Determining the Doctrine of the Church

One of the more disturbing trends I’ve seen recently is that people are more and more defining the church’s doctrine by what individuals within that church say or said.

Francis Turretin has a brilliant answer to this methodology. He is referring in this context to various accusations against the Reformed position on providence and the question of evil. The accusers were saying that the Reformed position makes God the author of sin. He says this about the accusers:

Hence they are accustomed to drawing nothing from public standards to prove their calumnies, but only from the writings of private divines from which they falsely weave consequences. (paragraph break, LK) Concerning the public and received opinion of any church, a judgment cannot and ought not to be formed from the writings of private persons…because we do not stand or fall with the judgment of each private divine, however illustrious (volume 1 of Institutes of Elenctic Theology, p. 529).

This gets at the difference so often noted by Scott Clark that confessions of the church differ from systematic theology. They are not the same genre, nor do they carry the same weight. Confessions of the church carry much more weight than an individual person’s opinion, even if they are not on the same level as Scripture.

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714 Comments

  1. Bryan Cross said,

    April 29, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Lane,

    Confessions of the church carry much more weight than an individual person’s opinion

    Except if you disagree with them (e.g. Trent). Then you can pull together a group of persons who share your own interpretation of Scripture, and come up with a “standard” that has some ‘authority’ to which other persons should defer instead of appealing to their own interpretations.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  2. greenbaggins said,

    April 29, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Yes, that happens when the church to whom those people belonged kicked out the ones with the interpretation of Scripture that differed from theirs. Trent itself was formed in reaction to the Reformers’ interpretation of Scripture. The Reformers’ interpretation of Scripture had not been condemned officially before Trent.

  3. Reed Here said,

    April 29, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Bryan: this is nothing more than a function of the Scriptures having supreme authority and confessions relative authority (as per their agreement with Scripture).

    Your critique does not deal with the merit of Turretin’s (Lane’s) point.

  4. Bryan Cross said,

    April 29, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Lane,

    I don’t disagree with your comment (#2). I’m simply pointing out the ad hoc nature of Turretin’s position. His rejection of the Council of Trent (and of the prior ecumenical councils back to the sixth century) entails that a confessional document is only ‘authoritative’ if you agree with it. That’s why it is inconsistent for a follower of Turretin to speak of creeds and confessions as though they have some kind of greater authority than that of a private individual. If you can pick and choose from among creeds and councils, or pick and choose what to accept and reject within a creed or confession, then you are the authority, and the notion of their being authoritative is only a self-deceiving charade.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  5. April 29, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I’ll just throw this out there, and you all can shoot it down if you like:

    Why not just concede Bryan’s point? I have gone round and round with him for almost two years, and I have not been able to convince him that there is a principled difference between myself and an evangelical when it comes to ecclesiastical authority, which is why my response to him is simply, tu quoque (“You do it, too!”).

    So what happens if we just say, “You know what? You’re right, I do choose my church based upon its agreement with my interpretation of Scripture, so what? That doesn’t make my approach less valid than yours, just less heavy-handed.”

  6. jeffhutchinson said,

    April 29, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    That is just what I was thinking, Jason. I am happy to say that I chose my church based upon its agreement with my interpretation of Scripture. You make a great point.

    I came to Christ as a freshman at Duke University back in the day, and, having grown up in the Episcopal Church (my great-grandfather was the Presiding Bishop when the 1928 Book of Common Prayer was adopted), went back and studied through the 39 Articles and Book of Common Prayer, decided that I needed to “re-confirm” my faith (a provision allowed for) because I hadn’t meant it when I was 13, and was basically belittled by our Priest and by the Bishop.

    So then I spent every morning and afternoon the next summer, riding the Metro to my internship on Capitol Hill, reading an old dusty copy of the Westminster Standards that I found in the church library while I stood holding onto the center pole (I could never find a seat). And as I read lights were going off, “This is what I believe! This is what the Scriptures that I have been reading voraciously for two years now, indeed teach! This helps me better understand the Scriptures!” So I went and found a church, Fourth Presbyterian, and asked the pastor, Rob Norris, if they believed the Westminster Standards. He said that I was one of the only ones he could remember who was asking to join the church because I had read the Standards. And the rest is history.

  7. April 29, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Great story, Jeff!

    Bryan will certainly point out that his conversion to Catholicism is NOT the same as yours or mine to Presbyterianism because of the issue of apostolic succession. But as I have retorted to him before, the process leading up to his conversion is nearly identical to ours. So just because he surrendered his interpretive authority once he swam the Tiber doesn’t mean that he wasn’t using it right up to the point where he dove in.

  8. stuart said,

    April 29, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Lane,

    Not that I disagree with the substance of what you’re saying, but I got a laugh out of the fact that you support your point about people “defining the church’s doctrine by what individuals within that church say or said” by quoting an individual’s work. =-)

  9. Ron Henzel said,

    April 29, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Question: What did God say?

    Reformed Answer: God said what the Bible says.

    Roman Catholic Answer: God said what Rome says.

  10. April 29, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    But Ron, you’re surely being overly-simplistic for effect, right? I mean, every Christian I have ever met has claimed to believe “what the Bible says,” but we all accuse each other of not really “believing the Bible” at all, but believing what their churches SAY the Bible says.

    In other words, when I was in Calvary Chapel I thought that I believed the Bible and that Calvinists believed Calvin. Now, I am a Calvinist who thinks that I believe the Bible, and that Calvary people believe Chuck Smith.

  11. greenbaggins said,

    April 29, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Stuart, I thought about that, but in this post I am not seeking to define what the church says about defining the church’s doctrine. So, I think I escaped that one! lol

  12. Reed Here said,

    April 29, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Bryan: I know you’ve interacted here about this before, but you keep refusing to acknowledge that the fundamental difference betwen us is how God expresses his authority. We both agree that He does.

    You challenge us with the accusation that we make ourselves authoritative. Your response to correct this error is to observe the RCC position, to wit that God exercises His authority through the declarations of Rome. (I know your argument is more nuanced than this, but that is what it boils down to).

    Yet you’ve got our position wrong, and you seem unwilling to acknowledge it:

    > God objectively speaks with authority in His word (R. Henzel’s point), and
    > He subjectively confirms that authority in the hearts of His people.

    Our confessions are not authoritative as you define it. Instead they are a recognition of the authority revealed in the Bible.

    In the end your’s is a futile and sinful endeavor, a man-centered (objectifiable) source of authority is not what God gives His Church. Instead He gives a God-centered (only subjectively affirmed by faith) source of authority.

    With no disrespect, I think this is one topic on which you waste our time, continually pounding a drum we will not acknowledge. So, let me add my “amen” to Jason and Jeff’s agreement with you, and ask that you stop beating a by now dead and decayed horse.

  13. Phil Derksen said,

    April 29, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    RE #7:

    “So just because he surrendered his interpretive authority once he swam the Tiber doesn’t mean that he wasn’t using it right up to the point where he dove in.”

    Exactly, Jason. Choosing to surrender to the RCC’s claim of possessing ultimate authority because of its links to apostolic succession and church tradition, most often rests on one’s personal interpretation of biblical pasasges like Matt. 16:17-19 and 2 Thes. 2:15, 3:6.

  14. Bryan Cross said,

    April 29, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Reed,

    but you keep refusing to acknowledge that the fundamental difference between us is how God expresses his authority.

    I have never refused to acknowledge that we disagree about how God expresses His authority. I freely acknowledge it.

    You challenge us with the accusation that we make ourselves authoritative.

    No, that’s not what I’ve said. I have argued that if the authority of a creed or confession is based on agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture, then it has no authority. Any group of heretics could make a confession that agreed with their own interpretation of Scripture, and no such confession would be authoritative. So agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture is not sufficient to make a creed or confession authoritative.

    As for whether my position avoids this problem, that’s a separate question. That’s the tu quoque objection that Jason mentions. I think I can I show how my position is not subject to the tu quoque objection. But even if my position doesn’t avoid this problem, that doesn’t refute my argument that if the authority of a creed or confession is based on agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture, then it has no authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  15. Ron Henzel said,

    April 29, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Jason,

    OK, perhaps I was being somewhat simplistic for effect. And no, I wasn’t accusing anyone of “not believing the Bible at all”—at least I wasn’t making such an accusation any more than someone else here may have been accusing historic Protestants of not believing in authority at all.

    ;-)

    As I see it, the whole issue is a functional red herring. As a former Roman Catholic who is now a Reformed Christian I can say two things with absolute certainty:

    1. I have never met a conservative Protestant who agrees with any other Protestant on matters of biblical interpretation 100 percent of the time.

    2. I have never met a conservative Roman Catholic who agrees with any other Roman Catholic on matters of biblical interpretation 100 percent of the time.

    In theory I suppose such exegetical clones may exist in both camps, but there is also frequently-overlooked diversity in the Roman Catholic camp—and this is not due to a liberal influence. Two Roman Catholics can both be in 100 percent compliance with the dogmas of their church and yet have significant disagreements on the interpretation of any number of biblical texts.

    In other words, there is a significant functional overlap between the Protestant and Roman Catholic approaches to Scripture, in the sense that neither leads to complete uniformity in actual exegetical results. The reason for this is that the Roman Catholic magisterium does not tell Catholics how to interpret every verse of Scripture. In theory the magisterium could define every question of biblical interpretation as official Catholic dogma, but it has not and it is highly unlikely that it ever will, if only for practical reasons.

    The net result is that Roman Catholics themselves interpret Scripture for themselves in a variety of different ways, either when reading texts that do not touch upon authoritatively-defined dogma, or so long as they read any text in such a way that does compromise said dogma. They do not have to check with the magisterium first before doing this. There is no single authoritative commentary on every verse of Scripture with which each Roman Catholic exegete must agree. If that were the case, Roman Catholic scholars would have stopped writing commentaries long ago! But since it is not the case, then it automatically follows that Roman Catholics are free to make all kinds of conflicting interpretations of non-essential texts apart from the authority of the Roman Catholic church—and they do!

    You can spin this fact in any number of directions to make it sound as though these mutually-contradictory interpretations are still somehow “under” the authority of the Church, but the fact remains that Roman Catholic biblical interpreters have spoken and continue to make pronouncements about God’s word where their church has not, sometimes with passionate disagreement.

    So as I see it the real issue is not who has the authority to interpret Scripture—because Roman Catholics outside the magisterium interpret Scripture for themselves all the time—but rather who has the authority to define dogma. If a Roman Catholic (or anyone else) objects that these are simply two different ways of saying the same thing, I’ll have to point out that nothing could be further from the truth due to the very nature of Roman Catholic theology, since not only has Rome defined dogmas (such as papal infallibility) that are found nowhere in Scripture, but they also lay claim to an extra-biblical source of revelation in oral tradition, the supposed existence of which is not only part of their dogma, but also serves as part of the basis for other dogmas. So while, for Protestants, defining dogma is simply an extension of biblical interpretation, for Roman Catholics it is a very different animal—a cross between interpreting Scripture, interpreting “oral revelation” (since that’s exactly what it is in Roman Catholicism), and applying magisterial (read: papal) authority.

    In the meantime, when Roman Catholics interpret Scripture, the process looks remarkably like the way Protestants interpret Scripture until that process intersects with Roman Catholic dogma, at which point the former is expected to bow to the latter. So the dogma is the real issue, rather than the process of interpretation. The whole “authority to interpret” thing is just a smokescreen, in my opinion.

  16. Reed Here said,

    April 29, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Byran, no. 14: but our position IS NOT that a creed’s (confession’s) authority rests on personal interpretation. It rests on it’s consistency with the Bible.

    Thus, creeds (confessions) only have a relative authority, and one not based on personal interpretation. You are quite wrong to keep observing to the contrary.

    Your authority, however, does rest absolutely on the opinion of man, in this case the tradition of Rome. Thus, the real situation is this:

    Us: Bible – absolute authority; creeds (confessions) – relative authority, dependent on the Bible.

    You: RCC – absolute authority; Bible – relative authority, dependent on Rome.

  17. April 29, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    … our position IS NOT that a creed’s (confession’s) authority rests on personal interpretation. It rests on it’s consistency with the Bible.

    But Reed, Bryan’s response will be: “Oh, so your position is that a confession’s authority rests in its consistency with the Bible? Then why don’t you visit the LCMS’s next synod meeting and explain to them that the Westminster Standards exist, so that they can submit to them (since, after all, they conform most closely with the Bible)?”

    The answer, of course, is that the LCMS doesn’t think that our Standards are as biblical as theirs.

    So the issue is not a particular confession’s biblical-ness (since who sets out to write unbiblical confessions?), but its proximity to a person’s (or group’s) interpretation of the Bible.

    That’s why, in my mind, it’s best to just concede the point. Yes, I am in the PCA because I think the Westminster Standards most closely conform to my interpretation of the Bible. Are they authoritative? Well, yes, but only because I vowed to uphold and defend them.

    Trust me, as someone who has dialogued with Bryan extensively for a couple years, we’ll never get around this impasse.

  18. Reed Here said,

    April 29, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Jason: it’s more than that. Bryan’s challenge to us is a none issue in the first place. He has nothing better to offer – on his own terms. I’m not interested in plahying his games. That’s why I agreed to join you in saying to him, “Yep, ya got me. So what.”

  19. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 29, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Bryan,

    I’ve had a lot of interaction with you also on this question. Fundamentally, I remain unpersuaded

    (1) That “interpretive authorities” can be placed in a neat hierarchy with exactly one on top. In my observations of authority, it appears that we give different weights to different authorities, and in different contexts.

    (2) That you have properly distinguished between “interpretive authority” and “the interpretive problem.” You conflate granting authority to this or that individual or institution WITH simply reading a text. For you, all textual analysis depends on interpretive authorities.

    But in my understanding at least, texts are not so fluid that the interpretive authority can completely determine their meaning. Texts have meanings; else communication is pointless. And if that is so, then determining the meaning of a text is only partially, if at all, dependent on interpretive authority.

    Once the interpretive problem is properly distinguished from interpretive authorities, I think Jason’s point becomes much clearer: you, also, continue in the RCC because you as an individual continue to believe that the RCC is the proper authority. But that’s a function of the interpretive problem, not of individualism.

    (3) that your famous proof that “Either individualism is true or there is a visible human ecclesial authority higher in ecclesial authority than that of each individual” is sound. You may recall that when we differed as to its soundness I asked you to put it in clear symbolic logic so that it could be checked mathematically. But you never did so.

    So I don’t know how to read that, except that I remain unconvinced; unlike Jason, I’m not willing to concede the point.

    Jeff

  20. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 29, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Lane, this post got me thinking about my own theological practices. Generally speaking, I find myself reaching for Calvin, or Hodge, or other reliable theologians when there’s a doubt over proper Scriptural and Confessional teaching.

    Calvin in particular is interesting because the Confession is so obviously influenced by him, in some cases using his language exactly.

    Would you say that it is proper or improper to use Calvin to help clarify the meaning of the Confession?

  21. Paige Britton said,

    April 30, 2010 at 6:20 am

    Two cents from me:

    In observing this recurring dialogue this year, I’ve noticed that it’s always the metaphysical difference between Catholicism and Protestantism that is at the root of the divide: Did God set up the world so that there is an infallible interpreter available, or did he not? And if not, how should we go about the task of interpreting?

    Bryan’s point (which he has written of in the past) that “solo Scriptura” and “sola Scriptura” are essentially the same position does not bother me: yep, we are both operating without an infallible magisterium.

    But how we operate within Protestantism regarding interpreting the Scriptures does make a difference. While we all acknowledge the necessity of the Spirit’s illumination for us to believe God’s Word at all, yet for our part there are things we can prayerfully and humbly do to proceed with the task responsibly — and not all Protestants bother to do these things.

    If the world is not set up as the Catholics would have it, then I have to say that we have to THINK, and that it is not wrong to appeal to and be trained by the works of believers who have exercised intellectual virtue in times past. The Lord knows such sharp thinkers are pretty rare nowadays. We can expect their (and our) interpretations to differ at times: but we can also keep in mind that some interps are more worthy than others, and learn to weigh and compare them with the text of Scripture. And sometimes we’ll just have to declare a draw, maybe till the eschaton.

    In appealing to the Bible as our highest authority, then, we also have to acknowledge that we need humble hearts, clear minds, and strong teachers, if the world is set up as we think it is.

    (Catholics use their brains, too, of course; Bryan is way smarter than I am. But my point is that if we accept the metaphysical & epistemological situation of Protestantism, we must of necessity value and seek out intellectually virtuous interpretations and interpreters, and not rely on gut feelings, uninformed guesses, persuasive speakers, etc.)

    (Okay, that was more like five cents.)

    pb

  22. greenbaggins said,

    April 30, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Jeff, here’s my two cents on the topic. It really depends on what you’re trying to do.

    If you are seeking to establish what the church believes, you have to go to the standards primarily. You can’t say “Calvin said this, and therefore that’s what the Reformed church teaches.” And you can’t say “Rahner said this, and therefore that’s what the Roman Catholic Church teaches.”

    If, however, you’re simply seeking to do systematic theology, any writer is fair game. Here, we are seeking to establish what Scripture says on a particular topic, and it is wise in this regard to harvest all the wisdom of those who have gone before us.

    So, it depends on your goal, I would say. Can you use individual writers to explain the Standards? I think this can be a very dangerous practice. I would rather see the Standards explained by other Standards. We have plenty of them now, thanks to James Dennison. This is not to say that explaining the Standards by means of individual authors is impossible, or that there is no connection. I would not want to say that. However, we need to remember that the systematic theology of individual writers is simply not the same genre as a confession. Hope this helps, Jeff.

  23. rfwhite said,

    April 30, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Lane: Why do the confessions of the church carry much more weight than an individual person’s opinion?

    19 Jeff: I am especially interested in the following three sentences of yours: “But in my understanding at least, texts are not so fluid that the interpretive authority can completely determine their meaning. Texts have meanings; else communication is pointless. And if that is so, then determining the meaning of a text is only partially, if at all, dependent on interpretive authority.”

    When we say that a text (Scripture) has a meaning that is determinable, would you agree that we also want to say that God intends to make that meaning accessible to His people? If God intends to make that meaning accessible to His people, how has He made that meaning accessible? In other words, what provisions has God made for His people to gain access to Scripture’s determinate meaning?

  24. greenbaggins said,

    April 30, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Dr. White,

    I would put it this way: the Westminster Standards constitute our agreed-upon way to look at the Bible’s message concerning the central truths of our faith. It is a document of the church, written by the church for the church. When we take a vow to uphold these standards, then, we are elevating it over our own opinion, even if we are not elevating it to the level of Scripture. We would not do this with any one person’s systematic theology. We would not take an oath saying that Calvin was our agreed-upon way of reading Scripture. We would not say that Calvin’s body of literature constitutes the system of doctrine contained in Holy Scripture. Calvin’s Institutes do not thus constitute our confession of faith, whereas the Westminster Standards do. As such, when I come to the Westminster Standards, I am to give it more weight than any one person’s authority. I am not immediately to assume that the Standards are wrong if I find myself disagreeing with it. Instead, I should assume that I am the one wrong, unless my examination of Scripture leads me to another opinion, in which case (if the issue be serious enough) I should leave the denomination.

    The Standards of the church furthermore constitute the symbol of unity in our denomination. This is a place that no individual systematic theology can occupy. If we are agreed around the truth, it is the truth of Scripture as summarized in the Westminster Standards. After all, most other denominations claim to believe the Bible. But we believe that the Westminster Standards are the most faithful exposition of the Bible’s teaching.

  25. Bryan Cross said,

    April 30, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Lane,

    When we take a vow to uphold these standards, then, we are elevating it over our own opinion,

    The problem with this claim is that if your vow to uphold the WCF did not elevate it, but it remained mere opinion to which you were then vowed to uphold, everything would be exactly the same. In other words, there is no reason to think that vowing to uphold opinion x elevates x to something more than mere opinion. A vow to uphold an opinion does not change the opinion into an authority over oneself, just as a vow to take care of a child does not make the child the authority over oneself. That’s because an obligation to x is not the same as subordination to x, and the two shouldn’t be conflated.

    Furthermore, there is no principled difference between vowing to uphold an opinion voiced by a group, and vowing to uphold an opinion voiced by an individual. That’s why there is no principled difference between vowing to uphold the opinion of the Westminster divines, and vowing to uphold the opinion of Calvin. In essence it is the same thing.

    In addition, the Jehovah’s Witness who has vowed to uphold JW standards, and then discovers that those standards are false, is not bound by his vow, because it is thereby rendered null and void. So even though he has taken a vow, he is obligated to those standards (in his own mind) only so long as he thinks they are true. But everyone is obligated to what they think is true. So the JW is really in the same situation as everyone else. By vowing to uphold JW standards, he creates an illusion of having elevated those standards ‘above’ himself. But as soon as he sees that they false, he can (and must) toss them aside. And since “When I submit (only when I agree), the one to whom I submit it me,” the vowed JW has no actual authority over him. Likewise, neither does the person vowed to the WCF.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  26. Dean B said,

    April 30, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Pastor Keister

    BOQ: This gets at the difference so often noted by Scott Clark that confessions of the church differ from systematic theology. They are not the same genre, nor do they carry the same weight. Confessions of the church carry much more weight than an individual person’s opinion, even if they are not on the same level as Scripture. EOQ

    Is it accurate to say a Confession is a group consensus of ST of the individuals? In reality the genre is the same but the weight place on it is different because it is a consensus of a group of individuals rather than just one person.

    Similarly, an elder may express his “mere” opinion to a congregant, but collectively when the entire body express their opinion it must be received with submission. The genre does not change here also but the weight we place on the decision is what matters.

    Or do I misunderstand this point?

    When an elder give his opinion on a subject then all I am getting is one person’s opinion, but if I ask the entire elder body then I am not getting their mere opinion but a collective opinion that I must submit to.

    My problem with this viewpoint is that a

  27. Dean B said,

    April 30, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Please ignore the portion under “or do I misunderstand this point”?

  28. April 30, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Of course, sometimes our confessional documents are written by one or two people, and not by a group.

  29. greenbaggins said,

    April 30, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Well, Dean, I think the vow we take changes things a bit, doesn’t it? This is the church’s confession. That is fundamentally different from systematic theology. The properties of a group are not the same as the properties of the constituencies of that group. And in this case, it definitely makes a difference. Besides, a confession does not follow out every implication of theology, but instead seeks to define what is central.

  30. rfwhite said,

    April 30, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Lane: why do you say that, by vowing to uphold WCF standards, we have elevated those standards ‘above’ ourselves? Why is this not an illusion?

  31. April 30, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Yeah, it sounds a lot like the wife who promises to submit to her husband as long as he agrees with what she thinks anyway.

    Wouldn’t it be better, and more true to how we actually operate, to say that the WS/3FU are the most faithful approximation to our interpretation of Scripture, and that we promise we will uphold and defend those standards as long as we, in good conscience, can do so?

    That sounds a lot more honest than saying that the WS/3FU have actual authority over us, at least to me.

  32. Todd said,

    April 30, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    I agree with Jason. If we are speaking about authority from God, then the Scriptures only give authority to the Scriptures themselves and to the church to declare them with authority (Matt 16). Wouldn’t it be better to say the church has authority to determine orthodoxy, credible professions, discipline, and has agreed to use the Confession as a guide to determine these things? If the Confession itself possessed authority from God, then how could we allow any exceptions at all?

  33. greenbaggins said,

    April 30, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Jason, I couldn’t find fault with the substance of your middle paragraph. Of course not. That is exactly what our vows state. However, I think the case is mis-stated when you say that the standards don’t have actual authority over us. I will answer by way of answering Dr. White.

    Dr. White, I would answer this way: take the case of someone who, having originally taken vows to uphold the Westminster Standards, eventually comes to believe that infants of professing believers should not be baptized. This is clearly contrary to the Standards. If the Standards did not have any authority over us, then why would such a person need to make known to the governing body his change of decision? Of course his vows state that he must do so. But why is he bound to uphold the standards? Have not the PCA and OPC (and other confessionally Presbyterian bodies) voluntarily invested the Westminster Standards with the authority to regulate the doctrine of those respective bodies? Do we not judge doctrinal cases using the Standards? If the Standards were not elevated above private opinion, then we would have no basis for judging doctrinal deviance on the basis of this man-made document. But if the church has invested the standards with authority to judge doctrinal differences (recognizing, of course, that it is a secondary standard, and that all cases of doctrine must be judged ultimately by the Word), then it does have some kind of authority that is superior to an individual person’s opinion.

  34. April 30, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Todd,

    Of course, one could answer that the authority of the confessions is secondary and not primary, and that’s why exceptions are allowed. But in my mind that comes awfully close to saying that secondary authority is no authority at all.

    This is why we’re not Catholics. Say what you will about them, but they are incredibly consistent with their own principles. I mean, if I believed that our NAPARC churches were exclusively and divinely commissioned with God’s authority, I would immediately call for the excommunication of everyone else. I may even wear a pointy hat, too….

  35. April 30, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Lane,

    Have not the PCA and OPC (and other confessionally Presbyterian bodies) voluntarily invested the Westminster Standards with the authority to regulate the doctrine of those respective bodies?

    That’s Bryan’s point, though, namely, that it is we who have invested the WS/3FU with authority, not God.

  36. rfwhite said,

    April 30, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Lane/Jason/Todd: (I hope it’s clear that my questions aren’t meant to be adversarial.) So, if it is not God but we who invest a standard with authority, what difference does it make?

  37. Bryan Cross said,

    April 30, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Lane,

    If the Standards were not elevated above private opinion, then we would have no basis for judging doctrinal deviance on the basis of this man-made document.

    Human opinion remains human opinion, whether it is private or public, held by one person or held by a group of persons. Take a group of persons each having the same theological opinion. They discover that they share this opinion, form a club, and then make adherence to this theological opinion a condition for continued membership in their club. Their opinion has not thereby acquired any divine authority just because this group of persons made adherence to this opinion a condition for club membership. Rather, the club leaders having the [merely human] authority to exclude others from this club (as do leaders of the Elks club, the Rotary club, etc), are exercising their own authority in making adherence to this opinion a necessary condition for club membership.

    Thus the so-called ‘authority’ of the theological opinion is in actually a cover for the governing authority of the club leaders, masking the actual locus of authority. That would be ok if the club leaders were divinely authorized to determine which theological opinions are orthodox and which are not. But, if the club leaders don’t have such authority (and don’t claim to have such authority), then the club and its theological opinion are no more authoritative than any other person’s opinion. It is just a club, and since its leaders have no divine authority, their theological opinion has no divine authority. Their theological opinion is a condition for membership in that club; but it is still only an opinion of men.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  38. greenbaggins said,

    April 30, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    This would all be exceptionally cogent if I had claimed that the Standards had been invested with authority by God. However, I have done no such thing, and certainly do not intend such a thing. They are man-made documents invested with man-made authority. However, they are the confession of the church. The church is not a club, and this is where Bryan’s analogy breaks down. Although, come to think of it, this is hugely ironic. Bryan is shooting the magisterium of the Catholic Church in the foot by saying what he does. Surely the magisterium of the Catholic Church is made up of men, is it not? And surely the magisterium of the Roman Church is therefore made up of the opinions of men? Hence, why would their opinion have the same level of authority as Scripture? Can the magisterium claim revelation so as to be able to say, “Thus saith the Lord?”

  39. Andy Gilman said,

    April 30, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Bryan says:

    Then you can pull together a group of persons who share your own interpretation of Scripture, and come up with a “standard” that has some ‘authority’ to which other persons should defer instead of appealing to their own interpretations.

    That’s why it is inconsistent for a follower of Turretin to speak of creeds and confessions as though they have some kind of greater authority than that of a private individual.

    No, that’s not what I’ve said. I have argued that if the authority of a creed or confession is based on agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture, then it has no authority. Any group of heretics could make a confession that agreed with their own interpretation of Scripture, and no such confession would be authoritative. So agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture is not sufficient to make a creed or confession authoritative.

    God alone has ultimate authority. The authority of Scripture as the only rule of faith and practice is derived from the fact that it is the word of the one true God, the ultimate authority. For Protestants, the authority of Scripture is self-attesting. Protestants believe Scripture because it is the Word of God.

    Confessions of faith are the opinions of men. They are authoritative only to the degree that individuals or groups willingly ascribe authority to them. A confession’s authority is derivative, but it is not derived from the ultimate authority of God, or of Scripture, it is derived from the consensus of the men who adopt the confession as a faithful summary of what the Bible teaches. But for Bryan, if the authority of a confession is derived by the consensus of men it is no authority at all. Only ultimate authority, or authority derived from ultimate authority, is b>real authority.

    Bryan, while ascribing ultimate authority to God and denying the self-attesting authority of Scripture, instead ascribes self-attesting authority to the magisterium. Even though he will try to rally an historical argument in defense of the magisterium’s authority, in the end he is left with a self-attesting magisterial authority, because the alternative to a self-attesting magisterial authority is a magisterial authority which is derived by the historical consensus of men. Such “authority,” for Bryan, is no authority at all.

    Bryan is fond of putting the word “authority” in scare quotes because, for him, an authority which is derived from consensus is not real authority. But when interacting with Bryan the word that really needs to be in scare quotes is the word “Scripture.” “Scripture” is not the books of the Old and New Testaments which protestants call the Bible. “Scripture” is whatever the magisterium says it is. The Bible has no authority for Bryan. He has no reason to try to understand it. The Bible, along with the apocraphyl books, are meaningless words on paper until they are decoded by the magisterium. He merely needs to do his best to interpret the infallible teachings of the magisterium. Presumably the words of the magisterium as they come to Bryan from the mouths and pens of bishops and priests, are perspicuous.

    Even if the words of the Bible were meaningful, they would not be the only rule of faith and practice. The magisterium can formulate doctrine without the aid of the Bible. If the magisterium decides that Jesus Christ came into the world via an alien spaceship which the wise men mistook for a star, then so he did, for the magisterium cannot be doubted or questioned since its authority is derived from God. Bryan has traded in his Bible, along with liberty of conscience and the right to private judgment, for a mess of pottage, the magisterium.

  40. Andy Gilman said,

    April 30, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    I messed up the formatting in one paragraph above. It should have been:

    Confessions of faith are the opinions of men. They are authoritative only to the degree that individuals or groups willingly ascribe authority to them. A confession’s authority is derivative, but it is not derived from the ultimate authority of God, or of Scripture, it is derived from the consensus of the men who adopt the confession as a faithful summary of what the Bible teaches. But for Bryan, if the authority of a confession is derived by the consensus of men it is no authority at all. Only ultimate authority, or authority derived from ultimate authority, is real authority.

  41. VRH said,

    April 30, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    Pastor Lane,

    I think you’re missing an important point (and so is Mr Cross). Please forgive me if I’m mistaken, but let me explain.

    The authority of the Standards is not, strictly speaking, merely a man-made authority. It is important to recognise that we are not actually deciding to elevate the opinion of men above our own. We are rather submitting ourselves to the authority of the Holy Spirit’s truth revealed in Scripture and restated in other words by men with the authority and obligation to do so. We readily admit that some do not acknowledge that truth or it’s ultimate origin, but the authority of a confessional symbol stems not from a mere mutual agreement among men, but from it’s accurate restatement of the truth of Scripture by those with the authority and obligation to make such a confessional restatement.

    I’m not claiming that this removes all tensions being teased out in the discussion here, but I do think that I’m presenting a more confessionally faithful statement of the matter at hand. (Cf. WCF 1.4, 1.10, 31.2,3) Yes, I recognise the irony there, but please bear with me.

    Is it not the case that the fundamental difference between the RC position and the Reformed position on the authority of Creeds and Confessions is that the RCC holds that Councils have the same primary and infallible authority as Scripture — a different expression of that authority, to be sure, but the same authority, nonetheless? Would they not say that the declarations of Councils are simply another expression of the Holy Spirit’s will alongside Scripture? For the Reformed on the other hand, Scripture is the only ultimate authority because it is the only infallible expression of the will of the Holy Spirit. The Reformed acknowledge a secondary fallible authority ordained by God and obliged by Him to be the pillar and ground of that Truth of Scripture (1 Timothy 3.15). And the Church does uphold (being ‘the pillar’) and establish (being ‘the ground’) that Truth through the ministry of her ordained officers called to that task, a ministry which includes the drafting of, and holding fast to, authoritative declarations of the Faith. We readily admit that we are sinners and that we may err in this pursuit of our calling. This is why appeal must be made to the Scriptures themselves to assess whether we have been faithful to this calling.

    Again, I know that this does not remove the tension on display in this discussion, but that’s partly the point. The RCC seeks to eliminate the tension regarding authoritative interpretation by creating multiple infallible earthly authorities. The Reformed on the other hand acknowledge the supreme and infallible authority of the Holy Spirit speaking by the Scriptures, but we also acknowledge the secondary and fallible authority that Christ has left in the Church. That secondary authority is legitimate and real, and its determinations carry more weight than my own private interpretation.

    Pastor Lane, we who are Reformed do claim that God has vested authority in the Church for making determinations regarding matters of doctrine, i.e., orthodoxy. That is an authority which Christ exercises through His ordained officers. But we acknowledge that this authority as it is exercised is not only strictly ministerial, it is also provisional and fallible. The implication of the RCC teaching is that the only legitimate authority is absolute and infallible authority. This we deny.

  42. Bryan Cross said,

    April 30, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Lane,

    They are man-made documents invested with man-made authority.

    On that we agree.

    However, they are the confession of the church.

    Whatever has only man-made authority does not come from the Church but only from men, because the Church is not merely man-made. The Church is not a natural, but a supernatural organism, having the God-man Jesus Christ as its founder, and the Holy Spirit as its vivifying principle. So the Church’s confession cannot have only man-made authority, because His Body the Church is not a mere human entity, just as Christ is not a mere human.

    Any theological club can call itself the Church. And of course all the Christian ones would, because none would want to be exposed as a mere club, formed by mere men and having only human authority. For that reason we should expect all such clubs to call themselves ‘the Church’ or at least a branch of the Church, and to deny that they are a mere club. So we need a way of distinguishing confessions of the Church that Christ founded, from confessions made by the equivalent of mere theological clubs.

    In other words, we need to be able to take any candidate confession and give a principled answer to the following question: If this confession were not a confession of the Church, but were instead only a confession of a group of like-minded men sharing the same theological opinion, how would we know?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  43. TurretinFan said,

    April 30, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    “Whatever has only man-made authority does not come from the Church but only from men, because the Church is not merely man-made. … Any theological club can call itself the Church. And of course all the Christian ones would, because none would want to be exposed as a mere club, formed by mere men and having only human authority.”

    There are several important nuances that Bryan is glossing over:

    1) Most churches do not call themselves “the Church” though certain sects do, such as the Roman sect, the Westborough Baptists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses (so-called), or the Mormons. For example, the PCA is a church, but does not call itself the church.

    2) Bryan’s position rests on his premise that “the Church” acts as such. However, Bryan’s reason for thinking this is his idea that a single sect is the Church. Scripture does not teach us that the church acts as a single entity with a single voice.

    3) Churches (notice “churches” not “the Church”) do not have merely man-made authority. That is true, and that is Scriptural. However, it is also true that the civil magistrate also does not have merely man-made authority. The latter are God’s ministers for one purpose, the former God’s ministers for a different purpose. Two kingdoms. The ministers of each kingdom, however, are fallible. There is no promise that either set of ministers will be infallible.

    – TurretinFan

  44. Ron Henzel said,

    May 1, 2010 at 6:37 am

    Westminster Divines: What the biblical authors wrote has final authority.

    Tridentine Bishops: Both what the biblical authors wrote andwhat we wrote have final authority.

  45. Ron Henzel said,

    May 1, 2010 at 8:18 am

    The Swiss Roman Catholic priest and theologian Hans Küng wrote:

    In the earliest church Peter doubtless had a special authority; however he did not possess it alone, but always collegially with others. He was far removed from being a spiritual monarch, even a sole ruler. There is not trace of any exclusive quasimonarchical authority as leader (jurisdiction). But at the end of his life was not Peter in Rome—indeed, was he not bishop of Rome?

    Was Peter in the then capital of the world, whose church and bishop were later to claim legal primacy throughout the church by appealing to the fisherman from Galilee? This is not an unimportant question in view of the later development of the Catholic church. Given the existing sources there is broad agreement among professional scholars on the following three points:

    1. Peter was certainly in Antioch, where there was a dispute with Paul over the application of the Jewish law. Possibly he was also in Corinth, where there was evidently a party which claimed allegiance to Cephas, that is, Peter. But we do not read anywhere in the New Testament that Peter was in Rome.

    2. Far less is there any evidence of a successor of Peter (also in Rome) in the New Testament. In any case, the logic of the saying about the rock tends rather to tell against it: Peter’s faith in Christ (and not the faith of any successor) was to be and remain the constant foundation of the church.

    3. Still, the Letter of Clement, around 90, and the letters of the Bishop Ignatius of Antioch, around 110, already attest a stay of Peter in Rome and his martyrdom there. This tradition is therefore old, and above all it is unanimous and unrivaled: at the end of his life Peter was in Rome and probably suffered a martyr’s death in the course of the Neronian persecution. However, archaeology has not been able to identify his tomb under the present Vatican basilica.

    For a long time there has been a consensus among scholars. Even Protestant theologians now affirm that Peter suffered a martyr’s death in Rome. Conversely, however, Catholic theologians concede that there is no reliable evidence that Peter was ever in charge of the church of Rome as supreme head or bishop. In any case the monarchical episcopate was introduced to Rome relatively late.

    [The Catholic Church: A Short History, John Bowden, trans., (New York: The Modern Library, 2003), 10-13.]

  46. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 1, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Dr. White (#36):

    So, if it is not God but we who invest a standard with authority, what difference does it make?

    I would argue thus:

    First, that authority does not mean “the ability to have insight into truth” — which is an objective question. Rather, it means “the right to be believed.”

    Second, the authority of the church is derived from her faithfulness to the Lord. This is expressed in the marks of a true church.

    Third, the authority of the church is not absolute (else, authority would be pragmatically collapsed into ability; which is the case with Scripture by virtue of its inspiration, but is not the case with human authorities). Rather, it is given as a help to our faith.

    For my part, I think some Confessionalists overplay the authority of the Confession. For some, Scripture is nominally the primary authority and the Confession is subordinate; but in practice, the Confession is used to make the doctrinal decisions — it does the actual work.

    This is why I objected to the PCA FV report: not that I disagreed with the conclusions, but I found it jarring that the arguments presented were overwhelmingly from the Confession instead of Scripture.

    Here’s what the Confession says of itself:

    WCoF 31: 2. It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of His Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, 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; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in His Word.

    3. All synods or councils, since the Apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.

    We see here implied that

    (1) Each individual ought to test the teachings of synods and councils against the Scriptures (“if consonant to the Word of God…”)
    (2) That the authority of the church is real, but
    (3) It is not absolute.

    This mode of thinking drives Bryan nuts, since for him authority is hierarchical and can only be overturned from above; whereas here, authority is a matter of degree and is never to be granted absolutely to any human.

  47. Reed Here said,

    May 1, 2010 at 9:12 am

    In all this I can’t help but observe that we’ve allowed Bryan to yet again frame the debate. He’s got us in a box of his own creation and the best we can come up with is to point out that he is in the box with us. To be sure, I don’t disagree with our criticism of Bryan on Bryan’s terms. He is being inconsistent in not “mea cupla”‘ing with.

    At least he is to a certain extent. Bryan has introduce one idea that I think has merit. He says:

    Whatever has only man-made authority does not come from the Church but only from men, because the Church is not merely man-made. The Church is not a natural, but a supernatural organism, having the God-man Jesus Christ as its founder, and the Holy Spirit as its vivifying principle. So the Church’s confession cannot have only man-made authority, because His Body the Church is not a mere human entity, just as Christ is not a mere human.

    I would agree, “what comes from only men,” and point out that this applies to both our confessions and Bryan’s. This is the point we reformed always come back to: only the Bible has absolute authority, because only it carries the divine imprimatur.

    Bryan will of course demure this point, and claim a divine imprimatur for the Magisterium of Rome. Got it, understand the argument. The Spirit has granted such to the Church (leave it undifferentiated for a moment). We all recognize the keys of the kingdom principle (Mt 16:19), even if we disagree on the details of it’s application.

    Yet I think there is sufficient agreement for us to move forward with regards to the issue of authority. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that Bryan will not claim that the Church (under any exercise of the keys) is inerrant. I.e., he will admit that Councils can and have on occassion “gotten it wrong.”

    Instead, correct me if I’m wrong, but Bryan’s argument is more along the lines of infallibility. The Spirit so protects the Church that when it gets it wrong He nevertheless superintends. That is, the Spirit protectys the Church from the results of her fallibility.

    We believe something similar, and we express it in the process of oaths and vows. We too believe God has given us, as a valid expression of His church, the keys of the kingdom. We too experience the “infallible” protection of the Spirit, although with one critical difference.

    Bryan seems to understand his church’s protection to be absolute. We, however, understand ours to be relative. When we take our vows to our confessions, we do so implicitly understanding that we submit to them insofar as they are consistent with the Scriptures. We offer a “so help me God if/where I’m wrong,” as it were.

    As officers, when we give a declaration of judgment in the Church, an exercise of oathing, truth-telling, we do the same thing. We expect God will bind and loose to the degree our oathing is consistent with the Bible. Again, we implicitly offer a “so help me God.”

    This is how God’s authority is exercised in the Church. It may be exercised errantly, in that the Church does occassionally “get it wrong.” Yet for those in the church who by vowing and oathing in biblical faith in Christ, God’s promise to protect them from their fallibility is secure.

    And this is where it breaks down for Bryan’s Magisterium. Their oathing and vowing is inconsistent with the faith in Christ taught in the absolute authority, the Bible. This defect is so great that our forefathers rightly called the RCC an apostate Church, a synagogue of Satan.

    Hard words to be sure, yet ones that speak love to those in the grip of their own faulty ideas.

    In the end Bryan’s position and our’s rests on the same affirmation of all authority being from God. In our oathing and vowing, in our “so help me God,” we all affirm that we will stand one day before the Supreme Authority and answer for our use of His authority.

    I fear for Bryan, as it appears his oathing and vowing is based on a flawed faith in Christ. I fear for him and all who swear allegiance to Rome, lest they find God’s answer on that great day be, “no, I will not help you.”

  48. Bryan Cross said,

    May 1, 2010 at 9:26 am

    TF,

    For example, the PCA is a church, but does not call itself the church.

    I’m not glossing over this nuance. If you read carefully what I wrote above, you’ll notice that I said, “we should expect all such clubs to call themselves ‘the Church’ or at least a branch of the Church.” The important thing is providing a principled criterion to distinguish mere clubs from the Church and thus from branches within the Church.

    Bryan’s position rests on his premise that “the Church” acts as such. However, Bryan’s reason for thinking this is his idea that a single sect is the Church. Scripture does not teach us that the church acts as a single entity with a single voice.

    I do believe that the Church can and has acted as such. My reason for thinking that, however, is not “[my] idea that a single sect is the Church.” The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 and the ecumenical councils of the first millennium are sufficient evidence that the early Church believed that the Church could, at least in principle, speak with a single voice. To deny that the Church can (in principle at least) speak with one voice (e.g. at an ecumenical council) is to embrace solo scriptura and to deny that Christ founded a visible Church, and to fall so deeply into ecclesial deism that even Calvin wouldn’t have recognized such a position.

    Churches (notice “churches” not “the Church”) do not have merely man-made authority. That is true, and that is Scriptural. However, it is also true that the civil magistrate also does not have merely man-made authority. The latter are God’s ministers for one purpose, the former God’s ministers for a different purpose.

    I agree, of course, that civil magistrates have their authority ultimately from God. Jesus says this to Pilate, and St. Paul teaches it as well. And that means the Rotary Club leaders also have their authority from God, as do leaders of the Elks, and the Masons, the leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the leaders of the Hell’s Angels. The other day I even saw a bumper sticker praising Anton LaVey and his Church of Satan. (I prayed for the driver as I passed him.) But what Jesus said to Pilate applies there too — Peter Gilmore would have no authority over the “Church of Satan” if it had not been given to him by God.

    But mere club authority is not the kind of authority in question in this discussion, because as far as I can tell, no one in this discussion believes that the only authority his religious institution has is the sort that any club has. That’s why Lane said “they are the confession of the church.” Being a confession of the church means that it has more authority than just a club’s “Statement of Belief.” That’s also part of the argument of Keith Mathison’s The Shape of Sola Scriptura — the Church has a genuine [though subordinate to Scripture] authority that is not just the sort of authority that any man-made club has.

    So we need to distinguish here between the natural authority (that still has God as its ultimate source) of any society, club, or institution founded by mere men, and the supernatural authority of the one society founded by the God-man Jesus Christ and supernaturally animated by His Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we reduce the Church (and/or all its branches) to a club or set of clubs.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  49. rfwhite said,

    May 1, 2010 at 9:41 am

    38 Lane: when you said that confessional standards are man-made documents invested with man-made authority, do you mean to affirm that those standards have only man-made authority and that the church is a mere human entity? In other words, must it follow that, because the church is not a mere human entity (just as Christ is not a mere human), the church’s confession cannot have only man-made authority? Why or why not?

  50. Ron Henzel said,

    May 1, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Reed,

    You wrote:

    I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that Bryan will not claim that the Church (under any exercise of the keys) is inerrant. I.e., he will admit that Councils can and have on occassion “gotten it wrong.”

    I would be quite surprised—no, shocked—if Bryan made such an admission. If he did, he would be directly contradicting his church’s official catechism, which reads:

    “It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. … To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals.

    [Catechism of the Catholic Church, §890, (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 256. Bolding of text added by me.]

  51. rfwhite said,

    May 1, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Did the pronouncements of the ecumenical councils have the same authority of the pronouncements of the Jerusalem Council? How do we know?

    Does the authority of that to which we now submit have to be the same as the authority of the pronouncements of the Jerusalem Council? Why or why not?

  52. rfwhite said,

    May 1, 2010 at 11:16 am

    47 Reed: may I indulge your sense of my good will to say that I don’t think it is accurate to say that “we’ve allowed Bryan to yet again frame the debate.” The discussion was framed by the lead post when it stated, “Confessions of the church carry much more weight than an individual person’s opinion, even if they are not on the same level as Scripture.” I agree with that claim, but the rationale for it has to go beyond the Turretin citation.

  53. May 1, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Dear Fowler,

    Did the pronouncements of the ecumenical councils have the same authority of the pronouncements of the Jerusalem Council? How do we know?

    Does the authority of that to which we now submit have to be the same as the authority of the pronouncements of the Jerusalem Council? Why or why not?

    These are great questions for us to wrestle with. From what I have gathered, Bryan’s response to the first would be that yes, the delegates to the post-Acts ecumenical councils did in fact believe that the authority of their decisions was every bit as binding as that of the Jerusalem council. This doesn’t mean that they were correct, of course, but it does mean that they did not in fact view their authority as merely derivative or secondary.

    As to the second question, this is where things get frustrating (at least for me). It would seem that YES, the authority of my church’s concilliar declarations SHOULD carry the same weight as those of Nicaea or Jerusalem (or if my church’s don’t, then someone’s should). Otherwise, my church’s declarations are defanged and rendered optional. I mean, are we in the same church as the Nicene fathers were? Then why can’t we speak like they did?

    But if we actually tried it, we’d be laughed out of the room.

  54. TurretinFan said,

    May 1, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Bryan:

    “The important thing is providing a principled criterion to distinguish mere clubs from the Church and thus from branches within the Church.”

    Saying that this is “the important thing” seems a little odd. It is very important within a Roman Catholic framework, but it seems much less important in any framework in which no single sect is the church.

    Bryan wrote:

    I do believe that the Church can and has acted as such. My reason for thinking that, however, is not “[my] idea that a single sect is the Church.” The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 and the ecumenical councils of the first millennium are sufficient evidence that the early Church believed that the Church could, at least in principle, speak with a single voice. To deny that the Church can (in principle at least) speak with one voice (e.g. at an ecumenical council) is to embrace solo scriptura and to deny that Christ founded a visible Church, and to fall so deeply into ecclesial deism that even Calvin wouldn’t have recognized such a position.

    There are a few counter-points:

    1) “My reason for thinking that, however, is not “[my] idea that a single sect is the Church.”” With all due respect, however, that is a primary reason – even if you will insist that it is not the only reason.

    2) “The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 and the ecumenical councils of the first millennium are sufficient evidence that the early Church believed that the Church could, at least in principle, speak with a single voice.” This can be considered in two parts.

    a) As to the Jerusalem council, the council (if we will call it that, and many people do) itself doesn’t purport to speak for “the Church.” The purpose of the council was to counter allegations by the Judaizers that they had received a commandment from the apostles in Jerusalem (see vs. 1 and also Paul’s discussion in Galatians) that the Gentiles should be made Jews by circumcision. The entire Jerusalem church met and refuted these allegations, despite some opposition from those of the sect of the Pharisees. When the letter was sent (not to the entire world, but to the area around Antioch, and not to all the people there, but only the Gentile converts) it was sent not from “the Church” or from the “council” but from the apostles and elders and brethren.

    b) The first allegedly ecumenical council took place almost 300 years later. It was called by Emperor Constantine. While on the issue of Arianism the council reached the right conclusion, this conclusion wasn’t immediately accepted by all the churches. In fact, there was a very significant counter-reaction to Nicaea.

    Consequently, even after Nicaea we see Augustine saying:

    I should not, however, introduce the Council of Nicea to prejudice the case in my favor, nor should you introduce the Council of Ariminum that way. I am not bound by the authority of Ariminum, and you are not bound by that of Nicea. By the authority of the scriptures that are not the property of anyone, but the common witness for both of us, let position do battle with position, case with case, reason with reason.

    (Works of Saint Augustine, Answer to Maximinus, Part I, Vol. 18, ed. John Rotelle, O.S.A., trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (New York: New City Press, 1995), p. 282.)

    The Council of Ariminum referred to by Augustine here was a massive two-part council called by Constantinus II to settle the Arian controversy. It favored the Arians. Over 400 bishops were at Ariminum proper, with about 150 additional bishops at Seleucia. It was a big deal. In fact, there’s a lot of dispute about how exactly those councils were run.

    But the bottom line is that the bare fact that large councils were held to try to settle matters does not necessarily imply a belief that “the Church” as such is capable of speaking with a single voice.

    As a practical demonstration, we simply encourage anyone to try to demonstrate what was considered the criteria for an “ecumenical” council in the ancient churches. Does anyone seriously expect to find any such criteria prior to A.D. 325? Or even from A.D. 325 to 450? If later people began to think that very large councils (or councils that met other later-defined criteria) spoke for “the Church” in a formal sense, our question should be, “Why did they think that?” Was it wishful thinking, or was there a basis in Divine Revelation for them to conclude such.

    The history of the church, both from the time of Apostles to Nicaea and from Nicaea to Chalcedon confirms that the early church (like Augustine) generally viewed the Scriptures as the ultimate arbiter, and viewed large councils as persuasive – with larger councils having (on average) more persuasive weight than smaller councils.

    They didn’t the spiritual authority of the churches as merely man-made, but they didn’t (at least at first) argue that these large councils were necessarily infallible.

    -TurretinFan

  55. TurretinFan said,

    May 1, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    My response above omitted comment on the last portion of the comments from Bryan that I had quoted, namely:

    To deny that the Church can (in principle at least) speak with one voice (e.g. at an ecumenical council) is to embrace solo scriptura and to deny that Christ founded a visible Church, and to fall so deeply into ecclesial deism that even Calvin wouldn’t have recognized such a position.

    I’ll respond to this portion of the argument line by line:

    1) “To deny that the Church can (in principle at least) speak with one voice (e.g. at an ecumenical council) is to embrace solo scriptura”

    No, it is not – at least if one defines solo scriptura as a rejection of all church authority. It may certainly be within the definition that Mathison provided in his book, but there are good reasons to reject that particular aspect of Mathison’s work, despite other good aspects of his work.

    2) “To deny that the Church can (in principle at least) speak with one voice (e.g. at an ecumenical council) is … to deny that Christ founded a visible Church”

    No, it is not. Christ founded His visible Church, but he gave the Scriptures as the single voice speaking to the church. He did not promise Church a single voice speaking to itself.

    3) “To deny that the Church can (in principle at least) speak with one voice (e.g. at an ecumenical council) is … to fall so deeply into ecclesial deism … .”

    The term “ecclesial deism” is a pejorative term of recent innovation. God is able to govern His Church without the Church itself having a single voice. However, the idea that “the Church” speaks with a single voice can lead to ecclesial idolatry, such as we see in Roman Catholicism.

    4) “To deny that the Church can (in principle at least) speak with one voice (e.g. at an ecumenical council) … Calvin wouldn’t have recognized such a position.”

    Book IV, especially Chapters 8-9 of Calvin’s Institutes would beg to differ with you. Here’s one section of Chapter 8:

    10. The Roman claim

    But if this power of the Church which is here described be contrasted with that which spiritual tyrants, falsely styling themselves bishops and religious prelates, have now for several ages exercised among the people of God, there will be no more agreement than that of Christ with Belial (II Cor. 6:15). It is not my intention here to unfold the manner, the unworthy manner, in which they have used their tyranny; I will only state the doctrine which they maintain in the present day, first, in writing, and then, by fire and sword.

    Taking it for granted, that a universal council is a true representation of the Church, they set out with this principle, and, at the same time, lay it down as incontrovertible, that such councils are under the immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit, and therefore cannot err. But as they rule councils, nay, constitute them, they in fact claim for themselves whatever they maintain to be due to councils. Therefore, they will have our faith to stand and fall at their pleasure, so that whatever they have determined on either side must be firmly seated in our minds; what they approve must be approved by us without any doubt; what they condemn we also must hold to be justly condemned. Meanwhile, at their own caprice, and in contempt of the word of God, they coin doctrines to which they in this way demand our assent, declaring that no man can be a Christian unless he assent to all their dogmas, affirmative as well as negative, if not with explicit, yet with implicit faith, because it belongs to the Church to frame new articles of faith.

    -TurretinFan

  56. VRH said,

    May 1, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    52 Dr. White: I agree with your assessment and have attempted to begin describing such a rationale in #41. The authority of a Church’s confessional standards which gives them more weight than the expression of mere personal opinion or private interpretation is twofold. First, that authority stems from the standards’ accurate representation of the truth of Scripture, and second, it stems from the exercise of that authority Christ has left in the Church, exercised in the assembly of those ordained by Christ’s appointment to this task.

    For the best summary statement of the position I have held forth I point to WCF 31.2, which states in part, ‘It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, … which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in his Word.’ Here we find 1) agreement with the Word, and 2) exercise of ordained ecclesiastical authority as the reasons for the reverence and submission due to such declarations and decrees.

    I disagree with the claim that the determinations of synods and councils (such as confessional standards) have a mere man-made authority stemming only from a mere general consensus of men. Rather, we submit to our Church’s Confession of Faith because it agrees with the Word of God and is issued by those with authority to make such declarations. Of course, there is a long trail of Historical Theology wherein we find detailed discussions related to the ramifications of this position, but this appears to be the outline of the Reformed rationale, nonetheless.

  57. rfwhite said,

    May 1, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    53 Jason: I don’t doubt that some will give affirmative answers to the questions posed in 51. My interest was more in the the second half of each question: How do we know? and Why or why not?

    Let me press my point this way: In Acts 20, for instance, was the nature of the authority of the elders in the church at Ephesus the same as the authority of the apostle Paul? Was Timothy’s and Titus’ authority and that of those they appointed in Ephesus and Crete the same as that of Paul? How do you know?

  58. May 1, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Fowler,

    In Acts 20, for instance, was the nature of the authority of the elders in the church at Ephesus the same as the authority of the apostle Paul? Was Timothy’s and Titus’ authority and that of those they appointed in Ephesus and Crete the same as that of Paul?

    My instinct from the biblical text is to say “Yes.” Paul told Timothy to discharge his ministry with “all authority,” and that he was to “let no man despise [him].” To the Ephesian elders Paul instructed that they “shepherd the church of God over which the Holy Spirit [had made them] episkopoi.”

    So it’s not that Paul was making them apostles, but he was giving them his authority (albeit not his office), wasn’t he?

  59. rfwhite said,

    May 1, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    56 VRH: thanks for wading into this discussion. Following the trajectory of your observations, I find it striking how the PCA BCO lays out Preliminary Principles pertaining to its government, beginning on p. 89, in this way:

    The Presbyterian Church in America, in setting forth the form of government founded upon and agreeable to the Word of God, reiterates the following great principles which have governed the formation of the plan:

    1. God alone is Lord of the conscience and has left it free from any doctrines or commandments of men (a) which are in any respect contrary to the Word of God, or (b) which, in regard to matters of faith and worship, are not governed by the Word of God. Therefore, the rights of private judgment in all matters that respect religion are universal and inalienable. No religious constitution should be supported by the civil power further than may be
    necessary for protection and security equal and common to all others.

    2. In perfect consistency with the above principle, every Christian Church, or union or association of particular churches, is entitled to declare the terms of admission into its communion and the qualifications of its ministers and members, as well as the whole system of its internal government which Christ has appointed. In the exercise of this right it may, notwithstanding, err in making the terms of communion either too lax or too narrow; yet even in
    this case, it does not infringe upon the liberty or the rights of others, but only makes an improper use of its own.

  60. rfwhite said,

    May 1, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    58 Jason: was there a hierachy of authority between apostles and elders in the NT?

  61. May 1, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    RFW,

    Jason: was there a hierachy of authority between apostles and elders in the NT?

    Ummm, yes?

    But once the apostles were gone, it seems (from reading Ignatius at least), that the highest authority in any church was the bishop, whom Ignatius says should be obeyed as if he were Christ himself. Of course, Ignatius doesn’t mention anything about the bishop of Rome, but that’s a question for Bryan to answer, not me!

    I don’t know, it just seems pretty biblical to say that those who succeeded the apostles were supposed to speak with their authority, even if their office was different.

  62. Andy Gilman said,

    May 1, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Earlier in the tread it seemed Bryan’s argument was that confessions can have no authority, or no more authority, than the “authority” possessed by an individual. Now he modifies (clarifies?) his argument to say that confessions and individuals both possess natural authority, but neither possesses supernatural authority:

    So we need to distinguish here between the natural authority (that still has God as its ultimate source) of any society, club, or institution founded by mere men, and the supernatural authority of the one society founded by the God-man Jesus Christ and supernaturally animated by His Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we reduce the Church (and/or all its branches) to a club or set of clubs.

    Byran presupposes that supernatural authority is found only in the magisterium. By necessity, then, the Bible is merely a natural authority, or entirely non-authoritative, until the magisterium decodes it and invests the decoded message with its own supernatural authority. The same supernatural authority can be found in the apocraphyl books, as well as the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita or the Tibetan Book of the Dead, if the magisterium so chooses to invest. Bryan presupposes that the “Word of God” is the word of the magisterium. The books of the Old and New Testaments are merely one well which the supernaturally authoritative magisterium drinks from while composing the “Word of God.”

    Bryan is very bright and always gracious, but is there any value in arguing with a man who comes here with those presuppositions?

    As Robert Shaw says in his exposition of WCF 1:4,5:

    These sections teach us, that the authority of the Scripture depends not upon any man or Church, but wholly upon God, the author thereof, and then points out the evidences that the Scripture is the Word of God. The first of these heads is stated in opposition to the Papists, who maintain that the authority of the Scriptures is derived from the Church. The absurdity of this idea is easily evinced. The true Church of Christ is founded on the Scriptures, and therefore the authority of the Scriptures cannot depend on the Church.— Eph. ii. 20.

  63. May 1, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    The absurdity of this idea is easily evinced. The true Church of Christ is founded on the Scriptures, and therefore the authority of the Scriptures cannot depend on the Church.

    I think we need to make a simple distinction between the “Word” and the “Scriptures.” The New Covenant church was founded on the Word (that is, upon Christ and his message as preached by the apostles), but it was not founded upon “the Scriptures,” for the obvious reason that decades elapsed during which the church was growing, and no NT books had even been written, let alone collected and recognized as canonical.

    So whatever our doctrine of ecclesiastical authority, it needs to do justice to the fact that the church existsed (not before the Word, but) before the Scriptures.

  64. Bryan Cross said,

    May 1, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Andy (#62),

    Byran presupposes that supernatural authority is found only in the magisterium. By necessity, then, the Bible is merely a natural authority, or entirely non-authoritative, until the magisterium decodes it and invests the decoded message with its own supernatural authority.

    Let’s try this to avoid misunderstanding. Before you assume anything about my position, just send me a note [crossbr 'at' gmail 'dot' com] asking me if it is what I believe, unless I have already stated it. I do not presuppose or believe or claim that supernatural authority is found only in the magisterium. Nor do I believe that the Bible is merely a natural authority until the magistiterum decodes it or invests it with its own supernatural authority. The Bible is divinely inspired, its very words are God-breathed and hence inerrant. Thus the Bible intrinsically has supernatural authority. Please, if you want to understand Catholic doctrine regarding the authority of Scripture, read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and/or Dei Verbum. In order for us all to dialogue fruitfully, it really helps to understand each other’s positions accurately.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  65. Andy Gilman said,

    May 1, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Jason said:

    I think we need to make a simple distinction between the “Word” and the “Scriptures.”

    I’m not sure what bearing that will have on the debate or why it is necessary to make the distinction. As the WCF states, “Holy Scripture” is just another name for “the Word of God written.”

  66. VRH said,

    May 1, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    59 Dr. White: Please help me understand the point you are making here. I’m guessing that the ‘Preliminary Principles’ would be ‘striking’ to you in this context only if they were seen as inconsistent with the trajectory of my observations. If so, I would have to say that it is entirely possible that the PCA BCO is inconsistent with the principles of the WCF, but that does not diminish the force of the point I was making. I was not suggesting that the PCA practises the principles confessed in WCF 31 — in matter of fact, we do not. Rather, I was urging that WCF 31 expresses a mature Reformed perspective on the authority of a Church’s confession of faith.

    With regard to the ‘Preliminary Principles’ you quoted, several things are worthy of note. First, nothing in the ‘Preliminary Principles’ you quoted would be inconsistent with WCF 31. Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but the principles you highlighted are more particularly denying the propriety of coercion in relation to ecclesiastical authority. Individuals may not be coerced to embrace a Confession of Faith. This would appear to be why the civil magistrate is mentioned in this context.

    Second, the ‘Principles’ allude to WCF 20 where the matter of the liberty of conscience is detailed more fully. Therein it is denied that the liberty of conscience contradicts the real and legitimate authority Christ has left in the Church. This appears to be the point of the ‘Preliminary Principles’ allusion. Further, in WCF 20 it is made clear that the Church’s authority is greater in this regard than that of the individual (WCF 20.4). It seems unlikely that the authors of the ‘Preliminary Principles’ were intending to deny this and I see nothing in the text to indicate otherwise.

    Finally, we readily admit that the individual’s submission to ecclesiastical authority must be voluntary, and that in his submission the individual must exercise private judgement. But I don’t think this was in dispute, was it? The argument at hand is first, what the basis for such judgement is, and second, whether on Reformed principles such judgement is distinguishable from the decrees and declarations of the Church. It would appear that the ‘Preliminary Principles’ of the BCO and the doctrine I highlighted from the WCF are consistent in this regard.

  67. May 1, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Andy,

    Jason said:

    I think we need to make a simple distinction between the “Word” and the “Scriptures.”

    I’m not sure what bearing that will have on the debate or why it is necessary to make the distinction. As the WCF states, “Holy Scripture” is just another name for “the Word of God written.”

    I know, I was just pointing it out because the Shaw quote you provided is false. The church was not founded on the Scriptures.

  68. rfwhite said,

    May 1, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    61 Jason: You have said there was a hierarchy between apostles and elders in the NT. Would you say that the authority of apostles differed from the authority of elders while the apostles were alive? If so, how?

  69. May 1, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Fowler,

    Jason: You have said there was a hierarchy between apostles and elders in the NT. Would you say that the authority of apostles differed from the authority of elders while the apostles were alive? If so, how?

    Well, apostles needed to have seen the risen Lord, which was not true of elders. But when it comes to authority, it seems to me that the NT criterion of authority is being “sent” (“How shall they preach unless they are sent?”).

    And the council of Jerusalem was presided over by both apostles and elders.

  70. May 1, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    To clarify: God sent the Son, the Son sent the apostles, and the Son through the apostles sent the elders. Hence the hierarchy.

  71. rfwhite said,

    May 1, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    66 VRH: I think I inadvertently threw you/us off track. I was only struck by the way those first two Preliminary Principles speak, summarily to be sure, of individual conscience and church, a point somewhat more peripheral to Lane’s post and your comment.

  72. rfwhite said,

    May 1, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    69 Jason: did apostle authority trump elder authority in the NT era?

  73. Andy Gilman said,

    May 1, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Bryan said:

    In order for us all to dialogue fruitfully, it really helps to understand each other’s positions accurately.

    What I tried to make clear is that I don’t think dialogue with you, on the subject of “authority,” can be fruitful, at least not until your presuppositions are examined. And while you might say the Bible has supernatural authority, the reality is that in your system, the Bible can have no real authority.

    A month ago you you made one of your periodic visits here at “Green Baggins” to advance this same argument on another thread. I pressed the same point with you then:

    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2010/03/12/leithart-out-of-accord/#comment-72424

    you replied:

    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2010/03/12/leithart-out-of-accord/#comment-72452

    Now here you are again, renewing your well rehearsed argument while not addressing the concerns previously raised, presumably with the purpose in mind of proselytizing for your idolatrous magisterium. If that’s not true and you really are here because you want “Protestants and Catholics to figure out how to resolve this nearly 500 year old schism,” then I suggest you show your good faith and tell us what you are doing to get the infallible magisterium to unanathemitize the Gospel. Until that happens I’ll continue to assume you have ulterior motives.

    This is all I have time for today but will probably revisit again on Monday. So until then, you have the floor.

  74. Bryan Cross said,

    May 1, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Andy,

    What I tried to make clear is that I don’t think dialogue with you, on the subject of “authority,” can be fruitful, at least not until your presuppositions are examined.

