Burden of Proof in Protestant-Catholic Dialogue

It has been asserted by some that in order for Protestants to prove their case, we have to prove that the statements of the early church are statements with which modern Catholics could not agree. As long as modern Catholics can agree with the early church, then the Protestant position is unjustifiable.

The early church fathers are not so easily parsed. For one thing, they were not usually dealing with the same debates as those which took place in the time of the Reformation. At times they will sound Protestant, and at times they will sound Romanist. It would therefore be anachronistic for either side to say that the early church fathers were Romanist or Protestant. Such categories did not exist in the early church. I would argue that the Protestant position must depend not on the early church fathers, but on the exegesis of Scripture. However, historically, if Protestants can prove that the Protestant position is compatible with the early church fathers, then we will have proven that the Catholic excommunication of us is invalid, and invalid on two counts: first of all, the Protestant position is biblical; secondly, it is compatible with the early church fathers. We do not have to prove, therefore, that modern Catholics cannot affirm the early church fathers. We only need prove that Protestants can affirm what the early church fathers teach. And even there, we need not prove that we have to affirm all of what they teach. For even Romanists admit that the early church fathers certainly did not always agree on everything.

Most scholars agree that Luther wanted to reform the church, not leave it. He stayed in the church until he was excommunicated. The Romanists were certainly not interested in the truth at the Diet of Worms. They did not ask to debate Luther’s positions at all, from Scripture or from the fathers. They only wanted him to recant. That is not a debate.

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75 Comments

  1. Bryan Cross said,

    April 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Lane,

    It has been asserted by some that in order for Protestants to prove their case, we have to prove that the statements of the early church are statements with which modern Catholics could not agree. As long as modern Catholics can agree with the early church, then the Protestant position is unjustifiable.

    That’s not my position or my claim; my claim is much more specific. My claim in the article you cite is this, “if present-day orthodox Catholics can affirm what the Church Fathers taught about the gospel, then it follows that the Fathers did not have the Reformed conception of the gospel.” That’s because if (1) it is true that present-day orthodox Catholics can, without contradiction, affirm what the Church Fathers taught about the gospel, and (2) it is true that the Reformed gospel is incompatible with the present-day Catholic doctrine concerning the gospel, such that it is necessary for Reformed Protestants to continue to remain separate from the Catholic Church, then it follows that the Reformed gospel cannot be what the Church Fathers taught about the gospel. If B is compatible with A, but C is incompatible with A, then B is not C.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  2. greenbaggins said,

    April 30, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Bryan, first of all, I was understanding your statement to be specific concerning the gospel, since that was (alongside the issue of Scripture and authority, and worship) the issue of the Reformation. Secondly, you are not allowing for the development of doctrine. Doctrines gain in specificity, especially as they are challenged by heresy. But gains in specificity could be incorrect gains. Contrary to Romanists, I affirm that the church can enter into apostasy (witness Old Testament Israel and Judah). If we take the analogy of a tree, we can get at what I am trying to say. The early church may be compared to the trunk of a tree. Romanists branch off one way, Eastern Orthodox another way, and Protestants a third way. Elements in the early church sometimes point way, sometimes another. All we as Protestants, therefore, need to do is prove continuity with the trunk. Protestant arguments that Romanism is wrong depend on exegesis, not on historical argumentation. If you argue the way you propose, then you are confusing the branch stage of church history with the trunk stage of church history. What you are asserting is equivalent to saying that if John Calvin had lived in the early church, they would have thrown him out. I seriously doubt it.

  3. jhl said,

    April 30, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Lane,

    You write:

    We only need prove that Protestants can affirm what the early church fathers teach. And even there, we need not prove that we have to affirm all of what they teach. For even Romanists admit that the early church fathers certainly did not always agree on everything.

    But what does this prove? A Reformed person can affirm some of Vatican II or even the Council of Trent on the issue of justification. Just not all of it. Surely more than this is necessary to show substantial continuity with the early Church.

