Leithart “potentially” Out of Accord

The SJC has affirmed its panel’s finding that there is a strong presumption that Rev. Dr. Peter Leithart is out of accord with the Westminster Standards (in regards to the matters investigated.) Accordingly, the Presbytery of the NorthWest is ordered to follow through with a proper BCO investigation.

See Rev. Jason Stellman’s, one of the original complainants, comments here.

The SJC ruling can be downloaded here. I note that the record of the vote demonstrates there was little disagreement as to the rightness of the finding (17 concur, 2 dissenting, with no minority report to be filed.)

I particularly appreciate declaration no. 6 from the decision: “6) The view that water baptism effects a “covenantal union” with Christ through which each baptized persons receives the saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, including regeneration, justification, and sanctification, thus creating a parallel soteriological system to the decretal system of the Westminster Standards, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.”

I think the SJC has done a good job of both fairly representing the FV and succinctly defining the problematic nature. The parallel “covenant” soteriological system is contrary to the Standards, and I might add, to the Scriptures.

I affirm and echo Jason’s sadness and prayers for a resolution other than a trial. Church discipline procedes by degrees because at each step of the way it is an expression of faith, pleading for the Spirit to lead an erring brother to repentance.

This is my prayer. It has happened before.

Posted by TE Reed DePace

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163 Comments

  1. March 12, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    I’m confused. Doesn’t the SJC ruling specifically state that “However, without formal judicial process, PNW does not have the authority to render a definitive judgment as to whether those teachings [those of Leithart - ACK] strike at the vitals of religion or were industriously spread. (BCO 34-5 & 6) Therefore, Complainants are not entitled to a declaration that these teachings are out of accord with our system of doctrine. Similarly, without the completion of judicial process, PNW could not declare that these teachings are not out of accord with out system of doctrine.” So, whether Leithart is out of accord with the WS is a question still up for grabs, correct? It seems to me that what the ruling says is that there is a strong presumption of guilt on Leithart’s part, and that the PNW needs to handle the case better. In the words of the ruling, “The Record in this matter suggests that there are aspects of the teachings of TE Leithart that are in conflict with our standards.” That’s not the same thing as saying that Leithart is out of accord.

  2. Reed Here said,

    March 12, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Mr. Keister: good catch. See the ‘”adjusted” header.

  3. March 12, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    [...] against NW Presbytery and Leithart You can read the details on Jason’s blog (HT: Greenbaggins) and download the report here. I appreciate Jason’s and his brothers’ hard work on this [...]

  4. March 12, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Reed,

    Thanks for the heads up. Another step in the right direction on a long and painful road. As I just said in the post on my blog, it’s past time for these FV folks to man up and move on to the CREC.

  5. March 12, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Yes, that seems more accurate. Thanks!

    In Christ.

  6. Brandon said,

    March 12, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    9. The view that justification is in any way based on our works, or that the so-called “final verdict of justification” is based on anything other than the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

    Do you mind clarifying exactly what is meant here? I have heard it argued by some (such as John Piper) that our present justification is through faith alone apart from works, but our future justification will be according to our works. Both are said to be based on the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ. Is this statement speaking to such a view, or is Leithart’s view different?

    Thanks.

  7. todd said,

    March 12, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    I don’t quite understand the jurisdiction angle. If P. Leithart is a CREC minister, how is not in the CREC? Why is he still in the PCA? What is the relationship between that PCA Presbytery and the CREC church he pastors?

    Thank you

  8. March 12, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Todd,

    Back in ’04 Leithart petitioned the presbytery to labor “out of bounds,” which means that his credentials are with one body (the PCA) while his church is affiliated with another (the CREC).

    The way it came about is interesting, as that particular meeting took place in January in the middle of a storm, and therefore was not well attended. I think his request was granted by a margin of 15-13 or something.

  9. Towne said,

    March 12, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Rev. Stellman:

    I am correct in remembering that “out of bound” relationships are to be annually renewed by the presbytery? If so, would that not allow the opportunity to revisit the matter and potentially withdraw said permission?

  10. March 12, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    That’s a good question, Towne. As far as I know, we have never annually reviewed Peter’s out-of-bounds status.

  11. Scott said,

    March 12, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    If I’m reading the opinion (linked to) correctly, it says basically that there appears a strong presumption of guilt that the presbytery has not acted to protect its doctrine and part of the church from harm.

    Accordingly, it must do a diligent job to review and adjudicate the presumed harm (which it has not done).

    ….

    Also it is interesting, the Court gives an option to presbytery to:

    1) Help him repent or

    2) “affiliate with some other branch of the visible church” (leave the denomination)

    It would seem that if someone is teaching injurious doctrine, spreading confusion, etc. if that is adjudicated, they would be disciplined for that, as their vows require they submit to it.

  12. March 12, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Jason,

    Good background. We review our out-of-bounds TEs every year when we review other calls. I’d have to look up if that’s a BCO requirement or not. But, I can’t recall any out-of-bounds approvals to non-orthodox denominations. That seems most unusual.

  13. Reed Here said,

    March 12, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Brandon, no. 6: this goes back to Dr. Norman Shepherd. Following him, the FV proposes that a believers’ good works play an instrumental role in his justification. This is particularly focused on the judgment Christ executes on the Last Day when He returns to judge all.

    There is a disagreement between pro and con FV here. Con FV believes that the pro FV equivocates in their arguments, and holds that good works are necessary for (unto, constituent of) justification. The Westminster Standards position is good works are necessary to justification (consequent, evidential role).

  14. jeffhutchinson said,

    March 12, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    A tad bit more background: I served on the GA’s Presbytery Records Review Committee back in the day when PNW first granted “out of bound” status to someone (turned out to be Leithhart) pastoring a CRE (as it was called back then) church. It was the one year I overlapped on the Committee with my brother, by the way. Anywho…since we were red-flagging presbyteries for things like not recording who had opened or closed a meeting in prayer I made the modest suggestion that we red-flag the PNW (as an “exception of substance,” but at the very least as an “exception of form”) for approving a TE laboring out of bounds in a non-NAPARC and unrecognized confederacy of churches, a confederacy that had already become infamous (to those following along at home) for thumbing their nose at the jurisdiction of the PCA and the OPC (Burke Shade, anyone?). Several fellows had a cow, including one fellow wearing a collar (what is up with PCA ministers wearing collars, anyway? I have never understood that…but anyway…), and my motion to red-flag the PNW failed by two or three votes. So several of us brought it to the floor as a “minority report” from the Committee, but it failed on the floor as well, despite Frank Barker and at least one other (can’t remember exactly who) well-respected elder speaking in favor of our motion. Oh well. Just trying to save the PCA a headache, but apparently we preferred the headache.

  15. March 12, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Brandon, RE #6,

    I compare Leithart’s and FV’s views on their “final justification” in some historical detail in posts here and here. As Reed said in #13, Shepherd is their most recent predecessor, but this error goes back millennia (think Rome, et al) and is rooted in sinful pride IMHO.

  16. todd said,

    March 12, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Jeff and Jason,

    Thanks for the explanation. It does seem very unusual. So was Leithart a pastor of a PCA church up there? What was he ordained to? What did he leave to pastor a CREC church?

  17. Wes White said,

    March 12, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Bob,

    I think it’s interesting that you would say that they should man up and move on. Why would they? If they can exist in the PCA without charges being brought against them, and, if when charges are brought against them, having other ministers fight to bring them to account, then why would they leave?

    I think it’s time for those who know there are FV men to stand up and bring charges against them, as the SJC decision so nicely stated in its last paragraph.

  18. March 12, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Wes,

    I’m with you, brother. As to why FVers should man up even as they are tolerated by their local good-ol’-boy networks, I offer one word for consideration – integrity. As for their friends who protect them, I offer Isa 5:20.

  19. Andy Gilman said,

    March 13, 2010 at 3:35 am

    On Rev. Stellman’s blog, linked to above, he says:

    …I have absolutely no desire to prosecute a case against a good man and godly scholar…

    As much as I appreciate all that Jason has done in the PNW to hold Rev. Leithart accountable, I cannot agree with this statement. What makes a man a “good man and godly scholar?” Currently there is a strong presumption that Leithart is out of accord with core teachings of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. If Leithart is convicted of being out of accord with core teachings of the WCF and Catechisms, will he still be a “godly scholar?” Are those “core teachings” which Leithart is accused of denying fundamental to the gospel? If they are, then can a man be teaching “another gospel,” and still be a “godly scholar?”

    When the RCUS examined the views of Norm Shepherd a number of years ago, the Synod made it clear that they believed Norm Shepherd was teaching “another gospel.” By all accounts Norm Shepherd and Rev. Leithart are gentlemen, and apparently very humble men. But “gentleman” is not synonymous with “godly man.” If these men are teaching a false gospel and if they refuse to repent when confronted, then they are neither godly nor humble, outward appearances notwithstanding. No doubt both men are also motivated by a zealous desire to dig deep into God’s word. But neither should zeal be mistaken for godliness.

    My argument comes down to whether or not the core teachings of the WCF and Catechisms, which Leithart is accused of denying, are essential to the gospel. If they are essential, then Rev. Stellman’s sentiments are misplaced and I wonder if his personal interaction with Rev. Leithart has colored his judgment.

    I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

    Gal. 1:6-9

  20. Andy said,

    March 13, 2010 at 6:08 am

    Reformed Musings,

    As one who agrees with your assertion that good ole boy networks often let things pass through the system that shouldn’t, let’s also agree that we all have them as well. In other words, we like it when good ole boy networks make decisions we agree with but we don’t like them when they do things that bother us. Just trying to be sure we are honest about our institutionalized specks and logs.

  21. Phil Derksen said,

    March 13, 2010 at 10:12 am

    In this particular case, however, the supposed “good ole boy network” happens to be in accord with, and is in fact attempting to uphold what the vast, vast majority (95% +) of the PCA as a whole has had to say about the issues at hand.

  22. Andy Gilman said,

    March 13, 2010 at 10:46 am

    To make sure there is no confusion, the “Andy” in number 20, who said “As one who agrees with your assertion that good ole boy networks…,” that is not me.

  23. March 13, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Andy #20,

    To whom are you referring? I am referring to Presbyteries who tolerate and hence enable FV in their midst.

    Phil #21,

    Since #20 is ambiguous, I’m not sure if your comment is meant for #20 or #18.

  24. Phil Derksen said,

    March 13, 2010 at 11:50 am

    My comment was in response to a percieved insinuation in #20. If I misread its intention, then my comment still stands in the sense (…yes, I refuse to surrender such a useful phrase so easily…) of countering any idea that the SJC somehow operated as a GOBN in this case.

  25. March 13, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Phil #24,

    That’s what I thought, but wanted to be clear. We’re on the same page. The SJC members are elected by the GA as a whole and with strict constraints that only one member can server per presbytery, making it very difficult to tailor a GOBN. TEs in a presbytery are a totally different story.

  26. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 13, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    To establish one’s membership in the Good Ole’ Boy Network, one must first display the Token Ring. ;)

  27. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 13, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    On a more serious note, Re #19:

    Andy asks a good question: What makes a man a “good man and godly scholar?” Currently there is a strong presumption that Leithart is out of accord with core teachings of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. If Leithart is convicted of being out of accord with core teachings of the WCF and Catechisms, will he still be a “godly scholar?” Are those “core teachings” which Leithart is accused of denying fundamental to the gospel? If they are, then can a man be teaching “another gospel,” and still be a “godly scholar?”

    Just as food for thought, consider that John Piper would be considered out of accord with the WCF on the issues of covenant and baptism.

    Actually, Luther would be considered out of accord with the WCF on the issue of baptism, since he says things that sound like baptism creates regeneration (and faith in infants), and that salvation depends on it (Cf. Formula of Concord Large Catechism, “Of Holy Baptism”). And he would be out of accord, of course, on communion and worship.

    So your question is a good one, but it doesn’t admit an easy answer.

  28. March 13, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Jeff,

    As I posted on my blog, I don’t believe that Leithart is a godly scholar. But that’s not the issue before us, which is why I posted it on my blog and not here. The core issue at hand is whether or not Leithart’s erroneous views and teachings disqualify him from officership in the PCA. For whatever differences we can find between Piper’s and Luther’s views with the Westminster Standards, neither is/was a PCA officer. That was the issue before the SJC and is now back before NWP.

  29. David Gray said,

    March 13, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    >As to why FVers should man up even as they are tolerated by their local good-ol’-boy networks, I offer one word for consideration – integrity.

    But then the structuring of the PCA study committee has struck a number of objective observers as not being a sign of the PCA manning-up.

  30. Andy Gilman said,

    March 13, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Re: Jeff’s comments in #27

    I agree that there are godly men who don’t subscribe to the Westminster Standards and who differ with it in regard to baptism and covenant. As I stated in #19 “My argument comes down to whether or not the core teachings of the WCF and Catechisms, which Leithart is accused of denying, are essential to the gospel.”

    It seems to me that we can have differing opinions with regard to some aspects of baptism and covenant, without compromising the gospel; but is it possible to be out of accord with what the Standards teach about justification, for example, without compromising the gospel? If Leithart is convicted of being out of accord with what the Standards teach with regard to justification, and does not repent, will the PCA have prosecuted a case against a “godly scholar?”

  31. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 13, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Bob (#28): The core issue at hand is whether or not Leithart’s erroneous views and teachings disqualify him from officership in the PCA.

    Yes.

  32. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 13, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    (oops — ambiguity. Yes, that is the core issue).

  33. March 13, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Andy,

    As much as I appreciate all that Jason has done in the PNW to hold Rev. Leithart accountable, I cannot agree with this statement. What makes a man a “good man and godly scholar?” Currently there is a strong presumption that Leithart is out of accord with core teachings of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. If Leithart is convicted of being out of accord with core teachings of the WCF and Catechisms, will he still be a “godly scholar?”

    Thanks for your questions, and for voicing your concerns respectfully. I hope to post a reply on my blog (creedcodecult.com) late Sunday night, so it should be available for you east-coasters on Monday morning.

  34. Dean B said,

    March 13, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Andy

    ““My argument comes down to whether or not the core teachings of the WCF and Catechisms, which Leithart is accused of denying, are essential to the gospel.”

    The essential of the gospel is belief in Jesus Christ. The essentials (plural) of the gospel are taught in the Apostles Creed. The WCF teaches a system of doctrine and agreement to this system is required by both teaching and ruling elders in the PCA. Also since the PCA practices Presbyterian church government subscription to the confessions can not be self-attesting.

  35. Justin said,

    March 13, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Andy,

    Seriously bro, I am going to cut straight with you. I am not PCA, FV, CREC, or OPC, although attended an RTS campus. But your statement about Leithart is ridiculous. It could have been about anybody and it still would have been ridiculous do to the lack of humility.

