The Verses That Changed Luther

Romans 1:16-17

8/22/2010

Audio Version

These verses in Romans 1:16-17 have a fair claim to be the most important verses in the entire Bible. I can think of only one other passage that might rival these verses in importance, and that is John 3:16. But for us, Romans 1:16-17 can easily make the claim that they are more important. We would not be Reformed Christians today without Romans 1:16-17, for these verses changed Martin Luther. Without Luther’s transformation, there would have been no John Calvin. And if there had been no John Calvin, then there would have been no Reformation in Holland. And if there had been no Reformation in Holland, there would have been no Dutch Reformed immigrants to the United States. In a way, we can well say that theses two verses are our origins. They are the reason why we are Reformed. I need hardly add, then, that this sermon might very well be the most important sermon I will ever preach, since it is a sermon on perhaps the two most important verses in the entire Bible. I will certainly say that what I will attempt to say in this sermon will be the most important thing I hope our churches will ever get from my ministry. You might think I am exaggerating. But I do not think I am. All of God’s Word is important. However, some verses are more central in importance. There can be no verses more central in importance than these two verses. These are the verses that changed Martin Luther. May they change us as well.

In these two verses, Paul is giving us an outline of everything that he is going to say for the rest of the letter. Here is the whole of Romans in a nutshell. Notice how many themes of Romans are present here: gospel, power of God, salvation, faith, Jew/Gentile, righteousness of God, revelation, righteousness by faith, and eternal life. That is a lot of themes!

Paul starts by saying that he is not ashamed of the gospel. There were plenty of reasons to be ashamed of the gospel. After all, who wants to believe in someone who was crucified? That is the very height of humiliation and shame! And who would believe in the resurrection from the dead? Everyone knew in those days that people don’t come back to life. When Paul preached the resurrection to the philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens, many of them laughed and ridiculed what he said. But there is more. The gospel includes the idea that all people are sinners. How many people do you know who love to be told that they are sinners? And how often are we tempted to downplay those aspects of the gospel, because we are ashamed of them? But Paul did not fall into those temptations. He was not ashamed of the gospel, in spite of all the reasons why he could have been. I wonder if we are ashamed of the gospel? Do we fear to tell people about it, because of so many things that we are simply not comfortable telling other people? Well, fear no longer, for there is good reason not to be ashamed.

The main reason why Paul is not ashamed of the gospel is because it is the power of God for salvation. Notice that Paul does not say that the gospel tells us about the power of God. Nor does he say that the gospel introduces us to the power of God. Rather, Paul says that the gospel IS the power of God for salvation. We may think of it in terms of the power of the Word. Isaiah 55 tells us that the Word of God is powerful, always accomplishing that for which God sends it. Hebrews tells us that the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. We must stop thinking of the power of God for salvation as if it resided somehow outside the gospel. God has infused His Holy Spirit into the gospel, as it were, so that the power of God resides in the good news itself. We can illustrate it this way: when we write a normal check, the money is not in the check itself. If we write a check, it is the same as a written promise that the money will be transferred from our account to the other person’s account. That is not what the gospel is like. Instead, the gospel is more like a cashier’s check. When you get a cashier’s check, the money is in the check itself. It does not take a day or two to clear the bank. The bank has invested the money in the check itself. It is possible to cash immediately a cashier’s check. That is what the gospel is like. The power is inside the gospel itself. God has put His Holy Spirit in the gospel of the Word of God just as a bank has put the money into the cashier’s check. When we give the gospel to other people, it is like having a cashier’s check in hand.

The power of God mentioned here is the power of God for salvation. The power of God is manifested in many ways throughout Scripture, but the most amazing form God’s power takes is the power of salvation. This is nothing less that God justifying the ungodly, resurrecting dead souls, bringing them from death to life, infusing His Holy Spirit into the person from the Word. The power that God has put into His Word is the same power that changes people.

How do we get that power? We get it by faith. Notice that Paul does not tell us that the saving power of God goes out to everyone. Rather, it goes to everyone who believes. Faith is the way we grab hold of God’s power. It is the conduit through which God’s power comes to us. The power is not in the faith. The power is the power of the Holy Spirit acting through the Word of God, the gospel. But we lay hold of that power through faith. Do we have that faith? Faith is here said to be belief. Belief in whom? We might notice that there is one major theme that is missing from these verses, and that is the theme of Jesus Christ. But Paul has already told us what the gospel is. Verses 2-3 of chapter one tell us of this gospel, which is concerning the Son of God, who was humiliated and exalted on our behalf. It’s that gospel that Paul is talking about in verse 16. We are supposed to remember verses 2-3 when we come to verse 16. This is another reason why it is helpful to preach through books of the Bible. Having already studied the first verses, we are in a better position to know what Paul means when uses the term “gospel.” He means what Christ has done on the cross and in the now empty tomb. The gospel then comes to us when we believe it. That is, when we believe that it is for us that Jesus did these things, that is when the power of God for salvation comes to us.

It is of faith from first to last. Notice that is how the NIV translates that part of verse 17. A righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last. This is directly opposed to any idea that we can get this righteousness by works at any time in our lives. The righteousness which we acquire by our works is the righteousness of sanctification, which follows from our justification. But when we are made right with God, it is completely Christ’s righteousness. And it is always His righteousness that keeps us right with God. We do not start out by grace, and end with works. It is by grace through faith from first to last. Our sanctification is vitally important, but our justification never depends on it. It is rather the result of justification. We do not stay justified by our works. Rather, our works come because of our justification.

Now, it doesn’t matter what state or race or gender we are, salvation comes to all who believe. That is the point of saying “first for the Jew, then also for the Gentile.” Paul is not saying here that the Jews are more saved than the Gentiles. The Greek construction here plainly puts Gentiles on the same level as Jews when it comes to salvation. What Paul is saying here is that salvation came from the Jews, and came to the Jews first in time. It is a simple statement regarding time. Salvation came first to the Jews, and then afterwards came to the Gentiles. Paul will explain this more fully in chapters 9-11.

It is in verse 17 that we come to the real heart of our obtaining the gospel. This is the verse that plagued Martin Luther until he finally understood it. Particularly, it is this phrase “the righteousness of God” that was crucial to Luther. Luther was a monk. He desired to obtain salvation by what he did. Luther not only held to the rules rigidly, but he confessed all his sins. In fact, he confessed so much and for so long every day that his confessor told him to stop confessing until he had done enough sin to confess! It wasn’t enough for Luther. He asked this question, “how can I stand before the holiness of my Judge with works polluted in their very source?” When he looked at this phrase “the righteousness of God,” he understood it to mean the righteousness of God as judge, by which He condemns all sinners to everlasting torment. Now, the righteousness of God does do that to all who will not believe, but that is not what this verse is talking about. It was when Luther finally realized what this phrase meant that he was born again. Luther finally came to realize that here in Romans 1:17, the righteousness of God does not mean God’s condemning righteousness, but rather the righteousness of Christ that is given to us as a free gift when we exercise faith in Jesus Christ. Instead of being our condemnation, the righteousness of God is instead our salvation. He got there by looking at the last part of the verse, which quotes Habakkuk 2:4. The one who is righteous by faith will live. You see, it is not the righteousness of the law that will save us. Instead, it is the righteousness that we can have by faith in Jesus Christ that will save us. It is what Luther called “an alien righteousness.” What he meant by that is that it is a righteousness that is completely outside of us. It is not a righteousness to which we contribute at all. It is the righteousness which Jesus acquired throughout His life, and in His death. It is that perfect righteousness, answering in every respect to that righteousness which we need before an infinitely holy God. And it is just that righteousness which we can have as a free gift. That is what the righteousness of God means in this passage. We should probably translate the Habbakuk quotation slightly differently than the NIV. It should say, “The one who is righteous by faith shall live.” The meaning here is that we are righteous by faith, and not by works. The one who has that righteousness by faith and not by works is the one who shall live. When Luther came to understand this, he tells us that it was as if the very gates of heaven itself had opened up to him. He went and reread the whole Bible with this in mind, and everything was different. It changed everything for Luther. That transformation of his understanding is what sparked the Reformation. So we may say truly that this is not only Luther’s text, but it is the text of the Reformation.

This righteousness is continually being revealed to us. Here we have the theme of revelation. It is a continual revelation of God’s righteousness to us. Herein we see the love of God! For God did not hide this method of salvation, and tell us to search diligently for it as for an answer to a riddle. No, He revealed it and is revealing it now plainly in the Word of God. What is revealed is God’s righteousness in Christ, that is given to us as a gift.

However, the gift does not end there. The end is eternal life. Look once more at the quotation from Habakkuk. The one who is righteous by faith shall live. It is not just present life that Habakkuk is talking about. He is talking about eternal life. How do we pass from death to eternal life? By faith in Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is then given to us. Then we have eternal life, when we believe that Jesus Christ is our salvation.

Of what practical value, then, is this gospel? It is difficult to know where to start, actually. For this gospel reaches out its tendrils into absolutely every aspect of our lives. It changes everything. It changes how we react to God and His work in our lives. It changes how we treat one another. It changes how we think, what we say, what we do. It changes our prayer lives. It changes our relationships. It changes our behavior. There is nothing more practical that this doctrine of justification by faith alone. How then can a person remain unchanged when they come to believe this gospel? For instance, how can a person remain enslaved to sin when they have died to sin, as Paul will say in Romans 6? How can we not offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God, as chapter 12:1-2 say? How will we not recognize that our freedom of conscience does not give us liberty to trample the consciences of others, as chapter 14 says? If we remember that these verses contain the message of Romans in a nutshell, then we will also realize that everything practical in chapters 12-16 is based on these verses. Not least of the applications that we can make is that we must connect practical things to doctrine. They must never be separated. For the reason why we live for God is because Jesus died for us. What I would encourage us all to do is to use our imaginations this week and see how this doctrine of justification by faith applies to us in so many different areas of life. It is almost limitless in its application. Even in most sermons, the applications are only suggestive, not exhaustive. But that is especially true here. The applications of this doctrine can never be exhausted, for they encompass all of life. Let us live our lives, then, knowing and holding firmly to what these two most important verses have to say to us: that the power of God in the gospel reveals the righteousness of God given to us freely and obtained by faith alone. That is a gospel of which we should never be ashamed.

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916 Comments

  1. Tim Vaughan said,

    August 24, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Is not God English? For Wycliffe begat Huss, who begat Luther, who begat the truth.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    August 24, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Sure, Tim. I would agree with that. However, the sermon was on the text that changed Luther, not on the text that changed Wycliffe or Huss.

  3. Rachel said,

    August 24, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    A beautifully written sermon. I am currently reading Wright’s Justification (of himself) and am on his section on Romans. After reading what he had to say, your words are so refreshing. Thank you.

  4. dozie said,

    September 4, 2010 at 7:03 am

    “Without Luther’s transformation, there would have been no John Calvin. And if there had been no John Calvin, then there would have been no Reformation in Holland. And if there had been no Reformation in Holland, there would have been no Dutch Reformed immigrants to the United States.”

    These comments may be true but they are equally outrageous – showing how desperately Calvinism, at least, is dependent on man for its foundation and propagation.

  5. Ron Henzel said,

    September 4, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Dozie,

    No one who truly believes the Gospel as taught by Jesus, Paul, Luther, and Calvin believes that it is “desperately…dependent on man for its foundation and propagation.” Your slander is the real outrage.

  6. pduggie said,

    September 16, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    “When he looked at this phrase “the righteousness of God,” he understood it to mean the righteousness of God as judge, by which He condemns all sinners to everlasting torment. Now, the righteousness of God does do that to all who will not believe, but that is not what this verse is talking about. It was when Luther finally realized what this phrase meant that he was born again. Luther finally came to realize that here in Romans 1:17, the righteousness of God does not mean God’s condemning righteousness, but rather the righteousness of Christ that is given to us as a free gift when we exercise faith in Jesus Christ. ”

    What if it was neither? What if it was the restorative justice of God in setting right that which is unjust?

    As in Psalm 5:8, where Calvin says “in this passage, as in many others, is to be understood of his faithfulness and mercy which he shows in defending and preserving his people.”

    What is a just judge? One who defends the oppressed. In Psalm 82, God judges “gods” for failure of godlikeness in their duty to do righteousness. Not only vengence on the wicked, but restoring the oppressed.

    If one thing in Romans is clear, is that Sin is viewed as a oppressive and enslaving power. For God to be righteous means he will deliver the oppressed (Romans 6, Romans 7) from the sin which brings death. This he does in Christ.

    No it’s not Luther, but why is it wrong?

    Also, isn’t the righteousness of Christ really a human righteousness: as he followed the covenant law given to man? In what sense is God’s (the father’s) own righteousness imputed? Its not. Luther’s point would work better if that’s how theology worked, but what Christ accomplished HAD to be as a man, or it wouldn’t count for us.

  7. September 30, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Another interesting post would be “Verses that Martin Luther Changed” e.g. he altered the text of Romans 3:38 in German to make it say what he wanted it to say.

    See this video for more information:

    Godspeed,
    Taylor Marshall

  8. September 30, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Sorry. Should be Romans “3:28″.

    Godspeed,
    Taylor

  9. TurretinFan said,

    September 30, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    This Roman propaganda has been debunked already (debunked oncedebunked twice).

    -TurretinFan

  10. Ron Henzel said,

    September 30, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Taylor,

    Regarding comments 7 and 8, the response to your accusation has been given many times over the centuries—even going back to the pen of Erasmus. 19th century Princeton theologian Charles Hodge provided a helpful summary as follows:

    Luther rendered the word πίστει, allein durch den Glauben, by faith alone, which produced a great outcry among many of his Catholic opposers, though the sentiment is plainly implied here, as well as in Gal. 2: 16, and every where else where Paul treats of the doctrine of justification at all. The Catholic versions, even before Luther, insert the word alone. So in the Nuremburg Bible, 1483, “Nur durch den Glauben.” And the Italian Bibles of Geneva, 1476, and of Venice, 1538, per la sola fede. The fathers often use the expression ‘man is justified by faith alone,’ so that Erasmus says, (De Ratione Concionandi, L. III.) “Vox sola, tot clamoribus lapidata hoc saeculo in Luthero, reverenter in Patribus auditur.”

    As you can see, Luther did not change the Bible any more than Catholic translators had prior to him. And Erasmus couldn’t help but notice that people have been willing to throw stones at Luther for using the same expression that they listen to reverently in the Church Fathers.

  11. Ron Henzel said,

    September 30, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Pardon me for forgetting to supply the bibliographic reference for my citation in comment 10:

    Charles Hodge, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, (Philadelphia: Grigg and Elliot, 1835), 127.

    The volume has been reissued by various publishers many times since the original edition, and is still in print.

  12. September 30, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Gentlemen,

    Certainly, you do not believe that two wrongs don’t make a right.

    If a federal employee corrupts a government document – the crime is not excused because two other federal employee also corrupted a federal documents in the same way.

    A crime is a crime. If you corrupt the word of God (or mock books like James), they you are a manifest heretic and an enemy of the cross of Christ.

    Just because two *unauthorized* translations made a poor translation, that doesn’t make Luther’s addition right or excusable. The fact is that neither the Greek nor the authoritative Latin translation (the Vulgate) read “faith alone.? What Luther did was patently wrong.

    Citing the past errors of others doesn’t make Luther’s error correct.

    One might even say that these mistakes in translations only prove that the Catholic Church must authorize translations so as to avoid errors.

    Godspeed,

    Taylor Marshall

  13. September 30, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Correction:

    “Certainly, you do not believe that two wrongs *don’t make* a right.”

    should read:

    “Certainly, you do not believe that two wrongs *make* a right.”

  14. Phil Derksen said,

    September 30, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    RE #7: I will say I kinda liked the promo – but I really doubt I’ll be interested enough to purchase a copy. Sorry…

    Also, to insinuate – over and against those rascally Protestant heretics – that the Vulgate precisely follows the original Greek, and never employs the methodology of optimal (let alone dynamic) equivalence is, quite simply, laughable.

    Of course the RC rejoinder is invariably that their church has “authorized” such otherwise wrong discriminations in the particular case of Jerome. But we’ve already been over and over that soggy kind of ground before, now, haven’t we?

  15. Jeff Cagle said,

    September 30, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Certainly, you do not believe that two wrongs don’t make a right … A crime is a crime. If you corrupt the word of God (or mock books like James), they you are a manifest heretic and an enemy of the cross of Christ.

    The point is not that Luther was right. The point is, Luther’s allein durch dem Glauben wasn’t intentionally corrupting the word of God, but was rather following in the textual tradition extant at the time. That’s well-documented above in the links by TFan.

    So misrepresenting Luther and charging him with a crime is an additional wrong on top of all of the others. Surely it should be enough to say “Luther was incorrect” without trying to make him out as an enemy of the cross of Christ? I’m sure you don’t believe that three wrongs make a right.

    Or would you have Augustine, Aquinas, Chrysostom, and Basil also be enemies of the cross because they also spoke of justification “by faith alone”? What Luther did was patently understandable, whether right or wrong.

  16. TurretinFan said,

    September 30, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    To pile on to the other responses, the accusation was “he altered the text of Romans 3:38 in German to make it say what he wanted it to say.” Is Mr. Marshall making the same accusation of the other German translators before Luther who made the same translation? One finds that hard to believe.

    In any event, what Marshall is left with (after the debunking of the propaganda) is an argument akin to what the KJV-only advocates use when they refer to the dynamic equivalent translations as “lies,” because an exact corresponding word cannot be found in the text.

    Whatever the merit (or lack thereof) of dynamic equivalence texts, the point of the propaganda is to suggest that Luther intentionally altered the text to alter its meaning, whereas a more honest examination of history suggests that Luther translated it as he did because he understood that to be its meaning (as other German translators before him had likewise thought).

    -TurretinFan

  17. D. T. King said,

    September 30, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    I guess that the ancient fathers before Luther & other catholics were wrong too.

    In his commentary on Romans, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J. comments that Luther was not the first to invoke sola fide in his translation of Romans. Others used the term in a broader context as well. Below the astericks is what Fitzmyer states on pp. 360-361 of Romans, A New Translation with introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible Series (New York: Doubleday, 1993)…

    At 3:28 Luther introduced the adv. “only” into his translation of Romans (1522), “alleyn durch den Glauben” (WAusg 7.38); cf. Aus der Bibel 1546, “alleine durch den Glauben” (WAusg, DB 7.39); also 7.3-27 (Pref. to the Epistle). See further his Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen, of 8 Sept. 1530 (WAusg 30.2 [1909], 627-49; “On Translating: An Open Letter” [LuthW 35.175-202]). Although “alleyn/alleine” finds no corresponding adverb in the Greek text, two of the points that Luther made in his defense of the added adverb were that it was demanded by the context and that sola was used in the theological tradition before him.

    Robert Bellarmine listed eight earlier authors who used sola (Disputatio de controversiis: De justificatione 1.25 [Naples: G. Giuliano, 1856], 4.501-3):

    Origen, Commentarius in Ep. ad Romanos, cap. 3 (PG 14.952).

    Hilary, Commentarius in Matthaeum 8:6 (PL 9.961).

    Basil, Hom. de humilitate 20.3 (PG 31.529C).

    Ambrosiaster, In Ep. ad Romanos 3.24 (CSEL 81.1.119): “sola fide justificati sunt dono Dei,” through faith alone they have been justified by a gift of God; 4.5 (CSEL 81.1.130).

    John Chrysostom, Hom. in Ep. ad Titum 3.3 (PG 62.679 [not in Greek text]).

    Cyril of Alexandria, In Joannis Evangelium 10.15.7 (PG 74.368 [but alludes to Jas 2:19]).

    Bernard, In Canticum serm. 22.8 (PL 183.881): “solam justificatur per fidem,” is justified by faith alone.

    Theophylact, Expositio in ep. ad Galatas 3.12-13 (PG 124.988).

    To these eight Lyonnet added two others (Quaestiones, 114-18):

    Theodoret, Affectionum curatio 7 (PG 93.100; ed. J. Raeder [Teubner], 189.20-24). [my note - If I may be so bold as to correct Fitzmyer’s reference here to Theodoret. The reference in Migne is not PG 93.100, but should be PG 83.1001 - Obviously this may be a typo on the part of Fitzmyer, but at any rate I checked the reference myself and found it elsewhere to be PG 83.1001].

    Thomas Aquinas, Expositio in Ep. I ad Timotheum cap. 1, lect. 3 (Parma ed., 13.588): “Non est ergo in eis [moralibus et caeremonialibus legis] spes iustificationis, sed in sola fide, Rom. 3:28: Arbitramur justificari hominem per fidem, sine operibus legis” (Therefore the hope of justification is not found in them [the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law], but in faith alone, Rom 3:28: We consider a human being to be justified by faith, without the works of the law). Cf. In ep. ad Romanos 4.1 (Parma ed., 13.42a): “reputabitur fides eius, scilicet sola sine operibus exterioribus, ad iustitiam”; In ep. ad Galatas 2.4 (Parma ed., 13.397b): “solum ex fide Christi” [Opera 20.437, b41]).

    See further:

    Theodore of Mopsuestia, In ep. ad Galatas (ed. H. B. Swete), 1.31.15.

    Marius Victorinus, In ep. Pauli ad Galatas (ed. A. Locher), ad 2.15-16: “Ipsa enim fides sola iustificationem dat-et sanctificationem” (For faith itself alone gives justification and sanctification); In ep. Pauli Ephesios (ed. A. Locher), ad 2.15: “Sed sola fides in Christum nobis salus est” (But only faith in Christ is salvation for us).

    Augustine, De fide et operibus, 22.40 (CSEL 41.84-85): “licet recte dici possit ad solam fidem pertinere dei mandata, si non mortua, sed viva illa intellegatur fides, quae per dilectionem operatur” (Although it can be said that God’s commandments pertain to faith alone, if it is not dead [faith], but rather understood as that live faith, which works through love”).

    The charge of novelty and/or change on the part of Martin Luther in isolation from the overall tradition of the church, to put it simply, will not stick.

  18. TurretinFan said,

    September 30, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    TM wrote: “One might even say that these mistakes in translations only prove that the Catholic Church must authorize translations so as to avoid errors.”

    I have provided a detailed response (link to response), the gist of which is that if we need “the Church” to give us an authentic translation, then Rome is not “the Church.”

    -TurretinFan

  19. D. T. King said,

    September 30, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    I posted an extended quote from Fitzmyer’s commentary on Romans, which is pertinent to the subject in discussion, but I do not see it. I suppose it’s in the spam filter.

  20. Ron Henzel said,

    September 30, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Taylor,

    As I read your response to my previous comment, I must say, I was sorely disappointed. It is somewhat shocking to think that someone as intelligent as you are and who is looked to as an authority by his fellow-Catholics could have produced such a rhetorically-weak, logically-fallacious, and factually-impoverished reply. Phil, Jeff, and TurretinFan have made valid points that you would do well to consider, but I will now reply to your remarks in comment 12 (with emendations from comment 13 applied). You wrote:

    Certainly, you do not believe that two wrongs make a right.

    Here you commence your response with the logical fallacy of petitio principii (begging the question) by assuming your conclusion in your argument. The question you yourself have raised here is: “Does it misrepresent the meaning of Romans 3:28 to include the word ‘alone’ in a translation of it as Luther did?” We have presented evidence that Luther was simply following a tradition of translating that verse that went back to the previous generation among faithful Catholics in both Germany and Italy.

    How do I know they were faithful Catholics? I can speak to that question with respect to the 15th century German Bibles thanks to the research of Kenneth A. Strand in German Bibles Before Luther (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1966). Those German versions all trace back to the translation work of Johann Mentel (c. 1410-1478), who died with the full blessings of the Church and had a tablet erected to his memory in the Strassburg Cathedral (ibid., 36). This is hardly the kind of honor we’d expect to see bestowed on the translator of an unwelcome, spurious version of Scripture. Meanwhile, the printer of the aforementioned Nuremberg Bible (1483) was Anton Koberger (d. 1513), who was renowned in Western Europe for publishing Catholic theological works in his 24-press shop that employed more than 100 men and supported a distribution chain of book-selling shops that stretched from Amsterdam to Venice. Toward the end of his life, Koberger shied away from the controversial proto-Protestant-type works that were coming into vogue even though it “proved a commercial disadvantage to him” (ibid. 37). (These are just two of the men, and only one of the printers, that Strand profiles in his monograph.)

    So faithful Catholics were translating and publishing Romans 3:28 the same way Luther later would from at least the time of Luther’s birth. Not only that, but the formula of “faith alone,” as Erasmus has demonstrated—a demonstration you have for some inexplicable reason chosen to totally ignore—goes all the way back to the Church Fathers.

    You wrote:

    If a federal employee corrupts a government document – the crime is not excused because two other federal employee also corrupted a federal documents in the same way.

    Again, more question-begging. You provide no reasoned argument or evidence to support your case, as we have here, but only an analogy that is merely a thinly-disguised reassertion of your unproven premise.

    Not content with one logical fallacy, you add another when you write:

    A crime is a crime. If you corrupt the word of God (or mock books like James), they you are a manifest heretic and an enemy of the cross of Christ.

    Here you add the classic red herring to your collection of informal fallacies: your allusion to Luther’s opinion of the book of James is a pathetically-transparent exercise in changing the subject, and in no way supports your contention that Luther distorted the meaning of Romans 3:28. Not to mention the fact that the vindictive construction you make out of Luther’s idiosyncratic position on James seems deliberately designed to obscure the fact that Luther never excluded James (or Esther, which he didn’t care for) from the canon.

    Luther treated Scripture with royal freedom but not at whim. …despite the recognition of levels within Scripture, Luther did treat the book as a whole and shrank from the demolishing the canon by exlcuding James.

    [Roland H. Bainton, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1952), 45.]

    But, as I implied near the beginning of this comment, the logical coherence is not the only thing lacking in your reply. You also come up short in the fact department when you write:

    Just because two *unauthorized* translations made a poor translation, that doesn’t make Luther’s addition right or excusable.

    What makes you think that the translations in question were unauthorized? Do you have evidence that they were? As far as I can tell, all the translations in questions were published without any objection from the Roman Catholic authorities. Don’t forget: back in those days Catholic publishers did not scurry around to various sees to obtain the requisite nihil obstat, imprimi potest and imprimatur before inking up the presses. Thus determining the status of a work affecting faith and morals with the Roman Catholic church in the late Middle Ages requires more investigation than simply flipping through its first few pages. So, unfortunately for your shoot-from-the-hip pronouncement of “unauthorized,” the real question is not whether it had been cleared before being printed, but whether, once printed, it came under the censure of the church.

    Now, to be fair, we should note that it was shortly after the publication of the Nuremberg Bible—March 22, 1485, to be precise—that the Archbishop of Mainz ordered a censorship (not a ban—cf. Thomas M. Lindsay, A History of the Reformation, [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906], 150) of Bibles in the German vernacular. But it is all-too-easy to exaggerate the impact and significance of this censorship, and there is no evidence that it was connected to any of the German Bibles in the Johann Mentel text tradition. As Strand notes, the archbishop’s edict

    …may indeed have had its negative effect on the production of German Bibles… Nevertheless, it seems also to have permitted such translation under the censorship of four Masters of Arts from the University of Erfurt. Thus, in its historical context Berthold’s edict can hardly have been totally prohibitive, and it is of interest to note that a production published in the very city of Mainz in 1509 bore the admonition to read diligently the Holy Scriptures…

    [Strand, ibid., 38]

    So the Nuremberg Bible, along with other previously-released Mentel-based German Bibles, were in general circulation in the 1480s, and yet all we can definitively say is that “there is no evidence that these versions were either wholly or in great part the work of enemies of the mediæval Church” (Lindsay, ibid.). In other words, the Church did not react against them during all the decades in which they circulated, in spite of the way they translated Romans 3:28.

    But now, it seems, as we continue reading you are back to applying logical fallacies instead of reasoned arguments—this time by way of special pleading:

    The fact is that neither the Greek nor the authoritative Latin translation (the Vulgate) read “faith alone.? What Luther did was patently wrong.

    Of course, as you no doubt know, translation is hardly ever (if ever) about reproducing a word-for-word mirror image of a text with the vocabulary from a different language. Such a procedure will always produce an extremely stilted translation at best, and an unreadable one at worst. Instead, the goal of translation is to translate meaning from one language to another.

    Thus when Luther rendered the text with “faith alone” he was reflecting his understanding that, as my earlier quote from Hodge indicates, “the sentiment [of 'faith alone'] is plainly implied here.” This is what Luther thought the text means.

    Roman Catholics (especially since Trent), on the other hand, believe the text means something else. Whether or not Romanists actually render it as such in their Bibles, they believe it means that believers are justified by a faith that includes works—even though the text does not say that!

    And yet it was apparently not always thus. Roman Catholic commentator Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., in his contribution to the Anchor Bible series (Vol. 33), Romans (New York: Doubleday, 1992), provides a helpful list of historic Roman Catholic theologians and Church Fathers who find the “faith alone” formula in Scripture, including Thomas Aquinas who actually uses the phrase sola fide to interpret Romans 3:28 (ibid., 360)!

    But now, despite centuries of testimony to the effect that Luther is consistent with Roman Catholic exegesis of Romans 3:28, you want to force him to stick to a bare-bones rendering in the determination of its meaning, even though your determination of its meaning (a faith that includes works for justification) is far from a literal rendering. You want to apply one rule of meaning to Luther, and a quite different one to yourself.

    You wrote:

    Citing the past errors of others doesn’t make Luther’s error correct.

    You mean, like, citing the past errors of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Chrysostom, Ambrosiaster, Bernard, Theodoret, and Cyril of Alexandria? You mean those guys (cf. Fitzmyer, ibid., 360)? Those guys who represent the unanimous consent of the Fathers?

    You wrote:

    One might even say that these mistakes in translations only prove that the Catholic Church must authorize translations so as to avoid errors.

    I suppose you can prove anything to someone who assumes his conclusion in the premise of his argument, does not seek out, much less use, actual facts to support his case, who introduces irrelevancies that distract from the issue, and who accepts a criticism when it applies to his opponent’s case but not when it applies to his own—or who doesn’t understand the principles of translation.

  21. TurretinFan said,

    October 1, 2010 at 7:09 am

    BTW – I believe that a comment on this entry from Pastor King may have been caught in the spam filter for this blog.

  22. greenbaggins said,

    October 1, 2010 at 9:21 am

    My apologies to Rev. King for my stupid spam filter, although I am glad that it is more sensitive rather than less. I have been assaulted with spam at times in the past when I did not have the filter up, and the experience was horrible. Anyway, the comments have been freed from the filter.

    Ron, all I can say is wow. Great scholarship.

    Rev. King, thanks for the quotation from Fitzmyer. Taylor, in case you didn’t know or notice, Fitzmyer is not only a Roman Catholic theologian, but his commentary has the imprimi potest, the nihil obstat, and the imprimatur. So, apparently it is not doctrinal error to claim what Fitzmyer claims on the pages that Rev. King cites above. I would think this would be extremely embarrassing for your position.

  23. Phil Derksen said,

    October 1, 2010 at 10:25 am

    RE #12:

    In light of the incontrovertible evidence that has subsequently been presented on this thread, I hereby call on Mr. Taylor to publicly retract and apologize for the erroneous and slanderous misrepresentations that he he has made concerning Martin Luther’s actions (and by extension those of other Protestants) in this matter. The implicit accusation that such treatment of Romans 3:28 constitutes a “crime” of “corrupting the word of God”, thus manifestly making [one] a “heretic and an enemy of the cross of Christ,” is both utterly egregious and, considering his own church’s authoritative (institutionally speaking) statements on the issue, breathtakingly hypocritical.

    Sincerely and respectfully,

    Phil D.

  24. D. T. King said,

    October 1, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Dear Lane, I appreciate the apology, but I suspect the spam filter is necessary. Besides, I saw that the astute Mr. Henzel was on the same trail, and I am grateful for his engagement of the charge made against Luther.

  25. Phil Derksen said,

    October 1, 2010 at 10:43 am

    RE #23:

    Correction (with apologies): I call on “Mr. Marshall”, etc. etc.

    Addition: Furthermore, having now been made aware of his error, if this particular charge is included in his recent (or upcoming?) publication, I call on Mr. Marshall to remove it from sale until such time as an appropriate amendment has been made.

  26. D. T. King said,

    October 1, 2010 at 10:54 am

    For an observation of Romanist double-standards on the charge made against Luther having corrupted Holy Scripture, I recommend a study of Pope Sixtus V, and his fiasco of attempting to correct the Vulgate per Trent.

  27. October 1, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Those are some big claims: Augustine, Aquinas, Chrysostom, and Basil all taught justification by faith alone.

    Show me the texts and I’ll be ready to revert back to Calvinism.

    I’m all ears.

    I’ve already thoroughly refuted your claims regarding 1 Clement and sola fide over at Canterbury Tales. Now I’m ready to see your proof on these other Fathers.

    Please post them here or over at Canterbury Tales blog. I’ll be waiting.

    If you’re going to claim it, you need to produce the quotes.

    So far the only one producing documented sources…is the Papist…

    Godspeed,
    Taylor

  28. greenbaggins said,

    October 1, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Taylor, Rev. King provided the verbatim documented quotes in comment 17 for Ambrosiaster, Aquinas, Augustine, Theodoret, and Victorinus. For further documented quotations, see Thomas Oden, The Justification Reader.

  29. Sean said,

    October 1, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Lane.

    So the claim is that Ambrosiaster, Aquinas, Augustine, Theodoret, and Victorinus taught faith alone? Or that they produced translations of Romans and also inserted the word ‘alone’ into Romans 3:28?

  30. Reed DePace said,

    October 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Marshall: I don’t like saying this, but in comparing your statement to what I’ve observed here, you are a blowhard.

    No one else provides quotes? Please, if you want to engage in reasonable debate do not make such obviously and obnoxiously wrong statements.

  31. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 1, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Taylor: Those are some big claims: Augustine, Aquinas, Chrysostom, and Basil all taught justification by faith alone.

    I wouldn’t go that far without doing much more study. My point was merely that they used the language “by faith alone”, and that some used it specifically in reference to Rom 3.28, and that Luther’s introduction of that same language in his translation is either (a) correct, or (b) an understandable error.

    Now, it may be that they meant something different from, or perhaps they meant the same thing as Luther. But to get at that, we’ll (you, I, everyone will) have to be more careful than simply saying

    “Augustine taught justification by faith alone” on the one hand (which my words somewhat insinuate — mea culpa)

    or

    “Luther deliberately distorted the text of Rom 3.28″ (which you’ve claimed, and which is an over-reach — tua culpa).

    Can we agree that a more nuanced approach is necessary here?

    And can you also agree that whole swaths of citations have indeed been provided above?

  32. greenbaggins said,

    October 1, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Sean, actually neither. The claim is that the fathers used the terminology “faith alone” in relationship to justification, some of them in commenting on Rom 3:28, others elsewhere.

  33. D. T. King said,

    October 1, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Those are some big claims: Augustine, Aquinas, Chrysostom, and Basil all taught justification by faith alone.

    They most certainly did. Now, were they always consistent with their own teaching? No, they were fallible human beings.

    Show me the texts and I’ll be ready to revert back to Calvinism.
    I’m all ears.

    I don’t believe that, nor do I believe you have ears to hear.

    I’ve already thoroughly refuted your claims regarding 1 Clement and sola fide over at Canterbury Tales. Now I’m ready to see your proof on these other Fathers. Please post them here or over at Canterbury Tales blog. I’ll be waiting.

    Not a chance.

    If you’re going to claim it, you need to produce the quotes.

    Well, if Pastor Keister is agreeable, I’ll prepare a document of citations if he is willing to format them for his blog.

    So far the only one producing documented sources…is the Papist…

    Which demonstrates that the false claim of your willingness to convert back to Calvinism. In fact, more than that, you are presuming upon the grace of God, as if human means can induce the sovereign work of the Spirit of God in the application of the Gospel.

  34. Sean said,

    October 1, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Lane,

    In recent years, Benedict 16th has used the terminology “faith alone” in relationship to justification. Source. Since we all know that Benedict the 16th does not adhere to the Lutheran doctrine of justification we must understand his use of the words ‘faith alone’ in the greater context of his soteriology. I trust that the same excersize with Augustine and Aquinas et al would produce the same result.

    Remember, it was Luther himself that could not find his justification in Augustine.

    Augustine has sometimes erred and is not to be trusted. Although good and holy, he was yet lacking in the true faith, as well as the other fathers…But when the door was opended for me in Paul, so that I understood what justification by faith is, it was all over with Augustine.

    I believe that that Taylor’s criticism of Luther is that he produced a translation of Romans and that he inserted a word into the text for his own theological purposes. That he did so for theological reasons is evident from his statements about doing so. It was not simply that he used the words ‘faith alone’ in the context of justification. In addition, Luther criticized holy scripture and called God’s word “straw”, again, for his own purposes because he did not believe that James taught the gospel.

    Neither Ambrosiaster, Aquinas, Augustine, Theodoret, or Victorinus did what Luther did so I fail to see how bringing them into the conversation gets Luther off the hook.

  35. October 1, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Perhaps we all should make a more concerted effort to avoid the whole word-concept fallacy here, specifically by distinguishing between these two claims:

    “The ECFs used the phrase faith alone when speaking of justification.”

    and

    The ECFs taught the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone.”

    It seems to me that the former claim is pretty easy to demonstrate, but the crux of the matter (at least in this discussion) is whether the latter claim is also true.

  36. D. T. King said,

    October 1, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    The ECFs taught the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone.”

    This is an anachronistic request. No one attempts to read a mature understanding of justification via sola fide by the reformers back into the witness of the ancient church.

    But here’s the difference between the Reformed position and that of Romanism with respect to this issue – the Reformed can demonstrate clearly the seed thought for the Reformed understanding justification via sola fideboth from Holy Scripture and in the witness of the ancient church, whereas the Romanist cannot demonstrate the same for the later development of dogmas which are peculiar to the Roman communion. This is the crux of the matter in this discussion, not some standard of anachronism to which even the Romanist will not submit. They justify their dogmatic accretions on the authority of the Roman magisterium.

  37. October 1, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    I’ve answered you over at my blog Canterbury Tales:

    http://cantuar.blogspot.com/2010/10/did-church-fathers-teach-justification.html

    I hope you like it, and I’ll be praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she draws you into the heart of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and away from the heresies of that apostate and adulterous priest of the 16th century.

    Godspeed,
    Taylor

  38. October 1, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Umm, y e a h …

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that THAT wasn’t helpful.

  39. Sean said,

    October 1, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    DT King,

    But here’s the difference between the Reformed position and that of Romanism with respect to this issue – the Reformed can demonstrate clearly the seed thought for the Reformed understanding justification via sola fideboth from Holy Scripture and in the witness of the ancient church, whereas the Romanist cannot demonstrate the same for the later development of dogmas which are peculiar to the Roman communion.

    That is an assertion and when I was examining the evidence 4 + years ago I found the exact opposite to be the case.

    Take baptismal regeneration as just one prime example. Where is the ‘seed’ of the Reformed view of baptism in any church father?

    But we don’t really have to go on that tangent here…just sayin.

  40. Ron Henzel said,

    October 1, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Taylor,

    You wrote:

    I’ve already thoroughly refuted your claims regarding 1 Clement and sola fide over at Canterbury Tales.

    You are obviously referring to that shallow piece you posted titled “Did Clement of Rome teach Justification by Faith Alone? No.” in which you totally miss the fact that if Clement was using the word “justified” to refer to the same kind of justification (i.e., justification before God) in 1 Clement 30 as when he used the word “justified” in 1 Clement 32, then he flat-out contradicted himself.

    First of all, in 1 Clement 30, he was not indicating that his audience was “justified by works,” but admonishing them (notice the hortatory beginning of your quote, using the first person plural) to be “justified by our works, and not our words”—i.e., that they demonstrate their righteousness in action, and not merely in words. But in 1 Clement 32, he explicitly declares that “we…are not justified by…works,” where the context is clearly eternal salvation rather than ethical conduct.

    One of the most obvious rules of semantics is that words have different meanings in different contexts. In 1 Clement 30 it is more than obvious that the “justification” to which Clement refers is that of being declared righteous before men by human witnesses to our good deeds, for just a couple of sentences after where your quote ends, Clement wrote, “Let testimony to our good deeds be borne by others, as it was in the case of our righteous forefathers.” On the other hand, in 1 Clement 32, it is more than obvious that the “justification” to which Clement refers is that of being declared righteous before God on the basis of our union with Christ. If you do not recognize this distinction, you end up implicating Clement in the grossest of contradictions: you have him saying not that we are justified by both faith and works, but rather that we are both “justified by works…[and ]not justified by works”—a hopeless contradiction.

    The two contexts in Clement in which the the differing senses of “justification” are made obvious provides a compelling parallel for the same phenomenon that is also evident when we lay Paul’s epistles next to that of James. One has to deliberately blind himself to it in order to avoid seeing it.

  41. D. T. King said,

    October 1, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Take baptismal regeneration as just one prime example. Where is the ‘seed’ of the Reformed view of baptism in any church father?

    The Reformed all believed it was possible for the reality to accompany the sign. The Reformed corrected the presumption that the reality always and by necessity accompanied the sign. This would require an extended discussion off the topic at hand. Besides the doctrine of baptism is not a dogma peculiar to Rome.

    But we don’t really have to go on that tangent here…just sayin.

    Tangents from your hand are all too common, this one not excepted.

  42. Ron Henzel said,

    October 1, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Jason,

    You wrote:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that THAT wasn’t helpful.

    Yeah; based on the people skills that Taylor has demonstrated here, I think I’d rather be exchanging comments with a member of the Roman Curia, or one of the recent popes.

  43. D. T. King said,

    October 1, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    To add to Ron Henzel’s comment above, Clement clearly excluded “works performed in a state of grace” as a contribution to our justification before God. And that is specifically the claim of Romanism, that works performed in a state of grace are meritorious, and further our justification.

    Presbyter Clement of Rome: Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognize the greatness of the gifts which were given by him. For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, “Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven.” All these, therefore, were highly honored, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. ANF: Vol. I, The Apostolic Fathers, First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter 32.

  44. greenbaggins said,

    October 1, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Taylor, do you seriously expect to convince of the Romanist position by appealing to your blasphemous prayers to her? You need to know your audience a bit better.

  45. TurretinFan said,

    October 1, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Sean wrote: “…Since we all know that Benedict the 16th does not adhere to the Lutheran doctrine of justification…” This reminds me …

    In posting links to the website of my friend, James Swan, I neglected to post a link to my own debunking of the claim that Mr. Marshall has produced here, Sean. (Here’s the link)

    As I said there:

    A certain man of German extraction, presently living in Italy wrote: “And he adds “we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (ibid., v. 28). At this point Luther translated: “justified by faith alone”. I shall return to this point at the end of the Catechesis. … [at the end of the Catechesis] For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love.”

    Since apparently the Reformed theologian Hodge is not good enough for Mr. Marshall, and
    Since apparently the Roman Catholic scholar Fitzmyer is not good enough for Mr. Marshall, and
    Since apparently “St.” Robert Bellarmine, a recognized “Doctor of the Church” in Romanism is not good enough for Mr. Marshall,
    Perhaps, at any rate, he’ll listen to the little old German theologian who said the words I’ve quoted above, less than two years ago, during his papacy (link to source).

    I guess it is possible that Joseph Ratzinger aka Benedict XVI also “altered the text of Romans 3:38 … to make it say what he wanted it to say.” But will Mr. Marshall really not be ashamed to make such an assertion?

    A wise and prudent course of action has been suggested to Mr. Marshall, perhaps he should take it!

    As Sean correctly noted, the discussion has shifted a bit. The original question was whether Mr. Marshall’s accusation was correction. The modified questions of whether the ECFs used the expression “sola fide” in reference to justification (they certainly did) or whether the ECFs had a fully developed and consistent understanding of justification by faith (they didn’t) are interesting questions, but only tangentially relevant to Mr. Marshall’s initial propaganda.

    -TurretinFan

  46. TurretinFan said,

    October 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    And, tada, I’m in the spam filter (too long or too many links).

  47. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 1, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Taylor (#37), I’m sorry to say that I didn’t like it. Not because we disagree on sola fide — I expect that to be the case.

    Rather, I don’t like the uncareful method. In your article, you represented the conversation here quite differently from how it transpired.

    To review: You began by asserting (#7) that Luther “altered the text of Romans 3:38 in German to make it say what he wanted it to say..”

    Several folk, including myself, dissented on the ground that Luther was well within a textual tradition that was accepted at the time.

    That was it.

    But in your article, you say,

    “I’m getting tagged up and mocked over at the Calvinistic blog GreenBaggins for my assertion that Martin Luther invented the doctrine of justification by faith alone via imputation of alien righteousness of Christ.”

    You never asserted that here. And I, at least, have not been tagging you up or mocking you. Rather, I’ve been requesting you (#31) to be careful, to provide the proper nuance, to refrain from asserting the worst of Luther when a better explanation is at hand.

    I don’t find your article responsive to any of those requests; nor does it fairly represent the conversation happening here.

    Yes: justification sola fide through imputation alone is the elephant in the room. No: we are not discussing the entire elephant here.

    This goes to the heart of current Catholic/Protestant discussions. We know already that we both think the other is heretical; reiterating that point adds no new information, and only serves to signal that one’s fingers are in one’s ears.

    The way forward is going to have to proceed on the basis of (a) truth, and (b) charity. And a huge component of truth is factual accuracy. I can’t listen to you when I perceive you to be loose with the facts.

    And it cuts both ways, of course: I would expect you to tune me out if I were going beyond the facts; and when I do, it would be appropriate for you to call me on it.

    Thanks for listening,
    Jeff Cagle

  48. D. T. King said,

    October 1, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    “I’m getting tagged up and mocked over at the Calvinistic blog GreenBaggins for my assertion that Martin Luther invented the doctrine of justification by faith alone via imputation of alien righteousness of Christ.”

    No one has mocked you Mr. Marshall, but your assertion is false. Not only was it taught by the Apostle Paul in Romans 4, but Bernard of Clairvaux gave explicit expression both to justification via sola fide, and the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ, some 3 1/2 centuries before Luther, as demonstrated in the citations below…

    Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): The fragrance of your wisdom comes to us in what we hear, for if anyone needs wisdom let him ask of you and you will give it to him. It is well known that you give to all freely and ungrudgingly. As for your justice, so great is the fragrance it diffuses that you are called not only just but even justice itself, the justice that makes men just. Your power to make men just is measured by your generosity in forgiving. Therefore the man who through sorrow for sin hungers and thirsts for justice, let him trust in the One who changes the sinner into a just man, and, judged righteous in terms of faith alone, he will have peace with God. See Kilian Walsh, O.C.S.O., Bernard of Clairvaux On the Song of Songs II (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, Inc.,1983), Sermon 22.8, p. 20.
    Latin text: Porro sapientiae tuae odorem ex eo percipimus quod audivimus quia si quis indiget sapientia, postulet eam a te, et dabis ei. Aiunt siquidem quod des omnibus affluenter, et non improperes. At vero justitiae tuae tanta ubique fragrantia spargitur, ut non solum justus, sed etiam ipsa dicaris justitia, et justitia justificans. Tam validus denique es ad justificandum, quam multus ad ignoscendum. Quamobrem quisquis pro peccatis compunctus esurit et sitit justitiam, credat in te qui justificas impium, et solam justificatus per fidem, pacem habebit ad Deum. Sermones in Cantica, Sermo XXII, §8, PL 183:881D.

    Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Man therefore was lawfully delivered up, but mercifully set free. Yet mercy was shown in such a way that a kind of justice was not lacking even in his liberation, since, as was most fitting for man s recovery, it was part of the mercy of the liberator to employ justice rather than power against man s enemy. For what could man, the slave of sin, fast bound by the devil, do of him self to recover that righteousness which he had formerly lost? Therefore he who lacked righteousness had another’s imputed to him, and in this way: The prince of this world came and found nothing in the Saviour, and because he notwithstanding laid hands on the Innocent he lost most justly those whom he held captive; since He who owed nothing to death, lawfully freed him who was subject to it, both from the debt of death, and the dominion of the devil, by accepting the injustice of death; for with what justice could that be exacted from man a second time? It was man who owed the debt, it was man who paid it. For if one, says S. Paul, died for all, then were all dead (2 Cor. v. 14), so that, as One bore the sins of all, the satisfaction of One is imputed to all. It is not that one forfeited, another satisfied; the Head and body is one, viz., Christ. The Head, therefore, satisfied for the members, Christ for His children, since, according to the Gospel of Paul, by which Peter’s [i.e., Abelard] falsehood is refuted, He who died for us, quickened us together with Himself, forgiving us all our trespasses, blotting out the hand writing of ordinances that was against us, and took il out of the way , nailing it to His cross, having spoiled principalities and powers (Col. ii. 13, 14). Dom. John Mabillon, ed., Life and Works of Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, trans. Samuel J. Eales, Vol. II, Letter CXC – Against Certain Heads of Abaelard’s Heresies, 6.15 (London: Burns and Oates Limited, 1889), pp. 580-581. Cf. Epistola CXC, ad Innocentum II, Pontificem, Tractatus de erroribus Petri Abaelardi, Caput VI, §15, PL 182:1065B-D.

    I wonder now if Mr. Marshall is willing to retract his claim that Martin Luther “invented the doctrine of justification by faith alone via imputation of alien righteousness of Christ.” I have my doubts.

  49. D. T. King said,

    October 1, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    As John Owen noted, even the Jesuit Bellarmine, in his better moments, observed…

    Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621): And in this way, it were not absurd, if any one should say that the righteousness and merits of Christ are imputed unto us, when they are given and applied unto us, as if we ourselves had satisfied God. For translation, see The Works of John Owen, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith, General Considerations, ed. William H. Goold, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, Third printing, 1977), vol. V, p. 56.
    Latin text: Et hoc modo non esset absurdum, si quis diceret nobis imputari Christi justitiam et merita; cum nobis donentur et applicentur; ac si nos ipsi Deo satisfecissemus. Roberti Bellarmini, Opera Omnia, De Controversiis, Tomus Quartus, Pars Prima, De Justificatione (Neapoli: Apud Josephum Giuliano, 1858), Liber II, Caput 10, p. 523.

    Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621): By reason of the uncertainty of our own righteousness, and the danger of vain-glory, it is the safest course to repose our whole trust in the mercy and kindness or grace of God alone. For translation, see The Works of John Owen, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith, General Considerations, ed. William H. Goold, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, Third printing, 1977), vol. V, p. 32.
    Latin text: Propter incertitudinem propriae justitiae, et periculum inanis gloriae tutissimum est. fiduciam totam in sola Dei misericordia et benignitate reponere. Roberti Bellarmini, Opera Omnia, De Controversiis, Tomus Quartus, Pars Prima, De Justificatione (Neapoli: Apud Josephum Giuliano, 1858), Liber V, Caput 7, Propositio 3, p. 615.

  50. Ron Henzel said,

    October 2, 2010 at 6:03 am

    Apparently Taylor thinks we’re “mean spirited” here. On his own blog he wrote:

    I graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) in 2003 and so I know two things about these guys. First, they are mean-spirited. Second, I’ve heard all the same arguments and read all the same books that they have. The difference is that I’m now a Catholic and they are still Protestants.”

    [Italics added.]

    Gee, it sure sounds to me like he’s identifying himself with “these guys” in the first part of his paragraph—in the past, at least—and then distancing himself from “these guys” in the present. Trouble is, he only cites one current difference: his conversion to Catholicism. So apparently one of the differences between him and “these guys” is not that he is no longer mean spirited. Based on his interaction here and the slanders on his own blog, I would tend to agree.

    But if anyone really wants to see “mean spirited,” all they need do is spend a minute or two defensively squinting at the visual acid pumped out by Roman Catholic apologists like Art Sippo. I would suggest safety goggles and a hazmat suit.

  51. Ron Henzel said,

    October 2, 2010 at 6:42 am

    Taylor,

    As a follow-up to my comment 40: your entire argument about “justification” in 1 Clement (along with standard Catholic arguments from James) is based on a version of the fallacy of equivocation, with the key difference between your version and the standard one being that the equivocation (the difference in meaning of a single word) occurs in the source from which you quote (and thus base your arguments) rather than strictly and solely within your own argument.

  52. Sean said,

    October 2, 2010 at 7:23 am

    DT King,

    Earlier Taylor said: Those are some big claims: Augustine, Aquinas, Chrysostom, and Basil all taught justification by faith alone.

    You answered: They most certainly did. Now, were they always consistent with their own teaching? No, they were fallible human beings.

    And then you went onto post statements from different fathers that apparently for you represent times when they didn’t fail to teach justification by faith alone.

    The qualification you provided in the discussion; that they taught justification by faith alone except for some times when they accidentally messed up, is needed because you know that they did not really teach justification by faith alone if we take a broader look at their soteriology and not just isolated statements.

    As I eluded to earlier, you could take isolated statements from Pope Benedict and try to show that he ‘sometimes’ taught faith alone although, you know, he is fallible so he messes up sometimes and accidentally teaches Catholic justification.

    I have a feeling that if a fallible PCA pastor accidentally sometimes taught something about justification that was contrary to justification by faith alone, even once, he would be called to the carpet. In 15 years of listening to PCA sermons I never once heard a pastor accidentally teaching something opposed to justification by faith alone but you expect us to believe that Augustine et al were really sola fideists and you just explain away the greater context of their teaching by just saying, ‘Oh, they were fallible and accidentally taught something opposed to faith alone here and there.’

    To echo Lane’s charge to Taylor, I think you need to remember your audience. And, in Taylor’s defense: Taylor is Catholic. Catholics, it is not a secret, ask for the intercession of Mary and other saints. I wonder why some are so shocked to actually see Catholics practice what they preach.

    Lastly, as to not go further down the tangent, in response to your statement about baptismal regeneration I offer this article which I believe quite throughly puts the question of baptism in the church fathers to rest.

  53. Reed Here said,

    October 2, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Sean: as to our “shock” at Taylor’s consistency, it is not shock at such consistency, but shock at such rudeness and foolishly egregious behavior in someone with a supposed apologetic intent in his commenting here at GB.

    If I came to your blog sight and posted something akin to “Father save the damned RCC heretics from following anti-Christ Pope into the pit of Hell. Protect them from the foul mouth of the Beast and his Prophet!,” what you would say about my apologetic technique? I may more or less intellectually believe such prayers are justified for your soul. Am I not at the very least showing a shocking ignorance in my manner of expressing my prayer?

    Taylor may very well be consistent with his beliefs. I actually respect that. There indeed are appropriate times to pray in an imprecatory/brand-from-the-fire-snatching manner (I’ve used such with JW’s who knock on my door). Yet surely you can agree that such behavior here is at best rude and ignorant.

    Or maybe you think that such an apologetic is the only valid approach with us heretics. Please, let me know and I promise not to take offense at your or Taylor’s treatment of me in this way.

    I won’t hesitate out of love to treat y’all the same way way. ;-)

  54. D.T. King said,

    October 2, 2010 at 11:47 am

    The qualification you provided in the discussion; that they taught justification by faith alone except for some times when they accidentally messed up, is needed because you know that they did not really teach justification by faith alone if we take a broader look at their soteriology and not just isolated statements.

    I never said they “accidentally messed up.” I said they were inconsistent. I’m not going to respond further to caricatures by “the Romanist drive-bys.” :)

  55. October 2, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    Sean,

    Assume I’m a newbie to your communion’s teaching on justification. Please tell me in your own words (and in as few as possible) how man is to appropriate the righteousness of Christ if not by faith alone. Please, no dodging. Just answer the question for me if you wouldn’t mind. Certainly you should be delighted to do so since it must be a precious truth to you given that it pertains to how man can have peace with God. Please share this good news with me.

    Ron

  56. John Bugay said,

    October 2, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Ron, I don’t want to steal Sean’s thunder, but there’s a chart that explains how the Roman Catholic appropriates not the Righteousness of Christ, but his own righteousness!

  57. October 2, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Hi John,

    I would like to believe that Sean will try to show how man can receive a righteousness that is not his own and how he can be found in Christ. To your point though, yes, in the process he might be true to his communion and suggest that sinners can truly, by their own works, “merit increase of grace” and even “the attainment of eternal life.” But, of course, that non-Pauline theme will be accompanied by qualifiers like: “through God’s grace and Christ’s merits” men can merit grace and life.

    Yet notwithstanding, what I’m looking for is much, much simpler. I simply want to hear in an economy of words what Sean would say to a sinner who was burdened with his sin and looking for rest. You see John, and you do see, all I hear from Romanists is what is wrong with “faith alone”, but what I never hear is an articulation of how one can be reconciled to God. I’m hoping Sean will be the exception, speak into the microphone and tell us something about God’s simple plan of salvation.

    Blessings,

    Ron

  58. October 2, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    Interesting question, Ron. I await the answer as well.

  59. October 2, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    John,

    That flow chart is a hoot. Where did you find it? :)

    Ron

  60. Bryan Cross said,

    October 2, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Gents,

    I just had lunch with Taylor today, and as I type this, he’s on a plane from Saint Louis back to Dallas. He didn’t mean to offend anyone; if you knew him, you would know that about him. I understand why invoking the saints is offensive to some of you. But for a Catholic it as natural as breathing, and in this case, this is a specifically Catholic expression of Taylor’s cry to God for the reunion of Protestants and Catholics, a desire you too share, even if such a reunion looks rather different in your mind than it does from the Catholic point of view. But, nevertheless, the separation is painful, not to us as men, but to all those who carry within themselves the heart of Christ, a heart that desires the unity of all those who love Him. So to experience the disunity of Protestants and Catholics is to share in the sufferings of His heart, a suffering that evokes a plea to God for gracious assistance in reconciling brothers and sons now estranged. The internet is helpful for connecting us in a certain way, but in another respect, the internet makes reconciliation more difficult, because it de-personalizes the discussion, and so fear, suspicion, mistrust, misunderstanding, and antagonism can build up, not only crippling genuine communication, but leading to personal wounds that tragically deepen the divide. If you could sit down at the table for a meal with Taylor, the whole dynamic would change, and I think it would be a much more productive conversation. We might not come away from the table in agreement, but I think we’d understand each other much better, and be much more inclined to try to understand each other much better. Perhaps most especially, we’d be more inclined to pray for each other.

    Surely we can agree that this reconciliation can’t be accomplished by human effort alone. We need a miracle, for the same reason that man cannot save himself. These are spiritual matters, and we are wrestling with spiritual forces. If God does not build the house, the builders labor in vain. And that surely applies to our reconciliation.

    May God who is love, make us one by that very inexhaustible and unfathomable love by which He is one.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  61. D. T. King said,

    October 2, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Just a note on the historicity of sola fide

    Jaroslav Pelikan: All the more tragic, therefore, was the Roman reaction on the front which was most important to the Reformers, the message and teaching of the church. This had to be reformed according to the word of God; unless it was, no moral improvement would be able to alter the basic problem. Rome’s reactions were the doctrinal decrees of the Council of Trent and the Roman Catechism based upon those decrees. In these decrees, the Council of Trent selected and elevated to official status the notion of justification by faith plus works, which was only one of the doctrines of justification in the medieval theologians and ancient fathers. When the reformers attacked this notion in the name of the doctrine of justification by faith alone—a doctrine also attested to by some medieval theologians and ancient fathers—Rome reacted by canonizing one trend in preference to all the others. What had previously been permitted (justification by faith and works), now became required. What had previously been permitted also (justification by faith alone), now became forbidden. In condemning the Protestant Reformation, the Council of Trent condemned part of its own catholic tradition. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Riddle of Roman Catholicism (New York: Abingdon Press, 1959), pp. 51-52.

  62. D. T. King said,

    October 2, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    …this is a specifically Catholic expression of Taylor’s cry to God for the reunion of Protestants and Catholics

    Men, crying to Mary is not a cry to God, and I refuse to accept this explanation.

    The man said: “I hope you like it, and I’ll be praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she draws you into the heart of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and away from the heresies of that apostate and adulterous priest of the 16th century.

    Personally, I have no use for this sort of double-talk.

  63. October 2, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    “Surely we can agree that this reconciliation can’t be accomplished by human effort alone.”

    Bryan,

    You are correct. Reconciliation will require God to grant repentance to followers and promoters of one of two very different systems of doctrine that has bewitched millions of people and led them to hell. Someone is preaching another gospel, Bryan, and as for “understanding each other much better” – Rome has had 500 years to speak up.

    RWD

  64. October 2, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Bryan,

    Maybe you might accept the request I extended to Sean and tell me in your own words how a sinner can receive eternal life.

    Ron

  65. John Bugay said,

    October 2, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Bryan Cross — You must certainly know two things:

    1. The incredible (dishonest) lengths to which Rome has gone to hold onto its perception of its own authority.

    2. The call of the Holy Spirit upon your heart to give up the charade.

    I know this because I have been where you are. You must repent from the falsehoods that you have bought into. And Rome must repent or there can be no reconciliation.

  66. D. T. King said,

    October 2, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Here is another example, I suppose, of what is alleged to be “a specifically Catholic expression of Taylor’s cry to God for the reunion of Protestants and Catholics” in the man’s own words from his blog…

    Taylor Marshall: Saint Robert Bellarmine, pray for us against the wiles of the heretics.

    Men, this is a distinct reminder to us all that the only tragedy of the Reformation is that it was necessary, and still is. Let us praise God for His mighty work in the reformation of Christ’s church, which was in Calvin’s words, “the revival of the gospel.” See John C. Olin, A Reformation Debate: Sadoleto’s Letter to the Genevans and Calvin’s Reply (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1966), pp. 93-94, and John Calvin, Treatises on the Sacraments: Clear Explanation of Sound Doctrine, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Christian Focus Publications, 2002), p. 499.

  67. Sean said,

    October 2, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    I simply want to hear in an economy of words what Sean would say to a sinner who was burdened with his sin and looking for rest

    “Friend, have faith in Jesus who died for you and lay your heart at the cross.”

  68. John Bugay said,

    October 2, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Sean — “Friend, have faith in Jesus who died for you and lay your heart at the cross.”

    That and then this (among other things):

    Those who by sin have fallen away from the received grace of justification, will again be able to be justified [can. 29] when, roused by God through the sacrament of penance, they by the merit of Christ shall have attended to the recovery of the grace lost. For this manner of justification is the reparation of one fallen, which the holy Fathers * have aptly called a second plank after the shipwreck of lost grace. For on behalf of those who after baptism fall into sin, Christ Jesus instituted the sacrament of penance, when He said: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” [John 20:22, 23]. Hence it must be taught that the repentance of a Christian after his fall is very different from that at his baptism, and that it includes not only a cessation from sins, and a detestation of them, or “a contrite and humble heart” [Ps. 50:19], but also the sacramental confession of the same, at least in desire and to be made in its season, and sacerdotal absolution, as well as satisfaction by fasting, almsgiving, prayers, and other devout exercises of the spiritual life, not indeed for the eternal punishment, which is remitted together with the guilt either by the sacrament or the desire of the sacrament, but for the temporal punishment [can. 30], which (as the Sacred Writings teach) is not always wholly remitted, as is done in baptism, to those who ungrateful to the grace of God which they have received, “have grieved the Holy Spirit” [cf. Eph. 4:30], and have not feared to “violate the temple of God” [1 Cor. 3:17]. Of this repentance it is written: “Be mindful, whence thou art fallen, do penance, and do the first works” [Rev. 2:5], and again: “The sorrow which is according to God, worketh penance steadfast unto salvation” [2 Cor. 7:10], and again: “Do penance” [Matt. 3:2; 4:17], and, “Bring forth fruits worthy of penance” [Matt. 3:8].