  4. rcjr said,

    April 30, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    I am intrigued, though I doubt my Roman Catholic friends would like this, with the premise I have seen elsewhere that the Reformation is the triumph of Augustine’s soteriology over his ecclesiology. In my classes my students read with much profit Augustine, Athanasius, Aquinas and Anselm. The true church is always a mixed bag and so we should expect good and bad all along the way. And we Protestants would affirm that Rome did not become formally apostate until she adopted the Council of Trent.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    April 30, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    RC, absolutely. I think that premise comes from Warfield, if I’m not mistaken. I read a very interesting article on the Reformation that showed how many people there were sympathetic to Luther in the Roman Catholic Church at the time of Luther’s trial. Trent basically bull-dozed the minority who were favorable to Luther’s ideas. They did the same thing with the Jansenists.

  6. greenbaggins said,

    April 30, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Yep. Found it. Page 332 of his _Calvin and Augustine_.

  7. Ron said,

    May 1, 2012 at 9:16 am

    “if present-day orthodox Catholics can affirm what the Church Fathers taught about the gospel, then it follows that the Fathers did not have the Reformed conception of the gospel.”

    Bryan,

    Your conclusion does not seem to follow from your single premise. For argument’s sake, assume that the church Fathers only taught things such as: the Second Person of the Trinity died for sinners and union with Christ is essential for salvation. Clearly your communion could affirm the totality of such teachings without them undermining the orthodoxy of Reformed theology. The meaning of “died for sinners” obviously would have to be fleshed out a bit, but how both groups interpret such statements often times goes beyond the words of the Fathers. As you well appreciate, two groups can consistently claim the writings of a third while remaining in conflict with each other. Problems often occur when writings are interpreted in ways that exceed the plain meaning of the words. Protestants and Roman Catholics do this all the time. One famous Protestant professor, as a much younger man, cited Tertullian as teaching Definite Atonement because he wrote: “Christ died for the salvation of His people…. for the church.” That’s just a paraphrase of Scripture, which does not imply the Reformed doctrine in view. The qualifier “only” would make the point though, but it’s not there. We find this sort of journalism in both communions.

  8. Joshua WD Smith said,

    May 1, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Lane, I think this is the kind of thing you’re talking about:

    “So this selection from the Epistle to Diognetus is not evidence of even an implicit Reformed conception of the gospel, because it is fully compatible with the Catholic doctrine of redemption…”

    But it is also compatible with the Reformed perspective. But that means that the Fathers were ambiguous, so to say “the Reformed doctrine doesn’t agree with the Fathers” is, in fact, Cross’ favorite fallacy to cite: begging the question, since “the Fathers” is an ambiguous term, and Cross simply assumes that the Fathers were teaching the current Catholic doctrine,as follows:

    “The doctrine being taught by the author of the Epistle to Diognetus is that Christ took our sins on Himself as our priest and mediator.”

    No language of priest and mediator in the Epistle. But that must be what the Epistle is teaching, because that’s what the current doctrine is.

    So, the current doctrine is true, because it agrees with the Fathers. But when the Fathers are ambiguous, they mean the current doctrine. Begging the question, anyone?

  9. Bryan Cross said,

    May 4, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Lane, (re: #2)

    Here’s what I wrote at the article that you cited:

    But when Dr. Duncan says, “the gospel” he means the Reformed or Calvinistic or at least Protestant conception of the gospel, not the Catholic doctrine of the gospel as defined at the Council of Trent. One reason why he has to mean this is that the basis for the continued separation of Protestants from the Catholic Church is the claim by many Protestants … that what the Catholic Church teaches is not “the gospel,” and is incompatible with the [Reformed] gospel. So if present-day orthodox Catholics can affirm what the Church Fathers taught about the gospel, then it follows that the Fathers did not have the Reformed conception of the gospel.

    Your rejoinder is that the Reformed conception of the gospel is a development of doctrine. In other words, sure there are differences of specificity between the Reformed conception of the gospel, and what we find in the Church Fathers. But, the Church Fathers lived in the first millennium, and the Reformation took place in the sixteenth century. The Church Fathers therefore cannot rightly be held to the standard of doctrinal development achieved in the following millennium. Given the stage of doctrinal development in which they lived, what they believed and taught concerning the gospel was sufficient for salvation and within the bounds of orthodoxy. But because of doctrinal development, that degree of specificity is no longer sufficient for salvation and no longer within the bounds of orthodoxy. Because of development of doctrine, if today someone were to hold the Fathers’ notion that justification is by infusion of grace and agape, that baptism regenerates, that regenerate persons can lose their salvation, that those in a state of grace can merit eternal life, that only bishops can ordain, etc., such a person could not be a teaching elder in, say, the PCA. For this reason, if, for example, St. Augustine (who held all those beliefs just mentioned) were transported to the present day, he could not serve as a teaching elder in the PCA unless he changed his positions.