    I’m fine with having my presuppositions examined, so long as your presuppositions can be examined as well. In my opinion, dialogue is most fruitful when we turn our attention to our presuppositions.

    And while you might say the Bible has supernatural authority, the reality is that in your system, the Bible can have no real authority.

    Why do you think that? (I’m assuming you’ve read Dei Verbum.)

    If that’s not true and you really are here because you want “Protestants and Catholics to figure out how to resolve this nearly 500 year old schism,” then I suggest you show your good faith and tell us what you are doing to get the infallible magisterium to unanathemitize the Gospel. Until that happens I’ll continue to assume you have ulterior motives.

    So basically unless I side with Protestants against the Catholic Church, I have ulterior motives in wanting to work toward reconciliation? The presupposition implicit in your statement is that no one who disagrees with your interpretation of Scripture is a sincere truth-lover. I hope you see that that’s not a safe presupposition, because if a person happens to have an erroneous interpretation of Scripture, then by holding such a presupposition he keeps himself from discovering his error, by painting all those who disagree with him as persons who don’t love truth and are therefore not to be taken seriously. Such a presupposition is, in that respect, not a truth-loving presupposition, because it serves to keep in error those in error.

    On the principle of charity I assume that you are a sincere truth-lover, because you have given me no reason to assume otherwise. My motives are the pursuit of the truth, the true gospel, the true Church that Christ founded, and true unity among all Christ’s followers, a unity in the truth and based on the truth. That’s my prayer and passion. We can’t talk on the same thread about all the points on which we presently disagree; it would be chaos. It would also hijack Lane’s post, which wasn’t posted for the purpose of providing a forum for Catholic-Protestant dialogue. (That’s just what Called To Communion is for, to provide precisely that sort of forum.)

    Yes, Catholics and Protestants disagree about justification, but I don’t assume that because we disagree about justification, therefore you must not be seeking the truth about justification. The disagreement about justification is one more thing that Protestants and Catholics have to work out, in order to bring about reunion. I’m willing to talk about it (in my spare time, which is limited), as long it is done with charity and sincerity. (There are a number of threads on Called To Communion dealing with the subject of justification; feel free to comment on any of them.) In this thread, the point under discussion is the authority of confessions. So here I will limit myself to discussing only that topic.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  75. Paige Britton said,

    May 1, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Dr. White & Jason:
    By “authority” are we all meaning “authority to pronounce dogma,” or “authority to excommunicate” (i.e., the keys)? Or are we meaning both together?

    Because it would seem that, since the church is built on the apostles & prophets, the apostles’ authority trumps everybody who follows (i.e., the elders) as far as doctrine goes…But since elders in the church still exercise the authority of the “keys,” this second kind of authority continues.

    Thoughts?

  76. rfwhite said,

    May 1, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    75 PB: thanks. Fair questions. (If Jason is in my shoes, he’s preparing a lesson or message or both for tomorrow. Time for a break.) We have to say that apostle authority trumps elder authority in all matters disciplinary, formative and corrective, for doctrinal and moral reasons, from admission to exclusion, don’t we? As in the Corinthian church, 1 Cor 5-6 and 2 Cor 2, for instance.

  77. May 1, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Paige,

    Let’s deal with the authority issue like this: Were ministers in the post-Acts 15 church free to disregard the conclusion of the Jerusalem Council? Or, are we free today to disregard the Nicene formulation of the Trinity or the Chalcedonian definition of the hypostatic union?

    You may answer (1) no and no; (2) yes and yes; (3) no and yes; or for the sake of argument, (4) yes and no.

    My instinct is to opt for option #1. Now, if the councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon were so authoritative that they actually define orthodoxy, my question is, “Are the Westminster Assembly’s conclusions that authoritative, and if not, why not?”

    And is there a church or branch of the church today that can still make Nicaea-like pronouncements? If so, where is it? If not, where did it go?

  78. Paige Britton said,

    May 1, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    JJS-
    But there is one kind of “authoritative” that binds the conscience because it’s possessed by an office, and another kind that binds us because it speaks truth.

    Setting aside Acts 15 for a sec, why are the Nicene & Chalcedonian formulations authoritative for us? Is it authority based on office, or based on truth?

    Must we opt for an authority based on office for Westminster? Why can’t we settle for authority based on truth, i.e., faithful reporting of God’s revealed truth?

    Re. Acts 15, I am not clear on whether we’re looking at an “occasional” pronouncement (situation-specific) or a binding-for-all-times pronouncement. I always figure we have to be careful if we’re going to take imperatives out of Acts: some are there, but is this one of them, do ya think?

    (My answers would be: No, but maybe for a limited duration? …and no, because the formulations are true.)

    All of the above concerns doctrinal authority. Elder authority over the church seems to be in a different category — preaching, sacraments and discipline being authority that one submits to as a member of a local church, authority conveyed to the elder through the laying on of hands. But our (members’) consciences are not bound in this case, at least not in the same way they are bound to God’s truth, or in the way they’d be bound w/in the Catholic system to the authority of the hierarchical offices. Make sense?

    pb

  79. TurretinFan said,

    May 1, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Jason J. Stellman wrote:

    I think we need to make a simple distinction between the “Word” and the “Scriptures.” The New Covenant church was founded on the Word (that is, upon Christ and his message as preached by the apostles), but it was not founded upon “the Scriptures,” for the obvious reason that decades elapsed during which the church was growing, and no NT books had even been written, let alone collected and recognized as canonical.

    So whatever our doctrine of ecclesiastical authority, it needs to do justice to the fact that the church existsed (not before the Word, but) before the Scriptures.

    a) Most of the Scriptures predate the New Testament church, and those Scriptures speak of Christ.

    b) The Church is, of course, founded specifically on Christ, and on the revelation of Him. The primary source of that revelation is the Old Testament Scriptures, but the New Testament Scriptures are also a critical part of the revelation, providing additional light that helps to explain the Old Testament.

    c) The Scriptures were completed in the first century, and the Church was nurtured on them from the time of their writing onward.

    d) Further to (c), the New Testament Scriptures were recognized as such during the lifetime of the apostles (See Peter’s description of Paul’s letters as Scriptures, as well as Paul’s reference to Luke’s gospel).

    e) Further to (a)-(d) the Old Testament Scriptures were used authoritatively by Christ himself and the apostles as well. The one “council” that we see relied for its judgment on comparing their experiences to the authoritative Old Testament Scriptures.

    f) Further to (e), the Bereans were specifically commended for carefully scrutinizing the Old Testament Scriptures to determine whether Paul the Apostle’s gospel was true.

    g) We also see from the earliest extant post-apostolic writings that the churches had and read both the Old and New Testament Scriptures.

    h) The Scriptures were given for the purpose of the edification and instructions of the church.

    From the above, which cannot be reasonably denied, it is proper and right to say that the true Church of Christ is founded on the Scriptures, and therefore the authority of the Scriptures cannot depend on the Church.

    Certainly, beyond any doubt, the authority of the bulk of the Scriptures, specifically the Old Testament Scriptures, cannot come from the Church.

    As a final support for the fact that the authority of the New Testament Scriptures does not come from the church, we see that Scripture itself explains to us that the Bible is θεόπνευστος (theopneustos), God-breathed. The Scriptures are not ecclesiopneustos (church-breathed). They come not from the authority of the church, but from God’s authority.

    Indeed, the same is true of Paul’s own ministry. Paul was not an apostle of the church, but of Christ. He did not derive his authority from the twelve, but directly from God. Paul’s discussion at the beginning of Galatians is especially clear about this. When he wrote Scriptures, he did not write from their authority, or from his own authority, but according to the authority of the Holy Spirit who inspired him.

    The Scriptures were written for the church, not by the church. Their authority is greater than the church, because they are θεόπνευστος (theopneustos). There is no greater authority that we have. Paul himself explained that if the apostles themselves or an angel from heaven were to preach another gospel, we should not accept that (Galatians 1:8).

    To divide the Word from the Scriptures, as Stellman is doing, is dangerous ground (although it is one of the approaches that the Romanists use). Surely the Word of God came to prophets in the apostolic age, even as the Scriptures were continuing to be given. Nevertheless, that Word upon which the church was founded is the inscripturated Word. The inscripturated word has, since the time of Moses, always had the priority over alleged prophets:

    Deuteronomy 13:1-5
    If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

    We see the difference between the time period of the apostles and the time period succeeding the apostles in Hebrews 1-2:

    Hebrews 1:1-2
    God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; …

    Hebrews 2:1-4
    Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

    Notice that the author of Hebrews treats the period of confirmation of the revelation as a time that has past (was confirmed – aorist tense). This makes sense if, as many suppose, Hebrews is one of the last books of Scripture. It particularly makes sense in view of the prophesied completion of prophecy when the revelation was complete:

    1 Corinthains 13:8-10
    Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

    So, there is little doubt that the prophecies, and tongues, and knowledge that failed upon the completion of Scripture were not formally the same as Scripture. Nevertheless, the Word of God is preserved. It is what was completed, ending the need for prophecy. And it has been preserved for us by the mechanism of Scripture.

    Psalm 119:160 Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.

    Isaiah 40:6-8
    The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

    1 Peter 1:24-25 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

    This is not a new idea from the 21st Century, but something that Irenaeus recognized in the 2nd century:

    1. We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. For it is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed “perfect knowledge,” as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles. For, after our Lord rose from the dead, [the apostles] were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down [upon them], were filled from all [His gifts], and had perfect knowledge: they departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of the good things [sent] from God to us, and proclaiming the peace of heaven to men, who indeed do all equally and individually possess the Gospel of God. Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.

    2. These have all declared to us that there is one God, Creator of heaven and earth, announced by the law and the prophets; and one Christ the Son of God. If any one do not agree to these truths, he despises the companions of the Lord; nay more, he despises Christ Himself the Lord; yea, he despises the Father also, and stands self-condemned, resisting and opposing his own salvation, as is the case with all heretics.

    – Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 1

    Notice that Irenaeus plainly teaches us that it is the Holy Scriptures that are the ground and pillar of our faith (“the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.”). That’s because for Irenaeus there is a merger, not a division, between the Word and the Scriptures. I hope this comment will encourage Stellman to do the same.

    – TurretinFan

  80. Ron Henzel said,

    May 2, 2010 at 5:24 am

    Bryan,

    In comment 48, you wrote:

    To deny that the Church can (in principle at least) speak with one voice (e.g. at an ecumenical council) is to embrace solo scriptura and to deny that Christ founded a visible Church, and to fall so deeply into ecclesial deism that even Calvin wouldn’t have recognized such a position.

    So then Calvin wasn’t really an “ecclesial deist?”

  81. Paige Britton said,

    May 2, 2010 at 6:25 am

    TF –
    To divide the Word from the Scriptures, as Stellman is doing, is dangerous ground (although it is one of the approaches that the Romanists use).

    Whoa, I don’t think you need to pin some insidious Romanism on Jason’s thought, there. He’s steady-on re. the mother-daughter thing (Church as mother of Scriptures v. Scripture as mother of Church). I’d guess he was just trying to be chronologically precise — it’s not as if the apostles were passing around a completed codex of the NT in the upper room at Pentecost. (Your points are spot-on, though, re. what Scriptures were available, and I’d have liked to have begged for those qualifiers, too, but you beat me to it.)

  82. May 2, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Obviously Sundays are busy for me, but I may respond later this evening to TF’s critiques. I will say this though: having read both his comment here, his response on his blog, and the comments underneath it, I’d say everyone just needs to relax (and stop presuming to judge people’s motives, while we’re at it).

    My point was way too simple to merit such a lengthy response: Our doctrine of Sola Scriptura must take into account the fact that the NC church existed and thrived for decades before her canon was written, finished, collected, and recognized.

    (That may be a better way of putting it than my saying that “the Scriptures” didn’t exist yet. But then, I figured people would realize what I meant, or at least infer my obvious meaning out of charity.)

  83. May 2, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Providentially, I was just now reading Horton’s article in the latest MR, and he makes the point I was trying to make much better than I did (imagine that, huh?):

    Of course, God’s Word was at first delivered by oral tradition and was only later committed to writing. None of the Reformation theologians held that the Bible as we now have it preceded the church! However, the Reformers argued that the Word of God preceded both Scripture and the church. (emphasis original)

    (My original statement was as follows: “I think we need to make a simple distinction between the ‘Word’ and the ‘Scriptures.’ The New Covenant church was founded on the Word (that is, upon Christ and his message as preached by the apostles), but it was not founded upon ‘the Scriptures,’ for the obvious reason that decades elapsed during which the church was growing, and no NT books had even been written, let alone collected and recognized as canonical.”

    So to TurretinFan’s statement that “To divide the Word from the Scriptures, as Stellman is doing, is dangerous ground (although it is one of the approaches that the Romanists use),” I would simply answer that I am doing nothing other than what Horton is doing in the citation above.

    Hope that helps clarify things a bit….

  84. rfwhite said,

    May 2, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    75-78 Jason: would you say that postapostolic councils have the same authority as the apostles of the NT era?

  85. Bob Suden said,

    May 2, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    If a church is defined by its confession as per the original post as recognized by Turretin, then:

    1. As R Henzel notes, Rome confesses the church to be infallible, protestantism the Bible.

    2. Rome also denies the perspicuity of Scripture, as well liberty of conscience, while protestantism affirms both.

    Further perspicuity and LoC theologically pre-empt Mr. Cross’s supposed point that protestantism philosophically/epistemologically evades the infallibility of Scripture, all the while tu quo que, he refuses to acknowledge the same on the part of the Roman church member.

    3. Yet as A Gilman somewhat alludes to, for Mr. Cross to drop in occasionally, as an ever learning and humble seeker after truth, dialogue and union, is more than a little duplicious, if not extremely naive on Mr. Cross’s part. There can be no real discussion with the holy and infallible Roman mother and Mr. Cross, of all people ought to know it.

    And beat it, if he cannot forthrightly confess it.

  86. May 2, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Fowler,

    Jason: would you say that postapostolic councils have the same authority as the apostles of the NT era?

    I’ll give a firm but uncomfortable “No” on this one.

    The reason my denial is uncomfortable is that there appears to be an inconsistency in the way we approach the various councils. We seem to treat the council of Jerusalem’s decrees one way (they were required to be upheld); we treat the council of Nicaea’s decrees another way (they are not quite as “required to be upheld” as something expressly canonical, but they’re close and, practically speaking, effectively canonical for us); and we treat the decrees of the Westminster Assembly still another way (as rules governing those who have voluntarily submitted to one of our churches because our churches line up with their interpretation of Scripture).

    As I noted above, there just seems to be a lack of consistency here. Are we the same church as the one that recognized the biblical doctrine of the Trinity and hypostatic union and creedally formulated them? Then why don’t we treat the WCF/3FU as true tests of Orthodoxy the way we do the Creed?

    Or contrariwise, if we’re going to treat the WCF/3FU as optional doctrinal statements that one can affirm or deny (depending on whether or not they conform to his own interpretation of the Bible), then why can’t we treat the Creed the same way and, say, entertain the prospect of a candidate taking an exception to the homoousion?

    And if the answer is that the homoousion is a non-negotiable, essential element of the faith, then why isn’t limited atonement? And while we’re at it, who gets to decide what is and what isn’t non-negotiable?

    PS – Since you answer all my questions with questions, I’m giving you a good-natured taste of your own medicine!

  87. Paige Britton said,

    May 3, 2010 at 6:24 am

    Jason asks such great questions. I’ll add these:

    Since doctrinal formulations were usually crafted in response to heresy in the church, would it be fair to say there are Major Heresies and then there are Minor Heterodoxies? Might those early councils have dealt with Majors, and the Westminster Assembly with a mix of Majors and Minors? By Minors I’d mean something that does not seem to compromise the gospel, though it might well diminish God’s glory or impoverish faith (don’t know whether I’d put LA in this category or not).

    Second, given our historical moment and the lack of theological depth in most protestant churches, which is more important: being able to write off those who don’t grasp the depth of the Reformed expression of the faith as heretics (or unbelievers); or holding out what we are convinced is a faithful expression of God’s truth to those who might, in their ongoing growth in Christ, come to the same conviction through prayerful study (like the Jasons and Paiges of the PCA)?

    pb

  88. Paige Britton said,

    May 3, 2010 at 6:38 am

    (p.s. – with the above I am bearing in mind the difference in responsibility between one who teaches impoverished doctrine, and one who just chugs along in unexamined and theologically inadequate understanding of the faith. Sometimes the same issue of doctrine will call for using one voice with the wolves who are teaching wrongly, and another for the sheep who are thinking poorly.)

  89. Ron Henzel said,

    May 3, 2010 at 7:09 am

    Jason,

    Could it be that we treat Nicea the way we do not because of an authority that inheres in it, but because it faithfully represents the authoritative teaching of Scripture? If so, why would that be uncomfortable?

  90. rfwhite said,

    May 3, 2010 at 8:28 am

    86 Jason: yes, there is a lack of consistency in how we respond to different councils because we do not ascribe the same authority to each, nor do we ascribe the same authority to councils that we ascribe to Scripture.

  91. TurretinFan said,

    May 3, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Jason J. Stellman wrote: “So to TurretinFan’s statement that “To divide the Word from the Scriptures, as Stellman is doing, is dangerous ground (although it is one of the approaches that the Romanists use),” I would simply answer that I am doing nothing other than what Horton is doing in the citation above.”

    Paige Britton had written: “Whoa, I don’t think you need to pin some insidious Romanism on Jason’s thought, there.”

    On this point, I want to clarify that I’m not pinning Romanism on Jason’s thought. I do think his argument is dangerously imprecise, but I don’t think he’s a Romanist. My comments (at great length) were aimed at showing him the danger, as well as helping to steer him clear of that danger.

    I appreciate the quotation from Michael Horton. The quotation states: “Of course, God’s Word was at first delivered by oral tradition and was only later committed to writing. None of the Reformation theologians held that the Bible as we now have it preceded the church! However, the Reformers argued that the Word of God preceded both Scripture and the church.”

    I don’t have the full context for this quotation, which makes it hard to respond to it. With that enormous and important caveat, I’d like to venture a few responses.

    1) If Horton is simply referring to the fact that God’s word came orally from Adam to Moses, he’s right. No one can doubt that.

    2) If Horton means that God’s word sometimes came orally from Moses until Malachi and again from John the Baptist to John the Beloved Disciple, he’s right. No one can reasonably deny that.

    3) If Horton is simply trying to repeat what the WCF 1:1 says:

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

    … then of course, Horton is right, and his point can’t reasonably be denied. (However, note that the confession itself teaches that the Church is founded (“establishment”) on the Scriptures.)

    4) However, Horton’s comments could be taken another way. If Horton’s comments were taken as suggesting that the Scriptures themselves are simply a transcription/condensation of prior oral tradition (and without context, I have no reason to think that Horton meant his words that way), then they would seem to be wrong.

    In that regard, Horton’s characterizations would be imprecise. For example, Paul’s epistles were not examples of prior oral tradition being committed to writing. Indeed, it is rare in Scripture that we are told that something is an oral tradition being committed to writing.

    Finally, I note that the rationale/explanation provided in Stellman’s original comment, namely “but it was not founded upon ‘the Scriptures,’ for the obvious reason that decades elapsed during which the church was growing, and no NT books had even been written, let alone collected and recognized as canonical,” is still problematic, but since he’s not continuing that (and has already acknowledged that there was some imprecision there), I figure the point has been sufficiently made for everyone concerned. Indeed, the point that the Scriptures were given for the establishment and comfort of the church is simply Scripturally and Confessionally the undeniable fact. And Paige Britton has already noted that: “[Stellman]’s steady-on re. the mother-daughter thing (Church as mother of Scriptures v. Scripture as mother of Church).” So, I suppose the clarification is at an end, unless I’ve misunderstood Stellman’s responses above.

    -TurretinFan

  92. TurretinFan said,

    May 3, 2010 at 9:18 am

    However, there is another issue I’d like to address. I wonder how Stellman means when he writes:

    Were ministers in the post-Acts 15 church free to disregard the conclusion of the Jerusalem Council? Or, are we free today to disregard the Nicene formulation of the Trinity or the Chalcedonian definition of the hypostatic union?

    You may answer (1) no and no; (2) yes and yes; (3) no and yes; or for the sake of argument, (4) yes and no.

    My instinct is to opt for option #1. Now, if the councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon were so authoritative that they actually define orthodoxy, my question is, “Are the Westminster Assembly’s conclusions that authoritative, and if not, why not?”

    And is there a church or branch of the church today that can still make Nicaea-like pronouncements? If so, where is it? If not, where did it go?

    The specific question mark in my mind is his expression: “free to disregard” which isn’t really a defined theological term.

    There are two possible senses to his comment. I’ll give the sense I hope he meant first. The sense I hope he meant is the sense of WCF 31:3:

    III. It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially, to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, 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, not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God, appointed thereunto in his Word.

    In this sense, Christians are not free to utterly disregard the decisions of councils. If that’s all that Stellman meant (and to be clear, I am charitably presuming that’s what he meant), then I agree with him.

    However, there is a possibility that what he said could be understood to mean that Nicaea and Chalcedon are our regula fidei – our rule of faith. That is to say, their definitions are not something that we can even consider questioning on the basis of Scripture.

    If Stellman’s expression were to be understood in that light, then it would be both wrong and contrary to our (his and my) confession, namely WCF 31:4:

    IV. All synods or councils since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred; therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as a help in both.

    Notice that the Confession (which in Section 2, had specifically indicated the Scriptures as the rule of faith) explicitly indicates that councils are nor our rule of faith/practice (even councils that were right).

    -TurretinFan

  93. Paige Britton said,

    May 3, 2010 at 9:38 am

    TF wrote,
    Notice that the Confession (which in Section 2, had specifically indicated the Scriptures as the rule of faith) explicitly indicates that councils are not our rule of faith/practice (even councils that were right).

    Though sometimes, even within this understanding, we use “Chalcedon” or “Nicaea” as shorthand for “the truth expressed in these doctrinal formulations.” That is, we are conscience-bound not to “Chalcedon” or “Nicaea” as councils (authority of office), but conscience-bound to accept God’s truth in so far as it is faithfully reported in their summaries (authority of God’s revealed truth). So if we say that someone is denying “Chalcedon” or “Nicaea,” we DON’T necessarily mean that they are denying the authority of the councils — we mean they are departing from the truth expressed in the doctrinal statements.

  94. TurretinFan said,

    May 3, 2010 at 9:41 am

    PB:
    Agreed.
    – TF

  95. David DeJong said,

    May 3, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Indeed, the point that the Scriptures were given for the establishment and comfort of the church is simply Scripturally and Confessionally the undeniable fact.

    One might say, tongue in cheek, which Scriptures? Does the fact that different traditions define the extent of the canon differently trouble you at all? The church’s judgment is introduced at a very basic level; without it the notion of canon is meaningless. I know Calvin would appeal to the testimony of the Spirit. But so can Catholics when they are reading 2 Maccabees.

  96. Andy Gilman said,

    May 4, 2010 at 3:57 am

    I had said to Bryan:

    And while you might say the Bible has supernatural authority, the reality is that in your system, the Bible can have no real authority.

    To which he replied:

    Why do you think that? (I’m assuming you’ve read Dei Verbum.)

    I think that because, while you pay lip service to the “supernatural authority” of the Bible, it is not really authoritative for you personally. What is authoritative for you are the words which come to your eyes and ears via the magisterium (words that, unlike the words in the Bible, you trust to your own interpretation). You say the Bible has intrinsic, supernatural authority, but what you mean is that the Bible has intrinsic, supernatural authority for the magisterium, whose judgment you slavishly submit to no matter how idolatrous. You presuppose an infallible magisterium for which profanity is impossible, because the magisterium determines for itself what constitutes good and evil, right and wrong, truth and lies. If the magisterium tells you that Jesus arrived in Bethlehem via spaceship, you will believe it despite the clear biblical teaching to the contrary.

    Here’s how your Dei Verbum puts it:

    It is the task of exegetes to work according to these rules toward a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture, so that through preparatory study the judgment of the Church may mature. For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God.

    And your catechism:

    It is the task of exegetes to work, according to these rules, towards a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture in order that their research may help the Church to form a firmer judgement. For, of course, all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgement of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God.

    Bryan said:

    So basically unless I side with Protestants against the Catholic Church, I have ulterior motives in wanting to work toward reconciliation?

    I think you are far too smart to believe that there is some real hope of reconciliation between the Protestants who contribute here at “Green Baggins,” and Roman Catholicism. You know full well that until Rome stops anathematizing the Gospel, recants its wicked pronouncements regarding Mary, removes the apocraphyl books from its “canon,” and ceases a couple of dozen other abominable practices, there is not the least chance of “resolving this nearly 500 year-old schism,” with those who frequent this blog. Yet you repeatedly turn up here to advance your argument about “confessional authority,” apparently because you think you’ve found a weakness in the Protestant position. Therefore I think it’s reasonable to suppose that you have ulterior motives, and that “reconciliation” is not your purpose here. My suspicion is that you are here to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of some who are lurking. You are here as an evangelist for a perverse and apostate Roman Catholicism, hoping that some might “come home” with you, and join you in your blasphemy.

  97. Bryan Cross said,

    May 4, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Andy,

    I think that because, while you pay lip service to the “supernatural authority” of the Bible, it is not really authoritative for you personally.

    Since I myself personally submit to every verse in the Bible, properly interpreted, the Bible is truly authoritative for me personally. I do believe that Christ provided authorized shepherds to his Church to provide the proper interpretation of Scripture. But claiming that interpretive authority per se is incompatible with that which is being interpreted is a false dilemma. When Jesus said, “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me” (Luke 10:16), He wasn’t contradicting Himself. The authority of the Apostles to teach and explain and interpret what Christ had taught them did not mean that the people were only able to “pay lip service” to the authority of Christ. And when Philip explained the meaning of Isaiah to the Ethiopian eunuch, the book of Isaiah did not thereby cease to be authoritative for the eunuch. On the contrary, the light Philip provided is what allowed Scripture to function authoritatively for the eunuch. So, I do not share your presupposition that divinely bestowed interpretive authority is intrinsically incompatible with the intrinsic authority of divine revelation.

    You presuppose an infallible magisterium for which profanity is impossible, because the magisterium determines for itself what constitutes good and evil, right and wrong, truth and lies. If the magisterium tells you that Jesus arrived in Bethlehem via spaceship, you will believe it despite the clear biblical teaching to the contrary.

    Your spaceship hypothesis presupposes that the magisterium is not bound by the deposit of faith and by its own prior declarations regarding the deposit of faith. But infallibility is what prevents any pope or ecumenical council from going against what has already been given to the Church (in the deposit of faith) and infallibly defined by the Church. In other words, infallibility is why the questions of Arianism and Nestorianism and Modalism and Monphysitism, etc. are definitively closed. The Church has no authority to reverse these things. The Church has no authority to say that Jesus came in a spaceship, because it is de fide that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. Without infallibility, every interpretive question would still be an open question, and any interpretation would still be an interpretive option. The canon too would be an open question, which books belong to it and which do not. Infallibility is what allows these questions to have been answered once and for all, and thus protected from future reversals. It is the great conserving principle of the Church over the past two thousand years, and protects the sheep from being blown this and that by every wind of doctrine, and every theological innovation, fad or suggestion.

    I think you are far too smart to believe that there is some real hope of reconciliation between the Protestants who contribute here at “Green Baggins,” and Roman Catholicism.

    For me, it has nothing to do with ‘smarts.’ I believe in an almighty God who can do the seemingly impossible. We see that all through the Bible. He still exists, and He’s not done. He brought the Hebrews out of slavery after 400 years with His mighty hand. He can reconcile Protestants and Catholics after 500 years of separation.

    “Confessional authority” is indeed a weakness, because it is an illusion. I’m simply showing it to be what it is. But that doesn’t entail the truth of Catholicism. Lot’s of people have figured out that Protestant confessions have no authority; some have become Evangelicals. And some others have become Eastern Orthodox. So what I’m saying here about “confessional authority” doesn’t entail Catholicism. Of course I think we need creeds and confession. The problem of no theological question being definitively settled is most poignant with the solo scriptura folks. And that’s why they are all over the map theologically. I believe that Christ didn’t leave His sheep without a shepherd, to be blown this way and that. So, I’m definitely not advocating a non-confessional, just-me-and-my-Bible form of Christianity. But my point is that just picking a confession that conforms to one’s own interpretation of Scripture, and treating it as one’s ‘authority,’ doesn’t solve the problem; it is a self-deceiving way of sweeping the problem under the rug.

    You could try to hide the problem of “confessional authority” by questioning my motives and attacking the messenger by attacking the points of Catholicism with which you disagree. But I think a more intellectually honest thing to do is either show why [some] Protestant confessions do have have an authority to which all Christians in the world should be subject, or acknowledge that the confessions you treat as authoritative are just the ones that agree with your own personal interpretation of Scripture, and thus that they are ‘authoritative’ simply because you agree with them (except where you disagree with them).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  98. Phil Derksen said,

    May 4, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Of course “reconciliation” in the Roman Catholic lexicon means, “everyone must slavishly agree with us.”

  99. Phil Derksen said,

    May 4, 2010 at 9:59 am

    You know, let’s cut to the chase here.

    SEVEN UNEGOTIABLE REASONS WHY BIBLE BELIEVING PROTESTANTS WILL NEVER GO BACK TO ROME:

    1. She has priests who claim to stand in the place of the one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus;

    2. On her altar there is a wafer which she idolatrously declares to be the real corporeal presence of Him who was once sacrificed for our sins and ever lives to die no more;

    3. The confessional compels the priest’s ear to be a sewer into which the garbage and sinful refuse of human souls must be poured with all their disgusting and contaminating detail;

    4. Prayers and idolatrous adorations, contrary to biblical command, are offered to Mary, Joseph and to countless saints;

    5. Purgatory is taught as the destination of human souls, implicating the insufficiency of Christ’s atonement, the inadequacy of the cleansing blood and affording an opportunity for the culture of venality in the priesthood;

    6. All other Christianity is declared to be mongrel, the validity of their orders derided, and their final salvation declared to be possible outside Rome only by the exercise of extraordinary grace;

    7. The Pope is declared to be infallible, the vicar of Christ on earth, with temporal and spiritual authority to bind and no man can loose, to open and no man can shut. We stand for the supremacy of Christ, the ultimate authority of Holy Scripture, the right of private judgment, justification by faith alone, and regeneration only by the Holy Spirit.

  100. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 4, 2010 at 10:01 am

    BC (#97): Since I myself personally submit to every verse in the Bible, properly interpreted, the Bible is truly authoritative for me personally.

    Which is to say, It’s not authoritative at all.

    I know that sounds harsh, but the magisterial position is that the power to interpret is the power to define — the Church defines what the Scripture is, and what it means.

    The outcome is that Scripture is nothing more than a catechism, an organ of Church teaching. Its authority is subordinate to the authority of the Church.

    BC: But infallibility is what prevents any pope or ecumenical council from going against what has already been given to the Church (in the deposit of faith) and infallibly defined by the Church.

    The Scripture infallibly teaches that Mary married Joseph, and that Jesus had brothers; that ministers of the gospel have the right to take along a believing wife and that their fitness for office should be assessed by their administration of their families.

    The Church “inteprets” Scripture so as to turn these things on their heads: Mary’s marriage was unconsummated (and thus, not a complete marriage under Catholic law, and was in plain contrast to the Catholic norms of marriage); Jesus’ brothers were not brothers but cousins (on the basis of a supposed Aramaic source for the Greek gospels); and ministers of the gospel are forbidden from having families except under rare special circumstances.

    With such a flexible interpretive process, anything can be turned into anything else. If a rogue pope (and we have had those, right?) came along and decreed that Jesus was a created being, he could find a way to “reinterpret” Nicea so as to shoehorn his teaching in.

    If a pope came along and said that even Protestants can be saved (Lumen Gentium II.19), he would find a way to reinterpret Vatican I so as to shoehorn his teaching in.

    Vatican I: Therefore, if anyone says that blessed Peter the apostle was not appointed by Christ the lord as prince of all the apostles and visible head of the whole church militant; or that it was a primacy of honour only and not one of true and proper jurisdiction that he directly and immediately received from our lord Jesus Christ himself: let him be anathema.

    Vatican II: The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God. They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ’s disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end.

    The bottom line is that the current, living magisterial authority always has final, absolute interpretive authority. Appeals by lessers from Scripture are always vetoed by the authority of the greater. Because of this, the texts that have gone before are completely subject to the interpretation of the current living authority. They become wax noses, to whom no appeal can be made — since the current pope has the ability to declare even what they mean.
    I know that sounds cynical, but church history bears out the reality of these allegations. The texts that have come before have no authority on their own which independently places limits on the pope.

    Ah, this is fine, you say, because the pope is infallible.

    Says who? The pope.

    Utterly unconvincing.

    Bryan, I know I’m being rough here, and I’m not pleased that our conversation has come to this point. The intent is not to offend but to grab you firmly by the shoulders and show you the epistemology you’ve adopted: you know nothing unless the Church tells you. The Scripture says nothing unless the Church has also said it … and the pope tomorrow might well change that, he has the authority to reinterpret everything that has gone before.

    The only escape from this radically skeptical take is to admit that texts have some degree of objective meaning.

    But if you were to admit this, then you would have to admit also that Scripture has meaning which can be discerned by normal reading practices … which means that church doctrine can be tested against Scripture … and this would bring down the whole papal infallibility house of cards.

  101. Andy Gilman said,

    May 4, 2010 at 10:37 am

    From Calvin’s Institutes 1:7.1:

    A most pernicious error has very generally prevailed–viz. that Scripture is of importance only in so far as conceded to it by the suffrage of the Church; as if the eternal and inviolable truth of God could depend on the will of men. With great insult to the Holy Spirit, it is asked, who can assure us that the Scriptures proceeded from God; who guarantee that they have come down safe and unimpaired to our times; who persuade us that this book is to be received with reverence, and that one expunged from the list, did not the Church regulate all these things with certainty? On the determination of the Church, therefore, it is said, depend both the reverence which is due to Scripture, and the books which are to be admitted into the canon. Thus profane men, seeking, under the pretext of the Church, to introduce unbridled tyranny, care not in what absurdities they entangle themselves and others, provided they extort from the simple this one acknowledgement–viz. that there is nothing which the Church cannot do. But what is to become of miserable consciences in quest of some solid assurance of eternal life, if all the promises with regard to it have no better support than man’s Judgment? On being told so, will they cease to doubt and tremble? On the other hand, to what jeers of the wicked is our faith subjected–into how great suspicion is it brought with all, if believed to have only a precarious authority lent to it by the good will of men?

    And from the Preferatory address: “…they hesitate not to suspend the whole authority of Scripture on the judgment
    of the Church.”

  102. Andy Gilman said,

    May 4, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Bryan said:

    You could try to hide the problem of “confessional authority” by questioning my motives and attacking the messenger by attacking the points of Catholicism with which you disagree.

    There is no problem among Protestants with “confessional authority,” there is only your attempt to manufacture a problem of “supernatural, infallible confessional authority.” It is not a problem for Protestants, since we don’t subscribe to such authority. You on the other hand have a problem with supernatural, infallible biblical authority. You have a magisterium which eviscerates biblical authority, but you are not intellectually honest enough to admit it; so you engage in viscious circularity to attempt to maintain compatibility between the two competing “supernatural authorities.”

  103. May 4, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    From Jeff Cagle:

    With such a flexible interpretive process, anything can be turned into anything else. If a rogue pope… came along and decreed that Jesus was a created being, he could find a way to “reinterpret” Nicea so as to shoehorn his teaching in.

    This is an important point. Bryan and others often ask questions like, “If your church weren’t a church at all, but a club, how would you know it? If you can’t answer, then this means that there’s no principled difference between the two.”

    So in that vein, my question is, “If later councils weren’t further clarifying the statements of earlier ones, but were actually changing their originally-intended meanings how would YOU know it?”

    In other words, there doesn’t appear to be a “principled difference” between clarification and revision. In fact, I seem to remember Cardinal Newman specifically stating that later doctrinal formulations SHOULD be read back into earlier pronouncements (which sounds incredibly anachronistic).

  104. Zrim said,

    May 4, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    But my point is that just picking a confession that conforms to one’s own interpretation of Scripture, and treating it as one’s ‘authority,’ doesn’t solve the problem; it is a self-deceiving way of sweeping the problem under the rug.

    But, Bryan, just picking a church that conforms to one’s interpretation of Scripture, or better one’s understanding of authority, and treating it as one’s authority seems to have its own pack of problems, don’t you think?

    Your consistent complaint is that Protestants (by which you mean whoever isn’t Catholic, another issue) only employ private judgment. We consistently and unapologetically admit that, while it doesn’t explain everything at all, private judgment is in the mix, but you always seem to act as if your are devoid of any private judgment. This is what can be so disingenuous; to never concede that at some point YOU yourself judged the RCC to be the true church and thus adhered to her. So it would seem that you may use private judgment because it resulted in adhering to the RCC, but Protestants mayn’t because it didn’t result that way. It’s fine to fault our conclusions, but don’t you think it’s a bit of shell game to disallow Prot’s from employing private judgment simply because we didn’t follow it to Rome? I get that what drives the Catholic is ecclesia (“Where is the church?”) and what drives the Protestant is scriptura (“Where is the gospel?”), but when one doesn’t admit that private judgment subsumes his question and informs his answer, and faults the other for doing so, it’s pretty unpersuasive.

  105. May 4, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Zrim,

    My guess is that Bryan’s response will in some sense involve the idea that (1) yes, he did use private judgment in his conversion (which he would say he has never denied), but (2) the Protestant question “Where is the gospel?” can only be answered through private judgment, whereas the Catholic question “Where is the church?” can be answered in an historical, non-subjective way.

    My issue with this kind of response is that, although I concede that tracing a line of bishops involves less individual subjectivism than interpreting for myself the biblical doctrine of justification, it is nonetheless true that before a Catholic even starts to trace his line of bishops he must first determine, through personal study, that that’s even the correct method in the first place.

  106. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 4, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    JJS (105):

    …whereas the Catholic question “Where is the church?” can be answered in an historical, non-subjective way.

    If texts can only be properly understood through interpretive authority, how much more does history require an interpretive authority? It’s authorities all the way down…

  107. Andrew McCallum said,

    May 4, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Andy Gillman,

    Particularly in #96, I think you are being unfair with your treatment of Bryan concerning “ulterior motives.” Like Jason Stellman, I’ve spent quite some time interacting with Bryan and other likeminded Catholics on Bryan’s as well as Jason’s blog. I think Bryan really is genuinely looking for reconciliation. Of course it’s reconciliation on Rome’s terms, but then we Reformed are looking for reconciliation too, just rather on what we understand to be historical Christian terms rather than Roman ones.

    But something well worth considering that you are others on this thread allude to is that of the interpretation of tradition by the Catholics. I have challenged Bryan and friends on this matter for some time and never gotten much of an answer. They believe that they have solved the problems concerning matters related to Arianism, etc by making ecclesiastical pronouncements concerning these core tenets of the Bible. But all they have done is taken one infallible authority and replaced it with another. They are still in the same spot of having to interpret an infallible body of data, only it’s just a different set of “infallible” data. They suppose that as we Reformed move from infallible Scriptures to fallible interpretation we have a fundamental epistemological dilemma, but as they move from “infallible” de fide pronouncements to fallible interpretations of this dogmatic tradition they have no similar problem.

    The problem runs even deeper than this for the Catholics in that there is nothing in the works of the Early Church Father’s to suggest that the theological work of the Church, no matter what sort of consensus was achieved, was to be taken as infallible. The concept of infallibility evolved and the obvious question we Protestants ask them is whether it evolved correctly or incorrectly. But this kind of question hits at a central philosophical assumption of Catholicism that cannot really be considered by the serious Catholic. To critically investigate the matter is to undermine the foundations on which Catholicism sits. Of course the Reformed family of churches have our own set of assumptions, but these assumptions rest of the very words of God rather than on the collective statements of the bishops. The Catholics ask us how we interpret the Scriptures and we ask them how they interpret tradition. And round and round it goes…..

    Cheers….

  108. Bryan Cross said,

    May 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Jeff,

    If the Catholic position were the straw man you have described, I too would reject it. I don’t have time to address all the misunderstanding and objections you raise, nor is this the place to do it. But let’s focus on the relation between Scripture and Church (or between Scripture and Confession). Some of the things you say about the relation of Scripture to the magisterium sound very much like what certain FV folks say about the relation of Scripture to the WCF. At the end of your comment you say this:

    The only escape from this radically skeptical take is to admit that texts have some degree of objective meaning.

    Of course I have never denied that texts have objective meaning. The Scriptures do not just have “some degree” of objective meaning; they have objective meaning. But having objective meaning does not entail that they are all equally perspicuous. Some are easier to understand rightly than others. Some [passages/verses] are difficulty to understand, even prone to misunderstanding by those who don’t know theology and the Tradition of the community within which those books were written. A quick glance around at all the Bible-only people who disagree with your interpretation of Scripture is sufficient to establish that fact. (There are 44 different Reformed denominations just in the US.) That’s not hermeneutical skepticism. That’s the best explanation of the evidence of the 500-year experiment called Protestantism. So I do not accept the notion that recognizing that some passages of Scripture are prone to misunderstanding constitutes some kind of “radical skepticism.”

    But if you were to admit this, then you would have to admit also that Scripture has meaning which can be discerned by normal reading practices

    Scripture does have meaning that can be discerned by normal reading practices.

    … which means that church doctrine can be tested against Scripture … and this would bring down the whole papal infallibility house of cards.

    That conclusion does not follow. The fact that Scripture does have meaning that can be discerned by normal reading practices does not entail that every Church doctrine can rightly be “tested” against Scripture by the normal reading practices of the average layman. You have to keep in mind that you (the reader) could be misinterpreting one of those passages that are prone to misinterpretation. Let me use an extreme example to make the point. Take this guy, for example:

    He argues from Scripture that men should not urinate while sitting down. Of course, he is misinterpreting Scripture. So if (hypothetically) the Catholic Church said that men may urinate while seated, and this guy said with you that “church doctrine can be tested against Scripture,” he would wrongly conclude that the Church is contradicting Scripture, rather than rightly conclude (from the Church’s determination of what is and what is not required from these passages) that it is he who has misinterpreted Scripture. Of course to you and I the Baptist pastor is obviously wrong; but to himself he is not wrong. But the more difficult cases are precisely the ones where the individual’s interpretive error is less obvious. Heretics typically do not see their own misinterpretation of Scripture — they are blind to it, and that puts them in a dangerous epistemological situation, i.e. being in heresy by their own misinterpretation of Scripture, and having no way of seeing that they are in heresy, since their own way of reading Scripture seems, to them, to confirm their [heretical] belief. Most all heretics in the history of the Church have thought they are orthodox. Every interpreter of Scripture should always keep that in mind.

    The individual, therefore, has to be aware that there are some passages more difficult to understand than others, and be open to the possibility that the passage in question is one such passage. In other words, we have to approach Scripture with interpretive humility. In any case in which the individual’s interpretation is opposed to the teaching of the Church, he has to rule out the possibility that the Church is right and that he has misunderstood the passage, before determining that he is right and the Church is wrong.

    One of the ways in which he can determine whether the Church is right and he is wrong, is by examining what Christians have always and everywhere believed about the doctrine or passage or interpretation in question. In other words, he can (and should) turn to the Tradition. If his interpretation is the novelty, then he should humbly submit to the Church, and allow it to correct his interpretation; he shouldn’t presuppose ecclesial deism and some form of restorationism that starts with himself (ala Joseph Smith). This is an example of what we call “faith seeking understanding.” But if the Church’s interpretation is the novelty, and his is the one that all Christians have always and everywhere held, then the Church’s teaching has (God forbid) departed from the faith entrusted once and for all to the saints.

    The events of Jesus life, for example are relatively easy to determine from Scripture. That He was born in Bethlehem in a manger, and raised in Nazareth, and baptized by John the Baptist, and was crucified on a cross, buried, and rose on the third day, and ascended –all Christians of all time have always believed and understood these passages in this way, and the Church has always believed and taught them in this way. If in the future the Church (hypothetically) contradicted any of those, that would be heresy, because the Church would be going against what she has always and everywhere believed and taught.

    But other passages of Scripture are easily misunderstood. So, for example, the question of whether Jesus had brothers by Mary is an easy place to misinterpret Scripture by assuming (from our 21st century culture and language) that the word ‘brother’ must mean what it means in our own language and time, with little or no awareness that the term had a broader sense in ancient near-east culture. Determining the answer is not as simple as pointing to the phrase “Jesus’ brothers” in the gospels, just as determining the urination-posture question is not as simple as pointing to the verses this Baptist pastor points to. And the same is true of the passages about Joseph taking Mary as his spouse (whether or not that entails consummation), and about the Apostles’ “right” to “take along a believing wife” and about presbyters managing their families well (whether those verses preclude the Church from requiring celibacy of ministerial candidates). In each of these cases we have to recognize the possibility that it is we who are misinterpreting these passages, and consider whether our own interpretation is what is mistaken. To do that, we need to look at the Tradition. I don’t have the time (nor would this be the place) to go into those question. So, I’ll just refer you to some reading that illuminates the Tradition regarding these issues. On the celibacy question, I recommend The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy by Christian Cochini. And on whether Mary remained a virgin I recommend Mary the Fathers of the Church by Luigi Gambero. Considering the Tradition helps foster the sort of interpretive humility that is necessary when coming to Scripture to avoid the self-destructive situation of misinterpreting Scripture and then using one’s own misinterpretation to judge the Church to be heretical, and then separating (or remaining separate) from the Church on that ground.

    There are a number of other important questions/objections raised in this thread (even today), especially Jason’s last one (#105), but I just don’t have the time to address them all right now. (And today is our wedding anniversary.) May Christ continue to guide us all into the Truth.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  109. johnbugay said,

    May 4, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Andrew McCallum 107 — you said, The problem runs even deeper than this for the Catholics in that there is nothing in the works of the Early Church Father’s to suggest that the theological work of the Church, no matter what sort of consensus was achieved, was to be taken as infallible. The concept of infallibility evolved and the obvious question we Protestants ask them is whether it evolved correctly or incorrectly. But this kind of question hits at a central philosophical assumption of Catholicism that cannot really be considered by the serious Catholic. To critically investigate the matter is to undermine the foundations on which Catholicism sits.

    I don’t see how this turns into anything other than a belief in a fairy tale. You have seen these discussions with respect to the early papacy. It’s like saying, “There’s no Santa Claus. We’ve been to the North Pole, there’s no workshop there, there are no reindeer up there.” And they say, “Oh yes, the head elf assures me that Santa exists, and has always existed at the North Pole.” And so when you say, “round and round it goes,” you’re putting a kind of equivalence to the respective epistemological errors that just isn’t there.

  110. Ron Henzel said,

    May 4, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Bryan,

    In comment 97, you wrote:

    It is the great conserving principle of the Church over the past two thousand years, and protects the sheep from being blown this and that by every wind of doctrine, and every theological innovation, fad or suggestion.

    And yet it would seem to me that a doctrine that was first defined dogmatically only 140 years ago this year—i.e., papal infallibility—certainly qualifies as a theological innovation. It had been debated within Roman Catholic circles for centuries, and the the pronouncement of Vatican I produced the schism that resulted in the Old Catholic Churches.

    You wrote:

    “Confessional authority” is indeed a weakness, because it is an illusion. I’m simply showing it to be what it is.

    I don’t think you’ve shown anything of the kind. Rather, I think you’ve attempted a play upon the equivocal nature of both the definition and usage of the word “authority.” You are essentially arguing that unless a confession has inherent authority, it has no authority, but this argument is based on Roman Catholic presuppositions about the nature of authority which Protestants rejected from the very beginning.

    In fact, the entire edifice of your so-called “ecclesial deism” is manufactured from rotten timbers that the Reformation discarded as it developed its ecclesiology. For Roman Catholics the word “ecclesial” inevitably has reference not to the church as we find it in the New Testament, but to the bishops, and ultimately to the Bishop of Rome (who can and has repeatedly overruled his fellow bishops, making a mockery of the the phrase “as defined by church councils”). Your own definition of “ecclesial deism” makes this clear when it specifically limits its reference to the magisterium, thus demonstrating that your “eccesial deism” is actually a misnomer for “magisterial deism.” Far from having a “deistic” ecclesiology, historic Protestantism has uniformly agreed that the Holy Spirit has continued to be extremely involved with His church down to the present time, as we see, for example, in the Heidelberg Catechism:

    54. Q. What do you believe concerning the holy catholic Christian church?

    A. I believe that the Son of God, out of the whole human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, defends, and preserves for Himself, by His Spirit and Word, in the unity of the true faith, a church chosen to everlasting life. And I believe that I am and forever shall remain a living member of it.

    In light of statements like this (and further examples from the writings of the Reformers and early documents could be easily multiplied), your “ecclesial deism” epithet is nothing more or less than a slur. And even if you agreed with me that “magisterial deism” is a more appropriate term, but tried to continue both attributing it to Protestantism and faulting Protestantism for it, you would be simply begging a host of questions, such as “Why did God not provide such a magisterium for His Old Testament people?” Is it because “ecclesial deism” was God’s actual policy from Adam until the apostles?

    Protestants hold that both the word and the concept attached to “magisterium” are antithetical to the teaching of Scripture. As Bavinck has pointed out, the teaching office of the church as described in the New Testament is not a magisterium but a ministerium.

    In comment 108, you wrote:

    A quick glance around at all the Bible-only people who disagree with your interpretation of Scripture is sufficient to establish that fact. (There are 44 different Reformed denominations just in the US.) That’s not hermeneutical skepticism. That’s the best explanation of the evidence of the 500-year experiment called Protestantism.

    And yet, as you know (and as I’ve stated above) there are plenty of conservative Roman Catholics who disagree on each other’s interpretation of Scripture or church tradition and yet are in harmony with each other on what Rome’s magisterium has defined as de fide. They may even disagree vehemently at times, and as you very well know they have splintered into various factions within Catholicism (e.g., the division over priestly celibacy). The only difference between that situation and the situation that obtains with those “44 different Reformed denominations” who subscribe to either the Westminster Standards or the Three Forms of Unity is that the latter do not all submit to the same ecclesiastical hierarchy. They are in harmony on what they mutually agree to be essential matters, thus they obviously do not consider having a single ecclesiastical hierarchy to be essential.

    So in both Roman Catholicism and Reformed churches we have this parallel: differences in interpretation on what are considered non-essential matters with agreement on the essentials. And yet somehow Roman Catholics end up misrepresenting Reformed ecclesiastical decentralization as significant theological disunity. I suppose it makes good propaganda.

  111. rfwhite said,

    May 4, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    105 Jason: I agree substantially with your comment there. As I understand it, the question with which Lane’s post is concerned is, at bottom, how are God’s people delivered from subjectivity — or, worse, from pure subjectivism — in Scriptural interpretation? Both Rom Caths and Prots affirm the need for deliverance; both affirm the role of the Spirit; they differ radically in their analyses of how the Spirit works deliverance. Arguably, the impasse is over whether the Spirit gives deliverance immediately (Prot) or mediately (Rom Cath).

  112. David Linton said,

    May 4, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Very interesting dialogue. I must say that I am confused by the original proposition. My response: http://jdlinton.blogspot.com/2010/05/knowledge-is-covenantal.html.

  113. Andrew McCallum said,

    May 4, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    I don’t see how this turns into anything other than a belief in a fairy tale. You have seen these discussions with respect to the early papacy

    Hello John,

    Yes, I remember your discussions of the early papacy, but I think we are talking about somewhat different although related matters. You are looking at the rather hazy record of the leaders of the Church of Rome before Clement, correct? I have not studied the matter like you have, but in general I agree that calling Linus and so on the first popes raises all sorts of problems. But I am speaking of what we do know definitively from the primary literature from the early leaders of Church. My contention is that the ecclesiology of the early bishops cannot be squared with that of the bishops from the late Medieval era when the early Reformers came on the scene. Bryan Cross likes to encourage people to ask the question as to which is the Church that Christ founded. And I’ve told Bryan that this is exactly what I am doing when I compare the leaders of the Rome in the Renaissance/Reformation era with those of the earliest centuries of Christianity. Of course that’s not what Bryan wants me to do, but the challenge for Bryan is tell us just what standard we are to use to determine whether the RCC of the Reformation is truly the successor of the Church of the Apostolic and sub-Apostolic eras. And if it’s just a matter of simple succession then I suppose that’s where you come in with points about the 1st century “popes.”

  114. johnbugay said,

    May 4, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Andrew: in general I agree that calling Linus and so on the first popes raises all sorts of problems.

    It’s not just Linus, but perhaps the first 10-12 names on the list, through maybe the year 175 or later.

    But I am speaking of what we do know definitively from the primary literature from the early leaders of Church.

    What we know “definitively from the primary literature” is almost totally equivalent to Scripture. It’s likely that we learn things from 1 Clement, but getting into some of the other documents, which may seem like “primary literature,” (such as the letters of Ignatius) are much closer to secondary literature, in that they are reconstructions of various textual editing processes. So really, we have to be less certain about some of these things than you are hinting at. That’s why secular and other historical sources become relatively much more meaningful in the grand scheme of things.

    My contention is that the ecclesiology of the early bishops cannot be squared with that of the bishops from the late Medieval era when the early Reformers came on the scene.

    Why stop in those years? There are questionable popes all the way back.

    One of the earliest questions in this thread had to do with “individual opinions.” How about “Pope” Leo and his questionable individual opinion to reject the 28th canon of the council of Chalcedon? What’s wrong with the decision of the Chalcedonian bishops that Leo should have had the authority to overturn it? It was his word versus a council. What about “Pope” Damasus’s decision questionable individual opinion that 137 of Ursinus’s followers should be killed in basically a street brawl so that he, Damasus, could win the papacy? I could go on and on. What about the double standard that’s evident in supporting these individuals?

  115. Paige Britton said,

    May 4, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Dr. White #111 –
    You wrote, As I understand it, the question with which Lane’s post is concerned is, at bottom, how are God’s people delivered from subjectivity — or, worse, from pure subjectivism — in Scriptural interpretation? Both Rom Caths and Prots affirm the need for deliverance; both affirm the role of the Spirit; they differ radically in their analyses of how the Spirit works deliverance. Arguably, the impasse is over whether the Spirit gives deliverance immediately (Prot) or mediately (Rom Cath).

    Might we say more precisely, though, that for Protestants, deliverance from subjectivism is given by the Spirit immediately (I assume you mean via illumination), but that we can only hope to grasp it (or exercise it) sufficiently, not exhaustively (or infallibly)?

    I’d add this qualifier because comparing the “deliverance” claimed by Prots & Catholics seems like comparing apples to oranges, on account of the charism of infallibility in the Catholic system.

    Bryan has presented this lack of an authoritative interpreter on earth as a “problem” for Protestants of all stripes, but it isn’t a problem if it’s the way God designed it.

  116. johnbugay said,

    May 4, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Andrew, if I might press this metaphor a bit further, in these types of discussions, a growing preponderance of evidence makes the Catholic “presuppositions” less and less viable. If this were a monetary negotiation, it seems to me you’re leaving too much money on the table for what you get in return. There is so much more that can be emphasized than what you are suggesting.

  117. rfwhite said,

    May 4, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    115 PB: In saying that deliverance from subjectivism is given by the Spirit immediately, I would agree that the deliverance given immediately is given sufficiently. My statement was meant to focus on the necessity or non-necessity of sacramental mediation in deliverance from subjectivity.

  118. Andrew McCallum said,

    May 4, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    What we know “definitively from the primary literature” is almost totally equivalent to Scripture.

    Yes, and that is a point I would make to my Catholic friends too. There is lots and lots of appeal to the Scripture to prove points in Clement, but none of the kinds of appeal to a centralized authority in Rome that we find later in the history of the Church.

    And then you mention Ignatius but this is certainly a different case. What is Ignatius and what is Pseudo-Ignatius has been a matter of great contention for many centuries and even today there is still no firm agreement. So maybe you are telling me that things do not all of a sudden get clear once we get into the 2nd century? Sure, I would concede that. All I’m saying is that the writings from this era where there is no dispute over origin and authorship still do not support the ecclesiological claims of Rome today. I think you will agree with that.

  119. May 5, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    John,

    About the shadiness of the pope lists, I haven’t studied the issue at all, so take this for what it’s worth….

    If we grant the idea that by Irenaeus’s time it really mattered to the church that it could trace its Roman bishops back to Peter, then it stands to reason that from then end of the second century, at least, there’s an unbroken chain of successors.

    So that leaves the era from c. 60 to c. 180. Well, to me it just comes down to plausibility. How plausible is it that Irenaeus could recount a history of Roman bishops leading up to his own time that was a total fabrication? I mean, if I listed all the presidents from Washington to Obama and included names like Theo Huxtable and Fox Mulder, I’m guessing the jig would be up before the words have even escaped my lips.

    I mean, unless every single bishop in the church died simultaneously at some point, and then a completely disconnected generation rose up in its place some time later and restarted Christianity, then I reckon it’s safe to say that the church in Rome has had an unbroken succession of leaders going back to apostolic times. It just seems more plausible than not.

    But of course, none of this means anything to us because our ecclesiology isn’t dependent upon a Petrine successor, so I don’t see why we need to argue the historical issue since it is irrelevant for us, anyways.

    My point is that we need to distinguish between an historical event and its theological significance. It’s like with the gift of tongues: I don’t need to discount the true existence of the phenomenon of glossalalia in people’s lives in order to insist that its practice carries no doctrinal significance whatsoever. Lots of people from various religions speak in tongues, and lots of bodies have an ancient pedigree. But historical events don’t become normative just because they took place.

  120. May 5, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Jason wrote:

    “My issue with this kind of response is that, although I concede that tracing a line of bishops involves less individual subjectivism than interpreting for myself the biblical doctrine of justification, it is nonetheless true that before a Catholic even starts to trace his line of bishops he must first determine, through personal study, that that’s even the correct method in the first place.”

    I am not sure where the issue, as in “there is something problematic here,” lies. Anyone who poses questions like these (e.g., “Where is the Church that Christ founded, and how do I know?”), and is not content to merely make up answers, has to reckon with the data (including testimony; e.g., of his parents, faith-community, etc.), but more fundamentally, he has to select from all the available data what is most relevant, and even more fundamentally, he has to raise the question in the first place. And this raising of the question requires some explanation.

    One of the things that I found interesting in my search for the Church that Christ founded, was the fact that many of my specifically Christian (though personally/consciously pre-Catholic) convictions, which deeply informed where I looked for data, and what was my estimation of those sources, were not in themselves either self-evident, or evident to the senses, or generally believed by all sane, intellectually functional people who are aware of these matters (e.g., convictions such as: God is working in history, in specific ways, for the supreme good of all humanity, and this through a particular Semitic people, from whom came Jesus of Nazareth, who was not just a man, and he is the focal point, the apex, of God’s work on behalf of man, and this Christ founded a Church whereby his unique, saving work would be extended to all the world, and among all the extant data testifying to this end, a particular set of ancient Semitic writings, in addition to conveying some (putatively) historical information about all of this, is, in some unique sense, Sacred and infallible; hence, to be implicitly believed).

    So part of seeking an answer to the question, “Where is the Church that Christ founded (if anywhere)?” involved an investigation into the grounds, or at least sources, of the already existing faith commitments that led me to pose this particular question, and to reckon it to be significant.

    And here is the point I am getting at: There is a sense in which (evangelical) Protestants definitely *do not* use private judgment. No (evangelical) Protestant would use his private judgment to deny something that he is convinced is affirmed in the set of writings which he takes to be Sacred Scripture. And that is, in the context of all the human beings using private judgment in relation to the relevant data, a remarkable thing.

    The fact that the Protestant believer is among the pool of persons using private judgment with respect to the data (selecting and interpreting), does not entail that he is not in a unique relation to that data by way of a distinct act of submission (i.e., faith). The non-believer may say: “YOU yourself judged this bit of Semitic literature to be the true word of God,” and another may add, “Well, if these writings are the true word of God, they would give the believer a greater degree of objectivity [a God-like perspective on some of the data, as it were], but the fact remains that he must determine, though personal study, that there even is a God to give a word, and that out of all the words (some claiming divine origins), these alone are it.”

    My point is not to bring the discussion round to the canon issue. I am sort of trying to hint at the way that Protestantism depends on presuppositions that are basically Catholic. Mostly, I am trying to figure out how Jason’s and Zrim’s comments touch on anything objectionable. I mean, theirs looks like the tu quoque argument, but I can’t see how this argument applies to the Catholic who concludes that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded, anymore than to the Protestant who (relying, perhaps implicitly, on the Catholic Church) concludes that the Old and New Testaments are the word of God. If the latter is, re submission to authority, in a significantly different position than the skeptic (who might “submit” to bits of the Bible), even though both used personal study to arrive at their positions, then the Catholic is in a significantly different position, re submission to authority, than the Protestant, personal study/private judgment notwithstanding.

  121. Ron Henzel said,

    May 5, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    If I may paraphrase various Scriptures to apply them to the Protestant perspective on this discussion:

    “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have our succession from the Apostles,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up successors to the Apostles.” (Cf. Matthew 3:9.)

    “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are successors of the Apostles belong to the Apostolic church, and not all are members of the Apostolic church because they are his successors…” (Cf. Romans 9:6-7a.)

    If this principle holds true for those who were born into the line of Abraham who received the promises, how much more does it hold for those who merely had hands laid upon them in the name of an Apostle?

  122. May 5, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Ron,

    I have had some of the same thoughts as well, but I don’t think we want to go that route, to be honest. The reason that the OT ideas of the “children of Abraham” or the “true high priesthood” could be (and were) redefined was that a new covenant was inaugurated, one that was supposedly better than the old one and would last forever. Therefore for us to say that there WAS an apostolic church with a legitimate succession of bishops that has NOW been undone or redefined, is to imply that a newer new covenant has been made with God’s people.

    All that to say that either Catholic ecclesiology has been in place since the beginning, or Protestant ecclesiology has been inplace from the beginning. But to argue for a point at which the rules changed is extremely problematic.

    Now of course, I may be reading too much into your comment, but if so, I’m doing it for the sake of others who may be reading. Hope that’s cool with you.

  123. TurretinFan said,

    May 5, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Andrew Presslar:

    You speak about the idea of looking for “the church Christ founded.” When you read the Scriptures, do you ever see people being called to look for the church Christ founded? On the other hand, do you see people being called to adhere to the teachings of Christ and the apostles?

    I think you should be willing to concede that the answer to the first question is that you don’t see that – and that the answer to the second question is that you do see that.

    As a result, isn’t it reasonable to conclude that the more important thing is to determine the teachings of Christ and his apostles? If you disagree, what’s your basis for disagreeing?

    -TurretinFan

  124. Andrew McCallum said,

    May 5, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    then I reckon it’s safe to say that the church in Rome has had an unbroken succession of leaders going back to apostolic times.

    Jason – Like you I have not spent a great deal of time dwelling on it, but the historicity of someone like Linus is not that much of a concern to me. But when our Catholic friends try to use these folks as an anchor to tie the modern RCC to the Apostles I think it is a fair question to ask about what Linus etc did, their position in the Church of Rome, their understanding of ecclesiology, and so on. But you know that there nothing forthcoming on these questions.

    But then you hit the nail right on the head when you talk about what theological significance we are supposed to draw from this literal line of succession. When Andrew P and Bryan talk about “the Church Christ founded” they mean the Church that can be literally traced back to the Apostles through the bishops. And we are left shaking our heads trying to figure out why they use pedigree as the determining factor on the question of ecclesiastical fidelity.

  125. TurretinFan said,

    May 5, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Jason J. Stellman wrote:

    Therefore for us to say that there WAS an apostolic church with a legitimate succession of bishops that has NOW been undone or redefined, is to imply that a newer new covenant has been made with God’s people.

    This is an important observation. Considering only the time after churches came to be ruled over by a singular bishop. From what we can tell, the initial method for succession of bishops was that he most senior Presbyter would become the next bishop. However, this mode was discarded in favor of voting. In Rome, for several centuries, the Roman bishop was elected by the the people of Rome (sometimes pro forma with the Holy Roman Emperor influencing their vote). However, in the 11th century, the bishop of Rome began to be elected by the college of Cardinals. Even that process has evolved, such that now only *some* (based on age) Cardinals can vote in the papal election.

    And the college of Cardinals method was interrupted as well at least by the Council of Constance (15th century) which elected Pope Martin V (and condemned and executed the proto-reformer and alleged disciple of John Wycliff, Jan Huss).

    What a far cry that procedure is from the procedure that was used to provide the only Scriptural example of apostolic succession, namely the replacement of Judas by the criterion of those who were Jesus’ disciples during his ministry from the Baptism of John to the Ascension and chosen by lot!

    But we are to believe that despite a Laban-like series of changes of method of succession, Benedict XVI is a legitimate successor of Peter? We are to believe that the Roman bishoprick, which for a time was ruled by the pornacracy, represents an unbroken chain of succession? We are to believe that the man in expensive clothes, wearing a golden miter, sitting on a throne, and living in a palace is the successor of the simple Galilean fisherman. We are to believe that “the Church that Christ founded” financially supports Cardinals Law and Mahoney?

    The problem, of course, is that the search of “the Church Christ founded” is the wrong search. We are not called to try to locate the successors of the apostles, but rather to follow what the Apostles delivered to us, once for all, in the Scriptures.

    – TurretinFan

  126. May 5, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    TF (#123),

    An answer to your first question is Mt 18:16-18, which follows on Mt 16:16-18, where Christ promised to build his Church. Ergo, my search for the Church Christ founded.

    Furthermore, the Church which Christ founded is so described in Sacred Scripture that I would not want, for any riches, to be separated from her in the least degree. Therefore, since many organizations claim the name of “Church,” yet these contradict one another on matters of faith and morals, and sometimes deny that the other is an integral part of the Church Christ founded, one must seek, as in discern between various claims and claimants, that one Church founded by Our Lord, and so wonderfully described by St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, among other places. Of course, one might discover that he already belongs to the Church that Christ founded, or not.

