.

    Here is the description of Called to Communion.

  259. GLW Johnson said,

    August 21, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Sean
    What sources are you referring to?

  260. August 21, 2009 at 10:13 am

    TU #233

    No in fact the Orthodox do not recognize Rome’s orders as “valid” since “validity” is a function of the church and Rome is not in communion with the Church. So that line of reasoning seems to fall flat.

  261. Sean said,

    August 21, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Henri de Lubac in “Augustinianism and Modern Theology” treats Bainism in detail or for a quicker picture the Catholic Encyclopedia.

  262. Sean said,

    August 21, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Perry,

    Your expressions that Rome is not in communion with the Church is a particular one and definately not any sort of official orthodox view. I have read plenty orthodox sources and know many orthordox christians and none of them believe that Rome does not posses valid orders.

    Here is a homily delivered by the Patriarch of Constantinople with Benedict 16th in 2008.

    And we have come to you “with the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:29), returning the honor and love, celebrating with our beloved brother in the land of the West, “the certain and inspired heralds, the coryphaei of the disciples of the Lord,” the holy apostles Peter, brother of Andrew, and Paul — these two great, central pillars of the whole Church stretched out toward heaven, which, in this historic city, also offered the ultimate shining confession of Christ and gave their souls to the Lord here through martyrdom, one on the cross and the other by the sword, and thus sanctified this city.

    The theological dialogue between our Churches “in faith, truth and love,” thanks to divine help, goes forward despite the considerable difficulties that exist and the well-known problems. We truly desire and fervently pray that these difficulties will be overcome and that the problems will disappear as soon as possible so that we may reach the desired final goal for the glory of God.

  263. Sean said,

    August 21, 2009 at 10:34 am

    I mean, how is the Pope the first among equals as agreed by Roman and Orthodox representatives if we do not possess valid orders?

    See here.

    In fact the only disagreement in that meeting of note was Russia leaving the meeting in a huff over a territorial dispute with an oriental patriarch.

  264. August 21, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Sean,

    It’d be swell of you to let me speak for my own church. No in fact my position is not atypical. I’d you read for example the response of the Eastern Patriarchs to Leo 13th. http://www.light-n-life.com/shopping/order_product.asp?ProductNum=REPL100

    Second, if the Orthodox are the Church, its a plain fact Rome is not in communion with us.

    Third, Pat Barth is not a pope. You can’t take the statements of one patriarch as reflective or necessarily binding on all Orthodox. Nestorius was Patriarch of Constantinople too.

    Fourth, there is nothing in what you cited that says that Rome has valid orders. He simply reherses the past facts about Peter and Andrew. Calling the pope our “beloved brother” isn’t a recognition of valid orders any more than it is when said with Pope Shenouda of the Copts.

    Fifth, the pope WAS primus inter pares.

    Sixth, you can find the same opinion in more moderate theologians like Florovksy.

    Seventh, it is the same Pat Barth that said of Rome that we are “ontologically different.”

  265. August 21, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Andrew M,

    When I say that one has placed oneself as a judge of the church I had an idea in mind and a distinction between that and another concept. So let me try to clarify. It seems to me it is on kind of thing to try and find out the truth about something and to in fact come to know it. That everyone does. It also seems true that in doing so, one doesn’t have to be infallible to know things, at least in general. So to know that Jesus is messiah or that this or that is the society he founded or that this or that is the right interpretation doesn’t require infallibility. That is one kind of judgmental positional.

    Another kind of position is that of making judgments that are normative beyond those of simply knowing. So take for example the council in Acts 15. Were they doing the first or the second? In part there’s was a fact finding mission, but on top of that they were doing something more. Their decision first settled a matter definitively. Second, it promulgated something as divine teaching, which made it obligatory on others regardless whether those so obligated met the conditions on knowledge or not. Here the normativity is beyond that of just getting the right answer. A math text may be inerrant but not infallible and can’t bind one’s conscience to assent to it unless the person knows that the answers that it gives are correct. Such is not the case with God. I am obligated to believe God even if I don’t know what God says is true or not.

    Consequently, from my perspective Protestants set themselves up as judges in the second way, making judgments beyond matters of fact. If this weren’t the case, then Calvin, Luther, et al wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. Individual judgment can trump the ecclesiastical so that the latter is really derivative from the former. Or to put it in taxonomic terms, the universal is constructed from the particulars.

    When I make judgments as to which is the true church and such I am only trying to meet the conditions on knowledge and not to meet the conditions on making theologically normative statements. So there is a two tier model here of judgment. Consequently, I am not trying the same tact on you since it isn’t clear to me that the differences I pointed out above have been grasped.

    I am familiar with Reformation history and the preceding Scholastic period. I used to be Reformed. In any case to speak of “two branches” borders at best on question begging. I am not convinced that some priests and a mess of laymen challenging the church constitute a “branch.” And the reason why is that the Father sends the Son and the Son sends the Apostles and so forth. Sending precedes the message. Sending doesn’t come from the people, but from the apostolic ministry. You may not agree, but when I read the Bible, that is the way it seems to me and I can only report on the way things seem to me.

    It may be true that the medieval body in the west was different significantly from the early church. But it is also true that it is significantly different than the Reformation bodies. When I read Ignatius, Clement, Hippolytus, Ireneaus, Theophiliius or Justin, I don’t think Calvin. When I read abut the offering of basil, olives, etc. or read the Eucharistic rites, facing East, etc.it looks pretty much what I see every Sunday.

    Granted, there are different levels of divine guidance so we would need to flesh out the respective reasons for thinking it was this or that level. One of my reasons for thinking that the divine guidance is greater than what you take to be the case is that the canon is not revisable, which seems so on Protestant principles. Another we can tease out by a thought experiment. Suppose that there is some possible world that God could have created and most of the history up till the time of Christ is relevantly similar or identical. But then after the establishment of the church, things go terribly wrong. So much so that at a given point and for a significant period of time due to massive persecution and gross pervasive heterodoxy there is only one true Christian left with the gospel. So is it possible, putting questions of perseverance aside for the moment, for that person to have a false gospel? If not, why not?

    Here I am not being speculative but giving a thought experiment to pump your biblically informed inuitions.

    And taking decisions of councils as infallible doesn’t amount to the claim that they are materially inspired. The councils make a sufficiently clear distinction between the biblical writings and infallible decrees.

    As for the “Western church” that depends on what that term means. Do you mean before or after the schism? If before I don’t think infallibility as a divine power was limited to eastern geography. In fact, quite the opposite. After the schism, from my perspective, there is no “western church” but a co-opted structure by the Franks with new theology alien to the apostolic deposit.

    In any case, I am not sure how any of this really moves the ball down the field to answer the question of the thread. How does one determine if the lens one is using is correct?

  266. Todd said,

    August 21, 2009 at 11:38 am

    “In any case, I am not sure how any of this really moves the ball down the field to answer the question of the thread. How does one determine if the lens one is using is correct?”

    Or maybe an equally important question – can the reading of Scripture change the lens by which you read the Scriptures?

  267. August 21, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Curate,

    I am not sure I buy the “overwhelming agreement” among Protestants. Take Baptism and the Eucharist, and Church polity. Between the Reformed, Lutherans and the Baptists, do they agree here? And isn’t rightly administering the sacraments and church order part of the marks of the church such that there is a lack of recognition form one group to the other that they are a true visible church. You’d think that after 500 years of using the same text there’d be theological convergence on baptism, the eucharist and church gov’t. Why hasn’t more bible reading solved that problem? Must be a “lens” thing.

    And if there is such an overwhelming agreement, why do they not have communion one with another? In the scriptures the mark of full and genuine unity is sharing the eucharist, which is why you don’t even eat regular meals with apostates.

    As for a lack of biblical citations in my posts, I figured that among those well read in the Scriptures I wouldn’t have to play the “See Jesus Run” game of biblical citation to prove a point. I assume that those familiar with the bible will recognize allusions to biblical texts and dependence on biblical principles when they see them.

  268. August 21, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Todd,

    Good question. If it could, why do we ned a lens? If it can’t, we are back to the original question, aren’t we?

    For the first option, this would mean that our methodologies for exegeting scripture would seem to be theory neutral with respect to Jesus, indicating that there are some facts that have meaning apart form Jesus. That seems problematic.

  269. curate said,

    August 21, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    No. 267. Perry: On Protestant agreement, get yourself copies of the Reformation Confessions, and compare them yourself. Read also Merle D’Aubigne’s famous books, and Bishop Jewel’s Apology of the Church of England.

    As for taking Communion, I am able to walk into any Protestant Church and be offered the elements. My parish church here in Dorset would do so, as would just about any other denominational church, including the Lutherans since the Porvoo thing. The Independents would too.

    In short, we do indeed have communion with one another.

    I would not think about taking Communion in a RCC or EO church for the usual reasons. Both Rome and the East have erred in matters of faith as well as morals, as the Articles say. Until they repent of their works righteousness and depend upon the cross alone for forgiveness, they cannot be accepted as faithful Christians.

    We maintain that a man is justified by faith alone, apart from the law, and that anyone who bows to a statue or a picture for religious reasons, to help them in their salvation, is an idolator.

    As for the Baptists, unlike our hosts here, I agree with the Reformers that they are not Protestants.

  270. Sean said,

    August 21, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Perry.

    I’d like to ask, which infallible church council teaches that the Roman Catholic Church does not possess valid orders?

    Here is the Greek Orthodox Church in America’s website on the question of Papal Primacy. Even asking these questions would be impossible if the Roman Catholic Church were not a true church and did not possess a valid priesthood.

    Can you imagine the Orthodox trying to convene an ecumenical council without the Bishop of Rome? Impossible. But you say there is no Bishop of Rome by virtue of saying that we lack valid orders.

    Furher, many of the Orthodox churches are not in communion with one another. Do all of them claim to be the only true church and that only their sacraments are valid? I know a Coptic Christian. His church would not accept Greek Orthodox baptisms. Chaos.

  271. Todd said,

    August 21, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Perry,

    I think Scripture is the lens by which we interpret Scripture. I am disagreeing with Lane’s original post. It’s not that we come to the Scriptures neutral, but that Scripture changes our presuppositions. All sides in this debate begin with Scripture. The RC’s see Scripture supporting their view of the church and her authority, especially in Matt 16. The problem is not with any pre-concieved lens, the problem is in the right or wrong intrepretation of Scripture. Confessions, history, science, personal experience, etc…all cause us to reexamine our understanding of Scripture, but ultimately Scripture becomes the lens of our understanding, even as our understanding grows through examining Scripture.

    Now there is the moral question – are you approaching a text trying to understand God’s truth, and are you admitting your weakness, your need for Christians to help you past and present, your need for salvation, etc…or are you studying for a less noble reason with arrogance, and those are important questions, but probably not for this discussion.

  272. August 21, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    John B,

    I agree that God can and does give understanding, but obviously he isn’t giving it out on an equal basis. Secondly, there is no method to detect God’s giving of understanding so appeals to subjective gifts don’t seem to help here. So again, we are back to how clear is the mind of the judge?

    I do consider God to speak to us in a language we can understand. Quantum physics is also in a language humans can understand, but most can’t understand Quantum physics. Furthermore, which is clearer, biblical language on the divinity of Christ or the Nicene term “homousious?” If the former, why the need for the term at all? If the latter, then how perspicuous is Scripture as to the *exact* relationship between the Son and the Father?

    Third, I’ll see your Augustine and raise you a Peter. 2 Pet 3:16.

    Fourth the authors of Scripture also communicate things about God, the Trinity, the two natures, two wills of Christ, and lots of other stuff that is quite hard to understand. Even clearly stated propositions can be hard to understand. You seem to conflate ease of understanding with clarity.

    I cited Ockham as the source of the major theological structure of Protestantism. Certainly there are modifications made, but the over all system seems to me to be the same. Consequently Sola Fide seems to be a product of late scholasticism. See Carlson, Justification in Earlier Medieval Theology, & Dempsey, Justification in late Medieval Preaching.

    As for the Reformers being fallible men, certainly plenty of Reformed folk I know act as if it isn’t true. They act as if the formulations are beyond possible revision, as if there is no possible way Reformed doctrines could be wrong. That seems out of place given their commitments. What seems warranted is rather a far more conservative attitude recognizing that it is a human reconstruction and therefore the best approximation, so far, rather than talking to people as if they are dead wrong with no possibility of things being otherwise.

    If the writers of the confessions were very much in tune with what God has made clear in the Scriptures, why in some cases would political power be needed to remove those who disagreed? Second if they were so in tune, obviously they were not sufficiently well in tune to agree on things like baptism, the eucharist and church polity.

    It wasn’t just that Rome edited the Creed unilaterally, but that Rome changed the doctrine of the Trinity. You’d think of all the things to protest, changing the doctrine of the Trinity in a major way would be something Protestants would be up in arms about, but they aren’t. They simply lap up Roman arguments with little or no serious exegesis. Why is that?

    So the filioque is theological speculation? If so, why do the Reformed profess and require their ministers to profess and teach “theological speculation” at the level of dogma? You’d think that after five hundred years of biblical exegesis that they’d figure this out. But they ignore it and just keep on teaching it. Why? Because its their tradition, unbiblical as it is. It’s a ”lens” thing I suppose. So its less important to take a stand on the right doctrine of the Trinity?! Got it.

    I have no idea of what you think the “real church of the East” amounts to. It seems far too convenient for you to ignore the Filioque as a serious issue when you seem to feel free to press Catholics and others for express biblical justification for their doctrines. That seems like special pleading. Frankly I think you’re being inconsistent with Sola Scriptura.

    I don’t see how there is a difference given that Catholic tradition is “out there” too.

    The issue really isn’t if dikiao means what Protestants say it means. The issue is the ground for the declaration, in the soul or in a created effect, namely label applied to the agent? And what do you think Horton means when he says that justification is causal and transformative? Sure there’s a way to move forward, you can attack the first level judgments. Isn’t that what you have been trying to do? Secondly, you could try an internal critique rather than an external one. And this is more to the point.

    You seem to think that the Catholic or in my case Orthodox position is incapable of falsification based on our own premises. No matter what facts you throw at us we either will not accept them as facts or interpret them differently according to our presuppositions. This I think betrays a fundamental misunderstanding on your part since you think that there are neutral facts one can appeal to ascertained by neutral methodologies and build up one’s theology from there in an incrementalist fashion. The facts will discriminate between models showing which one is true and which is false.

    This is a mistake. There are no neutral facts out there to be interpreted, linguistic or otherwise. And there are no theological models built up from disparate verses via an exegetical method that doesn’t presuppose the view it arrives it. This is why even the Reformed view is incapable of falsification in this way. Consequently the problem you pose for Catholics or Orthodox like myself, is actually a problem for your position. Unless of course you think Kuyper, Van Til and Bahnsen are wrong.

    I already responded to Hays http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/more-jedi-mind-tricks/

    White makes a claim about God and free will that the teaching is biblical and he has not stepped forward to show that it is so. Nor has he referenced any works giving a case that God has the libertarian free will he thinks God enjoys. Nor has Steve or anyone else done so.

    And deserve an answer? White claims the Bible teaches something and he isn’t held to account because I supposedly don’t deserve an answer? Do only fellow Calvinists deserve an answer?

    History, linguistic scholarship, et al aren’t theory neutral an so won’t give us the reasons independent of the system to tell us if the lens we are using is correct, even if the conclusions are. No more so than history and more scientific study will tell us if something works for the reasons we think it does. False models can work quite well, que Newton’s physics.

    As for Hays’ question, all authoritative interpretations, and here I am supposing those made by God are correct, but not all correct ones are authoritative. The former can bind my conscience in a way the latter doesn’t. As I pointed out above, the difference is normative. Is it the Reformed contention that truth and authority are identical? Or that their confessions are true but not normative? Or that there is no difference between a situation where in I hear a truth uttered by God and one found in a Math text? Am I obligated to believe both with the same degree of normativity? That seems awfully reductionistic and naturalistic.

    Again, I am not sure how we logically get from, all scholars agree that x term in a natural language means y, to the fact that it is so. Perhaps you could give me the logically premised argument to show that it is so.

    What are we to do when 100% of the archaeological community says the Bible is wrong and such and so civilization didn’t exist? Are we to appeal to some mysterious sense of inspiration and an infallible authority that says “nu uh, because we say so.?”

  273. Richard said,

    August 21, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Curate: I’d be careful in painting a picture of unity within evangelicalism where there clearly isn’t any and as your own comments portray, i.e. by removing large swaths of godly men and women from being Protestant because of your misunderstanding of the Reformer’s arguments – the Baptists of Calvin’s day are far removed from the Baptists of today especially in the BUGB and numerous FIEC assemblies.

    You may be able to take communion in the churches you mention but they all differ on their understanding of communion which seems to be Perry’s point. Even within the evangelical wing of the CofE there are disagreements over who can partake, when and what happens!

  274. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 21, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Perry:

    What is your opinion of the works of Adrian Fortascue?

  275. August 21, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Curate,

    I used to be Reformed, I own plenty of copies of Reformation texts. I also used to be Anglican so I am familiar with Jewel as well.

    So the LCMS is in communion with the PCA and the OPC and the Dutch too? That’s news to me. Where is the official document indicating that they are now in full communion?

    To cut off the Baptists from Protestantism, is just the point.

  276. Sean said,

    August 21, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Perry.

    I think your zeal is getting the better of you.

    The filioque is not even Catholic dogma. Millions of Eastern Catholics in full communion with Rome recite the Creed sans filioque during every mass.

  277. August 21, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Sean,

    Try the 8th Ecumenical Council of 880 which anathematizes those who alter the creed with the Filioque. This was accepted by Rome until 1014. Second the synod of Blachernae also condemned the Filioque and then we have the Palamite synods, which are also authoritative. Heretics outside the church do not posses valid orders. And this highlights another difference. Since you claim to be informed about Orthodox theology, when a priest is ordained, if he leaves the church, on Orthodox teaching, is he still a priest?

    Second, I’ve read the statement on the GOARCH website and I fail to see how statements made about or by or recommendations by theological consultations amount to official teaching since this isn’t even true of Rome. But perhaps you had this citation in mind?

    “If primacy is defined as a form of power, then we encounter the question of whether in the Orthodox church there is a power superior to that of a bishop, i.e., a power over the bishop, and hence the church of which he is head. Theologically and ecclesiologically the answer must be an unconditional no: there is no power over the bishop and his church. In the canonical and historical life of the Church, however, such supreme power not only exists but is conceived as the foundation of the Church; it is the basis of its canonical system”

    Or maybe this one,

    “We must understand the universal primacy of the Roman Church similarly. Based on Christian Tradition, it is possible to affirm the validity of the church of Rome’s claims of universal primacy. Orthodox theology, however, objects to the identification of this primacy as “supreme power” transforming Rome into the principium radix et origio of the unity of the Church and of the Church itself.”

    Secondly, nothing in that statement affirms the validity of Roman orders. Secondly, Roman Catholics accepted into the Orthodox Church would not need to renounce Catholicism and be chrismated upon reception making their baptism valid at that time and not before if Rome had valid orders.

    And I agree, asking the question wouldn’t even be possible on Roman principles if Rome did not have a valid priesthood, but that isn’t the question.

    As for councils, the fifth council excommunicated a sitting pope, after he made a supposedly “irreformable” judgment. Then the synod decreed infallibly in its horos or sentence, on both our principles, that no Apostle and no bishop required the judgment of any other in the execution of their work. This was obviously directed to Vigilius. So they had a valid council without the Pope. Next, more than one see is Petrine-Antioch and Alexandria, which was Rome’s basis for objecting to canon 28 of Chalcedon and not papal prerogatives as such.

    I think you refer to the Non-Chalcedonians and so that really isn’t a counter example. True, the Copts don’t accept Roman baptisms either. And we don’t accept theirs accept by economia via Chrismation and renunciation. And even if there were Chalcedonian bodies not in communion with each other, this has been the case off and on with or without Rome.

    Lastly, in posing these questions to me, you are supposing that I haven’t thought about this before. I have read a good amount of Catholic theology. I have read Catholic apologetics against Orthodoxy. But few and far between are the Catholics that have reciprocated. In short, just as with the Reformed here, I know where they are going to go before they go there and the same is true here.

  278. Kevin said,

    August 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Re 235 Curate said

    No. 228. Kevin B: Yes as plain as the beatitudes, and the account of the rich man. Also as plain as James’s teaching that a living faith obeys God’s law.

    OK, Good. Then we can agree that, all of grace, by faith in the redemptive work of the risen Christ we are forgiven, and living in faithful obedience to Christ we inherit eternal life. Excellent!

    You were right when you said:

    Again, the Bible is not written in an inaccessible code known only to the Pope. It is very plain on most things, so much so that even a child can understand what he needs to know for salvation.

    Blessings and peace.

    KB

  279. August 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Todd,

    If we aren’t neutral, then what lens do we bring to scripture? And won’t we interpet the scriptural data according to that lens or does scripture constitute a brute fact?

    All sides begin with Scripture? I am not covinced of that. Did the Apostles or did they start from their commissioning? How can they hear unless someone sends a preacher?

    Events and such may cause us to re-evaluate our presuppositions,but this is a matter of personal agency and not then a matter of principle.

  280. Todd said,

    August 21, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Perry,

    When we receive the good news from Scripture of the gospel, whether from reading or hearing it preached, our lens by which we see the world changes. Scripture has given us a whole new lens. Scripture creates the lens for the believer from that point on.

  281. August 21, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Then why do not all believers agree?

    And I am not sure how plausible it is to think that regeneration gives us a specific theological model as a lens.

  282. Todd said,

    August 21, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Perry,

    Believers all agree on the very basics or they would not be believers. They will all agree in heaven. I did not say regeneration gives us a model, but the truths of Scripture give us the lens to understand more Scripture. Regeneration opens our eyes to accept the truths of Scripture concerning the gospel. We do not all agree now because our understanding is tainted with sin and weakness, and we learn slowly. My basic point is still – a lens does not change our interpretation of Scripture, but the opposite.

  283. August 21, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Todd,

    I am afraid they don’t agree on the basics or even what the basics are. IS sola fide a “basic?” How about the Trinity? The Orthodox don’t even accept a Filioquist model of the Trinity to be Trinitarian. How about baptism? How about whether Jesus had two wills or one, or better yet, two energies or one?

  284. curate said,

    August 21, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    No. 273. Richard said: I’d be careful in painting a picture of unity within evangelicalism where there clearly isn’t any … EOQ.

    I never used the word evangelicalism. I used the word – Protestant – in its historical sense. I suppose there is a usage that says Protestantism is Christianity that is neither RCC nor EO, but I am using the word in its original sense.

    Originally Baptists and Anabaptists were not recognized by the Reformed Churches as Protestants. They were seen as being hostile to biblical grace, just like Rome was and is.

    Baptists overwhelmingly believe in salvation by works (free will), and they deny the sacramental means of grace, meaning sacramentally conveying the realities that the signs signify. They do not recognize our baptisms at all, which means that they do not recognize our Christianity, and they do not recognize us individually as believers until we are re-baptized.

    Evangelicalism is overwhelmingly a baptistic phenomenon, which is why I do not use the term for myself. I do not deny that many evangelicals are godly, just as I do not deny that there are many true believers within the RCC. But that does not nullify the facts.

  285. August 21, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Bellermine,

    Not much. See Adrian Fortescue and the Eastern Christian Churches, 2007,by AnthonyDragani.

  286. curate said,

    August 21, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    No. 278. Kevin B: Grace to you too.

  287. August 21, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Sean,

    I think you wrongly infer from the fact that some Eastern Rite bodies are not currently required to say the creed that it is not dogma. I’d go read the Council of Florence for starters. I’d also check Allatae Sunt.

    http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2009/06/13/an-imposition/

    Is there anything in the Nicene Creed which is not dogma? And canyou point me to an official statement of the Magisterium that says the Filioque contra Florence isn’t dogma?

    Zeal or the lack of it is irrelvant to the arguments I make. Its funny and not a bit that when I was arguing against Protestants earlier you thanked me for my cogent arguments. But now that the shoe is on the other foot, somehow my “zeal” gets the better of me.

    As for the Orthodox agreeing supposedly that the current sitting pope is primus inter pares, please notice the language of the document you refeered to.

    “In a reintegrated Christendom, when the pope takes his place once more as primus inter pares within the Orthodox Catholic communion, the bishop of Rome will have the initiative to summon a synod of the whole Church.”

    Are we in a reintergrated Christendom now? No. Has the pope taken his place “once more as primus inter pares?” No. Hence he isn’t primus inter pares now.

    Where there is not the right faith, there can be no gaurantee of sacramental validity and hence a lack of valid orders.

  288. Todd said,

    August 21, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Perry,

    A believer, to be a believer, must believe *something.* We may use different terms, I’m using the term “believer” in the sense of a sinner saved by Jesus through faith. All true believers agree that they are sinners saved by the cross of Christ. Scripture is that clear. If you use a lens by which you interpret Scripture, what is that lens?

  289. August 21, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Todd,

    That assumes that we mean the same thing when we use the same term. I don’t think we do anymore than when an atheist says its “wrong”to commit murder and a Christians says its “wrong” to commit murder that they mean the same thing in using the term “wrong.” They don’t.

    What was the lens the Apostles used to interpret the OT?

  290. Paige Britton said,

    August 21, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Todd, do you think there is a difference between what you call a “lens” and what one might call an “organizing principle (or system)” (which we have been calling a “lens” in this discussion)?

    So that the “lens” (as you mean it) is what is created in us because of the work of the Spirit and the Word, at conversion and thereafter, to give us the heart to “humbly accept the word planted in us” (Jas 1:21), and thus be willingly shaped in our thinking by God’s point of view (from Scripture)? We might call it new sight, seeing with new eyes, beginning with the acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.

    And the “organizing principle” (or system) comes later, with the accumulation of understanding gained from learning the Scripture, so that it is a cumulative statement of what we believe the Scripture-shaped “lens” affirms?

    Because if there could be such a distinction made, then Lane’s original idea is really about which *organizing system* we are using, which would maybe helpfully reinforce the idea of derivative distance from Scripture as well as being about something that is cumulative and systematic in nature, and at least in some way influenced by personal experience and church instruction.

    Then the differences we see between “organizing systems,” wherever we find these among *true* believers across the spectrum, would also stand at a distance from the original “lens” of faith that even the simplest and most uniformed believer has been given by the Word & the Spirit.

    So as long as we have that original lens, we are doing well: then just comes the hard work of putting it all together, and making distinctions and value judgments between organizing systems.

    Am I close to making sense?

  291. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 21, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Where there is not the right faith, there can be no gaurantee of sacramental validity and hence a lack of valid orders. (#287)

    This is yet another important point at which Orthodox and Reformed ecclesiologies begin to resemble one another. I would love to see greater dialogue between those parties along these lines.

    Also, on a related note, it should be noted that the Orthodox churches are not of one accord on the subject of ecumenism. For example: There is a wide gulf between the words and deeds of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the opinions of monks of Mount Athos, which opinions carry a lot of weight in some EO communities.

    Keeping on with that related note: Zrim made some interesting comments (#256) about the modus operendi of ecumenical dialogue at Called to Communion (www.calledtocommunion.com).

    He gives us two options of engagement. His first option is repugnant to unity. His second option is repugnant to dialogue. And those are supposed to be our options.

    There is a third option: to offer reasoned arguments for one’s own position, reasoned critiques of contrary positions, and invite all reasonable people to return the favor. If this involves an incipient call to repentance, so be it. After all, ideas have consequences.

    CTC is certainly not short on ideas and arguments, even if they are not always great ideas or good arguments. If Zrim thinks that any of these ideas are false, or arguments fallcious, he is welcome to make any number of his own arguments to that effect. But recommending a false dilemma as the options for dialogue and then accusing CTC of patronizing on that (faulty) basis simply smacks of obscurantism.

  292. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 21, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Perry,

    Have you read anything by Don John Chapman?

  293. Todd said,

    August 21, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    “What was the lens the Apostles used to interpret the OT?”

    The words of the risen Christ illuminated by the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:27)

  294. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 21, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Perry,

    Yes, the Reformers were indeed stating something that was normative. Like the RC and EO, they held councils and they made pronouncements as the Church. But it’s not like their writings were a reflection of their individual theological tastes. They were acting as the Church. In some geographies such as England, Germany and France they were the dominant Church. In other countries like Italy and France they were not. It was not just a “few priests,” it was THE Church in many locations. So when we talk with our Catholic friends here they want to tell us that the Protestants were acting as individuals and rejecting THE Church but really what the Protestants were rejecting was the peculiarities of the system of Roman ecclesiology.

    So on your Acts 15 example, yes I would agree thatthe Apostles were setting normative doctrine. We don’t know everything that happened at that council but we do know that they settled certain matters concerning the Gentiles. We know about that council what the Holy Spirit wants us to know about it through the Scriptures. So Acts 15 teaches us something infallible because the Holy Spirit tells us what happened. The infallibility originates from God, not because it was a council. So if later extra-biblical councils were meant to be infallible and their pronouncements did not come by the inspiration of God, then how would we know if they were infallible?

    We don’t hold that the canon is revisable. There is a necessary connection between inspiration and canonization. We don’t see that it is logically possible to have one without the other. God did not inspire the books and then leave it up to fallible man to assure that they came together correctly. It’s all God’s work special and peculiar work, inspiration and canonization. And on a practical note, I would add that I know of no Evangelical denomination that has brought any part of the canon into question (RC and EO versions of the Apocrypha aside).

    Not sure about where you “thought experiment” is going. I guess my answer would be that God would never allow His Church to disappear from the earth.

    As for the “Western church” that depends on what that term means. Do you mean before or after the schism? If before I don’t think infallibility as a divine power was limited to eastern geography. In fact, quite the opposite. After the schism, from my perspective, there is no “western church” but a co-opted structure by the Franks with new theology alien to the apostolic deposit.

    OK, so I will revise what I said earlier – you hold that after the initial papal schisms and after the Roman bishop began to claim a special functional authority (quite early in the history of the Church) the bishops in the West lost any claim to speak for the Church and only the EO bishops stayed true to the historic Christian faith. Fair enough?

    Concerning the Protestants and their communions, I do know of some Lutheran denominations who won’t allow us to take communion (although the rest of would allow them to take communion in our churches) because of our denial of the real physical presence of Christ. No doubt there are other separatist sects in the Evangelical world. But I think the problem is more one of the Evangelical Protestants being too loose in who they allow to the table. This low church, just believe in Jesus and come to the table sort of philosophy is much more prevalent than the idea than a congregation should accept only those of their denomination to the table. I have for instance taken communion in a number of Anglican congregations, some quite Reformed, others not so much. We are all part of Christ’s church so why would I be refused?

  295. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 21, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    In my first paragraph about it should read “England, Germany and Switzerland….

    And on the issue of what lens to use, I would first say that in the history of Medieval thought the Scholastics had lost the sense of the Augustinian concept of the Scripture being superior to the words of the bishops and councils. The Reformation concept of putting the Bible back into the center of theological discourse was truly a new (to that era) lens with which to look at Christian theology.

    And I would add for us discussing these matters today, the we all have credal and confessional lenses. We have to try them on, so as to speak, to see if they make sense of the data out there. If they don’t then we have to rethink our foundational theological and philosophical commitments. I know that sounds glib and it is I suppose….

  296. August 21, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    Bellermine,

    I am not sure why you are asking me thse bibliographic questions. I make a point to seek out and read the best literature from the other side. Yes I have read some of Chapman’s stuff along with Jugie, Journet and other Catholic authors. As Patton said to Rommel, “I’ve read your book!”

    Have you read Golitzen? Or how about Maximus’ Disputation with Pyrrus? Or how about Mark of Ephesus four volume refutation of the Filioque? How about Photius Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit?

    What’s your point?

  297. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Perry and all — I’ve mentioned “The Church of the East” as distinct from Eastern Orthodoxy. The following description is from Samuel Hugh Moffett, “A History of Christianity in Asia”. Moffett is a mainstream Reformed theologian:

    What finally divided the early church, East from West, Asia from Europe, was neither war nor persecution, but the blight of a violent theological controversy, that raged through the Mediterranean world in the second quarter of the fifth century. It came to be called the Nestorian controversy, and how much of it was theological and how much political is still being debated, but it irreversibly split the church not only east and west but also northa nd south and cracked it into so many pieces that it was never the same again. Out of it came an ill-fitting name for the church in non-Roman Asia, “Nestorian.” (169)

    Philip Jenkins, “A History of Lost Christianity,” notes that during the lifetime of the patriarch Timothy of Seleucia, around 800 ad, “more than a quarter of the world’s Christians” looked to him as their spiritual head. Jenkins points to a time when these churches had 19 “metropolitans” when England had two; more than 300 bishops, at a time England had only 25 bishops. These were largely located in modern day Iran and Iraq, but stretched as far as Afghanistan, India, and even China.

    I can’t find it right now, but I believe he said there were 21 million Christians in these lands at one point (which was far in excess of the populations of western and eastern Europe combined at the time). [And to dismiss this number as "Nestorian heretics" is "unconscionable" he says.] This was the church that, before the council of Ephesus, suffered persecutions and martyrdom far more severe and greater in numbers than Christians in the Roman empire suffered prior to 313 ad. Moffett:

    One estimate is that as many as 190,000 Persian Christians died in the terror. It was worse than anything suffered in the West under Rome, yet the number of apostasies seemed to be fewer in Persia than in the West, which is a remarkable tribute to the steady courage of Asia’s early Christians. (145)

    As for Nestorius’s own theology, Moffett cites Grillmeier as saying, the fault “if there is one,” was that he “failed to take the church’s ancient tradition of the communicatio idiomatum seriously enough.”