    Are you really going to put him on the same level as those who preach a false Gospel so easily? Are you really going to say this guy or any guy is accursed that flippantly? Its one thing to say that somebody should or should not be a PCA minister but to throw him outside the bounds of Orthodoxy (broadly speaking) is horrendous. Hopefully, I am not the only one who reads comments like his and gets sick to his stomach, because you are not only condemning leithart, but also Augustine, and many of the Church fathers who fell outside the bounds of WCF.

  36. March 13, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Dean,

    The essential of the gospel is belief in Jesus Christ. The essentials (plural) of the gospel are taught in the Apostles Creed. The WCF teaches a system of doctrine and agreement to this system is required by both teaching and ruling elders in the PCA. Also since the PCA practices Presbyterian church government subscription to the confessions can not be self-attesting.

    I agree with you. I’m no patristics expert, but I’m pretty sure Augustine did not believe in justification by the imputation of an alien righteousness through the instrumentality of faith alone. I’m pretty sure I’ll see him in heaven, though.

  37. Justin said,

    March 14, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Interesting. My comment got deleted. I guess it is worse to call someone ridiculous than heretical. Ha.

  38. greenbaggins said,

    March 14, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    No, Justin. First-time commenters’ comments get held in the moderator’s queue. Your comment is number 35.

  39. Justin said,

    March 14, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    It appears that it is. Thanks!

  40. Jeremy Bowser said,

    March 14, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    If Augustine did not believe in “justification by the imputation of an alien righteousness through faith alone,” then he will not be in heaven. That is the Gospel. See Michael Horton’s entry here: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/archives/250.html, and Galatians 1:6-9.

  41. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 14, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Jeremy, here’s Augustine on Forgiveness of Sins, contra Pelagius. To quote the man, “take up and read.”

    Luther and Calvin were trained in the Augustinian tradition.

  42. Justin said,

    March 14, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Thanks Jeff for posting that link to Augustine. You are right that Luther and Calvin were Augustinian in tradition.

    Alot of (reformed) people make brash statements and throw Galatians 1:6-9 around without having the slightest bit of primary Patristics readings. They usually suffer from a deficient Biblical hermeneutic because of it. When Galatians 1:6-9 is sighted against people, more often than not it is a power play based out of ignorance, rather than a rebuke out of love.

    It is clear that Augustine had a proper understanding of atonement, but for him it was clear from the link that the Spirit played a bigger role is justification than just illumination. It enabled us to be who God calls us to be by grace apart from works. Actually, it wasn’t new to Augustine but Athanasius believed this too as well as countless others. According to some people I suppose, the whole church post Apostolic pre Reformation was damned.

    I just can’t accept that because it smacks ironically of self righteousness and pride.

  43. March 14, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Jeremy,

    I skimmed the article, but I didn’t see where it said that either “Augustine believed in justfication through the imputation of an alien righteousness, received by the istrumentality of faith alone,” OR, that “those who don’t believe this won’t go to heaven.”

    I would be surprised to hear Horton say either of these things, since he has explicitly denied the former, and I doubt he’d ever affirm the latter.

  44. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 14, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Jeremy, I wasn’t trying to paint you as arrogant, but rather to provide you with material to come to your own conclusions.

    The truth of the Gospel has been hard-won in the church, and Augustine was pivotal in distinguishing grace from works righteousness. As a result, Luther continually went back to him in developing his own line of thought.

    It’s fair to say that without Augustine (in God’s providence), there would be no Michael Horton.

    At the same time, Augustine thought that God’s grace was infused into the believer, causing a genuine change of nature (faith + love) into the sinner, and that justification was a result of this change. The grace that caused this change was a work of the Spirit, mediated by faith AND the sacrament of baptism.

    So was Augustine an orthodox Presbyterian? Definitely not. His theology actually puts him outside any Protestant denomination, except perhaps high-church Anglicanism (maybe).

    But was he a champion of the Gospel? Oh yeah.

  45. March 14, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Augustine thought that God’s grace was infused into the believer, causing a genuine change of nature (faith + love) into the sinner, and that justification was a result of this change. The grace that caused this change was a work of the Spirit, mediated by faith AND the sacrament of baptism.

    Which is exacty what Rome officially teaches.

  46. Jeremy Bowser said,

    March 14, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Jason Stellman: “Which is exacty what Rome officially teaches.”

    That is why Augustine is a heretic. I don’t deny that Luther and Calvin learned a lot from him (as we should too), but in the end, if the man trusts something other than the Gospel of Jesus’ righteousness ALONE, then he’s doomed to destruction. I can say the same thing about Leithart. We might learn a *few* good things from him (maybe … I’m feeling generous), but he’s trusting his own works and that will be eternally fatal to his soul.

  47. March 14, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    OK, props for consistency then, Jeremy.

  48. Jeremy Bowser said,

    March 14, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Jason,

    I was saying that Horton shows that the Gospel is NOT infusion but the imputation of Christ’ merited righteousness. Sorry for the mistunderstanding. I appreciate Horton’s stand on this against “evangelo-Papists.”

    The thing I was refering to in the article was Horton’s point about the Gospel being “the specific announcement of the forgiveness of sins and declaration of righteousness solely by Christ’s merits” (5th paragraph). If Horton is right about this definition of the Gospel (and I think he is), then those who do not believe this Gospel will be going to hell. Therefore, if Augustine or any other man does not believe in righteousness SOLELY by Christ’s merits (not our own), then God have mercy on his soul.

  49. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 14, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    In that case, you’ll enjoy reading the linked Augustine piece. He leads off with Christ’s merits and the absolute necessity of them for our salvation.

  50. Justin said,

    March 14, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Jeremy,

    Augustine does believe in the sole merits of Christ, but that is in both Christ’s atoning work AND Christ’s spirit working through us. He constantly refers back to Romans 5 where the love of God is poured into the hearts of believers. His whole point is contra Pelagian, where a believer can never take credit for his salvation because it is Alien to him. Anything good comes Union with Christ in which we die with Christ in his death and live with him in his life giving Spirit. Although, for Augustine we are judged by works but saved by Atonement, the works are never ours but by Grace. He seems to rely a lot on scripture.

  51. Justin said,

    March 14, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    I am not saying I agree with him, but it is surprising how completely Grace based it is.

  52. Dean B said,

    March 14, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    “Augustine thought that God’s grace was infused into the believer, causing a genuine change of nature (faith + love) into the sinner, and that justification was a result of this change. The grace that caused this change was a work of the Spirit, mediated by faith AND the sacrament of baptism.”

    God used Luther to help His Bride more faithfully understand the teachings of Scripture. However, Luther did not fully develop the understanding of justification himself. In his writings we do not see him develop the truth of the imputation of the active obedience of Christ.

    These facts do not minimize the more developed idea of justification today. It should also should also give us humility and understanding in dealing with others whom God has not given these insights.

    Nor should these facts become an open door to invite preachers into our churches who hold to weak doctrinal teachings even though history is full of bright theologians who have held similar views.

    Would you like a teacher who still believes the earth is flat teaching your children today just because this was acceptable several hundred years ago? Would it be sectarian to remove these teachers from teaching your children today?

  53. March 15, 2010 at 12:25 am

    In case anyone’s interested, I responded to some of your criticisms here:

    http://www.creedcodecult.com/2010/03/kind-of-thing-up-with-which-i-will-not.html

  54. Reed Here said,

    March 15, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Thanks Jason.

  55. greenbaggins said,

    March 15, 2010 at 7:33 am

    It is perilous to judge earlier church fathers by later, more precise, doctrinal standards, as I’m seeing some on this thread do. Augustine’s doctrine of grace, while not as precise as later formulations, was nevertheless monergistic. I think it was Warfield who said that the Reformation could be described as Augustine’s doctrine of grace triumphing over his doctrine of the church.

  56. Zrim said,

    March 15, 2010 at 9:00 am

    If Augustine did not believe in “justification by the imputation of an alien righteousness through faith alone,” then he will not be in heaven. That is the Gospel. See Michael Horton’s entry here…If Horton is right about this definition of the Gospel (and I think he is), then those who do not believe this Gospel will be going to hell. Therefore, if Augustine or any other man does not believe in righteousness SOLELY by Christ’s merits (not our own), then God have mercy on his soul.

    Jeremy,

    Horton is also on record as sagely saying that “we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone…not by our doctrine.” Which is another way of reminding us that there is such a thing as works-righteousness that comes by way of doctrinalism, which can be very difficult for those of us who place such a high premium on doctrinal formulation to see. It seems to me one thing to get our doctrine right, quite another to speculate on who does or does not reside in heaven or hell.

  57. Zrim said,

    March 15, 2010 at 9:15 am

    I think it was Warfield who said that the Reformation could be described as Augustine’s doctrine of grace triumphing over his doctrine of the church.

    I think some Catholic scholars are on record saying that “Calvin is Augustine perfected.”

  58. Andy Gilman said,

    March 15, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Re: Jason in #36

    I agree with you. I’m no patristics expert, but I’m pretty sure Augustine did not believe in justification by the imputation of an alien righteousness through the instrumentality of faith alone. I’m pretty sure I’ll see him in heaven, though.

    Is it your position then that the Reformation argument with Rome, over the question of Sola Fide, was not an argument about the gospel? Are you saying that Sola Fide is not an essential element of the gospel? If Rome preaches that justification is by faith in Jesus Christ, plus water baptism, plus infused righteousness, then Rome is preaching the gospel?

  59. Phil Derksen said,

    March 15, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Zrim # 56

    I concur. As John Newton aptly said, “Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines as well as upon works.”

  60. Justin said,

    March 15, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Have you guys heard of or read the Regensburg colloquy (Circa 1541)? I think it shows that there was substantial agreement between protestants (i.e. Calvin and Melancthon) and Catholics over justification. It was the sacraments (specifically the Eucharist) that were the main rift.

    Also, recommended reading on justification by Catholics and Protestants is Anthony Lane’s book, Justification by faith in Catholic-Protestant Dialogues.

  61. David Gray said,

    March 15, 2010 at 10:09 am

    “We would not indeed obscure the difference which divides us from Rome. The gulf is indeed profound. But profound as it is, it seems almost trifling compared to the abyss which stands between us and many ministers of our own Church. The Church of Rome may represent a perversion of the Christian religion, but naturalistic liberalism is not Christianity at all.

    J. Gresham Machen

  62. March 15, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Andy,

    Are you saying that Sola Fide is not an essential element of the gospel?

    It depends on what we’re talking about. Do I think that the doctrine of Sola Fide is an essential element of a proper understanding of the gospel? Of course. Do I think that the doctrine of Sola Fide needs to be properly understood in order for one to believe the gospel? No, I don’t. Otherwise, pretty much nobody was saved between John and Luther.

    Remember: We’re not saved by our doctrine, but by looking to Jesus in faith (which I’m told people outside our Reformed world sometimes do [GASP!]).

  63. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 15, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Zrim (#56): Horton is also on record as sagely saying that “we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone…not by our doctrine.” Which is another way of reminding us that there is such a thing as works-righteousness that comes by way of doctrinalism…

    Just thought that bore repeating. :)

  64. Andy Gilman said,

    March 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Re: Jason in #62

    It depends on what we’re talking about. Do I think that the doctrine of Sola Fide is an essential element of a proper understanding of the gospel? Of course. Do I think that the doctrine of Sola Fide needs to be properly understood in order for one to believe the gospel? No, I don’t. Otherwise, pretty much nobody was saved between John and Luther.

    Remember: We’re not saved by our doctrine, but by looking to Jesus in faith (which I’m told people outside our Reformed world sometimes do [GASP!]).

    I appreciate the response, but it doesn’t seem to me that you are really addressing my question/concern. My question was: Is Sola Fide an essential element of the gospel? and “If Rome preaches that justification is by faith in Jesus Christ, plus water baptism, plus infused righteousness, then is Rome preaching the gospel?”

    If Rome preaches as I’ve stated above, and if the person who hears that preaching comes away with an understanding that their justification before God depends upon their faith in Jesus Christ, plus their being baptized with water, plus Spirt wrought sanctity in their life, did that person hear and understand the gospel?

    I’m not talking about whether or not a person must have a perfect understanding of the gospel in order to be saved, I’m trying to understand what you believe defines the gospel.

  65. David Gray said,

    March 15, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Dabney said Rome had the gospel but that they had a great deal of additional heretical material attached to it, rather like barnacles.

  66. Reed Here said,

    March 15, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Andy: I’m not sure why you think there is such a need for Jason to define for you something that he is well known for maintaining, i.e., the Westminster Standards defintion of JBFA. If you see some particular wording or nuances that cause concern, then you need to do a better job of highligting and identifying the exact nature of you concern.

    As it is, I think Jason has sufficiently answered your prior question(s). As to this last question, I refer you to Jason’s website for youm to peruse his archives and determine whether or not he has anything problematic here.

    Again, please focus your specific concern. I encourage you to discuss any particular questions in this regard.

    As to what Jason believes about the “gospel,” given his well known and public positions, it is a waste of time for the rest of us for you to continue to pursuse this line of questioning. Thanks for understanding.

  67. Andy Gilman said,

    March 15, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Re: Reed in #66

    I’m afraid I don’t understand why you think it is a waste of time, but it’s your thread and I’m happy to drop it if you desire.

    Back in #30 I said:

    It seems to me that we can have differing opinions with regard to some aspects of baptism and covenant, without compromising the gospel; but is it possible to be out of accord with what the Standards teach about justification, for example, without compromising the gospel? If Leithart is convicted of being out of accord with what the Standards teach with regard to justification, and does not repent, will the PCA have prosecuted a case against a “godly scholar?”

    I’m trying to understand how a man can (assuming he is convicted) be denying, and preaching contrary to, what I understand to be an essential aspect of the gospel, i.e., JBFA, and still be a “godly scholar.” Is Rome preaching the gospel when it preaches that justification is by faith, plus water baptism, plus infused righteousness, or is it preaching “another gospel?”

  68. todd said,

    March 15, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Justin # 60

    “Have you guys heard of or read the Regensburg colloquy (Circa 1541)? I think it shows that there was substantial agreement between protestants (i.e. Calvin and Melancthon) and Catholics over justification.”

    They only agreed on justification until they realized they were using the same terms but with different meanings. Regensburg was a failure.

    http://www.wscal.edu/clark/regensburg.php

  69. Reed Here said,

    March 15, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Jason has answered your question on his website. You’re free to disagree with his explanation of his use of the phrase “godly.”

    Your method of questioning here however has the appearance for “fishing” for problems. I’m not saying you’re doing so. You may simply be struggling to ask your questions effectively. Nevertheless, your line of questioning does not go to the issue of your question, but to the question of whether or not Jason affirms JBFA sufficiently.

    So, again, focus or drop it. Don’t be afraid to ask pointed questions. Just be more focused.

    As to your Rome preaching example, I think I am rather average among the posters/readers here at GB and my response is, “no duh. Why are you wasting our time asking the obvious? Get to the point.”

  70. David Gray said,

    March 15, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    >They only agreed on justification until they realized they were using the same terms but with different meanings. Regensburg was a failure.