    Council of Trent, SESSION VI (Jan. 13, 1547)
    Decree On Justification, Chapter 14

    Denzinger Paragraph #807

    http://www.catecheticsonline.com/SourcesofDogma9.php

  69. Sean said,

    October 2, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    PS.

    I am not sure what brought the question but I’ve given this more thought.

    My answer, “Friend, have faith in Jesus who died for you and lay your heart at the cross” is my honest answer.

    However, I can’t help but feel that this is somewhat of a loaded question; e.g. that the simpler the answer is the more true it is. Am I wrong?

    Thinking about it more deeply, if I had more time with that person I would urge them to be baptized but wouldn’t the Reformed guy too?

    I would urge them to turn away from their sins and to live out their life with faith, hope and charity. I would urge that person to not reject the grace which is given to them and to try to conform their life in holiness towards Christ’s image. I think the Reformed guy would say a lot of the same stuff. Am I wrong?

    I would encourage that person to be Catholic because I believe the fullness of the Christian mystery is found in the Catholic Church. If I were still Reformed Presbyterian I would probably hope that this person would be Reformed too. I would invite them to my church. Because Presbyterians have a high view of church membership I would urge that person to join the church.

    I suppose what I am trying to say is that my answer to that sinner would look remarkable same in my pre and post-Catholic life.

    *John makes his chart of the ‘Roman system’ look complex and triumphantly claims that the Reformed system is not that complex ergo the Reformed system must be true. However, compared to the Unitarian system, where everybody is saved and they don’t even have to believe, which is necessary in the Reformed system; the Reformed system looks complex doesn’t it? Yet that does not make the Unititarian system truer than the Reformed system does it?

    John – I would appreciate it if you would let me answer for myself.

  70. Sean said,

    October 2, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    I should edit: John makes his chart of the ‘Roman system’ look complex and triumphantly claims that the Reformed system is not that complex ergo the Reformed system must be true.

    I know John didn’t actually ‘triumphantly’ claim that necessarily; that is just my perception of the purpose of the chart. If I am wrong I will humbly recant.

  71. October 2, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    I would encourage that person to be Catholic because I believe the fullness of the Christian mystery is found in the Catholic Church.

    Sean,

    Please explain the “fullness of the Christian mystery” of which you speak. Are you referring to centerpiece of Roman experience, the alleged sacrifice of the Mass? After all, doesn’t Romanism teach that nobody has the Supper but Rome? Also, when you say: “Friend, have faith in Jesus who died for you and lay your heart at the cross” what is it you mean by “fullness” and what is it to “lay one’s heart at the cross?” Do mean that by placing one’s trust in Christ alone that assurance of pardon is theirs? Please use unambiguous terms and while you’re at it, let us know what one can be assured of when they do such vague things that I trust you will elaborate upon in your next post. One more thing, please tell me why are you leaving out the entire Romish doctrine of penance and satisfaction, the alleged second plank of justification for those who have made shipwreck of their souls? After all, merit is at the heart of justification, is it not? Yet it is conspicuously absent in your salvation message. Finally, why are you leaving out works of merit? Either (a) you’re not a true papist, (b) you are one and trying to fly under the radar screen, or (c) you have no clue what Rome teaches. Choose this day, Sean.

    Ron

  72. Sean said,

    October 3, 2010 at 7:32 am

    Ron,

    Sorry if my answer doesn’t fit the purpose you are trying to make.

    What would you tell a weary sinner who came to you looking for rest, Ron?

  73. Nick said,

    October 3, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    There is a Sola Fide debate taking place now that folks might want to be aware of.

  74. TurretinFan said,

    October 3, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    “I know John didn’t actually ‘triumphantly’ claim that necessarily; that is just my perception of the purpose of the chart. If I am wrong I will humbly recant.”

    Why even bother attributing such a terrible argument to him in the first place, rather than avoiding a violation of the 9th (8th according to Rome’s misnumbering) commandment altogether, thereby also avoiding the need to recant?

    -TurretinFan

  75. October 3, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Ron,

    Sorry if my answer doesn’t fit the purpose you are trying to make.

    Sean,

    Please don’t try to guess my purpose. I want to hear your message of appropriating Christ’s righteousness and receiving pardon. Your answer was not sacerdotal and, therefore, not according to your communion. Are you ashamed of the flow chart John Bugay provided? Your answer was simply put your faith in Jesus and lay your heart at the cross. I want to know what that means to you and what one will receive in return. Again, if one comes to you wanting forgiveness of sins and eternal life, what will you tell them they must do? What must one do to avoid hell and purgatory?

    “What would you tell a weary sinner who came to you looking for rest, Ron?

    You should know, Sean. You claim to have been Protestant.

    Ron

  76. johnbugay said,

    October 4, 2010 at 5:47 am

    I should edit: John makes his chart of the ‘Roman system’ look complex and triumphantly claims that the Reformed system is not that complex ergo the Reformed system must be true.

    I know John didn’t actually ‘triumphantly’ claim that necessarily; that is just my perception of the purpose of the chart. If I am wrong I will humbly recant.

    Sean, you continue to misrepresent. (Your misrepresentation being “the Reformed system is not that complex ergo the Reformed system must be true”). My reproduction of the chart is not to make the claim you suggest. The folks here know what Biblical justification is. The Reformed doctrine does not need my affirmation.

    My whole purpose in reproducing the chart was to address your statement about how one is justified in the Roman Catholic system: “Friend, have faith in Jesus who died for you and lay your heart at the cross.”

    In Catholicism, the real answer is, “get baptized and then get on the sacramental treadmill,” the process of which is accurately represented in the chart.

    So Ron is right to ask you to clarify. The Roman system of justification is so muddled — yet it must be followed by the Roman Catholic. Although Rome has expanded it and now admits to salvation anyone, “the first place amongst whom are the Muslims,” who follow the dictates of their own consciences:

    Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.

    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p123a9p3.htm#841

    What, Sean, is the genuine Biblical doctrine of justification, and where do you find the real deviation from the Biblical and historical doctrine?

    You’re the one who wants to come here and win converts to Catholicsm. Your question, “What would you tell a weary sinner who came to you looking for rest, Ron?,” is a pure evasion.

    Typical from you. Exactly what we expect from you. You cannot, or will not, explain the Roman system that you want everyone to follow.

  77. Sean said,

    October 4, 2010 at 8:55 am

    TFan # 75 – I admitted that I may be wrong about the intention of the chart so your berating of me is not necessary. I said, ‘If I am wrong, I will recant.’ So, John has told me that I am wrong so: I recant. Misunderstanding something and admitting the possibility of misunderstanding something is not a violation of the 8th commandment.

    Ron # 76,

    I gave you my answer and then I gave an expanded answer. I think at this point you can answer the question you asked me.

    John Bugay # 77,

    Sean, you continue to misrepresent.

    Well, John, I guess I get no credit or leniency in that I admitted just after that I may have been wrong about the intention of the chart?

    My reproduction of the chart is not to make the claim you suggest.

    OK, I was wrong about your intention. Sorry.

    The Roman system of justification is so muddled — yet it must be followed by the Roman Catholic.

    But there you go again. What do you mean by ‘muddled?’ Here you are making the very argument that you accuse of me of misattributing to me. If the Roman system is ‘so muddled’ than the Reformed system must not be muddled? Or do you believe the Reformed system is also muddled?

    “What would you tell a weary sinner who came to you looking for rest, Ron?,” is a pure evasion.

    No, it isn’t John. Talk about violating the 8th commandment. Apparently you have no qualms about misreading my intentions and my heart. If I misread you, I apologize. You on the other hand continue to purposefully put words in my mouth and then attack me for phantom intentions. You have called me a liar dozens of times yet you’ve never once been able to demonstrate a single instance of lying on my part. You even put up a thread about me on your Reformation500 blog in an attempt to prove that I lied but failed to even show one instance of lying. You took that thread down pretty quickly after I commented.

    Furthermore, I was not asked by Ron to summarize soteriology. I was asked what I would tell a wearied sinner. Part of my answer was that I would encourage them to be baptized and because united to the Catholic Church. That is not evading anything.

    And I would be willing to bet that you, TFAN and Ron would tell a wearied sinner largely the same thing (except to join a Reformed church). Or am I to understand it that you would not encourage a sinner to be baptized and join the church???

    You cannot, or will not, explain the Roman system that you want everyone to follow.

    Hogwash and frankly you should feel ashamed for consistently lying about me in a public forum.

  78. Sean said,

    October 4, 2010 at 8:58 am

    *Here you are making the very argument that you accuse of me of misattributing to me.*

    Should be: Here you are making the very argument that you accuse of me of misattributing to you.

  79. October 4, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Sean,

    You’re dodging. Your words are vacuous and you gave zero amplification. What’s more, your vacuous terms do not imply union with Christ through the sacraments – so not only are you being evasive, you’re also denying papal Rome. Your “call to communion” is no less than a call to confusion and deception. You have no good news, Sean. You have no word of comfort to one who would desire to avoid hell and purgatory otherwise you would have told us how one can be assured of eternal life. You have as much to say as the Judaizers.

    Ron

  80. Sean said,

    October 4, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Ron.

    Your words are vacuous and you gave zero amplification. What’s more, your vacuous terms do not imply union with Christ through the sacraments – so not only are you being evasive, you’re also denying papal Rome.

    Firstly, I am not denying anything that the Catholic Church teaches about our reconciliation to the Father.

    Secondly, you asked me a question and I answered. You also stipulated that you wanted a brief answer (an economy of words…a simple answer). What am I dodging? I completely and 100% affirm and believe all that the Catholic Church teaches about justification. Full stop.

    Its sounds like you wanted your ears itched more than anything else. You wanted some kind of answer that proves your prejudice against the Catholic faith and reinforces your ignorance of her teaching. Sorry, to disappoint. I take back nothing that I said in my answer and am 100% confident that nothing in my answer belies the teaching of the Church.

  81. October 4, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Sean,

    Once again, you’re simply bobbing and weaving. You have refused to unpack your vague terms and you refuse to acknowledge that men (apart from new and personal special revelation not found in Scripture or Roman tradition) cannot know that they have eternal life since it is possible in Romanism to lose one’s salvation. Consequently, by the nature of the case you cannot tell someone how he can have eternal life, lest you say something like “die without a mortal sin on your soul and then, after burning off your venial sins you can enter into heaven.” It’s apparent that you’re embarrassed by Rome’s simple plan of salvation because you refuse to tell us Rome’s good news, which is no good news at all but another news that can only lead one to despair.

    Ron

  82. October 4, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    DTK, John and TF,

    I’ll leave the promoters of this apostate tradition to you.

    Blessings,

    Ron

  83. Sean said,

    October 4, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Ron,

    You didn’t ask me, ‘If one can lose their salvation.’ You asked me what I would tell a wearied sinner, a question that interestingly enough you refuse to answer.

    I suggest you re-read my response in # 70. However, it sounds like you were not really trying to understand what I would say but rather you were just merely trying to set a trap. Had I know that your intentions were not honest, I would not have answered you in the first place.

  84. Tom Riello said,

    October 4, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Ron D,

    You attack Sean for dodging your question about appropiating the righteousness of Christ. You also claim that Sean has to do this because the Roman system cannot give someone assurance because on can lose salvation.

    Ahh…if only it was that simple. As you know the great Reformer, for whom this post was named, taught that a man could lose his salvation. That same man taught that the act of Baptism regenerated. Why not call Luther someone that had no good news to offer? Why does/ is Luther getting a pass but someone like Sean does not?

  85. TurretinFan said,

    October 4, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Sean,

    Your accusation that Ron’s “intentions” are “not honest,” is a serious charge. I suspect this is another of your failed attempts at mind reading (see your failure to read John Bugay’s mind above).

    Ron was pointing out the fact that you were selectively highlight certain areas, but not others, in your church’s theology. We see this from advocates from false religions all the time. The Mormons are always telling us that they believe that Jesus is God, and even Jehovah’s Witnesses are finding ways to avoid telling us what they really think of Jesus’ divinity.

    Ron was calling on you to be more honest about your church’s theology of salvation not by grace alone but by human cooperation with grace – justification that ultimately depends on the merit of the person being saved, even a bifurcated justification for those who will be ultimately saved based on their individual merit/demerit.

    Your response was just evasion. It confirmed Ron’s suspicion that you were not interested in being open about (among other things) the fact that assurance for a Roman Catholic is tenuous and merits-based.

    I personally think it’s a good sign that you are reluctant to admit to those parts of your church’s theology. I think it is evidence that you realize that penance, indulgences, and purgatory are extrabiblical innovations.

    But I’m afraid Ron is less sanguine about the significance of your lack of candor. And the more you accuse him falsely, the more I find his conclusion likely.

    -TurretinFan

  86. October 4, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Sean,

    I’m in an airport and I have a moment so I’ll try this again. I asked you how one can receive pardon and be counted as righteous before God. Your answer included laying one’s heart at the cross, which I found ambiguous and nowhere to be found in the standards of your spiritual organization. When I asked you to elaborate you didn’t. Are you now you telling me that your “good news” for the burdened sinner doesn’t include a secure standing in that justification? In other words, are you saying that one might have to do more in order to ensure the avoidance of hell and purgatory? Do you have a doctrine of sastisfaction that entails more than what you orginally said, which was “Friend, have faith in Jesus who died for you and lay your heart at the cross.” What is it you would tell this person who wants their sins forgiven once and for all – i.e. wants everlasting life, and is contemplating the Roman communion? What is your good news, Sean. Would you such a one that his justification could end up being a process and that God does not promise eternal life to all those who receive pardon for a season? Sean, what is God’s formula for one to obtain everlasting life, and how many iterations might that formula entail? You get the question. You just don’t like it.

    RD

  87. Sean said,

    October 4, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    “TurretinFan”

    Your accusation that Ron’s “intentions” are “not honest,” is a serious charge.

    What else am I supposed to understand by his unwillingness to accept my answer? I am left only to assume Ron didn’t actually want to know what I would tell a wearied sinner because I gave that to him and he was not satifisied. I am then accused of hiding what the Church teaches when all along I am asserting that I believe and confess every jot of what the Church teaches. Not too mention the fact that I’ve written about these very things in detail elsewhere.

    Speaking of candor, it’s apparent that it was my fault for giving any at all. I am asked a question.

    It’s pretty apparent that this conversation has run its course. I have more important things to do that answer the charge of an anonymous epologist.

  88. Sean said,

    October 4, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Ron,

    You did not ask me about eternal security or what you call “doctrine of satisfaction.”

    You asked me a simple, pointed question and I gave a simple answer that encapsulates the totality of what the Catholic Church teaches about our salvation. It’s all about Jesus’ work on the cross. Now, clearly there are disagreements about exactly how that grace is given and what our response to that grace is and what it all means but that wasn’t the question you asked of me.

    Let me be clear: I believe all that the Catholic Church teaches about justification.

    But you did not ask me for a detailed summary of Catholic soteriology. You asked me what I would tell a wearied sinner and that is what I would tell him.

    If a wearied sinner came to you and you could only answer in an ‘economy of words’ – the framework that you gave me – I seriously doubt you would break open Calvin’s institutes and go all through TULIP and then the WCOF and then say something like, “Well, hopefully God did not predestine you to destruction!” You would probably give an answer very much like the one I gave.

    It seems to me like you were disappointed that my response did not fit some nefarious works’ based righteousness model that you seem convinced we teach.

    Yes, I do reject the Reformed notion of immediate and irreversible imputation because it is not biblical and not orthodox.

    Nevertheless, the answer I would give to the wearied sinner is perfectly consistent with Catholic soteriology and perfectly consistent with what Christ told the harlot: “Go and sin no more.”

  89. October 4, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    I have to call that strike three, Sean. I’m after your understanding of “good news” for sinners and all you’re willing to disclose is that sinners should lay their heart at the cross and believe in Jesus but you won’t say what they will receive for those actions.

    RWD

  90. TurretinFan said,

    October 4, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    “You did not ask me about eternal security or what you call “doctrine of satisfaction.” ”

    See #72, where Ron wrote:

    Please use unambiguous terms and while you’re at it, let us know what one can be assured of when they do such vague things that I trust you will elaborate upon in your next post. One more thing, please tell me why are you leaving out the entire Romish doctrine of penance and satisfaction, the alleged second plank of justification for those who have made shipwreck of their souls?

    (among other things)

  91. October 5, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    This exchange is such a joke.

    I fail to see how it is helpful to ask someone like Sean to “tell us as succinctly as possible, using an economy of words,” what he would tell a wearied sinner, and then when he gives an answer that meets the criterion suggested, to yell at him and call him dishonest.

    If I were asked that question, I would say something like, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, repent, be baptized, and join a true church.” That’s not as streamlined as Sean’s answer, but it still leaves a whole lot out. Would I also be accused of dodgy evasion and lying?

    Seriously, the way some people here conduct themselves, with such arrogance and immaturity, makes me embarrassed to be on the same team. The significant damage that Taylor Marshall did to his cause by his weak arguments and childish behavior is being matched pretty well by Sean’s opponents here.

    (OK, now’s the part where you all attack me, so let’s have it.)

  92. John Bugay said,

    October 5, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Jason: Given what you know about Roman Catholic doctrine, was Sean’s “streamlined” answer honest and truthful? [“Friend, have faith in Jesus who died for you and lay your heart at the cross.”] Did it portray Catholic doctrine accurately? Is that what salvation in Catholicism all about? Or can you imagine (!) how someone here might have thought that he was less than forthcoming with it?

  93. October 5, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    But John, my streamlined answer in #92 doesn’t completely portray my soteriology, either. You can’t ask someone to write the gospel on a dime and then get mad if he leaves some stuff out.

  94. October 5, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    My point is that there are plenty of arguments that we can make against Rome, which makes this exchange look desperate and reaching on the part of a bunch of theological sixth-graders.

    We’re better than this, really….

  95. John Bugay said,

    October 5, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Nobody asked you for your streamlined version. Look at Ron’s initial question:

    Assume I’m a newbie to your communion’s teaching on justification. Please tell me in your own words (and in as few as possible) how man is to appropriate the righteousness of Christ if not by faith alone.

    It’s the jailer asking “what must I do to be saved” all over again. It’s a very practical question, and we hear it all the time.

    Was Sean being honest with Catholic doctrine on salvation? Can one even “appropriate the righteousness of Christ” in Roman Catholicism?

  96. John Bugay said,

    October 5, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    We’re better than this, really….

    It was my imposition of the chart that broke up the discussion. But really, this wasn’t a question about “arguments against Rome.” [Yet you continually attribute some kind of moral equivalence to this discussion.]

    Where do you personally stand on all of this? Why should we make “arguments against Rome?” Why are you such good buddies with the whole “Called to Communion” gang, all of whom seemed to meet each other on your blog, and now are causing some very real pastoral problems for some of the pastors who comment here?

    Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

  97. David Meyer said,

    October 5, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    In #36 D.T. King says:

    “No one attempts to read a mature understanding of justification via sola fide by the reformers back into the witness of the ancient church.”

    Wow! I wish someone had said it that way to me back in 2001! I could have skipped Calvinism and went straight to Holy Mother Church right away! In my time as a Calvinist, me and my Calvinist bro’s were quite convinced we had the faith of the fathers as far as sola fide, and we certainly DID try to read a mature understanding back into the ancient church.

    Ligon Duncan certainly thinks this is the case: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/07/ligon-duncans-did-the-fathers-know-the-gospel/

    Calvinists in general ABSOLUTELY think they are on the side of the early church concerning a mature understanding of sola fide. It is just when they try to back up the claim and come up empty handed, they resort to saying the doctrine was there in “seed form”.

    I clearly recall as a new Calvinist being surprised at how little there was in patristics that could be read in a “mature” sola fide way, but figured the doctrine must have grown slowly over time and then bloomed in the tradition of the Lutheran and Reformed churches. Nevertheless, I always claimed it was there, fully fleshed out, waiting for Luther to discover like Waldo in a ‘Where’s Waldo’ book.

    It is interesting when Reformed people try to have things both ways. Wanting to claim the fathers but rejecting them on doctrines they dont like. Such as Baptismal Regeneration. I guess the entire ancient church just got that one utterly wrong. how dumb of them. I think I will trust saints a few generations from Paul to interpret him, not Martin Luther or Calvin, thanks.

    Thank God for the rock of the Catholic Church!

    Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee….

  98. October 5, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    John,

    Nobody asked you for your streamlined version.

    I know. I’m just saying that mine would have probably failed the test, too. I mean (since you brought up the Philippian jailor), was Paul himself being honest when he told him to simply “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved”? If so, why does the WCF have so much extra stuff in it?

    Was Sean being honest with Catholic doctrine on salvation? Can one even “appropriate the righteousness of Christ” in Roman Catholicism?

    Oh, so it was a trick question from the get-go. You’re right, then, he totally blew it.

    Where do you personally stand on all of this? Why should we make “arguments against Rome?” Why are you such good buddies with the whole “Called to Communion” gang, all of whom seemed to meet each other on your blog, and now are causing some very real pastoral problems for some of the pastors who comment here?

    The entire PCA knows where I stand, John. This is just throwing sand in the air and engaging in guilt by association. I’m about to be appointed the prosecutor of Peter Leithart for crying out loud.

    Sheesh, talk about being dodgy and changing the subject.

  99. John Bugay said,

    October 5, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Oh, so it was a trick question from the get-go. You’re right, then, he totally blew it.

    “Blew it”? Can you be more precise, in a theological way?

    The entire PCA knows where I stand, John.

    I’ve been following you for two years, and I really don’t know where you stand.

    I’m about to be appointed the prosecutor of Peter Leithart for crying out loud.

    And that proves exactly what about your thoughts about Roman Catholicism?

  100. John Bugay said,

    October 5, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Sheesh, talk about being dodgy and changing the subject.

    You specifically asked for it:

    (OK, now’s the part where you all attack me, so let’s have it.)

  101. October 5, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    John,

    I don’t have the time to connect every single dot for you. If you can’t figure out how my leading the prosecution’s case against Leithart has anything to do with my views of Catholicism, then I’m sorry, I would suggest that you try a little harder to see the point I’m trying to make.

    And I can’t believe I didn’t anticipate that you would take my sarcastic invitation to attack me personally as a literal invitation to do so, but then again, we haven’t interacted in a while.

  102. John Bugay said,

    October 5, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Another non-answer for you. In reality, you have not ever connected the dots. You just say things like, “I don’t have time to connect every single dot for you.”

    Meanwhile, you have, yet again, given a fundamentally dishonest person like Sean Patrick a “get out of jail free” card that he can use next time he interacts with your Reformed brethren, in the form of “Well, Jason Stellman, world-famous PCA pastor, thinks I’m honest.” You didn’t say that, but he’ll come out saying “I was tricked, Jason Stellman said so.”

    I’ll ask you just one more easy, sixth-grade question, and I’d like for you to answer it in plan English for all the PCA, who knows exactly where you stand: Precisely in what way are the Roman Catholic Church and, say, the PCA *NOT* morally equivalent?

    I’m busy too.

  103. October 5, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    John,

    Another non-answer for you. In reality, you have not ever connected the dots. You just say things like, “I don’t have time to connect every single dot for you.”

    Fair enough. If you cannot see any connection between my fighting against the FV and my stance on Catholicism, then I guess we’ll just leave it a big mystery.

    Meanwhile, you have, yet again, given a fundamentally dishonest person like Sean Patrick a “get out of jail free” card that he can use next time he interacts with your Reformed brethren, in the form of “Well, Jason Stellman, world-famous PCA pastor, thinks I’m honest.” You didn’t say that, but he’ll come out saying “I was tricked, Jason Stellman said so.”

    John, I don’t think that the people you attack need any confirmation from me that they are mistreated and ill-spoken of.

    As far as Sean goes, his Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card has yet to be signed and laminated, so he had better sit tight before he commits any serious felonies. To connect the dots for you, what I mean is that I hardly think my chiming in here at comment #92 constitutes the moral victory for him that you think it does. I wasn’t even saying that he was right, I was just saying that you and your friends are bullies who don’t play fair.

    I’ll ask you just one more easy, sixth-grade question, and I’d like for you to answer it in plan English for all the PCA, who knows exactly where you stand: Precisely in what way are the Roman Catholic Church and, say, the PCA *NOT* morally equivalent?

    Well, I don’t usually think of churches in terms of being “morally” equivalent to one another, but if I understand your question correctly, I would answer by saying that the PCA, since it preaches the gospel of justification by faith alone through grace alone because of Christ alone, as well as administering the sacraments according to Jesus’ institution, is a true church in the Reformed and Scriptural sense. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, fails to meet these criteria, meaning that the two are not “morally equivalent.”

    If I misunderstood your question, feel free to tell me. But know that I am not dodging anything. The Internet makes dialogue difficult, meaning that we need to go out of our way to extend the benefit of the doubt.

  104. John Bugay said,

    October 5, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Jason, your response about your role “fighting against the FV” really is another non-response.

    If you think that my friends and I are “bullies who don’t play fair,” then what constitutes “fair play” in these types of discussions? Especially when a dissembler like Sean Patrick is here evading every question put to him? You’re right, the internet makes some things difficult in some ways. Especially when Sean has free reign to go out and do what it is that he does. (You seem to approve of him). But the Internet also sheds light, and your responses (or non-responses here) do actually communicate a lot.

    I would answer by saying that the PCA, since it preaches the gospel of justification by faith alone through grace alone because of Christ alone, as well as administering the sacraments according to Jesus’ institution, is a true church in the Reformed and Scriptural sense. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, fails to meet these criteria, meaning that the two are not “morally equivalent.”

    Oh, ok, they fail to meet the criteria. So they’re not “morally equivalent,” but they’re not so bad, eh? Let’s get together with them some time and have a pint of ale and just laugh the whole Reformation off. Why not let’s help them start up a web site, too, “Where the Reformation Meets Rome,” and give them half their audience, and maybe some good-will start-up funding, and let’s let them steal uneasy Reformed believers right out of Reformed churches?

    I spent a lot of time giving you the benefit of the doubt, and I just found all of your “fair play” and “fair discussion” left a whole lot to be desired.

    If the moderators or anyone else here think I’ve gotten out of line here, I’m happy to accept correction from them. But you came in here and insulted some fine Reformed individuals, in the defense of, and in front of, some really bad people, and I continue to have serious questions about your loyalties.

  105. October 5, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    I’m sorry John, I have to run. There’s a fundraiser for Satan that I’m the keynote speaker at. After that I have to wire some venture capital to Salt Lake City and then club a baby seal to death.

    When all the day’s nefarious activity is done, I plan to stand alongside Dr. Evil and his henchman and engage in a protracted “Mu-Hahahaha”-type sinister laugh while twisting my moustache.

    All in a day’s work for a minister with questionable loyalties.

  106. John Bugay said,

    October 5, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Yessiree, Jason, there are some really evil people here. You ought to try siding with the Reformed folks here. They’ll really satisfy your desire for clandestine adventure!

  107. David Gadbois said,

    October 5, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    OK, y’all, try to simma’ down.

    Jason, I know we all want to be fair and even-handed even when dealing with our enemies, whether Romanists, Muslims, or atheists. But I think John’s main point is well-taken. There is an elegant simplicity in a gospel of justification by faith – Christ did it all and we receive forgiveness on the one condition of faith- that is a stark contrast to the labyrinthian system of works righteousness that Romanism premises justification on. Romanists are rightly embarrassed by this but it is hard to avoid the reality. When justification is something you work for rather than receive as a gift things get real complicated real fast. You’ve gotta get on the treadmill and start weaving your way through 7 sacraments, rack up as much congruent merit as you can, try to pile on merit from Mary and the saints by performing various rites, and then *cross your fingers* and hope you’ve been good enough at this before you die in order to make the cut before God.

    Most folks would rightly ask, at this juncture, where the Good News went. And John is right to point out that this is what the Romanist understanding of justification entails. It ought to be embarrassing to believe in a complicated moralistic system in contrast to the simplicity of the biblical gospel.

  108. TurretinFan said,

    October 5, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Mr. Meyer,

    I seem to recall you saying you were in Joshua Moon’s church. I have no idea whether or not Pastor Moon tries to suggest that a mature understanding of sola fide was present in the fathers, but I think any one of the people who are dialoging here would tell you the same thing as I’m telling you and as Pastor King told you: it’s not our position that the early fathers had a mature or fully consistent understanding of sola fide.

    We also don’t say that the gospel is “understanding sola fide” or something like that. We’re not saved by believing the doctrine of sola fide but rather by placing the entirety of our trust in Christ alone. That was also the way that the early fathers were saved – whether they had a more or less mature and/or consistent view of sola fide.

    With all due respect, I think you will be hard-pressed to identify anywhere in Ligon Duncan’s hour long speech where he says that the early church fathers had as complete and consistent an understanding of sola fide as someone like Calvin or Owen does.

    -TurretinFan

  109. Bryan Cross said,

    October 5, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    David,

    From the Catholic point of view, there is no “embarrassment” over any degree of complexity in the Catholic doctrine of justification. That’s because Catholic orthodoxy is not determined by the degree of complexity of a doctrine, but by its being divinely revealed. If God reveals something complex about x, then orthodoxy concerning x is complex. If what He reveals about y is simple, then orthodoxy about y is simple. For the Catholic Church, complexity or simplicity is not the test of orthodoxy. Likewise, the Church doesn’t determine what is the gospel by evaluating various proposed versions of the gospel according to how good or bad they seem to us men. That would be to subject the gospel to human standards, and turn it into a merely man-made message, ala Feuerbach’s The Essence of Christianity. If Jesus tells us that the good news is that we are to take up our cross, deny our selves, hate our parents, pluck out our eyes, be hated and reviled by all, and suffer and die with Him, then that’s the good news, even if to our human minds it might not seem like good news. He’s God; He gets to say what is the gospel. We have no right to make His message conform to our human expectations or demands. (A good example of this, about which we here all agree, is the Health & Wealth folks, who try to make the “good news” into something about having lots of money and never being sick. It is a man-made religion for that very reason.)

    The fact that our critics think doctrinal complexity is embarrassing only shows that for them, complexity is a test of orthodoxy. But for us, God’s ways are higher than man’s ways, and He need not conform to the stipulations of human reason. His message need not conform to our a priori expectations; otherwise Abraham would never have taken Isaac up to be sacrificed. As soon as a fundamentalist comes along, and dismisses all the complexity in Turretin, Hodge, Bavinck, Berkhof (or the Reformed confessions), watch the Reformed scramble to defend that complexity. So the Reformed criticism of the complexity of Catholic doctrine is entirely ad hoc; it is simply “Your doctrine is more complex than ours.” And the Catholic response is “yeah, and ….?” The simplicity we aspire to is simplicity of devotion to Christ, loving Christ above all else. But for us simplicity is not the test of orthodoxy. Otherwise, the Jews could have dismissed the Torah as heterodox simply because it contains 613 laws, and Marcion could be praised as orthodox, for simplifying Christianity by means of a pair of scissors. That’s not how we determine orthodoxy.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  110. Tom Riello said,

    October 5, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    David Gadbois,

    “Romanists are rightly embarrassed by this but it is hard to avoid the reality.”

    Rightly embarrassed by what? That we believe that justification is faith working in love? Is that not what Paul says? The same Paul that tells the Jailer “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” is the same Paul who speaks of working out our salvation and the same Paul who says he mortifies his body so that, he who has preached the Gospel to others, might not himself be disqualified in the end.

    Sean was attacked for dodging the question about appropiating the righteousness of Christ. It was claimed that Sean has to do this because the Roman system cannot give someone assurance because one can lose salvation.

    As you know the great Reformer, for whom this post was named, taught that a man could lose his salvation. That same man taught that the act of Baptism regenerated. Why not call Luther someone that had no good news to offer? Why does/ is Luther get a pass but Sean does not?

  111. Tom Riello said,

    October 5, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Bryan,

    Great point about Marcion, he certainly did simplify things!

  112. D. T. King said,

    October 5, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    It is interesting when Reformed people try to have things both ways. Wanting to claim the fathers but rejecting them on doctrines they dont like. Such as Baptismal Regeneration. I guess the entire ancient church just got that one utterly wrong. how dumb of them. I think I will trust saints a few generations from Paul to interpret him, not Martin Luther or Calvin, thanks.

    Mr. Meyer, I suppose that when new converts to Rome have nothing substantial to offer, it helps them to feel a little more secure in their departure from the infallible rule of Holy Scripture to create various “straw man” scenarios in order to appear to engage those with whom you disagree. The truth is that we do not try to have it both ways, and any appeal we make to the ancient witness of the church is to demonstrate, contra the claims of Rome, 1) that our views are not novel but are often found there in seed form, and 2) to demonstrate that Rome uses the witness of the ancient as a double-standard of proof. You see, Rome not only attempts to have it both ways claiming an infallible witness in both Holy Scripture and tradition, but modern day Rome wants to have it three ways. Consider the third way – why was there any need for conciliar authority in the ancient church, when the clergy could have simply spared themselves the time, travel, expense, and hardship of travel to synod, when all doctrinal roads ultimately led to Rome where the head of all Christendom resided, and who could be reached by way of letter for a final adjudication of any doctrinal controversy? I mean, when the Roman bishop can simply invoke via viva voce for the invention of dogmas unknown to the witness of the early church, I suppose that is something for someone who is shallow in history to crow about.

    But there are those of us here, who make conscience, as did Luther, of Holy Scripture. You see, there are those of us who make conscience of passages like Galatians 1:8, But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.

    Now, Mr. Meyer, if you have something meaningful to offer, I would be willing to listen. But if all you have is your “crowing and wowing” triumphalism, you’re not going to find folk of Reformed convictions impressed with such adolescent behavior. I mean, the “my daddy can beat up your daddy” is something I would hope that you left behind in childhood. But I guess not. But if you have any desire to engage those of us with whom you disagree here, let me assure you that Roman triumphalism isn’t going to cut the mustard for for appearance of meaningful exchange.

    As I pointed out above, we are not without historical witness, and patristic scholars, such as Jaroslav Pelikan, have observed…

    All the more tragic, therefore, was the Roman reaction on the front which was most important to the Reformers, the message and teaching of the church. This had to be reformed according to the word of God; unless it was, no moral improvement would be able to alter the basic problem. Rome’s reactions were the doctrinal decrees of the Council of Trent and the Roman Catechism based upon those decrees. In these decrees, the Council of Trent selected and elevated to official status the notion of justification by faith plus works, which was only one of the doctrines of justification in the medieval theologians and ancient fathers. When the reformers attacked this notion in the name of the doctrine of justification by faith alone—a doctrine also attested to by some medieval theologians and ancient fathers—Rome reacted by canonizing one trend in preference to all the others. What had previously been permitted (justification by faith and works), now became required. What had previously been permitted also (justification by faith alone), now became forbidden. In condemning the Protestant Reformation, the Council of Trent condemned part of its own catholic tradition. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Riddle of Roman Catholicism (New York: Abingdon Press, 1959), pp. 51-52.

    The only tragedy of the reformation is that it was necessary, and still is; especially when one begins to appeal to the ignorance of their own experience as means of trying to impress those with whom one disagrees.

  113. TurretinFan said,

    October 5, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Tom asked: “Rightly embarrassed by what? ”

    Rightly embarrassed by a system of justification in conflict with Paul’s (and Scripture’s generally) teaching of justification by faith alone. Specifically, rightly embarrassed by a system of justification by faith and works.

    You yourself don’t seem very eager to say that you believe that men are justified by faith and works. Instead, you attempt to recast it as “faith working in love.” But, of course, it is not the faith working, but the man working.

    Bryan:

    You wrote:

    From the Catholic point of view, there is no “embarrassment” over any degree of complexity in the Catholic doctrine of justification.

    At first I wondered why you thought this worth mentioning. Then I read on where you wrote:

    The fact that our critics think doctrinal complexity is embarrassing only shows that for them, complexity is a test of orthodoxy.

    Yet to make this assertion you have to ignore the explicit statements of the critics of your church to the contrary. Complexity is not our text of orthodoxy.

    Nor was complexity itself the issue.

    We determine orthodoxy by Scripture (as you very well know), and that is where Rome’s system fails.

    -TurretinFan

  114. TurretinFan said,

    October 5, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    I apologize to Mr. Stellman for the fact that #109 was disrespectful to Mr. Stellman, who is a minister of the gospel. I should be more careful to show greater respect for him as an officer of the church. I remain very unhappy with his course of dealings in terms of undermining the dialog with the Romanists, but I ought to have expressed myself more respectfully. I take some small comfort from the fact that my comment probably was not read by him. If the moderators would like to delete it, I would be grateful to them.

  115. David Gadbois said,

    October 5, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Re #115, done.

  116. Bryan Cross said,

    October 5, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    TF,

    Well then you and David need to get on the same page. You say complexity is not the issue. David says that the Catholic “labyrinthian system” with its “complicated moral system” is “embarrassing” compared to the “elegant simplicity of the gospel of justification by faith” and the “simplicity of the biblical gospel.”

    So many irrelevant adjectives, if complexity has nothing to do with orthodoxy.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  117. TurretinFan said,

    October 5, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Bryan:

    As I said above, complexity itself is not the issue. I’m sure David G. will agree with me. I thought you were formerly among us. You should have been taught that then.

    -TurretinFan

  118. October 5, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    TFan,

    I apologize to Mr. Stellman for the fact that #109 was disrespectful to Mr. Stellman, who is a minister of the gospel. I should be more careful to show greater respect for him as an officer of the church. I remain very unhappy with his course of dealings in terms of undermining the dialog with the Romanists, but I ought to have expressed myself more respectfully. I take some small comfort from the fact that my comment probably was not read by him. If the moderators would like to delete it, I would be grateful to them.

    Oh, I read it. I started a response, but thought better of it and deleted it. I appreciate your second-guessing as well.

    I’m sorry you see me as undermining the discussion (or that Bugay sees me as “laughing off the Reformation”). My only point is that this thread, and especially the bit about the question to Sean and his subsequent “lying dodginess,” has devolved to the point of being childish and silly. This kind of “Gotcha Apologetics” is beneath us. When you, Bugay, and King are on your game, you do a great job (and Henzel is an absolute rock star almost all of the time). But when we degenerate into pettiness it only makes us look like juveniles.

    Does that concern make any sense at all?

  119. johnbugay said,

    October 5, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    But when we degenerate into pettiness it only makes us look like juveniles.

    Jason, I’d love to see you say a commital word to Sean or any of the Roman Catholics who visit these discussions.

  120. October 5, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    What do you mean a “commital word”?

  121. johnbugay said,

    October 5, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Bryan 117: The fact is that “faith working through love” in reality becomes “faith working at the Sacramental system.” For a Catholic, nothing else really matters. Sure, there are excuses and loopholes for everybody. But you *gotta* do all that stuff. You gotta work.

    Yes the system is labyrinthine; I don’t doubt that there are Catholics who are embarrassed to outline the whole system and say, “Yes, this is how you gain salvation in the Roman Catholic system.”

    Like Tom Riello, for example — yes, Tom, why do you need to say “faith working in love”? Why don’t you, in your apologetic efforts, just come right out and say that “by following the Sacramental system, Mass every week, confession when you need it, and you’ll be just fine.” Is that the Gospel that Christ preached? Is it (in any way) “the faith once delivered”? Is a lifetime of Mass/Confession/Mass/Confession really a mercy from God? Or is it just a man-made set of meaningless works (in which case, all you’ve got do do is what Sean said you’ve got to do, “put your faith in Jesus”?)

  122. johnbugay said,

    October 5, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Jason 121: Commit to something. Tell Sean he’s dissembling.Tell Bryan and Tom the kinds of things I told them in 122. Don’t just throw the softball questions that you throw, that give them a way out. Finish a conversation. State some convictions.

  123. Bryan Cross said,

    October 5, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    TF,

    Your criticisms of my person don’t refute what I said in #117 or #110. What I do or do not know about Reformed theology and methodology does not in any way falsify anything I said, including the following statement: “So many irrelevant adjectives, if complexity has nothing to do with orthodoxy.”

    If you agree that those adjectives were irrelevant, then instead of charging me with ignorance for pointing out that the complexity adjectives are irrelevant, your reply ought to be (or at least include), “Yeah, David, those complexity adjectives were irrelevant,” or “Yep, Bryan, I agree that those complexity adjectives were irrelevant.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  124. TurretinFan said,

    October 5, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    “Does that concern make any sense at all?” Yes, I think I understand that you’d prefer the discussion to be more academic. It’s sometimes hard to make the judgment call about whether to try to provoke someone’s conscience by helping them see that they are trying to avoid something. I’m not sure what could be more helpful to someone in Sean’s position than to have his conscience aroused to help him see that he knows deep down that his affiliation is not with the Gospel preached by the apostles and recorded in Scripture. You may disagree, but I thought I’d add this comment so you will see where I am coming from.

    -TurretinFan

  125. David Gadbois said,

    October 5, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Turretinfan is right, the point was not the complexity, per se. The complexity is simply indicative of the man-centeredness and crass moralism of the whole operation. This simply doesn’t ring true to anyone who reads how the Gospel is presented in the Bible (i.e. this is not an a priori expectation or demand on our part as Bryan insinuated) which presents us with a story of God-centered salvation and forgiveness given as a gift. This automatically rules out any complex man-centered system.

    Also, Bryan’s post variously talked about “doctrine” and “orthodoxy” generally, my comments were confined to the Gospel and justification specifically. A comprehensive system of doctrine is indeed a complex thing, but the Good News is not.

  126. TurretinFan said,

    October 5, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Bryan:

    You wrote:

    Your criticisms of my person don’t refute what I said in #117 or #110.

    I didn’t offer any criticisms of your person as a rebuttal to what you said. The fact that your criticisms are not directed to your opponent’s position render rebuttal needless.

    What I do or do not know about Reformed theology and methodology does not in any way falsify anything I said, including the following statement: “So many irrelevant adjectives, if complexity has nothing to do with orthodoxy.”

    I didn’t say that your knowledge of Reformed theology falsifies anything. I suggested that you should know better than to impute to David G. an argument that isn’t his. That’s me chiding you for being naughty, not me rebutting your argument. His position wasn’t that complexity is the test of orthodoxy, and you’re argument against complexity as the test of orthodoxy was consequently simply the destruction of a strawman. My additional chiding related to the fact that you should know better than to do that. You know that our standard of orthodoxy is adherence to Scripture, not level of complexity.

    If you agree that those adjectives were irrelevant, then instead of charging me with ignorance for pointing out that the complexity adjectives are irrelevant, your reply ought to be (or at least include), “Yeah, David, those complexity adjectives were irrelevant,” or “Yep, Bryan, I agree that those complexity adjectives were irrelevant.”

    I didn’t charge you with ignorance. I suggested that you are not ignorant. You are well aware that our standard for orthodoxy is conformity to Scripture.

    Now, had you chosen (after apologizing to David G.) to revise your argument from being one that said the complexity is not the test of orthodoxy to one that disputed whether the Biblical doctrine of justification is simple or complex, we might be making progress.

    But so far, you have not (that I’ve seen) provided any argument to show the simple Biblical doctrine of justification of faith is wrong, and that the complex Roman innovation involving the various nuances highlighted in the linked chart is right.

    I think somewhere deep down you know that Purgatory is not taught in Scripture. I think you may be able to see that the doctrine of humans suffering to expiate their own sin conflicts with the Scriptural means of justification by faith alone.

    Perhaps I’m wrong, and — so that you don’t get any more wrong ideas — the preceding paragraph is me pleading with you to search the Scriptures to see whether our doctrines are true, not me trying to rebut your arguments by speculation about the content of your knowledge.

    -TurretinFan

  127. Bryan Cross said,

    October 5, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    David,

    If your criticism of the Catholic doctrine concerning justification is not that it is complex, but that it is more complex than you see in Scripture, then of course I grant your point. But there are two relevant factors here. First, the Catholic Church believes and teaches that the gospel was handed down not only in Scripture, but also orally in the form of Tradition, and that Tradition guides the interpretation of Scripture within the Church. Second, the Catholic Church believes and teaches that the Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church into an ever-deepening understanding of the Apostolic deposit concerning justification. So, for both those reasons, we don’t expect the present-day doctrine of justification to be identical in every respect to the doctrine of justification as it is found in Scripture, just as an adult is not identical in every respect to the embryo he once was. The Catholic doctrine of justification is, we believe, the same doctrine written down by the authors of the NT, but it is that doctrine filled out by Tradition and now by two thousands years of divinely-guided development.

    So your “ring-true” test is, from a Catholic point of view, a loaded test, because it begs the question with respect to those two relevant factors, by assuming that there is no oral Tradition and that there is no divinely guided development of doctrine.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  128. David Weiner said,

    October 5, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Bryan, re #110:

    “If Jesus tells us that the good news is that we are to take up our cross, deny our selves, hate our parents, pluck out our eyes, be hated and reviled by all, and suffer and die with Him, then that’s the good news, even if to our human minds it might not seem like good news.”

    Surely, you jest? You don’t really believe that Jesus told anybody to pluck out their eyes, do you? In case you actually do, let me just point out that He was using figurative language. Do you really believe that if somebody was sinning because of their eyes, that plucking them out would stop their sinning? After all, Herod the fox did not have a bushy tail, did he? Jesus told us the good news and what you have here is not it.

  129. David Gadbois said,

    October 5, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    I’m not sure why this is being fixated on, regarding my use of the “complex” adjective. It serves to highlight the characteristics of man-centered, moralistic means of salvation. It was present in the Pharisaical Jews, and is present in spades in Roman Catholicism. It is not to say that simple moralism is better than complex moralism, it is just that complex moralism is flashy, show-offy failure with style.

    This contrasts with true religion, where salvation is accomplished by Someone else and comes to us from outside ourselves. That automatically makes things rather simple, doesn’t it, when one asks the question about how to be right before God.

  130. October 5, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    John,

    Commit to something. Tell Sean he’s dissembling.Tell Bryan and Tom the kinds of things I told them in 122. Don’t just throw the softball questions that you throw, that give them a way out. Finish a conversation. State some convictions.

    I have committed more time, energy, study, and personal cost to Reformed theology than your average Internet lay-apologist, thank you very much. I have taken plenty of heat in my own presbytery for standing up for confessional Reformed orthodoxy (a stance that hasn’t won me any friends either here or out in the wider blogosphere, by the way). I don’t need to prove how hardcore I am to anyone, and certainly not to you, especially when the only evidence that would satisfy you consists of mimicking your behavior (which you know I often don’t approve of).

    In a word, my “convictions” are well-known to whoever desires to look, they’re a matter of public record.

    PS – I reject the claims of Cross, Riello, Sean, and whatever other Catholics I know, although I don’t see the need to treat them spitefully. If that’s not enough for you, then I’m sorry, I don’t know what to tell you.

  131. Bryan Cross said,

    October 5, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    David W,

    Like the early Fathers, we think of the Gospel as the whole entire story and message of Christ, not just a formula or ditty to be put on a tract or tee-shirt. This is why the first four books of the NT are called “Gospels”. And within those four books, are many hard sayings about taking up our cross and denying ourselves, fasting, being persecuted, suffering and being hated and reviled. If those sufferings to which we are called were pointless, they wouldn’t be good news or part of the good news. But they are part of the good news of Christ, because in Christ, our sufferings are united to His suffering, and are thereby made meaningful at the level of eternity. To be granted to suffer for and with Christ is a tremendous gift. This is why the martyrs were so joyful, that they had been chosen to suffer for His Name, a gift with an eternal and incomparable reward. That is the sense in which the cruciform life to which we are called is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  132. David Gadbois said,

    October 5, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Bryan said If Jesus tells us that the good news is that we are to take up our cross, deny our selves, hate our parents, pluck out our eyes, be hated and reviled by all, and suffer and die with Him, then that’s the good news, even if to our human minds it might not seem like good news.

    At some point words have to have meaning. That’s not news, good or bad. Those are commands, ie law. Those are imperatives, not indicatives.

    Such a “gospel” is no improvement on any other invented religion. The solution to sin is…more law, more rules? Really? Why not just be Muslim, at least then you have a sporting chance at a few dozen virgins in the afterlife. Tacking Jesus on top of your moralism doesn’t make Him a Savior, it just makes him a helper who helps you save yourself.

  133. TurretinFan said,

    October 5, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Bryan:

    You wrote:

    But there are two relevant factors here. First, the Catholic Church believes and teaches that the gospel was handed down not only in Scripture, but also orally in the form of Tradition, and that Tradition guides the interpretation of Scripture within the Church. Second, the Catholic Church believes and teaches that the Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church into an ever-deepening understanding of the Apostolic deposit concerning justification.

    As to the first “factor”:

    There is no reliable way to distinguish properly from improperly transmitted “oral tradition,” except by comparison to the written tradition, Scripture. The third category of “tradition” as not something passed down, but rather as being the additional teachings of “the Church,” is something that must either be accepted by faith or tested. If we test it by Scripture, it fails and we reject it. We could explain at greater length why it is not reasonable to accept it on faith, if you care to hear.

    As to the second factor,

    This sounds like a nice thing. If it were true, it would be great. But there’s not a good reason to believe it is true. On the contrary, unless again we accept Rome on faith, when we test Rome’s claim to have a deepening understanding against the lodestone of Scripture (which we know we can trust), we find that Rome’s doctrine of justification is not deeper, it’s extra-biblical and contra-biblical.

    So, while those factors may be statements of Rome’s position, they fall short of establishing the validity of Rome’s position. Now, I trust you did not simply offer those assertions as arguments for the validity of the position. But my point in providing the counter-reply is to show you that those statements themselves need either to be accepted by faith (which is not a reasonable decision) or they need to be tested by a trusted authority (which, for us, and we hope for you – is Scripture).

    -TurretinFan

  134. October 5, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    “This kind of ‘Gotcha Apologetics’ is beneath us…”

    Jason,

    Pointing out an unwillingness of certain Roman “apologists” to clearly state their communion’s way of salvation is hardly “Gotcha Apologetics” – especially when the request is repeatedly made. Moreover, “Gotcha Apologetics” would not include repeated requests for the elaboration of vague non-Roman terms so that their position can be more clearly stated. Finally, “Gotcha Apologetics” would not include pointing out to a Romanist that his formula for salvation doesn’t correspond to his communion’s formula for salvation.

    On the contrary – “Gotcha Apologetics” would entail trying to catch your opponent off guard with trick questions or interpreting vague terms in ways that would undermine your opponent’s position. That would be beneath us.

    Ron

  135. TurretinFan said,

    October 5, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    “If those sufferings to which we are called were pointless, they wouldn’t be good news or part of the good news.”

    They can have a point without the point being that they expiate sin.

  136. Bryan Cross said,

    October 5, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    TF,

    You wrote:

    There is no reliable way to distinguish properly from improperly transmitted “oral tradition,” except by comparison to the written tradition, Scripture.

    I’d be glad to see your proof for this statement.

    Regarding development of doctrine you wrote:

    But there’s not a good reason to believe it is true.

    Again, I’d be glad to see your proof of this statement. Otherwise, you’re just making unsubstantiated assertions.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  137. johnbugay said,

    October 5, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Jason 131: PS – I reject the claims of Cross, Riello, Sean, and whatever other Catholics I know….

    It would have been good if you had made this clear to these folks say in August 2008. As it is, they’ve spent countless hours trying to woo and win you; you would have made a fine notch on their belts. You still fail to acknowledge, though, that none of these folks speak for Rome. You need to reject the claims of the Roman Magisterium.

    Still, I don’t know that you’ve ever said this to any of them this clearly. If you have said it, I appreciate it. I appreciate it now. But I have just never seen it.

  138. johnbugay said,

    October 5, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Bryan 137 — What incredible gall!

    You are the one making the claim for the way this works. Show us some evidence that it works the way you claim it does.

  139. October 5, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    John,

    You still fail to acknowledge, though, that none of these folks speak for Rome. You need to reject the claims of the Roman Magisterium.

    So you’re worried that I agree with the pope, but it’s the claims of Bryan Cross that I have a problem with?

    Puh-leeze!

    I reject the pope, OK? I’m not going to pull a Sinead O’Connor, though, so I guess you’ll just have to find it in your heart to believe me.

  140. David Gadbois said,

    October 5, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Bryan said Like the early Fathers, we think of the Gospel as the whole entire story and message of Christ, not just a formula or ditty to be put on a tract or tee-shirt.

    This is just a silly straw-man on your part.

    The Gospel *narratives* found in the Bible are indeed sizeable and involved. Jesus’ life and work was not, um, “simple”, but he sure did talk a lot about morality. But what was the “Good News” he brought to weary sinners? The announcement that Israel’s Messiah had come to usher in His kingdom and take away the sins of the world after dying and being raised on the third day. One can use the term “gospel” in the broader sense of the whole narrative, or the wider sense of all the benefits of the salvation we have in Christ that come with justification, but obviously we are talking underlying work of Christ. I should point out that the Apostles had no problem preaching the “gospel” in truncated, summary form in their preaching and in their epistles. Hopefully you don’t consider those expressions of the gospel to be formulas or ditties.

    If those sufferings to which we are called were pointless, they wouldn’t be good news or part of the good news.

    The obvious problem is that you believe the only way that such sufferings would not be pointless is if they contribute to our justification. Have you considered that perhaps our works and sufferings should be done out of gratitude for the salvation Christ’s has already secured for us and blessed us with, and that they are therefore not “pointless”? That God also gives us various heavenly rewards over and above our glorification in the New Heaven and New Earth in proportion to our good deeds (i.e. eternal rewards given in addition to our justification)?

  141. Bryan Cross said,

    October 5, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    David G,

    The solution to sin is…more law, more rules? Really?

    When you see some imperative in the Gospels, you apparently think “more law.” Jesus does give us a new law (as we see in the Gospels), along with the New Covenant He establishes in His own blood. But the solution to sin is not law simpliciter, because the letter kills. The solution to sin is grace, by which the law is written upon our hearts, and through the Holy Spirit we receive agape poured into our hearts, by which the law is fulfilled in us, as St. Paul says repeatedly. (Rom 5:5, 13:8, 13:10, Gal 5:14) That is what was promised in the prophets Jer 31:31ff. The solution to sin is not destroying or abolishing the law, but, by the infused grace of Christ won for us upon the cross, fulfilling the royal law. This is the power of the gospel, for all who believe. The person who says that he knows Christ, but disobeys Christ’s laws, is a liar. (1 John 2:4) Anyone who abides in Him, does not sin. (1 John 3:6) Anyone born of God “does not commit sin”. (1 John 3:9) He who does not love, does not know God. (1 John 4:8) How do we love? “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.” (1 John 5:4) But anyone who is born of God does not sin. (1 John 5:18) That’s the good news, that we are not left in our sins, but by the grace won for us by Christ, made alive in Christ, and raised up with Him, empowered by His divine life to live in newness of life, not in the darkness, but in the light.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  142. David Gadbois said,

    October 5, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    John B. and Jason, this thread is getting a little too cluttered for your argument. I’m gonna have to have you guys take it ouside.

  143. D. T. King said,

    October 5, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Notice, the one who asserted this…

    But there are two relevant factors here. First, the Catholic Church believes and teaches that the gospel was handed down not only in Scripture, but also orally in the form of Tradition, and that Tradition guides the interpretation of Scripture within the Church. Second, the Catholic Church believes and teaches that the Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church into an ever-deepening understanding of the Apostolic deposit concerning justification.

    Now makes the request…

    I’d be glad to see your proof for this statement….Again, I’d be glad to see your proof of this statement. Otherwise, you’re just making unsubstantiated assertions.

    It is indeed a wonderful fantasy world in which the “Romanist drive-bys” live. They are given the exalted privilege of driving by Protestant blogs and invoking double-standards as apologists of Rome. They are blessed with the unique privilege of making faith claims for which they offer no proof, but then condescend from that high exalted privilege to chastise us if ever we question their assertions as the final word.

    And yet what we receive from them, and what they are loathe to admit, is that they are offering us their own unofficial interpretations of the official teachings of the Roman magisterium, as if they have spoken with authority that needs no proof. All we have is their fallible interpretations of their communion’s alleged “infallible” interpretations, and God forbid should we ever question them.

    From where we stand, this simply represents an over-indulgence with the Roman “Kool-aid” which has in turn made them drunk with a sense that their own words have somehow obtained the status of indisputable evidence by a swim across the Tiber. In the Roman arena of apologetics, it is a virtual world of reality where it is impossible to make “unsubstantiated assertions.” Pontifications belong to the Roman apologist alone, because he has the luxury of presupposing the truth of everything he asserts! It’s a “Walter Mitty” world! :)

  144. TurretinFan said,

    October 5, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Bryan:

    I had written:

    There is no reliable way to distinguish properly from improperly transmitted “oral tradition,” except by comparison to the written tradition, Scripture.

    You stated: “I’d be glad to see your proof for this statement.”

    I’m not sure what you accept as “proof” of a negative statement. If you think there is a reliable way, feel free to identify it. But generally speaking, we are well aware of problems in oral transmission in our everyday experience. We all know that human memories fade. Moreover, we are familiar with two memories disagreeing over what was said on some prior occasion. Thus, for most important things, we take the step of writing it down, because we understand that the paper is going to accurately preserve the item.

    I could provide you with additional historical example if that would help you, but I’m surprised you think that this is something that needs to be proved. You and I are not hearing Jesus himself preaching, nor are we hearing the apostles themselves preach, nor even are we hearing men who heard them (except in the pages of Holy Scripture). We’re hearing men who claim to have received some oral tradition or other going back multiple generations. I don’t know anyone who would think a merely oral report about the American Revolution is something that we should accept as being as reliable as contemporaneous writing – and that’s only a couple hundred years ago, not thousands.

    You also identified another time when I made a statement, “But there’s not a good reason to believe it is true.” And again you asked for proof of a negative. The proof here consists of knocking down the proffered reasons to believe it is true. Since you haven’t offered any, my proof is ironclad so far, though you have the chance to unseat it by offering some good reason that I can’t show isn’t a good reason.

    -TurretinFan

  145. Bryan Cross said,

    October 5, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    David King,

    If TF makes unsubstantiated assertions (as he did), I’m going to ask him to back them up. Likewise, if I make a claim that you think is unsubstantiated, then feel free to ask me to back it up. There is no double-standard.

    Changing the subject, a friend of mine just called, and he’s headed to the ER, and not doing well at all. I’m headed over there just now. If you all would say a prayer for him, I’d be very grateful.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  146. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 5, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    TurretinFan (#134):

    There is no reliable way to distinguish properly from improperly transmitted “oral tradition,” except by comparison to the written tradition, Scripture.

    Bryan (#137): I’d be glad to see your proof for this statement.

    TF can handle himself, but I’d like to point out that the burden of proof is not entirely on his shoulders.

    There is no empirical method, that I’m aware of, to demonstrate that the oral tradition currently taught in the Catholic Catechism is identical to, or even consistent with, the oral tradition taught by the apostles.

    So empirical methods are out.

    What’s left? Well, authoritative declarations from God. But the purported declarations of the RCC’s authority depend upon the RCC’s authority to establish their own authority — so we have a tight circle there, which is not reliable.

    Since the obvious methods are unavailable, I think that you do shoulder some burden of proof to provide an alternate method and to demonstrate its validity. That doesn’t mean that we are justified in attacking you with radical skepticism; but it does mean that TF’s statement is plausible on its face.

  147. johnbugay said,

    October 5, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    David Gadbois — I appreciate you checking in here, and your following up. I didn’t intend to give Jason a hard time, but he and I have some history, and he is rarely in the kind of forthcoming mood he was in today. I’m very grateful that Reformed believers are getting to see more sharply the differences between the Reformation and Rome, and the tactics of those who would blur the differences.

  148. D. T. King said,

    October 5, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    If TF makes unsubstantiated assertions (as he did), I’m going to ask him to back them up. Likewise, if I make a claim that you think is unsubstantiated, then feel free to ask me to back it up. There is no double-standard.

    Mr. Cross, that’s precisely what you did on behalf of Rome with your own unsubstantiated assertion, and then proceeded and pretended as if you incurred no such fraction. That, sir, is a double-standard.

    You have not prove the claim you made, and you know what it was because I’ve already pointed it out to you in my previous post.

  149. D. T. King said,

    October 5, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Changing the subject, a friend of mine just called, and he’s headed to the ER, and not doing well at all. I’m headed over there just now. If you all would say a prayer for him, I’d be very grateful.

    Mr. Cross, I do pray that your dear friend makes a full and complete recovery, and I promise to cry out to God to that very end.

  150. D. T. King said,

    October 5, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Correction, I meant “infraction” not “fraction” in post # 149.

  151. Nick said,

    October 5, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Someone arguing against oral tradition must presuppose Formal Sufficiency of Scripture, i.e. Sola Scriptura (which isn’t actually taught in Scripture, see Here and Here).

    To say there is no “empirical method” for testing tradition is only true in the sense there is no way to prove any given tradition is inspired any more than there is a way to prove any given book of Scripture is inspired. The only ‘test’ that can be performed is if the tradition/book is taught by a trustworthy institution, the Church, as well as conforms to the rest of the Truth being proclaimed.

  152. Sean said,

    October 5, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    John,

    I am confused. In # 77 you besmirched my character saying that I misrepresented you purpose behind posting the chart:

    Sean, you continue to misrepresent. (Your misrepresentation being “the Reformed system is not that complex ergo the Reformed system must be true”). My reproduction of the chart is not to make the claim you suggest

    But then several sentences later you said:

    The Roman system of justification is so muddled — yet it must be followed by the Roman Catholic.

    And then further you wrote:

    Yes the system is labyrinthine.

    It makes me wonder why you were so offended when I deduced that your argument was that Catholic soteriology is false because it is too complex, because in you seemingly went on to make that very argument.

    Also – the whole “Sean is dodging” tangent could have completely been avoided had I been asked up front for a thorough treatment of soteriology. That was not what I was asked. I was asked to give a brief, simply summary using an ‘economy of words’ and that is what I gave.

    The idea that because I followed the rules to the question it must be that I am ashamed of the gospel (ahem the Catholic one of course) is a joke.

    John – furthermore you made some claims about me in # 103 that are not true.

    You said:

    “Well, Jason Stellman, world-famous PCA pastor, thinks I’m honest.” You didn’t say that, but he’ll come out saying “I was tricked, Jason Stellman said so.

    I have never said that and I did not come out and say anything of the sort (or even think that.)

    For somebody as sensitive as you are to be slighted and misrepresented, I would think that you would use more caution when you deal with others.

  153. TurretinFan said,

    October 5, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Bryan wrote:

    If TF makes unsubstantiated assertions (as he did), I’m going to ask him to back them up. Likewise, if I make a claim that you think is unsubstantiated, then feel free to ask me to back it up. There is no double-standard.

    See ##145 and 147. I would also be happy to give you additional reading if you feel that either of the assertions remain unsubstantiated.