  127. May 5, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Andrew M. (#124),

    Your puzzlement over our position may have something to do with the fact that you do not state our position, but something else. “Pedigree” is not the same thing as sacramental Apostolic Succession. The latter confers grace, not merely observable characteristics. This grace, conveyed by Apostolic Succession, is what determines ecclesiastical *fidelity*, while the material aspect of Apostolic Succession determines ecclesiastical *identity*, from which the judgment concerning fidelity follows.

  128. Ron Henzel said,

    May 5, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Jason,

    Regarding your comment 122: I don’t think Paul was “redefining” what it meant to be a true child of Abraham in Romans 9:6-13, but rather explaining what it meant all along—i.e., it meant to be one of the elect. Rather than presenting this as a “rules change” that went into effect with the New Covenant, Paul cites the examples of Isaac and Jacob to demonstrate that it’s been the way God has been working all along.

    The priesthood is another matter entirely. Even so, the author of Hebrews ties the change of priesthood from the obsolete order of Aaron to the order of Melchizedek fulfilled in Christ to the establishment of the New Covenant in Hebrews 7, and then he declares that the only sphere of priestly service that is ultimately effective—Christ’s—has been removed from earth to heaven at the beginning of Hebrews 8, making any priestly succession on earth an impossibility.

    So I am not arguing that there ever was a legitimate succession of bishops in the Roman Catholic sense that has now been undone or redefined. This is because such succession, in the Roman Catholic sense, is not merely a succession of bishopric (i.e., oversight), but of actual apostolic authority. According to Rome, there was only one aspect of apostleship that the Apostles could not transfer to their successors: the fact that they were witnesses to the Resurrection and thus were the foundation stones of the church (Catholic Catechism §860, p. 248). Everything else, including actual apostolic authority, was handed down to the bishops as successors (CC §869, p. 250-251), as long as they agree with the pope (CC §883, p. 254-255), thus rendering them inerrant (CC §889-891, p. 256). In what possible sense can a Bible-believing Protestant concede that such a concept of succession is “legitimate?” The only “rules change” was the one (or ones) that took place much later in church history at the behest of Rome itself. The kind of barnacling of man-made tradition onto the boat of the Catholicism of the Earth Middle Ages is hinted at by University of Notre Dame theologian Richard P. McBrien when he writes of the alleged Pope Linus:

    It should be remembered—contrary to pious Catholic belief—that the monoepiscopal structure of church governance (also known as the monarchical episcopate, in which each diocese was headed by a single bishop) still did not exist in Rome at this time. And neither was there a College of Cardinals charged with the election of a new pope. (The electoral role of the College of Cardinals did not begin until 1059.)

    [Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to John Paul II, (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco/HarperCollins, 1997), 34.]

    Even taking into account McBrien’s concession here regarding the difference between first century church governance and what came later, we must take note of the fact that, according to Rome, three “popes”—Linus, Anacletus, and Clement I—supposedly “reigned” over the entire church even as two or three actual apostles (Philip [d. c. A.D. 80], John [d. c. A.D. 95-100, and possibly Andrew [d. mid-to-late 1st cent.]) were still busy with their ministries. In other words, three successors of Peter, with theoretically greater authority than the surviving apostles, were installed prior to the completion of the New Testament canon, and we read nothing about their supposed “reigns” in the New Testament. This momentous transfer of authority is said to have taken place three times during the lifetime of the Apostle John, and he makes no mention of it. Does that strike you as a little odd?

  129. TurretinFan said,

    May 5, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Andrew Preslar:

    I have to wonder whether you misunderstood my question. The passage you cited from Matthew 18 mentions someone going to the church, not to seek out and discover which church is the church Christ founded, but to resolve a matter of offense between brethren of the same church. Have you so badly misunderstood my question?

    -TurretinFan

  130. May 5, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    TF,

    How can someone go to the Church, for disciplinary reasons or any other, if they do not know where it is? And on what basis do they decide where it is, if anywhere, when there are various, mutually exclusive, claims about (and claimants to be) the Church that Christ founded? Ergo, if I want to obey the teaching and commands of Christ and the Apostles (e.g., Mt 18, Hb 10), I must seek out the Church that Christ founded, however, and wherever (if anywhere) it might be found.

  131. Andrew McCallum said,

    May 5, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    “Pedigree” is not the same thing as sacramental Apostolic Succession.

    Andrew P,

    I understand the Catholic conception of Apostolic succession. But it does come down to the demonstration that a given bishop is in line with previous bishops going back to Peter. This is all that the matters in effect, correct? So when you get to all the awful popes of the Renaissance that others mention above, they are still valid because they still can trace their line back to the 1st century. The direct lineage is all that needs to be considered.

    The Early Church used succession to guarantee fidelity to the Apostles doctrine, and to a certain extent it worked. But this same succession later on in the history of the Church guaranteed just the opposite as even RCC historians will concede. So the point we are making is that literal succession does not guarantee anything. It is a lesson we learn in the OT and then again in the history of the Church over and over again.

  132. TurretinFan said,

    May 5, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Andrew:

    I see that you do seem to continue to misunderstand the question. Perhaps I can clarify it through a Socratic method. In Matthew 18, when it says:

    Matthew 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

    What is meant by “the church”? I’m sure you are aware that “church” can have various senses. How does someone obey Matthew 18:17. Does it mean here to bring the person’s sin to the attention of the elders or something else?

    -TurretinFan

  133. May 5, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Andrew M.,

    You wrote:

    “But it does come down to the demonstration that a given bishop is in line with previous bishops going back to Peter. This is all that the matters in effect, correct?”

    This description omits to mention the grace given through the sacrament, which is, in effect, essential.

    “So the point we are making is that literal succession does not guarantee anything. It is a lesson we learn in the OT and then again in the history of the Church over and over again.”

    If by “literal succession” you mean Apostolic Succession by means of sacramental ordination, then it is not true that literal succession does not guarantee anything. It guarantees the transfer of authority, from Christ to the Apostles to the bishops, to teach, govern and sanctify. This is not a lesson that can be learned from the OT (alone), since the sacrament of Orders, and *Apostolic* Succession did not exist in the OT.

  134. May 5, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    TF,

    You originally asked where in Scripture we find people called to look for the Church Christ founded.

    I responded by citing Mt 18 to the effect that, in certain circumstances, individuals are instructed to look for the Church, which is presumably the one that Christ founded in Mt 16.

    Now, if these people know where to find the Church, then looking for it is easy. But if they do not know where to find the Church, then looking for it is a bit of a challenge, but not an insurmountable challenge, presuming that the Church that Christ founded can indeed be found.

    So, that is two presumptions, and, I think, some common sense. I suppose that you might like to challenge one or both of the presumptions.

    As to obeying Mt 18, one must first know whether the putative elders are elders in the Church that Christ founded, or not. If so, then, yes, go to them. If not, keep looking.

  135. Andrew McCallum said,

    May 5, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    This description omits to mention the grace given through the sacrament, which is, in effect, essential.

    OK, that’s fine, but all my point is that when it comes to determining whether or not someone is a valid bishop, from your standpoint they only need to demonstrate their lineage beginning with the 1st century bishops. I understand you see that this process is sacramental, but I’m looking at the fact that in the RCC system the early bishops who gave their lives for Christ and those in the Renaissance/Reformation era who generally spent their lives in pursuit of worldly pursuits, pleasures, and powers were both the benefits of this “sacramental grace.” So you believe in this sacramental succession because it is part of the Catholic system of doctrine. But for those of us outside the RCC looking in, do you understand why we would think it is strange to use lineage (and yes again I understand you conceive of this as sacramental in nature) to determine ecclesiastical veracity when this is the only factor, and all other matters concerning what we know to be the qualifications of a bishop (see Timothy and Titus) are left aside?

  136. May 5, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Andrew McC,

    Just a clarifying question: Do you consider a PCA pastor to be invalid or illegitimate or unworthy or submission if his life fails to live up to the requirements of his office? I’m just trying to understand your position.

    PS – I’ve said this before, but we need to distinguish between necessary and sufficient conditions in order for this discussion to move forward. I have never met a Catholic who has said that sacramental succession is sufficient, but only that it is necessary. Those Arian bishops all had valid succession, but they were also heretics, which I’m told is a bit of a deal-breaker.

  137. johnbugay said,

    May 6, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Jason — sorry for not responding yesterday, I had to attend orchestra concerts for two of my kids, among other things.

    As you know, I have probably a zillion things to say. The situation as you describe it in your post 119 is far muddier than you say.

    Andrew Presslar has been citing Matt 16 for his reason for thinking that Rome is “the church that Christ founded.” But it is all an assumption from there. Every commentary on Matthew that I have clearly states, “there is nothing in the passage about any successors to Peter.”

    The “succession lists” were created after the fact, for apologetic purposes, using names that were known to have existed in the various sees. Raymond Brown says that virtually all of these were from the lineage of Paul, and not the other apostles. (Acts 14:23).

    Paul Johnson cites a number of successions in various cities that are a total mess. Irenaeus’s is probably the “cleanest” list. He uses a list created by Hegesippus (166 ad). But Irenaus’s list has definite problems as well. “Peter and Paul founded and organized the church at Rome,” he says. But Peter’s presence can barely be attested there, whereas Paul has quite a bit of biblical history in Rome.

    1 Clement is not much aware of Peter’s activities in Rome (“many trials”), but he knows and relates great detail about Paul: “seven times in chains … driven into exile … stoned … preached in the east and west … having reached the farthest limits of the west … testimony before rulers …” (96 ad?, 1 Clement 5)

    Marcion in 144 faced only “presbyters and teachers,” even though he had donated more than 200,000 sesterces to the church there, and it was being returned to him. If someone had donated $200,000 to your church, and you had to return it, would you be there? Or would you allow a session of your elderst to handle it? The authority in those years was merely “presbyters and teachers.”

    William Lane, in his essay “Roman Christianity during the Formative Years from Nro to Nerva,” from the volume “Judaism and Christianity in First-Century Rome” (Donfried and Richardson), notes:

    Ignatius and Hermas provide evidence that even in the first decades of the second century Rome was not centrally organized under the administrative authority of a single bishop. In six of his seven [thought to be legitimate] letters, Ignatius insists on the importance of the office of bishop. His silance in regard to this pastoral concern in the Letter to the Romans is explained best by the absence of a monarchical bishop in Rome. Hermas refers only to “the elders who preside over the church.” The existence of several house churches only loosely connected with one another throughout Rome [see also Romans 16] suggests why diversity, disuity, and a tendency toward independence were persistent problems in the early history of the Christian communities in Rome. (213)

    It should also be noted that of these presbyters in Rome, Hermas says, they “quarrel about status and honor. (Shepherd of Hermas, Vis. 3.9.7-10; Sim 8.7.4-6). “They had a certain jealousy of one another over questions of preeminence and about some kind of distinction. But they are all fools to be jealous of one another regarding preeminence.”

    I’ve cited a document dated from the third century, cited by Daniel William O’Connor, “Peter in Rome,” suggesting that it was Paul, not Peter, who ordained Linus, whose name appears as first in all the succession lists:

    This version also contains a list of those ordained by the apostles: “First in Jerusalem, James …. And in Antioch, first, Evodius [ordained] by Peter; and after him Ignatius, by Paul …. And in the Church of Rome, first, Linus [ordained] by Paul; and after him Clement, who was ordained by Peter.” …. The Ethiopic version, preserved by the Monophysite Church of Abyssinia, thus protected the traditional place of Paul in the Roman Church, which had been deemphasized since the beginning of the third century. [This document] reveals some knowledge of a relationship of both Peter and Paul to the Roman Church, but is not specific as to the character of such relationship. The two apostles are not mentioned specifically as either founders or bishops, but simply as apostles. … While the document is late and reflects use of the [apocryphal] Acts of Peter, the dual, undefined leadership of both Peter and Paul in Rome seems to be an echo of a second century tradition such as is found in Clement of Rome and Ignatius.

    http://reformation500.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/paul-ordained-the-second-pope/

    Andrew Presslar cries “Peter,” but the history says something different.

    Shotwell and Loomis write, in “See of Peter,” that “with reference to the Petrine doctrine, however, the Catholic attitude is much more than a “pre-disposition to believe.” That doctrine is the fundamental basis of the whole papal structure. … That Peter went to Rome and founded there his See, is just as definitely what is termed in Catholic theology a “dogmatic fact.” It has been defined by an eminent Catholic theologian as “historical fact so intimeately connected with some great Catholic truths that it would be believed even if time and accident had destroyed all the original evidence therefore.” (Shotwell and Loomis, “See of Peter,” 1927, from the introduction)

    And, well, yes, in the intervening years, historical study has very much “destroyed all the original evidence.”

    It is no wonder, as Roger Collins writes, that in the fourth and fifth centuries, after the Roman Bishops had become the focus of attention (because of Constantine), “It is no coincidence that the first systematic works of papal history appear at the very time the Roman church’s past was being reinvented for polemical purposes.” (Collins, “Keepers of the Keys of Heaven,” pg 82).

    http://reformation500.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/the-spice-woman-and-the-symmachan-forgeries/

    But don’t take my word for all of this. For anyone here who is remotely interested in listening to the story of Andrew Presslar, or Bryan Cross, or any of the other converts to Rome, investigate this yourselves. It is published information, by impeccable scholarly sources. I beg the inquisitive seminarians who may be reading this, study and write about this history yourselves. Write scholarly papers that can, with authority, be distributed to the whole church. This is one area where clarity is needed. If a WSC-trained pastor such as Jason Stellman can be persuaded to accept the “either-or” terms of what “the church that Christ founded” is, then there IS MUCH MISINFORMATION out there that NEEDS TO BE CORRECTED.

    I’m just a guy with a blog. But in the same way that the printing press helped to fan the flames of the Reformation, how much more can the Internet enable us to locate the misinformation, expose it to the sunlight, and finally rid the church of the tyranny of the papacy?

  138. johnbugay said,

    May 6, 2010 at 7:19 am

    If anyone thinks I am being a bit overstated in my previous comment, this is from Robert Reymond, “A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith,” pg 818:

    Rome’s exegesis of Matthew 16 and its historically developed claim to authoritative primacy in the Christian world simply cannot be demonstrated and sustained from Scripture itself. This claim is surely one of the great hoaxes foisted upon professing Christendom, upon which false base rests the whole papal sacerdotal system.

    Not only can Rome’s claims NOT be demonstrated from Scriptures, but the historical sources I’ve found strongly suggest that the papacy was more a case of Luke 14:8: “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place.”

    I pray for the day when someone tells the Bishop of Rome, “go sit in a lower place.”

    Roman bishops, with the full knowledge and consent of the Roman emperors, took, stole, usurped a place of honor in the church that was not theirs. And once the Roman emperors passed out of Rome, the Roman bishops were in a place to twist arms, to commit murder, to put out forgeries in pursuit of their own power.

    For example, several times, prior to Constantine, Roman clergy were exiled from Rome because they were fighting over the bishop’s seat. Once the emperors were out of the way, “Pope” Damasus could, for example, kill 137 followers of his opponent, with impunity. See Roger Collins, “Keepers of the Keys to the Kingdom” and also here:

    http://reformation500.wordpress.com/2009/07/03/a-timeline-of-the-early-papacy/

    The Council of Nicea, no doubt reflecting current understanding of the authority structure in place in the Christian world for nearly 300 years, gave Rome and Alexandria equivalent authority within their respective spheres. The Council of Constantinople explicitly stated that honor was due to Rome because it was the old capital of the empire. Canon 28 of the council of Chalcedon, which essentially repeated what Constantinople had said, was just plain ignored and rejected by Pope Leo I. But by that time, there was no other authority in Rome, secular or otherwise, to suggest otherwise.

    I’ve already alluded to Rome’s predisposition to “re-write” history in its own favor, here:

    http://reformation500.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/the-spice-woman-and-the-symmachan-forgeries/

    But there is compelling evidence that Roman bishops accepted the honor that was due that city for being the capital, but they lied, killed, and twisted it for their own ambitions.

    It is more urgent than ever for Reformed pastors and scholars and students to know the Roman line of argument, and how to address it.

    For example, Jason Stellman posits (105) “the Protestant question “Where is the gospel?” can only be answered through private judgment, whereas the Catholic question “Where is the church?” can be answered in an historical, non-subjective way.” Later he asks,

    I mean, unless every single bishop in the church died simultaneously at some point, and then a completely disconnected generation rose up in its place some time later and restarted Christianity, then I reckon it’s safe to say that the church in Rome has had an unbroken succession of leaders going back to apostolic times. It just seems more plausible than not.

    But of course, none of this means anything to us because our ecclesiology isn’t dependent upon a Petrine successor, so I don’t see why we need to argue the historical issue since it is irrelevant for us, anyways.

    Does he accept this uncritically? Is it just “irrelevant? Or are their lies and misinformation tangled up in this account, that MUST NEEDS be addressed.

    The question should not be, “who’s got the right ecclesiology, Rome or the Protestants?

    The question should be, “is the Roman Catholic story on its own ecclesiology right or wrong?” The Roman story should be made to stand on its own.

    Catholics want to claim “unbroken succession.” But what was the nature of that unbroken succession?

    Ratzinger says in “Called to Communion” that the early church “faithfully developed” this “primacy.” But the historical evidence I’ve cited suggest that it was not “faithfully developed” but rather unfaithfully usurped by violent and arrogant men.

    In following the genuine Petrine word to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in us,” Reformed pastors and ministers should have a thorough understanding of this time period in church history, so that we may specifically address the Roman framing of this issue, which Jason has apparently and uncritically bought into.

    Bryan Cross and Andrew Presslar are evidence that the Roman story is an atractive and compelling one. But it is not a true one. Knowing how to refute Roman arguments ought to be the business of every Reformed pastor, and a large number of Reformed laymen as well.

    If the framers of the Westminster Confession can clearly call the papacy “antiChrist,” and if a theologian in our day is able to discern the claims of the papacy as one of the “greatest hoaxes foisted” on Christians, then why in the world does someone like Bryan Cross have any legitimacy whatsoever on a blog like Greenbaggins, devoted to confessional Protestantism?

    Why, Lane Keister, do you ask these questions, and then virtually disappear as these conversations go on? Do you care that Andrew Presslar is arguing for the Roman story with the vigor that he is, while outsiders must contend with him? With individuals like Jason Stellman trying — trying not to take them seriously, all the while wrestling with Roman claims of apostolic succession?

    And Jason — if Arianism was a “deal-breaker” for the Arian bishops, what other heresies can you think of that are “deal-breakers” for Roman bishops and Roman Catholic bishops?

  139. TurretinFan said,

    May 6, 2010 at 7:44 am

    Mr. Presler:

    I have asked you to explain what sense of “church” is meant in Matthew 18, the verse you relied upon. I think you know that it doesn’t mean “the Church” but rather a local body of elders – for some reason you are reluctant to explicitly say this.

    Instead, you try to avoid that question and characterize the matter this way:

    As to obeying Mt 18, one must first know whether the putative elders are elders in the Church that Christ founded, or not. If so, then, yes, go to them. If not, keep looking.

    But the text doesn’t say that, right? The text doesn’t indicate that one of the tasks someone is undertaking is an investigation as to which church is “the Church that Christ founded.”

    In fact, your entire reason for saying that is that you’ve assumed, prior to considering the text, a certain view of “the Church.” You’re now reading that view of “the Church” into the text.

    There are other ways of looking at the validity of the local church. For example, the validity of the local church may reside in the faithfulness of the elders to the teachings of Christ.

    Your approach simply assumes a particular view of the church and then imposes it on Matthew 18. That’s a classic example of eisegesis. You’ve assumed a particular way of identifying the validity of a body of elders and then imposed that, without any justification at all, on the text.

    -TurretinFan

  140. reedhere said,

    May 6, 2010 at 8:03 am

    John, no. 138: no need for anxiety over Lane’s absence. He and his moderators do read and watch. Like you, they comment when they have time.

    Like you, they fear for the soul’s of Bryan and Andrew (see my earlier comment expressing such for Bryan). Like you, they are aware of the appearance in these men’s behavior that they are merely here prosyletizing. Like you, they respond as the priorities of their lives allow.

    (I note, for instance, that even when Bryan deigns to respond to my comments, he pick at best a minor sub-point, and uses it like an old saddle to ride his hobby horse. I’ve yet to see him respond point by point to any criticism – Peace)

    In the end you’ve done a good job of suggesting to Jason, whoa, wait a minute. You’ve effectively countered Andrew’s silliness for those with eyes to see (Lurker heads up – look up the biblical references.)

    As for Jason’s giving away the point, I agree he does not need to do so. I think he is also onto something when he says that the issue is more right ecclessiology. In fact, I think your point nicely supports his argument. The history of the Roman Bishops demonstrates such repetitious wicked behavior that barelt any one century goes by without a scandal rooted in some fact.

    As for the potential proselytes in the lurkers here, I join you in worrying for them. In the end it is the Spirit who will protect them. As a former son of the Lady of Babylon, I would urge them to do their study, as you’ve suggested, before dipping even a toe in the Tiber. Pirahnnas on their swim is the least of their worries in the land our reformed fore-fathers rejoiced at escaping from.

  141. johnbugay said,

    May 6, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Reed, I have seen your comments to Bryan, and I appreciate them. These threads on Catholicism go on and on for a long time, and with good reason, I think. There is much misinformation being spread on a fairly consistent basis. And it just seems to me that it needs to be intercepted on an equally consistent basis, especially in a forum like this one, where so many pastors and theologians will just tend to shrug off posts from someone like Andrew Preslar, and yet even people who ought to know better will look at one of his posts and say, “Gee, which church DID Christ establish?” and that person is off to the races (or to the Tiber, as you say).

    And then we get asked — or I do, anyway, “Yeah, but what about all the intellectuals who are converting to Rome?”

  142. May 6, 2010 at 8:34 am

    Andrew M.,

    You wrote:

    “But for those of us outside the RCC looking in, do you understand why we would think it is strange to use lineage (and yes again I understand you conceive of this as sacramental in nature) to determine ecclesiastical veracity when this is the only factor, and all other matters concerning what we know to be the qualifications of a bishop (see Timothy and Titus) are left aside?”

    Again, this is not a description of our position. The sacramental nature of Holy Orders, whereby grace is objectively given, is an essential aspect of Apostolic Succession > ecclesial identity/continuity > ecclesial authority (the subject of this thread) > ecclesial veracity. So anyone who wishes to find the Church that Christ founded must trace the sacramental lines of succession. But this is nothing like saying that the sacrament of Holy Orders is “the only factor, and all other matters … are left aside.”

    Since the sacramental character is indelible, bishops, priests and deacons who have been validly ordained in the Church that Christ founded, but subsequently has become estranged from the Church due to heresy, schism, excommunication, etc., although having the *ability* (in the sacramental sense) to perform certain specifically ecclesial actions, do not have the *authority* (in the juridical sense) to do so, and certainly do not have the authority to teach for the Church, whose identity (hence, unity) and authority (to teach and to sanctify) are expressed both mystically/sacramentally and hierarchically/juridically.

  143. May 6, 2010 at 8:46 am

    TF,

    I recognize the distinction between the local Church and the universal Church. I trust that you recognize the relation.

    You wrote:

    “There are other ways of looking at the validity of the local church. For example, the validity of the local church may reside in the faithfulness of the elders to the teachings of Christ.”

    Well, I am glad that we have progressed to the point of looking. But before we can assess the faithfulness of the “elders,” we have to discern whether or not they are really elders in the Church that Christ founded, or something else. And then we have have to discern whether the Church depends upon the faithfulness of the elders, or the faithfulness of Christ.

  144. Ron Henzel said,

    May 6, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Andrew,

    When you refer to “the Church that Christ founded,” are you not assuming that Christ founded the church as an institution that includes apostolic succession? If so, should we not expect to find a reference to such succession in the church’s founding documents (the New Testament)?

  145. Andy Gilman said,

    May 6, 2010 at 8:59 am

    Bryan Cross and Andrew Preslar are here to “reconcile Protestants and Catholics after 500 years of separation,” by exercising “intellectual honesty” and engaging in “dialogue.” Yet little, if anything, has changed since Calvin. The Roman Catholic Church (so called) is just as wicked today as it was 500 years ago, and the division between the Church of Christ and Roman Catholicism will no more be bridged by dialogue, than the division between Islam and Christianity will be resolved by dialogue.

    From Calvin’s Institutes 4.2.1 and 2:

    If the Church is founded on the doctrine of the apostles and prophets, by which believers are enjoined to place their salvation in Christ alone, then if that doctrine is destroyed, how can the Church continue to stand? The Church must necessarily fall whenever that sum of religion which alone can sustain it has given way. Again, if the true Church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), it is certain that there is no Church where lying and falsehood have usurped the ascendancy.

    Since this is the state of matters under the Papacy, we can understand how much of the Church there survives. There, instead of the ministry of the word, prevails a perverted government, compounded of lies, a government which partly extinguishes, partly suppresses, the pure light. In place of the Lord’s Supper, the foulest sacrilege has entered, the worship of God is deformed by a varied mass of intolerable superstitions; doctrine (without which Christianity exists not) is wholly buried and exploded, the public assemblies are schools of idolatry and impiety. Wherefore, in declining fatal participation in such wickedness, we run no risk of being dissevered from the Church of Christ. The communion of the Church was not instituted to be a chain to bind us in idolatry, impiety, ignorance of God, and other kinds of evil, but rather to retain us in the fear of God and obedience of the truth. They, indeed, vaunt loudly of their Church, as if there was not another in the world; and then, as if the matter were ended, they make out that all are schismatics who withdraw from obedience to that Church which they thus depict, that all are heretics who presume to whisper against its doctrine.

  146. johnbugay said,

    May 6, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Andrew Preslar, you throw out a lot of ideas that you simply assume to be true, without ever making the case for them.

    What is this “sacramental in nature” expression you use? What is its origin? How does it work. Where is the first instance of someone having described it in “tradition” or at least, where is it mentioned in church history?

    Why does it trump such things as Paul’s admonition that an overseer should be the husband of one wife, for example? Why can whole long sequences of popes (and bishops!) be precisely the opposite of what Paul commanded: “the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money”? The history of the papacy is the polar opposite of that teaching. And yet, this “sacramental succession” trumps what Paul said. (For example.)

  147. Andy Gilman said,

    May 6, 2010 at 9:15 am

    If Calvin were interacting with Bryan and Andrew, I suspect he would say something like he says in his Institutes 4.2.2:

    I would also exhort our opponents to give their serious attention, if I had any hope of being able to benefit them by instruction; but since they have laid aside all regard to truth, and make it their only aim to prosecute their own ends in whatever way they can…

  148. Reed Here said,

    May 6, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Andrew Presslar: your responses to Andrew M. and TF both rest on the claim of the veracity of the claim tha Rome, and only Rome has any credible claim to ecclesiastical authority. This is a foundational to your position.

    I wonder whether or not you will give any serious attention to John’s smashing challenge to you position (post no. 138)? The history (of which John only gives the briefest of summaries) thoroughly contradicts the basis of Rome’s claim for ecclesiastical supreme authority.

    Instead of raising questions about whether or not elders in any given local Protestant church are valid, why not first deal with the obvious challenge to your own? The elders of Rome are decidedly biblicaly invalid, in that they affirm and declare accursed and condemned the gospel. No deflecting disingenuousity will remove that stigma.

    You submit to an authority that declares justification by faith alone in Christ alone is an affirmation that sends one to Hell. Well did our forefathers declare such an ecclesiastical authority as a synagogue of Satan, seeing as it affirms what Satan affirms, in opposition to the Lord it supposedly reveres.

    Wickedness may be hidden for a while, but the light of Christ always exposes it.

  149. TurretinFan said,

    May 6, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Mr. Preslar,

    You wrote:

    Well, I am glad that we have progressed to the point of looking. But before we can assess the faithfulness of the “elders,” we have to discern whether or not they are really elders in the Church that Christ founded, or something else. And then we have have to discern whether the Church depends upon the faithfulness of the elders, or the faithfulness of Christ.

    Let’s see if I can be more clear, since we seem to be talking past one another.

    1) Matthew 18 tells people who are dealing with a sin issue between brethren to go to “the church,” namely a local assembly of elders and/or brethren (not “the Church” in some universal sense). On this, I think we agree. If we don’t, much of the rest of the discussion is a waste of time.

    2) The passage doesn’t actually specify in any way by which one identifies “the church” as such. It doesn’t say, “Look for the Church Christ founded,” and it doesn’t say, “Just go hang out with whoever puts ‘church’ on their shingle.” It doesn’t provide any explanation of how one identifies “the church” at all, in that particular passage. Again, I think we agree on this, and if we don’t, much of the rest of the discussion is probably a waste of time.

    3) In view of (1) and (2) and in view of my question which was:

    You speak about the idea of looking for “the church Christ founded.” When you read the Scriptures, do you ever see people being called to look for the church Christ founded? On the other hand, do you see people being called to adhere to the teachings of Christ and the apostles?

    It seems that your answers should be respectively “no” and “yes.” Since it seems you must acknowledge that there is not a command here to look for “the church Christ founded.” I guess you don’t agree about this, but your reasons for disagreeing aren’t clear.

    4) Your argument appears to be this:

    a) In order for someone to go to “the church” one must first identify whether “the church” that one plans to go to is a legitimate church.

    b) You then indicate that the legitimacy of “the church” is based on its affiliation (or lack thereof) with “the Church that Christ founded.”

    c) You then further distinguish between legitimacy and faithfulness.

    d) From the above, you seem to conclude that there is an implicit command for people to look for the Church Christ founded, based on the fact that they are to resort to the church (a local assembly) for issues related to offenses between brethren.

    Your argument, however, doesn’t follow. We may reasonably grant that if one calls the local pig pen “the church” and takes one’s matter of offense to the sows gathered in the mud there, one hasn’t obeyed Matthew 18. However, it does not follow that the only alternative is to identify a legitimate church by affiliation with “the Church Christ founded.”

    Except for a general reference to Matthew 16, you haven’t made an argument for that idea that the way to identify a legitimate church is by its affiliation with “the Church Christ founded.” Likewise, when offered the alternative of identifying a legitimate church by its faithfulness to Christ, you simply claim that this a different question. You tack on the comment: “And then we have have to discern whether the Church depends upon the faithfulness of the elders, or the faithfulness of Christ.” This appears to be simply an assertion that “the Church Christ founded” is a legitimate church even when the elders of that church are unfaithful. This pair of assertions, however, isn’t supported by appeal to any authority that might lead us to accept your assertions as true.

    As to Matthew 16, the passage does mention that Jesus will build his church. Jesus doesn’t explain what this means except to say:

    1) The church that Jesus builds is on “this rock” (which may refer either to Christ or the confession of Peter); and

    2) That “the gates of hell shall not prevail against” Christ’s church, which appears to relate to the resurrection of the saints.

    So, the evidence of Matthew 16 would lead us to understand that “the Church Christ founded” is all those who share in Peter’s confession of faith – namely all believers, those whom death has no power over, but whom Christ will raise on the last day.

    This gets us back to the idea that a legitimate church is one composed of men who share in Peter’s confession, men who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

    However, you clearly have another idea. Can you support your idea from Scripture?

    -TurretinFan

  150. Sean said,

    May 6, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Reed,
    I wonder whether or not you will give any serious attention to John’s smashing challenge to you position (post no. 138)

    John’s claims have been addressed by myself and others dozens of times. But for your benefit, and since you ask, I’ll tackle John’s statements.

    I don’t have much time to devote to this. For the sake expediency John’s words will be in italics, although I grant that the quote/rebuttal method line-by-line method is not the best. Scripture/tradition references are not exhaustive.

    Firstly, John asks Andrew the following: What is this “sacramental in nature” expression you use? What is its origin? How does it work. Where is the first instance of someone having described it in “tradition” or at least, where is it mentioned in church history?

    Catholics believe that Holy Orders is a sacrament that confers grace. This belief comes from scripture and Tradition. I don’t doubt that you or John believe that in scripture we see ordination by the laying of hands (Acts 1, Acts 6:6 etc). That this sacrament confers grace is evident from Paul’s words to Timothy, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” 1 Tim 4:14 (Geneva Study Bible). Further, this act is meant for future generations. (2 Tim 2:2)

    So, the origin of the sacrament is God and is expressed in the New Testament. We see the sacrament of ordination described in Tradition in many of the earliest extant writings that we have available.

    John’s earlier argument is discussed below:

    The “succession lists” were created after the fact, for apologetic purposes, using names that were known to have existed in the various sees. Raymond Brown says that virtually all of these were from the lineage of Paul, and not the other apostles. (Acts 14:23).

    To say that the veracity of the earliest succession lists are fictions created for apologetic purposes also serves an apologetic purpose. The very idea is one not based on any historical or extant reason but merely a view of cynicism.

    Citing Raymond Brown as an authority on the matter would be a little like an atheist citing the Protestant Shelby Sprong as he goes about ‘proving’ that the gospels were not written by Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.

  151. Sean said,

    May 6, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Irenaeus’s is probably the “cleanest” list. He uses a list created by Hegesippus (166 ad). But Irenaus’s list has definite problems as well. “Peter and Paul founded and organized the church at Rome,” he says. But Peter’s presence can barely be attested there, whereas Paul has quite a bit of biblical history in Rome.

    The only reason to doubt Irenaeus’ list is cynicism and apologetics. Peter’s presence in Rome is likewise, only a question for the cynical.
    Juregens cites thirty references in ‘Faith of the Early Fathers’ that demonstrate that Peter’s being in Rome was the universal early church opinion. He references statements such as “when Peter died in Rome…” from the earliest extant records that discuss the question.

    1 Clement is not much aware of Peter’s activities in Rome (“many trials”), but he knows and relates great detail about Paul: “seven times in chains … driven into exile … stoned … preached in the east and west … having reached the farthest limits of the west … testimony before rulers …” (96 ad?, 1 Clement 5)

    John admits that 1 Clement cites Peter being in Rome but in the same breath casts doubt on Clement simply because Clement does not elaborate on the trials Peter faced while in Rome. See what I mean?

    Marcion in 144 faced only “presbyters and teachers,”

    This does not prove that no bishop existed in Rome.

    William Lane, in his essay “Roman Christianity during the Formative Years from Nro to Nerva”…

    The development of the office of the bishop of Rome is not debated here. Our understanding about the papacy and the precise role of the papacy has developed over time. That some early records speak of the Roman Church (as opposed to the Roman Bishop personally) exercising a unique function or authority is not problematic. John claims that the reason for this was because there was no monarchial episcopate. This is an inference only and one built on silence. We say there was a single bishop sitting in succession to Peter. That too, might be an argument from silence from the same records but we have attestation to that fact in following generations stretching up to 2010.
    We have to remember that records from this period are scarce. It should not surprise us that the evidences of Roman intervention in the earliest period are not all over the place. Neither, in these early texts do we find any clear canon of scripture but I don’t see John discrediting the Protestant canon on a similar basis.

  152. Sean said,

    May 6, 2010 at 11:45 am

    I’ve cited a document dated from the third century, cited by Daniel William O’Connor, “Peter in Rome,” suggesting that it was Paul, not Peter, who ordained Linus, whose name appears as first in all the succession lists:

    I have not read O’Connor’s book. I do know that the source he references is of pseudo-apostolic origin and most scholars date it much later than O’Connor (as cited by John in his blog). You can read about this 4th century work here.

    In any event, even if Linus was ordained by Paul this does not mean that Linus could not have been the successor to Peter’s office. Pope Benedict 16th was ordained most likely by a German bishop, not JP2…but he is still JP2’s successor.

    Shotwell and Loomis write, in “See of Peter,” that “with reference to the Petrine doctrine, however, the Catholic attitude is much more than a “pre-disposition to believe.”

    Does John have a pre-disposition to believe in the Protestant canon? Do Christians have a pre-disposition to believe that the gospels are true eye-witness accounts?

    That doctrine is the fundamental basis of the whole papal structure. … That Peter went to Rome and founded there his See, is just as definitely what is termed in Catholic theology a “dogmatic fact.”

    I do not believe that we have any reason to not believe that Peter went to Rome and there founded his See…although this description isn’t really exhaustive.

    It is no wonder, as Roger Collins writes, that in the fourth and fifth centuries, after the Roman Bishops had become the focus of attention (because of Constantine), “It is no coincidence that the first systematic works of papal history appear at the very time the Roman church’s past was being reinvented for polemical purposes.” (Collins, “Keepers of the Keys of Heaven,” pg 82).

    Only if one looks at the fathers from ‘Clement – the 4th/5th century’ with cynicism does one think that the Roman bishop only became evident in the 4th or 5th century.

    But don’t take my word for all of this. For anyone here who is remotely interested in listening to the story of Andrew Presslar, or Bryan Cross, or any of the other converts to Rome, investigate this yourselves. It is published information, by impeccable scholarly sources. I beg the inquisitive seminarians who may be reading this, study and write about this history yourselves. Write scholarly papers that can, with authority, be distributed to the whole church.

    On this, John and I agree.

    John’s second entry dives into tired rhetoric about which I really don’t have time to address here. Reymond thinks that Catholicism is built on a hoax to foist the sacraments on people and he does not think that Catholicism is biblical. OK. How are we supposed to respond to his rhetoric?

    In closing, I recommend the following books for scholarship different than what John is presenting:

    The Papacy:
    Jesus, Peter & the Keys, by Butler, Dahlgren & Hess
    The Papacy Learning Guide, by Ray & Walters
    The Russian Church and the Papacy, by Vladimir Soloviev
    The Early Papacy To the Synod of Chalcedon in 451, by Adrian Fortescue
    Documents Illustrating Papal Authority: AD 96 – 454, by Giles
    Studies on the Early Papacy, by Dom John Chapman
    Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith, by Avery Dulles

    The Church:
    One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, by Whitehead
    Splendor of the Church, by De Lubac
    Called to Communion, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
    On the Church of Christ, by Jacques Maritain.

  153. Reed Here said,

    May 6, 2010 at 11:52 am

    So Sean: I’m curious, what about the wickedness of the early “bishops”, does that have no effect on the succession arguments?

    I note that your responses amount to so much denial, all you are really saying, “doesn’t prove anyhing.” Do you really think agative denial verifies a positive affirmation?

    I agree John’s challenges actually do not affirmative prove the succession argument is wrong. But that is not the point of his challenges. All he intends to do is demonstrate that the succession claims are doubtful. That he has done, and you’ve not said anything contrary to this.

    Reminds me of a scene from the first PeeWee Herman movie.

  154. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 6, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    TF: (#149):

    1) The church that Jesus builds is on “this rock” (which may refer either to Christ or the confession of Peter)

    Or Peter himself, or Peter as a member of the group of apostles. Those possibilities are also on the table.

    But your larger point, that there is nothing in the text to decisively prove that “this rock” is definitely and exclusively Peter, is quite correct.

  155. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 6, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Sean and others:

    It is interesting to me that in Catholic theology, the grace of salvation conferred by the sacraments can be lost by committing a mortal sin; but the grace of papal infallibility conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders cannot.

  156. Ron Henzel said,

    May 6, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Sean,

    You wrote:

    Citing Raymond Brown as an authority on the matter would be a little like an atheist citing the Protestant Shelby Sprong as he goes about ‘proving’ that the gospels were not written by Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.

    It is absurd to compare Raymond Brown with Shelby Spong on any level or in any fashion. As John R. Donahue wrote:

    Ratzinger’s lecture offered criticisms of some excesses in biblical scholarship, but he was personally complimentary of Brown and his scholarship in public interviews. He said, “I would be very happy if we had many exegetes like Father Brown.” Quoted in Origins 17/35 (February 11, 1988) 595.

    [Life in abundance: studies of John's Gospel in tribute to Raymond E. Brown, S.S., (Collegeville, MN, USA: Liturgical Press, 2005), 251, note 26.]

  157. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 6, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Bryan (#108):

    I hope you had a good anniversary celebration. Congratulations, and many happy returns.

    I should probably explain the aggressive nature of my last (#100). You said in response,

    If the Catholic position were the straw man you have described, I too would reject it.

    I’m glad to hear that we have a faint point of contact; but I can assure you that I don’t do “straw men.” What I’ve sincerely laid out is the position as I see it represented by Catholic apologists. I may be mistaken (happens often!), but I’m not misrepresenting.

    Let me explain the basis for my concern. This will be a bit rough, but it’s from the heart.

    When we interacted back in 2007, I challenged the validity of your argument that “Either individualism is true or there is a visible human ecclesial authority higher in ecclesial authority than that of each individual.”

    I challenged it on the grounds that one of your steps was ambiguous in meaning; and of the two possible meanings I could construct, one was false and the other was not a valid ground for the step that followed. In short, I challenged the idea that authorities can always be ranked as “higher” and “lower.”

    I asked you, repeatedly, to clarify what this step meant by providing your proof in symbolic language so that it could be readily checked mathematically.

    You didn’t do so. At the time, I had no idea that you teach philosophy, so I assumed that symbolic logic was just not your area.

    So as an alternative, I urged you to have your proof checked by a neutral third party, saying:

    JRC: If you don’t trust my judgment for whatever reason, then I encourage you to get your argument checked by a third party whose judgment you do trust and who is competent in the area of proof.

    In response, your parting shot to me was,

    BC: I have been teaching philosophy at the university level for seven years. I’m a person to whom people come for these sorts of things.

    And that was it.

    Now, this is the ‘Net, and reading people across the ‘Net is hard. But what I took away from that encounter was that in the end, your authority as a teacher of philosophy mattered more than the objective mathematical validity of your proof.

    It’s a very negative conclusion to reach, and I’m mentioning here for two reasons:

    (1) I owe you the opportunity to clear the air, but

    (2) If my read is correct, then you have begun to adopt for yourself the same kind of approach to epistemology that I warned you about in #100. Your response suggests that your proof is above checking, does not need to be checked, because your authority as a teacher of philosophy places you above making errors.

    How else should one read this?

    Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I’m reminded of Heisenberg, who refused to let his assistants check his math in the calculations of critical mass. He mistakenly calculated several hundred tons of U-235 — and Germany lost the race to the atom bomb.

    One man’s refusal to be checked lost everything for Germany (by the grace of God, I would say!).

    This is how I view the authoritarian approach. And I fear that you embrace it more thoroughly than you realize.

  158. Bryan Cross said,

    May 6, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Jeff C (#157)

    If my read is correct, then you have begun to adopt for yourself the same kind of approach to epistemology that I warned you about in #100. Your response suggests that your proof is above checking, does not need to be checked, because your authority as a teacher of philosophy places you above making errors

    Let me assure you that your “read” is not correct. Here’s what I was saying. An argument cannot be refuted by telling the person who constructed the argument to “get it checked by a thirty party.” That’s an imperative. Imperatives don’t refute arguments. That’s why an imperative as a response to an argument is a fallacy, in the genus of the “phantom argument fallacy” (i.e. I know there’s an argument for my position somewhere, even though I can’t provide it.) The fallacy is in the same genus because it goes like this: “I know there is a refutation of your argument somewhere (i.e. in a neutral third-party), even though I can’t provide it.” So, if you want to refute my argument, then you need to provide the refutation, or find others who can. But responding to it with an imperative is a fallacy. That’s all I was pointing out. I’m quite willing for anyone to refute my arguments, because that would help me move closer to the truth.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  159. TurretinFan said,

    May 6, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Jeff Cagle:

    You wrote:

    Or Peter himself, or Peter as a member of the group of apostles. Those possibilities are also on the table.

    I realize that some folks suggest those ideas. I think they are fairly easily dismissed. Both options seem to be dismissed from the grammar (“this rock” instead of “thee”).

    With respect to the option of Peter personally, this seems to be rebutted adequately by the subsequent dispute(s) that arose among the apostles as to who should be the greatest (Matthew 18:4; Luke 9:46; Matthew 23:11(?); Luke 22:24).

    With respect to the option of Peter as a member of the group of the apostles, this doesn’t seem to find very strong support from the context. However, since Peter answer Jesus’ question directed to all the disciples, that would seem to lend some support. However, as noted above, the grammatical issue would still seem to be very difficult to overcome.

    But yes, even if the grammatical point could somehow be overcome, we would still need to determine in what sense Peter (whether alone or as a representative of the group) has the church built upon him, before we could conclude that the discussion is relevant to Mr. Preslar’s question.

    So, it would be a long uphill battle for him to try to insert a Roman ecclesiology even at that passage. Ironically, the Third Session of Trent appears to confirm the understanding of the passage that I had set forth above, namely that it is Peter’s confession of faith in Christ:

    For which cause, this council has thought good, that the Symbol of faith which the holy Roman Church makes use of,–as being that principle wherein all who profess the faith of Christ necessarily agree, and that firm and alone foundation against which the gates of hell shall never prevail,–be expressed in the very same words in which it is read in all the churches.

    -TurretinFan

  160. May 6, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    TF, et al,

    I have not assumed, in my comments here, that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded. I have sought to articulate (to the best of my understanding) the position of the Catholic Church, particularly as it pertains to Apostolic Succession, but I have not offered any argument as to whether that position is, in fact, correct. Secondly, I have assumed that Christ founded one Church, and that we are all supposed to be united to him, and with one another, in that Church. This is not at all prejudicial to the local churches, unless the existence and nature of, and our participation in, the local Church is exclusive of the existence and nature of, and our participation in, the universal Church. Finally, since the Bible clearly affirms the existence of the universal Church and the local Church, and since we are clearly called to resort to (at least) the latter for certain purposes, then it follows, granted that there is some actual relation between the local Church and the Church universal, such that every genuine local Church represents, or is a part of, or somehow participates in the universal (and vice versa), that someone who, in obedience to Scripture, seeks to resort to a genuine local Church, is, by that very action, in obedience to Scripture, seeking the one, universal Church that Christ founded. I am frankly surprised that anyone finds this line of argument at all objectionable.

    TF, however, does seem to object. Thus, he wrote:

    However, it does not follow that the only alternative is to identify a legitimate church by affiliation with “the Church Christ founded.”

    But then he writes:

    So, the evidence of Matthew 16 would lead us to understand that “the Church Christ founded” is all those who share in Peter’s confession of faith – namely all believers, those whom death has no power over, but whom Christ will raise on the last day.

    This gets us back to the idea that a legitimate church is one composed of men who share in Peter’s confession, men who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

    But this is to identify a genuine local Church (“one composed of men who share in Peter’s confession”) by affiliation with the universal Church/the Church that Christ founded (“all those who share in Peter’s confession of faith”)!

    This is precisely the sort of thing I have been recommending, even though TF’s criterion by which he locates the Church that Christ founded, as well as a genuine local Church, while an essential one, is not, on my view, sufficient as a means of locating either the Church that Christ founded or one of the genuine local churches related (by some means) thereto. However, I have not been arguing for my view, only clarifying bits of it, and suggesting that the enterprise of seeking the Church that Christ founded, wherever it may be found (if anywhere), is Christ-honoring.

  161. Andrew McCallum said,

    May 6, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    So anyone who wishes to find the Church that Christ founded must trace the sacramental lines of succession. But this is nothing like saying that the sacrament of Holy Orders is “the only factor, and all other matters … are left aside.”

    Andrew P,

    I really am wondering why you can’t just concede my point here. When we trace the “sacramental lines” from the Renassiance/Reformation to the 1st century, the 14th/15th century popes were deemed to be valid because they could trace this “sacramental” line. There is no other consideration here. The fact that these folks were just about the opposite of what bishops are described in the New Testament texts (again even RCC historians concede this) really doesn’t matter, does it?

    As a for instance, one Catholic historian calls Leo X the “worst thing that God ever inflicted on His Church.” And Leo certainly was spectacularly evil. But, he was still a valid pope by RCC standards! And here we have a clear juxtaposition of what it means to be a valid officer via Rome’s standards vs. biblical standards. Leo met none of the biblical statards for being a valid officer but he did meet the one Roman standard for being a valid officer and that was “sacramental” succession.

  162. johnbugay said,

    May 6, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Andrew #161: my guess is that you’ll get the “Alias Smith and Jones” defense: “For all the trains and the banks they robbed, they never taught anyone.”

    Evidently not having added anything to the “deposit of faith” is a sufficient qualification to have become or remained a pope, no matter what spectacular evil they inflicted on the church.

    That and the fact that infallibility doesn’t mean impeccability, etc. Of course, that just ignores your question, but that works among Catholics.

  163. TurretinFan said,

    May 6, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Andrew M wrote:

    As a for instance, one Catholic historian calls Leo X the “worst thing that God ever inflicted on His Church.” And Leo certainly was spectacularly evil. But, he was still a valid pope by RCC standards! And here we have a clear juxtaposition of what it means to be a valid officer via Rome’s standards vs. biblical standards. Leo met none of the biblical statards for being a valid officer but he did meet the one Roman standard for being a valid officer and that was “sacramental” succession.

    This is good observation. This is exactly what Mr. Preslar was trying to insist on in our discussion above, regarding Matthew 18. He wanted to make legitimacy about affiliation, not faithfulness.

    -TurretinFan

  164. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 6, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Bryan (#158):

    The fallacy is in the same genus because it goes like this: “I know there is a refutation of your argument somewhere (i.e. in a neutral third-party), even though I can’t provide it.”

    I provided a crystal-clear refutation: the only two conceivable meanings of your ambiguous step (2) are both unsound. The one meaning is false; the other does not correctly imply step (3).

    The appeal to a third party was a simple matter of courtesy. I did not know at the time that you teach philosophy, and of course not everyone has expertise in the area of logic. Perhaps one could suspect me of “pulling a logical fast one.” So it seemed reasonable that it would be easier to hear the same thing from another source. I fully expected at that time, and still expect, that any logician would give you precisely the same objection I gave.

    But regardless of the motivation behind the appeal, it would have been a simple, simple matter for you to provide clear and unambiguous language. I’m not omniscient; maybe there is a third meaning you had in mind.

    Providing it would have cleared the matter up in seconds. Since you are a professional philosopher, providing clear symbolic logic would have cleared the matter up in seconds. Instead, you appealed to your authority.

    Even now, you could clear up the matter, instead of trying to pin a fallacy on me.

    Why dodge? I want to assume good faith, but the evasiveness is a serious obstacle.

  165. TurretinFan said,

    May 6, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Mr. Preslar wrote: “I am frankly surprised that anyone finds this line of argument at all objectionable.”

    You shouldn’t be surprised.

    No one is denying that there is a universal church or that there is some sort of relation between local churches and the universal church. Instead, your line of argumentation is mostly objectionable as an attempted affirmative response to the question:

    You speak about the idea of looking for “the church Christ founded.” When you read the Scriptures, do you ever see people being called to look for the church Christ founded? On the other hand, do you see people being called to adhere to the teachings of Christ and the apostles?

    In fact, one does not see people called to search out “the church Christ founded.” On the other hand, they are constantly told to adhere to the teachings of Christ and the apostles.

    Whether one’s church is legitimate or illegitimate is given vastly inferior booking in Scripture, as compared with whether one is following the gospel of Christ. There may be a reason for that. However, we can’t really get to the reason for that, until there is a recognition that Scripture’s message is not about picking one out of many sects – or about differentiating “the Church” from imitations that are just social clubs. Those concepts are heavily present in Bryan Cross’ message, but not heavily present (if they are even present at all – we haven’t been shown them) in Scripture.

    Instead, Scripture’s central message is specifically about instilling in the reader faith in Christ. This contrast should help to distinguish between the ultra-sectarianism of Rome and the true catholicity of the Gospel.

    -TurretinFan

  166. Bryan Cross said,

    May 6, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Jeff, (#164),

    I don’t want to take this discussion off-topic for this thread. If you want to discuss my argument from 2007, please feel free to comment on my blog.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  167. Reed Here said,

    May 6, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Bryan: I for one find your responses demonstrate a pattern of disingenuousness that only has one result, deception. You never will directly answer or refute any comment that substantively challenges your position.

    There is no peace of Christ we can share with you given this regular behavior. You may simply write me off as someone who only wants to argue and be nasty. I’d rather you actually respond.

    E.g., don’t brush off Jeff’s challenge with an appeal to polite respect for the focus of this thread – you took it off topic quite a while ago. As neither Lane nor any of his moderators asked you to stop, you can safely assume you have their tacit permission to continue.

    Yet, lest there be any doubt, you hereby have permission to continue this line of discussion here with Jeff. Please, do respond directly to him. Please do demonstrate that your faith enables you to offer straightforward answers. Please do demonstrate that you’re not given to disingenuous argumentation.

    Reed DePace
    moderator

  168. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 6, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Jeff,

    Re #157: are you quoting Bryan’s disjunction verbatim? If so, it sounds like a pretty likely candidate for the fallacy of false dichotomy! Are the only options really:
    1. Each individual is supreme
    2. There is a formal ecclesiastical hierarchy with absolute authority.

    Did Bryan argue for this being a legitimate dichotomy? It seems to me that there could easily be a tertium quid: perhaps a communally-minded critical realism is possible, by which neither individual nor formal officer is absolute in their authority, but where there is responsible and humble dialectic between individuals, institutions (formal authorities, like presbyteroi), and communities (informal authorities, like other individuals). I have a hunch that such a structure can be seen in the New Testament, but I don’t know that anyone has laid it out in those terms.

  169. Ron Henzel said,

    May 6, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Reed wrote to Bryan:

    You never will directly answer or refute any comment that substantively challenges your position.

    I thought I was the only one who noticed that.

  170. Bryan Cross said,

    May 6, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Jeff, you wrote:

    I provided a crystal-clear refutation: the only two conceivable meanings of your ambiguous step (2) are both unsound. The one meaning is false; the other does not correctly imply step (3).

    Meanings cannot be “unsound.” Only arguments can be unsound. Premises are not steps; premises are propositions. An argument is not an algorithm. In order to begin evaluating an argument, we have to be on the same page about exactly what an argument is, and how arguments are rightly evaluated. If we aren’t on the same page about that, then we can’t begin to evaluate my argument.

    The claim in the second premise of my argument is the condensed form of an argument involving a disjunct: Either it is the case that each individual is his own highest ecclesial authority (such that there is no visible human having higher ecclesial authority than himself), or it is not the case that each individual is his own highest ecclesial authority (such that there is no visible human having higher ecclesial authority than himself). If it is not the case that each individual is his own highest ecclesial authority (such that there is no visible human having higher ecclesial authority than himself), and there is such a thing as visible ecclesial authority, then it follows that there is a visible ecclesial authority higher in ecclesial authority than that of [i.e. on the level had by] each individual. Therefore either each individual is his own highest ecclesial authority such that there is no visible human having higher ecclesial authority than himself, or there is a visible human ecclesial authority higher in ecclesial authority than that of [i.e. on the level had by] each individual.

    Hopefully that explains premise (2), which is neither your (2A) nor your (2B).

    (Ron, you have to understand that my time is limited. I simply cannot respond to objections from five to ten people at the same time. I’m in the middle of grading papers and giving and grading final exams, among other things. If you want to interpret my limited responses as though I’m avoiding the tough questions, you of course are free to do that, but I don’t think that’s the most charitable way of interpreting my inability to respond to all the objections and criticisms that are addressed here to my comments. If there is something in particular that you want me to address, the more charitable thing to do is point out that I have not addressed objection ‘x”.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  171. TurretinFan said,

    May 6, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Bryan’s argument reduces to the argument that there is no such thing as subordinate authority. For example, suppose that Bryan disagrees with his bishop on something. Roman Catholicism doesn’t require Bryan to simply go along with whatever the bishop says. Does that mean that the bishop doesn’t have any authority? Bryan’s argument above would seem to suggest that the bishop lacks any real authority, since Bryan is permitted to set aside what the bishop says based on Bryan’s own understanding of Tradition (I’ll use that term to designate the entire body of official dogmatic teachings of Roman Catholicism).

    But hopefully everyone realizes that this is absurd. The bishop is still a real authority in Roman Catholicism, just not the ultimate authority. The Ultimate Authority is Tradition. When faced with an apparent divergence between what Tradition says and what his bishop says, Bryan sides with Tradition.

    We do the same thing, only our rule of faith is the Scriptures rather than Tradition. Bryan may say that we don’t appeal to Scripture but to our interpretation (i.e. understanding of Scripture). However, Bryan himself doesn’t appeal to Tradition but to his interpretation of Tradition.

    Bryan might think that one difference is that his Tradition is a living, evolving thing. Thus, in theory, he can ask Tradition to decide between him and his bishop (when they disagree) and Tradition can give him back an answer. The problem, of course, is that this answer then must be interpreted (i.e. understood) by Bryan. Thus, we see that even if Tradition were an infallible oracle, Bryan wouldn’t be able to escape having to understand the oracle. Furthermore, it’s extraordinarily rare that Tradition (in Roman Catholicism) actually alleges that it is providing some new infallible teaching. So, in practice, Bryan can’t actually obtain an oracle-like answer to his questions or any infallible resolution of disputes between himself and his bishops.

    Does that mean that Bryan is his own Ultimate Authority? Well, by Bryan’s standard, the answer would seem to be “yes.” But that is absurd. It’s likewise absurd for Bryan to make the analogous accusations against the Reformed for holding to Scripture as our rule of faith.

    -TurretinFan

  172. Bryan Cross said,

    May 6, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    TF

    Bryan’s argument reduces to the argument that there is no such thing as subordinate authority.

    Every premise of my argument, and the conclusion, is fully compatible with there being such a thing as subordinate authority. Therefore it is not true that my argument “reduces to” some other argument having as its conclusion that there is no such thing as subordinate authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  173. TurretinFan said,

    May 6, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Bryan:

    Given that your argument hasn’t been provided to us in a formal manner (such that you’ve even identified all the premises), it seems we are just supposed to take your word for it.

    On the contrary, however, your argument informally expressed in comment 1 and repeated in various forms throughout this thread is liable to the reductio ad absurdum I’ve identified.

    -Turretinfan

  174. Bryan Cross said,

    May 6, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    TF,

    In comment #157 Jeff gave the link to my argument. You wrote:

    your argument informally expressed in comment 1 and repeated in various forms throughout this thread is liable to the reductio ad absurdum I’ve identified.

    No premise or conclusion of my argument (whether formally expressed or informally expressed) entails that there is no such thing as subordinate authority. If you disagree, please provide the premise or conclusion of my argument (whether formally expressed or informally expressed) which in your opinion entails that there is no such thing as subordinate authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  175. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 6, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Bryan (#170),

    Thanks for providing additional clarification, and thanks for being willing to put up with my stubbornness. With regard to the phrase “each meaning is unsound”, I meant that whether (2) means (2A) or (2B), in each case the resulting argument is unsound, and that the flawed step is (2). If there is a better term to describe this situation, I’m happy to use it.

    By “sound” I mean that an argument has true premises and validly reasons to its conclusions.

    I hope this puts us on the same page.

    Here is premise (2):

    (2) Either each individual is his own highest ecclesial authority such that there is no visible human having higher ecclesial authority than himself, or there is a visible human ecclesial authority higher in ecclesial authority than that of each individual.

    Or more recently,

    (2 clarified): Therefore either each individual is his own highest ecclesial authority such that there is no visible human having higher ecclesial authority than himself, or there is a visible human ecclesial authority higher in ecclesial authority than that of [i.e. on the level had by] each individual.

    The reason this step is ambiguous is that you do not state in (2) whether the “higher ecclesial authority” is the same authority for all people, or a different one.

    If the same, then (2) appears to translate as

    if x is a person and HEA(x) is the highest ecclesial authority of x, then

    (2A) (for every) x: HEA(x) = x OR HEA(x) = y not equal to x.

    If different, then (2) appears to translate as

    (2B) (for every) x: HEA(x) = x OR (there is) y_x not equal to x: HEA(x) = y_x.

    Just to be clear what we’re talking about, y in (2A) is the same authority for all x, whereas y_x in (2B) is a different authority for each x..

    Those are identical to the (2A) and (2B) that I offered you, and they still appear equivalent to the clarified #2, depending on the same/different question. So: what is the third meaning you have in mind, and how is it rendered symbolically?

  176. TurretinFan said,

    May 6, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Bryan:

    You wrote:

    No premise or conclusion of my argument (whether formally expressed or informally expressed) entails that there is no such thing as subordinate authority. If you disagree, please provide the premise or conclusion of my argument (whether formally expressed or informally expressed) which in your opinion entails that there is no such thing as subordinate authority.

    I’ve already done that, using the informal technique set forth above. It’s painfully tedious for me to have present the flaws in your argument three times before you actually attempt to answer them. In the form you provided it at the link Jeff provided, you express one such premise thus:

    (5) Authority over another cannot be grounded in the other’s agreement with the one having authority. [From the very nature of authority]

    If you disagree that my technique reduces your argument to absurdity, please provide the reason why it does not. If you agree, then just say so.

    In anticipation of the next round of non-answer, yes, I have demonstrated that (5) entails that there is no such thing as subordinate authority. I’ve used the informal mechanism of the reductio and your own informal formulation of your argument from comment 1 above. However, to spell it out more formally:

    1) “(5) Authority over another cannot be grounded in the other’s agreement with the one having authority.” (your premise)

    2) If Subordinate authority is not grounded in the other’s agreement, then no disagreement by the other can justify failure to follow the teachings of the subordinate authority. (definition of the relevant kind of grounding)

    3) But a certain kind of disagreement can justify failure to follow the teachings of the subordinate authority. (taken as admitted)

    4) Therefore, it is not the case that subordinate authority is not grounded in the other’s agreement. (from (2) and (3) by modus tollens)

    5) Therefore, it is the case that subordinate authority is grounded in the other’s agreement (from (4) by way of syntactical clarification of the double negative)

    6) If Subordinate authority is grounded in the other’s agreement, it is not authority (rewording of (1)).

    7) Therefore, subordinate authority is not authority (from (5) and (6) by modus tollens).

    Or, as I originally stated, your argument reduces to an argument that subordinate authority is not authority.

    -TurretinFan

  177. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 6, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    And by different, I mean possibly different rather than distinct.

    It might be that y_x coincide for different x’s.

  178. May 6, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    TF to Bryan:

    Or, as I originally stated, your argument reduces to an argument that subordinate authority is not authority.

    Bryan to TF:

    No premise or conclusion of my argument … entails that there is no such thing as subordinate authority.

    Dear WordPress,

    There seems to be a problem with the Green Baggins blog, as certain commenters’ identities appear to be “switched” somehow (at least on my computer screen). If you read the handful of comments above, you’ll note that a certain “Bryan Cross” has been arguing that subordinate authority is no authority at all, but now it appears that it is “Turretin Fan” who is attempting to convince “Bryan Cross” that he has been making this argument (that subordinate authority is no authority at all), and “Bryan Cross” is denying having made any such argument or assertion. As you can imagine, this is all very confusing. If you would recitfy this matter as soon as possible, I would appreciate it, as it would make the conversation much easier to follow.

    Thanks you for your service,

    Jason Stellman

  179. Ron Henzel said,

    May 6, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Jason wrote concerning Bryan:

    If you read the handful of comments above, you’ll note that a certain “Bryan Cross” has been arguing that subordinate authority is no authority at all…

    I thought I was the only one who noticed that.

  180. Bryan Cross said,

    May 6, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Jeff,

    The reason this step is ambiguous is that you do not state in (2) whether the “higher ecclesial authority” is the same authority for all people, or a different one.

    Premise (2) is not intended to specify whether the higher ecclesial authority is the same for all persons, or whether there are multiple separate higher ecclesial authorities. Premise (2) allows for both possibilities. (Generality is not necessarily ambiguity.) The argument does not depend upon there being only one higher ecclesial authority; nor does it depend upon there being more than one higher ecclesial authorities. It is open to both, and so is premise (2).

    Premise (2) is merely stating that if it is not true that each individual Christian is his own highest ecclesial authority, then there is [at least one] visible human being having higher ecclesial authority than other human beings.

    That shouldn’t be a controversial premise, for those who agree that there is such a thing as visible ecclesial authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  181. Bryan Cross said,

    May 6, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    TF,

    Your claim is that the following premise (from my argument in 2007) entails that there is no such thing as subordinate authority. So here is my premise:

    Authority over another cannot be grounded in the other’s agreement with the one having authority. [From the very nature of authority]

    Your argument that my premise has that implication starts like this:

    1) “(5) Authority over another cannot be grounded in the other’s agreement with the one having authority.” (your premise)

    2) If Subordinate authority is not grounded in the other’s agreement, then no disagreement by the other can justify failure to follow the teachings of the subordinate authority. (definition of the relevant kind of grounding)

    Premise (2) of your argument is not true. There being justified conditions for not following a subordinate authority does not entail that the ground for that subordinate authority’s authority is agreement with oneself. For example, the ground for a priest’s authority is his authorization by the bishop. There being justified conditions for not following what a dissenting priest says does not change that.

    And since premise (2) of your argument is not true, therefore, you haven’t shown that my claim entails that there is no such thing as subordinate authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  182. TurretinFan said,

    May 6, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Bryan wrote:

    There being justified conditions for not following a subordinate authority does not entail that the ground for that subordinate authority’s authority is agreement with oneself. For example, the ground for a priest’s authority is his authorization by the bishop. There being justified conditions for not following what a dissenting priest says does not change that.

    a) Did you intend your (5) (my (1)) to say that it is the only ground?
    – If so, you seem to have omitted it.
    – If not, then the fact that there is some additional ground for his authority is irrelevant. You acknowledge, after all, that your submission to what the priest says is qualified by your agreement with him (with reference to your interpretation of Tradition).
    Recall:

    1) “(5) Authority over another cannot be grounded [only???] in the other’s agreement with the one having authority.” (your premise)

    Please clarify.

    – TurretinFan

  183. Bryan Cross said,

    May 6, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Jason,

    Just to clarify, I have not argued that subordinate authority is no authority at all. I have argued that a confession that has its ‘authority’ on the basis of its agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture is no authority at all. But that claim doesn’t entail anything about the possibility of actual subordinate authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  184. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 6, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Bryan (#180):

    So (2) is equivalent to (2B):

    (For each) x: HEA(x) = x OR (there is) y_x: HEA(x) = y_x

    ?