    Loofs and Pelikan both say that Chalcedon “vindicated” Nestorius, though the later councils moved in a direction away from him. He could not and should not be faulted for that. And in fact, the Reformed do not accept those councils.

    Moreso, to cut off the churches that bore the name “Nestorian” for that reason was, and I would agree, “unconscionable.”

    Moffett says his “prosopon” formulation was weak theology, but not heretical.

    These hugely mistreated “Nestorian” Christians will greet us in heaven when we get there. I would heartily recommend Moffett’s work to anyone interested in understanding what our role is in the grand sweep of history, as well as, just how small and boastful the “infallible” claims are of Rome and Constantinople.

  298. curate said,

    August 22, 2009 at 12:33 am

    No. 295. Andrew McC: You make a true point that the EO and RCC have a mental habit of accusing Proddys of expressing a mere private judgement. Thanks for pointing out that the Reformation Churches were acting as national churches, not groups of arbitrary individuals.

    The English BCPs and Articles were approved by King, Parliament, and Synod, IOW the entire nation assembled in the persons of their leaders. Ditto for Germany, Scotland, etc.

  299. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 12:35 am

    My reason for bringing this up is because it shifts the center of gravity of the early church far, far away from Rome. Rome likes to begin with Peter, and and an unbroken succession; now they are claiming “development” of the papacy (officially, this is so). But the sheer size of the “churches of asia” which paid absolutely no mind to Peter and Rome make Rome’s claims to authority in the early church look both boastful and provincial.

  300. curate said,

    August 22, 2009 at 12:51 am

    Here is my stab at expressing a scriptural lens for reading scripture, and also for identifying a true church of Christ.

    The interpreting rule has got to be the gospel, nothing more or less. The gospel is the account of the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, session, and Parousia of the Lord Jesus, the Christ – with its authorized apostolic interpretation.

    Here is the interpretation: The Lord Jesus was incarnate for us men and for our salvation.

    That same salvation is by pure grace, a free gift, by undeserved mercy, purchased by the cross. This gift of salvation is without reference to human works of any kind, as the apostle Paul teaches us in many unambiguous passages.

    It by grace that you are saved, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, lest any man should boast. (Paul the Apostle).

    Any gospel that adds works of any kind to grace is an anti-gospel, and any church that does so is an anti-church.

    Application: works in our day pass by the name of free will, which is simply a way of describing what a man is able to do or work by his own power and ability. To most churches salvation is by free will, helped by grace, which is a contradiction in terms.

    Therefore the RCC and EO churches have erred in setting aside the grace of God by adding works to the cross for forgiveness. Ditto all the once Protestant churches who have abandoned the gospel of free grace, such as those who follow the Billy Graham model of evangelism.

    The true churches of Christ are those Reformed and Lutheran churches who steadfastly cling to the gospel of grace. Outside of this church there is no salvation, since it is there that the gospel is heard and believed, and the sacraments rightly administered – which signs and seals are ordinarily necessary for salvation as means of grace.

    The is the church that is the mother of the faithful, the heavenly Jerusalem.

  301. curate said,

    August 22, 2009 at 12:53 am

    Reed, please fix the italics above. Many thanks.

  302. David Gadbois said,

    August 22, 2009 at 1:14 am

    Perry said if the exegetical method isn’t theory neutral, then it will select a priori and interpret data according to a specific theological model. It still seems to me that you are positing an incrementalist apporach to building up a theological model. I am not sure how that is possible if exegetical methodologies aren’t theory neutral.

    God instills humans with base reasoning faculties to communicate with others and absorb information from outside of ourselves, including texts. This is where we ‘start’, and overtime we can and should become more self-reflective over our method, but grasping the ‘meta’ is not necessary to the practice of interpretation. Many points of scriptural exegesis simply are not philosophically-loaded.

    Now I don’t grant that human reason is ‘neutral’, but when properly functioning it is sufficient, and need not be self-reflective.

  303. Paige Britton said,

    August 22, 2009 at 5:36 am

    Andrew P., #291: You wrote, “There is a third option: to offer reasoned arguments for one’s own position, reasoned critiques of contrary positions, and invite all reasonable people to return the favor. If this involves an incipient call to repentance, so be it. After all, ideas have consequences.”

    This is a fine-sounding ideal to live up to, and you yourself certainly do it well and irenically. But it assumes at the end of the day a Protestant epistemology, no? That is, that ordinary believers can make reasonable value judgments!

    The RCC epistemology that you have explained here in earlier posts would seem to ultimately preclude the apologetic task of persuasion, since any individual’s reasonableness is finally trumped by the teaching of the Church.

  304. Paige Britton said,

    August 22, 2009 at 6:11 am

    I want to revisit what I wrote above a little bit (#290) and connect it with something Andrew M. just said:

    First, to change my terms a little:

    Following Todd, I think he is saying that the “Lens” is, at least originally for any believer, the new sight given by the Spirit via the Word, and reinforced thereby, which creates a predisposition to believe God’s words coupled with initial and subsequent propositional content of the faith. So (briefly), “Lens” = the eyes of faith, opened by Spirit via Word.

    I want to suggest that the (other) “lens” that we all have been talking about here is really an “organizing system,” but I want now to call this the “Map” that we are using to summarize and systematize the data we have collected via the “lens” of faith.

    All of this presupposes the stability & objectivity of texts, the reliability of God’s attempts to communicate to us in writing, and a Protestant epistemology of parity among believers.

    So, here is Andrew M. (#295) on Maps:

    “We all have credal and confessional lenses. We have to try them on, so as to speak, to see if they make sense of the data out there. If they don’t then we have to rethink our foundational theological and philosophical commitments.”

    You know, this discussion has been largely academic and apologetic so far; but I wonder if anybody else has been thinking in practical and pastoral terms, too. Down here among the grass roots I notice that actually only SOME of us have any credal and confessional lenses to speak of. The rest of us have not thought about it much, and are operating with incomplete and unreliable Maps. How many of the people in a Reformed congregation nowadays have been nurtured on the Confessions since infancy? How many more, rather, have wandered in from “outside,” and are still operating with sketchy Maps, now maybe filled out a bit with the Five Points? How long does it take before the content of the WCF becomes internalized enough to be examined and rethought as needed? And are the adults in our congregations being instructed adequately, so that biblical literacy and confessional literacy are brought together to fill out a Map that one can really live by?

    Certainly many Reformed congregations are rich with confessional teaching; I don’t mean to knock what is in place already. But wow, what a huge task, to catch evangelical people up on both Bible and Maps! This is the work that I throw myself into (as I am permitted!). Not a quick or easy task, but a worthy one!

  305. Todd said,

    August 22, 2009 at 8:02 am

    Paige,

    Yes, much is dependent on the meaning of “lens,” but where this comes into play pastorally is that we should not suggest to people that the Confession operates as our Protestant Magisterium. We don’t ask people to adopt the Confession because they need a lens to interpret Scripture, and this is the lens the church has approved, so respect the church and adopt this lens. No, we ask them to adopt the Confession because we can demonstrate to them from the Scriptures how the Confession summarizes the truths of Scripture well. This makes all the difference in the world, especially with people new to the reformed faith. And then we allow Scripture to change their lens by which they view Scripture from that point, with the Confession only as a help and guide.

  306. Bryan Cross said,

    August 22, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Todd,

    No, we ask them to adopt the Confession because we [without a lens] can demonstrate to them from the Scriptures how the Confession summarizes the truths of Scripture well.

    How do you know that you do this with no lens, with no presuppositions, no interpretive paradigm, no implicit philosophical assumptions, etc.? Is it possible to be unaware that one is using a lens? If so, how do you ensure that your ‘lensless demonstration’ is truly lensless?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  307. Todd said,

    August 22, 2009 at 8:58 am

    Bryan,

    Because of David’s point above- God has given us the reasoning ability to understand his revelation to us, and that revelation, with the aid of the Spirit, is sufficiently clear to change any faulty presuppositions we may have brought to the text.

  308. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Bryan — this is where you miss the boat, in that this question forces you to downplay the legitimacy of such things as God’s ability to communicate with us via his Word, and our ability to undertand through such things as Jason mentioned above.

    What is it that functions as an “infallible interpreter” of communications between you and your wife? You are “one flesh,” correct? Yet you manage to communicate face to face. If your marriage is a good one, you communicate seamlessly. This is how Christ communicates with his church.

    Perry mentioned 2 Pet 3:16. This is worth commenting on:

    He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

    If you were genuinely interested in seeing what this verse was saying, you would understand that Paul’s letters arose as a subject “only because they were being distorted by the false teachers, and perhaps the converts of false teachers as well.” (Schreiner, New American Commentary, 396).

    This explains why we are told that some things are ‘hard to understand’ in them. Te term dysnoetos is used of matters that are difficult to interpret. Misinterpretation, however, is inexcusable. The ‘ignorant’ and ‘unstable’ twist the Scriptures, but it is clear that such ignorance and instability were not merely due to lack of instruction. Elsewhere Peter spoke of believers as ‘firmly established’ in the truth (1:2). Furthermore, we are informed that the teachers enticed ‘the unstable’ (2:14). Now we are told that the ‘unstable’ distorted the Pauline writings. Their culpability is evident, for Peter went on to say that they did so ‘to their own destruction.’

    You frame this issue incorrectly. God IS able to communicate via His Word. Rome’s cleverly conceived arguments are merely Satan’s way of “corrupting” and “polluting everything that God has appointed for our salvation.” (Institutes, 4.1.1.)

  309. Zrim said,

    August 22, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Andrew P.,

    Re 291: He [me, Zrim] gives us two options of engagement. His first option is repugnant to unity. His second option is repugnant to dialogue. And those are supposed to be our options.

    There is a third option: to offer reasoned arguments for one’s own position, reasoned critiques of contrary positions, and invite all reasonable people to return the favor. If this involves an incipient call to repentance, so be it. After all, ideas have consequences.

    CTC is certainly not short on ideas and arguments, even if they are not always great ideas or good arguments. If Zrim thinks that any of these ideas are false, or arguments fallcious, he is welcome to make any number of his own arguments to that effect. But recommending a false dilemma as the options for dialogue and then accusing CTC of patronizing on that (faulty) basis simply smacks of obscurantism.

    But the very name, “Called to Communion,” and its stated purpose is to call us to repentance. It is not a village green, like, say, “Green Baggins.” What about “Green Baggins” implies a call to repentance?

  310. Bryan Cross said,

    August 22, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Todd,

    God has given us the reasoning ability to understand his revelation to us, and that revelation, with the aid of the Spirit, is sufficiently clear to change any faulty presuppositions we may have brought to the text.

    Is this statement itself a presupposition, or is it falsifiable? And if it is falsifiable, what would falsify it?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  311. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Bryan: Is this statement itself a presupposition, or is it falsifiable? And if it is falsifiable, what would falsify it?

    You are giving a philosophically-based answer to a question about Scripture.

    I would like to see your response to Schreiner’s exegesis in my post #308

  312. Todd said,

    August 22, 2009 at 9:34 am

    “Is this statement itself a presupposition, or is it falsifiable? And if it is falsifiable, what would falsify it?”

    This statement is not a presupposition, it is in response to the revealed Word. God communicated to us in a book, and in that book we see that we are expected to understand what is communicated in it, with the Spirit opening our eyes and renewing our wills to believe it.

    “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev. 3:22)

    “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt 7:24)

  313. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Bryan, it seems to me that the concept of a lens itself is unhelpful. Or maybe it is.

    First of all, in optics, when you make a glass thicker, it makes it less clear, and adds distortion. (Your interpolation of philosophy, too, adds distortion. But that is another discussion.)

    In Schreiner’s work on 2 Peter, he goes on to talk about Paul’s letters as *Scripture*. In this case, we have “Scripture interpreting Scripture” — and here’s a good example.

    Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.

    These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written:

    “Be glad, O barren woman,
    who bears no children;
    break forth and cry aloud,
    you who have no labor pains;
    because more are the children of the desolate woman
    than of her who has a husband.”

    Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does the Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

    This is Scripture interpreting Scripture. Paul is giving us, as members of the church, a Scriptural interpretation of Scripture.

    The “free woman” is our mother.

    Fast forward to the “infallible magisterium” telling us that Mary is our mother. In order to do this, you have to be saying that Paul himself did not adequately reflect on his own religion. But that is not the case. According to the Optics metaphor, “magisterium” itself is a layer that clouds and distorts the truth.

  314. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 22, 2009 at 9:43 am

    We don’t ask people to adopt the Confession because they need a lens to interpret Scripture, and this is the lens the church has approved, so respect the church and adopt this lens. No, we ask them to adopt the Confession because we can demonstrate to them from the Scriptures how the Confession summarizes the truths of Scripture well.

    Todd,

    My perspective is that that the Reformed adopt the confessions for both of the reasons above. We can demonstrate primarily from Scripture and secondarily from tradition that the Reformed confessions are consistent with with the historic Christian faith. But then once adopted, these confessions do provide us with a conceptual framework for interpreting the Scriptures, tradition, and the world we live in. I see the Catholics doing the same thing – I hope they would agree. In their minds they cannot make sense of the data from particularly the tradition of the Church so they change traditions and exchange one set of lenses for another. They believe the teachings of Catholic Magisterium can be derived from tradition and Scripture, but also, once adopted the Magisterium provides a faithful conceptual framework for interpreting Scripture and tradition (I think that I could make a similar case for EO although my limited experience is that EO resists the attempt to systematize their beliefs into a conceptual framework). The discussions with RC’s are then colored by the fact that they are interpreting Scripture and tradition through different lenses than we are. We just have to accept this and understand it.

    On the occasions when I have interacted with RC’s, most of my time is spent trying to get them to understand my perspective. I’m tryig to get them to see things through my lenses so as to speak. Curiously I find that I have more problems getting Catholics to understand my perspective if they came from a Reformed background. I think this is because they feel they already understand the Reformed faith and there is nothing they can learn from me. They have already seen the world through my lenses, or so they think.

    A few books that I have found very thought provoking on these issues are C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism and Vern Poythress, Symphonic Theology and Science and Hermeneutics. I put Lewis right at the front because he was a master at understanding others conceptual framework IMO. For Lewis there had to be a thorough understanding of the conceptual framework before moving to the process of criticism proper. It’s primarily a literary work but it has just as much application to theology, philosophy, and worldview, again IMO.

  315. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 22, 2009 at 9:50 am

    You know, this discussion has been largely academic and apologetic so far; but I wonder if anybody else has been thinking in practical and pastoral terms, too. Down here among the grass roots I notice that actually only SOME of us have any credal and confessional lenses to speak of. The rest of us have not thought about it much, and are operating with incomplete and unreliable Maps. How many of the people in a Reformed congregation nowadays have been nurtured on the Confessions since infancy? How many more, rather, have wandered in from “outside,” and are still operating with sketchy Maps, now maybe filled out a bit with the Five Points? How long does it take before the content of the WCF becomes internalized enough to be examined and rethought as needed? And are the adults in our congregations being instructed adequately, so that biblical literacy and confessional literacy are brought together to fill out a Map that one can really live by?

    Paige,

    Theses are some great thoughts, thanks! I have been thinking along these lines somewhat this past quarter since I have been teaching an introduction to the Reformed Faith. I hope I am giving the class a good working set of paradigms for understanding the history of the Church. But you are right – there are so few folks even in the Reformed congregations who could articulate what it means to be Reformed and how it changes the way we work within the Church Christ established.

  316. Bryan Cross said,

    August 22, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Todd,

    This statement is not a presupposition, it is in response to the revealed Word.

    I don’t know for sure what it means for a statement to be “in response” to Scripture. I’m assuming you mean that you have derived this conclusion from Scripture. If so, then is your derivation falsifible or not? If it is falsifiable, then what would it take [empirically] to show that this conclusion was wrongly derived from Scripture? In other words, at what level of interpretive confusion, disagreement and division would you conclude that your derivation was false?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  317. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Bryan — why should we not see your resort to philosophy here as just obfuscation — a thicker, darker lens?

  318. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 22, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Zrim,

    Nothing in the name “Green Baggins” implies a call to repentance. But something in the content does! And that is all to the good, particularly if the religious opinions of GB are true.

    As to the “Called to Communion”: (1) That is a statement of fact, on two levels: (a) The contributors have been called by God into full communion with his Church; (b) we believe that this call, in terms of an offer, is made to everyone. (2) Even if (1a) is false, and we were all called by someone other than God to something other than his Church, it remains true that those who confess that Jesus is Lord are called to full communion with one another in him. And all of these are not in full communion.

    Paige (#303),

    What you think follows from my take on ecclesial epistemology, which you seem not to understand (my fault), does not actually follow therefrom, as I have explained in #74 and #147.

  319. Bryan Cross said,

    August 22, 2009 at 10:50 am

    John,

    You can avert your eyes, if you find my questions confusing or obfuscating. But it seems to me that a truth-seeker would want to know the answers to these questions.

    (It would be contrary to the love of truth, you understand, for a system to label as ‘philosophy’ any questions that reveal foundational weaknesses in that system, and then to forbid “resorting to philosophy.”)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  320. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Bryan — we are talking about perspicuity and lenses. It would seem as if a statement of Scripture interpreting Scripture, such as “The “free woman” is our mother” is simple, direct, not only derived from Scripture, but it is itself Scripture. It is falsifiable only in the sense that you would have to disagree with Paul to disagree with it. It is a good example of Paul’s exegesis, a pattern for us to follow, and it is only muddied up by such statements as “Mary is our mother.” I do love the truth, and there is such a time as this when your application of philosophy is only muddying the issue.

  321. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Bryan — But it seems to me that a truth-seeker would want to know the answers to these questions.

    Consider that “all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful.”

  322. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Your comment about “averting my eyes” is ad-hominem — a clear indication that you have no better response to my questions.

  323. Bryan Cross said,

    August 22, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    John,

    I agree with you that there are things that logically follow from Scripture. But, the claim in question, that human reason [apart from the guidance of the Church] has the ability to overcome any faulty presuppositions we bring to the text, does not logically follow from Scripture. If you disagree, then you would need to provide the syllogism showing how this claim logically follows from Scripture.

    A distinct claim (from the one directly above) is that it is God’s purpose to preserve the unity and orthodox of His Church by giving the Holy Spirit to individuals so that by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, apart from the teaching authority of the Church, each individual comes to the true understanding of Scripture. Having been raised Pentecostal, I’m quite familiar with this claim. But this claim too raises important questions. How do we know who has the Spirit? In practice, the answer is simple: find those who agree with you, because (1) you know you have the Spirit, and (2) you know the Spirit doesn’t contradict Himself. Hence, all those who claim to have the Spirit, but who disagree with you, are being deceived by lying spirits. This is where a non-incarnational, and hence non-sacramental, understanding of the operation of the Spirit leads.

    This claim [that the Spirit, apart from the Church's teaching authority, overcomes the faulty presuppositions we bring to the text] does not logically follow from Scripture, but is an interpretation of Scripture. So it, again, raises the question: What empirical evidence would falsify this interpretation?

    If no empirical evidence would falsify this interpretation, then this interpretation is functionally an a priori presupposition we are bringing to the text, implicitly ascribing qualified infallibility to ourselves. So the position, in that case, turns out to be one that claims to allow faulty presuppositions to be overturned, yet reserves at least one presupposition as an a priori unfalsifiable untouchable.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  324. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    But, the claim in question, that human reason [apart from the guidance of the Church] has the ability to overcome any faulty presuppositions we bring to the text, does not logically follow from Scripture.

    This is merely a flavor of the “where does Scripture teach Sola Scriptura” fallacy that the esteemed Bellarmine was chastised for presenting up above.

  325. Bryan Cross said,

    August 22, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    John,

    A statement is not a fallacy. A statement can be true or false, but it cannot be a fallacy. An argument can be fallacious. But a statement is not an argument.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  326. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    It is a false statement then. I would guarantee you that I’m the least theologically sophisticated person here.

    A distinct claim (from the one directly above) is that it is God’s purpose to preserve the unity and orthodox of His Church by giving the Holy Spirit to individuals so that by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, apart from the teaching authority of the Church, each individual comes to the true understanding of Scripture.

    You are not telling the whole story. Because it is not “the illumination of the Holy Spirit” that tells people what the word dikaioo means. There is a certain amount of authority that simply is associated with the correct use of the word.

    When Paul says “the “free woman” is our mother,” a true and simple declarative statement, (in the midst of other true and simple declarative statements,” how is it that any human being would either need “the illumination of the Holy Spirit” to know what that means?

  327. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Bryan — One could compile a whole lot of these “true and simple declarative statements” from Scripture — and your objection against the “illumination of the Holy Spirit” would not touch a single one of them.

  328. Bryan Cross said,

    August 22, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    John,

    In #323 I wrote: But, the claim in question, that human reason [apart from the guidance of the Church] has the ability to overcome any faulty presuppositions we bring to the text, does not logically follow from Scripture.

    In #326 you claimed that this statement is false.

    In rational discourse, we do not simply assert that our interlocutor’s claim is false, because our interlocutor could do the same to our claim, and we would then be no closer to discovering the truth and resolving our disagreement. In rational discourse, if we believe our interlocutor has made a false statement, we show that statement to be false. That is why in #323, I followed my statement by saying, “If you disagree, then you would need to provide the syllogism showing how this claim logically follows from Scripture.”

    So, to show my statement to be false, you would need to provide the syllogism showing how the claim “human reason [apart from the guidance of the Church] has the ability to overcome any faulty presupposition we bring to the text” follows logically from some verse (or verses) in Scripture.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  329. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Bryan — Prior to that, you are loading up the “guidance of the Church” with all kinds of Romanist balderdash that once to tell people “what dikaioo means (even if what they say it means isn’t really what it means).”

  330. Bryan Cross said,

    August 22, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    John,

    Prior to that, you are loading up the “guidance of the Church” with all kinds of Romanist balderdash that once to tell people “what dikaioo means (even if what they say it means isn’t really what it means).

    Whether that is true or not, it does not show my statement in #323 (or any other statement I have made) to be false. To show my statement in #323 to be false, you need to lay out the syllogism showing how the claim “human reason [apart from the guidance of the Church] has the ability to overcome any faulty presupposition we bring to the text” follows logically from some verse (or verses) in Scripture. Until you do so, you have not shown my claim to be false; you have merely asserted it to be false.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  331. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Bryan — there is no reason to even think about granting your definition of “Church” — especially when the history of the Roman church clearly shows that the Roman Catholic church is not what it says it is.

    Your definition of “Church” renders the whole thing false before it even gets started.

  332. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Bryan — the little green men on Mars have also claimed “infallible interpretation.” How do you prove them wrong?

  333. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    “human reason [apart from the guidance of the little green men from Mars] has the ability to overcome any faulty presupposition we bring to the text”

  334. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Let’s prove that one wrong. What does the syllogism look like?

  335. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    just grant me that there are little green men on Mars and that I have submitted to their claim to provide an infallible interpretation.

    There, I am in “teachable” mode. Please begin the lesson from here.

  336. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    I have to apologize. I’m really slow about some things, and it takes me some time to catch on.

  337. David Gadbois said,

    August 22, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Todd said This statement is not a presupposition, it is in response to the revealed Word.

    I think Todd’s point is that Scripture holds believers culpable to believe and obey the revealed Word. This assumes at the very least two things – that, on the objective side, God’s Word is sufficiently clear. On the subjective side, it presumes that our sensory perception and reasoning faculties are basically reliable so that, despite the various exegetical challenges, we can understand sufficiently and thus are expected to obey God’s Word.

  338. David Gadbois said,

    August 22, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    John Bugay, as one of the moderators, I have to ask to please tone down the ‘snark factor’ on your responses.

    Plus, I’m surprised you aren’t used to this old song-and-dance by now. If Rome is right and sola scriptura creates insuperable epistemological quandries, their objections cuts both ways, and sola ecclesia can’t work either. What happens if we bring faulty presuppositions to the text of their supposedly-infallible councils?

  339. johnbugay said,

    August 22, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    David, I appreciate your reason and clarity. I just have been around the block with this a few times, and Bryan does move forward, just simply ignoring such things as you said in #337. And in doing so, he’s able to maintain his own little fortress of logic around himself.

    I’ll turn my radio down now and just listen to the response.

  340. Todd said,

    August 22, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    Yes, thanks David. If I wasn’t clear – Jesus expected all to hear his words and understand them, without appointing official interpreters of his Word for the people. Thus God has revealed in His Word that all who can hear his Word are held responsible to understand and obey it, demonstrating that we have been given the ability from God to hear/read – then understand and respond to God’s revelation, not perfectly, but sufficiently.

  341. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 22, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    David,

    Regarding your comment #338: I addressed this mis-characterization of the Catholic position in my first comment in this thread. (#71)

    Sola scriptura does not create “insuperable epistemological quandries,” not in the sense you give to that phrase. Sola scriptura does create an insuperable quandry with regards to the teaching authority of the Church. There is an epistemological principle at work here, but a Catholic construal thereof does not hinge upon the thesis that individuals cannot discern for themselves what is the meaning of a text.

    Certainly we all bring presuppositions to the task of exegesis, but some of those presuppositions are unavoidable and necessarily true (e.g., the law of non-contradiction), providing a logical and epistemological basis for objectivity in hermeneutics, with or without appeal to any interpretive authority whatsoever. Objectivity in hermeneutics is attacked by all sorts of folk (Catholics and confessional Protestants included), but their protestations are inevitably self-destructive.

    It is certainly salutary to discover as much as one can about one’s presuppositions, and to recognize how those shape (or mis-shape) one’s interpretation of a text. Of course, the fact that we can identify and evaluate our own presuppositions is itself indicative of objectivity and, therefore, the non-futility of reasoning, including rational exegesis. I suppose that my Protestant friends go so far as to affirm the full sufficiency of rational exegesis of Scripture for discerning true Christian doctrine.

    The questions between us are whether or not God has established his Word in the context of an abiding interpretive authority, and, if he has, whether that authority has been so constituted by God as to be susceptible to the utterly counter-productive action of dogmatically teaching error. If God has not thus constituted the Church (i.e., as a fallible teacher), then it does pertain to exegesis to submit one’s personal interpretation to the interpretation of the Church, insofar as exegesis proceeds according to the presuppositions that biblical exegesis tends towards theological truth, and that truth is one, whether it is discerned by reason or by submission to authority.

  342. Todd said,

    August 22, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    “The discussions with RC’s are then colored by the fact that they are interpreting Scripture and tradition through different lenses than we are. We just have to accept this and understand it.”

    Andrew # 314,

    Thanks, I have read Lewis on criticism, and I’m not sure how his thesis of two kinds of readers relates to this discussion. Maybe I’m missing something. The point is, I’m not a philosopher nor do I play one in the pulpit. Instead of comparing presuppositions, I think the only way to demonstrate to RC’s, or anyone else for that matter who claims Scripture as infallible, of the wrongness of their views, is to demonstrate that their views either contradict or cannot be proven by Scripture. I think pastors should excel in exegesis, not necessarily philosophy. Our Lord corrected Satan’s misuse of Scripture with the right understanding of Scripture. While I understand the temptations were not first and foremost about our spiritual warfare, but Christ’s for us, I think his way of battle there is the right one for us.

  343. Bryan Cross said,

    August 22, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Todd,

    Jesus expected all to hear his words and understand them

    That statement seems to me to be false. Jesus expected that many who were within earshot while He spoke not to hear and understand His words. In fact, not only did He expect it, He intended it. When the disciples asked Him why He spoke in parables, He responded by saying that to the Apostles had been granted the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom, but not to the others. This understanding had been granted to the Apostles, in that He explained to them in private the meaning of the things He taught in public. That’s why He says, “while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matt 13:13), “and hearing they may not understand” (Lk 8:10). I think Jesus says seven times in the gospels “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” That wouldn’t make sense if everyone who heard Jesus had ears to hear.

    Thus God has revealed in His Word that all who can hear his Word are held responsible to understand and obey it,

    There are two senses of the word ‘hear’. One sense includes ‘understanding’ and the other does not. If you mean that all who can hear (in the sense that includes understanding) are held responsible to understand it, then I agree with your statement. But, if you mean that all who can hear (in the sense that does not include understanding) are responsible to understand what they hear, then this claim does not follow from your premise. The Ethiopian in the chariot, for example, was not culpable for not understanding what he was readingi; he couldn’t help it.

    demonstrating that we have been given the ability from God to hear/read – then understand and respond to God’s revelation, not perfectly, but sufficiently.

    If there were good reason to believe your premise, then you might be able to get to this conclusion. But there is no point in evaluating the logic by which you move from your premise to this conclusion, when there is good reason to deny the truth of the premise.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  344. Paige Britton said,

    August 22, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Andrew P., from #318:
    “What you think follows from my take on ecclesial epistemology, which you seem not to understand (my fault), does not actually follow therefrom, as I have explained in #74 and #147.”

    Thank you for your patience! I am sure the clarity is all on your side, the obfuscation on mine. :)

  345. Paige Britton said,

    August 22, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Todd (We don’t ask people to adopt the Confession because they need a lens to interpret Scripture, and this is the lens the church has approved, so respect the church and adopt this lens. No, we ask them to adopt the Confession because we can demonstrate to them from the Scriptures how the Confession summarizes the truths of Scripture well.) —

    Yes! And the most fair and effective way to teach the doctrine is to start with Scripture, not the theological vocabulary. (Though the terms are handy handles, so that we can be a little more precise.) My vision for teaching Reformed theology to newcomers is not along the “Magisterium” lines you describe there – rather, if we are as a church adhering to, say, the WCF, we present it as what we are persuaded is the best expression of the message of Scripture, and we explain it clearly and show where it comes from and how it compares to the other “maps” or “lenses” that people have encountered or held previously, and let conviction happen as it may. I know very personally how hard it is to change maps, and the transition from default-Arminian-evangelical to a Reformed perspective can be especially emotional. But I also know personally the goodness of having a map that feels solid and makes sense of the data provided by God in Scripture.

  346. Paige Britton said,

    August 22, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Andrew M. —
    blessings on your teaching! I think every little bit counts. And I am sure you explain things in a clear and friendly way. Many people have not had any exposure even to the categories of systematic theology prior to encountering Reformed people, and while we don’t want to give the impression that it’s all brain work unrelated to real life, engaging the mind can be a new, good gift that we give to people! At the very least, we show them the places where they should be asking questions, and we teach them to read passages of Scripture with real attention to detail.

    I am working with (i.e., providing for contingencies, not teaching) a SS class of salt-of-the-earth men and women who are adults returning to the Bible for the first time since childhood. They are still sorting out whether David and Jesus were contemporaries, and who was/were Saul, Saul, and Paul. This is not the time to teach them the names of doctrines — but of course, the sweet thing is that the Scriptures we read teach the doctrines themselves. (Ah, but my theological lens is showing…)

  347. Paige Britton said,

    August 22, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Could someone tell me whether these quotes mean the same thing, or mean different things, about individual believers and their ability to interpret Scripture in the RC view?

    Andrew P.: (341) “There is an epistemological principle at work here [Andrew is talking about sola scriptura & Church authority], but a Catholic construal thereof does not hinge upon the thesis that individuals cannot discern for themselves what is the meaning of a text.”

    Bryan Cross (323): “…the claim in question, that human reason [apart from the guidance of the Church] has the ability to overcome any faulty presuppositions we bring to the text, does not logically follow from Scripture.”

  348. Todd said,

    August 22, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    Bryan,

    “That statement seems to me to be false. Jesus expected that many who were within earshot while He spoke not to hear and understand His words.”

    You are making my point. The Pharisees’ failure to understand Jesus words was a moral failure, not a failure of mental ability to understand Scripture. They are hardened exactly because they refused to believe the Word they were expected to understand. I am using expected in the sense of “responsible for/accountable to.”

    “There are two senses of the word ‘hear’. One sense includes ‘understanding’ and the other does not. If you mean that all who can hear (in the sense that includes understanding) are held responsible to understand it, then I agree with your statement.”

    That is what I mean

    “The Ethiopian in the chariot, for example, was not culpable for not understanding what he was readingi; he couldn’t help it.”

    Yes, teachers are a guide in our understanding of Scripture, no doubt.

  349. Bryan Cross said,

    August 22, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    Paige,

    Re #347, they don’t mean the same thing. Andrew P is saying that individuals can discern for themselves what is the meaning of a text. This does not mean that all individuals can correctly discern the meaning of all texts all the time. But it does mean that individuals can possibly determine the correct meaning of texts, depending on many different factors, including the difficulty of the subject matter, the style of the writing, the clarity of the writing, the familiarity of the reader with that style, that subject matter, that context, that language, that author, that people, and the purpose of the text. All those factors (and others) contribute to the degree of successful interpretation of a text by an individual.

    My statement, by contrast, is that it does not logically follow from Scripture that human reason has the ability to overcome any faulty presuppositions we bring to the text. We might be able to overcome some faulty presuppositions without the help of the Church, but no passage of Scripture entails that we (simply by the power of human reason, and apart from the help of the Church) can overcome any faulty presupposition we might have, or overcome all the faulty presuppositions we might have, when interpreting Scripture.