    -TurretinFan

  154. TurretinFan said,

    October 5, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Nick:

    You wrote:

    Someone arguing against oral tradition must presuppose Formal Sufficiency of Scripture, i.e. Sola Scriptura …

    That’s definitely not true. Oral tradition is unreliable independently of the fact that Scripture is our only extant rule of faith and life.

    Furthermore, when testing oral tradition (allegedly handed-down oral teachings) and magisterial “tradition” (allegedly guided church teachings), all that one needs to “presuppose” is that the Scriptures are a rule of faith. Hopefully Roman Catholics such as yourself already agree with that.

    -TurretinFan

  155. TurretinFan said,

    October 5, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Sean,

    Are you seriously trying to continue to maintain your misrepresentation of John’s position even after you recanted it? (see #78: “So, John has told me that I am wrong so: I recant.”)

    -TurretinFan

  156. D. T. King said,

    October 5, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Someone arguing against oral tradition must presuppose Formal Sufficiency of Scripture, i.e. Sola Scriptura (which isn’t actually taught in Scripture, see Here and Here).

    No, arguing against the authority of extrabiblical, oral tradition does not presuppose the formal sufficiency of Scripture, and I’m not going there and there to see, because the discussion is here.:) But my reading of the early witnesses of the church has been extensive in their works that are available in English, and they are sufficient to demonstrate to me that 1) they often embraced the formal sufficiency of Holy Scripture, and 2) that they knew nothing of an infallible Roman magisterium as being necessary to interpret Scripture in their own commentaries upon Holy Scripture.

    The only ‘test’ that can be performed is if the tradition/book is taught by a trustworthy institution, the Church, as well as conforms to the rest of the Truth being proclaimed.

    Well, interestingly enough, that truth claim is contradicted by many witnesses in the early church. But hey, thanks for the “drive-by shot.” :)

  157. October 5, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    David G. wrote: The obvious problem is that you believe the only way that such sufferings would not be pointless is if they contribute to our justification. Have you considered that perhaps our works and sufferings should be done out of gratitude for the salvation Christ’s has already secured for us and blessed us with, and that they are therefore not “pointless”?

    I agree with all of that, but I particularly liked the point I placed in bold type. If I may add lest Reformed doctrine be misunderstood by those who confound justification and sanctification, our sufferings in Christ play a part in our salvation because our progressive sanctification, which salvation envelopes, includes sharing in the sufferings of Christ. But as David parsed out, our sufferings in union with Christ have no part in our pardon or right standing to the law.

    Ron

  158. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 5, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Nick (#152):

    What TF said on the first count (#155).

    On the second count, you wrote

    To say there is no “empirical method” for testing tradition…

    I see what where you’re coming from, but I think you misunderstood. I wasn’t talking about an empirical test for the authority or inspiration of tradition.

    Rather, I was talking about an issue of fact. Is there an empirical test to verify that the tradition currently taught by the RCC is the same as the tradition taught by the apostles?

    I deny.

    That’s not nearly the same as the question of canon.

  159. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 5, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Bryan: Will pray.

  160. Sean said,

    October 5, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    TFan.

    No, I am pretty much done with the conversation. I am just pointing out the obvious; that John jumped down my throat and then went onto make the same exact argument that he accused me of falsely imparting on him.

    And then I wanted to further point out John’s persistent practice of making things up about me, even going so far as to falsely attribute to me sayings which I never said nor that I ever intended to say.

    This kind of dialog is one that I have no intention of continuing. But since previously some of you were so eager to accuse me of bobbing and weaving I wanted to be sure that each of you have an opportunity to take an honest look at the things that John has said here.

  161. Bryan Cross said,

    October 6, 2010 at 1:06 am

    TF,

    You claimed in #134:

    “There is no reliable way to distinguish properly from improperly transmitted “oral tradition,” except by comparison to the written tradition, Scripture.”

    When I asked you for proof of this claim, you said that memory fades over time and that there can be incompatible accounts by eyewitnesses of what occurred. I don’t deny that memory can fade, and that there can be incompatible or contradictory testimonies by different eyewitnesses of the same event. But it does not follow from that, that there is no reliable way to distinguish properly from improperly transmitted oral tradition, except by comparison to Scripture. The evidence to which you appeal is fully compatible with the falsity of your claim. So this evidence to which you appeal does not support your original claim.

    Regarding development of doctrine, you also claimed:

    “But there’s not a good reason to believe it [i.e. development of doctrine] is true.”

    Again, when I asked you for proof of this claim, you wrote:

    The proof here consists of knocking down the proffered reasons to believe it is true. Since you haven’t offered any, my proof is ironclad so far, though you have the chance to unseat it by offering some good reason that I can’t show isn’t a good reason.

    So your ‘proof’ of your claim is that no one has shown the truth of the contrary. That is a textbook case of the informal fallacy of an argument from ignorance. Your statement is true, you claim, because so far as you know, no one has shown it to be false. With that kind of reasoning, it would be ‘proved’ that gorillas live on other planets, because no one has shown it to be false that gorillas live on other planets. Just because the contrary of a claim has not yet been demonstrated, it does not follow that the claim is true. The claim could still be false, even if the contrary is never shown to be true.

    What I’m pointing out is that you don’t have evidence for these [two] doctrinal assertions you are making. They are a priori assumptions that you bring to the table. And you assert them as if they are known to be true, though you have no evidence to show that they are true. In addition, however, they are question-begging with respect to adjudicating the Protestant-Catholic schism. In other words, if you bring question-begging assumptions to the table, and insist that they be our methodological starting points, we will never make any headway toward reconciliation. We have to back up, and evaluate those assumptions, by way of principles and criteria we share as part of our common ground.

    So I pointed out earlier to David G that his “rings-true” criterion was question-begging for two reasons. You responded by rejecting those two reasons with two assertions. And what I am pointing out here is that your two assertions are both unsubstantiated and question-begging.

    If you bring a Reformed paradigm to Scripture, then the Catholic doctrine of justification obviously don’t “ring true”; it rings false. But, if you bring a Catholic paradigm to Scripture, then the Catholic doctrine of justification does “ring true.” And that’s because there are so many differences in the Catholic paradigm, compared to the Reformed paradigm. So if you compare things piecemeal, the Catholic claims seem ludicrous, from within the Reformed paradigm, because in the Catholic paradigm justification and sanctification are different terms that refer to the same thing in the soul, and because the whole soteriology is participatory not replacement or competive, and because the dichotomy is not between law and gospel, but between law-without-grace, and law-within-by-infused-grace, and because the Jewish ceremonial law was a foreshadowing of Christ and the New Covenant law, and because grace is a participation in the divine nature, and because grace is infused for regeneration, and because Christ’s sacrifice merited grace for us, and because through Christ’s ordination, by walking in agape we grow in agape, and because faith is alive (and justifying) only if it is informed by the virtue of agape, and because justification (or righteousness) is entirely about agape in the soul, and because baptism makes faith and agape into virtues in the soul, and because agape in the soul is a matter of degree, and because human nature is good, even though we have concupiscence, and because concupiscence is not sin.

    Given that whole paradigm, the biblical data ‘looks’ quite different than it does under the Reformed paradigm. And what “rings true” when looking at the Biblical data under one paradigm doesn’t “ring true” when looking at the Biblical data under another paradigm. In other words, what “rings true” in relation to the biblical data is paradigm-dependent.

    Thanks very much to those who prayed for my friend. He’s doing better. He’ll undergo another medical procedure in the morning.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  162. Paige Britton said,

    October 6, 2010 at 9:20 am

    In other words, what “rings true” in relation to the biblical data is paradigm-dependent.

    So….which came first, the biblical data or the paradigm?

  163. October 6, 2010 at 9:35 am

    So your ‘proof’ of your claim is that no one has shown the truth of the contrary. That is a textbook case of the informal fallacy of an argument from ignorance. Your statement is true, you claim, because so far as you know, no one has shown it to be false. With that kind of reasoning, it would be ‘proved’ that gorillas live on other planets, because no one has shown it to be false that gorillas live on other planets. Just because the contrary of a claim has not yet been demonstrated, it does not follow that the claim is true. The claim could still be false, even if the contrary is never shown to be true

    He said that there is no good reason to believe X, which could very well imply that there is no reason to go against the evidence that undermines the veracity of X. That consideration alone would eliminate the fallacy. Then there is the matter of burden of proof, which comes into play when discussing what you called “textbook” informal fallacies of this sort. Maybe you might try a little harder in trying to understand your opponent. We do. For example, we asked multiple times for the way in which one can avoid hell and purgatory before concluding that no Romanist on this site has any intention of proclaiming their “Good News.”

    RD

  164. Bryan Cross said,

    October 6, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Paige,

    I discussed that in “The Tradition and the Lexicon.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  165. TurretinFan said,

    October 6, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Bryan:

    Let me try to make this simple for you by rephrasing my points so that they will be easier for you to understand.

    1) Rome asserts that oral tradition is reliable

    2) Rome asserts that Rome is guided by the Holy Spirit in her Universal and Ordinary Magisterium, as well as in the conciliar and papal exercises of her Extraordinary Magisterium.

    We view these assertions as unsubstantiated. The difference between my negative assertions and your church’s positive assertions, is that your church has the burden of production.

    Contrary to your suggestions, our view about Rome’s assertions (1) and (2) is not an a priori assumption. It is the result of serious investigation.

    Now, have you interest in either
    (1) trying to establish that oral tradition is reliable? (We won’t simply accept Rome’s say-so)
    or
    (2) trying to establish that the Holy Spirit guides the Roman magisteria (Again, we won’t simply accept Rome’s say-so)?

    Hopefully, my rephrasing the matter this way will help you avoid falling into the same errors you made in #162, where you attempted to analyze my comments as though they were intended as proof of universal negatives.

    -TurretinFan

  166. David Gadbois said,

    October 6, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Let’s not get off onto the tangent of oral tradition. Lane’s post was on Luther and justification, so let’s stay focused on that.

    If there is popular demand I’ll just make a new post where y’all can continue a debate on oral tradition.

  167. Nick said,

    October 6, 2010 at 11:44 am

    TF #155,

    You said: “Oral tradition is unreliable independently of the fact that Scripture is our only extant rule of faith and life.”

    Then you’re left with only one option: your “only extant rule of faith and life” is itself insufficient. Only Formal Sufficiency results in a *sole* sufficient written rule of faith.

    To suggest there are no valid oral traditions out there, aside from proving Formal Sufficiency, is to beg the question, since aside from FS you have no evidence there are no valid oral traditions out there.

    You also said: “Furthermore, when testing oral tradition and magisterial “tradition”, all that one needs to “presuppose” is that the Scriptures are a rule of faith.”

    This is of very limited value and efficacy, since “Scriptures” here are a stand in term for “66-book-canon” – which itself is a tradition. Further, if Scripture is not FS, then oral traditions and magisterium not only exist, they are *indispensable* for a proper authoritative reading of Scripture. Further, your approach fails in light of the fact oral tradition can teach something which the Scriptures speak only implicitly on (if at all) such that the Scriptures cannot be used as a guide at that point.

    For example, praying to the Holy Spirit directly (as opposed to praying to the Father directly) is not something Scripture ever comes out and says, but such is taught by tradition. How can one use Scripture to ‘judge’ here when Scripture is silent and even virtually always suggests prayers directed only at the Father? It might surprise some, but I’ve met various Protestants who say praying to the Holy Spirit directly is improper, even if not heretical.

  168. Nick said,

    October 6, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Pastor King,

    You said: “No, arguing against the authority of extrabiblical, oral tradition does not presuppose the formal sufficiency of Scripture”

    Logically, that’s impossible, since only FS rules out oral tradition. Your *only* alternative is that oral traditions are false *and* Scripture is *insufficient*.

    You said: “But my reading of the early witnesses of the church has been extensive, and they are sufficient to demonstrate to me that 1) they often embraced the formal sufficiency of Holy Scripture, and 2) that they knew nothing of an infallible Roman magisterium”

    That’s very interesting to say, since your co-worker William Webster (in the link I gave above) flat out claimed Material Sufficiency is what the Fathers taught.

    But even that’s not really relevant, since Protestants give the Fathers no weight doctrinally, and instead take them as only bare history (little better than any secular historian). The ultimate authority here for you is Scripture, and if Scripture doesn’t teach X, it ultimately doesn’t matter for the Protestant.

  169. David Weiner said,

    October 6, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Nick, re # 168:

    Scripture is silent and even virtually always suggests prayers directed only at the Father?

    True, unless one would actually like the request to be fulfilled as per John 14:14, for example.

  170. D. T. King said,

    October 6, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    The Assertion made: First, the Catholic Church believes and teaches that the gospel was handed down not only in Scripture, but also orally in the form of Tradition, and that Tradition guides the interpretation of Scripture within the Church.

    This presupposes without proof what the official position of the Roman communion is, because a) it assumes that the Roman communion accurately represents *the* catholic position of the relationship between Scripture and tradition, and b) that the catholic view is uniform in nature. In other words, it begs the question that the Roman position even represents *the* catholic tradition accurately, and that it is uniform in its transmission. It assumes without warrant no diversity in the catholic tradition contrary to Rome’s, and that Rome has the right of primacy to single out and define *the* catholic position. And given the diversity of how one Roman apologist would describe it in contrast to another, they are simply transmitting (if not pontificating) certain presuppositions and aspects of the Roman theory of justification, and none of them actually possess the authority to address these matters because they are not members of the Roman magisterium itself. With respect to this latter point, they want to insist that the theory of apostolic succession gives Rome the right to speak authoritatively on such matters, but they themselves have no authority to guarantee (according to their own theory) an accurate representation of the Roman position. For example, the eastern church insists that its own apostolic succession represents the catholic tradition, not only of the relationship between Scripture and tradition, but its own view of justification that is very diverse from that of Rome. Yet, Mr. Cross claims a certain paradigm of tradition with no proof, while demanding proof for the objections raised by others. This is the double-standard to which I was referring. Rome’s “catholicity” has yet to be proven.

  171. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 6, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Nick, a point of logic: you appear to be veering off into a formal irrelevance. You say

    You said: “Oral tradition is unreliable independently of the fact that Scripture is our only extant rule of faith and life.”

    Then you’re left with only one option: your “only extant rule of faith and life” is itself insufficient. Only Formal Sufficiency results in a *sole* sufficient written rule of faith.

    This is true, but not particularly helpful to the cause. Atheists bite the bullet and say, “yeah, neither one is sufficient.”

    So it’s not the case that one must accept sola scriptura in order to argue against RCC oral tradition. Rather, it is the case that one must accept sola scriptura in order to … believe in sola scriptura. Which is unenlightening.

    Also, a point of fact. You wrote, But even that’s not really relevant, since Protestants give the Fathers no weight doctrinally, and instead take them as only bare history (little better than any secular historian). The ultimate authority here for you is Scripture, and if Scripture doesn’t teach X, it ultimately doesn’t matter for the Protestant.

    This is not the case. Thoughtful Protestants recognize about themselves that they are not infallible interpreters, and that the wisdom of many counselors is preferable to one’s own opinion. For that reason, Protestants do indeed give weight both to the church fathers and also to church councils (as any glance inside systematic theologies attests). What they do *not* do is to grant infallible status to any particular father or council.

    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.

    You see both elements here: synods have authority, but not infallible authority. If RC apologists could grasp this point (Bryan Cross, I mean you!), it would help move the discussion forward. An entirely different model of authority and how it functions is in play for Protestants than for Catholics.

  172. Tom Riello said,

    October 6, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Jeff,

    “For that reason, Protestants do indeed give weight both to the church fathers and also to church councils (as any glance inside systematic theologies attests). What they do *not* do is to grant infallible status to any particular father or council.”

    I grant that there is an attempt to look to certain Fathers and try to demonstrate a relationship between Reformational thinking and the early Church (e.g. TF Torrance and the Eastern Fathers etc…). However, what gets frustrating is when people attack the Catholic position, for example, on Purgatory and then act as though this teaching was non-existent in the Fathers of antiquity. Or, if they concede that a significant number of Fathers taught it, they are just easily dismissed with a wave of the hand. Father Al Kimmel’s Third Law sums it up so well, “It is one thing to read Scripture and the Fathers; it’s quite another thing to read Scripture through the Fathers.”

  173. TurretinFan said,

    October 6, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    David G.

    I’m happy to abide by your request, although I’m pretty sure the last 100 or so comments are all off-comment if we must stick to the issue of Luther and Justification.

    Those last 100 comments or so indicate that there is a lot of obvious interest in discussing Roman Catholicism by folks like Bryan Cross, Nick, and so forth – so perhaps your idea of a new post is a good one.

    -TurretinFan

  174. David Gadbois said,

    October 6, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    OK, then. Everyone wait a minute while I set up the new post.

    Any other comments here should stick to the topic of justification.

  175. TurretinFan said,

    October 6, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Although I am chomping at the bit to point out the errors in #173!

  176. D. T. King said,

    October 6, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Logically, that’s impossible, since only FS rules out oral tradition. Your *only* alternative is that oral traditions are false *and* Scripture is *insufficient*.

    Your reductionism is what contradicts logic.

  177. October 6, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    DTK Wrote: This presupposes without proof what the official position of the Roman communion is, because a) it assumes that the Roman communion accurately represents *the* catholic position of the relationship between Scripture and tradition, and b) that the catholic view is uniform in nature. In other words, it begs the question that the Roman position even represents *the* catholic tradition accurately, and that it is uniform in its transmission. It assumes without warrant no diversity in the catholic tradition contrary to Rome’s, and that Rome has the right of primacy to single out and define *the* catholic position. And given the diversity of how one Roman apologist would describe it in contrast to another, they are simply transmitting (if not pontificating) certain presuppositions and aspects of the Roman theory of justification, and none of them actually possess the authority to address these matters because they are not members of the Roman magisterium itself. With respect to this latter point, they want to insist that the theory of apostolic succession gives Rome the right to speak authoritatively on such matters, but they themselves have no authority to guarantee (according to their own theory) an accurate representation of the Roman position. For example, the eastern church insists that its own apostolic succession represents the catholic tradition, not only of the relationship between Scripture and tradition, but its own view of justification that is very diverse from that of Rome. Yet, Mr. Cross claims a certain paradigm of tradition with no proof, while demanding proof for the objections raised by others. This is the double-standard to which I was referring. Rome’s “catholicity” has yet to be proven.

    All net!

  178. Rebecca said,

    October 10, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    So….which came first, the biblical data or the paradigm?

    I think that Bryan Cross is exactly right when he says that our paradigm informs our interpretation of scripture. The question above would have to be answered “paradigm,” I think, because when we come to scripture, we have to interpret it. Those who have converted to catholicism have gone through a “paradigm shift.” One problem that no one ever seems to address is the problem of not having an infallible authority within Protestantism to interpret scripture. Disagreements about life-and-death theological issues cannot be resolved because the highest appeal is to one’s own or one’s church’s interpretation of scripture. Is baptism necessary for salvation or not, (for one example)? Both sides (even within Protestantism) appeal to scripture, but with no infallible authority, that question can never be answered definitively. This issue of authority has driven many to Rome.

  179. johnbugay said,

    October 11, 2010 at 4:25 am

    Rebecca — the “paradigm” of infallibility is a myth. It is God’s Word that is a seamless thread — it is God’s own interpretation of His acts in history. He speaks and it is sufficient.

    Note that it remain’s the role of the church to “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”.

    http://www.puritanboard.com/confessions/wcf.htm#chap31

    Note that 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.

    The real paradigm shift is that the notion of infallibility in the church exists at all. Rome first fabricated this ability, then arrogated it for itself. These are two steps removed from anything the Scriptures actually say, and two steps removed from anything that the early church actually believed.

  180. Rebecca said,

    October 11, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    “the “paradigm” of infallibility is a myth”

    Then it seems that the bottom line is that each individual or church will resolve these issues as best he can according to how he interprets the scriptures, but in the final analysis, since no one or no church is infallible, then by definition each church or individual could be wrong. We can never really know the truth, because we might be wrong. Our interpretation of scripture might be wrong, our theology might be wrong; we are fallible. Protestantism, Reformed theologians, etc., insist on being right, but at the same time, insist on fallibility. Does that even make sense? Tell me what I am missing here.

  181. John Bugay said,

    October 11, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Rebecca — what you are missing is the actuality of history. What you are missing is what Scriptures actually says.

    There is no Scripture that promises infallibility to the church.

    Nor did the early church — (or the whole church, “ever”) believe that the pope was in charge of (had “jurisdictional primacy”) over the entire church. This is a claim that Rome made and virtually anyone who was able to deny this claim, did,

    Consider the Council of Nicea — that’s the big one — that council recognized that Rome had regional oversight in the west, and Alexandria had the same kind of oversight of churches in Africa.

    Consider the Council of Constantinople — they didn’t even invite the pope to participate. It ranked Rome as first among the patriarchs, but that was due to political considerations — (it was the old capital of the empire and it viewed the church of that city out of respect).

    Any “authority” that Rome has is something that it has stolen, and arrogated to itself. Rome could well be the subject of Jesus’s prophecy about the one who sits in too-high a place of honor when invited to a banquet. That type of offender is bound to be humiliated by being told to go sit in a lower place.

    I pray for that day to come.

  182. Nick said,

    October 11, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    John #182,

    The 6th Canon of the (First) Council of Nicea actually supports Papal supremacy, as this article shows it’s the only reading that makes any sense of the canon.

    And at the very least, as *you* even admit in your post (“regional oversight in the west” and “first among the patriarchs”), it shows some real primacy of Rome – even if you deny supremacy – supported explicitly in the first two councils. This means the Roman Church had such high positioning as early as 325, and even earlier since Nicea states this as a well established custom, and if you venture that the average bishop was at least 50 years old means this idea went back at least a generation, meaning it was held from the mid-200s (if not earlier). That primary source demolishes any attempts to suggest the papacy came along later and couldn’t have been apostolic.

  183. John Bugay said,

    October 11, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Nick, the Council of Nicea (which allows that Rome has some authority in the west — but Alexandria and Antioch have similar authority over there spheres of influence). The bishoprics of Alexandria, Rome, and Antioch were recognized as being on equal footing.

    These were called “Metropolitans” because they were big cities; that is the rationale behind the authority:

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.vii.vi.viii.html

    Nevertheless, the case is overwhelming against an early papacy. It’s true that Peter was an important apostle, and he was a leader in the early church.

    Just off the top of my head, Oscar Cullmann goes into great detail to analyze the situation with James and Jerusalem. His conclusion (supported by ancient documents) is that Peter gave up whatever “primacy” that he personally had, when James took over the leadership of the Jerusalem church.

    Matthew 16:19 features two different words, “petros” and “petra”. The common explanation for this is that “in the Aramaic, which would have been the language that Jesus spoke, it would have been the same word, “kepha/kepha”.

    But that is merely an assumption: C.C. Caragounis has explored this in the ancient languages; a Syriac version of Matthew uses two different words: Kepha (Aramaic) and “Tnra” (Syriac). In that case, “this rock” (consonant with what many early commentators attested) referred not to Peter, but to Peter’s confession.

    You may not think this is a big deal, but the pope claims “infallibility” for himself. Wouldn’t you want an overwhelming case to be supporting such an overwhelming claim?

    But the case for the papacy is weak and falling apart.

    Denzinger (and other commentators, as recently as the first half of the 20th century) cite 1 Clement as if he “commanded” the Corinthians.

    But the letter itself explains that it is a letter of persuasion (symboule), and the form of the letter is a well-established ancient letter form whereby politicians persuade for their case.

    There is no chance that Clement “commanded”.

    Further, the Shepherd of Hermas, a document that was held in very high regard in ancient Rome, explains that there is a plurality of presbyters who “preside over” the church at Rome.

    http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2010/10/blog-post.html

    http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2010/10/late-development-of-bishop-of-rome.html

    Subsequent studies — J.N.D. Kelly, Peter Lampe, William Lane, and others, report that with the highest probability, there was not a single bishop in Rome at least until after the year 150; rather, the church of the city of Rome was led by a presbyterial style council of elders. This corroborates Hermas, who made an explicit statement, Paul’s letter to the Romans, who doesn’t identify a leader at that church, 1 Clement, which actually doesn’t give a name but instead is sent from “the church,” Ignatius, who has much to say about the office of bishop, but who, when writing to Rome, can’t locate a bishop, and doesn’t address him (a big protocol fou-pas if there had been a bishop there).

    So for 100 years, there was not a “successor”.

    Tertullian and Origen, writers in the early third century, have no concept that Matt 16 should be applied to the bishop of Rome.

    Cyprian, who gave his life in a persecution, strenuously challenged Stephen, the first “bishop” of Rome to claim Matt 16 for himself. Firmilian, a bishop in the east at that same time, reacts even more strenuously against this claim.

    Officially, we have seen that the council of Nicea did not recognize Rome as having any superiority over the other large Metropolitan churches. They were equal.

    The 220 bishops at the council of Constantinople (381) only recognized Rome ahead of Constantinople because Rome was the “old capital.”

    In truth, the Eastern Orthodox have never recognized Rome’s claim for supposed “jurisdiction” over them. It was one of the main causes for the schism in 1054.

    If Jesus genuinely had wanted for a pope to be in charge of the whole church, don’t you think the case for that would have been much more clear and straightforward? Instead, the church of the first 300 years, the most dangerous time to be a Christian, when leadership would have been at a premium, had absolutely no concept that the bishop of Rome had “universal primacy” and “universal jurisdiction.”

    This is an incredibly thin thread that’s not even joined in many places; and Rome wants to tell the rest of the world that unity in the church can only be found in this structure?

    The case in favor of the early papacy is actually laughable.

  184. Rebecca said,

    October 11, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    “There is no Scripture that promises infallibility to the church”

    What about John 14? “Even the Spirit of truth…he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

    In this context, Jesus was speaking to the 12, who would be identified as the church, just as in Matthew 28.

    However, even if the infallibility of the church is not taught explicitly, neither are we explicitly told which books belong in the canon. It’s just that it seems necessary to me; I’m not talking about the pope, really; just the problem of never being able to say with certainty that this is true, and that is not, because we could always be mistaken. At least the Roman Catholic position is logically consistent.

  185. Rebecca said,

    October 11, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Thank you for that link, and for your kind attempt to answer my question. The article was interesting, but the two commentaries didn’t resolve the problem for me, I suppose because it seems to make more sense to me (in my very fallible attempt to interpret that passage) as a statement which is addressed to the church as a whole than to individuals. If the Holy Spirit is leading each believer into all the truth, teaching each individual believer all things, then why is there so much disunity and disagreement about theological matters? So I suppose the Roman Catholic interpretation just makes more sense to me, notwithstanding the commentaries, which I’m not sure were directly addressing that issue. Arguing about the way that they approach the passage (the Catholics) doesn’t really solve the problem of infallibility vs. fallibility.

  186. D. T. King said,

    October 11, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    So I suppose the Roman Catholic interpretation just makes more sense to me, notwithstanding the commentaries, which I’m not sure were directly addressing that issue. Arguing about the way that they approach the passage (the Catholics) doesn’t really solve the problem of infallibility vs. fallibility.

    You speak as if there is some official infallible interpretation of John 14:17 by the Roman magisterium: “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”

    Now then, assuming there is one, please give us the official, infallible interpretation by the Roman magisterium for John 14:17. Now, in doing so, please don’t tell me what you think it is, or assume it is, because that would be the expression of pribate judgment. Therefore, please give us the official interpretation of the Roman magisterium, and please document its meaning having been promulgated infallibly.

    And while you’re looking that one up, please give us the official, infallible interpretation by the Roman magisterium for John 16:12-13, where the Lord Jesus says…

    12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
    13 “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

    You see, Augustine informs us of how virtually every heretic used that passage in their attempt “to color the audacities of their devices.”

    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.

    In his tractate just prior to this one, Augustine, while commenting on the same passage, warned us…

    Augustine (354-430): Well, then, let us grant that it is so, that many can now bear those things when the Holy Spirit has been sent, which could not then, prior to His coming, be born by the disciples: do we on that account know what it is that He would not say, as we should know it were we reading or hearing it as uttered by Himself? For it is one thing to know whether we or you could bear it; but quite another to know what it is, whether able to be born or not. But when He Himself was silent about such things, which of us could say, It is this or that? Or if he venture to say it, how will he prove it? For who could manifest such vanity or recklessness as when saying what he pleased to whom he pleased, even though true, to affirm without any divine authority that it was the very thing which the Lord on that occasion refused to utter? Which of us could do such a thing without incurring the severest charge of rashness, — a thing which gets no countenance from prophetic or apostolic authority? For surely if we had read any such thing in the books confirmed by canonical authority, which were written after our Lord’s ascension, it would not have been enough to have read such a statement, had we not also read in the same place that this was actually one of those things which the Lord was then unwilling to tell His disciples, because they were unable to bear them. As if, for example, I were to say that the words which we read at the opening of this Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; the same was in the beginning with God:” and those which follow, because they were written afterwards, and yet without any mention of their being uttered by the Lord Jesus when He was here in the flesh, but were written by one of His apostles, to whom they were revealed by His Spirit, were some of those which the Lord would not then utter, because the disciples were unable to bear them; who would listen to me in making so rash a statement? But if in the same passage where we read the one we were also to read the other, who would not give due credence to such an apostle? NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate 96, John 16:12, 13.

    In short, Augustine is asking, who would be so presumptuous as to believe the claim of a later revelation if it could not be documented by an apostle? It seems clearly that Augustine is warning us against the misuse of this passage in the manner in which you claim it is used by Rome.

    So, that leads me to ask you for the official, infallible interpretations of these passages by the Roman magisterium, and please show me what reason you have to believe that the Roman communion has ever officially promulgated the meaning of these passages infallibly?

    Otherwise, you’re simply writing a personal interpretive check that can’t be cashed by the Roman magisterium. I want to see a check which you can prove with certainty that the Roman magisterium is willing to cash.

  187. Sean said,

    October 12, 2010 at 6:49 am

    Rebecca,

    DT King is asking you for an infallible interpretation of a particular bible verse.

    This is not what the Catholic Church claims about the chrism of infallibility. The Catholic Church does not claims to merely have a bible at the Holy See with infallible footnotes.

    For a good summary of true infallibility read St. John Henry Newman’s article here.

    Speaking of Augustine, I am sure you are aware that Augustine was a Catholic bishop. Reading Augustine’s City of God, Confessions and a survey of his sermons and other letters really influenced me on my journey to the Catholic Church.

  188. John Bugay said,

    October 12, 2010 at 7:02 am

    For a better discussion of Newman, see Dr. William Witt, a professor at a conservative Anglican seminary, here:

    http://willgwitt.org/theology/on-the-development-of-doctrine/

    My own reasons for not becoming Roman Catholic have not changed. It was precisely the problem of doctrinal development that I found unsatisfactory. I believe that J. B. Mozley’s The Theory of Development provides the decisive critique of [John Henry] Newman on development of doctrine. Mozley argues that Newman commits a logical fallacy of amphibole by not distinguishing between two different kinds of development. Newman is correct that there is genuine development in the early church….the “development” of incarnational and Trinitarian doctrine that takes place at Nicea, Chalcedon, etc., is really simply the necessary logical unfolding of what is already clearly present in the New Testament. If Jesus is fully God, then he must “of the same substance” as God. If the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equally God, and yet there is only one God, then God must be three persons in one nature….

    Mozley speaks of this kind of development in terms of what I will call “Development 1.” Development 1 adds nothing to the original content of faith, but rather brings out its necessary implications. Mozley says that Aquinas is doing precisely this kind of development in his discussion of the incarnation in the Summa Theologiae.

    There is another kind of development, however, which I will call “Development 2.” Development 2 is genuinely new development that is not simply the necessary articulation of what is said explicitly in the Scriptures.

    Classic examples of Development 2 would include the differences between the doctrine of the theotokos and the dogmas of the immaculate conception or the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the former, Marian dogma is not actually saying something about Mary, but rather something about Christ. If Jesus Christ is truly God, and Mary is his mother, then Mary is truly the Mother of God (theotokos). She gives birth, however, to Jesus’ humanity, not his eternal person, which has always existed and is generated eternally by the Father. The doctrine of the theotokos is a necessary implication of the incarnation of God in Christ, which is clearly taught in the New Testament. However, the dogmas of the immaculate conception and the assumption are not taught in Scripture, either implicitly or explicitly. They are entirely new developments.

    The same would be true, of course, for the doctrine of the papacy. The New Testament says much about the role of Simon Peter as a leader of the apostles. It does not say anything explicit, however, about the bishop of Rome being the successor to Peter. The Eastern fathers, e.g., Cyprian, interpret the Petrine passages that Rome has applied to the papacy as applying to all bishops.

    No doubt Sean will try to bring up a thousand different directions. His method may be summed up as “oh yeah, but what about this?”

    But he will not get back to address Witt. The historical studies that have been done of the early papacy are making it necessary for Catholicism to rely on “development” of the papacy.

    But should so essential a doctrine have taken four centuries to “develop”? How did the early church — for nearly 400 years — ever get along without a final infallible interpreter?

  189. Sean said,

    October 12, 2010 at 8:27 am

    John,

    But should so essential a doctrine have taken four centuries to “develop”?

    John. The Trinity was not defined until AD 325. Why did such an essential doctrine take almost four centuries to ‘develop?’

    Justification by faith alone was *not defined* until AD 1517. Why did such an essential doctrine take fifteen centuries to ‘develop?’

    Sola Scriptura was *not defined* until AD 1530 or so. Why did such an essential doctrine take fifteen centuries to ‘develop?’

    Further, that the papacy and the Marian doctrines are not in scripture is merely your assertion. Witt, is wrong. Newman is right. Newman discusses unnatural developments vs natural developments, by the way.

    There. I addressed Witt. Incidentally, Newman was also once a conservative Anglican. Furthermore, I know for a fact that many thousands of conservative Anglicans have recently sought communion with the bishop of Rome. I have a friend, a recent graduate of a conservative Anglican seminary that is actively aligning with a conservative bishop (one of many) who are going to take the Holy Father’s offer of becoming an Anglo Catholic oridinariate. So – yes, there is lots of wonderful news coming from the Anglican Communion.

    By the way John, aren’t you happy that your Lampe argument is getting all the treatment it deserves?

    *Of course neither of these has actually ever been defined.

  190. D. T. King said,

    October 12, 2010 at 8:28 am

    This is not what the Catholic Church claims about the chrism of infallibility. The Catholic Church does not claims to merely have a bible at the Holy See with infallible footnotes.

    Well, Augustine’s interpretation looked to be very catholic, but not the one she had in mind.

  191. John Bugay said,

    October 12, 2010 at 8:36 am

    See Rebecca, I knew Sean (191) would fail to answer the question and say, “oh yeah, but what about this”?

    The truth is, however, the papacy is the cornerstone of the whole Roman system. If that’s not there, all the “oh yeah” moments add up to exactly nothing.

  192. Sean said,

    October 12, 2010 at 8:57 am

    John,

    The Papacy has always been there; since Jesus spoke the words to Peter as recorded in the gospel of Matthew chapter 16 verse 18.

    Rebecca,

    I invite you to join the discussion anytime at Called to Communion. We are a growing group of former Reformed Presbyterians (and Baptists) that found the fullness of the faith-to our surprise-in the Catholic Church. Many of the issues that you raise are discussed there. You might want to start with our Sola Scriptura article.

    There is also a recent entry here that addresses the claims that John Bugay is making: that the Papacy is a 4th century invention.

    God bless.

  193. D. T. King said,

    October 12, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Speaking of Augustine, I am sure you are aware that Augustine was a Catholic bishop. Reading Augustine’s City of God, Confessions and a survey of his sermons and other letters really influenced me on my journey to the Catholic Church.

    Yes, well, lots of folks claim lots of things. Indeed Augustine was a Catholic bishop, but he wasn’t a Romanist, and he didn’t assign a Gnostic interpretation to those pericopes in John 14 & 16 that seems to be presupposed. I mean it must be wonderful to be able to engage in this kind of “name it/claim it” Roman interpretation of John 14 to the end that it teaches the infallibility of Rome as Rebecca seems to suggest. I just want to know how that one knows that Johannine pericope translates into Rome’s infallibility.

  194. TurretinFan said,

    October 12, 2010 at 9:27 am

    At #189, Sean confirms what DTKing said. Then, at #191 we see Sean providing an example of avoiding the question. The question is why it took so long for the doctrine to develop, and the answer was simply a series of questions designed to avoid answering the original question.

    Then Sean addresses Witt by simply asserting that Witt was wrong and Newman (“Witt, is wrong. Newman is right. Newman discusses unnatural developments vs natural developments, by the way. There. I addressed Witt.”). This is then bolstered by claiming that Newman was a conservative Anglican. Newman was a tractarian, hardly a “conservative Anglican.” But is this really the best Rome has to offer as answers?

    I don’t think it is. No one should avoid Rome because of the weakness of her apologetics, they should avoid Rome because of the fact that her doctrines are contrary to the Holy Scriptures, such as Romans 1:16-17.

    -TurretinFan

  195. Sean said,

    October 12, 2010 at 9:42 am

    TFan.

    I have been down the Papacy road dozens of times with John. I have no interest in doing it again. It gets nowhere. John insists the Papacy is a 4th century invention. He relies on modern historical criticism-especially Peter Lampe who is arguing on a deduction of silence. This is the same Peter Lampe who concludes that Paul did not write 2nd Timothy.

    So, having the same conversation with John again does not interest me.

    So – please spare me the ‘Sean is avoiding the question’ quip. If you haven’t noticed you are asking me questions on two different threads. I think it’s pretty fair to say that I’ve done a pretty exhaustive job of answering questions on both.

  196. John Bugay said,

    October 12, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Sean — Hermas is not “silence”. Hermas gives an actual leadership structure. And tells us something about them. Lampe merely confirms this using all sorts of other biblical, historical, archaeological, inscriptural, and other real world details that real people really are going to be inclined to believe when it’s presented to them in a reasonable way.

    So you guys go ahead and say that it’s an “argument from silence.” There’s enough counter-evidence in existence to overwhelmingly posit that there was actually nothing there.

  197. Sean said,

    October 12, 2010 at 10:06 am

    John.

    The Shepherd of Hermas does not say that there was no successor to Peter?

    In fact, a number of ancient sources attribute the identity of the author to Hermas, who was the brother of the Bishop of Rome Pius I.

    Lampe’s conclusion is a deduction.

    How do you squirm out of Lampe’s other deductions John? Such as that 2nd Timothy was not written by Paul?

  198. Sean said,

    October 12, 2010 at 10:07 am

    EDIT: First sentence in 199 should not end in question mark.

    See you tomorrow.

  199. D. T. King said,

    October 12, 2010 at 10:44 am

    How do you squirm out of Lampe’s other deductions John? Such as that 2nd Timothy was not written by Paul?

    Non-sequitur, one might as well ask you how you squirm out of this alleged “unanimous consent of the fathers” as asserted by Trent to be the hermeneutical grid to which members of the communion of Rome must conform? This hermeneutical standard, officially promulgated by Trent, is virtually ignored, and especially so by the novices who have converted to Rome, and who then begin to speak in Gnostic terms of some mystical interpretation of the Roman communion that no one, let alone the Roman apologist who is pontificating it, can even identify. Yet, the charade of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” is maintained all the while he walks naked before the people.

    Now, you folks can call men like Fitzmyer a liberal, but it does not refute the truth of his point when he said…

    When one hears today the call for a return to a patristic interpretation of Scripture, there is often latent in it a recollection of Church documents that spoke at times of the ‘unanimous consent of the Fathers’ as the guide for biblical interpretation. But just what this would entail is far from clear. For, as already mentioned, there were Church Fathers who did use a form of the historical-critical method, suited to their own day, and advocated a literal interpretation of Scripture, not the allegorical. But not all did so. Yet there was no uniform or monolithic patristic interpretation, either in the Greek Church of the East, Alexandrian or Antiochene, or in the Latin Church of the West. No one can ever tell us where such a “unanimous consent of the fathers” is to be found, and Pius XII finally thought it pertinent to call attention to the fact that there are but few texts whose sense has been defined by the authority of the Church, “nor are those more numerous about which the teaching of the Holy Fathers is unanimous.” Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Scripture, The Soul of Theology (New York: Paulist Press, 1994), p. 70.

    So what church, the Greek Church of the East, Alexandrian or Antiochene, or in the Latin Church of the West? No one knows, and now the new breed of Roman apologists, especially these new converts to Rome, operate as if the new baptism of swimming the Tiber has somehow Gnostically equipped them with the understanding of what it means to read the Scripture “with the Church.” What in the world does that mean, if it doesn’t wreak of blatant Gnosticism? It’s just a slogan that new converts are taught to memorize and parrot because, beyond the repeating of the slogan, interpretations of Holy Scripture by this “church” are simply assumed which the convert could not articulate even at gunpoint.

    So, how do you, for example, squirm out of Pope Gelasius’ interpretation that “this is my body” does not teach the concept of transubstantiation? How did he miss out on that “apostolic oral tradition?” I’ll tell you how I’ve seen you folks do it – you subject his interpretation to the death of a thousand qualifications so that the Emperor can continue to wear his new clothes.

    The double standards of the Roman apologist are alive and well. :)

  200. October 12, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Sean writes:

    The Papacy has always been there; since Jesus spoke the words to Peter as recorded in the gospel of Matthew chapter 16 verse 18.

    Catholic scholars Meier and Brown write:

    An older generation of Roman Catholic scholars assumed that the single-bishop practice was already in place in Rome in the 90s or earlier; and they opined that, as fourth pope (third from Peter), Clement was exercising the primacy of the bishop of Rome in giving directions to the church of Corinth. The failure of Clement to use his own name or speak personally should have called that theory into question from the start, were there not other decisive evidence against it. As the ecumenical book Peter in the New Testament (done by Roman Catholics and Protestants together) affirmed, the connection between a Petrine function in the first century and a fully developed Roman papacy required several centuries of development, so that it is anachronistic to think of the early Roman church leaders functioning as later popes (see footnote 275 above). Moreover, the Roman episcopal list shows confusion…All of this can be explained if we recognize that the threefold order of single-bishop, with subordinate presbyters and deacons, was not in place at Rome at the end of the first century; rather the twofold order of presbyter-bishops and deacons, attested a decade before in I Peter 5:1-5, was still operative. Indeed, the signal failure of Ignatius (ca. 110) to mention the single-bishop in his letter to the Romans (a very prominent theme in his other letters) and the usage of Hermas, which speaks of plural presbyters (Vis. 2.4.2) and bishops (Sim. 9.27.2), make it likely that the single-bishop structure did not come to Rome till ca. 140-150. (Antioch and Rome: New Testament Cradles of Catholic Christianity [Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1983, 2004], 162-163)

    Additional quotations from the same work may be found here:

    http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2010/10/late-development-of-bishop-of-rome.html

  201. Rebecca said,

    October 12, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    You gentlemen have been having a nice discussion while I wasn’t feeling well all day. I’ll attempt to reply to several people at once. First, my comment about the interpretation of John 14 (or 16) doesn’t require infallibility, I don’t think. It just seems to me, and obviously also seems so to the Roman Catholic church, that Jesus was addressing himself to the church as a church rather than to individuals. Then, I have to ask myself, “Well, how would that work then?”

    As far as the Pope not being in the Bible, for me, that is just about the easiest thing in Catholicism to see in the Bible, because of the passage in Ezekiel which talks about the steward of the household, and relating Ezekiel to New Testament discussion about the same thing. But I realize that everyone would not see the papacy in that passage. So I suppose that I am actually guilty of moving towards the church which seems to me to have the most reasonable interpretation of scripture, which seems to solve so many puzzles for me. But I am fallible, I know. And the problem still remains; if the Roman Catholic church is not infallible, and no church is infallible, then in the end, we have to pick our own interpretation and our own theology, and we could be wrong. Every theologian on this board has to say at the end of the day that he could be wrong. It doesn’t make sense to me to claim to be right and at the same time to claim fallibility. At least the RC church makes sense in that regard, even though we have to use our reason also.

    And back to the papacy; I have read a bit of medieval literature, and even during early medieval times, there seemed to be a widespread acceptance of the papacy. However, I was reading western literature, not eastern.

    Thank you all for your kindness. This is a very interesting board. You are all very knowledgeable.

  202. October 12, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Hi Rebecca,

    Maybe you might help me think through a few things regarding what you said…

    And the problem still remains; if the Roman Catholic church is not infallible, and no church is infallible, then in the end, we have to pick our own interpretation and our own theology, and we could be wrong.

    Since you believe you could be wrong about picking your own theology, what makes you think you might not be wrong in picking the Roman church and by extension her theology?

    Every theologian on this board has to say at the end of the day that he could be wrong.

    Could I be wrong about whether Jesus rose from the dead, or will you allow me to be right about that? Is there anything else you think I can know just from comparing Scripture with Scripture and weighing other teachings against Scripture?

    It doesn’t make sense to me to claim to be right and at the same time to claim fallibility.

    Given your view of things, wouldn’t it stand to reason that you couldn’t know anything since you are fallible? If yes, do you know that?

    At least the RC church makes sense in that regard, even though we have to use our reason also.

    Even if Romanism has all the true doctrine – just as the Bible has all the true doctrine, why is it you can understand Romanism and not the Bible? I just can’t figure that one out. Does God speak more clearly through the Popes than he does through the prophets? And if Peter was a Roman Pope, why do we need other Popes to interpret his words? Shouldn’t he be as clear as they? And why should you think you can interpret the subsequent Popes to Peter if you can’t interpret Peter the first Pope? Finally, that Rome says she has the true doctrine, does that necessarily make it so?

    I think if you dig into these questions honestly you might at least find that Rome doesn’t get you any closer to solving your problems.

    Ron

  203. TurretinFan said,

    October 13, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Sean:

    Sometimes silence is all the evidence one can reasonable hope to have of the non-existence of something. But as John pointed out, it’s not simply a matter of silence. For example, check out canon 6 of the Council of Nicaea. That canon doesn’t make much sense if there’s a papacy.

    -TurretinFan

  204. Rebecca said,

    October 13, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Ron,

    Your questions are good ones, and I have thought about them; I’ll attempt to explain my thinking a little.

    “Since you believe you could be wrong about picking your own theology, what makes you think you might not be wrong in picking the Roman church and by extension her theology?”

    I could be wrong; but each one of us has to pick some church and/or system of theology; we have to use our reason and choose the church/theological system that makes the most sense. What doesn’t make sense to me is to pick a theological system and/or church that insists that these things are true and must be believed, and if you don’t believe them you’re going to hell, but yet, remember, part of our system is that we could be wrong about these things.

    “Could I be wrong about whether Jesus rose from the dead, or will you allow me to be right about that? Is there anything else you think I can know just from comparing Scripture with Scripture and weighing other teachings against Scripture?”

    I’m talking more about theological issues, especially life-and-death issues that don’t seem to be able to be resolved in the way that you describe – for example, the issue of whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation, or whether remarriage after divorce is acceptable or puts one in an adulterous relationship. Everybody who discusses these matters argues from scripture, compares scripture to scripture, etc., and yet, everyone does not agree. So we are left to decide on our own, and all of us fallible individuals in fallible churches can say, “This is what we believe scripture teaches,” but our church could be wrong, we could be wrong, and I have serious questions about these things. At least there is one church that claims to be infallible when it addresses these matters. If I reject that church, then I am left to choose my own position about the necessity of baptism, and I end up wondering why Christ gave us the infallible scriptures but no infallible interpreter of the scriptures? What good is that?

    “Given your view of things, wouldn’t it stand to reason that you couldn’t know anything since you are fallible? If yes, do you know that?”

    I think we have to differentiate between the types of things that we are talking about. I am talking about theological issues, especially those that divide Christians.

    “Even if Romanism has all the true doctrine – just as the Bible has all the true doctrine, why is it you can understand Romanism and not the Bible? I just can’t figure that one out. Does God speak more clearly through the Popes than he does through the prophets? And if Peter was a Roman Pope, why do we need other Popes to interpret his words? Shouldn’t he be as clear as they? And why should you think you can interpret the subsequent Popes to Peter if you can’t interpret Peter the first Pope? Finally, that Rome says she has the true doctrine, does that necessarily make it so?”

    If God provided a church that would be the primary way that the Holy Spirit would teach us and lead us into all truth, then that same church could interpret the scripture and also help us to understand its own interpretation. Why could it not continue to issue statements and encyclicals to help us to understand its teaching? I don’t know about the popes and prophets. How clearly did God actually speak through the prophets? I think sometimes that I need an interpreter to understand my kids, so I don’t really understand the problem with Peter and the subsequent popes. And no, Rome saying that she has the true doctrine doesn’t make it so; for me, it’s a matter of what makes the most sense. But for some time now I have been searching for answers to a couple of questions concerning the authority in the church and the nature of the church, and I have been unable to find answers within Protestantism. The catholic answers seem to make the most sense, much to my surprise.

    “I think if you dig into these questions honestly you might at least find that Rome doesn’t get you any closer to solving your problems.”

    It sure seems to.

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to me.

  205. TurretinFan said,

    October 13, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Rebecca:

    You wrote: “I’m talking more about theological issues, especially life-and-death issues that don’t seem to be able to be resolved in the way that you describe …”

    There seem to be two things at play:

    1) they are resolved on an individual basis, by most individuals.

    2) are you sure they’re life and death issues?

    As to the first point, what you seem to mean is simply that not everyone agrees about how to resolve the question, or that their disagreement is sharp. But God doesn’t require you to get everyone to align themselves with your beliefs. God requires that you hear His Word and obey it. That’s your duty – that’s each person’s duty. You can do that duty even if you are unable to persuade everyone else to see it your way.

    As to the second point, I realize that there are lots of contentious issues, but maybe they are not quite so life-and-death as you think. Maybe the Bible is clear on the essentials, and less clear on the non-essentials. Wouldn’t that make sense if the Bible were written that way? And we have good reason to think that the Bible is written that way, both from the Bible itself and from the testimony of ancient Christians.

    -TurretinFan

  206. October 13, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    Rebecca,

    All I will say is that if you take the easiest verses in the Bible, you’ll find things like this: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

    1. Jesus will never cast out those who come to him.
    2. Jesus will lose none that are chosen in him.
    3. Jesus will raise up on the last all that come to him, which are those chosen in him.

    Rome will tell you with a straight face that there are people who will be cast out into eternal darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth that in fact do come to Jesus in saving faith. They will of course appeal to less clear verses than John 6. I’m here to tell you Rebecca – the Roman Church hates the biblical gospel and they are a Harlot. Saturate yourself in the truth of God’s word and turn your ear from the lies of Romanism.

    May the God of all mercies make the love of Christ very clear to you. Rome knows nothing of this love, which is why their doctrine of salvation is so convoluted. I hate the Popery, Rebecca, and maybe one day you will too.

    Blessings,

    Ron

  207. Rebecca said,

    October 13, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    TurretinFan,

    “But God doesn’t require you to get everyone to align themselves with your beliefs. God requires that you hear His Word and obey it.”.

    Whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation is definitely a life-and-death issue. If it is necessary for salvation, and someone dies unbaptized, then he will miss out on heaven. I’m not saying that God requires me to get everyone to align themselves with my beliefs. I’m saying that God requires everyone to align himself with truth. It sounds as though you are saying that truth doesn’t matter. How can I obey God’s word if I am not sure what it means?

    “As to the second point, I realize that there are lots of contentious issues, but maybe they are not quite so life-and-death as you think. Maybe the Bible is clear on the essentials, and less clear on the non-essentials.”

    Or maybe He expects us to look to the church in order to know what is essential. Maybe those issues aren’t life-and-death, but how can I know? If I just assume they aren’t that important because I don’t want them to be, but they really are, then my assumption is irrelevant.

    Ron, there are a couple of problems with even the “clear” verses. How do we get this saving faith? How do we know if we have it? How do we define belief? The Bible seems to couple faith/belief with baptism, if you read in context. And then, we can be mistaken about our faith; we can be mistaken about the state of our soul. So we may think we are elect, and we may not be. I don’t think Rome casts people into hell who truly come to Christ any more than Calvinism does, but Rome teaches that people can fall from grace, while Calvinism teaches that people can be mistaken about their state of grace. In the end, where is the difference?

    Blessings to you also

  208. October 14, 2010 at 1:08 am

    Ron, there are a couple of problems with even the “clear” verses. How do we get this saving faith?

    Rebecca,

    God grants faith as a gift. (Ephesians 2:8, 9) Your task is to rest in Christ’s work alone for the forgiveness of your sins.

    How do we know if we have it?

    God’s spirit bears witness with our spirit that we’re saved. Romans 8:16

    How do we define belief?

    I would define belief as receiving, trusting and resting in Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins. John 1:12; John 14:1; Matt. 11:28

    The Bible seems to couple faith/belief with baptism, if you read in context.

    The Bible on occasion attributes the salvation to the sign of the covenant, but there are enough faith-saves passages that should dispel any notion that the washing of water or faith plus water justifies. No doubt, the sacraments kindle our faith but we’re saved by grace through faith and not of ourselves.

    And then, we can be mistaken about our faith; we can be mistaken about the state of our soul.

    Yes, one can deceive himself into thinking he’s saved when he’s not. I’m not sure how that undermines God’s promise that one can know he is saved. One cannot know he is saved when he’s not because the only things that can be known are true.

    So we may think we are elect, and we may not be.

    Yes, that’s true. But you can’t know you’re elect if your not, and if you do know you’re elect, then you must be. The way you can know by knowing your saved.

    I don’t think Rome casts people into hell who truly come to Christ any more than Calvinism does,

    Only Christ will cast sinners into hell. What I said about Rome is that she “will tell you with a straight face that there are people who will be cast out into eternal darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth that in fact do come to Jesus in saving faith.” As for Rome’s doctrine, you’re simply mistaken. They teach that there are true Christian believers who will be cast into hell because they lost their salvation.

    but Rome teaches that people can fall from grace, while Calvinism teaches that people can be mistaken about their state of grace. In the end, where is the difference?

    First off, it is consistent with Calvinism and Romanism that people can be mistaken about the state of their soul. I think what you are asking me is what the difference is between someone truly losing his salvation and someone thinking he was saved when he wasn’t. If that’s what you were asking, let me simply say that in the former case God would have granted the Holy Spirit as a down payment of the final redemption of the body. Accordingly, Rome’s doctrine makes God out to be a liar since God would have never completed the work he began, though he would have promised with a seal that he would. That’s repugnant. Regarding the latter, the liar is the man who convinced himself without any warrant whatsoever that he was saved – without ever having rested in Christ and without ever having any internal confirmation of the Spirit that he was in a state of grace.

    Rebecca, I haven’t been following this too closely so you’ll forgive me if this has been disclosed already, but what tradition do you align yourself with and are you a member in good standing at your church? Have you spoken to your pastor about these matters?

    Ron

  209. Paige Britton said,

    October 14, 2010 at 6:37 am

    Hey, Rebecca,

    Forgive me for adding more for you to think about, but I think you may have tuned in here by quoting me, when I asked a good while back, “which came first, the biblical data or the paradigm?”

    Here’s why I asked this: If the paradigm came first, it has primacy and can essentially boss the biblical data around. It can add to the biblical data, and it can take it where it wills, and nobody can say “you’re wrong.”

    But if the biblical data has primacy, then the paradigm flows from it, and must constantly return to submit itself to the biblical data. And some of the elements of the paradigm will pass the test, and over time some will need to be refined or rejected. And yes, sometimes (often!) we’re going to argue about it, but that’s part of the process (and part of living in a fallen world where things don’t always go smoothly!).

    So if God has set up the universe such that there is an infallible earthly interpreter in the church, then submit your conscience to it and don’t question it.

    But if God has not set up the universe with an infallible earthly interpreter, then adjust your expectations. We’re going to know sufficiently, but not exhaustively. And it’s going to be hard work and a learning process, and it’s going to mean constantly holding up all of our (and others’) interpretations to the light of the biblical data, and asking, “Is this a fair reading?” And it’s going to mean exercising the mental faculties God gave us, without either assuming we are infallible or giving another human being the authority to bind our conscience so that we can’t challenge their rulings.

    I hope that, rather than picking which option feels best, you will do your best to find out which universe God intends for us to live in. (And persistently asking questions, as you are doing so well here, is part of figuring this out.)

    pax,
    Paige B.

  210. TurretinFan said,

    October 14, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Hi Rebecca,

    You wrote:

    Whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation is definitely a life-and-death issue. If it is necessary for salvation, and someone dies unbaptized, then he will miss out on heaven.

    With all due respect, again, no. Let me explain. Your second sentence assumes that it is necessary for salvation. If it is not necessary for salvation, then it is definitely not a life-and-death issue, right? So, the explanation is just that it might be a life-and-death issue.

    But even that is mistaken. Why? Because everyone is commanded to be baptized. We ought to be baptized whether or not we think that baptism is necessary for salvation. Consequently, whether baptism is necessary for salvation is actually a moot point – those who fear God will obey His Word and be baptized, those who love God will do what He says – but those who do not ,will not.

    It’s enough for us that baptism is commanded by God. We don’t need to inquire further whether it is “necessary for salvation,” because we don’t try to do the bare minimum – we try to do everything that God commands.

    You also wrote:

    I’m not saying that God requires me to get everyone to align themselves with my beliefs. I’m saying that God requires everyone to align himself with truth. It sounds as though you are saying that truth doesn’t matter. How can I obey God’s word if I am not sure what it means?

    You obey God’s word as best you understand God’s word, and you can pray to God for wisdom, and seek godly counsel from those God has placed in your life (your husband, if you are married to a Christian man – your father if you have a godly father – or the brethren and elders, even those here). Do you not believe that God will hear your prayers and give you sufficient knowledge of His Word to be saved? If you do not, may I respectfully suggest that you have not yet trusted in Him. If you do, why do you feel that greater certainty is required? Why are you not satisfied with the Word and the Spirit?

    You wrote: “Or maybe He expects us to look to the church in order to know what is essential.”

    Well, God certainly never says that. That’s Rome’s propaganda, and the propaganda of many churches who wish to substitute themselves for the mediatorial role of Christ (see my discussion here).

    You wrote: “Maybe those issues aren’t life-and-death, but how can I know?”

    Maybe you don’t need to figure out which issues are life-and-death, and just trust in God and do what He says, to the best of your ability?

    You wrote: “If I just assume they aren’t that important because I don’t want them to be, but they really are, then my assumption is irrelevant.”

    Your assumption is probably irrelevant in that you just need to do is accept what the Bible says, not try to figure out which parts are necessary/essential whatever.

    Ron has answered the rest of your comments, and I’ll simply refer you to him for those points.

    -TurretinFan

  211. October 14, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Hi TF,

    I’d like to flesh out a couple of things you wrote so that there is no confusion. Maybe what you are saying presupposes what I’m about to say, but I thought I’d mention it just the same.

    “whether baptism is necessary for salvation is actually a moot point – those who fear God will obey His Word and be baptized, those who love God will do what He says – but those who do not ,will not.”

    The necessity of baptism for salvation is not a moot point for babies born of Baptist parents! Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    It’s enough for us that baptism is commanded by God. We don’t need to inquire further whether it is “necessary for salvation,” because we don’t try to do the bare minimum – we try to do everything that God commands.

    Yes, but if one already believes in or has leanings toward baptismal salvation, it is indeed incumbent upon that person to flesh out that doctrine, for to have that doctrine wrong is to transfer trust away from Christ alone. And if one thought he had no opinion on the matter yet was trusting in Christ alone then he really would have an opinion on the matter since he would be indeed trusting in Christ alone. In either case, I don’t see that remaining agnostic on the matter, or not every delving into the question, is a proper long term solution for any person. If “Christ alone” is not bedrock for the saint, which presupposes having studied baptism and rejected any Romish type interpretation of the sacrament, then those spiritual organizations that would insist on water for salvation could cause one to doubt his salvation. The matter should eventually be delved into, if for no other reason than to make the Savior alone all the more precious to the sinner. I think we should delve into the question of whether baptism is necessary for salvation to the end that our confidence in Christ alone would be strengthened. Also, by knowing what baptism isn’t can only help us to see the beauty of what baptism actually is.

    Again, if your writings presupposed that and I missed it, I apologize.

    Blessings,

    Ron

  212. TurretinFan said,

    October 14, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Ron:

    You wrote:

    Yes, but if one already believes in or has leanings toward baptismal salvation, it is indeed incumbent upon that person to flesh out that doctrine, for to have that doctrine wrong is to transfer trust away from Christ alone.

    Yes, there’s a point at which a view of baptismal salvation could lead someone to trust in the sacraments, rather than in Christ. At that point, it would be problematic.

    What I meant was simply that a person who was unsure whether someone could be saved apart from baptism is mostly engaged in moot speculation, at least on a practical level.

    -TurretinFan

  213. D. T. King said,

    October 14, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Back on topic…

    Lane wrote: When he [i.e. Luther] looked at this phrase “the righteousness of God,” he understood it to mean the righteousness of God as judge, by which He condemns all sinners to everlasting torment. Now, the righteousness of God does do that to all who will not believe, but that is not what this verse is talking about. It was when Luther finally realized what this phrase meant that he was born again. Luther finally came to realize that here in Romans 1:17, the righteousness of God does not mean God’s condemning righteousness, but rather the righteousness of Christ that is given to us as a free gift when we exercise faith in Jesus Christ. Instead of being our condemnation, the righteousness of God is instead our salvation.

    The understanding by Luther of the meaning of “the righteousness of God” was also an Augustinian insight on that phrase…

    Augustine (354-430): His words are, “The righteousness of God is manifested:” he does not say, the righteousness of man, or the righteousness of his own will, but the “righteousness of God,”–not that whereby He is Himself righteous, but that with which He endows man when He justifies the ungodly. . . . Accordingly he advances a step further, and adds, “But righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ,” that is by the faith wherewith one believes in Christ for just as there is not meant the faith with which Christ Himself believes, so also there is not meant the righteousness whereby God is Himself righteous. Both no doubt are ours, but yet they are called God’s, and Christ’s, because it is by their bounty that these gifts are bestowed upon us. NPNF1: Vol. V, A Treatise on the Spirit and the Letter, Chapter 9, §15, The Righteousness of God Manifested by the Law and the Prophets, pp. 88-89. (Cf. De spiritu et littera, Caput IX, §15, PL 44:208-209).
    Latin text: Justitia, inquit, Dei manifestata est: non dixit, Justitia hominis, vel justitia propriae voluntatis; sed, justitia Dei, non qua Deus justus est, sed qua induit hominem, cum justificat impium. . . . Nam hinc sequitur et adjungit, dicens, Justitia autem Dei per fidem Jesu Christi, hoc est, per fidem qua creditur in Christum. Sicut autem ista fides Christi dicta est non qua credit Christus: sic et illa justitia Dei non qua justus est Deus. Utrumque enim nostrum est; sed ideo Dei et Christi dicitur, quod ejus nobis largitate donatur. De spiritu et littera, Caput IX, §15, PL 44:208-209.

    In other words, “the righteousness of God” here is viewed by both Luther and Augustine as redemptive, not retributive.

  214. Nick said,

    October 14, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    DT King #215,

    I’ve got to comment on your post since I consider it a serious misrepresentation of the situation.

    In Luther’s own account of his “Tower Experience” he explicitly says no Early Church Father properly understood the “real” meaning of “righteousness of God.” He said Augustine came the closest, but that even he didn’t understand it.