    The article doesn’t seem to mesh with your assertion unless I’m missing something. The Lutherans and Reformed were unified, the failure was the inability to reach a common conclusion with Rome. What am I missing?

  71. David Gray said,

    March 15, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Sigh. I misread the item you were reacting to. Apologies.

  72. Andy Gilman said,

    March 15, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Re: Reed in #69

    “So, again, focus or drop it.”

    Fair enough. But since it seems to my mind that my focus was already “laser like,” I’m afraid I’ll have to choose option B and drop it. Thanks for your post regarding the SJC decision.

  73. Reed Here said,

    March 15, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Good enough. Feel free to visit Jason’s blog and check out his answers there for further conversation.

  74. Justin said,

    March 16, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Todd,

    I just read that article. It was good stuff. I have noticed from these responses that people here love them some Westminster Cal. Its wild how people just quote Horton or Clark here with authority. I totally understand though I have a few of my own theological heroes that I favor more than others.

    I think Clark’s article has some really good insightful thoughts, but I question its complete validity, namely because two other respectable scholars that I have interacted with take a different spin on it. Both Frank James and Anthony Lane both had a more positive outlook about the justification compromise, but both make it clear that the real disagreements were about the Sacraments. Which, to me, is not very suprising because Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc. had very heated arguments amongst themselves on the issue.

    Clark briefly brings this up, but due to the nature of the article (i.e. Justification focused), I don’t think he does the Regensburg colloquy complete justice and I don’t think the article is as authoritive as one would hope. I think we can have a more positive view of what they accomplished there in regards to justification than Clark leads us to believe.

  75. todd said,

    March 16, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Justin,

    Not sure why I get dissed for referencing Clark after you referenced Anthony Lane. Who ever said anything about authority? It was just a reference. Anyway, what was the positive result of Regensburg, especially considering Trent?

  76. Justin said,

    March 16, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Sorry Todd, I didn’t think I was dissing you. I suppose that was a miscommunication. The positive results (long term) were none. I think the fact that they intentionally tried and suceeded at some point in finding common ground with genuine communication about justification was positive.

    Honestly, I think Trent is a result of tragedy. I have read it numerous times and I can’t help but think that it was reactive against the Protestant movement on a emotional level. I think part of the tragedy was how Luther defended the Gospel, but did so in such a polarizing and jerkish way at times.

    I think there is some truth to the idea that justification doctrines bifurcated because of relational problems more than theological problems (although the theological problems were very real too). Basically, when you look at Trent it was a council made in the context of antithesis to protestantism. Why is that?

  77. todd said,

    March 16, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    Justin,

    Sorry for misreading you. Wouldn’t you say all councils were made in the context of antithesis to what they considered false doctrine?

  78. Bryan Cross said,

    March 25, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Lane (re: #55)

    I agree that it is “perilous to judge earlier church fathers by later, more precise, doctrinal standards,” if those later ‘standards’ are authoritative. (If they are not authoritative, then they are standards in name only.) The problem, however, is that given your ecclesiology the only available basis for the WCF (rather than Trent) being ‘authoritative’ is that the WCF [mostly] agrees with your interpretation of Scripture, and Trent [in many places] does not. But agreement with your interpretation of Scripture is no basis for authority. Therefore, without any principled basis for grounding the authority of the WCF over that of Trent, there simply are no later authoritative doctrinal standards. The problem here lies not in deviating from St. Augustine’s soteriology, but from his ecclesiology. To the Donatists he wrote:

    “You know what the Catholic Church is, and what that is cut off from the Vine; if there are any among you cautious, let them come; let them find life in the Root. Come, brethren, if you wish to be engrafted in the Vine: a grief it is when we see you lying thus cut off. Number the Bishops even from the very seat of Peter: and see every succession in that line of Fathers: that is the Rock against which the proud Gates of Hell prevail not.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  79. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 25, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Bryan,

    By the same token, you are assuming that were Augustine alive today, he would recognize the church in Rome as the Catholic church.

    This is by no means a given.

  80. Bryan Cross said,

    March 25, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Jeff,

    I’m not assuming anything about the present day [Roman] Catholic Church. My two points are (1) Protestant ecclesiology has no basis for claiming that the WCF is authoritative and Trent is not, and (2) the reason Protestant ecclesiology lacks such a basis is that, unlike Augustine, it doesn’t have a sacramental basis for magisterial authority. Neither of those two points depend on any assumption about the present day [Roman] Catholic Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  81. Ron Henzel said,

    March 25, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Bryan,

    Regarding comment 80: Protestant ecclesiology defers to Protestant bibliology when looking for the source of all authority in matters of faith and practice, thus dispensing with the need for any sacramental basis for magisterial authority.

  82. Bryan Cross said,

    March 25, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Ron,

    The notion of “deferring to Protestant bibliology” is just another way of saying deferring to one’s own interpretation of Scripture, more or less informed by research and study. That’s why you’re not a Lutheran or a Methodist or a Baptist, etc. The point that I’m making is that “Protestant bibliology” entails that a creed or confession is only ‘authoritative’ insofar as it conforms to one’s own interpretation of Scripture. So, I agree with you that “deferring to Protestant bibliology” does away with the sacramental basis for magisterial authority. But, it also does away with any basis for the authority of any creed of confession, because “agreement with my interpretation of Scripture” is not a basis for authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  83. Ron Henzel said,

    March 25, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Bryan,

    Regarding comment 82, in which you wrote:

    But, it also does away with any basis for the authority of any creed of confession, because “agreement with my interpretation of Scripture” is not a basis for authority.

    The historic Protestant position does not see this as a problem. We believe that the original creeds of the early church were just as much consensus documents as are the Reformed confessions. Only much later did the notion of them possessing an authority on a par with that of Scripture get attached to them.

    Appending creeds and confessions to Scripture and declaring them “authoritative” does not solve the problem of the locus of authority. Saying that the Bible is authoritative because the creeds say so, or that a particular interpretation of the Bible is authoritative because the creeds say so is either begging the question, or actually transferring ultimate authority from the Scriptures to the creeds. In the final analysis, true authority is not established by some other, external authority. True authority is acknowledged by those who recognize it and defer to it. That is why creeds and confessions always were and can never be anything more than consensus documents.

  84. Bryan Cross said,

    March 25, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Ron,

    I don’t deny that many if not most Protestants see no problem in creeds and confessions having no authority, and treating them as ‘authoritative’ only if they agree with them. (wink, wink) But then when someone says something like “That is why Augustine is a heretic” (comment #46), we should all just kick back and chuckle. That’s because it simply means, “Augustine disagreed with my interpretation of Scripture, and that of those who agree with me.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  85. Ron Henzel said,

    March 25, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Now, Bryan,

    Who said that creeds and confessions have “no authority”? You know very well that I never said any such thing. I only said that they do not have “ultimate authority.” They certainly are authoritative expressions of the consensus of the church, or parts of it, and that is no small thing.

    As for Jeremy’s application of the word “heretic” in what appears to be the harshest sense of the word (it is used univocally in neither Catholicism nor Protestantism): I don’t think you can honestly say you heard anyone “kick back and chuckle” about it. I strenuously disagree that Augustine will be in hell simply because he did not formulate the doctrine of justification precisely the way the Reformed confessions do. Meanwhile, you probably know full well that the Roman Catholic church recognizes different types (objective, material, formal) and degrees (sententia haeresi proxima, sententia de haeresi suspecta, etc.) of heresy, that this has led to endless charges and counter-charges of “heresy,” “near-heresy,” “suspected heresy,” between Catholic theologians and others in religious orders down through the ages, and that it has always boiled down to one interpretation of official church teaching versus another. Simply relocating ultimate authority to the magisterium, as Rome has done, has not solved the problem.

  86. Bryan Cross said,

    March 25, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Ron,

    Take the WCF. You think it is authoritative because it is, in your view, “an expression of the consensus of the church or parts of it.” And who counts as “the church or a part of it”? Answer: Whoever sufficiently agrees with your interpretation of Scripture. Putting it all together, the WCF is ‘authoritative’ because it is a consensus of those (or some of those) who sufficiently agree with your interpretation of Scripture.

    The problem? As a PCA pastor once said, an ‘authority’ whose basis for authority is his agreement with me, is no authority at all. When I submit (so long as I agree), the only authority is me.

    Hence, the WCF has no authority at all.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  87. Ron Henzel said,

    March 25, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Bryan,

    In comment 86, you wrote:

    Take the WCF. You think it is authoritative because it is, in your view, “an expression of the consensus of the church or parts of it.”

    No, we think it is authoritative because and to the extent that (we do, after all, allow for exceptions to it) it faithfully represents the teaching of Scripture.

    You wrote:

    And who counts as “the church or a part of it”? Answer: Whoever sufficiently agrees with your interpretation of Scripture.

    Surely you know that this is patently false! We do not limit the church to those who agree with our interpretations of Scripture! You really don’t understand the Reformed faith, do you?

    You wrote:

    Putting it all together, the WCF is ‘authoritative’ because it is a consensus of those (or some of those) who sufficiently agree with your interpretation of Scripture.

    No, I’ve already explain why the WCF is authoritative for us. On the other hand: the Council of Trent is authoritative because the bishops who wrote it said it was? Or because those who believe in it say it is? Not a very compelling argument, is it?

    You wrote:

    The problem? As a PCA pastor once said, an ‘authority’ whose basis for authority is his agreement with me, is no authority at all.

    But as I’ve already stated, this poses no problem for the authority of the Westminster Standards, since we do not put their authority on a par with the authority of Scripture, as Roman Catholicism does with the pronouncments of its magisterium. The Reformed confessions and catechisms do not point to their own authority, but to the authority of Scripture. And in the final analysis you have not established the authority of the Roman Catholic magisterium; you have merely asserted it.

    You wrote:

    When I submit (so long as I agree), the only authority is me.

    This makes for a nice word game, but lousy logic. The only kind of submission to God’s authority that pleases Him is willing submission—the kind we give when we agree to His authority as the result of persuasion. In willing submission and only in willing submission, the person who submits relinquishes his own authority in the very act of submission. To argue otherwise is not only absurd, but can only be a deceitful subterfuge to trick the unwary into an implicit faith in Rome instead of an informed faith in God.

  88. rfwhite said,

    March 25, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Bryan Cross: Greetings. When you answer the question of “who counts as ‘the church or a part of it’” with the words “whoever sufficiently agrees with your interpretation of Scripture,” are we correct to infer that your answer differs? If not, why not? Are you saying that Rome delivers its members from the predicament that afflicts Protestants? If so, how? If not that, what?

  89. Reed Here said,

    March 25, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Bryan: beware petards :)

  90. Ron Henzel said,

    March 25, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Bryan,

    As I read Dr. White’s comment 88 it occurs to me that I responded too hastily to the following portion of your comment 86:

    And who counts as “the church or a part of it”? Answer: Whoever sufficiently agrees with your interpretation of Scripture.

    My eyes skimmed too quickly over the word “sufficiently,” and thus I interpreted you as referring to agreement with our interpretation in a more comprehensive sense as being a Reformed requirement for being considered part of the church. It seems that you may not have meant that.

    But even if you simply meant that we consider those to be part of the church who are in sufficient agreement with our interpretation of Scripture, and assuming your observation is true, it raises the question that I believe Dr. White is now addressing to you: how does this make the Reformed churches any different from Rome?

  91. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 25, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Bryan (#80):

    I’m not assuming anything about the present day [Roman] Catholic Church. My two points are (1) Protestant ecclesiology has no basis for claiming that the WCF is authoritative and Trent is not…

    The latter is easier. Since Scripture *is* authoritative, and since Trent is contrary to Scripture at points (for example, session VI chaps. 7, 8, 14; and Session VII on Sacraments), it follows that it cannot be authoritative.

    The former is more difficult. One must ask, does the WCoF in fact teach the system of Scripture?

    And that question assumes that one can actually read a text, such as the Scripture, and come to reasonable conclusions as to its meaning.

    I realize that we differ on this point, that you believe that one can only properly come to the meaning of a text if mediated through an interpretive authority. I don’t forsee breaking the logjam here.

    …(2) the reason Protestant ecclesiology lacks such a basis is that, unlike Augustine, it doesn’t have a sacramental basis for magisterial authority. Neither of those two points depend on any assumption about the present day [Roman] Catholic Church.

    Actually, it does depend on an assumption about the present day [R]CC. Your argument about Augustine assumes that he has the same “sacramental basis” for authority as you do.

    In point of fact, however, he does not appeal in the main in his arguments to sacramental magisterial authority. Rather, he appeals to the Scriptures and argues from the Scriptures to his conclusions, and it is assumed that these arguments are comprehensible and authoritative because they are derived from the Scriptures. There is no sense that the Donatists, or Pelagius, or anyone else, is unable to understand his argument unless they accept the sacramental authority of the church.

    Rather, they are to read the Scripture and be convicted by its truth. The Scripture is treated as perspicuous in its main matters. See for example here or here.

    So your assumption is that the [R]CC view of sacramental authority can legitimately be read back into Augustine.

    I don’t think it can.

  92. Bryan Cross said,

    March 26, 2010 at 12:34 am

    Ron,

    In #85 you said that creeds and confessions are “authoritative expressions of the consensus of the church, or parts of it.” But when in #86 I said, “You think [the WCF] is authoritative because it is, in your view, “an expression of the consensus of the church or parts of it,” you replied, “No, we think it is authoritative because and to the extent that … it faithfully represents the teaching of Scripture.”

    So we’re right back where we started. Wherever you think the WCF is not faithful to Scripture, you think it has no authority. Wherever you think it is faithful to Scripture, you think it is ‘authoritative.’ So the WCF is ‘authoritative’ only insofar as it agrees with your own interpretation of Scripture. If the Baptist Confession of 1689 more closely aligned with your interpretation of Scripture than does the WCF, then the Baptist Confession would be more ‘authoritative’ than the WCF. So the WCF is not an authority to which your interpretation must be conformed; rather, the WCF is simply the closest confessional expression of how in fact you interpret the Bible. If your interpretation differed sufficiently from that of the WCF, you (and those who share your interpretation) could get together and write another confession. And that could be your new confessional ‘authority.’ But, as you can see, it wouldn’t be an authority at all. It would simply be a statement of how you in fact interpret Scripture, not how you should interpret Scripture.

    When I pointed out that “an ‘authority’ whose basis for authority is his agreement with me, is no authority at all,” you replied:

    But as I’ve already stated, this poses no problem for the authority of the Westminster Standards, since we do not put their authority on a par with the authority of Scripture, as Roman Catholicism does with the pronouncments of its magisterium. The Reformed confessions and catechisms do not point to their own authority, but to the authority of Scripture. And in the final analysis you have not established the authority of the Roman Catholic magisterium; you have merely asserted it.

    The question here is not whether the authority of the WCF is on par with the authority of Scripture. Nor is the question whether the WCF points to its own authority. Those are both red herrings in relation to my point. The question is whether the WCF has any authority. I am pointing out that if the basis for the ‘authority’ of the WCF is that it agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture, then it follows that the WCF has no authority, because agreement with oneself cannot be the basis for authority.