    The problem with that rejoinder is that without apostolic succession there can be no authoritative doctrinal development, because no person or group of persons has the authority to establish for all other Christians that some theological belief is an authentic development and must not be denied. Without apostolic succession, there is no magisterial authority to establish that denying any Reformed distinctive is heretical or anathema, because there is no magisterial authority to define or establish the authority of any Reformed distinctive. Yet authoritative doctrinal development is what is needed in order for it to be true that the Fathers’ degree of specificity is no longer sufficient for salvation and no longer within the bounds of orthodoxy. For this reason there is no ground or basis, other than “they fit my interpretation of Scripture” for the thesis that the Reformed distinctives are a development of doctrine. Any group, including any heretical group, could, on the basis of their own interpretation of Scripture, claim that their unique interpretation is a development. But that wouldn’t make it so, nor would it bind anyone to their interpretation. Development of doctrine is available to the Catholic Church precisely because she retains apostolic succession, and therefore retains the magisterial authority to establish developments as binding, and their denial as heretical.

    So, given the Protestant denial of apostolic succession, if you grant that what the Church Fathers believed and taught concerning the gospel was sufficient for salvation and within the bounds of orthodoxy, then you cannot without inconsistency hold that present-day persons who believe what the Church Fathers believed about the gospel, have departed from or denied the gospel, or have overstepped the bounds of orthodoxy. Of course you might think that your interpretation is better than that of the Church Fathers. But if you consider the Church Fathers to be *Fathers* of your own tradition, and you would not seek to form a schism to separate yourself from communion with them if you without loss of memory were transported back to their time, then it seems to me that you should at least be willing to remain in full communion with those in the present who believe and practice what the Church Fathers believed and practiced.

    I expect your response would be something like, “Fair enough, but with regard to a number of doctrinal questions, Trent went into greater specificity than is found in the doctrine of the Fathers. So, even if what you say is true, the Catholic dogmas defined both at Trent and following Trent are more specific than the doctrine of the Church Fathers concerning the gospel, and therefore pre-Tridentine common ground between Catholics and Protestants does not require any move on the part of Reformed persons like myself toward communion with Catholics or the Catholic Church.”

    Here, however, the problem it seems to me is that no orthodox Catholic who lived prior to Trent, and therefore who believed and professed whatever the Catholic Church had taught up to that time, could be a teaching elder in the PCA. Nor could any Eastern Orthodox person, and someone might describe [not entirely inaccurately] their Churches as a sort of window into eleventh century eastern Christianity. The fact that PCA congregations cannot be in communion with Orthodox Churches shows that what prevents Reformed-Catholic reunion is not only Trent. Even though it cannot do so, if the Catholic Church repealed Trent and everything she has defined since Trent, there still could not be Reformed-Catholic reconciliation, mostly for the same reasons that there cannot be full communion between the Reformed and the Orthodox, and for the same reason that if a PCA congregation were transported back to the fourth century, there could not be communion between that congregation and the Catholic Church of that time, because of the PCA’s denial of apostolic succession, episcopacy, priesthood, Eucharist, baptismal regeneration, etc. Because of their Catholics beliefs, none of the twenty-four Doctors of the Church from St. Athanasius to St. Thomas Aquinas could be PCA teaching elders today.

    That is because Protestants of the sixteenth century rejected not only Trent’s further specification of Catholic doctrine, but also aspects of the Tradition that extend all the way back through the Church Fathers to the first century. That’s why rcjr’s statement in #4, “Rome did not become formally apostate until she adopted the Council of Trent” is problematic. If it were true that Rome wasn’t ‘apostate’ until Trent, then Reformed congregations would be able, if transported back in time, to be in full communion with the Catholic Church of the fourth and fifth centuries. But for many reasons, were they so transported they would not be able to be in communion with the Catholic Church of that time. The Catholic Church of that time would consider them another heretical sect. So it follows that from the Reformed point of view, the ‘great apostasy’ had to have happened much earlier than Trent, even earlier than the fourth century, even though there is no evidence of a great doctrinal rift within the Church of the first three centuries as some ‘great apostasy’ took place, and the evidence shows instead a catholicity and organic continuity of doctrine in the first three centuries of Church history.