    Andrew P is saying that we as individuals can certainly get some things right when we come to Scripture. I am saying that Scripture does not entail that we as individuals can overcome any (or all) faulty presuppositions we might have when we come to Scripture. My claim implies that we need the Church to help us understand Scripture in a way that allows us all to attain and maintain the “one faith” of which St. Paul speaks. But our two claims are fully compatible.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  350. Bryan Cross said,

    August 22, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Todd,

    Re #348, I agree that the Pharisees were culpable for their disbelief. But there is a non-culpable form of hearing without understanding, and it seems that this applies to the many ordinary people who heard His parables without understanding them. Here’s why. If Jesus expected everyone to understand His parables, then there would be no reason for Him to explain the meaning of the parables to His Apostles in private, unless He thought His Apostles were more thick-headed than everyone else who heard Him speak (and I see no good reason to believe that He thought this about His Apostles). So the fact that He explained the meaning of His parables in private shows that He did not expect everyone to understand everything He said. And it would be ad hoc to assume that everyone else who did not understand the parables was purposefully or willfully disbelieving them, but that the Apostles (and only the Apostles) didn’t understand the parables (when they were spoken in public) not because of purposeful ignorance or disbelief, but simply because of stupidity.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  351. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 23, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Here’s a relevant excerpt from this recent blog post by Justin Taylor titled “Evangelicals and Catholics Together”:

    Castaldo is the author of a new book, Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic, being published by Zondervan next month.

    Here are George’s and Beckwith’s endorsements for Castalodo’s book:
    “What an encouraging book from a fine young Christian leader! Chris Castaldo speaks from his own spiritual pilgrimage about the unity between believing Catholics and faithful Evangelicals, the important differences that still remain between us, and what all of this means to our witness in the world today. Great stuff!”

    Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University; Senior Editor, Christianity Today

    “In a culture in which theological disagreements are treated as no different than matters of taste, Christ Castaldo’s Holy Ground is a refreshing change. He is a former Catholic turned Evangelical Protestant who shows respect for the tradition from which he departed while at the same time not shying away from the doctrinal issues over which Catholics and Protestants are in serious disagreement. He has a knack for clearly and charitably explaining to Evangelicals the diverse factions within Catholicism and how each thinks about its commitment to Scripture, Church, and walking with Christ. Although one may find oneself disagreeing with how Pastor Castaldo conveys or presents a particular doctrine or historical event, as I did on more than one occasion while reading this book, one cannot help but be impressed by his sincere effort to sincerely and graciously assess the issues that continue to divide, as well as unite, Protestants and Catholics.”

    Francis J. Beckwith, Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, Baylor University; author of Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic (Brazos, 2009)

    Here are a few more of the blurbs:

    “Because the accounts of a number of high-profile Evangelicals converting to Roman Catholicism have hit the press, we sometimes overlook the fact that statisticians tell us that in America, Catholics are becoming Evangelicals faster than the reverse by a ratio of about three to one. What do these converts find? How do they cope? How do they—how should they—relate to their Catholic families and friends? This is the best book I have read that chronicles such pilgrimages. And it is full of godly commonsense.”

    D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
    ———

    Pastor Castaldo is no longer using the lens provided by the Roman Catholic Church. And writes a book about it.

  352. rfwhite said,

    August 23, 2009 at 6:51 am

    It has been stated here that “the Church does have the charism of speaking her mind in an infallible way (as the Body of Christ, having the mind of Christ).” What is the biblical basis of this claim of a charism of infallibility?

  353. curate said,

    August 23, 2009 at 8:13 am

    No. 349 Bryan Cross: I am not aware that Protestant theologians do not read the Bible as part of a community, as isolated individuals. A quick look at the bibliography of any modern work demonstrates the opposite.

    A cursory read through any book by Calvin, Luther, Chemnitz, Cranmer, etc, will reveal multiple quotes and references to the fathers, not excluding a host of other sources.

    This is a fallacy that needs to be put aside.

    When Luther began to teach justification by grace alone, through faith alone, other scholars perused his works, and checked them against the scriptures. It was the wide acceptance of his exegesis, supported by the exegesis of many other brilliant men, that spread the light of the truth.

    Then in the final stage of mutual interaction, these biblical doctrines were presented to the Kings, Parliaments, and Synods for approval. Only then did Reform happen in a commonwealth.

    The Papacy, in stark contrast, simply demanded assent, upon pain of fire and sword. Not much mutual accountability there!

  354. Bryan Cross said,

    August 23, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Curate,

    I did not claim, nor do I believe, that Protestant theologians do not read the Bible as a part of a community, and do not cite the fathers.

    I also agree with you that there were other scholars in Luther’s time who were persuaded by his arguments. There were other scholars at that time who were not persuaded by Luther.

    Your point seems to be that the Church needs to be accountability to the scholars, as though academia has higher interpretive authority than the successors of the apostles, those uneducated fisherman. And when the Church hierarchy does not accept the verdict of academia, rebellion against Church hierarchy is justified, because academia is a higher interpretive authority (so it is really not rebellion, but submission).

    But academia is incapable of being the highest interpretive authority, because it is not a unified entity. What do you do when scholars disagree? Do you start weighing graduate degrees from more prestigious institutions? Majority vote among scholars? Anglican, Pentecostal, Mormon, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, and Seventh Day Adventist, etc. they all have their own scholars, and they all think their own interpretation is better. Is the authoritative interpretation of Scripture ultimately a matter of scholarly authority? If so, must we then count PhDs, and publications of PhDs, and quality of institutions from which these PhDs were obtained, in order to determine the authoritative interpretation of Scripture? And how do we determine the quality of scholarship in a non-question-begging way? This option seems to leave us in the morass of postmodern relativism. That seems to be the ultimate outcome of Renaissance humanism’s influence on the Reformation, placing scholarly authority over sacramental ecclesial authority. And what if the majority of contemporary biblical scholars rejects something like imputation? (See here, where Gundry claims that that is already the case.) Will you then accept that conclusion, or will you claim that the scholars have all gone liberal?

    If you reject their conclusion, then how is it not the case that *you* are functioning as the final interpretive authority? In that case the appeal to academia to justify 16th century Protestantism turns out to be a cover for “they are authoritative when I agree with them, but not when I disagree with them,” which in actuality is indistinguishable from “I am my own pope.” Or more likely, you will just accept as authoritative only those scholars who agree with you. But that’s just the academic version of sola scriptura (see comment #5), i.e. selecting as the Church only those persons who satisfy your determination of the marks of the Church, according to your own interpretation.

    But if you accept the conclusion of the majority of scholars, then how do you know that they *haven’t* gone liberal? Where in Scripture is there a promise that the Holy Spirit will guide academia into all truth, and that the gates of hell will not prevail against academia? If you make academia your interpretive authority, then you need to be prepared to go down with the ship, when God hands them to a depraved mind and futile speculations and darkened hearts. I’m sticking with the successors of those uneducated fishermen, because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  355. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 23, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Bryan Cross: “Where in Scripture is there a promise that the Holy Spirit will guide academia into all truth, and that the gates of hell will not prevail against academia?”

    Setting your rhetorical question aside, the more pertinent question would be to ask whether the Magisterium has exegeted the following verse properly:

    “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matt. 16:18)

    An answer to this gets us back to the title and question of this post:

    Whose Lens Are You Using?

  356. Bryan Cross said,

    August 23, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Truth Unites,

    the more pertinent question would be to ask whether the Magisterium has exegeted the following verse properly

    Prior to that question is this question: Who has interpretive authority?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  357. rfwhite said,

    August 23, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Bryan Cross: there should be no disagreemen that the church has interpretive authority lest there be no ground for church discipline. The church has the power from Christ to impose admonition, censure, and excommunication on the unrepentant. There seems to be, however, a still more basic question: what is the nature of the church’s authority? Is it a derived and fallible authority or an orginal and infallible authority? Whatever the case, how do we know that the claim is true? Please show us where the citation from Tertullian answers those questions.

  358. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 23, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Re: #347 and #349:

    Great question, great answer.

    The Catholic Church affirms the necessity (and the value) of human reason vis-a-vis the interpretation of the Word of God (my point), but she does not affirm the sufficiency of human reason in that respect (Bryan’s point).

  359. johnbugay said,

    August 23, 2009 at 11:52 am

    There seems to be, however, a still more basic question: what is the nature of the church’s authority?

    There is a prior question to that: “What is the church?” — and Rome should not be able to assume (as it does) but must prove the claims it makes about itself. Because it is not what it says it is.

  360. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 23, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    frwhite (#352):

    It has been stated here that “the Church does have the charism of speaking her mind in an infallible way (as the Body of Christ, having the mind of Christ).” What is the biblical basis of this claim of a charism of infallibility?

    Those words are from #147, where they were formed as a hypothetical statement, not a claim:

    If the Church does have the charism of speaking her mind in an infallible way (as the Body of Christ, having the mind of Christ) …

    Part of the biblical basis for the doctrine of ecclesial infallibility lies in the nature of the Church as described in Sacred Scripture, together with the promises made to the Church. The infallibility of the Church, speaking as Church on a matter of faith and morals, may be deduced from Sacred Scripture by good and necessary consequence.

    Thus the biblical basis. (I suppose a word study would eventually lead you to all the right passages.) The argument therefrom I have barely sketched in the preceding comments, which is why I have tried to refrain from making bald claims about infallibility, casting the doctrine rather in terms of a hypothesis.

  361. rfwhite said,

    August 23, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Andrew P: thanks for what you have said to make clear your position, namely, that ecclesial infallibility lies in the nature of the Church as decribed in Sacred Scripture and that said infallibility may be deduced from Sacred Scripture by good and necessary consequence. That in which I’m actually interested is the specific Scripture texts that form the basis of your position. If you don’t want to develop it here, that’s fine but could you provide a bibliographic reference or a link to a place where you have or another has developed it?

  362. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 23, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    rfwhite,

    Fair enough.

    Mt 16.16-19 (cf. Is 22.20-22; Rev 3.7).
    Mt 28.18-20
    Lk 22.28-32
    Jn16.7-14.
    Jn 17.
    Acts 15 (see v. 28).
    1 Cor 2.
    Eph 1.
    1 Tim 3.14-16.

    Such are some of the more obvious passages indicating Christ’s unfailing action in the teaching Church, the repository of all spiritual truth. As is often the in such large matters, it may be that some of the less obvious passages bring to light the substantial claim of ecclesial infallibility in a surpassingly excellent way.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia offers brief, historical-critical arguments from a few of these passages to the doctrine of ecclesial infallibility: “Proof of the Church’s Infallibility.”

    Joseph Ratzinger has penned a brief and illuminating account of the nature of the Church, titled (you guessed it) Called to Communion.

    The nature of the Church, which is determined by God, determines the kind and scope of her power. So Ratzinger’s discussion, which is not about infallibility, is fundamental to the further question of infallibility, while at the same time its clearly points to infallibility (properly understood) as implicit in the nature of the mystical Body of Christ.

  363. rfwhite said,

    August 23, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    359 John Bugay: I agree with your observation.

    362 Andrew Preslar: thank you.

  364. Bryan Cross said,

    August 23, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    rfwhite,

    Re: #357,

    There seems to be, however, a still more basic question: what is the nature of the church’s authority? Is it a derived and fallible authority or an original and infallible authority?

    I answered that (partly) in #27. The Protestant conception of the Church having “derived authority” just means in actuality that the decisions and councils of the Church only have ‘authority’ if they agree with your own interpretation of Scripture. But, “when I submit (so long as I agree), the one to whom I submit is me.” Hence, “derived authority” is an illusion, i.e. the appearance of submission to an authority, but in actuality retaining final interpretive authority in oneself.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  365. curate said,

    August 23, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    No. 354 Bryan cross said: Your point seems to be that the Church needs to be accountability to the scholars … EOQ.

    Not at all. Whatever gave you that idea? No, the church must be subservient to God, and the way to do that is by believing and obeying his written word. When it does that, it is the successor to the apostles, when it doesn’t it is not.

    Academia is not very good at submitting to God’s word, in my view.

  366. curate said,

    August 23, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    No. 365. Bryan Cross said of Protestants: …but (they are) in actuality retaining final interpretive authority in oneself. EOQ.

    On the contrary, that is exactly the Protestant protest against the Pope. He retains it in himself, when “final interpretive authority” is a prerogative of the written record of the teaching of the apostles and prophets.

    Again, the scriptures do not need to be interpreted, as if they were not clear and complete. The authors of scripture provide us with their own interpretation – in the Bible itself.

    Think of the parables. Jesus first tells it as riddle, and then provides the explanation. The examples are endless. The Bible is not in a secret code that needs cracking.

  367. Bryan Cross said,

    August 23, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Curate,

    Re: #366

    the scriptures do not need to be interpreted

    Is that an a priori presupposition you bring to the text, or is that a falsifiable claim? If it is a falsifiable claim, then what degree of interpretive disagreement would falsify it, if it were false? In other words, how divided what Christians have to get in their interpretations of Scripture before that statement was falsified? Caveat: There are 21 Reformed denominations in Switzerland, 14 Reformed denominations in the UK, and 44 Reformed denominations in the US. How many more Reformed denominations would there have to be, before your statement would be falsified?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  368. August 23, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Andrew M,

    Its true that the Reformers thought they were saying something normative and had councils, but the disagreement is over what a council is and what kind and degree of normativity was enjoyed. And this is just the point. Their belief was that an individual judgment could trump that of those councils.

    To say that they were acting “as the church” presupposes that one can have a church without ministers who are commissioned or sent by God, either mediately or immediately. That strikes me as question begging. And yes when the Reformers started out, it was a few priests and laymen, some of those were politicians. Moreover, it is noteworthy that they didn’t carry, except in the case of England, which was top down anyhow, any of the episcopate. This is important because early on the Reformers tried to enlist a good number of bishops and thought this was essential. When it became obvious that they couldn’t get any, they changed their tune.

    Furthermore, by your criteria, the Arians were “the church” too and somehow I don’t think you wish to admit as much. And the Protestants weren’t just rejecting the peculiarities of the Rome, since they also rejected the teaching of the East. Their rejection was much wider and deeper than you gloss.

    Everyone who thinks that councils are infallible in a derivative sense. This is why I said earlier that infallibility is a divine energy. So your proposed gloss turns on a straw man. The idea is that latter councils are also led by the Spirit. I am sure that Protestants will wish to affirm some kind of cessation of the apostolic ministry in that respect. But for my part given the biblical material on the Spirit’s work through the laying on of hands in ordination of bishops, presbyters and deacons there is a good basis to start thinking that the Spirits working councils didn’t cease. And in fact many of the Ecumenical councils that Protestants accept speak of themselves as “Spirit-inspired” and “infallible.”

    You ask, how we would know if they were infallible and I would answer that depends on what the conditions for infallibility are supposed to be. To start thinking about this, what are the conditions on infallibility in general, then for the Scriptures, and then what makes a synod legitimate or “ecumenical?”

    And yes, Protestants do hold that the canon is revisable. You are confusing it seems the material canon with the formal canon. If you still maintain that the canon is not revisable, then you must think that the Protestant confessional statements on the canon are infallible. Don’t you think that it is possible that the WCF could be wrong or that the early church got the canon wrong? Isn’t the church fallible in deciding the canon or no? If so, then on your own principles the canon is in principle revisable. So yes, you do think that God left it up to fallible men to see that it came together correctly. This was the principled basis why the Protestants corrected the canon in removing books at the Reformation. It matters not that since the Reformation, Protestants haven’t in fact altered the canon. They did so at the Reformation, and could do so again in principle. At best you could claim that the canon is fixed on a pragmatic basis, but not on a principled one. And the fact that no Protestant denomination hasn’t done so has more to do with tradition than with it being immutable. People just accept books that are given to them at their conversion and then get attached to them. But if you spread the books on the table and asked them to decide, I doubt if books like Ruth would make it.

    As to my thought experiment, if the sole Christian left were to speak the faith, would he be speaking with the possibility of error or no? Would it be possible for him to communicate a false gospel or no? If not, why not?

    I don’t take earlier papal statements about primacy mean what later statements mean and this is because the term primus evolves. Some of that is due to fabrication and some of that is due to the inadequacy of Latin and other factors. Consequently early language about being “chief”, holding the primacy, etc. cannot be just assumed to mean what they did centuries later when the Franks held control of the papacy as opposed to when the Romans did.

    To my knowledge the LCMS and the LCWS will not permit non-Lutherans to partake of the Eucharist. Perhaps ELCA does, but I think you will agree that they have gone the way of all flesh. I take the LCMS for example to be mainstream Lutheranism in the US, but perhaps you think I am mistaken in that judgment.

    Canonically before significant liberal alteration in the late 1970’s, Anglicans are prohibited from giving communion to others except Rome and the Orthodox. The REC does permit other Reformed members to partake, but this historically is more of the exception than the rule.

    If you are all part of Christ’s church then why isn’t there full communion? Why do you not profess the same faith? How is the sin of schism even possible on such a model?

    On your claim that the medievals lost the sense of Scripture being superior to bishops and councils, this depends on what you mean. I think prior periods taught a form of prima scriptura, but prima scriptura and sola scriptura are not the same concepts. So its question begging if by that you mean sola scriptura (and historically implausible) and demonstratably false if prima scriptura.

    The Reformers didn’t put the bible back into theological discourse. What they did was to re-organize and re-define the hierarchical authorities and the nature of those authorities. Instead of a kind of continuity between authorities, they posited a radical break. All judgments about Scripture were human and fallible. Furthermore, they set up new teachers as reference points as to how the older tradition was to be re-interpreted. Materially all of the Scholastics thought of Scripture as superior to bishops and councils. There is no shortage of scholarly work on the Scholastics’ view of Scripture to show that this is so. Moreover, Scholasticism per se was never part of the Orthodox tradition, so this narrative loses its explanatory and justificatory power on the basis of that fact alone.

    To say that we can try on lenses, well that presupposes that we can interpret facts apart from epistemological assumptions. That’s fine if you wish to reject a presuppositional outlook, but I am not sure that you wish to do so. To say that you can see if they make sense of the data or not, assumes that the data have meaning apart from a model in the first place. How would you know that such is the case? Can you compare the meaning a fact has apart from a worldview and then what meaning a fact has when placed in that worldview? I don’t think this is possible.

  369. August 23, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    John B.,

    Again, I would point you to McGuckin’s work, Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy, which corrects a number of mistakes from Loofs and Grillmeier, which is why his work has superseded theirs. This is confirmed in the work of a good number of other scholars on the subject as well. The question is what was the theology of Nestorius, and not how large the Church was in Persia. Neither Moffett nor Jenkins work are adequate to answer that question. And yes, Nestorius did fail to take the communication of properties from one nature to the other seriously enough. He took it to be a verbal exchange of names united by a prosopa that was the product of the union of two essences/substances. So yes, to fail to take the communication “seriously enough” would be indicative of a major Christological error.

    And your appeal to these authors strikes me as nothing more than an appeal to authority at this point since there is very little in the way of argument and just statements.

    Secondly, you are defending persons and theological claims that your own tradition condemns. Perhaps before using it as a foil to Rome you should try to change your own tradition’s judgment on the matter. Secondly, it is useless as a foil to Rome when talking to someone like me who is Orthodox since we don’t accept the Papacy anyhow.

    If you are going to transgress your own confessional and representational boundaries in accepting the Nestorians as Christians, then do you also accept the Copts as well? Furthermore, I am not sure how the number of persecutions is relevant to the truth of the doctrine. By the same standard, the Russian Church should be acceptable as such to you as well. Furthermore, the Nestorians accept many of the doctrines you employ as a basis to condemn Rome as teaching a false gospel. Why is it that on the basis of those doctrines Rome teaches a false gospel (and also the Orthodox) but somehow the Nestorians seem to conveniently escape your condemnatory gavel?

    To my knowledge, the Reformed accept the theological judgments up to but not including the seventh council, unless of course you think Monothelitism and monophysitism are open questions too.

    Moffett’s judgment that the prosopic rather than hypostatic union is weak theology but not heretical is not in line with the Reformed confessions. Second, his work is not a monograph on Nestorius’ theology, but a survey of the history of the non-Chalcedonians in Persia et al. So I am not sure how it can carry the kind of argumentative weight you wish it to.

    If Moffett’s work shows how small and boasful the claims of Rome and Constantinople are, so much the more so with the Reformed. So I am not sure how that actually helps your position.

  370. August 23, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Curate,

    As to the English, the Articles are tricky things. The official text is not the English text, but the Latin. Only the Latin was taken to be authoritative in the realm. And the Latin terms favor a more traditional interpretation. So for example, the term for minister in the Articles, is sacerdos, “priest.” Likewise Article XX while mentioning the errors of various churches in councils excludes the Church of Constantinople. Such is the case with the Articles. They are capable of different interpretations depending on which party was in power since they were formed by different parties. See Bp. Forbes, Explanation of the 39 Articles, & Symonds, The Council of Trent and Anglican Formularies. It is also worthwhile to note that the monarchy removed three articles of a more Calvinistic flavor on the basis of their own authority and that was hardly done as collaborative effort.

    Not all of the bishops were as Protestant as Jewel for example. Plenty like Gardiner were quite traditional and this remained so even under the heal of monarchial power. See Duffy’s, The Stripping of the Altars, or Richard Rex, Henry 8th and the English Reformation.

  371. August 23, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    David,

    I agree that God instills reasoning faculties and such, but how does it follow that they interpret the data apart from some worldview? This sounds like evidentialism to me. Perhaps you are an evidentialist and that is part of where our disagreement lies, but I don’t take reason and the ability to communicate to be anymore indicative of the existence of theory neutral facts than when an atheist or Mormons claims as much.

    I agree that there may be common ground, but I deny that it is neutral ground.

    I am not sure how self reflective gets us to interpreting texts apart from a worldview? And won’t that worldview have theological content? And I simply deny that many points of exegesis are not philosophically loaded. The entire methodology is philosophically loaded and relative to some worldview.

  372. August 23, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    John B,

    I agree that God has the ability to communicate, but sensory facts like those gotten from reading a text along with conceptual content are interpreted according to a worldview. There are no worldview neutral facts to appeal to in interpretation. Our understanding is a function of our worldview. Following Van Til, the epistemic reason why the unbeliever doesn’t think that say the facts given for the resurrection imply the resurrection is because he presupposes a naturalistic worldview whereby he interprets those facts and the Christian interprets the facts according to his worldview. See Notaro, Van Til and the Use of Evidence, or any of Bahnsen’s work for that matter.

    Your example of communication of a husband/wife communication actually undercuts your position, since it would imply that we don’t need an infallible word from God for God to clearly communicate with us. Is that what you wish to say? Secondly, no one is claiming that for communication to be possible that one has to be infallible. The question is about the normativity of that communication and if it can be accessed from some worldviewless or perspectiveless position.

    2 Pet 3:16. Peter notes that the unstable misunderstand the things that Paul says that are hard to understand. He doesn’t say that they are hard to understand just to the unstable. Hence nothing you cited from commentaries, as if appealing to authorities proved the claim anyway, touches what I said regarding the passage. Plenty of things in the Scriptures are hard to understand. Just go around your church and start asking people how many wills Jesus has and watch what happens. And without telling them or letting them consult the confession watch what the result is without using the Bible. Clarity doesn’t entail ease of understanding.

    Again, you frame the matter as Rome vs Protestant. I am not Roman. The issue is between Protestants and everyone else-Rome, the Orthodox-Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian.

  373. Bob S said,

    August 23, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Bryan, in #364 (and #27) you continue to confuse radical anabaptist individualism, if not the current American evangelical view, with the historic Protestant appeal to the multitude of counselors in past and present history and the collective judgement of the Protestant churches in their confessions. IOW what you fail to see is that protestantism is the happy albeit imperfect medium. It is neither the gross totalitarian collective of the infallible “church” as found in and defined by the top heavy papal hierarchy nor gross radical anabaptist individualism.

    Further to the point in #354 you write :

    Where in Scripture is there a promise that the Holy Spirit will guide academia into all truth, and that the gates of hell will not prevail against academia? If you make academia your interpretive authority, then you need to be prepared to go down with the ship, when God hands them to a depraved mind and futile speculations and darkened hearts. I’m sticking with the successors of those uneducated fishermen, because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.

    Exactly. Never mind academia, where in Scripture has the Roman church been given the promise that it will be guided into all truth and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it?

    It would have to be Matt. 16:18: “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” which you quote in part.

    But then if a text out of context is a pretext, we have a little problem. Christ goes on in Matt. 16:23 to call pope Peter, Satan of all things! because Peter refuses to hear and cannot understand Christ’s prophesying of his own death and resurrection at Jerusalem:

    “But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”

    In other words, the horns of the dilemma upon which we are cast is how can be Peter be not only the Rock upon which the Holy Roman Church is built, but also Satan at the same time, if not a few minutes later on the same day?

    Answer: he can’t. Christ is either consistently referring to something Peter said in both instances – not literally Peter himself – or else Peter really is the first “pope” as Rome teaches, though he is married (Mk.1:30), fallible (Gal. 2:11), apostle to the Jews, not the Gentiles (Gal. 2:7), absent from Rome (Rom.16) and ignorant of his office of pope (1 Pet.5:1) – as well as the antiChrist as the Protestant Reformers taught (2 Thess. 2:3-10).

    (All this even before we get to #362 which, in conjunction with Matt. 16, essentially asserts that the Eliakim of Is.22:20 is Peter, not Christ, not to mention the even more preposterous, if not pathetic assertion that Peter, not Christ is speaking in Rev. 3:7 in order to shore up the Roman argument for Peter’s primacy.)

    Ah, but as you say of academia, if you make Rome “your interpretive authority, then you need to be prepared to go down with the ship, when God hands them [over] to a depraved mind and futile speculations and darkened hearts.” Exactly.

    The rock upon which the church is built, is Christ, the son of God, if not faith in and affirmation of this truth, not the apostle who first mouthed it. FTM the early church hardly presents even close to a unanimous affirmation of what Rome teaches on the primacy of Peter.

    I’ll stick with the Protestant successors of those uneducated fishermen, in that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men, who exalt a worldly city, Rome and a man they call the pope over the heavenly New Jerusalem and Christ.

    While there are things written in Scripture, as it plainly says, “which are hard to be understood (2Pet.3:16)”, in contrast that which must be known for salvation is so plainly propounded that anyone with the due use of the ordinary means, the reading and hearing of Scripture, may run the race set before them, of which the reward is the crown of life eternal in Christ.

    Further, in so much as the true scriptural gospel is that rediscovered and taught by the Reformation; salvation is by faith alone, in Christ alone, through sovereign predestinating grace alone, to the glory of God alone, as found in the Scriptures alone, so too the true church is one that preaches that gospel and not any other church that preaches any other gospel. IOW Rome categorically falls into the last category and not the first.

    Further, there are those who say “peace, peace” – if not write, “in the peace of Christ” – when there is no peace, for they heal the hurt of the Lord’s people only slightly, if at all (cp. Jer. 6:14, 8:11). FTM, 2 Kings 9:22 and Jehu’s retort to Joram is applicable. “What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?”

    IOW just as Queen Jezebel usurped the authority of King Ahab to do wickedness 1K 21:8, so too Rome usurps the authority of her master and king, Christ and his Scripture in order to exalt herself, which is of the essence of idolatry and pride, even before we get to the wholesale full scale violation of the Second Commandment in the mass, the host, crucifixes, monstrances and ostensoriums.

    Let the reader judge what Scripture, history and the exchange on this forum plainly tell us about Rome and her claims to be the only true and infallible church and the final judge, witness to and interpreter of Scripture.

    As for #368 the assertion that the Protestants changed the canon is asinine. The Old Testament canon was established by the Jews and Rome added the OT Apocrypha to it, not the early church. Further, the NT quotes from or alludes to the OT canon but not the Apocrypha.
    But in that EO is essentially papist w.o. the pope, I don’t expect much from it much different than one would hear from Rome, i.e. the holy and infallible Mother Church, if not that icons are not idols because we venerate them instead of worship them etc.
    Yes, it is Protestantism, which is Chalcedonian, against both Rome and Constantinople.

    Thank you.

  374. Bryan Cross said,

    August 23, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Bob,

    If you disagree with my explanation (in #364) of “derived authority”, what is your definition of “derived authority”? In other words, what does it mean for a creed to have “derived authority,” if not that it conforms to your interpretation of Scripture?

    If you think I’m confusing radical anabaptist individualism for historic Protestantism, then to which ecclesial authority should we all submit our interpretations, and on what basis should we submit our interpretations to that ecclesial authority?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  375. Paige Britton said,

    August 23, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Bryan Cross, #349 — Thanks so much for explaining. I appreciate that you took the time to do so!

  376. Paige Britton said,

    August 23, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Oh, and Andrew P., too — I just found your helpful little summary in the forest of posts.

  377. Paige Britton said,

    August 23, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Perry, #368, “To say that we can try on lenses, well that presupposes that we can interpret facts apart from epistemological assumptions…etc.”

    Just a thought — I used the idea of “maps” earlier to describe a cumulative sort of summary of biblical data, the more organized of which we call theological systems. If Andrew M. meant by “lenses” what I mean by “maps,” then (when it comes to “trying them on” or examining them) we have a body of verbal content that we may compare with the body of verbal content in Scripture.

    This doesn’t solve the problem of presuppositional lenses or infallibility, but it does make the task seem a rational one, doesn’t it? Comparing texts, essentially?

  378. August 23, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Todd,

    You asked Bryan if a given statement of his about the church was falsifiable. Well that presupposes a kind of falsificationism, which I know I reject and I suppose Bryan does as well. I’d also wager that most Van Tillians reject it as well. In order for a proposition to be true it doesn’t require that it be capable of falsification. Is God infallible? Is that capable of falsification? No.

    Secondly, following Quine and Van Til, it is impossible to isolate a given proposition from all others in a given conceptual scheme, rendering falsification impossible. This is why Popper’s falsificationism died over thirty years ago.

  379. Paige Britton said,

    August 23, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Perry — #377 & 378: Ha, we tied for time but I won. :)

  380. rfwhite said,

    August 23, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    364, 27 Bryan Cross: Your analysis of the Protestant conception of the Church having “derived authority” seems to be at odds with your doctrine of informed conscience. Here is what I am inferring: in your view, an informed conscience, by defintion, conforms to the decisions and councils of the Church. Is this the case? Can an informed conscience ever say “I must obey God rather than man” and remain innocent before God?

  381. August 23, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    John Buggay,

    You wrote “You are giving a philosophically-based answer to a question about Scripture.”

    This supposes a number of problematic things. First that scripture lacks philosophical content. Second that the two are opposed in some way. Third that the relevant philosophical grounded perspectives can’t be justified on scriptural grounds.

  382. August 23, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Paige,

    The maps concept won’t work, since it relies on an incrementalist model of building up facts into a theory or model. I don’t think facts disrimiante between models in the first place and I don’t tihnk a presuppositional perspetive does either.

  383. August 23, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    John B.

    I am not sure that the appeal to the analogia fide and the historical-grammatical method on Gal 4:21ff can really be brought together. It doesn’t see as if Paul is using the former, even if this is an instance of the latter.

    Secondly, not all lenses distort, some amplify.

  384. August 23, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    John B,

    You wrote “Bryan — there is no reason to even think about granting your definition of “Church” — especially when the history of the Roman church clearly shows that the Roman Catholic church is not what it says it is. Your definition of “Church” renders the whole thing false before it even gets started.”

    There are other definitions of the church other than the Catholic one upon which Bryan’s statements could still go through. So simply rejecting the Roman one won’t help your dismissal.

    Secondly, to say that the definition renders the whole enterprise a mistake from the get go is to beg the question against Bryan’s position.

  385. August 23, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    Todd,

    Your wrote, “If I wasn’t clear – Jesus expected all to hear his words and understand them, without appointing official interpreters of his Word for the people. Thus God has revealed in His Word that all who can hear his Word are held responsible to understand and obey it, demonstrating that we have been given the ability from God to hear/read – then understand and respond to God’s revelation, not perfectly, but sufficiently.”

    If this was the case, why have a system of judges in the OT to interpret and apply the Law? Second, the same goes for the council in Acts 15.

  386. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 23, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    To say that they were acting “as the church” presupposes that one can have a church without ministers who are commissioned or sent by God, either mediately or immediately.

    Perry,

    But we do have ministers which are commissioned by God as outlined in the Scriptures. The Reformers were not just individuals who popped and thought that it would be nice to be a theologians and bishops. And look at the bishops, particularly the bishops of Rome (Leo X, etc.), who opposed the Reformers. As you know these people possessed few or none of the characteristics of a Christian bishop as outlined in Timothy, Titus, etc. They were by Rome’s own admission after power and money and women and whatever else, but did not care too much about biblical Christianity. But I think you know all of this story. The one thing they did possess was a pedigree which tied them back to the bishops of the 1st/2nd century. Rome holds that in effect that this is all that matters. But this is hardly in line with either the Scriptures or the Early Church. Your statement above presupposes that Rome did have valid ministers. Should we accept what the criteria that Rome gives us, end of story? Why should the Reformed accept the Roman criteria for validity of ministers? Of course if Rome gets to define the criteria for validity of ministers then Protestantism vanishes into a puff of rhetorical smoke. But I don’t think you should assume that the Protestants had no valid ministers, this needs some proper analysis. What’s a little confusing to me is that I don’t think you would concede that Rome had valid ministers any more than the Protestants.

    Everyone who thinks that councils are infallible in a derivative sense. This is why I said earlier that infallibility is a divine energy. So your proposed gloss turns on a straw man. The idea is that latter councils are also led by the Spirit. I am sure that Protestants will wish to affirm some kind of cessation of the apostolic ministry in that respect. But for my part given the biblical material on the Spirit’s work through the laying on of hands in ordination of bishops, presbyters and deacons there is a good basis to start thinking that the Spirits working councils didn’t cease.