    Lastly, I said, “When I submit (so long as I agree), the only authority is me.” You, apparently, disagree, but I think you are misunderstanding the statement. The meaning of the statement, “When I submit (so long as I agree), the only authority is me” is not “When I submit, only when I agree to submit, the only authority is me.” The meaning of the statement is, “When I submit to an ‘authority’ only when I myself agree with what that authority is saying, then I am my own authority, i.e. I am under no authority at all.” That is a rather self-evident entailment of the nature of authority. No one who said to his boss “I’m going to do what you say only when I agree with you” would hold down a job.

    That’s why if the only basis for the ‘authority’ of the WCF is that it agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture, then the WCF is no authority concerning how Scripture ought to be interpreted, but is only a record of how certain people interpret Scripture. And in that case, if Augustine is at odds with the WCF, then that doesn’t make his position heretical; it just means that he interpreted Scripture differently than do those who agree with the WCF.

    (Reed: petard alert duly noted. :-)

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  93. Bryan Cross said,

    March 26, 2010 at 12:56 am

    rfwhite,

    When you answer the question of “who counts as ‘the church or a part of it’” with the words “whoever sufficiently agrees with your interpretation of Scripture,” are we correct to infer that your answer differs?

    Yes.

    Are you saying that Rome delivers its members from the predicament that afflicts Protestants? If so, how?

    In the Catholic tradition, the question who belongs to the Church is not based on who sufficiently agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture. The extent of the Church does not depend on the individual’s interpretation of Scripture, but on what the successors of the Apostles teach concerning this question. Without sacramental succession of magisterial authority, there is no basis for creedal or confessional authority. Only with sacramental succession of magisterial authority can a creed or confession have authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  94. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 26, 2010 at 6:27 am

    Bryan, I posted something yesterday that addressed Augustine. Perhaps it will be freed from spam-purgatory? Bless me, Bob M, for I have hyper-linked.

    So the WCF is not an authority to which your interpretation must be conformed; rather, the WCF is simply the closest confessional expression of how in fact you interpret the Bible. If your interpretation differed sufficiently from that of the WCF, you (and those who share your interpretation) could get together and write another confession. And that could be your new confessional ‘authority.’ But, as you can see, it wouldn’t be an authority at all. It would simply be a statement of how you in fact interpret Scripture, not how you should interpret Scripture.

    This isn’t really how the Confession functions in practice, though. I have been challenged by the Confession to re-think my thoughts about the Sabbath, and about assurance, and about the Law. It has the weight of the visible church behind it and so functions as an authority in that sense.

    Further, it has judicial weight.

    And in practice, the authority of Rome does not function absolutely. You also are subject to Rome because you find their interpretations agreeable to yours. If you did not, you would cease saying that your interpretations are subject to Rome as authority.

    And in fact, this is the practice of Catholics around the world. From Hans Kung to the cosmopolitan American Catholic who practices birth control, the authority of the pope is followed only insofar as the individual Catholic accepts that authority.

    There is some give-and-take: the authority of Rome might move an individual to modify his views (just as the authority of the WCoF has moved me to modify my views), but in the end, the Pope cannot reach into someone’s mind and change it.

  95. Ron Henzel said,

    March 26, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Bryan,

    You are attempting to create a false dilemma. The only reason that it appears, from a Roman Catholic perspective, that Protestants are lacking the proper authority for interpreting Scripture is because Roman Catholics believe that authority is a prerequisite for such interpretation. And the only reason that Roman Catholics believe that is because they deny the perspicuity of Scripture.

    If Scripture is unclear, then one may argue that sufficient authority is necessary to interpret it. But if it is instead true that, as WCF 1.7 states, “those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them,” then the only authority that is necessary is that of Scripture itself. Interpreation is not a function of authority; it is a function of God’s direct grace to sinners.

  96. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 26, 2010 at 8:10 am

    Or to take Ron’s idea one step further: the true “sacramental authority” — as in, means of grace — is found in Scripture itself, the sword of the Spirit used to convict men of truth.

  97. rfwhite said,

    March 26, 2010 at 8:56 am

    92 Bryan Cross: Thanks for your comments. Is it correct, then, to say that deliverance for Protestants from the predicament that afflicts them is found in one’s sufficient agreement with Rome’s self-identification as the possessors of sacramental succession of magisterial authority? If this is not correct, please explain.

  98. Bryan Cross said,

    March 26, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Jeff,

    Regarding #94, first you seem to say that the WCF has authority, because it has challenged you to rethink your thoughts about various doctrines. But the history of the Church shows that every leader of a heresy has forced the Church to think more carefully and deeply about her doctrines. But we wouldn’t thereby say that every leader of a heresy has ecclesial authority. Therefore, merely being the occasion or instrument by which one is challenged to rethink one’s thoughts about various doctrines, can’t be the basis for ecclesial authority.

    Next you say that “It [i.e. the WCF] has the weight of the visible church behind it and so functions as an authority in that sense.” But when you say “visible church” you simply mean whoever sufficiently agrees with your interpretation of Scripture. So claiming that the WCF “has the weight of the visible church behind it” reduces to “is affirmed by those who sufficiently agree with my interpretation of Scripture.” Every heresy and schism can claim to be (or be part of) the visible Church. Every heresy and schism thinks their own interpretation of Scripture is the true faith. So they can all say the same thing about their own confessions, i.e. “it has the weight of the visible church behind it”.

    Then you say that the WCF has “judicial weight.” But what this means is that those who have subjected themselves to PCA (or OPC, etc.) bylaws, are bound by those bylaws to uphold [at least most of] the doctrines taught in the WCF. I don’t disagree with that. But that’s not the point in question. The question is not whether the bylaws of a certain society of person could bind a person to affirm the WCF. Every club or society makes such laws, requiring those who wish to be members to adhere to certain requirements. Members of the Elks club, for example, are bound in such ways to their documents. But those documents are not authoritative in the sense in question in what I have been saying in this discussion. We have no unconditional obligation to conform to them. We would be obligated to conform to them, only if we wished to be or remain members of that club. Likewise, we have no unconditional obligation to conform our doctrine to that of the WCF; we would be obligated to [mostly] conform our doctrine to it only if we wished to be or remain members of a group of persons who made such conformity a membership requirement.

    Then you say:

    And in practice, the authority of Rome does not function absolutely.

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “function absolutely.” My point has nothing to do with “function absolutely.” In other words, the existence of dissenters from sacramental magisterial authority does not mean that sacramental magisterial authority doesn’t exist, just as the existence of rebellious angels (i.e. demons) doesn’t demonstrate that God does not have authority.

    Lastly you write:

    You also are subject to Rome because you find their interpretations agreeable to yours. If you did not, you would cease saying that your interpretations are subject to Rome as authority.

    That’s simply not true. To be subject to Rome only if one agreed with Rome’s doctrines, would be to remain a Protestant.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  99. Bryan Cross said,

    March 26, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Ron,

    Everything you said in #95 is compatible with the WCF having no authority. So, I’m willing to end our discussion here, if that is fine with you.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  100. Bryan Cross said,

    March 26, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    rfwhite,

    Is it correct, then, to say that deliverance for Protestants from the predicament that afflicts them is found in one’s sufficient agreement with Rome’s self-identification as the possessors of sacramental succession of magisterial authority?

    Any cult or sect could ‘self-identify’ itself as the true Church that Christ founded, or as the possessor of sacramental succession of magisterial authority from the apostles. Identifying oneself as genuine is therefore not a sufficient basis for having genuine authority.

    It was no mystery or secret in the early Church who had the succession from the Apostles, because ordinations were public (i.e. done before all the Church). The faithful did not need to rely on self-identification of a bishop as having authority from the apostles; it was public knowledge which men had been ordained by the Apostles; they themselves had witnessed it. And in the next generation it was public knowledge which men these bishops ordained. And so on.

    So a person identifying himself as one having authority, is not sufficient for our knowing that such a person has such authority. He could be a fraud or deceiver, etc. Nor did Christ leave us in a position of having to roll a dice in order to determine which persons claiming to have such authority really have it. The succession of magisterial authority can be traced down from the first century to the present.

    For the reasons I have explained here and at my own blog and CTC, Protestantism’s predicament of not having authoritative confessions or councils can be overcome only by recovering actual [not just self-identified] sacramental magisterial authority. For example, if the WCF had been the teaching of an ecumenical council of those having sacramental magisterial authority in succession from the Apostles, then I (and all those who seek to obey Christ) would be obliged to interpret Scripture in accordance with the WCF. But I’m not obliged to interpret Scripture in accord with the WCF, because those who wrote the WCF did not have sacramental magisterial authority from the Apostles.

    I don’t wish to take Reed’s thread off-topic (I know, too late). I only wanted to point out that since the WCF has no authority, no one (including Augustine) who doesn’t conform to it, is ipso facto a heretic in the traditional sense of the term. Without sacramental magisterial authority the word ‘heretic’ just reduces to ‘contrary to my interpretation of Scripture and those who for the most part interpret Scripture like me.’ And so in referring to Augustine as a heretic, one might think Augustine has been subjected to a nasty or powerful word; but without sacramental magisterial authority, referring to Augustine as a heretic just means that he interpreted Scripture differently than does the one accusing him of heresy. And, I think Augustine would be the first to agree about that. But Augustine’s conception of heresy wasn’t reducible to this trivially pleasant form, precisely because he believed in the succession from the Apostles, being himself a successor from the Apostles.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  101. Ron Henzel said,

    March 26, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Bryan,

    You wrote:

    Everything you said in #95 is compatible with the WCF having no authority. So, I’m willing to end our discussion here, if that is fine with you.

    It is also compatible with the Council of Trent having no authority. I suppose that if your mind is totally closed to the supremacy of Scripture, there is nothing more to discuss.

  102. rfwhite said,

    March 26, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Reed: We’re happy to drop this line of discussion if you wish.

    100 Bryan Cross: allow me one more for clarification. Granting your point that self-identification is not sufficient to prove genuine identity, is it correct to say that deliverance for Protestants from the predicament that afflicts them is found in one’s sufficient agreement with Rome?

  103. David Gadbois said,

    March 26, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    The RCC argument boils down to “if there is a supreme authority that all are held accountable to, then there can be no derivative authorities.” Romanist epistemological arguments are typically very weak, and this is certainly one of the weaker examples of that species.

  104. Ron Henzel said,

    March 26, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Bryan,

    It occurs to me that when I said in comment 101, “It is also compatible with the Council of Trent having no authority,” that you might misconstrue that as me agreeing with you that anything I wrote in comment 95 even remotely supports your position. Of course, it does no such thing. And the reason I think you’re doing this sudden about face and running away from what I wrote is because you do not have an answer for it.

    I’m just saying…

  105. Bryan Cross said,

    March 26, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    rfwhite (re: #102)

    I’m not trying to be pedantic (really), but it still needs qualification. :-) The solution to the problem is not agreement with the successor of St. Peter. Agreement with the successor of St. Peter would be a result of the solution. The solution is recognition and acceptance of his apostolic authority.

    David, (#103) I’ve never made that argument. I’ve given another argument, having as its conclusion that Protestantism has no basis for derivative authority. But I’ve never tried to argue from “If there is a supreme authority that all are held accountable to” to the conclusion “there can be no derivative authorities.” That would be a non sequitur.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  106. Bryan Cross said,

    March 26, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Ron,

    My point, since I started commenting in this thread in comment #78, has been that the WCF has no authority. Because your comments in #95 are fully compatible with the WCF having no authority, therefore they do no refute my point. And therefore, there is no reason for me to take issue with them.

    If you want to believe that I am “doing this sudden about face and running away from what [you] wrote … because [I] do not have an answer for it”, you are free to believe that. But it is not true. Philosophers have a disciplined form of discourse; they stick to the point in question, until the question has been resolved; they don’t allow themselves to go down ten rabbit trails at the same time. And that’s why there is no reason for me to take up the questions and challenges you raise in #95.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  107. Ron Henzel said,

    March 26, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Bryan,

    You’re so-called “disciplined form of discourse” is an evasion of the most transparent sort. My comment #95 is quite to the point. You are essentially accusing Protestant theology of not laying claim to the same kind of extra-biblical and unbiblical authority that Rome arrogates to itself, an accusation which we Protestants wear as a badge of honor! You just don’t get it.

    The Protestant system of theology not only does not require extra-biblical authority as does the Roman Catholic system, but it actually shuns it, because it does not assume the fundamental necessity of such authority in order to properly interpret Scripture. Rather it recognizes the obvious: that the same Holy Spirit that inspired Scripture made its most important teachings intelligible to the masses. I should further add that Protestantism also denies the existence of an extra-biblical oral tradition equal in authority to that of Scripture of which the institutional church (viz., Rome) is guardian. Without these two things—the spurious “need” to ameliorate misunderstandings caused by a supposedly unclear Scripture and the spurious “need” to transmit an unwritten tradition—Rome’s authority disintegrates like a house of cards in a tornado.

    How is the non-existence of Rome’s authority beside the point of this discussion?

  108. Bryan Cross said,

    March 26, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Ron,

    My comment #95 is quite to the point. You are essentially accusing Protestant theology of not laying claim to the same kind of extra-biblical and unbiblical authority that Rome arrogates to itself, an accusation which we Protestants wear as a badge of honor!

    It is true that the WCF doesn’t have the kind of authority Rome claims to have. But, once again, that’s not my point. My point is that the WCF has no authority. Nothing you have said shows that the WCF has any authority. If you agree with me that the WCF has no authority, then you are agreeing with the point I have been making here (even if you disagree with me on other points).

    How is the non-existence of Rome’s authority beside the point of this discussion?

    Because the point in question is whether the WCF has any authority, not whether Rome has any authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  109. Ron Henzel said,

    March 26, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Bryan,

    The WCF faithfully represents the authoritative teachings of Scripture.

  110. Bryan Cross said,

    March 26, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Ron,

    Last August, Lane wrote the following in his “Whose Lens Are You Using? post:

    [E]veryone 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.

    So when you say “The WCF faithfully represents the authoritative teachings of Scripture” what is implicit within this word ‘faithfully’ is that in your judgment, according to your interpretation of Scripture, the WCF more accurately interprets Scripture than any other tradition’s confessional standard (of which you are aware). Lutherans, however, would disagree with you about the WCF being more faithful than the Book of Concord. And the Orthodox, the Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, etc. would also disagree with you; they each think their unique confessions/creeds/statements are more faithful to Scripture than is the WCF. So ‘faithfully’ is unavoidably a subject-relative term; it means ‘faithfully-as-determined-by-a-subject’.