    So, for these reasons appealing to the development of doctrine is not an option here, and its non-availability reveals both the ecclesial deism and radical Restorationism implicit within Protestant theology. It also shows that this commonly repeated notion that Rome did not become formally apostate until Trent is an exercise in self-deception. Already by the second century, the Catholic Church was such that the PCA could not be in communion with it. Yet these two contradictory theses [i.e. that the Catholic Church did not become formally apostate until Trent, and that by the second century the Catholic Church was already such that Protestant congregations would not be capable of communion with her] are both essential to Protestantism as such. These two theses explain both why Reformed Protestants want to try to show that the Church Fathers knew the [Reformed] gospel, and yet also why it doesn’t really matter if they didn’t.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  10. johnbugay said,

    May 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Already by the second century, the Catholic Church was such that the PCA could not be in communion with it.

    Aha, now here’s a statement from Bryan we can all agree with. It’s very true that by the second century, “the catholic church” was misunderstanding Apostolic teaching. Cullmann makes this clear in his “The Tradition”: (see Cullmann Part 1 and Cullmann Part 2 on the relationship between “tradition” and canon. He notes, “The teaching office of the Church in itself did not suffice to preserve the purity of the gospel (88-90)”. Unfortunately, “by the second century”, some strange ideas had crept into the church. For this reason, Cullmann says,

    To establish a canon is equivalent to saying this: henceforth our ecclesiastical tradition needs to be controlled; with the help of the Holy Spirit it will be controlled by the apostolic tradition fixed in writing; for we are getting to the point where we are too distant from the apostolic age to be able to guard the purity of the tradition without a superior written norm, and too distant to prevent slight legendary and other deformations creeping in, and thus being transmitted and amplified (90).

    See further Michael J Kruger “Canon Revisited“, who reiterates this concept and reinforces it with contemporary New Testament and Patristics scholarship.

  11. David Pell said,

    May 5, 2012 at 1:01 am

    “I read a very interesting article on the Reformation that showed how many people there were sympathetic to Luther in the Roman Catholic Church at the time of Luther’s trial. Trent basically bull-dozed the minority who were favorable to Luther’s ideas. They did the same thing with the Jansenists.”

    What is the import of this point supposed to be, exactly? It sounds exactly like what I read from secularist historians who describe how the early Catholic church “bull-dozed” the gnostics, Arians, Nestorians, and monophysites. It is certainly an indisputable fact that there many people who were sympathetic to Valentinus, Arius, Nestorius, Eutyches, and Apollinaris, yet what the Church did in their time is no different from our perspective than what it did in the time of Luther. You see it differently because you agree with Luther’s interpretation of scripture on some points, just as the gnostics, Arians, Nestorians, and monophysites saw the Catholic Church when it ruled that their teachings were not compatible with Christian orthodoxy.

  12. TrosclairN. said,

    May 5, 2012 at 9:11 am

    JohnBugay,

    If the Church was already ‘misunderstanding’ Apostolic teaching by the 2nd century, why should we trust the canon that she gave Christianity?

    Further, if we do trust her regarding the canon, why would we reject her regarding Apostolic Succession and other Catholic doctrines that were central to the 2nd century Church?

    Trosclair

  13. johnbugay said,

    May 5, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Trosclair, I’ve written extensively about this, in the links provided above and here, for example.

    In short, we may trust the canonical Scriptures without relying on “the Church”. When Paul wrote a letter, there was no time it wasn’t regarded as Scripture. When Paul wrote another letter, that was Scripture, too. When the letters got collected (and Paul may have kept his own collection of his letters in his lifetime), there was no “canon” needed for this collection. A similar thing happened with the four gospels. And so, immediately upon the creation of these documents, “the earliest Christians” understood that what they were dealing with was the written Apostolic witness.

    To suggest that “the Church” had a more important role in this than it actually had, is to engage in wishful thinking.