    I just wanted to point out here that you are not making any argument, but rather just telling what your feeling is. And if you equate infallibility with “divine energy,” what is my response supposed to be? What does this mean?

    Furthermore, by your criteria, the Arians were “the church” too and somehow I don’t think you wish to admit as much.

    The Arians did claim to be the true church. The Arian claims could theoretically have been correct. But we can refute Arian claims by the Scriptures and secondly Early Church tradition, can’t we? And likewise we see that we can refute so many of Rome’s doctrines by the Scriptures and early tradition. Take papal primacy. Here is claim that can be refuted both from Scripture and Early tradition, right? So moving onto the Reformation, I would say that Rome could theoretically be correct, but why don’t we just analyze Rome as we did with the Arians? If Rome falls short then we don’t want to accord them validity just because they can demonstrate some sort of succession to earlier times. Sounds reasonable?

    Don’t you think that it is possible that the WCF could be wrong or that the early church got the canon wrong? Isn’t the church fallible in deciding the canon or no?

    The WCF is the product of the mind of man while the Bible is the product of the mind of God. The Church did not decide the canon any more than the Church decided what to put into the individual books. The books of Scripture were written by God and the same God who superintended the writing of the individual books superintended the collection of these books into the canon. The canon is infallible because God is infallible whether or not the Church is. It is superfluous to posit an infallible Church. If the Bible really is the Word of God, and God inspired it, then neither the individual texts not the collection of text is revisable, are they? How could the individual texts be infallible but the collection of texts fallible if this is really God’s Word?

    If you are all part of Christ’s church then why isn’t there full communion? Why do you not profess the same faith?

    We do not need to be administratively connected to profess the same faith. There are all sorts of Evangelical churches around here where I can and have worshiped. It would surprise me and believers from these other churches if you told us that we were not in communion. Maybe you should describe “full communion.” Is the situation be better if I went down to the local RC congregation? I have a very conservative Catholic friend there who tells me that there are few conservatives like him and his wife there. But are the liberals and conservatives in “full communion” because they all report to the same boss?

    You’ve made some other points, but that’s enough for tonight. Cheers for now….

  387. August 23, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Curate

    Your gloss on what constitutes the gospel seems far too narrow. If everyone who thought that human activity is part of justification were pelagian and therefore taught a false Gospel, then Augustine was clearly Pelagian and taught a false gospel. http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2009/04/09/no-gospel-for-augustine/

    It seems not only odd, but entirely absurd to convict the doctor of grace of Pelagianism. Something must be wrong with your taxonomy.

    Secondly, your protest is not just against the pope. Its against the Laudians as well as the Orthodox, the Copts and the Assyrians too. The disagreement is in principle much wider.

    If the Scriptures do not need to be interpreted then biblical writers can’t be offering legitimate interpretations of it, now can they? Second, Scripture itself speaks of being and requiring interpretation.

  388. Bryan Cross said,

    August 23, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    rfwhite,

    Re: #380

    Yes, an informed conscience, by definition, conforms to the decisions and councils of the Church. That doesn’t mean that one must conform to whatever a bishop says, simply because he is a bishop. If he told you to rob a bank, you should say no. You already know the moral law, by conscience, and so you already know that such an act would be wrong. Or, if he told you to renounce the Nicene Creed, you should refuse. Why? Because the Church isn’t merely synchronic, but diachronic. An informed conscience would know that in matters of faith and morals, what has already been definitively established or determined by the Church’s magisterial authority, cannot be overturned. So, if a bishop attempted to require someone to renounce the Creed, that bishop would ipso facto show himself to be heretical.

    Can an informed conscience ever say “I must obey God rather than man” and remain innocent before God?

    Every individual should obey God rather than man, when that individual must choose between obeying God and obeying man. No person who obeys God incurs guilt for doing so.

    I’m sure you’ll want to apply to this to our Catholic-Protestant discussion, so I’ll wait for your reply.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  389. August 23, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Andrew M,

    I do not think that you have ministers commissioned by God. Some of the Reformers were laymen all their lives, like Calvin. Second those that were ordained renounced their Catholic ordination vows. Third, among the Presbyterians, they prohibited ordination by the laying on of hands for over a century just to weed out the idea of any spiritual life or power giving through ordination. Any presbyterial tactual succession they could have possibly had was lost. They were ordained by mere voting, quite contrary to the biblical model I might add. Fourth, none of the Reformers works were attended to by miracle and prophecy to authenticate an extraordinary commissioning by God as is the case in the Bible with Moses or anyone else directly commissioned. So given that they lacked both mediate/ordinary and immediate/extraordinary sending, I can’t see what constitutes them as legitimate ministers commissioned by God in the Scriptures.

    I am not saying that the Reformers just popped out of nowhere. They came from an existing structure. And at the starting point, it was their judgment against that of the church courts. Their judgment they thought could trump those courts. They even thought this when dialoging with the Orthodox so it wasn’t just a case of resisting Roman corruption.

    I am quite aware of Roman abuses at the time, but I fail to see how that justifies dissenting from the biblical model. Secondly, the appeal to Roman abuses simply won’t wash in my case. If you become familiar with say Mark of Ephesus and the council of Florence, I think you’ll see that we were quite aware of such abuses long before Luther was a twinkle in his daddy’s eye. Not only that, bishops like Mark most certainly did have the qualifications to be a bishop. What is the excuse then?

    Rome nor the Orthodox do not hold that all that matters is a succession, but also a succession of doctrine. It is only that one is a necessary condition for the other. Even if there were no succession of doctrine, it wouldn’t follow that the succession of office ceased to be a necessary condition and thereby would still preclude the Protestant position.

    Why would my statement presume that Rome had valid ministers if I don’t think that Rome does? It would only presume that there were valid ministers and the Reformers rejected these as well. I don’t accept the Roman concept of validity as an Orthodox Christian. All I tried to appeal to was the biblical material about commissioning and sending. On that basis alone, it seems the Reformers failed to be legitimate ministers however right they may have been about protesting abuses. Of course, lots of other Catholics also protested moral abuses too.

    I wasn’t relaying feelings or emotions to you, but rather correcting the misunderstanding of the concept I was pointing to. I was also suggesting that one look at the biblical material on what constitutes ordination to pump our thinking on the matter in this discussion.

    If you do not know what the Patristic doctrine (and biblical) of the divine energies, maybe you could go look it up?

    I don’t see how the Arian claims could have been correct, given the discontinuity with the preceding tradition. I am no Arian sympathizer, but I think until you’ve grappled with the exegesis of someone like Eunomius I think you casually over estimate your biblical case. An Augustinian exegetical model that you are probably working with makes it far more difficult to refute Arianism precisely because it shares so many of the same assumptions. (Hint-look at what Barth says about Calvin’s doctrine of Christ at Church Dogmatics II, p.111)

    Even if one could refute the Eunomians, Rome etc. with Scripture alone, won’t that be our judgment? Any argument is only as good as its premises. So why would our judgment as to a successful refutation be normative? It can’t be merely because it is logically valid since one can always reject various premises, which the Arians did and I assume Rome will too in a number of cases. Normativity out runs inerrancy. Jesus taught more than the right ideas, he taught with normativity.

    The Church did not decide the material canon, but that everyone grants. But everyone also grants that the church decided the formal canon too. And if you think your church is fallible, there is no reason to think that the Protestants could have or can in the future make a mistake either by including books that don’t belong or by excluding those that do. Why think that the church’s recognition and specifically Protestants recognition is without the possibility of error? If rome can be wrong for 1000 plus years, why not the Reformers for 500?

    It is one thing for the bible to be infallible of itself materially speaking, it is quite another thing to think that my recognition of any given book relative to inspiration of that book is infallible. Do you think the church’s recognition of the books was infallible? Don’t you think the church got it wrong and included some books that weren’t inspired?

    You ask how the text could be infallible but the collection not be. Simple. The Sadducees did it. They didn’t accept anything outside the Law of Moses as Scripture. Were they fallible in what they judged to be inspired? Yes. Were they wrong? Yes. Something being infallible is quite different than my knowing or recognizing it as such. The first is a metaphysical question as to the nature of the object, and the second is epistemological as to how I know about its nature. You seem to conflate these two. Hence on Protestant principles the canon is revisable.

    If you don’t need to be administratively connected to profess the same faith, then why don’t you profess the same faith? The Lutherans, Presbyterians/Dutch and the Reformed Baptists do not all profess the same faith and its been like that for 500 years. And why think that being in full communion has to do with administration? I am talking about the Eucharist. Again, you ask about things being better with the local Roman parish, but I am not Roman so I fail to see why you keep asking me questions about Rome.

  390. rfwhite said,

    August 23, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    388 Bryan Cross: it seems clear on your hermeneutical theory that an informed conscience is never forced to choose between God and man. Like I said back in #10, there is an interplay of three authorities at work here: that of Scripture, that of the church and its officers, and that of individual conscience. How we configure these three relative to one another yields radical ecclesiastical differences. Roman Catholics say Protestantism delivers us sinners to the anarchy of individualism; Protestants say Roman Catholicism delivers us sinners to the tyranny of authoritarianism. Is there any hope?

  391. Todd said,

    August 23, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    “If this was the case, why have a system of judges in the OT to interpret and apply the Law? Second, the same goes for the council in Acts 15.”

    Perry,

    Since I don’t believe in apostolic succession, I cannot accept the idea that the church hierarchy continues the ministry of interpretation the Apostles were given. The Apostles were God’s chosen men to prophetically reveal the mystery that is the OT promises. The NT is the mystery now revealed. Acts 15 is the continuing ministry of the Apostles to explain the new covenant. The canon is closed – the Apostles are dead, that ministry is over. They are the foundation (Eph 2:20), we do not need another foundation.

    Also, a help or guide, i.e. pastors and teachers, do not need to be infallible to help us understand truth. My parents gave me a framework by which to understand life, they were good guides, but they did not need to be infallible. The same is true with the church as our mother.

  392. August 23, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Bob S.

    What is the difference between Luther’s position at Worms and that of Anabaptist individualism? Luther rejected the judgment of church courts on the basis of his own judgment and thought such a judgment was binding on himself over against that of the church.

    You also frame the spectrum as if there are only three possible positions, Rome, the Anabaptists and the Reformation. Where exactly would the Laudian Anglo-Catholics fit or the Orthodox for that matter? It seems your framing of the matter is a bit skewed.

    As for academia, Bryan was quite right to discuss it when it was being posited that academia says dikiao means such and so and Rome disagrees. If Protestants here wish to give up the appeal to academic authorities, I am sure Bryan would be quite happy.

    Nor will your interpretation of Matt 16 get you very far since that interpretation doesn’t of itself lend aid to the Protestant position. The Orthodox accept the reading in the main you give, that it was Peter’s confession of the true faith, but that still leaves plenty of room for an infallible church since it is impossible for the *society* Christ establishes to fall away.

    Even if you proved papal claims to be false, and I think they are false, this won’t justify the Protestant position or even imply it. There is no a priori reason to take it as the default position over against Rome. There are plenty of other options on the table.

    And your requirement of unanimity on the papal perogatives isn’t exactly fair. The early Church hardly presents a unanimous affirmation of the deity of Christ. Furthermore, it certainly doesn’t on the alteration of the Trinity that Protestants get from their mother, the Filioque.

    And if your citation about the due use of ordinary means were correct then the Lutherans must not have been using them for the last 500 years. Either that or the Reformed haven’t.

    If Sola Fide was the true spiritual gospel, why didn’t Augustine have it since he clearly doesn’t teach it. Was it the Latin? Ok, how about Chrysostom or Cyril who were quite fluent in Greek?

    It may be that Jezebel ursurped the authority of the king, but Protestants seem to fall under the rubric of the rebellion of Korah, where they appointed their own ministers out of the succession. (Num 16)

    You ask the reader to judge, but what does Jesus say to do with those who won’t listen to the judgment of the church?

    As for the canon, if the Jews were fallible, isn’t it possible that they made a mistake? After all, aren’t these the same Jewish leaders who lacked the spiritual discernment to recognize Messiah? Furthermore, not all Jews at the time of Christ agreed on the canon. The Sadducees for example did not recognize anything after the Law of Moses. Plenty of fathers were using the apocrypha or parts of it as scripture long before the council of Rome in 382. And even at that time, everything from Hebrews to Revelation was still in doubt in large sections in the church.

    Furthermore, not all scholars agree that the NT doesn’t cite the apocrypha. And even if it didn’t, are we to exclude Ruth now since the NT doesn’t cite it either? The criteria of NT citation is clearly inadequate-its is neither a necessary condition nor a sufficient condition.

    As for the Orthodox, saying that we are papist without the Pope betrays I must say gross ignorance. First, it ignores the high esteem that the Reformers held the Eastern church of their own day. Second, it betrays gross ignorance of Orthodox teaching. Just to name a few points of divergence-the Filioque, the distinction between essence and energies in God, our affirmation and Rome’s (as well as Protestant) denial of dyoenergism (two energies in Christ), our lacking of limiting the sacraments to seven or two for that matter, not to mention our different understanding of icons, which is one reason why in general the Orthodox do not permit statues. Since you seem quite iconophobic, perhaps you can explain something to me. If when people fall before the incarnate Christ and kiss his feet, is the worship passed on to the divine person or do they worship his body? And is the divine property of immortality and the divine glory given to matter, to creatures or is it some created intermediary between God and man as say Arius supposed? And where does the Bible say God is absolutely simple again?

    As for the ChalcedonianChristology, I’d suggest that this isn’t the case with the Reformed. Just pick up Muller’s Christ and the Decree, which is sufficiently clear that the Reformed (happily I might ad) dissent from Chalcedon. And Muller is no Orthodox toady. Just notice Calvin’s remarks in the Inst, bk 2, chap 14, sec 5,

    “Now the old writers defined ’hypostatic union’ as that which constitutes one person OUT OF two natures.”

    Well, that’s not Chalcedon. In fact, its something else entirely. And Calvin wasn’t alone in his non-Chalcedonianism. You can find it explicitly in Vermigli’s dialog on the two natures as well as in Bucer, Bullinger, Musculus, et al. Just take a look at McCormack’s remarks here http://aboulet.com/2008/05/20/reformed-christology-and-the-westminster-htfc-report/
    It makes reading WCF 8.2 all the more interesting.

  393. August 23, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    Todd,

    So the deacons in Acts 6 weren’t laboring in the ministry of the apostles but some newly founded ministry? And Timothy and Titus, were they continuing in the Apostle’s ministry or some other?

    The Apostleship isn’t defined by the giving of inspiration. Luke and Mark were not apostles and many apostles wrote no scripture at all.

    Secondly the doctrine of apostolic succession doesn’t teach that there is a modern day apostle but that a portion of the apostle’sministry continues today, and this is what the fathers at Nicea and Constaninople meant when they spoke of the church being “apostolic.” To deny this is to reinterpret the Creed and insert your own innovation.

    It is true that one doesn’t need to be infallible to understand, but if that were the issue, we wouldn’t even need fallible church courts, now would we, but just teachers. I don’t need a court to help me understand do I? Surely then the matter is not about understanding, but about normative judgments, resolving disputes, etc. And that was exactly the point. If it were a matter of mere understanding why the judges in the OT and the system of councils in the NT?

    Consequently I can’t see how your remarks touch my question.

  394. Bryan Cross said,

    August 23, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    rfwhite,

    Re: #390,

    it seems clear on your hermeneutical theory that an informed conscience is never forced to choose between God and man

    Actually, in #388 I gave two examples of an informed conscience being obligated to choose to obey God rather than man.

    Protestants say Roman Catholicism delivers us sinners to the tyranny of authoritarianism. Is there any hope?

    Yes. There is hope, because the God we serve is able to bring us back together.

    In order to determine whether it was right for the early Protestants to go against the Church authorities, we need to know the principled difference between those situations in which one is justified in acting against Church authorities, and those situations in which one is not justified in acting against them. Otherwise, the individual could treat every case in which he disagrees with the Church as a case justifying his acting against the Church.

    The Protestant position, by implication from the very history of its separation, is that unless the individual is convinced from his own interpretation of Scripture that what the Church is saying is correct, he is not obligated to accept it. As Luther said, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason …”

    The Catholic position, by contrast, is that holding a different interpretation from the Church is not a justification for not conforming to the Church, because the Church has an interpretive authority that we do not have. By discovering what the Church has determined about a doctrine, we discover what the Holy Spirit teaches about this doctrine. Moreover, by recognizing the Church’s interpretive and teaching authority, we can know what has been definitively determined, and thus in those matters we can distinguish between what is orthodox and what is heterodox. If some bishop is going against what has already been definitively determined by the Church, or what has been universally believed and taught by the bishops, then we must not accept what he says. But if the bishops in ecumenical council come to a conclusion about a hitherto unresolved question in the Church, and their conclusion is contrary to our interpretation of Scripture, then we must submit to the interpretive authority of the Church.

    One important difference between Catholics and Protestants on this point is that Protestants accept, but Catholics reject ecclesial deism. We believe that by the imparted gift of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and their successors, the teaching office of the Church will never depart from the faith, but will ever be guided by the Holy Spirit into all truth. But Protestantism cannot believe that (without undermining itself). As a result, in Protestantism the individual necessarily has final interpretive authority, because for any Church decision or council, he has to judge for himself whether or not that decision or council came to the ‘right’ conclusion, based on his own interpretation of Scripture. Hence ecclesial deism serves as the basis for the solo scriptura that is intrinsic to Protestantism.

    That’s why the ecclesial deism issue is so important. Ecclesial deism undermines the possibility of reconciliation and reunion, because it leaves each individual to do what it is right in his own eyes, according to his own interpretation. And that is the “anarchy of individualism”, as you put it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  395. August 23, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    Andrew,

    First, thanks for your efforts in defending Reformed confessionalism.

    Question for you: As you know, Catholics insist that apostolic succession, while not a sufficient condition, is nevertheless a necessary one for valid orders. Now is your view the same, i.e., that succession is necessary but not sufficient, with your disagreement being over what the other necessary conditions are?

    Or, are you arguing that succession is not necessary at all and never has been?

    Or a third option, are you arguing that apostolic succession was at one time necessary, but at a given point in history there were no available bishops who had all the necessary and sufficient conditions for valid orders, and so therefore God eliminated the need for succession altogether?

    Thanks in advance.

    JJS

  396. Curate said,

    August 24, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Bryan and Perry, you consistently refuse to engage with the actual arguments, and retreat constantly into, Yes, but if this then that theorizings. You accuse us of radical individualism, then, when proven otherwise, you make irrelevant points like, Ah, but you couldn’t take the bishops with you, and, not everyone was as Protestant as Jewel.

    While this demonstrates your familiarity with historical details and philosophical speculation, it all evades the argument that has been made over and again, from scripture, that the biblical authors included their own explanations of what they wrote.

    Then there is this priceless statement from Perry: If the Scriptures do not need to be interpreted then biblical writers can’t be offering legitimate interpretations of it, now can they?

    I have been saying from the beginning that the biblical authors interpret their own writings. Doh! Perhaps it was late when you wrote that one Perry. The biblical writers own interpretation is itself scripture! Yes, it must have been late.

    You have been given many examples, such as a parable that is followed by its explanation, or Paul interpreting the OT in Galatians, saying, Do you not know what the law says?, followed by an explanation.

    Here is a straight question to the two of you: does scripture interpret itself? If it does – and Perry has already said it does – then what is the role of your infallible Pope Bryan, or your tradition, Perry? To explain the explanation?

    If scripture contains its own explanations, and it does beyond all contradiction, then the Protestant position is shown to be correct.

  397. Curate said,

    August 24, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Perry, Augustine is the great defender of the sovereignty of God in salvation against Pelagian free will. He is a hero of the faith to us.

    He had a faulty understanding in confusing justification with regeneration, but he knew and taught that all of salvation is by grace apart from works. In that point he grasped the very essence of the gospel, and is a hero to the Lutherans and the Reformed. Brother Martin, Mister sola fide, called him the blessed Augustine, as well he might.

  398. David Gadbois said,

    August 24, 2009 at 1:05 am

    Perry said I agree that God instills reasoning faculties and such, but how does it follow that they interpret the data apart from some worldview? This sounds like evidentialism to me.

    A basic theistic worldview supplied by the light of general revelation is all that is needed. And to an extent perhaps even that is not needed, in the sense that even atheists can correctly interpret much (perhaps all) of the Bible, correctly identifying the author’s intended meaning, even though they don’t believe what they are reading. Yes, you could say that the atheist borrows from the theistic worldview and presuppositions to do this, but that just demonstrates the universality of general revelation.

    I am not sure how self reflective gets us to interpreting texts apart from a worldview? And won’t that worldview have theological content? And I simply deny that many points of exegesis are not philosophically loaded. The entire methodology is philosophically loaded and relative to some worldview.

    Well, depends on what one means by the term ‘loaded’. I don’t consider it ‘loaded’ to, for instance, assume the law of non-contradiction in the practice of exegesis. I simply mean it is not controversial in most contexts. Most take it for granted, as well they should. Normally-functioning human beings already have such basic presuppositions and tools in place to begin to read the clearer parts of Scripture and thus begin the hermeneutical spiral, leading to further refinement, reflection, and self-correction.

    Of course, it is true that in some rare cases one does not have such tools in place. It may be entirely appropriate, then, to teach such a one the basic points of logic and give rational proofs for monotheism, and so forth. I don’t have a problem with a two-step apologetic where basic points of general revelation are covered as a foundational precursor to special revelation.

    What you seem to be implying, however, is that we need something outside of Scripture (church, tradition, or whatever) to supply the foundational philosophical presuppositions to exegesis. The problem is that any guide that itself must be exegeted in order to supply the presuppositions has the same problem as the Bible. The church and tradition, too, must be exegeted.

    The solution is general revelation, which is not a propositional revelation to be exegeted, but an ingrained reality – man made in the image of God instilled with base reasoning faculties and awareness of both Creator and creature.

  399. Paige Britton said,

    August 24, 2009 at 5:33 am

    Perry, #382:
    “The maps concept won’t work, since it relies on an incrementalist model of building up facts into a theory or model. I don’t think facts discriminate between models in the first place and I don’t think a presuppositional perspective does either.”

    Okay, granted the ontology of facts: still, there are bodies of verbal content called confessions and books and papal bulls and articles and ecclesiastical pronouncements. How on earth are we to evaluate the truth of these, if we can’t compare them with a body of verbal content which we believe is normative — whether that be the Bible alone, or the Bible plus [verbally articulated] tradition? Can we not compare such assembled systems with each other as well, and decide that one is more correct than another?

    If I have accepted, say, the Reformed or Anglican expression of the faith as true, can I not take the assembled system of facts and interpretations as expressed in a Reformed or Anglican theology textbook or a confession, and compare it to, say, the Eastern Orthodox expression of the faith? What mental processes would have to happen for me to one day say, “I used to be Reformed, and then Anglican, and now I am Eastern Orthodox,” as you do?

  400. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 24, 2009 at 6:50 am

    Monergism.

    Monergistic regeneration.

    God gave me the lens. For some, the lens changes over time. For others, it doesn’t.

    Monergism + Sola Scriptura = A Sufficient Lens.

    If I’m not in full communion with you on this side of Heaven, then I hope to be in full communion with you on the other side of Heaven.

    Soli Dei Gloria!

  401. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 24, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Perry,

    I bring up Roman examples because Protestantism is a Western phenomenon. If you want to say that there is no applicability to EO then that’s OK. But I brought up communion with an RC congregation because I think that you would agree that Rome insistence on deriving authority from the original bishops is correct even if you feel that the Bishop of Rome has erred at points in history. I’m trying to point out the fact that communion with a body that claims apostolic succession does not necessarily mean communion with a body that is Christian. So take an EO case now. There are no shortages of Protestant missionaries in countries where EO dominates. When the missionary is asked about the Orthodox church presence, often the answer is that the EO congregations are irrelevant from the standpoint of basic Christian principles. They exist and people go to them but these communions makes no effect on their lives. They are Orthodox but not Christian. So does the formal authority that EO would claim for itself do anything good for the believer in the EO congregation when formality is all that is present? The believer goes through the motions but that’s all they are doing. As with Rome, there are countless Christians who come to Christ out of EO for just these reasons.

    On valid orders, when we speak with the RC’s, effectively all that matters is the formal succession. They talk about the four marks of the Church, but when it comes to actually determining validity everything hinges on apostolic succession (assuming they really can draw a line of succession back to Peter – a questionable premise in and of itself). This is why at the Reformation the RCC ascribed validity to anyone who had been chosen to be a bishop even if everything else in Scriptures concerning the officers in question was violated. But I’m not sure that you would disagree with Rome at this point. You are speaking of the biblical model here but you are not appealing to the Bible. I know what the Scriptures have to say about the characteristics of elders/bishops explicitly in the pastorale epistles and implicitly in other passages of Scripture that speak of the proper function of the leaders in congregations. But you are speaking of the biblical model as if it commands that there be a centralized bishopric that has to oversee the picking of bishops on into the future. I agree that one set of officers in a congregation should pick another. This is succession. The Apostles appointed the first elders in various congregations according to the principles of Timothy, etc and these elders picked their successors and so on. But you seem to want to make the descriptive here become the prescriptive for all time, all else aside. But the idea of one set of officers picking the next was meant to guarantee that the explicit commands concerning officers was carried out into the next generation of officers. So at the Reformation the Bishop of Rome was attempting to force just the opposite characteristics on the Church and the Reformers in line with Scripture pointed out Rome’s error. The Reformed congregations picked their officers according to Scripture and the Early Church. So what should the Reformers have done when they knew Rome to be in error? And why would you be complaining about the Reformers washing their hands of the structures that Rome put in place when you think Rome had no claim to authority and her ecclesiastical system is false?

    On the canon, I really don’t think you are grappling with my point. You are trying to posit that the Reformed position would necessitate a revisable canon because we reject the notion of an infallible Church defining the canon. But you are not stating why this would be the case. We know that the individuals who wrote the books of the Bible were inspired by God. This means even though they were fallible the fact that God was writing through them meant that the book they wrote was infallible because it was God writing through them. We don’t need to posit an infallible writer to have an infallible book, do we? So then on the canon, if God was working through the collecting of these books, as He was the writing of these books, then why is there any reason to think that the collection of books is any more fallible than the individual books themselves? Our understanding of the canon is grounded in the perfect work of God, not in the imperfect work of the Church. So the question for you is why is it necessary to posit an infallible Church if there is already an infallible God involved? But even if you insist on an infallible Church, note that our grounding of the canon, like our grounding of the books of that canon, are in God’s perfect work and therefore cannot be fallible and thus cannot be revisable. And on a practical note, if it’s correct that the Evangelical churches have a revisable canon then don’t you think that we should see some sort of evidence that Evangelicals have put the concept of a revisable canon into action? So are there lots of different canons within the Evangelical world since the canon is revisable?

    And on this topic of Evangelical problems, you want to say that there is an issue of lack of full communion in the Evangelical world. Now I don’t deny that there are separatist groups in the Evangelical world. Some Lutherans in particular want to separate out and say they are the only faithful set of denominations. But this is the exception and the bigger problem for conservative Protestant denominations is just the opposite of what you would suggest. Evangelicalism has big issues with congregations wanting to extend communion to everyone and anyone who says they believe in Jesus. Again on a practical note, I can walk into just about any evangelical communion around here (Baptists, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Congregational, Community, etc) and they welcome me with open arms.

    I don’t see how the Arian claims could have been correct, given the discontinuity with the preceding tradition.

    Well of course I would agree with you here, but that’s not my point. We can engage with the Arians and demonstrate the problems in their system from the standpoint of firstly the Scriptures and secondly the tradition of the Church. So then for instance, when Rome claims to be the true Church we can bring the same sort of analysis to this claim as well.

  402. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 24, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Jason,

    It seems to me that RC, EO, and the Reformed all agree that there is a proper succession that originated with the Apostles. The difference is in how this is administered and expressed. Particularly for Rome with its completely centralized notion of ecclesiastical power, there is a complex system of authority that developed that had nothing to do with the Christianity of the Bible or the earliest centuries of Christianity. Rome sees the authority given by the Apostles as something only properly governed by this system. For the EO there is a more decentralized system of power. The EO speak of bishops being autocephalous, there is a collegiality of the bishops and they collectively speak for the Church without one bishop dominating the others. The authority conferred by the Apostles is expressed through the bishops. The Reformed have a looser structure where the congregations pick their successor with varying amounts of oversight from the ecclesiastical community. We explicitly follow the stipulations in Scripture, and unlike Rome or Constantinople, the authority granted by the Apostles is not exercised by an infallible bishop or group of bishops. From our standpoint, these are later innovations in East and West. We express the authority granted by Christ through the congregations. But of course the congregations are not meant to have absolute power and if there is a disagreement at the local level the churches are meant to come together as they did at Jerusalem.

    RC and EO want to claim that their administration of the authority given by the Apostles is in line with what is described in Scripture and practiced immediately qafter the time of the Apostles. When we ask them to show how current practice jives with Scripture and early tradition we don’t get much a of a response. At least not much of one that I can see.

  403. Todd said,

    August 24, 2009 at 9:40 am

    “So the deacons in Acts 6 weren’t laboring in the ministry of the apostles but some newly founded ministry? And Timothy and Titus, were they continuing in the Apostle’s ministry or some other?”

    Perry,

    Timothy and Titus preached the same message, but they did not possess the same apostolic authority as the Apostles. The word of the Apostles was the word of God. (I Thes 2:13) Not true of successive pastors; they preach the word of the Apostles found in the NT.

    “The Apostleship isn’t defined by the giving of inspiration. Luke and Mark were not apostles and many apostles wrote no scripture at all.”

    Luke and Mark were dependent on the Apostles as their source of truth. The aspect of the Apostle’s ministry concerning inspiration is over. They laid the foundation – only one foundation needs to be laid (Eph 2:20).

    “Secondly the doctrine of apostolic succession doesn’t teach that there is a modern day apostle but that a portion of the apostle’s ministry continues today, and this is what the fathers at Nicea and Constantinople meant when they spoke of the church being “apostolic.” To deny this is to reinterpret the Creed and insert your own innovation.”

    Well, we are mincing words. If the church authorities today possess the same interpretative infallibility as the Apostles, then in essence the authorities are acting as modern day Apostles.

    “If it were a matter of mere understanding why the judges in the OT and the system of councils in the NT?”

    The OT judges resolved disputes by applying the law of God to those particular disputes. The council in Acts 15 was under the authority of the Apostles, who possessed a unique ministry.

    I think we are repeating ourselves now. Thanks for the interaction.

  404. johnbugay said,

    August 24, 2009 at 10:04 am

    David — thank you for your clear explanation in #398.

    Perry — I am neither a theologian nor a historian; I study these things on the side.

    My interest started from a desire to understand. I am not “making arguments from authority,” but really just trying to raise awareness of some things that many (including you) just seem to take for granted.

    The whole area of religion is (or should be) a matter of who we trust to be telling us the truth about the ultimate reality of things. Do you trust the pope telling you he has jurisdictional authority over the whole church? I don’t think so.

    Pelikan, who I’ve come to understand as a trustworthy historian, (even though I disagree with his conclusions), reports that Nestorius’s theology was condemned by Ephesus “certainly without an understanding of its primary intent” (vol 1 pg 262). If someone treated something you were saying — a paper you had submitted, which was perhaps reviewed “certainly without an understanding of its primary intent,” I’ll bet you would object to being treated in that way.

    This is not simply a quote taken out of context, but it is the way Pelikan treats Nestorius. Chalcedon, he says, “could even be, and indeed was, taken as a vindication of the Nestorian position.” Nor is it an appeal to authority. It is a statement of fact. And it is a statement that we understand.

    Moffett, too, (writing in 1991 a book which I acquired in its sixth printing in 2008) points to “the general consensus of scholarship today” which he says “would probably agree … that Nestorius was the better man but Cyril the better theologian” — such things are less important than what those theologies are today.

    If McGuckin does not agree with Moffett or Pelikan or “the general consensus of scholarship today,” it is not because he “supercedes” them, but because he is outside of the mainstream.

    The Council of Ephesus was conducted, we would say, at gunpoint. How much validity should that have? It “failed to understand” Nestorius’s “primary intent.” How much validity should that have?

    There is a lot of interest in “what counts for authority” in the Christian world. I certainy think it is important to take eveyrthing into consideration. And i do think it is really important to ask questions about what passes for authority. Especially in a situation in which a whole segment of Christianity was basically alienated, forgotten about, and left to die. This is horrible. These are, (or were), at minimum, Christians who say the Nicene Creed.

  405. Sean said,

    August 24, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Curate.

    Brother Martin, Mister sola fide, called him the blessed Augustine, as well he might.

    I tell you it is difficult to stand before the impact (Puff) of the argument that holy people such as St. Augustine and others were subject to error. For about twenty years I have been greatly concerned about this matter, have argued with myself about it, and have been troubled by the fact that one does not believe all the pope says; likewise, that the church should be in error, and that I should really believe all that the fathers say….

    Again, it is an offense to see that so many fine, sensible, learned people, nay, the better and greater part of the world, have held and taught this and that; likewise, so many holy people, as St. Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine.
    Sermon on John 3:23-24 on 16 March 1538)

    Behold what great darkness is in the books of the Fathers concerning faith . . . Augustine wrote nothing to the purpose concerning faith.

    The more I read the books of the Fathers, the more I find myself offended….Jerome should not be numbered among the teachers of the church, for he was a heretic.

    Tabletalk had a piece in recent memory about that.