    Further, the very quote you give of Augustine is talking about justification in terms of being made inwardly righteous – which directly contradicts your appeal (and why Luther said even Augustine didn’t “get it” on this “crucial” issue). Augustine never taught this “righteousness of God” was imputed or akin to “Christ’s Righteousness”. Augustine’s “On the Spirit and Letter” is wholly incompatible with Protestant soteriology.

  215. David Gadbois said,

    October 14, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Nick, the obvious conclusion to come to is that Luther was wrong in his interpretation of Augustine. That is hardly DT King “misrepresenting” the situation. Notice, DT King actually quoted Augustine, and you did not.

    Augustine’s definition of justification is a separate topic from the exegetical issue of interpreting “the righteousness of God” in Romans.

    Thanks for playing.

  216. Sean said,

    October 14, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    There have been a lot of comments since I’ve been able to check in and I really don’t have time to respond to all of them. For now I am going to wait for David T King’s promised proof that the fathers (any of them) taught that scripture was formally sufficient.

    That was either promissed in this thread or the other – don’t have time to dig through it right now.

  217. October 14, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    TF,

    I think mutual theologies are like hand-in-glove, which is why I wanted to post that… I’m enjoying your work, as always!

    Ron

  218. David Gadbois said,

    October 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Actually, Sean, there won’t be any talk of Scripture’s formal sufficiency in this thread whatsoever. TF can post a response to you on his blog, or if need be I can start (yet another) thread here at GB for that topic.

  219. D. T. King said,

    October 14, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Augustine never taught this “righteousness of God” was imputed or akin to “Christ’s Righteousness”. Augustine’s “On the Spirit and Letter” is wholly incompatible with Protestant soteriology.

    I never said anything about “imputed righteousness.” I said that Luther agreed with Augustine that the Pauline phrase “the righteousness of God” was to be understood as redemptive, and not retributive. But as always, our Romanist friends have a knee jerk reaction to anything in Augustine that might not fit the Roman paradigm.

    But listen, it was not the Reformers who first followed the apostolic Church and affirmed “imputed righteousness” as Paul taught (Romans 4), but it was articulated by Bernard of Clarivaux…

    Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Man therefore was lawfully delivered up, but mercifully set free. Yet mercy was shown in such a way that a kind of justice was not lacking even in his liberation, since, as was most fitting for man s recovery, it was part of the mercy of the liberator to employ justice rather than power against man s enemy. For what could man, the slave of sin, fast bound by the devil, do of him self to recover that righteousness which he had formerly lost? Therefore he who lacked righteousness had another’s imputed to him, and in this way: The prince of this world came and found nothing in the Saviour, and because he notwithstanding laid hands on the Innocent he lost most justly those whom he held captive; since He who owed nothing to death, lawfully freed him who was subject to it, both from the debt of death, and the dominion of the devil, by accepting the injustice of death; for with what justice could that be exacted from man a second time? It was man who owed the debt, it was man who paid it. For if one, says S. Paul, died for all, then were all dead (2 Cor. v. 14), so that, as One bore the sins of all, the satisfaction of One is imputed to all. It is not that one forfeited, another satisfied; the Head and body is one, viz., Christ. The Head, therefore, satisfied for the members, Christ for His children, since, according to the Gospel of Paul, by which Peter’s [i.e., Abelard] falsehood is refuted, He who died for us, quickened us together with Himself, forgiving us all our trespasses, blotting out the hand writing of ordinances that was against us, and took il out of the way , nailing it to His cross, having spoiled principalities and powers (Col. ii. 13, 14). Dom. John Mabillon, ed., Life and Works of Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, trans. Samuel J. Eales, Vol. II, Letter CXC – Against Certain Heads of Abaelard’s Heresies, 6.15 (London: Burns and Oates Limited, 1889), pp. 580-581.

  220. D. T. King said,

    October 14, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Juste igitur homo addictus, sed misericorditer liberatus; sic tamen misericorditer, ut non defuerit justitia quaedam et in ipsa liberatione: quoniam hoc quoque fuit de misericordia liberantis, ut (quod congruebat remediis liberandi) justitia magis contra invasorem, quam potentia uteretur. Quid namque ex se agere poterat, ut semel amissam justitiam recuperaret homo servus peccati, vinctus diaboli? Assignata est ei proinde aliena, qui caruit sua; et ipsa sic est. Venit princeps hujus mundi, et in Salvatore non invenit quidquam: et cum nihilominus innocenti manus injecit, justissime quos tenebat amisit: quando is qui morti nihil debebat, accepta mortis injuria, jure illum, qui obnoxius erat, et mortis debito, et diaboli solvit dominio. Qua enim justitia id secundo homo exigeretur? Homo siquidem qui debuit, homo qui solvit. Nam si unus,inquit, pro omnibus mortuus est, ergo omnes mortui sunt: ut videlicet satisfactio unius omnibus imputetur, sicut omnium peccata unus ille portavit; nec alter jam inveniatur qui forefecit, alter qui satisfecit: quia caput et corpus unus est Christus. Satisfecit ergo caput pro membris, Christus pro visceribus suis, quando juxta Evangelium Pauli, quo convincitur mendacium Petri, mortuus pro nobis convivificavit nos sibi, donans nobis omnia delicta, delens quod adversum nos erat chirographum decreti, quod erat contrarium nobis; et ipsum tulit de medio, affigens illud cruci, exspolians principatus et potestates. Epistola CXC, ad Innocentum II, Pontificem, Tractatus de erroribus Petri Abaelardi, Caput VI, §15, PL 182:1065B-D.

  221. D. T. King said,

    October 14, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Addendum: I have always found the Romanist complaint against “imputed righteousness” disingenuous, for this reason . . . After all, what is the treasury of merit if it does not include the so-called “righteousness of the saints,” their alleged superabundance of works and accrued merit being transferred (concept of imputation – make no mistake) to others via indulgences that can be bought! In other words, the perfect righteousness of Christ cannot be imputed, but the works (via superogation) of the saints can!

    Now the Romanist may not call it “imputed,” but the same concept is embedded in their system of man-centered salvation.

  222. October 14, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    They call it a righteous blood infusion, don’t they? ba-da-bing

  223. Nick said,

    October 14, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    DT King #221:

    I said you were misrepresenting the situation (whether intentional or not is irrelevant).

    The issue of understanding “righteousness of God” as retributive was more or less an phantom conjured up in Luther’s mind. No record of that understanding, at least in any significant degree, exists in Church history.

    The way Luther understood the phrase was precisely over imputation, and precisely why he scoured the Fathers, especially Augustine, for “support”.
    Here are Luther’s own words:

    “This phrase of Paul was for me the very gate of paradise. Afterward I read Augustine’s “On the Spirit and the Letter,” in which I found what I had not dared hope for. I discovered that he too interpreted “the justice of God” in a similar way, namely, as that with which God clothes us when he justifies us. Although Augustine had said it imperfectly and did not explain in detail how God imputes justice to us, still it pleased me that he taught the justice of God by which we are justified.”

    http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1519luther-tower.html

    So Luther was appealing to Augustine for *more* than just noting it is not retributive – but rather a more radical step than that. This is the true *context* in which Luther “discovered” the true meaning of “righteousness of God,” along with his appeal to “On the Spirit and Letter.”

    Leaving aside the word-concept fallacy (finding a Catholic using the term “imputed righteousness” and assuming it meant the same thing as Luther’s understanding), what’s astonishing about the St Bernard quote is teaching the Catholic notion of Satisfaction, not the Protestant notion of Penal Substitution (which Luther’s Imputed Righteousness hangs in the balance on)!

  224. D. T. King said,

    October 14, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Leaving aside the word-concept fallacy (finding a Catholic using the term “imputed righteousness” and assuming it meant the same thing as Luther’s understanding), what’s astonishing about the St Bernard quote is teaching the Catholic notion of Satisfaction, not the Protestant notion of Penal Substitution (which Luther’s Imputed Righteousness hangs in the balance on)!

    Thanks for sharing, and I think Bernard speaks for himself. Moreover, I would be happy to defend penal substitution historically some time, but you cannot stick to the topic.

  225. Nick said,

    October 14, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    DT King #223,

    You said: “Now the Romanist may not call it “imputed,” but the same concept is embedded in their system of man-centered salvation.”

    Comments like these suggest you don’t understand the (systematic) theology behind some of the major Protestant doctrines like Sola Fide. Imputation, even imputation of righteousness, is not a ‘bad word’. Only taken in certain senses (e.g. Luther’s) is it problematic. Otherwise, there are various senses in which a Catholic can employ the term/concept.

    (Side note: this same distinction needs to be kept in mind when looking into claims on Sola Scriptura – since it’s not uncommon for people to confuse praise or veneration or high regard of Scripture with the doctrine of Sola-Scriptura)

  226. D. T. King said,

    October 14, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Comments like these suggest you don’t understand the (systematic) theology …

    Thanks for sharing.

  227. TurretinFan said,

    October 14, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    It seems that Nick’s criticisms of DTKing’s comments (the last two times) have been criticisms of what Nick thought DTKing was trying to say, not what DTKing actually said.

    Let me ask you, Nick, would agree with this analysis of the text:

    Because it is possible to be saved, yet not without embarrassment, so that no one might suspect this upon hearing about safety, he also adds “righteousness;” and “righteousness,” not of your own, but that “of God;” suggesting also the abundance of the righteousness and the facility thereof. For you don’t get the righteousness by toiling and labour, but you get it by a gift from up above, adding only one thing from your own storehouse, “believing.”

    Please don’t try to Google who said it, but just give us your honest opinion – does this sound like someone from your church or ours?

    -TurretinFan

  228. Nick said,

    October 14, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    TF #229,

    I don’t need to google it, but it sounds as if it could easily have come from Augustine. The phraseology of “so that no one might suspect this upon hearing about safety, he also adds” is very Augustinian in the way he shares his thoughts.

    The quote is perfectly fine within a Catholic framework. The Catholic Church dogmatically teaches (Trent, Session 6) that the “righteousness of God” is the *”single formal cause”* of man’s justification! As for the “only one thing from your own storehouse, believing,” that again poses no problem to the Catholic scheme.

    The “devil is in the details” so to speak, so for this quote to be anything unorthodox, it would have to be teaching these concepts as Protestants *uniquely* understand them. For example, the ECFs nor Lutherans ever saw “believing” as excluding baptism and such, where as many Protestants would consider baptism an added “work” along with believing. Further, the “righteousness of God” for the Protestant end is not a “formal cause” of justification, so it would have to be shown this was to be understood as the “righteousness of Christ” (as Protestants use the term) here for it to be unorthodox Catholicism.

  229. TurretinFan said,

    October 14, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Nick,

    What about this? Is this uniquely Protestant, or orthodox? (again, please don’t google)

    For the righteousness of God is revealed in it. Either: because it was just that the rest of the believers should be saved in the same way that Abraham was, who when he believed was saved from among the Gentiles initially by faith alone. Or: Because the testament which God, who is truthful, promised in the law had to be revealed. By faith in faith. Or: Because the Jew is justified by faith and the Gentile in faith; he wrote ['by' and ] ‘in’ to avoid the fault of tautology. As it is written: the just live by faith. ‘Not by works of the law’ (Gal. 2:16).

    -TurretinFan

  230. D. T. King said,

    October 14, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    which Luther’s Imputed Righteousness hangs in the balance on…

    Tell you what, Nick, given your confidence in your claims and all, please show me where Luther ever spoke of “imputed righteousness.” Since you’re making the claim, I’ll let you show me. Help me out. :)

  231. Rebecca said,

    October 14, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Ron, let me just respond a little:

    “God grants faith as a gift. (Ephesians 2:8, 9) Your task is to rest in Christ’s work alone for the forgiveness of your sins.”

    Yes, I know, but how do we get the gift of faith? According to Martin Luther, we receive the gift of faith in baptism. We modern Evangelicals separate faith from baptism, as though we are gnostics, but Luther didn’t.

    “How do we know if we have it?”
    God’s spirit bears witness with our spirit that we’re saved. Romans 8:16

    But we can be mistaken. We may think God’s spirit is bearing witness, but it may be our own subjective feelings instead.

    “How do we define belief?”
    I would define belief as receiving, trusting and resting in Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins. John 1:12; John 14:1; Matt. 11:28

    But who gave you the authority to define belief or faith? (I don’t mean that in a mean way). But I was reading a book by John Piper, I think Future Grace, and he said somewhere in the book that so-and-so defined faith this way, and so-and-so defined faith that way, but he had to differ and would define faith this other way. Well, I just don’t know how we can know if we have faith if we don’t even have one authoritative Protestant definition of faith, and I don’t think we do. There’s that problem of authority. Even “faith alone;” what does that actually mean? But I should not open another can of worms.

    “The Bible seems to couple faith/belief with baptism, if you read in context.”
    The Bible on occasion attributes the salvation to the sign of the covenant, but there are enough faith-saves passages that should dispel any notion that the washing of water or faith plus water justifies.

    But here you are doing exactly what I am questioning. You are telling me that the scriptures teach something clearly, yet tons of Biblical scholars don’t read it the same way, and they do believe that the washing of water justifies. Among them are Augustine and probably Luther. Luther believed in faith alone, but he believed that we got our faith through baptism.

    “Yes, one can deceive himself into thinking he’s saved when he’s not. I’m not sure how that undermines God’s promise that one can know he is saved.”

    How can you know you’re saved if you know at the same time that you could be mistaken about the state of your soul? Even the Puritans didn’t believe in assurance of salvation.

    “if you do know you’re elect, then you must be.”

    I don’t get that. We don’t have perfect knowledge of our own soul. We can be sure about our feelings, but only God can see our souls perfectly.

    ” God would have granted the Holy Spirit as a down payment of the final redemption of the body. Accordingly, Rome’s doctrine makes God out to be a liar since God would have never completed the work he began, though he would have promised with a seal that he would.”

    That’s a good point, Ron.

    “Rebecca, I haven’t been following this too closely so you’ll forgive me if this has been disclosed already, but what tradition do you align yourself with and are you a member in good standing at your church? Have you spoken to your pastor about these matters?”

    I’m not really free to say, but I will say that I have a Presbyterian and PCA background, and very Reformed, but have been in a baptistic church lately (mainly because of my husband).

    Sincerely,

  232. Rebecca said,

    October 14, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Paige, yes, your paradigm question initially prompted my response. It just seems to me that we all come to scripture from a certain paradigm, and no matter what we do, even if we think scripture is informing our paradigm,it is impossible for us to read scripture without interpreting it according to certain prior assumptions. So it might be nice if the Biblical data could have primacy and let the paradigm flow from it, but I’m not sure that’s possible, because how can we interpret scripture if we don’t bring certain assumptions to scripture?

    “But if God has not set up the universe with an infallible earthly interpreter, then adjust your expectations. We’re going to know sufficiently, but not exhaustively.”

    It doesn’t seem sufficient to me not to know whether something is or is not necessary for salvation. I don’t see how ambiguity on that issue can be acceptable to anybody.

    But thank you for taking the time to reply to me.

  233. Rebecca said,

    October 14, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    TurretinFan,

    You said, “We ought to be baptized whether or not we think that baptism is necessary for salvation. Consequently, whether baptism is necessary for salvation is actually a moot point – those who fear God will obey His Word and be baptized.”

    Well, not in the Baptist scheme of things. I notice that someone else pointed that out also. Baptists make people wait, and meanwhile, they can die, and sometimes do.

    “You obey God’s word as best you understand God’s word, and you can pray to God for wisdom, and seek godly counsel…Do you not believe that God will hear your prayers and give you sufficient knowledge of His Word to be saved? If you do not, may I respectfully suggest that you have not yet trusted in Him. If you do, why do you feel that greater certainty is required? Why are you not satisfied with the Word and the Spirit?”

    Well, I guess I can say that I’m OK in whichever scheme, since I’ve both been baptized and trusted Christ as best I know how. But that doesn’t solve the problem; my issues are wider than my own personal salvation, really. So many Evangelicals are running around obeying God according to how they understand God’s word, but that’s what I’m talking about. Everybody can’t be right at the same time. Where is truth in all this? I can accept what the Bible says, as long as I understand it; but that’s the problem. We don’t all agree about what the Bible says. If we say, “Don’t worry. Just do what you believe the Bible teaches, and I’ll do what I believe it teaches,” then we are saying that truth doesn’t matter.

  234. October 14, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    “I will say that I have a Presbyterian and PCA background, and very Reformed, but have been in a baptistic church lately (mainly because of my husband).

    Rebecca,

    You wrote many things in your last post and much of what you wrote we’ve gone over already. I would encourage you to go back and read again. With respect to what I placed immediately above, I would encourage you to speak to your husband about these matters and to your elders under your husband’s guidance. I’m afraid you are very confused and that you are now paying the price of doubting God’s clear teaching. You have entertained what I would call some pretty devilish thoughts that reduce to philosophical skepticism. In any case, I don’t know that I’m in a position to help you much more than I have given all that you’ve said. You keep coming back with “what about this?” type questions without dealing with the answers that you’ve already been given.

    I wish you all the best, but do go through the proper channels of your husband and elders. Maybe talk to your husband and ask if you can get under some steady Bible teaching from a local Reformed pastor. These are serious matters and I wouldn’t delay; you need more than what I can offer long distance I think.

    In His grace,

    Ron

  235. Tom Riello said,

    October 14, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    Ron,

    With all due respect, you tell Rebecca that she is paying the price of doubting God’s clear teaching and that she is engaging in some pretty devilish thoughts and then add that you are not in a position to help her.

    Asking questions about the nature of the faith and the Church does not mean someone is doubting God’s clear teaching nor does it mean one is engaging in devilish thoughts.

    You are right in saying they are serious matters and serious matters are usually handled by asking the right questions and desiring to get the right answers.

  236. October 14, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Tom,

    Is my sin that I told Rebecca that she is paying the price of doubting God’s clear word that we can know we have eternal life, or that I told her to go to her husband and her pastors for spiritual guidance? Obviously you find me guilty of the former because your promulgate the very things she wrestles with – such as whether we can know by the ordinary means of grace that we have eternal life.

    Frankly Tom, your response is rather typical of the Called to Romanism bunch. You fancy yourself as riding in on your white horse with words of compassion but it is the likes of workers of iniquity as yourself that lead the ungrounded into confusion and even utter despair. But by all means Tom, do help Rebecca in her time of need. Show her how she can know she has eternal life. Explain to her what belief means. Help her Tom. Call her to “communion”. Tell her the things that I suggest she see her pastor about.

    What I find interesting is that no papist ever visits this site with biblical wisdom, let alone the way of life. All they do is twist the fathers and bring reproach upon the gospel. What is the good news, Tom? Is it that we can be saved today and burn for an eternity tomorrow?

    But I do thank you for sharing.

    Ron

  237. TurretinFan said,

    October 15, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Tom wrote: “Asking questions about the nature of the faith and the Church does not mean someone is doubting God’s clear teaching nor does it mean one is engaging in devilish thoughts.”

    That’s not what Ron said, though. What he identified as devilish were the ideas that amount to radical skepticism – ideas promoted here and elsewhere by some Roman Catholics seeking to undermine Christians’ confidence and satisfaction in Scripture to create a need for the Roman Catholic church. That skepticism is the opposite of faith, and it is indeed of the devil, even if those who promote it think they are serving the Lord.

    You wrote: “You are right in saying they are serious matters and serious matters are usually handled by asking the right questions and desiring to get the right answers.”

    They are also handled by asking the right people, which was Ron’s point.

    -TurretinFan

  238. Bryan Cross said,

    October 15, 2010 at 8:00 am

    TF, (re: #239)

    They are also handled by asking the right people, which was Ron’s point.

    Where “right people” means “those who agree with my interpretation of Scripture,” since if Rebecca’s husband were Catholic, Ron obviously wouldn’t be directing her to follow his “spiritual guidance.”

    When Catholics say that in the interpretation of Scripture we need to be guided by the successors of the Apostles, it is treated as “devilish” “radical skepticism.” But when in the same breath, Reformed persons tell inquirers that they need to be “asking the right people,” it is considered “spiritual guidance.”

    So, if it is “radical skepticism” to tell inquirers that they need interpretive guidance, then by telling Rebecca that she needs to be “asking the right people,” you and Ron are promoting “devilish” “radical skepticism.” But if it is not “radical skepticism” to tell inquirers that they need interpretive guidance, then the Catholics are not advancing “radical skepticism.” You can’t have it both ways, without being self-contradictory, hypocritical and engaging in special pleading.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  239. TurretinFan said,

    October 15, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Rebecca:

    You wrote: “But that doesn’t solve the problem; my issues are wider than my own personal salvation, really. So many Evangelicals are running around obeying God according to how they understand God’s word, but that’s what I’m talking about. Everybody can’t be right at the same time. Where is truth in all this?”

    a) I agree that not everyone can be right at the same time.

    b) Not just Evangelicals, but most devout Roman Catholics seem to think that they are obeying God according to how they understand God’s word. Same for the devout Eastern Orthodox folks. Even devout Muslims and Mormons think this.

    c) Where is the truth? The truth is in Scripture – it is not in the Roman Catholic magisterium, or the prophecies of Joseph Smith or Mohamed. Scripture does not need to be supplemented, because it is not any deficiency in Scripture that causes people to disagree.

    You wrote: “I can accept what the Bible says, as long as I understand it; but that’s the problem. We don’t all agree about what the Bible says. If we say, “Don’t worry. Just do what you believe the Bible teaches, and I’ll do what I believe it teaches,” then we are saying that truth doesn’t matter.”

    a) That would be a strange thing for me, an apologist, to say. I don’t suggest that people just be a law to themselves, and I try to persuade people who don’t understand Scripture that they have misunderstood it. That’s one thing we can do – try to persuade others.

    b) Yet my comments are correct (as I think you see) on a personal and practical level. Each of us must follow what Scripture says, and until we have been persuaded to see that our opinions about Scripture are wrong, we can only continue to Search the Scriptures and pray for wisdom from the Spirit, even while consulting with the fallible means that God has given us – in your case your husband, elders, and brethren – the writings of brethren that have gone before us, and so forth.

    c) So, saying that we must accept that there are disagreements among people because people are fallible, sinful human beings, does not mean that truth doesn’t matter. It just means that we should not be discouraged by the fact that, as Paul says, wicked men distort the scriptures to their own destruction – and that there are even parts that are less clear to sincere believers. These more challenging sections can give us great joy as we search for the hidden treasures in Scripture.

    d) Keep in mind also that God is in control. If God wanted all Christians to agree about everything in this life, God could have ordained that his work of regeneration would accomplish that result. Since He has not done that, we can reasonable conclude that he does not want that. So, don’t let yourself be excessively troubled by the fact that we sinners disagree with one another over various things. Seek the truth, and if God has called you to a position where you can persuade others of the truth, persuade them as well.

    Don’t get caught up in the radical skepticism that I (and Ron) mentioned above, where people think that because there is disagreement among Christians, we can’t know anything. There are numerous important things that are abundantly clear in Scripture. That God exists, that God is one who rewards those who diligently seek him, that we should come to God, that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that God created the Heavens and the Earth, that God sent His Son to be the Savior of the World, that Salvation is by Faith in the Son, and so forth.

    -TurretinFan

  240. Reed Here said,

    October 15, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Rebecca: don’t either fall for any group of men who set themselves up as infallible interpreters, be it me, TFan, Bryan Cross, or the Roman Magisterium. Such is an addition to the promise of Scripture, and not honored by God.

    God has given His children His promise that in union with Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit each of His children will be led, infallibly by Him and Him alone. Our failure to rightly grasp that all the time does not mean His promise is void.

    Don’t let the ordinary messiness of thought under the curse of the Fall be a persuasion that you can find a certainty apart from the certainty God promises in Scripture. God uses the same messiness to bless His children, and condemn His enemies.

  241. TurretinFan said,

    October 15, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Bryan:

    You wrote:

    Where “right people” means “those who agree with my interpretation of Scripture,” since if Rebecca’s husband were Catholic, Ron obviously wouldn’t be directing her to follow his “spiritual guidance.”

    I don’t know what Rebecca’s husband believes, but yes – I suggested him because apparently he’s a believer. If he were apparently an unbeliever, he wouldn’t be an appropriate person. Your mocking that as being “those who agree with my interpretation of Scripture” just shows me what kind of dialog interests you.

    You wrote:

    When Catholics say that in the interpretation of Scripture we need to be guided by the successors of the Apostles, it is treated as “devilish” “radical skepticism.” But when in the same breath, Reformed persons tell inquirers that they need to be “asking the right people,” it is considered “spiritual guidance.”

    That’s equivocation, Bryan. You mean “need” in a different sense than we do. The assistance of one’s church and Christian brethren is the normal, salutary, and reasonable course for a Christian. It is not something absolutely necessary, as a believer can receive a fully sufficient understanding from the Spirit and the Word, without them.

    You wrote:

    So, if it is “radical skepticism” to tell inquirers that they need interpretive guidance, then by telling Rebecca that she needs to be “asking the right people,” you and Ron are promoting “devilish” “radical skepticism.” But if it is not “radical skepticism” to tell inquirers that they need interpretive guidance, then the Catholics are not advancing “radical skepticism.” You can’t have it both ways, without being self-contradictory, hypocritical and engaging in special pleading.

    Your equivocation is already discussed above. The radical skepticism lies in telling people, as many of Rome’s apologists do, that they must distrust private judgment. Our advice to seek the counsel of godly men does not result in that same radical skepticism.

    -TurretinFan

  242. TurretinFan said,

    October 15, 2010 at 8:32 am

    Further to Reed’s comment above, I would like to make sure that it is clear that I do not claim infallibility. Take my comments as they may be helpful, but always compare them to Scripture.

    As Cyril of Jerusalem explained it in the 4th century in his Catechetical Lecture IV, 17:

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

    - TurretinFan

  243. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    October 15, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Bryan Cross, #240 to TurretinFan: “You can’t have it both ways, without being self-contradictory, hypocritical and engaging in special pleading.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    I’m not really sure how TurretinFan can truly think that Bryan Cross is communicating to him “in the peace of Christ” when TurretinFan is being told that he is being self-contradictory, hypocritical, and engaging in special pleading.

  244. Rebecca said,

    October 15, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Let me assure you, Ron, I am not a radical skeptic, as you may have inferred. I believe firmly in the truths of the Christian faith as set forth in the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed. It is Protestantism that I am questioning, because of the lack of authority to both exercise church discipline and to exercise teaching authority (as in giving us definitive answers regarding some of these theological issues). Ambiguity just is not acceptable on certain matters. And let me also assure you that I have talked to my husband. The thing about husbands is, they don’t all agree either, and as I follow my husband in one direction, another wife will be following her husband in another direction, and those two directions can be completely contradictory as regards truth. (I am not talking about my husband here, just the issue in general). But it seems to me that in certain cases, that each husband, if he is deciding on doctrinal issues for his family, is functioning as a small pope. Where is the truth in that?

    And Ron, I know that I said a lot of things, and I did reread everything, and will say that the reason I said so many things is that I was trying to show you how you had not really answered my questions, even though I know you tried and believe that you did. The answers did not really settle things for me. But I really do appreciate your kindness and efforts on my behalf. And I thank all of you other gentlemen also.

    Sincerely,

  245. TurretinFan said,

    October 15, 2010 at 9:30 am

    “I believe firmly in the truths of the Christian faith as set forth in the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed.”

    Why? Because Scripture clearly teaches what those creeds say, or for some other reason?

  246. TurretinFan said,

    October 15, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Sorry to split up my comment, but there is one other thing I wanted to comment on:

    But it seems to me that in certain cases, that each husband, if he is deciding on doctrinal issues for his family, is functioning as a small pope. Where is the truth in that?

    The husband’s role as spiritual head of the marriage (in marriages with a believing husband) is one that is taught in Scripture:

    1 Corinthians 14:35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

    That does not make the husband a pope, because the husband is not (and ought not to claim to be) infallible. He is, however, like the church, set up as a subordinate authority.

    God placed husbands as spiritual authorities for wives, knowing that husbands are fallible. And yes, God knew that would result in some husbands leading better than others.

    I hope this will lead you to trust in God and his provision of fallible spiritual authorities (including both churches and husbands) rather than seeking for something God never promised or provided, an infallible pope.

    -TurretinFan

  247. rfwhite said,

    October 15, 2010 at 9:42 am

    247 TFan: it looks to me that the answers to your vital questions require that we answer a prior question: what is the relationship between the Holy Spirit, Scripture, the church, and the individual?

  248. TurretinFan said,

    October 15, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Dr. White,

    Of course, Rebecca’s answer is going to be personal. She may believe it because it just struck her as true, or she gives credence to the fact that so many people hold it, or any number of a variety of issues. Hopefully (well, I hope, anyway), she believes it because it is a summary of Scripture teaching, as Augustine explained:

    We have, however, the catholic faith in the Creed, known to the faithful and committed to memory, contained in a form of expression as concise as has been rendered admissible by the circumstances of the case; the purpose of which [compilation] was, that individuals who are but beginners and sucklings among those who have been born again in Christ, and who have not yet been strengthened by most diligent and spiritual handling and understanding of the divine Scriptures, should be furnished with a summary, expressed in few words, of those matters of necessary belief which were subsequently to be explained to them in many words, as they made progress and rose to [the height of] divine doctrine, on the assured and steadfast basis of humility and charity.

    – Augustine, Of Faith and the Creed, Chapter 1 (see also this interesting discussion from Rufinus)

    But I do think that if one is to explore the question of why anyone should accept the creeds in general, one may need to address the relationship between the Holy Spirit, the Scripture, the church, and the individual.

    But how we address that relationship is again important. It’s my position that we must start from accepting something on faith, whether that be the Scriptures or the testimony of one’s church. That seems to be the first question: where do we start?

    Do you agree?

    -TurretinFan

  249. Nick said,

    October 15, 2010 at 10:06 am

    (It seems wordpress went down yesterday afternoon, so I was not able to immediately post this)

    TF #231,

    Again, I don’t need to google it, but nothing on it’s face is incompatible with Catholicism. The Council of Trent, whenever it condemns “faith alone” explicitly says things to the effect “If anyone says man is justified by faith alone TO MEAN X…” meaning that “faith alone” by itself is not a unorthodox phrase.
    Indeed, Armininans believe in “faith alone,” but as everyone knows, this is a heretical/flawed understanding of the classical Lutheran-Calvinist doctrine.

    Interestingly, the quote speaks of “initially by faith alone,” which would actually conform closer to Catholicism, since we distinguish between initial and final salvation.

    Further, the author you quote (with the LIMITED context you gave) seems simply to be explaining the possible interpretations for “righteousness of God revealed,” but the options given are nothing along the lines of “Christ’s Righteousness”.

    DTKing #232,

    I don’t know where Luther spoke in terms of “imputed righteousness,” but he spoke along those lines. For example, Luther spoke of Penal Substitution in terms of Christ being damned to hell in place of the elect individual (e.g. Tretise on Preparing to Die). In the above quote I gave, Luther clearly spoke of the righteousness which God “clothes us when he justifies us”.
    It was really Luther’s immediate disciples and Calvin that systematized the understanding of Sola Fide. Calvin used very similar imagery to being clothed in his Institutes (e.g. 3:11:2b), so it’s not too big of a leap to think they were saying the same thing: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.v.xii.html

    Lastly, I derive my understanding of the doctrine from primary sources like the Book of Concord and Westminster Confession, because I know not every word or description the Reformers gave was always consistent or accurate.

  250. Ron said,

    October 15, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Let me assure you, Ron, I am not a radical skeptic, as you may have inferred.

    Rebecca,

    Let me try to explain the “skeptic” remark, which I still stand by. First off, I’m glad if you’re not a skeptic, yet what you said to me makes me question your opinion on the matter. You wrote: “How do we know if we have it [faith]?” I told you that God himself, by His Spirit, confirms to the believer he has faith and I referenced Scripture on the matter, to which you replied: “But we can be mistaken. We may think God’s spirit is bearing witness, but it may be our own subjective feelings instead.” Accordingly, you question Scripture on the matter and the Spirit’s confirmation if you are indwelt. I would call that being a skeptic. You then asked me how I would define belief, and I responded by citing three verses from Scripture. I quoted God’s authoritative word, to which you replied: “But who gave you the authority to define belief or faith? (I don’t mean that in a mean way)” – yet I never defined belief. I simply relayed to you how Scripture defines belief. Of course you might ask how I know that Scripture defines belief that way, to which I would say – I’m not a skeptic and I take God at his word, and I try not to entertain thoughts such as “has God said?” Rather than going to the Scriptures yourself and telling me your problem you have with it, you simply pointed to disagreements others have, citing Pipers’s book “Future Grace”. You then went on to ask about the relationship of faith and baptism to justification. I suggested we must square the abundant amount of faith-saves passages in Scripture with the rest of Scripture, but that didn’t satisfy you because “tons of Biblical scholars don’t read it the same way, and they do believe that the washing of water justifies.” So once again you demonstrated what I would call your skepticism regarding your ability to understand the Scriptures. Your premise is that if some people disagree, then either the contents of the Bible are unknowable or else there must be an infallible magisterium, yet God hasn’t revealed that to you. You went on to ask “How can you know you’re saved if you know at the same time that you could be mistaken about the state of your soul?” I don’t know that I can be mistaken about my soul. I know that I’m not since God has clearly shown me I’m saved by His spirit working in conjunction with His word. Yet aside from my personal assurance, your line of questioning suggests that nobody can know they’re saved, which is to deny Scripture’s clear testimony, which I would attribute to a skeptical mindset. (You even went so far to suggest that the Puritans denied assurance.) Finally, you did acknowledge as a good point this statement of mine: “God would have granted the Holy Spirit as a down payment of the final redemption of the body. Accordingly, Rome’s doctrine makes God out to be a liar since God would have never completed the work he began, though he would have promised with a seal that he would.” Now if I made a good point, then tell me why is that so? Is it because Scripture teaches that God promises to complete a good work in his converts? Well if you can know that on God’s say-so alone, why can’t you know other things too? After all, theologians disagree upon that very point which you found agreeable.

    I believe firmly in the truths of the Christian faith as set forth in the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed.

    On what basis do you believe the creeds? Did flesh and blood reveal this to you or God in His word?

    It is Protestantism that I am questioning, because of the lack of authority to both exercise church discipline and to exercise teaching authority (as in giving us definitive answers regarding some of these theological issues).

    Did God teach you that Protestant denominations may not exercise church censures? As for “teaching authority” Protestants believe that God speaks to us in the reading and primarily in the preaching of God’s word. Given your view of things, God is incapable of speaking in a way we can understand unless he does it through a particular medium, yet that premise has not been revealed to you. Moreover, when the Roman priest speaks on Sunday (or on Saturday night for those who prefer to sleep in on the Lord’s Day!), he does not speak with the authority of the Pope or the counsels. If he’s true to his orders, he speaks according to his own belief of what they say. Moreover, the counsels haven’t exegeted every portion of Scripture, so how can the Roman priest even make a useful comment in the homily regarding God’s word?

    You can’t have it both ways, Rebecca. If you believe you can know certain things from God’s word and Spirit apart from the mediation of the church, then it is not true that you cannot know all you can know about God and what he requires of you from that same Word and Spirit. Sure, he works through infallible men -that’s all that exists, but when one truly knows it is because he’s been taught by God. Who else can illuminate your mind and justify to it God’s word? Yet if you must rely upon an infallible magisterium to know God’s word on certain things, then mustn’t you rely upon that same medium to know anything? Has Rome revealed to you which teachings of Scripture require no infallible interpetation of the Pope(s)? The reason Romanists have no biblical understanding and insights is because they will not get alone with God himself. Their theology undermines God speaking directly to them. They have to explain away the good news of salvation because their infallible church denies the gospel. It’s very sad, but oh so true. Try finding Christian fellowship in a Roman communion.

    The answers did not really settle things for me. But I really do appreciate your kindness and efforts on my behalf. And I thank all of you other gentlemen also.

    May God be with you, Rebecca.

    Ron

  251. Bryan Cross said,

    October 15, 2010 at 11:20 am

    TF, (re: #243)

    In no way am I mocking you or Ron. When you say that the way to get the right answer is “by asking the right people,” what you mean by “right people” is those who agree with your general interpretation of Scripture concerning what you think is essential. That’s why when people need “assistance” and “spiritual guidance” you don’t advise them to seek out the successors of the Apostles, since those successors do not entirely share your general interpretation of Scripture concerning what you believe to be essential.

    In addition, if you think the Scripture is sufficiently clear to answer the Catholic-Protestant question, then you would have no reason to direct Rebecca to seek the counsel of “the right people.” You would point her only to Scripture. Only if you think the Scripture is not sufficiently clear to answer the Catholic-Protestant question, would you have some reason to direct her to the guidance and counsel of “the right people” [i.e. those holding your general interpretation of Scripture, concerning what you think is essential]. But if you think Scripture is not sufficiently clear to answer the Catholic-Protestant question, then it is epistemically unjustified to set up your own general interpretation of Scripture as the standard for who gets to count as one of the “right people” to consult to answer the question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  252. Bob Suden said,

    October 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    While you do have a point, Bryan – after all the Scripture says that women are first and foremost to ask their husbands at home 1Cor.14:35, ahem, we are still waiting . . . . and waiting . . . . and waiting for the official list of Oral Traditions over at the other thread. What gives?

    You champion the RC answer here, but previously and specifically on OT we’re left wondering and doubting in the infallibility of popery.

    Or is it these oral traditions are only communicated orally? (Jim Reeves was after his time? The real song is “Hold Your Lips a Little Closer to the Phone, Irenaeus?”)

    Dunno, but if you’re going to talk about a double standard, I think OTs qualify.

    Thank you.

  253. D. T. King said,

    October 15, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    I don’t know where Luther spoke in terms of “imputed righteousness,” but he spoke along those lines…

    As I suspected, you don’t know. Thanks for sharing.

  254. Ron said,

    October 15, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    When you say that the way to get the right answer is “by asking the right people,” what you mean by “right people” is those who agree with your general interpretation of Scripture concerning what you think is essential. That’s why when people need “assistance” and “spiritual guidance” you don’t advise them to seek out the successors of the Apostles, since those successors do not entirely share your general interpretation of Scripture concerning what you believe to be essential.

    Mr. Cross,

    The successors of the apostles can only be those whose teachings square with Scripture. In any case, there is some discrepancy in Rebecca’s mind over what Scripture teaches, then she should talk to her pastor but it is her responsibility to weigh any “pastoral” interpretations against Scripture. In order to know she must ultimately learn from God. With that said, certainly you must appreciate that because TF, I and others believe that Roman priests that are true to their communion have nothing to offer but confusion, we would never recommend that one sit down with one in order to be instructed in the way of truth.

    In addition, if you think the Scripture is sufficiently clear to answer the Catholic-Protestant question, then you would have no reason to direct Rebecca to seek the counsel of “the right people.”

    It is simply fallacious to reason that if one is able to learn of God, his works and man’s duty toward him through Scripture that we ought not to seek out those gifted to teach. It is possible for one to learn organic chemistry on his own, but that does not imply that it is wise for students to blow off class. Yet it is always under good regulation to weigh what the professor says against the text book IF you think the text book is the authority on the matter. We Protestants know that Scripture is authoritative, so we weigh all matters of faith and practice against what Scripture teaches. When we know, it is because God has granted us understanding. I know that Romanism is false by learning from God, not Popes.

    You would point her only to Scripture.

    No, we would tell her on sound Biblical precept to weigh everything she hears against the Scriptures. Her eternity depends upon it.

    RD

  255. TurretinFan said,

    October 15, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Bryan:

    You wrote:

    In no way am I mocking you or Ron. When you say that the way to get the right answer is “by asking the right people,” what you mean by “right people” is those who agree with your general interpretation of Scripture concerning what you think is essential.

    The reason this sounds like mockery is that it sounds like you are ignoring the real criterion (those Christians God has placed in roles of subordinate authority in her life) with a false criterion (those people who agree with me).

    You wrote:

    That’s why when people need “assistance” and “spiritual guidance” you don’t advise them to seek out the successors of the Apostles, since those successors do not entirely share your general interpretation of Scripture concerning what you believe to be essential.

    If your priests were the successors of the apostles they would teach the doctrines of the apostles. They do not, therefore they are not. But actually I did encourage her to seek out the assistance of the apostles’ successors, the elders of her church.

    You wrote:

    In addition, if you think the Scripture is sufficiently clear to answer the Catholic-Protestant question, then you would have no reason to direct Rebecca to seek the counsel of “the right people.” You would point her only to Scripture. Only if you think the Scripture is not sufficiently clear to answer the Catholic-Protestant question, would you have some reason to direct her to the guidance and counsel of “the right people” [i.e. those holding your general interpretation of Scripture, concerning what you think is essential]. But if you think Scripture is not sufficiently clear to answer the Catholic-Protestant question, then it is epistemically unjustified to set up your own general interpretation of Scripture as the standard for who gets to count as one of the “right people” to consult to answer the question.

    No, your initial premise is wrong. Although it is not necessary to consult with someone else, because Scripture is sufficient and more than sufficient, such further counsel is prudent and reasonable. It is an ordinary means of aiding Christians, as we have always believed and taught.

    -TurretinFan

  256. TurretinFan said,

    October 15, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Nick:

    This is really just for your interest by now, but the first quotation was a slightly plagiarized (to try to assist you in not googling it) version of Chrysostom, and the second quotation was from Pelagius.

    – TurretinFan

  257. D. T. King said,

    October 15, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    In addition, if you think the Scripture is sufficiently clear to answer the Catholic-Protestant question, then you would have no reason to direct Rebecca to seek the counsel of “the right people.”

    This is Mr. Cross’ example of using the very argument of an alleged false dilemma fallacy that he censors elsewhere.

    The Protestant position does not state that the formal sufficiency of Scripture concerns “the perspicuity or the obscurity of the subject or of persons.” We do not deny, but affirm, that “that the Scriptures are obscure to unbelievers and the unrenewed” as Turretin expressed it.

    Francis Turretin (1623-87): The question is not whether things essential to salvation are everywhere in the Scriptures perspicuously revealed. We acknowledge that there are some things hard to be understood (δυσνόητα) and intended by God to exercise our attention and mental powers. The question is whether things essential to salvation are anywhere revealed, at least so that the believer can by close meditation ascertain their truth (because nothing can be drawn out of the more obscure passages which may not be found elsewhere in the plainest terms). Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), 2.XVII.v, p. 144.

    Timothy’s early magisterium, according to Paul, consisted of his mother and grandmother (2 Tim 3:15), and Paul encourages Timothy to trust their guidance on the basis of “knowing from whom [he had] learned” the scriptures, yes the very OT scriptures which Paul explicitly stated “are able to make [him] wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

    The sufficiency of Scripture to “make one wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” as articulated by Paul, is a property of Scripture and not of the individual reading it. If a simple mother and grandmother, dependent upon the instruction of Holy Scripture and the Spirit who gave it, could teach Timothy, relying on them to make him “wise for salvation through faith in Christ,” then there is no need for any alleged infallible human magisterium or guidance.

    The complaint against the formal sufficiency of Holy Scripture is simply a ruse to lure people to the Roman communion, indeed a bunch who really have no practical use for Holy Scripture at all. It is simply a self-serving apologetic attack on the sufficiency of Holy Scripture to lure unwary folk to Rome.

    Mr. Cross and others are forced via their agenda to redefine the Reformed position on formal sufficiency, seeking to make people the object of this attribute, rather than Scripture itself. As Turretin expressed it…

    Francis Turretin (1623-87): The question does not concern the perspicuity which does not exclude the means necessary for interpretation (i.e., the internal light of the Spirit, attention of mind, the voice and ministry of the church, sermons and commentaries, prayer and watchfulness). For we hold these means not only to be useful, but also necessary ordinarily. We only wish to proscribe the darkness which would prevent the people from reading the Scriptures as hurtful and perilous and compel them to have recourse to tradition when they might rest in the Scriptures alone. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), 2.XVII.vi, p. 144.

    The agenda of the Roman apologist is to encourage people to rest in human authority, the magisterium of Rome, and thus to supplant the authority of the only king and head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ. One cannot avoid the issue of personal responsibility before God. Indeed, as Salmon expressed it…

    George Salmon: That submission to the Church of Rome rests ultimately on an act of private judgment is unmistakeably evident, when a Romanist tries (as he has no scruple in doing) to make a convert of you . . . What does he ask you to do but to decide that the religion of your fathers is wrong; that the teachers and instructors of your childhood were all wrong; that the clergy to whom you have looked up as best able to guide you are all mistaken . . . Well, if you come to the conclusion to reject all authority which you have reverenced from your childhood, is not that the most audacious exercise of private judgment? But suppose you come to the opposite conclusion, and decide on staying where you were, would not a Romanist have a right to laugh at you, if you said that you were not using your private judgment then; that to change one’s religion indeed is an act of private judgment, but that one who continues in his father’s religion is subject to none of the risks to which every exercise of private judgment is liable? Well, it is absurd to imagine that logic has one rule for Roman Catholics and another for us; that it would be an exercise of private judgment in them to change their religion, but none if they continue in what their religious teachers have told them. George Salmon, The Infallibility of the Church (London: Sherratt and Hughes, reprinted 1923), pp. 48-49.

    Mr. Cross and others are calling on people to consider their arguments, and to render a private judgment on their part in favor of Rome, encouraging them to engage in the very act which they themselves decry as untrustworthy. I don’t know how such an apologetic could be more self-serving and an overt case of special pleading.

    Even Newman, prior to his conversion to Rome, observed that the issue of personal responsibility cannot be avoided…

    John Henry Newman: Now, if a man is in a state of trial, and his trial lies in the general exercise of the will, and the choice of religion is an exercise of will, and always implies an act of individual judgment, it follows that such acts are in the number of those by which he is tried, and for which he is to give account hereafter. So far, all parties must be agreed, that without private judgment there is no responsibility; and that in matter of fact, a man’s own mind, and nothing else, is the cause of his believing or not believing, and of his acting or not acting upon his belief. John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1837), p. 155.

  258. Sean Patrick said,

    October 15, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    DT King.

    # 259.

    I continue to be amazed that Reformed apologists such as yourself so forcefully rely on scripture alone, scripture which was written with human hands under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but equally forcefully deny the possibility that the Holy Spirit can continue to guide the Church into truth.

    I mean, who among you believes that Peter’s writing in 1st and 2nd Peter is fallible?

    Your criticism about the Catholic Church resting on human authority falls flat. The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit – a divine authority just as the scriptures are not merely the result of human work but of divine work.

    Timothy’s Magesterium was not just his mother and grandmother but the Church that Paul called the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15). Timothy was not ordained by his mother and his grandmother. He was ordained by Paul who laid his hands on him (2 Tim 1:6). Paul then told Timothy to ordain successors himself (1 Tim 5:22/2 Tim 2:2).

    Speaking of a ruse – who has ever said that there is no personal responsibility involved?

    Salmon’s ruse is addressed here.

    We reject the ‘formal sufficiency’ of scripture only because it is not true. The bible does not teach it. The fathers do not teach it. The Reformed churches don’t even really practice it. No church truly practices it. Even Turretin Fan points to, human authority as being necessary in his quote you provided, “attention of the mind, voice and ministry of the church (which church!), sermons and commentaries (which sermons and whose commentaries!)These things would not be necessary if scripture was formally sufficient.

  259. TurretinFan said,

    October 15, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Dr. White,

    There’s another reason I asked the question of Rebecca, though. That reason was that I’ve noticed that Roman Catholics like to emphasize that they too adopt the words of those creeds (i.e. the Apostles’ and the Nicene) and seem to encourage “Protestants” to adopt that as their standard of what it means to be “Christian” also.

    However, the Nicene creed does not have any more or less authority in Romanism than the Tridentine creed, and the authority for the Nicene creed for us (Reformed) is based on its adherence to Scripture.

    I hope that explains my concerns.

    -TurretinFan

  260. Ron said,

    October 15, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    “DT King.

    # 259.

    I continue to be amazed that Reformed apologists such as yourself so forcefully rely on scripture alone, scripture which was written with human hands under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but equally forcefully deny the possibility that the Holy Spirit can continue to guide the Church into truth.

    Frankly Sean, I continue to be amazed how you continue to demonstrate zero understanding of the position you would like to refute. To your point, we believe the Holy Spirit does guide the church and did guide her out of popery.

    Ron

  261. TurretinFan said,

    October 15, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Sean wrote:

    I continue to be amazed that Reformed apologists such as yourself so forcefully rely on scripture alone, scripture which was written with human hands under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but equally forcefully deny the possibility that the Holy Spirit can continue to guide the Church into truth. I mean, who among you believes that Peter’s writing in 1st and 2nd Peter is fallible?

    We don’t deny possibilities, we deny errors. It’s one question whether God could have done X, another question whether God actually did X. Scripture only confirms the inspiration of Scripture, not the inspiration of “the Church.”

    Sean wrote:

    Your criticism about the Catholic Church resting on human authority falls flat. The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit – a divine authority just as the scriptures are not merely the result of human work but of divine work.

    That’s Rome’s assertion, but the assertion is not true.

    You wrote:

    Timothy’s Magesterium was not just his mother and grandmother but the Church that Paul called the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15). Timothy was not ordained by his mother and his grandmother. He was ordained by Paul who laid his hands on him (2 Tim 1:6). Paul then told Timothy to ordain successors himself (1 Tim 5:22/2 Tim 2:2).

    Who raised Timothy? Under whose tutelage did he learn the Scriptures?

    – TurretinFan

  262. TurretinFan said,

    October 15, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Further to #262 and #263 – notice that Ron affirmed that the Holy Spirit guides the Church, whereas it might look like I deny it. The reason is that by “the Church” Ron means one thing, and Sean another thing.

    -TurretinFan

  263. Bryan Cross said,

    October 15, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    TF, (re: #257)

    The reason this sounds like mockery is that it sounds like you are ignoring the real criterion (those Christians God has placed in roles of subordinate authority in her life) with a false criterion (those people who agree with me).

    The reason that what you call the “real criterion” cannot be the “real criterion” is that you choose such persons based on their general agreement with your own interpretation of Scripture regarding what are the essentials. That is why, if such a person happened to be Catholic, you would not direct them to their local priest or bishop to answer the Catholic-Protestant question. It is also why, if you come to think differently about how Scripture is to be intepreted, you are free to move to a different ‘church,’ and find different ‘subordinate authorities.’ If these ‘subordinate authorities’ were subordinate only to something other than you, they could be genuine authorities over you. But because they are necessarily subordinate to your own general interpretation of Scripture (since they derive their ‘authority, from your own choice of them based on their agreement with your general interpretation of Scripture), they remain subordinate to you. And so they are no authorities at all; “subordinate authority” exemplifies the contradiction of ‘submitting’ to someone on the basis of his agreement with your own interpretation of Scripture. It gives the appearance of submission and authority, but because the basis for the ‘authority’ is agreement with one’s own general interpretation of Scripture, there can be no actual authority of the so-called ‘subordinate authority’ over the individual. As soon as the so-called authority sufficiently deviates from the individual’s general interpretation regarding what is essential, the individual simply withdraws his consent. And this shows where the authority really lies, in the individual.

    If your priests were the successors of the apostles they would teach the doctrines of the apostles. They do not, therefore they are not.

    Of course from the Catholic point of view, the Catholic Church does and has always taught the Apostles’ doctrine, and it is the Protestant positions that deviate from the true Apostolic doctrine. But, mere question-begging assertions won’t get us any closer to agreement concerning the truth. By defining Protestant elders as “successors of Apostles” you are making my point. Any heretic could claim to have apostolic succession in that sense, so long as he judges that his interpretation of Scripture is the apostolic doctrine. So, having ‘apostolic succession’ in that sense is trivial and tautological, since this would entail that it is something every Christian would claim to have, even though he disagrees in some many points with other Christians. Apostolic succession in that sense just means “thinks that his own interpretation of Scripture is right.” That is precisely why apostolic succession can’t mean that, because such a meaning would be useless, and would prevent apostolicity from functioning as one of the four marks of the Church. The traditional meaning of apostolic succession, as you well know, is to have apostolic authority by way of an unbroken succession of authorizations from the Apostles. And this is what we believe Catholic bishops have.

    Although it is not necessary to consult with someone else, because Scripture is sufficient and more than sufficient, such further counsel is prudent and reasonable.

    I’m not denying that counsel is prudent and reasonable. I’m pointing out that if Scripture were as clear as you claim it to be regarding the Catholic-Protestant question, you wouldn’t need to direct inquirers to anything but Scripture. The fact that you need to direct inquirers to other persons (and especially others who share your interpretation of Scripture) in order to answer the Catholic-Protestant question shows that in practice, you think Scripture is not sufficient to resolve the question, even if you say that it is.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  264. Ron said,

    October 15, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    “…you choose such persons based on their general agreement with your own interpretation of Scripture regarding what are the essentials.

    Mr. Cross,

    Scripture teaches Christ died and rose again. Is that my “own interpretation”, “a divinely revealed fact” or both? If it is a divinely revealed fact, then I should only “choose such persons” for spiritual guidance from among the set of all persons that affirm that divinely revealed fact. Now apply that reasoning to the gospel and you might begin to see why we don’t recommend priests to give biblical counsel. It’s not because of any private interpretation of Scripture we have, but rather it’s due to what the divinely revealed facts happen to be. You see, Mr. Cross, we make no apology for our interpretation of Scripture being normed by the divinely revealed facts of God’s word. So once again, your assertions are baseless, but they are clever enough to fool the unstable. Should you not repent, your judgment will be severe, Mr. Cross.

    In the peace of Christ

    I don’t believe you.

    RD

  265. TurretinFan said,

    October 15, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Bryan,

    There’s a lot to respond to there, and I’ll respond in more detail presently, if the Lord wills.

    -TurretinFan

  266. Sean Patrick said,

    October 15, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    T Fan,

    However, the Nicene creed does not have any more or less authority in Romanism than the Tridentine creed, and the authority for the Nicene creed for us (Reformed) is based on its adherence to Scripture.

    Bryan does a good job explaining the problem with subordinate authorities in # 265 but your statement that I’ve highlighted here serves as a good example.

    The only reason, by your own admission, that Nicea has any authority for you is that you think it teaches what scripture teaches. If another Christian in your church decided that the Nicene Creed was wrong about a doctrine and that the Nicene Creed did not properly adhere to scripture in some respect you would have no recourse. All you could do would be to argue from scripture that the creed is an accurate summary of scripture. Therefore the creed has no authority at all in your paradigm.

    The Nicene Creed for the Catholic, on the other hand, has real authority because the creed was delivered by those in apostolic succession from the apostles themselves. The Catholics in AD 325 did not receive the Creed and then go to their yet-to-be fully canonized bibles and go line by line to see if the Creed lined up with their interpretation of scripture. The Catholics and AD 325 accepted the teaching of the council because it came from the Catholic Church.

    Saying that the church has authority so long as the church teaches what you think scripture teaches is saying that it has no authority at all. Saying that the great councils only have authority because you agree with them is saying that they have no authority at all.

  267. D. T. King said,

    October 15, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    I continue to be amazed that Reformed apologists such as yourself so forcefully rely on scripture alone, scripture which was written with human hands under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,…

    Guilty as charged. Thanks for sharing.

    but equally forcefully deny the possibility that the Holy Spirit can continue to guide the Church into truth.

    Thanks for sharing your caricature – you cannot even accurately representing the position of your opponent.

  268. D. T. King said,

    October 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    er, “represent”

  269. Reed Here said,

    October 15, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Sean, no.. 268: the only reason the Nicene Creed has any authority with you is because you accept the Apostolic Succession argument – which you believe is taught by Scripture.

    You hold your position in the same way TFan holds his. You’re making a non-existent distinction.

  270. Bryan Cross said,

    October 15, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Ron (#266),

    Should you not repent, your judgment will be severe, Mr. Cross.

    What, exactly, do you think I should repent of?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  271. Ron said,

    October 15, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    What, exactly, do you think I should repent of?

    Repent of all that keeps you from trusting in Christ alone and should you do so, you will no doubt cease from being a chief apologist for skepticism and deception.

    In the peace of Christ

    I don’t believe you.

    Ron

  272. Bryan Cross said,

    October 15, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Ron, (re: #273)

    Repent of all that keeps you from trusting in Christ alone

    Why, exactly, should I do that? You seem to be expecting me to repent for not conforming to your interpretation of some (unspecified) verse or verses of Scripture. But you don’t list the verses, and you have no divinely established interpretive authority. I affirm the truth of every verse in the Bible. So I don’t see why you expect me to repent for not agreeing with your interpretation of Scripture. You have no more authority than I do. I could respond simply by demanding that you repent for not conforming to my interpretation, and then our mutual calls to repentance would cancel out, and we wouldn’t be any closer to agreement in the truth. So for this reason it seems to me that calling me to repentance for not conforming to your interpretation of Scripture is not the way to resolve our disagreement. We would have to back up, so to speak, and compare interpretations, etc.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  273. Ron said,

    October 15, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Cross,

    Your entire playbook has been exposed for the fallacies it contains and all you can do is repeat your tired, old sorry rhetoric. Frankly, your MO disgusts me. You have nothing more to say and you’ve been exposed for what you are, a sophist and deceiver. Try not to choke on the dust that’s coming off my sandles.

    RD

  274. Tom Riello said,

    October 15, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Ron,

    Why the inflammatory comments toward Bryan? We disagree and we know that and we are adults and should be able to disagree but not to the point of assuming the worst about the person you disagree with. The internet, as has been pointed out by others, does offer a great service to engage in communication with others but it at times could be a problem because it lacks that co-present, human touch. My prayer would be simply this: that we could engage in polemics without be ad hominen. That we could recognize the importance of the discussion yet remember that behind that screen is a man or a woman, a father, husband, brother, wife, mother, son, daughter, in short, a human being who bears God’s image. I do not see you as my enemy, nor do I think the worst of you, or think that, God forbid, you are inspired by the evil one. Who am I to judge you when I don’t even know you to make any judgement whatsoever. Can we not agree that discussion, which does, I confess at time stretch our patience, remind us of the need of patience and charity toward our discussion partner? I would only ask you to reconsider your words toward Bryan and presume the best of him and all you disagree with.

  275. rfwhite said,

    October 15, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    250 TFan: Yes, the concerns that Rebecca raises are indeed personal. My interest is to notice how her questions and your answers are each presuming a particular configuration of how the individual must relate to the Spirit, the Scripture, and the church for us to have the knowledge and faith that we must have. You can see the same phenomenon at work in Sean Patrick’s comment in 268. Not surprisingly, the impasse, as far as I can tell, focuses on the nature and basis of the authority attributed to (claimed for) the group, aka the church, to which the individual would be related. The basis of the authority attributed to the group and recognized by the individual is decisive.

  276. rfwhite said,

    October 15, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    250 TFan: One other thought … to tie this into the lead post. Green Baggins says that these verses [Rom 1.16-17] changed Luther. While I agree with this assertion, it is a distinctly Reformed configuration on how the Spirit, the Scripture, and the church are related to Luther the individual.

  277. Ron said,

    October 15, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    My prayer would be simply this…”

    And to whom will you pray, Tom – Mary? Or since it is Friday, October 15, maybe you might like to pray to St. Teresa of Avila? If you wait ‘til Monday you can venerate Saint Luke on his designated feast day. You might as well keep with all that fine tradition that’s been passed down by the apostles! Quick, someone find the Ouija board.

    I do not see you as my enemy

    Well you should because I overtly state that your gospel is accursed. If your gospel is the true gospel then I’m an enemy of the cross. That’s how I see you Tom, as an enemy of Christ and his gospel, but Scripture norms my opinion and Scripture holds my conscience captive.

    I would only ask you to reconsider your words toward Bryan and presume the best of him…

    I see Brian as an outright enemy of Christ, Tom, for that’s what he is. He has shown himself as one who desires nothing more on earth than to usurp Christ’s authority by promoting the authority of Roman Pontiffs. He remains my enemy until he repents. As far as engaging him in rational interchange, he has shown himself incapable of staying on the subject, which has been repeatedly shown by Protestants on this site.

    Ron

  278. Tom Riello said,

    October 15, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Ron,

    My prayer, as the prayer of the Church instructs, is offered to the Father in the name and person of His Son, Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. To be sure, I do ask the saints who have gone before me to pray for me, that I might be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

  279. Ron said,

    October 15, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    To be sure, I do ask the saints who have gone before me to pray for me, that I might be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

    The defense rests.

  280. Bob Suden said,

    October 16, 2010 at 2:06 am

    274. Mr. Cross

    I got your drift. You don’t need to snow again ( as the old priest that taught catechism in eighth grade used to say.)
    You presume we can understand your post, but we can’t understand Scripture. No, I didn’t say we understood you 100%, but sufficiently. Hmmm. Not even when we are promised in Scripture, that Christ will answer our prayers and send the Holy Spirit, not to just the hierarchy, but to all who believe in him?

    If I may be excused, I think it pretty clear that you think that the divine author of Scripture is not as capable of expressing himself as you are. In reply 1. I’d respectfully suggest a lot more Scripture reading on your part, before hitting the keyboards, 2. I’ll be charitable (like DTK) – thanks so much for sharing.

    But really, if you can’t do better than this, why do you bother?
    Do you think us that simple?
    Evidently the RCMagisterium thinks so and consequently you do too as an apologist for the same.

    Quite frankly I’d be ashamed of myself if I were you, but if Rome is both infallible and shameless, then by the same token, I shouldn’t be too surprised.

    Thank you.

  281. Paige Britton said,

    October 16, 2010 at 7:22 am

    Rebecca (#234)
    You wrote,
    So it might be nice if the Biblical data could have primacy and let the paradigm flow from it, but I’m not sure that’s possible, because how can we interpret scripture if we don’t bring certain assumptions to scripture?

    Yes, I thought this might be what you’d think. I don’t want to go way off topic any more than has already happened here, but think about this for a second:

    1. Yep, we all come with initial assumptions — but Scripture challenges and changes them, especially if the Spirit is working in us to soften our hearts to God’s pruning.

    2. There is a difference between informal paradigms and formal ones. An informal paradigm is one that you or I or anybody holds, since for most of us our underlying theology or world view is generally unexamined & unarticulated. It’s built of whatever we have learned so far of the truth about God & his universe, whatever we have absorbed of lies, and whatever we have been able to remember one way or the other. This gets challenged and changed by Scripture, usually in haphazard ways, throughout our lives, to the extent that we sit under its direct instruction.

    Formal paradigms are written down: the Westminster Confession of Faith, for example, or the Catholic Catechism. Many of us interacting here would say that the WCF accurately reflects the teaching of Scripture, and therefore flows from it. What I’m saying is that we also believe that the WCF is corrigible, if it can be shown that part of it does not accurately reflect what the text of Scripture says. Can the same be said of the Catholic Catechism? Nope — both because you don’t get to question Rome, as a rule; and because its norm or measuring rod is not Scripture alone, but Scripture PLUS something that normal people have no access to, but which the Magisterium communicates to the church. You just have to take their word for it.