  185. Bryan Cross said,

    May 6, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    TF, (#182)

    The ‘only’ is unnecessary, because the ground for authority cannot at all be agreement with oneself. The fact that there are conditions for justifiably not following a subordinate authority does not entail that one ground for that subordinate authority’s authority is agreement with oneself. In other words, the fact that an authority has limited authority does not mean that his not crossing that limit is an additional ground or source of his authority. It is rather a condition for the proper exercise of his authority. The authority which he has is not grounded in one’s own agreement with him, but in that by which he was authorized.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  186. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 6, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Re-reading our dialog from 2007, I realize that I’ve shifted ground a bit on premise (2), in that post #175 does not accurately reflect the original (2A) and (2B). I apologize for misrepresenting that … it was unintentional.

    As it stands, do you agree that (2) is properly represented as

    (For each) x: HEA(x) = x OR (there is) y_x: HEA(x) = y_x

    ?

  187. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 6, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    OR, are you saying that

    ((for each) x: HEA(x) = x) OR ((for each) x: HEA(x) = y_x not equal to x)

    which could also be a possible reading, and was my original (2B).

    What’s confusing about this is that I can’t tell where the universalization is supposed to go. If I read your language literally, you seem to be saying that

    EITHER everyone is an individualist
    OR everyone has a higher authority.

    But when you explain it, it seems to be that

    everyone is EITHER an individualist OR has a higher authority.

    This makes a huge difference in your proof, because step (3) is really only validly derived from the first reading.

  188. Bryan Cross said,

    May 6, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Jeff, (re: #186),

    As it stands, do you agree that (2) is properly represented as

    (For each) x: HEA(x) = x OR (there is) y_x: HEA(x) = y_x

    I’m fine with that, given the qualification you made in #177.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  189. Bryan Cross said,

    May 6, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Jeff,

    OR, are you saying that

    ((for each) x: HEA(x) = x) OR ((for each) x: HEA(x) = y_x not equal to x)

    No. That’s not an accurate representation of my premise (2).

    If I read your language literally, you seem to be saying that

    EITHER everyone is an individualist
    OR everyone has a higher authority.

    No, that’s not what I’m saying.

    But when you explain it, it seems to be that

    everyone is EITHER an individualist OR has a higher authority.

    No, that’s not right either. The disjunct is: “Either everyone is his own highest ecclesial authority, or there is [at least one] visible human being having higher ecclesial authority than other human beings.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  190. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 6, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    OK, now we’re getting somewhere. Thanks for settling on a formal symbolic reading.

    We agree that (2) means

    (for each) x: HEA(x) = x OR (there is a y_x not equal to x): HEA(x) = y_x.

    There is a quibble we might raise about (2). It might be the case that someone has *no* ecclesial authority whatsoever. Let’s leave this as a theoretical concern.

    But the real issue here is that this version of (2) does not lead to (3).

    Let’s recap. From your argument:

    (1) Individualism is the notion (whether explicit or implicit) that each individual is his own highest ecclesial authority such that there is no visible human having higher ecclesial authority than himself.

    That is

    I: (for each) x: HEA(x) = x.

    (2) Either each individual is his own highest ecclesial authority such that there is no visible human having higher ecclesial authority than himself, or there is a visible human ecclesial authority higher in ecclesial authority than that of each individual.

    That is,

    (for each) x: HEA(x) = x OR (there is a y_x not equal to x): HEA(x) = y_x

    (3) Either individualism is true or there is a visible human ecclesial authority higher in ecclesial authority than that of each individual. [From (1) and (2)]

    That is,

    I is true OR (for each) x: HEA(x) = y_x not equal to x.

    The problem is that (3) does not follow from (1) and (2).

    The following argument would be logically valid:

    (1) I : (for each) x: HEA(x) = x

    (2) (for each) x: HEA(x) = x OR (for each) x: HEA(x) = y_x not equal to x.

    (3) Therefore, I is true OR (for each) x: HEA(x) = y_x not equal to x.

    This is simply substitution.

    But the argument as stated does not follow.

    And here’s a simple counter-example.

    Let’s say that our universe consists of two ordinary people and the pope.

    Alice is an individualist: HEA(Alice) = Alice. But Bryan is not: HEA(Bryan) = Benedict XVI. The pope … well, I suppose he has to be an individualist, too. HEA(Benedict) = Benedict.

    Anyways, (1) is clearly false, since it is not true (in our three-person universe) that each individual is his own highest authority. (2) is clearly true, since each individual is either his/her highest authority, or else someone else is.

    But (3) is clearly false, since it is neither true (in our three-person universe) that individualism is true, nor yet that there is an HEA for each individual. Some are individualists, some aren’t.

    So what happened? What happened was that you “distributed” the universal quantifier over the disjunction, improperly. That is, you went from a universal disjunction

    (for each) x: HEA(x) = x OR HEA(x) = y_x

    to a disjunction of universals

    (for each) x: HEA(x) =x OR (for each) HEA(x) = y_x.

    Without that subtle (but improper) move, you cannot properly use a disjunctive syllogism to get to (3).

    What you could do with (3) is show that for each individual, he is either an individualist or else he has a higher authority. But that’s kind of trivial, and I suspect you wouldn’t be happy to have that conclusion: everyone is either an individualist, or he isn’t.

    (Again, leaving aside for now the theoretical issue of “what if someone has *no* HEA?”)

    We haven’t even gotten to (4) yet, and there’s trouble brewing there also. And most importantly, this issue of universals is going to cause trouble again in (8), where you appear to conclude that there is one single individual who is higher than all others.

  191. Bryan Cross said,

    May 6, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Jeff, (re: #190)

    You’ve logically misrepresented my premise (3). It is more properly represented as:

    I OR (there is a y_x not equal to x): HEA(x) = y_x

    And in that case (3) does follow from (1) and (2).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  192. May 7, 2010 at 2:42 am

    TF wrote (#165):

    Whether one’s church is legitimate or illegitimate is given vastly inferior booking in Scripture, as compared with whether one is following the gospel of Christ.

    In fact, I think that there are only two occasions in which Sacred Scripture directly instructs us to “go to Church” — Matthew 18 and Hebrews 10. However, since we agree that we ought to obey Scripture, then we agree that, even if it is relatively unimportant (“given vastly inferior booking”), we ought to go to Church, which involves looking for where to go, which involves some discernment. Furthermore, since we agree that the genuine local Church is really related to the universal Church, then there is a sense in which discerning which local Church to assemble with will involve looking for the universal Church, which Christ founded.

    Of course, my position is that going to Church, in the sense of assembling together in a genuine local Church (whatever that may be), which is rightly related to the universal Church (whatever that may be), is really, really important.

    One of the reasons why one does not find many explicit instructions, in the New Testament, to look for the Church, is that the New Testament is written for the Church, addressed to the Church, and presumably delivered to the Church.

    Think about it this way: If I am writing a letter to a man living in England, which letter is to be delivered to him in England, I will probably not instruct him to look for England, even if I think that finding and abiding in England is very important. However, there are other ways in which my estimation of the importance of finding and living in England may come across; e.g., the way I describe England. So, as regards the (biblical) importance of finding the Church, we look to what Scripture says about the Church. These bits are really wonderful, really extraordinary, really, I think, important.

    A final note: My comments in this thread began (#120) by pointing out that (a) submission to an authority that is not based on agreement with my own selection and interpretation of Sacred Scripture, and (b) discovering that authority by means of personal study, are perfectly compatible. That point, and the ensuing conversation, is related to the original post in that the distinction between the “church’s doctrine” and “what individuals within that church say or said” must rest upon some reliable manner of identifying the Church.

    ___________

    OK, last thing (for real):

    Andrew M, re #161,

    What John said (#162). Although, I think John underestimated his own answer.

    You wrote:

    Leo met none of the biblical standards for being a valid officer but he did meet the one Roman standard for being a valid officer and that was “sacramental” succession.

    I am not sure what you mean by “valid officer.” If you mean “validly ordained” then it is true, that depends on the sacrament. A validly baptized person who turns out rotten has, nevertheless, been validly baptized. Likewise for the sacrament of Holy Orders. If, by “valid officer,” you mean “good candidate for office,” or “good officer,” as in one who meets the character standards insisted upon in Sacred Scripture (e.g., 1 Tim 3), then, no, Leo X was not “valid.”

    The basic question seems to be: Does the moral failure a validly ordained (in the sacramental sense) bishop, and/or a duly elected Pope, ipso facto depose said bishop and/or Pope from office? If so, then what do we conclude about Judas, or Peter at Antioch? I take it that 1 Tim 3 describes the character that God demands, and that the Church must therefore seek, from bishops and deacons (and potential bishops and deacons). But I do not think that this passage need be interpreted such that a validly ordained bishop/elected pope, who at some point fails to meet one or more of these character criteria, is ipso facto deprived of office.

  193. Ron Henzel said,

    May 7, 2010 at 5:01 am

    Bryan,

    You wrote:

    I have argued that a confession that has its ‘authority’ on the basis of its agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture is no authority at all.

    So then, Trent has its “authority” on the basis of its disagreement with your interpretation of Scripture?

    No, that cant’ be.

    Trent has its “authority” on the basis of the authority of the magisterium, which has its basis in apostolic succession, which has its basis in oral tradition, which is true because it agrees with your interpretation of oral tradition (after all, you love throwing all those patristic references at us)?

    No, that still doesn’t sound right.

    OK: Trent has its “authority” on the basis of the authority of the magisterium, which has its basis in apostolic succession, which has its basis in oral tradition, which is true because it agrees with the magisterium’s interpretation of oral tradition, which, of course, is authoritative because of apostolic succession, and so on…?

    Man, this logic stuff is hard!

  194. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 7, 2010 at 6:14 am

    Bryan (#191):

    I OR (there is) y_x: HEA(x) = y_x

    is not a properly posed statement. The first half of the disjunction I contains a universal quantifier, whereas the second part of your disjunction contains no quantifier whatsoever.

    Do you intend

    I OR (for each) x: (there is) y_x: HEA(x) = y_x

    or

    I OR (there is) x: (there is) y_x: HEA(x) = y_x

    ?

    As it stands, the second half of the disjunction refers to an “x” that hasn’t been declared (and cannot be “grandfathered over” from I).

  195. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 7, 2010 at 6:20 am

    And in any event, we agreed to (3)! This is why I asked you to supply the symbols instead of having me do guess-n-check.

    It really would be best for you to lay it all out in symbols. That would provide a very quick, objective resolution to this question of soundness once and for all.

    And regardless of what you mean, my counterexample still stands. If there are *some* who are not individualists, then Individualism (as stipulated) is not true. And if there are *some* who are individualists, then it is not the case that there is a higher authority for each person.

    So your final conclusion, that either individualism is true, or else there is a higher authority for each person, is simply false. As long as there are some of each, (8) cannot be.

    But we’ll no doubt have to get there… for now, please please supply your own symbolic logic.

  196. Bryan Cross said,

    May 7, 2010 at 7:00 am

    Jeff,

    So your final conclusion, that either individualism is true, or else there is a higher authority for each person, is simply false. As long as there are some of each, (8) cannot be.

    You’ve misconstrued the first part of my final conclusion. The first part of my final conclusion is not that either individualism is true or there is a higher ecclesial authority for each person, i.e. for each person, there is another person having higher ecclesial authority. That would be absurd. The first part of my final conclusion is that either individualism is true or there is a visible human ecclesial authority higher in ecclesial authority than that had [in common] by each individual.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  197. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 7, 2010 at 7:17 am

    OK, we’ll have to get there when we get there.

    Meanwhile: what quantifier applies to the second half of the disjunction in (3)?

    (And I was mistaken … we agreed to the language in (2), not (3)).

  198. TurretinFan said,

    May 7, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Bryan:

    You asserted: “the ground for authority cannot at all be agreement with oneself.”

    This does not appear to be true. Let me provide an example to demonstrate. A husband has authority over his wife. However, one ground of that authority is the woman’s consent (agreement with him) that they should be married. Therefore, we see that it is not true that the ground for authority cannot at all be agreement with oneself.

    Since that is not true, your premise (5) is not true, and your conclusion is false.

    -TurretinFan

  199. Andrew McCallum said,

    May 7, 2010 at 7:51 am

    OK: Trent has its “authority” on the basis of the authority of the magisterium, which has its basis in apostolic succession, which has its basis in oral tradition, which is true because it agrees with the magisterium’s interpretation of oral tradition, which, of course, is authoritative because of apostolic succession, and so on…?

    Ron – I’ve tried again and again to get some of the RC apologists to understand that what we disagree with is their personal interpretation of tradition. They are forever accusing us of gravitating to churches that agree with our personal interpretation of Scripture. Of course they have gravitated to one relatively small sector of the RCC that agrees with their personal interpretation of tradition. They are looking for something more objective to base their theology on, but in the end they are no further ahead.

  200. Ron Henzel said,

    May 7, 2010 at 7:51 am

    I think it boils down to a choice between a self-authenticating Scripture and a self-authenticating magisterium.

  201. Andrew McCallum said,

    May 7, 2010 at 8:02 am

    The basic question seems to be: Does the moral failure a validly ordained (in the sacramental sense) bishop, and/or a duly elected Pope, ipso facto depose said bishop and/or Pope from office? If so, then what do we conclude about Judas, or Peter at Antioch

    Andrew P – We are hardly saying that an officer should not sin, only that if an officer has none or few of the qualifications of a biblical officer he should not be ordained, or should be deposed. Thus your comparison of Leo to Judas is a good one, but your comparison of Leo to Peter is not.

    You are speaking of sacramental succession of the bishops as if the RCC notion of succession is an indisputable fact. The Early Church practice was to protect the faithfulness of the bishops by one set of bishops choosing the next generation of bishops. But what happens when this succession does just the opposite (as in the era in which the Reformers were born) where this succession assured just the opposite of what the ECF’s were trying to protect? Your answer to this seems to to quote RCC orthodoxy to us. And we are asking the question as to whether RCC orthodoxy has any basis firstly in Scriptures and secondly in the history of the early centuries of Christianity.

  202. Andrew McCallum said,

    May 7, 2010 at 8:06 am

    I think it boils down to a choice between a self-authenticating Scripture and a self-authenticating magisterium.

    If you could ever get the RC’s to agree here then you would have the basis for some really good conversations. But the more sophisticated RC apologists are sure they have the epistemological high ground and don’t want to give it up.

  203. Ron Henzel said,

    May 7, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Bryan,

    I also have a ton of papers to grade, albeit at the middle school level, so I understand how difficult it can be to keep up with this discussion. In fact, just now I am noticing that you addressed the following parenthetical addendum to me yesterday in comment 170:

    (Ron, you have to understand that my time is limited. I simply cannot respond to objections from five to ten people at the same time. I’m in the middle of grading papers and giving and grading final exams, among other things. If you want to interpret my limited responses as though I’m avoiding the tough questions, you of course are free to do that, but I don’t think that’s the most charitable way of interpreting my inability to respond to all the objections and criticisms that are addressed here to my comments. If there is something in particular that you want me to address, the more charitable thing to do is point out that I have not addressed objection ‘x”.)

    Well, Bryan, I certainly do not wish to be uncharitable, and I apologize for giving you that impression. And I most certainly accept your explanation that you have been too busy to respond to my comments 80 (on May 2) and 110 (on May 4). Please forgive me for assuming that you were avoiding them simply because you only had time to respond to Jeff and Andy in between grading papers. But since it now seems that your time has been freed up considerably, if you wouldn’t mind—I think my comment 110 (on May 4) is more comprehensive of the two…

    :-)

  204. May 7, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    I am just wondering.

    What is the *formal* canon of Scripture a subordinate authority to?

  205. May 7, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    [...] entertaining comment thread: Some Calvinists attempt to articulate the authority of the church vis-a-vis Rome (hint: Vatican II [...]

  206. Bryan Cross said,

    May 7, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Jeff, (re: #197),

    I would put the first three premises this way:

    (1) I =def (for all x)HEA(x) = x

    (2) [(for all x)HEA(x) = x] v [(there is x)(there is y)(HEA(x) = y) & ~(y = x))]

    (3) I v [(there is x)(there is y)(HEA(x) = y) & ~(y = x))]

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  207. Bryan Cross said,

    May 7, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    TF, (re: #198)

    The ground of the husband’s authority over his wife is not her consent to marry him. He also consented to marry her. So if consent were the ground, neither the husband nor the wife would have authority over the other. The ground of a husband’s authority over his wife is the natural order established by God between husband and wife. Their consent to marry each other is a necessary condition for the exercise of that God-given authority, but is not the ground of it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  208. Bryan Cross said,

    May 8, 2010 at 12:01 am

    Ron, (re: #110)

    In comment #97 I was explaining that ecclesial infallibility is the great conservative principle of the Church over the past two millennia. Your response in #110 was to claim that papal infallibility is a recent innovation of the nineteenth century. But papal infallibility is not the same thing as ecclesial infallibility, as can be shown by the fact that the Eastern Orthodox also believe in ecclesial infallibility. Ecclesial infallibility has been something the Church has believed since long before the Catholic-Orthodox schism. So it does no good to point to the relatively recent formal definition of papal infallibility as some kind of defeater for my claim about the Church’s longstanding belief in ecclesial infallibility.

    You also take issue with the notion that Protestantism is built on ecclesial deism. You write:

    historic Protestantism has uniformly agreed that the Holy Spirit has continued to be extremely involved with His church down to the present time

    I understand, and I agree that Protestants have claimed as much. But so has every heresy in the history of the Church; they claim the Holy Spirit for themselves. The key word in your statement is ‘involved.’ The term is sufficiently weak that any event can be claimed to have the Holy Spirit’s involvement — both sides of a schism, all the various denominations holding incompatible doctrines. Those contradictions are of no concern, so long as the Spirit is merely ‘involved.’ Christ’s promise, however, was much stronger than that His Spirit would merely be “involved” with His Church. He promised that His Spirit would guide His Church into all Truth, as the cloud guided the Hebrews by day and the pillar of fire by night. The ecclesial deist denies ecclesial infallibility because he does not belief that the Spirit has always been guiding the Church in every century. That’s why such a person is willing to call into question anything and everything that the Church has believed and taught, unless he finds it stated explicitly in Scripture.

    Your response is to distinguish the Church’s magisterium from the Church. Your claim, presumably, is that the Spirit is promised to guide the Church, not her magisterium. And who then might the Church be? The answer turns out to be: Whoever sufficiently agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture. You see how convenient that is. What would otherwise be equivalent to the rebellion of Korah, is transformed into being led by the Spirit away from the mere ‘traditions and structures of men’, simply by redefining the term ‘Church’ to refer not to those old fogies (and all those in communion with them) in their old lines of succession from the Apostles, but to those who are in sufficient agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture. This is precisely how the angel of light leads persons into heresy and schism from the Church — he deceives them into thinking that they are upholding orthodoxy. They become so convinced of this that they leave their rightful shepherds, and set up an imitation which usually in some way bears the name of the person who founded their heresy or schism.

    Christ’s promise to guide the Church into all truth would be worthless to know if it does not apply principally the Church’s magisterium. That is because if the promise didn’t apply to the Church’s magisterium, we could know only that among the various sects of self-described Christians in the world, at least one set of persons (though which set we know not) is being guided by the Holy Spirit.

    This is how St. Cyril of Jerusalem could say:

    “And if thou should be in foreign cities, do not simply ask where is the church (kyriakon), for the heresies of the impious try to call their dens kyriaka, nor simply where is the Church (ekklesia), but where is the Catholic Church, for this is the proper name of this holy Mother of all” (Catecheses 18.26).

    And St. Augustine could say:

    “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.”

    Such statements would make no sense if Christ’s promise to guide the Church into all truth by His Spirit did not apply to the magisterium, but only to the laity.

    You wrote:

    Why did God not provide such a magisterium for His Old Testament people?” Is it because “ecclesial deism” was God’s actual policy from Adam until the apostles?

    No. Under the Old Covenant there was magisterium of prophets; that was not “ecclesial deism.” But under the New Covenant, there is a new economy, a new measure of the Spirit, and a far greater magisterium, suited for a universal Church spread over the whole world.

    I agree that many Catholics can and do disagree with other Catholics over the interpretation of various passages of Scripture. For most such passages the Magisterium has made no formal statement about how they must be interpreted, though for many of them there is an interpretive tradition which is authoritative. But you seem to think that these kinds of in-house disagreements are equivalent to the doctrinal disagreements between Protestants. You write:

    They [Protestants] are in harmony on what they mutually agree to be essential matters, thus they obviously do not consider having a single ecclesiastical hierarchy to be essential.

    I agree that Protestants do not consider having single ecclesiastical hierarchy to be essential. That’s because they don’t believe the Church to be essential. If there were no one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, but only persons, nothing in Protestant practice would change. Protestant ecclesiology has no way of distinguishing between a schism from the Church and a branch within the Church. Since Protestantism has no magisterium, what counts as “essential matters” is ultimately (at least in this life) up to each Protestant to decide. So the only reason you can claim to have ‘agreement’ on the essentials is because the essentials are whatever you yourself decide them to be, and thereby pick out those other persons who share them with you as ‘the rest of the Church,’ all agreeing on the essentials. However, every Arian in the fourth century could have done the same thing, picking out what beliefs he thinks are essential, and then identifying the Church as those who share those beliefs. Every heretic in the history of the Church could have done the same thing. That’s why such a conception of ‘essential’ is worthless, because it is entirely relative. In the Catholic Church, by contrast, what is essential is not ultimately up to each individual to decide, but up to the Church’s magisterium to decide. For that reason, in the Catholic Church there is an objective difference between what is essential and what is non-essential. That’s why it is not accurate to claim that agreement and disagreement among Protestants about essentials and non-essentials (respectively) is equivalent to agreement and disagreement between Catholics about essentials and non-essentials (respectively). The claim is an equivocation.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  209. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 8, 2010 at 6:20 am

    Bryan,

    Thanks for clarifying. I agree that as the argument now stands, including the change in (2), it is valid.

    Where we are by line (3) is that

    All people are their own highest authority, OR there are some people whose highest authority is not themselves.

    This is a perfectly reasonable conclusion.

    I would suggest, if I may, that (3) could be worded more clearly. Instead of

    …there is a visible human ecclesial authority higher in ecclesial authority than that of each individual.

    (which suggests universal quantifier…hence our confusion)

    it might read

    …there are some whose highest authority is not themselves.

    with a similar change in (2) to reflect the change in quantifier.

  210. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 8, 2010 at 6:22 am

    Sorry … I should have said, “I agree that the argument (1) – (3) is valid.”

  211. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 8, 2010 at 6:40 am

    Step (4):

    If there is a visible human ecclesial authority higher in ecclesial authority than that of each individual, the ground for the authority had by that higher ecclesial authority is either the individual’s agreement with that higher ecclesial authority’s doctrine/practice, or the handing down of authority from the Apostles through sacramental succession.

    Here we run into a problem of parallel structure. You are speaking of “ground for authority.” That ground, you allege, is either (1) the individual’s agreement with doctrine or practice; or else, the (2) handing down of authority through succession.

    The first is subjective. It locates the ground for authority in the beliefs of the individual; thus, the ground is relativistic. My pastor does have a ground for authority in my reference frame; he does not have a ground for authority in the reference frame of my friend David Weiner.

    The second meanwhile is objective. It locates the ground for authority in a historical question: is, or is not, this person a successor of the apostles through the laying on of hands?

    So we have to ask now, “What is a ground?” Is it a reason that one gives to justify belief in something? That would be the traditional definition.

    If we use that definition, then the first “ground” is not a proper ground at all. My ground for being Presbyterian is not that “I agree with their doctrine.” Rather, it is that “Presbyterian doctrine is the most Biblical system of doctrine I know.”

    The objective ground is correctness of doctrine, not my agreement with correctness of doctrine.

    This is important because the second ground could also be stated subjectively:

    …the ground for the authority had by that higher ecclesial authority is either the individual’s agreement with that higher ecclesial authority’s doctrine/practice, or the individual’s agreement that authority has been handed down from the Apostles through sacramental succession.

    And in fact, this is how you came to be Catholic. At some point, you agreed that the authority of the Pope had been handed down through sacramental succession.

    So parallel structure (and a univocal meaning of “ground”) require that both grounds be either objective or subjective, but not one of each. Else, we are equivocating on what we mean by “ground.”

    In any event, there are more grounds than just two. If “ground” means something objective, the reason given to justify belief, then folk have all sorts of grounds for accepting authority.

    I know one woman whose ground for accepting her father’s authority in spiritual matters is that “he is the smartest man I know.”

    Many would give as their ground, “I was born and raised X.”

    And so on.

    To sum up the objections to (4):

    ~4A: It lacks parallel structure and so equivocates on “ground.”
    ~4B: It presents a false dichotomy with clear counterexamples.

  212. Paige Britton said,

    May 8, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Jeff:
    This is just an aside, not meaning to interrupt the flow: I’m tracking pretty well, symbols and all; but I wonder if you would define for me how you and Bryan are using the term “authority” in this discussion? That would be helpful to my understanding.
    Thanks!!
    pb

  213. rfwhite said,

    May 8, 2010 at 7:30 am

    208 Bryan Cross: You say, “Christ’s promise to guide the Church into all truth would be worthless to know if it does not apply principally the Church’s magisterium.” Question: are we correct to say that the basis of your claim that Christ has promised to guide the Church into all the truth is John 16.13, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come”? If so, what is your justification for applying the pronoun “you” to anyone other than the ones who had been with Jesus from the beginning (15.27) and were still with Him in the Upper Room?

  214. David DeJong said,

    May 8, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Brian, 208:

    Let me say that I have enjoyed watching this conversation, and appreciate the gracious manner of your interaction. It’s not just what we say, it’s how we say it – a principle that I think we Protestants in particular are all too prone to forget.

    You say of heresies and Protestantism:

    Every heresy in the history of the Church . . . claim[s] the Holy Spirit for themselves. The key word . . . is ‘involved.’ The term is sufficiently weak that any event can be claimed to have the Holy Spirit’s involvement — both sides of a schism, all the various denominations holding incompatible doctrines. Those contradictions are of no concern, so long as the Spirit is merely ‘involved.’

    I don’t understand how you can point to internal contradictions within Protestantism as difficult to reconcile with the Spirit’s guiding without acknowledging that there are the same contradictions within Catholicism. Someone mentioned above: Vatican I declares Protestants anathema; Vatican II considers them Christians. In the time of the Reformation, the Catholic church was burning English Bibles in the streets of London; now the divine liturgy is conducted in the local vernacular.

    If we agree that any organization that says both “x” and “not x” cannot be right in affirming two contradictory propositions, and if we agree that infallibility involves being right all the time, and if we agree that the Catholic church has held contradictory positions over the centuries (I am thankful for the [partial] reformation that has taken place within Catholicism), then how can we speak of ecclesial infallibility?

    My suspicion is you will not agree with the assertion that the Catholic church has held contradictory positions over the centuries. But this would seem to be historical naivety in the highest degree.

    Blessings,

    David DeJong

  215. David Gray said,

    May 8, 2010 at 11:35 am

    >It’s not just what we say, it’s how we say it – a principle that I think we Protestants in particular are all too prone to forget.

    A good insight, stated well…

  216. Tom Riello said,

    May 8, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Jeff,

    In 211 you write, “If we use that definition, then the first “ground” is not a proper ground at all. My ground for being Presbyterian is not that “I agree with their doctrine.” Rather, it is that “Presbyterian doctrine is the most Biblical system of doctrine I know.”

    Could not Arius and his followers claim the same thing? Could not Nestorius and his followers affirm the same? Sure they could and did. In fact one of the reasons that Arius’ heresy did not die immediately after Nicea had to with the fact that they would not submit to “homoousios” because it was extra-biblical.

    David DeJong,

    On the surface your point about Vatican I anathematizing Protestants and Vatican II calling them Christians seems like a contradiction. But it only seems and in fact is not a contradiction. Blessed Pius IX the Pope of Vatican I, St. Pius X and St. Pius XI and St. Pius XII, all Popes prior to Vatican II speak of Protestants as those who bear the name Christian for the simple fact that anyone who is validly baptized bears that noble name. This goes way back in the tradition to Pope St. Stephen, who stated that the baptism of heretics is valid provided there is proper matter and form. Thus, one who is baptized is a Christian but it is tragically possible for a Christian not to be saved on the day of judgement. In fact, in the early 20th century, a couple of decades prior to Vatican II, the Church declared as heresy Father Leonard Feeney’s (a priest in Boston) teaching that one must be formally a member of the Catholic Church to be saved (this was how Father understood “outside the Church there is no salvation”). The following quote is from the letter from Boston and the Holy See about this matter:

    “Therefore, that one may obtain eternal salvation, it is not always required that he be incorporated into the Church actually as a member, but it is necessary that at least he be united to her by desire and longing.

    However, this desire need not always be explicit, as it is in catechumens; but when a person is involved in invincible ignorance God accepts also an implicit desire, so called because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed to the will of God.”

    I hope this helps clarify that.

    In Christ,
    Tom

  217. Andy Gilman said,

    May 8, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    In his “Ecclesial Deism” article Bryan writes:

    This particular dilemma is not unique to Baptists; it follows from the very nature of Protestantism, because Protestantism, like Mormonism, presupposes ecclesial deism. Deism refers to a belief that God made the world, and then left it to run on its own. It is sometimes compared to “a clockmaker” winding up a clock and then “letting it run.” Deism is distinct from theism in that theism affirms not only that God created the world, but also that God continually sustains and governs all of creation. Ecclesial deism is the notion that Christ founded His Church, but then withdrew, not protecting His Church’s Magisterium (i.e., the Apostles and/or their successors) from falling into heresy or apostasy. Ecclesial deism is not the belief that individual members of the Magisterium could fall into heresy or apostasy. It is the belief that the Magisterium of the Church could lose or corrupt some essential of the deposit of faith, or add something to the deposit of faith.

    It follows then that “civil deism” would be the notion that God establishes civil society and civil laws, and then withdraws, allowing civil society to descend into tyranny or anarchy. “Familial deism” would be the notion that God establishes the family and then withdraws, not protecting the family from polygamy, same sex marriage, and divorce.

  218. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 8, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Paige (#212):

    It’s an excellent question. Bryan and I don’t have the same view of what authority is and how it functions.

    In my view, “authority” is a moral right to be obeyed or believed. An authority would be a person who has authority.

    This authority is, interestingly, independent of ability. A father has the right to be obeyed by a child (or better, the child has the obligation to obey) regardless of whether that father is a good decision-maker or otherwise.

    Likewise, when you visit the doctor, her authority gives credence to her advice. She should be believed because of her authority.

    A couple of things: in our culture, we often grant authority on the basis of ability. That’s the point of credentialing exams. So the authority of the doctor implies also something about her ability; and demonstrable inability can cause a doctor to lose her authority also.

    But not so with parents, except in extreme cases.

    And not so with God, either. God’s authority to rule is different from His omnipotence and providence, His ability to cause things to achieve His own ends.

    In my lexicon, authority is not generally absolute (God being the sole absolute authority). We recognize that the argument

    (1) Linus Pauling is an authority in biochemistry.
    (2) Linus Pauling says that vitamin C prevents cancer.
    (3) Therefore, vitamin C prevents cancer

    is a formal logical fallacy. The authority’s right to be believed is not an guarantee of correctness.

    Instead, authority is an inductive, probabilistic matter. The correct argument is

    (1) Linus Pauling is an authority in biochemistry.
    (2) Linus Pauling says that vitamin C prevents cancer.
    (3) Therefore, it is somewhat credible that vitamin C prevents cancer

    (And in fact, before definitive studies had been done, many scientists and physicians said, “Linus Pauling says it, and that’s good enough for me. I’m taking a daily double dose!”)

    Earlier I mentioned that only God is an absolute authority. What then of Scripture? In my view, the original authographs of Scripture are the words of God and therefore carry His authority. We have every reason to believe that extant copies in the original languages are almost identical to those autographs, and therefore have an extremely high degree of authority.

    That’s my account of authority. I’m interested in hearing Bryan’s side of the matter, especially how he regards “arguments from authority.”

  219. May 8, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    David DeJong,

    My suspicion is you will not agree with the assertion that the Catholic church has held contradictory positions over the centuries. But this would seem to be historical naivety in the highest degree.

    Bryan will also say the he doesn’t agree that “infallibility means being right all the time,” so your criticism involves a misunderstanding about what they understand infallibility to entail. For them, there are certain conditions under which the church exercises infallibility, but they don’t claim that it extends to everything they do and say all the time.

  220. David DeJong said,

    May 8, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    216 Tom,

    Maybe I’m missing something.

    Thus, one who is baptized is a Christian but it is tragically possible for a Christian not to be saved on the day of judgement. In fact, in the early 20th century, a couple of decades prior to Vatican II, the Church declared as heresy Father Leonard Feeney’s (a priest in Boston) teaching that one must be formally a member of the Catholic Church to be saved (this was how Father understood “outside the Church there is no salvation”).

    Do you go from “not all Christians will be saved” to “Christians outside the Catholic communion can be saved” too quickly here? I obviously agree with both propositions. But I’m still not sure how the language quoted above from Vat. 1 (anathema) can be taken as anything less than damnation.

  221. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 8, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Tom (#216):

    Could not Arius and his followers claim the same thing? Could not Nestorius and his followers affirm the same? Sure they could and did.

    Indeed they could. And Arius did, although recent scholarship suggests that Nestorius was not in fact Nestorian.

    The point is not that my ground is infallible or that it is uncontested. The point is that my ground is not a subjective ground.

    And in fact, when Athanasius opposed Arius, he did not argue from sacramental authority. Instead, he argued from Scripture.

    The same kind of contesting of grounds happens with regard to sacramental authority. Bryan says, “The reason I submit to the Pope’s authority is that he has the highest sacramentally transmitted authority.”

    But of course, the Eastern Orthodox among us will immediately say that the Bishop of Rome does *not* have the highest sacramentally transmitted authority.

    So there’s a dispute about the facts of the case. But that dispute does not turn an objective ground into a subjective one.

  222. Paige Britton said,

    May 8, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Jeff, #218 —
    You wrote, In my view, “authority” is a moral right to be obeyed or believed.

    Just to clarify, your discussion concerns the conscience-binding moral right of “authorities” such as God, his Scripture, his apostles, councils, popes, confessions, and pastors (leaving aside for a moment the question of whether all of these really have the same kind of conscience-binding authority), correct?

    That is, authority based on ability is not in question; it’s authority based on right. Does this assumption also preclude authority based on consent? (That is, you are seeking to pin down who/what objectively has that moral right to be believed or obeyed?)

    Thanks!!

  223. Sean said,

    May 8, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    David,

    This brief article might help with your question to Tom. Based on your question, I do not think you are employing the proper definition of ‘anathema.’

  224. Andy Gilman said,

    May 8, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    David DeJong said to Bryan:

    Let me say that I have enjoyed watching this conversation, and appreciate the gracious manner of your interaction. It’s not just what we say, it’s how we say it – a principle that I think we Protestants in particular are all too prone to forget.

    I agree with you that Bryan has been gracious, but I disagree with what seems to be implied in your comment, and that is that we should “play nice” with Bryan while he’s here. If that is your sentiment then I think it is misplaced. If Protestants go over to Bryan’s blog to evangelize among those who are deceived by Rome’s blasphemy, then it would be wise to be gracious and winsome in order to get a hearing. That’s all Bryan is doing here.

    The problem is that this is a blog where Sola Scriptura is a given. Bryan comes here proselytizing for his apostate magisterium, hoping he might find some here who can be enticed to “come home” as he did. Maybe you would like to “give him the benefit of the doubt” and to assume that he is here merely to reason together with us, that we might somehow come to a more complete knowledge of the truth, and resolve “this nearly 500 year-old schism.” Do you believe that’s why Bryan is here? Do you believe that Bryan can be restored from his apostasy by his interaction here, or on any reformed blog?

    I don’t believe he is here for dialogue, and I think we should heed Romans 16:17-18:

    I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.

    Roman Catholicism created a huge schism by denying the authority of Scripture and replacing it with a corrupt, self-attesting magisterium, which gives itself the authority to define the “Word of God.” Bryan is now making the same arguments which, nearly 500 years ago, separated the Roman “church” from those who are faithful to God’s revealed Word. Why should he be tolerated in this forum as though he were a truth-seeker who really hopes for reconciliation?

    Bryan’s presence here wouldn’t bother me so much if there were someone here who had the time, the inclination, and the skill to address all of his anti-Christian propositions, and who could require him to answer each of those rebuttals before being allowed to proceed. But that’s not the nature of this blog. Multiple people interact with Bryan and he picks and chooses what he wants to address. In the end, much of his blasphemous idolatry will go unanswered.

    If Richard Dawkins repeatedly showed up here to graciously deny the existence of God, or if Arius repeatedly showed up here to graciously deny that the Son is consubstantial and coeternal with the Father, how long should their nonsense be endured?

    When Roman Catholic apologists and “evangelists” show up here to advance their wicked doctrines, then, in my opinion, “how we say it” should not be very high on our list of concerns. I would feel differently if this were a forum devoted to “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.”

    Most here prize Calvin’s Institutes. He didn’t mince words when addressing the horrors of Rome, and neither should we. From 4.7.29:

    For a long period, the Roman Pontiffs have either been altogether devoid of religion, or been its greatest enemies.

    But when they with their household, with almost the whole College of Cardinals, and the whole body of their clergy, are so devoted to wickedness, obscenity, uncleanness, iniquity, and crime of every description, that they resemble monsters more than men, they herein betray that they are nothing less than bishops. They need not fear that I will make a farther disclosure of their turpitude. For it is painful to wade through such filthy mire, and I must spare modest ears. But I think I have amply demonstrated what I proposed–viz. that though Rome was formerly the first of churches, she deserves not in the present day to be regarded as one of her minutest members.

  225. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 8, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Paige (#222):

    Very interesting question! My gut response is that objective authority, as in all matters of objective morality, would be authority-as-God-sees-it.

    Our subjective response to authority, either recognizing it or rejecting it, would then be like any other moral action.

  226. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 8, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Sean (#223):

    That was an interesting read. I’m glad to hear that anathemas are no longer part of Canon Law.

    Here are a couple of difficulties.

    (1) From the Catholic Encyclopedia (1917),

    Anathema remains a major excommunication which is to be promulgated with great solemnity. A formula for this ceremony was drawn up by Pope Zachary (741-52) in the chapter Debent duodecim sacerdotes, Cause xi, quest. iii. The Roman Pontifical reproduces it in the chapter Ordo excommunicandi et absolvendi, distinguishing three sorts of excommunication: minor excommunication, formerly incurred by a person holding communication with anyone under the ban of excommunication; major excommunication, pronounced by the Pope in reading a sentence; and anathema, or the penalty incurred by crimes of the gravest order, and solemnly promulgated by the Pope. In passing this sentence, the pontiff is vested in amice, stole, and a violet cope, wearing his mitre, and assisted by twelve priests clad in their surplices and holding lighted candles. He takes his seat in front of the altar or in some other suitable place, amid pronounces the formula of anathema which ends with these words: “Wherefore in the name of God the All-powerful, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, of the Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and of all the saints, in virtue of the power which has been given us of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive N– himself and all his accomplices and all his abettors of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgment.” Whereupon all the assistants respond: “Fiat, fiat, fiat.” The pontiff and the twelve priests then cast to the ground the lighted candles they have been carrying, and notice is sent in writing to the priests and neighbouring bishops of the name of the one who has been excommunicated and the cause of his excommunication, in order that they may have no communication with him. Although he is delivered to Satan and his angels, he can still, and is even bound to repent. The Pontifical gives the form for absolving him and reconciling him with the Church. The promulgation of the anathema with such solemnity is well calculated to strike terror to the criminal and bring him to a state of repentance, especially if the Church adds to it the ceremony of the Maranatha.

    It does not appear that the change in meaning of anathema took place until very recently, and certainly not by the time of Vatican I. So the intent of Vatican I is in fact in conflict with the intent of Vatican II.

    The change in meaning of anathema, from an actual curse to a formal pronouncement of official church doctrine, had not taken place by the time of Vatican I, and cannot therefore be said to be a part of its meaning.

    (2) Following up with (1), isn’t it the case that the intent of Trent was to declare those who believe justification is by mere imputation to be outside the state of grace, unless they repent?

    (3) And in any event, isn’t it also the case that Protestant sacraments are invalid (except perhaps baptism) and therefore not conveyors of grace in the Catholic theology? And if so, are we not condemned anyway, anathema or no?

  227. Tom Riello said,

    May 8, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Jeff,

    Two Protestant sacraments are valid: Baptism (proper matter water and form the Trinity). By that act one is made a member of Christ and the Catholic Church, in the case of a Protestant it is imperfectly made a member.

    Then there is marriage. Two baptized Protestant Christians who marry are Sacramentally married because it is in the Sacrament of Marriage that the spouses communicate the Sacrament to the other.

  228. Paige Britton said,

    May 8, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Well, except they’re not both Protestant sacraments…;)

  229. johnbugay said,

    May 8, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    On the topic of marriage as a “sacrament” from the earliest times, Peter Lampe notes the origin of the practice by which the Roman church operated outside of civil rules for marriage:

    “…it is crystal clear in Hippolytus that from aristocratic circles more women than men found their way to Christianity. The disproportion was a social problem that Callistus during his term as Roman bishop (c. 217-22) attempted to solve. The problem undoubtedly had existed since the end of the second century, if not longer.

    When women from the noble class were unmarried and in the heat of their youthful passion desired to marry and yet were unwilling to give up their class through a legal marriage, he [Callistus] allowed them to choose a partner, whether slave or free, and to consider him to be their husband without a legal marriage. From that time on the alleged believing women began to resort to contraceptive methods and to corset themselves in order to cause abortions, because, on account of their lineage and their enormous wealth, they did not wish to have a child from a slave or a commoner.

    Citing Hippolytus (Ref.9.12.24), Peter Lampe, “From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries,” pg 119.

    He elaborates:

    A Christian woman [from a wealthy family] who wished to retain the title “clarissima” had two options. She could marry a pagan of the same social status and forego marriage wtih a socially inferior Christian. Or she could live in concubinage with a socially inferior Christian without being legally married. This second option received the blessings of Callistus in Rome. In this way he prevented two things: mixed marriages with pagans and the social decline of Christian women. Both were in the interests of the community. (121)

  230. Tom Riello said,

    May 8, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Paige,

    :) Yes, good catch. I was trying to make clear that the Church recognizes Protestant marriages as Sacramental marriages (provided they are baptized).

  231. Bryan Cross said,

    May 8, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Jeff, (re: #211)

    So we have to ask now, “What is a ground?” Is it a reason that one gives to justify belief in something? That would be the traditional definition.

    I’m noticing a repeating pattern in our interaction so far — you criticize what you think is my position, and then I respond by pointing out that you have criticized a position other than my own. Then you again criticize what you think is my position, and then I have point out once again that the position you are criticizing is a position other than my own. After several iterations of this pattern, perhaps a different mode of interaction would be better, namely, that you withhold criticism until you have verified that the position you are criticizing is my own. That way you can avoid knocking down strawmen.

    Here, instead of asking me what I mean by ‘ground,’ you use what you think is the “traditional definition,” and the proceed to lay out your criticism. And again that results in knocking down a strawman. You think that the ‘ground’ for an authority is “a reason” given by a person for submitting to that authority. But in speaking of the ground of authority, I’m speaking about the ontological, not the epistemological. For example, the ground of God’s authority over man is not something in the mind of men, i.e. not any reason man can give to justify submitting to God. God is the source of our entire being, and because we belong to Him entirely, we have a reason to submit to Him. The reason is epistemic; the ground is ontological. The epistemic is derived from the ontological. The epistemic is not fundamental.

    So in premise (4), I’m talking about the ontological, not the epistemological. I’m stating that the ground for the authority of the higher ecclesial authority is either (a) agreement with the individual’s interpretation of Scripture or (b) authorization by the Apostles or their successors through sacramental succession. In other words, what makes the person to be a higher ecclesial authority is one of those two possibilities.

    If you want to falsify premise (4), then you need to find a third ground. Your proposed third ground is “correctness of doctrine.” But ‘correctness of doctrine’ is necessarily a judgment of a person — that is, it necessarily includes an “according to whom.” As Keith Mathison points out:

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

    So the “correctness of doctrine” claim is actually and unavoidably a claim that given everything that one now knows, the doctrine in question seems to be the best available interpretation of Scripture. In other words, the doctrine in question agrees with one’s own best interpretation of Scripture, given what one knows at present. But agreement with one’s own best interpretation of Scripture, given what one knows at present, is merely a type of the first alternative offered in premise (4), namely, agreement with the individual regarding doctrine/practice. So for this reason “correctness of doctrine” is not a genuine third ground, but reduces to one of the two alternatives already stated in premise (4). Hence premise (4) has not yet been falsified.

    Those two alternatives in premise (4) correspond to what St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4: “For the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power.” (1 Cor 4:20) Having the right words or academic prowess to best someone in debate is not the ground of ecclesial power. Rather, having ecclesial power is the ground for determining what are the right words.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  232. Bryan Cross said,

    May 9, 2010 at 12:00 am

    rfwhite (re: #213)

    Three years after the conclusion of the Council of Ephesus in AD 431, St. Vincent of Lerins wrote in his Commonitory:

    [I]t has always been the custom of Catholics, and still is, to prove the true faith in these two ways; first by the authority of the Divine Canon, and next by the tradition of the Catholic Church. Not that the Canon alone does not of itself suffice for every question, but seeing that the more part, interpreting the divine words according to their own persuasion, take up various erroneous opinions, it is therefore necessary that the interpretation of divine Scripture should be ruled according to the one standard of the Church’s belief, especially in those articles on which the foundations of all Catholic doctrine rest. (Commonitory, 29)

    Regarding John 16:13, the unanimous tradition of the Church has been to understand that Christ’s promise (regarding the Spirit guiding into all truth) was not limited to the Apostles but also applied (through them and their successors) to the whole Church. Two chapters earlier, in John 14, Jesus says the following:

    And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may be with you forever, that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you (John 14:16-17)

    Notice that Jesus promises that the Spirit of truth will be with them forever. But they, of course, died by the end of the first century. So what does it mean that the Spirit would be with them forever? According to the tradition of the Church, Jesus is her not only speaking to the Apostles as individuals, i.e. assuring them that when they die the Holy Spirit will be with them in Heaven forever. He is also speaking to the Church. The Apostle John likewise says in his first epistle:

    We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:6)

    It is not that we each have independent/autonomous capacity to distinguish the Spirit of truth from the spirit of error, such that after we determine for ourselves what the “Spirit of truth” is saying, we then choose which persons to listen to. Rather, here St. John is teaching that we find the Spirit of truth by listening to the Apostles and their successors; it is by the authorized succession that we determine what is of the Spirit of Truth and what is of the spirit of error. That’s how this verse remains true for all Christians to this day and until Christ returns, because the Spirit of truth is promised to be with the successors of the Apostles until Christ returns. Otherwise it would be worthless test, as each person claim to be listening to the Apostles (and so claims to have the Spirit of truth), and yet they all disagree with each other (and so make the Spirit out to be a liar and not the Spirit of Truth).

    The Church has understood these promises that the Spirit would be “with you forever” and “guide you into all truth” to be promises that the Spirit of truth would be with the Church to the end of the age, when Christ returns, guiding the Church into all truth.

    Tertullian, for example, while still a Catholic (around AD 200), criticizes the suggestion that the teaching of the universal Church could be in error, writing:

    Suppose, then, that all [the Churches] have erred; [This would mean] that the Apostle was deceived in giving his testimony; that the Holy Spirit had regard to no one of them so as to guide it into truth, (John 16:13) although He was sent with this view by Christ, (John 14:26) and for this asked of the Father that He might be the Teacher of truth; that He, the Steward of God, the Deputy of Christ, neglected His office, suffering the Churches the while to understand differently, to believe differently, that which He Himself preached by the Apostles. Is it plausible that so many Churches, and so great should have gone astray unto the same error? (John 15:26) De Praescript. 28)

    About six years later (while still a Catholic), he writes:

    For what kind of (supposition) is it, that, while the devil is always operating and adding daily to the ingenuities of iniquity, the work of God should either have ceased, or else have desisted from advancing? Whereas the reason why the Lord sent the Paraclete was, that, since human mediocrity was unable to take in all things at once, discipline should, little by little, be directed, and ordained, and carried on to perfection, by that Vicar of the Lord, the Holy Spirit. Still, He said, I have many things to say to you, but you are not yet able to bear them: when that Spirit of truth shall have come, He will conduct you into all truth, and will report to you the supervening (things). But above, withal, He made a declaration concerning this His work. What, then, is the Paraclete’s administrative office but this: the direction of discipline, the revelation of the Scriptures, the reformation of the intellect, the advancement toward the better things? Nothing is without stages of growth. (De Virginibus velandis)

    St. Augustine, in his work against Faustus the Manichean, writes:

    Further, what is said in the promise of the Paraclete shows that it cannot possibly refer to Manichæus, who came so many years after. For it is distinctly said by John, that the Holy Spirit was to come immediately after the resurrection and ascension of the Lord: “For the Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” John 7:39 Now, if the reason why the Spirit was not given was, that Jesus was not glorified, He would necessarily be given immediately on the glorification of Jesus. In the same way, the Cataphrygians said that they had received the promised Paraclete; and so they fell away from the Catholic faith, forbidding what Paul allowed, and condemning second marriages, which he made lawful. They turned to their own use the words spoken of the Spirit, “He shall lead you into all truth,” as if, forsooth, Paul and the other apostles had not taught all the truth, but had left room for the Paraclete of the Cataphrygians. The same meaning they forced from the words of Paul: “We know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part shall be done away;” 1 Corinthians 13:9-10 making out that the apostle knew and prophesied in part, when he said, “Let him do what he will; if he marries, he sins not,” 1 Corinthians 7:36 and that this is done away by the perfection of the Phrygian Paraclete. And if they are told that they are condemned by the authority of the Church, which is the subject of such ancient promises, and is spread all over the world, they reply that this is in exact fulfillment of what is said of the Paraclete, that the world cannot receive Him. John 14:17 And are not those passages, “He shall lead you into all truth,” and, “When that which is perfect has come, that which is in part shall be done away,” and, “The world cannot receive Him,” precisely those in which you find a prediction of Manichæus? And so every heresy arising under the name of the Paraclete will have the boldness to make an equally plausible application to itself of such texts. For there is no heresy but will call itself the truth; and the prouder it is, the more likely it will be to call itself perfect truth: and so it will profess to lead into all truth; and since that which is perfect has come by it, it will try to do away with the doctrine of the apostles, to which its own errors are opposed. And as the Church holds by the earnest admonition of the apostle, that “whoever preaches another gospel to you than that which you have received, let him be accursed;” Galatians 1:9 when the heretical preacher begins to be pronounced accursed by all the world, will he not immediately exclaim, This is what is written, “The world cannot receive Him”? (Contra Faustum 32.17.)

    Notice the sentence I’ve put in bold font. There are two possible errors, one on each side of the truth. One error is to think that there is further revelation after the Apostles. That was the error of the Montantists and Cataphrygians. The other error is to deny that the Spirit continues to guide the Church into all truth by preserving the Church in the truth and by deepening her understanding of the deposit of faith entrusted once for all to the saints, until Christ returns. St. Augustine avoids both errors (i.e. further revelation and ecclesial deism). He recognizes that it is the Church spread all over the world (i.e. the Catholic Church) which is the subject of Christ’s promise, and so he avoids the ecclesial deism in which the Spirit fails to preserve the Church in the truth and guide the Church into all truth. But he also, at the same time, condemns the Cataphrygians for rejecting (on the basis of alleged new revelation) what had already been laid down by the Apostles, and thus departing from the truth faith preserved in the Church. Both errors are rejections of the promise, but in different respects, because they both deny that the truth has been preserved in the Church.

    St. Augustine also says the following in his Tractates on the Gospel of John (around A.D. 414):

    If, then, you grow in the love which the Holy Spirit spreads abroad in your hearts, He will teach you all truth; or, as other codices have it, He will guide you in all truth: as it is said, Lead me in Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth. So shall the result be, that not from outward teachers will you learn those things which the Lord at that time declined to utter, but be all taught of God; so that the very things which you have learned and believed by means of lessons and sermons supplied from without regarding the nature of God, as incorporeal, and unconfined by limits, and yet not rolled out as a mass of matter through infinite space, but everywhere whole and perfect and infinite, without the gleaming of colors, without the tracing of bodily outlines, without any markings of letters or succession of syllables—your minds themselves may have the power to perceive. Well, now, I have just said something which is perhaps of that same character, and yet you have received it; and you have not only been able to bear it, but have also listened to it with pleasure. But were that inward Teacher, who, while still speaking in an external way to the disciples, said, I have still many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now, wishing to speak inwardly to us of what I have said of the incorporeal nature of God in the same way as He speaks to the angels, who always behold the face of the Father, Matthew 18:10 we should still be unable to bear them. Accordingly, when He says, He will teach you all truth, or will guide you into all truth, I do not think the fulfillment is possible in any one’s mind in this present life (for who is there, while living in this corruptible and soul-oppressing body, Wisdom 9:15 that can know all truth, when even the apostle says, We know in part?), but because it is effected by the Holy Spirit, of whom we have now received the earnest, 2 Corinthians 1:22 that we shall attain also to the actual fullness of knowledge: whereof it is said by the same apostle, But then face to face; and, Now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known; 1 Corinthians 13:9, 12 not as a thing which he knows fully in this life, but which, as a thing that would still be future on to the attainment of that perfection, the Lord promised us through the love of the Spirit, when He said, He will teach you all truth, or will guide you unto all truth. (Tractate 96)

    I’ve include that quotation only to show that for St. Augustine, the promise did not only apply to the Apostles, and not only to the Church Catholic, but also to her members individually.

    I could also point out what St. Vincent of Lerins says about the organic growth of the Church’s understanding of her doctrine. He writes:

    But some one will say, perhaps, Shall there, then, be no progress in Christ’s Church? Certainly; all possible progress. For what being is there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it? Yet on condition that it be real progress, not alteration of the faith. For progress requires that the subject be enlarged n itself, alteration, that it be transformed into something else. The intelligence, then, the knowledge, the wisdom, as well of individuals as of all, as well of one man as of the whole Church, ought, in the course of ages and centuries, to increase and make much and vigorous progress; but yet only in its own kind; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and in the same meaning.

    The growth of religion in the soul must be analogous to the growth of the body, which, though in process of years it is developed and attains its full size, yet remains still the same. There is a wide difference between the flower of youth and the maturity of age; yet they who were once young are still the same now that they have become old, insomuch that though the stature and outward form of the individual are changed, yet his nature is one and the same, his person is one and the same. An infant’s limbs are small, a young man’s large, yet the infant and the young man are the same. Men when full grown have the same number of joints that they had when children; and if there be any to which maturer age has given birth these were already present in embryo, so that nothing new is produced in them when old which was not already latent in them when children. This, then, is undoubtedly the true and legitimate rule of progress, this the established and most beautiful order of growth, that mature age ever develops in the man those parts and forms which the wisdom of the Creator had already framed beforehand in the infant. Whereas, if the human form were changed into some shape belonging to another kind, or at any rate, if the number of its limbs were increased or diminished, the result would be that the whole body would become either a wreck or a monster, or, at the least, would be impaired and enfeebled.

    In like manner, it behooves Christian doctrine to follow the same laws of progress, so as to be consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age, and yet, withal, to continue uncorrupt and unadulterate, complete and perfect in all the measurement of its parts, and, so to speak, in all its proper members and senses, admitting no change, no waste of its distinctive property, no variation in its limits. (Commonitory, 23)

    Even though here St. Vincent does not refer to the promise of the Spirit to guide the Church into all truth, the concept is implicit in what he says. The Church is not dead; she is alive, like an organism. Her life is not natural but supernatural, because the Spirit dwells within her, and animates her. Yet the Church is human. In this way, the Church has both natures (divine and human), as does Christ. Because the Church is human, and alive with the Life of God (i.e. the Holy Spirit, as we say of the Spirit in the Creed “the Lord and Giver of Life”), the Church grows, not just in numbers and size, but also in understanding, knowledge and wisdom, just as the boy Jesus grew both in wisdom and stature. Growth of this sort (in understanding and knowledge) is only possible if the Spirit is guiding the Church into all truth. If nothing has been settled definitively, if every Church decision has been merely the decision of men, and every decision the Church has made is possibly false, then there has been no such growth. So the theology of development St. Vincent describes here presupposes that the Spirit of truth is guiding the Church into all truth.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  233. Bryan Cross said,

    May 9, 2010 at 12:10 am

    David (re: #214)

    Contradiction in Church doctrine would be fatal for Catholic theology, no less than a contradiction in Scripture. I think the article Sean referred to in #223 is helpful and accessible for explaining what the Church means by the term ‘anathema. You wrote:

    Vatican I declares Protestants anathema; Vatican II considers them Christians.

    First, you are supposing that there is a contradiction between anathema and Christian. But a Christian can be under an anathema. A person does not cease to be a Christian, just because he is anathematized or excommunicated. So, there is no contradiction between anathema and Christian. In addition, it is not accurate to say that Vatican I declares Protestants anathema. The anathemas in their judicial aspect apply only to Catholics. If (as Akin explains), an ecumenical council applies this phrase (anathema sit) to a doctrinal matter, then the matter is settled infallibly. So doctrines condemned in this way are heretical. But that does not mean that a Protestant who holds one or much such doctrines is anathematized. So there is no contradiction between Vatican I and Vatican II.

    In the time of the Reformation, the Catholic church was burning English Bibles in the streets of London; now the divine liturgy is conducted in the local vernacular.

    This isn’t a matter of morality or doctrine, but discipline. And such disciplines are liable to change according to the change in circumstances. Church disciplines are not immutable or infallible, as the Catholic Encyclopedia article on “Ecclesiastical Discipline” explains.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  234. Bryan Cross said,

    May 9, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Andy (re: #217),

    It follows then that “civil deism” would be the notion that God establishes civil society and civil laws, and then withdraws, allowing civil society to descend into tyranny or anarchy. “Familial deism” would be the notion that God establishes the family and then withdraws, not protecting the family from polygamy, same sex marriage, and divorce.

    There is a very important difference between the Church on the one hand, and the state and family on the other hand. The state and the family are natural institutions, established by God as part of the created order. The Church, by contrast, is a supernatural institution — that means that the Church is a divine institution. In the natural order, God has given man over to his own devices. We are free to destroy a state and destroy a marriage, by our own evil actions, because God in His providence permits evil, and permits man to do such to that over which man has been given dominion. But, the gates of hell cannot prevail over Christ’s Church, because it is animated by the very Life of Christ. It is His mystical Body, of which He is the Head, as St. Paul explains in 1 Cor 12. This is why the Church cannot be defeated, because to fight against it is to be found fighting against God, which is futile. This is what St. Paul discovered on the road to Damascus, when Christ said to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) And God can never leave the Church because He cannot leave Himself, just as He cannot leave His physical body, for the same reason.

    As St. Augustine says:

    The Church will totter when her foundation totters. But how shall Christ totter? … as long as Christ does not totter, neither shall the Church totter in eternity.” (Enarr. in Ps. 103, 2, 5)

    Elsewhere, writing about Psalm 48:9 (which is Psalm 48:8 in Protestant Bibles) St. Augustine says:

    Let not heretics insult, divided into parties, let them not exalt themselves who say, “Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there.” (Matt 24:23) Whoso says, “Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there,” invites to parties. Unity God promised. The kings are gathered together in one, not dissipated through schisms. But haply that city which has held the world, shall sometime be overthrown? Far be the thought! “God has founded it forever.” If then God has founded it forever, why fearest thou lest the firmament should fall?”

    And in his Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed (1:6), St. Augustine writes:

    The same is the holy Church, the one Church, the true Church, the catholic Church, fighting against all heresies: fight, it can; be fought down, it cannot. As for heresies, they all went out of it, like unprofitable branches pruned from the vine: but itself abides in its root, in its Vine, in its charity.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  235. Andy Gilman said,

    May 9, 2010 at 2:02 am

    In #231 Bryan tries to enlist Keith Mathison in his tireless cause of elevating the Roman Catholic magisterium above Scripture. If he takes a closer look at the article I think he will see he doesn’t have an ally there. It would appear that Bryan doesn’t realize that the Mathison quote is a statement about the “revisionist doctrine” of Solo Scriptura, not the reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Here is a link to the Mathison article: Solo Scriptura:The Difference a Vowel Makes.

    Here is an important paragraph from the article:

    The fundamental problem with “solo” Scriptura is that it results in autonomy. It results in final authority being placed somewhere other than the Word of God. It shares this problem with the Roman Catholic doctrine. The only difference is that the Roman Catholic doctrine places final authority in the church while “solo” Scriptura places final authority in each individual believer. Every doctrine and practice is measured against a final standard, and that final standard is the individual’s personal judgment of what is and is not biblical. The result is subjectivism and relativism. The reformers’ appeal to “Scripture alone,” however, was never intended to mean “me alone.”

    I would quibble with Mathison’s statement above and say that Roman Catholic doctrine places final authority not in the “church,” but in the Roman Catholic magisterium.

  236. Paige Britton said,

    May 9, 2010 at 6:31 am

    Just an observation, FWIW —

    Bryan (#231) wrote:
    But agreement with one’s own best interpretation of Scripture, given what one knows at present, is merely a type of the first alternative offered in premise (4), namely, agreement with the individual regarding doctrine/practice.

    I am struggling to see how “agreement with the individual re. doctrine/practice” is an ontological alternative to the ontological situation of Apostolic Succession. The former idea seems to be an epistemological description of an ontological situation.

    I would have expected a contrast between:
    1. God has set up the universe THIS way, OR
    2. God has set up the universe THAT way.

    More specifically:
    1. God has not given us an earthly infallible interpreter, OR
    2. God has given us an earthly infallible interpreter (identified as…).

    As it is, the first part of Bryan’s contrast seems to have bypassed the question of ontology and is already busy describing the epistemological situation of a person living in ontological situation #1.

    Is this a valid observation?

  237. Sean said,

    May 9, 2010 at 6:54 am

    Andy,

    I assure you that Bryan fully understands the distinction in Mathison’s article.

    Here is an article Bryan wrote back on November on Mathison’s article.

  238. Ron Henzel said,

    May 9, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Bryan,

    First of all, let me thank you for taking the time to respond to me so thoroughly in comment 208. Secondly, I need to note that, as detailed as your response is, your concept of “ecclesial deism” rests on a highly problematic set of assumptions that lack the support of the sources to which you appeal.

    You wrote:

    In comment #97 I was explaining that ecclesial infallibility is the great conservative principle of the Church over the past two millennia. Your response in #110 was to claim that papal infallibility is a recent innovation of the nineteenth century. But papal infallibility is not the same thing as ecclesial infallibility, as can be shown by the fact that the Eastern Orthodox also believe in ecclesial infallibility.

    No, you did more than claim that ecclesial infallibility has been the great conservative principle of the Church. You specifically declared that it
    “protects the sheep from…every theological innovation…” If a dogma that was only defined 140 years ago is not a theological innovation, I don’t know what is. That is the point to which I was responding.

    As for your claim that the Eastern Orthodox also believe in ecclesial infallibility, that it a vast oversimplification camouflaging quite substantive differences. Consider the following:

    Infallibility belongs to the whole church, and not just to the episcopate in isolation. As the Orthodox Patriarchs said in their Letter of 1848 to Pope Pius IX:

    Among us, neither Patriarchs nor Councils could ever introduce new teaching, for the guardian of religion is the very body of the Church, that is, the people (laos) itself.

    Commenting on this statement, Khomiakov wrote:

    The Pope is greatly mistaken in supposing that we consider the ecclesiastical hierarchy to be the guardian of dogma. The case is quite different. The unvarying constancy and the unerring truth of Christian dogma does not depend upon any hierarchical order; it is guarded by the totality, by the whole people of the Church, which is the Body of Christ.

    [Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, Rev. ed., (New York, NY, USA and London, UK: Penguin Books, 1963; 1993), 251.]

    And also:

    Infallibility rests with the church as a whole, the “pleroma” of all the clergy and people. The Eastern patriarchs stated this most clearly in an encyclical letter of 1848: “infallibility resides solely in the ecumenicity of the Church bound together by mutual love;…the unchangeableness of dogma as well as the purity of rite [is] entrusted to the care not of one hierarchy but of all the people of the Church, who are the body of Christ.”

    [Daniel B. Clendenin, Eastern Orthodox Christianity: A Western Perspective, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Baker Books, 1994), 101. Emphasis is Clendenin's.]

    This key difference between Romanist and Eastern approaches to infallibility obviously has immense implications. One rather obvious feature of the Eastern approach is the fact that it rests on a definition of the church that is closer to Protestantism than Roman Catholicism.

    You wrote:

    Ecclesial infallibility has been something the Church has believed since long before the Catholic-Orthodox schism.

    Yes, but how long has “the Church” believed in such infallibility would seem to be a good question to ask. It would seem to be a more recent development than, say, the fifth century, when we find Augustine writing:

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

    [Letter LXXXII (82) to Jerome, "Letters of St. Augustin," in Philip Schaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, (Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., reprinted 2004), 1:350.]

    If there was another infallible authority beside Scripture, Augustine seemed emphatically unaware of it. But what did he do when he “failed to understand” something in Scripture? Did he resort to the magisterium (of which he was supposedly a part) for the proper interpretation? No, he applied a very Protestant-sounding methodology to this problem:

    Accordingly the Holy Spirit has, with admirable wisdom and care for our welfare, so arranged the Holy Scriptures as by the plainer passages to satisfy our hunger, and by the more obscure to stimulate our appetite. For almost nothing is dug out of those obscure passages which may not be found set forth in the plainest language elsewhere.

    ["On Christian Doctrine," 2.6.8, ibid., 2:537.]

    Augustine not only compared Scripture with Scripture as a bishop, but he urged others to do so as well, rather than urging them to resort to bishops like him for their answers.

    You wrote:

    So it does no good to point to the relatively recent formal definition of papal infallibility as some kind of defeater for my claim about the Church’s longstanding belief in ecclesial infallibility.

    I think I’ve already demonstrated how you missed my point about papal infallibility, but it’s worth noting here that a longstanding belief is not the same as a belief that is true, or even the same as one that goes back to the apostolic period—which, of course, “ecclesial infallibility” does not.