    For that reason (i.e. because, given your statement in #109, the basis of the WCF’s alleged authority is its agreement with your interpretation of Scripture), and because the basis of authority cannot be agreement with oneself, therefore the WCF has no authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  111. GLW Johnson said,

    March 26, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Brian
    Since you are not in a Reformed church that does require fidelity to the Westminster Standards what business is it of yours if confessional standards are enforced? If a Roman Catholic priest suddenly affirmed Sola Fide as espoused by the Reformers wouldn’t the RCC have every right to address that according to the church doctrinal position? This is none of your business-pure and simple.

  112. Ron Henzel said,

    March 26, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Brian,

    You wrote:

    So when you say “The WCF faithfully represents the authoritative teachings of Scripture” what is implicit within this word ‘faithfully’ is that in your judgment, according to your interpretation of Scripture, the WCF more accurately interprets Scripture than any other tradition’s confessional standard (of which you are aware).

    [Bolding of text is yours.]

    And, of course, your situation in this regard does not differ in any way from mine: in your judgment, according to your interpretation of Scripture (and/or Christianity in general), the magisterium of the Roman Catholic church more accurately interprets Scripture than any other tradition’s confessional standard (of which you are aware).

  113. Bryan Cross said,

    March 26, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Ron,

    As I explained above to rfwhite, the basis for the Church’s authority, given apostolic succession, is not agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture. Whereas without apostolic succession agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture is the only basis for the ‘authority’ of the WCF. That is why Catholic ecclesiology is not subject to this problem.

    GLW,

    If one of the members of your denomination had not referred to one of our Doctors as a heretic, I would have said nothing. (I have no intention of meddling in the Leithart case.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  114. GLW Johnson said,

    March 26, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Brian
    Well, to use an old West Texas expression, that is a pile of ‘Horse blip’.

  115. Ron Henzel said,

    March 26, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Bryan,

    You wrote:

    As I explained above to rfwhite, the basis for the Church’s authority, given apostolic succession, is not agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture.

    This is a distinction without a real difference. You’ll notice how I qualified the situation in your case when I wrote:

    “…in your judgment, according to your interpretation of Scripture (and/or Christianity in general)…”

    By inserting apostolic succession between you and the magisterium all you’ve done is moved your dilemma a step away from where it originally was. Now it is you in your judgment, and by your own authority, who has determined that a proper interpretation of true Christianity must include apostolic succession, so that it can serve as your proxy for interpreting Scripture. It is ultimately no different.

  116. David Weiner said,

    March 26, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    I know this is not the point of this thread; but, there has been a lot said here about Apostolic Succession. Can anybody point me to a reference that might provide an authoritative list of what it is exactly that is passed on during the laying on of hands in an ordination ceremony? Of course, I would assume that the authority to pass on the authorities that one had previously been given would have to be in this authoritative list?

  117. Andy Gilman said,

    March 26, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    In #100 Bryan said:

    The succession of magisterial authority can be traced down from the first century to the present.

    Therefore magisterial authority rests on your private interpretation of the historical evidence regarding the succession of magisterial authority. Or is the historical argument for the “succession of magisterial authority” a subterfuge, and what you really mean to say is that magisterial authority is self-attesting?

    WCF 20:2 says:

    2. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.

    You are denying liberty of conscience, and the right to private judgment with regard to that which is truly authoritative, i.e., the Scriptures, and by private judgment or blind obedience you are investing absolute authority in the magisterium. You trade the authority of Scripture for the authority of the magisterium. If the magisterium decides tomorrow that Jesus was born via Cesarean section, all you can do is slavishly nod your head and say “indeed he was!”

    The written word is unnecessary for you. It may even be dangerous for you to read the Bible and to risk your own potentially flawed interpretation of what it says. If you do read the Bible, before you come to any conclusion about what you may think the Bible is saying, you should seek an authoritative interpretation from the magisterium.

  118. Bryan Cross said,

    March 26, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Ron,

    You apparently think that there is no principled difference between sacramental magisterial authority based on succession from the Apostles, and ‘authority’ based on agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture. If there were no principled difference between them, then there would have been no reason for the Reformers to reject apostolic succession. But the Reformer did reject apostolic succession, redefining it as ‘agreement with the Apostle’s doctrine.’ Therefore, there must be a difference between them.

    So, what is that difference? Imagine a person living in AD 30, who witnesses Christ’s preaching, sees His miracles, and comes to believe that Christ has been sent from God and is the Son of God. What is the basis for Christ’s authority? The basis for Christ’s authority is not agreement with this man’s interpretation of the evidence. The basis for Christ’s authority is Christ’s identity and divine authorization. The means by which the man discovered Christ’s authority are not the basis for Christ’s authority. Likewise, the means by which a person discovers the Apostles’ authority (and that of their successors) is not the basis for their authority. This is why the means by which sacramental magisterial authority is discovered is not the basis for sacramental magisterial authority. By contrast, for the reasons I have given in the comments above, the basis for the ‘authority’ of the WCF just is agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture. And therefore even though personal judgment is involved in recognizing sacramental magisterial authority and affirming the WCF, nevertheless, the basis for authority differs in both. In the discovery of sacramental magisterial authority, one discovers something of greater authority than oneself. In coming to think of the WCF as authoritative, by contrast, the basis for its ‘authority’ is precisely its agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture.

    Neal Judisch and I explained this in more detail in our article (and the subsequent comments) titled “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.” (See here.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  119. March 26, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Bryan,

    I’ve been gone a while and missed the fun. The problem with your argument is that the RCC puts the beliefs of an entire church body in the hands of a sinful man or small collection of sinful men. Scripture says that the heart is desperately wicked, who can know it? All fall short of the glory of God. None is righteous, no not one. Scripture knows no exception but Christ Himself.

    Although the RCC publicly teaches so-called sacred tradition and Scripture as equals, in practice the RCC’s man-made traditions trump Scripture. I say this because it’s the magisterium of the church which authoritatively interprets Scripture for its adherents. Scripture cannot speak for itself because Rome doesn’t believe in the perspicuity of Scripture. Thus men put themselves above and filter Scripture for their followers.

    Let me address your strawman argument directly. The PCA provides a good example of how the WCF and Scripture relate. Of the Scriptures we hold “the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” That rules out the traditions of men trumping God’s inspired Word. The role of the Westminster Standards is that they “contain the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures.” That’s what Lane meant by the lens. The WCF, et al, are subordinate to the Scriptures and stand ready to be judged in the light of Scripture.

    A major difference with the RCC’s approach is that the Westminster Standards are subject to revision should anyone find a place where they contradict Scripture or are otherwise in error. Though in almost 400 years, no one has found such a problem. Such an option doesn’t exist in the RCC. Even Trent, which others have already pointed out contradicts Scripture at a number of points, cannot be revised because the RCC believes that such councils are “infallible”. Worse, doctrines like the “immaculate conception”, indulgences, the treasury of the saints, purgatory, limbo, and infallibility of the pope to name just a few, which have no Scriptural basis whatsoever are core teachings of the church under the guise of “sacred tradition”. For Protestants, only the Scriptures themselves are infallible and inerrant, not what any group of sinful men decide.

    Doesn’t really matter to me what you think of Augustine, but the contrast between the Reformed confessions and the origins of Roman doctrine couldn’t be clearer.

  120. David Gadbois said,

    March 26, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Brian said even though personal judgment is involved in recognizing sacramental magisterial authority and affirming the WCF, nevertheless, the basis for authority differs in both. In the discovery of sacramental magisterial authority, one discovers something of greater authority than oneself. In coming to think of the WCF as authoritative, by contrast, the basis for its ‘authority’ is precisely its agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture.

    That is no surprise since the former is seen as an ultimate authority whereas the latter is a derivative authority. But that neither entails that the derivative Protestant authority (confessions) is either unworkable or inadequate. It only matters that our ultimate authority (Scripture) establishes it. For Protestants it is in Scripture that we “discover an authority that is greater than ourselves.”

    And, I should point out, Romanist ecclesiology also includes derivative authorities like, for instance, the local parish priest. You run into exactly the same story, where the individual does owe the parish priest a measure of submission, but the individual also can and should hold a priest to account according to the ultimate authority (magisterium, tradition) under certain circumstances, or the individual can decide he should find a new priest to be in submission to.

  121. Reed Here said,

    March 26, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Folks:

    Sean Lucas over at the Ref21 Blog has an interesting comment that may apply to this discussion of authority. His key point: apart from a commitment to confessionalism (and its concomitant, biblical authority) there really is no secure authority in this world. The Roman See becomes a default as it has the longest tradition.

    Seems to me the choice is between the authority of the Spirit in His word versus the authority of a tradition of man. Praise Jesus I’ve been set free from all traditions of men – love confessionalism!

  122. March 26, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Seems to me the choice is between the authority of the Spirit in His word versus the authority of a tradition of man. Praise Jesus I’ve been set free from all traditions of men – love confessionalism!

    Well said, Reed!

  123. Dean B said,

    March 26, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Bryan

    “In the discovery of sacramental magisterial authority, one discovers something of greater authority than oneself.”

    Your discovery of sacramental magisterial authority must be proven from Scripture. In building your premise you would have to create a situation where the authority of church is on par with or above Scripture. The reformers reject this premise. The authority is the Bible not the church.

    Turretin is helpful here

    “Why or on account of what do we believe Scripture to be the Word of God? Or, what argument does the Holy Spirit use primarily to convince us of the divine quality of Scripture? Is it the witness or voice of the church, or the marks and criteria imprinted in Scripture itself?…That the authority of Scripture does not depend, either in itself or with regard to our understanding, on the witness of the church, is proved (1) because the church is founded on Scripture (Eph. 2:20) and all its authority is received from Scripture….Therefore [the church] cannot produce the authority of Scripture either in itself or with regard to our understanding, unless we maintain that the cause depends on the effect….(2) [If Roman Catholic doctrine were true] the authority of the church would be prior to that of Scripture and so the primary matter of belief, on which from the first our faith would depend and into which it would ultimately be resolved, [a doctrine] which our adversaries do not accept , for they wish the authority of the church to depend on Scripture. (3) Obviously it is to argue in a circle when the authority of Scripture by the church. (4) Our adversaries have never agreed on what is to be understood by the church- whether it is the contemporary church or that of antiquity, the whole church or its representatives, particular or universal; or what will be the act that witnesses to the authority of Scripture – whether it is certified [at a given time] by some judicial decision, or made effective through a continual and unbroken tradition. (5) A fallible and human witness, such as that of the church, cannot establish supernatural faith (fides divina). Nor, if God does speak through the church today, does it follow that the church is infallible, because special and extraordinary inspiration, such as kept apostles and prophets free from error, and of which Christ spoke strictly when he said that the Holy Spirit would lead the apostles into all truth (John 16:14 [13]) is one thing, but common and ordinary [inspiration] is another, which does not product [apostolically] inspired pastors.” The Doctrine of Scripture pg76,77

  124. Paige Britton said,

    March 27, 2010 at 6:06 am

    Hey, I’ll probably be shot for saying this, but in a qualified way I agree with Bryan. (!!) The discussion over Rome’s authority is a side trail away from the point of his point, which is that the WCF is not the standard by which we measure heresy.

    It’s tricky to say this, because of course no true heresy would measure up to the WCF’s most basic tenets (i.e., Doctrine of God, Christology, Pneumatology, Scripture); but in reality, it’s not the WCF’s most basic tenets that come into play in confessional churches’ judicial proceedings.

    Now, correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that such judicial proceedings are usually about pastors who depart in one way or another from the specifically Calvinist or Reformed expressions of the faith. This means that unless their theology has gone totally screwy, they have passed the bar of basic Christianity but have been felled by the standards agreed to in the Standards regarding soteriology, covenants, or sacraments. Again, correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to remember that such judicial proceedings (as well as screening of candidates in the first place) describe their error as striking at the vitals of religion, not heresy.

    There seem to be three levels of error identified in, say, the PCA:
    1. Differences with the Standards that doesn’t amount to much;
    2. Teaching that “strikes at the vitals of religion,”
    and 3. Heresy.

    Jeff once gave me these examples for those three levels:
    1. A difference re. the WCF’s description of Sabbath-keeping;
    2. Arminianism;
    3. Finney.

    (And Finney, we note, would have met all three criteria!)

    Now, whether Arminianism was or was not considered a heresy in the Reformers’ time, practically speaking we do not go around declaring Methodists and other generally-evangelical believers “heretics,” do we? I know that some of us would like to call Catholic and FV theologies heresies, and maybe they are (Lane has them listed as such to the left!).

    My point being, as Bryan’s point originally was, that the WCF is not itself where we should appeal to judge a teaching “heresy.” Bryan, of course, would appeal to the magisterial councils and papacy for this judgment; we must appeal to the Scriptures — and hold in faith to our ability to interpret them sufficiently well, though not infallibly, in order to do so.

    On the other hand, to judge an officer “out of accord with the Standards” to the extent that his teaching “strikes at the vitals of our religion,” as the courts of our confessional churches do, is not yet to declare that teaching heresy — because, practically speaking, the problem leading to the judicial proceedings in the first place is at the level of soteriology, covenant, or sacramentalism, on which points true Christians truly differ.

    (I understand that putting “soteriology” in there as a secondary, Calvinistic-level bar is problematic, because what becomes of “justification by faith alone”? But unless we are going to call modern-day Arminians and other semi-Pelagian evangelicals “heretics,” in some sense soteriology, too, has shifted into this category. Maybe there is an overlap, and maybe there shouldn’t be; but my point is that, practically speaking, this is how confessional churches are measuring some officers’ teaching in judicial proceedings — “striking at the vitals,” but not “heresy.” There may be exceptions to judicial wordings in some denoms, though, that I am not aware of.)

    Calmly awaiting the execution,

    Paige B.

  125. Paige Britton said,

    March 27, 2010 at 6:12 am

    p.s. — I called those “three levels of error,” but I ought to have said “three levels of difference,” since the first (e.g., a disagreement about Sabbath-keeping) is not technically considered an “error.”

  126. Ron Henzel said,

    March 27, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Bryan,

    In comment 118, you wrote:

    You apparently think that there is no principled difference between sacramental magisterial authority based on succession from the Apostles, and ‘authority’ based on agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture.

    No, that’s not the comparison that I made. I did not compare the authority of the magisterium with the authority of the Westminster Confession. I compared the epistemic subjectivity of your statement about the magisterium with the epistemic subjectivity of my statement about the Westminster Confession, and concluded that they were equal.

    If I may review: I made the following statement in comment 109 about the Westminster Standards:

    The WCF faithfully represents the authoritative teachings of Scripture.

    You, in turn, responded by essentially arguing in comment 110 that this was merely my epistemically subjective opinion, since to you it is merely

    in [my] judgment, according to [my] interpretation of Scripture, [that] the WCF more accurately interprets Scripture than any other tradition’s confessional standard (of which [I am] aware).