    Anyway, you are in a place of asking lots of questions, and this is a place where answers get dumped like waterfalls. (They are GOOD Reformed answers, I’m not being critical; but if I were you I’d be feeling pretty overwhelmed by now!) If you want to continue the conversation more slowly with one Reformed person, you are welcome to email me (It’s paige, then a dot, then britton, and it’s a gmail address.) [NB that this is not a general invitation, folks.] I do writing and teaching in Reformed settings, and I’d be glad to help you at least sort out what you are trying to sort out. :)

    pax,
    Paige B.

  282. Paige Britton said,

    October 16, 2010 at 7:32 am

    p.s. — In case you didn’t figure this out, since my name is ambiguous, I’m a sister in Christ to my brothers here!

  283. TurretinFan said,

    October 16, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Dear Dr. White,

    You wrote: “the basis of the authority attributed to the group and recognized by the individual is decisive.” I think that’s close, but I’m not sure it captures the whole impasse.

    As you noted, there are several key items in the discussion: the Spirit, the Church, the Individual, and the Scriptures.

    We Reformed view the Spirit as illuminating the mind of the individual, persuading him of the authority of the Scripture, usually via the preaching of elders. The Scriptures, confirmed by the Spirit, then serve as the ultimate authority and the elders as a subordinate authority.

    The Roman system is less clear in this regard, but the role of the Spirit guiding is usually expressed by Rome’s apologists as applying not to the Church as a whole (i.e. to all believers) but rather specifically to the Roman hierarchy, particularly popes and ecumenical councils. The individual is persuaded to accept the authority of the Roman hierarchy, and then the hierarchy serves as the ultimate authority, with the Scriptures serving as some sort of subordinate authority, in effect, since apparent disagreements between Scripture and the hierarchy are to be resolved in favor of the hierarchy (although I’ve yet to see a Roman apologist who will outright acknowledge that Rome’s system makes the hierarchy superior to Scripture).

    -TurretinFan

  284. TurretinFan said,

    October 16, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Ron wrote: “Repent of all that keeps you from trusting in Christ alone”
    Bryan responded: “Why, exactly, should I do that?”
    The answer, of course, is that if you don’t trust in Christ alone, you won’t escape the wrath to come. I agree that this reason is not likely to persuade you, but at least it accurately and concisely answers the question.
    – Turretinfan

  285. TurretinFan said,

    October 16, 2010 at 8:27 am

    I wrote a rather long response to Bryan, including parts (a)-(g) or so, but it seems to be missing. Perhaps it is caught in a spam filter somewhere? I hope I didn’t make a posting error.

  286. Ron said,

    October 16, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Ron wrote: “Repent of all that keeps you from trusting in Christ alone”
    Bryan responded: “Why, exactly, should I do that?”
    The answer, of course, is that if you don’t trust in Christ alone, you won’t escape the wrath to come. I agree that this reason is not likely to persuade you, but at least it accurately and concisely answers the question.
    – Turretinfan

    Imagine that, a professing Christian who has not come to grips with why he should trust in Christ alone for his righteousness and pardon. We can only imagine what such a one “counts as gain”.

    Ron

  287. Rebecca said,

    October 16, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Paige, thanks so much for sharing that you are a sister (rather than brother)! I really didn’t know, and was a little nervous, but I was going to ask.

  288. TurretinFan said,

    October 16, 2010 at 9:40 am

    (ah – here is the missing post … apparently it was a posting error from my side)

    Bryan:

    a) I really meant what I said. My real basis or criterion for whose advice she should seek is what I indicated – not who agrees with me, but who does the Bible suggest. The Bible supports what I said, a point you haven’t challenged.

    b) I’m not “free to leave” without consequences under a Reformed ecclesiology. Your arguments in that regard misrepresent my position.

    c) I don’t understand how a Roman Catholic, such as yourself, can have a problem with the idea of subordinate authorities. You yourself have them in your local parish priest, your bishop and archbishop, and so forth. Even the pope is a subordinate authority, usually, in Rome’s system. Although no appeal is permitted from a pope’s disciplinary decision, your co-religionist Jimmy Akin recently acknowledged that even those decisions are fallible.

    d) The true authority is God. We hear his voice and obey him. One’s husband is a subordinate authority and one’s parents are subordinate authorities. So also the elders are subordinate authorities as are earthly kings, employers, and so forth. We ought to obey those in authority over us, within the bounds of that authority that God has given. When a subordinate authority contradicts God, however, we must obey God rather than man.

    The apostles themselves understood this, which is explicitly why they disobeyed the Sanhedrin whose authority Jesus himself had confirmed. Moreover, Paul also taught Christians to subjugate the teachers of the church to the Word of God, by declaring: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8) In this matter you show that your leaders are not the successors of the apostles, for your leaders demand a more absolute obedience than the apostles themselves demanded, and they expect more obedience than the apostles themselves gave. Therefore, they are not truly the successors of the apostles.

    e) Your argument alleging that the real authority is the individual is flawed. There are various ways to point out the flaw – this is one:

    Our view is this:

    1) X is our supreme authority
    2) Y is our subordinate authority
    3) Therefore, we follow Y, unless Y is in conflict with X.

    Your criticism is that “unless Y is in conflict with X” means that we are the real supreme authority, by expanding these terms in view of the fact that the existence of a conflict is something that we have to judge. Thus, you expand “unless Y is in conflict with X” to be “unless Y is in conflict with our interpretation of X.” Of course, you could also expand it to say “unless our interpretation of Y is in conflict with X” or “unless our interpretation of Y is in conflict with our interpretation of X.”

    Now that “our interpretation” is in there, you try to suggest that we are the standard. But you’ve made a mistake. We’re the judge, not the standard. The standards remain X and Y. Interpreting what X and Y mean are just what is involved in judging compliance with X and Y. We have to do that to obey either X or Y. When we say we obey X, we mean we obey what we think X means. When we say we obey Y, we mean we obey what we think Y means. When we say we interpret X in terms of Y, we mean we interpret X in view of what we think Y means. In each case, X and Y are the standards, not us. We’re the judge. That’s us exercising private judgment, something we human beings must do, as a function of being human and facing decisions.

    f) People can claim all sorts of things. The fact that heretics can claim to be the successors of the apostles doesn’t particularly bother me, since I have a rule of faith by which to judge their teachings and consequently to obey the apostolic instruction to beware of false teachers. The fact is that men besides those you recognize as legitimate have claimed to be the bishop of Rome, using the standards you enunciate. If the fact that heretics can claim to be the apostles’ successors in my way of looking at things is problematic for me, the existence of the numerous anti-popes should be problematic for you too (so also the existence of sede-vacantists, for essentially the same reason).

    g) You wrote:

    The traditional meaning of apostolic succession, as you well know, is to have apostolic authority by way of an unbroken succession of authorizations from the Apostles.

    Without agreeing to your definition, I note that by this standard (as you’ve expressed it) we could make a legitimate argument that Benedict XVI lacks apostolic succession, since the authorizations have been broken numerous times in the alleged chain of succession. The Council of Constance alone is sufficient to sink that ship, but that is not the only torpedo.

    h) Finally, regarding “you wouldn’t need to direct inquirers to anything but Scripture,” who said I need to do so?

    – TurretinFan

  289. rfwhite said,

    October 16, 2010 at 10:50 am

    285 TFan: I’m tracking with you. When I wrote, “the basis of the authority attributed to the group and recognized by the individual is decisive,” I meant that the differences between a Reformed individual and a Roman Catholic individual about church authority stem from the fact that each individual recognizes a different basis for his conclusions and claims about the church.

  290. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Tom (#280):

    My prayer, as the prayer of the Church instructs, is offered to the Father in the name and person of His Son, Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. To be sure, I do ask the saints who have gone before me to pray for me, that I might be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

    That statement really shows where the rubber meets the road. Tom, I understand the sentiment. You look at yourself, and (by the grace of God!) see sin in yourself. You see yourself as unworthy to be the recipient of the promises of Christ. You see yourself as unworthy of deserving an answer to prayer.

    And all of that is true.

    But go further. Go to Scripture; what does it say?

    Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. — Heb 4.14-16.

    What Catholicism misses in its soteriology is the “approaching the throne of grace with confidence.” Not impudence, as if our sin were of no account; but confidence, as if the guilt of our sin had been already blotted out by the blood of Christ; which it has.

    In the Catholic system, our confidence must wait until we become ontologically sinless. That’s why you feel the need to let the saints intercede for you, right? They are ontologically righteous and therefore more likely to be heard than you.

    But in the Protestant system, our confidence is now — because we are judicially sinless. Though sin remains (Rom 7), yet there is no condemnation (Rom 8) because we are reckoned righteous in Jesus.

    I pray that you will be able to grab ahold of this, even if you remain Catholic all your days.

  291. Bryan Cross said,

    October 16, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    TF, (re: #290)

    Scripture nowhere says that Rebecca’s present pastor/elders are her actual ecclesial authorities, nor does it follow by logical necessity. So insofar as you claim that the “right people” to answer the Catholic-Protestant question are the pastor/elders of the place where she presently worships, your criterion for whose advice she should seek (i.e. who are the “right people”) regarding this question necessary involves your own interpretation of Scripture.

    I’m not “free to leave” without consequences under a Reformed ecclesiology.

    Of course there are ‘consequences’ (possible loss of friendship, loss of being a member of a particular community, loss of fellowship with some people, etc.). But I’m talking about spiritual consequences. There are no necessary spiritual consequences for leaving a particular Protestant community, i.e. no loss of justification, no loss of sanctification, no loss of grace, no loss of heaven, etc. In a Protestant ecclesiology, you can always go to another “branch of the Church,” or start one if necessary.

    I don’t understand how a Roman Catholic, such as yourself, can have a problem with the idea of subordinate authorities.

    That’s because I don’t “have a problem” with the idea of subordinate authority, in the sense of one authority subordinate to another. (Surely you know that.) The problematic sense of “subordinate authority” is the notion that agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture can be the basis for ecclesial authority. It cannot; it is a self-deceiving illusion, for the reasons I have already explained above and elsewhere.

    When a subordinate authority contradicts God, however, we must obey God rather than man.

    This is a fully Catholic belief. If a subordinate authority teaches something that contradicts what God says, we cannot follow that subordinate authority (at least in that teaching). But that’s very different from placing one’s own interpretation of what God said above that of those persons God divinely authorized to teach and interpret what God said. The former is obedience; the latter is rebellion. What your statement presumes is that “What God says” is equivalent to “my interpretation of Scripture.” But that’s not a safe assumption, because it is quite possible to have a mistaken and even heretical interpretation of Scripture.

    The apostles themselves understood this, which is explicitly why they disobeyed the Sanhedrin whose authority Jesus himself had confirmed.

    The Sanhedrin had religious authority under the Old Covenant, but under the New Covenant the Apostles had greater authority than did the Sanhedrin. Because the Apostles had greater authority than did the Sanhedrin, it was not the Apostles who were rebelling against the Sanhedrin; it was the Sanhedrin that was rebelling against the Apostles. So the actions of the Apostles are not a green light to place our own interpretation of Scripture above that of the Apostles or their successors. (That would be rebellion.)

    Moreover, Paul also taught Christians to subjugate the teachers of the church to the Word of God, by declaring: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8)

    You are assuming that in Gal 1:8 St. Paul is teaching that individual laymen should subjugate Church authorities to their [i.e. the layman's] own interpretation of Scripture. But that’s not what the verse says, nor what St. Paul is saying, nor how the Church Fathers understood this verse. St. Paul is saying that the Galatians must not abandon the gospel that he (and all the other Apostles) have preached. The foundation laid is absolutely true, and therefore must never be torn up and re-founded on something different. That initial apostolic preaching is an infallible and irrevocable foundation. But the gospel that St. Paul and the others had preached was not defined as “my personal interpretation of Scripture.” It was something much bigger than that. It was the faith that had been preached throughout the world by the Apostles. There was a communal, historical and personal dimension to the received faith and its identity; it wasn’t limited to the letters written by the Apostles. To see whether someone was teaching a novel teaching, one would compare the message in question to the teaching universally received from the Apostles throughout the whole universal Church. The standard by which to measure the message in question was not “my interpretation of Scripture.” Otherwise, anyone could claim to be following the original gospel, who followed his own novel interpretation of Scripture.

    In this matter you show that your leaders are not the successors of the apostles, for your leaders demand a more absolute obedience than the apostles themselves demanded, and they expect more obedience than the apostles themselves gave. Therefore, they are not truly the successors of the apostles.

    The claim you make here is based on your misinterpretation of Gal 1:8. You are assuming that St. Paul is telling the Galatians to test every spirit against their own interpretation of Scripture. But in fact St. Paul is exhorting the Galatians to test the spirits against what had been originally given to them and to the whole world by the Apostles, namely the Apostolic deposit. St. Paul is not advocating the authoritative supremacy of private interpretation of Scripture, but rather the irreversibility and irrevocability of the one universally received Apostolic deposit. That’s what Catholics have always affirmed and still affirm. If a Catholic priest or bishop comes along who teaches contrary to the Apostolic deposit that has been taught and believed throughout the Church, we must not follow him, because he is a heretic. But the standard is not on our own private interpretation of Scripture, but the public and communally-shared faith received by the whole Church from the Apostles. It is a public and communal standard, not a standard of private interpretation. So the Catholic Church is not requiring anyone to give more obedience to the successors of the Apostles than did St. Paul, because St. Paul was not teaching that each individual has supreme individual interpretive authority. The duty to submit to present interpretive authority is not incompatible with a duty to hold to what has previously been given; the two duties go together, and neither nullifies the other. The duty to hold on to what has been handed down from the Apostles does not give us a green light to pick as our ecclesial ‘authorities’ those who teach according to our own interpretation of Scripture. In other words, the duty to hold on to the Apostolic deposit and not to forsake it, does not justify doing what St. Paul condemns in 2 Tim 4:3-4, i.e. choosing one’s ecclesial ‘authority’ on the basis of their agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture.

    We’re the judge, not the standard. The standards remain X and Y. Interpreting what X and Y mean are just what is involved in judging compliance with X and Y. We have to do that to obey either X or Y. When we say we obey X, we mean we obey what we think X means. When we say we obey Y, we mean we obey what we think Y means. When we say we interpret X in terms of Y, we mean we interpret X in view of what we think Y means. In each case, X and Y are the standards, not us. We’re the judge. That’s us exercising private judgment, something we human beings must do, as a function of being human and facing decisions.

    Of course human beings cannot but make judgments using our own cognitive faculties. That’s not the issue, nor has anyone ever denied that we cannot but use our own cognitive faculties to make judgments. The issue is interpretive authority. If Christ established in His Church an organ to provide authoritative teaching and interpretation of the Apostolic deposit, then we ought to submit to that authoritative teaching and interpretation on account of the divine authority of that organ. If Christ established such an organ, and we treat ourselves as the highest interpretive authority, we are in a state of rebellion, even if we do not know that there is such a divinely established interpretive authority (such ignorance would reduce our culpability, but not change the fact that we would be in a de facto state of rebellion against divinely-established magisterial authority). The fact that we cannot but make use of our private judgment does not entail that we must remain the highest interpretive authority. That’s a false dilemma (i.e. that we must choose between necessarily using our private judgment and being the highest interpretive authority.) We can use our private judgment while also remaining subordinate to an interpretive authority higher than ourselves. If we do not acknowledge an interpretive authority higher than ourselves, then we are not only the judge of what Scripture means, we are also then treating ourselves and our own reason and judgment as the standard for what is the right interpretation of Scripture and the Apostolic deposit.

    The Catholic stance, by contrast, is not to treat our own interpretation of Scripture as the standard for what is the right interpretation of Scripture, but to submit to the interpretation of those having divinely established interpretive authority. The fact that we must test the spirits in the way St. Paul says in Gal 1:8 does not entail that we must be or remain the highest interpretive authority. We test the spirits not against our own personal interpretation of Scripture, but against what the whole Church received and believed from the Apostles, and handed down faithfully throughout the whole Church throughout the generations. In the stance in which I am the highest interpretive authority, the heretic is recognized by his deviation from my interpretation of Scripture. But in the Catholic stance, the heretic is recognized not by his divergence from my interpretation of Scripture, but by his divergence from the faith held by the whole Church preserved faithfully in each generation from the Apostles. Obviously this is an entirely different paradigm from each man being and remaining his own interpretive authority in his interpretation of Scripture.

    If the fact that heretics can claim to be the apostles’ successors in my way of looking at things is problematic for me, the existence of the numerous anti-popes should be problematic for you too (so also the existence of sede-vacantists, for essentially the same reason).

    No, because there is a principled way of distinguishing popes from anti-popes, whereas defining ‘apostolic succession’ as “having the right interpretation of Scripture” in itself leaves no principled way of distinguishing those having apostolic succession from those not having apostolic succession.

    we could make a legitimate argument that Benedict XVI lacks apostolic succession, since the authorizations have been broken numerous times in the alleged chain of succession. The Council of Constance alone is sufficient to sink that ship, but that is not the only torpedo.

    So long as the Church knew that each ordained bishop was being ordained by validly ordained bishops, there is no break in the succession, even if for some persons at the time, there was doubt concerning who was the actual pope. Apostolic succession was never in question, throughout the Western Schism. What was in question was who was the rightful pope; not who had episcopal succession from the Apostles. All the persons in question had valid episcopal orders, and therefore had apostolic succession. Licit and valid are not the same. So the Council of Constance has no implications regarding the doctrine of apostolic succession, because it in no way even suggests that apostolic succession was lost.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  292. TurretinFan said,

    October 16, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Bryan:

    I’ll try to respond in chunks as time permits.

    You wrote:

    Scripture nowhere says that Rebecca’s present pastor/elders are her actual ecclesial authorities, nor does it follow by logical necessity. So insofar as you claim that the “right people” to answer the Catholic-Protestant question are the pastor/elders of the place where she presently worships, your criterion for whose advice she should seek (i.e. who are the “right people”) regarding this question necessary involves your own interpretation of Scripture.

    It doesn’t trouble me, nor should it, that I’m applying Scripture to Rebecca’s situation. You have not provided a reason why it should trouble me, and on its face the purpose of Scripture is that it be applied by us to our lives.

    Lord Willing, more chunks to follow in response to your other statements.

    -TurretinFan

  293. TurretinFan said,

    October 16, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Bryan:

    You wrote:

    Of course there are ‘consequences’ (possible loss of friendship, loss of being a member of a particular community, loss of fellowship with some people, etc.). But I’m talking about spiritual consequences. There are no necessary spiritual consequences for leaving a particular Protestant community, i.e. no loss of justification, no loss of sanctification, no loss of grace, no loss of heaven, etc. In a Protestant ecclesiology, you can always go to another “branch of the Church,” or start one if necessary.

    This is still a misrepresentation of the Reformed position. The consequences of leaving one’s church without permission of the church are church discipline ultimately culminating in excommunication and disfellowship, both of which are spiritual consequences. You yourself ought to be familiar with this. We hope that your former church exercised godly discipline and has removed you from communion and informed the church that they should treat you as a heathen/publican, since you have rejected the discipline of the elders. I have no idea if they actually did this, and sadly many elders fail to exercise godly discipline for various reasons.

    More parts to come, Lord Willing.

    – TurretinFan

  294. TurretinFan said,

    October 16, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Bryan wrote:

    That’s because I don’t “have a problem” with the idea of subordinate authority, in the sense of one authority subordinate to another. (Surely you know that.) The problematic sense of “subordinate authority” is the notion that agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture can be the basis for ecclesial authority. It cannot; it is a self-deceiving illusion, for the reasons I have already explained above and elsewhere.

    Well, I know that you ought not to have a problem with subordinate authority. Now that you have clearly stated that you do not have a problem with subordinate authority, there is a new problem – namely that your arguments against the church as a subordinate authority (which, as you note, you’ve explained above and elsewhere) are arguments that mutatis mutandis apply to the subordinate authorities that you yourself recognize. In other words, if your arguments were correct they would defeat not only my position but also your own position. That doesn’t prove your arguments are incorrect, but it suggests that. And I’ve already provided (above) an explanation of the reason why your arguments are incorrect.

    (to the extent that you’ve responded to those arguments, I’ll address that in a subsequent segment, Lord willing)

    – TurretinFan

  295. Bryan Cross said,

    October 16, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    TF, (re: #295)

    The consequences of leaving one’s church without permission of the church are church discipline ultimately culminating in excommunication and disfellowship, both of which are spiritual consequences.

    You must attribute this to Apostolic Tradition, because Scripture nowhere says that being excommunicated from a Reformed denomination or from only a branch of the Church has any consequences whatsoever. If you disagree, please prove from Scripture that being excommunicated and disfellowshipped by one’s Reformed denomination (or from a branch of the Church, but not from the universal Church) ipso facto has negative spiritual consequences (e.g. loss of grace, or loss of sanctification, or loss of justification, or loss of heavenly rewards or loss of heaven).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  296. rfwhite said,

    October 16, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    TFan: a quick sidebar in the interest of clarity … If I’m following him, Bryan’s comment in 297 illustrates the point I tried to make above. The differences between you and him about church authority stem from the fact that you and he do not recognize the same basis for arriving at your conclusions and claims about the church. What is the basis for our individual conclusions and claims about the church supposed to be: Scripture alone or Scripture plus Tradition? More precisely, what is the nature and basis of the authority of extra-scriptural Tradition?

  297. TurretinFan said,

    October 16, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Bryan:

    In response to my comment: “When a subordinate authority contradicts God, however, we must obey God rather than man.”

    You wrote:

    This is a fully Catholic belief. If a subordinate authority teaches something that contradicts what God says, we cannot follow that subordinate authority (at least in that teaching).

    I assume that means you agree with me. If you don’t agree with me, let me know.

    You continued:

    But that’s very different from placing one’s own interpretation of what God said above that of those persons God divinely authorized to teach and interpret what God said. The former is obedience; the latter is rebellion. What your statement presumes is that “What God says” is equivalent to “my interpretation of Scripture.” But that’s not a safe assumption, because it is quite possible to have a mistaken and even heretical interpretation of Scripture.

    No, you’re making a false distinction. But before we get to that, there’s a preliminary matter to address.

    The Roman Catholic position is not that the Roman magisterium simply interprets Scripture authoritatively. We have highlighted this fact in this thread and the “oral tradition” debate thread at least a half dozen times in the last week. There are almost no allegedly infallible interpretations of Scripture in Romanism – that’s just not how it works. The way it works is that your church develops dogmas. Those dogmas are themselves allegedly protected from error, even when the stated justification for those dogmas include clear errors (the immaculate conception is one famous example, where the stated justification involves a mistranslation of Genesis 3:15).

    Now, as to “placing one’s own interpretation of what God said above that of those persons God divinely authorized to teach and interpret what God said,” there are several things bundled together.

    First, all subordinate authorities within religious realms have authority from God to teach and interpret what God said. Also, every individual necessarily has the authority to interpret what God said. If you disagree, we can easily prove it to you.

    Second, you’ve rhetorically distorted the matter by adding unnecessary comment about interpretation. The real issue is whether what God says is in conflict with what the subordinate authority says. That involves you, as judge, interpreting both what God said and what the subordinate authority said. What the subordinate authority says may involve (but see above) the subordinate authority’s interpretation of what God said or it may have some other basis. Nevertheless, the real comparison is between the two statements: God’s and the subordinate authority’s. The additional insertions you provided are rhetorical distortion that can lead to confusion, and consequently should be avoided.

    Third, you allege that one is obedience and the other is rebellion. However, in view of the fact that your distinction is false (as demonstrated above), it does not appear that your labeling can be maintained.

    Fourth, you allege that my statement “presumes … that ‘What God says’ is equivalent to ‘my interpretation of Scripture.'” No, that’s not what my statement presumes. My statement presumes that “What God says” is equivalent to “Scripture.” Then my judgment involves interpreting that and the statements of the subordinate authority, to determine whether to obey Scripture (i.e. what God says) or what the subordinate authority says.

    Fifth, while it is unnecessary to address the last lines (since they depend on your erroneous assertion regarding what my statement presumes), it’s worth noting that human judgment is indeed fallible. Sometimes a person who is trying to follow God rather than man may make a mistake. There are also many people who have no desire to follow God who use private judgment as an excuse to cover their rebellion. Neither of those situations are good. However, the former situation is simply a fact of human existence – we are fallible. The latter is sin.

    (Lord willing, more discussion to come.)

    -TurretinFan

  298. TurretinFan said,

    October 16, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Bryan:

    Re: #297

    Since when is cutting of a piece from a branch not cutting of a piece from the tree?

    As for the remainder, please re-read what I wrote. You are requesting that I argue for a position that I haven’t advocated.

    -TurretinFan

  299. Bryan Cross said,

    October 16, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    TF, (re: #300)

    Since when is cutting of a piece from a branch not cutting of a piece from the tree?

    When it remains a part of another branch, or simply becomes its own branch.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  300. TurretinFan said,

    October 16, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Bryan:

    What strange trees they must have on your planet.

    Suffice that we Reformed do not view excommunication as only partial removal from the tree.

    -TurretinFan

  301. Bryan Cross said,

    October 16, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    TF (re: #302),

    Are you saying that a person who is excommunicated from a Reformed denomination cannot join another ‘branch’ of the Church or start his own ‘branch’ of the Church? If that is what you are saying, then why, exactly, do you think he can’t do this (especially given that people do this very thing all the time)? When he joins another ‘branch’ of the Church does he become a member in appearance-only? Or if he starts another ‘branch,’ does it become a ‘branch’ in appearance-only? The problem with what you are saying is that in ‘branch’ ecclesiology, no branch has authority over any other branch. So you have to say either that your branch is the only branch, or that your branch (PCA?) has authority over all the other branches, sort of like the Catholic claim that the Church of Rome has an authority over all the other particular Churches. But I don’t see your justification for claiming either that your branch is the only branch, or that your branch has authority over all the other branches.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  302. TurretinFan said,

    October 16, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Bryan

    You wrote (#303): “But I don’t see your justification for claiming either that your branch is the only branch, or that your branch has authority over all the other branches.”

    I didn’t make either of those claims. Hence, I don’t need to find justification for them. Now, your bishop (the one in Rome) does claim to have authority over all the branches of Christ’s church. That’s the claim that needs justification. As for me, though, I’m in the clear, not having made those claims.

    Again, may I suggest you read what I write more carefully so as to avoid attributing to me claims that I haven’t made.

    -TurretinFan

  303. Bryan Cross said,

    October 16, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    TF (re: #304),

    If you don’t make the claim that your ‘branch’ is the only ‘branch’, or that your ‘branch’ has authority over all other branches, then there is no reason to believe that when your ‘denomination’ excommunicates someone, and another ‘branch’ welcomes him in, he nevertheless remains separated from the ‘tree.’ I understand why you want to believe that he remains separated from the ‘tree’, but you have no basis for justifying that claim if you don’t believe your ‘branch’ is the only ‘branch’ or that your ‘branch’ has authority over the other ‘branches.’ If your branch says he is cut off from the tree, and another branch welcomes him in and says he is part of the tree, and if your branch has no more authority than the other branch, then there is no more reason to believe he is out than in, to believe your branch over the other branch. And in that case believing that he remains out is not a justified claim, but only an ad hoc stipulation made while wearing blinders to the implications of one’s branch ecclesiology.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  304. TurretinFan said,

    October 16, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Bryan:

    In response to my comment: “The apostles themselves understood this, which is explicitly why they disobeyed the Sanhedrin whose authority Jesus himself had confirmed.”

    You responded:

    The Sanhedrin had religious authority under the Old Covenant, but under the New Covenant the Apostles had greater authority than did the Sanhedrin. Because the Apostles had greater authority than did the Sanhedrin, it was not the Apostles who were rebelling against the Sanhedrin; it was the Sanhedrin that was rebelling against the Apostles. So the actions of the Apostles are not a green light to place our own interpretation of Scripture above that of the Apostles or their successors. (That would be rebellion.)

    That’s an interesting interpretation: the Sanhedrin were rebelling against the Apostles. The apostles’ own words “rather than man” suggests that they are disobeying the Sanhedrin, and even though God released them from prison, God did send them to go stand in the Temple. The apostles do not deny that the Sanhedrin has authority, they just insist that God has greater authority. Furthermore, in Acts 23:3-5, Paul treats the office of high priest as though it was above him. Where does the Bible say that the Apostles were given authority over the Sanhedrin? I can show you where they were told to obey the Sanhedrin, as you know. And if perhaps you can’t show me yourself from Scripture, can you show me some church father that interprets this passage as you do? Something that would at least give me a reason to do something other than just dismiss this as special pleading on your part. (Also, of course, if you think your church infallibly interpreted this passage, please say so. I’ve never heard anyone claim that your church has done so.)

    -TurretinFan

  305. TurretinFan said,

    October 16, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Re #305:

    Again, you seem to be arguing against positions I haven’t advocated. Where did I say that he cannot be excommunicated by one branch and then restored by a different branch? Please let me know if I said that, because I certainly don’t recall saying it.

    -TurretinFan

  306. Bryan Cross said,

    October 16, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    TF,

    In #295 you said:

    The consequences of leaving one’s church without permission of the church are church discipline ultimately culminating in excommunication and disfellowship, both of which are spiritual consequences.

    When I pointed out that being cut off from a ‘branch’ need have no spiritual consequences, because one can simply join another branch or form one’s own, you replied in #300:

    Since when is cutting of a piece from a branch not cutting of a piece from the tree?

    I replied in #301:

    When it remains a part of another branch, or simply becomes its own branch.

    Then you responded in #302:

    we Reformed do not view excommunication as only partial removal from the tree.

    So I pointed out in #303 that unless you believe that your branch is the only branch or has authority over all other branches, there is no justification for claiming that a person who is removed from your branch, but who simply joins another branch or forms his own, is wholly removed from the tree. Now in #307 you say:

    Where did I say that he cannot be excommunicated by one branch and then restored by a different branch? Please let me know if I said that, because I certainly don’t recall saying it.

    In that case, a person can avoid any negative spiritual consequences of being excommunicated by your ‘branch,’ simply by joining an existing ‘branch’ or forming his own ‘branch.’ He can just call it “being restored” by a different ‘branch’ (even a branch of his own making). He could do this even before being excommunicated by your branch, so there is not even a moment in which he is separated from the tree. And therefore there is absolutely no need to worry about any negative spiritual consequences of excommunication by your branch, so long as he plans ahead and either joins another ‘branch’ or forms his own.

    Hence what I said in #293 stands unrefuted:

    There are no necessary spiritual consequences for leaving a particular Protestant community, i.e. no loss of justification, no loss of sanctification, no loss of grace, no loss of heaven, etc. In a Protestant ecclesiology, you can always go to another “branch of the Church,” or start one if necessary.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  307. TurretinFan said,

    October 16, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Bryan:

    Your statement in #293 is still not a representation of what we, Reformed, believe. That was my objection to it then, and it’s still my objection to it.

    Your assertion that “a person can avoid any negative spiritual consequences of being excommunicated by your ‘branch,’ simply by joining an existing ‘branch’” does not support your original contention.

    The fact that the consequences can be remedied (taking your assertion as granted for the sake of the argument) does not mean that there are no consequences.

    -TurretinFan

  308. Bryan Cross said,

    October 16, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    TF (re: #309)

    Your statement in #293 is still not a representation of what we, Reformed, believe. That was my objection to it then, and it’s still my objection to it.

    I was only intending to show that it is true, not that you admit that it is true. And nothing you have said falsifies it.

    Your assertion that “a person can avoid any negative spiritual consequences of being excommunicated by your ‘branch,’ simply by joining an existing ‘branch’” does not support your original contention.

    Yes it does. Here’s my original statement from #293:

    There are no necessary spiritual consequences for leaving a particular Protestant community, i.e. no loss of justification, no loss of sanctification, no loss of grace, no loss of heaven, etc. In a Protestant ecclesiology, you can always go to another “branch of the Church,” or start one if necessary.

    If any negative spiritual consequences can be avoided by joining up with another ‘branch’ or starting one’s own branch, then it follows that there are no necessary negative spiritual consequences of leaving or being excommunicated by a particular Protestant community. The negative spiritual consequences would be necessary only if they could not be avoided upon being excommunicated, apart from repentance and restoration. But the purported negative spiritual consequences are so easily avoided that anyone can leave a ‘branch’ or be excommunicated by a ‘branch’ without any fear of negative spiritual consequences, since all he has to do is join or start another branch. In this way, invisible-church ecclesiology takes all the teeth out of Church discipline; in invisible-church ecclesiology excommunication may typically have natural consequences (just as being removed from a community club or social group has natural consequences) but it has no necessary negative spiritual/supernatural consequences.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  309. Rebecca said,

    October 16, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Bryan Cross’s comment about the “branches” is exactly why I started wondering all these things in the first place. Here is part of what he said:

    “If your branch says he is cut off from the tree, and another branch welcomes him in and says he is part of the tree, and if your branch has no more authority than the other branch, then there is no more reason to believe he is out than in, to believe your branch over the other branch.”

    Or, from my standpoint, how is it possible, if the “church” really does have real authority, as it does at least in the Reformed scheme of things, for someone who is under church discipline in one church to go across town and start another church, maybe serving as ruling or teaching elder, and for the people in that new church to (scripturally) be required to obey him as their leader (“obey those who have the rule over you”)? (This happens all the time). How can this person or church have legitimate authority? If it doesn’t, but is an illegitimate church, then how do we know which churches are legitimate and which aren’t? How would we ever, at this point, trace back any church to know which churches have real authority? At least, any Protestant church/es? But this is off-topic, and I wasn’t going to say anything else.

  310. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 16, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Rebecca and Bryan:

    I went to a Greek orthodox church in Columbus OH a couple of years back. It had, among other things, a prominently displayed poster of the history of the church. It showed a tree, with a splinter branch coming off from the trunk at AD 1054, and then further splintering from there.

    The splinter branch, of course, was the church at Rome.

    To you, this shows that there are two major competitors for the title of “real highest authority”: the east and the west.

    But to me, this shows that the concept of “real highest authority” is suspect.

    For how would we determine which is the real highest authority out of those two? No doubt, by examining this historical criterion or that.

    But Bryan, that just your interpretation of history — which means that you are really your own highest interpretive authority, in choosing to place yourself under the authority of the RCC.

    And of course, you’ll wish to deny this; but your denial will take the same form as our denials.

    And that suggests that the argument is empty: there need not be any such thing as a highest interpretive authority. The whole category is a flawed one.

    The real category is, Which interpretation is correct? Not, Who has the authority to claim that his interpretation is correct?

  311. Sean said,

    October 16, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Who has the authority to claim that his interpretation is correct?

    Probably the CREC or the OPC….

    Just kidding of course. Jeff, have you read this?

  312. Bryan Cross said,

    October 16, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Jeff, (re: #312)

    You could offer the same sort of anecdote after visiting a Nestorian Church, or a Coptic (monophysite) Church, or a Marcionite Church, Novatian Church or Donatist Church. And you could conclude from what are in actuality schisms from the Church that there is no difference between a branch within and a schism from. But that would be an unjustified conclusion. We should expect that every schism from the Church is going to claim that it is not the schism from but is either the Church Christ founded or a branch within the Church Christ founded. So the existence of such accounts shouldn’t be enough to throw us off the search for the Church Christ founded, just as the existence of false messianic claims shouldn’t be enough to throw us off the search for the true Messiah.

    But, imagine that Christ really did found a visible Church, with magisterial interpretive authority, and that there are schisms from her. In that case, the fact that people might have to use their reason to sort through historical data to find the Church Christ founded, and distinguish her from the schisms and heresies, would not entail that upon discovering her magisterial authority, they must therefore remain their own highest interpretive authority. I explained this in The Tu Quoque.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  313. Ron said,

    October 16, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Or, from my standpoint, how is it possible, if the “church” really does have real authority, as it does at least in the Reformed scheme of things, for someone who is under church discipline in one church to go across town and start another church… How can this person or church have legitimate authority? If it doesn’t, but is an illegitimate church, then how do we know which churches are legitimate and which aren’t? How would we ever, at this point, trace back any church to know which churches have real authority?

    Rebecca,

    If you would spend more time looking to be found in Christ rather than found in his church you might just end up in a true church, one that preaches the gospel or at least hasn’t placed its unambiguous anathema upon it.

    Maybe you might like the catholicity that was enjoyed by a friend of mine who was part of a Roman communion that was pleased to betray him for money. It was a Romanist organization (excuse me I have a hard time referring to it as a church) in which the priest would stand on a chair during worship services and speak in tongues. It was one in which an adulterous woman, my friend’s wife, was permitted to sing in the choir while being known to be in an adulterous relationship. It was one that annulled this man’s marriage of thirty years at his wife’s request because she wanted to abandon her husband and two sons for her lover in California. The justification for the annulment under the wise counsel of the Roman communion, at the right price of course, was that they were first married by the state and then a few months later had a ceremony in the Roman communion. Because in a questionnaire the husband answered that he considered himself married prior to a Roman priest presiding over the second ceremony, in one stroke of the pen the Roman “Catholic Church” proclaimed that this couple had never been married, and in the process that the kids had always been bastards and that she never committed adultery because she had never been married. Had he not considered himself married for those two months between the civil and papal ceremony, the “church’ would have needed to find another excuse to annul the marriage, which for the right price would have been no problem. That’s a catholicity I can do without – yet in a perverted sense, it is catholicity among Romanist communions. I can also do without a catholicity that sends pedophiles from one parish to another. You see Rebecca, having a fraternal order that is a blend of Christianity, Judaism and Paganism hardly defines the church, even though each communion has the other’s back. The Roman church behaves more like the mafia than a Christian church.

    May God have mercy upon you and lead you away from that mother of harlots, the Roman church.

    Ron

    P.S. I have never so looked forward to a Reformation Sunday as I am this year. May tongues of fire fall upon the preacher. We’re expecting a packed worship service – glory be the God!

  314. TurretinFan said,

    October 16, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Bryan wrote: “I was only intending to show that it is true, not that you admit that it is true.”

    Previously you had written:

    There are no necessary spiritual consequences for leaving a particular Protestant community, i.e. no loss of justification, no loss of sanctification, no loss of grace, no loss of heaven, etc. In a Protestant ecclesiology, you can always go to another “branch of the Church,” or start one if necessary.

    Did you misspeak then or did you misspeak now?

    -TurretinFan

  315. TurretinFan said,

    October 16, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    As for the remainder of your comments with that heavy emphasis on “necessary,” I simply note that the fact that something can be remedied does not mean that it is not a consequence. You have not rehabilitated your argument from that rebuttal.

    That someone can rejoin the church does not mean he was not cut off. This is really not hard to understand.

    If you’re trying to say something else, like “it doesn’t mean necessarily that you’ll go to hell,” well sure – but even excommunication from the Roman communion in Romanism does not mean that a person will go to hell for sure. The pope can err in matters of discipline

    -TurretinFan

  316. David Meyer said,

    October 17, 2010 at 12:20 am

    Dear Rebecca,

    Wow I relate to everything you have said on this thread.
    In #246 you said:

    “But it seems to me that in certain cases, that each husband, if he is deciding on doctrinal issues for his family, is functioning as a small pope. Where is the truth in that?”

    Exactly a year ago I was forming some lesson plans of the Children’s Catechism (based on the WCF Shorter cat.) for my 6, 4, and 3 year olds (I homeschool). What I found is that I disagreed with some of the questions and answers. Now this was no whim. These were convictions I had based on scripture and lots of prayer and study where I thought the confession was wrong on some points. So what did I do? …

    I changed the questions!

    This really ripped my heart in half. Because I want my children to know the truth, but I knew that this was all based on my judgement in the end. Were my children getting God’s truth?

    Literaly crossing out the words of the catechism and writing in my own words was a real wake up call. It started me thinking the same questions you are thinking. I am still lurking here and on Called to Communion for answers to the criticisms of sola s. and though I have leaned a lot, I have found no answer. My wife and I are meeting with a Priest on Monday to start the process of converting to Catholicism. At the next Easter Vigil, I will gladly lay the heavy burden of my “pope hat” down at the feet of Peter.

    Peace,

    David Meyer

  317. Roger du Barry said,

    October 17, 2010 at 1:30 am

    David Meyer

    You have a god point about not being your own private pope. It is right not to exalt your own private opinions. That is the classical Protestant position. These matters must be dealt with by those within the church who have the skills and gifts, whom we have traditionally called the doctors of the church.

    It is only in a limited field that everyman has the ability to find enough doctrine to be saved. That is the true protestant position.

    However, the bishop of Rome has not shown himself to be a reliable guide to the interpretation of sacred scripture. Indeed, he overthrows it at will. Far better to consult those doctors of the church who actually study the writing of the prophets and apostles.

  318. Paige Britton said,

    October 17, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Hi, Rebecca (#246) —

    The fuller quote of yours that David was referring to was this:

    The thing about husbands is, they don’t all agree either, and as I follow my husband in one direction, another wife will be following her husband in another direction, and those two directions can be completely contradictory as regards truth…But it seems to me that in certain cases, that each husband, if he is deciding on doctrinal issues for his family, is functioning as a small pope. Where is the truth in that?

    I would point out that submission to one’s husband does not preclude thinking about the direction he is going, and holding it up to the light of the Word. Husbands are not infallible, and submission is a voluntary attitude of the heart, not blind obedience. Christian husbands are themselves subject to Christ and his Word, and they will vary in their willingness and ability to absorb his truth.

    Listen: though there are multiple interpretations of passages within Protestantism, all interpretations are not created equal. We can evaluate interpretations in light of the Word (sometimes with the help of the “doctors of the church,” if our own foundation of biblical and theological literacy is shaky). Some interpretations can be shown to be clearly wrong; some will be fair, but not the best; and sometimes we may have to set a thing aside and wait till the end of the story to ask the Author which reading was the right one. Learning to make these judgment calls takes time and effort and the help of God-given teachers and pastors.

    Please don’t lose sight of the fact that the panacea that is being offered for the problem of fragmentation in Protestantism is nothing less than the submission of the conscience to a human being who claims divinely appointed authority. I would want to be very, very sure those claims were valid before laying down the ability to question my leaders in light of the Scripture.

    pax,
    Paige B.

  319. TurretinFan said,

    October 17, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Rebecca:

    You wrote:

    Or, from my standpoint, how is it possible, if the “church” really does have real authority, as it does at least in the Reformed scheme of things, for someone who is under church discipline in one church to go across town and start another church, maybe serving as ruling or teaching elder, and for the people in that new church to (scripturally) be required to obey him as their leader (“obey those who have the rule over you”)? (This happens all the time). How can this person or church have legitimate authority? If it doesn’t, but is an illegitimate church, then how do we know which churches are legitimate and which aren’t? How would we ever, at this point, trace back any church to know which churches have real authority? At least, any Protestant church/es? But this is off-topic, and I wasn’t going to say anything else.

    I’m curious, Rebecca. Where did you get the idea that there are “legitimate” churches and “illegitimate” churches? I think that once you figure out where you got that idea, you may be able to figure out how to determine whether a church is “legitimate” or “illegitimate.” But I’m afraid that you may have obtained this idea from our Roman Catholic friends who think, like the foolish Jews of old, that legitimacy is a matter of having the right kind of genealogy and being able to trace one’s genealogy back to Abraham/Peter.

    But read the Bible, Rebecca. Search and see whether we are called to try to determine whether a church is legitimate in that sense – i.e. legitimate in some sort of genetic or genealogical sense.

    God is truly sovereign and can bring good out of the evil of men. Thus, recall that there were men who preached the gospel out of an evil motive:

    Philippians 1:15-17
    Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: but the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.

    But recall what Paul’s response was: it was not “avoid the former group, because they are not legitimate ministers,” but rather he wrote:

    Philippians 1:18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

    Should we not also rejoice that Christ is preached in churches that were founded by sinful men who had bad reasons for wanting to start a separate church, as opposed to good men (the Reformers for example) who were being persecuted for the truth? We rejoice in both cases, and much more so in the latter case. But we are never told that we must be careful to trace back the genealogies of our elders to make sure that there were no irregular appointments of elders along the way.

    That’s not what interests God if you let the Bible be your guide as to what interests God, as I hope you will.

    -TurretinFan

  320. Reed Here said,

    October 17, 2010 at 7:41 am

    David: curiosity, what WSC questions/words did you change? Why?

  321. johnbugay said,

    October 17, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Rebecca and David — you may think Protestantism has some problems, and rightly so. But keep in mind, this is not a choice of A vs B (Catholicism vs Protestantism). If you find Protestantism lacking, that does not necessarily prove the Catholic case. Paige (320) is correct to say:

    Please don’t lose sight of the fact that the panacea that is being offered for the problem of fragmentation in Protestantism is nothing less than the submission of the conscience to a human being who claims divinely appointed authority.

    Too many people make the mistake of falling for the argument, “Protestantism has problems; therefore, Rome is infallible.”

    Rome is not what it says it is.

  322. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    October 17, 2010 at 10:03 am

    David Meyer: “I am still lurking here and on Called to Communion for answers to the criticisms of sola s. and though I have leaned a lot, I have found no answer. My wife and I are meeting with a Priest on Monday to start the process of converting to Catholicism. At the next Easter Vigil, I will gladly lay the heavy burden of my “pope hat” down at the feet of Peter.”

    David,

    I understand that you have issues and concerns with Sola Scriptura. Do you also reject the other 4 solas?

    Here’s a brief summary of the 5 solas:

    “The “five solas” is a term used to designate five great foundational rallying cries of the Protestant reformers. They are as follows:

    “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone);
    “Sola Gratia” (Grace Alone);
    “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone);
    “Solus Christus” (Christ Alone);
    and “Soli Deo Gloria” (To God Alone Be Glory).

    These “five solas” were developed in response to specific perversions of the truth that were taught by the corrupt Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Church taught that the foundation for faith and practice was a combination of the scriptures, sacred tradition, and the teachings of the magisterium and the pope; but the Reformers said, “No, our foundation is sola scriptura”.

    The Catholic Church taught that we are saved through a combination of God’s grace, the merits that we accumulate through penance and good works, and the superfluity of merits that the saints before us accumulated; the reformers responded, “sola gratia”.

    The Catholic Church taught that we are justified by faith and the works that we produce, which the righteousness that God infuses in us through faith brings about. The reformers responded, “No, we are justified by faith alone, which lays hold of the alien righteousness of Christ that God freely credits to the account of those who believe”.

    The Catholic Church taught that we are saved by the merits of Christ and the saints, and that we approach God through Christ, the saints, and Mary, who all pray and intercede for us. The Reformers responded, “No, we are saved by the merits of Christ Alone, and we come to God through Christ Alone”.

    The Catholic Church adhered to what Martin Luther called the “theology of glory” (in opposition to the “theology of the cross”), in which the glory for a sinner’s salvation could be attributed partly to Christ, partly to Mary and the saints, and partly to the sinner himself. The reformers responded, “No, the only true gospel is that which gives all glory to God alone, as is taught in the scriptures.”

    David, do you reject all 5 solas? Why?

  323. David Meyer said,

    October 17, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Reed:
    Questions 23-27 (on the covenant of works) Changed or ommited these questions to conform to this covenant being one of grace.

    127 (on Baptism)

    Q. 127. What does this signify? (What does babtism do?)
    A. That we are cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ (Cleanses us from sin by the blood of Christ)

    133 – 136 (on the Lord’s Supper)
    Examples:
    Q. 134. What does the bread represent? (What is the bread?)
    A. The body of Christ, broken for our sins. (The Body of Christ)

    Q. 136. Who should partake of the Lord’s Supper?
    A. Only those who repent of their sins, believe in Christ for salvation, and love their fellow men. (Those who are baptized.)

    That is the brunt of the changes I made. I no longer have the edited copy though. As to why I changed them, because after 8 years of prayer and study my conscience was convinced those questions/answers did not represented the teaching of Scripture accurately.

    I am doing the Baltimore catechism now with my girls and focusing on first confession and first Holy Communion preparation for my 7 year old (and me too!). I feel so relieved to not have to change the questions.

    John Bugay:
    I completely agree with your #323 except the last sentence. Rome was a choice among many who claim infallibility. (I considered Mormonism for about 0.0000001 seconds) But in the end, only E.O. and Rome are at all credible. Of those two, I determined after some study that Rome has the better (more plausible) claim.

    -David

  324. David Meyer said,

    October 17, 2010 at 11:41 am

    TUAD:

    I reject the 5 solas where they contradict Church teaching. There is a lot of good in tthem also though.

    I will leave it it to a theologian to go point by point with you, but just a few examples of where I think your assesment is off:

    “The Catholic Church taught that we are saved through a combination of God’s grace, the merits that we accumulate through penance and good works, and the superfluity of merits that the saints before us accumulated; the reformers responded, “sola gratia”.”

    That is just untrue. (also I think your conflating justification with the removal of temporal punishment.) Also conflating the ground of justification and how it is applied. (God could answer your prayer to save your friend X without that giving glory to you.) Sola Gratia is totally compatible with Catholic theology. If God infuses righteousness into me and makes me righteous, it seems pretty obvious where the glory should go. Ephesians 2:8-9 are awsome. But verse 10 is awsome too and I see it as part of the enchilada of faith. As a Catholic I will no longer have to artificially seperate that verse into the realm of sanctification. As a Calvinist by training, I have been amazed at how Calvinistic some aspects of Catholic (sorry… Romanist) theology are as far as God making the first move in EVERYTHING and getting credit for everything. Sola Gratia is absolutely a Catholic doctrine.

    “The Catholic Church adhered to what Martin Luther called the “theology of glory” (in opposition to the “theology of the cross”), in which the glory for a sinner’s salvation could be attributed partly to Christ, partly to Mary and the saints, and partly to the sinner himself. The reformers responded, “No, the only true gospel is that which gives all glory to God alone, as is taught in the scriptures.””

    God includes us in His ministry in many ways. How does that take away from His glory? If he wants to create the “new Eve” sinless from conception (like Eve was) and make her to be the Queen of heaven (like Eve failed to do) and mother of the Church (like Eve is mother of all living) who interceeds for fellow members of Christ’s Body the church, why does that take away glory from God? If I pray for you and God answers my prayer, God is glorified. Same thing if Mary prays to her Son for you. Please don’t take this wrong, but it reminds me of my Muslim friend at work who says it takes from God’s glory if he rested after the creation. Why? (please no offence, you are no Muslim!) So I say the same to you: Why does it diminish His glory to share His work with us? Especially when the work we get to do is only one of application of Christ’s finished work. Not adding to that work.

    The CCC is great on this point:

    (CCC 2001)The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, “since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it:”

    Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us. It has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; it goes before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God: for without him we can do nothing.

    -I wish you peace this Lord’s Day,

    David

  325. David Meyer said,

    October 17, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Roger du Barry:

    These matters must be dealt with by those within the church who have the skills and gifts, whom we have traditionally called the doctors of the church.

    Sounds great. I couldnt agree more. St. Athanasius, St. Crysostom, St. Augustine, St. Basil, St. Francis de Sales, St Therese of Lisieux, and St. Thomas Aquinas are all doctors of the Church. Perhaps you consider Calvin or Luther in this category as well. All these people have “skills and gifts” so which ones should I listen to? Think particularly of St. Francis de Sales and John Calvin, either of whose brains outweighs all of ours put together. Which one should we listen to and why? We certainly cannot listen to both at the same time, so I ask you, which one?

  326. johnbugay said,

    October 17, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    David Meyer: On “our collaboration in justification,” you are aware that what this means is: you must work to maintain yourself in a state of grace. That “initial grace” can be lost from the moment you get it. And the rest of your life is spent “working” to maintain that state of grace. Missing Mass on Sunday, for example, is a mortal sin which will take you out of that state, and require you to get back to confession.

    Let’s look at Trent’s view of what this means, as well:

    803 Having, therefore, been thus justified and having been made the “friends of God” and “his domestics” [John 15:15; Eph. 2:19], “advancing from virtue to virtue” [Ps. 83:8], “they are renewed” (as the Apostle says) “from day to day” [2 Cor. 4:16], that is, by mortifying the members of their flesh [Col. 3:5], and by “presenting them as instruments of justice” [Rom. 6:13, 19], unto sanctification through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church; in this justice received through the grace of Christ “faith cooperating with good works” [Jas. 2:22], they increase and are further justified [can. 24 and 32], as it is written: “He that is just, let him be justified still” [Rev. 22:11], and again: “Be not afraid to be justified even to death” [Sirach. 18:22], and again: “You see, that by works a man is justified and not by faith only” [Jas. 2:24]. And this increase of justice Holy Church begs for, when she prays: “Give unto us, O Lord, an increase of faith, hope and charity” [13th Sun. after Pent.].

    Aside from the questionable understanding of some of those verses (“as the Apostle says” — he is not talking about “those, thus having been justified,” for example. He is talking about his own ministry as an Apostle”) — this is Trent’s understanding of the work that you must do, post-baptism, in order to continue to stay within that “state of grace.”

    807 … Those who by sin have fallen away from the received grace of justification, will again be able to be justified [can. 29] when, roused by God through the sacrament of penance, they by the merit of Christ shall have attended to the recovery of the grace lost. For this manner of justification is the reparation of one fallen, which the holy Fathers * have aptly called a second plank after the shipwreck of lost grace.

    If you think of a “shipwreck,” and the loose boards floating around in the water; this was a second century practice to deal with bringing those who had somehow compromised (“pinched the incense” unto Caesar to avoid persecution) back into the fellowship. It was not intended to be a process of losing/gaining/losing/gaining back “justification” as Trent described it here. But this is the “development” of this process.

    And think of “grace lost.”

    One of the operative phrases in the passage above (803) is “the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church,” and of course, The “collaboration” spoken of here involves a lot more than just “feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, tending to the sick, etc.”

    These “precepts of the church” are “commanded” in Canon 8: 864 Can. 8. If anyone shall say that those baptized are free from all precepts of the holy Church, which are either written or handed down, so that they are not bound to observe them, unless they of their own accord should wish to submit themselves to them: let him be anathema.

    These involve the following:

    You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation [i.e., missing Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin].

    You shall confess your sins at least once a year [and a failure to do so is a mortal sin].

    You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season [this, and all of these, really, was instituted because of the attitude of "what's the minimum I can get away with?" that developed during the Middle Ages].

    You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church (This used to mean no meat on Friday any Friday of the year; it has been “relaxed” to mean fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and “abstinence” from meat on the Fridays during Lent. So the old joke about “what happened to the people who are in hell for having eaten meat on Fridays,” is a genuine concern.)

    You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.

    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c3a3.htm#2041

    So these are the primary “works” you must perform. You can feed stadiums-full of homeless people, but if you fail to do any of these “indispensable minimums,” it will mean a mortal sin, and take you out of that “state of grace”.

    This is the “system of works” that Martin Luther railed against.

    So you may say that “Sola Gratia is totally compatible with Catholic theology.” But in reality, the moment after the “initial grace” of baptism, you are put on the treadmill, and “grace-assisted” or not, you gotta do the works of the church to keep yourself saved.

    What kind of “Good News” is this?

  327. johnbugay said,

    October 17, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    By the way, the quotes from Trent are from Denzinger:

    http://www.catecheticsonline.com/SourcesofDogma.php

    http://www.catecheticsonline.com/SourcesofDogma9.php

    For a visual representation of how the process of “justification” works in the Roman church, see this illustration:

  328. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 17, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Paige (#320):

    I would point out that submission to one’s husband does not preclude thinking about the direction he is going, and holding it up to the light of the Word. Husbands are not infallible, and submission is a voluntary attitude of the heart, not blind obedience.

    Exactly. Abigail comes to mind.

  329. October 17, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    David,

    John wrote:

    So you may say that “Sola Gratia is totally compatible with Catholic theology.” But in reality, the moment after the “initial grace” of baptism, you are put on the treadmill, and “grace-assisted” or not, you gotta do the works of the church to keep yourself saved.

    Although in some loose way it may be claimed that both Catholic and Protestant soteriology are “gracious,” the fact of the matter is that the Protestant notion of grace makes Catholicism’s grace legal by very definition.

    Since for us Protestants even Spirit-wrought works are excluded from the justification equation, then the moment a Catholic (or an evangelical) imports those works in is the moment he forfeits the right to compare himself to us, as his system’s grace with ours.

    Just saying….

  330. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 17, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Bryan (#314):

    From your Branches or Schisms article linked above:

    If the Protestant claims that [the separation of the Catholics and the Orthodox was the first ‘branching within‘ the Church], then he must explain why the Catholic-Orthodox schism is a mere “branching within” (i.e.does not involve a schism from the Church) when every other schism in the prior history of the Church involved a ‘schism from‘ the Church and the preservation of the unity of the Church.

    The obvious point that you miss is that it takes two to schism. Defection from the gospel is unilateral; schism is bilateral.

    If an individual denies the gospel … and thus shows himself to have never been saved (1 John 2.19) … and thus falls away from the church, we are not looking at a schism (“division”), but at a defection from the Gospel. This is a pruning away of the visible church, which is what your diagram illustrates.

    But schism, an actual division within the church is something else entirely: Here, we have members of the church, children of God, who simply refuse to get along any more. Neither of these has, more than the other, done anything to forfeit their salvation.

    Yet you portray this quite differently: that one side is “the church” and the other is “the schismatics.” On your account, those involved in division who find themselves not on the side of the “highest magisterial authority” are now out of the visible church. And of course, the consequences, in the RCC view, is that they may no longer receive the grace of the sacraments — and since they have committed the mortal sin of schism, they are damned.

    But is this what the Scripture says?

    Is the church of Christ located in one man?

    Does God choose one faction out of many for special favor?

    You miss the forest for the trees here: there’s not a “trunk and branch.” There are two branches. To the extent that either branch remains faithful to Jesus and his Gospel, they remain true branches; yet imperfect because of their schism.

    You may not like it, but there’s no logical reason to assert that the true visible church will be undivided, this side of eternity. While we might pray for her unity, there’s no guarantee of it. Thus, there’s no reason to believe that schism must divide out unilaterally, with the true church on one side and the schismatics on the other. BOTH sides are schismatic.

    Or do you believe that Leo X was blameless?

    The problem with your schism model is that it places the blame and consequences squarely on those who are not in your camp. That should be a warning sign. Whenever the fault is entirely the other guy’s, we are treading on very thin ice.

    I’ll say it this way: The Catholic theology of schism, which casts those who diverge from her out of the people of God entirely, encourages finger-pointing and the exaltation of a particular faction.

    And it places Rome at odds with Jesus. John says, “To those who received him, those those who believed in His name, to them He gave the right to become children of God.”

    But Rome says (or has said in the past), “Unless you belong to our faction of the church, you cannot be a child of God.” (For that is the consequence of excommunication, is it not? Removal from the sacraments entails removal from grace)

    It is not a healthy doctrine, this doctrine of schism.

  331. Bryan Cross said,

    October 17, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Jeff, (re: #331)

    The Church is one, because Christ is one. Is Christ divided? No. Is the Church divided? No, because it is His Body, and He is not divided. Nothing can diminish the unity of Christ, and therefore nothing can diminish the unity of His Body, the Church. The Church is one Body, and has one faith. Anyone who does not have that faith, is not united to that one Body. When you say “both sides are schismatic” you make Christ guilty of participating in schism, whenever someone separates from Christ (since as you say “schism is bilateral”). That’s how we can know that schism is not always bilateral. And the fact that schism is not always bilateral, applies in the visible Church Christ founded, because the one to whom He entrusted the keys of the Kingdom (Mt 16), represents Him. Those who separate from the successor of St. Peter, separate from Christ. And because this doesn’t implicate Christ in schism when they do so, neither does it implicate St. Peter or his successors. That’s why St. Peter (and his successors) can never be in a schism or faction, just as Christ can never be in a schism or faction. Whenever there is a schism, the Church always continues with the one holding the keys of the Kingdom.

    But the Docetic notion is that the Church is invisible, not a real visible Body, and therefore all hold the keys, and every [visible] schism is a schism within the Church, with each person still remaining a member of the [invisible] Body. But the Catholic doctrine, by contrast, is that the Church is visible, and therefore the unity that is a mark of the Church — one of the four marks mentioned in the Creed — is necessarily a visible unity, just as my physical body must have visible unity in order to remain one living body. To separate from the Catholic Church is not to split the Church, or diminish its unity (since it has a divine unity that cannot be divided), but rather to separate oneself from that supernatural unity Christ established in His Church both through the gift He gave to St. Peter and by the Holy Spirit. Hence according to Catholic ecclesiology, anyone in schism from the successor of St. Peter is ipso facto in schism from the Church Christ founded. That doesn’t mean that every schism is a complete separation from the Church, because some types of separation are greater than others. But, it means that schism from the Church is possible, and not just through apostasy. Docetist ecclesiology has no place for schism from the Church, otherwise than through apostasy. Docetic ecclesiology redefines ‘schism from’ as apostasy.

    Is the church of Christ located in one man?

    Christ gave the keys of the Church to one man, St. Peter, and changed his name to ‘rock’ and told him that upon this rock He would build His Church, and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it.

    Does God choose one faction out of many for special favor?

    St. Peter and those who hold communion with St. Peter are not a faction; they are the Church Christ founded. Christ gave to St. Peter a “special favor” in Matthew 16, in giving him the keys of the Kingdom, and making him the rock upon which He would build His Church. Insofar as you don’t see that, then it will seem arbitrary why in the event of a schism, the Church continues with the successor of St. Peter and with those who remain in communion with him.

    The problem with your schism model is that it places the blame and consequences squarely on those who are not in your camp. That should be a warning sign. Whenever the fault is entirely the other guy’s, we are treading on very thin ice.

    That sounds like what some of the demons in hell might say to Jesus, trying to spread the blame around for their separation from Him. Your conception of schism has ruled out a priori the possibility that Christ established an office of visible steward of His Kingdom on earth. If He has done so, and you are not in union with that steward, then it is you who are treading on thin ice, but unable to realize that you are because you have simply defined the whole thing out of the range of theological possibility.

    And it places Rome at odds with Jesus. John says, “To those who received him, those those who believed in His name, to them He gave the right to become children of God.”

    A little proof-texting is a dangerous thing. A person could use that same verse to claim that baptism is unnecessary, or that the Church is unnecessary. If you want to understand more fully what all is involved in receiving Jesus [besides praying a sinner's prayer], then recall that Jesus also said, “He who listens to you listens to Me, and he who rejects you, rejects Me.” (Luke 10:16) To reject those whom Christ sent is to reject Christ, because they bear His authority. Likewise, to reject those whom the Apostles sent, is also to reject the Apostles, and thus to reject Christ.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  332. Ron said,

    October 17, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    But Rome says (or has said in the past), “Unless you belong to our faction of the church, you cannot be a child of God.”)

    Jeff,

    Yes, that is the plain meaning of such words as these:

    Pope Boniface VIII, Bull Unam sanctam (1302): “We are compelled in virtue of our faith to believe and maintain that there is only one holy Catholic Church, and that one is apostolic. This we firmly believe and profess without qualification. Outside this Church there is no salvation and no remission of sins… We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”

    Now that statement would seem to suggest what you just said, with which many but not all Romanists would agree; yet Brian disagrees with those Romanists over what Unam sanctum actually means. Bryan takes a more sanguine view of things, which in all fairness is consistent with the Roman Catechism: “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery. Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

    Unfortunately for the Roman communion, the Roman Catechism is not consistent with Trent, or with statements such as this one: Pope Eugene IV, Cantate Domino (1441): “The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the “eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41), unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.”