    You wrote:

    You also take issue with the notion that Protestantism is built on ecclesial deism. You write:

    historic Protestantism has uniformly agreed that the Holy Spirit has continued to be extremely involved with His church down to the present time

    I understand, and I agree that Protestants have claimed as much. But so has every heresy in the history of the Church; they claim the Holy Spirit for themselves.

    To “claim the Holy Spirit for themselves” is not the same as denying ecclesial deism—at least if we stick with the normal meaning of the word “deism” that you would seem to be applying here. You understand that meaning well enough, for you accurately supply it in your article titled “Ecclesial Deism” as follows:

    Deism refers to a belief that God made the world, and then left it to run on its own. It is sometimes compared to “a clockmaker” winding up a clock and then “letting it run.” Deism is distinct from theism in that theism affirms not only that God created the world, but also that God continually sustains and governs all of creation.

    Fair enough, so far. Thus one might naturally expect that you will define “ecclesial deism” as a subset of—or at least in keeping with—standard deism, i.e., that just as deism denies any kind of divine involvement or intervention in the continuing existence of the world (except, in some brands of deism, for the most basic providential kind), so also “ecclesial deism” should deny any kind of divine involvement or intervention in the continuing existence of the church. But that’s not quite what we find with your definition, which reads:

    Ecclesial deism is the notion that Christ founded His Church, but then withdrew, not protecting His Church’s Magisterium (i.e., the Apostles and/or their successors) from falling into heresy or apostasy.

    [Bolding of text mine.]

    It turns out that, thanks to a not-so-subtle sleight-of-hand, your “ecclesial deism” does not apply to the church per se (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church §752, 777), but only to “the Apostles and/or their successors” (cf. CCC §891 for a more precise roster of the Roman magisterium). You have essentially committed an equivocation based on the ambiguity of the word “ecclesial” and based both your definition and all the arguments that flow from it on that equivocation by illegitimately assuming the standard (but spurious) Roman Catholic distinction between ecclesia docens and ecclesia discens (‘teaching church” and “learning church”).

    You wrote:

    The key word in your statement is ‘involved.’ The term is sufficiently weak that any event can be claimed to have the Holy Spirit’s involvement — both sides of a schism, all the various denominations holding incompatible doctrines. Those contradictions are of no concern, so long as the Spirit is merely ‘involved.’

    You are very correct: the key word is “involved”—i.e., if you want to understand the concept of deism. From the very beginning deism was essentially a denial of God’s ongoing involvement with His creation (cf. M.H. Macdonald, “Deism,” in W.A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., [Grand Rapids, MI, USA and Carlisle, UK: Baker and Paternoster, 2001], 329-330). And your objection to the word “involvement” is demonstrating that your equivocation extends beyond the word “ecclesial” to the word “deism.” You want the “deism” part of your definition to go beyond the commonly-understood sense to only refer to a very limited kind of divine non-intervention, as you write:

    Christ’s promise, however, was much stronger than that His Spirit would merely be “involved” with His Church. He promised that His Spirit would guide His Church into all Truth, as the cloud guided the Hebrews by day and the pillar of fire by night.

    But since the cloud and fire-pillar that guided the Israelites was (a) not a component of the leadership’s (i.e., Moses’) didactic ministry, and (b) lasted only for the duration of the Israelites’ 40-year wandering in the wilderness (Neh. 9:19), it is a very poor analogy to what you are trying to defend. The cloud-pillar did not guide the Israelites “in every century,” as you write:

    The ecclesial deist denies ecclesial infallibility because he does not belief that the Spirit has always been guiding the Church in every century. That’s why such a person is willing to call into question anything and everything that the Church has believed and taught, unless he finds it stated explicitly in Scripture.

    I think that by questioning the things that are not found in Scripture we are simply fulfilling the command of Scripture to “test everything [and] hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21, ESV; cf. 1 Jn. 4:1), and “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn,” (Isa. 8:20, NASB).

    You wrote:

    Your response is to distinguish the Church’s magisterium from the Church. Your claim, presumably, is that the Spirit is promised to guide the Church, not her magisterium.”

    Once again, your argument is viciously entangled in Roman Catholic assumptions, viz., that the church that Christ established actually has a “magisterium”—i.e., an indefectible teaching authority as opposed to a biblically-defined teaching ministry—which is predicated on the following set of interdependent assumptions:

    1) that there was an apostolic succession, also of indefectible authority, and not merely of office, of which this magisterium consists,

    2) that there is a holy oral tradition that constitutes a source of revelation separate from Scripture, which this magisterium preserves, and

    3) that there is a canon of Scripture that is neither sufficient nor perspicuous, which this magisterium interprets.

    I don’t recall where you have argued these points; it seems you have simply assumed them, even though without them the entire structure of your “ecclesial deism” argument dissolves in the solvent of Scripture.

    You wrote:

    And who then might the Church be? The answer turns out to be: Whoever sufficiently agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture. You see how convenient that is.

    And what has the Roman Catholic church done? It has simply substituted the following as the answer to your question: “Whoever sufficiently agrees with our interpretation of Scripture.” Do you see how convenient that is?

    You wrote:

    What would otherwise be equivalent to the rebellion of Korah, is transformed into being led by the Spirit away from the mere ‘traditions and structures of men’, simply by redefining the term ‘Church’ to refer not to those old fogies (and all those in communion with them) in their old lines of succession from the Apostles, but to those who are in sufficient agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture.

    Do you see what you’re doing here? Right here, in this paragraph, you’re essentially admitting that your working definition of “the Church” is not “the whole universal community of believers” (per CCC §752), but “those…(and all those in communion with them) in their old lines of succession from the Apostles.” You’re defining “the Church” as the Magisterium!

    You wrote:

    This is precisely how the angel of light leads persons into heresy and schism from the Church — he deceives them into thinking that they are upholding orthodoxy.

    So much for, “Our aim is to effect reconciliation and reunion between Catholics and Protestants, particularly those of the Reformed tradition.” Unless, of course, “reconciliation” is strictly on Rome’s terms. Your rhetoric is beginning to take on a rather nasty tone at this point.

    You wrote:

    They become so convinced of this that they leave their rightful shepherds, and set up an imitation which usually in some way bears the name of the person who founded their heresy or schism.

    And, of course, you’re not referring to names like “Thomism,” “Dominican,” or “Franciscan,” are you?

    You wrote:

    Christ’s promise to guide the Church into all truth would be worthless to know if it does not apply principally the Church’s magisterium.

    This statement is true only if we assume that the written revelation of Scripture is insufficient because it must be supplemented by oral tradition, and that it is not perspicuous and therefore requires infallible human interpreters.

    You wrote:

    That is because if the promise didn’t apply to the Church’s magisterium, we could know only that among the various sects of self-described Christians in the world, at least one set of persons (though which set we know not) is being guided by the Holy Spirit.

    Yeah, it’s amazing how that works. Who alone is being guided by the Holy Spirit? The magisterium. Just ask them!

    You wrote:

    This is how St. Cyril of Jerusalem could say:

    “And if thou should be in foreign cities, do not simply ask where is the church (kyriakon), for the heresies of the impious try to call their dens kyriaka, nor simply where is the Church (ekklesia), but where is the Catholic Church, for this is the proper name of this holy Mother of all” (Catecheses 18.26).

    And yet you will look in vain in Cyril’s Catechetical Lectures for any trace of a magisterium. How does he define “the Catholic Church?” He explains in 18:23 that he essentially means “universal church” rather than “indefectible magisterium.” It’s difficult to see why you think this citation from Cyril supports your position, although it may be somewhat easier to see how you think you find support in your next citation:

    And St. Augustine could say:

    “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.”

    Such statements would make no sense if Christ’s promise to guide the Church into all truth by His Spirit did not apply to the magisterium, but only to the laity.

    On the contrary, I think Augustine’s statement here makes perfect sense without importing the later Romanist notion of an indefectible magisterium into it. You are providing a good example of something I find to be quite common among Roman Catholic apologists: the notion that if they find a church father referring to the succession of bishops from the apostles they read into it all the Romanist baggage that accumulated during the Middle Ages. But if you read this excerpt from Augustine closely you’ll see that all he’s doing is citing the succession of bishops as evidence of the fulfillment of Christ’s promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church.

    You wrote:

    You wrote:

    Why did God not provide such a magisterium for His Old Testament people?” Is it because “ecclesial deism” was God’s actual policy from Adam until the apostles?

    No. Under the Old Covenant there was magisterium of prophets; that was not “ecclesial deism.” But under the New Covenant, there is a new economy, a new measure of the Spirit, and a far greater magisterium, suited for a universal Church spread over the whole world.

    Even if I were prepared to concede that the Old Testament prophets filled the role of a magisterium in addition to being writers of Scripture, there were considerable stretches of time prior to the coming of Christ in which no prophet ministered.

    Now the young man Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

    [1 Samuel 3:1, ESV]

    This was especially true during the time we Protestants refer to as the Inter-Testamental period.

    They deliberated what to do about the altar of burnt offering, which had been profaned. And they thought it best to tear it down, so that it would not be a lasting shame to them that the Gentiles had defiled it. So they tore down the altar, and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until a prophet should come to tell what to do with them.

    [1 Maccabees 4:44-46, NRSV]

    And, of course, there is no record of any prophet providing such instruction. So simply dubbing the Old Testament prophets as a “magisterium” does not solve your problem; there are still significant gaps when your “ecclesial deism” had to have been in effect prior to Christ’s first advent.

    You wrote:

    I agree that many Catholics can and do disagree with other Catholics over the interpretation of various passages of Scripture. For most such passages the Magisterium has made no formal statement about how they must be interpreted, though for many of them there is an interpretive tradition which is authoritative. But you seem to think that these kinds of in-house disagreements are equivalent to the doctrinal disagreements between Protestants.

    You are obviously questioning my statement, and yet you provide no evidence that the disagreements within historic Protestantism (by which I mean that which constituted Protestantism during the Reformation) have been any more severe or more closely touching matters essential to salvation than the disagreements within Roman Catholicism. Instead, you simply go on:

    You write:

    They [Protestants] are in harmony on what they mutually agree to be essential matters, thus they obviously do not consider having a single ecclesiastical hierarchy to be essential.

    I agree that Protestants do not consider having single ecclesiastical hierarchy to be essential. That’s because they don’t believe the Church to be essential.

    I find it difficult to believe that anyone who would write such a thing was ever a Protestant. Protestants don’t consider the church to be essential? Have you never read WCF 25.2?

    The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

    If I didn’t know any better, I might think you’re trying to insult my intelligence.

    You wrote:

    If there were no one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, but only persons, nothing in Protestant practice would change.

    Now you’re just being silly. You need to read the entire WCF 25, and then further acquaint yourself with the basics of Reformed ecclesiology.

    You wrote:

    Protestant ecclesiology has no way of distinguishing between a schism from the Church and a branch within the Church.

    And, of course, we would respond that we most certainly do. It’s called the word of God.

    You wrote:

    Since Protestantism has no magisterium, what counts as “essential matters” is ultimately (at least in this life) up to each Protestant to decide.

    This is positively false. There is complete unanimity among historic Protestants that the essentials of the faith include the Trinitarian theology and Christology of the early church councils along with the principles of sola Scriptura, sola gratia, and sola fide. There is no disagreement on the nature of God or His salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

    You wrote:

    So the only reason you can claim to have ‘agreement’ on the essentials is because the essentials are whatever you yourself decide them to be, and thereby pick out those other persons who share them with you as ‘the rest of the Church,’ all agreeing on the essentials.

    So on the one hand, we leave it up to every individual to decide what is essential, but on the other hand we all agree on what is essential? You can’t have it both ways. First of all, we never left it up to every individual decide what is essential. That is a complete fabrication on your part. Second, the reason we agree on what is essential is due to the perspicuity of Scripture.

    You wrote:

    However, every Arian in the fourth century could have done the same thing, picking out what beliefs he thinks are essential, and then identifying the Church as those who share those beliefs. Every heretic in the history of the Church could have done the same thing. That’s why such a conception of ‘essential’ is worthless, because it is entirely relative.

    Those of us who are historic Protestants totally agree with you here, which is why we reject the Council of Trent. They picked and chose which beliefs they considered “essential” in direct opposition to the clear testimony of Scripture.

    You wrote:

    In the Catholic Church, by contrast, what is essential is not ultimately up to each individual to decide, but up to the Church’s magisterium to decide. For that reason, in the Catholic Church there is an objective difference between what is essential and what is non-essential.

    You fail to demonstrate how adding the element of a human magisterium is any more objective in determining what is essential to believe for salvation than a perspicuous Scripture.

    You wrote:

    That’s why it is not accurate to claim that agreement and disagreement among Protestants about essentials and non-essentials (respectively) is equivalent to agreement and disagreement between Catholics about essentials and non-essentials (respectively). The claim is an equivocation.

    I’m not enthusiastic about making a pot-calling-the-kettle-black observation, but the only reason it seems like an equivocation to you is because of the equivocation in your own terminology, which I believe I’ve amply demonstrated here.

  239. johnbugay said,

    May 9, 2010 at 8:43 am

    **************************
    Bryan Cross Method Alert
    **************************

    I know that Bryan Cross has said that it’s unkind to speak about him in the third person, and no doubt the words argumentum ad hominem will escape from his keyboard coming up here.

    But for you Reformed folks who are trying to figure him out, what I’m about to say may seem unkind precisely until the moment when one of your children, or one of your church members, or even a Westminster-trained pastor that you may know, becomes enamored with and traipses off to Rome. At that point, then, ask, what is the real unkindness?

    What I’m about to do is to look not at Bryan Cross the person, but rather, the method he uses.

    Since I’ve written this, I see that Ron Henzel, in post #238, has provided a brilliant response to Bryan, in which he untangles all of the assumptions that Bryan throws out without an ounce of warning that he is, indeed, making assumptions. This method of argumentation is inherently dishonest. But again, Ron Henzel in #238 has done a brilliant job of untangling these assumptions, and I’d very much encourage that everyone read that comment.

    Let me start by asking, do any of you play chess, at any serious level? If you do, and if you’ve come across Jeremy Silman’s work, which talks about the need to look for “imbalances” in the position.

    An imbalance is an opportunity within a position that one can use to create an advantage for oneself, on a particular area of the board, even though the second player may have advantages in other areas of the board. This is why a Queen sacrifice might work to enable a person to achieve a checkmate. While the opponent’s Queen is off on another part of the board — and still very powerful there — the first player is enabled, by a sacrifice, to destroy a key defender or deflect a defensive piece away, enabling his own pieces to enjoy a temporary and in some cases, an overwhelming superiority in the more crucial part of the board, and thus, to Checkmate the King.

    There are incredible imbalances in the Catholic vs. Protestant discussions, and Bryan Cross and his allies try to take advantage of this in discussions just like this one.

    Francis Turretin noticed just such an imbalance in all of these discussions of Catholic vs. Protestant. Here is how he described it:

    Thus this day the Romanists (although they are anything but the true church of Christ) still boast of their having alone the name of church and do not blush to display the standard of that which they oppose. In this manner, hiding themselves under the specious title of the antiquity and infallibility of the Catholic church, they think they can, as with one blow, beat down and settle the controversy waged against them concerning the various most destructive errors introduced into the heavenly doctrine. (Vol 3 pg 2)

    John Henry Newman, too, gave Catholics some advice, which is easily used in conjunction that imbalance that Turretin wrote about. He says:

    Till positive reasons grounded on facts are adduced to the contrary, the most natural hypotheses, the most agreeable to our mode of proceeding in parallel cases, and that which takes precedence of all others, is to consider that the society of Christians, which the Apostles left on earth, were of that religion to which the Apostles had converted them; that the external continuity of name, profession, and communion, argues a real continuity of doctrine; that, as Christianity began by manifesting itself as of a certain shape and bearing to all mankind, therefore it went on so to manifest itself; and that the more, considering that prophecy had already determined that it was to be a power visible in the world and sovereign over it, characters which are accurately fulfilled in that historical Christianity to which we commonly give the name. It is not a violent assumption, then, but rather mere abstinence from the wanton admission of a principle which would necessarily lead to the most vexatious and preposterous scepticism, to take it for granted, before proof to the contrary, that the Christianity of the second, fourth, seventh, twelfth, sixteenth, and intermediate centuries is in its substance the very religion which Christ and His Apostles taught in the first, whatever may be the modifications for good or for evil which lapse of years, or the vicissitudes of human affairs, have impressed upon it.

    http://www.newmanreader.org/works/development/introduction.html

    In short, what this long couple of sentences says, is that The Roman Catholic Church itself was the promise of the Old Testament — itself is the fulfillment of the very promises of God to provide a kingdom — and that it has all the power and authority that one would expect. And further, “we don’t have to prove this,” he says. “We merely assume continuity,” and leave it to “positive reasons grounded on facts [that] are adduced to the contrary.”

    That very thing comes up all the time in this thread. Notice the phrase, “the Church that Christ founded,” first used by Bryan in comment #42 (used again in 74 and in various places by some of the others from “Called to Communion”). Several of the Protestant writers have commented on it, but they have not provided an explanation of it.

    Here is a sense of its use:

    So we need a way of distinguishing confessions of the Church that Christ founded, from confessions made by the equivalent of mere theological clubs …

    So when Bryan Cross uses the word “church,” he intends it to mean “The Roman Catholic Church and the Visible Hierarchy.” Notice how this works in Bryan Cross’s statement from Comment #232:

    Regarding John 16:13, the unanimous tradition of the Church has been to understand that Christ’s promise (regarding the Spirit guiding into all truth) was not limited to the Apostles but also applied (through them and their successors) to the whole Church.

    There is implicit in this statement that “the Church” in this statement was, and continues to be, “The Roman Catholic Church and the Visible Hierarchy.” But Bryan doesn’t tell you that’s his definition of “the Church”. He merely assumes that to be the case.

    But what’s worse, Bryan doesn’t care if you misunderstand. He is relying on a technique known as “mental reservation,” by which he may say things in such a way that his readers may draw false conclusions from them. But if they do draw false conclusions, that’s not his fault.

    This principle is clearly articulated by a Roman Catholic Cardinal within the context of an offical investigation document, which shows clearly how the Roman Church dealt with sexual abuse victims:

    Mental reservation is a concept developed and much discussed over the centuries, which permits a churchman knowingly to convey a misleading impression to another person without being guilty of lying.

    http://reformation500.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/romes-institutionally-sanctioned-lying/

    Now, let me give an application of this, something that I’ve noticed and written about in the past, and for it, I’ve been accused of being “uncharitable.” But take a look at this recent post by Jason Stellman:

    http://www.creedcodecult.com/2010/05/tongues-and-popes-is-es-and-ought-s.html

    Often Protestants fear that unless they can poke holes in the Catholic’s claim that Benedict XVI is a literal, historical successor of Peter, then we’ve lost the argument and have to start praying to Mary and abstaining from meat on Fridays. Now I’ll probably take some heat for this concession, but I will come out and admit that I think apostolic succession is more plausible than not. I mean, whether or not the early church invested the practice with as much significance as Catholics today do, my guess is that the church in Rome was at one time led by Peter, and it has had a leader from then to now, which means that the historical claim is actually true …

    This is an incredibly naïve thing, coming especially from someone who ought to understand what he is saying here. Not only has Andrew McCallum argued against this notion, not only from the early church, but during medieval times when the worst offenders of popes were still a part of the “official succession.”

    In truth, Jason, “Apostolic Succsssion” is chock full of holes, and an honest assessment of that practice will show this to be the case.

    Jason, your view is incredibly naïve. It’s not my view that this view is “incredibly naïve” – note the comment in Francis Sullivan, S.J., “From Apostles to Bishops:

    Admittedly the Catholic position, that bishops are the successors of the apostles by divine institution, remains far from easy to establish. It is unfortunate, I believe, that some presentations of Catholic belief in this matter have given a very different impression… (Sullivan, 13)

    Referring to the ARCIC I document, (an ecumenical dialog between Rome and the Anglican church), he said,

    To speak of “an unbroken line of episcopal ordination from Christ through the apostles” suggests that Christ ordained the apostles as bishops, and that the apostles in turn ordained a bishop for each of the churches they founded, so that by the time the apostles died, each Christian church was being led by a bishop s successor to an apostle. There are serious problems with such a theory of a link between apostles and bishops.” (13)

    Sullivan goes on to outline some of these “serious problems.” One of these problems was articulated very succinctly by Raymond Brown in “Priest and Bishop”:

    The claims of various sees to descend from particular members of the Twelve are highly dubious. It is interesting that the most serious of these is the claim of the bishops of Rom to descend from Peter, the one member of the Twelve who was almost a missionary apostle in the Pauline sense—a confirmation of our contention that whatever succession there was from apostleship to episcopate, it was primarily in reference to the Pauline type of apostleship, not the Twelve. (Fn 53, pg 72)

    In the end, the Newmanesque assumption that Sullivan makes – the “unproved assumption” where he stakes his ground, is further back but still there:

    Although development of the church structure reflects sociological necessity, in the Christian self-understanding the Hoy Spirit given by the risen Christ guides the church in such a way that allows basic lstructural development to be seen as embodying Jesus Christ’s will for his church.”

    This is what I meant in my comment above to Andrew McCallum, that he “leaves too much money on the table.” Bryan Cross assumes far too much. But Sullivan here articulates the official Roman Catholic fallback position.

    Historical study has passed Newman by. The ground of this fight IS no longer on Roman assumptions of its own “divine institution.” I’m doing a series on Joseph Ratzinger’s “Called to Communion,” and he himself can only say that the papacy was “faithfully developed” during the first five centuries of the church. He himself yields far away from what Newman intended. I believe he has been forced to do so by the sheer weight of the historical evidence.

    The Protestant/Catholic discussion IS AND MUST BE, in Newman’s words, “on positive reasons grounded on [historical] facts” that absolutely fly in the face of the pure, ungrounded assumption that Bryan Cross makes and that Jason Stellman has freely conceded to them.

    We cannot yield this assumption to Bryan Cross and his gang. We must force them to argue on level ground. We must make them come out from behind their unproven assumption and stand on historical ground. As Sullivan has made clear, and as Ratzinger has made clear, Rome itself is forced to kick the “assumption” can further down the road.

    Since I’ve written this, I see that Ron Henzel, in post #238, has provided a brilliant response to Bryan, in which he untangles all of the assumptions that Bryan throws out without an ounce of warning that he is, indeed, making assumptions. This method of argumentation is inherently dishonest. But again, Ron Henzel in #238 has done a brilliant job of untangling these assumptions, and I’d very much encourage that everyone read that comment.

  240. Bryan Cross said,

    May 9, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Paige (re: #236),

    I am struggling to see how “agreement with the individual re. doctrine/practice” is an ontological alternative to the ontological situation of Apostolic Succession.

    Relations between things are ontological, and that’s why they can be known. If they were not ontological, every belief we have about relations between things would necessarily be a fiction. The fact that relational beliefs and claims (i.e. beliefs and claims about relations) can be either true or false shows that relational beliefs and claims can either correspond to reality or they can fail to do so. What it is about reality that makes the relational belief true, is its ontological basis.

    Agreement between x and y is a type of relation. That’s why an agreement between, say, the WCF and an individual’s interpretation of Scripture, is a formal relation (in reality) between the form contained in the WCF and the form in the mind of the individual regarding what is the meaning of Scripture. That’s what makes it to be true or false that an individual agrees with the WCF. If the form contained in the WCF is the same form in the mind of the individual (regarding what is the meaning of Scripture), then his claim that he agrees with the WCF is true. But if the form contained in the WCF is not the same form in the mind of the individual (regarding what is the meaning of Scripture), then his claim that he agrees with the WCF is false.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  241. GLW Johnson said,

    May 9, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Bryan
    Is it true that you are a recent graduate of Covenant seminary and was once a minister in the PCA? Did you intern at Jeff Meyers church as well?

  242. Paige Britton said,

    May 9, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Thanks, Bryan, for your explanation (#240).

    I guess I am thinking that the comparison of alternatives seems kind of unbalanced, with (on the Protestant side) one kind of thing, and (on the Catholic side) something of another sort. That is, even if the two can both be thought of as “ontological” in some sense, there is an ultimacy, a “God-set-this-up” sense, to the alternative of Apostolic succession; while the Protestant alternative seems to be in a less ultimate, earthly category.

    To use Jeff’s words from a little earlier, I would have thought the comparison ought to concern (on either hand) reality-as-God-sees-it, and our challenge would be to figure out which is the reality that God sees (and has set up).

    But I’m not equipped with the logical vocab to go any farther, so I’ll let you guys go back at it hammer & tongs.

  243. Bob Suden said,

    May 9, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    99 Phil,
    I would only add to your list the 24 items Lewis Bayly lists in his Practice of Piety (1611) where in the new upstart church of Rome and its bishop depart from what the apostle Paul taught in the Book of Romans. They begin with our election being of free grace and not works (Rom. 9:11, 11:5,6) and end with affirming the possibility that the church of Rome may fall away as did the church of Jerusalem (Rom. 11:21,22)

    224 Go Andy.
    Yes it is vexing to see Protestants line up like Little Red Riding Hood to commend Bryan, “Oh, what nice manners you have, Mr. Cross.” But it might also have something to do with American presbyterianism’s repudiation of the Westminster on the pope as antichrist, which obviously is not nice talk.
    That must explain it. Only let the apologist and drummer for an apostate communion, that has excommunicated – as in anathematized – the gospel, run on in a verbose and polished philosophical manner and all will hail him as a good fellow, well met.

    Yet as Bryan himself says in 231 – “I’m noticing a repeating pattern in our interaction so far – you criticize what you think is my position, and then I respond by pointing out that you have criticized a position other than my own.” – yes indeed, Mr. Cross, if you knew the real protestant position that would be one thing, but you don’t as one can plainly see by reading your exposition of that crock of horse manure and nonsense called “ecclesial deism”. Granted it is an improvement over the puerilities of Scott Hahn, but that is not saying much. It still abounds with despicable and misleading half truths that partake of equivocation, repetition and propaganda.

    One might as well say you believe in ecclesiastical deification, which you do, in presuming the “church” – necessarily meaning the Roman prelatic and papal hierarchy as Ron points out – irrevocably partakes of infallibility and perfection, morally and theologically. Neither in the wooden and literal perfectionist frame of mind, can the councils or early fathers err in one thing lest they err in all. Ergo if they got the canon right, they necessarily got everything else right. Never mind that in all this, there is no unanimity with the fathers and the councils were genuinely ecumenical and not under the thumb of Rome. Further the Reformers studied the early fathers and appreciated them, but did not put them over and above the Scriptures the fathers professed to believe and expound. (The Renaissance after all accompanied, if not preceded the Reformation, and critical versions of the fathers poured off the presses).

    Aside from this idolatrous deification and perfectionism, Bryan’s fundamental premise is formal and nominalistic. If the roman church says something, ipso dixit it must be true. If Christ says something about the church, ipso dixit that must mean the Roman hierarchy. Further, if the sacrament represents something, it must be that thing. (The Federal Vision similarities to Rome are telling.) There is no such thing as the invisible and spiritual church, because if we do not walk by sight, we do not walk at all. False dichotomies rule, never mind the messy reality that we have both bodies and souls and Mr. Cross himself reverts to rhetoric about “Christ’s Mystical Body” when it suits him.

    But again, it is tradition and Christian orthodoxy, not the self interpreting, perspicuous and sufficient Scripture that Bryan appeals to in refuting Mormonism, and this the Roman approach while he was nominally still a “Protestant”. But all that glitters is not gold and we are not to believe everything we are told, even by the Magisterium – or in this case, its irregular representative and self appointed salesman.

    We might as well ask, how do we know anything? The answer is, we don’t. Not unless we take something by faith, which we must do whether we are papist or protestant. And whether we acknowledge it or not, private judgement necessarily enters into the equation. But how is Bryan sure he correctly understands the Magisterium? He’s not. Neither can he admit that the Holy Spirit still leads all the elect into the truth, not just the prelatic officers.

    Yet if the blind lead the blind, with his cooperation, Rome is leading Bryan into the ditch of hell and he is doing his best to gather others to accompany him. Pray forgive those of us who are so rude to refuse his kind and gentle invitation. Our master, Christ forbids us to countenance such folly.

  244. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 9, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Bryan (#231):

    I’m noticing a repeating pattern in our interaction so far … [perhaps] you [could] withhold criticism until you have verified that the position you are criticizing is my own. That way you can avoid knocking down strawmen.

    It’s a fair request, and I will do my best. Certainly, it would not be fair for me to tag you with a position you do not hold.

    In exchange, I would ask that you be willing to acknowledge when your position has shifted ground or has been imprecise … for example, after we agreed on meaning in #188, you changed it substantially in #206. Acknowledging these kinds of things helps me to understand that the shift was not intentional.

    If we can both shoulder some of the burden of clear communication, it will help our mutual estimation of good faith, which is currently on the rise on my end.

  245. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 9, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Bryan (#231):

    But in speaking of the ground of authority, I’m speaking about the ontological, not the epistemological.

    (#240):

    That’s why an agreement between, say, the WCF and an individual’s interpretation of Scripture, is a formal relation (in reality) between the form contained in the WCF and the form in the mind of the individual regarding what is the meaning of Scripture.

    I’m only partially understanding the idea of ontological ground for authority (OGA).

    I understand that OGA is not an epistemological ground. I understand that OGA is a relationship, although I don’t quite understand between what and which. Is the OGA a relationship between the authority and something?

    My intuitive sense is that your two alternatives come down to

    EITHER

    “The ecclesial authority bears a relationship to the apostolic church that causes him to be authoritative”

    OR

    “The ecclesial authority bears a relationship to the thoughts of the individual (specifically, his opinions about the meaning of Scripture) that cause him to be authoritative.”

    Is that what you have in mind?

    If so, then (tracking with Paige here), could we not also have

    “The teachings of the ecclesial authority bear a relationship to the original meaning of Scripture that causes them to be authoritative.”

    ?

    You might question how we measure such a property, but it is a plausible ontological relationship, no?

  246. David T. King said,

    May 9, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Assertion: Regarding John 16:13, the unanimous tradition of the Church has been to understand that Christ’s promise (regarding the Spirit guiding into all truth) was not limited to the Apostles but also applied (through them and their successors) to the whole Church.

    Augustine (354-430): And yet all these utterly senseless heretics, who wish to be styled Christians, attempt to color the audacities of their devices, which are perfectly abhorrent to every human feeling, with the chance presented to them of that gospel sentence uttered by the Lord, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now:” as if these were the very things which the apostles could not then bear, and as if the Holy Spirit had taught them what the unclean spirit, with all the length he can carry his audacity, blushes to teach and to preach in broad daylight.
    It is such whom the apostle foresaw through the Holy Spirit, when he said: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate 97, §3-4.

  247. Paige Britton said,

    May 9, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Hey, Jeff, I’m not sure Bryan said that the OGA is necessarily relational, just that relations are ontological (#240). This was in response to my confusion (#236) about his first alternative in Step 4, which struck me as being something other than ontological (while the idea of Apostolic Succession seems straightforwardly ontological). He may just have been clarifying for me why he could call “agreement with the individual re. doctrine and practice” ontological.

    pb

  248. May 9, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Jeff Cagle 221,

    You wrote “Indeed they could. And Arius did, although recent scholarship suggests that Nestorius was not in fact Nestorian.”

    Point of fact. This is incorrect. What the scholarship has shown was that Nestorius did not explicitly advocate a Two Son Christology, but that this was implied by his theology.

    About forty plus years ago there was an attempt to rehabilitate Nestorius, but this has largely been a failure.

  249. johnbugay said,

    May 9, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Perry — you’ve got a lot of nerve saying that the “attempt to rehabilitate Nestorius” was “largely a failure.” Here’s a 1999 video of Bishop Kallistos Ware introducing Mar Bawai Soro, a bishop at the time from the “Nestorian” church, with the words that “Nestorius was not guilty of the Nestorian heresy”:

    http://www.oltv.tv/id518.html

    This is from a conference on Mary, and the audience was full of bishops and theologians from both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, who seemed to roundly applaud that statement.

    Of course, Perry claims to know more about Orthodoxy than any human alive, and so he has every right to say that a convert like Bishop Ware has no idea of what he’s talking about.

  250. May 9, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Ron (#238), also regarding John’s #239,

    Ron, as I read Bryan’s, then your, take on “ecclesial deism,” I get the sense that there is some agreement between the two of you, namely, that God is sufficiently involved in the life of the Church that the Church will not, at any time, cease to exist. If, on some view, God is not thus involved, such that the church can and has ceased to exist at some point, then I cannot think of a more appropriate appellation for that position than “ecclesial deism.”

    So far as I can tell from your comments (and relying a bit on the comments of your fellow Protestants), the life of the (true) Church is perpetuated by sound doctrine, particularly with regard to the Gospel, which continuity of doctrine is (even sans material succession of orders) the authentic form of “Apostolic Succession.” By “teaching sound doctrine,” I mean something along the lines of “rightly interpreting and expounding the word of God.”

    But, on your position, that is, if you assume that the church has always existed from its foundation, this would entail that the essentials of Protestant doctrine (which includes, especially, certain claims about the Gospel) have been taught and believed by some people, at some places, *at all times* in the history of the church.

    So, it seems that the Protestant who wishes to deny that he is an ecclesial deist, must maintain that sound doctrine, especially as pertaining to the Gospel, has never wholly departed from the church, that the church has at all times taught and believed sound doctrine including, first and foremost, the true Gospel.

    Now, I assume that you, like many of your fellow Protestants (going right back to founding fathers such as Luther and Calvin) have very definite ideas about what is sound doctrine, including the true Gospel. But, unless, ecclesial deism obtains, you must assume that these doctrines, as you understand them, have been held, in essence if not in exact expression, at all times in the church.

    And this implies that Protestants, who wish not to covertly assume Protestant ecclesiology, using sleight of hand, mental reservation, and such, ought to be able make a plausible historical case to that end. So, to quote John B., sort of:

    The Protestant/Catholic discussion IS AND MUST BE, in Newman’s words, “on positive reasons grounded on [historical] facts” that absolutely fly in the face of the pure, ungrounded assumption that [e.g., Ron Henzel] makes and that [Bryan's gang] has freely conceded to them [the Protestants].

    We cannot yield this assumption to [Ron Henzel] and his gang. We must force them to argue on level ground. We must make them come out from behind their unproven assumption and stand on historical ground.

    The thing is, of course, that we all, in a sense, assume our respective positions to be true. Sometimes, we state a position by way of explaining it, which a different sort of thing than arguing for it. At other times, in the course of making an argument, we assume certain things for the sake of argument (i.e., the hypothetical syllogism). But that is not a “mental reservation” or some other covert way of smuggling unsuspected content into one’s argument. Its just a way of getting on with making an argument for some things, since one cannot argue for everything, all at once.

    This thread, following the post, is (mostly) concerned with the question of how to distinguish Church doctrine from clique opinion. Of course, Catholics, such as Bryan (and myself), assume that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ. And Protestants assume that Christ founded a Church that is, or was, in doctrine and in visible structure, essentially the equivalent of their own denomination or independent church. And that is OK. Since we cannot argue for every bit of either of these fundamentally different positions all at once, we all have to assume a lot of stuff for the sake of argument, and trust our interlocutors to point out any inconsistencies in our own position.

    The alternatives, of course, are to cast about various aspersions, to bring up a host of issues about which there is disagreement and demand that one’s interlocutor address each of these in turn, or to demand that one’s interlocutor make his case on historical grounds.

    Now, I am sure that we all want everyone to repent and believe the Gospel, and to generally reform their lives according to godliness, and to resolve all of their disagreements, and to do this in way that takes into account all of the pertinent historical data.

    God is sufficient for all of this. Ours is to pray, and exercise the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, which is not the same thing as “mental reservation,” though it does involve patience, as in taking one step at a time. Finally, it occurs to me that fortitude really is a key in these kinds of discussions, although it is easy to mistake craven acts for brave ones.

  251. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 10, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Paige (#247):

    Hey, Jeff, I’m not sure Bryan said that the OGA is necessarily relational, just that relations are ontological (#240).

    Good catch, as always. I await his further clarification.

  252. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 10, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Perry and John (#247 – 248):

    I have to say that I’m out of my depth in evaluating the recent scholarship on Nestorius. I just know that some scholars (including my church history prof) have suggested that Nestorius was … hmm … unfairly prosecuted by Cyprian, and his position was unfairly overstated at trial.

    My only point in mentioning it is this: Arius is a better example of “someone who thought he was orthodox, but wasn’t” than Nestorius, simply because less controversy surrounds the meaning of Arius’s actual position.

  253. David Waltz said,

    May 10, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Hello Ron,

    You posted:

    >>This is positively false. There is complete unanimity among historic Protestants that the essentials of the faith include the Trinitarian theology and Christology of the early church councils along with the principles of sola Scriptura, sola gratia, and sola fide. There is no disagreement on the nature of God or His salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.>>

    Me: This depends on one’s definition of “historic Protestants”; a definition which is prone to one of two extremes: over simplification, or excessive qualification(s). Further, there is the question concering the content of “the essentials of the faith”; A.N.S. Lane cogently sums up the historic reality:

    ==The Reformers unequivocally rejected the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church. This left open the question of who should interpret Scripture. The Reformation was not a struggle for the right of private judgement. The Reformers feared private judgement almost as much as did the Catholics and were not slow to attack it in its Anabaptist manifestation. The Reformation principle was not private judgement but the perspicuity of the Scriptures. Scripture was ‘sui ipsius interpres’ and the simple principle of interpreting individual passages by the whole was to lead to unanimity in understanding. This came close to creating anew the infallible church…It was this belief in the clarity of Scripture that made the early disputes between Protestants so fierce. This theory seemed plausible while the majority of Protestants held to Luthern or Calvinist orthodoxy but the seventeenth century saw the beginning of the erosion of these monopolies. But even in 1530 Casper Schwenckfeld could cynically note that ‘the Papists damn the Lutherans; the Lutherans damn the Zwinglians; the Zwinglians damn the Anabaptists and the Anabaptists damn all others.’ By the end of the seventeenth century many others saw that it was not possible on the basis of Scripture alone to build up a detailed orthodoxy commanding general assent. (A.N.S. Lane, “Scripture, Tradition and Church: An Historical Survey”, Vox Evangelica, Volume IX – 1975, pp. 44, 45 – bold emphasis mine.) [http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/vox/vol09/scripture_lane.pdf]==

    Grace and peace,

    David

  254. TurretinFan said,

    May 10, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Bryan:

    I had written:

    Bryan:

    You asserted: “the ground for authority cannot at all be agreement with oneself.”

    This does not appear to be true. Let me provide an example to demonstrate. A husband has authority over his wife. However, one ground of that authority is the woman’s consent (agreement with him) that they should be married. Therefore, we see that it is not true that the ground for authority cannot at all be agreement with oneself.

    Since that is not true, your premise (5) is not true, and your conclusion is false.

    You responded:

    The ground of the husband’s authority over his wife is not her consent to marry him. He also consented to marry her. So if consent were the ground, neither the husband nor the wife would have authority over the other. The ground of a husband’s authority over his wife is the natural order established by God between husband and wife. Their consent to marry each other is a necessary condition for the exercise of that God-given authority, but is not the ground of it.

    There appears to be a few errors in this reply.

    1) “He also consented to marry her. So if consent were the ground, neither the husband nor the wife would have authority over the other.”

    a) The consent is distinguishable. The consent of the woman is to have the man as her head. The consent of the man is be her head. That mutuality of consent does not undermine but rather affirms the authority that is grounded on it. In other words, while both consent “to marry” they are consenting to different things.

    b) Although, as can be seen above, I was focused on the authority of headship that the man has, there is also a mutuality of reciprocal authority that marriage brings:

    1 Corinthians 7:4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

    c) We can see an analogy in civil government. Often civil governments gain power through the mechanism of consent of the governed. They themselves consent to serve as governors of the people, but the people consent to be governed.

    2) “The ground of a husband’s authority over his wife is the natural order established by God between husband and wife.”

    This comment seems to fail to recognize that something must be added to the general to arrive at the specific. “Husbands have authority over wives” is not a sufficient ground for me to have authority over a particular woman. The ground for my authority over that particular woman also includes, “I am married to that particular woman,” and that state of marriage is brought about (normally in this day and age) by the woman’s consent.

    3) “Their consent to marry each other is a necessary condition for the exercise of that God-given authority, but is not the ground of it.”

    a) Before marriage, there is not even nascent authority, exercised or unexercised, between he prospect bride and groom. Prospective spouses do not have some sort of latent authority over one another waiting for a condition in order to be exercised. Instead, the authority is yet to be brought into being. It is brought into being via the wedding of man and woman, and has as its ground at least the consent of the parties and the divine commands with respect to marriage. (We might also mention the consent of the bride’s father, the consent of the state, etc., though those issues are beyond the scope of this discussion.)

    b) In contrast, a condition necessary for a man to exercise authority over his wife would be something like consciousness. The husband cannot exercise his authority while sleeping or remaining in a coma. Some people might insist that there are additional conditions for the husband to exercise his authority, such as that he be kind, respectful, and otherwise loving toward his spouse. That view (wrong, in my opinion) would impose the duties of the husband as a condition for the exercise of his authority. In such a circumstance, in order to exercise his authority, the husband would have to do his husbandly duties.

    Finally, and this ties into some of the other comments that folks have been making, it is not clear how consent is not an ontological ground (of the type relevant to the definition of authority), whereas the general rule that husbands have authority over wives is an ontological ground (of the type relevant to the definition of authority).

    My understanding from your previous comments was that you did not view the general rule that elders have authority over their flock as a sufficient ontological ground for the authority of the Reformed churches. Instead, it seemed that you were considering instead the way by which the Reformed churches come to fall within the general rule.

    If that is so, it does not seem that you can object to consent as a ground for the authority in marriage, since it is part of the way by which the general rule becomes applicable to the particular woman.

    -TurretinFan

  255. johnbugay said,

    May 10, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Jeff — Did you get a chance to watch the video that I linked to? That was Kallistos Ware, a bishop in the Orthodox church, stating clearly in a room full of Catholic and Orthodox bishops and theologians, that “Nestorius was not guilty of the Nestorian Heresy.”

    You may be interested to know that not only the council of Ephesus (in 431, the third of the seven “ecumenical councils”) roundly condemned Nestorius — and at the time, it caused a schism with practically the whole church east of Jerusalem. (That third council only condemned “Nestorianism,” which was falsely attributed not only to Nestorius but to that whole side of the world). The fifth ecumenical council, Constantinople II in 553 ad (which the Reformed generally do not hold to be authoritative) not only condemned Nestorianism, but it condemned Nestorius by name, along with several other theologians.

    One of the biggest “offenses” that Nestorius was guilty of was suggesting that “Theotokos,” “God-bearer” might be a title for Mary that could cause some confusion. He recommended “Christotokos,” “Christ-bearer” might be more appropriate.

    Lo and behold, in 1994, Pope John Paul II put out a statement saying that now “Christotokos” may not have been as inappropriate as they thought it had been back then.

    The reason that all of this is not said to be a complete flip-flop is because of the artificial distinction that they make between “doctrine” and “discipline.” The anathemas against Nestorius and the others are said not to have been doctrinal, but disciplinary. Never mind that he was “disciplined” for his “doctrine.”

    This distinction is quite meaningless in that, whatever you call it, it caused schisms in the church that were sharper and more far-reaching than the schism in 1054 or the Protestant Reformation. And yet these schisms are largely swept under the rug — and those who wish to forget about them can afford to do so, because now “the Church of the East” (as the “Nestorian” church has also been called) has been totally destroyed by Islam and other forces in that part of the world.

  256. May 10, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    John,

    Nerve is irrelevant. Bishop Ware isn’t infallible on your account or mine. Ware is not a specialist in this area of patristics. People like Gray (The Defense of Chalcedon in the East) or McGuckin (Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy) are. Third, what Ware says is that Nestorius didn’t advocate explicitly a Two Son Christology and that much is true. He denied it. But I already said that as well. And even if Bp Ware’s statements were in conflict with my own, it wouldn’t follow by that alone that that he was right since it’s a factual question. Nestorius’ theology implied a Two Son Christology.

    You misframe the situation as an all or nothing deal. Either I know everything about my own Church or Bp Ware does or you do.

  257. May 10, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    “Marcion in 144 faced only “presbyters and teachers,””

    There a couple of things to consider with respect to this fact. The Monarchial episcopate doesn’t depend on there being only one bishop in a locale. It depends on the thesis that only bishops could ordain.

    When the Apostles were running around, there was a threefold ministry-Apostles, Presbyters and Deacons. This reflects a Trinitarian structure. Just as the Father is the source of the other two persons, so the apostles were the ordaining source of the other two orders. As the apostles die out, particular presbyters are designated to have a sort of primacy among others and so are bishops or overseers. This helps to retain the Trinitarian structure of ecclesiology of presbyter-bishop, presbyters and deacons.

    Consequently, given that there is a verified shift by all sides in the terminology of “presbyter” it doesn’t follow that Marcion faced “presbyters” that that term designates all and only what Presbyterians have claimed for 400 years. This is important since such an assumption would not only a priori rule out episcopacy but also Baptist Congregationalism and I seriously doubt that that is ground that the Baptists are willing to cede on an a priori basis.

    In any case, the mention of only presbyters doesn’t of itself prove that there were no bishops and no monarchial episcopate in Rome at the time until such time it is proven that the usage of “presbyter” there is nailed down.

  258. johnbugay said,

    May 10, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Perry: When the Apostles were running around, there was a threefold ministry-Apostles, Presbyters and Deacons. This reflects a Trinitarian structure. Just as the Father is the source of the other two persons, so the apostles were the ordaining source of the other two orders. As the apostles die out, particular presbyters are designated to have a sort of primacy among others and so are bishops or overseers. This helps to retain the Trinitarian structure of ecclesiology of presbyter-bishop, presbyters and deacons.

    Interesting that this “trinitarian structure” was in place before the doctrine of the Trinity had been defined. It seems anachronistic to say that anyone was even looking at it that way.

  259. May 10, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    John B,

    If you wish to present an argument that no one was even looking at it that way, you are free to do so.

    I wouldn’t know why one would need to be aware of all of the theological implications of something God had given. All sides agree tha there was a three fold structure-Apostles, presbyters and deacons. It certainly looks Trinitarian. Perhaps they became aware of it later or perhaps not. Ignatius seems to write about the orders that way and he’s not the only one. Its possible that it was tacit or known but not discussed much.

    I think the church taught the doctrine of the Trinity prior to any formal definition. If you don’t, you’ll need to make that argument, but I am not willing to cede that ground to the Mormons and the JW’s. If you wish to do so, I obviously can’t stop you.

  260. johnbugay said,

    May 10, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Perry — I’ll agree with you that the Trinity was being taught before the definition. I noted to David W., in a comparison of development of the doctrines of the Trinity and the papacy, that there was a huge amount of Scriptural attestation of the Trinity, whereas the papacy came about by asserting itself contrary to the decisions of councils. So you don’t need to worry about me going JW or Mormon.

    But as for the way that authority developed, I think that a strong case can be made that even when Ignatius used the word “bishop,” it was in a sense (a) that it wasn’t widely established, that rather he was trying to sell the idea, and (b) even where there were “bishops” (that can be attested), this early on, they weren’t “Metropolitans” in the sense you’d think of today, they were more like “senior pastors” among the elders. If you think it’s anything more structured than that, especially in Rome at that time, you’re the one that has to prove that.

  261. May 10, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    John B,

    Since I don’t think the doctrine of the Trinity developed I can’t agree with either Rome or Classical Protestants.

    Since the Orthodox don’t think Metropolitan or other titles are of apostolic origin or designate a higher order of bishop I can’t see what ground is gained by you pointing that fact out.

    My main object was to point out that merely noting that Marcian was opposed by “presbyters” doesn’t of itself falsify either the idea of a monarchial episcopate or even Rome’s claim that one of them had a specific kind pf primacy. Even the apostles were referred to as “presbyters” in the NT but that doesn’t imply that every presbyter was equal to an apostle.

  262. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 10, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Perry (#261):

    Since I don’t think the doctrine of the Trinity developed I can’t agree with either Rome or Classical Protestants.

    I wasn’t aware that this is the EO position. So do you see no differences between Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Augustine on the Trinity? Or is one of those orthodox and the others not?

  263. May 10, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Jeff,

    I am not clear on how we could get from either seeing differences to the thesis of doctrinal development, or from rejecting the idea that there are differences to the idea tha doctrine doesn’t develop.

  264. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 10, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Hm. What I had in mind is that “doctrinal development” entails a refinement of what had come before. So if the doctrine of the church is A at some time, and is A’ at some other time, that would count as development.

    In other words, any difference, if not a tautological rewording, would count as development.

    Perhaps you have a different definition of development in mind?

  265. May 10, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Jeff Cagle #252,

    Just a friendly correction-Nestorius was prosecuted by Cyril, not Cyprian.

    In any case, there are those who try to rehabilitate Arius as well. To be fair, Arius’ theology is built from strands within the tradition combined with worries over the heresy par excellance of the preceeding generation-sabellianism and specific Platonic assumptions. It was the worries abut sabellianism, Arius’ somewhat intuitive Platonic principles and his use of traditional language that gave Arianism its purchase price. From my perspective, Arius and Nestorius share the same fundamental assumptions. http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/?s=Notes+Christology+Nestorius
    For both, God could not suffer and they both took instances of essences to be persons. Either Jesus would be a different person and a different essence and so could suffer or he would be two persons, with one using the other by will. This is why both the Arians and the Nestorians were also monothelites because they both took the will to be hypostatic or prosopic.

  266. May 10, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Jeff,

    The notion of doctrinal development is the idea that there is nascent or hidden content that is drawn out through a dialectical process, either rational or vital over time. Certain doctrines are “implicit” in texts and drawn out over time. In this way there is supposed to be conceptual extension or development. This the Orthodox reject. We admit terminological development in terms of carving out appropriate terms, but not conceptual development. So for example, the key term at Nicea, homousious is not a conceptual development since the term is apophatic and has no conceptual content in terms of telling us about God ad intra. Theology then for us is not a science and there is no beatific vision.

    Consequently, we do not go to philosophy to fill out the conceptual content of theological terms. The relation between theology and philosophy is asymmetrical. Theology uses philosophical terms after sucking out their dialectical content-new wine and old winskins as it were.

  267. May 10, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    Ron Henzel #238

    When I read Bryan’s comment about Orthodoxy and Catholicism, it didn’t strike me that he was saying anything controversial. In case you didn’t know, not only am I Orthodox, but Bryan and I spar on occasion as well. If what Bryan had written was off, I think I would have objected to it.

    As for your use of Bp Ware (and I think it is rather a misuse for a number of reasons) it seems pretty clear having read that section of Bp Ware’s book that the ecclesiology put forward isn’t closer to Protestantism. There are a host of statements in that section of the book that are at direct odds with Classical Protestant ecclesiology, and specifically the way in which you deploy the material form that book.

    “In its teaching upon the visibility of the Church, Orthodoxy stands far closer to Roman Catholicism than to the Protestant world.” Ware, Orthodox Church, 1982, p. 205

    Bp. Ware is also sufficiently clear on the infallibility of the Church when he writes,

    “The Church is infallible. This again follows from the indissoluble unity between God and His Church. Christ and the Holy Spirit cannot err, and since the Church is Christ’s body, since it is a continued Pentecost, it is therefore infallible.” P. 252.

    Secondly, Ware, rightly notes that while all Christians by virtue of partaking of the spiritual priesthood (as distinguished from the more specific sacramental priesthood) are to be guardians of the faith, this does not imply that all Christians alike are authoritative teachers.

    “The laity are guardians and not teachers: therefore, although they may attend a council and take an active part in the proceedings (as Constantine and other Byzantine Emperors did), yet when the moment comes for the council to make a formal proclamation of the faith, it is the bishops alone who, in virtue of their teaching charisma, take the final decision.” Ware, pp. 255-256.

    This last section is the next paragraph below the one you cited. That doesn’t sound particularly close to a more Protestant outlook.

    The Letter of the Patriarchs, it is quite robust in advocating Apostolic Succession as well as the idea that the Ecumenical Councils are Spirit Inspired and unalterable.

    “The faith and confession we have received is not one to be ashamed of, being taught in the Gospel from the mouth of our LORD, witnessed by the holy Apostles, by the seven sacred Ecumenical Councils, preached throughout the world, witnessed to by its very enemies, who, before they apostatized from orthodoxy to heresies, themselves held this same faith, or at least their fathers and fathers’ fathers thus held it. It is witnessed to by continuous history, as triumphing over all the heresies which have persecuted or now persecute it, as ye see even to this day. The succession of our holy divine fathers and predecessors beginning from the Apostles, and those whom the Apostles appointed their successors, to this day, forming one unbroken chain, and joining hand to hand, keep fast the sacred inclosure of which the door is Christ, in which all the orthodox Flock is fed in the fertile pastures of the mystical Eden, and not in the pathless and rugged wilderness, as his Holiness supposes (p. 7.1.12). Our Church holds the infallible and genuine deposit of the Holy Scriptures, of the Old Testament a true and perfect version, of the New the divine original itself. The rites of the sacred Mysteries, and especially those of the divine Liturgy, are the same glorious and heartquickening rites, handed down from the Apostles.” Sec. 20 (http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/encyc_1848.aspx )

    That said, Bp. Ware has spliced together two seemingly identical trains of thought, which in fact are quite different. The reason why Bp Ware did this was due to the influence of Khomiakov and this requires some explanation. On this very citation, Slavophile intellectuals seized on that section and employed it to buttress their Idealistic theories of history and theology. On this very point Archbishop Methodios of Thyateira and Great Britain notes,

    “It should be noted that the Slavophils and some Roman Catholics have misunderstood this Encyclical, which did not say that the consensus of the faith can correct the errors of the hierarchy.” Anglicanism, Orthodoxy and Catholicism, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1972, p. 118, ftnt. 9.

    Slavophile intellectuals who or whose works were dispersed outside of Russia became influential on some of those Orthodox who fled Soviet persecution. The Soviets deliberately exiled such persons or dispensed such works outside of Russia to weaken the remaining Orthodox and cause strife. In any case, Khomiakov’s outlook while influential outside of Russia on Russian émigré’s was not considered and is not considered to be representative Orthodox Theology. Many of the Slavophiles, like Khomiakov were deeply influenced by German Idealism and hence produced speculative systems of world history driven by vital principles or a “spirit.” Such is the case with Khomiakov as well as the Gnosticizing Soloviev that Catholics like to employ.

    http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2007/02/19/was-soloviev-orthodox/

    http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/against-khomiakov/

    Hence for Khomiakov, the “Spirit” that governs the church erases all hierarchy and reduces to a national spirit moving all peoples to one geopolitical and religious end and entity.

    It is quite true that there are substantive differences between Orthodoxy and Rome, but upon the question of whether the church is infallible, there isn’t any. As for the substantive differences, these differences do not move Orthodoxy closer to Protestantism or really to Rome. Here is why.

    Orthodoxy has a different view of infallibility because it has a different doctrine of God from Rome and Protestantism. Infallibility is primarily exercised through the episcopate under certain conditions, but it is a divine energy capable of being used by laity as well. The Church has marked out those individuals in ecumenical councils, clergy or lay, who used that power in teaching in specific areas infallibly. Because of the doctrine of the divine energies, which neither Rome nor Protestants have, their ecclsiologies are at bottom different from the Orthodox.

    From our point of view, they both fundamentally agree since they both adhere to the notion of the right of private judgment, but just disagree over the members of the set who have that right. For Rome, it is the Pope alone and for Protestants it is each and every Christian who’s conscience regarding doctrinal propositions is bound only by their own judgment (the Pope is bound antithetically by only his own judgment). It is the one or the many in this way since essences are simple and their properties cannot be had except essentially such that either they are all subordinate to one and related intrinsically to that one or they are all equally ultimate but self enclosed and related extrinsically to each other.

    That is, for Rome the Spirit proceeds into the Church from the Father and the Son and since the Pope is the vicar of the Son,the pope is the principle of unity. For Protestants, the schema is the same except that each Christian via the priesthood of all believers is the representative of the Son and so is the principle of unity by which he is united to others by a mutual act of will.

    But for the Orthodox, the divine energy of infallibility is one of many energy that is not reduced to essence or accident such that all of the energies of God (knowledge, will, love, immortality) interpenetrate each other without a kind of metaphysical reduction to a simple essence. Consequently, the fact that the divine energies can be possessed and utilized by any of the saints does not imply a more “Protestant definition of the church.”

  268. James Dean said,

    May 11, 2010 at 1:31 am

    For the record when Perry says “the orthodox reject.” He means Perry and some Eastern Orthodox theologians reject. The Orthodox are by no mean a monolith. Some of the things Perry sometimes claims is rejected by the Orthodox is accepted just as many of their theologians and a considerable number of their Bishops. They might not use the same terminology, as Catholics, but a lot of them, would admit just as much. This disagreement is not necessarily ethnic, it interpenetrates various autonomies.
    Unfortunately they have not way of settling things like this, because they cannot call an ecumenical council, they know there will be none (for them) without the explicit acceptance of such a council by the Bishop of Rome,so in terms of dogma they are stuck in the 8th century. Any question beyond what has been defined by the first 7 councils, is just a matter of opinion.

  269. Bob Suden said,

    May 11, 2010 at 1:32 am

    Ron, as I read Bryan’s, then your, take on “ecclesial deism,” I get the sense that there is some agreement between the two of you, namely, that God is sufficiently involved in the life of the Church that the Church will not, at any time, cease to exist.

    Andrew, as I read Bryan’s, then your honeyed take on “ecclesiastical deification,” if not ecclesiastical idolatry, I get the sense that there is some agreement between the two of you, namely, that if God is insufficiently involved in the life of the Christian, that if the latter is not in communion with and in submission to Rome, he will at some point in time, cease to exist. Could I have possibly erred? Nah, not a chance.

    Yet one further not so brief note as regards the indefectability of the church as posited by the same responsible for coining that specious category/term of “ecclesial deism”; just what pray tell are we to do with the Epistle to the Galatians? Therein we not only see serious error in the Apostolic church and declension from the gospel before the death of the apostles – not after – but also that the same grievous error is accommodated and blessed by no less than Peter, the little papa and first pope himself.

    Hmmm. While the juggleurs and special pleaders prepare their case, I respectfully suggest that Mr. Cross (and Mr. Preslar) might possibly come to know the real answer to the question in the place where Christ says, the worm always turns and the fire never goes out, but it will do them no good there. Best they re-examine their papal presuppositions and repent of them before that happens. The true church can not ultimately defect from the truth as it is in Christ the Word become flesh or the Word as written in Scripture. She may stumble, but she will never fall. Neither can the elect be deceived. That the Roman church is the true church or elect, is another question entirely, however much some people carnally assume it in turning a blind eye to what the Council of Trent says.

    I know, I know, the testimony of the (Roman) church (magisterium) is necessary to identifying the canon of Scripture, which is the ultimate Protestant authority. IOW checkmate.
    Au contraire. As the true child of God knows and WCF 1:V has it, the testimony of the church is one thing, the inward work of the Holy Spirit another. It is the latter that is final.

    On the other hand the roman church at least defecates on any doctrine if it in any way touches or detracts from its vaunted superiority, authority or infallibility, much more those who are guilty of ecclesial deism are really the very individuals which introduced the atrocious term. They suffer from what is known as projection, if not Photiphar’s Wife Syndrome (always capitalize as in Christ’s Mystical Body, it is the hallmark of propaganda) in which you accuse others of what you really are guilty of. (The magisterium presses on as the sole proprietor of the Holy Spirit, regardless that the book in which it says it believes, moreover Christ, tells us that the wind blows where it will and God can raise up the very stones to praise his name. Who are we to believe? The Bible or Rome’s bait and switch routine.)

    Indeed we might say, that Mr. Cross succumbed to a Freudian slip regarding eccl. deism.. Rather, what Mr. Cross and his brethren really suffer from, is a soul sickness, a pathological spiritual psychosis of which only Christ and his Spirit can free them. It is only to be expected that in their spiritual bondage to Rome – for that is what it is – they can only see others outside the church as bound. IOW you are never so sick as when you think yourself well and others sick, who are in fine health. IOW they not only do not know the gospel, but worse that, they think they do.
    May God have mercy on their souls, which are in thrall to Antichrist.

  270. Bryan Cross said,

    May 11, 2010 at 4:11 am

    Ron, (re: #238)

    You may have the last word, if you wish. I have too many other responsibilities requiring my attention, at the present time, to continue the discussion. But in your previous comment you raised a number of important questions/objections, and I wanted at least to offer some thoughts in reply, before bowing out.

    Regarding the dogma of papal infallibility you wrote:

    “If a dogma that was only defined 140 years ago is not a theological innovation, I don’t know what is.”

    In AD 465, the dogma that the Son is homoousious with the Father was “only defined 140 years ago.” Therefore, if any dogma for which it is true that it was “only defined 140 years ago” is a theological innovation, then in AD 465 the dogma that the Son is homoouious with the Father was a theological innovation. But, if any dogma was once a theological innovation, it necessarily still remains a theological innovation. And therefore, if the doctrine that the Son is homoousious with the Father was once an innovation, it remains an innovation. However, the dogma that the Son is homoouious with the Father is not a theological innovation. Therefore (by modus tollens) it is not true that if some dogma was “only defined 140 years ago” that dogma is a theological innovation. And therefore the fact that papal infallibility was “only defined 140 years ago” does not show that it is a theological innovation. Formally defining a dogma is not the same thing as introducing a theological innovation. The Arians of the fourth century after the Council of Nicea were claiming precisely that homoousious was an innovation. That’s why they were trying to remove it, as the Church historian Socrates Scholasticus says, they “used their utmost efforts to expunge the doctrine of homoousion.” Although both the formal definition of the doctrine and the use of the term ‘homoousious’ were recent (in the fourth century), they were not innovations. The bishops were merely formally defining what had always belonged to the deposit of the faith. (It should be noted some eminent bishops prior to Nicaea had used the term ‘homoousios’ in their writings on the relation of the Father and the Son; Origen had used it as well.)

    I never claimed that there was no difference between Orthodox and Catholic doctrines of ecclesial infallibility. I merely pointed out the fact that the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church believe in ecclesial infallibility, which shows that this doctrine is not something that was introduced in the nineteenth century by the Catholic Church. Just to clarify, Catholics also believe that it is not just the magisterium that is infallible; the whole Church is infallible. That is, the whole Church cannot fall into error, though individual persons can. But the unique charism provided to the magisterium of the Church is that by which the whole Church is protected from error.

    You raise the question of how long the Church has believed in ecclesial infallibility. You don’t answer the question directly, but offer a quotation from a letter from St. Augustine to St. Jerome, as evidence that St. Augustine did not know of ecclesial infallibility. On this point, I think you have not rightly represented St. Augustine. For just as in the case of homoousious, the question is not ultimately about whether the word ‘infallible’ is used, but whether the concept is present. For example, Socrates, writing about the time St. Augustine died, writes:

    Sabinus, however, the chief of the heresy of the Macedonians, willfully rejects these authorities [i.e. the bishops assembled at the Council of Nicaea], and calls those who were convened there ignorant and illiterate persons; nay, he almost accuses Eusebius of Cæsarea himself of ignorance: nor does he reflect, that even if those who constituted that synod had been laymen, yet as being illuminated by God, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, they were utterly unable to err from the truth.

    The point of the example is that the belief that the Holy Spirit was protecting the council of Nicaea from error was there at the same time as St. Augustine. St. Vincent of Lerins likewise enjoins that the believer submit to the Church rather than assert his own interpretation of Scripture, writing, “And lest any one, disregarding every one else, should arrogantly claim to be listened to himself alone, himself alone to be believed, the Apostle goes on to say, Did the word of God proceed from you, or did it come to you only?” (Commonitory, 28) And in saying this, St. Vincent wasn’t suggesting that “submission to the Church” meant submission to those who agree with one’s own interpretation of Scripture.

    The doctrine advanced by these figures (i.e. Socrates, St. Vincent) is more akin to that of St. Augustine. Even in the letter you cite (Letter 82), we find St. Augustine later in the letter (in paragraph 24) saying the following:

    However, if you inquire or recall to memory the opinion of our Ambrose, and also of our Cyprian, on the point in question, you will perhaps find that I also have not been without some whose footsteps I follow in that which I have maintained. At the same time, as I have said already, it is to the canonical Scriptures alone that I am bound to yield such implicit subjection as to follow their teaching, without admitting the slightest suspicion that in them any mistake or any statement intended to mislead could find a place. Wherefore, when I look round for a third name that I may oppose three on my side to your three, I might indeed easily find one, I believe, if my reading had been extensive

    Notice that he is talking about three individuals on his side, and three individuals on St. Jerome’s side. So the context suggests that what St. Augustine is comparing to the authority of Scripture is the authority of individual Fathers/bishops. He seems here not to be dealing with the question of the authority of an ecumenical council. That’s perhaps not obvious, just by looking at the quotation, but it is more likely when when considers the fuller context of St. Augustine’s corpus. To gain a better understanding of St. Augustine’s understanding of the authority of councils, it is not enough to select one quotation. We should consider his position as he explains and defends it throughout his works.

    St. Augustine himself, especially in his writing to the Donatists, affirms the authority of ecumenical councils, to which all should submit. This idea can be seen especially in his work On Baptism, as he admonishes the Donatists that they learn from the example of St. Cyprian. Let’s consider some selections from this work. In Book I, St. Augustine writes:

    that I may not seem to rest on mere human arguments—since there is so much obscurity in this question, that in earlier ages of the Church, before the schism of Donatus, it has caused men of great weight, and even our fathers, the bishops, whose hearts were full of charity, so to dispute and doubt among themselves, saving always the peace of the Church, that the several statutes of their Councils in their different districts long varied from each other, till at length the most wholesome opinion was established, to the removal of all doubts, by a plenary Council of the whole world (On Baptism, Bk 1)

    Notice that for St. Augustine, there is a difference in authority between the local councils and an ecumenical council (i.e. “plenary council of the whole world”) which removes all doubts. But it could not remove all doubts unless it were known to be protected from error by the Holy Spirit. In other words, already we see evidence, at least implicit, that St. Augustine believed that ecumenical councils are divinely protected from error. St. Augustine continues:

    And yet, if within the Church different men still held different opinions on the point, without meanwhile violating peace, then till some one clear and simple decree should have been passed by an universal Council, it would have been right for the charity which seeks for unity to throw a veil over the error of human infirmity …. For at that time, before the consent of the whole Church had declared authoritatively, by the decree of a plenary Council, what practice should be followed in this matter, it seemed to him [i.e. St. Cyprian], in common with about eighty of his fellow bishops of the African churches, that every man who had been baptized outside the communion of the Catholic Church should, on joining the Church, be baptized anew. (On Baptism, Bk I)

    Notice that St. Augustine holds that the decree of a plenary Council is “the consent of whole Church,” even though not all Christians were at Nicaea, but only the three hundred (or so) bishops. He likewise refers to the Council as having an authority to declare what all should follow in this matter. This kind of authority implies divine protection from error, for otherwise Christians would be required to believe possible falsehoods.