  14. TrosclairN. said,

    May 5, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Johnbugay,

    The research that I have done suggests the opposite. Protestant scholars F.F. Bruce, Lee Martin Macdonald, B. Metzger, and others experts make it clear that the earliest Church Fathers did not speak of New Testament Scriptures nor were the NT writings treated as such from the beginning even when allusions were made or quotations recorded. Quoting or alluding does not mean canonical status. Further your test of ‘Apostolic Witness’ would eliminate several NT books. The most obvious is the Epistle to the Hebrews (problematic on almost every level) and II Peter.

    Also, Cullmann and Kruger who you mention admit that it was the 2nd century church which decided what should be included in the earliest canonical lists. There point is that the church wanted a reliable source for orthodoxy which could not be preserved in tradition. The problem is these same leaders of the Church taught explicitly the Apostolic origins of Catholic doctrines such as the Eucharist and Apostolic succession along side the Biblical canon. It would appear that it is special pleading to say: ‘trust the 2nd century church regarding the canon but not their Romish nonsense about Apostolic succession.’

    Cullmann is not your best source. His reasoning was that Christ did not intend the Apostolic authority in the Church for future generations BECAUSE Christ thought that he himself was coming back within the next generation. Doubting Christ’s knoweldge of his own institution is not exactly an orthodox assumption.

    Pax
    Trosclair

  15. johnbugay said,

    May 5, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Trosclair: I doubt that Kruger would disagree with anything that Metzger and Bruce would have said.

    While he discusses very many of the historical and “critical” views of how the New Testament canon came together, his stated purpose is:

    concerned with the narrow question of whether Christians [today] have a rational basis (i.e., intellectually sufficient grounds) for affirming that only these twenty-seven books rightfully being on the New Testament canon. Or, put differently, is the Christian belief in the canon justified (or warranted)? (20)

    And this he handles quite thoroughly. One of the key points in this is taking into account God’s “redemptive-historical” purposes. That is, Christ and his Apostles together established this “new covenant”, and following many old testament and era-specific practices of assuring that there are “covenant documents”. He also takes into account not only those documents that write about the canon, or cite it, but the very artifacts of the canon itself, the manuscripts.

    As for II Peter, many critical scholars do think it is a later pseudepigraph. But very many conservative scholars have put forth plausible reasons to believe that it is precisely what it says it is.

    Regarding a “reliable orthodoxy”, it is very clear from Torrance’s work “Apostolic Fathers and the Doctrine of Grace” that very many of these early writers did not understand the concept of grace as it was written about by Paul (and the old testament); rather, they adopted the concept generally understood in the local Greek culture.

    Too, it was very clear that the absence of a “canon” was enabling “the living voce”, “oral tradition”, to become corrupted. Cullmann writes quite extensively about this.

    It is entirely legendary in character. This is clear from the story that Papias reports about Joseph Barsabbas, the unsuccessful candidate, according to Acts 1:23 f., for the post of twelfth disciple rendered vacant by Judas’s treason. Above all there is the obscene and completely legendary account [in Papias] of death of Judas Iscariot himself.

    Cullmann may not be my “best source”, but he is a very fine source. My absolute “worst source”, I’ll contend, is the Roman Catholic view, spread thoughtlessly among Roman Catholics, is that “‘The Church’ gave us the canon”.

  16. TrosclairN. said,

    May 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    JohnBugay,

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears that your method would require us to find out, with some level of certainty (more than just a plausible hypothesis), whether a particular epistle or gospel was written by an Apostle before we accepted its inspiration. Given such a method, each Christian would have to investigate the Apostolic origin of each book of the NT and then determine his/her own canonical list. Assuming such a method, my personal canonical list would probably be about half of the New Testament’s 27 books. If we wish not to rely on the 2nd century witnesses, we must rely on current scholarship or our personal intuitions. I don’t put much faith in either one of these. Do you find this method acceptable? What other method would you recommend?

    Of course the 2nd century witnesses themselves would disagree with your rejection of the “Roman Catholic view.”The Church of the 2nd century appears to rely on the Apostolic Tradition as preserved in the Apostolic successions, especially in the Apostolic see of Rome, as Irenaeus and Cyprian make clear (the former being the first to use the term “New Testament”). The Apostolic Tradition was that by which doctrines were measured, including the Biblical canon. Apostolic succession was assumed by the second century Christians to be the vehicle by which the Church handed down this Apostolic Tradition and the books that were binding on her.