    Now what are we to make of all this? It would seem that Romanism contradicts herself, but that’s just my opinion. I have a more fundamental problem, which has to do with how any Romanist can possibly know anything that Rome actually affirms. Rebecca, for instance, finds disagreement within Protestantism and concludes thereby that Protestant religion must be false; whereas because Romanism is one in doctrine it must but be correct. The problem, however, is what is the “one” true doctrine that Romanism teaches?! One Romanist interprets Boniface VIII one way and another interprets him according to his own private interpretation, and still another Romanist thinks that Rome has changed her doctrine, where even a fourth might think that Rome has contradicted herself in a moment of weakness. So, it’s not a question of how Boniface VIII was interpreted in the 14th century, or is to be interpreted in light of the Roman catechism, but rather why should we expect Bryan, or any other Romanist, to be able to interpret Boniface VIII at all, or any other infallible decree for that matter? Consider, if Bryan were consistent with himself he would acknowledge that not only can he not interpret Scripture and tell us what it means, it is impossible for him to interpret the popes and counsels when their teachings are declared to be as authoritative as Scripture! After all, if Bryan cannot understand Jesus and his apostles when they speak plainly, why should he be able to interpret the popes, their alleged successors? Once Rome’s word becomes equal to God’s word, Bryan must by the nature of the case be incapable of interpreting it on his own, being the same as God’s word. Bryan is consigned to the church’s interpretation, which Bryan must be incapable of interpreting for himself with any assurance. The plain meaning of words are no longer plain given Romanist tenets. Bryan along with all true Romanists ends up on the horns of an epistemological dilemma. Now Bryan would like to think that he can interpret the popes, but why should we believe Bryan’s interpretation of the popes? Is Bryan their spokesperson? At the end of the day, if Rome had the one true doctrine, we could never know what that doctrine is on Romanist terms. And if we could interpret Rome aright, then her teachings would not be equivalent to God’s word. It would be more on par with a great, uninspired novel that is accessible to all.

    Ron

  333. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 17, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Bryan (#332):

    Brother, I am surprised at #332. As I read it, it seems to come perilously close to equating the church with Jesus Himself: In your argument, if the church sins, then Jesus must have sinned.

    And there is a factual error that may explain some of it. You say,

    But the Docetic notion is that the Church is invisible, not a real visible Body.

    As a matter of church history, the docetic notion was that Jesus himself never took on a human body. It was against the docetic notion that the Apostle’s Creed came into being. This has naught to do with the Church as the visible or invisible body of Christ.

    Perhaps — here I’m speculating, but it’s based on your comments here and elsewhere — you’ve imported the struggle against Gnosticism and docetism into the discussion over the church. If I’m correct, then in reaction, you seem to identify the “Church as Body of Christ” with Christ Himself. Anything less, it seems, is to be Gnostic.

    But in reality, the Church as Body of Christ can sin — and does sin, and has sinned — and yet this casts no aspersion on Christ. He is both just and the justifier of those who believe. He washes the Church; He is not sullied by her flaws. She is his body as a bride is one with her husband — it is a union, not an ontological oneness.

    BC: Your conception of schism has ruled out a priori the possibility that Christ established an office of visible steward of His Kingdom on earth.

    Yes, you are correct that a premise in my argument is that it is highly unlikely that Christ established an office of visible steward such that the visible steward is always right and everyone else is always wrong. Nothing confirms such a possibility, and the whole rest of the church stands against it.

    Galatians 2 explicitly rules out the possibility that Peter was always right and everyone else always wrong. The history of the church, in which the visible steward of Christ has at times been obviously wrong in matters of both faith and morals, casts significant additional doubt on that possibility. 1 Cor 1.10 – 17 casts doubt on that possibility.

    Bryan, I feel heat on this issue, but it is not towards you personally. Nor is it towards pontiffs, living or dead (though some, like Alex VI, I think we can agree were not worthy of the job).

    It is heat towards an idea: the idea that we might interpose human authority who commands the obedience due only to Christ. When the angel appeared to John, he refused to be worshiped; but the doctrine of the papacy unabashedly places him in the place of Christ.

    Our interactions on this issue have left me more determined than ever that this constant insertion of the visible church as a sacramental filter between the believer and Jesus, as an interpretive filter between the believer and the Scripture, as a supplicatory filter between the believer’s prayers and the Father, is not what the Lord intended, taught, or commanded.

    That’s my obstacle to hearing you. It’s not “Gnostic conceptions”; it’s not “individualism.” It’s rather a(n admittedly stubborn) sense that you can’t call day, night.

  334. Ron said,

    October 17, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Jeff wrote:
    Bryan (#332):
    Brother, I am surprised at #332

    Jeff,

    With all due respect, I’m surprised you refer to this man as “brother”? I agree with TF when he wrote in 295 regarding that man: “We hope that your former church exercised godly discipline and has removed you from communion and informed the church that they should treat you as a heathen/publican, since you have rejected the discipline of the elders.

    Blessings,

    Ron

  335. Bob Suden said,

    October 17, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    “Likewise, to reject those whom the Apostles sent, is also to reject the Apostles, and thus to reject Christ.”

    Bryan, if you can’t understand that Apostolic doctrine trumps an Apostolic succession, real or otherwise, much more that Apostolic doctrine is the real Apostolic succession you are incompetent to the question. The Protestant position has completely eluded you and you have no business wasting anybody’s time here or elsewhere critiquing it. Zeal without knowledge is not commendable, however much the Greek chorus over at Called to Communion thinks all the typical Roman slop from you and others is the definitive cutting edge.

    IOW your understanding of Scripture is that of the typical stubborn, shallow and superficial Roman variety. You wish to walk by the sight and light of the visible church and not by faith, without which it is impossible to please God Heb. 11:6.

    Your position is essentially that of the unbelieving and arrogant Jews who insisted that Abraham was their father, that they were THE people of the Lord, regardless that God the Father could raise up children of Abraham from the very stones Lk.3:8. If Jeremiah 7:4 says :  Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these.” so too we are not to trust in “The visible apostolic church, the visible apostolic church, the visible apostolic church” or whatever other convenient and mind numbing mantra comes to hand.

    You supposedly exalt the person of Christ in your TuQuoque as per John 5:29, but you have no real time or patience with what Christ says in Scripture other than your pet little Roman verses, phrases, talking points.

    For all practical purposes your appeal to Scripture is only enough to superficially establish the infallibility of the visible Roman church and then Scripture is for all practical purposes archived in the bowels of the Vatican library never again to see the light of day.

    And if a little prooftexting is a dangerous thing, how much more a text out of context is a pretext? So your repeated appeal to Matt 16. which patronizes your audience’s gullibility and ignorance of Scripture.

    Unfortunately and contra popish propaganda, in context it is quite clear that Christ commended Peter for his confession of Christ as the Son of God – so Augustine – which none of the other apostles had done before, as well as almost in the same breath rebuked Peter explicitly, calling him “Satan” since Peter tried to prevent Christ from his calling and death in Jerusalem.

    Further that confession, if not Christ himself is the rock upon which the Christ’s church is built. With this the rest of the Scripture agrees, even “Pope” Peter in his epistles, wherein he nowhere claims pre-eminence, but only that he is a “elder” like the other elders. Not only is Christ the chief cornerstone, he is “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed” 1 Pet. 2:8.

    Hmmm. Who could he be talking about?

  336. Bryan Cross said,

    October 17, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Jeff, (re: #334)

    In your argument, if the church sins, then Jesus must have sinned.

    The Church cannot sin, for Christ is the Head of the Body, and Christ cannot sin. The Church is holy. This is one of the four marks of the Church specified in the Creed. But members of the Church can (and do) sin; when they do this, they separate themselves from the Church’s holiness. They are restored to holiness by the Church. But the Church could not give holiness if the Church were not holy, since nothing can give what it does not have.

    This has naught to do with the Church as the visible or invisible body of Christ.

    It has everything to do with invisible-church ecclesiology, just as the Docetic view of the Eucharist was based on their Docetic Christology. One’s ecclesiology follows from one’s Christology. Because Christ truly took on human nature, His Body, the Church, is a visible human society. To deny that His Body is visible, is to deny that He truly became flesh and blood.

    But in reality, the Church as Body of Christ can sin — and does sin, and has sinned

    You’ve just denied part of the Nicene Creed, the part that says that the Church is holy. The Church could make no one holy, if the Church itself were not holy, because no one can give what he does not have.

    She is his body as a bride is one with her husband — it is a union, not an ontological oneness.

    It is an ontological union; this is why Jesus said to Saul, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) Is your body not ontologically united to your head? Jesus is the Head of the Body, the Church, and we are the hands and feet and other members of His Body. (1 Cor 12) “As you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Matt 25:40)

    Yes, you are correct that a premise in my argument is that it is highly unlikely that Christ established an office of visible steward such that the visible steward is always right and everyone else is always wrong. Nothing confirms such a possibility, and the whole rest of the church stands against it.

    The Church has never claimed that St. Peter and his successors are “always right and that everyone else is always wrong.” That’s quite an obvious straw man. St. Peter and his successors are not impeccable. And, as you well know, according to Catholic dogma, the Magisterium of the Church is protected from error only under certain specified conditions.

    It is heat towards an idea: the idea that we might interpose human authority who commands the obedience due only to Christ.

    Every Catholic I know would oppose that notion too. No mere human authority has the authority speak for God or to govern His Church. No mere human has the authority to impose human authority that commands the obedience due only to Christ. Amen! But, if the God-man gives divine authority to men, and instructs them to pass this authority on to successors, teaching them to do the same to their successors, then it is to those humans that we ought to submit, as the Israelites were to follow Moses (who was a divinely authorized human) rather than self-appointed ‘authorities’ like Korah. You are presenting a false dilemma: either we submit to Christ alone, or we are submitting to merely human authority. Luke 10:16 shows that that is a false dilemma: “He who listens to you listens to Me, and he who rejects you, rejects Me.”

    When the angel appeared to John, he refused to be worshiped; but the doctrine of the papacy unabashedly places him in the place of Christ.

    An angel is a mere creature, and should not be worshipped. But, if an angel brings you a divine message, and you disbelieve it, you may rightly be punished, because the angel is God’s messenger, and so to disbelieve God’s angel is to disbelieve God, all other things being equal. (See Luke 1:19-20) Likewise, to disbelieve the Apostles, is to disbelieve Christ. “He who listens to you listens to Me, and he who rejects you, rejects Me.” (Luke 10:16) So the dilemma you are presenting is a false dilemma: it is not true that either we can dismiss divine messengers or we must worship divine messengers. There is a middle position. A human can be given divine authority to which we are obliged to submit for the sake of God, without that human being God.

    Our interactions on this issue have left me more determined than ever that this constant insertion of the visible church as a sacramental filter between the believer and Jesus, as an interpretive filter between the believer and the Scripture, as a supplicatory filter between the believer’s prayers and the Father, is not what the Lord intended, taught, or commanded.

    You may then find yourself to be fighting against God, trying to destroy the visible Catholic Church that men much greater than yourself have been unable to destroy for 2,000 years. You might just as well treat Jesus’ human nature as a “filter” that annoyingly gets between you and God. That’s gnosticism all over again. Instead of seeing these physical things as a filter, the saints see Christ’s body and the sacraments He instituted as the glorious bridge, Jacob’s ladder, by which and through which the graces He merited for us are brought to us, and we are raised to glory with Him.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  337. Roger du Barry said,

    October 18, 2010 at 1:18 am

    David Meyer said: Sounds great. I couldnt agree more. St. Athanasius, St. Crysostom, St. Augustine, St. Basil, St. Francis de Sales, St Therese of Lisieux, and St. Thomas Aquinas are all doctors of the Church. Perhaps you consider Calvin or Luther in this category as well. All these people have “skills and gifts” so which ones should I listen to? Think particularly of St. Francis de Sales and John Calvin, either of whose brains outweighs all of ours put together. Which one should we listen to and why? We certainly cannot listen to both at the same time, so I ask you, which one?

    If you read any Reformer, you will discover the tremendous debt they owed to the greats who went before them. In Particular Augustine and Bernard of Clairveaux, but not forgetting all the other greats.

    But you will not find a single Pope being quoted in any list of greats – because none of them were very good theologians! In any list of fathers you will struggle to find your precious infallible popes, with the sole exception of Gregory the Great.

    The consensus of these fathers in the areas of controversy is overwhelmingly on the side of the Reformation. No transubstantiation but a real feeding, no primacy of Peter in the sense that you mean it, no sacrifice of the mass a la Rome, and no worship of Mary.

    You are probably unaware that the central argument of the Reformation was that Rome had introduced these heretical novelties into the church in the Middle Ages, and that a return to the theology of the undivided church was needed.

    The Reformation was not the invention of a new religion, but the REJECTION of a new religion – the Papacy!

  338. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 18, 2010 at 6:31 am

    Bryan (#337): You’re wrapped around an axle, man. Here are your own words:

    St. Peter and those who hold communion with St. Peter are not a faction; they are the Church Christ founded.

    The Church cannot sin, for Christ is the Head of the Body, and Christ cannot sin. The Church is holy.

    The Church has never claimed that St. Peter and his successors are “always right and that everyone else is always wrong.”… St. Peter and his successors are not impeccable.

    The contradiction is clear.

    And in any event, if “those who hold communion with St. Peter are the church”, then Paul would have said so in 1 Cor 1. The Peter faction would have been right. But Paul criticizes the Peter faction along with the others.

    I have no trouble with the Nicene creed, BTW. The holiness of the church is not her impeccability, but Christ’s righteousness imputed to her, which is the basis for her eschatological holiness, the bride presented to Christ without spot or blemish in Rev. 21. The church as she is now is seen more in Rev. 2-3.

    Bryan, the fundamental underlying difference here is that you feel it wrong to believe in the power of God operating apart from something physical — the visible Church — mediating that power. You feel that such a view is “Gnostic” (though historically, the Gnostics were quite different).

    But in Scripture, the power of God is not consistently mediated by physical things. And in fact, in the instances that it was, those things became a snare for the superstitious (the bronze snake; the ark of the covenant).

    Jesus speaks a word, and Lazarus comes forth. The thief on the cross believes, and is saved. Those are not Jews who are Jews outwardly, but who are circumcised by the Spirit.

    It is not the visible Church who mediates the power of God; it is the Church (in both visible and invisible aspects) who is the recipient of the power of God.

  339. Ron said,

    October 18, 2010 at 7:06 am

    Bryan, the fundamental underlying difference here is that you feel it wrong to believe in the power of God operating apart from something physical — the visible Church — mediating that power.

    Jeff,

    His problem is not with the physical redemptive means he indexes to the church but that he thinks that this church must be infallible in order to function. It’s been pointed out to such men that there is no greater need for an infallible magisterium in the NT than there was in the OT. If the OT saints didn’t need one, then neither do we in order to understand Scripture and be held accountable for an accurate interpretation concerning those things necessary for faith and practice. What has become evident is that this man presupposes in his reasoning that the church must be infallible in order to carry out God’s mission in the world. It’s impossible, so he thinks, for the church to exist without an infallible magisterium lest the church cannot submit to God! He never comes right out and says that but his position presupposes it because he says that Protestants cannot but resist submitting to God if they are left to interpet Scripture without an infallible magisterium. We are left to submit to only our own authority, which implies that it was impossible for the OT saints to submit to God. Bottom line is, for this man the infallible magisterium is not just an advantage, it is a necessary condition for God to redeem.

    But in Scripture, the power of God is not consistently mediated by physical things. And in fact, in the instances that it was, those things became a snare for the superstitious (the bronze snake; the ark of the covenant).

    I would disagree and think you minimize the physicality of the institutional church and much more. I think that the Lord’s Supper, water baptism and the incarnation support me on this, as does creation itself. God is very concerned with the physical means by which he saves not just our immaterial souls but our physical bodies. You are correct though that mediation by physical things does in fact give way to great superstitions, such as is the case with Rome’s magical view of baptism, her abominable practice of the Supper (which is “repugnant”) and the way in which she incorporates supposed statues of the Lord in public and private worship, a clear violation of the 2nd Commandment.

    Best,

    Ron

  340. TurretinFan said,

    October 18, 2010 at 7:08 am

    Roger:

    Might you also include Leo I?

    -TurretinFan

  341. Sean said,

    October 18, 2010 at 7:31 am

    The consensus of these fathers in the areas of controversy is overwhelmingly on the side of the Reformation. No transubstantiation but a real feeding, no primacy of Peter in the sense that you mean it, no sacrifice of the mass a la Rome, and no worship of Mary.

    Putting aside the fact that we do not worship Mary in the first place, I am completely confident that a reading of the fathers you mentioned will vindicate the Catholic Church in all the other areas you mentioned. I honestly wonder how somebody could claim that these fathers come on the side of the Reformation on these questions.

    Augustine was explicit about the bless bread and wine ‘becoming Christ’s body’ and that it was a sin to not adore the eucharist.

    “The Lord Jesus wanted those whose eyes were held lest they should recognize him, to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread [Luke 24:16,30-35]. The faithful know what I am saying. They know Christ in the breaking of the bread. For not all bread, but only that which receives the blessing of Christ, becomes Christ’s body.” (Sermons 234:2)

    “What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the body of Christ and the Chalice the blood of Christ. (Sermons 272)

    “Christ is both the Priest, offering Himself, and Himself the Victim. He willed that the sacramental sign of this should be the daily sacrifice of the Church, who, since the Church is His body and He the Head, learns to offer herself through Him.” (City of God 10:20

    Bernard of Clairvaux? Have you ever actually read Bernard of Clairvaux? He was a monk who prescribed a rule for holiness that is completely absent in Reformed thinking. Hair shirts, no speaking, cloistered, no meat (ever). He preached amazing sermons about the Blessed Virgin Mary. Amongst the doctors of the Church is he known as the Marian doctor!

    “In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal” (Bernard of Clairvaux).

    Are you sure you aren’t thinking of a different Bernard?

    Here is a passage from Brederos’ “Bernard of Clairvaux.”

    Speaking about Luther’s view of Bernard: “But he (LUTHER) also found reasons for criticizing Bernard…he stated that Bernard had been guilty of idolatry because he attributed to the host…the power of healing and conversion…further in his (Bernard’s) defense of the Pope he became a fierce supporter of the anti-Christ because he viewed the papacy as a divinely ordained institution.”

    So – in summary – by all means we should read the fathers and see what they had to say in matters of disagreement between the Catholic Church and the Reformers.

  342. Ron said,

    October 18, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Putting aside the fact that we do not worship Mary in the first place…

    In other words, don’t judge Roman practice or the implications of Marian dogmas – just believe Rome’s assertions. The only problem is, Rome attributes to Mary, though denies it, the incommunicable attributes of omniscience and omnipresence.

    Ron

  343. Sean said,

    October 18, 2010 at 7:54 am

    Ron/

    # 343.

    We do believe in the Communion of the Saints.

    And aren’t you a bit worried that Roger just cited Bernard of Clairvaux as having great influence on the Reformers when I just cited him for advocating prayers to Mary? The Marian Doctor of the Catholic Church is owed a great debt by the Reformers? Amen. Perhaps a greater acceptance of Bernard’s teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary will positively influence the Reformation churches in future generations.

  344. Ron said,

    October 18, 2010 at 8:10 am

    “And aren’t you a bit worried that Roger just cited Bernard of Clairvaux as having great influence on the Reformers when I just cited him for advocating prayers to Mary?”

    No, Sean, I don’t worry about such things. It can be said that Barth was the possibly the most influential theologian since Calvin, but that does not make one Barthian? Kant has influenced my thinking, does that make me Kantian? I don’t worry about such things because invalid conclusions don’t give me reason to pause.

    Ron

  345. TurretinFan said,

    October 18, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Sean wrote: “We do believe in the Communion of the Saints.”

    What good does it to do to affirm those words when you assign a meaning to those words that differs from the original meaning?

    -TurretinFan

  346. Sean said,

    October 18, 2010 at 8:36 am

    ‘TurretinFan’

    Name a church father that taught the Reformed concept of ‘communion of saints’ to the exclusion of the Catholic and Orthodox concept.

  347. Sean said,

    October 18, 2010 at 8:39 am

    “Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ”
    (Augustine City of God)

    Communion of the Saints. Original meaning. Tied to the ‘altar’ of sacrifice for the ‘body of Christ.’

    I love Augustine.

  348. TurretinFan said,

    October 18, 2010 at 8:40 am

    “Sean”

    Why? Will you believe them?

    -TurretinFan

  349. Sean said,

    October 18, 2010 at 8:40 am

    # 349 –

    Waiting…

  350. TurretinFan said,

    October 18, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Re: #350 – that’s not an understandable answer to #349

    Re: #348 – the quotation you gave doesn’t use the expression “Communion of Saints.” Here’s one that does use the expression:

    But so a difficulty meets us, which we have undertaken to solve in the Name of the Lord, and by His will. If the Father does nothing without the Son, nor the Son without the Father, will it not follow, that we must say that the Father also was born of the Virgin Mary, the Father suffered under Pontius Pilate, the Father rose again and ascended into heaven? God forbid! We do not say this, because we do not believe it. “For I believed, therefore have I spoken: we also believe, and therefore speak.” What is in the Creed? That the Son was born of a Virgin, not the Father. What is in the Creed? That the Son suffered under Pontius Pilate and was dead, not the Father. Have we forgotten, that some, misunderstanding this, are called “Patripassians,” who say that the Father Himself was born of a woman, that the Father Himself suffered, that the Father is the same as the Son, that they are two names, not two things? And these has the Church Catholic separated from the communion of saints, that they might not deceive any, but dispute in separation from her.

    – Augustine, Sermon 2 on the New Testament, Section 6

  351. TurretinFan said,

    October 18, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Of course, there wasn’t a “communion of saints” clause in any creeds that Augustine held. But that’s another issue. While his usage helps to inform the subsequent use of the term, I want to be clear that I am not trying to suggest that Augustine was alluding to a creed in the quotation I provided above. He couldn’t have been alluding to it.

  352. Bob Suden said,

    October 18, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Bryan’s recent charge of Protestant Docetism is almost as laughable as the “wrapped around an axle” quip. Just how ridiculous will it have to get before Bryan’s credibility is entirely shot?

    Anybody remember Bryan and “ecclesial deism”? That Christ is the final and greatest prophet that has authoritatively spoken once for all in these last days, in the New Testament, which is written by the apostolic eyewitnesses under the inspiration of his Spirit Heb.1:2, Rev. 22:18 completely escaped our resident gadfly and self appointed expert on protestantism and apologist for popery. Categorically there can be no more prophets or revelation, whether Muhammed or Joe Smith, the Koran or the Book of Mormon. Yet the incident with the Mormon missionaries is what pushed “Protestant ” Bryan over the edge into the embrace of Rome.

    But to return to the charge. We haven’t heard anything on par with this since JBJordan’s charge of Nestorianism contra those who upheld the confessional Regulative Principle of Worship, i.e. the good and necessary consequences of the Second Commandment. (Incidentally, where is Rome hiding the Second these days? Or are we taking the Fifth. Figures.) And by the by, Bryan is a fundamentalist, in that he too, contra Christ’s example in Mk. 12:18-27 re. the Sadduccees and the woman married to seven brothers, denies G&NC. He and James should get along well in the upcoming reunion of the FV with the Roman Babel.

    IOW as usual all we are talking about is the usual stock in trade Roman equivocation. Nobody denies the visibility of the church, only that is always and only visible and Roman. And besides, Bryan knows that Christ’s body is actually found in that little piece of bread elevated at the mass. Is it too, infallible and without sin, as well as visible and edible? But let’s remember our manners and not talk with our mouth full, please, even with more excuses for the fatuities of Rome.

    IOW distinguish, something again Romanists cannot or will not do because then their parade would be rained out.

    Ah, yes, Lk. 10:16. He who hears you, hears me and he who rejects you, rejects me.
    Don’t we all wish it were that simple? Unfortunately Christ also says in Mark 7:6-8 that Isaiah prophecied of hypocrites, as it is written in Scripture – not oral tradition – who honor God with their lips “but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, . . . Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” Anybody that has been paying attention, knows what Rome adds to the list when it comes to the traditions of men.

    Again, Bryan fails to distinguish how the church is Christ’s body and necessarily thinks there is a transfer of Christ’s divine attributes to the church. But nobody denies the visible church per se, only that it is on par with Christ or the Scripture when it comes to being infallible or impeccable.

    As for Augustine and Bernard, the Reformers on the basis of infallible Scripture judged when the ECF nailed it and when they erred. But again that takes a desire for and love of the truth. If you don’t have it, you won’t understand it.

    Luke 19:26 For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.

  353. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 18, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Ron (#340):

    I agree with you that I gave a one-sided approach above that could sound as if I dismiss the visible church entirely, or the means of grace. And so I accept the reproof.

    Still and all, my emphasis is on “consistently.”

    Baptism is a means of grace; yet its efficacy is not bound up in the water itself, but in the word of institution, received by faith.

    And so on.

    So by all means, let us hold fast to a strong doctrine of the visible church, but without binding God to our actions as if the latter were necessary for the former.

  354. TurretinFan said,

    October 18, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Sean wrote: “Putting aside the fact that we do not worship Mary in the first place,”

    Thomas Aquinas wrote (Summa 3:25:5) “Since, therefore, the Blessed Virgin is a mere rational creature, the worship of ‘latria’ is not due to her, but only that of ‘dulia': but in a higher degree than to other creatures, inasmuch as she is the Mother of God. For this reason we say that not any kind of “dulia” is due to her, but ‘hyperdulia.'”

    -TurretinFan

  355. TurretinFan said,

    October 18, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Jason Stellman wrote: “Since for us Protestants even Spirit-wrought works are excluded from the justification equation, then the moment a Catholic (or an evangelical) imports those works in is the moment he forfeits the right to compare himself to us, as his system’s grace with ours.”

    Good point!

  356. Bob Suden said,

    October 18, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    354 Jeff

    “Baptism is a means of grace; yet its efficacy is not bound up in the water itself, but in the word of institution, received by faith.”

    Amen. If Rome doesn’t as a rule, emphasize the visible word of the sacraments over the written word of Scripture, even more the letter over the spirit, the carnal over the spiritual, the sign over the thing signified, form over substance, the nominal over the real, tradition over truth, superstition over scripture and the church over Christ, she does nothing at all. That’s the grand backdrop to all the minor bit players scurrying around here mouthing the RC party line as the invincible truth that cannot be questioned on the pain of damnation. At least they have never seriously questioned it, much more really understood it or its implications. If Protestantism is accused of conjuring up its own unauthoritative version of Christianity, Rome has an infallible carte blanche to pretty much do and say what it wants.

    In a nutshell and at bottom, Rome knows nothing of the real power of the gospel Rom 1:16,17. Sad. Very sad. But that’s what the Reformation was all about and still is, whatever former protestants like Bryan and Dave say. There are some, to whom Christ will say on that day, “I never knew you”.
    By God’s mercy in Christ, may their blood be off our hands.

  357. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 18, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Bryan, in all fairness, I recognize that when you say, “Peter is the Church” and “the Church is incapable of sin”, that you probably don’t mean “the Church” in the same sense.

    But that’s my real point: there is equivocation afoot when we speak of “the Church.” The result is, I believe, great confusion in the Catholic theology concerning what it means to disagree with “the Church” in matters of doctrine. And the result is that “Peter and his successors” have steadily accumulated influence for themselves – this is demonstrable historically, as one can see in Chadwick – by trading on the equivocation.

  358. Ron said,

    October 18, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Tracking with you, Jeff. You’re all doing a great job IMHO.

    Ron

  359. Sean said,

    October 18, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    TFan.

    Tell me what it is that you think Augustine is saying in the citation you provided and tell me why the citation I provided – where Augustine expressly states that the dead are members of the Kingdom of Heaven and that we remember them at the altar of God.

    Need I pull the chapter of Confessions (and also City of God) where he talks of the bones of the martyrs being carried through the streets and people praying so that they can benefit from their (the martyrs) merits?

    Besides, I asked you to name one Church father that taught the Reformed view of the communion of saints to the exclusion of the Catholic view. You haven’t done so. I asked you to do so because you asserted that the Catholic view is a departure from the original meaning of the creed. It shouldn’t be hard for you to prove that assertion.

    Here, I’ll show you how: St. Augustine affirmed the Catholic doctrine of the communion of saints in AD 350. I can prove it. I have already quoted a passage where he talks about the dead being remembered and their participation in the kingdom of heaven (the church). That is the Catholic teaching on the communion of the saints.

    Still waiting.

  360. TurretinFan said,

    October 18, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Sean:

    You seem to have lost track of the issue. The issue wasn’t whether or not Augustine shared your views, the question was whether “communion of saints” in the creed originally meant what you now take it to mean.

    -TurretinFan

  361. Sean said,

    October 18, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    TFAN

    If you are going to assert that it is the Catholics who have lost the original meaning of the creed than you need to prove it.

    I can quote fathers contemporary to the creed that profess truths about the communion of the saints that are only in agreement with the Catholic teaching and are in fact opposed in forceful terms to the Reformed teaching on the communion of the saints. I already have in Augustine.

    I asked you to name an early church father to support your assertion. You have not done so.

    What proof do you offer to support your assertion that the Reformed concept of the communion of the saints is the original intent?

  362. TurretinFan said,

    October 18, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Sean:

    Where did I assert that “the Reformed concept of the communion of the saints” was “the original intent”?

    -TurretinFan

  363. Bryan Cross said,

    October 18, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Jeff, (re: #339)

    Bryan (#337): You’re wrapped around an axle, man. Here are your own words:
    St. Peter and those who hold communion with St. Peter are not a faction; they are the Church Christ founded.
    The Church cannot sin, for Christ is the Head of the Body, and Christ cannot sin. The Church is holy.
    The Church has never claimed that St. Peter and his successors are “always right and that everyone else is always wrong.”… St. Peter and his successors are not impeccable.

    The contradiction is clear.

    You think it is a contradiction because you are conflating the identity of composition with the identity of substance. For example, you are not identical to your foot, because your foot is not all of you, but only a part of you. And yet your foot is you, though not all of you. Just because it is not all of you, does not mean that it is not you. Just because I am not identical to the sum of my parts, it does not follow that my hands and feet and other members are not me. They are me, not non-me. But they are each parts of me; their being is my being, because I am one being. So likewise, the members of the Body of Christ share the identity and divine Life of the Body of Christ, by their incorporation into that Body, just as your foot is you. But that does not mean that if a member sins or cuts himself off from the divine Life of the Body, therefore the Body can sin or cut itself off from the divine Life. Even though individual members of the Body can sin and separate themselves from the life of the Body, the Body of Christ cannot sin or die, because Christ has defeated sin and death, and His Body can never be divided, nor can its divine Life be separated from it. (cf. Rom 6:9) And St. Peter and his successors are members of the Body. Therefore as members they can sin and even sin mortally. But that does not mean that the Church can sin or cut itself from the Life of God. In addition, as holders of the office of steward of the Kingdom of God, by the promise of Christ they can never teach error when defining a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.

    And in any event, if “those who hold communion with St. Peter are the church”, then Paul would have said so in 1 Cor 1. The Peter faction would have been right. But Paul criticizes the Peter faction along with the others.

    That’s a non sequitur and an argument from silence. The issue among the Corinthians was not the authority of Cephas, but precisely a non-participatory mentality (much like you yourself seemingly hold) which sets up the sort of false dilemmas I have been pointing out: either you follow Paul, or you follow Christ, either your follow Cephas, or your follow Paul, etc. St. Paul is showing that the Apostles are unified under Christ, and to follow the Apostles is to follow Christ. To follow Christ requires following the Apostles as a whole, not just one or another of them. But St. Paul is not denying the order among the Apostles by which the Apostles are unified, for he acknowledges that he is the “least of the apostles” (1 Cor 15:9). Nor is he denying Luke 10:16, by which it is clear that believers are to follow Christ by following the Apostles. In 1 Corinthians 1 St. Paul is exhorting the believers that they all agree and that there be no schisms among them and that they be united in the same mind and the same judgment. They are to do this by following all the Apostles united together with the Twelve, within which Cephas has a unique place, as we see where St. Paul places Cephas first and himself last, in the order of persons to whom the resurrected Christ appeared (1 Cor 15:3-8), and where it belongs to him to oversee a replacement for one of the Twelve (i.e. Judas).

    Bryan, the fundamental underlying difference here is that you feel it wrong to believe in the power of God operating apart from something physical — the visible Church — mediating that power. You feel that such a view is “Gnostic” (though historically, the Gnostics were quite different).

    This has nothing to do with feelings. Christ has established a Church through which He works to bring salvation to the world. The Church has always believed and taught that baptism is the means by which we are regenerated. Those who deny the need for the Church or deny the need for the sacraments, are indeed gnostics, because it is this denial that is at the essence of gnosticism, which reduces salvation to something invisible and mental (like a sinner’s prayer), rather than something that is to be sacramentally received, by Christ’s ordination.

    But in Scripture, the power of God is not consistently mediated by physical things. And in fact, in the instances that it was, those things became a snare for the superstitious (the bronze snake; the ark of the covenant).

    Of course, but abuse does not nullify proper use. Rejecting a Christ-established sacrament because it could be abused, is unjustified and blameworthy. Those who reject the baptism Christ ordained, because baptism can be abused, bring condemnation on their own heads.

    Jesus speaks a word, and Lazarus comes forth. The thief on the cross believes, and is saved. Those are not Jews who are Jews outwardly, but who are circumcised by the Spirit.

    You are appealing to Christ’s word to the thief on the cross to justify the notion that the visible Church does not mediate grace. You assume (unjustifiably) that the case of the thief on the cross is sufficient to determine sacramental theology. But an extraordinary case such as that of the thief does not dictate what is normative in ordinary cases. All the other data must be included. (Hence the problem with isolated proof-texting.) And Jesus said that unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. (John 3:5) It would be a mistake to use the case of the thief to nullify the truth of Christ’s statement in John 3:5.

    It is not the visible Church who mediates the power of God; it is the Church (in both visible and invisible aspects) who is the recipient of the power of God.

    An invisible Church invisibly receiving invisible power — that is gnosticism. See Philip Lee’s Against the Protestant Gnostics. As Pope Benedict said in his letter to seminarians, published today:

    For us God is not simply Word. In the sacraments he gives himself to us in person, through physical realities. At the heart of our relationship with God and our way of life is the Eucharist.

    The reduction of God to “Word” is a Platonizing of Christianity, and thus a reducing of salvation to a kind of gnosis. Salvation is an indwelling of the divine Persons (John 14:23), and the divine Persons come and dwell in us when we have agape, which we receive through the sacraments, by which the Holy Spirit pours out agape into our hearts. (Rom 5:5) Having Scripture without the sacraments reduces to a kind of gnosticism in which God is impersonal, distant and abstract. But through the sacraments we receive God in His Personhood, His Spirit and His Life, not just through His words to us.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  364. Sean said,

    October 18, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    TFan:

    # 363.

    Why don’t you just tell us what the original intent of the words ‘the communion of saints’ in the creed meant?

    And then tell us how you know that.

  365. TurretinFan said,

    October 18, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Sean:

    Do you really want to know what the original meaning of the words was? My original comment, you may recall, was this:

    Sean wrote: “We do believe in the Communion of the Saints.”

    What good does it to do to affirm those words when you assign a meaning to those words that differs from the original meaning?

    Now, you have a few options:

    1) You could just let it go.

    2) You could explain what good it would be to affirm the words even though the meaning has shifted from the original meaning.

    3) You could agree in principle that if the meaning had shifted, then the confession of the words would be meaningless.

    – You could also optionally indicate that you thought and still think that the meaning probably hasn’t shifted.

    If you took that last option, you’d be placing the onus on me to show you that it had shifted, if I wanted to persuade you to change what you think.

    – TurretinFan

  366. Sean said,

    October 18, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    TFan.

    You said: What good does it to do to affirm those words when you assign a meaning to those words that differs from the original meaning?

    You have one option.

    1) Prove the assertion that the Catholic teaching on the communion of saints differs from the original meaning.

  367. TurretinFan said,

    October 18, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Sean: Do you understand the difference between an assertion and a question? -TurretinFan

  368. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 18, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Sean:

    CCC 815ff.: What are these bonds of unity? Above all, charity “binds everything together in perfect harmony.” But the unity of the pilgrim Church is also assured by visible bonds of communion:

    – profession of one faith received from the Apostles;

    -common celebration of divine worship, especially of the sacraments;

    apostolic succession through the sacrament of Holy Orders, maintaining the fraternal concord of God’s family.

    “The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter’s pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it. . . . This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.”

    The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism explains: “For it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God.”

    The original church knew nothing of Peter as the head of the church. They knew of Christ as the head, and Peter as the first among equal shepherds.

    That’s the major difference.

  369. Bob Suden said,

    October 18, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    364

    Having Scripture without the sacraments reduces to a kind of gnosticism in which God is impersonal, distant and abstract. But through the sacraments we receive God in His Personhood, His Spirit and His Life, not just through His words to us.

    Really, Bryan?
    Just exactly how do you harmonize that with what Christ plainly says in John 6:63?

    It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

    Let me give you a clue. You can’t. Scripture is primary. Without it there are no sacraments at all and they are only sacraments when accompanied by the word. So much for the equal time/status theory, another fundamental error of Rome.
    Scripture stands over and above the church, tradition, sacraments etc. which are subordinate to Scripture and not co ordinate.
    And by stating this, nobody is denying the visible church or the sacraments per se, but only the false dilemma of either/or in your last post, which typically confuses and conflates, blithers, blathers and blends at will the various terms and concepts under discussion in Rome’s favor.

    IOW since you don’t seem to get it, your job as a self appointed and amateur apologist for the Vatican here on a Protestant site is to demonstrate – not just assert (big emphasis there) – where Protestantism departs from Scripture, which like the discussion between Christ and the Sadduccees in Mk12 is the nominally common ground. Just reciting the Roman position doesn’t cut it. Every time you trip up and mischaracterize Protestant doctrine, puts you deeper into the abyss.

    In the FWIW Dept. Just ordered Vol. 1 & 3 on Scripture by DT King. I am looking forward to reading them. Who knows, once these titles receive wider coverage, they might even provoke a decent book review or two from a Romanist in contrast to the naive, if not devious and cunning hack work we have been subjected to here. Might, but I doubt it. Unless the Reformation was a sinful schism and fundamentally mistaken about Biblical Christianity.

    Thank you.

  370. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 18, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Bryan (#364):

    I understand your distinction. I don’t think the analogy holds up well — Peter is not just any member of the church (on your account), but the head. What would it mean to cut the head off of the body, as your analogy would have it?

    But “identity of substance”? Are you suggesting that the church partakes of the substance of Christ?

    The Vatican has this to say about the Eastern Churches:

    FOURTH QUESTION

    Why does the Second Vatican Council use the term “Church” in reference to the oriental Churches separated from full communion with the Catholic Church?

    RESPONSE

    The Council wanted to adopt the traditional use of the term. “Because these Churches, although separated, have true sacraments and above all – because of the apostolic succession – the priesthood and the Eucharist, by means of which they remain linked to us by very close bonds”, they merit the title of “particular or local Churches”, and are called sister Churches of the particular Catholic Churches.

    “It is through the celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord in each of these Churches that the Church of God is built up and grows in stature”. However, since communion with the Catholic Church, the visible head of which is the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter, is not some external complement to a particular Church but rather one of its internal constitutive principles, these venerable Christian communities lack something in their condition as particular churches.

    On the other hand, because of the division between Christians, the fullness of universality, which is proper to the Church governed by the Successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him, is not fully realised in history.CDF, RESPONSES TO SOME QUESTIONS REGARDING CERTAIN ASPECTS
    OF THE DOCTRINE ON THE CHURCH
    , 2007.

    That sounds a lot more like a division within the church than a falling away from the church entirely. They certainly seem to be pushing on the notion of “genuine church in exile” rather than “not true church.”

  371. Sean said,

    October 18, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    # 368

    TFan – Your question included an assertion. Give us a break. I don’t know what you are trying to accomplish by dodging the question. If you want to continue wasting time I am not going to help you any longer.

  372. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 18, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Sean,

    Your question has me looking back at the ECFs of the first two centuries.

    I find the following things, though as a non-expert I’m open to correction:

    (1) No mention of Peter as the head of the church OR as the source of the communion of the saints.
    (2) In particular, Ignatius (considering only the genuine epistles) speaks frequently of the need to defer to the bishop: “Do nothing without the bishop.” He lays out the structure of the unity of the church:

    “there is but one altar for the whole Church, and one bishop, with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants. Since, also, there is but one unbegotten Being, God, even the Father; and one only-begotten Son, God, the Word and man; and one Comforter, the Spirit of truth; and also one preaching, and one faith, and one baptism; and one Church which the holy apostles established from one end of the earth to the other by the blood of Christ, and by their own sweat and toil” — To the Philadelphians, Chap 4.

    “Nor is there any one in the Church greater than the bishop, who ministers as a priest to God for the salvation of the whole world. ” — ibid, chap 9.

    We note that for Ignatius, it is the bishop who is the head of the church. This is consistent throughout his epistles. The top of the hierarchy is the bishop.

    We note also that the church was established by the holy apostles; not Peter in specific.

    (3) This is consistent with the visions of Hermas (vision 3, chap 5; Similitudes 9.16). The apostles, jointly, are the stones that serve as the foundation of the church.

    (4) So what is the unity of the church? It is not once, ever, attachment to the bishop of Rome. Instead, not preferring one party over the other (Clement of Rome to Corinthians). It is unity in a common profession of faith (Clement of Alex, Stromata 7.17; Irenaeus Adv. Haer 1.10). That profession of faith is ancient, not consisting of oral traditions but on the Testaments (ibid).

    Here is “The Epistle of Barnabus”:

    Wherefore in our habitation God truly dwells in us. How? His word of faith; His calling of promise; the wisdom of the statutes; the commands of the doctrine; He himself prophesying in us; He himself dwelling in us; opening to us who were enslaved by death the doors of the temple, that is, the mouth; and by giving us repentance introduced us into the incorruptible temple. He then, who wishes to be saved, looks not to man, but to Him who dwelleth in him, and speaketh in him, amazed at never having either heard him utter such words with his mouth, nor himself having ever desired to hear them. This is the spiritual temple built for the Lord.

    The conclusion is that the communion of saints in the ECFs was quite different than the communion of saints in the Catholic Catechism. It centered around submission to the local bishop; adherence to the common profession of the faith (which was not hidden oral tradition, but commonly known).

    Peter is simply not the source of the communion of the saints in the ECFs, as far as I can see.

    One final thing. Clement of Alexandria praises the following people:

    ““But those who are ready to toil in the most excellent pursuits, will not desist from the search after truth, till they get the demonstration from the Scriptures themselves.” (Stromata 7.16).

    Isn’t that quite a different sentiment from

    “Any attempt to test Church doctrine against Scripture is making yourself into the highest authority”?

  373. Tom Riello said,

    October 18, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Jeff,

    Your generous quoting of St. Ignatius of Antioch persuades me to ask you, what Father Neuhaus asked me (if St. Ignatius showed up on Sunday morning where you gather), “where, then, is your Bishop?” I mean, are you only quoting the great Father as a counter to the Catholic claim of Peter or are you quoting him as a defender of the Eastern position?

  374. TurretinFan said,

    October 18, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Sean wrote: “I don’t know what you are trying to accomplish by dodging the question.”

    I am the one who asked the question. Recall, I asked: “What good does it to do to affirm those words when you assign a meaning to those words that differs from the original meaning?”

    You haven’t answered that question, but yet you’re accusing me of “dodging the question,” when your latest comments are just a demand that I prove something (presumably you want me to prove that the meaning you give the words differs from the original meaning).

    What’s more, after your initial demand, I inquired as to why you wanted the proof you were demanding, a second question you’ve been dodging (see #350).

    But oh no, if I don’t prove to you my “assertion” that the sense you give the words differs from their original sense, I’m the one dodging the question.

    Very interesting indeed!

    Let’s ask a third question – perhaps we’ll have better luck with this one: why do you think that “communion of saints” meant everything that is in CCC 946-62 (see here) when it was introduced into the creed?

    The form of your answer could be:

    a) I think that because (reason here) …
    or
    b) I don’t think that. Sorry for wasting your time by asking you to prove something I already agree with.
    or
    c) I think that, but I don’t know why I think that.

    -TurretinFan

  375. TurretinFan said,

    October 18, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Tom:

    One would point Ignatius to one’s pastor.

    -TurretinFan

  376. TurretinFan said,

    October 18, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    Sean:

    As a token of good faith, I’ll point out to you one instance why you might try response (b) above … in the CCC the “communion of saints” phrase is interpreted in two different ways, one way in which the word translated “saints” is understood as a declension of sancta and another way in which the word is understood as a declension of sancti.

    Of course, it is possible that you may seriously think that the early medieval writers of this phrase intended both words in a single word, but I doubt you’ve really given it much thought — which is why I asked you the question in the first place, to get you to think, to use your brain instead of repeating the “Apostles’ Creed” mindlessly without reflecting on where it actually came from, and what its various clauses meant at the times when they were originally penned.

    -TurretinFan

  377. Roger du Barry said,

    October 19, 2010 at 12:37 am

    The consensus of these fathers in the areas of controversy is overwhelmingly on the side of the Reformation. No transubstantiation but a real feeding, no primacy of Peter in the sense that you mean it, no sacrifice of the mass a la Rome, and no worship of Mary.

    Sean, the greats IN THE AREAS OF CONTROVERSY were overwhelmingly on the side of the Reformers, NOT THE BAPTISTS, whom you have confused with the Reformers.

    The fathers said many odd things on many subjects, but in the areas of controversy they were catholic, not Papist.

    You quoted Augustine on the Supper, but his views are those of the Reformers. Thee is a true eating of the body of Christ, but no change in the bread and wine. He said that God never commands us to commit a crime, and the eating of human flesh is a crime, so the elements are not human flesh.

    Read him on predestination and election, and you will learn something about the worthlessness of your will.

    Bernard had weird ideas about Mary, but read him on faith alone and you will be astonished at how Protestant (sic) he is.

    Your religion is an invention os the Middle Ages, and truly Medieval. Reformation Christianity is true catholicism, and conforms to the consensus of the fathers and the early church. Naturally, even these greats are subject to scripture, so we do not follow them blindly, but adhere strictly to the Bible, the infallible word of God.

    On the subject of scripture, your church has heretically taught that many parts of it are in error, such as those teachings that contradict modern scientific theory. I am speaking of the age of the earth and evolution.

    LOL. How catholic is that? You just make it up as you go along.

  378. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 19, 2010 at 6:18 am

    Tom (#374): I agree with TF (#376). The division Ignatius sets out is bishop, presbytery, deacons, laity. Allowing for differences in terminology, this appears to correspond to pastor, session, deacons, laity.

    But even if not, then what? Perhaps I’m in error concerning the proper structure of the church, and perhaps we ought to have bishops. Maybe.

    The point is, that Ignatius provides what appears to me to be strong evidence against Sean’s hypothesis, that the communion of the saints in the first two centuries was identical to the Catholic version now.

    If there was a pope, no one seems to have heard of him in the first two centuries.

    Am I incorrect on the sources? Is there some ECF in the first two centuries who does acknowledge the pope as the source of Christian unity?

  379. Sean said,

    October 19, 2010 at 7:06 am

    Roger.

    You quoted Augustine on the Supper, but his views are those of the Reformers

    Ridiculous. Honestly, not even worthy of a response. Augustine is there for anybody to read him.

    Thee is a true eating of the body of Christ, but no change in the bread and wine.

    “The Lord Jesus wanted those whose eyes were held lest they should recognize him, to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread [Luke 24:16,30-35]. The faithful know what I am saying. They know Christ in the breaking of the bread. For not all bread, but only that which receives the blessing of Christ, becomes Christ’s body.” (Sermons 234:2)

    He said that God never commands us to commit a crime, and the eating of human flesh is a crime, so the elements are not human flesh.

    That is a ridiculous argument. Catholics do not believe that eating Jesus’ flesh is a crime. Jesus himself said that the bread is His flesh indeed. It’s a hard saying (John 6).

    Read him on predestination and election, and you will learn something about the worthlessness of your will.

    I have you should to. Start with Grace and Free Will.

    I completely, as a Catholic, can confirm every jot that Augustine wrote about predestination and election.

    Bernard had weird ideas about Mary, but read him on faith alone and you will be astonished at how Protestant (sic) he is.

    I have read Bernard. He does not teach the Protestant doctrine of faith alone. Using the words ‘faith and alone’ together in the same sentence is not teaching the doctrine of faith alone. From what work and what chapter do you get that he taught the Lutheran doctrine of faith alone?

    # 375 (T Fan) – OK. Giving you benefit of the doubt. I reject that the meaning of the creed is any different than the Catholic Church professes today. What I am rejecting here was implicitly asserted in the question you asked.

    Jeff – I would encourage a broad reading of fathers. There are fathers that speak of Roman primacy early. Such as Ignatius, whom you quoted:

    “Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Mast High God the Father, and of Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; the Church which is sanctified and enlightened by the will of God, who farmed all things that are according to the faith and love of Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour; the Church which presides in the place of the region of the Romans, and which is worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of credit, worthy of being deemed holy, and which presides over love…”
    Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans, Prologue (A.D. 110)

    And – a very strong early reference:

    “Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.”
    Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:3:2 (A.D. 180).

    There was a pope from the start, since Peter. There really is no evidence that is stronger than the earliest witness that we have that speak of the Roman church. That some fathers in some letters don’t mention the bishop of Rome does not mean that the bishop of Rome did not exist and that being in communion with the bishop of Rome was important.

    Further, the Nicene Creed was written at a time when communion with the bishop of Rome was fully understand in its full Catholic meaning:

    One hundred years before Nicea here is Cyprian:

    “And he says to him again after the resurrection, ‘Feed my sheep.’ It is on him that he builds the Church, and to him that he entrusts the sheep to feed. And although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single Chair, thus establishing by his own authority the source and hallmark of the (Church’s) oneness. No doubt the others were all that Peter was, but a primacy is given to Peter, and it is (thus) made clear that there is but one flock which is to be fed by all the apostles in common accord. If a man does not hold fast to this oneness of Peter, does he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the Church? This unity firmly should we hold and maintain, especially we bishops, presiding in the Church, in order that we may approve the episcopate itself to be the one and undivided.” Cyprian, The Unity of the Church, 4-5 (A.D. 251-256).

    “After such things as these, moreover, they still dare–a false bishop having been appointed for them by, heretics–to set sail and to bear letters from schismatic and profane persons to the throne of Peter, and to the chief church whence priestly unity takes its source; and not to consider that these were the Romans whose faith was praised in the preaching of the apostle, to whom faithlessness could have no access.” Cyprian, To Cornelius, Epistle 54/59:14 (A.D. 252).

  380. Sean said,

    October 19, 2010 at 7:08 am

    Sorry…the Cyprian quotes are about 75 years before Nicea, not 100.

  381. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 19, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Sean,

    Thanks for your response. I did indeed read Ignatius to the Romans, but I don’t see the “primacy” that you’re seeing in the text. He obviously is favorable towards the Roman church. But he isn’t deferential — in fact, he’s writing to instruct that same church. When has a bishop written to instruct the pope?

    I’ve also read Irenaeus in the past, though my most recent re-read didn’t take me up to book 3.

    Looking at the passage you cite, I can agree with you this far:

    (1) Ir. definitely holds the Roman church in esteem.
    (2) Ir. views the Roman church as holding on to the apostolic tradition.

    But primacy is not there. Rather, Rome is one — the most important — of three witnesses to the general apostolic tradition, Polycarp and the church at Ephesus being the other two.

    Further, the church at Rome is not Peter’s, but “the church founded by Peter and Paul.”

    As to Cyprian: he’s awfully late to be a genuine witness to the original traditions. Think about people’s ideas of the US Constitution today.

    Well, there it is. I think we must simply differ on this issue.

  382. David Meyer said,

    October 19, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Roger du Barry said:

    “On the subject of scripture, your church has heretically taught that many parts of it are in error, such as those teachings that contradict modern scientific theory. I am speaking of the age of the earth and evolution.”

    I am truly curious for proof of this statement. Having just asked a Priest last night a similar question about Church teaching on the age of the earth and evolution and getting the opposite from him of what you say here. Could you back up your assertion? Specifically the “taught that many parts of it are in error” part of your statement concerning evolution/age of earth. (or anything else you know of) I want to see what parts of scripture they are heretically teaching are in error, sounds like you have the skinny on it. If you don’t want to bog down this comment box, you could email me the info.

    This evolution issue was one of my tests for the magisterium. Before knowing what they said on the issue, I knew that if they had dogmatized evolution that they were fallible. So I am very interested in your evidence of your claim.

    BTW folks, the priest said looks like I can enter the Church around Thanksgiving time, not Easter. I think he figured someone with a worn down dog-eared copy of the CCC might just be ready for the sacraments.

    -David M.

  383. David Meyer said,

    October 19, 2010 at 7:39 am

    oops. the quote-within-a-quote in #383 are my words.

  384. Bryan Cross said,

    October 19, 2010 at 7:45 am

    Jeff, (re: #382)

    Concerning the writing of St. Irenaeus on the Church at Rome, you wrote:

    But primacy is not there.

    Here’s what St. Irenaeus said about the Church at Rome:

    For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority

    When he says “this Church” he is talking about the particular Church at Rome. When he says “every Church” he is talking about every other particular Church (e.g. the Church at Antioch, the Church at Corinth, the Church at Alexandria, etc.). For St. Irenaeus, writing around AD 180, within the universal Church every other particular Church must agree with the particular Church at Rome. The primacy of the Church at Rome is there in St. Irenaeus.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  385. Sean said,

    October 19, 2010 at 7:46 am

    Jeff.

    As to Cyprian: he’s awfully late to be a genuine witness to the original traditions.

    I thought we were talking about the intent of the creed. If we are than Cyrprian is 75 years before the writing of the creed preaching about the chair of Peter being the source of priestly unity.

  386. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 19, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Sean, I thought we were talking about the intent of the Apostle’s creed, which is where the “holy catholic church” language begins. Or do you think that the Nicene and Apostle’s creeds are using the language differently?

    Bryan, I can understand what you’re saying. But Irenaeus does not say, “It is necessary for every church to agree with the Roman church because it is the head of the entire church.”

    His argument is that Rome is a reliable witness, not that Rome is supreme over other churches.

    Look at the structure of his argument. He is giving evidence for the teaching of the church over against the teachings of the Gnostics. He provides three witnesses.

    If Irenaeus were truly teaching primacy of Rome in the sense in which you mean it, he would stop with Rome. The additional witnesses would be utterly superfluous.

  387. John Bugay said,

    October 19, 2010 at 8:17 am

    Bryan Cross, #385, don’t forget to tell Jeff that the quote that you provided is from a questionable translation of a questionable text; further, don’t forget to tell him that it can also mean simply that “the particular church at Rome” has accumulated doctrines from all around the world simply because travelers visit there from churches all around the world and it’s not a matter of authority, but simply that churches do agree with Rome because of the variety of beliefs that have been brought there.

    I am certain that in your desire for charity, there is included a desire for honesty and thoroughness as well.

  388. Bryan Cross said,

    October 19, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Jeff, (re: #387)

    But Irenaeus does not say, “It is necessary for every church to agree with the Roman church because it is the head of the entire church.”

    I’m not talking about what he doesn’t say, but what he does say: “it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority

    His argument is that Rome is a reliable witness, not that Rome is supreme over other churches.

    He doesn’t say “reliable witness,” and his claim is much stronger than that the Church at Rome is a reliable witness. He says that because of its “preeminent authority,” every other particular Church must agree with the Church at Rome. This is a claim about the authority of the Church at Rome in relation to all the other particular Churches, namely that it has authority above that of all the other Churches, and their belief and teaching must conform to that of the Church at Rome. The reason why the Church at Rome is a reliable witness is precisely because of its preeminent authority.

    Look at the structure of his argument. He is giving evidence for the teaching of the church over against the teachings of the Gnostics. He provides three witnesses. If Irenaeus were truly teaching primacy of Rome in the sense in which you mean it, he would stop with Rome. The additional witnesses would be utterly superfluous.

    What you say in those last two lines is a very poor argument, (because it is a non sequitur). The preeminent authority of the Church at Rome does not mean that the testimony of St. Polycarp and the Church at Ephesus are not helpful and important, because they show the agreement of all the apostolic Churches regarding the one true apostolic faith (against the gnostics). Saying that if the Church at Rome has preeminent authority then the testimony of St. Polycarp and the Church at Ephesus don’t matter is like saying that if Peter has the primacy, then the testimony of the other Apostles is superfluous. That’s silly. God is not limited by the principle of parsimony, nor does the testimony of the authoritative head nullify the value of the testimony of the other members. That would be a false dilemma.

    John, I’m aware that everything is “questionable,” since I have not met anything that cannot be called into question by some skeptic or other. As for your “questionable” speculation that the Church at Rome had “preeminent authority” only because many travelers went there, Jeff will be the first to you that this is what St. Irenaeus “does not say.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  389. John Bugay said,

    October 19, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Heh heh, Bryan, it’s not just “questionable” because “everything is questionable.” The one text that is available on this is a Latin translation of a Greek text, and it shows evidence of having been tampered with. [And this is all the more believable because texts that talk about Roman authority do have a track record of having been tampered with].

    This is why the scholarly discipline of textual criticism is so important.

    But I’m sure Jeff would be the first to tell me that, too.

  390. TurretinFan said,

    October 19, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Sean:

    #380 – Thanks for letting me know that.

    As I mentioned already at #377, the meaning assigned by the CCC to “sanctorum communionem” requires (in addition to some other things) “sanctorum” to have a double meaning – one meaning as the genitive plural of “sanctum” and one as the genitive plural of “sanctus.” In other words, the CCC interprets it both as the genitive of “holy things” (sancta) and the genitive of “holy persons” (sancti). As you may know, the Latin word “sanctorum” grammatically is ambiguous – it could mean either of those things.

    This sort of interpretation that suggests that two different meanings were intended seems an unlikely interpretation on its face. Moreover, in looking through the patristic and early medieval materials at my disposal, I’m unable to find anyone asserting that the expression has a double meaning.

    In fact, in the example I gave from Augustine above (which predates the clause’s entry into the creed) the phrase is being given a sense in context that means “holy men” referring to living members of the church. It doesn’t have the double meaning there, and it doesn’t have a reference to the part of the church that has passed on to the next life, since the goal of this separation that Augustine mentions is to avoid deception (something we cannot imagine he was concerned about for those who have departed): “And these hath the Church Catholic separated from the communion of saints, that they might not deceive any, but dispute in separation from her.” (Augustine, Sermon 52, Section 6.)

    This is evidence against the view of the CCC. In fact, every instance I could give you from early medieval writers would be evidence against the view of the CCC, since none that I could find give the word a double sense.

    Of course, since I can’t find anyone giving it a double sense, I also can’t find anyone explicitly saying “Hey, Joe is wrong in claiming it has a double sense,” but hopefully you won’t demand that kind of evidence before you reach the same conclusion I have reached, namely that the view of the CCC is highly unlikely to represent the meaning of the term as originally inserted into the creed.

    And furthermore, I recognize that showing that Augustine used the phrase to refer to the visible fellowship of the church may not prove to your satisfaction that the term had that meaning when it was inserted into the creed.

    Famous Historian, J.N.D. Kelly in Early Christian Creeds, p. 391 explains:

    The most profitable method of approach the problem (an insoluble one, perhaps) of the original bearing of the words is to study them as they are found in their creedal setting. Here at any rate we have solid handrails to grasp and need not poise ourselves unsupported in the dizzy air of conjecture. There can be no question, for example, what Nicetas [of Remesiana, died about A.D. 414] was thinking about when he quoted our clause.

    “What is the Church,” he inquired, “but the congregation of all saints? From the beginning of the world patriarchs, prophets, martyrs, and all other righteous men who have lived or are now alive, or shall live in time to come, comprise the Church, since they have been sanctified by one faith and manner of life, and sealed by one Spirit and so made one body, of which Christ is declared to be head, as the Scripture says. Moreover, the angels, and the heavenly virtues and powers too, are banded together in this Church. . . . So you believe that in this Church you will attain to the communion of saints.”

    Manifestly communion of saints is here interpreted as standing for that ultimate fellowship with the holy persons of all ages, as well as with the whole company of heaven, which is anticipated and partly realized in the fellowship of the Catholic Church on earth.

    I have no idea if this will satisfy you, but perhaps it will help you to see that the meaning of the phrase has evolved.

    -TurretinFan

  391. TurretinFan said,

    October 19, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Bryan:

    How is a model in which there are multiple churches agreeing with the Roman church helpful to you? Aren’t you all about a system in which the Roman bishop is head of one catholic church? Thus, whatever the author of the quotation might have meant about the preeminence of the Roman church, it still doesn’t seem like you can really claim that author as someone who holds to your ecclesiology.

    Perhaps he also doesn’t hold to mine. I’m not saying he does. What I am saying is that if you let this author speak for himself he doesn’t proclaim the papacy – he proclaims a more primitive ecclesiology, one in which the Roman church is one of many churches.

    -TurretinFan

  392. TurretinFan said,

    October 19, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Quoting Kelly and then turning to Irenaeus has reminded me of a response that Pastor King wrote a while back to similar claims (see post here).

    Pastor King, responding to similar claims made by Mr. Taylor Marshall wrote (the remainder of my comment is a quotation from Pastor King):

    I’m content to defer to the explanation offered by J. N. D. Kelly. He states, while commenting on this passage from Irenaeus that

    This interpretation [i.e., the one implied by Mr. Marshall], or some variant of it, has been accepted by many, but it is awkward to refer in qua to hanc … ecclesiam, and anachronistic to attribute such thinking to Irenaeus. Hence it seems more plausible to take in qua with omnem … ecclesiam, and to understand Irenaeus as suggesting that the Roman church supplies an ideal illustration because, ‘in view of its preeminent authority’ based on its foundation by both Peter and Paul, its antiquity and so on, every church—or perhaps the whole church—in which the apostolic tradition has been preserved must as a matter of course agree with it. There is therefore no allusion to the later Petrine claims of the Roman see.

    See J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper, 1960), p. 193.

    But, even if we did permit the meaning you suggest implicitly, Irenaeus does not speak for the church universal with respect to the primacy of Rome or its pope. And to be sure, the eastern churches never recognized, let alone acknowledged, Roman and/or papal primacy.

  393. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 19, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Re: 388-390:

    I feel like a sock puppet. :)

  394. TurretinFan said,

    October 19, 2010 at 9:31 am

    LOL Jeff

  395. Sean Patrick said,

    October 19, 2010 at 9:36 am

    TFan – # 391

    The JND Kelly quote affirms the sense that I originally told Roger that we believe in the Communion of Saints. His objection was prayer to Mary. Mary is part of the Church – as evidenced by the JND Kelly quote you quoted.

    # 393 – You said that the Eastern Churches never recognized Papal primacy. Don’t tell that to the millions of Easter Catholics who are in communion with Rome and don’t tell that to Cyprian (Eastern Father) whom I quoted in # 380.