    St. Augustine continues, in his second book On Baptism:

    Wherefore, if Peter, on doing this, is corrected by his later colleague Paul, and is yet preserved by the bond of peace and unity till he is promoted to martyrdom, how much more readily and constantly should we prefer, either to the authority of a single bishop, or to the Council of a single province, the rule that has been established by the statutes of the universal Church? For this same Cyprian, in urging his view of the question, was still anxious to remain in the unity of peace even with those who differed from him on this point, as is shown by his own opening address at the beginning of the very Council which is quoted by the Donatists

    How much more, says St. Augustine, should we remain in the unity of the Church by preferring over our own interpretation of Scripture (or that of a single bishop or even that of a regional council) the rule that has been established by the statutes of the universal Church in ecumenical council. Here clearly we see that for St. Augustine, the authority of an ecumenical council is far greater than the the authority of a regional council, or a bishop (and, we might add, a fortiori that of a layman). He continues:

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

    Sometimes people take this to mean that St. Augustine thought that an ecumenical council could err. But it is important to note two things. First that for St. Augustine, “plenary council” is not the same thing as ecumenical council; ‘plenary’ always has a ‘with respect to whatness’ that must not be ignored, in order to interpret the term rightly. So, for example, he speaks of a plenary council of Africa. Every ecumenical council is a plenary council, but not every plenary council is an ecumenical council. That’s why he says “often corrected”, even though in his mind there had been only one ecumenical council (i.e. Nicaea, the Council of Constantinople having not yet been recognized as ecumenical.) In addition, the term ‘emendari’ (translated ‘corrected’) does not necessarily imply the righting of an error, but can also mean amend, in the sense of improve or perfect or clarify.

    St. Augustine continues:

    … Nor should we ourselves venture to assert anything of the kind, were we not supported by the unanimous authority of the whole Church, to which he himself [i.e. St. Cyprian] would unquestionably have yielded, if at that time the truth of this question had been placed beyond dispute by the investigation and decree of a plenary Council. … For how could a matter which was involved in such mists of disputation even have been brought to the full illumination and authoritative decision of a plenary Council, had it not first been known to be discussed for some considerable time in the various districts of the world, with many discussions and comparisons of the views of the bishop on every side?

    Notice St. Augustine’s humility. If a doctrine or practice is not supported by the unanimous authority of the whole Church, we should refrain from introducing it, and instead yield to the whole Church. Notice also again that St. Augustine refers to the “full illunination and authority of a plenary Council” (i.e. Nicaea). St. Augustine is not saying that the Council of Nicaea is authoritative just because the bishops there got it right. It is by the authority of this ecumenical Council that we know that their interpretation is right (i.e. orthodox). This reasoning, therefore, implies that an ecumenical council is divinely protected from error.

    St. Augustine even points out that the Donatists affirmed the infallibility of plenary councils, writing:

    Or why, in the case of the recent followers of Maximianus, have they not hesitated to bring forward the judgment delivered with the infallible voice, as they aver, of a plenary Council, in such terms as to compare them with those first schismatics whom the earth swallowed up alive?

    He adds:

    By this witness he [i.e. St. Cyprian] gives sufficient proof how much more ready he would have been to bear his testimony, had any Council been held to discuss this matter which either embraced the whole Church, or at least represented our brethren beyond the sea. But such a Council had not yet been held …. Wherefore let the Donatists consider this one point, which surely none can fail to see, that if the authority of Cyprian is to be followed, it is to be followed rather in maintaining unity than in altering the custom of the Church; but if respect is paid to his Council, it must at any rate yield place to the later Council of the universal Church, of which he rejoiced to be a member, often warning his associates that they should all follow his example in upholding the coherence of the whole body. (On Baptism, Book II)

    St. Augustine again and again exhorts the Donatists to follow the example of St. Cyprian who, in humility, would have submitted to the authority of a plenary council that either “embraced the whole Church, or at least represented our brethren beyond the sea.” St. Augustine argues that if respect ought to be paid to the Council of Carthage at which St. Cyprian presided, this too [i.e. the local Council of Carthage] must “yield place” to a later “Council of the universal Church” in order to uphold the coherence of the whole body. Such an argument as St. Augustine makes here presupposes that the Spirit guards and guides ecumenical councils, for otherwise the ecumenical council would have no more authority than that of a local council or the opinion of any believer.

    In book three he writes:

    Nevertheless, I see what may still be required of me, viz., that I should answer those plausible arguments, by which, in even earlier times, Agrippinus, or Cyprian himself, or those in Africa who agreed with them, or any others in far distant lands beyond the sea, were moved, not indeed by the authority of any plenary or even regionary Council, but by a mere epistolary correspondence, to think that they ought to adopt a custom which had no sanction from the ancient custom of the Church, and which was expressly forbidden by the most unanimous resolution of the Catholic world in order that an error which had begun to creep into the minds of some men, through discussions of this kind, might be cured by the more powerful truth and universal healing power of unity coming on the side of safety.

    Notice again that St. Augustine refers to the authority of any plenary and even regionary Councils. He also refers to a prohibition by the most unanimous resolution of the Catholic world. The prohibition he refers to here is that of re-baptizing those who were baptized (with a Trinitarian baptism) in a heresy or schismatic sect. This is not something taught in Scripture. But this prohibition has the authority of tradition, and St. Cyprian, not knowing that his region had only recently adopted the practice of re-baptizing heretics, had fallen into error on this point, thinking that he was following the ancient tradition, when in actuality the ancient tradition was not to re-baptize heretics.

    St. Augustine continues:

    Cyprian, indeed, says that on this subject not one, but two or more Councils were held; always, however, in Africa. For indeed in one he mentions that seventy-one bishops had been assembled, — to all [these regional councils] whose authority we do not hesitate, with all due deference to Cyprian, to prefer the authority, supported by many more bishops, of the whole Church spread throughout the whole world, of which Cyprian himself rejoiced that he was an inseparable member. (On Baptism III)

    Here St. Augustine again affirms the greater authority of a plenary council, to the authority of which each member of the body of Christ must submit. St. Augustine continues:

    I do not doubt that if he [i.e. St. Cyprian] had had the opportunity of discussing this question, which has been so long and so much disputed in the Church, with the pious and learned men to whom we owe it that subsequently that ancient custom was confirmed by the authority of a plenary Council, he would have shown, without hesitation, not only how learned he was in those things which he had grasped with all the security of truth, but also how ready he was to receive instruction in what he had failed to perceive. …

    In which matter, if an imperfect revelation of the truth was given to Cyprian, that the greatness of his love in not deserting the unity of the Church might be made manifest, there is yet not any reason why any one should venture to claim superiority over the strong defenses and excellence of his virtues, and the abundance of graces which were found in him, merely because, with the instruction derived from the strength of a general Council, he sees something which Cyprian did not see, because the Church had not yet held a plenary Council on the matter. (On Baptism, IV)

    Again, St. Augustine affirms that if St. Cyprian had lived to see the ancient custom (of not re-baptizing heretics) confirmed by the strength and authority of a plenary Council, “without hesitation” he would have submitted to the teaching authority (magisterium) of the Church, rather than deserting the unity of the Church. This only makes sense if the ecumenical council is divinely protected from error. If ecumenical councils were not protected from error, there would be no more reason to submit to them than to submit to one’s local bishop or one’s own opinion.

    In Book VI St. Augustine says:

    Wherefore, while rendering due reverence, and paying, so far as I can, the fitting honor to the peaceful bishop and glorious martyr Cyprian, I yet venture to say that his view concerning the baptism of schismatics and heretics was contrary to that which was afterwards brought to light by a decision, not of mine, but of the whole Church, confirmed and strengthened by the authority of a plenary Council. (On Baptism, Bk VI)

    Here once again, St. Augustine refers to the decision of the plenary council at Nicaea as a decision of “the whole Church,” confirmed by the authority of a plenary council. The decision of an ecumenical council is the decision of the whole Church, and it carries that authority with it.

    St. Augustine continues:

    Eugenius of Ammedera said: “I too pronounce this same judgment, that heretics should be baptized.” To him we answer: But this is not the judgment which the Church pronounces, to which also God has now revealed in a plenary Council the point in which you were then still otherwise minded, but because saving charity was in you, you remained in unity. And so even what Cyprian wrote to Quintus, and what, in conjunction with his colleagues Liberalis, Caldonius, Junius, and the rest, he wrote to Saturninus, Maximus, and others, is all found, on due consideration, to be in no wise meet to be preferred as against the agreement of the whole Catholic Church, of which they rejoiced that they were members, and from which they neither cut themselves away nor allowed others to be cut away who held a contrary opinion, until at length, by the will of the Lord, it was made manifest, by a plenary Council many years afterwards, what was the more perfect way, and that not by the institution of any novelty, but by confirming what was old. (On Baptism, Bk VI)

    Again St. Augustine argues that St. Cyprian valued membership in the Catholic Church far more than preferring his own judgment concerning this question. But St. Cyprian did not have the advantage of the “judgment of the Church” which God has revealed to a plenary Council.

    But the safe course for us is, not to advance with any rashness of judgment in setting forth a view which has neither been started in any regionary Council of the Catholic Church nor established in a plenary one; but to assert, with all the confidence of a voice that cannot be gainsaid, what has been confirmed by the consent of the universal Church, under the direction of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ. (On Baptism VII)

    Here too St. Augustine shows a recognition of the place of the individual (layman or bishop) in relation to the voice of the Church in plenary Council, a “voice that cannot be gainsaid.” The reason we can assert with all the confidence of a voice that cannot be gainsaid what the Church has established in a plenary Council, can only be because such a Council is infallible. Otherwise, we could have no confidence that the verdict of the plenary Council could not be gainsaid.

    St. Augustine elsewhere writes:

    I desire with the Lord’s help to use the necessary measures in our Council, and, if it be necessary, to write to the Apostolic See [i.e. Rome]; that, by a unanimous authoritative decision of all, we may have the course which ought to be followed in these cases determined and established. (Lettter 250)

    Here too St. Augustine shows that he believes in the authority of an ecumenical council (“of all”) to determine and establish (definitively) the course that must be followed for the whole Church.

    In all these statements we see St. Augustine affirming the authority of Church speaking in an ecumenical council, as an authority that supercedes the private interpretation and private judgment of any individual. But such an authority would be impossible without divine protection from error, because every individual is obliged to follow the truth revealed by God. Hence if ecumenical councils were not protected from error they could not have an authority that supercedes that of private interpretation and private judgment. They would be mere suggestions, which we could accept or reject, insofar as we ourselves judged them to be true or false. Without divine protection from error they could not provide definitively established verdicts to which all Christians ought humbly to submit.

    You refer to a quotation from St. Augustine in which he explains that the Holy Spirit has made much of Scripture plain, and that “almost nothing is dug out of those obscure passages which may not be found set forth in the plainest language elsewhere.” Of course that is true. What divides heretics from the orthodox faith is disagreement about probably less than one tenth of one percent of Scripture. But I think you mistakenly assume that St. Augustine is here implying that no magisterium is needed to resolve interpretive disputes. Such a notion was entirely foreign to St. Augustine, who, as a bishop, participated in a number of councils at Hippo and Carthage, and would have participated in the third ecumenical council at Ephesus had he not died the year before. Even in his letter to St. Jerome (the one you cited), he notes that he could appeal to his own authority as a bishop over that of St. Jerome, who was a mere presbyter.

    The principle that plain passages help illuminate the obscure ones is true, but for St. Augustine and the Church Fathers, to take that truth as a justification for casting off the divinely authoritzed shepherds of the Church, is a serious error. St. Athanasius says,

    But this were the venture of heretics rather than of us Christians; for what we do not understand in the sacred oracles, instead of rejecting, we seek from persons to whom the Lord has revealed it, and from them we ask for instruction.” (De Synodis)

    St. Athanasius shows that when Christians do not understand something in Scripture, they do not merely trust in their own judgment, as do the heretics. Instead, says St. Athanasius, Christians turn to those authorized persons to whom Christ has entrusted the revelation and the task of teaching the revelation to the Church. We do not turn to self-annointed or self-appointed prophets, but to those whom Christ, through the Apostles, authorized and equipped, i.e. the bishops.

    The principles of hermeneutics we find explicated by the Fathers were written and spoken within an ecclesial context in which it was understood that the universal Church in ecumenical council could and did speak with a greater authority than that of any individual, in order to resolve such interpretive disputes and put heresies out of the Church. That is why such hermeneutical principles cannot rightly be used to justify not being under the authority of the bishops to whom the Apostles entrusted the tasks of teaching and guiding the Church.

    You suggest that I am,

    illegitimately assuming the standard (but spurious) Roman Catholic distinction between ecclesia docens and ecclesia discens (‘teaching church” and “learning church”).

    Your accusation, however, only indicts all the Church Fathers of being “Roman Catholic.” If the distinction between shepherds and sheep is “Roman Catholic”, then the Church has always been Roman Catholic. Then St. Ignatius of Antioch was Roman Catholic. And so was St. Clement, and St. Polycarp and St. Irenaeus, etc. For there is no Church Father who was neither a Catholic bishop nor submitted to a Catholic bishop. This is why if you wish to quote St. Augustine and the Fathers as credible witnesses to the faith of the early Church, you set yourself up for a deep contradiction. Either you must also embrace their teaching and practice with respect to episcopal and conciliar authority, or, if not, then you have no Church Fathers to whom to appeal, except the authors of the New Testament, until the sixteenth century. And that latter position would be an indisputable example of ecclesial deism.

    Next you claim that Scripture supports a position that seems quite indistinguishable from solo scriptura:

    I think that by questioning the things that are not found in Scripture we are simply fulfilling the command of Scripture to “test everything [and] hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21, ESV; cf. 1 Jn. 4:1), and “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn,” (Isa. 8:20, NASB).

    The problem here is that you assume that the way to “test everything” is by determining whether it matches your own interpretation of Scripture. And you assume that “this word” in Isaiah 8:20 refers only to Scripture. In short, you get out of these verses the very assumptions you bring to them, and these assumptions you are bringing to Scripture are foreign to the faith of the Church Fathers, for whom the final decision in the resolution of interpretive disputes belonged to the Church, not the individual.

    Of course you deny that you are your own interpretive authority; you claim to submit to the Church. But you use your own interpretation of Scripture to define who counts as ‘the Church,’ and so your claim to submit to the Church is a kind of illusion, because these persons have been chosen on the basis of their agreement with your own interpretation of Scripture.

    You claim that “ecclesial deism,” as I have defined it, does not apply to the Church per se, but only to the magisterium. But that is not true. Christ will neither abandon the shepherds He appointed, nor the flock He entrusted to their care. To withdraw His protection and guidance from the shepherds He appointed would be to withdraw His protection and guidance from the flock He entrusted to their care. Christ, however, is the Good Shepherd, and therefore could never treat His sheep in such a manner. If He loves them enough to shed all His blood for them, how much more does He provide the guidance and protection against the snares of the evil one, including those of heresy and schism.

    Also, I should point out that in one place you misunderstood what I said as though I were suggesting that only the magisterium is the Church. That is not what I was saying or implying. The divinely appointed shepherds of the Church are a very important organ in the body of Christ, but they are not the whole body.

    Next you write:

    Once again, your argument is viciously entangled in Roman Catholic assumptions, viz., that the church that Christ established actually has a “magisterium”

    The Church that Christ established indeed has a magisterium — Christ did not leave His Church without shepherds, to whom the flock should submit and obey (Heb 13:17). The Apostles likewise did not leave the Church orphaned upon their deaths. But the serpent has never ceased to urge the members of the flock not to submit to and obey their rightful shepherds, tempting them to turn away from their rightful shepherds and follow their own interpretation, and to set up teachers for themselves, based on their own interpretation of Scripture. Some indeed have gone out from among us, in this very way, deceived by their pride like the first Eve. Every century of Church history records instances of this very thing.

    I had pointed out that you define the Church by determining whoever agrees with your own interpretation of Scripture. You replied:

    And what has the Roman Catholic church done? It has simply substituted the following as the answer to your question: “Whoever sufficiently agrees with our interpretation of Scripture.”

    The difference, however, is that the Catholic Church has the authority to determine what is orthodoxy and heresy, because she received this authority directly from the Apostles and preserves this authority by an broken succession of authorizations. You yourself, on the other hand, (as an individual) have no such authority to set the boundaries of the Church and of orthodoxy or heresy.

    You wrote:

    And, of course, you’re not referring to names like “Thomism,” “Dominican,” or “Franciscan,” are you?

    No, because these orders remain within the Church, subordinate to the magisterium of the Church. They are not in schism from the Church. Within the body there are many diverse expressions of the Church’s spirituality, because God has given manifold gifts to different members. But this diversity remains within the unity of the Church, not in separation from the Church. Schism from the Church should never be confused with diversity within the Church, nor should it be justified in the name of diversity. When I speak of heretics and schismatics taking the name of the person who initiated their heresy or schism, I am saying only what the Fathers say repeatedly. St. Jerome, for example writes:

    We ought to remain in that Church which was founded by the Apostles and continues to this day. If ever you hear of any that are called Christians taking their name not from the Lord Jesus Christ, but from some other, for instance, Marcionites, Valentinians, Men of the mountain or the plain, you may be sure that you have there not the Church of Christ, but the synagogue of Antichrist. For the fact that they took their rise after the foundation of the Church is proof that they are those whose coming the Apostle foretold. And let them not flatter themselves if they think they have Scripture authority for their assertions, since the devil himself quoted Scripture, and the essence of the Scriptures is not the letter, but the meaning. (Dialogue Against the Luciferians)

    Because the essence of Scripture is not the letter but the meaning, it is not enough to have Scripture as support for one’s doctrine, since “all heretics quote Scripture.” These sects were not founded by Christ, but by some men who came later, “after the foundation of the Church.” They appeal to Scripture to justify their separation from the Church. But without the guidance of the divinely appointed shepherds in the Church, these sects fall into heresies of all different sorts, each not realizing, however, that they are in a heresy, but all (though disagreeing with all the others) thinking that it is they alone who have the correct doctrine. St. Vincent of Lerins writes:

    Do heretics also appeal to Scripture? They do indeed, and with a vengeance; for you may see them scamper through every single book of Holy Scripture—through the books of Moses, the books of Kings, the Psalms, the Epistles, the Gospels, the Prophets. Whether among their own people, or among strangers, in private or in public, in speaking or in writing, at convivial meetings, or in the streets, hardly ever do they bring forward anything of their own which they do not endeavour to shelter under words of Scripture. Read the works of Paul of Samosata, of Priscillian, of Eunomius, of Jovinian, and the rest of those pests, and you will see an infinite heap of instances, hardly a single page, which does not bristle with plausible quotations from the New Testament or the Old. (Commonitory)

    The point is that Scripture alone is not sufficient to prevent heresy. The guidance of the Church is necessary. And defining the ‘Church’ as those who agree with one’s own interpretation only hides the problem from oneself, by designating as teachers those who agree with one’s own interpretation. This exacerbates the problem, by giving to oneself the appearance of being within the Church and under her authority, while in actuality being under the ‘authority’ of heretics. The proper course of action is to submit to those shepherds who received the authorization from the incarnate Christ through the succession from the Apostles.

    In response to the quotation from St. Cyril, you wrote:

    And yet you will look in vain in Cyril’s Catechetical Lectures for any trace of a magisterium.

    St. Cyril, being the bishop of Jerusalem, was part of the magisteriuim. He himself participated in the Council of Constantinople before he died about five years later, if I remember correctly. The first ‘trace’ of a magisterium we might notice in the Catechetical Lectures is that their author was a bishop, a successor of the Apostle James the Righteous on the episcopal seat at Jerusalem.

    I had quoted St. Augustine as saying:

    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.

    You replied:

    But if you read this excerpt from Augustine closely you’ll see that all he’s doing is citing the succession of bishops as evidence of the fulfillment of Christ’s promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church.

    The problem with your statement is that unless the succession of bishops carries with it the assurance of infallibility, it is no evidence of the fulfillment of Christ’s promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. If sacramental succession is compatible with apostasy, then pointing to the succession of bishops is in no way evidence that the gates of hell have not prevailed over the Church. If you want to claim that St. Augustine is pointing to the succession of bishops as evidence that the gates of hell have not prevailed over the Church, then allow me to direct your attention to that same succession of bishops continuing down to this very day in the Catholic Church, and thus prove to you by your own statement that the gates of hell have not prevailed against the Catholic Church. If the gates of hell have not prevailed against it, then why are you separated from it? But if the gates of hell have prevailed against it, then St. Augustine was foolish to point to the succession of bishops as evidence of the fulfillment of Christ’s promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church.

    You took issue with my claim that Protestants don’t believe the Church to be essential. I supported my claim with the following evidence: “If there were no one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, but only persons, nothing in Protestant practice would change.” Nothing in your response shows what would change if there were no “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” but only persons. If you wish to read more about this, see my post titled, “Why Protestantism has no visible catholic Church.”

    I had claimed that “Protestant ecclesiology has no way of distinguishing between a schism from the Church and a branch within the Church.” In reply, you wrote:

    And, of course, we would respond that we most certainly do. It’s called the word of God.

    That’s the sort of answer that a fundamentalist might give. But it entirely avoids the question. Anyone can claim the Bible to be on his side, and many do. Protestantism, however, has no principled way of distinguishing between a branch within the Church, and a schism from the Church. The Church Fathers frequently speak about ‘schism from’ the Church as something distinct from heresy and apostasy. But because Protestantism has no such thing as a visible catholic Church (see my link above), and because schism from the Church depends on there being a visible catholic Church, therefore Protestantism cannot make heads or tails of ‘schism from’ the Church. And that’s why for Protestantism there is no principled difference between a ‘branch within’ the Church and a ‘schism from’ the Church.

    There is complete unanimity among historic Protestants that the essentials of the faith include the Trinitarian theology and Christology of the early church councils along with the principles of sola Scriptura, sola gratia, and sola fide.

    The persons who you count as “historic Protestants” are only those who believe “the Trinitarian theology and Christology of the early church councils along with the principles of sola Scriptura, sola gratia, and sola fide.” Thus your attempt at an informative statement amounts to a mere tautology, namely: Those who believe “the Trinitarian theology and Christology of the early church councils along with the principles of sola Scriptura, sola gratia, and sola fide” have complete unanimity about “the Trinitarian theology and Christology of the early church councils along with the principles of sola Scriptura, sola gratia, and sola fide.” The predicate of a tautology is never informative. Nor is it informative that those who are defined by their adherence to a set of doctrines have complete unanimity regarding those doctrines. Those you refer to as “historic Protestants” have no authority to which all other Protestants must submit. So, it remains true that “Since Protestantism has no magisterium, what counts as ‘essential matters’ is ultimately (at least in this life) up to each Protestant to decide.”

    You wrote:

    First of all, we never left it up to every individual decide what is essential.

    Because there is no Protestant magisterium, to which all Protestants must be subject, it is ultimately up to each Protestant to decide what is essential. If a Protestant decides that more or less is essential than what his present congregation believes, he can just leave and start or join a new congregation. It is ultimately up to him to decide what is essential, given the fact that there is no Protestant magisterium to which all Protestants (or all Christians) are to be subject.

    Next you wrote:

    Second, the reason we agree on what is essential is due to the perspicuity of Scripture.

    And that’s why one of the main efforts here (at GB) is to root out and expel FV folks from the PCA, since they [i.e. the FV folks] apparently haven’t learned to read the Bible or retain their intelligence when doing so. If they could read the Bible, they would, of course, agree with your interpretation about the essentials, and of course you wouldn’t be seeking to break fellowship over non-essentials. The doctrine of perspicuity entails that everyone who disagrees with your interpretation regarding what you consider essential, is either illiterate or mentally retarded. And yet it is strange how so many of those same people seem to be able to read so many other books, and even publish articles and books. They seem literate and intelligent and competent in every other area of life, at every other time of the day or night. But by a bizarre quirk of perhaps sinister origin, only when they pick up a Bible do they all instantly become blind or stupid. What’s even more strange is that those others who also believe in perspicuity, but who do not agree with you about the essentials, likewise believe that you (but not themselves) become blind or stupid whenever you pick up a Bible. But which is more likely: that all otherwise competent and intelligent people who do not agree with you about the essentials become blind or stupid the moment they pick up a Bible, or that this doctrine of perspicuity is false? After five hundred years of Protestant divisions and fragmentation over the inability to agree on essentials, what is truly clear is that the doctrine of perspicuity is treated as an unfalsifiable a priori; no additional number of disagreements about essentials is allowed to falsify it.

    You wrote:

    They [the bishops at Trent] picked and chose which beliefs they considered “essential” in direct opposition to the clear testimony of Scripture.

    You don’t know, however, you are right and they were wrong, or whether they, like the bishops at the Council of Nicaea, authoritatively established the authentic interpretation of Scripture, from which your private interpretation of Scripture now mistakenly deviates. You are trusting in your own fallible private interpretation of Scripture to judge the bishops of the ecumenical Council of Trent to be in error. This is precisely, according to St. Augustine, what St. Cyprian would never have done. St. Cyprian would have deferred to the authority of the plenary council, allowing it to show him how to interpret and understand Scripture. St.Augustine said against Faustus the Manichean:

    For to believe what you please, and not to believe what you please, is to believe yourselves, and not the gospel. (Contra Faustum, Bk 17)

    Lastly, you wrote:

    You fail to demonstrate how adding the element of a human magisterium is any more objective in determining what is essential to believe for salvation than a perspicuous Scripture.

    Here’s a selection from an article written by Neal Judisch and myself last year, titled “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.” It explains briefly the important implications of the ontological distinction between persons and books:

    There is an ontological distinction between persons and books. A book contains a monologue with respect to the reader. An author can often anticipate the thoughts and questions that might arise in the mind of the reader. But a book cannot hear the reader’s questions here and now, and answer them. A living person, however, can do so. A living person can engage in genuine dialogue with the reader, whereas a book cannot. Fr. Kimel talks about that here when he quotes Chesterton as saying that though we can put a living person in the dock, we cannot put a book in the dock. In this respect, a person can do what a book cannot; a person can correct global misunderstandings and answer comprehensive interpretive questions. A book by its very nature has a limited intrinsic potency for interpretive self-clarification; a person, on the other hand, by his very nature has, in principle, an unlimited intrinsic potency with respect to interpretive self-clarification. This unlimited potency with respect to interpretive self-clarification ensures that the hermeneutical spiral may reach its end. A book cannot speak more about itself than it does at the moment at which it is completed. A person, by contrast, remains perpetually capable of clarifying further any of his previous speech-acts.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  271. Paige Britton said,

    May 11, 2010 at 6:42 am

    My goodness, if that was “giving Ron the last word,” then I’m going to have to readjust my understanding of the term “blitzkrieg.”

    Here are, to the best of my understanding, the main points that Bryan is driving home. If someone is going to address them, could you do it in parts, for the sake of those trying to follow? These encyclopedia-length posts may be a dandy rhetorical device, but they are not necessarily pedagogically useful.

    1. Augustine et al. certainly believed in a Petrine, Magisterial, infallible (i.e., divinely-protected-from-error) location of orthodoxy and interpretation for the church, although they might not have exactly used these terms.

    2. The doctrine of perspicuity is a crock, because ANYBODY can claim this in support of their private interpretations, implying that anybody that disagrees with them is just plain stupid.

    3. Protestants are a mess because they have turned to “self-anointed or self-appointed prophets” instead of “those authorized persons to whom Christ has entrusted the revelation and the task of teaching the revelation to the Church.”

    4. You can’t name a heresy “heresy” unless there’s a highest court of the church that trumps all of the others and sorts this stuff out infallibly.

    5. Protestants can’t follow the biblical injunction to “test everything” because they by definition do not have the authority to hold the orthodox yardstick up to interpretations and decide which ones are right. (Heck, they can’t even agree on what the orthodox yardstick looks like!)

    6. Protestants don’t believe the Church is essential. Bryan’s challenge: “If there were no one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, but only persons, nothing in Protestant practice would change.”

    7. Protestants claim that they can justify their interpretations by appealing to the words in the Book. But the problem is, they can’t go and ask anybody if they’ve got the right interpretation. Having a lively human interpretive authority around, who can tell you if you’ve got it right or wrong, is the way to go.

    Have at it! Please!

  272. David DeJong said,

    May 11, 2010 at 9:16 am

    On the perspicuity of Scripture:

    Deut 30:
    11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

    Romans 15:4,14
    4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. . . . 14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. (Paul’s not speaking to the magisterium.)

    2 Peter 1
    19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

    There are passages in Scripture that teach Scripture is clearly understood and that Christians are able to instruct each other in the Word. Of course, here there’s a vicious circle: if one is not inclined to accept perspicuity, one might also say these passages are not perspicuous! :)

    The grievous lack of agreement and unity among Protestants is not an argument against perspicuity as such. It is an argument against over-determining the issues that Scripture is supposedly perspicuous on. It never ceases to amaze me (and here I’m with Bryan) that there are those on this blog who think Scripture is sufficiently clear on the relationship between eternal election and covenant membership that discipline is justified in the case of those who happen to agree on the main points, but have a different emphasis.

  273. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 11, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Perry (#265): You’re right. Slip ‘o the mind.

  274. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 11, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Bryan (#270):

    I understand the end-of-semester demands and will pray for your energy and diligence. I’m sorry that you have to bow out when it seemed that we were making progress here.

    Here’s my summary of where we are:

    * We agree that steps (1) – (3) are reasoned properly, understanding this rendering of your argument:

    (1) I =def (for all x)HEA(x) = x

    (2) [(for all x)HEA(x) = x] v [(there is x)(there is y)(HEA(x) = y) & ~(y = x))]

    (3) I v [(there is x)(there is y)(HEA(x) = y) & ~(y = x))]

    * We agree that (4) does not refer to an epistemological ground.

    Beyond this, there are several issues left:

    * What do you mean by “Ontological Ground for Authority”?
    * What justifies restricting possible OGAs to only two … and really, ultimately, one?
    * In particular, why would “correspondence of authority’s teaching to the original intent of the authors of Scripture” not count as an OGA?

    In addition, there are some issues on the horizon.

    * If a person is his own HEA, what is the ontological ground for his authority over himself?
    * Into which category does the Pope fit?
    * What guarantees that there are not others who are in the same position as the Pope?

    Perhaps these can be taken up at a later time.

    Finally, a last thought about your wording. The “for each”es in your argument are tremendously confusing, since that phrase has a specific meaning in logic: “for each” means the same as “for every.” Now that I understand that you mean “there is x : there is y …” I believe I can properly parse your argument; but the original language caused great confusion.

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff Cagle

  275. May 11, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Ron # 238

    Speaking of Reformed teaching, you wrote “the Trinitarian theology and Christology of the early church councils along with the principles of sola Scriptura, sola gratia, and sola fide.”

    I can’t see how that is true. The Reformed accept the Filioque, which is not part of the early church councils on the Trinity. The Reformed reject the idea that the Father alone is autotheos an hence contradict Nicea, among other councils.

    In Christology, in following Calvin, they take the person of Christ (the persona mediatoris) to be *out of* the two natures of Christ (Calvin, Inst 2.14.5) such that the *person* of Christ is both human and divine (WCF 8.2) This contradicts Chalcedon in which the person is the divine person of the Logos and not a human and divine person since the person is not out of, but rather IN the two natures. This is evidenced and claimed as being superior to Chalcedon by Reformed authors like Richard Muller and Bruce McCormack.

    I can’t see how your statement could be true when the Reformed dissent from Nicea and Chalcedon on Trinitarianism and Christology, especially when their dissent sides with positions those councils condemned as heterodox as in the case of Chalcedon.

  276. May 11, 2010 at 11:48 am

    James Dean,

    If I give an argument to show why Bp Ware or some other cleric or theologian is mistaken, then it isn’t an arbitrary aggregation of judgment to myself, especially when I cite other authorities in my church on the point.

    Secondly, given the history of Protestant and Catholic missionary activity, educational influence and imposition that is well known among the Orthodox, it is uncontroversial that various theological texts and sources are not reliable at certain points, as I noted with the Slavophiles. And if an Orthodox cleric or theologian makes a bad argument or represents the Orthodox theological position as weaker than it is, I don’t see why not only am I not open to correct it but also that I am bound by it and am being unrepresentative in rejecting it. You make it sound like a crap shoot. Frankly, coming from someone outside Orthodoxy its hardly persuasive or shows that you are well informed.

    If you wish to make an argument rather than baldly claim that we have not a way of distinguishing which councils are ecumenical then you’ll need to do that. Frankly, I do not know why you get to simply assert your claims without argument.

    I already addressed that objection in part on the link I gave concerning Khomiakov. It is simply false, particularly in the case of the 8th council in the 9th century and the Palamite councils in the 14th century. More to the point, the East took various councils and canons as ecumenical and binding (the Seventh Council when the East affirmed it and Rome dragged it feet much to the dismay of Theodore the Studite or canon 28 of Chalcedon which the East still affirms and Rome rejects) without Roman confirmation at the time. The mere fact that Chalcedon examined and exercised judgment over Leo’s Tome to make sure it was in line with Cyril’s teaching shows that the council was ecumenical and normative all by itself. More to the point, preparation work was done in the 1960’s for the calling of an “ecumenical” council (without Rome) by the Ecumenical Patriarch, which would be odd if your claim were correct. In any case, what I articulated from the 1848 encyclical can just as easily be found in say the 6th Ecumenical Council and no contradicting view of a cleric or modern theologian in Orthodoxy is above such standards.

    If what I wrote is not to be taken as representative of settled Orthodox teaching and I am Orthodox and neither you nor Ron are, so much the more reason not to take what you or he claim as correct or representative. I can’t see how someone using an equivalent introductory text on Calvinism (and cherry picking out of it at that) making claims from it as if it were definitive and the last word would be accepted here, or what would be weaker, dictating without argument what the Reformed believe as being deficient and chaotic.

  277. Jared said,

    May 11, 2010 at 11:50 am

    David,

    The doctrine of the perspicuity of scripture says that scripture is so precisely clear in its teaching that the least competent person will be able to comprehend it correctly, even on his own. Such a concept implies that all of scripture is equally understandable. It is this concept that Bryan is criticizing, and rightfully so. Your scripture references do not describe the essence of perspecuity. To deny perspecuity is not to deny that people can understand or learn from the scripures, or even instruct others as laymen. It means, rather, that the meaning of scripture isn’t always equally clear on every doctrine. This fact, added to the fact that not all people are equally learned, or even equally competent, shows how unreasonable it is to believe one can decipher the correct meaning of divine revelation with the scriptural text alone. The Protestant Reformation teaches us that the scriptures are not even perspicuous concerning the Gospel. It is hard to come by any document that is really, truly, and fully perspicuous. All this isn’t to say that we cannot correctly interpret and understand the Scripture with our power of reason, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, but it means that when there is conflicting interpretations, the scripture alone is not epistemically sufficient to resolve the issue, because it is not fully perspicuous. If it were, then there would be no disagreements, ever.

  278. louis said,

    May 11, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Jared, you have seriously misrepresented the doctrine on the perspicuity of scripture. Talk about straw men.

  279. TurretinFan said,

    May 11, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Jared:

    No. You’ve misstated the Reformed and Scriptural doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture.

    Scripturally:

    Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

    Psalm 119:130 The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.

    William Whitaker (A.D. 1548-1595) defines the Christian doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture this way:

    First, that the scriptures are sufficiently clear to admit of their being read by the people and the unlearned with some fruit and utility. Secondly, that all things necessary to salvation are propounded in plain words in the scriptures. Meanwhile, we concede that there are many obscure places, and that the scriptures need explication; and that, on this account, God’s ministers are to be listened to when they expound the word of God, and the men best skilled in scripture are to be consulted.

    – William Whitaker, Disputations on Holy Scripture, First Controversy, Fourth Question, Chapter I

    The Westminster Confession of Faith similar states:

    VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet 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.

    – Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), Chapter 1, Paragraph 7

    Even Thomas Aquinas acknowledged: “The truth of faith is sufficiently explicit in the teaching of Christ and the apostles.” (Summa Theologica, 2nd part of the 2nd part, Question 1, Article 10, Response to Objection 1)

    -TurretinFan

  280. Sean said,

    May 11, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    “Turretin Fan”

    It might be a good time to aknowledge the difference between material sufficiency and formal sufficiency.

    Catholics can affirm that scripture is materially sufficient and many Catholic theologians have such as John Henry Newman, George Tarvard, Henri de Lubac, Matthias Scheeben, Michael Schmaus, and Joseph Ratzinger.

    One must be careful not to conflate the material sufficiency of scripture with the Reformed view of the ‘perspicuity’ of scripture, which frankly, you do on your blog quite often.

  281. louis said,

    May 11, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Sean, you can beat that hobby horse with TF if you want, but I want it to be clear that the issue of material and formal sufficiency has nothing to do with Jared’s misrepresentations, which TF corrected.

  282. TurretinFan said,

    May 11, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Sean:

    Actually, I’ve demonstrated repeatedly on my blog that the shoe is on the other foot and that is you who cannot keep those categories straight. I don’t see the need to rehash that issue here, especially since it is only tangentially related to the issue of perspicuity that I was addressing.

    -TurretinFan

  283. Sean said,

    May 11, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    OK Turretin Fan.

    We don’t need to re-hash it.

    But for anybody who is interested here and here are two combox threads where this was discussed on your blog.

    I am comfortably leaving arguments I made there stand and thus stand by my contention that you continually conflate ‘formal sufficiency/perspicuity’ and ‘material sufficiency’ and in fact back no effort to distinguish the two.

  284. Jared said,

    May 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    T-fan,

    The Westminster Confession of Faith similar states:

    VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet 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.

    I for the sake of dialogue, I will grant your definition. However, two things should be observed in the above exerpt. First, it pressuposes that the things “necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation” are known themselves. What are these things? Catholics and Protestants disagree on what is “necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation”, so how are we to determine what is and isn’t? We must take a step back. Scripture is not perspicuous as to what these things are, so there is an inevitable cirlce reasoning which must be made, over and over agian, to support this claim, before we can determine the perspicuity of a particular doctrine.
    Second, it says the learned and unlearned “may” attain a sufficient understanding of them. Yet for Protestant polemics, in order for the doctrine of perspicuity of scripture to have any force or use at all, against the Catholic arguments, there must be an element of guarantee that the learned or unlearned “will” attain a sufficient understanding of them. If this guarantee does not exist, then how does the doctrine of perspicuity help the Reformed position? If there is a gurantee that they will, then I don’t know how you escape the confines of the definition I gave perspicuity above.

    In Whitaker’s quote, he says that where obscurities exist, we must have recourse to the ministers of God. But who are these ministers of God? By definition, perspicuity means without obscurity. If, as suggested in Whitaker’s quote, scripture has obscure places, then it follows that not all of scripture is perspicuous. And if not all of scripture is perspicuous, again, then how is it sufficient alone, in settling disputes of doctrine? Something can be obscure, yet remain open to being understood, yet perspicuity means that something has such clarity and explicitness that it cannot be misunderstood but by mental inability.

  285. TurretinFan said,

    May 11, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Jared:

    1) The position that “all things necessary to be known are clearly taught in Scripture” implies the existence of set of necessary things. It does not, however, suggest that the set is a member of itself. Indeed, I’ve never heard anyone assert that knowing the list of necessary things is itself a necessary thing.

    2) “May attain” there means “are able to attain,” not “might attain.”

    3) It’s unclear why you believe we need to guarantee that people will learn.

    4) One identifies ministers of God a variety of ways, which perhaps would get us off onto another topic of discussion.

    5) Yes, the Reformed/Patristic/Scriptural position is that there are more clear parts of Scripture (perspicuous parts that describe things like Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection) and less clear parts of Scripture (like the flying roll prophecy or some parts of Paul’s epistles). That gets me back to my previous point, which is that you aren’t addressing the doctrine of perspicuity, but rather a caricature of it.

    6) The sufficiency of Scripture is not a guarantee that there will never be any unresolved debates between Christian brethren applying the rule of faith, which is the Word of God. I think your perception that it needs to do this, is connected with my comment at (3), where I wonder why you think this should be necessary.

    -TurretinFan

  286. Jared said,

    May 11, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    T-fan,

    Ok, so given everything you say, how does an appeal to the perspicuity of Scripture help a Reformed person argue against the Catholic position?

    I completely realize, even from the biginning, that my definition did not necessarily match the Reformed definition. I was defining it that way because often it is utilized with an implicit force tantamount to the concept as I defined it. So the doctrine of perspicuity means that there are perspicuous parts of scripture, and parts that are not, or less perspicuous parts, but all things necessary to know and believe for salvation are perspicuous. If this is the definition, so what? Catholics can say that there are perspicuous parts and less perspicuous parts, and all parts, especially those that are necessary to know for salvatoin, are able to be understood, albeit there is not guarantee that they will be understood even by the learned. After all that, what is so significant about perspicuity that it is relevant in Protestant polemics against Catholic doctrine?

  287. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 11, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Sean (#280):

    It would be helpful for me to know whether by “formal sufficiency” you mean that Scripture contains enough information to be fully self-interpreting. That seems to be the definition in use; but if so, then formal sufficiency is (a) not the same as perspicuity, and (b) not logically possible.

    Protestants do not believe that all Scriptures are equally clear. There is not enough in Scripture to determine the nature of Paul’s thorn in the flesh; nor of the identity of the man who fled naked from Gethsemane.

    Nor do Protestants believe that all matters touching on salvation are clearly spelled out in Scripture. For example, we cannot determine from Scripture what percentage of children of Christians who die in infancy will be elect.

    Rather, we believe that

    The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture

    and

    [T]hose 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.

    That is to say, if one needs to know it in order to be saved, then one may figure it out by ordinary means from Scripture.

    So the scope of perspicuity is limited to things necessary in order to be saved.

    And the point of perspecuity is to distinguish between ordinary means … that is, good and necessary consequence … and extraordinary means. One does not need special revelation about the text of Scripture simply to get enough information to be saved.

    (One does need a work of the Spirit to believe it, but that’s another issue).

    Put more plainly, the Protestant teaching rejects the Gnostic notion that to be saved, one must have secret revelation.

    This is precisely how Irenaeus argued, saying

    We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith….Against Heresies 3.1

    He then goes on to spell out which Scriptures these are (Matt, Mark, Luke, John). He then says something quite on-point:

    When, however, they [Gnostics] are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. — ibid 3.2.

    We notice carefully the method that Irenaeus criticizes: when the Gnostics are faced with Scriptures, they declare the Scriptures to be ambiguous, and unable to be properly interpreted except by tradition.

    Further down, to be sure, he speaks of tradition as a backstop:

    But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. — ibid.

    There are three errors of the Gnostics:

    (1) Rejecting the Scriptures as incorrect or non-authoritative;
    (2) Rejecting the Scriptures as ambiguous and in need of tradition to interpret; and
    (3) Rejecting apostolic tradition on the grounds that they themselves are wiser and have discovered the unadulterated truth.

    Let us admit all ’round that Catholics avoid the first and third errors. But it is not at all clear that they avoid the second. In fact, the second error sounds very much like the arguments that have been advanced here for magisterial interpretive authority: without the Church tradition, it is argued, one cannot understand Scripture correctly.

    It appears that only “perspecuity” would satisfy Irenaeus.

  288. Jared said,

    May 11, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Jeff,

    It seems that #2 is a problem for the gnostics only because they were appealing to a tradition that was different from the apostolic tradition handed down by the apostles and their successors. Since Catholics don’t appeal to a tradition other than that of the one with Apostolic origin, as coming to us through their successors, then it seems that Catholics escape #2 as well.

  289. Sean said,

    May 11, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Jared.

    I had a response earlier where I fleshed it out but somehow it did not get published.

    I lost it and don’t have time to write it up again, unfortunatley.

    Here is a brief article which discusses the distinction.

  290. Jared said,

    May 11, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Jeff, (continued)

    It appears that either the gnostics were referring to another tradition all together, or they had a false concept of apostolic tradition, and were accusing the orthodox of not understanding it; they seem to have appealed to a self serving phantom tradition.

  291. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 11, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Jared (#285):

    After all that, what is so significant about perspicuity that it is relevant in Protestant polemics against Catholic doctrine?

    I think my 284 might help answer that question. But think about this:

    According to RCC tradition, it is necessary for salvation to believe that

    (1) Mary remained a virgin until she went to heaven, and
    (2) That she was born sinless.

    So we ask, if this is necessary for salvation, then why is it not clearly stated in Scripture? Why did God choose to omit from His word a crucial, salvific dogma that can only be rightly known through a secret oral tradition?

    Even more, why did God provide the Scriptures with the appearance of the opposite? For the Scriptures certainly suggest, if not prove, that Mary married Joseph in the normal way, having “union with her” after Jesus’ birth, and that Jesus had brothers and sisters as a consequence.

    And the Scripture appears to teach that all save One were born under original sin.

    Can we interpret Scriptures differently? Probably, with enough stretching of words and such. But it’s certainly not obvious.

    So we ask then again: since these dogmas are necessary for salvation, why were they hidden?

    That’s the point of perspicuity. The time of the Reformation was a time when Mass was in Latin (not the vulgar tongue), Scriptures were in Latin, communion in both kinds was withheld from the laity, when indulgences were used as currency. The overall complaint of the Reformation, starting in 1517, was that priests at that time had become shepherds who pleased themselves and gathered power unto themselves, rather than shepherding the flock. Over against this, the Reformers taught that Scripture has an objective meaning whose central message can be known by ordinary means. The power of the Word of God stood opposed to the practices of Rome.

    Perspicuity was, and continues to be, a question of power: does the authority of Rome trump the authority of Scripture, or are some parts of Scripture so clear that Rome’s doctrine can be checked against it (as indeed the Bereans checked Paul’s teaching)? There are no alternatives; for if Rome’s doctrine cannot be checked, then the authority of Scripture is not equal to the authority of Rome’s teaching.

  292. Sean said,

    May 11, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Jeff..

    A really quick example of what I am talking about.

    In # 279 Turretin Fan evokes St. Thomas Aquinas in support of his contention that the ‘patristic’ view of scripture and perspicuity is the ‘reformed’ view.

    In this thread on his blog he did the same thing and in fact does this all the time with various church fathers.

    We can look at a quote from Aquinas like the one ‘Turretin Fan’ gave in #279 and say, “Golly, that must be it. Aquinas’ view of scripture was Reformed.” But that would not be true.

    Aquinas says the following:

    Now the formal object of faith is the First Truth, as manifested in Sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Church. Consequently whoever does not adhere, as to an infallible and Divine rule, to the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth manifested in Sacred Scripture, has not the habit of faith, but holds the [other articles] of faith by a mode other than faith. If someone holds in his mind a conclusion without knowing how that conclusion is demonstrated, it is manifest that he does not have scientific knowledge [i.e. knowledge of causes], but merely an opinion about it. So likewise, it is manifest that he who adheres to the teachings of the Church, as to an infallible rule, assents to whatever the Church teaches; otherwise, if, of the things taught by the Church, he holds what he chooses to hold, and rejects what he chooses to reject, he no longer adheres to the teachings of the Church as to an infallible rule, but to his own will. Hence it is evident that a heretic who obstinately disbelieves [even] one article of faith, is not prepared to follow the teaching of the Church in all things (but if he is not obstinate, he is not a heretic but only erring). Therefore it is clear that such a heretic with regard to one article has no faith in the other articles, but only a kind of opinion in accordance with his own will.”
    Summa Theologica II-II Q.5 a.3

    In the Catholic Church, Scripture is something properly known and understood through the Church’s teaching authority guided by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit operates through the Church to cast a supernatural light upon Scripture, so that it may be understood.

    This is St. Thomas Aquinas’ view as well and it pretty obvious if we make an effort to understand Aquinas’ view of the Church as it relates to scripture.

    This is how St. Thomas Aquinas can make statements such as:

    Hence our Lord said to Peter whom he made Sovereign Pontiff (Luke 22:32): “I have prayed for thee,” Peter, “that thy faith fail not, and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.” The reason of this is that there should be but one faith of the whole Church, according to 1 Corinthians 1:10: “That you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you”: and this could not be secured unless any question of faith that may arise be decided by him who presides over the whole Church, so that the whole Church may hold firmly to his decision. Consequently it belongs to the sole authority of the Sovereign Pontiff to publish a new edition of the symbol, as do all other matters which concern the whole Church, such as to convoke a general council and so forth.

    And:

    On the contrary, The universal Church cannot err, since she is governed by the Holy Ghost, Who is the Spirit of truth: for such was Our Lord’s promise to His disciples (Jn. 16:13): “When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will teach you all truth.” Now the symbol is published by the authority of the universal Church. Therefore it contains nothing defective.
    (Summa Theologica, II.II, q. 1, a. 9

    ‘Formal Sufficiency’ by definition says that we do not need the Church to define doctrine as an infallible rule of faith (or at all). Aquinas, and no church father believed as Turretin Fan in the ‘formal sufficiency’ of scripture.

    We can, however, affirm that scripture is materially sufficient.

  293. Jared said,

    May 11, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Jeff,

    The Catholic Church teaches that it is necessary for salvation to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, yet it also teaches that those outside the church, who have never heard the Gospel, can be saved under certain conditions, mysterious to us. In the same way, those doctrines are important and necessary for salvation, but that doesn’t mean that a person who does not believe them because they do not know about them can’t be saved. A protestant can attain salvation without believing in the assumption of Mary. But this doesn’t mean that the doctrine isn’t necessary for salvation. I hope this helps. Maybe someone else can expand on this.

  294. Jared said,

    May 11, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Oh, now I know that T-Fan is Jeff Cagle.

  295. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 11, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Jared,

    I can see why we might want to read Irenaeus as simply criticizing which tradition they’re appealing to, but in fact he does not do this.

    Instead, his criticism is directed against their obfuscation of Scripture.

    The structure of his argument is quite clear.

    I would actually endorse a quote from the article that Sean links to in #288:

    For Irenaeus, on the other hand, tradition and scripture are both quite unproblematic. They stand independently side by side, both absolutely authoritative, both unconditionally true, trustworthy, and convincing. (Tradition and Scripture in the Early Church, 139, as cited by Sean).

    Or put in the terms of our discussion, for Irenaeus, Scripture and tradition are both authoritative and perspicuous.

    We must note, cannot escape the fact, that I’s criticism is leveled against those who treat Scripture as “ambiguous” and “whose truth cannot be extracted without tradition.”

    Second, you say that “Catholics don’t appeal to a tradition other than that of the one with Apostolic origin.”

    But in point of fact, they do. Papal infallibility, for example, has a non-apostolic lineage, culminating in its proclamation at Vatican I. The fact that infallibility is not a part of the original apostolic tradition is simply demonstrated by the fact that the Eastern Church rejects it.

    There are no apostolic age documents to support the idea that infallibility, even in germ form, was a part of apostolic tradition.

    The only reason to believe that infallibility was part of the apostolic tradition is that Rome has pronounced it so. Such a circular argument can’t be convincing, can it?

  296. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 11, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Oh, now I know that T-Fan is Jeff Cagle.

    No, he’s the better-looking one.

  297. Tom Riello said,

    May 11, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    The perspicuity of the Scriptures as it pertains to knowing what one must believe in order to be saved sounds great when arguing against the Catholic but it is not so simple as saying it is a problem between Catholics and Protestants. What of the original reformers? Luther and Lutherans believe that the Scripture is clear that baptism saves and that it is possible for a regenerated man to lose salvation. The Reformed think otherwise and they base this on the clarity of the Scriptures. Both claim the perspicuity of Scripture yet come to such fundamentally different conclusions, not about dating the arrival of anti-Christ, but on salvation.

  298. Jared said,

    May 11, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    We must note, cannot escape the fact, that I’s criticism is leveled against those who treat Scripture as “ambiguous” and “whose truth cannot be extracted without tradition.”

    But the Catholic Church doesn’t teach that someone “cannot” extract truth from the scriptures without tradition. A Catholic can agree with that note. I extracted lots of truth from the scriptures without the Catholic tradition as my aid.

    But in point of fact, they do. Papal infallibility, for example, has a non-apostolic lineage, culminating in its proclamation at Vatican I. The fact that infallibility is not a part of the original apostolic tradition is simply demonstrated by the fact that the Eastern Church rejects it.

    There are no apostolic age documents to support the idea that infallibility, even in germ form, was a part of apostolic tradition.

    Are you talking about Papal infallibility, or infallibility in general? In any case, what you are saying is far fetched.

    The only reason to believe that infallibility was part of the apostolic tradition is that Rome has pronounced it so. Such a circular argument can’t be convincing, can it?

    Jesus’ claims about himself were self authenticating. Should we expect any less from his Church? If the Church is really in fact the infallible, true Church, why wouldn’t it proclaim itself to be so?

  299. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 11, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Sean (#291):

    For my part, I would take a skeptical eye concerning any arguments about the relative weights of authority of tradition and Scripture, prior to the East/West split or even the Reformation.

    That is: I would not agree that the Fathers were sola scripturians; but nor would I agree that the Fathers were “Tradition interprets Scripturists.” I don’t think there’s enough information to say with precision.

    I’m not a church history scholar, so I don’t want to pretend to comprehensive knowledge here. But my impression is that, as with Irenaeus, it is assumed that Scripture and Tradition are univocal. When heresies arise, they are seen to be heresies because they contradict the Scriptures.

    Modalism is clearly wrong … why? Because all three persons of the trinity are present at the baptism of Jesus.

    Docetism is clearly wrong … why? Because the Scriptures teach that Jesus took on flesh to be our sin-offering.

    It is not until later that the question even comes up, “What if tradition and the obvious teaching of Scripture diverge?” or even, “What if the tradition itself diverges?” (as in, the filioque).

    So in my view, pressing the Fathers for a specific relationship between Scripture and Tradition is asking too much. It might be as you say; or it might be that Tradition at that time was simply identical to the perspicuous teaching of Scripture, and the fact of tradition’s existence was supplemental evidence instead of a separate authority.

    What we can say is that

    (1) The Fathers appealed to the Scriptures, not tradition, in their arguments. This is true of Irenaeus; regardless of his formal view of Scripture and Tradition, his method in Against Heresies is to use Scripture.

    (2) They assumed univocality between Scripture and Tradition.

    (3) They give no more than a bare hint of many of the controversial doctrines that divide Protestants and Catholics: Papal infallibility, Marian doctrines, transubstantiation.

    I’ll sign off here, since my original intent was to engage Bryan. I hope that all of us continue to grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus our Savior, so that our faith rests on Him alone for salvation.

  300. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 11, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Post-script: Luther and Lutherans believe that the Scripture is clear that baptism saves and that it is possible for a regenerated man to lose salvation. The Reformed think otherwise and they base this on the clarity of the Scriptures.

    This is a matter touching on salvation, but it is not necessary to be known in order to be saved.

  301. Tom Riello said,

    May 11, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Jeff,

    What if the Lutherans are right that one can, tragically, lose their salvation and the Reformed are wrong? Surely that would be a problem, wouldn’t it?

  302. Jared said,

    May 11, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    JC,

    You mention that it is asking too much to try and figure out the Father’s stance on scripture and tradition. On that note, I think you, or anyone for this matter, are trying to do too much by looking for so much as to find evidence of this, that, and such and such, that you wouldn’t be conviced of anything without it. I think this takes a lot of Joy out of the Christian life. Although I cannot prove what I believe by the historical method, I do think that the Catholic account of this issue, and everything, makes more sense, and therefore I rest my faith on the self authenticating testimony of the Church. Just like I would have to do if I was a Jew during Christ’s ministry. The Catholic account seems more probable to me, just like Christ’s testimony of himself just seems probable. Without ultimately resting our faith in the Church in this way, what is left to rest our faith in, in such a way that it frees us from burdensom grip of our own intillectual weaknesses?

  303. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 11, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Gentlemen: in my sign-off, I may have unintentionally conveyed that y’all are less important than Bryan … it’s not so; I just am not able to maintain the pace with everyone. Please forgive the slight.

  304. Tom Riello said,

    May 11, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Jeff,

    Not at all. I think the situation between the Lutherans and Reformed can be answered by others if they are so inclined.

  305. Reed Here said,

    May 11, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Jared: you’re a mess dude.

  306. Jared said,

    May 11, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Reed,

    No doubt bro.

  307. Reed Here said,

    May 11, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    luv ya no matter what.

  308. Jared said,

    May 11, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Luv you too, man. Luv ya more when you find out you’re a mess, too! ;)

  309. Jared said,

    May 11, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Reed,

    Just so you know, I’m just playing along in good fun; nothing serious. However, I would appreciate it if you kindly explain to me why you believe I’m a mess, really.

  310. jared said,

    May 11, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    I just wanted to make it clear that I have been lurking for a few weeks; I didn’t want anyone confusing the Jared in this thread with me. I have been commenting with a non-capitalized version of my name so I don’t mind keeping that as the distinguishing marker between the two of us until it becomes necessary to do so otherwise.

  311. johnbugay said,

    May 12, 2010 at 12:51 am

    Paige — just by way of a general response to one of your questions about Bryan’s comment:

    1. If you want to put Bryan into context, look at his early church citations and ask, in Howard Baker fashion, “what did that writer know, and when did he know it?”

    Chances are exceptional that that writer used words that the Roman church later “adopted” and “infused with new meaning.” Thus, when Augustine says “the catholic church,” what is it that he understood himself to say?

    Note Bryan’s statement, “In AD 465, the dogma that the Son is homoousious with the Father was ‘only defined 140 years ago.'”

    Somewhere, here, Perry gave a clarification in that the teaching of the Trinity was always present; the only thing that was lacking at the time was the word “homoousion” which described it.

    I’ve also commented at length on this here:

    http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2010/05/nonexistent-early-papacy.html?showComment=1273256336328#c1443491855117295745

    Note that the papacy had to “develop” by rejecting concepts of authority (for the bishop of Rome) that had been defined in three separate councils: Nicea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon.

    Bryan is big on telling people not to reject legitimate church authority, except when it doesn’t agree with current Roman doctrine. He is very much a hypocrite in this. A hypocrite “in the peace of Christ,” but a hypocrite nevertheless.

    Other writers have noticed this trend of how Bryan misuses writings from the church fathers. David King has gone through a lengthy explanation of how Bryan has misused Jerome, here:

    http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2009/11/pastor-king-responds-to-bryan-cross.html

    In fact, Turretinfan has gone to a great deal of trouble to respond to Bryan Cross’s claims on many issues. You may be interested in persuing this:

    http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2010/02/bryan-cross-index-page.html

    Catholics often misuse the early writings. One key example is the misuse of Ignatius to somehow prove that the modern Catholic doctrine of the Lord’s Supper was present in Ignatius. To be true, Ignatius uses the words “body and blood of Christ,” but in large, large measure, he is using them to discuss and analyze what the Docetists are teaching.

    If you have the time, James White has given a very thorough examination of what Ignatius actually said.

    1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7OgLavv-w4&feature=related

    2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMNYuxI7W5w&feature=related

    3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNRNBM50Jbg

    4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gblGyavsC80&NR=1

    5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OdOJeHTrHA&NR=1

    There is probably about 30 minutes of stuff here, but it is very instructive. It’s not the kind of thing you’d hear a Catholic talking about. And as you might imagine, it is more heavily dependent on both text and context.

    This is just one topic of yours. If you want, I’ll be happy to work through each of your questions. Let me know how you fare with this.

  312. James Dean said,

    May 12, 2010 at 1:22 am

    Perry Re: (#276)

    If you wish to make an argument rather than baldly claim that we have not a way of distinguishing which councils are ecumenical then you’ll need to do that. Frankly, I do not know why you get to simply assert your claims without argument.

    I did not say you have no way of distinguishing, which councils are ecumenical. As a matter of fact i explicitly stated that you are bound by the first 7 that you obviously recognize as ecumenical, you just cannot call or particpate in one without the acceptance of the Bishop of Rome.

    I already addressed that objection in part on the link I gave concerning Khomiakov. It is simply false, particularly in the case of the 8th council in the 9th century and the Palamite councils in the 14th century. More to the point, the East took various councils and canons as ecumenical and binding….

    Sorry but council called ecumenical by the Greek authorities in the East is by no means accepted by all Eastern Orthodox as ecumenical or binding in the whole Church. Just because its called ecumenical by the Greeks doesn’t mean its accepted as such by even all of Eastern Orthodoxy, talk less of Rome. It is a minority opinion that you are espousing there.

    More to the point, preparation work was done in the 1960’s for the calling of an “ecumenical” council (without Rome) by the Ecumenical Patriarch, which would be odd if your claim were correct.

    Here is whats odd; “There was talk of the need for a “Great Council” at the “Pre-Synod” Committee meeting at Vatopedi Monastery in 1930, and again at the “First Conference of Orthodox Theologians at Athens in 1936….” <–This in preparation from the “Great Eight Council” (LINK. If as you say there had already been such a council why the need to redo an Eight council when we should be looking at council No. 14 or 15?

  313. James Dean said,

    May 12, 2010 at 1:49 am

    cont. (Re: 276)

    The mere fact that Chalcedon examined and exercised judgment over Leo’s Tome to make sure it was in line with Cyril’s teaching shows that the council was ecumenical and normative all by itself.

    Not sure what you point is here. I’ve seen you do this before on your blog. This is no way detracts from the fact that if the Bishop of Rome did not accept the judgment of this council, it would not be ecumenical.

    You like to play up a passing reference in the minutes of a council – to wit, a benign formality, as if it somehow puts the Pope under the Council.
    Newsflash!, the Catholic bishops at Vatican I and II had to examine whatever letter was sent to them by the Pope, and made sure it was in line with the teaching of previously accepted Ecumenical Councils, previous Binding Papal Statements, & Defined Dogma. But whatever judgments said council pronounced, had to be ratified by the Bishop of Rome, else, its not a Catholic Ecumenical Council.

  314. Reed Here said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:23 am

    Whoa! Two Jared’s. Yes, I got caught in the confusion. My apologies to Jared (maybe you’re not a mess, but being consistent; don’t know you well enough to say.)

  315. Paige Britton said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:57 am

    Tom, #300 –

    I’ll take a shot at this, if I may:

    What if the Lutherans are right that one can, tragically, lose their salvation and the Reformed are wrong? Surely that would be a problem, wouldn’t it?

    1. Because of the way we understand the universe to be set up, we (Reformed or Lutheran) are able to admit that we have been wrong on points of doctrine, if a convincing argument can be made from Scripture that this is so. At our best, we keep listening to counter-arguments, and checking these against our own convictions and understandings of Scripture. If we are being humble and honest, and not just stuck-in-the-mud out of pride, we are potentially correctable.

    2. On the issue that you bring up as an example, the Reformed must, er, “do a Luther,” in that we are conscience-bound by the Word of God to insist that a true believer cannot fall from grace. Yes, this means that we believe we’ve got this matter of doctrine straight, and the Lutherans have missed the boat. This would be a prideful conviction, were it not for (again, at our best) our honesty about our own fallibility, our grief that others do not see the gospel clearly, and our respectful efforts to give a reason for the hope we have.

    3. It would be a problem either way, wouldn’t it? If one side is right, somebody is teaching the wrong doctrine. Aside from the pastoral implications (leading church members to believe something harmful), the significance of the error is in the wrong handling of the Word of truth.

    4. The fact that there are these divisions among Protestants on points of doctrine, where the instruction of believers gets messed up, is not itself an argument for papal infallibility. (IOW, just because it would make things less complicated if the Magisterium could tell us how to interpret the tough stuff doesn’t make Catholic doctrine on this point TRUE.)

    5. As we understand it, we’re to “watch our lives and doctrine closely” — seeking checks and balances in the words of the Scriptures and the thoughtful counsel of brethren steeped in the words of the Scriptures, and then articulating with care the things we believe. The teachers of the church are finally answerable to God for the material with which they build. In the absence of a pope, here we stand & can do no other.

    6. Finally, the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture is a confession of God’s intention, not our ability to “get it right” 100% of the time. By this doctrine we confess that God intends his people to dig, and to help each other dig, in his Word. But there is a parity here among Protestants, even between leaders and followers, in that we are all correctable. For which reason we keep digging.

    pax!
    Paige B.

  316. Ron Henzel said,

    May 12, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Andrew, Bryan, Paige, Perry, et. al.,

    I wish I had more time, but with the closing days of the school year upon me, with all of its hectic end-of-year events, programs, activities, and what-not, it looks as though it may take me a few days to reply to the worthy remarks of everyone who has addressed me here. Responding to Bryan alone will prove a bit of a challenge. I decided to copy his comment (270) into a Word document and print it out. Shrinking the margins down to one-half-inch each, the font size to 11 points, and the line spacing to 90 percent helped a bit in the paper conservation department. Instead of 16 pages, single-spaced, it is now only 10.

  317. May 12, 2010 at 9:16 am

    James Dean,

    The idea that the Orthodox cannot call or participate in an EC without Rome is an assertion on your part. Even Ware and plenty of other Orthodox sources deny such a claim explicitly. Your position assumes that Rome is part of the Church at present, but its not. This is why even recent ecumenical Orthodox statements on Roman primacy assert that Rome would resume its primacy when it returns to the Church. So if you are going to make this claim, then you need to give an argument for it rather than just assert it.