    Cullmann is a fine source, I agree. But his reasons for accepting the canon yet rejecting the Apostolic authority found in the 2nd century Church rests on his assumption that Christ was ignorant about his own Church. Even the greatest of scholars can base their ecclesiology on what is a faulty assumption, i.e., Christ’s ‘ignorance.’

    Pax,

    Trosclair

  17. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 5, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Bryan (#9):

    For this reason, if, for example, St. Augustine (who held all those beliefs just mentioned) were transported to the present day, he could not serve as a teaching elder in the PCA unless he changed his positions.

    There are a couple of assumptions here that I’m not willing to grant. The most important is your hypothetical: that we can map the PCA back to the days of Augustine, or Augustine forward to the days of the PCA.

    The fact is, the PCA got here because the development of doctrine in the RCC church revealed that Augustine’s conception of grace was at odds with his conception of the sacraments. If Augustine had been alive in 1517 to see where this all led, who knows how his views might have been expressed.

    The second assumption is that because Augustine uses the same language as the Catholic church on a particular point, that he means the same thing by it. I’m fairly certain this is not always the case.

    For example: In Grace and Free-Will ch. 18, he says

    Unintelligent persons, however, with regard to the apostle’s statement: “We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law,” have thought him to mean that faith suffices to a man, even if he lead a bad life, and has no good works. Impossible is it that such a character should be deemed “a vessel of election” by the apostle, who, after declaring that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision,” Galatians 5:6 adds at once, “but faith which works by love.” It is such faith which severs God’s faithful from unclean demons—for even these “believe and tremble,” as the Apostle James says; but they do not do well. Therefore they possess not the faith by which the just man lives—the faith which works by love in such wise, that God recompenses it according to its works with eternal life. But inasmuch as we have even our good works from God, from whom likewise comes our faith and our love, therefore the selfsame great teacher of the Gentiles has designated “eternal life” itself as His gracious “gift.”

    Catholics argue in this way so as to show that not only is faith required in order to inherit eternal life, but also man must exercise his own will in meriting that eternal life:

    The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit…Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. — CCC 2008, 2009

    But Augustine argues that even the merit of our good works belongs to God: This question, then, seems to me to be by no means capable of solution, unless we understand that even those good works of ours, which are recompensed with eternal life, belong to the grace of God, because of what is said by the Lord Jesus: “Without me you can do nothing.” And the apostle himself, after saying, “By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast;” Grace, ch 20.

    Augustine’s approach, conceptually, is far closer to WLC 15.2,3,5, 6 than it is to Catholic doctrine even though the CCC adopts some Augustinian language.

    The point here is that if Augustine were transported forward in time and had the opportunity to view the entirety of medieval doctrinal development, he might well have decided that his views on grace were more fundamental than his language about justification including caritas.

  18. Bryan Cross said,

    May 5, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Jeff, (re: #17)

    The fact is, the PCA got here because the development of doctrine in the RCC church revealed that Augustine’s conception of grace was at odds with his conception of the sacraments.

    Please show me where what St. Augustine says about grace is “at odds with” what he says about the sacraments.

    You quote the CCC, and then you start your next sentence with a “But”:

    But Augustine argues that even the merit of our good works belongs to God

    So does Trent. See chapter 16 of Session 6. What St. Augustine says about merit, and what the Catholic Church teaches about merit, are essentially the same. As I wrote elsewhere, “St. Augustine holds a middle position between Pelagianism, which would treat merit as possible without grace, and Calvinism, which would treat merit as impossible even with grace.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  19. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 6, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Trent most certainly does not. Both the CCC and Trent attribute merit to Christ and thence to the individual actor according to his actions:

    Hence, to those who work well unto the end and trust in God, eternal life is to be offered, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ Jesus, and as a reward promised by God himself, to be faithfully given to their good works and merits…
    …For since Christ Jesus Himself, as the head into the members and the vine into the branches, continually infuses strength into those justified, which strength always precedes, accompanies and follows their good works, and without which they could not in any manner be pleasing and meritorious before God, we must believe that nothing further is wanting to those justified to prevent them from being considered to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life.
    — Trent 6.

    The language is clear: Christ gives the strength and righteousness, and the individual himself is considered to have satisfied the divine law.