    Thus, since you assumed this was the case, and, as you put it in comment 86, “When I submit (so long as I agree), the only authority is me,” you concluded that I was trapped in this imaginary dilemma of somehow arrogating ultimate authority to myself, which I’ve already exposed as an absurd conclusion. In the meantime, you falsely assume that by appealing to apostolic succession you have avoided the very dilemma in which you tried to trap me, but as I explained in comment 115:

    By inserting apostolic succession between you and the magisterium all you’ve done is moved your dilemma a step away from where it originally was. Now it is you in your judgment, and by your own authority, who has determined that a proper interpretation of true Christianity must include apostolic succession, so that it can serve as your proxy for interpreting Scripture. It is ultimately no different.

    I have no idea how, from these words, you could have constructed this “no principled difference” straw man. And how you could have concluded that the question of whether or not a principled difference exists addresses the point I made is even further beyond me.

    What it boils down to is this: you, in your judgment, according to your interpretation of the nature of Christianity, have concluded that the magisterium has the power to infallibly and indefectibly both interpret the meaning of Scripture and set forth extra-biblical teachings in the name of tradition. To justify your judgment and your interpretation, you point to the self-attestation of Roman Catholicism regarding its own authority, as if that somehow makes a difference on the level of epistemic subjectivity versus objectivity, but it does not. Ultimately your decision to follow Rome was your judgment call based on your interpretation of the facts, and thus according to your logic the magisterium only has whatever “authority” you give it. And why do you give it that authority? Because you agree with its interpretations of Scripture and tradition!

    It was not as if there were no other choices here. Eastern Orthodoxy also places Holy Tradition on a par with Scripture, but reaches different interpretative conclusions on key points. The Roman bishops agree with you; the Eastern patriarchs do not. So, for you, the actual practical basis of the Roman magisterium’s authority is its agreement with you over against your disagreement with the Eastern patriarchs. And thus, according to your logic, the magisterium has no authority at all, since as you yourself have said, “an ‘authority’ whose basis for authority is his agreement with me, is no authority at all.”

  127. Ron Henzel said,

    March 27, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Bryan,

    Oh, and I forgot to point out: the Eastern patriarchs also have apostolic succession every bit as much as Rome does.

  128. Bryan Cross said,

    March 27, 2010 at 9:37 am

    David, (re: #120)

    But that neither entails that the derivative Protestant authority (confessions) is either unworkable or inadequate. It only matters that our ultimate authority (Scripture) establishes it.

    I’m not claiming anything about whether the WCF is “unworkable or inadequate.” I’m only claiming that it has no authority. Scripture alone does not “establish” the WCF, just as Scripture alone does not establish the Baptist Confession or the Book of Concord. Persons have to read Scripture, interpret it, and judge that its meaning is the same set of doctrines expressed in the WCF. So the WCF represents one set of persons’ way of interpreting Scripture. But those persons have no authority over all other Christians. For that reason their opinion about how the Bible should be interpreted is not authoritative. And that is why the WCF is not authoritative; it is a record of how a certain group of seventeenth century Brits interpreted Scripture.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  129. Ron Henzel said,

    March 27, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Bryan,

    Regarding comment 128: in the same way, neither does Scripture alone establish the doctrine of apostolic succession.

  130. Bryan Cross said,

    March 27, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Ron,

    And how you could have concluded that the question of whether or not a principled difference exists addresses the point I made is even further beyond me.

    The reason you think that I’m in the same epistemic situation you are in viz-a-viz authority, is because you have [implicitly] presumed that there is no principled difference between discovering sacramental magisterial authority, and grounding an ‘authority’ based on its agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture. But, I’m explaining that there is a principled difference between them. And that is why the person who discovers sacramental magisterial authority is not subject to the “when I submit (so long as I agree) the one to whom I submit is me” problem. But the only basis for the WCF’s ‘authority’ is its agreement with the individual’s interpretation of Scripture, and therefore it is subject to this problem.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  131. Ron Henzel said,

    March 27, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Bryan,

    On what basis do you conclude that the sacramental magesterial authority of Rome is greater than that of the Eastern patriarchs?

  132. rfwhite said,

    March 27, 2010 at 10:23 am

    124 Paige Britton: Given the flow of the conversation here, it appears to me understandable why someone could agree with Bryan’s words, if not the meaning that he assigns to them. That is, the words “WCF has no authority” could be uttered by a confessional Calvinist and be applauded. It seems to me that this is especially the case in disciplinary proceedings such as those contemplated in Reed’s lead post. It is just is such circumstances, the issues for which we plead are not merely confessional but Scriptural. In other words, in cases of discipline, it is not mere confessional authority for or from which we plead, but Scriptural authority. Distinguishing between confession and Scripture at such moments is arguably no more than theoretical.

    In 118, Bryan included this statement: ” … personal judgment is involved in recognizing sacramental magisterial authority and affirming the WCF … .” It seems to me that he is right to make this concession. When he elaborates on his claim that “the basis for authority differs in both,” he states, “In the discovery of sacramental magisterial authority, one discovers something of greater authority than oneself.” Question: how do we know that “one discovers something greater than oneself” in discovering sacramental magisterial authority?

  133. rfwhite said,

    March 27, 2010 at 10:38 am

    130 Bryan: allow me to state my question in 132 a bit differently. Unless one has made a prior judgment that sacramental magisterial authority is greater than confessional authority, how is one’s discovery of sacramental magisterial authority different from one’s affirmation of confessional authority?

  134. Dean B said,

    March 27, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Bryan

    “In the discovery of sacramental magisterial authority, one discovers something of greater authority than oneself.”

    You may believe the logic is brilliant but you end up in the same epistemological ditch after all the dust is settled.

    If my church excommunicates you and your church excommunicates me then which church has real authority? Your solutions to this problem is merely in which church can prove sacramental magisterial authority, but it my church does not recognize your sacramental magisterial authority then the argument is meaningless.

    “In the Catholic tradition, the question who belongs to the Church is not based on who sufficiently agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture. The extent of the Church does not depend on the individual’s interpretation of Scripture, but on what the successors of the Apostles teach concerning this question.”

    When discussing evolution with someone you can keep asking “where did that come from” and ultimately they are going to look at you with a blank stare. Same is true with sacramental magisterial authority. Where did sacramental magisterial authority come from? Ultimately even the RC will have to conclude from Scripture and their interpretation of it.

    “But I’m not obliged to interpret Scripture in accord with the WCF, because those who wrote the WCF did not have sacramental magisterial authority from the Apostles.”

    As a Protestant if I do not concede your interpretation of sacramental magisterial authority is found in Scripture therefore Trent and the RCC has not authority either.

    Your basis for claiming you have sacramental magisterial authority is merely your interpretation of the Bible. Your interpretation is built heavily on the RC lens of Scripture. Therefore, you are guilty of the same circular logic since your interpretation of the Bible can not be the source of your authority.

    Or to use your own words, “because the basis of authority cannot be agreement with oneself, therefore the WCF [insert Roman Catholic Church and Trent instead of WCF] has no authority.”

  135. Bryan Cross said,

    March 27, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Ron, (re: #131)

    It would take too long here in a combox to list out all the historical evidence. I already provided one piece of evidence in my quotation from St. Augustine in comment #78, The reason why Donatism was not a branch within the Church, but a schism from the Church, was because they broke communion with the successor of St. Peter. Otherwise there would have been no point in St. Augustine working so hard to bring them back into the Church. The Eastern patriarchs all understood and acknowledged this authority of the Apostolic See. (See Dom John Chapman’s Studies on the Early Papacy, Giles’ Documents Illustrating Papal Authority: A.D. 96-454, Aidan Nichols’ Rome and the Eastern Churches (2nd ed.), and Soloviev’s The Russian Church and the Papacy.) In other words, one reason we know the successor of St. Peter has greater authority than the Eastern Patriarchs, is that during the first millennium of the Church, they themselves said so.

    Of course none of that is what you’re interested in. You want to use the fact that Catholics (or persons who become Catholics) must evaluate such historical evidence, to argue that the Catholic is therefore in the same epistemic situation viz-a-viz authority that the Protestant is in. But, once again, there is a principled difference between the two types of authority, as I already explained.

    To see that, let’s go back again to AD 30. The person who discovers that Jesus is the Messiah sent from God, must also determine whether or not John the Baptist is the Messiah. This person has to weigh the evidence, for and against, John the Baptist being the Messiah, and compare it to the evidence for and against Jesus being the Messiah. But the fact that he has to make this evidential comparison does not prevent him from coming to know that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and therefore knowing that Jesus has greater authority than himself. Christ’s authority is not subject to the problem I’ve been raising about the WCF, because the basis for Christ’s authority is not our [hypothetical] man’s agreement with Christ, even though the man had to make use of his own reason and judgment in order to evaluate evidence in order to conclude (with the help of the Holy Spirit) that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

    So likewise, even though the person who becomes Catholic has to weigh such historical evidence regarding papal authority vs. that of any other Eastern patriarch, that does not entail that upon concluding that the successors of St. Peter bear the keys of the Kingdom, the basis for the popes’ authority over this man is his agreement with them. The historical evidence is a means to picking out the popes’ sacramental magisterial authority, just as the evidence of John’s testimony and Christ’s miracles were means by which our hypothetical first century man came to see that Jesus is the Messiah, and the Son of God. But the basis for the popes’ authority is the authorization they received from St. Peter and ultimately from Christ, just as the basis for Christ’s authority is His divine identity and mission from Father. By contrast, the basis for the WCF’s authority is its agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture.

    While Scripture is greater in authority than the individual, the WCF is lesser in authority than the individual, because it is the product of mere individuals — individuals not having divine authority to which other Christians must submit. But sacramental magisterial authority is greater in authority than the individual, because the basis for its authority is not its agreement with the individual, but its divine authorization and commission.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  136. March 27, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Bryan,

    But sacramental magisterial authority is greater in authority than the individual, because the basis for its authority is not its agreement with the individual, but its divine authorization and commission.

    Pentecostals claim divine authority for their pronouncements and revelations. Benny Hinn runs around the world leveraging such claims to support his scams. The Heavens Gate cult who committed mass suicide 10 years ago as of last week claimed inspired authority. So did Jim Jones back in the 70′s.

    Your appeal to history rings hollow. The king of England (if there were one) could claim the same historical lineage, as could the rest of the old so-called royal houses of Europe. Does that make the divine right of kings correct? Apparently so by your argumentation. The popes thought so at one time; maybe still do.

    In the end, there is no incontrovertible Biblical evidence for a divine authorization for an endless succession of sinful men to rule over others in the faith. Paul through the Spirit set up the system of elders, but they were to serve with humility as admittedly sinners saved by grace, not lord it over the flock as Rome does at the papal and local priest levels.

    I notice that you skipped right over my Scriptural allusions in #119 which fly in the face of the RCC’s assertions to absolute ecclesiastical power. Even appealing to Peter doesn’t help you, because even by your disputable interpretation of Scripture Peter would have been hand selected by the Son of God Himself. Your popes are elected by other sinful men. That alone serves to differentiate them and separates them from any supposed divine authorization.

    The bottom line to this argument hasn’t changed since the Reformation. Luther correctly asserted that the pope had no right or authority to bargain with God in the dispensation of indulgences to “buy” souls from purgatory. Calvin finished the argument through his disputations in his Institutes and refutation of the University of Paris pronouncements in 1542. Calvin also elaborated on the abomination of the sacrifice of the mass, which in addition to trampling Scripture violates even Chalcedon which the RCC supposedly accepts.

    As Dr. White said, we freely acknowledge that the Westminsters, etc., have no absolute authority. They and we are subordinate in an absolute sense only to the text of Holy Scripture as illuminated by the Holy Spirit in our lives. And yet, we can also gain subordinate wisdom by considering the thoughts and interpretations of the giants of theology that have gone before us. But even those giants are fallible and we are free to prayerfully agree or disagree with them.

    As a former RCC member, I understand all this a much deeper than the theoretical level. I came to the Reformed faith by the diligent study of Scripture without benefit of notes for over a decade of wandering, but with the benefit of many who clearly preached the gospel of grace. I tested and rejected many other theologies along the way, including non-Christian ones. The Holy Spirit led me through Scripture to Reformed theology by showing me that only Reformed theology best matches what I read in the Holy Writ. Here I stand. I can do no other. How you and your fellow bloggers can subjugate yourselves to the apostasy of Rome amazes me and brings to mind Galatians 1:6-9.

  137. Andy Gilman said,

    March 27, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    While Ron, Dr. White and others have said it better than I can, here’s what it boils down to for me:

    Protestants attribute ultimate authority to Scripture. We consider it our responsibility to study Scripture in order to come to a more complete knowledge of God and of His will. We insist on liberty of conscience and the right to private judgment when it comes to the interpretation of Scripture.

    Roman Catholics attribute ultimate authority to the magisterium. The extra-biblical pronouncements of the magisterium, and the magisterium’s interpretation of Scripture, is then distilled for them by Bishops and Priests, so that in order to come to a more complete knowledge of God and of His will, they need only ask their Priest. They reserve the right to private judgment when it comes to the interpretation of what their Priest tells them.

  138. Bryan Cross said,

    March 27, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    rfwhite (re: #133)

    Regarding your question in #133, I think what I said in #135 answers this question.

    Andy, Bob and Dean, you raise a number of good questions, and if I had more time (and I didn’t already feel like I’ve totally hijacked the thread) I would be glad to discuss these broader questions. Such questions belong to a discussion that Protestants and Catholics should be having continuously, in a patient and gentle way, until our divisions are resolved. I’m encouraged by the civility here in this thread. At Called To Communion we’re trying to provide a forum for precisely this kind of discussion, for Protestants and Catholics to figure out how to resolve this nearly 500 year old schism. And this authority issue, in my opinion, is right at the heart of it. If Lane or Reed opens up a forum here at GB, I’d be glad to investigate these questions together with you here, in an ordered and step-wise way. And you’re always welcome to join in the on-going conversation at CTC. Either way, I hope we can continue to pursue the unity that only comes through the truth in charity.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  139. March 27, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Bryan,

    Thanks for your offer. While I appreciate your sentiment, unity with Rome isn’t on the agenda. Rome sees this as a one-way street and always has. As many of us have correctly observed, authority is at the heart of the matter. Rome cannot accept the gospel of Christ unless it recants Trent, which anathematized the gospel of Jesus Christ, as a starting point. To do that, Rome would have to repudiate infallibility, which would weaken the Vatican’s political power amongst other things. Other extra-Biblical doctrines would then start falling like rain – apostolic succession, the “immaculate conception”, purgatory, limbo, the “treasury of the saints”, indulgences, the sacrifice of the mass, transubstantiation, et al. We all know that ain’t happenin’ anytime soon. Most parishioners don’t even remotely understand those teachings, but the catechism says that they don’t have to – just believe and trust your priest. By giving sinful men virtually absolute power, Rome painted itself in a corner from which there’s no easy exit.

    So, thanks for the invitation, but no thanks. The gospel of sola fide, sola gratia, solo Christo, as well as the Scriptures as the supreme and sole rule of faith and practice (sola Scriptura), and solely to God’s sovereign glory (sola Deo gloria!) is non-negotiable. As I said above, here we stand and we can do no other.