    Even if it were a minority opinion that the 880 council and the palamite councils were ecumenical (which the Patriarchial letter of 1848 says that they are) it wouldn’t follow that they weren’t. What inference is there from, minority view to false view? Second, given that the Patriarchs in the 19t century and continuously prior to that took them to be ecumenical seems to show that this isn’t a minority view. It is at present a minority view, primarily due to motivations of ecumenism with the west. This was the motivation for the EP calling what he prepared for the 8th council. The fact that he called it such doesn’t imply that he was right concerning the numbering. My point was that he took it to be the case as did and do the other patriarchates that the East could have an EC if they so wished.

    If you assert that if Rome had not accepted the judgment of the council it would not be ecumenical, then this is something you will have to defend by argument rather than just keep asserting it. First, in Chalcedon, given that the council took itself to be ecumenical and could judge the pope and that the implicit assumption was that the pope could be heretical, the council could be ecumenical and defrock the Pope. Otherwise it would be impossible for a council to ever condemn a pope as they did with the sitting pope Vigilius and the deceased Honorius.

    Your remarks about Vatican I are anachronistic and you’d need to prove that they were in a sufficiently isomorphic situation operating with the same understanding as those of say the 4th through 6th councils. Good luck with that. Consequently, they amount to noting more than begging the question here.

  318. Reed Here said,

    May 12, 2010 at 10:26 am

    It would be appropriate to note that, practically speaking, the much vaunted advantages of the RCC (e.g., magisterium, infallibity, apostolic succession) has not protected it from the very evidences it’s children use here as evidence against the Protestant Church.

    Schisms, heresies, wolves in sheeps clothing, etc., appear to not respect these boundary lines any more than they do in the Protestant Church.

    I’m particularly struck by the underlying argument that the RCC, with it’s “assurance” of it’s ability to speak “authoritatively”, is a refuge for Protestansts seeking to flee the turmoils of “subjectivity” for “objectivity”. They’ve done nothing of the sort. All they have done is put on a bigger pair of blinders.

  319. Toli said,

    May 12, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Paige,

    6. Finally, the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture is a confession of God’s intention, not our ability to “get it right” 100% of the time. By this doctrine we confess that God intends his people to dig, and to help each other dig, in his Word. But there is a parity here among Protestants, even between leaders and followers, in that we are all correctable. For which reason we keep digging.

    Surely God’s intention for us is to dig for the truth of His Word, but is that all he intends? Does he not also intend for us to know his word and have confidence in its truth? If His only intention for us is to have the privilage and ability to dig for the truth in His Word, this doesn’t guarantee that we will come to all the truth He has intended for us to know. Indeed, not only must He intend that we have the privilage and ability to dig for the truth, but He also must intend that we will actually find and know, and have assurance in all His truth in all the truth he intends us to dig for. Sure, you may say that all things necessary to know for salvation are perspicuous in the scriptures, but the things necessary to know for salvation are not all the things that are important, good, useful, and necessary for life as a Christian and the life of the Church. If this is so, then (at least) to be sure of things pertaining to the Christian life and the life of the Church as a whole, we must have recourse and assistence from something different than the mere Scriptures in order to have certainty in doctrine. Furthermore, although those things necessary to know for salvation are perspicuous in the scriptures (given this is true), since we still have no guarantee that the unlearned, or even the highly learned, will attain to the truth contained in the so called perspicuous revelation, then what Good does that do us? Do we not also need assistence in that which is perspicuous, too? I mean, knowing and having the correct understanding of the Gospel is necessary for salvation, and if all things necessary to know for salvation are perspicuous, and yet Protestants and Catholics cannot agree on what the Gospel is, then it appears in following that the Gospel, the most basic thing necessary to understand for salvation, is not perspicuous. Therefore, it follows that we need the ministers of God to help us understand correctly even the Gospel!

    With that said, if God’s intention is for us to know all the truth that is important for salvation, the life of a Christian, and the life of the Church as a whole, then that we get these things right 100% of the time is VERY important!

  320. Bryan Cross said,

    May 12, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Jeff C (re: #274)

    Why would “correspondence of ecclesial authority’s teaching to the original intent of the authors of Scripture” not count as an ontological ground of authority?

    Considering logical possibility alone, it could. But, because all the original human authors of Scripture have died, we have no [natural] access to their mind except through the very text whose authentic interpretation we seek. That is why “agreement between ecclesial authority’s doctrine and original author’s intent” necessarily reduces to “agreement between ecclesial authority’s doctrine and my best interpretation of Scripture, given what I now know.” And this is why without apostolic succession, the ground of ecclesial ‘authority’ is one’s interpretive agreement with that ecclesial ‘authority.’ Without apostolic succession, there is no other ground for his ‘authority.’

    By contrast, authority handed down from the Apostles through sacramental succession does not have my agreement [that the ecclesial authority has this authority] as its ground, but only as a condition of my properly relating to it. The bishops have this authority from the Apostles whether or not I recognize their authority. When I discover that they are successors of the Apostles, I am thereby enabled to submit to their authority. But my discovery of their apostolic authority is not the ground or basis for their authority; their authority is grounded in the Apostles’ authorization, and the Apostles’ authority is grounded in Christ’s authorization. Nor is my agreement with the bishops’ interpretation of Scripture the ground or basis for their authority; their authority from the Apostles is the reason why my interpretation of Scripture needs to conform to theirs.

    But without apostolic succession, when you pick an ecclesial ‘authority’ on the basis of your own agreement with his interpretation of Scripture, then he can never require you to conform your own interpretation to his. That is because when the ecclesial ‘authority’s’ interpretation differs sufficiently from your own, then the very basis/ground for his ‘authority’ is gone. And so when he tells you to submit to his interpretation, you can tell him to go fly a kite — you will just find another ecclesial ‘authority’ who interprets Scripture as you do, or if necessary start your own congregation/denomination that believes and teaches your own interpretation.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  321. Toli said,

    May 12, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Reed,

    Schisms, heresies, wolves in sheeps clothing, etc., appear to not respect these boundary lines any more than they do in the Protestant Church.

    I’m particularly struck by the underlying argument that the RCC, with it’s “assurance” of it’s ability to speak “authoritatively”, is a refuge for Protestansts seeking to flee the turmoils of “subjectivity” for “objectivity”. They’ve done nothing of the sort. All they have done is put on a bigger pair of blinders.

    I don’t think you understand the Catholic position. The difference between the Catholic Church and Protestant denominations is that in the CC, among all the varying theological ideas and opinions, a faithful Catholic can distinguish what is and isn’t the truth, if they had the will to do it. They can distinguish with uncompromising assurance the wolves from the sheep, schismatics from non-schismatics, and heresy from orthodoxy; all they need to do is learn from Magisterium. In Protestant denominations, on the other hand, among all the varying theological ideas and opinions, do not have the capability to make the same distinctions. The fact that there are Catholics with subjective views dissenting from orthodoxy does not take away from the objectivity of orthodoxy, not does it take away from our ability or our imperative to know it. Those who dissent are just as Protestant as any, in their mindset, albeit they just so happen to sit in a Catholic pew far more often.

  322. Reed Here said,

    May 12, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Toli: I understand your position perfectly fine.

    Your differences between one on the pew of your church and ours are nothing but assertions. All your arguments amount to the same kind of man-rooted positions offered in any religion.

    I get the anxt many former Protestants-now CC pew sitters think they have relieved themselves of. All they’ve bought into in specious biblical argument backed up with questionable historical support. There is no “proof” in your position, and all this talk about y’all having an authority outside yourselves is just blather.

    In point of fact, y’all seem blind to the fact that you parade around with Emperor, admiring each others’ new clothes.

  323. rfwhite said,

    May 12, 2010 at 11:17 am

    320 Bryan Cross: isn’t it the case that appeal to the apostolic authorization of which you speak requires the concomitant of infallibility? If so, is it your contention that all instances of apostolic authorization entail infallibility, or does that entailment apply only to certain instances? If the latter, to which does it apply?

  324. johnbugay said,

    May 12, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Bryan has staked his ground on “Apostolic Succession.”

    For anyone who is interested in a thorough, historical and biblical analysis of Apostolic Succession, check out Jason Engwer’s multi-part analysis, here:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2010/03/apostolic-succession.html

    Topics include:

    Apostolic Succession (Part 1): Introduction
    Apostolic Succession (Part 2): Succession In The Ancient World
    Apostolic Succession (Part 3): Succession In The New Testament
    Apostolic Succession (Part 4): Ignatius, Justin Martyr, And Some Others
    Apostolic Succession (Part 5): Hegesippus
    Apostolic Succession (Part 6): Irenaeus And Rome
    Apostolic Succession (Part 7): Irenaeus And Peter
    Apostolic Succession (Part 8): Irenaeus And Victor
    Apostolic Succession (Part 9): The Reasoning Behind Irenaeus’ Succession
    Apostolic Succession (Part 10): Some Of Irenaeus’ Standards
    Apostolic Succession (Part 11): More Of Irenaeus’ Standards
    Apostolic Succession (Part 12): Irenaeus And Roman Catholicism
    Apostolic Succession (Part 13): Tertullian
    Apostolic Succession (Part 14): Some Other Patristic Sources
    Apostolic Succession (Part 15): The Test Of History

    This is very thorough.

  325. Toli said,

    May 12, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Reed,

    The fact that you cannot enjoy the same parade as us, with us and the Emperor (Christ), is because you are working from a rationalistic paradigm. This is apparent in your insistence for the need of “proof”, as you say. This is essentially no different from the skeptic who does not believe in the ressurection of Christ because there is no proof, or doesn’t believe in God all together, for the same reason. It is a skeptical rationalism which prevents you from seeing and trusting in all the reasonable clues we have of the authenticity of Church’s claims concerning herslef. Such questions cannot be answered by “proof”. The method of induction will be the only thing, more often than not, that you must use, with an eye of openness and love of the truth, that will lead you to the right conclusions. We simply do not have time machines to go back in time and find out for ourselves every thing exactly the way it happened. We must trust God, and to do that involves trusting his word when he said that the Holy Spirit would come, and lead and guide the Church into all truth. Either he left us to ourselves or the Holy Spirit, and if he left us to the Holy Spirit, then he left us to the Church, because it is in the Church where the Holy Spirit is working to guide us into the truth. Thus we may have assurance in His truth, without trusting in ourselves; this is how we lean unto the Lord and acknowledge his way, and not unto our own understanding, so that he can direct our path. He will guide us through his Church.

    P.s. All you’re saying is mere assertions. What with? ;)

  326. Keith Mathison said,

    May 12, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Bryan,

    You wrote (in #320): “The bishops have this authority from the Apostles whether or not I recognize their authority. When I discover that they are successors of the Apostles, I am thereby enabled to submit to their authority.”

    And what do you do when after examining the available evidence, you discover that the bishops of Rome can no longer make any remotely plausible claim to be the successors of the Apostles?

  327. Reed Here said,

    May 12, 2010 at 11:55 am

    No Toli: you are the one working from a rationalistic paradigm, not me. You just choose to ignore your rationalistic presuppositions.

    You claim the Spirit leads you – but this is through the Magisterium.

    We claim the Spirit leads us – through the Bible.

    Your’s is the rationalistic position.

  328. Toli said,

    May 12, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Reed,

    Again, these are mere assertions!

    Explain to me how I am working through a rationalistic paradigm. What are my “rationalistic presuppositions”? Do you really think I’m “choosing to ignore” them, whatever they may be?

    I should clarify. As Catholics, we believe that the Holy Spirit guides us. Protestants believe this, too. However, the difference is that Catholics believe the Spirit guides us through a variety of means: The Scriptures, His Church (i.e. Magisterium), and His Sacraments, and these as one holy tradition. Protestants believe the Spirit guides through the Scriptures, and perhaps some sacraments. The Catholic position, by virtue of the Magisterium, is more sufficient for guidence. This is only reasonable. You, too, have a magisterium. However, the difference is your’s isn’t authorized, nor, therefore, is it infallable. We may not be able to “prove” that the Catholic Magisterium is authorized and infallible, but we can prove that your magisterium is neither authorized nor infallible. So, we at least know where the Holy Spirit isn’t right, at least in the capacity to where we are guided into all truth? Because what good does it do us if the Holy Spirit guides us only through the Scriptures, each man for himself? Bryan has argued quite clearly that any appeal to the scriptures is an appeal to an interpretation of the Scriptures, and since not all interpretations of the Scriptures are true, and since an appeal to the scriptures doesn’t guarantee it’s being a true interpretation, and since the guidence of the Holy Spirit is to lead into all truth, then it follows that any appeal to the scriptures is not an appeal to truth, and since you have no way of being certain that your interpretations are correct, then it follows that you have no certainty that the Holy Spirit is guiding you into “all” truth through the Scriptures, albeit the Holy Spirit may be guiding you into some of it, and even then you wouldn’t be able to distinguish truth that is certain from what appears to only you and some others as truth.

  329. Bryan Cross said,

    May 12, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    rfwhite, (re: #323)

    It is not that each individual bishop is infallible in himself by himself. Individual bishops can fall into heresy. Even regional councils are not infallible. Lumen Gentium teaches:

    Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held. This is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church, whose definitions must be adhered to with the submission of faith.

    In other words when bishops whether scattered around the world or in ecumenical council, are in communion with the successor of Peter and with each other, and are in agreement on one position (in matters of faith and morals) as definitively to be held, they are proclaiming Christ’s doctrine infallibly. The infallibility of the bishops is something they enjoy not when separated from the successor of Peter or from those in communion with him, but only in union with him and those in communion with him.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  330. May 12, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Bryan,

    You claim that the only solution to multiple and competing interpretations of Scripture is apostolic succession. But what is the solution to multiple and competing claims to apostolic succession? Rome, the East, the Anglicans, and the Methodists all claim some real and vital connection to the apostles. How does one sift through all these competing claims?

  331. James Dean said,

    May 12, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    The link seems to have been redirected a couple of hours after i posted it, here is the web archived version if anyone is wondering (LINK)

  332. Reed Here said,

    May 12, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Toli: not mere assertions on my part. For “proof” I offer this whole thread. All the RCC arguments brought forth are rationalistic in that they depend, for their critical support, man-based arguments.

    I recognize you propose to be offering a different “biblical” take than Protestants. Yet the weight of your arguments, and their critical components, rest of rationalistic bassi, not biblical.

    Its not merely a matter of differing biblical interpretations. Y’all propose to have found rest and security from the quest for authority, and deride us as if we’re still lost on this quest. Your authority rests on man, not God.

    The ONLY RULE for faith and practice is founded not on Man but on God. This is His word, which He affirms in the hearts of His children. If you need man to mediate that (essential to the RCC) you deny the sufficieny of Christ and the Spirit’s ministry of Him.

  333. Toli said,

    May 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Reed,

    I need you to define for me your understanding of “rationalism” and “man-based”.

    But we believe your arguments are man-based and not God-based, because you mistakenly believe your interpretations of Scripture correctly and infallibly reflect the mind of Chirst. This is always implicit in your polemics. “We are right, Rome is wrong”, “because we read the Bible”. But we read the Bible, too, albeit the complete version, and our interpretations are right, precisely because they come to us through God’s infallible word illuminated by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we are furthermore certain we have correctly interpreted the Scriptures according to the mind of Christ because the Holy Spirit is at work through the magisterium, Christ’s shepherds, causing them to be infallible under certain conditions, as they teach us the precepts of God. This is precisely the way we have assurance, that we listen to God and not man. Quite the paradox, huh? That in order to listen to God, we must listen to man. Yet, it is not man based, but God-based, because it is God at work in man; it is God coming to us through man; it is God teaching us by man. This is possible through Christ alone, by the power of the Holy Spirit. To deny this is to implicitly deny the incarnation.

  334. Tim Prussic said,

    May 12, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    #333 !!!

  335. rfwhite said,

    May 12, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    328 Bryan Cross: Granted that infallibility is not an attribute that pertains to individuals in and by themselves, do you take it to be an implication of the agreement in texts such as Matt 18.18-20 and Acts 15? Also, until bishops agree, and this bishop finds himself in disagreement with that bishop (or these disagree with those), is the authority of either bishop (or group thereof) the reason why the other’s interpretation of Scripture needs to conform?

  336. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 12, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Bryan (#320):

    Considering logical possibility alone, it could. But, because all the original human authors of Scripture have died, we have no [natural] access to their mind except through the very text whose authentic interpretation we seek. That is why “agreement between ecclesial authority’s doctrine and original author’s intent” necessarily reduces to “agreement between ecclesial authority’s doctrine and my best interpretation of Scripture, given what I now know.”

    OK, so you agree in principle that “agreement between ecclesial authority’s doctrine and original author’s intent” is a logically possible OGA, with two objections.

    (1) We don’t have access to the original authors of Scripture, except
    (2) We do have the documents, whose meaning it is we are trying to discover in the first place.

    Let’s call “agreement between the teaching of the ecclesial authority and the original author’s intent” by the name of Doctrinal Correctness.

    I would argue that Doctrinal Correctness is far more than a “logically possible” ontological ground for authority; it is sefl-evidently the best ontological ground for authority. IF, somehow, we were to know that Bob’s reading of Scripture is correct, we should believe his interpretations over all others. A big IF – but if we’re talking about ontological grounds for authority, then that’s the one we want.

    Concerning the objections: Granted that we don’t have access to the original authors, to ask them questions and determine their true intent.

    Still and all, objection (2) has less force than it appears. For in the end, it is an epistemological and not an ontological objection. In raising (2), you have now shifted ground to the question of “How do we know who is correct?” rather than “What is the proper ground for authority?”

    Someone (such as myself) who holds to Doctrinal Correctness as the proper OGA might use either of the following epistemological procedures.

    First, a DCist might acknowledge that perfection is impossible, but that any authority that teaches doctrine in agreement with the clear, perspicuous portions of Scripture is reasonably authoritative (but not absolutely so).

    This procedure could be enhanced by taking authorities as a whole, and using their combined testimony as a filter.

    In this way, we do not have a epistemological guarantee; but we are aiming for the correct OGA.

    (2) Negatively, a DCist would be able to say that any authority who teaches in contradiction to the plain teaching of the perspicuous parts of Scripture, is highly likely to be wrong.

    If we do in fact shift ground to the epistemological, then the tu quoque arguments come roaring back. For you also do not have access to the long-dead bishops of Rome, to determine whether in fact they taught papal infallibility, or even to determine whether the purported succession of popes in fact occurred. All you have are … other documents, alleging these things; and certain current ecclesial authorities alleging the same (in contradiction to other current ecclesial authorities.

    So your argument is also probabilistic, resting on the assumption that you have correctly read and interpreted the historical record.

  337. Bryan Cross said,

    May 12, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    TF, (re: #254)

    You wrote:

    The consent is distinguishable. The consent of the woman is to have the man as her head. The consent of the man is be her head. That mutuality of consent does not undermine but rather affirms the authority that is grounded on it. In other words, while both consent “to marry” they are consenting to different things.

    The problem with this claim is that if the man consented to have the woman as his head, and she consented to be his head, then it would follow (if authority is grounded in consent) that she would be his head. But, in actuality it is the natural (divinely-established) order that grounds the man’s headship in every marriage, not the woman’s consent to be under his headship or his consent to be her head. Their mutual consent makes possible the manifestation of that order in this particular union, but their consent to be married is not the source of the order, and hence their consent is not the ground of the order. Their consent is a necessary condition for the manifestation of that order in a spousal union.

    The rejection of (or claim that we cannot know) the natural order is a defining tenet of modern philosophy. It is rooted in nominalism (i.e. we can’t know the natures of things), and leads to everything-by-social-contract, because when metaphysics is stripped away, the licit reduces to the consensual. Social contract theory comes out of Hobbes, Locke, and especially Rousseau. It is this view of marriage that makes theoretically possible any consensual union of any number of persons of any sex as constituting a marriage, since what makes the marriage is simply mutual consent — the natural order counts for nothing, because it is either denied or ignored.

    Likewise, the authority in the body of Christ is not grounded in a social contract. Rather, those having authority in the body of Christ have their authority from the Head (i.e. by Christ’s authorization). That’s why the body of Christ is not a democracy. As. St. Paul writes:

    God has appointed in the Church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.

    All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? (1 Cor 12:28-29)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  338. Reed Here said,

    May 12, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Toli: no disrespect, but I’m not wasting my time defining what you and I already understand, or can look up on Wikipedia if we’re not sure :)

    No, y’all are the one’s flaming us saying our’s is purely man-based, rationalism. Y’all are the one’s claiming you have an objective secure authority. This conversation is a repeat of one we’ve had hear before, and it did not start off with us attacking the RCC, but y’all attacking us.

    You guys are lame. Your arguments demonstrate the same weaknesses and strengths as ours. But in your condescending polite arrogant manner, you act as if you’re lecturing school children on their own blindspots. It is all a bunch of blather from y’all.

    The truth is you propose the same as us, that the Spirit will defend the authority which is correct. You proffer a man-mediated authority, and you believe the Bible teaches this. We believe the Bible does not teach that, but quite the contrary. Your position has not more moral authority than ours and it is just arrogance on your part to keep talking like it does.

    Y’all are wasting time at best, and at worst are guilty of spinning disingenuous arguments whose result is nothing more than confusing those not able stick with you. I’m given to writing long posts. You guys make me look like the master of pithiness. You think you will be heard because of your many words?

    I’m calling y’all. You claim to have found the answer, yet yours is simply a variety of the same answer you deride.

    2Ti 2:14-26 expresses my concern for you and the lurkers-readers here. Please read me not as angry, but quite persuaded y’all at best believe your own hype; indeed you’ve lost the ability to recognize hype.

  339. Paige Britton said,

    May 12, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Jeff #334 –

    You wrote First, a DCist might acknowledge that perfection is impossible, but that any authority that teaches doctrine in agreement with the clear, perspicuous portions of Scripture is reasonably authoritative (but not absolutely so).

    I’m hoping that this was just an “oops”: some portions of Scripture are clearer than others, but all of Scripture is perspicuous, right? That is, I am pretty sure it is not a selective doctrine. (It’s easy to slip into the general usage of the word, where “perspicuous” means “obvious” (which is usually how Catholic critics understand us to be using the term, I think).)

  340. Toli said,

    May 12, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Jeff,

    If your word “perspicuous” means something other than what it commonly means, or how it is commonly used, don’t you think it is important to either:
    a) Find a new word; or
    b) develop a more precise definition.

    How do you use “perspicuous”? Why can’t a person just look up in the dictionary what “perspicuous” means, according to you?

  341. TurretinFan said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Paige Britton:

    No, the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture does not state that all of Scripture is perspicuous.

    -TurretinFan

  342. Paige Britton said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Toli,
    Hi, it isn’t Jeff’s word — but like some other words, it’s been appropriated by theologians to stand for something. If you look it up in the dictionary you’re not going to get the technical definition, and instead you’re going to get the idea that we think the doctrines contained in Scripture are all of them obvious, like gold coins dropped on a path.

    I tried to express earlier that the technical definition we’re using is more about God’s intention for the text — that it be read by ordinary people, assisted by other ordinary people — than it is about easy pickings. And yes, in reply to your earlier objection, I do think that God intends both that we dig and that we uncover treasure — see Prov. 2:4-5. Our expectation, however, is that we will continue to learn, and will sometimes get things wrong and need correction. We don’t get to claim infallibility (although I freely admit many Protestants act like we do!).

    pax,
    Paige B.

  343. Paige Britton said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    TF –
    Really? Hmmm… Gimme a reference. I know it doesn’t state that all of Scripture is CLEAR or OBVIOUS, but I didn’t think it was “the doctrine of the perspicuity of SOME of Scripture.” I believe there’s a general sense of “accessible” meant there. I’ll go dig.
    PB

  344. TurretinFan said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    PB:

    WCF 1:7

    All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet 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.

    -TurretinFan

  345. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Toli: I am using the standard definition of perspicuous: “clear”, “of transparent meaning.”

    I am applying that definition to Scripture in this manner:

    All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet 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.

    I don’t understand the problem?

  346. Toli said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Paige,

    So your concept of “perspicuity” is that the Scriptures are constituted with words, phrases, sentences, ideas, and concepts that have the quality of being studies and understood by capable humans, and these capable humans include both the learned and unlearned? Is this a good rendering?

  347. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Bryan (#335):

    You draw out a surprisingly large number of implications from TF’s statement, and it’s not clear at all that they are warranted. I don’t think for an instant that TF believes that there is not a natural-order relationship between men and women. His point was simply that consent is a necessary ground for marriage.

    That is: The ontological ground for marriage is the natural order between men and women, combined with the consent of one man to be the head of one woman, and reciprocally.

    Both components are necessary; both are “facts of the matter” that are ontological; any resemblance to social contract theory is purely coincidental.

    If you want distinguish genus of the two grounds and say that the natural order of things is “ontological” and consent is “something elseical”, that’s fine — but exploding TF’s statement into a full-blown basis for social contract marriage is awfully ambitious.

    It would help if you would supply a definition for “ontological ground.”

  348. Paige Britton said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Hey, guys, there really is a difference between Protestant technical usage and dictionary usage of “perspicuity.” If you go with what is intended by the WCF paragraph there, then you are using it as a synonym for “clear,” which is dictionary usage. That is all Jeff meant, so okay. But look, it really is the name for a Protestant doctrine that talks about an inherent quality of ALL of Scripture. Here are two quick references along those lines:

    “God has given his people a word they can understand. Thus Protestantism has maintained the perspicuity of the Bible against Rome’s dependence on church tradition and her denial of the right of every Christian to interpret Scripture for himself.” (Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms, 407)

    “A second property of Scripture is its clarity, sometimes also referred to as transparency or perspicuity…The church of the Reformation maintains that Scripture is clear…Like the Reformers, we are conscious of the fact that not everything in the Bible is immediately clear…The clarity of Scripture does not mean that everyone finds it equally transparent.” (van Genderen & Velema, Concise Reformed Dogmatics, p.96-101)

    So Toli – no, not exactly: you are paraphrasing the Westminster paragraph the others just quoted. That talked about how SOME of Scripture is clearer than other parts, and the clearer parts are needed to help us understand the more obscure things. The doctrine of perspicuity in its technical sense refers to God’s intention for us to read the text, not how easy it is to read it.

  349. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Paige (#341):

    I would say that not all of Scripture is transparent and clear. Not a person on earth can say with confidence who the “man of lawlessness” is in 2 Thess; nor do we have a clear referent for Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.”

    Perspicuity is only guaranteed for (but not limited to) those things necessary for salvation.

    That said, I don’t have a pessimistic view of exegesis. I think we can arrive at reasonably accurate interpretations of most of Scripture. It’s just that we’re talking here about guarantees of perspicuity.

    To balance the seeming pessimism, we also have

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

    which certainly suggests that a much larger body of Scripture can be reasonably interpreted.

  350. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    I would interpret Cairns and van Genderen to be speaking in generalities, rather than speaking of a property of Scripture that is different from clarity.

  351. May 12, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    As to perspecuity, is the Confessional doctrine of the Filioque necessary to salvation? (is it heresy to deny it or just an error of sorts?

    Is it perspicuously taught in Scripture?

  352. Toli said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Paige,

    It is not clear how this is incompatable with Catholic doctrine. Catholics have a right to read and interpret scripture for themselves, and they indeed do have the capability to understand it. But, along with the liberty to interpret the scriptures privately, one also must accept the right to be wrong and, subsequently, corrected by a higher master than oneself. The point is, perspicuity doesn’t solve the interpretive problem, not to mention the other side of the coin, in which we must also consider the capability of the interpreter to interpret.the perspicuous text.

  353. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Perry (#349): For your sake, I would hope not.

  354. Paige Britton said,

    May 12, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Jeff –

    The doctrine of perspicuity doesn’t deny that there are unsolvable mysteries in there. It is a confession about intelligibility as an inherent quality of the Scriptures, so that a mediator is not needed. (Think Reformation.) The problem is that the synonyms for “perspicuity” – clarity and transparency – likewise can be used in their dictionary or their technical sense. In the quotes above, they were used in the technical sense. The authors were not just using them casually.

    Toli-
    As I just remarked, the difference had to do with whether there was an earthly higher authority needed or not, in the Catholic sense. BIG difference between Catholics reading and Protestants reading. And yeah, there’s capability issues there, and experience issues, but in the Protestant scheme we’re all on the same level, regardless of experience/education/natural ability.

    Perry-
    Whether the Filioque is perspicuously (dictionary definition) taught in Scripture or not (I don’t know), Scripture is perspicuous (technical definition).

  355. Toli said,

    May 12, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Paige,

    Yes, that is a BIG difference, but how does the doctrine of perspicuity escape the interpretation problem? The interpretive problem is incompatible with Christ’s promise in in Jn.16:13. They cannot co-exist.

  356. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 12, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    It is not clear how this is incompatable with Catholic doctrine. Catholics have a right to read and interpret scripture for themselves, and they indeed do have the capability to understand it.

    The difference is that Rome asserts the authority to define doctrines, not proved by good and necessary inference from Scripture, that she claims are necessary (or practically necessary) for salvation.

    I’ve mentioned earlier Papal Infallibility and various Marian doctrines. We could add views on sacraments and justification. The issue with these doctrines is not so much that Rome believes them to be true. It is rather that Rome declares anyone denying them to be subject to excommunication.

    So where the Scripture teaches, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved” (and re-affirms this teach in multiple places), Rome teaches that belief in the Lord Jesus is but the initial step in being saved, and that many other beliefs and practices are also necessary for being saved.

    The early creeds make sense in terms of defining the Jesus in whom we are to believe and be saved. They can reasonably be subsumed under the umbrella of “believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.” But the later anathemas of the RCC do not fall under this umbrella; instead, they make necessary for salvation beliefs about things like marriage:

    CANON VlI.-If any one saith, that the Church has erred, in that she hath taught, and doth teach, in accordance with the evangelical and apostolical doctrine, that the bond of matrimony cannot be dissolved on account of the adultery of one of the married parties; and that both, or even the innocent one who gave not occasion to the adultery, cannot contract another marriage, during the life-time of the other; and, that he is guilty of adultery, who, having put away the adulteress, shall take another wife, as also she, who, having put away the adulterer, shall take another husband; let him be anathema.

    CANON VIII.-If any one saith, that the Church errs, in that she declares that, for many causes, a separation may take place between husband and wife, in regard of bed, or in regard of cohabitation, for a determinate or for an indeterminate period; let him be anathema.

    CANON IX.-If any one saith, that clerics constituted in sacred orders, or Regulars, who have solemnly professed chastity, are able to contract marriage, and that being contracted it is valid, notwithstanding the ecclesiastical law, or vow; and that the contrary is no thing else than to condemn marriage; and, that all who do not feel that they have the gift of chastity, even though they have made a vow thereof, may contract marriage; let him be anathema: seeing that God refuses not that gift to those who ask for it rightly, neither does He suffer us to be tempted above that which we are able.

    CANON X.-If any one saith, that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema.

    CANON XI.-If any one saith, that the prohibition of the solemnization of marriages at certain times of the year, is a tyrannical superstition, derived from the superstition of the heathen; or, condemn the benedictions and other ceremonies which the Church makes use of therein; let him be anathema.

    Ah, you say, but an anathema was not an automatic sentence to perdition. No — but nevertheless, it was grounds for such a sentence. Thus, each of the canons above defines a doctrine necessary for salvation.

    Some of which are self-evidently in flat contradiction to Scripture; none of which are obvious in Scripture.

  357. Paige Britton said,

    May 12, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Toli #353 –
    By “the interpretation problem” do you mean, How do Protestants get corrected when they’re wrong?

    Well, they go to the teaching of the apostles (not their successors), whom the Spirit led into all truth so they could put it in the Bible so we could read it…

    And the confession of perspicuity (technical sense, again) means that such writings are intelligible enough to correct our misunderstandings without appeal to a higher authority (whether or not we must appeal to someone with more experience or skill to understand the writing, and whether or not we make a lot of mistakes in our understanding as we are growing up in our knowledge of the truth).

    No, it’s not as neat a system as appealing to an infallible magisterium. But systematic neatness does not necessarily entail either authority or truth.

  358. Toli said,

    May 12, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Jeff,

    These canons, with their anathemas, are prescriptive texts, and not descriptive. These are guidelines, therefore, for the Church to follow on the occasion that one or more of her members are trespassing these precepts. There is nothing morally or theologically wrong with these precepts, either, so what is the problem? By divine rite, the Church has the authority to bind and loose on matters of faith and morals. This is essentially what is happening here. Do you object to binding and loosing?

  359. Toli said,

    May 12, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Paige,

    Yes, I mean when Protestants get things wrong, how are they corrected and set on the right path? As I mentioned above, this problem is incompatible with Jn.16:13., yet is unavoidable, even with what you state here:

    Well, they go to the teaching of the apostles (not their successors), whom the Spirit led into all truth so they could put it in the Bible so we could read it…

    It is precisely the written documents of the Apostles which present the problem in the first place. So this is just a big circle.

  360. May 12, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Jeff Cagle,

    That is a two way street given that no small lnumber of Protestant exegetes it is an extrabiblical doctrine and can’t be justified by Scripture alone. If it can’t be and the Reformed profess a denial of it to be heresy and condemn others who deny it (as they did with the Orthodox for centuries) then it seems the shoe is on the other foot.

    2nd. if the creedal doctrines about Christ can be subsumed under the biblical material concerning the identity of Jesus and faith in him, then I would think this would include Chalcedonian Christology. But as I noted previously, the Reformed dissent from the key point against Nestorianism in that definition, asserting rather that Jesus is a divine *and human* person. (WCF 8.2)

    In which case, the Reformed fall under anathemas concerning Christology from Chalcedon and by extension Scripture for holding to a false Christ.

    I’d appreciate your thoughts on this.

  361. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 12, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    There is nothing theologically or morally wrong with saying that marriage cannot be dissolved on account of adultery of one of the parties?

    Hm.

    But in any event, my point stands: if ~X is grounds for excluding one from salvation (which was the meaning of anathema when these things were written), it follows that X is necessary for salvation. So it’s not a matter of “binding” a doctrine in the sense of saying “it’s true.” It’s a much higher standard: disbelieve this doctrine and be in danger of Hell itself.

    Do I object to binding and loosing?

    I certainly do not object to legitimate exercise of discipline; but there is also an illegitimate exercise of exercise, taking to man what belongs to God alone. Prescriptive anathemas fall under that category (descriptive would be far better). Teaching the teachings of men as if it were the word of God falls under that category.

    Jesus criticized the Pharisees for these practices.

    And of course, the problem is Rome claims the authority for this binding and loosing — but no-one else in the world agrees with them. What is the epistemological basis for this claim?

    It rests on one of two grounds:

    (1) a probabilistic argument from church history and the text of Scripture, or
    (2) acceptance of Rome’s testimony about herself.

    The first argument depends heavily on which evidence one finds persuasive; the second argument is, pure and simple, a logical fallacy.

  362. May 12, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Paige #352,

    What does the WCF say about it? Yea or nay?

  363. Paige Britton said,

    May 12, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Well, Toli, there’s the point of disagreement, I guess. We say the words were meant to be read and pondered and understood by ordinary believers (as opposed to ordinary believers via a Magisterium), not perfectly but sufficiently, because God intended to communicate to us and he had his thoughts written down for us. It’s intentional communication, like this note to you, only more so.

    Really it all comes back to the question of who’s in charge. If the claims to papal authority and infallibility are correct, then there is no need for a perspicuous Scripture — we lean on the teachings of the church.

    But if those claims are false, which is what we children of the Reformation (and those who have joined us from the Catholic church and the world) are assuming, then we’re on the right track as far as looking for authority. We look to the written communication of God and labor to understand it, in the company of others and with the help of the Spirit. What else can we do? That’s what we believe we’ve been given, in order to know God and his ways.

    Again, it’s not a question of whose interpretive system is better, ours or yours. It’s a question of whether the Catholic claims to apostolic succession + papal infallibility can be shown to be true.

    ——-

    (I must bow out now for tonight, but thanks all for lively exchanges, especially about perspicuity! :)

  364. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 12, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    Perry #358: My understanding is that as of 2003, EO and RC no longer anathematize one another over the filioque, so why raise it here?

    But the larger point is that Protestant “anathemas” are descriptive, not prescriptive. By having the filioque in the Confession, the Puritans were not saying that they had the infallible ability to remove non-filioquians from the company of the faithful. Rather, they were making a declaration about objective truth.

    Whether this truth is absolutely necessary to be saved is not defined therein, so that the filioque does not function in Protestant theology in the same way as in either RCC or EO theology.

    I’m not trying to be evasive here, but to point out that Protestants do not view themselves as having declarative ability to place individuals outside a state of grace; merely out of the visible company of the faithful.

  365. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 12, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    Perry, as to Chalcedon: you’re the first person of any stripe to suggest to me that Calvin was not a Chalcedonian. You may be right; but I’ve not heard of this before, and it would require further study on my part to have any thoughts whatsoever. I’ve always thought of myself as a Chalcedonian.

  366. Paige Britton said,

    May 12, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Perry –
    WCF has the filioque (2.3).
    I’m guessing that it is enough suggested in Scripture that it found its way in there (i.e., I don’t think it was just grandfathered in from the doctored Nicene). But I don’t know a thing about the history of that phrase in the WCF. I don’t know if it was polemical (against the EO), or if it was just included because everybody was used to the idea by that time in the West. If I didn’t know a little church history (verrrry little!!!) I wouldn’t have noticed it. I have never heard of a candidate objecting to it at his ordination, and don’t know if his salvation would be questioned by the Reformed if he did.

    If you know more about the history of the phrase in the WCF, I’d be interested to hear it. But I’m ill-equipped to debate about Christology with you.

    Good night!
    pb

  367. Reed Here said,

    May 12, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    So I see a pattern here Toli. I threw out some similar challenges to Bryan. He simply ignored me and stopped talking to me.

    Are you doing the same?

    I see another pattern: Jeff threw out some challenges regardin contradictions between what the Magisterium anathematizes and what the Scripture teaches. You seemed to miss or ignore this pretty big point.

    What about it, what do we do with the obvious contradictions, perspicuously obvious contradictions that Jeff mentioned?

  368. Toli said,

    May 12, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Jeff (re. 359),

    There is nothing theologically or morally wrong with saying that marriage cannot be dissolved on account of adultery of one of the parties?

    No there isn’t. If you would like to explain why you think it is wrong, then I am willing to hear it.

    But in any event, my point stands: if ~X is grounds for excluding one from salvation (which was the meaning of anathema when these things were written), it follows that X is necessary for salvation. So it’s not a matter of “binding” a doctrine in the sense of saying “it’s true.” It’s a much higher standard: disbelieve this doctrine and be in danger of Hell itself.

    I don’t know if those symbols are best to use in order to express your argument here. I’m a little confused regarding those. What I think you are saying is that if X is an article of faith, required to be believed by all Catholics, then to have ~X, that is, to disbelieve X, resulting in anathema, which means to be in danger of hell, then it follows that believing X is necessary for salvation. Well, this is all quite true, and acurate reasoning. First of all, we are always in danger of hell, but being placed under anathema places us in the danger of hell in a peculiar way. Anathema is excommunication from the body of Christ for the purpose of ammendment. This excommunication from the body places one under the sure chastisement of the Lord, and to die in this state (provided one has not at least internally repented) is to perish eternally. In this sense one is in danger of hell, but being under anathema doesn’t mean one is automatically accursed forever, at least in the way it is used in the canons. Furthermore, all thigs taught by the magisterium as articles of faith are necessary for salvation, but “necessary” in this sense does not mean that one who doesnt’ believe it, due to reasons of ignorance, for example, is condemned. It is not like other forms of necessity, in which a doctrine may be essentially necessary, like the necessity of believing that God exists, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. (In other words, to know God as merciful Heb. 11:6) It can be said that the former sense of necessity is accidental, and the later is essential. Thus, although the Gospel of Jesus Christ is necessary unto salvation, one may nevertheless attain salvation without believing it out of ignorance, albeit they must at least believe God is merciful, and approach him on that basis–and this may be believed via more primordial forms of the promise (this is sufficient for salvation, and essentially necessary). There is a heirarchy of standards into which you and I fall differently, because I’m Catholic and you’re Protestant, and where a person is on that heirarchical grid determines what is necessary for salvation.
    I hope that makes sense.

    Do I object to binding and loosing?
    I certainly do not object to legitimate exercise of discipline; but there is also an illegitimate exercise of exercise, taking to man what belongs to God alone. Prescriptive anathemas fall under that category (descriptive would be far better). Teaching the teachings of men as if it were the word of God falls under that category.

    Yes there is an illigitimate exercise of discipline. It involves excommunicating someone when one does not have the authorization to do it. That is, when a person who really does not have the keys to the Kingdom, and yet thinks he does, presumes to act as if he did. Protestantism falls under this category.

    And of course, the problem is Rome claims the authority for this binding and loosing — but no-one else in the world agrees with them.

    Of course, because if they did they would be Rome. Besides, Rome is the world. :-p

    What is the epistemological basis for this claim?

    It rests on one of two grounds:

    (1) a probabilistic argument from church history and the text of Scripture, or
    (2) acceptance of Rome’s testimony about herself.

    The first argument depends heavily on which evidence one finds persuasive; the second argument is, pure and simple, a logical fallacy.

    Epistemologically, the basis for it can only be #1, with those options. #2 is a logical blunder. This is similar to the blunder many Reformed don’t recognize they make when they consign to themselves a particular church as their authority just because that church agrees with their interpretation of Scripture.

  369. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 12, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    But see, they aren’t perspicuously obvious contradictions, Reed!

    Jesus says that if “anyone divorces his wife, except for the cause of adultery, he causes her to commit adultery.” But we know from oral tradition first written down in the 6th century and confirmed by the 20th council of Grenoble that “except for” in the original Greek was translated from the original Syriac to mean “even in”, so that the Scripture actually means the opposite of what it says in English. So actually, even divorce in the case of adultery isn’t a valid divorce either.

    And of course I’m being outrageous. But here’s the point: even if Rome adopted this outrageous argument, no-one would be able to say “boo” about it.

    And that’s where I have to part with the RC folk here who have said that they are able to read the Scripture and interpret it. Any given reading has the potential to be overturned by the magisterium. So a Christian reading the Scriptures cannot at any point say, “Ah, this is what it means”, unless he first checks with his authority to make sure that he hasn’t accidentally contradicted magisterial teaching. Any passage of Scripture whatsoever is a potential landmine.

    I’m criticizing the system here, not the individuals within the system. jared (not Jared) views the system as a way of listening to God instead of man, and bless him for his heart in the matter. But the system is all about the word of man taking precedence over the word of God.

  370. Toli said,

    May 12, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Reed,

    I ignored your response becuase it was just silly. I figured you were not open to dialogue, and were just venting. You didn’t address any of my arguments. If there is somthing in particular you want me or someone to answer, go ahead and present it.

  371. Toli said,

    May 12, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    Paige (re.361)

    Really it all comes back to the question of who’s in charge. If the claims to papal authority and infallibility are correct, then there is no need for a perspicuous Scripture — we lean on the teachings of the church.

    This is false, the authority and infallibility of the magisterium does not take away from a perspicuous scripture, rather it compliments a perspicuous scripture. Both are necessary and complimentary.

    Again, it’s not a question of whose interpretive system is better, ours or yours. It’s a question of whether the Catholic claims to apostolic succession + papal infallibility can be shown to be true.

    This depends on what you mean by “shown to be true”. If you mean what Reed means by “proving” then no. That is rationalism. That is, you are taking historical claims and construing them in such a way that in order for them to be believed as true they must be proven. But this isn’t how things work. These things have been traditionally accepted, and in order for them to reasonably not be accepted as true, one must “prove” that they are not. This is why the burden of proof is always on the Protestants in Catholic/Protestant dialogue, yet you guys often try to turn it around!! We don’t have to prove anything, although you may want proof. But even if the Catholic claims were indeed true, and you were seeking the kind of “proof” you and Reed want, well, you will never come to the truth, and wander aimlessly seeking and never finding, and always skeptically disbelieving.

  372. Toli said,

    May 12, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Jeff,

    If it’s the Jared from earlier in this thread talking about perspicuity, I think it is “Jared” (not jared). I don’t know enough about the other jared as far as I can tell from this thread.

  373. May 13, 2010 at 12:19 am

    Jeff Cagle,

    I am not sure why you’d think that 2003 was significant in that regard. The recommendations of joint ecumenical and theological commissions are not binding on either side.

    If Protestant anathemas are descriptive and not prescriptive, they are still anathemas and they are still on the books removable or not. If the doctrine is extra-biblical I can’t see how that is exculpatory. My point was to given an example of a major doctrine in relation to perspicuity. Is that doctrine perspicuous in Scripture in your view or not? If it isn’t why is it still confessed?
    As for Chalcedon, just pick up Muller’s Christ and the Decree or read Bruce McCormack here -> http://aboulet.com/2008/05/20/reformed-christology-and-the-westminster-htfc-report/

    Besides, the Lutherans have been making this charge since practically day one and not a few Catholic theologians against Calvin. Calvin is clearly wrong (along with Musculus all the way to and through Owen) when he writes that the person of Christ is formed “out of” the two natures. This is what WCF 8.2 means when it speaks of Christ being a human and divine *person* which is directly contrary to Chalcedon and subsequent reaffirmations of Chalcedon like those at 2nd Constantinople.

  374. May 13, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Paige,

    None of the Scripture proofs given speak of the eternal person of the Spirit qua generated from the Father and the Son. Gal 4:6 and such are speaking relative to the temporal sending and the majority of conservative Reformed exegetes now recognize this, at least so far as I have read.

    Second, if the Scriptures were perspicuous in the way suggested by the Reformed, where does this doctrine fall? Perspicuous or not? Is the doctrine of the Trinity relative to the Filioque perspicuous or no?

  375. johnbugay said,

    May 13, 2010 at 3:49 am

    Here’s a word on perspicuity from the Old Testament. There is a clear allusion in this one passage (a) that the Lord formed the Church, and (b) that His Word is open and understandable:

    “I am the LORD, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret,
    in a land of darkness;
    I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,
    ‘Seek me in vain.’

    I the LORD speak the truth;
    I declare what is right.

    “Assemble yourselves and come;
    draw near together,
    you survivors of the nations!

    They have no knowledge
    who carry about their wooden idols,
    and keep on praying to a god
    that cannot save.
    Declare and present your case;
    let them take counsel together!
    Who told this long ago?
    Who declared it of old?
    Was it not I, the LORD?
    And there is no other god besides me,
    a righteous God and a Savior;
    there is none besides me.

    “Turn to me and be saved,
    all the ends of the earth!
    For I am God, and there is no other.

    By myself I have sworn;
    from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
    a word that shall not return:
    ‘To me every knee shall bow,
    every tongue shall swear allegiance.’

    “Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me,
    are righteousness and strength;
    to him shall come and be ashamed
    all who were incensed against him.
    In the LORD all the offspring of Israel
    shall be justified and shall glory.”

    (From Isaiah 45:18-25)

    Note what commentator J. Alec Motyer says: “Secondly, the world vision of verses 14–17 is to be understood in the light of revelation. In quiet rebuke of the allegation (Is. 45:15) that he ‘hides himself’, the Lord asserts that he never spoke in secret (lit. ‘under cover’): his word was openly available; nor in a land of darkness where one might lose one’s way: his word was intrinsically plain and straightforward; and it led them straight to himself: his word was not in vain, [it was] solid ground not shifting sand. What he said was truth and right: the former is ‘righteousness’, conformity to the absolute norm of divine truth; the latter is ‘plain, straightforward’, without deviance or duplicity.”

    (from J. Alec Motyer, “Isaiah,” Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 290-291)

    Paul refers to this passage, a clear OT affirmation that there is only One God, to declare that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

    For more on this:

    http://reformation500.wordpress.com/2010/05/13/jesus-is-yahweh/

  376. Paige Britton said,

    May 13, 2010 at 6:32 am

    Toli #369 –

    ..the authority and infallibility of the magisterium does not take away from a perspicuous scripture, rather it compliments a perspicuous scripture. Both are necessary and complimentary.

    I’m not denying that there is a Catholic version of “perspicuity,” or that Catholics read their Bibles, too. But the Catholic version is a far cry from the Protestant protest: that believers may read their Bibles without being bound by conscience to subject their readings to a higher earthly authority.

    Re. showing that the Catholic claims to papal/magisterial infallibility are “true,” I mean that the pope has no authority that God has not given him, and somehow it must be possible to know what that authority really is. How can you convey that information to us without engaging our reason? Where is the authority that you can appeal to to affirm your claims? Where’s the “visitor’s booth to the universe” where we can go to say, “Aha, THAT’s how God has set this up?”

    You say that the burden of proof is on us to prove the contrary. But you guys are also fishing for converts to reverse the Reformation. Surely you have apologetic concerns and want to convince us that there’s a reason behind your claims. Bryan and Andrew P. were both convicted by the early church evidence — are you saying we should not bother digging up the papal lineage like they did, because that would just be a rationalization?

    What, are we supposed to wait for some move of the Spirit to overcome the noetic effects of our Protestantism, so that we simply have faith that the pope is what he says he is?

    No, Toli. For us to take you seriously at all, we need a reasonable basis for belief. Just pointing out our shortcomings doesn’t get us there.

  377. Paige Britton said,

    May 13, 2010 at 6:41 am

    Perry #372 –

    When the WCF was written, there may have been different opinions about those verses than present Reformed theologians hold.

    I’m trying to point out that “perspicuity” can be used in two ways. You are asking whether the procession of the Spirit comes from perspicuous Scriptures, meaning those passages that are clear rather than obscure and difficult. Sounds like they are more difficult than folks thought at first, but I have not read much about the interpretation of the relevant verses.

    But on the other hand, we believe that even the obscure and difficult verses come from perspicuous Scripture, technical definition — an inherent quality of the Bible that points to God’s intention to communicate directly to his people (regardless of the difficulty level of some of that communication).

  378. Paige Britton said,

    May 13, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Hey, all —

    A little more on what I mean by the technical definition of Perspicuity of Scripture:

    The inherent qualities of the Bible are sometimes taught in Protestant theology following the acronym SNAP:

    S = Sufficiency
    N = Necessity
    A = Authority
    P = Perspicuity

    Note that these are polemical claims, and that they are also communicating something about the essence of Scripture, not selective parts.

    The more ordinary kind of “perspicuity” is a subset of the technical term, and describes selected parts of the Bible which are more clear than others.

    In reading further last night I noticed that over time the general doctrine of Perspicuity, which was most clearly stated around the time of the Reformation, became rather less clear, so that it is not surprising that we’re mostly using the ordinary definition by now. I had learned it from several resources as part of “SNAP,” and was surprised to be the odd one out here.

    Here’s an article for further reading, if anybody is interested:

    http://www.monergism.com/The%20Perspicuity%20of%20Scripture%20by%20Gerry%20Breshears.pdf

    There are a couple of others listed under this topic over at http://www.monergism.com. Some authors stress the general, technical definition, and some are more casual about it. This one gives a historical overview of the idea and the use of the term. James Callahan also has a [very difficult] book called The Clarity of Scripture which goes rather deep into the historical Catholic and Reformation versions of Perspicuity, and which also covers lots of lit-crit ground. Great egghead beach read.

    pb

  379. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 13, 2010 at 7:18 am

    Toli (#369):

    the authority and infallibility of the magisterium does not take away from a perspicuous scripture, rather it compliments a perspicuous scripture. Both are necessary and complimentary.

    This is simply not true. A “perspicuous” Scripture is one that is clear and easily understood. The official Catholic teaching is that Scripture cannot be properly understood without the tradition of the church. Here is the relevant section of the catechism:

    109 In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to man in a human way. To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm, and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words.75

    110 In order to discover the sacred authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. “For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression.”76

    111 But since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. “Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written.”77

    The Second Vatican Council indicates three criteria for interpreting Scripture in accordance with the Spirit who inspired it.78

    112 1. Be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture”. Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.79

    The phrase “heart of Christ” can refer to Sacred Scripture, which makes known his heart, closed before the Passion, as the Scripture was obscure. But the Scripture has been opened since the Passion; since those who from then on have understood it, consider and discern in what way the prophecies must be interpreted.80

    113 2. Read the Scripture within “the living Tradition of the whole Church”. According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church’s heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God’s Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (“. . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church”81).

    114 3. Be attentive to the analogy of faith.82 By “analogy of faith” we mean the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation.

    “Scripture” is principally NOT in the document called “the Bible” but in Tradition.

    How could we possibly call this “perspicuity”?

  380. Toli said,

    May 13, 2010 at 8:00 am

    Jeff,

    It may not match “your” definition of perspicuity, but it is nevertheless compatible with a clear scripture. Furthermore, nowhere in the scriptures does it explicitly say, or even implicitly imply, anythithing to support of your doctrine of perspicuity. It is a purely self-serving, man made doctrine. This is why we Catholics say that you base your religion on man and not God, because it “originates” from man. Unlike the Catholic Church, though man is an instrament, a mediator for communication, the Church nevertheless originates from God.

    You and Paige cannot even agree to what “perspicuity” means exactly. When you guys can agree on a clear definition, then I think we can move along easier.

  381. Toli said,

    May 13, 2010 at 8:09 am

    John B,

    Nice try, but in the Old C. the people came to the old testament via the shepherds. They came to God and learned through the hearing of the word, and thus faith was borne. The people could not give interpretations that contradicted the magisterium, and they didn’t have recourse to a personal bible to read. They rested solely on the teaching of the authorities.

  382. johnbugay said,

    May 13, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Toli — The “Seat of Moses” in Matthew 23 was a seat that held a scroll. No kidding. Look it up. Then check the rest of Matthew 23, to see what Jesus felt about “the authorities.” Good luck with that.

  383. Toli said,

    May 13, 2010 at 8:18 am

    John,

    Yes, and Jesus told the people to listen to the authorities because they sit in the Seat of Moses, and told them to do as they say and not as they do, because many were hypocrites (but not all). Yes, I’m quite aware of what he says. You should do what he says.

  384. Toli said,

    May 13, 2010 at 8:26 am

    It is interesting to note that the Seat of Moses held a scroll, and yet Jesus said there are people who sit in it (in this case, Jewish authorities), but they never physically sit in seat. Jesus must be implying that there is a synergy between teaching authority and the Scriptures, such that it coinincides with Catholic teaching. Hmm, herhaps this may be one place where the Church gets her teaching from. Such a perspicuous scripture, isn’t it?

  385. TurretinFan said,

    May 13, 2010 at 8:45 am

    “Jesus must be implying that there is a synergy between teaching authority and the Scriptures, such that it coinincides with Catholic teaching.”

    a) The more you try to liken the Roman see to the Sanhedrin, the more you prove for us the fallibility of the Roman see.

    b) The more obvious meaning of Jesus’ words was that the Sanhedrin was the law of the land, just as Moses was.

    -TurretinFan

  386. johnbugay said,

    May 13, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Toli — Seriously, Nolland’s commentary on Matt 23:2 says

    “Matthew alone has preserved the material of vv.2-3. The imagery of sitting in the seat of Moses has not been paralleled. It is normally taken to mean to have authority to interpret for people the demands of the Mosaic law. But this is difficult, given that the same people to whom the sitting is applied are identified soon after in v. 16 (cf. 15:14) as ‘blind guides’. Powell identifies ten different approaches to dealing with this tension, but as he clearly shows, none is satisfactory.

    The only Jewish reference to ‘the seat of Moses’ in Talmudic literature seems to be Pesiq Rab Kah 7b, which says that King Solomon’s throne ‘resembled the seat of Moses’. Though it might be possible to refer ‘seat of Moses’ to a heavenly throne for Moses, a link to an item of furniture in some synagogues seems more likely, though such an item in its turn may be intended to represent a heavenly throne. Surviving ancient stone chairs from synagogue ruins seem to have been designed to hold scrolls of Scripture.

    Nolland calls this a “reasonable conjecture” (923).

    One other possibility that he presents is that “Jesus may simply be acknowledging the powerful social and religious position that [the scribes and Pharisees] occupy in a world where most people are illiterate and copies of the Torah are not plentiful. Since Jesus’ disciples do not themselves have copies of the Torah, they will be dependent on the scribes and the Pharisees to know what Moses said … In light of such dependence, Jesus advises his disciples to heed the words that the scribes and Pharisees speak when they sit in the seat of Moses, that is, when they pass on the words of the Torah itself (citing Powell). We might say that the scribes and Pharisees were walking copies of the Law. What they did with it might be suspect, but not their knowledge of it. They could be relied on to report the Law of Moses with care and accuracy” (923)

    What is not in view here in any way is the Roman concept either of “making new law” or of “interpretation.” When Jesus says, “do what they say,” it is only insofar as they “report” the actual law of Moses.

    In the next verse, Nolland clarifies this further, noting “a sharp disjunction. The scribes and Pharisees are a reliable source of information on the Law, but are not to be looked to in other respects.”

    For you to look to this verse as some kind of “proof text” that there was anything at all like a magisterium in view in Matthew goes far, far beyond what’s actually in the text.

  387. TurretinFan said,

    May 13, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Toli,
    You wrote:

    It may not match “your” definition of perspicuity, but it is nevertheless compatible with a clear scripture. Furthermore, nowhere in the scriptures does it explicitly say, or even implicitly imply, anythithing to support of your doctrine of perspicuity. It is a purely self-serving, man made doctrine.

    a) The position that all of Scripture is perfectly clear is not the Reformation position. You may criticize it all you like. We don’t believe that.

    b) The Scriptures do teach the doctrine of perspicuity, which is why both we and the fathers of the church believed it.

    -TurretinFan

  388. Reed Here said,

    May 13, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Toli: you may write me off as simply venting. That is a convenient way of disregarding an opponent.

    Of course, I’m not quite surprosed. You guys seem adept at swinging at softballs, and calling strikes balls.

    The idea that we need “proof” is not somehing we insist upon. It is a canard y’all foist upon us. This whole problem of authority was introduced by your compatriot Bryan. He and your fellow travelers have been pretty consistent in mischaracterizing our position so that we’ve got a problem that you conveniently avoid.

    You’re not addressing what we believe, but a bastardized construct of your own concoction. Numerous points from your opponents here demonstrate that.

    Telling me that I’m merely looking for rationalistic proof is merely disrespectful on your part. You demonstrate you’ve not taken the time to read my posts here. Again, polite condescending arrogance.

  389. Reed Here said,

    May 13, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Can we all agree on this as a starting point?

    Interpretive authority, which carries formative and corrective disciplinary authority, does not rest in the individual elder; it rests in the agreement of the elders (judges) who have met in Christ’s name (Matt 18; 1 Cor 5-6; Acts 15). In other words, it is when elders are in communion with Christ, through the Spirit speaking in Scripture, and with each other, and are in agreement on one position (in matters of faith and morals) as definitively (most authoritative, though not infallibly) to be held, they are proclaiming Christ’s doctrine. The authority of elders is something they enjoy only in union with Christ and those in communion with him.

    This was something written by a friend who will remain annonymous unless he chooses otherwise. Admittedly this needs some tightening up. Yet it does seem to capture the core. As well, aside from the “defect” of the lack of “agreement with the successor of Peter,” is this not something our RCC friends can agree with?

    As a Presbyterian this is at the heart of my understanding of the authority under which I minister.

    What do you think?

  390. Toli said,

    May 13, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Paige (re. 376)

    I’m not denying that there is a Catholic version of “perspicuity,” or that Catholics read their Bibles, too. But the Catholic version is a far cry from the Protestant protest: that believers may read their Bibles without being bound by conscience to subject their readings to a higher earthly authority.

    So what, if it is a far cry? Catholics would agree here; we do not subject our consciences to earthly authorities. The authority of the Church, the magisterium, has been invested with divine authority. The Church is a supernatural order, a Kingdom not of this world. Remember? Thus, the authority which it possesses is not of the world, but of God, through Christ, as his body, by the power of he Holy Spirit. This, I say, is a far cry from your conception of it.

    You say that the burden of proof is on us to prove the contrary. But you guys are also fishing for converts to reverse the Reformation. Surely you have apologetic concerns and want to convince us that there’s a reason behind your claims. Bryan and Andrew P. were both convicted by the early church evidence — are you saying we should not bother digging up the papal lineage like they did, because that would just be a rationalization?

    It should be noted, we must remember that these controversies must continually be refocused into the historical contexts in which they originate. Since the Protestants originated the complaint, and the division, they are under the burden of proof for their claims; the Catholic position remains assumed and normative. Things that are thus assumed must be proven wrong by the contrary, and that involves clear explicit evidence. Without this kind of proof, any basis for rejecting the Catholic position is not a proper use of reason; this is called rationalism. A person seeking an understanding of the Catholic faith may do so through induction, but this is different than a rationalistic attempt to find “proof”. And the inductive method is the only method available to reach the Catholic conclusions (if one is not already Catholic), but an evil attitude of skepticism is not conducive to such a method, and those who seek through induction must overcome that sin. Remember, Love believes all things, according to the Apostle, and that means that Love is not skeptical. To love is to be open, and to look at things from a pure heart without false attitueds, to not be cynical, and to give the benefit of the doubt where it is due.

    What, are we supposed to wait for some move of the Spirit to overcome the noetic effects of our Protestantism, so that we simply have faith that the pope is what he says he is?

    No, but praying about these issues with the kind of pure heart of love I explained above can help, along with a sincere, diligent attempt to inductively gather the plethora of convincing nuggets spread here and there pointing to Rome, or at least away form Protestantism into Eastern orthodoxy.

  391. Toli said,

    May 13, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Jeff, (re.385)

    a) The more you try to liken the Roman see to the Sanhedrin, the more you prove for us the fallibility of the Roman see.

    Only if the Roman see is “exactly” congruent. Often what is overlooked by Protestants is the fact that the NC far surpasses the OC in so many ways, and this inculudes the realm of knowledge, and teaching authority. Pentecost brought the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into the Church, which didn’t happen in the OC; only a select number of individuals had the Spirit. The charism of the Holy Spirit in the Church ensures us all truth, a quality the OC didn’t have to the same degree because it was capable of corruptability in many ways. See Jn.16:1. As I stated before, no matter how you guys want to slice the doctrine of Perspicuity, it does not avoid the interpretive problem, and the interpretive problem is incompatible with Jn. 16:13. No one has engaged this point, by the way.

    b) The more obvious meaning of Jesus’ words was that the Sanhedrin was the law of the land, just as Moses was.

    Yes, and just like Moses was the law of the land, and also the Sanhedrin, so is the Catholic magisterium in the NC. Why one would think there is no continuity here absolutely escapes me. I don’t know what is so hard with the concept.

  392. turretinfan said,

    May 13, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    You are asserting discontinuity in response to (a) and continuity in response to (b).

  393. Toli said,

    May 13, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Reed,

    you may write me off as simply venting. That is a convenient way of disregarding an opponent.

    I’m sure that is a possibility, but it is quite uncharitable to assume as much.

    Telling me that I’m merely looking for rationalistic proof is merely disrespectful on your part. You demonstrate you’ve not taken the time to read my posts here. Again, polite condescending arrogance.

    Here is a quote from YOU:

    “I get the anxt many former Protestants-now CC pew sitters think they have relieved themselves of. All they’ve bought into in specious biblical argument backed up with questionable historical support. There is no “proof” in your position, and all this talk about y’all having an authority outside yourselves is just blather.”

    This is my reference point.

  394. Toli said,

    May 13, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    T-fan,

    Yes. There is continuity, but not exact continuity. In fact, it is an advanced continuity.

  395. Bryan Cross said,

    May 13, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Jason, (re: #329)

    You claim that the only solution to multiple and competing interpretations of Scripture is apostolic succession. But what is the solution to multiple and competing claims to apostolic succession? Rome, the East, the Anglicans, and the Methodists all claim some real and vital connection to the apostles. How does one sift through all these competing claims?

    One finds the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church in the first century from the time of the Apostles, and then traces it forward, decade by decade, to the present day. As one traces it forward through the centuries, one encounters schisms from the Church (e.g. Novatians, Donatists) — in each case, one notes the criterion by which the party in schism is the one in schism from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church Christ founded, and not the other way around. We can’t do all that [tracing] in a combox, and especially not in one comment, you understand. But that’s how we find in the present day the Church that Christ founded, if we do not know where it now is.

    One of the primary purposes for Christ founding a Church is to undo the division of men against men, the divisions of the human family effected by sin. These divisions began when Adam sinned, but were manifest in a universal way at the Tower of Babel. Pentecost is the supernatural reversal of Babel, and this is why the Church is the anti-Babel. (Parenthetical note: This is why it is fitting that she is built on Rome, which Peter refers to as Babylon, and which is the natural kingdom taken over by Christ’s supernatural Kingdom, according to Daniel’s prophecy.) All the nations of the world are to stream into her doors, into one household, the household of faith. Sinful man cannot form such a unity, though he thinks he can. But sinful man’s attempt to do so is the mission of the Antichrist, to form by the mere natural power of man the whole of mankind into a universal social and political unity ordered to this world as man’s final end.

    By contrast, the Church that Christ founded is a supernatural unity, coming down from Heaven, in Christ, and by His Spirit, at Pentecost. And this is why this [supernatural] unity is the first of the four marks of the Church, specified in the Creed: “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” The Life of the Church is the supernatural Life of the Trinity, not from man, but from the God-man, and not ordered to natural earthly bliss, but to the supernatural end which is the very perfect and eternal communion of the Three Divine Persons. (Second Parenthetical note: Today’s feast day of the Ascension most especially testifies to man’s supernatural end, against the spirit of the Antichrist; with Christ the second Adam we are called to that same supernatural end.) If the Church were founded by mere men, it would have earthly, natural happiness as its end. Heaven would merely be a return to an earthly paradise, without disease, suffering or death, on and on forever without end, grace without glory.

    But Heaven is infinitely beyond the natural happiness of paradise, as the Life of the Creator infinitely transcends the life of mere creatures. Heaven is the eternal inner Life and Happiness of the Triune God, into which we are graciously called to participate. To have Heaven as its end (i.e. its telos), the Church must have Heaven as its principle and source, which is why the Church must be founded by the God-man, Jesus Christ. This is why no society founded by mere men can be the Church. And this is why apostolic succession is essential to the Church, because only by apostolic succession is the activity of the Church the continuation and extension of the supernatural Life and mission of the incarnate Christ.