    Augustine, on the other hand, says this:

    Now when he says in reference to Christ, “By the justification of one,” he has more expressly stated our doctrine than if he were to say, “By the righteousness of one;” inasmuch as he mentions that justification whereby Christ justifies the ungodly, and which he did not propose as an object of imitation, for He alone is capable of effecting this…Now if any man had it in his power confidently to declare, “I justify you,” it would necessarily follow that he could also say, “Believe in me.” But it has never been in the power of any of the saints of God to say this except the Saint of saints, who said: “Ye believe in God, believe also in me;” so that, inasmuch as it is He that justifies the ungodly, to the man who believes in him that justifieth the ungodly his faith is imputed for righteousness.

    — On Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, 1.18

    Taking into account all the inspired statements which I have quoted,—whether I regard the value of each passage one by one, or combine their united testimony in an accumulated witness or even include similar passages which I have not adduced,—there can be nothing discovered, but that which the catholic Church holds, in her dutiful vigilance against all profane novelties: that every man is separated from God, except those who are reconciled to God through Christ the Mediator; and that no one can be separated from God, except by sins, which alone cause separation; that there is, therefore, no reconciliation except by the remission of sins, through the one grace of the most merciful Saviour,—through the one sacrifice of the most veritable Priest; and that none who are born of the woman, that trusted the serpent and so was corrupted through desire, are delivered from the body of this death, except by the Son of the virgin who believed the angel and so conceived without desire.

    — ibid, 1.56.

    It is clear that for Augustine, justification is not a matter of ‘fully satisfying the divine law by God’s grace’, but of ‘remission of sins’ which happens by — yes, he said it — imputation (he means it, also: 1.44)

    Now for Augustine, remission comes with renewal so that the two are scarce distinguishable (2.9). But they are not the same. There is no ‘justification in this sense and justification in that sense’, but justification in one sense only: the remission of sins on the basis of faith.

    To add to Augustine’s teaching, as the RCC has done, is to be inconsistent with Augustine’s teaching, for he expressly excludes imitating Christ or lawkeeping as aspects of justification.

    And the proof of this is Augustine’s opinion on whether one can be without sin in this life. He admits that there is such a theoretical possibility, but If, however, I am asked the second question which I have suggested,—whether there be a sinless man,—I believe there is not. For I rather believe the Scripture, which says: “Enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified.” There is therefore need of the mercy of God, which “exceedingly rejoiceth against judgment,” and which that man shall not obtain who does not show mercy. And whereas the prophet says, “I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my heart,” he yet immediately adds, “For this shall every saint pray unto Thee in an acceptable time.” Not indeed every sinner, but “every saint;” for it is the voice of saints which says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”ibid, 2.8

    But the RCC multiplies saints seemingly without number and asserts that they, indeed, are without sin in this life.

    This pragmatic difference between Augustine and the RCC is the direct outcome of a completely different conceptual understanding of justification: is it remission of sins, or is it fulfilling the law through grace?

  20. Sean said,

    May 6, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Jeff.

    I don’t grant that Trent differs from Augustine.

    From the Catholic Encyclopedia on merit: The Church has always proclaimed what St. Augustine expresses in the words: “Non Dens coronat merita tua tanquam merita tua, sed tanquam dona sua” (De grat. et lib. arbitrio, xv), i.e., God crowns thy merits, not as thine earnings, but as His gifts. Nothing was more strong and frequently inculcated by the Council of Trent than the proposition that the faithful owe their entire capability of meriting and all their good works solely to the infinite merits of the Redeemer Jesus Christ. It is indeed clear that meritorious works, as “fruits of the justification”, cannot be anything but merits due to grace, and not merits due to nature (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. VI, cap. xvi).

    The Catholic certainly must rely on the merits of Christ, and, far from boasting of his own self-righteousness, he must acknowledge in all humility that even his merits, acquired with the help of grace, are full of imperfections, and that his justification is uncertain. Of the satisfactory works of penance the Council of Trent makes this explicit declaration: “Thus, man has not wherein to glory, but all our glorying is in Christ, in whom we live, move, and make satisfaction, bringing forth fruits worthy of penance, which from Him have their efficacy, are by Him offered to the Father, and through Him find with the Father acceptance” (Sess. XIV, cap. viii, in Denzinger, n. 904).”

    Trent is very clear that the merit the righteous earn are merits due to grace freely given by God.

    Even Augustine highlighted man’s responsibility in co-operating with the grace freely given.