    Even the Eastern Orthodox churches whom are not in communion with the Roman Church admit a Roman primacy as the ‘first among equals.’ There is clearly a divergence with those Eastern churches about what this entails but there is hope that this will be resolved.

  396. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 19, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Bryan (#389):

    I do commend the text notes found here, which illustrates one of the two issues involved with the text.

    But even if we accept the text as it stands, which is the strongest possible “Catholic” rendering of the Latin, it does not add up to papal centrality.

    Let’s examine the words he says very closely.

    Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops.

    Irenaeus alleges two pieces of evidence: the successions of all the churches (which he intends to gloss because of tedium), and the tradition of the apostles.

    He indicates that this tradition is found at Rome because it was founded by Peter and Paul.

    For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those who exist everywhere.

    What’s his argument? That the Roman Church has pre-eminent authority, because it has preserved the apostolic tradition. He then substantiates this with the apostolic succession of the church via Linus.

    So there’s a tradition; there’s the Roman Church. The Roman Church has preserved the tradition; therefore, it has pre-eminent authority.

    Thus concludes Irenaeus:

    In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.

    The authority depends upon the preservation of the truth; the truth does not depend upon the authority.

    We *see* the tradition — in all of the churches — and the Roman church is the pre-eminent authority because it is the clearest witness.

    Or put another way: Irenaeus says nothing about Rome’s authority going forward: There is no guarantee expressed that Rome will continue to hold to the apostolic tradition; just that to this time, it has.

    That’s whole issue here. In your scheme, which we might call “papal positivism”, the truth is defined by the church. Not only has the Roman church preserved the truth, but it is guaranteed to continue to do so.

    The interpretation of Scripture, rather than being an objective matter of what the words *say*, is logically contingent upon the authority of the church. Heck, even the very canon is logically contingent upon the authority of the church.

    I know that you don’t agree with me, but the methodology of the church leaves us with no other conclusion. You deny that the words of Scripture can possibly have a meaning different from the interpretation of the Church; it follows therefore that the meaning of Scripture is logically contingent on the teaching of the Church.

    This was in no way what Irenaeus was saying.

    The Catholic doctrine of the communion of the saints is developed and very specific. If you want to allege that this doctrine is found in the ECFs, you need similarly specific evidence. Irenaeus is not it.

    But step back and examine the evidential ground of your position for a moment. We have:

    (1) A text from Ignatius that shows special approval of the church at Rome, with no hint of primacy (“first among equals”) OR supremacy.

    (2) A text from Irenaeus that is (a) contested in translation; (b) less than crystal clear in its argument; and (c) does not actually add up to idea that the Church is defined by Rome.

    Can we really say, then, that the ECFs “support” the Catholic doctrine of Communion of the Saints?

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that a small amount of evidence in the ECFs is possibly consistent with the Catholic doctrine of Communion of the Saints?

  397. TurretinFan said,

    October 19, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Sean wrote:

    The JND Kelly quote affirms the sense that I originally told Roger that we believe in the Communion of Saints. His objection was prayer to Mary. Mary is part of the Church – as evidenced by the JND Kelly quote you quoted.

    That’s great. In fact, we Reformed also think that Mary’s part of the church. Have you lost track of the issues again?

    You also wrote:

    # 393 – You said that the Eastern Churches never recognized Papal primacy. Don’t tell that to the millions of Easter Catholics who are in communion with Rome and don’t tell that to Cyprian (Eastern Father) whom I quoted in # 380.

    I suppose you mean “Eastern Christians” not “Easter Christians,” though with the majority of them (as with all Roman Catholics regardless of rite) the latter appellation would also be appropriate. But, of course, that’s totally irrelevant to the state of the early church.

    Cyprian’s not a counter-example, both because he doesn’t affirm papal primacy and because he’s not Eastern (Carthage is in North Africa – Western).

    You also wrote:

    Even the Eastern Orthodox churches whom are not in communion with the Roman Church admit a Roman primacy as the ‘first among equals.’ There is clearly a divergence with those Eastern churches about what this entails but there is hope that this will be resolved.

    If you count that as evidence for papal primacy, no wonder you’re so confused about the early church!

    -TurretinFan

  398. steve hays said,

    October 19, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Bryan Cross said,

    “The solution to sin is grace, by which the law is written upon our hearts, and through the Holy Spirit we receive agape poured into our hearts, by which the law is fulfilled in us, as St. Paul says repeatedly. (Rom 5:5, 13:8, 13:10, Gal 5:14) That is what was promised in the prophets Jer 31:31ff. The solution to sin is not destroying or abolishing the law, but, by the infused grace of Christ won for us upon the cross, fulfilling the royal law. This is the power of the gospel, for all who believe. The person who says that he knows Christ, but disobeys Christ’s laws, is a liar. (1 John 2:4) Anyone who abides in Him, does not sin. (1 John 3:6) Anyone born of God “does not commit sin”. (1 John 3:9) He who does not love, does not know God. (1 John 4:8) How do we love? ‘For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.’ (1 John 5:4) But anyone who is born of God does not sin. (1 John 5:18) That’s the good news, that we are not left in our sins, but by the grace won for us by Christ, made alive in Christ, and raised up with Him, empowered by His divine life to live in newness of life, not in the darkness, but in the light.”

    Notice that Bryan isn’t quoting from any infallible magisterial interpretations of his prooftexts. He treats Scripture as perspicuous. And he relies on his private interpretation from start to finish.

    “When you say that the way to get the right answer is ‘by asking the right people,’ what you mean by ‘right people’ is those who agree with your general interpretation of Scripture concerning what you think is essential.”

    Actually, it means we agree with whoever has the best exegetical argument for his interpretation.

    “In addition, if you think the Scripture is sufficiently clear to answer the Catholic-Protestant question, then you would have no reason to direct Rebecca to seek the counsel of ‘the right people.’ You would point her only to Scripture. Only if you think the Scripture is not sufficiently clear to answer the Catholic-Protestant question, would you have some reason to direct her to the guidance and counsel of ‘the right people’ [i.e. those holding your general interpretation of Scripture, concerning what you think is essential]. But if you think Scripture is not sufficiently clear to answer the Catholic-Protestant question, then it is epistemically unjustified to set up your own general interpretation of Scripture as the standard for who gets to count as one of the ‘right people’ to consult to answer the question.”

    i) Bryan is confounding perspicuity and sufficiency. Moreover, he’s caricaturing what these positions claim. For instance, the Westminster Confession gives carefully nuanced formulations, viz. “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.”

    ii) This is not “setting up our interpretation as the standard of comparison,” as if that was an appeal to authority. Rather, it’s a matter of going with the best exegetical argument.

    If Bryan doesn’t think it’s possible to evaluate arguments, then why is he arguing for Roman Catholicism?

    “The reason that what you call the ‘real criterion’ cannot be the ‘real criterion’ is that you choose such persons based on their general agreement with your own interpretation of Scripture regarding what are the essentials. That is why, if such a person happened to be Catholic, you would not direct them to their local priest or bishop to answer the Catholic-Protestant question.”

    To the contrary, this isn’t a Catholic/Protestant issue, per se. Catholic scholars like Joseph Fitzmyer and Luke Timothy Johnson can do good exegesis as well.

    Of course, a Roman bishop has a vested interest in his denomination, so, by definition, his answers will direct the questioner to Roman Catholicism. But that’s not the same thing as hermeneutics.

    “It is also why, if you come to think differently about how Scripture is to be intepreted, you are free to move to a different ‘church,’ and find different ‘subordinate authorities.’ If these ‘subordinate authorities’ were subordinate only to something other than you, they could be genuine authorities over you.”

    Like a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness who, as a result of his personal Bible study, rejects the cult he was raised in and converts to Christianity.

    On Bryan’s totalitarian ecclesiology, how would a cult-member ever be justified in leaving the cult?

    “And this shows where the authority really lies, in the individual.”

    Bryan has often been corrected on this equivocation, but he repeats the same equivocation since Bryan is a demagogue, not a truth-seeker.

    His equivocation fails to draw an elementary distinction between the individual as the ultimate source of value-judgments and the individual as the ultimate standard of value judgments.

    “Of course from the Catholic point of view, the Catholic Church does and has always taught the Apostles’ doctrine, and it is the Protestant positions that deviate from the true Apostolic doctrine. But, mere question-begging assertions won’t get us any closer to agreement concerning the truth.”

    Then why did Bryan just beg the question?

    “If a subordinate authority teaches something that contradicts what God says, we cannot follow that subordinate authority (at least in that teaching). But that’s very different from placing one’s own interpretation of what God said above that of those persons God divinely authorized to teach and interpret what God said.”

    Which boils down to Bryan’s personal assessment.

    “The Sanhedrin had religious authority under the Old Covenant, but under the New Covenant the Apostles had greater authority than did the Sanhedrin.”

    By the line of reasoning, the OT prophets were insubordinate whenever they challenged the corrupt religious establishment.

    “So the actions of the Apostles are not a green light to place our own interpretation of Scripture above that of the Apostles or their successors. (That would be rebellion.)”

    Then the church of Rome is rebellious whenever she places her interpretation of Scripture above that of the Apostles.

    “But the gospel that St. Paul and the others had preached was not defined as ‘my personal interpretation of Scripture.’”

    There is nothing wrong with “my personal interpretation of Scripture” as long as my interpretation corresponds to the meaning of Scripture. The only salient distinction is between right and wrong interpretations, and not whether it’s “my personal interpretation.”

    “To see whether someone was teaching a novel teaching, one would compare the message in question to the teaching universally received from the Apostles throughout the whole universal Church.”

    The church of Rome is just a local church with delusions of grandeur. Just one denomination among many.

    “The claim you make here is based on your misinterpretation of Gal 1:8….St. Paul is not advocating the authoritative supremacy of private interpretation of Scripture…The duty to submit to present interpretive authority…”

    Notice how dogmatic Bryan becomes when he presumes to impose his private interpretation of Gal 1:8 on his interlocutors. And also notice that Bryan doesn’t cite any “interpretive authority” for his interpretation of Gal 1:8.

    Bryan doesn’t argue in good faith. He makes no effort to be intellectually consistent.

    “Of course human beings cannot but make judgments using our own cognitive faculties. That’s not the issue, nor has anyone ever denied that we cannot but use our own cognitive faculties to make judgments. The issue is interpretive authority.”

    And why is interpretive authority the issue? Because Bryan *says* that’s the issue? Why should we acquiesce to the way he wishes to frame the issue?

    “If Christ established in His Church an organ to provide authoritative teaching and interpretation of the Apostolic deposit, then we ought to submit to that authoritative teaching and interpretation on account of the divine authority of that organ.”

    Of course, that’s all hypothetical. And a Mormon would make the same claim about the LDS church.

    “If we do not acknowledge an interpretive authority higher than ourselves, then we are not only the judge of what Scripture means, we are also then treating ourselves and our own reason and judgment as the standard for what is the right interpretation of Scripture and the Apostolic deposit. The Catholic stance, by contrast, is not to treat our own interpretation of Scripture as the standard for what is the right interpretation of Scripture, but to submit to the interpretation of those having divinely established interpretive authority.”

    Which only pushes the question back a step. By what prior authority or standard does Bryan judge the Roman church to be his “interpretive authority” or standard?

    “We test the spirits not against our own personal interpretation of Scripture, but against what the whole Church received and believed from the Apostles, and handed down faithfully throughout the whole Church throughout the generations.”

    Of course, that’s circular and deceptive. Bryan’s theology selects for what he considers to be the “whole Church.” Bryan’s theology selects for what he considers to be “handed down faithfully.” Bryan constantly camouflages his private judgment under these circumlocutions.

    “No, because there is a principled way of distinguishing popes from anti-popes…”

    And what way would that be? Not by consulting the pope.

    “So long as the Church knew that each ordained bishop was being ordained by validly ordained bishops, there is no break in the succession, even if for some persons at the time, there was doubt concerning who was the actual pope.”

    How does Bryan verify valid ordination? Isn’t one of the necessary conditions for valid ordination a right intention on the part of the officiate and the ordinand? How does Bryan verify what the officiate and the ordinand intended? Is he telepathic?

    “The Church is one, because Christ is one. Is Christ divided? No. Is the Church divided? No, because it is His Body, and He is not divided.”

    That gets carried away with one Biblical metaphor for the church. But the “body” is not the only metaphor for the church. A flock of sheep is another metaphor for the church. Clearly, though, a flock is a looser aggregate than a body.

    “And the fact that schism is not always bilateral, applies in the visible Church Christ founded, because the one to whom He entrusted the keys of the Kingdom (Mt 16), represents Him. Those who separate from the successor of St. Peter, separate from Christ.”

    Mt 16 says nothing about Peter’s “successors.”

    “That’s why St. Peter (and his successors) can never be in a schism or faction…”

    What about the possibility of a heretical pope?

    “But the Docetic notion is that the Church is invisible, not a real visible Body, and therefore all hold the keys, and every [visible] schism is a schism within the Church, with each person still remaining a member of the [invisible] Body. But the Catholic doctrine, by contrast, is that the Church is visible, and therefore the unity that is a mark of the Church — one of the four marks mentioned in the Creed — is necessarily a visible unity, just as my physical body must have visible unity in order to remain one living body.”

    i) By that logic, a visible church must also have visible keys. What do the keys look like, Bryan? Are they made of brass? Silver?

    ii) According to the Catholic dogma of the Real Presence, the communion elements transubstantiate into the true body and blood of Christ. Yet that’s invisible to the communicant.

    Bryan’s wooden handling of metaphors isn’t even consistent with Catholic dogma.

    “A little proof-texting is a dangerous thing. A person could use that same verse to claim that baptism is unnecessary, or that the Church is unnecessary. If you want to understand more fully what all is involved in receiving Jesus [besides praying a sinner's prayer], then recall that Jesus also said, ‘He who listens to you listens to Me, and he who rejects you, rejects Me’ (Luke 10:16).”

    And isn’t Bryan’s citation of Lk 10:16 “a little prooftexting”? Why does Bryan indulge in dangerous prooftexting?

    “You may then find yourself to be fighting against God, trying to destroy the visible Catholic Church that men much greater than yourself have been unable to destroy for 2,000 years.”

    Imagine a cult leader using that type of threatening language to intimidate cult members.

  399. Sean Patrick said,

    October 19, 2010 at 11:50 am

    TFan.

    I am going to let the fathers speak for themselves. I am not seeking your approval on how the Catholic Church reads Her fathers. Lastly, I am weary of your tendency to offer assertions without offering any evidence and then diminishing any evidence that is provided against you. But, alas, I am the one in this conversation offering evidence at least.

    Jeff # 398 – Do you approach the early fathers the same way when you are examining Protestant doctrines like Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura?

    The thing that you have to remember about the first centuries of the church is that there simply is not a vast amount of surviving material. We don’t start seeing a lot until the AD 250s or so. But what we do have from AD 70 – AD 250 is remarkably consistent with Catholic ecclesiology and equally problematic for Presbyterian ecclesiology.

    Is every belief about Catholic ecclesiology explicit in every letter that we have from the first century? No. But what we do have (the visible church, sacramental apostolic succession, primacy of Rome etc).

    And then, once the data picks up we find more and more evidence in favor of Catholic ecclesiology.

    Within the generation of the Council of Nicea: ”The reason for your absence was both honorable and imperative, that the schismatic wolves might not rob and plunder by stealth nor the heretical dogs bark madly in the rapid fury nor the very serpent, the devil, discharge his blasphemous venom. So it seems to us right and altogether fitting that priests of the Lord from each and every province should report to their head, that is, to the See of Peter, the Apostle.” Council of Sardica, To Pope Julius (A.D. 342).

    Your argument, that Irenaeus says nothing about the Roman authority ‘going forward’, is just an argument from silence Jeff. It is better to approach history not by filling in silence with deductions but by reading what was actually said in the historical context in which it was said.

  400. Sean Patrick said,

    October 19, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    steve hays.

    Thanks for you comment # 400. Reading the style in which you deliver it and the conclusions that you draw in it give me greater comfort in the truth of our position.

  401. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    October 19, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Steve Hays,

    Thank you so much for your comment #400. Reading the substance and content of your argument, along with your deft style and rhetorical flourishes, gives me greater comfort in the God-Glorifying truth of 5-Sola Biblical Christianity.

  402. Sean Patrick said,

    October 19, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Well played TUAD.

    To paraphrase TFan…”If you are getting your theology from steve hays than no wonder you are so confused!”

    (Hopefully received the spirit it was given)

    Truth unites by the way…Truth does not divide.

  403. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 19, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Sean (#401):

    Jeff # 398 – Do you approach the early fathers the same way when you are examining Protestant doctrines like Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura?

    I try to.

    Which doesn’t mean that I’m either omniscient or consistent — being a fallible human and all — but I do try to apply standards of evidence evenly where possible. And one of those standards of evidence is the principle of falsification: that we cannot say that the evidence “proves” X, unless it reasonably falsifies the alternatives.

    And that applies also here:

    Your argument, that Irenaeus says nothing about the Roman authority ‘going forward’, is just an argument from silence Jeff. It is better to approach history not by filling in silence with deductions but by reading what was actually said in the historical context in which it was said.

    You’ve confused the burden of proof with an argument from silence. My point is not, “There’s silence, so Protestants are right.” Rather, my point is, “There’s silence, so Catholics have not proven their point.”

    The Catholic position makes an extraordinary claim: that the authority of Christ rests on one human being. One plank of that claim is that the early church recognized the authority of Christ resting on the pope.

    The silence shows what it shows: that the evidence does not support the claim.

    You could still be right — but you can’t claim the early church as support for your position. And the burden of proof rests upon you, as the one claiming jurisdiction over others.

    Now let me ask you the same: You’ve applied a standard that “what little evidence we have is consistent with the Catholic claims.” Do you apply that standard of evidence to all of your decision making? Would you, for example, feel comfortable undergoing experimental elective surgery on the basis of that evidence?

    How more then for committing one’s eternal soul to the care of another human?

  404. TurretinFan said,

    October 19, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Sean wrote:

    I am going to let the fathers speak for themselves.

    That’s a good resolution. I hope that going forward you will stick to it. I have not seen you do that in the past, but that should not be an obstacle to your future success.

    You continued:

    I am not seeking your approval on how the Catholic Church reads Her fathers.

    You were demanding proof from me before, now you don’t care. What happened? Oh, right – I offered evidence.

    You continued:

    Lastly, I am weary of your tendency to offer assertions without offering any evidence and then diminishing any evidence that is provided against you.

    Well, if you don’t offer relevant evidence, you should expect it to get “diminish[ed]” by me. But, on the other hand, your other comment suggests that you don’t pay attention, or are simply ignoring the evidence that I present. Do I need to provide you with some comment numbers from the last 400 comments?

    You continued:

    But, alas, I am the one in this conversation offering evidence at least.

    See my comments above.

    -TurretinFan

  405. TurretinFan said,

    October 19, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    By the way, Sean, I do appreciate that you keep coming back for more discussion. I hope that my responses to your arguments are not just encouraging you to try to come up with retorts, but rather encouraging you to think genuinely and deeply about the matters we are discussing.

    You’ll notice that I am here to try to educate – to help you learn something you didn’t know. Most of all to help you see that you’re following a false gospel.

  406. Sean Patrick said,

    October 19, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Tfan # 407
    You made the implicit assertion that the Catholic Church has corrupted the meaning of the creed as respect to ‘The Communion of Saints.’ I asked for evidence. You did nothing but beat around the bush for a half dozen comments and then you offered a quote from JND Kelly which doesn’t prove one thing or the other. All it proves is that the father’s conception of the Church includes the saints who have past before us. Amen to that I say.

    Then you cited Augustine, while not interacting with the more explicit evidence from Augustine that I offered.

    At the end of the day you have offered not one shred of extant evidence that the faith of the fathers as respect to communion of the saints is any different than that of the Catholic Church. On the other hand, I provided detailed quotations from several fathers that preceded the council and who were contemporary to the council. You have not refuted those citations.

    It’s just like David T King. I ask, “Name one father that taught that scripture was formally sufficient.” He cannot. It doesn’t matter that he claimed that they all did.

    It’s just like John Bugay. We ask for proof that there was no monarchial bishop in Rome in the 1st century which is the claim he makes. He cannot offer any proof. This is even after he said, “…there is tons of evidence to prove that there was no monarchial bishop in Rome in the 1st century.” When we asked for that evidence he said that it was not fair to ask him to prove it.

    Jeff # 405.

    I fail to see that we are arguing from silence. Like I said the earliest data we have is not too plentiful but what we do have lines up perfectly with what followed. You disregarded Cyprian because apparently you think that his writing in AD 257 isn’t early enough. How early does it need to be and what would you require to have been said for you to be swayed?

    The father’s consensus is evident: There has always been a successor to St. Peter. The unity of the Church springs from this chair. Being in communion with the successor to St. Peter is a mark of the church.

    Can you name any church father from the first 300 years of church history that makes an argument as forceful as Cyprian’s but on your side?

    And he says to him again after the resurrection, ‘Feed my sheep.’ It is on him that he builds the Church, and to him that he entrusts the sheep to feed. And although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single Chair, thus establishing by his own authority the source and hallmark of the (Church’s) oneness. No doubt the others were all that Peter was, but a primacy is given to Peter, and it is (thus) made clear that there is but one flock which is to be fed by all the apostles in common accord. If a man does not hold fast to this oneness of Peter, does he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the Church? This unity firmly should we hold and maintain, especially we bishops, presiding in the Church, in order that we may approve the episcopate itself to be the one and undivided.”
    Cyprian, The Unity of the Church, 4-5 (A.D. 251-256)

    Here is a snapshot of the frustration with talking to the Reformed apologist about church fathers.

    Roger du Berry can boldly claim that St. Augustine taught the Reformed conception of the Eucharist.

    It does not matter that Augustine explicitly said that Christ carried himself in his hands at the Last Supper. It does not matter that Augustine said that only the blessed (eucharisted) bread becomes Christ’s body. It does not matter that Augustine said that our faith compels us to believe that the host is Christ’s body and the chalice his blood. It does not matter that Augustine said that it’s a sin not to adore (worship) the Eucharist.

    Further, Roger claimed that St. Bernard of Clairvaux was a proto Protestant. I reminded him that Bernard is the ‘Marian’ Doctor of the Church. “Oh, Bernard said some weird stuff about Mary…but….”, was his response.

    Weird stuff? No. Bernard said some ORTHODOX stuff about Mary. Roger just doesn’t like that orthodoxy.

  407. TurretinFan said,

    October 19, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Moving beyond the question of what the term meant (although I see that as I was composing this Sean has issued some further comment on that thread of thought), and working my way back up … Sean wrote:

    Here, I’ll show you how: St. Augustine affirmed the Catholic doctrine of the communion of saints in AD 350. I can prove it. I have already quoted a passage where he talks about the dead being remembered and their participation in the kingdom of heaven (the church). That is the Catholic teaching on the communion of the saints.

    There’s a confirmation bias problem going on here. If Augustine says anything that doesn’t sound like it would come from a PCA pastor, you leap to the conclusion that he’s affirming “the [Roman] Catholic position” on the subject.

    But I hope you can see that Augustine is saying something far less than “the [Roman] Catholic position,” even if we interpret what he’s saying in the way that would be most favorable to the Roman Catholic position.

    There’s nothing there about Mary, and there’s quite a bit missing in terms of what’s involved in seeking the intercession of saints, to provide two examples.

    Perhaps you don’t realize the full depth of Roman Catholic theology on this point, but I don’t think that’s the main issue. I think the main issue is that you are assuming that if you find some similarities, you can legitimately fill in the parts that Augustine does not discuss with what your church presently teaches. But that doesn’t follow – it’s not sound reasoning.

    It’s actually a little like the issue of the meaning of “communion of saints.” What “communion of saints” means in the CCC includes lots of things, only a subset of which was originally intended, as we have established by reason and evidence.

    Which brings us to your most recent assertion:

    You made the implicit assertion that the Catholic Church has corrupted the meaning of the creed as respect to ‘The Communion of Saints.’ I asked for evidence. You did nothing but beat around the bush for a half dozen comments and then you offered a quote from JND Kelly which doesn’t prove one thing or the other. All it proves is that the father’s conception of the Church includes the saints who have past before us. Amen to that I say.

    Then you cited Augustine, while not interacting with the more explicit evidence from Augustine that I offered.

    Before I cited JND Kelly, I cited Augustine actually using the phrase, in contrast to you citing him somewhere he didn’t use the phrase. The issue was the meaning of the phrase. I’m sorry that you can’t figure out that the relevant evidence is the place where Augustine actually uses the phrase, but if you can’t figure that out, I’m not sure what to tell you. Augustine didn’t use the phrase to mean what the CCC means by it (as explained at greater length above).

    JND Kelly provides a scholarly opinion (for whatever that may be worth to you) and further provides a quotation from Nicetas of Remesiana (apparently the first extant usage of “communion of saints” comes from him). Nicetas tells us what he means by the term, and what he means isn’t what the CCC means by it (as explained at greater length above).

    You characterize the implications of my question this way, “You made the implicit assertion that the Catholic Church has corrupted the meaning of the creed as respect to ‘The Communion of Saints,’” but “corrupted” is so pejorative. Why not “changed,” “expanded,” or something less pejorative?

    Possibly it’s because you realize I’m right that the CCC’s definition couldn’t possibly be what was originally meant. Possibly you realize that if you had to answer the question I asked (one that you’ve been dodging for how many posts now?), where all I said was “differ” not “corrupt,” you’d expose the word-concept fallacy that is often informally and merely implicitly employed by Roman Catholics who like to appeal to the phrase “communion of saints” as if it has always held all the meanings that Rome now associates with it.

    -TurretinFan

  408. TurretinFan said,

    October 19, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    And Sean, you might reconsider your off-handed dismissal of what Roger said. I’m not a big fan of Roger (as he can testify), but he’s not just making things up.

  409. October 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Sean,

    Regarding your #408, I would just like to point out the obvious, which is that at the end of the day we Protestants adhere to Sola Scriptura, meaning that even if you adduce pages of evidence that the early fathers were Catholics, it doesn’t really matter all that much to us. I mean, if the divinely-ordained leaders of Israel at the time of Christ were wrong (but if Israel still served its purpose in God’s plan), then there’s no reason that the early church couldn’t have gotten things significantly wrong as well.

    As you point out, Luther displayed a somewhat dismissive attitude toward the fathers with whom he disagreed, and since we today also adhere to Sola Scriptura, we can have that attitude too, if we choose.

    In a word, I wouldn’t trade the proper exegesis of a biblical text for all the consensus patrum in China.

  410. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 19, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Sean (#408):

    I fail to see that we are arguing from silence. Like I said the earliest data we have is not too plentiful but what we do have lines up perfectly with what followed.

    Sean, that’s called “confirmation bias.” If X lines up with your view, then it’s nice; but it proves nothing. Think about Baptists who point to all of the adult baptisms in Acts.

    If on the other hand X eliminates competing hypotheses, then that’s something.

    You disregarded Cyprian because apparently you think that his writing in AD 257 isn’t early enough. How early does it need to be and what would you require to have been said for you to be swayed?

    I don’t entirely disregard Cyprian. His statements, which I have read previously, and have just re-read, obviously show a high regard for Rome and a desire to uphold Rome’s authority.

    But here’s the thing: The passage that you cited appears not to be in the original text.

    Here it is from Schaff:

    …The Lord speaks to Peter saying, “I say unto thee, that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity. Which one Church, also, the Holy Spirit in the Song of Songs designated in the person of our Lord, and says, “My dove, my spotless one, is but one. She is the only one of her mother, elect of her that bare her.” Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church think that he holds the faith? Does he who strives against and resists the Church trust that he is in the Church, when moreover the blessed Apostle Paul teaches the same thing, and sets forth the sacrament of unity, saying, “There is one body and one spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God?”

    5. And this unity we ought firmly to hold and assert, especially those of us that are bishops who preside in the Church, that we may also prove the episcopate itself to be one and undivided. Let no one deceive the brotherhood by a falsehood: let no one corrupt the truth of the faith by perfidious prevarication. The episcopate is one, each part of which is held by each one for the whole…

    And Schaff explicitly states that the text above has been obviously edited.

    Now, I’m not a textual expert, so I can’t comment on Schaff’s correctness in this matter. Obviously, he’s a Protestant, and somewhat partisan. Nor can I comment on your correctness. Where I’m left is that, absent a critical text, this passage counts as dubious evidence. Wouldn’t you agree?

    But let’s say that Cyprian as you cited were genuine. What exactly are we allowed to conclude from it? Keep in mind his provenance: Carthage, Novatian controversy, mid 3rd century. Do you think that one data point, on the Roman side of a controversy over “which is the true church?”, two centuries out, is good evidence of the universal consent of the fathers?

  411. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 19, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Woa … TF and I both thought of “confirmation bias” at the same time.

  412. Sean Patrick said,

    October 19, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    TFan:

    # 409 – Are you really going to make this about me using the word ‘corrupted’ instead of ‘changed?’ I think the intention behind your question was pretty clear. You can have the last word on this. Congratulations.

    # 410 – I’ll be fine.

  413. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 19, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    My 412 was less than clear.

    Here’s the point: Sean, your citation of Cyprian in #408 is of a text that is alleged to be corrupt by Schaff. I can’t sort out the text with the resources available to me; but I don’t consider your Cyprian quote solid evidence at this time.

  414. Sean Patrick said,

    October 19, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Jason # 411.

    I know that and actually your position makes the most sense. It makes a lot more sense than making assertions about X church father that are completely against what they actually said and/or dismissing what they actually said as just ‘weird moments’ but otherwise they were just a bunch of proto Protestants.

  415. TurretinFan said,

    October 19, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Sean: “Are you really going to make this about me using the word ‘corrupted’ instead of ‘changed?’”

    It’s one of a thousand such mistakes you have made, in terms of reading what you think instead of what I write. The issue here isn’t really corruption but equivocation. Which gets us back to that question you’ve been avoiding.

    What good does it to do to affirm those words (communion of saints) when you assign a meaning to those words that differs from the original meaning?

    -TurretinFan

  416. John Bugay said,

    October 19, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Jeff 412: The consensus now is that Cyprian himself edited that text to remove the phraseology that Stephen (bishop of Rome) was trying to use to claim more power than Cyprian thought he ought to have.

  417. TurretinFan said,

    October 19, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    John B.:

    I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say that’s the consensus (although I think others have said that it is the consensus). That’s certainly one theory – maybe the most popular theory. The bottom line is that there are very few scholars (if any) that today would insist that the long form represents Cyprian’s mature thought (whether they hold to the interpolation view or they hold to the self-editing view).

    -TurretinFan

  418. TurretinFan said,

    October 19, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Jason:

    Re: #411 – It is indeed infinitely more important what Scripture says than whether the fathers believed it. That said, since Rome tries to claim that its doctrines are apostolic, it is sometimes useful to demonstrate that the fathers did not teach what Rome teaches today. For example, you’ll never find Augustine talking about the bodily assumption of Mary, and that’s not because such a doctrine would be hard for him to understand, or is very complicated and needs lots of theological development, it’s simply because it didn’t come down to us from the apostles.

    It’s worth noting this to help free folks who are bound by the fetters of Romanism. It’s not worth noting this to prove our own doctrines to be correct.

    -TurretinFan

  419. Sean Patrick said,

    October 19, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    TFan. I am not avoiding your question. I reject the premise. You would think that this would be obvious by reading the past several dozen comments we’ve exchanged.

    # 419 – So will you admit that since Augustine did affirm that Mary was without sin that the immaculate conception is from the apostles?

    “Having excepted the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, on account of the honor of the Lord, I wish to have absolutely no question when treating of sins – for how do we know what abundance of grace for the total overcoming of sin was conferred upon her, who merited to conceive and bear him in whom there was no sin?–so, I say, with the exception of the Virgin, if we could have gathered together all those holy men and women, when they were living here, and had asked them whether they were without sin, what do we suppose would have been their answer?” Nature and Grace 36:45

    He learned from his father Ambrose:

    “Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin.” St Ambrose, Sermon 22:30

  420. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 19, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Sean, I guess I have to ask a question: Were you aware of the controversy over the text of Cyprian when you cited it?

  421. Sean Patrick said,

    October 19, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Jeff.

    Yes. I am aware that much of the father’s writing is looked at skeptically by various people for various reasons. Maybe you can provide a list of fathers and their works that you accept as authentic and we can just work from those?

    There are also scholars that believe various New Testament books and passages are spurious.

    TFan – I just watched your YouTube video in response to William Albrecht about Augustine and the Immaculate Conception. Hopefully I’ll get to the argument you made about the passage later but as a side note: the talking cartoon (that apparently is supposed to be you?) is quite creepy.

  422. TurretinFan said,

    October 19, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Sean:

    You haven’t answered the demonstration provided that shows that the original meaning of “communion of saints” differs from the meaning presently given to it by Rome. So, I had taken your rejection of the premise as withdrawn. On what ground do you maintain that the original meaning is the same as the meaning presently given it by Rome?

    Sean wrote:

    # 419 – So will you admit that since Augustine did affirm that Mary was without sin that the immaculate conception is from the apostles?

    Even your own church’s scholars acknowledge that Augustine didn’t believe in the immaculate conception. And no, even if he did, that wouldn’t be far enough back to get it all the way to the apostles.

    I have answered the claims regarding Augustine and the Immaculate Conception on my blog:

    Augustine and his famous exclusion of Mary
    How Many Popes Does it Take to Deny the Immaculate Conception (featuring appearances by Ambrose and Augustine)
    But of course you don’t have to go all the way back to Augsutine – you can start with Thomas Aquinas:
    Thomas Aquinas on the non-immaculate conception of Mary

    I could post all that here, but if you are sincerely interested in learning, go and read for yourself.

    -TurretinFan

  423. TurretinFan said,

    October 19, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    (and I’ve accidentally triggered the spam filter again – would a moderator be so kind as to release my comment?)

  424. Sean Patrick said,

    October 19, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Just a note – I’ll be offline for the rest of the day and most of tomorrow. My not responding to further comments is in no way an admission of defeat…

    *There needs to be some kind of blog protocol/rules of engagement that allow for breaks without the appearance of losing*

    If anybody wants to start a club where we decide things like the length of time that needs to elapse before one can claim victory in a blog debate and similar pressing questions, let me know.

  425. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    *There needs to be some kind of blog protocol/rules of engagement that allow for breaks without the appearance of losing*

    How about a slogan: “Silence is not agreement.”

  426. TurretinFan said,

    October 19, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Speaking of silence, I hear that Pastor King’s response to the badgering about “formal sufficiency” in the fathers may come out at the end of this week.

  427. TKR said,

    October 19, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    If I might interject, coming from a neutral observer, this conversation is almost mind numbing. (This is coming from someone who is interested in this stuff!) It seems fairly obvious that the Early Church Fathers and necessarily following this the Early Church was not as Reformed as the Reformed would like and not as Catholic as the Catholics would like. Certainly both can’t be right, but doesn’t the evidence seem to suggest that maybe both of you are slightly wrong? So instead of being so entrenched in your own personal views, maybe it would be a good idea to learn from each other and find some common ground. Just some thoughts. Now let the snarky comments recommence.

  428. John Bugay said,

    October 19, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Sean #423 said of a critical analysis of Cyprian’s text:

    Yes. I am aware that much of the father’s writing is looked at skeptically by various people for various reasons.

    You should know that over the last 150 years or more, the Bible was not only “looked at skeptically,” but it received a highly critical examination. In the process, our knowledge of the Scriptures is not only more certain than it has ever been, but much liberal scholarshp has been forced by the process to concede a tremendous amount to what conservative scholarship is saying.

    On the other hand, if “the fathers” are not holding up under similar scrutiny — and the early papacy is taking a particular beating — what conclusion should we draw from that?

  429. John Bugay said,

    October 19, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Regarding this citation from Irenaeus that has been floating around this thread:

    For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.”
    Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:3:2 (A.D. 180).

    Klaus Schatz cautions, “There are a number of problems surrounding the original meaning of the passage quoted above, occasioned in large part by the fact that we know only th eLatin translation and not the Greek original of the text. We must always reckon with the possibility that the Latin text as we have it is corrupt. (“Papal Primacy,” Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, pg 9); He goes on to cite a number of problems with the text.

    I will add that Roger Collins, in his History of the Papacy, pointed out that on “the first occasion on which the Roman church had revisited its own history, in particular the third and fourth centuries, in search of precedents,” it resorted to forgery.

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

    So we do have some reason to believe that there is a good reason as to why Schatz suggests that this text may be corrupt.

    Further, Turretinfan responded in 394, but Norman Geisler expands on the explanation given by J.N.D. Kelly:

    Kelly and many other scholars have found fault with this translation for two reasons. First, the weakness of the final clause has struck them as “intolerable.” Second, “the normal meaning of convenir is “resort to,” “foregather at,” and necesse est does not easily bear the sense of “ought”. Indeed, the editor of The Apostolic Fathers, volume 1 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Cleveland Coxe, cites one candid Roman Catholic scholar who translates it as follows: “For to this Church, on account of more potent principality, it is necessary that every Church (that is, those who are on every side faithful) resort; in which Church ever, by those who are on every side, has been preseved that tradition which is from the apostles.” Coxe adds, “Here it is obvious that the faith was kept at Rome by those who resort there from all quarters. She was a mirror of the Catholic World, owing her orthodoxy to them; not the Sun dispensing her own light to others, but the glass bringing their rays into focus. (Emphasis in original, from Geisler and Betancourt, “Is Rome the True Church?” Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, pg. 200).

    It is with good reason that scholars are looking to the early history of the Roman church with a critical eye.

  430. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 19, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    In #359 I referenced Chadwick, which was in error. The correct reference is RW Southern, “The Middle Ages.”

  431. TurretinFan said,

    October 20, 2010 at 9:46 am

    John,

    I would just add to your response at #429 that Sean would be better off apologizing for misrepresenting the father rather than trying to make broad generalizations about historical investigation. If Sean wants to take a post-modern view that we cannot know anything about the original texts of the New Testament and the fathers, he shouldn’t quote them.

    If, on the other hand, he thinks we can learn that information through historical investigation, he shouldn’t pay attention to historical investigations only when they say what he likes.

    And, of course, there’s a third way in which Sean’s church tells him dogmatically which text of the fathers is authentic. But that’s just fantasy land.

    -TurretinFan

  432. TurretinFan said,

    October 20, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Ack, in the meanwhile TKR’s comment has been released to fill the #429 spot.

    TKR: as far as I am concerned, the fathers can say whatever they want. They weren’t consistently Reformed and that’s just the way it is. They also weren’t Roman Catholics.

    This historical reality is not a problem for the Reformed crowd, but it is a problem for the Roman Catholics, who wish to claim that their doctrines are justified historically, since they cannot establish them Scripturally.

    -TurretinFan

  433. TKR said,

    October 20, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Tfan,

    This historical reality should be a HUGE problem for the Reformed crowd. You should be asking yourself why you are interpreting Scripture contra to the ECF and history. I am not saying that we should never question the ECFs, but when you do so the burden of proof rest squarely with you to show that you are correct and they are incorrect, and at least to me it is a pretty high threshold to get over considering that they have a 1500-1800 year head start on you. I mean give me one good reason why I should listen to your interpretation of Scripture as opposed to any of the ECFs?

  434. TurretinFan said,

    October 20, 2010 at 11:38 am

    TKR:

    You wrote: “This historical reality should be a HUGE problem for the Reformed crowd.”

    Not really. It’s no more a problem for us than Jewish history was a problem for believing Jews just before Christ.

    You wrote: “You should be asking yourself why you are interpreting Scripture contra to the ECF and history.”

    a) “History” isn’t an interpreter.

    b) The ECFs frequently interpreted Scripture differently from (and even contrary to) one another. So, unsurprisingly, there are also differences between us and them (that’s guaranteed when they disagree with each other).

    c) Of course, we have an answer for why we interpret Scripture the way we do. We don’t feel that it is adequate to just arbitrarily interpret things however we like.

    You wrote: “I am not saying that we should never question the ECFs, but when you do so the burden of proof rest squarely with you to show that you are correct and they are incorrect, and at least to me it is a pretty high threshold to get over considering that they have a 1500-1800 year head start on you.”

    They have the same burden anyone does in establishing the validity of their views. The same burden we have. The fact that they wrote a long time ago doesn’t privilege their views.

    You wrote: “I mean give me one good reason why I should listen to your interpretation of Scripture as opposed to any of the ECFs?”

    LOL

    Hopefully the answer is because my interpretation fits the Scriptural data better than the ECF you have in mind. It’s not about my credentials vs. theirs, it’s about comparing doctrines to Scripture. But if it were, I have the advantage of 1500+ years of additional Christian insights on the text.

    -TurretinFan

  435. October 20, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Tfan/TRK,

    This historical reality is not a problem for the Reformed crowd, but it is a problem for the Roman Catholics, who wish to claim that their doctrines are justified historically, since they cannot establish them Scripturally.

    I am beginning to become more and more convinced that we Reformed need to shift the locus of the battle over to where we claim to believe all controversies of religion are to be solved, namely, to Scripture (and not history).

    I argue the case here:

    http://www.creedcodecult.com/2010/10/pondering-prudence-of-patristic.html

  436. TurretinFan said,

    October 20, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Pastor Stellman,

    I’ll make you a deal. For every post that you make in which you critique Roman Catholicism from Scripture, I will (God help me to do this) provide a link to your post from my blog, together with any additional Scriptural analysis that I can provide to assist.

    There’s no reason that addressing history should get in the way of our addressing Scripture. So, please spur me on to more analysis of Scripture, and I’ll gladly join in.

    -TurretinFan

  437. David Meyer said,

    October 20, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Jason S. said:

    “I would just like to point out the obvious, which is that at the end of the day we Protestants adhere to Sola Scriptura, meaning that even if you adduce pages of evidence that the early fathers were Catholics, it doesn’t really matter all that much to us.”

    Thank you for your honesty. But I must say I got shivers down my spine at the creepyness of it.

  438. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    October 20, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    David Meyer,

    You haven’t yet answered this question from the “Oral Tradition Debate” thread from #345 (a continuation of #338 and #340):

    David Meyer,

    Can *you* conceive of an authority (both individual and institutional) who did not have the truth?

    Yes or No?

  439. TKR said,

    October 20, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Tfan,

    Let’s face facts here. For good and ill, we are all a product of the thinking of our times. We all look through our systematic theology and Scripture with the rose colored glasses of our culture, which means 1500+ years of potential accumulated error. Don’t think for a moment that you can somehow escape this fact because you are “Reformed”. We need to think twice before we so cavalierly dismiss those who defended the faith vigorously from even a hint of heresy and lived and died for it, and who lived but within a few generations of the Incarnation.

    I love Lewis’ quote regarding old books. We would do well to heed that advice.

    I’m sorry I don’t buy your “we know so much more now” quip, it smacks of pride and arrogance and the burden of proof still lies squarely with you.

  440. John Bugay said,

    October 20, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    You’re right TKR; medicine, rocket science, automobiles, HVAC, microwave ovens all were so much better in the 300’s. Who are we to think we have made any progress? Arrogant fools!

  441. TurretinFan said,

    October 20, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    TKR:

    You wrote: “Let’s face facts here. For good and ill, we are all a product of the thinking of our times. We all look through our systematic theology and Scripture with the rose colored glasses of our culture, which means 1500+ years of potential accumulated error.”

    You’re seeing the glass half empty. Yes, there have been a lot of errors in the past 1500 years (the fathers never had to deal with the absurdities of theistic evolution or new perspectivism) but there have been a lot of great Christian theologians.

    You wrote: “Don’t think for a moment that you can somehow escape this fact because you are “Reformed”.”

    LOL — I haven’t the least interest in escaping facts.

    You wrote: “We need to think twice before we so cavalierly dismiss those who defended the faith vigorously from even a hint of heresy and lived and died for it, and who lived but within a few generations of the Incarnation.”

    That’s a comment you should be directing toward my brother, Pastor Stellman, rather than to me (not that he’s caviler, but that he dismisses them more readily than I do). I’m far from being one to cavilierly dismiss them. I read them, examine what they said, chuckle when they demonstrate that they don’t know a lick of Hebrew, scratch my head at some of their odd comments, and rejoice when I uncover a gem of wisdom or insight in their writings. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been able to put to use some one of their teachings within a short time after reading it.

    In short, you’re barking up the wrong tree here.

    You wrote: “I love Lewis’ quote regarding old books. We would do well to heed that advice.”

    I’m not a big fan of Lewis, perhaps unsurprisingly.

    You wrote: “I’m sorry I don’t buy your “we know so much more now” quip, it smacks of pride and arrogance and the burden of proof still lies squarely with you.”

    If the fathers give us no advantage, why bother reading them in the first place?

    If they give us an advantage, why deny it?

    And no – every proponent of a doctrine or interpretation bears the same burden of showing that his doctrine is the doctrine of God, the doctrine delivered once for all.

    -TurretinFan

  442. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 20, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    FWIW, I would slightly disagree with brother Stellman here. Only slightly, though.

    His point, and it’s well-taken, seems to be that our methodology ought to reflect our commitment to sola scriptura, and that therefore we ought to be playing Biblical exegesis as trump cards instead of mucking around in the minor suit of ECFs.

    And I basically agree, in terms of constructing our own position.

    EXCEPT that it *is* possible for us to err in exegesis, so that if I came to an exegetical conclusion that was contrary to the ECFs, I would want to have really strong Scriptural backing for my position. Conversely, if the ECFs came to a similar conclusion as I, I would consider that encouragement in being on the right track.

    AND in the case of interacting with Catholics, for whom the ECFs carry much more weight, I think it is profitable to have a clear view of what the evidence from the ECFs actually shows.

    That is — David, Sean, Bryan, others — I believe that the evidence on the table so far shows that the RC view is not merely a recapitulation of the ECF tradition, but goes beyond it. That’s specifically the case in the Peter question. No sound evidence alleged so far shows that Peter was considered the head of the church prior perhaps to Nicea, and perhaps later.

    So I would put this multi-part challenge to you Catholics:

    (1) What is your best case, from solid sources, that Peter and his successors are in fact the locus of unity of the church?
    (2) What are the strongest arguments against that case, and
    (3) How do you answer them?

    In other words, rather than all of us continuing to engage in skepticism of one anothers’ positions, why don’t we do a little construction?

  443. October 20, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    David,

    Thank you for your honesty. But I must say I got shivers down my spine at the creepyness of it.

    I should point out that I agree with Jeff Cagle’s qualifications (which reflect the WCF’s point that synods and councils are divinely-ordained methods of adjudicating religious disputes). I am just trying to (perhaps over-)state the Sola Scriptura position so as to move the debate into territory that we Protestants are more at home in.

    If I had a nickel for every time one of us pointed out that Rome’s historical claims are moot since they preach a false gospel, I would have, like, maybe $1.15 by now. But here we are continuing to play their game, with questionable results (all due respect to all the participants, but I reject pretty much every quote from the early church fathers that the Catholics adduce, whether spurious or genuine).

    My point is that as long as we let them dictate the rules of engagement, we will never get around to playing to the strengths we claim to have, which is good ol’ fashioned biblical exegesis.

  444. David Meyer said,

    October 20, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Jason:
    I guess I am one of “them” then because I am not willing to throw out “pretty much every quote from the early church fathers that the Catholics adduce, whether spurious or genuine” in favor of the exegesis I think fits best. Which is what you are suggesting.

    If the early church was Catholic, that matters… A LOT. If the ECFs were Catholic, (or Orthodox, Protestant or whatever) I want to be what they were. If Irenaeus could mess up the faith being so close to the time of the apostles, then there is no hope for any of us. If Irenaeus puts stock in succession then that is what I will do. At the very least you guys should become Anglicans after hearing these ECFs. But instead you just say that even if they did believe these things that the Catholics claim, you would still reject them. That just strikes me as pompous. Sorry.

  445. Reed Here said,

    October 20, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    I think Jason’s point deserves some serious attention. I’ve noted in the past that even we reformed types find it far too easy to quote the Fathers first (reformed usually in our case), and then maybe (emphasize the last word) we get to exegesis.

    Brothers – it should be the other way around. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is this not the pattern of ECF and RF stalwarts Augustine and Calvin; first exegesis, then supported by historical theological considerations?

    For the record, our RCC friends do seem to not do well in this manner. Most of the “exegesis” I’ve seen from them is along the lines of a Bible reference and then a list of what some ECF believe it meant. I’ve rarely seen initial, stand alone exegesis from them.

    Of course, this is not surprising given their authority commitments (e.g., the Magisterium). It is, however, sad to see us reformed folks follow the same modus operendi, as this is specfically contrary our authority commitment (sola scriptura).

    Good observation Jason. Thanks.

  446. Reed Here said,

    October 20, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    David: it is equaly pompous for you to disregard out of hand Jason’s challenge to the spurious use of ECF. Enough back and forth has been given here to demonstrate that you are just as likely to be a cool aide drinker as any of your opponents.

    Please, let go of the rocks and take a look at the glass in the house you’ve surrounded yourself with. You’ll find it much easier to debate without spurious pomposity.

  447. October 20, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    David,

    If Irenaeus could mess up the faith being so close to the time of the apostles, then there is no hope for any of us.

    What about the fact that the Galatians departed from the gospel while Paul was still living and breathing, or that the Corinthians were becoming schismatics while Paul was alive? Not even Peter was immune from compromising the gospel by withdrawing from table-fellowship with Gentiles, and that was with Paul and Barnabas standing ten feet away.

    My point is simply that chronological proximity does not guarantee fidelity. The divinely-ordained leaders of Israel killed Jesus, after all.

    At the very least you guys should become Anglicans after hearing these ECFs.

    You’re missing our point. Most Anglicans are virtual Arminians, but we believe that the Scriptures teach (what’s now called) Calvinism.

    But instead you just say that even if they did believe these things that the Catholics claim, you would still reject them. That just strikes me as pompous. Sorry.

    As I have pointed out, I am overstating the case for a reason (it doesn’t seem to me that either side has made its case definitively). And if it is pompous for us to deny, say, the ECF’s claims of Petrine primacy, is it also pompous for the EOs to do so?

    We are pompous, though. I’ll give you that….

  448. TKR said,

    October 20, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    John Bugay @ #442,

    I’m not going to justify that bit of ridiculousness with a response. Other than to say that it appears that you have taken a bite of the evolutionary apple without even realizing it. “Why those cavemen back then didn’t know what they were talking about, I mean come on they didn’t even have MTV.”

  449. TKR said,

    October 20, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Reformed types,

    How do you know with certainty that your Scriptural exegesis is the correct one? I mean if the ECF can make so many mistakes in their exegesis (to even be laughable) and be utterly blind to those mistakes then how can you be certain you are not doing the same?

  450. TurretinFan said,

    October 20, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    TKR:

    You wrote: “How do you know with certainty that your Scriptural exegesis is the correct one?”

    We have confidence and trust in God, not “certainty” in our own understanding. We’re content with the fact that we are fallible human beings who may have made mistakes along the way.

    You wrote: “I mean if the ECF can make so many mistakes in their exegesis (to even be laughable) and be utterly blind to those mistakes then how can you be certain you are not doing the same?”

    Certainty is the skeptic’s bugbear. “How can you be certain …” is the skeptic’s constant question. Yet we have confidence and assurance without having certainty.

    -TurretinFan

  451. TKR said,

    October 20, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Tfan,

    Since you don’t like the word certainty let me rephrase then, how can you know with confidence and assurance that your exegesis of Scripture is the correct one?

    If you feel you have already answered the question please rephrase the answer because I am not following you.

  452. Reed Here said,

    October 20, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    TKR: our confidence does not rest in our exegesis. It rests in our relationship. We rest on Jesus’ promises that He would send His Spirit, who would guide us into all the truth so that we would know the truth.

    Certainty, as it sounds like you’re using it here, is premised upon the idea of the autonomy of man. Our position rests on the re-creation of submissive man. Autonomous man needs certainty, it is a factor of his rebellion. Submissive man does not. As the old hymn goes, Submissive man knows whom he has believed in and is persuaded that that He is able to keep that which he has committed against that day.

  453. TKR said,

    October 20, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Reed,

    Would you agree that the ECF felt the same and yet were wrong? In what way is your confidence different than theirs?

  454. Sean said,

    October 20, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    Reed # 454.

    Are you saying that your relationship with God is better therefore your exegesis is better and thus your understanding of the gospel?

  455. Rebecca said,

    October 20, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    “our confidence does not rest in our exegesis. It rests in our relationship. We rest on Jesus’ promises that He would send His Spirit, who would guide us into all the truth so that we would know the truth.”

    So the Holy Spirit guides the Baptists into one truth and the Presbyterians into another truth, and the Catholics into yet another truth. Jesus made that promise to the 12, among whom was James, who became the bishop of the church at Jerusalem, and John, who became the bishop of the church at Ephesus, and Peter, who became the bishop of the church at Rome and Antioch; in other words, He made that promise to the Church, not merely to individuals within the church, if you read that passage in context. I mean, how come the Reformed folks claim a monopoly on that truth? Everybody on this board is claiming that the Holy Spirit is guiding them, and everybody is disagreeing. That hardly solves anything.

  456. TKR said,

    October 20, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Rebecca,

    Let them clarify their statements. Let’s make sure we understand one another before we jump to criticize. Slow to speak and quick to listen. I think we could eliminate half the posts. “You said this. I did not. Yes you did here. That’s not what I meant. Oh now you are trying to weasel out of it, that’s typical of your type. Well you never answered my question that was completely off the subject. I won’t answer you until you answer me.” Shesh! It’s worse than my kids bickering. (and that’s pretty bad.)

    I’d really like to get to the crux of the difference, so we can all just agree to disagree and move on with our lives.

  457. David Gadbois said,

    October 20, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    The Romanists’ criticisms about our lack of “certainty” always ring with a loud thud to me. There simply is no epistemological advantage to embracing sola ecclesia over sola scriptura, and all claims to the contrary are hopelessly philosophically naive. In the end, the individual’s own judgment, interpretation, and recognition of a given rule of faith is always in play. Certainty is a mirage, and we are just going to have to live with what God has given us. But sine God is good, what He has given is sufficient.

  458. TKR said,

    October 21, 2010 at 1:04 am

    David,

    I will concede your and Tfan’s point regarding certainty. Our knowledge of truth must ultimately always be filtered by us. It is a weak argument for the Catholics to claim that they somehow bypass this process merely because they get their truth from the Magisterium. An infallible Scripture or infallible Pope interpreting the infallible Scripture still must be interpreted and processed by a fallible me. Got it. Let’s move past that. That is unless the Catholics truly disagree with this . . .

    The above doesn’t help answer my question though, if that is what you were attempting to do.

  459. curate said,

    October 21, 2010 at 1:19 am

    A mark of Romanist exchanges is their almost total inability to address our points. They are so self-referential that they can only hear their own voices. They have their points that they want us to address, and refuse to engage us on our agendas at all.

    It is not possible to have a proper conversation with that level of theological awareness, or rather, unawareness.

    The Romans here in England are far to the left of what these people here are saying. The English Romanists are anything but obedient and believing regarding their pop star, the Pope. They want women priests, use the pill, get abortions, and summarily reject any doctrinal teaching they disagree with. There are gay masses in London for the local perverts. Rome has a name for priest-paedos and vicious beatings of children.

    Welcome to the glorious Roman Church, you converts. LOL.

  460. johnbugay said,

    October 21, 2010 at 5:35 am

    TKR 450: You profess, “I’m not going to justify what you said with a response,” and here you are responding to it anyway. Who is being ridiculous?

    In the same way that our age has acquired more knowledge of medicine, math, and other technologies, we have acquired better knowledge of papyri and other manuscripts, interactions between Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages, history and archaeology, and of course, the time and technology to hold all of these disparate elements in a single view.

    What I just said involves neither cavemen nor MTV.

  461. Ron said,

    October 21, 2010 at 6:37 am

    “Certainty, as it sounds like you’re using it here, is premised upon the idea of the autonomy of man. Our position rests on the re-creation of submissive man. Autonomous man needs certainty, it is a factor of his rebellion. Submissive man does not. As the old hymn goes, Submissive man *knows* whom he has believed in and is persuaded that that He is able to keep that which he has committed against that day.

    Hi Reed,

    I’m not sure I follow. When we strive to make our calling and election sure, aren’t we pursuing certainty? Is there a distinction you’re drawing between being persuaded and being certain?

    Thanks,

    Ron

  462. Ron said,

    October 21, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Rebecca,

    I think all your questions have been answered, even repeatedly. Maybe you might begin to articulate back to your respondents to their satisfaction what you believe them to be saying. That might help matters along a bit. At least then some of your respondents might be able to zero in on what you are not grasping. The alternative is for you to continue asking the same questions.

    Just a suggestion.

    Ron

  463. Ron said,

    October 21, 2010 at 7:09 am

    How do you know with certainty that your Scriptural exegesis is the correct one? I mean if the ECF can make so many mistakes in their exegesis (to even be laughable) and be utterly blind to those mistakes then how can you be certain you are not doing the same?

    TKR,

    Obviously you are distinguishing certainty from knowledge at least in some sense because you speak of knowing with certainty. Is certainty the highest form of knowledge for you? If so, would you tell us the necessary condition that must be met for non-certain knowledge to obtain to the level of certainty? Can you give an example how one can know a proposition from Scripture without certainty being available? Are you speaking in terms of psychological certainty? How about epistemic certainty? Does the belief simply need to be immune to doubt in order for it to be certain?

    I know that Jesus lives because God by the Holy Spirit has revealed this to me in his word. Do you believe this is available to me in that way, to know Jesus lives on God’s say and confirmation alone?

    Ron

  464. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 21, 2010 at 7:21 am

    David (#446):

    If the early church was Catholic, that matters… A LOT. If the ECFs were Catholic, (or Orthodox, Protestant or whatever) I want to be what they were. If Irenaeus could mess up the faith being so close to the time of the apostles, then there is no hope for any of us. If Irenaeus puts stock in succession then that is what I will do. At the very least you guys should become Anglicans after hearing these ECFs. But instead you just say that even if they did believe these things that the Catholics claim, you would still reject them. That just strikes me as pompous. Sorry.

    But David, which is more faithful to the ECFs: to align oneself with a modern Church authority who claims, without sound evidence, to be descended from the ECFs?

    Or, to study closely and adopt the methods of the ECFs?

    The ECFs argued fearlessly from the Scripture directly, and argued for the unity of the Church around its adherence to the basics of the faith as expressed in what we now call the Apostle’s Creed.

    Modern Rome claims that direct arguments from the Scripture are meaningless, and that the unity of the Church is loyalty to a man, not loyalty to a creed.

    This the ECFs did not do!

  465. Bryan Cross said,

    October 21, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Jeff, (re: #466)

    Modern Rome claims that direct arguments from the Scripture are meaningless,

    No, the Catholic Church has never claimed that any argument from Scripture is meaningless.

    and that the unity of the Church is loyalty to a man, not loyalty to a creed.

    Once again, you have created a false dilemma, as though we must choose between loyalty to a creed and loyalty to the magisterium. If we necessarily had to choose between loyalty to a person and loyalty to a creed, this would imply that we would have to choose between loyalty to Christ and loyalty to the creed. You keep creating these false dilemmas because you don’t grasp the participatory nature of Catholic doctrine; it is saturated with communio. In so many of these cases, in Catholic doctrine it is not either/or, but both/and.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  466. TurretinFan said,

    October 21, 2010 at 7:48 am

    TKR:

    You wrote:

    Since you don’t like the word certainty let me rephrase then, how can you know with confidence and assurance that your exegesis of Scripture is the correct one?

    If you feel you have already answered the question please rephrase the answer because I am not following you.

    It’s not that I don’t like the word certainty, it’s that the concept of certainty is easily abused (which is why it’s a favorite of skeptics). But to answer your question:

    The way to obtain confidence is:

    1) Study the Scriptures diligently;
    2) Pray to God for wisdom and the Holy Spirit’s aid;
    3) Make use of the ordinary, fallible means at your disposal (husband, brethren, elders, commentators, and even ECFs – among other fallible tools).

    Rebecca:

    You wrote:

    So the Holy Spirit guides the Baptists into one truth and the Presbyterians into another truth, and the Catholics into yet another truth.

    No one said that. For example, I don’t believe that most Roman Catholics have the Holy Spirit – if they did, I don’t think they would stay Roman Catholic for long. But even between Baptists and Presbyterians, can we not simply say that the Holy Spirit does not promise to lead everyone to an equally full knowledge of the truth in this life? If the Holy Spirit gives more insight to one Christian than to another, what is that to you?
    You continued:

    Jesus made that promise to the 12, among whom was James, who became the bishop of the church at Jerusalem, and John, who became the bishop of the church at Ephesus, and Peter, who became the bishop of the church at Rome and Antioch; in other words, He made that promise to the Church, not merely to individuals within the church, if you read that passage in context.

    Well, here’s a great chance to do exegesis. Scripture does not speak of the apostles as being bishops of particular churches. Indeed, the Bible does not identify a tiered authority structure within the eldership.

    But what about the verse in question?

    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 “the church.” The recipient of the guiding is “you.” How that guiding works is not explained in detail. One reasonable explanation is that it refers to the giving of Scripture. Why? Because the “he shall speak” sounds like divine revelation and “he will shew you things to come” sounds like prophecy (for example, the Revelation of John). There may also be a broader application to the Holy Spirit’s guidance to all believers, but there’s certainly nothing explicit (or even reasonably implicit) in this promise that the Holy Spirit will guide the hierarchy of the church in their role as a hierarchy. The primary sense of this promise is not applicable to Rome’s claims (Rome is not being shown the things to come – in fact Rome acknowledges that public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle).

    You wrote:

    I mean, how come the Reformed folks claim a monopoly on that truth?

    Rome claims a monopoly – we don’t.

    You wrote:

    Everybody on this board is claiming that the Holy Spirit is guiding them, and everybody is disagreeing. That hardly solves anything.

    The solution isn’t to see who claims things the loudest (Answer: Rome claims them the loudest). The solution is to see what Scripture says. Search the Scriptures, pray to God, and rely on the ordinary, fallible means.

    -TurretinFan

  467. TurretinFan said,

    October 21, 2010 at 8:00 am

    In response to Jeff’s comment: “Modern Rome claims that direct arguments from the Scripture are meaningless,” Bryan wrote: “No, the Catholic Church has never claimed that any argument from Scripture is meaningless.”

    Bryan, I don’t know if you don’t understand what Jeff is saying, but he carefully qualified his comment as “direct arguments from … Scripture” not “any argument from Scripture.” And Jeff is right.

    In response to Jeff’s comment: “and that the unity of the Church is loyalty to a man, not loyalty to a creed.” Bryan wrote:

    Once again, you have created a false dilemma, as though we must choose between loyalty to a creed and loyalty to the magisterium. If we necessarily had to choose between loyalty to a person and loyalty to a creed, this would imply that we would have to choose between loyalty to Christ and loyalty to the creed. You keep creating these false dilemmas because you don’t grasp the participatory nature of Catholic doctrine; it is saturated with communio. In so many of these cases, in Catholic doctrine it is not either/or, but both/and.