    Philip Melanchthon, in his letter to Johann Brenz (May 1531), wrote, Avert your eyes from such a regeneration of man and from the Law and look only to the promises and to Christ . . . Augustine is not in agreement with the doctrine of Paul, though he comes nearer to it than do the Schoolmen. I quote Augustine as in entire agreement, although he does not sufficiently explain the righteousness of faith; this I do because of public opinion concerning him.

    Luther’s biographer Hartmann Grisar elaborates this chop shop approach to Augustine:

    Luther also quotes St. Augustine, but does not interpret him correctly. He even overlooks the fact that this Father, in one of the passages alleged, says the very opposite to his new ideas on unconditional predestination to hell, and attributes in every case the fate of the damned to their own moral misdeeds. Augustine says, in his own profound, concise way, in the text quoted by Luther: “the saved may not pride himself on his merits, and the damned may only bewail his demerits.” In his meditations on the ever-inscrutable mystery he regards the sinner’s fault as entirely voluntary, and his revolt against the eternal God as, on this account, worthy of eternal damnation. Augustine teaches that “to him as to every man who comes into this world ” salvation was offered with a wealth of means of grace and with all the merits of Christ’s bitter death on the cross.

  406. johnbugay said,

    August 24, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Grisar is not the best person to “elaborate” anything about Luther.

    http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2007/02/catholic-historian-hartmann-grisar-on.html

  407. Curate said,

    August 24, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Sean, go and read Luther for yourself. Put aside the books you are quoting about him. Read him firsthand. Then, open your Bible, and check what he has to say against the Apostle Paul.

    Otherwise you will always be working second-hand.

    Read the Bible for yourself, instead of relying on what you have been told. Pray to God Almighty that he would open your eyes as you read. In short, stop being a child in theological matters, and become a man.

    RdB

  408. Curate said,

    August 24, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Sean, when I was at theological College, I was talking about the resurrection to an atheist who played in the city’s orchestra. He was a German, an excellent chess player, and very intelligent.

    He said to me by way of putdown, It must be hard for you to always be working from a translation. I happened to have my Greek NT on me, so I pulled it out and read some of it to him.

    He never used that argument again.

    I am not saying that you must learn Greek, although it would benefit you, but it is important to work with the sources.

    Ad fontes!

  409. Sean said,

    August 24, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Read the Bible for yourself, instead of relying on what you have been told. Pray to God Almighty that he would open your eyes as you read,

    Curate. This is exactly what the Mormons told me who knocked on my door several months ago.

    Implicit in your statement is a belief that those that disagree with you must not have prayed about it.

    Augustine must not prayed about it hard enough or understood the original language because he didn’t quite get it right. The Greek Fathers like Cyprian or Cyril must not have prayed about it or understood the Greek either because they did not reach Curate’s conclusions.

  410. Sean said,

    August 24, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    John.

    How about McGrath?

    Whereas Augustine taught that the sinner is made righteous in justification, Melanchthon taught that he is counted as righteous or pronounced to be righteous. For Augustine, ‘justifying righteousness’ is imparted; for Melanchthon, it is imputed in the sense of being declared or pronounced to be righteous. Melanchthon drew a sharp distinction between the event of being declared righteous and the process of being made righteous, designating the former ‘justification’ and the latter ’sanctification’ or ‘regeneration.’ For Augustine, these were simply different aspects of the same thing . . . The importance of this development lies in the fact that it marks a complete break with the teaching of the church up to that point. From the time of Augustine onwards, justification had always been understood to refer to both the event of being declared righteous and the process of being made righteous. Melanchthon’s concept of forensic justification diverged radically from this. As it was taken up by virtually all the major reformers subsequently, it came to represent a standard difference between Protestant and Roman Catholic from then on. In addition to differences regarding how the sinner was justified, there was now an additional disagreement on what the word ‘justification’ designated in the first place. The Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic church’s definitive response to the Protestant challenge, reaffirmed the views of Augustine on the nature of justification, and censured the views of Melanchthon as woefully inadequate . . . the concept of forensic justification actually represents a development in Luther’s thought . . . .

    Source

  411. Bryan Cross said,

    August 24, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Curate,

    Re: #396,

    Perhaps you could point me to the argument I have “refused to engage”.

    I have not seen any *proof* that the historic Protestant position differs in principle from solo scriptura. In which comment was there such a proof?

    Here is a straight question to the two of you: does scripture interpret itself? If it does – and Perry has already said it does – then what is the role of your infallible Pope Bryan, or your tradition, Perry? To explain the explanation? If scripture contains its own explanations, and it does beyond all contradiction, then the Protestant position is shown to be correct.

    There are many places in Scripture where one passage helps elucidate another. No one denies that. The fact that some parts of Scripture help clarify other parts of Scripture does not therefore show that the Protestant, the Orthodox, or the Catholic position to be correct, since we all agree that some parts of Scripture help explain other parts. The question is: Who has teaching and interpretive authority in the Church? Your point might be that there was no need for Christ to establish a teaching and interpretive authority in the Church, because Scripture “contains its own explanations,” so that it’s meaning is plain. But just because many parts of Scripture help clarify other parts of Scripture, it does not follow that the meaning of Scripture is so plain and clear that Christ did not need to establish a teaching and interpretive authority, to provide His sheep with guidance in understanding it. In fact, the presence of so many contrary interpretations even among Protestantism shows that Scripture is not sufficiently plain and clear even to unify Protestants. (If you hold to the premise that Scripture *is* sufficiently plain and clear to unify all Christians, then you must hold to the following disjunct: either all Christians holding interpretations contrary to yours are wicked or stupid, or you are wicked or stupid. Are you prepared to bite that bullet?) Not only that, but the fact that we’re dealing with different canons shows that some ecclesial authority is needed so that Christ’s sheep may know which books belong to sacred Scripture. If your position is that the identity of the canon is self-evident, then again, you must conclude that anyone who disagrees with your judgment about the content of the canon is wicked or stupid, or that you yourself are wicked or stupid. Such an implication comes very close to refuting the premise, by modus tollens.

    How much more interpretive disagreement would be required before you would believe that Scripture is not sufficiently plain and clear to unify all Christians? Or is your belief that Scripture is sufficiently plain and clear to unify all Christians an assumption you bring to Scripture?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  412. Curate said,

    August 24, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Bryan, your position always returns to this question: “Who has teaching and interpretive authority in the Church?”

    For starters it is a bogus question, but we won’t go there.

    I have already answered that it is the prophets and the apostles, namely, the authors of scripture. Your answer is that it is the Pope, whom you arbitrarily claim is the successor of Peter, and who is exalted above scripture itself.

    How much more interpretive disagreement would be required before you would believe that Scripture is not sufficiently plain and clear to unify all Christians?

    My experience is that disagreements come when people stop reading the Bible, and refer instead to some other authority.

    The WCF extremists seem to me and many others to be almost incapable of answering any question from scripture. It has to be from the WCF, the Three Forms of Unity, or the Heidelburg Catechism. You refer everything to your own self-chosen extra-biblical source.

    If you were willing to deal with scripture we would stop these endless philosophical discussions and actually get somewhere.

    I have nothing new to add to what I have already said, so you may have the last word.

  413. Curate said,

    August 24, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    No. 409. Sean: I didn’t think that recommending prayer would provoke emotion. That’s what Christians do, not so? Don’t just pray, read the Bible as well.

    If that is what the Mormons also said, then they spoke truly. Being heretics doesn’t mean that they they are always wrong. Even Rome gets it right at times. ;)

  414. Sean said,

    August 24, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Curate.

    On your blog in addition to claiming that the Catholics and Orthodox are not the true church you also indict the ‘Billy Graham Evangelicals’ as not being a true church. You then go onto say that there is no salvation outside of the true church which you define as Reformed and Lutheran congregations who articulate the mechanics of salvation the same way that you articulate them.

    You are also condemning of those Reformed who cling to their confessions but not clear if you are claiming that they are not the true church either.

    Is it your assumption that if only those Catholic, Orthodox and “Billy Graham Evangelicals” would pray about it and learn Greek that they would realize their error and run into the bosom of the Lutheran Church?

  415. Sean said,

    August 24, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Curate.

    What makes you think you evoked emotion?

    We prayed about it and still do.

  416. johnbugay said,

    August 24, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    From the time of Augustine onwards,

    Sean — Augustine got significant things wrong because he didn’t know Hebrew and Greek. And everyone who followed him in this just compounded the error.

  417. Todd said,

    August 24, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    “Or is your belief that Scripture is sufficiently plain and clear to unify all Christians an assumption you bring to Scripture?”

    Bryan,

    Isn’t the unity you are suggesting the RC church maintains an illusion? I read of RC’s disagreeing with each other all the time. How many interpretations of Vatican II are there. The conservative RC college in the city where I am from was very critical of Vatican II. It seems as long as people have minds and can think for themselves, complete interpretative unity is an illusion this side of glory.

  418. rfwhite said,

    August 24, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    394 Bryan Cross: you are right, of course, that in 388 you gave two instances in which an informed conscience could be required to obey God and not man. I failed to say what I meant: that on your hermeneutical theory an informed conscience is never forced to choose between God and the Church.

  419. Bryan Cross said,

    August 24, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Todd,

    Isn’t the unity you are suggesting the RC church maintains an illusion?

    No. Unity is one of the four essential marks of Christ’s Mystical Body: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. That is a unity greater than any the world can produce, because the Church’s unity is Christ’s unity. Those Catholics who depart from the Catholic faith (e.g. so-called “cafeteria Catholics” on the one hand, and sedevacantists on the other), have separated themselves from the Church’s unity, either by material heresy, or by formal heresy, and/or by material or formal schism. Mystici Corporis Christi (22) teaches:

    Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed.

    So those persons who reject the faith of the Catholic Church, (and do so knowingly, not accidentally or unintentionally), do not meet one of the conditions for membership in the Church. Only those (among those who have reached the age of reason) who believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God, are members in full communion.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  420. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 24, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Bryan Cross: “Only those (among those who have reached the age of reason) who believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God, are members in full communion.”

    Well that leaves out the Eastern Orthodox and the various Protestants out of “full communion” with the Catholic Church.

    But as I’ve written before: Monergism.

    Monergistic regeneration.

    God gave me the lens. For some, the lens changes over time. For others, it doesn’t.

    Monergism + Sola Scriptura = A Sufficient Lens.

    If I’m not in full communion with you on this side of Heaven, then I hope to be in full communion with you on the other side of Heaven.

    Soli Dei Gloria!

  421. Sean said,

    August 24, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Augustine got significant things wrong because he didn’t know Hebrew and Greek. And everyone who followed him in this just compounded the error

    There we have it. Every Church father got it wrong until Luther. None of the Fathers, even the Greek ones, understood Greek!

  422. johnbugay said,

    August 24, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Right Sean, that’s exactly what I said. Another good mark for you.

  423. Sean said,

    August 24, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    “Everyone” compounded the errors of Augustine. That is what you said.

    If I misunderstood please feel free to explain how.

  424. johnbugay said,

    August 24, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    “Everyone who followed him…”

    You are one of the most dissembling and dishonest people I have ever interacted with.

  425. August 24, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Andrew,

    It seems to me that RC, EO, and the Reformed all agree that there is a proper succession that originated with the Apostles. The difference is in how this is administered and expressed.

    OK, so I asked you whether apotolic succession was (A) a necessary but not sufficient condition for valid orders, (B) never necessary for valid orders, or (C) no longer necessary for valid orders. I am not sure you answered my question, possibly because I was unclear.

    When I say “apostolic succession” I am using it in the RC/EO sense of “this guy laid hands on that guy, and then that guy laid hands on that other guy.” So in light of that definition, is your view that the church never considered this necessary for valid orders? Or, if the church once held it to be necessary, has it ceased to be so because other necessary conditions, such as actual piety, were not met?

    (I’m just trying to understand your position is all. And I do appreciate your bringing the Pauline requirements into the discussion, I’m just wondering if you think them sufficient by themselves, without “sacramental succession.”)

    JJS

  426. Todd said,

    August 24, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Bryan,

    The second paragraph you attributed to me belonged to someone else. But, are are saying there is no debate as to the meaning of Vatican II among Catholics in good standing? Just making sure I’m understanding your point.

  427. rfwhite said,

    August 24, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    394 Bryan Cross: You state: But if the bishops in ecumenical council come to a conclusion about a hitherto unresolved question in the Church, and their conclusion is contrary to our interpretation of Scripture, then we must submit to the interpretive authority of the Church.

    Question: How can we be sure that it is our own interpretation of Scripture that is wrong and not our interpretation of the ruling of the ecumenical council? That is, how do we escape the necessity of private interpretation by saying the Church does the interpreting for us when we still must interpret the Church’s statements? In addition, if there is to be any advantage to accepting our own interpretations of the Church rather than our own interpretation of Scripture, must we also assume that the Church has done a better job of speaking perspicuously than did the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture?

  428. Sean said,

    August 24, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    John,

    So now we know that Augustine did not teach the Lutheran doctrine of justification. Glad that is settled.

    Because it started with, “We follow Augustine.” Then its, “Oh, Augustine was wrong because he didn’t understand Greek and the followers of Augustine only made it worse.” (Notwithstanding the fact that you and Curate had just claimed to follow Augustine!)

    Sorry if you take me as ‘disassembling.’ I am only trying to follow your argument.

  429. johnbugay said,

    August 24, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    You are not attempting to follow anything. You put the worst possible construction on everything.

    Luther followed Augustine on his teachings about grace; not justification. Luther came to his understanding of justification following a deep study of Scripture. (Not just Romans and Galatians, but the Psalms).

  430. TurretinFan said,

    August 24, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    I recall Chrysostom making at least one rather amusing error because he didn’t know Hebrew. I can’t recall similar, as glaring, errors on Augustine’s part – but it would not surprise me.

  431. Bryan Cross said,

    August 24, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    rfwhite,

    Re: 427:

    Question: How can we be sure that it is our own interpretation of Scripture that is wrong and not our interpretation of the ruling of the ecumenical council?

    By asking our priest or bishop to confirm that our interpretation of the council is correct.

    That is, how do we escape the necessity of private interpretation by saying the Church does the interpreting for us when we still must interpret the Church’s statements?

    We all must use our intellect and will to understand any speech-act. The question is not whether we can avoid using our own intellect and will. (We can’t!) That’s why that question is a red herring. The actual point in question is: Who has greater interpretive authority: the individual, or the Church?

    In addition, if there is to be any advantage to accepting our own interpretations of the Church rather than our own interpretation of Scripture, must we also assume that the Church has done a better job of speaking perspicuously than did the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture?

    We never assume that must choose between the Holy Spirit and the Church. We believe that the Holy Spirit ordinarily speaks and acts *through* the Church, because the Church is the Body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. The Holy Spirit never intended the Scripture to govern us in a solo scriptura way. Rather the Holy Spirit intended the Scripture to be known and used in an ecclesial/liturgical context. Therefore, just because the Scripture is properly known to us in the Church and through the guidance of the Church, it does not follow that the Church is doing something better than did the Holy Spirit. By using the teaching office of the Church to help us better understand the meaning of Scripture, the Holy Spirit is doing something through the Church that He did not intend to be done apart from the Church. So the objection poses a false dilemma, in not recognizing that it is the Spirit working in both cases, and in not recognizing that the Spirit’s work of inspiring the Scriptures was not intended to make the Scriptures sufficiently clear to make an ecclesial teaching/interpretive authority superfluous. Just as the Spirit’s work on the first day of creation should not be considered deficient because it did not make the earth entirely suitable for human life, so the Spirit’s work in the inspiration of Scripture should not be considered deficient because it did not make the Scripture entirely sufficient for ecclesial life and unity. Scripture was never intended to function apart from the teaching/interpretive authority of the Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  432. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 24, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    “Recently we advertised that we would pay $100,000.00 to any Roman Catholic who could pin down the official Roman teaching about certain issues. The challenge was issued in response to the oft-argued, extremely tired line of reasoning that Protestantism is illegitimate by virtue of the differences in belief within Protestant denominations–or, as Scott Hahn likes to call it, the “anarchy” of Protestantism. Obviously if this line of argument is legitimate, then it must also act as a standard by which to measure the legitimacy of any religious system. So, we decided to test the Roman Catholic’s own system using this same measure.

    … We think the comments from the Roman Catholic contenders who responded to the Challenge pretty much speak for themselves.

    While reading through the contestants’ responses to the challenge questions, the reader will be struck by the fact that Roman Catholics tend to misread statements rather consistently.

    Challenge Questions and Responses
    General Comments

    Tell us how you came to decide that Rome was the “true” church without engaging in the very private judgment that Rome condemns as illegitimate.

    Demonstrate that those ecclesial systems that follow “Scripture plus an Infallible Interpreter” are more unified in their beliefs than those ecclesial systems that follow Sola Scriptura.

    Demonstrate that you picked the “true” church from among all the other “true” churches that say you can’t rightly understand the Bible and church history without their help, such as the Eastern Orthodox church, the Watchtower Society, Mormonism, and every other cult that exists (remember, you can’t use private judgment for this since you are fallible).

    Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the Inerrancy of the Bible–does it contain errors or not?

    Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on Predestination–is it the position of Augustine? Scotus? Molina? Aquinas?

    Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on interpreting the Genesis account–was there a literal Adam and Eve, or did evolution take place?

    Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on whether or not Jonah was really swallowed by a “great fish.”

    Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus (“no salvation outside the church”). Is it the view of Vatican II, or the view of every Roman document before Vatican II? Should Protestants and the Eastern Orthodox be embraced as “brothers” (as Vatican II teaches), or should they be eternally condemned as heretics (as all pre-Vatican II documents teach)?

    Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on Vatican II. Was it an infallible ecumenical council? Does it contradict earlier teachings of Rome (as the Traditionalists claim)?

    Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on Divine Revelation. Is it all found in Scripture, or is it partly in Scripture and partly in Tradition?

    Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the decisions of the synods of Hippo and Carthage (which lists the books of the canon). Were these infallible “councils”? Were they right in their list of OT books, or was Trent right in its list instead?

    Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the Greek manuscripts of the NT. Are we to trust the Byzantine text-type (as Roman Catholic apologist Bob Sungenis does), or are we to trust the Eclectic test type (as do almost all of Sungenis’ colleagues)?

    Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the Eucharist. Is it a “real,” bodily presence, or is it a sacramental presence?

    Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on Transubstantiation. Is this something the church has “always held from the beginning” (as Trent claims), or did this belief develop over time? And for that matter . . .

    Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the formulation of doctrine. Was the apostolic deposit complete in the first century (as Trent claims), or did doctrine develop over time (as Newman claims)?

    Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on how to interpret the Bible. Should we use critical methods such as redaction criticism and form criticism, or were these officially condemned by Pius X’s Pascendi Dominici Gregis?

    Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the novus ordo mass? Is it binding and infallible? Or is it just an option among other options? Is the Latin mass still valid, or is it merely an accommodation to those who are not inclined to change with the Roman times?

    Did Mary die?”

    From here.

    (h/t: To New Covenant Bible Church on this comment thread.

  433. Sean said,

    August 24, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Truth Unites.

    I am curious as to what the ‘challenge’ is supposed to prove. Half of the questions are questions posed on questions that the Church has not made any dogmatic decree on.

    So, “Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on predestination. Is it Augustine, Thomist, Molinst etc” is a non-question. There isn’t a ‘Roman Catholic position” on predestination like there is a ‘Calvinist position.’

    Is that supposed to prove something?

    $100,000? Sure.

    I don’t think anybody here (at least I hope) believes that this sort of childish mockery represents a spirit of charity and genuine dialog.

    Imbedded in almost every question is a straw man waiting to be knocked down. Please.

  434. Sean said,

    August 24, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Truth.

    I was bored to I answered the ‘challenge’ here.

  435. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 24, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    Sean: “Truth Unites.

    I am curious as to what the ‘challenge’ is supposed to prove.”

    Do you need help comprehending what you read in the first paragraph of comment #432?

  436. Curate said,

    August 25, 2009 at 12:55 am

    Truth Unites … , thanks for that valuable link. The Roman position always boils down to its own claim to absolute authority. We must believe them because God has given them authority, therefore to disagree with them is to disagree with God.

    They help us to validate and verify their claims by pointing out to us that wherever we disagree with them, we are wrong. There is nothing more to it than that. That really is their bottom line.

    If we compare their claims to the claims of God’s word, and find a discrepancy, it is because we have misunderstood the Bible. Even if there is a glaring and plain teaching that contradicts scripture, for example, that a man is justified by faith plus works, we must believe that we are theologically delusional, and submit to the Pope.

    RCs almost NEVER attempt to answer an issue from the Bible, as this thread has demonstrated. In almost every instance a query about a scriptural teaching is waved away with a theoretical and philosophical monologue about their own authority.

    When the Pope eventually deigned to send one of his Cardinals to speak with Doctor Luther, it became obvious that the delegate knew nothing of the scriptures. Luther said of him, He knows Plato and Aristotle, and so do I. He knows the Schoolmen, and so do I. But I know the scriptures, and he does not.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  437. TurretinFan said,

    August 25, 2009 at 4:55 am

    “I don’t think anybody here (at least I hope) believes that this sort of childish mockery represents a spirit of charity and genuine dialog.”

    I find it ironic that the challenge is derided in this way.

    The Roman “side” suggests that differing opinions among “Protestants” proves “Protestantism” to be an invalid religious system.

    Yet the Roman “side” has differing opinions among itself.

    Therefore, by the Roman “side”‘s own standards, it lacks a valid religious system.

    Or, in other words, this “blueprint for anarchy” argument is a bunch of childish mockery. “Childish” in the sense that it lacks sophistication and “mockery” in that it is not a reasoned argument. The challenge, on the other hand, is both reasoned and sophisticated: it takes the proffered standard, applies it to the critic’s religion, and demonstrates that if the standard condemns us it condemns the critic’s religion as well.

    -TurretinFan

  438. Paige Britton said,

    August 25, 2009 at 5:39 am

    I keep going back — waay back — to Zrim’s comment about sight being the opposite of faith (#206), and the RCC’s and the EOC’s desire to have a source of infallible sight in this age, and their insistence that we do have it, through the pope/Church.

    Perhaps this is really the unspoken presupposition behind the RC / EO position on the infallibility of the Church as interpreter: That it is insufferable to exist in a universe where we must walk by faith, not by sight — and that surely this is not what God intended for us. He intended that we have not only an infallible revelation, but an infallible interpretation of it.

    The trouble is (and many of us have mentioned it from the beginning, here) that fallible interpreters receiving infallible interpretation are really no better off epistemologically than fallible interpreters receiving infallible *revelation*!

  439. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 25, 2009 at 5:45 am

    OK, so I asked you whether apotolic succession was (A) a necessary but not sufficient condition for valid orders, (B) never necessary for valid orders, or (C) no longer necessary for valid orders. I am not sure you answered my question, possibly because I was unclear.

    Jason,

    Thanks for holding my feet to the fire and pointing out that I had not really answered your question! Although my answer in #402 did make an important distinction that I will come back to momentarily.

    OK, in our denomination, if someone were to pop up and say that they were an officer with no approval from other elders, their claim would be rejected, right? They would first have to be examined and approved and then ordained and commissioned by the laying on of hands. This is I’m sure what you experienced when ordained as a Teaching Elder. What Paul told Titus to do was what the elders who commissioned you did. So we believe that one set of elder/bishops commissions another, correct? We believe that to have valid orders (although we don’t use this exact terminology) there has to be commissioning, laying on of hands, etc – just as we read about in the New Testament. This authority comes from the Scripture so yes we believe in Apostolic succession.

    Now at this point of course our RC friends here are going to argue that what I am describing is not what was spoken of in the NT. And Perry from the EO side is going to tell us that we are both wrong and neither RC nor Prot has valid orders. This is the distinction that I made in post #402. To start with, the RC side will argue as per CCC #1594, that orders are only valid within the context of “the authority of the Pope, the successor of Peter.” And we Protestants and the EO will point out that there is no basis for such a claim either in the Scriptures where we find the original description of these orders, nor in the early documents of the history of the Church. Rome tries to connect her claim of valid orders with a principle that we see as invalid from the standpoint of early Christianity. Concerning the EO claim for valid orders, I can’t say that I’ve had enough opportunity to interact with folks like Perry to really comment, but I would imagine that they would see valid orders being tied to the original bishops with no one bishop dominating the others. Their concept of the bishoprics being “autocephalous” has some resonance with us Protestants, but then of course we have to ask our EO friends as to whether their model really reflects the biblical model or is it like the Roman model, just another blending of biblical concepts with human traditions. When we look at the concept of orders in the Sub-apostolic Church at a point in time when there was no distinction between elders and bishops, let alone a clear monarchial bishop, how could there have been “valid orders” as Rome or Constantinople would have later defined the concept?

    Certainly for Rome, and I think for EO, there has to be this unbroken chain of succession. In Rome’s case they can and do practically ignore all other marks of the Church and all other biblical commands concerning the characteristics of officers when determining whether or not valid orders exist.

    For the Reformed one set of elders/bishops chooses the next set of officers although the specific logistical operations vary from Reformed Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc. But men are ordained through the Church as per the stipulations in the Scriptures. These commands laid down by the Apostles as authorized by Christ are what we know as Apostolic succession and yes, we still need them. So my answer is option A with the stipulation that we need to define “valid orders” since RC, EO, and Prot define the concept differently.

    Is there a reason for adding traditions such as the aforementioned Roman stipulations from CCC #1594? Well if so, that’s up to our RC friends to prove.

    Do you think I’ve answered your question yet?

    Cheers….

  440. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 6:15 am

    Yet the Roman “side” has differing opinions among itself.

    This is what I mean by a ‘straw man’ being implicit in the ‘challenge.’

    Unity in the Church does not mean that there everybody would be like ‘the borg’ from Star Trek. It does not mean that all Catholics agree about every imaginable issue (even ones where the church allows disagreement or questions where the Church has not spoken.) That I may be a Thomist and the guy next to me in the pew is a Molinist does not do damage to the Catholic Church’s claim of unity.

    The Church’s fidelity to Her teaching is the test of her unity.

    Concerning those Catholics that purposefully reject the doctrines of the church, let me quote Bryan from above, “Unity is one of the four essential marks of Christ’s Mystical Body: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. That is a unity greater than any the world can produce, because the Church’s unity is Christ’s unity. Those Catholics who depart from the Catholic faith (e.g. so-called “cafeteria Catholics” on the one hand, and sedevacantists on the other), have separated themselves from the Church’s unity, either by material heresy, or by formal heresy, and/or by material or formal schism.”

  441. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 25, 2009 at 7:26 am

    Curate: “Truth Unites … , thanks for that valuable link.”

    You’re very welcome.

    TurretinFan in #437, thanks for your comment.

    Sean, your comment in #440 affirms the statement in #432 about how “the reader will be struck by the fact that Roman Catholics tend to misread statements rather consistently.”

    There is no “strawman” implicit in the challenge. The challenge is most definitely not saying that all Catholics agree about every imaginable issue.

    What it is saying, however, is that the actual facts don’t support your written statement stipulating that:

    “The Church’s fidelity to Her teaching is the test of her unity.”

    Please don’t be dense.

  442. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 7:27 am

    RCs almost NEVER attempt to answer an issue from the Bible, as this thread has demonstrated.

    That is false. There is tons out there on Catholic teaching and scripture. Volumes and volumes. Go pick up a copy of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” and note the pages and pages of scriptural references. Go pick up any Scott Hahn book (I think you mentioned him before). It is filled with scriptural arguments for Catholic teaching on just about anything. Go pick up some monastic writtings from Benedict the Cistercian or something. Those writtings are literally dripping with scripture. Check out Scripture Catholic.com sometime.

    But in a dialog like this, what use is it to quote scripture if you are just going to disagree with our interpretation and we are just going to disagree with your interpretation?

    Any conversation about the interpretation of scripture must come back to a conversation about ‘who has the correct interpretation and why?’ If we do not address this question than we’ll just end up poudning the table and throwing bible verses at one another.

    During this conversation, you have made it clear that we would agree with your interpretation if we only prayed about it. This is a very teneous claim and the reason should be obvious.

  443. rfwhite said,

    August 25, 2009 at 7:27 am

    431 Bryan Cross:

    You said, by asking our priest or bishop to confirm that our interpretation of the council is correct we can be sure that it is our own interpretation of Scripture that is wrong and not our interpretation of the ruling of the ecumenical council.

    I respond: can’t we then not wonder whether we have rightly interpreted the priest or bishop’s confirmation? In other words, is not private interpretation an inescapable responsibility — just as “the soul that sins shall die”? Fathers aren’t to be punished for their sons’ sins, nor sons for their fathers’ — even when those sins are sins of the intellect and of interpretation.

    You said: The actual point in question is: Who has greater interpretive authority: the individual, or the Church?

    I respond: There is, however, another way to construe the matter. Either one enters an infinite regress — the Church tells the individual how to interpret the Scripture, and then how to interpret the Church’s interpretation, and how to interpret that, etc. ad infinitum — or one recognizes that private interpretation is an inescapable individual responsibility.

    You say: We believe that the Holy Spirit ordinarily speaks and acts *through* the Church, because the Church is the Body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ.

    I respond: is it not the case, however, that what you have said here assumes that one has made the proper identification of the Church, which begs the question? Yes, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be with the Church to preserve the treasure of the gospel in it. Is it, however, this group or that group that is we are to identify as the Church? Whose testimony shall we accept and why? Shall the group itself be allowed to answer that question for us? If so, how is it that the group has not made itself its own judge?

  444. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Truth Unites,

    What it is saying, however, is that the actual facts don’t support your written statement stipulating that:

    I don’t think you understand the Church’s claim to unity. Most of the ‘facts’ derived from the ‘challenge’ only reveal that there is not complete hegemony among Catholics on issues where the church is silent (like Predestination or whether Mary actually died). This does not harm the unity of the church because the church’s claim is not that all Catholics agree on things where she is silent.

    Other ‘facts’ gleamed from the question are based on questions with a false premise. Example: That Vatican II somehow undid other ecumenical councils. This is a false premise and only a very uncharitible reading of Vatican II would give the impression that Vatican II undid Catholic doctrines.

    Maybe you can help me? Which ‘fact’ derived from the ‘challenge’ do not support the Catholic Church’s claim to oneness?

  445. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 25, 2009 at 7:38 am

    Lotta traffic on the Tiber. Yowsa!

    I just went to this page about the authors of “Called to Communion” and I counted 11 guys who poped!

    But as D.A. Carson noted in #351: “Because the accounts of a number of high-profile Evangelicals converting to Roman Catholicism have hit the press, we sometimes overlook the fact that statisticians tell us that in America, Catholics are becoming Evangelicals faster than the reverse by a ratio of about three to one.

  446. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 25, 2009 at 7:53 am

    Re #438:

    The trouble is (and many of us have mentioned it from the beginning, here) that fallible interpreters receiving infallible interpretation are really no better off epistemologically than fallible interpreters receiving infallible *revelation*!

    This wrong-headed critique of the Catholic position has been repeated several times in the course of this thread. It was addressed back in comment #71, and several times thereafter.

    For ease of memory, allow me to summarize the Catholic position in three points:

    (1) The Church’s charism of teaching is given due to the need for learning.

    (2) The authority of the teaching charism is given due to the need for unity.

    (3) The infallibility of the teaching charism is given due to the need for unity in truth.

    None of this presupposes that texts cannot be read and understood by means of common sense (rational) exegesis. It does presuppose that the ability to read does not obviate the necessity for teaching.

  447. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 25, 2009 at 7:59 am

    In Rome’s case they can and do practically ignore all other marks of the Church and all other biblical commands concerning the characteristics of officers when determining whether or not valid orders exist.

    I recommend that you look into the process of actual ordinations, beginning with discernment and culminating in the sacrament, in the Roman Catholic Church. If you spent five minutes doing so (visit a diocesan website and follow the links, or visit a seminary website), you would be unable to repeat the above canard, at least not without blushing.

  448. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 8:06 am

    Truth Unites and Curate,

    In case I am not being clear:

    The first part of the ‘challenge’ I have adequately addressed…this would be disagreements on matters on which the church is not dogmatic.

    The second part of the ‘challenge’ is aimed at demonstrating that dissent within the Catholic Church puts the Catholic Church on equal footing with Protestantism.

    The truth of God’s acts and revelation are not judged (as a matter of truth) based on how many may reject them. These truths do not cease to be what they are. The Church teaches certain things and a definite theology and set of doctrines that can easily be identified; and they don’t change because many Catholics are disobedient.

    Most of our disagreements are simply matters of theological liberals refusing to submit to what everybody knows is the Catholic teaching (example: on contraception, divorce, or priestly celibacy). But when Protestants have a difference, they form new denominations, and sanction and institutionalize the dissent. There is a huge logical and qualitative difference.

    When Israel sinned by disobeying the prophets or judges they did not cease being the one and only Israel. They did not split off into different camps and build their own tabernacles. God called them home to the only temple. The only tabernacle.

    When Paul preached to the Corinthians he had many dissenters. Because of those dissenters you did not see Paul authorizing schism! You saw him calling everybody to the one faith passed on by the church.

  449. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 25, 2009 at 9:00 am

    I recommend that you look into the process of actual ordinations, beginning with discernment and culminating in the sacrament, in the Roman Catholic Church. If you spent five minutes doing so (visit a diocesan website and follow the links, or visit a seminary website), you would be unable to repeat the above canard, at least not without blushing.