    By His grace alone,
    Bob

  140. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 27, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Bryan,

    Your argument engages in circular reasoning. On the one hand, with regard to the Confession, you say

    The question is not whether the bylaws of a certain society of person could bind a person to affirm the WCF. Every club or society makes such laws, requiring those who wish to be members to adhere to certain requirements. Members of the Elks club, for example, are bound in such ways to their documents. But those documents are not authoritative in the sense in question in what I have been saying in this discussion. We have no unconditional obligation to conform to them. We would be obligated to conform to them, only if we wished to be or remain members of that club.

    So here, you are taking the position that the Presbyterian church is a human organization, like any other organization. Its “bylaws” (which are actually the BCO, but I understand what you mean) have no authority from God.

    But about the RCC, you say

    …the existence of dissenters from sacramental magisterial authority does not mean that sacramental magisterial authority doesn’t exist, just as the existence of rebellious angels (i.e. demons) doesn’t demonstrate that God does not have authority.

    So unlike the Confession, the “sacramental magisterial authority” (which is, of course, the church in Rome) has an objective authority, a right to be obeyed regardless of dissenters.

    Whence comes this authority? Well, of course, from God. God grants the church authority to police doctrine and declare heresy.

    But which church? The true church will have genuine authority; other “churches” will not.

    So your argument is only valid *if* the church in Rome is the true church. Which is what you are (eventually) trying to prove to the rest of us.

    I can only accept that the Confession has merely human authority if I already accept your premise that the Presbyterian church is not a true church. If in fact the Presbyterian church *is* a true church, then its officers also have authority.

    Likewise, I can only accept that the RCC has authority from God if I accept the premise that it is the one true church (since it refuses to share authority with any other church, it’s all or nothing with the RCC).

    So there’s no bite to the argument. It persuades other Catholics, but not Protestants.

  141. rfwhite said,

    March 27, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    138 Bryan: until Reed steps in to say that he wants to cut off this thread to his post, I’ll continue to pull on it. I do this, in the most part, because questions about ecclesiastical authority are key to Reed’s post and, insofar as Presbyterians purport to be ecclesiastical, we should think seriously about these things, if not now, then some time.

    In keeping with the direction suggested by Jeff Cagle in 140, I gather that you want us to see a contrast between the basis of the popes’ authority (aka sacramental magisterial authority) and the basis for confessional (aka WCF) authority. Problematic in your contention, for me at least, is your claim that the basis for the popes’ authority is the authorization they received from St. Peter and ultimately from Christ. The contrast you posit fails to materialize because one’s recognition of this authorization depends on agreement with one’s own interpretation of the relevant Scripture.

  142. March 27, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    RFW,

    I’ve been follwing this discussion with interest as I have had pretty much the identical conversation with Bryan in the past.

    Thus far here, it seems that the best our side has been able to offer by way of response is what’s called the tu quoque (or, “you fall into the same trap you’re trying to set for us”). And don’t get me wrong, I think it’s an important point for us to make.

    But moving things along, what do you think is the best response to Bryan’s actual point? Our simply saying, “You, too” doesn’t really address his contention that the WCF has no meaningful authority for us since, at the end of the day, we affirm and submit to it because it is the closest option conforming to our own interpretation of the Bible.

    So I’m just curious what you think the best answer to that would be.

  143. Dean B said,

    March 27, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Pastor Stellman

    “But moving things along, what do you think is the best response to Bryan’s actual point? Our simply saying, “You, too” doesn’t really address his contention that the WCF has no meaningful authority for us since, at the end of the day, we affirm and submit to it because it is the closest option conforming to our own interpretation of the Bible.”

    Oddly enough I believe your observation is Confessional.

    It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience…and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission.”

    The WCF understand synods and councils must make decisions that are “consonant to the Word of God”. But if a synod and council makes a decision then it begs the question of who would ultimately decide if it is not “consonant to the Word of God”. Certainly if the synod and council makes the decision I would hope they believe it is consonant to the Word of God.

    I submit the WCF only authority in as much as a group of people think it is an accurate reflection of Scripture.

    To argue in my mind ultimately makes synods, councils, and confessions above Scripture itself.

  144. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 27, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Bryan, in reference to Jason’s question:

    To my mind, the defeater to your argument is that Scripture itself has sacramental magisterial authority. You want to locate that authority in a human being; but God reserves that authority for Himself, speaking in His word. To place the kind of authority that Rome claims in a person is to remove the authority of Scripture, to obscure it by forcing it to speak through a translator, the living sacramental magisterial authority.

    In the past, your response has been that Scripture is easily misunderstood; thus the need for a living authority to interpret Scripture. But this begs the question as to whether God has in fact given us such a living authority. That is, our perceived “need” does not imply existence.

    Further, assuming that God has given us a living authority to interpret, it does not follow that this authority is a human, rather than His Spirit as He promised.

    Your response in the past has been that my argument is “Gnostic” — a direct operation of the Spirit unmediated by the sacraments. But you err in failing to recognize the Word itself as a means of grace. The sacramental operation is occurring in the act of reading the Word.

    Additionally, I think you fail to see that the Church Fathers, such as Augustine, argued from the Scriptures themselves, unmediated by an appeal to a central authority in Rome. In fact, Augustine’s defense of the Catholic church over against the Donatists is that the Catholic church teaches the Scriptures, and that this is self-evident. So for Augustine, the Scripture’s authority proves the church’s, not the other way round as Rome has it.

    The method of the Fathers was to treat Scripture as perspicuous; the method of Rome is to treat Scripture as obscure and inaccessible except as mediated through papal pronouncements (thus, despite the plain language about brothers and sisters and such, Mary never had intercourse with her husband; and this is a matter of anathema).

    In a nutshell, these are my objections, offered vigorously but without rancor.

  145. Bryan Cross said,

    March 27, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    rfwhite,

    I gather that you want us to see a contrast between the basis of the popes’ authority (aka sacramental magisterial authority) and the basis for confessional (aka WCF) authority.

    Correct. (Of course I believe in the authority of the Nicene Creed, and the dogmas promulgated by all ecumenical councils — but these have their [confessional] authority in virtue of the sacramental magisterial authority of those who defined them.)

    Problematic in your contention, for me at least, is your claim that the basis for the popes’ authority is the authorization they received from St. Peter and ultimately from Christ. The contrast you posit fails to materialize because one’s recognition of this authorization depends on agreement with one’s own interpretation of the relevant Scripture.

    Here’s why I don’t agree with that last sentence. A person making this inquiry (i.e. “Where is the Church? Who has ecclesial authority?”) can take the question of how to interpret Matt 16, and set that aside temporarily. Then, he can examine the writings of the Church Fathers, and see how they understood the role of Peter and his successors, and then, after concluding that the early Church believed and taught the primacy of Peter by Christ’s appointment and the indefectibility of his office, and concluding on that basis that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded, he could conclude that Matthew 16 should be understood as the Catholic Church understands it. In my experience, Protestants tend to approach the Fathers by first reading Scripture, and using their own interpretation of Scripture to evaluate and critique the Fathers. And so Protestants tend not to imagine any other way of approaching Scripture. But another way of approaching Scripture is through the Fathers, per Fr. Kimel’s third law. And that’s why recognition of the pope’s authority does not depend on agreement with one’s own interpretation of the relevant Scripture.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  146. rfwhite said,

    March 27, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    142 Jason J. Stellman: I appreciate your question, but my response is unremarkable: it is a confessional Protestant answer like Dean B’s in 143, not in spite of Bryan’s analysis and discussion but precisely because I find help in it. Because of other commitments, I’ll hope to return to this discussion later.

  147. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 27, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    Jason (#142):

    Our simply saying, “You, too” doesn’t really address his contention that the WCF has no meaningful authority for us since, at the end of the day, we affirm and submit to it because it is the closest option conforming to our own interpretation of the Bible.

    This isn’t in fact a problem. At the end of the day, we are normatively obligated to believe the Scripture. It follows therefore that we should join ourselves to the group who best represents Scriptural teaching.

    Having joined such a group, the authority will now involve a fair amount of give-and-take. On the “give” end an elder now helps by voting in church courts, to determine questions of orthodoxy. We either trust that God assists us to this end, or we don’t; and if not, we should resign the office.

    On the “take” end, the collective authority of the church now shapes and challenges — not in the manner that a heretic challenges, but in the manner that a father challenges — our assumptions about what Scripture means.

    Bryan wants something more, a guarantee that our interpretations are correct. I believe this is called “overrealized eschatology.”

  148. Reed Here said,

    March 27, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    FWIW, feel free to keep engaging the subject guys.

  149. Bryan Cross said,

    March 27, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Jeff, (re: #144)

    To my mind, the defeater to your argument is that Scripture itself has sacramental magisterial authority.

    This term ‘sacramental magisterial authority’ is by definition something that, if it exists, is possessed by persons. It is a teaching authority possessed by living persons and obtained by divine authorization through a succession of authorizations from the Apostles and thus ultimately from the incarnate Christ. So Scripture cannot have this kind of authority, because Scripture is not a person. (And it doesn’t follow that if a person has divinely authorized teaching authority, then Scripture must have no authority.)

    To place the kind of authority that Rome claims in a person is to remove the authority of Scripture, to obscure it by forcing it to speak through a translator, the living sacramental magisterial authority.

    That’s like saying that when Moses taught the people the authoritative interpretation and explanation of what God had said, Moses only obscured it. Or when Ezra and the teachers taught the people from the Law (in Neh 8) they only obscured it. Or when the Apostles provided the early Christians with the authoritative interpretation and explanation of what Christ had said, they only obscured it.

    Surely your pastor’s job description doesn’t include obscuring Scripture every Sunday morning for about 30-40 minutes. So why is it not obscuring Scripture when a person lacking sacramental magisterial authority teaches you every Sunday morning, but would necessarily be obscuring Scripture if someone having sacramental magisterial authority were to teach the Scripture to you? That seems entirely ad hoc to me.

    What I have argued elsewhere is that underneath the appearance of derived authority, it’s solo scriptura all the way down.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  150. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 27, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    This term ’sacramental magisterial authority’ is by definition something that, if it exists, is possessed by persons.

    It may be that you or others have defined the term in this way. But the fact remains that Scripture has authority and is the means that the Spirit uses to convict men. This is the teaching of Scripture itself, and the teaching of the early church as well.

    So whether you wish to call it “sacramental magisterial authority” or not, the authority of Scripture functions in the manner of sacraments, and is magisterial.

    Surely your pastor’s job description doesn’t include obscuring Scripture every Sunday morning for about 30-40 minutes. So why is it not obscuring Scripture when a person lacking sacramental magisterial authority teaches you every Sunday morning, but would necessarily be obscuring Scripture if someone having sacramental magisterial authority were to teach the Scripture to you? That seems entirely ad hoc to me.

    You’ve conflated explication of meaning with authority, the right to be believed.

    The pastor who explicates is making the meaning clear. The pastor who says, “This passage means X because I’m the authority and I say so” is clouding the authority of Scripture.

  151. Ron Henzel said,

    March 27, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Bryan,

    When I asked in comment 131, “On what basis do you conclude that the sacramental magisterial authority of Rome is greater than that of the Eastern patriarchs?” I knew that you had no choice but to deny Peter’s primus inter pares status and assert his absolute primacy, since both the Catholic and Orthodox churches concede that apostolic succession is a property shared equally between them. Ultimately, then, this is not about the magisterium; it’s all about the pope.

    I also knew that you would then have to justify this denial and assertion, and that you would have to appeal to some sort of evidence which would finally give us something objective to discuss. But the evidence you present in your “What did the Church fathers think about the primacy of Peter?” is singularly unimpressive, not only because it depends almost entirely on Western churchmen and includes many statements that do not go beyond an affirmation of primus inter pares, but because it overlooks key statements by Cyprian, Jerome, Augustine, Ambrose, and Gregory of Nyssa, that Francis Turretin (1623–1687) put on the table long ago (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 18.17.8, [Phillipsburg, NJ, USA: P&R Publishing, 1997], 3:161-162.

    But far more crucial than the words of various Fathers to this issue are the decisions of the ecumenical councils of the first eight centuries.

    The second œcumenical Council (381), in the third canon, put the Patriarch of Constantinople on a par with the Bishop of Rome, assigning to the latter only a primacy of honor; and the fourth œcumenical Council (451) confirmed this canon in spite of the energetic protest of Pope Leo I.

    But more than this: the sixth œcumenical Council, held 680, pronounced the anathema on Honorius, ‘the former Pope of old Rome,’ for teaching officially the Monothelite heresy; and this anathema was signed by all the members of the Council, including three delegates of the Pope, and was several times repeated by the seventh and eighth Councils, which were presided over by Papal delegates.

    [Philip Schaff and David S. Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, 6th ed., (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Baker Book House, reprinted 1985), 1:173-174.]

    If you’re wondering which canon from the 451 Council of Chalcedon the Schaffs were referring to, Herman Bavinck informs us:

    The Council of Chalcedon (451), canon 28, acknowledged the priority (τα πρεσβεια) of the older Rome because it was the imperial city (“because that city was imperial”) but assigned equal priority (τα ἰσα πρεσβεια, ta isa presbeia) to “the most holy See of New Rome.” Despite the protests of Rome, Constantinople maintained its rights. The papal power of the bishop of Rome was based in large part on the political prestige of the city; Constantinople, as the second Rome, could therefore assert the same claims. The bishop of Rome, accordingly, has never been the shepherd of all Christendom.

    [Reformed Dogmatics, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Baker Academic, 2008), 4:354.]

    Meanwhile, the Schaffs go on after the above quote to add much evidence from the Fathers to that supplied by Turretin, which makes highly worthwhile reading (ibid., 174-176). They cap it off with the following:

    As to the Greek Fathers, it would be useless to quote from them, for the entire Greek Church in her genuine testimonies has never accepted the doctrine of Papal supremacy, much less of Papal Infallibility.

    [Ibid., 176.]

    Apparently, then, differences of interpretation over the succession of Peter and the role of the Pope go all the way back in church history, and you have simply chosen to give one side of the issue “authority” based on the fact that it agrees with your interpretation.

  152. Dean B said,

    March 27, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Bryan

    “In my experience, Protestants tend to approach the Fathers by first reading Scripture, and using their own interpretation of Scripture to evaluate and critique the Fathers. And so Protestants tend not to imagine any other way of approaching Scripture.”

    I believe this is why your line of reasoning with respect to sacramental magisterial authority would be very convincing to those predisposed to the RC lens, but it is not convincing to a Protestant. BTW I am happy to read this is observable to you.

    “What I have argued elsewhere is that underneath the appearance of derived authority, it’s solo scriptura all the way down.”

    When the early church fathers resolved a doctrinal issue for the first time then weren’t the pope, cardinals, and bishops guilty of solo scriptura?

    Obviously, the Bible teaches that elder, church, and church history have authority, but isn’t the question really do these God ordained means have ultimate authority on par with Scripture?