    The real problem is the Roman Catholic’s failure to grasp the either/or nature of Christ’s exclusive headship. If your unity lies in a mere man (the bishop of Rome) it does not lie in Christ. That’s because our God is a Jealous God — that’s what makes it either/or not both/and. That’s why “one mediator” means just Christ, not “Christ and Mary” or “Christ, Mary, and the saints.” That’s why we worship God by worshiping God not by worshiping through Mary or the saints.

    And yes, of course, one could make a profession of faith (like that of Trent) which would include:

    10. I acknowledge the holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church as the mother and mistress of all churches, and I promise and swear (spondeo ac juro) true obedience to the Bishop of Rome, as the successor of St. Peter, prince of the Apostles, and as the vicar of Jesus Christ.

    11. I likewise undoubtingly receive and profess all other things delivered, defined, and declared by the sacred Canons and œcumenical Councils, and particularly by the holy Council of Trent; and I condemn, reject, and anathematize all things contrary thereto, and all heresies which the Church has condemned, rejected, and anathematized.

    (source)

    Yes, of course, a creed could be amended as Pius IV amended it, but that’s not really what Jeff was talking about, was it?

    -TurretinFan

  468. Reed Here said,

    October 21, 2010 at 10:00 am

    TKR, no 455:

    I can’t quite respond to your question due to how it is worded. Problematic is your use of the word “felt”. It does not fit the context, unless you’re using it in a colloguial fashion. If so, you’ll need to define it.

    I’m not familiar enough with the ECF to determine whether their thinking is in line with mine. I kind of expect so. I’m merely reflecting on the notion that we do not have certainty, but assurance offered to us in the Bible. Certainty, as I hear you using it here, means “I want to objectively know.” This is the kind of knowing that Satan offered Adam/Eve, a knowing that was independent, autonomous from a relation with God. Such knowing required absolute objectivity, a 100% certainty if you with. Man’s contiuing slavery to this need is part of the Curse.

    The Bible offers God’s children a different kind of knowing. It is subjective and objective (Jh 8:24), yet it is never autonomous. It is only know in relationship with Jesus (Jh 14:6). It is always incomplete (Dt 29:29), at least in this life, yet is is never unsure therefore. Indeed it is a knowing that that is imperishable, undefilable, unfadeable (cf. 1Pe 1, note the repeated interchange btween surety of faith and the ministry of the word).

    This knowing offers an infallible assurance (Heb. 6:17-18). It does not offer an autonomous certainty.

  469. Reed Here said,

    October 21, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Sean, no. 456: better than whose relationship?

    No, I would not be so presumptuousd as to even suggest that my relationship with God is better than someone else’s, proven by my better exegesis. That is quite a circularity trap you’ve envisioned. I can’t quite imagine why you inferred that from what I wrote.

    It is quite simple. The Bible does not offer the kind of certainty y’all believe you’ve found in Holy Mother Rome. We can show you that via exegesis, and supported by historical Church observations all day long. Yet in that this assurance is rooted in relationship with Jesus, it has a necessary subjective element to it. This means I cannot, nor should I try to convince you.

    The search for certainty is a Satanic trap. It is not how God works faith. You should give it up.

  470. Reed Here said,

    October 21, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Rebecca, no. 457: I’ll let TFan’s answer to you suffice for mine. Your questioned is asked from the presupposition of certainty. Please consider that I believe this principle is invalid, and therefore it is unhelpful to look at these thigns from that perspective – i.e., it won’t work.

  471. TKR said,

    October 21, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Tfan,

    Would you say that people who have fallen into error, have 1) not studied the Scriptures diligently enough or have studied the Scriptures but with a mistaken exegesis, 2) not prayed enough to God for wisdom, 3) either not prayed enough for the Holy Spirit’s aid, quite simply don’t have the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Spirit has seen fit to withhold His aid, and 4) not asked the right people the right questions; or some combination of the above? Is that a fair assessment, or are there other helps to confidence?

    With the conclusion being that you believe that you have done these things sufficiently to have confidence and assurance that what you believe is true, correct?

  472. Reed Here said,

    October 21, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Ron, no. 463: I’m working off a distinction between certainty and assurance. As most commonly used, certainty is the idea that man must be able to autonomously, independent of any outside source, know something to be objectively true. This, as I’ve reflected in the comments here, is a kind of knowing that was first introduced by Satan in the Garden. It continues as a part of the Curse on Sin; mankind is trapped ever seeking this kind of knowing, and never able to securely grasp it.

    The other kind of knowing, use the term assurance for it, is that knowing which flows from one’s spiritual union, one’s relationship with God via the real presence of the Holy Spirit. It is both a knowing that frees us from the certainty trap and one that gives us infallible assurance.

    Applied to the calling and election passage in 2Pe 1:10 note that in the surrounding context this is a knowing rooted in relationship with Jesus. It is a knowing that can be sure but not certain (using the distinctions I’ve laid out here). Particularly it is always the immediate gift of the Spirit who never relinquishes ownership of this knowing to us. The Spirit never gives us this gift (or any other) in an autonomous fashion. We only maintain this surety in relationship with the Spirit. If He were to leave, so would the surety.

    Read the WCF chapter 18 from this knowing angle and I think you’ll find some guidance into the Scripture’s teaching here.

  473. Ron said,

    October 21, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Reed,

    I think you’re defining your terms in very unusual ways and getting yourself into trouble on many fronts. Certainty does not presuppose autonomy and it was certainly not introduced by Satan. Isn’t God certain? :) Moreover, you suggest that men apart from union can’t have certainty, which again is to employ the term in a very esoteric way. All men know God and are culpable. How are they not certain of what they know? Is certainty a quality of knowledge, or something else? As for your recommondation of WCF 18, that does not address whether men can be certain of anything apart from union; it only suggests certainty is available regarding assurance. Men are certain of many things because God is unavoidable.

    Cheers,

    Ron

  474. Ron said,

    October 21, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Reed,

    Given your recent post to Sean (471), I wonder whether you, TF and others are speaking in terms of putting forth certainty of proof, as opposed to having certainty. Indeed, you will never be able to demonstrate your certainty to another in a way that they can accept with certainty and that is because your certainty, as you would put it, has a relational quality to it with Jesus, through union.

    In discussions such as this one, I continue to see people discuss whether there is a bullet proof / certain proof for this, that or the other. TAG is often discussed in this regard. I think the question gets people off track since people, not arguments, can be certain. Arguments are weak, strong, valid, invalid, sound, unsound… In that light, I can make more sense of some of the things you, TF and David G have been saying of late. What I can’t make sense of is what is trying to said regarding knowledge without any degree of certainty.

    Ron

  475. Reed Here said,

    October 21, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Ron: I think we’re using differing definitions here. My definition for certainty vs. assurance is not as esoteric as you may think. I’m merely reflecting on the nature of the philosophical on objectivity vs. subjectivity, adding to it a presupposition I believe inheres in the objectivity angle.

    Aside, what do you think of my efforts to support my position from the 2Pe 1 observation? Does not the passage make it clear that surety is found only in relationship with God?

  476. Ron said,

    October 21, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Reed – of course, surety of salvation is to be found only in a right relationship with God, but surety of God is also possessed by those who are in Adam, who too are in a covenant relationship with God. Assurance, certainty and all the rest is due to the fact that God is unavoidable and all men are in relationship with him whether it be in blessing or cursing, redemption or judgment. Yes?

  477. Reed Here said,

    October 21, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Ron: not any degree of certainty. Of course, some degree certainty is available to all men (a relative certainy is the norm for life under the fall.)

    Yet it is never an autonomous and absolute certainty. It is never a certainty that can be held by man independent of a savingly submissive relationship with God. It is never a fully informed certainty, one which posseses all the facts/answers. It is always a certainty of degrees. Dt 29:29 comes into play here.

    As to the esoteirc sound of my argument, I guess I could have constructed two terms: autonomous absolute certainty (AAC) and dependent degreed certainty (DDC). Yet to focus on the necessity of the relationship aspect I chose to label the one position “certainty” and the other “surety” (or assurance). Hope this clears up my thinking – sorry for any unnecesarry confusion.

    As to WCF Ch 18’s relevance, I didn’t recognize which Ron I was speaking with (I checked your avatar after your last response). Had I known it was YOU (relax lurkers, Ron and I are friends) I would have chosen to use the term “noetic.” ;) I think there are substantial noetic considerations in our assruance of grace and salvation. I think these at least inform the discussion here.

    The reason I do is because of how our RCC friends continue to frame their apologetic attack on us: we can’t be certain of anything because we only have a subjective controlling authority, namely ourselves. In making this presupposition they err egregiously in thinking they have not done the same by their submission to Mother Rome. Practically speaking they have; they’ve submitted their independent thinking to the dictates of other fallen men. But this does not remove them from the autonomous absolute certainty trap. It merely provides temporary psychological relief. The man (men) to whom they have submitted their judgment is not the source of truth, nor has the Source of truth granted them the ministry of truth they claim for themselves.

    They make a second egregious error as well. Presupposing the exclusivity of the AAC position, they derided our position as hopeless mired in autonomy. And they’re right – if their presupposition followed. But it does not. There is a second king of certainty availablr to men. We do not base our understanding of truth on the basis of AAC, but on the basis of DDC. Our dependent degreed certainty, our surety rests on someone outside of ourselves, namely Jesus Christ.

    It is interesting to note a comparison and contrast with our RCC friends in this regard. We both have sought to end our autonomy and submit ourselves to an outside authority of a man. Yet their’s is given to fallen man (men), who do not have the inherent or graced ability to be free from error. (This makes such biblically unsupported doctrines as papal infallibity so essential to their system.)

    The Man to whom we have submitted however, is not like their’s. This Man is also God, perfect in all His being and ways. And so, in union (spiritual relation) with Him we can have true certainty, a certainty that is dependent and degreed.

    (Rebecca, this is why your challenges are off-target; they assume the exclusive necessity of AAC, and do not recognize the option of a sufficient of DDC).

    Hope this helps. Sorry I am not as clear as is needed here. Grateful for your patience.

  478. Reed Here said,

    October 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Ron, no. 478: yes. However, see my observations in the prior comment as to why I’m nuancing the way I am, to wit, the structure of our RCC friend’s apologetic attack. They have erected a strawman position: only AAC is possible, and are using that to deny our position.

    While I may not track exactly with Jason’s prior comments, I think this is where he is heading in terms of obseving that we’re wrong to debate on their erroneous terms.

    We can’t win using their presuppositions not simply because they’re pre-determined to support their argument alone. We can’t win because their presupposition is wrong.

    Neither they nor us can be absolutely autonomously certain. They are wrong to act as if we’re doing this and they’re not. Point of fact, they are; we’re not.

    “Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation [Mic 3:11; Dt 29:19; Jh 8:41] (which hope of theirs shall perish): [Amos 9:10; Mt 7:22-23]” ~ WCF 18.1a

  479. Ron said,

    October 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Reed,

    That helps (me anyway) immensely, both in what you just said and why you said the other things in the way you did. Thanks for that… and I think this statement of yours is worth repeating: “In making this presupposition they err egregiously in thinking they have not done the same by their submission to Mother Rome. Practically speaking they have; they’ve submitted their independent thinking to the dictates of other fallen men. But this does not remove them from the autonomous absolute certainty trap. It merely provides temporary psychological relief. The man (men) to whom they have submitted their judgment is not the source of truth, nor has the Source of truth granted them the ministry of truth they claim for themselves.”

    For what it’s worth, I would like to hear said from those who align themselves with the Roman magisterium that they are doing so based upon the internal witness of the Spirit. After all, if they are not following the voice of God in Rome, whose voice are they following?

    Ron

  480. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    October 21, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    David Meyer,

    Can *you* conceive of an authority (both individual and institutional) who did not have the truth?

    Yes or No?

    (This question doesn’t bother you or disturb you, does it?)

  481. TurretinFan said,

    October 21, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Ron:

    To paraphrase your point, “I just believe whatever my church teaches,” does not place one in a better position than “I just believe whatever the Bible says.”

    – TurretinFan

  482. Ron said,

    October 21, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Reed et al., this might go without saying but the reason I labored the point is that I wouldn’t want the Romanists on this board to think (or anyone else for that matter) that God given certainty of the truth (as opposed to the autonomous certainty you all spoke of) is not available to us.

    Ron

  483. johnbugay said,

    October 21, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    “Test everything. Hold on to the good.”

  484. Reed Here said,

    October 21, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Ron, no. 484, agreed. We can indeed truly know, just not the way the CC apologists propose.

  485. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 21, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Bryan (#467):

    Once again, you have created a false dilemma, as though we must choose between loyalty to a creed and loyalty to the magisterium. If we necessarily had to choose between loyalty to a person and loyalty to a creed, this would imply that we would have to choose between loyalty to Christ and loyalty to the creed. You keep creating these false dilemmas because you don’t grasp the participatory nature of Catholic doctrine

    It strikes me that you’re very quick to push the “Jeff doesn’t understand” button. And I don’t take it personally, but it does strike me as very unlikely that I would be so blinkered so many times.

    In fact I do understand, somewhat, that Catholics believe that there is a supernatural unity between Catholic doctrines and the papacy, so that the two are not in disagreement.

    I also understand that the ground of correctness for the Catholic is sourced in agreement Peter’s successor; whereas the ground of correctness of the ECFs was sourced in agreement with the creed.

    Further, I also understand that if the pope today were to issue a new pronouncement on the meaning of the creed, it would be binding on the Catholic; whereas, the ECFs would demand an ecumenical council.

    So it is correct to say that there is a fundamental difference between modern Catholics and the ECFs.

  486. Ron said,

    October 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    It strikes me that you’re very quick to push the “Jeff doesn’t understand” button. And I don’t take it personally, but it does strike me as very unlikely that I would be so blinkered so many times.

    LOL

  487. TurretinFan said,

    October 21, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    TKR:

    You asked:

    Would you say that people who have fallen into error, have 1) not studied the Scriptures diligently enough or have studied the Scriptures but with a mistaken exegesis, 2) not prayed enough to God for wisdom, 3) either not prayed enough for the Holy Spirit’s aid, quite simply don’t have the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Spirit has seen fit to withhold His aid, and 4) not asked the right people the right questions; or some combination of the above? Is that a fair assessment, or are there other helps to confidence? With the conclusion being that you believe that you have done these things sufficiently to have confidence and assurance that what you believe is true, correct?

    People who fall into error may do so despite having some amount of confidence. Having confidence and being in error are not mutually exclusive states.

    One has confidence, of course, because one thinks one is not in error.

    I didn’t mean for my list to be an all-comprehensive guide to what things can give confidence. They are simply some of the big things. Other things that might give one confidence is training in a particular area. For example, someone who has studied linguistics may have more reason to be confident in identifying something as a periphrastic construction than some guy whose knowledge of Greek consists of looking up words in Strong’s concordance.

    Of course, it’s quite possible for someone with little grounds for confidence to be right, while someone else with great grounds for confidence is wrong. That hopefully shows that it would be a mistake to say that the issue of who is in error is somehow solely connected with one’s recourse to confidence-building means.

    Let me give you an easy example:

    Suppose that I’m told to guess a number between 1 and 10, and you’re privately told (out of my earshot) that the number is actually between 6 and 10. I might correctly guess 6, while you incorrectly guess 7. However, in that situation, you had reason to be twice as confident as me in your guess. Yet, I was right and you were wrong.

    That’s just an illustration, of course. I’m using “guessing” as an analogy for fallible reasoning. They’re not the same thing, obviously, but guessing is easier to analyze.

    – TurretinFan

  488. TurretinFan said,

    October 21, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    David Meyer:

    You wrote:

    If the early church was Catholic, that matters… A LOT. If the ECFs were Catholic, (or Orthodox, Protestant or whatever) I want to be what they were.

    They were none of the above, but why would you want to “be what they were”? Why not try to learn from their mistakes?

    -TurretinFan

  489. Bryan Cross said,

    October 21, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Jeff (#487),

    It strikes me that you’re very quick to push the “Jeff doesn’t understand” button. And I don’t take it personally, but it does strike me as very unlikely that I would be so blinkered so many times.

    When you make claims like, “Modern Rome claims that direct arguments from the Scripture are meaningless,” and that for Catholics “the unity of the Church is loyalty to a man, not loyalty to a creed” you are criticizing a straw man of Catholic doctrine, and thus show yourself not to understand Catholic doctrine; otherwise you would avoid such strawmen. (The only alternative explanation is that you know they are false statements, and yet you say them anyway — but I assume, based on what I know of your character from our prior discussions, that you would never do such a thing.) In Catholic doctrine it is false to say that our loyalty is to a man and not to a creed; our loyalty is to both the Magisterium of Christ’s Church and to the Creed of Christ’s Church, and neither loyalty can ever trump the other. Hence to say our loyalty is to one over the other is to misrepresent the Catholic faith. Similarly, in Catholic doctrine it is not true that direct arguments from Scripture are “meaningless.” Rather, all arguments from Scripture are situated in a philosophical and religious context, that is, embodied within a tradition, and in this way have certain philosophical and theological assumptions implicit in the methodology by which and in which they are constructed. But in no way does that make them “meaningless.” Such a claim badly represents the Catholic position viz-a-viz Scripture.

    You wouldn’t want me (or anyone else) to make up false statements about your doctrine, or knock over strawman caricatures of it. So, I hope you will understand why I’m asking you to try to avoid doing that to Catholics, simply on account of the golden rule.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  490. steve hays said,

    October 21, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Jeff Cagle said,

    “The ECFs argued fearlessly from the Scripture directly, and argued for the unity of the Church around its adherence to the basics of the faith as expressed in what we now call the Apostle’s Creed. Modern Rome claims that direct arguments from the Scripture are meaningless, and that the unity of the Church is loyalty to a man, not loyalty to a creed.”

    Bryan Cross said,

    “No, the Catholic Church has never claimed that any argument from Scripture is meaningless.”

    i) First of all, notice Bryan’s bait-and-switch. Cagle didn’t say “any” argument from Scripture, but “direct” arguments from Scripture.

    ii) In support of Cagle’s contention, take this recent admission by Michael Liccione:

    “As a Catholic, I’d say that of course the Catholic doctrine of the papacy cannot be ‘demonstrated and sustained’ just by ‘Scripture itself,’ even though it is supported by Scripture when Scripture is interpreted in a certain way. Indeed, from what Vatican II said, we may infer that no article of faith can simply be ‘demonstrated’ by Scripture; for ‘Scripture, Tradition, and the teaching authority of the Church are so linked…that none can stand without the others’ (Dei Verbum §10).”

  491. Ron said,

    October 21, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    With the conclusion being that you believe that you have done these things sufficiently to have confidence and assurance that what you believe is true, correct?

    TKR,

    That one has “done these things sufficiently” does not imply that there is not another condition that must be met in order for God’s assurance to obtain. One can pray for understanding in light of what has been studied but still come up empty. The reason being, “Our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts…” And that is why “we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word.”

    I’m not certain but I suspect that you are trying to make the point that since we can be wrong (even after doing all we can do to be right) that, therefore, we cannot know when we are right. (Obviously one cannot know that premise to be true; it can only be known to be false.) Also, when one believes something false after doing all the praying and studying humanly possible, the witness of God does not confirm such a belief. Therefore, when one is mistaken, he doesn’t have the same assurance as when he has been taught by God. To Rebecca’s concern, that one denomination must be wrong on x-doctrine hardly implies that Christians holding an opposing view aren’t right – even with full assurance of faith.

    Ron

  492. steve hays said,

    October 21, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Bryan Cross said,

    “When you make claims like, ‘Modern Rome claims that direct arguments from the Scripture are meaningless,’ and that for Catholics ‘the unity of the Church is loyalty to a man, not loyalty to a creed’ you are criticizing a straw man of Catholic doctrine, and thus show yourself not to understand Catholic doctrine; otherwise you would avoid such strawmen. (The only alternative explanation is that you know they are false statements, and yet you say them anyway — but I assume, based on what I know of your character from our prior discussions, that you would never do such a thing.)”

    i) Actually, there’s third alternative explanation: Cagle was evaluating Catholic claims by his own standard rather than Catholic standards. Cagle’s characterization would only be a straw man if he were attempting to reproduce Catholicism’s self-understanding.

    But there’s nothing inherently out of line about judging a belief-system by standards outside the belief-system. It’s not as if Bryan limits himself to evaluating Calvinism or Evangelicalism on its own terms. And Christians are certainly entitled to evaluate Mormonism or Islam by Christian standards rather than Mormon or Muslim standards (to take two handy examples).

    ii) BTW, Bryan is hardly an expert on Catholic teaching. He’s not a Catholic theologian, or priest, or bishop, or pontiff. He’s just a vain, loudmouthed convert.

  493. TurretinFan said,

    October 21, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    There’s a fourth possibility. Bryan is not accurately representing the Roman position, while Jeff is. I think that’s probably implicit in Steve’s (ii), but I just want to point it out. Bryan’s false dichotomy has missed at least two other options.

  494. steve hays said,

    October 21, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Yes, Cagle is simply drawing out the logical implications of Rome’s position.

    There are many situations where you have fault-lines within a belief-system, especially a false belief-system. Although a theological tradition may not explicitly affirm or deny something, it may implicitly affirm or deny something even if it sometimes says otherwise.

    I’d also add, at the risk of stating the obvious (which one must always do when dealing with individuals like Bryan who argue in bad faith), that it really does matter in Roman Catholicism what your credentials are. That’s why Hans Küng and Uta Ranke-Heinemann both lost their ecclesiastical license to teach Catholic theology.

    Bryan is a Roman Catholic on paper, but in practice he’s a functional Plymouth Brethren. He keeps elevating himself as a spokesman for Catholic theology when he has no institutional standing to do so.

  495. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 21, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Bryan, I do appreciate that you give me the benefit of the doubt, and I hope to live up to that benefit by avoiding misrepresentation.

    Steve H is right: I’m evaluating RC doctrine without accepting all of the assumptions in it.

    In particular, I have not accepted the premise that there is a supernatural provision such that RC teaching is protected from error. I haven’t utterly rejected that premise (for the sake of argument), but I haven’t assumed it.

    That being so, I see two different strands of church teaching (Scripture and Tradition), and I ask the question, “Which of the two is the primary standard by which truth is measured?”

    And what I see is that arguments from Church Tradition are treated as definitive and final. Arguments from Scripture, on the other hand, are universally challenged: “That’s merely your interpretation.”

    It’s not hard to see, then, why I might say that “direct arguments from Scripture are meaningless” — perhaps “rejected a priori” is a more precise term. As a methodological observation, it appears to be the case that arguments from Scripture, unless already consistent with RC teaching, are treated as “merely my interpretation.”

    Nor is it hard to see that I would say that Rome asks us to choose loyalty to a person over loyalty to a creed. (And by “person”, I meant “mere human” — of course our loyalty is to Jesus!).

    That’s not a false dilemma, but an observation of methodology. The creed is static text, and any particular reading of it will always be treated as “just one’s interpretation.” The only interpretation of that creed that will be definitive for the RC is the papal interpretation, in fact the current living pope’s interpretation.

    To observe this is not to prejudice the question, per se, as to whether that papal interpretation is always correct or not.

    Instead, I’m pointing out that the Catholic methodology is to always and everywhere look to the living magisterial authority — a person — for the proper understanding of the creed.

    Whereas, the ECF methodology appears to have been to look to the creed itself, without reference to the teaching of the bishop of Rome.

    Do you still think I’ve misunderstood?

  496. TurretinFan said,

    October 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Bryan Cross wrote:

    Similarly, in Catholic doctrine it is not true that direct arguments from Scripture are “meaningless.” Rather, all arguments from Scripture are situated in a philosophical and religious context, that is, embodied within a tradition, and in this way have certain philosophical and theological assumptions implicit in the methodology by which and in which they are constructed. But in no way does that make them “meaningless.” Such a claim badly represents the Catholic position viz-a-viz Scripture.

    But previously, Bryan Cross wrote:

    The term ‘refute’ means “shown an argument to be unsound”. The bishops did not ‘refute’ Arianism; they condemned it, by defining the Faith by way of an extra-biblical term: homoousious. They were unable, by Scripture alone, to refute Arianism. The Arians could affirm every single verse of Scripture. That’s precisely why the bishops had to require affirmation of the term homoousious. So if the bishops had no authority by way of apostolic succession, then their requirement of affirming homoousious would have had no more authority than its denial by the Arians. Scripture alone was insufficient to resolve the dispute, precisely because both sides could affirm every verse in Scripture. And since sola scriptura denies the transfer of authority by way of apostolic succession, therefore the Council of Nicea and the Creed, given sola scriptura, only have authority if you agree with its interpretation of Scripture.

    That does not explicitly say that direct arguments from Scripture were “meaningless,” but I’ll let the reader judge whether it nevertheless conveys that idea.

    (link to further discussion)

    -TurretinFan

  497. TKR said,

    October 21, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    All,

    There is good stuff here in and amongst the garbage. While I’m not certain, I do have some assurance that I am learning some things. ;-) When I get some time I’d like to ask some further questions.

    Ron,

    I’m not making points, just asking questions. I am attempting to learn the Reformed epistemic presuppositions so that I might see if they make any sense to me and where exactly they diverge from the Catholics. Unlike most here, I am not vested in a particular . . . dare I say . . . tradition. Keep talking this is very interesting, except for the parts where you start calling each other vain loudmouths and such, that gets kind of dull . . .

    PS Why is it so hard to type in the comment box?

  498. Bryan Cross said,

    October 21, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Jeff, (re: #497)

    Ok, that’s a bit of progress, perhaps. :-) I see where you’re coming from, and I appreciate your tone, and your reasonableness.

    I don’t expect you to assume the truth of Catholic teaching when you evaluate it. But, it seems to me that there is no point in criticizing Catholic teaching from a standpoint in which it is already assumed to be false. In such a case, the prior assumptions are doing all the work, and you should just let your criticism lie there. Otherwise it seems to me to be a question-begging endeavor.

    So, you could just say something like “I do not believe that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded, and has divine authority to teach, etc. etc.” Because it is on the basis of that prior belief (i.e. that the Catholic Church is not the Church Christ founded, and does not have divine authority) that you are rejecting her own teaching about herself. So for example, you wrote:

    That being so, I see two different strands of church teaching (Scripture and Tradition), and I ask the question, “Which of the two is the primary standard by which truth is measured?”

    To ask that question, is to presuppose that the Church’s teaching that the two [i.e. Scripture and Tradition] cannot be separated is false. From a Catholic point of view, the question thus presupposes something contrary to the Catholic faith. So, it evaluates Catholic doctrine from a starting point that presupposes the falsity of the Catholic Church. Well, then what’s the point? I mean, what’s the point of evaluating Catholic doctrine, if you’ve already decided that it is false. That’s not a fair evaluation, and, I would add, not a truth-seeking evaluation, because it begs the question. The whole paradigm goes together. You can’t rightly evaluate the paradigm piecemeal, or while presupposing Protestant presuppositions. (And I’m sure you would say the same to me, if I were to criticize Protestant claims, while presupposing Catholic doctrines.)

    And what I see is that arguments from Church Tradition are treated as definitive and final. Arguments from Scripture, on the other hand, are universally challenged: “That’s merely your interpretation.”

    Because such arguments typically, though implicitly, presuppose that there is no Tradition, or that if there was, it ceased to exist. In this way such arguments include presuppositions that are contrary to the Catholic faith. We don’t believe that Scripture can be rightly understood from an abstract view-from-nowhere, a traditionless and contextless vacuum. There is no such place (for us), because we material beings living through unique and very particular trajectories of space and time; we are not the timeless and omnipresent God. We humans are context-bond, time-bound beings, and therefore always bring our own philosophical assumptions, presuppositions and time-bound perspective to the interpretive process. That’s why the view-from-nowhere is an ‘illusory ideal’ for us. It presents itself as something attainable, when it is entirely unattainable. And the illusion is most effective when we think we have obtained pure objectivity, all while unknowingly smuggling in oodles of early twenty-first century North-American ideas and notions.

    Catholics believe that Scripture, being the divinely-inspired written words of God, is rightly understood only in light of the Apostolic Tradition in which it was given, and thus only within the community of persons in which that Tradition has been consciously and faithfully maintained and preserved over the last two thousand years. So our goal is not to attain that elusive view-from-nowhere when approaching Scripture. Our goal is to approach Scripture in and with that very same Tradition in which it was given, in the same living community that has lived-the-text in that Tradition, and whose very life and practice and sensibility still carries that Tradition like a tapestry intricately woven into fabric.

    It’s not hard to see, then, why I might say that “direct arguments from Scripture are meaningless” — perhaps “rejected a priori” is a more precise term.

    Fair enough. The problem is not with the “direct argument from Scripture” but with the historically naïve (from our point of view) idea that no one has been reading and studying this book night and day for the last two thousand years, and so we can just act as though there are no shoulders upon which we ought to be standing, when coming to Scripture. That’s why you’ll sometimes hear Catholics say that Scripture didn’t just fall from heaven yesterday. The person who doesn’t even know who the Church Fathers are, and who could give a hoot what they had to say, or who has the audacity to say that if the Church Fathers disagree with his own interpretation then they were all wrong, doesn’t understand the historical and communal dimension of Sacred Scripture as a text that has always been embedded in a community and understood from within that community, not outside the community in a sterilized laboratory under an exegetical microscope, abstracted from its ecclesial context and the life of a people informed by the Tradition in an unbroken continuity. (See my “The Tradition and the Lexicon.”)

    As a methodological observation, it appears to be the case that arguments from Scripture, unless already consistent with RC teaching, are treated as “merely my interpretation.”

    Well, the person who shows no awareness of the Tradition shows a lack of understanding of what this Book is. It isn’t just ‘your’ book (where ‘your’ refers to this hypothetical individual). It is a community’s book, and that community is two-thousand years old. So, if you walk up to the book and start trying to interpret it as if nobody has gone before you, it is both arrogant and presumptuous. That’s the individualism and historical naïvete I’ve talked about before. We have to respect the past, and respect the historical context of this book, not just the context described within the book, but the context of the book itself.

    Nor is it hard to see that I would say that Rome asks us to choose loyalty to a person over loyalty to a creed. (And by “person”, I meant “mere human” — of course our loyalty is to Jesus!).

    I understand why it looks that way from the Protestant point of view. That’s because you don’t accept ecclesial infallibility. For us, the Creed was taught infallibly, by the protection of the Holy Spirit. So, the pope ain’t ever going against the Creed, never. Can’t happen. If he were (though he cannot) to do so, he would ipso facto become a heretic. He has no authority to overturn what has already been laid down infallibly.

    That’s not a false dilemma, but an observation of methodology. The creed is static text, and any particular reading of it will always be treated as “just one’s interpretation.” The only interpretation of that creed that will be definitive for the RC is the papal interpretation, in fact the current living pope’s interpretation.

    That’s not correct. No pope (or council) has the authority to negate or deny any article of the Creed, as it has always been understood. The Creed doesn’t just have a “present interpretation.” From the fourth century the Church has always carried an understanding of her own Creed, and it is that understanding to which the pope must always be faithful. A pope or council could give further elucidation to the Creed, but that further elucidation could never contradict or negate how it has always been understood.

    Instead, I’m pointing out that the Catholic methodology is to always and everywhere look to the living magisterial authority — a person — for the proper understanding of the creed.

    Not only to the present magisterial authority, but also to all those preceding, all the way back to the Council of Nicea itself (including all the bishops who wrote about it), as a way of understanding how the Church has always understood and confessed the Creed.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  499. Tom Riello said,

    October 21, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    TF,

    #468 “But even between Baptists and Presbyterians, can we not simply say that the Holy Spirit does not promise to lead everyone to an equally full knowledge of the truth in this life? If the Holy Spirit gives more insight to one Christian than to another, what is that to you?”

    I would say my concern with this is this: Let’s broaden the Christian landscape to include Lutherans and other Christians who hold to such notions as Baptismal Regeneration and the loss of salvation. Are we to say ‘But even between Lutherans and Presbyterians the Holy Spirit does not promise to lead everyone to a full knowledge of the truth in this. If the Holy Spirit gives more insight to the Lutheran about the fact that a Christian can lose his salvation, what is it to you?’

    Are we to think that God would leave such a matter up for grabs? Maybe God did, certainly under a Protestant hermeneutic one would have to say that God did do such a thing, leave such a matter up for grabs. But if someone thinks that they can never fall away and it turns out they could do just that, they are not wrong on something trivial, but on something that lies at the very heart of the Christian faith, salvation. If I am wrong then so be it, but that seems like the route you have to go. If not, on what principled basis could you say the Lutheran or someone who holds that a believer could lose salvation is wrong? If you say by doing better exegesis, the Lutheran claims his belief from the same Bible you are using. If that is the route you have to go then Bryan’s wonderful article on Ecclesial Deism stands as a legitimate and needed critique of Protestantism.

  500. Ron said,

    October 21, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    I am attempting to learn the Reformed epistemic presuppositions so that I might see if they make any sense to me and where exactly they diverge from the Catholics.

    TKR,

    One major divergence from the Romanist position is that within Reformed thought it is held that we can hear our Shepherd’s voice in Scripture and by his grace follow him. The Romanist position does not allow one to hear and follow Him. Given their doctrine of Scripture and the church – one can only hear from the Roman communion and at best follow what they say the Lord says. (It is a philosophical surd to suggest that one can hear directly from the Lord in Scripture as long as it squares with Romanist teaching.)

    If true to his communion the Romanist’s obedience to the Lord himself is somewhat analogous to the man who would act upon his belief of the time based upon a clock that is broken. For even when the man’s belief corresponds to the truth allowing him to be punctual, he will not have known the time having not “heard” from a source that should be trusted. We must conclude that the Romanist’s obedience is blind and arbitrary, and consequently all the beliefs that follow from that initial obedience are wholly unjustified.

    Ron

  501. TurretinFan said,

    October 21, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Bryan wrote:

    But, it seems to me that there is no point in criticizing Catholic teaching from a standpoint in which it is already assumed to be false. In such a case, the prior assumptions are doing all the work, and you should just let your criticism lie there. Otherwise it seems to me to be a question-begging endeavor.

    What a strange idea! Is there any point in defending Roman Catholic teaching from a standpoint in which it is already assumed to be true? I such a case, are the prior assumptions doing all the work, and should Bryan just let his defense lie there? Otherwise, will it seem to be a question-begging endeavor?

    What’s worse, Bryan doesn’t see the problem in his own argument. Take his comment: “A pope or council could give further elucidation to the Creed, but that further elucidation could never contradict or negate how it has always been understood.”

    That sounds very nice, doesn’t? No contradiction of the prior understanding is permitted. That’s the way it supposedly works in Romanism.

    But that facade only stands up if you assume that it both works that way in theory and in practice. In other words, if you simply assume that whatever the pope is saying today must be the way it was always understood, because the pope could not contradict the previous understanding.

    But, in fact, take paragraph 12 of the Tridentine Profession of Faith:

    12. I do at this present freely profess and truly hold this true Catholic faith, without which no one can be saved (extra quam nemo salvus esse potest); and I promise most constantly to retain and confess the same entire and inviolate, with God’s assistance, to the end of my life. And I will take care, as far as in me lies, that it shall be held, taught, and preached by my subjects, or by those the care of whom shall appertain to me in my office. This I promise, vow, and swear—so help me God, and these holy Gospels of God.

    This teaching of extra quam nemo salvus esse potest with respect to “the Catholic faith” is something that Vatican II contradicted. I’d be happy to explain at greater length, but my reason for raising this here is simply to point out that Bryan’s actual rule of faith (the present magisterium) will require him to anachronistically re-interpret this clause of the Tridentine profession in order to protect Vatican II (there are a few other options, of course, but that’s the most popular response these days).

    All apparent contradictions are resolved in favor of the latest and greatest, rather than the oldest. If it were resolved in favor of the oldest, the Roman Catholic would be virtually a Protestant, since nearly all of Rome’s errors can be shown to contradict Scripture, if the servant of Rome does not simply presuppose that there “could not” be a contradiction.

    -TurretinFan

  502. Ron said,

    October 21, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    “Are we to think that God would leave such a matter up for grabs? Maybe God did, certainly under a Protestant hermeneutic one would have to say that God did do such a thing, leave such a matter up for grabs.”

    Tom,

    The difference between us and you is that we’re all hoping that God got it right. Not being willing to hear from God on the matter, you’re hope is that you picked the right communion and that she got it right. That’s poor procedure, Tom. You might at least want to check out the red letters in your bible if not some of the words penned by the prophets and apostles too, but if you’re going to give them an honest read, you’re going to have to check your “Catholicism” at the door. That’s not that easy, Tom, as I’m sure you are well aware. It’s my experience that Romanists are more afraid of God’s word than professing atheists. What say you? Do you read your Bible and accept it as truth, and if so on what basis given that there is no infallible commentary on your shelf?!

    Ron

  503. TurretinFan said,

    October 21, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Tom wrote: “Are we to think that God would leave such a matter up for grabs?”

    If God did, who could question him? Many people will say “Lord Lord,” but will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

    But let me address your comments in more detail.

    You wrote:

    I would say my concern with this is this: Let’s broaden the Christian landscape to include Lutherans and other Christians who hold to such notions as Baptismal Regeneration and the loss of salvation. Are we to say ‘But even between Lutherans and Presbyterians the Holy Spirit does not promise to lead everyone to a full knowledge of the truth in this. If the Holy Spirit gives more insight to the Lutheran about the fact that a Christian can lose his salvation, what is it to you?’

    Of course, I would never phrase it that way – I’d phrase it as “less insight” and “cannot,” but that’s neither here nor there. Yes, while trusting in works and sacraments to save you will not lead you to heaven but elsewhere, it is possible that a person could be saved despite an inconsistency between their faith in Christ alone and their faulty doctrine which would logically lead them not to trust in Christ alone.

    And it’s conceivable that God would let a person remain in ignorance even about this logical inconsistency. After all, God permits many people to be mentally retarded, or physically crippled, why would anyone assume that God does not also permit some people to remain spiritually infants?

    You wrote: “Are we to think that God would leave such a matter up for grabs?” See above.

    You wrote: “Maybe God did, certainly under a Protestant hermeneutic one would have to say that God did do such a thing, leave such a matter up for grabs.”

    It’s not “up for grabs,” its just that not everyone properly understands it. The fact that many people don’t properly understand it doesn’t make it up for grabs. Truth is absolute, even when people are unaware of the truth or confused about the truth.

    You wrote: “But if someone thinks that they can never fall away and it turns out they could do just that, they are not wrong on something trivial, but on something that lies at the very heart of the Christian faith, salvation.”

    The good Shepherd won’t lose any of his sheep. That is promised. Doctrinal perfection in this life is not promised. You may personally think that the issue is so major that God couldn’t possibly leave true believers confused about it. And perhaps God doesn’t! Perhaps those who profess faith but are wrong on this issue are just false professors. That’s not my opinion, of course, but it would logically solve the problem you’ve identified.

    You wrote: “If I am wrong then so be it, but that seems like the route you have to go.”

    Hopefully my answer above has clarified.

    You wrote: “If not, on what principled basis could you say the Lutheran or someone who holds that a believer could lose salvation is wrong?”

    The basis on which we say that people are wrong is by comparing their doctrine to Scripture. It’s the same way people say other people are wrong about anything. They compare it to the standard. In this case, the standard is Scripture..

    You wrote: “If you say by doing better exegesis, the Lutheran claims his belief from the same Bible you are using.”

    Why should this be problematic? We can’t both be right. We may disagree, and the appropriate way to resolve the disagreement is to resort to the rule of faith. If the one of us who is right cannot persuade the other who merely thinks he’s right, then we may end up having to wait a short time until we are in heaven to agree.

    You wrote: “If that is the route you have to go then Bryan’s wonderful article on Ecclesial Deism stands as a legitimate and needed critique of Protestantism.”

    My short response to that critique is that what Bryan ends up doing is engaging in ecclesiastical deification. Obviously that’s not a thorough, rigorous critique of his post, but it’s hopefully enough for you to see where my critique would go.

    -TurretinFan

    As for Bryan’s article, it was an example of Ecclesiastical Deification.

  504. Ron said,

    October 21, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    My Brother (TF),

    Cross has not and I have no reason to believe will try to address the content of your most recent, excellent post, which is not something that hasn’t been said already on this thread by yourself and others. (Don’t get me wrong. I applaud your persistence.) I have no reason to believe he is even remotely interested in rational interchange as he never tires of rehearsing the same assertions in the face of refutation. (An attempt at a rebuttal, even once, would have been nice.) I’m afraid that his apparent hardness of heart and obvious dullness of mind could be judicial. He might have crusaded too long for the devil and his angels. May those who are tempted to admire Cross do so with fear and trembling. Scripture would have us mark and avoid such a one. I do hope that he was censured to the fullest extent by his former Protestant communion.

    Ron

  505. Rebecca said,

    October 21, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    “Let’s make sure we understand one another before we jump to criticize. Slow to speak and quick to listen.”

    Good point, TKR.

  506. Rebecca said,

    October 21, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Ron,

    You said, “Rebecca, I think all your questions have been answered, even repeatedly. Maybe you might begin to articulate back to your respondents to their satisfaction what you believe them to be saying. That might help matters along a bit. At least then some of your respondents might be able to zero in on what you are not grasping. The alternative is for you to continue asking the same questions.”

    I am really surprised that you think my questions were answered. I know that you probably think that you answered them, that you tried to answer them, but they were not answered to my satisfaction at all. I tried to indicate that by coming back and asking again and rephrasing, etc., but if I continue to press, to ask, to question, then after awhile, people get mad at me and respond rudely because I don’t accept their answers. So I will tell you what I am hearing. On the issue of how we can know with certainty what the scriptures teach on life-and-death issues, such as, is baptism necessary for salvation, I heard that we can’t know anything with certainty; or that the Holy Spirit will lead me into all the truth as I study the scriptures (which I have been doing my whole life, by the way); or that your exegesis (or someone else’s, I can’t remember) teaches you that it isn’t necessary, and I should accept your exegesis even though others interpret scripture differently. So we are to decide for ourselves, and not to worry about whether we are wrong. What I am hearing is that we can’t know for sure what scripture teaches, that no one can, but that it doesn’t matter, because we can know for sure that we are going to heaven and that is all that matters. Which says to me that truth doesn’t matter, and again, if we can know for sure that we are going to heaven, then how can we know that if we cannot be certain about anything. If you and the other Protestants were answering the questions on this board to my satisfaction, I would not be on the verge of doing what so many other Protestants have done when they have asked the same questions. I really think that there is just a lack of understanding out there concerning what questions I am asking, or what I am looking for. The lack of authority that I tried to discuss was also dismissed; my questions were basically dismissed. The fact that you or someone else thinks you answered them (repeatedly?) doesn’t mean they were answered. The answers satisfy you; no doubt you think they should satisfy me, but they don’t. If I press more, I get rudeness. So I just read, mostly.

    How can the Holy Spirit possibly lead people into so many different directions?

    And even if someone is your enemy, are we not told to love our enemies?

    Sincerely,
    Rebecca

  507. TurretinFan said,

    October 21, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Rebecca:

    If I didn’t love Roman Catholics I wouldn’t be here trying to evangelize them. I can’t speak for everyone else here, but I know that at least some of my fellow Reformed brethren feel the same way.

    Why do you characterize it as the Holy Spirit leading people in different directions? I don’t mean to sound impatient, but I think you’ve probably been told at least a half dozen times now that we aren’t suggesting that.

    When I responded to your comment at #468 (link back to help you find it), I didn’t get any kind of response that would make me think you even saw or considered what I wrote there.

    What we can have is confidence and assurance of an adequate and sufficient knowledge of God. How can we have that? By faith in God.

    I hope you hear what I’m saying.

    -TurretinFan

  508. steve hays said,

    October 21, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Bryan Cross said,

    “I don’t expect you to assume the truth of Catholic teaching when you evaluate it. But, it seems to me that there is no point in criticizing Catholic teaching from a standpoint in which it is already assumed to be false. In such a case, the prior assumptions are doing all the work, and you should just let your criticism lie there. Otherwise it seems to me to be a question-begging endeavor.”

    i) How does Bryan evaluate atheism or Mormonism or Islam? Does he suspend his Christian faith when he evaluates atheism? Does he become an honorary atheist when he evaluates atheism?

    ii) It would only be question begging to assume Romanism is false if the critic were unable and unwilling to justify his prior assumptions.

    “So, it evaluates Catholic doctrine from a starting point that presupposes the falsity of the Catholic Church. Well, then what’s the point? I mean, what’s the point of evaluating Catholic doctrine, if you’ve already decided that it is false.”

    Isn’t that obvious? The point is to give the supporting arguments for one’s negative evaluation.

    “That’s not a fair evaluation, and, I would add, not a truth-seeking evaluation, because it begs the question.”

    Does Bryan take that approach to, let us say, Scientology? Should we be open to the truth of Scientology? What about Satanism?

    “The problem is not with the “direct argument from Scripture” but with the historically naïve (from our point of view) idea that no one has been reading and studying this book night and day for the last two thousand years…”

    As a matter of fact, no one *has* been reading the Bible for the last 2000 years. This is where Bryan lapses into his customary, fallacious personification of the church.

    BTW, why make the 1C AD the starting point? What about Jewish readers of the Scriptures?

    “…doesn’t understand the historical and communal dimension of Sacred Scripture as a text that has always been embedded in a community and understood from within that community.”

    The “community” for the OT text was the OT community, while the community for the NT text was the NT community–not the community of the church fathers.

    “It is a community’s book, and that community is two-thousand years old.”

    Here’s the fairy tale that Bryan is fond of telling himself and others. But it’s not something you’d get from reading what the OT has to say about the OT community, or the NT has to say about the NT community.

    It disregards the degree to which Scripture can stand in opposition to the community. For instance, various letters of the NT are written to Christian communities to confront them, to challenge them, to restore them. Same thing with the OT prophets.

    Such Scriptures are not under lock-and-key of the communities to which they are addressed. If that were the case, the errant communities would simply domesticate the message. But the Scriptures stand over and above the communities to which they minister. They stand in potential judgment of said communities.

    “For us, the Creed was taught infallibly, by the protection of the Holy Spirit. So, the pope ain’t ever going against the Creed, never. Can’t happen. If he were (though he cannot) to do so, he would ipso facto become a heretic.”

    Can Bryan cite any official statement of Catholic theology which precludes the possibility of a heretical pope?

    “No pope (or council) has the authority to negate or deny any article of the Creed, as it has always been understood. The Creed doesn’t just have a ‘present interpretation.’ From the fourth century the Church has always carried an understanding of her own Creed, and it is that understanding to which the pope must always be faithful. A pope or council could give further elucidation to the Creed, but that further elucidation could never contradict or negate how it has always been understood.”

    The obvious problem with that statement is that Bryan can’t go behind the pope to compare and contrast the present pope’s understanding with tradition, much less the Nicene Fathers. So Bryan’s statement is a disguised tautology which is consistent with any papal understanding or contrary understanding of the Creed. As Pius IX said, “I am tradition” (“La tradizione son’ io).

    Bryan’s sidekick, Michael Liccione is far more forthcoming than Bryan about the ramifications of this position. As he recently said:

    “First, even if one just follows whoever is pope, it does not follow that what the pope teaches is the only ‘rational interpretation of tradition.’ Often, in fact, it isn’t—and I say that as an orthodox Catholic faithful to Rome. The debate among Catholic theologians about the birth-control pill in the 1960s is a very good illustration of what I mean. It was not being settled by argument alone; indeed, I believe it could not have been; in the end, the dispute had to be settled by an exercise of papal authority. One of the major reasons why the Magisterium in general is necessary is that reason alone often doesn’t suffice to determine how “tradition” must be interpreted.”

  509. steve hays said,

    October 21, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Tom Riello said,

    “Are we to think that God would leave such a matter up for grabs?”

    i) From a Reformed standpoint, nothing is up for grabs. Sola scriptura doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It operates in tandem with the providence of God.

    ii) But to play along with your usage, even though I don’t think that’s the best way of framing the issue, wasn’t 1C Judaism ‘up for grabs?” Wasn’t 1C Judaism factionalized into a diversity of splinter groups? And didn’t most 1C Jews make the wrong call regarding their promised Messiah?

    This is the problem I have with Catholic apriorism. You begin with your preconception of what God would or would not allow, which doesn’t bear much resemblance to the kinds of things that actually happen in God’s world.

  510. Rebecca said,

    October 21, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    TurretinFan,

    You said, “Well, here’s a great chance to do exegesis. Scripture does not speak of the apostles as being bishops of particular churches. Indeed, the Bible does not identify a tiered authority structure within the eldership.”

    No, but Eusebius does. We can learn some things from history that help us to understand scripture.

    “But what about the verse in question? John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.”
    There’s nothing there about “the church.” The recipient of the guiding is “you.”

    Well, I don’t agree with your exegesis. There is just as much there about the church as there is in Matthew 28, when Jesus gives the Great Commission to the church. How can the recipient of the guiding be “you” or “me” when we weren’t there? To whom was Jesus speaking? To the 12, the apostles, the bishops of the church; not to “us.” The first rule of exegesis is to read the passage in context, not to immediately apply something to our own life before we know what it means. He may have meant it for us also, but he was speaking specifically to the 12 in that passage.

  511. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 21, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Bryan (#500):

    I don’t expect you to assume the truth of Catholic teaching when you evaluate it. But, it seems to me that there is no point in criticizing Catholic teaching from a standpoint in which it is already assumed to be false.

    I understand. It would be nice to approach the subject matter without prejudicial premises. Unfortunately, that’s not possible, so we do the best we can wrt objectivity. The problem is that assuming that “the Catholic view of the magistrate might be either true or false” — which we both must assume for the sake of argument — quickly falls off to one side or the other. You revert to “but it’s true”; I revert to “but this shows that it’s false.”

    Here, I expressed myself poorly at one point, which caused some misunderstanding:

    JRC: (497) That being so, I see two different strands of church teaching (Scripture and Tradition), and I ask the question, “Which of the two is the primary standard by which truth is measured?”

    BC: (500) To ask that question, is to presuppose that the Church’s teaching that the two [i.e. Scripture and Tradition] cannot be separated is false.

    I did not make clear that the answer could be “both.” And of course, the answer could be “both.”

    But even with that clarified (and which possibility I had in mind), my comment still stands: The Church does not treat both together as the primary standard. Rather, Tradition is everywhere used to calibrate one’s understanding of Scripture; but not vice-versa.

    So there is an asymmetry between Scripture and Tradition. They are not used in a parallel manner.

    BC: I understand why it looks that way from the Protestant point of view. That’s because you don’t accept ecclesial infallibility. For us, the Creed was taught infallibly, by the protection of the Holy Spirit. So, the pope ain’t ever going against the Creed, never. Can’t happen. If he were (though he cannot) to do so, he would ipso facto become a heretic. He has no authority to overturn what has already been laid down infallibly.

    That wasn’t quite my point. I wasn’t suggesting that a pope would contradict the Creed but simply provide a *new interpretation* of the Creed. As long as it didn’t contradict any authoritative teaching that went before, he might surprise a bunch of people, but he would not technically have denied any thing.

    And in fact, that’s pretty much what happened with Vatican II in re Trent.

    Prior to Vatican II, as evidenced in Vatican I, it was assumed by Catholics that Protestants were outside of salvation, period. This is fairly clear from the history.

    But Vatican II provides a new interpretation of the meaning of Trent, and — Protestants aren’t necessarily damned after all.

    So it’s not that popes contradict creeds; they can simply reinterpret them.

    And I don’t mean this in a cynical manner, as if Popes go changing things willy-nilly. They make every effort to have continuity with what went before.

    But now comes the assumption:

    If we assume that the Church may or may not have infallibility, then we have to assume that the pope may or may not correctly interpret tradition.

    So now what? We have a new tradition which *becomes* the church tradition, but which may or may not be the correct interpretation.

    What I’m trying to show is that the certainty of correctness of the new tradition requires a prior assumption of infallibility.

    This comes into play when examining the church tradition of papal infallibility. If we assume that papal infallibility may or may not be correct, then the church tradition of papal infallibility, being one of those things “infallibly defined”, may or may not be correct.

    And so we have this issue of circularity: we can only get to infallibility if we priorly assume that the church tradition of infallibility is correct.

    The only other alternative would be to have confirmation from other sources; but the other likely sources would be the rest (i.e., non-Roman) of the church, or the Scripture — and neither of these provide any support, except under Church interpretation.

    So even with a neutral assumption, we end up with nothing better than a circular argument.

  512. Rebecca said,

    October 21, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Reed,

    I’ll admit I’m getting a little lost in your AAC’s and DDC’s, or whatever. But ambiguity is not acceptable on some things, if one accepts the Christian faith in the first place. It still doesn’t make sense to say, “We are fairly certain that you need to stake your souls on our theology; you will fairly certainly go to hell if you don’t,” any more than it makes sense to say that we are certain that our theology is correct, the Holy Spirit has revealed that to us, if He hasn’t revealed it to you also then you must just not be saved, but don’t forget, no one is fallible, including us, which by definition means that WE COULD BE WRONG.” But that doesn’t matter, either, because the Catholics could also be wrong; so we are all in the same boat, with no infallibility and therefore no certainty.

  513. TurretinFan said,

    October 21, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Dear Rebecca,

    I had written: “Well, here’s a great chance to do exegesis. Scripture does not speak of the apostles as being bishops of particular churches. Indeed, the Bible does not identify a tiered authority structure within the eldership.”

    You replied: “No, but Eusebius does. We can learn some things from history that help us to understand scripture.”

    a) Naturally, we don’t normally do exegesis by importing ideas and concepts into the text from other sources.

    b) Eusebius wasn’t born till over two hundred years after this event. That makes him a lot closer than us, but not any closer than you and I are to the American revolution. Do you think it would be appropriate to discuss whether Eusebius is a reliable witness here? If you really think the matter hinges on Eusebius’ testimony, I would be happy to explain to you why we need to take Eusebius’ comments in this regard with a large grain of salt.

    I had also written:

    “But what about the verse in question? John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.”
    There’s nothing there about “the church.” The recipient of the guiding is “you.”

    You responded: “Well, I don’t agree with your exegesis.”

    It’s really undeniable that Jesus said “you” not “church.” That’s not the sort of thing over which reasonable people could disagree. Now, you might want to try to suggest that it’s implied or something like that, but I’ve provided a detailed explanation about why that’s not the primary sense.

    You continued: “There is just as much there about the church as there is in Matthew 28, when Jesus gives the Great Commission to the church.”

    I understand that you are appealling to a second passage that doesn’t use the word “church” to try to establish that “church” should be understood here. That passage is this:

    Matthew 28:18-20
    And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

    Yes, the word “church” is also not there. And again, the primary sense is for those Jesus was directly speaking to as men. They are to teach the nations “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Now, we can fulfill that in a secondary sense, because we are commanded by Jesus through Scripture. But only the apostles were those who are understood in the primary sense here. They are the ones who first and foremost are to teach the nations and baptize them. Now, here there is a broader applicability to all the faithful, for Jesus says “lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” We accomplish this by teaching others what is taught by Jesus in Scripture.

    And likewise, the Holy Spirit does lead us into the truth, primarily through Scripture. There are some parallels, no doubt. But the promise that he will be with us always, even unto the end of the world is surely not only for the leaders of the church, but for all the brethren. So again, trying to bring the church as church into either of these two passages really requires us to bring in something from outside the text.

    Remember that one of the biggest challenges in exegesis is to set aside your traditions – read the text for what it says, don’t assume a meaning for it.

    You continued: “How can the recipient of the guiding be “you” or “me” when we weren’t there?”

    Or Benedict XVI, for that matter – he also wasn’t there. That was my point. I think we’re in violent agreement on this. The only point of difference is your substitution of “church” for the apostles. The apostles were indeed foundation stones of the church, but a command or a promise made personally to the apostles is personal.

    There may be some broader application, but it is not proper to automatically apply it to someone other than the apostles without providing a reason. In this case, i.e. in John, there is no reason to apply it to the “church” as a magisterium, but rather personally to the apostles, and then in a secondary sense to all believers. And when we look at the way we apply it to the apostles, we see that the primary fulfillment is in the prophetic gifts, as I already mentioned: direct revelation from God including revelation of future events.

    Those gifts are not something possessed by “the church,” but they are gifts possessed by individual people. They were particularly possessed by the writers of Scripture.

    – TurretinFan

    – TurretinFan

  514. Rebecca said,

    October 21, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    “The basis on which we say that people are wrong is by comparing their doctrine to Scripture”

    TurretinFan, this is the whole problem. Do you not see it? You think you are comparing everyone else’s doctrine to scripture, but what you are actually doing is comparing everyone else’s doctrine to your own interpretation of scripture. Scripture has to be interpreted; you are assuming that your interpretation is correct. The Lutherans, or whoever, also assume the same thing. So everyone is supposed to believe that your interpretation is correct and theirs is wrong. Just ask yourself, “What if I am wrong?” You’re not right just because you think you are.

    I wasn’t talking about you not loving anyone above; you aren’t making snarly remarks to anyone that I can remember.

    “Why do you characterize it as the Holy Spirit leading people in different directions? I don’t mean to sound impatient, but I think you’ve probably been told at least a half dozen times now that we aren’t suggesting that.”

    If the Holy Spirit leads each individual believer into all the truth, if that passage is a promise to individual believers, then that is exactly what you believe – that the Holy Spirit is leading people into different directions. I don’t care how many times you tell me you all aren’t suggesting that. You have to believe that the Holy Spirit is leading people in all different directions, because otherwise, believers would not disagree about very important matters of doctrine. Apparently you solve the problem by accusing those who disagree with you of not really being believers, but I think there’s a little problem with that. That doesn’t really deal with the issue.

    I did read your comment and I did respond to it. But there, you don’t believe Catholics have the Holy Spirit, else they wouldn’t disagree with you. I don’t think you or many others understand how many assumptions you begin with. And the disagreements between Presbyterians and Baptists aren’t important? But as someone said, what about the Lutherans?

    “I hope you hear what I’m saying.”

    I hope the same.

  515. Rebecca said,

    October 21, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    “Naturally, we don’t normally do exegesis by importing ideas and concepts into the text from other sources.”

    That was my point, TurretinFan. You don’t talk about bishops in the church by doing exegesis. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t talk about bishops in the church.

    “b) Eusebius wasn’t born till over two hundred years after this event. That makes him a lot closer than us, but not any closer than you and I are to the American revolution. Do you think it would be appropriate to discuss whether Eusebius is a reliable witness here? If you really think the matter hinges on Eusebius’ testimony, I would be happy to explain to you why we need to take Eusebius’ comments in this regard with a large grain of salt.”

    For heaven’s sake, do you believe anything you read about the American Revolution? If so, then why would you not believe Eusebius? Do you really not believe anything that Eusebius wrote? What matter hinges on his testimony? Do you not think you could even get an idea of what the early church was like from reading him?

    “It’s really undeniable that Jesus said “you” not “church.” That’s not the sort of thing over which reasonable people could disagree. Now, you might want to try to suggest that it’s implied or something like that, but I’ve provided a detailed explanation about why that’s not the primary sense”

    Yes, I know that Jesus said “you.” But to whom was Jesus talking when he said “you?” He was talking to the 12, as I have already said. Please don’t insult me by implying that I’m not reasonable if I disagree with your exegesis. If I say “you” to somebody, that does not mean that I am saying “you” to everybody. The whole point is, to whom was the “you” addressed??? Reasonable people might disagree on that. I don’t say you’re not reasonable, I just say that I don’t agree with you.

    “Remember that one of the biggest challenges in exegesis is to set aside your traditions – read the text for what it says, don’t assume a meaning for it.”

    Exactly.

    “The only point of difference is your substitution of “church” for the apostles”
    “trying to bring the church as church into either of these two passages really requires us to bring in something from outside the text.”

    The thing is, none other than R. C. Sproul, whom I highly respect, said that in Matthew 28, Jesus was speaking to the Church. I don’t see the difference between the two passages, but I do think you understand what I am trying to say about this. But you see, R. C. Sproul also does not agree with your exegesis, at least, not in regards to Matthew 28.

  516. Reed Here said,

    October 21, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Rebecca: not quite what I’m saying, but I’ll take that as my fault.

    Question: why do you need an answer, say to the baptism question, that everyone agrees on?

    Why is it not sufficient that the Spirit will lead His children to that which they need to know and trust in to be saved, and the Spirit will confound those who are not His children? Is that not as well an adequate description of the circumstances we see around us?

    Why do you need monolithic answers?

    Are Mormons right about Jesus or not? I hear Glen Beck talk very accurately about the Atonement. If I did not know that he believes something dramatically different about Jesus’ nature, I’d have to conclude he was saved.

    Am I right in my criticism because:

    a) I’ve submitted to the Roman Church’s definition of Jesus’s nature?
    b) I’ve submitted to the Reformed definition of his nature?
    c) I’ve accurately interpreted the Bible on his nature?

    Each of these answers is problematic, because in each I am ultimately the one who decides.

    How about this, it is not up to me to prove Glen Beck is wrong; it is up to the Spirit. And if he chooses not to do so until the last last day, who am I to fault God?

    You seem to have accepted the premise that God must provide some means of objectifiable truth, some means which the individual can say, “I, I myself, know this is true because …”

    Why is it not sufficient to trust each indiviual’s conscience to the rule of the Spirit?

    The supposed problem of differing opinions is no worse today nor better than any other period Church history. Look at the state of the Church during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Who was right, the Sadduccees, the Pharisees, the Zealots, the Qumran community?

    This notion that there is one earthly source of truth that trumps all others is simply a fairy tale. It is not consistent with either what the Bible teaches or what Church history demonstrates.

    Now, to offer some sincere pastoral help, I note you’ve jumped on baptism quite a bit. If this is really a pressing issue for you, I’d be glad to direct you to some sound exegesis. I’m sure TFan would as well. Then, you can trust Jesus’ promise in Jh 8:24 and neither TFan or I will take offense at who you agree with. We both accept it is about your relationship with Jesus, and trust him to preserve God’s children.

    So, is baptism your real issue? Or is it just a place holder, an example of some other angst you have? Or have you already made your mind up, and are just using this as a form of pressing your point? I’m asking sincerely.

  517. Ron said,

    October 21, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    JW Dinger!

  518. Ron said,

    October 21, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    That’s Jason Werth, not Jehovah Witness.
    ———————————

    TF said: “The basis on which we say that people are wrong is by comparing their doctrine to Scripture”

    Rebecca replied: TurretinFan, this is the whole problem. Do you not see it? You think you are comparing everyone else’s doctrine to scripture, but what you are actually doing is comparing everyone else’s doctrine to your own interpretation of scripture. Scripture has to be interpreted; you are assuming that your interpretation is correct.

    Rebecca,

    We can just as easily say to you: “Rebecca, this is the whole problem. Do you not see it? You think you are comparing everyone else’s doctrine to scripture, but what you are actually doing is comparing everyone else’s doctrine to Rome’s interpretation of scripture. Scripture has to be interpreted; you are assuming that Rome’s interpretation is correct.”
    Unless you can show that TF’s interpretation of Scripture cannot be an accurate reflection of Scripture, your point is irrelevant – utterly. All I’ve heard from you is that TF disagrees with other Protestants and that such disagreements somehow undermines “Scripture alone” while making an ironclad case for the need of an infallible magisterium. That’s hardly an argum