    Andrew P.,

    Did you pick up on the fact that I was speaking of the context leading into the Reformation? We Protestants sometimes ask how some of the truly horrerndous Bishops of Rome (by the assessment of even Catholic historians), Alexnader VI, Julius II, Leo X, etc, could have been considered “valid.” There was nothing about these folks that was remoitely Christian in any biblical sense and we don’t get any argument from our Catholic friends here. But, we are told, they were chosen validly and were in direct line with the Roman See so they are bishops with valid orders.

    So do you see my point? I’m not saying that conservative Catholics don’t care about anything else. I am saying that someone like Leo X can be judged valid even if he showed none of the characersitcs of a Christian bishop as outlined in Timothy, Tutus, etc because of his valid succession from the earliest bishops of Rome. In effect, this is all that matters to the assessment of valid orders. Is this not fair? If not, why not?

  450. rfwhite said,

    August 25, 2009 at 9:09 am

    446 Andrew Preslar: can you tell us from whom the Roman church gets its identification as the possessor of the charism of teaching? Is it a self-identification or something else?

  451. johnbugay said,

    August 25, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Andrew M: We Protestants sometimes ask how some of the truly horrerndous Bishops of Rome (by the assessment of even Catholic historians), Alexnader VI, Julius II, Leo X, etc, could have been considered “valid.”

    They never added anything to the official body of Catholic doctrine, and so they’re ok.

    I call it the “Alias Smith and Jones” defense of the papacy. For all the trains and banks they robbed (or whatever other crimes they committed), “they never taught anybody.”

  452. johnbugay said,

    August 25, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Sean: Most of our disagreements are simply matters of theological liberals refusing to submit to what everybody knows is the Catholic teaching (example: on contraception, divorce, or priestly celibacy).

    This is the point. How does “everybody know” when these so-called theological liberals — even some in high places, are appointed by, and sanctioned by, the Vatican.

    For example, and I am sorry this needs to be repeated, but Raymond Brown was appointed by two popes. You have posited that he was merely appointed to “fill out the range of opinions” but that is perfectly ridiculous given that there was no official sanction; not only Brown, but literally thousands of other such “theological liberals” FILL the Vatican and high official places (including bishops and cardinals who appoint them and are in turn brought up through the system), and it goes on like that from generation to generation.

    So the simple question is, “how does everybody know?”

  453. Bryan Cross said,

    August 25, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Paige,

    Re #438:

    Perhaps this is really the unspoken presupposition behind the RC / EO position on the infallibility of the Church as interpreter: That it is insufferable to exist in a universe where we must walk by faith, not by sight — and that surely this is not what God intended for us. He intended that we have not only an infallible revelation, but an infallible interpretation of it.

    Part of the content of the faith is believing in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”, because that is part of the Church’s Creed, which term comes from ‘Credo’ = I believe. Protestantism has no visible catholic Church. It has only denominations (none of which is the visible catholic Church), and individual congregations, and individual believers. There is in Protestantism not some one additional entity to which the term “visible catholic Church” refers, and to which those denominations, congregations, and individual believers, belong. NAPARC, for example, is not the catholic visible Church. (Anything with the name “North American” in its name is not catholic.) So when a Protestant speaks that line of the Creed, he has to redefine the term ‘Church’ to refer to the set of all the elect. But of course that wasn’t at all the meaning of the term as used by those bishops who wrote the Creed at the second Ecumenical Council, or by the entire Church at that time, or anywhere until the 16th century. We know that there will be tares within the one, holy, catholic and catholic Church, until the angels remove them at the end. But there can be no tares within the set of the elect. And we know that matters of discipline can be brought before the Church, as Christ tells us in Matthew 18. But matters of discipline cannot be brought before the set of all the elect. So, it is not the Catholic who is lacking faith; the Protestant’s faith is deficient precisely in that line of the Creed; he does not believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  454. Bryan Cross said,

    August 25, 2009 at 9:40 am

    rfwhite:

    Re: #443,

    can’t we then not wonder whether we have rightly interpreted the priest or bishop’s confirmation?

    If you ask, “Does the council mean X?”, and the bishop replies, “yes”, then if you aren’t sure you heard him correctly, you can just ask him to repeat his answer. But insofar as we have reached the age to understand the difference between the meaning of ‘yes’ and ‘no’, as soon as we know that he said ‘yes’, then we do not need to keep asking for further interpretive clarification.

    There is, however, another way to construe the matter. Either one enters an infinite regress — the Church tells the individual how to interpret the Scripture, and then how to interpret the Church’s interpretation, and how to interpret that, etc. ad infinitum — or one recognizes that private interpretation is an inescapable individual responsibility.

    This dilemma trades on an ambiguity in the term ‘private interpretation.’ Private interpretation is said in two ways. In one way, it makes the individual to be the final interpretive authority within the Church. In another way, it treats the individual as needing to use his own intellect and will to understand any speech-act. If the term ‘private interpretation’ is used in the latter sense, then the two options listed in your dilemma are the only two options. And that’s fully compatible with the Catholic position. But if the term ‘private interpretation’ is used in the former sense, then the two options listed in your dilemma are not the only two options, because the third option is precisely that the individual, while needing to use his intellect and will to understand any speech-act, is not the final interpretive authority within the Church.

    is it not the case, however, that what you have said here assumes that one has made the proper identification of the Church, which begs the question? Yes, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be with the Church to preserve the treasure of the gospel in it. Is it, however, this group or that group that is we are to identify as the Church? Whose testimony shall we accept and why? Shall the group itself be allowed to answer that question for us? If so, how is it that the group has not made itself its own judge?

    When I said that the Holy Spirit speaks through the Church, I wasn’t intending to specify the referent of the term ‘Church’, because I assumed that we would agree that the Holy Spirit speaks through the Church, even while we recognize that we each believe that the term ‘Church’ picks out a different referent. Protestants pick out the Church in a different way than do Catholics. For Protestants, the gospel (as determined by their own interpretation of Scripture) picks out what is the Church. But for Catholics, the Church (as determined by apostolic succession) gives us the authoritative interpretation of Scripture, and hence teaches us what is Christ’s gospel. Those are two different paradigms, and it is difficult to evaluate them against each other, in a non-question-begging manner. I have written more about that difference here.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  455. turretinfan said,

    August 25, 2009 at 10:15 am

    “Unity in the Church does not mean that there everybody would be like ‘the borg’ from Star Trek.”

    That could be equally applied to the Reformed churches.

    In other words, if it is “straw man” with respect to Rome, the objection to which the challenge responds is a “straw man” with respect to the Reformed churches.

    Either way, you lose.

    -TurretinFan

  456. David Gadbois said,

    August 25, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Bryan Cross said So when a Protestant speaks that line of the Creed, he has to redefine the term ‘Church’ to refer to the set of all the elect.

    That’s just flat wrong. In WCF the term ‘catholic church’ is used to refer to the visible church, as in WCF 25.2. Of course, it also uses it in another sense to refer to the invisible church (25.1), but that does not negate the former usage.

    Protestantism has no visible catholic Church. It has only denominations (none of which is the visible catholic Church), and individual congregations, and individual believers. There is in Protestantism not some one additional entity to which the term “visible catholic Church” refers, and to which those denominations, congregations, and individual believers, belong.

    Ahh, but when you say there is no ‘entity’ you have in mind a top-down institution. For Protestants all of the true churches in the world form a composite group called the catholic church. We simply reject the assumption that ‘the’ church universal must be a hierarchal institution.

  457. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 10:32 am

    TFan.

    “Unity in the Church does not mean that there everybody would be like ‘the borg’ from Star Trek.” – That could be equally applied to the Reformed churches.

    In other words, if it is “straw man” with respect to Rome, the objection to which the challenge responds is a “straw man” with respect to the Reformed churches.

    When Protestants have a difference, they form new denominations, and sanction and institutionalize the dissent. They either find a church that teaches what they believe or build churches that teach what they believe. They remove communion. They set up their own sacraments. They form new doctrines irrespective of what has been passed down and start ordaining one another. And then they call this ‘the church’ and submit to it.

    On the other hand, when Israel sinned by disobeying the prophets or judges they did not cease being the one and only Israel. They did not split off into different camps and build their own tabernacles. God called them home to the only temple. The only tabernacle.

    When Paul preached to the Corinthians he had many dissenters. Because of those dissenters you did not see Paul authorizing schism! You saw him calling everybody to the one faith passed on by the church.” This is the Catholic position. This is the exact definition of church that we get from the fathers.

    Either way, you lose.

    This isn’t a contest.

  458. Bryan Cross said,

    August 25, 2009 at 11:01 am

    David,

    Re: #456,

    Of course I agree that persons who subscribe to the WCF affirm that there is such a thing as a visible catholic Church. The problem is that in Protestantism, there is no referent to this term ‘visible catholic Church’. It is just a term. That can be shown by the fact that if there were no actual visible catholic Church, but only the term ‘visible catholic Church’, the denominations, the congregations, and the individual believers, nothing in Protestantism would be any different. All the denominations, congregations, and individual believers would be exactly as they are. So that shows that this term ‘visible catholic Church’ does not refer to an actual unified entity, but is just a name used to refer to a plurality of things that are only mentally united by the speaker.

    We simply reject the assumption that ‘the’ church universal must be a hierarchical institution.

    Exactly. And that’s why in Protestantism the term ‘visible catholic Church’ has no actual unified referent. Reformed Protestants recognize that local churches, in order to be visible must be hierarchical. No one would say that the fact of there being believers in a city ipso facto constitutes a local visible church. But, that is set aside when they speak of the visible catholic Church, while simultaneously denying that it is hierarchical. If the local church must be hierarchical in order to be visible, then Reformed Protestants must either form a worldwide hierarchy if they wish to affirm a “visible catholic Church”, or they need to drop the language of “visible catholic Church,” or they need to add an exception clause explaining why the visible catholic Church needs no hierarchical unity, while local visible churches do need hierarchical unity.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  459. David Weiner said,

    August 25, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Bryan,

    Protestantism has no visible catholic Church

    Which of the Creeds contains the word visible?

  460. David Gadbois said,

    August 25, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Bryan said So that shows that this term ‘visible catholic Church’ does not refer to an actual unified entity, but is just a name used to refer to a plurality of things that are only mentally united by the speaker.

    You are simply begging the question by insisting that the whole cannot be defined by the sum of its parts. That’s fairly common in other definitions and taxonomies.

    But, that is set aside when they speak of the visible catholic Church, while simultaneously denying that it is hierarchical. If the local church must be hierarchical in order to be visible, then Reformed Protestants must either form a worldwide hierarchy if they wish to affirm a “visible catholic Church”, or they need to drop the language of “visible catholic Church,”

    We don’t grant the assumption that the local church needs to follow the same rules or definitions as the univeral church. Its not like we are saying that the universal church is a big ball of Play-Doh, made by combining many smaller clumps of local church Play-Doh. What is predicated of the whole cannot be predicated of the parts, and vice versa. The universal church is not just a really big and powerful version of the local church.

  461. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    August 25, 2009 at 11:48 am

    On the other hand, when Israel sinned by disobeying the prophets or judges they did not cease being the one and only Israel. They did not split off into different camps and build their own tabernacles. God called them home to the only temple. The only tabernacle.

    Oddly enough, comparison with Israel actually seems to work in favor of the Protestant view of the church. Paul makes it very clear in Romans 9-11 that the unity of Israel was never essentially a visible one, but rather was according the election of God, which could be very hidden at times. Even so, the fact that the visible church is not perfectly unified does not eliminate the reality of a one universal church…

  462. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    August 25, 2009 at 11:49 am

    And the temple/tabernacle they were finally called to was a heavenly, invisible one. Zion wasn’t replaced by the Seven Hills of Rome, but by a heavenly one, visible only to the eyes of faith.

  463. Todd said,

    August 25, 2009 at 11:54 am

    “On the other hand, when Israel sinned by disobeying the prophets or judges they did not cease being the one and only Israel. They did not split off into different camps and build their own tabernacles. God called them home to the only temple. The only tabernacle. ”

    Sean,

    Throughout the OT, many of the duly appointed prophets and judges went bad; they prophesied falsely, and Israel was told not to listen to them when they prophesied falsely, as we see in Jeremiah. The RC’s on this list keep using the OT judges as examples of those with authority to interpret. But when those OT appointed judges and leaders were evil, what was Israel to do? If it was possible for the old covenant authorities to prophesy falsely, why not also the new covenant authorities? The leaders of Israel thought Jesus was an imposter. Were some of the people of Israel justified in not listening to them? So if the Bible demonstrates that duly appointed spiritual authorities can turn evil and prophesy falsely, how would we know if that is happening to the RC authorities if we are constrained to receive their authority regardless if we believe what they say matches with Scripture?

  464. turretinfan said,

    August 25, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    “When Protestants have a difference, they form new denominations, and sanction and institutionalize the dissent. They either find a church that teaches what they believe or build churches that teach what they believe. They remove communion. They set up their own sacraments. They form new doctrines irrespective of what has been passed down and start ordaining one another. And then they call this ‘the church’ and submit to it.”

    That’s a bit of a broad brushstroke … but let’s say “yes, that often happens.”

    “On the other hand, when Israel sinned by disobeying the prophets or judges they did not cease being the one and only Israel. They did not split off into different camps and build their own tabernacles. God called them home to the only temple. The only tabernacle.”

    Well, in fact, when Israel sinned they tended to forsake the tabernacle/temple. Jeroboam, however, did set up competing places of worship, as did they also in Samaria.

    Furthermore, they did have denominational divisions: the Pharisees and the Saducees were the most prominent at the time of Christ.

    “When Paul preached to the Corinthians he had many dissenters. Because of those dissenters you did not see Paul authorizing schism! You saw him calling everybody to the one faith passed on by the church.” This is the Catholic position. This is the exact definition of church that we get from the fathers.”

    Actually, the fathers defined the church by the faith, not the faith by the church. Tertullian, for example, in De Pœnit. 10 states, “Where one or two are, is the church, and the church is Christ,” and in another place states “For though you think heaven still shut, remember that the Lord left here to Peter and through him to the Church, the keys of it, which every one who has been here put to the question, and also made confession, will carry with him.” Tertullian, Scorpiace, Chapter X.

    (see here for more evidence)

    More importantly, while it may be that “yes, that often happens,” the Reformers emphasized the fact that breaking off of fellowship is something that ought not lightly to be undertaken.

    “This isn’t a contest.”

    Yet another point where there is no borg. But the point was not the point of contest, but of argument.

    – TurretinFan

  465. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 25, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Andrew,

    Re: #439, 447, 449

    My mistake. In fact, a part of the very bit I cited should have clued me in: when determining whether or not valid orders exist.

    I got hung up on the practically speaking bit, and did not check what you were claiming we were being practical about. I assume that you meant that the preponderance of weight, when discerning whether or not orders have been validly conferred, rests with the sacramental nature of the ordination.

    As you know, the oath to uphold the catholic and orthodox faith is part and parcel of the sacrament of Holy Orders. We hold that a man is morally bound and ontologically changed by the character of this sacrament, whether or not his personal character is what it should be. In short, Catholic theology of sacrament, and, by extension, Orders, gives weight to the promise of God in the sacrament, which we believe cannot be abrogated by the will of man. So the difference between us on this point is probably one of fundamental sacramentology, which goes to the heart of our differences on baptism, the eucharist and ecclesiology in general. It is indeed a profound difference.

    I apologize for reading your “practically speaking” comment out of context, and even more for commenting on what I clearly misunderstood.

  466. Bryan Cross said,

    August 25, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    David G,

    Re: #460,

    Let S refer to the set of the following four things: Putin’s favorite hat, the highest point on Mt. Everest, the shell of the oldest living tortoise, and my left thumb. Suppose you said, “S refers to an actual unified entity.” Then I replied, “You are simply begging the question by insisting that the whole cannot be defined by the sum of its parts.”

    You see the problem. It is my reply that would be begging the question by assuming that S refers to an actual whole, because that is precisely what it in question. In actuality, the referent of S is not an actual unity, but only a plurality mentally unified. So, what is needed here for the resolution of our disagreement is a principled way of distinguishing between an actual unified entity, and a plurality that is only mentally united. They each present themselves as a unified whole composed of parts. But only the former are actual wholes; the latter are not actual wholes.

    The principled difference between an actual unified entity, and a plurality that is only mentally united, is that in the case of actual unified entities, in order to remove the whole and leave the parts, you have to change the world. For example, in order to remove me and leave all my parts, you have to change the world (I have to die). But in the case of a plurality that is only mentally united, one does not need to change the world in order to remove the whole and leave the parts. The members of S would be just as they are, whether or not I had mentally conjoined them into the set S.

    When we apply this test to the Catholic Church, we find that in order to remove the whole and leave the parts, we have to change the world. This is because its hierarchical unity changes the activity of its parts.

    But when we apply this test to the Protestant conception of the “visible catholic Church”, we find that we can remove the whole and leave all its parts (i.e. denominations, congregations, individuals), without changing the world in the least, just as in the case of S. And hence, in Protestantism the term “visible catholic Church’ does not refer to an actual unified entity, but only to a plurality that is mentally united, such as in my example of S.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  467. Andrew Preslar said,

    August 25, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Re: #450

    can you tell us from whom the Roman church gets its identification as the possessor of the charism of teaching? Is it a self-identification or something else?

    rfwhite,

    We believe that this identification comes from our Lord himself, who gave the charism of teaching to the Apostles and to St. Peter in particular. The historical and sacramental continuity of the Church of Rome with the Apostolic Church, and her profound connection with St. Peter, are a couple of points in favor of this identification.

    But my point in #446 (et al) is logically independent of the question of which church has infallible teaching authority. Thus, yours is a further question.

  468. Bryan Cross said,

    August 25, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    The sentence in #466 that reads:

    Suppose you said, “S refers to an actual unified entity.”

    Should be:

    Suppose you said, “S does not refer to an actual unified entity.”

    Sorry!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  469. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    TurretinFan.

    The Fathers did not have a Protestant ecclesiology. Any attempt to show that from snippets of their writings is in vain.

    They believed and expressly taught that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. From Tertullian whom you quoted.

    “But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst Of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men,–a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. …To this test, therefore will they be submitted for proof by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine…Then let all the heresies, when challenged to these two tests by our apostolic church, offer their proof of how they deem themselves to be apostolic. But in truth they neither are so, nor are they able to prove themselves to be what they are not. Nor are they admitted to peaceful relations and communion by such churches as are in any way connected with apostles, inasmuch as they are in no sense themselves apostolic because of their diversity as to the mysteries of the faith.”
    Tertullian, Prescription against the Heretics, 33 (A.D. 200).

  470. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    August 25, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    “Question: How can we be sure that it is our own interpretation of Scripture that is wrong and not our interpretation of the ruling of the ecumenical council?

    By asking our priest or bishop to confirm that our interpretation of the council is correct.”

    Bryan, are there any liberal priests or bishops? Are there any priest or bishops lawfully ordained who are rebellious in doctrine? If not, are you serious?!? If so, how am I to determine whether he is rebellious in doctrine? Oh, by whether he agrees with the teaching of the church…but I’m supposed to ask him if my understanding on the teaching of the church is correct…

    Ah, you might say, if a priest appears to be rebellious in doctrine, I should go to the bishop. But on what grounds am I going to the bishop? My priest has told me that this is what the council means–am I permitted to challenge his interpretation by my own personal one? If I am not, how can I go to the bishop? If I am permitted to pit my interpretation of the council against his in order to conclude that he is apparently rebellious in his doctrine and thus that I should go to the bishop, how is that different from the Protestant view of the Scriptures?

  471. turretinfan said,

    August 25, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Sean,

    Your selective emphasis is quite odd. Tertullian explicitly affirms that new churches can likewise be apostolic if they have the same faith as the apostles. The part of the text you conveniently omitted is how we determine if they have the faith of the apostles:

    For their very doctrine, after comparison with that of the apostles, will declare, by its own diversity and contrariety, that it had for its author neither an apostle nor an apostolic man; because, as the apostles would never have taught things which were self-contradictory, so the apostolic men would not have inculcated teaching different from the apostles, unless they who received their instruction from the apostles went and preached in a contrary manner.

    – Tertullian, Prescription against the Heretics, Chapter 33

    That’s the antecedent to which “to this test” refers in your quotation, and the second of the “two tests” that you mention (providing only that convenient for your position). Tertullian does not absolutely require a chain of ordinations back to the apostles, but offers the test of comparison between their doctrine and the doctrine of the apostles. How would we find out what the apostles’ doctrine was? I’ll give you a hint: look at their writings.

    So, yes – Tertullian defines the church by the faith, not the faith by the church – as do many other fathers. Selectively emphasized snippets (to use your description) are no match for the weight of the historic evidence.

    -TurretinFan

    P.S. I assume that your misquotation was simply due to the fact that you relied on some secondary source (such as, for example, an article from John Salza) rather than reading the fathers for yourself. As you can see, that kind of thing is dangerous – since a number of Romanist apologists are less than scrupulous when it comes to their quotations from the early church fathers. If your misquote was deliberate rather than careless, though – there’s really no reason for this dialog to continue.

  472. David Gadbois said,

    August 25, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Bryan said The principled difference between an actual unified entity, and a plurality that is only mentally united, is that in the case of actual unified entities, in order to remove the whole and leave the parts, you have to change the world.

    Not necessarily. Sometimes a category is simply tautological and therefore one cannot coherently remove the whole and leave the parts. The category ‘a dozen eggs’ cannot be ‘removed’ from the parts as long as I have 12 eggs.

    The question of whether an entity is *really* unified depends entirely on the nature of unity in the particular context. We say that every true, visible local church is unified under Christ and His Gospel, all bearing the true marks of a church, all being composed of those who profess the true religion and their children. That is the unifying principle, and all that is needed to coherently define the ovearching category of the catholic church in the visible sense.

  473. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    T Fan,

    The quotes you provide and I provide are not mutually exclusive. You cannot have one without the other. He is not saying the Church has apostolic succession ‘or’ the preach what we preach and then they can be a church without apostolic succession. He is saying that the church with apostolic succession does preach the faith of the apostles.

    Here is the work you are quoting. I challenge anybody to read the whole thing and then profess that Tertullian is prescribing anything but apostolic sacramental succession for the church without blushing.

  474. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    August 25, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    You included the key section, even though you did not place it bold:

    “churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine…”

    There are two tests for an apostolic church: succession OR doctrine. The Reformers argued extensively that they were apostolic in doctrine: i.e., they agreed with the apostles, who teachings were established in the Scriptures, and followed by the early church before innovations set in (that’s the burden of much of Book IV of the Institutes, for example).

  475. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Joshua.

    That is crazy. There are not two churches: succession OR doctrine. Lunacy. The theory blows up when you compare the faith of the Reformers to the faith of the Fathers on almost every doctrine. The Reformers not only departed from the apostolic succession, they departed from the doctrine. Do you want to compare the Reformers against Tertullian on the doctrine of justification, the Eucharist, baptismal regeneration? I don’t think you do.

    Read the quote IN CONTEXT again. Tertullian prefaces what you just quoted by saying that heretics cannot produce apostolic succession and he says, “BUT IF THEY DO…” their doctrine cannot stand.

    Here is the key phrase between the two quotes, “But should they even effect the contrivance, they will not advance a step….” because….”your quote.”

    Read the link of his letter I provided.

  476. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    (meant to say that there are not two “tests” for the church) – Apostolic OR doctrine.

  477. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    August 25, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    “Now, what is there in our Scriptures which is contrary to us? What of our own have we introduced, that we should have to take it away again, or else add to it, or alter it, in order to restore to its natural soundness anything which is contrary to it, and contained in the Scriptures?”

    This is Tertullian’s proof for the apostolicity of the churches: agreement with Scripture. And this is not just non-contradiction of Scripture, but addition–the Protestant argument is that, in fact, Rome contradicted apostolic teaching on the gospel, and added much as well. But Tertullian invites comparison of the church’s teaching with Scripture. I’m not sure Rome does that, since we’re not allowd to compare Rome’s teaching with Scripture, because Rome’s teaching actually explains what Scripture means…

    But that removes Scripture as an independent witness to the truth of the church’s teachings, which is what Tertullian clearly assumes and welcomes. Just like a Protestant.

  478. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Seriously.

    Cannot emphasize this enough. Read the entire letter in context. After re-reading it I simply cannot believe I am being challenged on it.

    Here it Tertullian expressly talking about bishops, succession and every thing else and you are using him for your ecclesiology based on a ‘what if’ he provides just in case the heretics try to produce evidence of succession!

    Where are your bishops? Unfold their succession back to the apostles for me.

    Read his letter.

  479. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    August 25, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    I’m following Tertullian’s example. He doesn’t say “Compare the church with me.” He says “Compare the church with the Scriptures.” That’s what Protestants do.

    Furthermore, you seem to have got Tertullian backward in the very place you quote him. He says that even if the heretics were able to produce a succession of bishops going back the apostles (although it would be a “contrivance”), then they would not advance a step, because their doctrine is not that of the apostles, as set forth in Scripture. So, even if someone could produce a list of bishops, the test would still be whether the teachings fit with Scripture.

  480. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    John W Smith.

    You cannot simply remove Tertullian’s statement that the church must have apostolic succession from the rest of it.

    The material sufficiency of scripture, a Catholic doctrine, does not prove that the church must have apostolic succession as Tertullian teaches (and every other father).

    PS The Catholic Church does not ‘add to’ or ‘take away’ from the scriptures.

    Tertullian never pitted scripture AGAINST the church. It is extremely dishonest for you to use him for that.

  481. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    He says that even if the heretics were able to produce a succession of bishops going back the apostles (although it would be a “contrivance”), then they would not advance a step, because their doctrine is not that of the apostles, as set forth in Scripture.

    OK, if you say so let us compare Tertullians doctrines which apparently you believe is scriptural and ‘of the apostles’ against the Reformers.

    I’ll start.

    On the Eucharist.

    “Then, having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, He made it His own body, by saying, ‘This is my body,’ that is, the figure of my body. A figure, however, there could not have been, unless there were first a veritable body…He did not understand how ancient was this figure of the body of Christ, who said Himself by Jeremiah: ‘I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter, and I knew not that they devised a device against me, saying, Let us cast the tree upon His bread,’ which means, of course, the cross upon His body. And thus, casting light, as He always did, upon the ancient prophecies, He declared plainly enough what He meant by the bread, when He called the bread His own body. He likewise, when mentioning the cup and making the new testament to be sealed ‘in His blood,’ affirms the reality of His body. For no blood can belong to a body which is not a body of flesh. If any sort of body were presented to our view, which is not one of flesh, not being fleshly, it would not possess blood. Thus, from the evidence of the flesh, we get a proof of the body, and a proof of the flesh from the evidence of the blood.”
    Tertullian, Against Marcion, 40 (A.D. 212).

    Now why did the Reformers abandon this doctrine if they are the true church because of their doctrine and you are using Tertullian as proof of the legitimacy of the Reformed churches?

  482. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    August 25, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Ours is a new church, recently founded, as is still happening today. For those churches, Tertullian clearly indicates that we need to show apostolic doctrine, not a succession of bishops.

    I am reading in context. Sure, here is Tertullian “talking about succession, bishops and everything else”–but just talking about them is not the same thing as setting forth the current Roman doctrine of succession over Scripture.

  483. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    August 25, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    So wait, you’re saying that Reformers are Docetists? It’s clearly from the Tertullian quote that he’s talking about the actual body that Jesus had. Look at that third sentence: “that is, a figure of my body.” Yeah, a figure, not the actual substance. So, Tertullian on our side there.

  484. johnbugay said,

    August 25, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    There have been some comments in here about who’s gaining the converts etc.

    Here’s a survey that was recently completed on why people join or leave their churches or religions, and where they go:

    http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=409

    Bottom line numbers are that some 30% of “cradle Catholics” leave Catholicism — half of these become Protestant or Evangelical, the other half just go off into oblivion.

    Only 3% of individuals raised Protestant or Evangelical leave, and very few of these become Catholic.

    I think discussions like this one are extremely healthy — informed Protestants encountering the arguments that Catholic Apologists are making — the more play that these things get, the better able folks will be to resist the serpent-like charms of these “why can’t we all just get along, come home to Rome” Catholics.

  485. Bryan Cross said,

    August 25, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Joshua,

    Re: #470,

    The original question (asked by rfwhite) in #427 was “How can we be sure that it is our own interpretation of Scripture that is wrong and not our interpretation of the ruling of the ecumenical council?” My reply, in #431, was “By asking our priest or bishop to confirm that our interpretation of the council is correct.”

    Your question, in #470, is essentially this: Since some priests and even some bishops are rebellious, how can we determine whether a priest or bishop is rebellious? And the answer is to see whether his teaching agrees with that of the other bishops in communion with the successor of the Apostle Peter. Your rejoinder then, is: Since my purpose in approaching the priest or bishop is to determine whether I have correctly understood the Church’s position, I must not yet know the Church’s position. Therefore, since I do not yet know the Church’s position, I cannot determine whether this particular priest or bishop is rebellious or not.

    The problem with this rejoinder is that it’s conclusion is a non sequitur. It is possible, in the short-term, for a person not to recognize that his priest or bishop is rebellious. That is especially so if the priest or bishop does not talk about that doctrine or doctrines concerning which he is in rebellion. But if the priest or bishop talks about the doctrine(s) about which he is in rebellion, it doesn’t take long for the persons under his care to recognize that what he is saying is contrary to what the other bishops are saying on this point. And as soon as a priest or bishop is discovered to be in rebellion against the Church, then his determination of the meaning of a council document should not be trusted. We’re part of a community that extends around the world. So our access to the Church’s magisterium is not limited to our local priest or bishop.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  486. Bryan Cross said,

    August 25, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    David G,

    Re: #472,

    Sometimes a category is simply tautological and therefore one cannot coherently remove the whole and leave the parts. The category ‘a dozen eggs’ cannot be ‘removed’ from the parts as long as I have 12 eggs.

    “Four things” cannot be removed from S, so long as it has 4 members. So do you wish to concede that S is an actual whole, or do you wish to show the principled difference between twelve eggs and S, such that the former is an actual whole, while the latter is not?

    We say that every true, visible local church is unified under Christ and His Gospel, all bearing the true marks of a church, all being composed of those who profess the true religion and their children. That is the unifying principle, and all that is needed to coherently define the overarching category of the catholic church in the visible sense.

    I’m aware of what Reformed believers say. Saying that you believe in a visible catholic Church is fully compatible with your ecclesiology entailing that the term has no actual unified referent. The problem, as I have shown, is that when you speak of the visible catholic Church, your denial of its hierarchical unity entails that there is no referent to the term, because it reduces its unity to that of S, which is not an actual entity.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  487. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Joshua,

    Tertullian says nowhere that there are or that there will be ‘new churches’ that won’t have apostolic succession. You are reading something into the text that just is not there.

    Josh,

    No Reformer taught what Tertullian is teaching about the consecrated Eucharist in the passage I provided.

    You are making claims here that no serious Protestant scholar would make because it just isn’t there.

    JND Kelly, Protestant writes:

    “Tertullian regularly describes the bread as ‘the Lord’s body.’ The converted pagan, he remarks , ‘feeds on the richness of the Lord’s body, that is, on the eucharist.’ The realism of his theology comes to light in the argument ], based on the intimate relation of body and soul, that just as in baptism the body is washed with water so that the soul may be cleansed, so in the eucharist ‘the flesh feeds on Christ’s body and blood so that the soul may be filled with God.’ Clearly his assumption is that the Savior’s body and blood are as real as the baptismal water.” (Kelly,EARLY CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES pg 211)

    I don’t know how much longer I have today.

  488. johnbugay said,

    August 25, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Here are some early fathers holding to a “symbolic” view of the Lord’s Supper:

    http://www.puritanboard.com/f15/my-questions-concerning-rcism-45336/#post572016

    Note, Sean, in your own posting from Tertullian, it is a “figure”:

    ‘This is my body,’ that is, the figure of my body. A figure, however, there could not have been, unless there were first a veritable body…

    But you have taken Tertullian out of context. (Typical for you). What is Tertullian actually talking about? “First a veritable body” is a direct address to the Docetists (Marcion, duh!) — it had nothing to do with a discussion of the Eucharist. It is a “figure,” a “symbol.”

  489. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    John.

    The Catholic Church also teaches that the Eucharist is symbolic to the degree that it symbolizes the communion of the whole church everywhere and in other ways.

    Augustine said that it is a sin not to adore ‘worship’ the eucharist and he said that ‘only the Eucharisted (blessed) bread ‘becomes Christ’s body.’

    The recent appearance of Reformed apologetic websites trying to prove their sacramentology from the fathers runs utterly contrary to all the scholarship you like to quote (not to mention their own words.)

    Remember earlier in this thread it was claimed that Augustine taught Lutheran justification? I see that this was backed away from after I quoted Augustine and leading protestant scholarship which proved otherwise.

  490. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 25, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Sean, #444: “Maybe you can help me? Which ‘fact’ derived from the ‘challenge’ do not support the Catholic Church’s claim to oneness?”

    Okay.

    Question #7: Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on whether or not Jonah was really swallowed by a “great fish.”

    (For the record, here’s your answer, Sean: “The Church has not dogmatically professed whether or not Noah was swallowed by a ‘great fish.’ I personally believe that he was swallowed by a great fish and this would be the majority opinion from the fathers.”)