    I think your criticism is valid for certain elements of Protestantism, but for those who actually take the confessions and church history seriously this is not accurate.

    Carl Trueman: “Of course, Protestantism has always had the potential of providing fertile soil for a theology and a church culture which disparages tradition. The notion of scriptural authority as articulated by the reformers and by subsequent Reformed and Lutheran thinkers inevitably subordinated church tradition to the Bible. It created a situation where tradition could, where necessary, be abandoned. They regarded the Bible as the sole source of revelation and that inevitably meant Protestants were far more critical and selective in their approach to the church’s dogmatic tradition than was typically the case in medieval Catholicism. Nevertheless the Reformers and the subsequent tradition never intended this notion of scriptural authority to act as the means for a wholesale rejection of the church’s theological traditions in themselves; the saw it simply as a critical tool by which those traditions could be continuously critiqued and reformed.” Wages of Spin pg 23

  153. rfwhite said,

    March 27, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    145 Bryan: Can you tell us why an inquirer would see a difference between approaching Scripture through the Fathers and approaching Scripture through (say) the Westminster Assembly unless and until he has already recognized that the Fathers’ authorization differs from the authorization of others? Why would it be meaningful for the question of ecclesial authority for an inquirer to recognize the Fathers’ authorization without agreeing with one’s own interpretation of the Church, ecclesial authority, Peter, and his successors as they are found in Scripture?

  154. David Gadbois said,

    March 27, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Bryan said I’m not claiming anything about whether the WCF is “unworkable or inadequate.” I’m only claiming that it has no authority. Scripture alone does not “establish” the WCF, just as Scripture alone does not establish the Baptist Confession or the Book of Concord. Persons have to read Scripture, interpret it, and judge that its meaning is the same set of doctrines expressed in the WCF. So the WCF represents one set of persons’ way of interpreting Scripture. But those persons have no authority over all other Christians. For that reason their opinion about how the Bible should be interpreted is not authoritative

    But that is to confuse moral authority with institutional authority. All of God’s revelation carries moral authority, including the “good and necessary” consequences and applications (of which confessions are merely a summary). Whether or not certain persons or institutions have a valid claim to demand submission of other Christians is a separate issue, and is not required in order for moral authority to exist and be binding on Christians.

  155. Bryan Cross said,

    March 27, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    Ron,

    Chapman and Soloviev address the 28th canon in detail. A good article on it, in my opinion, is Westall’s “The Fathers Gave Rome the Primacy“. The twenty-eighth canon of Chalcedon was never ratified, and was in fact nullified by Pope Leo. Pope Leo ratified the rest of the council, but not that canon. And because he didn’t ratify it, the rest of the Church (east and west) recognized that it had not been established. Mark Bonocore has a helpful summary here.

    The Council wrote a letter to Pope Leo asking for their decisions to be ratified (knowing that without his ratification, their decisions had no authority). In that letter, in which they acknowledged Pope Leo’s authority from St. Peter, they write:

    As we have left the decision to the head (kephale, caput), let the head (koryphe, summitas) do its part to the children … In order that you may know that we have done nothing for the sake of favouritism or enmity, but by divine guidance, we have, in proof of our sincerity, left the entire force of our acts to you for your confirmation and acceptance” (”ut autem sciatis quia nihil gratiae causa aut offensionis effecimus, sed nutu divino gubernati, omnem vobis gestorum vim insinuavimus, ad comprobationem nostrae sinceritatis, et ad eorum quae a nobis gesta sunt firmitatem et consonantiam”).

    Pope Leo ratified the rest of the council’s decisions, but nullified the 28th canon, writing:

    “Those things agreed on by the bishops contrary to the rules of the holy canons drawn up at Nicaea, in union with the piety of your faith, we do annul, and by the authority of the Blessed Apostle Peter do, by a general definition, make utterly void” – “Consensiones vero episcoporum sanctorum Canonum apud Nicaeam conditorum repungnantes, unita nobiscum vestrae fidei pietate, in irritum mittimus, et, per auctoritatem Beati Petri Apostoli, generali prorsus definitione cassimus.”

    And when Pope Leo refused to ratify canon 28, Anatolius (bishop of Constantinople), submitted to the Pope’s decision, writing:

    in order that, by obeying you, I might fulfil those things which have seemed good to your mind. For be it far from me to oppose whatsoever was commanded me in those letters. … that the whole force and confirmation of what was done had been reserved for the authority of His Holiness. (”gestorum vis omnis et confirmatio auctoritati vestrae beatitudinis reservata”).

    The whole point of trying to make Constantinople equal to Rome wouldn’t make sense, nor would asking Rome’s approval to do so, if Rome wasn’t already recognized as having the primacy. In addition, as Soloviev explains, what motivated the 28th canon was jealously and envy of Rome’s authority, just as the Apostles had quarreled among themselves about who would be greatest, even after Christ had promised to give the keys to Peter.

    As for the Honorius situation, nothing about that is incompatible with what I said.

    Typing out all the early evidence for the authority of the Apostolic See here would be too much. The books I listed earlier (in #135) lay out the evidence very clearly.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  156. Bryan Cross said,

    March 27, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    Dean (re: #152),

    When the early church fathers resolved a doctrinal issue for the first time then weren’t the pope, cardinals, and bishops guilty of solo scriptura?

    No, from the Catholic point of view, these early bishops possessed sacramental magisterial authority, and recognized themselves as having this sort of authority. Solo scriptura is the position in which Scripture alone has authority. So, solo scriptura is incompatible with sacramental magisterial authority.

    Obviously, the Bible teaches that elder, church, and church history have authority, but isn’t the question really do these God ordained means have ultimate authority on par with Scripture?

    No. But that’s the constant straw man. It is like saying that if the Apostles were authorized to give the definitive explanation and interpretation of what Christ taught, then that would make the Apostles equal in authority to Christ. Obviously the Apostles, being mere creatures, are not God, while Christ is God. So, Christ has greater authority than the Apostles, even though the Apostles were authorized to give the definitive explanation and interpretation of what Christ taught. Therefore, the existence of sacramental magisterial authority does not entail that this sacramental magisterial authority is equal in authority to Christ or to Scripture. It does entail that the interpretation of Scripture taught by this sacramental magisterial authority is authoritative in relation to the interpretation of Scripture by those who do not have this authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  157. Bryan Cross said,

    March 28, 2010 at 1:08 am

    rfwhite (re: #153),

    Can you tell us why an inquirer would see a difference between approaching Scripture through the Fathers and approaching Scripture through (say) the Westminster Assembly unless and until he has already recognized that the Fathers’ authorization differs from the authorization of others?

    I don’t think an inquirer would see a significant difference between approaching Scripture through the Fathers and approaching Scripture through (say) the Westminster Assembly, unless and until he has already recognized that the Father’s authorization differs from that of the Westminster Assembly.

    Why would it be meaningful for the question of ecclesial authority for an inquirer to recognize the Fathers’ authorization without agreeing with one’s own interpretation of the Church, ecclesial authority, Peter, and his successors as they are found in Scripture?

    I’m not sure how to answer a question about the meaningfulness of a recognition, because I don’t know what it means for a recognition to be meaningful or meaningless. I think you mean something like this: For what other reason would the inquirer recognize the Church Fathers’ authority over that of the Westminster Assembly, except that the inquirer agreed with the Fathers’ interpretation of Scripture, and didn’t agree with the Westminster Assembly’s interpretation of Scripture?

    Here’s how I would answer that question. First, the Fathers have a historical proximity to the Apostles that gives them greater testimonial authority to the message and tradition of the Apostles. That’s a standard principle of historical research. (Our inquirer wouldn’t presuppose ecclesial deism.) Then, our inquirer would find that the Fathers teach the need to obey those having the succession, and hold in suspicion those who do not. For example, here’s St. Irenaeus:

    Wherefore it is necessary to obey the presbyters who are in the Church—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also necessary] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV.26)

    And here’s Tertullian:

    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. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit (their several worthies), whom, as having been appointed to their episcopal places by apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed. Let the heretics contrive something of the same kind. (The Prescription Against Heretics, 32)

    So, then, upon learning that the Fathers had this succession and enjoined it, and upon learning that the members of the Westminster Assembly did not have the succession, the inquirer would see the Fathers as authoritative regarding how to interpret Scripture rightly, and see the Westminster Assembly as not authoritative regarding how to interpret Scripture rightly. So in this way, the determination that the Fathers are more authoritative than the Westminster Assembly would not be based on the Fathers’ agreement with the inquirer’s own interpretation of Scripture.

    Blessed Palm Sunday!

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  158. curate said,

    March 28, 2010 at 7:30 am

    The Pope can kiss my ring.

  159. David Gray said,

    March 28, 2010 at 7:32 am

    >The Pope can kiss my ring.

    Careful, Pastor White’s next post on this site will announce you are a Jesuit agent.

  160. March 28, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Beware. I just learned from the WordPress forum that there’s no way to unsubscribe from a thread after requesting email updates.

    Since this thread no longer has any remote relationship to the post above, could the 2 or 3 remaining folks take the discussion elsewhere? I’m sure that many like myself subscribed to the thread with the understanding that it would remain on Leithart, FV and the PCA. Although as a moderator, I could fix this myself by closing the thread, but that may squelch future discussion on the relevant topic. Instead, I politely ask the participants to start their own discussion thread somewhere else if you want to continue the unrelated discussion.

    Thank you for your consideration.

  161. rfwhite said,

    March 28, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    160 reformedmusings (Bob): though I respectfully disagree that this thread no longer has any remote relationship to the post above, and though in 148 Reed, the lead post’s author, encouraged us to continue, I, for my part, am happy to stop ‘pulling on this thread,’ as the exchange has run its course.

  162. March 28, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    Dr. White,

    If people wish to continue, I will create a new post for you. That would be no problem at all. I don’t think Reed realized that there’s no way for the rest of us to opt out of the thread subscription. I didn’t even know that until I researched it. I’ll be much more careful about subscribing to email on comment threads in the future.

  163. Ron Henzel said,

    March 28, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    I realize there’s been some discussion about the relevance of this thread to the above post, but I hope no one will mind if I sneak in a reply to Bryan’s comment 155 which was addressed to me.

    Bryan,

    You wrote:

    Chapman and Soloviev address the 28th canon in detail. A good article on it, in my opinion, is Westall’s “The Fathers Gave Rome the Primacy”. The twenty-eighth canon of Chalcedon was never ratified, and was in fact nullified by Pope Leo. Pope Leo ratified the rest of the council, but not that canon. And because he didn’t ratify it, the rest of the Church (east and west) recognized that it had not been established.

    It is simply not true to say that “the rest of the Church (east and west) recognized that it had not been established.” Quite the opposite is the case:

    The issue of canon 28 would be a constant friction in East-West church relations afterwards, until the Great Schism of the eleventh century made it, practically speaking, irrelevant. It continues to have controversial status as to its exact sense of application in contemporary church law, not merely with regard to ecumenical relations between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, but also internally (especially in a lively tension between the patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow) as to the extent of canon 28’s applicability in terms of executive ‘superintendance.’

    [John Anthony McGuckin, The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to its History, (Malden, MA, USA and Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing, 2008), 32.]

    Bonocore’s summary is filled with sins of omission, particularly with respect to how the crisis over the ratification of canon 28 unfolded and how it was viewed in the East in the decades and centuries following Chalcedon. As for canon 28 being “nullified” by Leo:

    Leo refused to approve this canon, which remained in force in the East and was renewed at the Qunisext Council A.D. 692.

    [Joseph Cullen Ayer, A Source Book for Ancient Church History, (New York, NY, USA: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), 512.]

    Canon 28 was also reasserted in the 9th century by Photius I of Constantinople in his dispute with Pope Nicholas I.

    As for the quotations you supply from correspondence during the period when the Eastern patriarchs were attempting to secure Leo’s approval, they are easy to slant in Rome’s direction when the historical context is omitted. One of the main purposes of canon 28 was to halt the meddling of the see of Alexandria in the affairs of Constantinople—something which Rome was apparently impotent to do. Thus Harnack wrote:

    We gather from Marcian’s epistle to Leo (ep. 100) that the Emperor considered that Canon as the most important ordinance of the Council together with the doctrinal decision.

    [Adolph Harnack, History of Dogma, Vol. 4, Neil Buchanan, trans., (Boston, MA, USA: Little, Brown, and Company, 1907), 4:225.]

    During the midst of the crisis over the ratification of Chalcedon, Leo I actually tried to gain political leverage by making overtures to the see of Alexandria while denouncing Anatolius, thus turning up the heat on the latter who still had the church’s and Marcian’s concerns over the Monophysites to consider. Anatolius’s correspondence with Leo must be read in that light; he surely was not expressing sentiments shared by the majority of Eastern bishops. The pressure was on, Leo was dragging his feet, the Monophysites were spreading rumors that pope may be switching to their side, and the emperor finally had enough.

    [Leo] only succeeded in getting a stiff, formal condemnation of Canon 28 from Anatolius (JK 509); on the doctrinal level, it wasn’t until March 453, at the insistence of Emperor Marcian, that the pope decided to approve the work of the council of Chalcedon (JK 490).

    [Philippe Levillain, ed., The Papacy: An Encyclopedia, (New York, NY, USA and London, UK: Routledge, 2002), 2:917.]

    As for your argument here:

    The whole point of trying to make Constantinople equal to Rome wouldn’t make sense, nor would asking Rome’s approval to do so, if Rome wasn’t already recognized as having the primacy.

    Actually, seeking Rome’s approval made perfect sense, especially to Emperor Marcian who was seeking unity against the Monophysites. In this highly politicized context he needed the cooperation of every bishop.

    You wrote:

    In addition, as Soloviev explains, what motivated the 28th canon was jealously and envy of Rome’s authority, just as the Apostles had quarreled among themselves about who would be greatest, even after Christ had promised to give the keys to Peter.

    This simply repeats the propaganda that Leo himself used in his struggle against canon 28.

    You wrote:

    As for the Honorius situation, nothing about that is incompatible with what I said.

    Of course it seems that way from your perspective, since Rome has been forced to acknowledge over the centuries that popes are capable of heresy, as long as they’re not speaking ex cathedra. But that doesn’t deal with the matter from the Orthodox perspective, since they do not accept the premises on which the whole ex cathedra structure is built, and Honorius was even a problem during discussions in 1870 over papal infallibility, since Catholic theologians such as Karl Josef von Hefele (1809-1893) believed that Honorius had spoken ex cathedra in some of his heretical statements.

    Typing out all the early evidence for the authority of the Apostolic See here would be too much. The books I listed earlier (in #135) lay out the evidence very clearly.

    As would the evidence against it take too long for me to enter into a blog combox. Suffice it to say with regard to Chalcedon canon 28 that “Leo repudiated this Canon, but the east has ever since recognized its validity” (Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, [New York, NY, USA and London, UK: Penguin Books, revised 1993], 26).


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