    In the process of tracing the Church from the first century forward, I think that when we get to the end of the eighth century and the beginning of the ninth, we will still be agreed concerning what and where is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded. That entails that we will see the fifth, six, and seventh ecumenical councils as ecumenical councils of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, and hence as no less authoritative and binding as the first four ecumenical councils. Without yet adjudicating the Catholic-Orthodox schism of the twelfth century, we will already be able to say something about two of the candidates you mentioned: Anglicanism and Methodism. The Anglican Church (and Methodism) typically does not claim to be the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded, but to be a branch of (i.e. a branch within) the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded.

    Yet, even while standing (in our tracing progress) in the ninth century, the claim of Anglicanism (and Methodism) to be a branch within (and not a schism from) the Church will face the following difficulty, namely, that the same criteria by which Donatism was a schism from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and not a branch within the Church, apply also to it [i.e. to Anglicanism]. And in this respect Anglicanism (and Methodism) do not meet the test of catholicity, the third mark of the Church specified in the Creed. This was why I, as an Anglican, came to the point where I could no longer recite that line of the Creed in good conscience. I had come to see that whether or not Anglican orders were valid, the communion of Anglican bishops of which I was then a member was not the one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church Christ founded, and was not in communion with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church Christ founded. These were a group of more ‘conservative’ Anglican bishops who had broken with the TAC. But it was clear to me that they had no more basis for believing themselves to be the (or a branch of the) one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded, than did the Donatists. So, either they [i.e. these Anglican bishops] were wrong (about being the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church), or because these Anglican bishops were not in communion with any other ‘branch,’ it followed that Christ’s Church was not one, but divided into schisms each not in communion with the other. Either way, the Creed was then falsified. So instead of contradicting myself every Sunday, when we recited the Creed I kept my mouth closed when we confessed that particular line of the Creed. But the situation forced me to dig, to figure out where is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded. I should point out also that the doctrinal deviation of Anglicanism (and Methodism) from that of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of the first seven ecumenical councils, is even greater than that of the Donatists from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. So the Anglican claim was even weaker than the Donatist claim.

    In addition, I was aware of what the Church Fathers said about the magnitude of the evil of schism. For example, writing to the Donatists, St. Augustine says:

    But to come through too great love for our own opinion, or through jealousy of our betters, even to the sacrilege of dividing the communion of the Church, and of founding heresy or schism, is a presumption worthy of the devil. … For if they [the traditores] had not only given up the [sacred] books to be burned, but had actually burned them with their own hands, they would have been guilty of a less sin than if they had committed schism; for schism is visited with the heavier, the other with the lighter punishment, not at man’s discretion, but by the judgment of God. … Wherefore, while shunning the lighter offenses, which are inventions of your own, have ye committed the heaviest offense of all, the sacrilege of schism? (On Baptism, II)

    St. Augustine isn’t saying that people who are born into a heresy or schism are guilty of that heresy or schism. In fact, he clarifies this himself, saying:

    The apostle Paul said, “As for a man that is a heretic, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him” [Titus 3:10]. But those who maintain their own opinion, however false and perverted, without obstinate ill will, especially those who have not originated the error of bold presumption, but have received it from parents who had been led astray and had lapsed…those who seek the truth with careful industry and are ready to be corrected when they have found it, are not to be rated among heretics. (Letters 43:1).

    But, when I realized that I was in a schism from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, then it become incumbent upon me not to remain in schism, even though I had been born and raised in schism from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded. St. Augustine said as much concerning the Donatists:

    How many, believing that it mattered not to which party a Christian might belong, remained in the schism of Donatus only because they had been born in it, and no one was compelling them to forsake it and pass over into the Catholic Church! …. Others say: We thought, indeed, that it mattered not in what communion we held the faith of Christ; but thanks to the Lord, who has gathered us in from a state of schism, and has taught us that it is fitting that the one God be worshipped in unity.(Letter 93)

    The sum of my point, in laying out a rough and already over-lengthy sketch of an answer to your question is that when tracing apostolic succession in an effort to find the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church Christ founded, it is not that difficult to make a good deal of progress in short order, and narrow the question down to Orthodoxy or Catholicism. Those are the only two real candidates. And of course I think there is a good evidence regarding that question as well, which I won’t attempt to address here. But, even if it were a toss-up at that point, needing to examine only two possibilities to determine the identity of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church Christ founded is a very different situation than just picking (or forming) a denomination or confession that most closely agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture and calling it a branch of the Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  396. TurretinFan said,

    May 13, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    “Yes. There is continuity, but not exact continuity. In fact, it is an advanced continuity.”

    In other words, when continuity is not helpful to your position you claim discontinuity and when continuity would be helpful to your position you claim continuity. Or at least that’s how it looks from where I’m standing.

    But God does not promise that a fallible Sanhedrin will be replaced by an infallible “magisterium” headed by an infallible pontiff. The comparisons are just ad hoc according to the present state of your sect.

    In other words, your claims of continuity and discontinuity are equally arbitrary. Both claims lack warrant, and the result is that you attempt to impose on Scripture a system that was not expressed there.

    -TurretinFan

  397. Toli said,

    May 13, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    I should clarify that the advanced continuity doesn’t mean that members of the magisterium are not susceptible to sin and corruption, and the same sins tht befell the pharasees, but it means that the Holy Spirit has promised to be much more involved in the NC Church than the OC Church, and whenever the Holy Spirit is at work through the Church magisterium, their decisions cannot be thought to contain error, otherwise God would be the author of error. But, I’m positive that given it was actually true that the Church issued a statement that really, in truth, did not contain any error, there would certainly be people out there to challenge it and charge it with error because it did’t square well with their understanding of things, and the Church would have no way of proving that it is without error.

  398. Sean said,

    May 13, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Bryan,

    Somewhat unrelated but it is interesting that the ‘earth paradise’ you desribe as ‘heaven’ for a man made institution is pretty much exactly what the JWs claim.

  399. Bryan Cross said,

    May 13, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Keith, (re: #326)

    And what do you do when after examining the available evidence, you discover that the bishops of Rome can no longer make any remotely plausible claim to be the successors of the Apostles?

    Your question is a loaded question, because it presumes that there such evidence. So, let’s deal with the alleged evidence, instead of the loaded question. If you have any such evidence, I’d be glad to see it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  400. Toli said,

    May 13, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    T-Fan,

    In other words, when continuity is not helpful to your position you claim discontinuity and when continuity would be helpful to your position you claim continuity. Or at least that’s how it looks from where I’m standing.

    But God does not promise that a fallible Sanhedrin will be replaced by an infallible “magisterium” headed by an infallible pontiff. The comparisons are just ad hoc according to the present state of your sect.

    Do you really think this is what’s going on here? It has nothing to do with helpfulness, as if I’m looking for arbitrary biblical justifications for my otherwise baseless doctrine. No, what I explained serves as a basis for the doctrine from the beginning. There is a slight differece in continuity precisely because of the change in the nature of the Spirit’s involvement in the Church, which is explicitly outlined in Scripture. See Jn. 16:13. What does Christ say the Spirit will do? That text,among others, through good and necessary inference, opens the gate to an infallible magisterium. The continuity that exists is the same, but better.

  401. Bryan Cross said,

    May 13, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    rfwhite (re: #335)

    Granted that infallibility is not an attribute that pertains to individuals in and by themselves, do you take it to be an implication of the agreement in texts such as Matt 18.18-20 and Acts 15? Also, until bishops agree, and this bishop finds himself in disagreement with that bishop (or these disagree with those), is the authority of either bishop (or group thereof) the reason why the other’s interpretation of Scripture needs to conform?

    I do think ecclesial infallibility is implied in these two passages, perhaps not by logical entailment, but by reading with the mind of the Church. The Fathers use an a fortiori argument from Matthew 18 to the assurance of the presence of the Holy Spirit with an ecumenical council. Nor did the Fathers see Matthew 18:15-20 as referring only to a local congregation or what we call the “particular Church” (in contrast to the “universal Church”). They understood it as referring also to the universal Church. This is how heretical bishops could be deposed by the universal Church.

    As for your second question, setting aside (for now) the question of the unique role and authority of the episcopal successor of Peter, a bishop need not conform his interpretation of Scripture to that of another bishop, because bishops are equal in authority. But if an ecumenical council reaches a decision, then any bishop who held an opposing position needs to conform to the decision of the ecumenical council. That is because the authority of an ecumenical council (i.e. the bishops in councils) is greater than that of a bishop himself. There are a number of examples in Church history of individual bishops doing just that, i.e. opposing a position prior to and even during an ecumenical council, but then adopting that position to conform to the decision of council, in humble obedience to the Spirit, whom they, by faith, believed to be guiding and protecting the Church in ecumenical council.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  402. Keith Mathison said,

    May 13, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Bryan,

    Re (#395), you wrote: “it is not that difficult to make a good deal of progress in short order, and narrow the question down to Orthodoxy or Catholicism. Those are the only two real candidates. And of course I think there is a good evidence regarding that question as well, which I won’t attempt to address here.”

    You should for good measure add the Oriental Orthodox churches such as the Syrian, Coptic, and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches. They are distinct from the Eastern Orthodox churches, and they claim apostolic succession too. The Old Catholics might want in as well.

  403. TurretinFan said,

    May 13, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Toli:
    You wrote: “There is a slight differece in continuity…”

    Infallible vs. fallible is a slight difference in spelling but a huge difference in significance

    “… precisely because of the change in the nature of the Spirit’s involvement in the Church … ”

    The nature of the Spirit’s involvement in the Church makes the need for an infallible magisterium less, not more.

    “… which is explicitly outlined in Scripture. See Jn. 16:13.”

    John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

    There’s nothing there about an infallible magisterium. There is there a promise of the gift of revelation and prophesy. That promise was fulfilled at least in the inspiration provided to John and recorded for us in the book of Revelation

    “What does Christ say the Spirit will do?”

    He will guide them into “all truth” and show them the future. He did that. Now, as a result of that, we have the Scriptures.

    “That text,among others, through good and necessary inference, opens the gate to an infallible magisterium.”

    Opens the gate through inferences? Just a few lines above you were claiming that Scripture explicitly outlines things.

    “The continuity that exists is the same, but better.”

    That’s self-contradictory.

    -TurretinFan

  404. TurretinFan said,

    May 13, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    “If you have any such evidence, I’d be glad to see it.”

    1) They teach, as necessary to the faith, dogmas that the apostles did not teach.

    2) They do not teach doctrines that the apostles did teach.

    3) There is no apostolicity to the manner of supposed succession.

    4) The Council of Constance broke any realistic claim to succession.

    5) The so-called Babylonian Captivity broke any credible claim to succession.

    6) The pornacracy broke any credible claim to succession.

    7) The example of “St.” Hippolytus provides strong evidence against the claimed succession.

    8) The fact that Linus allegedly took office before Peter’s death provides strong evidence against the claimed succession.

    9) The fact that Peter’s primary documented mission was to the Jews and primary seat was Antioch ways against Rome’s claims of succession.

    10) The instance of Benedicts X and XI provides another example of the brokenness of any claim to apostolic succession.

    This is just a quick list of ten evidences. Many more could be provided.

    Now that the evidence has been provided, can you answer his question?

    -TurretinFan

  405. Toli said,

    May 13, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Reed,

    Interpretive authority, which carries formative and corrective disciplinary authority, does not rest in the individual elder; it rests in the agreement of the elders (judges) who have met in Christ’s name (Matt 18; 1 Cor 5-6; Acts 15). In other words, it is when elders are in communion with Christ, through the Spirit speaking in Scripture, and with each other, and are in agreement on one position (in matters of faith and morals) as definitively (most authoritative, though not infallibly) to be held, they are proclaiming Christ’s doctrine. The authority of elders is something they enjoy only in union with Christ and those in communion with him.

    If this is the heart of authority under which you minister, why then are you not at least Eastern Orthodox? Who are these elders? You say they have authority, but not just anyone in the Church has legitimate ecclesial authority, right? What happens when elders are not in agreement?

  406. TurretinFan said,

    May 13, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    In addition to the “Old Catholics” there are also the sedevacantists and the Anglicans.

    Furthermore, in a completely different direction, there are additionally the Mormons.

    -TurretinFan

  407. Reed Here said,

    May 13, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Toli: taking one comment from me, reading a word in quotes (which implies an non-normative use), and ignoring the whole record of my previous comments is indeed evidence of a disrespectful reading.

    As to reading motives, assuming I was venting when I specified not to read me as angry, that is not reading motives on your part?

    Seriously, do you not see the one-sided, holier-than-thou position you assume in your comments?

  408. Reed Here said,

    May 13, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Toli: as to these elders, are you familiar with Presbyterianism? If so, question answered.

    As to the legitimacy of their office, this touches directly on the caveat regarding “in agreement with the successor of Peter.” Can you not, at least for the sake of finding some agreement from which to move forward understading, at least first address the main comments, and leave the agreed disagreement alone? Can you not do this at least for the sake of pursuing the kind of love you talked about with Paige?

  409. Toli said,

    May 13, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    T-Fan,

    The nature of the Spirit’s involvement in the Church makes the need for an infallible magisterium less, not more.

    So, are you saying that that the Holy Spirit is responsible for both a Baptists denying infant baptism and a Presbyterian’s acceptance of it? Is the Holy Spirit the author of both the Reformed doctrine of Justification and the Catholic doctrine of Justification? You seem to be implying this.

    He will guide them into “all truth” and show them the future. He did that. Now, as a result of that, we have the Scriptures.

    But, now people like yourself and I both read these scriptures, and come to quite different, contrary conclusions. So, how then has the Holy Spirit given you and I “all truth”? Like I said, the interpretive problem is incompatible with that Scripture passage.

  410. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 13, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Toli (#395): T-Fan and I are not the same person (you probably knew that, but there was confusion earlier).

  411. Keith Mathison said,

    May 13, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Bryan, (re: #399)

    You said: “Your question is a loaded question, because it presumes that there such evidence. So, let’s deal with the alleged evidence, instead of the loaded question. If you have any such evidence, I’d be glad to see it.”

    It’s not a loaded question. I’m not the one making claims to be the infallible representative of Christ on earth. The Roman bishop and magisterium make those claims. The burden of proof is not mine. It is Rome’s. Those are big claims, and they require more than an assertion. They require evidence in support of them (evidence that has not been forged, btw). What I suggested above (#326) is that when you do investigate what evidence there is, you discover that the bishops of Rome can no longer make any remotely plausible claim to be the successors of the apostles.

    The apostles chose Christ instead of the world. Somewhere along the line, the bishops of Rome who claimed to be their successors opted for worldly power and wealth instead.

  412. Toli said,

    May 13, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Reed,

    Alright, I had enough of this. I was going to rebuke you earlier, but out of patience I held back. You are the one who began the unfounded, derogatory criticisms. You are the only hypocrite in the room here. You keep castigating me and other catholics for things we are not intentionally doing. You were the first one too assume my motives, and the only one yet to slander. I don’t have a problem with you ignoring my arguments, for whatever reason you have for doing so. But once you start accusing me of ignoring yours for less than noble reasons, assuming that I somehow can’t answer them, or am affraid too, I begin to take issue with it. So, unless you are willing to answer my argumetnts yourself, then it is highly inapropriate to criticize me of dodging yours. I have never seen anyone so rude and obnoxious with comments on a blog as you. Why do you even comment here? Talk about disrespect…pull the plank out of your eye, brother. You are are masquerading your pride in a cloak of humility. This makes me really emotional and upset that I even have to say all this; I don’t like doing it.

  413. Toli said,

    May 13, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Jeff,

    Sorry about that. Yeah, I must not have been paying attention.

  414. May 13, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Paige, #377

    In either case of perspecuity, the question still is out there. Is the doctrine of the filioque perspicuous in Scripture, either directly or indirectly?

  415. Bryan Cross said,

    May 13, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Keith, (re: #411)

    When you ask someone a question that presupposes the falsify of his position, that’s asking him a loaded question. That’s just what it means to ask a loaded question. Your question to me was this:

    And what do you do when after examining the available evidence, you discover that the bishops of Rome can no longer make any remotely plausible claim to be the successors of the Apostles?

    That question, as I explained in my previous reply to you, presumes that there is evidence having this implication, which is not a claim with which I agree. Therefore, it is a loaded question. When I say it is a loaded question, I don’t mean anything malicious on your part (or mine). I simply mean that it is a question-begging question.

    In my opinion, in order to resolve our disagreements, we have to set aside the sophistry that is so easy (and tempting) to engage in when discussing these matters. That’s why I suggested that instead of trading in loaded questions, perhaps you could provide the evidence presupposed by your question.

    Your evidence seems to be thus:

    The apostles chose Christ instead of the world. Somewhere along the line, the bishops of Rome who claimed to be their successors opted for worldly power and wealth instead.

    Without a doubt some bishops of Rome have pursued worldly power and wealth. But in itself that’s no reason to believe that the succession was broken. The succession does not depend on those holding it being sinless. Otherwise, Matthias could not have replaced Judas. Matthias was able to succeed Judas, even though Judas committed the worst sin in human history.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  416. May 13, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Keith # 402 & 411

    We would need to consider the Monophysites and Nestorians all things being equal. But given the Christologial errors, all things are not equal, even on Protestant principles. The same goes for the Old Catholics who seem to have gone the route of the Church of England into women’s ordination and other serious errors.

    If the bishops of Rome exchanged worldly power instead of Godly glory, what did the Orthodox bishops exchange Godly glory for? This is relevant since they choose destruction and centuries of suffering and subjugation rather than union with Rome (or later with Protestants.) Just take a look at the recent 60 minutes piece on the Ecumenical Patriarch whose’ daily existence makes the lifestyles of leaders of any given Protestant denomination look like Frankish kings. The point being, even if Rome is off the table, this doesn’t remove all plausible claimants to apostolic succession and it doesn’t imply that apostolic succession is not a necessary condition for a duly constituted church.

  417. TurretinFan said,

    May 13, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    “So, are you saying that that the Holy Spirit is responsible for both a Baptists denying infant baptism and a Presbyterian’s acceptance of it? Is the Holy Spirit the author of both the Reformed doctrine of Justification and the Catholic doctrine of Justification? You seem to be implying this.”

    Your ability to construct valid inferences seems to be impaired. No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that there is less need for an infallible magisterium now than in the Old Testament era, because revelation is greater and clearer.

    “But, now people like yourself and I both read these scriptures, and come to quite different, contrary conclusions. So, how then has the Holy Spirit given you and I “all truth”? Like I said, the interpretive problem is incompatible with that Scripture passage.”

    a) I don’t see any reason to interpret “guide you into all truth” to mean “you will always agree about everything.”

    b) Even those within Romanism don’t agree with each other about everything.

    c) There’s not necessarily anything inconsistent with the Spirit guiding folks into all truth without the Spirit bringing everyone all the way there in this life.

    d) But if (c) is wrong, then why was the early church unaware of so many of the de fide dogmas that Rome teaches today?

    -TurretinFan

  418. Reed Here said,

    May 13, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Toil: quite a “pot calling the kettle” there you have going on.

    I’ve identified where you indeed did impute motive to me, and your response is to call me a hypocrite because I did it first? That is your defense for doing the thing you accuse me of?

    And your evidence I’ve imputed motive to you? As to ignoring your arguments, such as?

    On the contrary, you’ve misread and ignored my arguments from the moment you first began to respond to them. You show up here intent on proving Protestants have a problem of your own creation, and when you start to get some pointed pushback, this is your response?

    How about that openess of love you spoke of to Paige? Why not choose to ignore yet again (what is in your opinion) my bad behavior and simply respond to the one line of argument I started recently?

    Is there something wrong with agreeing where we can agree? Why do you seem hesitant to do so?

    Your’s is the polite condescending arrogance, whose mask appears to be slipping here.

  419. TurretinFan said,

    May 13, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    “In either case of perspecuity, the question still is out there. Is the doctrine of the filioque perspicuous in Scripture, either directly or indirectly?”

    The Westminster Confession of Faith teaches the filioque. It does not necessarily teach that accepting the filioque is a thing necessary for salvation. I suspect that if we took a poll, most Reformed folks would think it is not a thing necessary for salvation – I can’t recall any major Reformer thinking it is necessary for salvation, even though they would likely all (or nearly all) have accepted it.

    Reading the Scriptural arguments from medieval theologians, I’m inclined to say that the matter is not clearly taught.

    -TurretinFan

  420. TurretinFan said,

    May 13, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    “Why do you [Reed] even comment here?”

    Isn’t he one of the moderators?

  421. TurretinFan said,

    May 13, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    “T-Fan and I are not the same person (you probably knew that, but there was confusion earlier).”

    He’s the good looking one, which is why he is anxious that we not be confused.

    :)

  422. Reed Here said,

    May 13, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    Toli: look, I admit to being a tad bit blunter that say Jeff C., or Turretin Fan is here. Yet I’m not being rude and obnoxious when you consider the behavior I’m challenging.

    You castigate me for ignoring your arguments. I admit to not addressing every single nuance of everything you said. Yet I have in substance responded to the critical components of your arguments. Further, I never demonstrated any unwillingness to be asked by you to follow up with something I missed.

    Why have you (at least twice) assumed I am deliberately ignoring your arguments? Why not assume something better of me? Why not assume that I think I have responded, and where I did not it was an oversight.

    Further, you jumped into the conversation well after it had been going on for a while. I do not object to that. I do note that in one of my first responses to your first comments to me, I declined to answer some details. I explained to you that this was a waste of time I could not afford, and directed you to my previous comments on this thread where your queries would be answered.

    Did you do that? I must admit to wondering whether or not, as many of your responses seem to me lacking a nuanced awareness of the “tree I am barking up.”

    Hence I return to my charge of polite-condescending-arrogance (a charge I’m not laying solely at your feet). This is not an imputing of motive on my part. Instead I’m describing the manner of your communication.

    I’ve referred you back a couple of times now to one statement around which we could build some agreement and understanding. Your first response to that was to harp on the agreed area of disagreement. All I asked was that you leave that alone for the time being and first discuss whether or not you can agree with the statement.

    Twice now you’ve not done so. I’ve not yet assumed you’ve ignored my argument. I’ve simply asked you to respond to it.

    And I’m rude, obnoxious, and not responding to your arguments?

  423. rfwhite said,

    May 13, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    401 Bryan Cross: Thanks for your comments. So, in those instances where bishops find themselves in disagreement — or, more generally, before bishops reach agreement on the interpretation of Scripture, what is the effect of their disagreement on the authority of their respective interpretations of Scripture? Does disagreement reduce the authority of their individual interpretations to “my best interpretation of Scripture, given what I now know”? In other words, when bishops find themselves in disagreement, are their dueling interpretations of Scripture subject to the same caveats as any other individual interpreter?

  424. Bryan Cross said,

    May 13, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Jeff (re: #336)

    At some point in the relatively near future (yes, I know that’s not very definite, but I’m trying to give myself some space), I’ll respond to this objection either on my blog or at Called To Communion. It is the same objection that Jason already raised way back in comment #5, and also on our Solo Scriptura article. It deserves a worthy reply, but one more suited to its own post than just a comment in a combox. When I post it, I’ll drop a comment here.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  425. Bryan Cross said,

    May 13, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Reed, (re: #367)

    I threw out some similar challenges to Bryan. He simply ignored me and stopped talking to me.

    I apologize — I didn’t mean to ignore you or anything you said. There are many comments here, and I may have missed the challenge that you presented to me. If you would direct me to the comment number, I’d be glad to consider it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  426. Reed Here said,

    May 13, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Bryan: thanks for the apology. At this point in the length of the thread, I’ll have to find time to look them back up. I’ve kind of moved on. But I will try.

  427. Paige Britton said,

    May 13, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Hi Perry (#414) –

    Is the doctrine of the filioque perspicuous in Scripture, either directly or indirectly?

    I truly don’t know. I can’t even remember which passages apply — I can only think of John 20:22. I am an heir(ess) of the filioque, which has been unexamined baggage (till you came around), handed down by strangers. And you know what they say about unattended suitcases and receiving packages from people you don’t know.

  428. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 13, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Bryan (#424):

    Thanks.

  429. May 13, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    TF,

    Where does the WCF distinguish or list which specific doctrines are necessary for salvation and which are not? I am not being argumentative here, but wishing you to lay out your position more clearly. Why think that it doesn’t with respect to the Filioque, especially when the Reformed have historically taken its denial by the Orthodox as “heresy?”

    If that’s not a good enough candidate, how about divine simplicity, since a good number of Reformed writers seem to think Open Theists are heretical for denying it?

    I am not clear on how we get from, what most Reformed folks would say or think, to, what the Confessions teach? Isn’t that part of the point of the original post here?

    Now we can move from your admission that it is not clearly taught, to the question of whether it is obscurely taught?

  430. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 13, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Perry (#429):

    The purpose of the Confession is to lay out the doctrine that is perceived to be of good and necessary consequence from Scripture. There were several aims in view:

    (1) Reforming the doctrines of salvation — specifically justification — to bring them in line with Scripture.

    (2) Reforming worship practices to bring them in line with Scripture.

    (3) Reforming the practice of theology so that it did not wander off into imaginative excess (see: the Second Great Awakening).

    Whether those aims were all realized is another question of course; but those were the aims.

    In light of that, you can imagine that hard lines of anathematizing were not drawn. It was assumed that “what is necessary for salvation” was a subset of what can be determined from good and necessary inference from Scripture.

    That said, you can imagine that while the filioque is taught in Reformed seminaries (and its relationship to other trinitarian issues is explored), it is not taught that one must believe in the filioque or be damned.

    That is: the doctrine of filioque has been retained, but its significance has not.

    What do you mean when you say that Reformed folk have taken the denial of “filioque” as “heresy”? Do you mean “against the Confession” or “unable to be held by a Christian”?

  431. Reed Here said,

    May 13, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Bryan: rather than reviewing and digging, especially since so much additional ground has been covered, maybe I might best interact with you by simply verifying my understanding, and then maybe asking a follow up question or two.

    Your position on “interpretive authority” (and its concommitals formative and corrective disciplinary authority) is a ministry of the Holy Spirit, infallibly administered through the elders in agreement with the successor(s) of Peter. Have I got the essence right?

    You have two supports for this position, one essential and another corrobative. The corrobative support can best be described as the historical argument, i.e., the apostolic succession argument. The essential support is the doctrine of Scripture, i.e., the Petrine investiture.

    There maybe be other supports, but these really augment these two key ones. Yes?

    To be completely fair to you, we need to note that the one support is essential, in that it is what you believe is the teaching of Scripture. The other, while important and effectively defending the Scriptural support, is not so essential that questions of defect in it are necessary fatal. That is, when it all boils down to it, the real support for your position is akin to a “thus saith the Lord.”

    Have I understood the essence of the position?

  432. TurretinFan said,

    May 14, 2010 at 7:00 am

    “Where does the WCF distinguish or list which specific doctrines are necessary for salvation and which are not?”

    It does not provide such a list. Scripture also does not provide such a list. Likewise, Chrysostom (who agrees with us that all the necessary things are clearly stated in Scripture) does not provide such a list.

    “Why think that it doesn’t with respect to the Filioque, especially when the Reformed have historically taken its denial by the Orthodox as ‘heresy?'”

    Do you have any specific example of a Reformer saying that? If they did call it a heresy, that would seem to suggest that they thought it was an essential doctrine (although, of course, in a broader sense every error is “heresy”).

    “If that’s not a good enough candidate, how about divine simplicity, since a good number of Reformed writers seem to think Open Theists are heretical for denying it?”

    Open Theists are heretics because they deny God’s omniscience. God’s omniscience is plainly taught throughout Scriptures. They may also deny other things (immutability, simplicity, etc.), but the critiques of open theism I’ve seen from a Reformed perspective focus on the issue of omniscience and/or Providence.

    “I am not clear on how we get from, what most Reformed folks would say or think, to, what the Confessions teach? Isn’t that part of the point of the original post here?”

    When the Confession is silent about something, and you want an answer on what “the Reformed position” is, I feel it necessary to resort to survey of the Reformed literature.

    “Now we can move from your admission that it is not clearly taught, to the question of whether it is obscurely taught?”

    I don’t see the need to rehash the Filioque debate. Theophylact provides some discussion of the passages that both he (as a “Greek”) and the “Latins” relied on, in his discussion of John 3:31-34.

    -TurretinFan

  433. Keith Mathison said,

    May 14, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Bryan (re: 415)

    [BC] When you ask someone a question that presupposes the falsify of his position, that’s asking him a loaded question. That’s just what it means to ask a loaded question.

    [KM] And from where I’m sitting, all of your writings and the others at Called to Communion and other RC apologetic sites presuppose the falsity of our position and the truth of yours. I don’t think you see how you’re presupposing it, but to some of us, it’s rather obvious. Does that mean all of your papers and combox comments here and elsewhere are loaded questions?

    [BC] Your question to me was this: And what do you do when after examining the available evidence, you discover that the bishops of Rome can no longer make any remotely plausible claim to be the successors of the Apostles?

    [KM] Because you seem to think that if someone reads the church fathers and early church history, the answer is obvious. I don’t. I think an examination of church history without Rome-colored glasses clearly demonstrates the falsity of Rome’s claims.

    [BC] That question, as I explained in my previous reply to you, presumes that there is evidence having this implication, which is not a claim with which I agree. Therefore, it is a loaded question. When I say it is a loaded question, I don’t mean anything malicious on your part (or mine). I simply mean that it is a question-begging question.

    [KM] That’s not the reason for my question. I asked the question the way I did to raise the point that a simple reading of church history and the fathers does not make the Roman claim as obvious as you appear to believe it does. When I read the history of the last 1500 or so years of the church, it is evident to me that Rome went astray. You disagree. Whose reading of history is right and how do you know? You can’t just ask those whose veracity and claims are in question (i.e. Rome), but that’s the answer I’m hearing from Roman Catholics such as yourself. You can’t resolve the question of Rome’s claims by asking Rome or by appealing to Romanized versions of history.

    [BC] In my opinion, in order to resolve our disagreements, we have to set aside the sophistry that is so easy (and tempting) to engage in when discussing these matters. That’s why I suggested that instead of trading in loaded questions, perhaps you could provide the evidence presupposed by your question.

    [KM] That would be fine (there are libraries full of church history books written by competent historians), but I already know that for faithful Roman Catholics, the evidence that I find compelling cannot even be admitted to exist. For them (you?) it can all be explained as long as one grants the Roman presuppositions. However, it is those very presuppositions that need to be proved.

    [BC] Your evidence seems to be thus: The apostles chose Christ instead of the world. Somewhere along the line, the bishops of Rome who claimed to be their successors opted for worldly power and wealth instead. Without a doubt some bishops of Rome have pursued worldly power and wealth. But in itself that’s no reason to believe that the succession was broken. The succession does not depend on those holding it being sinless. Otherwise, Matthias could not have replaced Judas. Matthias was able to succeed Judas, even though Judas committed the worst sin in human history.

    [KM] And when Judas is succeeded by another Judas over and over and over again for hundreds of years? No red flags? That’s not faith; that’s presumption. The point isn’t about sinlessness. None of us are claiming to be sinless. The problem is generation after generation of words and actions precisely contrary to anything remotely resembling holiness and godliness. When an institution is characterized for generations by the seven deadly sins, I do not believe it is illegitimate to question their claim to be vicars of Christ and successors of the Apostles. Those are not the characteristics of Christ and the Apostles on anyone’s reading.

    Here’s where the rubber meets the road for me, Bryan, and I don’t really know how to say this in a way that you won’t find offensive. There’s an underlying point to it, however: Why should I trust my soul to the Roman papacy and magisterium for all eternity when I wouldn’t entrust my little boy to them for a single hour?

    I have yet to run across a Roman Catholic apologist who fully understands the point I’m making with this question. What we hear on our side is: “The succession does not depend on those holding it being sinless.” Apparently, however, it doesn’t even depend on them being Christians.

    Let me put it this way, had the history of the papacy been a history characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control, her claims would have a plausibility factor. Her actions, however, speak far louder than her words, and her claims are hollow. Thus my original point that the bishops of Rome can no longer make any remotely plausible claim to be the successors of the Apostles.

  434. Paige Britton said,

    May 14, 2010 at 7:24 am

    re. Filioque:

    Is there a traceable movement in Reformed history, I wonder, from a strong reaction to EO denial of the filioque, to a sense that really it is not a matter of essentials after all? That is, does “moment in history” have some bearing on declarations of heresy, so that Perry can maybe point to incidences of strong words from the 16th or 17th c’s, when we no longer hear them in Reformed teaching? Emotions were running really high around the Reformation, in a way they do not now, and since we’re Reformed and not Catholic, we can admit in retrospect that some of those energies (not all!) were probably misplaced.

  435. TurretinFan said,

    May 14, 2010 at 7:27 am

    “I should clarify that the advanced continuity doesn’t mean that members of the magisterium are not susceptible to sin and corruption, and the same sins tht befell the pharasees …”

    Alexander VI’s corruption far exceeded that of the Pharisees. At least they were hypocrites, his open wickedness is shocking. But why would anyone think that Alexander VI had the Holy Spirit guiding him into all truth, since the Holy Spirit did not seem to be bearing fruit of righteousness in his life?

    “… but it means that the Holy Spirit has promised to be much more involved in the NC Church than the OC Church …”

    Let’s assume that’s true. Why would you think that this involvement is with respect to the leadership of the Church and not the Church as a whole? Where does the New Testament suggest that only the leaders experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit?

    “… and whenever the Holy Spirit is at work through the Church magisterium, their decisions cannot be thought to contain error, otherwise God would be the author of error.”

    Is the Holy Spirit at work in all believers to provide grace? Surely you acknowledge this, but do not infer impeccability from it. Why then would you infer infallibility from the Holy Spirit’s work in guiding the magisterial functions of the church?

    “But, I’m positive that given it was actually true that the Church issued a statement that really, in truth, did not contain any error, there would certainly be people out there to challenge it and charge it with error because it did’t square well with their understanding of things, and the Church would have no way of proving that it is without error.”

    What’s interesting is that God gave his prophets and apostles (those people whom he gave revelation from above) special gifts – signs and wonders that testified to the truth of the revelation they received.

    Hebrew 2:1-4
    Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

    Do you see how God actually bore witness to them? God doesn’t bear witness to Trent, Vatican I, Vatican II, or the Marian dogmas. The men who claim that they speak for God in those instances have no testimony from God that they speak the truth – no signs or wonders, no miracles or gifts of the Holy Ghost. They are not authorized to speak for God, even if (on some level, by virtue of the rite of ordination) they are authorized to speak about God.

    The Holy Spirit did lead the apostles into all truth and they traditioned it to us in Holy Scriptures. Therefore, the Scriptures are a most excellent and sufficient rule of faith.

    -TurretinFan

  436. Sean said,

    May 14, 2010 at 7:38 am

    Keith,

    I won’t answer for Bryan. But feel compelled to address part of your comment. The scandal that you reference is a real one. Horrible, horrible men have worn the collar and been the worst kind of servants of satan. The church for years did not handle it well, to say the least. At the same time, I cannot help but recall that the vast majority of the clergy who has ever worn the vestments have indeed have ministries marked by love, joy, patience, kindness, self-control etc. One cannot point to the evil men that have been tares and not acknowledge the wheat that has flourished for two-thousand years. Our church has had some vicious beasts but we have also had saints. What we know is that 2-3% of priests over the past five decades have had credible accusations waged against them. One would be enough but that number is similar to the cases brought against Protestant ministers, school teachers, doctors and just about every other walk of life.

    Rome’s opulence, her political machinations down through the centuries, her tyrannies and hauteur and self-assertiveness, not to mention the Dionysian romp in the Vatican in the Renaissance, what with Borgia popes and catamites and so forth: all of that is bad – very bad. The Catholic Church knows that. Dante, of course, had half of the popes head down in fiery pits in hell. Chaucer, contemporary with the Lollard Wyclif, but himself a loyal Catholic, is merciless – scathing even – in his portraiture of filthy and cynical clergy. St. Thomas More and Erasmus, contemporary with Luther and Calvin, were at least as vitriolic in their condemnation of Roman evils as were the Reformers . . . [But] Israel was not less Israel when she was being wicked . . . The Church is in the same position in its identity as people of God. We have Judas Iscariot, as it were, and Ananias and Sapphira, and other unsavory types amongst us, but we have no warrant to set up shop outside the camp, so to speak . . . Evangelicals, in their just horror at rampant evils in Catholic history, . . . unwittingly place themselves somewhat with the Donatists of the fourth century, who wanted to hive off because of certain evils which they felt were widespread in the Church. Augustine and others held the view that you can’t go that far. You can’t set up shop independently of the lineage of bishops . . . As far as the ancient, orthodox Church was concerned, nobody could split off . . . The problems of the Roman Catholic Church (sin, worldliness, ignorance) are, precisely, the problems of the Church. St. Paul never got out of Corinth before he had all of the above problems. Multiply that small company of Christians by 2000 years and hundreds of millions, and you have what the Catholic Church has to cope with. Furthermore, remember that the poor Catholics aren’t the only ones who have to cope. Anyone who has ever tried to start himself a church has run slap into it all, with a vengeance . . . Worldliness, second-generation apathy, ossification, infidelity, loss of vision, loss of zeal, loss of discipline, jiggery-pokery, heresy – it’s all there.

    Thomas Howard -“Letter to my Brother: A Convert Defends Catholicism,” Crisis, December 1991, 23-24,26

  437. johnbugay said,

    May 14, 2010 at 8:10 am

    Sean: there are plenty of factual errors in Thomas Howard’s letter. I’m glad that you acknowledge some of the horrors that have been produced by the Roman Catholic system. But you need to go much farther.

    [But] Israel was not less Israel when she was being wicked . . . The Church is in the same position in its identity as people of God.

    Israel was the recipient of the direct promises of Yahweh on Mt. Sinai. They clearly had the mandate from God. There very history and Scriptures testified to that.

    Your attempt to equate “The Roman Catholic Church” is a begged question that has been re-hashed over and over here, without one word of supporting evidence from your side. Even if the Roman church truly was everything it said it was, wouldn’t you think that its defenders would be willing to provide every argument in favor of it that they could muster? But it is not, and even from those who think that it is, there is only scoffing and chest-beating from your side.

    Evangelicals, in their just horror at rampant evils in Catholic history, . . . unwittingly place themselves somewhat with the Donatists of the fourth century, who wanted to hive off because of certain evils which they felt were widespread in the Church.

    This is just not true. In the first place, the Donatists themselves were guilty of errors, but one of which was not their quest for purity in the leadership of the church.

    On the other hand, the Reformers were very clearly addressing not only “certain evils” in practice (which were probably far greater at the time of the Reformation), but also the adoption of non-biblical doctrines that had not only crept in but were blatantly and openly proclaimed to be the truth.

    As far as the ancient, orthodox Church was concerned, nobody could split off . . . The problems of the Roman Catholic Church (sin, worldliness, ignorance) are, precisely, the problems of the Church.

    1. Nestorius and the council of Ephesus

    2. If it were only “sin, worldliness and ignorance” it would be one thing. In reality it was indulgences, purgatory, the “infallible teaching” that Christ’s sacrifice did not provide full satisfaction for sins.

    St. Paul never got out of Corinth before he had all of the above problems. Multiply that small company of Christians by 2000 years and hundreds of millions, and you have what the Catholic Church has to cope with. …

    It is the business of the church to cope with what Paul dealt with in Corinth. On the other hand, (a) Howard is just assuming that Rome is in the same position as Paul, whereas (b) Rome today is guilty of far worse *doctrinal* horrors than Paul ever faced in Corinth.

    Thomas Howard was a fool. His “Evangelical is not enough” was a blatant slap to the sufficiency of Christ and the Scriptures. Your attempt to try to minimize and muddy and obfuscate by echoing this badly flawed reasoning of his is probably a step up from what we’d expect from you, but it’s all still in the same category.

  438. TurretinFan said,

    May 14, 2010 at 8:13 am

    “What we know is that 2-3% of priests over the past five decades have had credible accusations waged against them. One would be enough but that number is similar to the cases brought against Protestant ministers, school teachers, doctors and just about every other walk of life. ”

    a) You have to love the “our heirarchy is just as corrupt as any other path of life” defense. One would think that 1 Timothy’s requirements would lead to a lower incidence of corruption, not an equal one.

    b) I don’t believe that Sean’s statistics are truthful or accurate (whether Sean knows this or not is a different question). For example, the John Jay Report (link to copy of report) indicates that about four percent of American priests were accused of sexual abuse of minors. I’m confident that Sean doesn’t have reliable statistics showing that the same rate of accusations of sexual abuse of minors exists among doctors.

    – TurretinFan

  439. Keith Mathison said,

    May 14, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Sean (re: 436),

    You quoted Thomas Howard’s statement that reads as follows: “Augustine and others held the view that you can’t go that far. You can’t set up shop independently of the lineage of bishops . . . As far as the ancient, orthodox Church was concerned, nobody could split off . . . The problems of the Roman Catholic Church (sin, worldliness, ignorance) are, precisely, the problems of the Church.”

    Again, from where I sit, this kind of claim assumes the equation of Rome with the church. But the question of apostolic succession is separate from the question of Roman apostolic succession. All I’m saying at this point, is that history doesn’t give one a lot of reason to believe that the bishops of Rome maintained legitimate succession (consistent immorality being one of a number of reasons). If Rome is not presupposed to be one giant worldwide diocese, then the issue is a little more complex than Howard’s illustration would indicate.

  440. Sean said,

    May 14, 2010 at 9:09 am

    ‘Turretin Fan’

    I have no desire to get in a statistic battle with you. But since you question the statistics I cited here are some sources.

    Protestant Sex Abuse Rates compared to Catholic sex abuse rates

    I don’t really see the difference between 2-3% that I’ve seen cited and 4% that you insist. Nobody really knows for certain. This NY Times study in 2003 concluded, “The Times survey counted priests from dioceses and religious orders who had been accused by name of sexually abusing one or more children. It determined that 1.8 percent of all priests ordained from 1950 to 2001 had been accused of abuse.”

    I’ve also seen studies that are higher 3-4 %. Nobody really knows and given the gravity of the matter 1% is not any better than 4%, in my opinion. If you want to insist 4% than fine. My argument does not change.

    Furthermore, you said this “You have to love the “our heirarchy is just as corrupt as any other path of life” defense.” Firstly, I was responding directly to Keith who said, “Why should I trust my soul to the Roman papacy and magisterium for all eternity when I wouldn’t entrust my little boy to them for a single hour?”

    My response was not an attempt to belittle the sins committed by my church but to demonstrate that if one were try to find a church where this kind of sin did not exist, one would be in a very small church. My only up close and personal encounter with clergy abuse was circa 1997 in Kansas where a Presbyterian deacon in our church got his step-daughter pregnant. Would I trust my daughter with that man? No. But I realize that sin is sin and sin is everywhere. I did not leave the Presbyterian Church because of the actions of that man. If I believed that the Presbyterian Church was the church that Christ founded than I would still be Presbyterian in spite of that man.

    One would think that 1 Timothy’s requirements would lead to a lower incidence of corruption, not an equal one.

    On this, you are absolutely right.

    I don’t know of any statistics about doctor sex abuse but we all know that it happens. Just google ‘Doctors’ + ‘Sex Abuse.’ If you want to take comfort in believing that doctor rates of abuse are less than clergy or teachers than fine by me.

  441. TurretinFan said,

    May 14, 2010 at 9:40 am

    a) So you have no apology for making up the allegation against doctors?

    b) “Father Jonathan”‘s article is the one I’ve most frequently seen cited by those who wish to minimize the significance of the sexual abuse of minors problem that Roman Catholic priests have. It ends up shooting themselves in foot.

    Let’s take a quick look at his claims:

    260 reports of sexual abuse of minors per year by Protestant “church-related folks (not specifically ministers)

    vs.

    228 reports of sexual abuse of minors per year by Roman Catholics “clerics” (he doesn’t specify whether that includes deacons)

    His use of raw numbers is interesting. The raw numbers are about the same, but there are about twice as many Protestants as Roman Catholics. Guess what that means … it means that on a per capita basis the abuse rate is twice as high.

    Also note that he’s comparing reports made to insurance companies (not only those that are “credible reports”) with “credible reports” as determined by the church whose servants the alleged perpetrators are. The goal of this apples and oranges comparison is clear.

    And that article is just one of many deceitful defenses of Rome’s clergy.

    -Turretin Fan

  442. Toli said,

    May 14, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Sorry guys, been out for a while.

    Reed,

    I never assumed your motives. To say that you were venting (in 338) is not a matter of motives, it is a quality of an action. That you were venting at least to some degree is apparent in things you said in your post. This was not a problem for me, at first. Implicit in that comment(338) was that you were not open to engaging any of my arguments because you simply did not want to rehash anything you wrote earlier, and that is fine, too. ( I never accused you of not engaging my arguments until after you accused me) This is why I didn’t respond. However, I thought it was unfair when you were criticizing me of making mere assertions and not engaging your arguments. This was during a time when you had yet to make any substantial argumtents for me to answer, and you were making at least just as many assertions as I supposedly was, if not more. It came to the point that I wasn’t sure you even knew the difference between an argument and an assertion, but I knew that couldn’t possibly be true, so I just scratched my head and moved on. Moreover, when we were talking about “rationalism” I was sure we were not on the same page there, and I politely asked you to give me your definition of rationalism, which you failed to do, and assumed that what I meant by rationalism was the same as what you meant. Again, I scratched my head in disbelief and moved on.

    It is your comment in # 338 that was most derogatory, unhelpful, and unnecessary. Instead of shooting all that fire out of your mouth, perhaps a better thing to do would be to direct me to a post of yours that you would like me to answer or at least read. One of the main problems here, why I havn’t really engaged the supposed arguments you want me to, is that you never were clear as to precisely what you wanted me to answer. It was like you were criticizing me for not engaging a phantom. All I ask is that you give me a precise, clear argument you would like me to respond to. Not assertions, only arguments. Otherwise I have no other option than to ignore you and focus on people actually taking the time to dialogue fairly with me and make thier arguments and expectations clear to me

    It was in comment #367 where you first accused me of ignoring you. Prior to that I had not accused you of the same at all. You were the first. You said I was ignoring you just like Bryan, as if it was a given fact that Bryan was somehow ignoring and not just, perhaps, not noticing. There is a difference. The same goes for me. It is hard to notice what you want when you don’t make it precisely clear. Plus, there are other things I was busy with throughout the day that I simply couldn’t answer everything that came my way. I took my God given liberty to answer those who I thought posted something worthy of answering, not to say you havn’t posted anything not-worthy, but just not as worthy as others, at least in my estimation at the time. Futhermore, in this same post, you accuse me of not answering Jeff’s post on contradictions between councils and scripture. But Jeff sufficiently answered you himself in 369! Plus, I did answer him in my own way, perhaps not the way you wanted or expected, in post 368.

    In #388, you tell me I’m disrespectful for critiquing your supposed insistence on “proof”, telling me that you never did such a thing. Then, in 393, I tell you that you were the one who brough in the whole idea of “proof” in the first place, and I document it in quotes. Again, at this point I scratched my head, because I was dumbfounded why you would accuse me of being disrespectuful for ascribing to you something you actually said. Perhaps you didn’t mean it the way you said it, as if you were being sarcastic or something. But that is not my problem. You should have been more clear. In any case, it was not a just accusation.

    Finally, in #407, you accuse me of being “holier than thou”, which I find likewise to be an unjust accusation, and it is especially frustrating when you seem to be exhibiting more of that attitude than I, at least directly toward me. Humble people simply do not say things like that, I’m sorry. This is why I said your pride was masquerading in a cloak of humility. But all this is just silly, anyway. I saw your previous response to Bryan and was wondering why, through all this time, you couldn’t have been like that toward me. From the beginning of our interchange, not once did you address me in such a humble, charitable manner. Does Bryan have more human dignity than I?

    Reed, I admit, I am like you. I am the kind of person that is sometimes blunt and to the point, sometimes even being sarcastic in my comments. I recognize that sometimes that may come off as arrogance, but it is just the way I write. I do not think it is disrespectful at all, nor do I think it is arrogant. What I think is disrespectful is slander and false accusations. These I try to avoid. If you think I have been guilty of one of the two, please show me where. I will be happy to apologize. Perhaps I have been a bit arrogant, so I apologize for that. I would appreciate it, however, if you pointed out to me where you think I was being arrogant. No doubt we can all use a little self reflection on pride, because it so easily pops up every day.

  443. May 14, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Paige 434,

    Suppose what you claim is true (in part it is, but up till the 19th century, not the 17th). If it is so and the intent of the writers and users of the WCF was that a denial was heterodoxy and that now through desuetude has changed, doesn’t this fall under what the original point of this post was? Namely that what the Confession teaches can’t be derived from what any private theologian teaches (so much the more from what most non-theologians think)
    Since there’s been no formal, at least to my knowledge, renunciation of its denial as heterodox, I can’t see given the principle articulated above by Turretin how it is still not on the books so to speak.

  444. May 14, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Jeff Cagle #430,

    Thanks for the reply.

    Suppose you’re right about the subset of doctrines that are necessary for salvation and the wider set of doctrines that can be proved to be from Scripture. Given the above citation from Turretin and using it as a principle, what non-private judgment from a theologian (or lay person) do I have or that you can supply me with to know which the Filioque falls under in terms of the original intent of the confession?

    Second, I don’t know that the way the Filioque is taught in Reformed seminaries today is that it isn’t necessary for salvation. I am sure we can muster some individual cases, but I find it hard to see how that wouldn’t a-amount to anecdotal evidence, b-fall under Turretin’s quote above or c-show that the original intent has fallen into desuetude.

    If the significance of the Filioque has not been retained, is this a product of desuetude or semper reformada? If the latter, I’d think I would need some formal statement by Reformed bodies to know and to show that it’s significance has been altered since we can’t go by individual theological opinions?. Can you direct me to such a statement?

    As for what the Reformed have meant by heresy with respect to a denial of the Filioque, it seems more of the 2nd-unable to be held by a Christian, rather than the first, against the Confession, but I could be mistaken and so I’ll leave the door open here for discussion as to that factual question.

  445. Toli said,

    May 14, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Reed (re 389)

    I’m not exactly sure what your stance is with this quote. You said it needs cleaning up a bit, but it’s not clear what you would clean up to match more of what you believe. I can agree with it to an extent, although I don’t know how it is even a possibility because all the elders never agree. But, yes, this can be a starting point, provided you spin it into your own words, according to your belief.

  446. May 14, 2010 at 11:35 am

    TF #432,

    If the Scriptures and the Confession were comparable in organization and intent then it would be relevant that neither provide such a list of doctrines that are necessary for salvation and which are not.

    If one is going to advance the thesis that the Confession distinguishes between these two sets and that the Filioque falls into one but not the other, given the citation from Turretin that we are working with, we’d need something on the level, of the Confession to tell us which is which. Otherwise, the claim that the Confession does so and places the Filioque in one but not the other set seems to be unfounded.

    If I thought the Reformed usage of Chrysostom was correct, I might agree with you, but I don’t. Articulating a constituent concept of Sola Scriptura doesn’t entail the whole idea, unless you’ve demonstrated an entailment relationship between each of its constituents. Sp even if Chrysostom did the former, it doesn’t follow that he held to the latter.

    In any case, the question on the table is not Sola Scriptura or any of its constituent principles or whether Chrysostom held to some of them or all of them. The question was with respect to the WCF or any Reformed confession for that matter. Consequently what Chrysostom thought or didn’t think is irrelevant. If you admit that the WCF doesn’t distinugish between which specific doctrines are necessary for salvation and which are not, then either it seems we leave it up to each individual or groups of individuals in which case Turretin was wrong in principle or there is some other formal extra-confessional statement that does? Which do you judge to be the case or is there some other option?

    As for examples of Reformed writers who have thought it was so, there are some, but others on the other side. But given Turretin’s statement above, we aren’t licensed to move from what any of them say to what a given church body judges, which will include his own statements on the matter..

    Open theists are certainly heterodox for denying omniscience, but of course they take the traditional doctrine of omniseicence to entail forordination/predestination, just as Calvinists do-I don’t, those are metaphysically different energies. In any case, in most of the critiques by Reformed and non-Reformed writers of Open Theism, divine simplicity comes up fairly often. Given the Roman and Reformed doctrine of God, this makes sense since if God wasn’t simple, he might not be omniscient and knowledge and will in God would be metaphysically distinct things. So a defense of omniscience, will entail some kind of defense of simplicity, which is why people like Ware and others defend both.

    In any case, is divine simplicity necessary for salvation as stated in Reformed Confessions?

    But if as you stated above, the Confession doesn’t list those doctrines that are necessary for salvation, and the Confession is silent on the matter and so we have to resort to the opinions of divines and given what Turretin says above that we aren’t licensed to infer the teaching or judgment of a church body from the expressed opinions of Reformed theologians, no matter how highly esteemed, either we need an express statement from the respective body (or bodies) or we are left with the idea that what doctrines in the Confessions are essential to salvation and which are not is something of private opinion and private judgment apart from the Confession.
    Without a formal statement, then even with subordinate authority of the Confession under Scripture, it will still be the case that it is an open question whether any, all or some Confessional doctrines are necessary for salvation. That is, it will be left to every individual to judge for himself such that the body (or bodies) in question will not formally teach that any doctrine is necessary for salvation. Confessionally subordinate formal statements won’t help since they are subordinate to the Confession. We’d need something equal to or greater to the Confession here.

    If I am in error here, please by all means point it out to me.
    As for Theophylact’s discussion, I am looking right at the text and do not see what you think discusses the matter, so you’ll need to be more specific. I am unclear. Do you mean to imply that he thought various Scripture passages taught the Filiqoue or no?

    Second, if the issue is not the Filioque per se, but perspicuity of Scripture and what the Confessions teach (and as what is or isn’t necessary for salvation) irrespective of what private individuals teach, then once you’ve admitted that said doctrine is not directly perspicuous in Scripture, then we need to know if you think it is indirectly perspicuous. If not, then we can move the discussion forward to discussing of whether it is necessary for salvation or not, some of which we have done above.

  447. Bryan Cross said,

    May 14, 2010 at 11:53 am

    rfwhite (re: #423)

    So, in those instances where bishops find themselves in disagreement — or, more generally, before bishops reach agreement on the interpretation of Scripture, what is the effect of their disagreement on the authority of their respective interpretations of Scripture? Does disagreement reduce the authority of their individual interpretations to “my best interpretation of Scripture, given what I now know”? In other words, when bishops find themselves in disagreement, are their dueling interpretations of Scripture subject to the same caveats as any other individual interpreter?

    Again setting aside (for now) the question of the unique role and authority of the episcopal successor of Peter, the teaching authority of an individual bishop by himself is limited to his diocese. “The individual bishops, who are placed in charge of particular churches, exercise their pastoral government over the portion of the People of God committed to their care, and not over other churches nor over the universal Church.” (Lumen Gentium, 23) In regional or ecumenical councils the bishop (with his fellow bishops) exercises a regional or universal magisterial authority, respectively. But no bishop (even the bishop of Rome), either individually or collectively, has the authority to contradict anything belonging to the deposit of faith, or to add to the deposit of faith. The teaching authority given to the bishops by the Apostles is the authority to guard and teach the deposit of faith, not alter it.

    So if a bishop is proposing an interpretation of Scripture that is contrary to what the Catholic Church has always and everywhere believed and taught, (and thus contrary to the teaching of the universal magisterium [ordinary or extraordinary]), such an interpretation has no authority. But otherwise, “In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent.” (Lumen Gentium, 25) In this respect the bishop exercises what is called the “ordinary magisterium,” which is not infallible, and therefore does not require of the faithful under his care the “assent of faith,” but nevertheless requires what is called “religious assent”, or “religious submission of intellect and will.”

    So, in the hypothetical situation you describe, (given the qualifications I’ve stated here) the disagreement would not reduce the authority of their interpretations of Scripture to that of a layman. But their teaching authority as individual bishops always remains subordinate to the teaching authority of the universal magisterium.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  448. Reed Here said,

    May 14, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Toli (Jared Bratt): for goodness sakes, I’ve given the quote from my friend; I’ve aknowledged I’m open to “polishing” of the phraseology; I’ve acknowledged the area of key disagreement … and I’ve only asked for some exchange as to agree/disagree on what it says.

    What in the world do you mean “spin it out in my own words, according my my belief”? Talk about scratching your head. I try not to spin words; I think I’ve been pretty straightforward. Is is possible you look for meaning behind my words, as if I’m not being straightforward?

    It’s a statement. It offers some substance. It arguably contains three sentences, 5 key clauses, and seven supportive/explanatory clauses. Do you want to interact with it? Do you want to explain on what basis you can agree and on what basis you can’t agree? Do you want to say its worthless and explain why?

    Interpretive authority, which carries formative and corrective disciplinary authority, does not rest in the individual elder; it rests in the agreement of the elders (judges) who have met in Christ’s name (Matt 18; 1 Cor 5-6; Acts 15). In other words, it is when elders are in communion with Christ, through the Spirit speaking in Scripture, and with each other, and are in agreement on one position (in matters of faith and morals) as definitively (most authoritative, though not infallibly) to be held, they are proclaiming Christ’s doctrine. The authority of elders is something they enjoy only in union with Christ and those in communion with him.

    (I’m choosing to agree to disagree on your take of my personal behavior vs. your personal behavior, i.e., your post previous to this one. I did read it, did pray about. Pretty much my convictions are exactly opposite yours. I’m willing to leave it there under the circumstances.)

  449. Reed Here said,

    May 14, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Bryan Cross: in case you missed it, here was my follow up with you, no. 431:

    Bryan: rather than reviewing and digging, especially since so much additional ground has been covered, maybe I might best interact with you by simply verifying my understanding, and then maybe asking a follow up question or two.

    Your position on “interpretive authority” (and its concommitals formative and corrective disciplinary authority) is a ministry of the Holy Spirit, infallibly administered through the elders in agreement with the successor(s) of Peter. Have I got the essence right?

    You have two supports for this position, one essential and another corrobative. The corrobative support can best be described as the historical argument, i.e., the apostolic succession argument. The essential support is the doctrine of Scripture, i.e., the Petrine investiture.

    There maybe be other supports, but these really augment these two key ones. Yes?

    To be completely fair to you, we need to note that the one support is essential, in that it is what you believe is the teaching of Scripture. The other, while important and effectively defending the Scriptural support, is not so essential that questions of defect in it are necessary fatal. That is, when it all boils down to it, the real support for your position is akin to a “thus saith the Lord.”

    Have I understood the essence of the position?

  450. Bryan Cross said,

    May 14, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Reed (re: #431)

    Your position on “interpretive authority” (and its concommitals formative and corrective disciplinary authority) is a ministry of the Holy Spirit, infallibly administered through the elders in agreement with the successor(s) of Peter. Have I got the essence right?

    There are important qualifying conditions for infallibility, but, roughly, yes, if I understand what you are saying here, you have the essence right.

    You have two supports for this position, one essential and another corrobative. The corrobative support can best be described as the historical argument, i.e., the apostolic succession argument. The essential support is the doctrine of Scripture, i.e., the Petrine investiture. There maybe be other supports, but these really augment these two key ones. Yes? To be completely fair to you, we need to note that the one support is essential, in that it is what you believe is the teaching of Scripture. The other, while important and effectively defending the Scriptural support, is not so essential that questions of defect in it are necessary fatal. That is, when it all boils down to it, the real support for your position is akin to a “thus saith the Lord.” Have I understood the essence of the position?

    I don’t think so. Your way of describing it is (understandably) a Protestant way of thinking about Catholicism. From a Protestant point of view, Catholicism is essentially just another (and lousy to boot) way of interpreting Scripture. But Protestantism and Catholicism are paradigmatically different. Protestantism starts with the Bible, and then from one’s interpretation of the Bible tries to locate the Church in the present day by finding those who sufficiently share one’s interpretation. Catholicism, however, starts with the Church in the first century, and then seeks to understand the Bible through that Church, in all that she has taught about the faith, from the first century to the present day.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  451. Paige Britton said,

    May 14, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Perry,

    You ask good questions (but that is just my private opinion).

    While I want to respect Lane’s intent in quoting Turretin, I also have to think that the historical context then and now makes for a rather complicated application of his thoughts at this time. It is one thing to have the WCF as representative not only of a largely national church, but also of government endorsement of doctrine. It is another thing to consider it the guiding theological statement of one denomination among many who hold to it.

    I.e., it’s hard to know now to whom one would appeal if the statement needs revising. And if a change were necessary — for example, if there has been either a general drift or a studied change among Reformed thinkers re. the filioque — I should think that it would be to the private writings of theologians that we would turn, at least for a while. (Though we would do so not to prove what a branch of the church teaches, but rather to sort out the thinking on the topic, and begin a debate about revisions.) But since we don’t see the same parliamentary ‘ownership’ of the WCF anymore, this would be a process that would have to happen again and again among the denoms that embrace the Confession.

    Which is a huge prospect: and probably the controversy with the EO hasn’t been on many people’s minds, not enough to get the ball rolling! Like I said about myself, the filioque is a hand-me-down. We don’t even blink at it anymore (because we don’t know to).

  452. Bryan Cross said,

    May 14, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Keith (re: #433)

    Of course most of what I write is written from a Catholic point of view. But that does not mean that I may justifiably offer question-begging arguments or loaded questions to those who disagree with me. When two people disagree about something, they both first have to seek and establish common ground from which they may then proceed (and to which they may both appeal) in order to adjudicate their disagreement. So, even though I am a Catholic and have a Catholic point of view, that does not justify my offering you (or any Protestant) a question-begging argument, or a question-begging question. If I ever offer you an argument that contains a question-begging premise, please point that out to me. Or if I ever ask you a question-begging question, please point that out to me. The possibility of adjudicating disagreements through rational dialogue would be destroyed altogether if merely coming from distinct points of view was equivalent to offering question-begging arguments or question-begging questions.

    That’s not the reason for my question. I asked the question the way I did to raise the point that a simple reading of church history and the fathers does not make the Roman claim as obvious as you appear to believe it does.

    Let me ask you a question. At the beginning of the ninth century (where I left off in my last comment to Jason [#395]), which Church is the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded”?: (a) the same one that convened the seventh ecumenical council, (b) the Assyrian Church, (c) the Coptic Church, or (d) all of the above.

    If your answer is (d), then why is it that in the fourth century the Donatists were in schism from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church Church, but in the early ninth century the Nestorians and Copts were not in schism from the Church?

    That would be fine (there are libraries full of church history books written by competent historians), but I already know that for faithful Roman Catholics, the evidence that I find compelling cannot even be admitted to exist.

    That’s not true. Whoever your source is about what Catholics are allowed to believe, you need to find a more informed source. I still find it amazing how many misunderstandings there are between Catholics and Protestants. Working out our doctrinal disagreements is not easy. But clearing up misunderstandings is the first and most important task of ecumenical dialogue, and it is much easier. So let’s clear up this misunderstanding. Catholics are not forbidden to admit the existence of any evidence that actually exists. So, instead of trading talk about what evidence Catholics are or are not allowed to believe, let’s talk about the actual evidence in question, and whether or not it demonstrates the conclusion you are drawing from it.

    And when Judas is succeeded by another Judas over and over and over again for hundreds of years? No red flags? That’s not faith; that’s presumption. The point isn’t about sinlessness. None of us are claiming to be sinless. The problem is generation after generation of words and actions precisely contrary to anything remotely resembling holiness and godliness. When an institution is characterized for generations by the seven deadly sins, I do not believe it is illegitimate to question their claim to be vicars of Christ and successors of the Apostles. Those are not the characteristics of Christ and the Apostles on anyone’s reading.

    We need to back up and answer a prior question. How do we rightly determine the criteria by which a bishop loses his ecclesial authority? Until we answer that question, we cannot determine objectively whether any particular bishop has or has not lost his ecclesial authority, and we thus run the risk of rebelling against a rightful ecclesial authority. That’s a very serious error that we shouldn’t trivialize or take lightly. When the Amalekite reported to David that he had found Saul impaled on his spear, still living, and that he had killed King Saul, David’s response was this, “How is it you were not afraid to stretch out your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?” (1 Sam 1:14) Likewise, we too ought to have this kind of fear lest we be rebelling against the LORD’s anointed ecclesial authority. That’s why we need to know with certainty how to determine rightly what are the objective criteria by which a bishop loses his ecclesial authority, before we conclude that the bishop no longer has ecclesial authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  453. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 14, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Perry: If the Scriptures and the Confession were comparable in organization and intent then it would be relevant that neither provide such a list of doctrines that are necessary for salvation and which are not.

    If one is going to advance the thesis that the Confession distinguishes between these two sets and that the Filioque falls into one but not the other…

    That’s not the thesis. The thesis is

    (1) All doctrines necessary for salvation are able to be plainly understood from Scripture, and

    (2) The Confession sets forth the system of doctrine that can be derived from good and necessary inference from Scripture.

    It does follow from this that doctrines necessary for salvation are included in the Confession.

    It does not follow from this that doctrines included in the Confession are necessary for salvation.

    Nor does it follow from this that doctrines necessary for salvation will be plainly marked as such in the Confession.

    Why wouldn’t they be plainly marked?

    Because the point of doctrines necessary for salvation is NOT that belief in the doctrines is salvific. Rather, the point of doctrines necessary for salvation is that they point to the true Jesus, in whom our salvation rests through faith.

    In short: I am saved by trusting in Jesus, not by mentally assenting to a set of propositions about Jesus.

    Let’s take the filioque. The Confession clearly teaches the filioque. But it does not mark that doctrine with a big red “deny this and be damned” stamp. (“Abandon all hope, ye who deny …”)

    Why not?

    Because it is possible that one could formally deny the filioque, while retaining enough of the substance of it to believe in Jesus. It may well be the case that even though you misguidedly deny that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son ontologically (just yanking your chain there), that your affirmation that the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son is not fatally damaging to your faith in Jesus.

    I can’t say for sure. What I can say is that the filioque is true, and you ought to believe it. :)

    Bottom line: the set of things necessary for salvation is included in the Confession, but not clearly marked therein. By creating the Confession, the Westminsterians hoped to cover the necessary bases and reform the theology of the Church, without creating a magisterium parallel to