    The Catholic Church has changed its mind concerning the Book of Jonah. The 1908 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia was very adamant that this story of Jonah was historical fact, and it went to great lengths to discredit those scholars who disagreed:

    “Catholics have always looked upon the Book of Jonah as a fact-narrative. In the works of some recent Catholic writers there is a leaning to regard the book as fiction. Only Simon and Jahn, among prominent Catholic scholars, have clearly denied the historicity of Jonah; and the orthodoxy of these two critics may no longer be defended: “Providentissimus Deus” implicitly condemned the ideas of both in the matter of inspiration, and the Congregation of the Index expressly condemned the “Introduction” of the latter. …

    Not a single Father has ever been cited in favor of the opinion that Jonah is a fancy-tale and no fact-narrative at all.”

    From The Catholic Encyclopedia at New Advent website.

    Now let’s look at this staggering contrast by the 1970 edition of the Catholic Bible, bearing the signature of the Pope himself. In the preface to the Book of Jonah it states, “this book is a didatic story with an important message.” All claims to this being a historical fact-narrative are gone. The Catholic Church has quietly made a complete reversal of its previous position that it defended so adamantly.

    Sean, the Catholic Church previously held that the Book of Jonah was historical fact-narrative *ONLY*. Now the Catholic Church is permitting that the Book of Jonah may be interpreted as didactic fiction also.

    So much for an Infallible Interpreter.

  491. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 25, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Sean, #444: “Maybe you can help me? Which ‘fact’ derived from the ‘challenge’ do not support the Catholic Church’s claim to oneness?”

    Okay.

    Question #7: Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on whether or not Jonah was really swallowed by a “great fish.”

    (For the record, here’s your answer, Sean: “The Church has not dogmatically professed whether or not Noah was swallowed by a ‘great fish.’ I personally believe that he was swallowed by a great fish and this would be the majority opinion from the fathers.”)

    The Catholic Church has changed its mind concerning the Book of Jonah. The 1908 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia was very adamant that this story of Jonah was historical fact, and it went to great lengths to discredit those scholars who disagreed:

    “Catholics have always looked upon the Book of Jonah as a fact-narrative. In the works of some recent Catholic writers there is a leaning to regard the book as fiction. Only Simon and Jahn, among prominent Catholic scholars, have clearly denied the historicity of Jonah; and the orthodoxy of these two critics may no longer be defended: “Providentissimus Deus” implicitly condemned the ideas of both in the matter of inspiration, and the Congregation of the Index expressly condemned the “Introduction” of the latter. …

    Not a single Father has ever been cited in favor of the opinion that Jonah is a fancy-tale and no fact-narrative at all.

    From The Catholic Encyclopedia at New Advent website.

    Now let’s look at this staggering contrast by the 1970 edition of the Catholic Bible, bearing the signature of the Pope himself. In the preface to the Book of Jonah it states, “this book is a didatic story with an important message.” All claims to this being a historical fact-narrative are gone. The Catholic Church has quietly made a complete reversal of its previous position that it defended so adamantly.

    Sean, the Catholic Church previously held that the Book of Jonah was historical fact-narrative *ONLY*. Now the Catholic Church is permitting that the Book of Jonah may be interpreted as didactic fiction also.

    So much for an Infallible Interpreter.

  492. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    PS.

    Puritan Board also had a thread several months ago about Baptismal Regeneration in the Fathers. In this thread it was admitted that EVERY father taught Baptismal Regeneration just like what Zwingli claimed.

  493. turretinfan said,

    August 25, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    a) Tertullian does not say that churches MUST have apostolic succession.

    b) Tertullian offers “two tests” of whether or not the heretics are apostolic: one is the “genetic test” (were they appointed by someone who was appointed by someone … who was appointed by an apostle?) and the other is the “doctrinal test” (does their doctrine match the apostles’). If he really thought (as you seem to want to suggest) that the real test is the genetic test, it would be pointless for him to present the second test (especially if people can’t discern, by private judgment, the apostles’ teachings from the Scripture).

    c) The best explanation of Tertullian’s two tests, instead, is as two arguments why these folks shouldn’t be trusted: (1) they weren’t properly ordained (you may be surprised to learn that the Reformed churches also teach that ordination – not self-ordination – is the proper way of making elders) and (2) they don’t teach what the apostles taught.

    d) Although you’re wrong, I find your comment: “You cannot have one without the other,” to be a bit interesting. Tertullian appeals to the private judgment of his readers to determine what the apostles taught and compare that to the teachings of the heretics. When we do that to Rome, we find Rome teaching tons of things that the Apostles never taught, and a significant number of things that contradict that apostolic teachings. Thus, even if Rome had “succession” she would fail the second of the two tests.

    e) Furthermore, Rome would fail the first of those two tests as well. The so-called Babylonian Captivity and Pornocracy periods (not to mention the numerous other contested bishops) should remove any doubt as to whether or not there is a credible chain of succession from Benedict XVI back to Linus.

    f) Finally, if we can wave our hands regarding the gaps and question marks in the Roman list, we might as well wave our hands at the gaps and issues in the Antiochian list. Yet, Antioch and Rome don’t agree on doctrine … which shows the need for the second test – the test of Scripture.

    g) That is really the bottom line: it takes an appeal to Scripture to distinguish the truly apostolic churches (such as the Reformed churches) from heretical and/or apostate churches such as Rome has become.

    -TurretinFan

  494. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Truth Unites.

    “The Catholic Encyclopedia” is not the deposit of sacred tradition.

  495. turretinfan said,

    August 25, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Note as well Tertullian’s comment: “as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter.” (with the editors suggesting “[Linus and Cletus must have died or been martyred, therefore, almost as soon as appointed. Our author had seen these registers, no doubt.]“)

    Of course, there are other theories as well – such as that there was more than one elder in Rome in the beginning, or simply that the registers were more legend than history.

    The whole attempted reliance on “succession” rather than Scripture is filled with these sorts of annoying historical nuances: inconvenient facts that show the claims of the “ancient” churches to be absolutely incredible.

  496. Bryan Cross said,

    August 25, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    TurretinFan,

    I dealt here with Tertullian’s two tests. There I wrote:

    How does Tertullian propose to show that the doctrine of these heretics is contrary to that of the Apostles? He does so with two tests, and these two tests are related to each other. One necessarily comes before the other, and depends on the other. First, he uses the test of apostolic succession. “Let them produce produce the original records of their churches, let them unfold the roll of their bishops ….”. King appeals to the second test, without realizing that for Tertullian, the second test depends on the first test. The second test is comparing whether the ‘faith’ proposed by the heretics agrees with the doctrine held by the Apostles. How is this second test to be conducted? To determine whether the doctrine of the heretics agrees with the doctrine of the Apostles, Tertullian doesn’t say, “Look at the Scriptures.” He says that the ‘faith’ of the heretics must be compared to the faith of the churches which are in agreement with the churches founded by the Apostles. So the apostolic churches (the ones founded by the Apostles and maintaining the succession from the Apostles) are still the standard for what is the Apostolic faith. For Tertullian, how do we know which churches have the Apostolic faith? By comparing their doctrine to that of the apostolic churches, i.e. the one’s having the succession from the Apostles. So the second test (i.e. comparing the faith of the heretics to that of the Apostles) depends on the first test (i.e. apostolic succession).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  497. rfwhite said,

    August 25, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    467 Andrew Preslar: thanks.

    454 Bryan Cross: in 470 Joshua W. D. Smith’s last question is especially the point I had in mind back in 427. I should hope I would ask this question of you, even were I not a Protestant.

    Your comments on the contrast between Protestants and Roman Catholics when it comes to picking out the Church show that both the Protestant and the Catholic are making individual interpretations of data based on criteria with which they are presented. I raised the question of how the individual determines what is the Church. You answered by citing the different criteria used. What is it that would tell the individual conscience to listen to the Church and to use the criterion of apostolic succession? Does Scripture?

  498. Joshua W.D. smith said,

    August 25, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Re 487:

    Tertullian clearly refers to

    “churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine.”

    So, those are churches that cannot roll out their list of bishops going back to an apostle, but for them it is doctrine that is the mark of their apostolicity.

    As for the Eucharistic teaching, in the passage you provided Tertullian is only teaching that the bread is a figure of Christ’s body. All the Reformers taught that. The context is the reality of Christ’s body, contra Marcion’s “phantom body.”

  499. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Josh.

    I don’t have the time to keep on gong back on the same things. Read the context of what you are quoting (the passages directly prior to and after). And/or read the whole text. And/or read Bryan’s response he linked just a second ago #496. There is no point in you keep on saying the same thing and us responding the same way and talking past one another.

    What you are claiming is certainly a new idea and one that even Protestant historians missed.

  500. Sean said,

    August 25, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Wow 500 comments.

    I must bow out now however as my week is picking up fast. Thanks all for the dialog. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit brings us closer together and not farther apart.

  501. Joshua W.D. smith said,

    August 25, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Tertullian in principle acknowledges that Scripture is the true source of apostolic doctrine, as he says later:

    “Now, what is there in our Scriptures which is contrary to us? What of our own have we introduced, that we should have to take it away again, or else add to it, or alter it, in order to restore to its natural soundness anything which is contrary to it, and contained in the Scriptures? What we are ourselves, that also the Scriptures are (and have been) from the beginning. Of them we have our being, before there was any other way, before they were interpolated by you.”

    Here, it is clear that in principle, the test of the catholic church is its agreement in doctrine with the apostles, i.e., the Scriptures. Of course, Tertullian is asking rhetorical questions, but the Reformers argued that, in fact, there were such things: things added, things taken away, things contradictory.

  502. Joshua W.D. smith said,

    August 25, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    While I’m not chiefly concerned with Kelly, it’s important to pay attention to sources. Only one page later, Kelly suggests that Tertullian “remains conscious of the sacramental distinction between” the symbols and the elements.

  503. Bryan Cross said,

    August 25, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    rfwhite,

    Re: #497,

    in 470 Joshua W. D. Smith’s last question is especially the point I had in mind back in 427

    Sorry, I missed that question. (And I agree that it is an important question.) Here’s the question, from #470:

    If I am permitted to pit my interpretation of the council against his in order to conclude that he is apparently rebellious in his doctrine and thus that I should go to the bishop, how is that different from the Protestant view of the Scriptures?

    The context of there being other bishops in the Church cannot be abstracted away, without creating an artificial hypothetical. The bishop, since he is a successor of the Apostles, has greater interpretive authority than does the individual lay person. So, all other things being equal, I must submit to my bishop regarding the teaching of the Church. But, as I pointed out above (#485) if I come to discover that my bishop is rebelling against the Church, then I must submit to the Church’s Magisterium, and not follow this rebellious bishop.

    How does that differ from the Protestant view of the Scriptures? The Protestant makes himself the final interpretive authority of Scripture. The orthodox Catholic never takes that authority to himself. He submits to the teaching/interpretive authority of the Magisterium. Even when going against a rebellious bishop, he is not merely going by his own interpretation of Scripture, but always remaining in submission to the Church’s Magisterium. The Magisterium, we believe and profess, is indefectible.

    What is it that would tell the individual conscience to listen to the Church and to use the criterion of apostolic succession? Does Scripture?

    Scripture can play a role, as I pointed out here, and so can the Church herself. But the external basis for believing the Magisterium of the Church to bear Christ’s authority, and for believing that His authority is handed down by apostolic succession, is Tradition. Wherever the Apostles went, throughout the world, there we see in the Tradition the practice of apostolic succession. (I explained the problem (for those who deny apostolic succession) in comments #24 and #27 of this thread.) In this way, the Tradition of the Church testifies that this was the Apostles practice and teaching. To reject this universal practice of the early Church, we must fall into ecclesial deism, which is a lack of faith in Jesus Christ.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  504. Joshua W.D. smith said,

    August 25, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    As for 485, you say:

    if the priest or bishop talks about the doctrine(s) about which he is in rebellion, *it doesn’t take long for the persons under his care to recognize* that what he is saying is contrary to what the other bishops are saying on this point.

    So, clearly, the parishoner can interpret the teachings of the bishops without access to his own priest or bishop. Why are the teachings of the magisterium more clear than Scripture?

    Furthermore, it is a question of standing. When the parishoner goes to the archbishop and says “Bishop X is appears to be teaching against the tradition,” the archbishop would no doubt ask: “And why do you think that?” The answer would then be: “Because what he says doesn’t seem to fit with what I understand the tradition to be saying.” Thus, the only reason he’s questioning that bishop is because of his private judgment on the meaning of certain documents. Should the archbishop listen to the parishoner and investigate that bishop? If so, then the archbishop is accepting private judgment over the ordained status of the bishop. What if the archbishop is corrupt, and doesn’t find the bishop in rebellion on doctrine? And so forth. At some point, the church has to act based upon a private, individual interpretation of the tradition against the hierarchical succession…

  505. Joshua W.D. smith said,

    August 25, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    So Tradition points to apostolic succession, but the authority for Tradition is…apostolic succession. That is, of course, circular. Now, when we get to basic presuppositions, there must some circularity. But I’m not clear why that is located in the traditions of man rather than in the words of God.

  506. drollord said,

    August 25, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Am I understanding the CTC crowd here to say that the Church (?) (understanding the magisterium [is that what the RCC would call it?]) alone has the authority (and right?) to interpret Scripture? Would it then be considered an usurpation of authority for anyone else to interpret Scripture other than the Church (magisterium)?

  507. drollord said,

    August 25, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    BTW, 500+ comments is an obscene number to sort through. Wow.

  508. turretinfan said,

    August 25, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Bryan Cross:

    You wrote: “By comparing their doctrine to that of the apostolic churches… .” You’ve nailed the only alternative to “comparing their doctrine with Scripture.” Which then is right: your option or mine.

    Consider Tertullian’s words: “For their very doctrine, after comparison with that of the apostles, will declare, by its own diversity and contrariety, that it had for its author neither an apostle nor an apostolic man; because, as the apostles would never have taught things which were self-contradictory, so the apostolic men would not have inculcated teaching different from the apostles, unless they who received their instruction from the apostles went and preached in a contrary manner.”

    Notice that Tertullian appeals to the apostles directly and not to those who came after the apostles. We see Tertullian going in the very next chapter to a discussion of the apostles’ doctrine, and so we can see how he proposes to do this: “Besides all this, I add a review of the doctrines themselves, which, existing as they did in the days of the apostles, were both exposed and denounced by the said apostles.”

    How does he discover the apostolic doctrines? Does he state the present day teachings of the bishop of Rome, or the bishop of Alexandria, or his local bishop? Of course not – he turns to:

    1 Cor. xv. 12.; Gal. v. 2.; 1 Tim. iv. 3.; 2 Tim. ii. 3.; 1 Tim. i. 4.; Gal. iv. 9.; Rev. ii. 14.; 1 John iv. 3.; Col. ii. 18.; and Acts viii. 18.

    Then after that application of Scripture to the heretics of his day, Tertullian states at the start of the next chapter: “These are, as I suppose, the different kinds of spurious doctrines, which (as we are informed by the apostles themselves) existed in their own day.”

    So, with all respect, I have to agree with King that it is by comparison with Scriptures – not by comparison with the allegedly apostolic churches (those with the registers). While the statement itself might leave such a possibility open, the context closes that possibility.

    -TurretinFan

  509. Bryan Cross said,

    August 25, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Joshua,

    Why are the teachings of the magisterium more clear than Scripture?

    Because Christ has given to divinely appointed men both the authority and the gift of explaining the Sacred Scripture to His people. There would be no point to the gift of teaching, if the teacher’s words did not clarify that which he taught. Just as God ordained the Levites to teach the Scripture to the people of the Old Covenant, so we believe He ordained a perpetual succession of bishops to teach the Scripture to the people of the New Covenant.

    Should the archbishop listen to the parishoner and investigate that bishop?

    Quite possibly yes, especially on the testimony of two or three witnesses. (1 Tim 5:19)

    If so, then the archbishop is accepting private judgment over the ordained status of the bishop.

    No. Investigating a claim against a bishop by a layperson does not entail granting the layperson greater ecclesial authority than the bishop being investigated.

    What if the archbishop is corrupt, and doesn’t find the bishop in rebellion on doctrine?

    The question is too open-ended for me to answer.

    At some point, the church has to act based upon a private, individual interpretation of the tradition against the hierarchical succession…

    I can’t tell from your statement exactly what you are referring to by “the church”. As I said in #503, we believe that the Magisterium is indefectible. It will never be the case that the Magisterium will depart from the faith delivered once and for all to the saints. The Holy Spirit will guide the successors of the Apostles into all truth. The Church will remain the pillar and ground of truth, until Christ returns. The gates of hell will never prevail against the Church. If the Magisterium fell away from the faith, the gates of hell would have prevailed against the Church. So, your scenario is for us an impossible hypothetical (e.g. what would have happened if Jesus had sinned?).

    So Tradition points to apostolic succession, but the authority for Tradition is…apostolic succession. That is, of course, circular. Now, when we get to basic presuppositions, there must some circularity. But I’m not clear why that is located in the traditions of man rather than in the words of God.

    I didn’t claim that “the authority for Tradition is apostolic succession”. There is both internal evidence and external evidence. Internal evidence is evidence that is uniquely available to us once we have accepted the Church’s authority and teachings. Those outside cannot perceive this evidence as evidence. (If an analogy would be helpful, think of the evidence for Christianity that is not available to an atheist, so long as he remains an atheist.) Such evidence seems circular, to the outsider. But, there is also external evidence, i.e. evidence available to the outsider, and thus not seemingly circular to the one outside the Church.

    If we want to find where Christ’s Church is today, we need to start with the Apostles and then trace it forward through time until we come to the present day. The person who, living in 2009, says, “I’ll find Christ’s Church by reading the Bible, and then finding that group of persons who agrees with my interpretation of Scripture”, fails to recognize that the Body of Christ is a living organic being, that was born on Pentecost and has been growing continuously through space and time over the last two thousand years. That historical evidence of the geographical expansion and theological and liturgical development of Christ’s Church over these past two millennia is available to anyone, inside or outside the Church. If we want to understand Scripture, we need to try to understand it as those who first received it understood it. And how do we do that? By reading the Fathers. In the Fathers we find the mind of the early Church, and thus the mind of the Apostles that they had powerfully communicated to the churches they founded. So the Tradition of which I speak should not be conceived as something to be chosen over and against Scripture, but rather as precisely that through which best to understand those who wrote and received Sacred Scripture, and thus that through which best to understand Sacred Scripture itself.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  510. M Burke said,

    August 25, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Sean, your quote of Tertullian, (Tertullian, Against Marcion, 40 (A.D. 212)) should be reexamined. You seem to be arguing that Tertullian is suggesting a real presence concept, but in context he’s arguing against Marcion’s denial of Christ having real flesh, (pseudo-gnostic). Of course your quote is partial, so it is difficult to find it in Adversus Marcionem, but it is in IV, 40,

    Tertullian is saying, as is clear to those who read the work, that Christ had real flesh and real blood and that the Supper could not be a figure thereof apart from that fact. This is an anti-gnostic argument, not a declaration of or defense of the modern Roman Catholic belief in transubstantiation.

  511. Bryan Cross said,

    August 25, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    TurretinFan,

    Re: #506,

    So, with all respect, I have to agree with King that it is by comparison with Scriptures – not by comparison with the allegedly apostolic churches (those with the registers).

    A good hermeneutical rule of thumb is to try to avoid interpreting a writer in such a way that you make him out to be contradicting himself. By claiming that Tertullian does not find the apostolic doctrines by comparison with the apostolic churches having the succession from the Apostles, you make him directly contradict himself in two ways: first, in what he explicitly says in the first test (see #496), and second, in what he says in the link I provided in #356. My explanation of Tertullian, by contrast, does not make him contradict himself at all.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  512. rfwhite said,

    August 25, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Bryan Cross: You have alleged, “The Protestant makes himself the final interpretive authority of Scripture.” You have said this again and again in different words, and your meaning is not clear to me. Let me put it this way: what does it mean to be “the final interpretive authority of Scripture” as you see it? Let me add these comments in the hope of contextualizing this question. The Protestants I know do not deny the church has, from Christ through the Spirit of truth, both interpretive authority and formative and corrective disciplinary authority over individual interpretation: individual interpretation is affirmed but is done properly in covenant community where the Spirit and His gifts are operative. Protestants, then, would affirm that, to safeguard the integrity of the church’s confession (interpretation), Christ has given her the authority to admit into her fellowship all who agree to submit themselves to Christian discipleship according to her confession (interpretation), and the authority to exclude from her fellowship all who will not agree to do so. Having affirmed this authority, Protestants also observe that the church is not infallible in its exercise of authority, for Scripture itself amply attests to its interpretive and disciplinary failures throughout the Testaments. Where, then, does this leave us?

  513. August 25, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    RFW,

    After debating with Bryan for the last year, I think I can state what he means when he says that Protestants make ourselves the final interpretive authority (not that he can’t answer for himself, but perhaps hearing it said in a different way will help clarify his position).

    The reason Bryan says that we make ourselves the final interpretive authority is because the Reformed churches to which we submit are not in and of themselves authoritative (as in, we don’t expect United Methodists to obey our ruling elders since they haven’t voluntarily submitted to them). Rather, our churches are only authoritative for those who have decided to join them. Who, Bryan asks, joins our Reformed churches? Well, those people who are in a good measure of agreement with those churches. So we read Scripture and deduce its main doctrines and then find a church that conforms to what we believe, for the most part.

    “But you do the same thing!” we scream. No, Bryan says, we don’t. The Catholic convert did not align with Rome for the same reasons we align with Geneva. Rather, he says, the Catholic becomes convinced (yes, through use of his reason and will) that the church that Jesus founded is still around and is headquartered in Rome. So he submits to that church because it’s the church, and not because he has already decided that it agrees with him.

    (Can you tell I’ve been going back and forth with these fellas for some time?!)

    And for what it’s worth, I see a lot of question-begging going on from our side of this discussion. I wouldn’t have thought so a year ago, but having been dialoging with Catholics for so long, I can see things from their perspecive in a way that I couldn’t before. This is why I am happy to see the recent interaction with the fathers like Tertullian, for I think it can help avoid question-begging to bring the discussion back to a period when we were both on the same team, so to speak. If we both think the fathers are ours, then let’s go ad fontes and see what they said. But simply saying things like, “Well, Rome anathematized the gospel at Trent” may be a good way to convert the choir, but it doesn’t further constructive dialogue in any way, since all it amounts to is faulting Catholics for not affirming sola fide (or, for not being more Protestant).

    So I am happy to listen to men like John Bugay and Sean, since I am not a patristics scholar, nor to I play one on TV.

  514. Bryan Cross said,

    August 25, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    rfwhite,

    Re: #510,

    You have alleged, “The Protestant makes himself the final interpretive authority of Scripture.” You have said this again and again in different words, and your meaning is not clear to me.

    For a Protestant, the Church and tradition and creeds all have only derived authority. Derived authority means that they only have authority insofar as they conform to his interpretation of Scripture. He is not obligated to conform his interpretation to that of the Church; rather, the Church is picked out precisely by his own determination from Scripture of the marks of the Church.

    The Protestants I know do not deny the church has, from Christ through the Spirit of truth, both interpretive authority and formative and corrective disciplinary authority over individual interpretation:

    Correct. But notice how they define ‘church’. (I began to explain in this comment #5.) They define ‘church’ by using their own interpretation of Scripture (as influenced by whatever particular traditions have played a role in their formation), to find that denomination or broader tradition that seems to match most closely their interpretation of Scripture. If what they refer to as ‘church’ deviates too far from what they think church should be (according to their own interpretation), they leave, and find another congregation/denomination that is a better fit. We’re so used to this, that we don’t even see it for what it is. We *expect* to see different denominational church signs on every other street corner. We don’t see this as a myriad of schisms, each satisfying a demand niche in the ecclesial consumerism market, in fulfillment of what St. Paul predicts in 2 Tim 4:3.

    Protestants, then, would affirm that, to safeguard the integrity of the church’s confession (interpretation), Christ has given her the authority to admit into her fellowship all who agree to submit themselves to Christian discipleship according to her confession (interpretation), and the authority to exclude from her fellowship all who will not agree to do so.

    They have done this only after departing from the Catholic Church in the 16th century, by appealing to their own interpretation of Scripture. They left the Church in which they had all been baptized, started various ‘churches’ that agreed with their own interpretation, and then required all their members to submit to their ‘church’. The first Protestant leaders didn’t submit to their Catholic bishops, but they required their followers to submit to them. That ad hoc. You can’t separate Protestantism from its origins. What it is by its very essence lies in how it came to be. And from the Catholic point of view, Protestantism came to be by individuals appealing to their own interpretation of Scripture to justify defying the established Church authorities, redefining ‘Church’ according to their own interpretation, and then requiring those who followed them to submit. Of course that pattern is familiar to Protestants. That’s why there are thousands of Protestant denominations, because the individual taking to himself final interpretive authority is part of the essence of Protestantism, that by which it came into being and remains in being.

    Having affirmed this authority, Protestants also observe that the church is not infallible in its exercise of authority, for Scripture itself amply attests to its interpretive and disciplinary failures throughout the Testaments. Where, then, does this leave us?

    We need to distinguish two possible ways in which something can be infallible. A thing can be infallible absolutely, that is, always and everywhere protected from making any error. Or, it can be infallible in a qualified or restricted sense. If we don’t make this distinction, then it easy to think that the only alternative to absolute infallibility is absolute fallibility, i.e. the absence always and everywhere of protection from making any error. But the notion that the Church is absolutely fallible, as I showed in the last two paragraphs of #394, is what entails that the individual holds final interpretive authority. The Catholic position is not that the Magisterium is absolutely infallible, but only infallible in a qualified sense. When the Magisterium of the Church proposes a teaching of faith or morals as definitively to be held by all the faithful, then she is protected from error by the Holy Spirit. But in her other actions (e.g. discipline, canon law, liturgical stipulation), she is not necessarily protected from error. Because of this gift of qualified infallibility, she retains magisterial/interpretive authority over the individual. If the Magisterium did not have at least qualified infallibility, the individual would have final interpretive authority, and we would all be Protestants.

    (And Jason’s latest comment accurately describes the Catholic point of view.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  515. August 25, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    Sean,

    I want to return to the discussion of Tertullian on the Eucharist. Here’s the way the dialogue seemed to go from my perspective (and please correct me if I’m wrong):

    Sean: “Tertullian clearly taught that the bread was Jesus’ actual body, as this citation demonstrates.”

    Others: “Well, in that citation Tertullian explicitly says that the bread is a figure of Jesus’ body, which we also believe.”

    Sean: “Well, the Catholic church does teach that the Eucharist is a figure or symbol of our unity in Christ.”

    Others: “But that’s not what you originally claimed. Your quote from Tertullian proves our view, not yours.”

    Sean: “Augustine said it’s a sin not to adore the host.”

    Look, I’m not saying you haven’t made some valid points here (such as your point about Tertullian and succession), but on this one it looks like you got caught and then started to employ backtracking and smokescreens.

    Care to clarify?

  516. Bob S said,

    August 25, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    374 Bryan,
    Materially Rome does not believe in derived authority. After a hurried perusal of Scripture, only long enough to ascertain that she is infallible, the bit is in her teeth and she is off and running. Protestantism as well as segments of Rome, for egs. the ultra montane French no? at one time, assert the validity and authority of a multitude of counselors as found in the fallible councils of the church, who in light of Scripture, make application and draw out its teaching, which in turn are correctable by other councils. With Trent, if not Vatican I, Rome trampled on the light of Scripture, if not exalted the pope to infallibility over and above her infallible Trent.

    392 Perry, your response is simply pathetic however verbose and longwinded.
    Forget about Luther at Worms. What about Christ, Peter, John, Paul, Stephen and the rest of the apostles, disciples and early church? They all opposed the religious authorities of the day. Likewise Jeremiah and Micaiah. What gives?

    And you should know as well as anybody that Laud and EO are bosom buddies of Rome, in that they all exalt and worship tradition as the supreme authority, i.e. deity.

    As for academia, I got no complaints, only that Bryan’s criticisms apply to Rome just as well as academia. Somehow that got conveniently overlooked in your reply.

    As for Matt. 16, my interpretation at least appeals to Scripture and context to overturn the nominal Roman appeal to Scripture and the example of Peter. What more do you want? Eggs in your beer, as we used to say on the playground in elementary school? Because it is elementary. Rome can be easily shown to be a decrepit fraud exposed by a minimum amount of yapping rather than the Great Oz it pretends to be.

    But if the early church didn’t present a unaminity on the pope, so much for the Roman claims to be the champions of the monolithic tradition and early church fathers. Gone in a heartbeat. So where is her authority now and upon what does she base it?

    As for Sola Fide, do you deny that it is taught in Scripture? Oh, that’s right. Holy mother Rome and the EO haven’t found it, so it can’t be there.

    I asked the reader to judge, because what does Jesus say: They will haul you into the synagogues and persecute you, thinking they are doing God a favor because they do not believe. Claiming to be the seed of Abraham and trusting in the carnal flesh (accusing those who oppose them as being sons of Korah) chanting that they are the church, that they have the temple, that they are the people of God, they are no such thing. Again if not Christ, Peter, John, Paul, Stephen and the rest of the apostles saw this first hand. IOW grace is immediate. It is not necessarily tied to an institution or Abrahamic/apostolic succession. True apostolic succession is in doctrine and truth, not genealogical and carnal. This both Rome and EO stumble at. As was foretold by Christ Matt.21. The wind blows where it will. So too the Spirit. Jn3.

    As for the Jewish canon, if the Jews had reneged on their responsibilities, surely our Lord and the apostles would have said something instead of appealing without qualification to the OT as they did so many times in the NT. The Jews were certainly chided where they had gone off track. As far as the NT canon goes, it is a sticky question, but it was generally resolved by consensus long before the Vatican papa began boasting and yapping, beginning with Leo.

    Again, the Orthodox with Rome idolizes tradition. In principle, there is little difference, though the holy father, the pope is not recognized in Constantinople. True, the Reformed held Cyril Lucaris in high regard in their day, but he was assassinated by his own. So much for the Reformation in EO.

    Ah yes, we now come to the great divide and material difference: two dimensional icon/idols good, three dimensional statue/idols bad. Huh? Further, that people worshiped Christ when he came in the flesh, is no reason to worship icons of Christ now. Chalcedon teaches there are two natures in one person, without confusion, composition or conversion. So who is contra Chalcedon now, in assuming the communication of divinity to the material substance of an icon, – not of the human nature of Christ, not even the believer in Christ, but a piece of painted wood? Neither do we as united to Christ by faith, ever participate in the Godhead or deity. But both Rome and EO have their reasons and arguments to deny this and worm their way around it, with the pope at least for Rome claiming divine power. IOW your argument is incoherent. I’ll grant you, it is on par though with one of the greatest presbyterian and reformed latitudinarians alive today, one Johannus Framesius: that since there were images on the retinas of the disciples, ergo images of Christ are lawful today, but for my money, you both are on sabbatical from the LSD School of Theology. Sorry about that.

    As for Chalcedon, whatever, Muller, Calvin or McCormack say, are you claiming that the West. Confession in Chapt. 8 departs from that tradition?

    Regardless, IMO you don’t have a leg to stand on and neither would a centipede, when it comes to the EO over and against Rome, if not Protestantism. The Bible and the Bible alone is the only infallible rule for faith and life. It judges all, churches, councils and fathers, even the little papa

    Thank you.

  517. MG said,

    August 26, 2009 at 12:04 am

    Todd—

    You wrote:
    “Timothy and Titus preached the same message, but they did not possess the same apostolic authority as the Apostles. The word of the Apostles was the word of God. (I Thes 2:13) Not true of successive pastors; they preach the word of the Apostles found in the NT.”

    If Timothy does not have Apostolic authority, why is he included in the Apostolic “we” (1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2:7)? And if Titus does not have such authority, what is the difference between him and Timothy? What kind of authority does Paul attribute to Titus, when he tells him “Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you.” (Titus 2:15)?

    You wrote:
    “Luke and Mark were dependent on the Apostles as their source of truth. The aspect of the Apostle’s ministry concerning inspiration is over. They laid the foundation – only one foundation needs to be laid (Eph 2:20).”

    Sure the divine inspiration of revealed content is done and over. But this doesn’t settle the question of Apostolic authority being transmitted to successors (see below).

    You wrote:
    “Well, we are mincing words. If the church authorities today possess the same interpretative infallibility as the Apostles, then in essence the authorities are acting as modern day Apostles.”

    First of all, this does not deny Perry’s point. At most what you show is that the Nicene Fathers were inarticulate and foolish for thinking that they were essentially modern day Apostles.

    Second, your comment that they were “essentially modern day Apostles” assumes that the only way of being infallible is as an infallible revealer. But this isn’t true, because interpretation and revelation are not the same. If the two are distinct, then there can be infallible interpreters (under some conditions) that are successors to the Apostles without this entailing that they be revealers of divine teaching. The difference is between form (mode of expression) and matter (content). Interpretation is a reformulation of already existing content in a text or tradition; revelation is the introduction of new content into a body of tradition (teaching). Revelation only came from the Apostles; authoritative interpretation comes from the Apostles’ successors, who have divine teaching authority transmitted to them by the laying-on of hands.

    You wrote:
    “The OT judges resolved disputes by applying the law of God to those particular disputes. The council in Acts 15 was under the authority of the Apostles, who possessed a unique ministry.”

    Sure the judges applied the law. But were their judgments and applications more normative than the judgment of those that lacked their authority?

    Would you say New Testament ministers have less authority than those of whom Jesus said “do whatever they tell you”? (Matthew 23:2-3)

  518. St. Robert Bellarmine said,

    August 26, 2009 at 2:00 am

    Bob S:

    “The Bible and the Bible alone is the only infallible rule for faith and life.”

    Here is the problem- where is this truth found in the scriptures?? You see, the lens you use is Sola Scriptura-where is this doctrine found implicitly or explicitly in scripture? John Bugay keeps on giving me circular arguements.

    Andrew M. or Jason S. would you like to have a go?

  519. August 26, 2009 at 2:11 am

    SRB,

    I think it has been pointed out to you already that Sola Scriptura doesn’t insist on prooftexting as a method of deducing biblical doctrine. So your question has a false assumption. It would be like me asking you to point me to one church father who taught the entire content of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (read: it’s an illegitimate and unfair challenge).

  520. johnbugay said,

    August 26, 2009 at 3:36 am

    Bellarmine, I don’t believe I have interacted with you at all here. How can you say I am giving you circular arguments?

  521. Paige Britton said,

    August 26, 2009 at 4:45 am

    Okay, sports fans, if you are just tuning in at the 518th at-bat, here is where at least the Western part of this debate has taken us, as best as I can remember it:

    The Protestants began by expressing gratitude for a “confessional lens,” which they find a helpful tool (but only a tool) for organizing and understanding the clear but complex Scriptures. Given God’s infallible revelation in the Bible, plus the Spirit’s work of regeneration & illumination, plus the use of “ordinary means” such as reason & exegesis, plus the checks and balances of one another (including a Scripturally-normed confessional lens), the P’s are hopeful about reaching a sufficient understanding of what God means to communicate to his church.

    The RC’s counter that this is a biblicist approach, and that God never intended for the Scriptures to be read and interpreted apart from the infallible input of the Magisterium. Divinely guided teachers in apostolic succession are necessary in order to keep truth unified, as is made plain by the appalling abundance of individualist Protestant interpretations.

    While weeping over the arrogance and ignorance behind so many Protestant divisions, the P’s respond that the RC position presents some apparent epistemological and historical difficulties; for example:
    1. How do fallible interpreters know that their understanding of the RCC’s infallible interpretation is sound?
    2. What is it that would convince a non-Catholic individual’s conscience that the Magisterium indeed offers infallible interpretations? (Does one take their word for it? Find it in Scripture? – but the individual’s ability to understand revelation without the guidance of the Magisterium is in doubt!)
    3. What to do with the multiplicity of RC interpretations of Bible passages and doctrines over time and across the world?

    In addressing these and other questions, the RC’s rejoin that he P’s should not be ridiculous, of course human reason is adequate to understand texts, be they ex cathedra pronouncements or the Bible itself. But if you are reading the latter, just make sure at the end of the day that you have not brought home any new friends who would not be sanctioned by the Church. (And, by the way, you are defining “Church” incorrectly – not to mention “holy,” “catholic,” and “apostolic”!)

    Which leads me to one last speculative thought, here: Let’s say I am a RC layperson with a Bible. What, exactly, shall I do with this Bible? On the one hand, it’s a text, and I understand that I can understand texts reasonably well, if I read carefully. In fact, I could go ahead and really STUDY this text if I wish to, carefully following arguments such as Paul’s in Romans, and noting implications and connections and the writer’s own definitions of his terms.

    But on the other hand, as a RC I am conscience-bound to make sure that I do not stray from the official teaching of the RCC at any point. Since I do not have a priest at my elbow (let alone a bishop or the pope!) checking my interpretation of every word and phrase and verse, perhaps I should purchase a set of officially-sanctioned RC commentaries? (And perhaps I should just read the commentaries? [The rabbis went in this direction! One only has so much reading time!])

    Or perhaps I should wait until I have heard a series of RC expository sermons on each biblical book before I open it, taking really good notes? (Would I be waiting a pretty long time?)

    Or perhaps I should just give up the attempt to study the Scriptures in depth for myself, instead trusting wholeheartedly that the indefectible Magisterium has the last word on the Word, whatever it is, and I can leave it all up to them?

    It does not seem, at the end of the day, that the RC view offers much practical hope (or motivation) at all for a layperson ever to seriously read the Bible for herself, despite protests that our brains function well enough to understand even these texts adequately. I would think that there are too many layers, too many warning stickers, too many possibilities for error, for a conscientious RC layperson ever to begin the daunting task of Scripture study while desiring to stay within the limits of the Magisterium’s interpretations (though I can see where occasionally reading a few devotional passages would seem safe). It would seem to be much safer and easier just to do what you’re told by those who know more than you do.

    And I guess that if you don’t read the Bible at all, you don’t have to worry your head over which lens you are using, be it presuppositional, or Magisterial, or confessional! (– But you may have other worries down the line.)

  522. Paige Britton said,

    August 26, 2009 at 5:07 am

    From Bryan, #507 — “Internal evidence is evidence that is uniquely available to us once we have accepted the Church’s authority and teachings. Those outside cannot perceive this evidence as evidence. (If an analogy would be helpful, think of the evidence for Christianity that is not available to an atheist, so long as he remains an atheist.) ”

    This is very interesting! I have been wondering if, in the RC view, it would take a move of the Spirit to overcome the noetic effects of Protestantism!

  523. Bryan Cross said,

    August 26, 2009 at 5:23 am

    Paige,

    Re: #518,

    What, exactly, shall I do with this Bible?

    Two years ago, Pope Benedict gave a series of talks on the Church Fathers. In this talk on St. Jerome, he addresses your question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  524. Sean said,

    August 26, 2009 at 5:48 am

    Jason.

    After promising that I wouldn’t be back I saw your question and since its 6:39AM and I have a minute thought I’d take a crack.

    I only focused on Tertullian because this was the father that was being focused on. There isn’t a whole lot of explicit teaching on the matter from Tertullian.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia draws out some more however here. Towards the bottom paragraph that begins, “Tertullian’s doctrine on the Eucharist…” In addition, the scholarship such as JND Kelly whom I quoted earlier affirms what I tried, although failed, to demonstrate from the quote I provided.

    Admittedly its not best to tackle these questions from single quotations. But there are others that are more illuminating.

    A famous passage on the Sacraments of Baptism, Unction, Confirmation, Orders and Eucharist runs: “Caro abluitur ut anima maculetur; caro ungitur ut anima consecretur; caro signatur ut et anima muniatur; caro manus impositione adumbratur ut et anima spiritu illuminetur; caro corpore et sanguine Christi vescitur ut et anima de Deo saginetur” (The flesh is washed, in order that the soul may be cleansed; the flesh is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the flesh is signed [with the cross], that the soul, too, may be fortified; the flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands, that the soul also may be illuminated by the Spirit; the flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may have its fill of God —
    “Deres. Carnis.”, viii

    Further, he testifies to the practice of daily communion, and the preserving of the Holy Eucharist by private persons for this purpose. What will a heathen husband think of that which is taken by his Christian wife before all other food? “If he knows that it is Bread, will he not believe that it is simply what it is called?” This implies not merely the Real Presence, but transubstantiation.

  525. johnbugay said,

    August 26, 2009 at 5:58 am

    Internal evidence is evidence that is uniquely available to us once we have accepted the Church’s authority and teachings.

    Paige — you should ask Bryan about the secret handshake.

  526. johnbugay said,

    August 26, 2009 at 6:06 am

    Sean — Philip Schaff is a much more reliable and trustworthy historian than you are. He says that the early church

    …made more account of the worthy participation of the ordinance than of the logical apprehension of it. She looked upon it as the oliest mystery of the Christian worship, and accordingly celebrated it with the depest devotion, without inquiring into the mode of Christ’s presence, nor into the relation of the sensible signs to his flesh and blood. It is unhistorical to carry any of the later theories back into this age…

    Of course, you are not doing this. You are doing something else, and you have a good reason for it, too; likely it is whatever seems to you to suit the needs of the moment. Actual truth does not matter.

  527. johnbugay said,

    August 26, 2009 at 6:27 am

    I know that you appreciate Keith Mathison, because you are always citing his “Sola Scriptura” study. Here is what he says of the doctrine of the eucharist in the early church:

    The centrality of thanksgiving should be noted in [the Didache's] description of the early eucharistic liturgy. (328)

    The Didache and the letters of Ignatius offer us only the briefest glimpse into the eucharistic doctrine and practice of the early second century church. But the language that is used introduces themes, such as the real presence of Christ and sacrifice, that will develop in different ways in later centuries.

    The concept of the real presence raises an important question: to what extent were the early fathers influenced by Platonic thought? …there is no doubt that Platonic and new0platonic thought were part of the intellectual atmosphere in which the early fathers lived, and that fact should be kept in mind when their “realistic” language is considered. (328-329)

    The idea of sacrifice, which was left unexplained in the Didache and in Ignatius, is taken up again by Justin Martyr and Irenaeus…. It is significant to note that Justin clarifies to a certain exten the nature of the eucharistic “sacrifice” … He says that “prayers and giving of thanks” are the only sacrifices well-pleasing to God. As Klotsche and Muller explain:

    “The Eucharistic prayer at first contained thanksgiving for both the natural and spiritual gifts of God. Both Justin and Irenaeus mention a twofold object in the presentation of bread and wine: a memorial of the gifts aof creation and of the redemptive sufferings of Christ. All this is yet consistent with the universal Christian priesthood. To the fathers of the second century the eucharistic offering is a congregational thank-offering, not priest offering, nor a sin-offering.” (330-332)

    As J.N.D. Kelly explains, Irenaeus’s explanation of what the eucharistic sacrifice means is somewhat different:

    “Irenaeus’s thought moves along rather different lines and does not link the eucharist so closely with Christ’s atoning death. When the bread and wine are offered to God, he thinks of them primarily as first-fruits of the earth which Christ has instructed us not to offer, not because the Father needs them, but that we nay not be found unfruitful or ungrateful. This is ‘the oblation of the CHurch,’ and is well-pleasing to God as the expression ofa sincere and faithful disposition. But the idea of the passion pervades this approach too, for Irenaeus identifies the gifts with Christ’s body and blood and describes them, in language reminiscent of the Lord’s words at the Last Supper, as “the oblation of the new covenant”

    Irenaeus writes, for example, “the Church alone offers this pure oblation to the Creator, offering to Him, with gifts of thanks, [the things taken] from His creation.” Elsewhere he explains that Christians make an offering to God “rendering thanks for His gift, and thus sanctifying what has been created.” Like those before him, Irenaeus’s concept of the eucharistic sacrifice is focused on the giving of thanks to God for his good gifts to us. (332-333)

  528. TurretinFan said,

    August 26, 2009 at 6:36 am

    Bob had written: “The Bible and the Bible alone is the only infallible rule for faith and life.”

    Pseudo-Bellarmine writes: “Here is the problem- where is this truth found in the scriptures?? You see, the lens you use is Sola Scriptura-where is this doctrine found implicitly or explicitly in scripture?”

    We suppose that our Roman acquaintance will at least grant us the fact that the Bible describes itself as an infallible rule for faith and life. If he will not grant us that, we can prove it for him.

    From that common ground, we simple note that the Bible describes no other infallible rule for faith and life, thereby at least implicitly teaching that the Bible is the only such rule. While Roman Catholics may wish that the teaching was more explicit, they ought as well to accept the implicit testimony of Scripture and to agree with Augustine who said:

    But if it is supported by the evident authority of the divine Scriptures, namely, of those which in the Church are called canonical, it must be believed without any reservation. In regard to other witnesses of evidence which are offered as guarantees of belief, you may believe or not, according as you estimate that they either have or have not the weight necessary to produce belief.

    – Augustine, Letter 147

    -TurretinFan

  529. TurretinFan said,

    August 26, 2009 at 6:46 am

    Bryan Cross wrote:

    A good hermeneutical rule of thumb is to try to avoid interpreting a writer in such a way that you make him out to be contradicting himself. By claiming that Tertullian does not find the apostolic doctrines by comparison with the apostolic churches having the succession from the Apostles, you make him directly contradict himself in two ways: first, in what he explicitly says in the first test (see #496), and second, in what he says in the link I provided in #356. My explanation of Tertullian, by contrast, does not make him contradict himself at all.

    Simply claiming that using Scripture to determine Apostolic doctrine contradicts the first test isn’t very persuasive to me, because there is no logical reason for thinking that it contradicts that test. Vague references to linked material aren’t helpful either. Whether or not your interpretation of Tertullian leads to him contradicting himself: (a) you haven’t actually demonstrated how my position would lead to a self-contradiction in Tertullian, and (b) your interpretation is based on ignoring the context that I’ve already brought to your attention.

    Or to phrase things differently, the best hermeneutic is to let the author explain himself – which in this case he does. He tells us how he determines apostolic doctrines in the very next chapter (as I’ve already explained above), which is from Scripture. He actually applies the test he proposed, and in doing so shows us what he meant. Ignoring his explanation (whether or not such leads to a self-contradiction in Tertullian) is really inexcusable.

    Furthermore, of course, when you ignore his explanation and then say (in essence) that it would contradict the first test, you demonstrate that your own understanding of his first test is errant. In other words, when you identify an apparent contradiction between “position A” and “position B” you must not simply assume that the first position you held is the correct one, and that the latter one (contradicting it) is incorrect. Instead, you must also evaluate the possibility that your attempt to read Tertullian’s first test as you do is the mistaken portion of the equation.

    -TurretinFan

  530. GLW Johnson said,

    August 26, 2009 at 7:02 am

    I would refer everyone to the action of the Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (PCA) and the recently adopted ‘Affirmations and Denials: A Call to Confessional Renewal Regarding the Doctrine of Scripture’. This is posted over at http://theaquilareport.com/index.php?opyion=com_content&view=article&id=398:affirmat

  531. Sean said,

    August 26, 2009 at 7:16 am

    John,

    I think we’ve done this before. The extant evidence is overwhelming and confirmed by other scholars all over the place (like Kelly whom I cited earlier).

    “Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood” (Early Christian Doctrines, 440).

    “Ignatius roundly declares that . . . [t]he bread is the flesh of Jesus, the cup his blood. Clearly he intends this realism to be taken strictly, for he makes it the basis of his argument against the Docetists’ denial of the reality of Christ’s body. . . . Irenaeus teaches that the bread and wine are really the Lord’s body and blood. His witness is, indeed, all the more impressive because he produces it quite incidentally while refuting the Gnostic and Docetic rejection of the Lord’s real humanity” (ibid., 197–98).

    Your quotes are not wrong when they say that there was development in how this doctrine which we commonly refer to as ‘the real presence’ eventually came to be understood.

    I have no worries or fears about anybody who is interested taking up any church father at any time and investigating the question. So, if anybody is watching and there are any doubts go to the source.

    This conversation has drifited into an almost impossible-to-follow format and the original questions about ‘which lens to use’ came back with a response that is basically ‘just pray about and God will show you.’

    One more from Tertullian that I found:

    “There is not a soul that can at all procure salvation, except it believe whilst it is in the flesh, so true is it that the flesh is the very condition on which salvation hinges. And since the soul is, in consequence of its salvation, chosen to the service of God, it is the flesh which actually renders it capable of such service. The flesh, indeed, is washed (in baptism), in order that the soul may be cleansed . . . the flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands (in confirmation), that the soul also may be illuminated by the Spirit; the flesh feeds (in the Eucharist) on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may be filled with God”
    The Resurrection of the Dead 8 A.D. 210

    The Council of Nicea in Canon 18 calls the Eucharist ‘the Body of Christ’ and is concerned that deacons are offering it without priests.

    An Eastern Father, Cyril writes, “The bread and the wine of the Eucharist before the holy invocation of the adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, but the invocation having been made, the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ.” (Catechetical Lectures 19:7 [A.D. 350]).

    The bread is only bread and then it is prayed over and ‘becomes the body of Christ.’ Compare that statment to the WCOF which calls this truth ‘idolotry.’

    And from the Proto-Calvinist St. Augustine of Hippo himself: “What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may perhaps be sufficient for faith; yet faith does not desire instruction” (ibid., 272).

    Your faith obliges you to accept that the bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ.

    I believe a topic like this is certainly worthy of its own thread (at the very least) but you the weight of the evidence is overwhelming. It is almost hard to keep a straight face.

  532. Sean said,

    August 26, 2009 at 7:34 am

    One last thing.

    None of the scholarship you cite says anything remotely close to ‘the early church fathers affirmed the WCOF’s understanding of the Eucharist.’ Not even close.

    Different fathers at different times emphasized different mysteries behind the blessed sacrament which is completely understandable. The mystery like all doctrines were once delivered but organically developed in the church. Even so, the very first statements we have on it (Irenaeus/Ignatius et al) are so completely realist that even Kelly and others admit it.

  533. Sean said,

    August 26, 2009 at 8:20 am

    PS. Even the Council of Trent refers to the Eucharist as a ‘symbol’ in a particular context. Are you prepared to accuse the Council of Trent of denying the real bodily presence of Christ in the consecrated elements?

  534. johnbugay said,

    August 26, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Sean: I think we’ve done this before.

    If by this, you mean that you have misrepresented a particular position, gotten called on it, and then skipped on to something else, I agree.

    Your quotes are not wrong when they say that there was development in how this doctrine which we commonly refer to as ‘the real presence’ eventually came to be understood.

    And note that I had not gotten to Tertullian yet; only second century sources.

    You said, i>The extant evidence is overwhelming and confirmed by other scholars all over the place (like Kelly whom I cited earlier).

    The saga continues.

    Up above, you said of a particular Tertullian quote, “a famous passage,” you called it, This implies not merely the Real Presence, but transubstantiation.

    Here is more Mathison — whom you love to quote — on Tertullian:

    Tertullian’s language must be interpreted carefully because, as Kelly wrote, modern ideas of symbolism and figures aren’t always identical to the ancient concepts. He explains:

    According to ancient modes of thought a mysterious relationship existed between the thing symbolized and its symbol, figure or type; the symbol in some sense was the thing symbolized. Again, the verb “repraesentare,” in Tertullian’s vocabulary, retained its original significance of “to make present”. All that his language really suggests is that, while accepting the equation of the elements with the body and blood, he remains conscious of the sacramental distinction between them. (334-335)

    Again, this is Mathison summarizing Kelly. Totally different from you attributing “transubstantiation” to Tertullian.

    And of course, you are trying to weasle out of this by jump into to Nicea and Augustine.

    You are right, the conversation has “drifted into an almost impossible-to-follow format,” and you yourself are leading the confusion. I was merely responding to it. (You have still not responded to the fact that Tertullian was not talking about “the Eucharist,” but was responding to Marcion’s docetisism. See my comment #488, or M Burke in 508, and Jason Stellman in 513.)

    None of the scholarship you cite says anything remotely close to ‘the early church fathers affirmed the WCOF’s understanding of the Eucharist.’ Not even close.

    Straw man. I didn’t even suggest this. I was merely trying to hold your own feet to the fire on your ridiculous claim of “Tertullian taught transubstantiation.”

    I will say it again: You are one of the most dishonest, dissembling people that I have ever seen in these discussions.

    But this is how Catholicism defends itself, at least from the times of the Jesuits and their well known casuistry. It may be Roman Catholic — in fact, it is exemplary Roman Catholic. But it is in no way Christian.

  535. johnbugay said,

    August 26, 2009 at 8:26 am

    As for Augustine and as you say, “what my faith obliges me to accept”:

    Augustine (354-430): “They said therefore unto Him, What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” For He had said to them, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto eternal life.” “What shall we do?” they ask; by observing what, shall we be able to fulfill this precept? “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He has sent.” This is then to eat the meat, not that which perisheth, but that which endureth unto eternal life. To what purpose dost thou make ready teeth and stomach? Believe, and thou hast eaten already. NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate 25, §12.

    Augustine (354-430): Wherefore, the Lord, about to give the Holy Spirit, said that Himself was the bread that came down from heaven, exhorting us to believe on Him. For to believe on Him is to eat the living bread. He that believes eats; he is sated invisibly, because invisibly is he born again. A babe within, a new man within. Where he is made new, there he is satisfied with food. NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate 26, §1.

    Augustine (354-430): The Lord did not hesitate to say, this is my body, since he would give a sign of his body. See Turretin, Vol. 3, p. 479. See also John Daillé, A Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1856), p. 109.
    Latin text: Non enim Dominus dubitavit dicere, Hoc est corpus meum; cum signum daret corporis sui. Contra Adimantum Manichaei Discipulum, Liber Unus, Caput XII, §3, PL 42:144.

    Augustine (354-430): Not in vain then was the voice of the. Physician as He hung upon the tree. For in order that He might die for us because the Word could not die, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” He hung upon the Cross, but in the flesh. There was the meanness, which the Jews despised; there the dearness, by which the Jews were delivered. For for them was it said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And that voice was not in vain. He died, was buried, rose again, having passed forty days with His disciples, He ascended into heaven, He sent the Holy Ghost on them, who waited for the promise. They were filled with the Holy Ghost, whom they had received, and began to speak with the tongues of all nations. Then the Jews who were present, amazed that unlearned and ignorant men, whom they had known as brought up among them with one tongue, should in the Name of Christ speak in all tongues, were in astonishment, and learnt from Peter’s words whence this gift came. He gave it, who hung upon the tree. He gave it, who was derided as He hung upon the tree, that from His seat in heaven He might give the Holy Spirit. They of whom He had said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” heard, believed. They believed, were baptized, and their conversion was effected. What conversion? In faith they drank the Blood of Christ, which in fury they had shed. NPNF1: Vol. VI, Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament, Sermon 30, §5.

  536. Sean said,

    August 26, 2009 at 8:30 am

    John.

    Peace be with you. My disagreeing with Matthison’s conclusions and siding with Kelly’s conclusions in no way makes me a liar or snake charmer.

    Believe it or not John, people who love Jesus and love truth see things differently than you. It seems that this is hard for you to accept hence the constant name calling and calling into question of motives.

    This isn’t a playground. We’re all adults. I am going to let my statements here be weighed and measured as they stand.

    I hope you find peace.

  537. August 26, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Curate,

    If you think I don’t engage the actual arguments, then please point this out rather than baldly asserting such. Usually if this…then that, is a valid form of reasoning called modus ponens in logic. If I argue in that form, I am actually engaging the argument in question. I have yet to see proof that sola doesn’t in fact reduce to solo scriptura. Here is the idea again.

    When Luther for example was making his protest, there was no Protestant ecclesiastical structure to appeal to. It was his judgment that trumped that of Catholic teaching authority. Subsequent, all Protestant bodies were formed around the representational and collective judgment of individuals. This is why protestant ministers are on their own principles laymen elevated y other laymen to a functional status. Consequently, no one’s conscience on Protestant principles is absolutely obligated or bound by any doctrinal formulation because all such formulations are a human reconstruction and fallible. They are therefore by their very nature unable to absolutely bind the conscience since qua formulation they are the doctrines of men.

    There were a number of points about a lack of Episcopal succession. First, because the Reformers seemed to think early on that having bishops was necessary and then when it became apparent that none would budge, they revised their theological position. Second since there is no historical data of a case of legitimate succession coming through the presbyterate alone, the lack of succession is problematic.

    If Scripture included explanations for every passage we wouldn’t really need teachers or commentaries. Secondly, the analogia fide presupposes a correct theological model and set of exegetical presuppositions in order to come to specific conclusions. Without it, you will not necessarily reach orthodox conclusions say on the deity of Christ, which is why Athanasius thought you should teach people the creed first which functioned as a grid for their reading of the scriptures. Eunomians for example were quite adept at rendering consistent explanations using the analogia fide showing that it is insufficient for to reach the proper conclusions if one has improper exegetical and theological presuppositions.

    My comment about the authors of Scripture not offering interpretations was in response to your claim that the Scriptures didn’t need interpretation. If that were so, then the authors can’t be offering legitimate interpretations but doing something else. This is a legitimate reductio ad absurdam of your position.

    Furthermore, the authors of scripture do not offer interpretations of their own writings in a great many cases, for example regarding baptism. Paul remarks in Galations 3 that those who have been baptized have put on Christ. Well, what exactly does that mean to put on Christ? Do you suppose the Lutherans just don’t read the Bible’s supposed self interpretation?

    And even if the analogia fide were sufficient to come to the right interpretation, it in no way follows that right doctrine has its normative force merely by virtue of being correct. Divine statements are normative not merely because God is without error. The Scriptures are not merely without error, it is impossible for them to be in error, indicating that the root question here is one of normativity and not merely arriving at the correct understanding.

    On the protestant position, it seems to me, that divine teaching should be able to bind my conscience, to obligate me to believe it even if I fail to meet the conditions on knowledge regarding it. But this isn’t true in principle of any Protestant theological formulation since they are all fallible and revisable and hence no Protestant theological formulae could rise to the level of divine teaching.

  538. August 26, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Curate,

    Augustine may defend a strong predestinarian position, but so did Anselm and Aquinas. They aren’t fundamentally different with regards to Pelagianism. Secondly, Augustine clearly includes our works in justification. See On the Spirit and the Letter 45 and Sermon 158.4. for example.

    There are a number of points here. While it is true that initially Augustine lacked competence in Greek early on, this wasn’t so much the case in the last third of his career. Second, sola gratia and a strong Augustinian predestinarianism isn’t co-extensive and doesn’t necessarily imply the doctrine of sola fide. Sola Fide then must be defended on its own grounds since one can logically accept sola gratia without sola fide. Consequently, Augustine cannot be used as a witness for sola fide, and Luther admitted as much.

    Further, it seems implausible that if none of competent Greek speakers could see the doctrine in a text for well over a thousand years that this doctrine is in fact in the text. There are plenty of doctrines more obscure and difficult such as the Trinity, two wills in Christ, Christ’s human soul and intellect, etc. and yet they managed to teach those doctrines.

  539. August 26, 2009 at 9:02 am

    David G,

    I am not sure that appealing to some basic theistic worldview will help and here is why. First, it seems like regeneration produces dispositions in soul and body and not conceptual information. Second, what exactly is basic theistic worldview and what does it include? Does it include some notion of “God in general” as in natural theology? And how is this different from an appeal to natural theology and how exactly does that square with the Reformed doctrine of total depravity? I don’t see how it can.

    Secondly, it may be true that atheists can come to the right interpretation, but this only shows that there is some common ground, but not that the common ground isn’t worldview specific and incommensurable. And it seems even if we appeal to general revelation here that this still leaves the point untouched, namely that all exegetical models will presuppose and select for theological content. That thesis doesn’t entail that the reader is aware of the content anymore than when an atheist believes in causation that he endorses and is fully aware and believes in the God that makes a justification for such causation possible.

    As to the law of contradiction, isn’t this worldview specific such that while many paradigms employ it, not all can justify their usage of it? Or do you think than an atheist or a Mormon can justify their adherence to the laws of logic? I fail to see how a lack of controversy regarding it, that it is not in dispute implies that it is theory neutral. How exactly does one get from the former to the latter?

    And what constitutes a clearer part of Scripture also seems to be in dispute. Take Luther’s defense of the eucharist. He takes John 6 to be explicitly clear and the Zwinglians and the Reformed do not. They take it to be more of a figure of speech. So appealing to the analogia fide doesn’t seem to do the kind of work you wish here.

    My point is this. If exegetical methods are not neutral and if the proper exegetical method is necessary for arriving at the correct understanding of major scriptural doctrines, then it will be impossible to derive these doctrines without having the correct exegetical method, and hence theology in place first.

    Its true that any document will be required to be exegetes, just as any appeal to facts will require a presupposed worldview and the case of both, the former cannot be justified without the latter. But all that requires is a transcendental type of argument to select for the necessary preconditions for a proper interpretation of the text, not that such a view implies an infinite regress of sorts. So here I think you draw the wrong conclusion.

  540. August 26, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Paige,

    Regarding the mapping analogy, you ask if an incrementalist approach won’t work, how are we to compare models with say the text to discriminate between models. At least that is what I think you are asking. I think I indicated that that kind of comparison is not possible in a theory neutral way. We’d first need to find a way to acquire the right model to get to the right interpretation and only in that context would a comparison be possible. It is analogous to the way we have to find the right worldview to interpret the facts regarding the death of Jesus and only then will we come to the conclusion that Christ rose from the grave. On atheistic presuppositions such a conclusion will never be drawn.

    You ask if we can compare entire systems. Surely we can, but this act of comparison is always done from within some system. There is no perspectiveless perspective to occupy to carry out that function.

    You ask what kind of reasoning process one would have to go through to reach my position. Here is a sketch. This in part will entail finding serious internal inconsistencies and also digging out what the necessary and perhaps in some cases, the sufficient preconditions are for certain theological dotrines. For example, I don’t think one can consistently adhere to Chalcedonian Christology and Calvinistic Predestination or Sola Scriptura and absolute divine simplicity or the FIlioque. It is only because the system adheres to both ends that I can generate an internal critique. Likewise, if divine teaching can obligate me beyond the conditions on knowledge, then if there is divine teaching, then in principle no Protestant teaching can rise to the level of divine teaching since no Protestant formulae meets the necessary or sufficient preconditions to do so. They are in principle ruled out on a transcendental basis.

  541. August 26, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Truth Unites,

    Monergistic regeneration won’t work to answer the lens question anymore than synergistic regeneration will since neither of them convey propositional content. They produce dispositions in the soul and body. Dispositions are states, not concepts. Second, if it were true, the Bible would become unnecessary since all the requisite information would come via mongergistic zapping. Third, if this were true, then obviously either the Reformed, Reformed Baptists or say the Lutherans aren’t regenerated and perhaps not elect either. That seems implausible.

  542. rfwhite said,

    August 26, 2009 at 9:33 am

    511 Jason Stellman and 512 Bryan Cross: I appreciate the help. Forbear with me as I offer an alternative analysis of final interpretive authority and the choice to align with Rome or not to align with Rome. One is a Roman Catholic because he has judged, with final interpretive authority for himself, that the Roman Catholic Church is the Church Jesus founded and he should submit to it if he wants to avail himself of its benefits. Another is a Protestant because he has judged, with final interpretive authority for himself, that his Protestant church is part of the Church Jesus founded and he should submit to it if he wants to avail himself of its benefits. I’ll have to leave it there. Thanks again for the conversation.

  543. TurretinFan said,

    August 26, 2009 at 9:49 am

    “PS. Even the Council of Trent refers to the Eucharist as a ’symbol’ in a particular context. Are you prepared to accuse the Council of Trent of denying the real bodily presence of Christ in the consecrated elements?”

    Of course not … the Council of Trent would be accused instead of anachronistically applying new meanings to old words. Using symbol for something that’s not a symbol is only one such example.

  544. Mike Brown said,

    August 26, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Jason,

    Re: #511

    The Catholic convert did not align with Rome for the same reasons we align with Geneva. Rather, he says, the Catholic becomes convinced (yes, through use of his reason and will) that the church that Jesus founded is still around and is headquartered in Rome. So he submits to that church because it’s the church, and not because he has already decided that it agrees with him.

    True, but for many confessional Prots (like me) this is precisely one of the reasons we do not feel the allure of Rome. This line of reasoning seems to make the decision come down to a choice of the fathers (for the RC) or Scripture (for the Prot) as the basis for our confession (Trent for the RC or the WS/TFU for the Prot). If the RC claims that he doesn’t read the fathers apart from Scripture, we can also claim that we don’t read Scripture apart from a cloud of witnesses either, namely, the exegetical arguments of the Reformers and Reformed Orthodox. And the merry-go-round keeps spinning.

    If we both think the fathers are ours, then let’s go ad fontes and see what they said.

    Indeed let’s. But let’s also not reinvent the wheel here and be guilty of “chronological snobbery.” Our tradition already went ad fontes. When we read Owen or Turretin or any of the Reformed Orthodox who were part of the codified Reformation, we see their vast use of them. They knew the fathers and quoted them everywhere, so it seems that they must have been either:

    a) ignorant of what they were saying (i.e. unsophisticated),
    b) deliberately misusing the fathers (i.e. lying), or
    c) convinced that their use of the fathers sufficiently made their case.

    After studying the RO for some time, I can safely say that they did not use unsophisticated arguments (and I won’t waste time talking to anyone who says they did), and I am pretty sure they weren’t lying. So, perhaps an important question here is WHY were they convinced that their use of the fathers sufficiently made their case?

  545. August 26, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Andrew M
    Since I already noted that Apostolic Succession includes right teaching and that tactual succession as a part of it is a necessary condition for both of the former, it should be clear that a mere line of succession isn’t a sufficient condition for a body to be Christian. But it is a necessary condition. If Protestantism lacks a necessary condition to be a church then that precludes it from being a viable option all by itself, papacy or no papacy.
    I am well aware that in many of the home countries there are nominal members who do not for whatever reason take advantage of what the church offers them. That is true and I will be first in line to exhort them and to condemn the inconsistency. Some of this is due to Communism or Turkish occupation for long periods of time where for reasons of pure survival the ethnicity and the religion became conflated.
    That said, the situation is no different in principle or degree in western Europe with Protestantism. And I’d say not too far off in being the case in the US. People discover that they can go through the motions of daily life without going to church, which is one reason why the unaffiliated is a growing sector of the US population. That said, I wouldn’t be so fast to claim that this is true for everyone. Even in the most nominal congregations in my experience, there are devout believers, even if they are token. And as far as making no difference, it seems that in say Russia the Presbyterian missionaries now have taken to violating their own theology to attract nominal members. In some places they are putting up icons in the narthex to attract nominal members. So while in such places there are scads of nominal members, the Protestants aren’t exactly acting in a stellar Christian fashion. What difference does the WCF make if Presbyterians are putting up icons and permitting people to venerate them, just to draw members away from the dominant Christian body in the area?
    More directly to the point, the difference it makes is this. Certain matters are beyond revision. Debates in fact get settled. It is not like we are going to have another Unitarian crises along the lines of Arianism. But the Reformed did. Why? Because on their own principles their the