    “We run, therefore, whenever we make advance; and our wholeness runs with us in our advance (just as a sore is said to run when the wound is in process of a sound and careful treatment), in order that we may be in every respect perfect, without any infirmity of sin whatever result which God not only wishes, but even causes and helps us to accomplish. And this God’s grace does, in co-operation with ourselves, through Jesus Christ our Lord, as well by commandments, sacraments, and examples, as by His Holy Spirit also; through whom there is hiddenly shed abroad in our hearts . . . that love, “which makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered,” . . . until wholeness and salvation be perfected in us, and God be manifested to us as He will be seen in His eternal truth.” (Concerning Man’s Perfection in Righteousness to Eutropius and Paulus Chap XX 43)

  21. Bryan Cross said,

    May 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Jeff, (re: #19)

    I read through your reply (thank you), but I didn’t see your answer to my question in #18: “Please show me where what St. Augustine says about grace is “at odds with” what he says about the sacraments.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  22. johnbugay said,

    May 7, 2012 at 5:13 am

    Trosclair, your objections in #16 were significant, and they required a more significant response than I could provide in a comment here. So I’ve written two blog posts in response: here, and here. Please feel free to respond either here or there, if you have further comments or questions.

  23. TrosclairN. said,

    May 7, 2012 at 7:08 am

    Johnbugay,

    Thank you for your thorough response on your blog. I will respond in the next few days when my work permits.

    In Pace Christi

    Trosclair

  24. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 7, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Sean (#20):

    It is my view that Augustine and Trent are using the same words with different meanings.

    If you doubt this, consider two questions:

    (1) Why does Augustine believe that there are no people in this life (though there could hypothetically be) who have achieved a state without sin, while the RCC teaches that to be finally justified, one must achieve such a state, either in this life or in Purgatory?

    (2) Where does Augustine divide justification into multiple parts: initial, ongoing, final? And if he does not, does this not indicate a different conceptual framework from Trent?

  25. Sean said,

    May 7, 2012 at 11:59 am

    Hi Jeff (#24)

    I am not following what you mean by ‘achieved a state without sin.’ Can you show how is the Catholic understanding of how one achieves the beatific vision different that Augustine’s?

    Regarding purgatory, St Augustine, following scripture and the tradition handed down to him believed in a purgatorial fire that followed after death:
    “If the baptized person fulfills the obligations demanded of a Christian, he does well. If he does not–provided he keeps the faith, without which he would perish forever–no matter in what sin or impurity remains, he will be saved, as it were, by fire; as one who has built on the foundation, which is Christ, not gold, silver, and precious stones, but wood, hay straw, that is, not just and chasted works but wicked and unchaste works.” (Faith and Works, 1:1).

    “And it is not impossible that something of the same kind may take place even after this life. It is a matter that may be inquired into, and either ascertained or left doubtful, whether some believers will pass through a kind of purgatorial fire. In proportion as they loved the goods that perish with more or less devotion, they shall be more or less quickly delivered from the flames.” (Enchiridion 69, 110).

    But temporary punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by others after death, by others both now and then; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But of those who suffer temporary punishments after death, all are not doomed to those everlasting pains which are to follow that judgment; for to some, as we have already said, what is not remitted in this world is remitted in the next, that is, they are not punished with the eternal punishment of the world to come.” (City of God, 21:13(

    Why would Augustine believe in a purgatorial fire after death if justification is imputed?

    On your 2nd question, Alister McGrath writes:

    “Whereas Augustine taught that the sinner is made righteous in justification, Melanchthon taught that he is counted as righteous or pronounced to be righteous. For Augustine, ‘justifying righteousness’ is imparted; for Melanchthon, it is imputed in the sense of being declared or pronounced to be righteous. Melanchthon drew a sharp distinction between the event of being declared righteous and the process of being made righteous, designating the former ‘justification’ and the latter ‘sanctification’ or ‘regeneration.’ For Augustine, these were simply different aspects of the same thing . . .From the time of Augustine onwards, justification had always been understood to refer to both the event of being declared righteous and the process of being made righteous. Melanchthon’s concept of forensic justification diverged radically from this. As it was taken up by virtually all the major reformers subsequently, it came to represent a standard difference between Protestant and Roman Catholic from then on. (Reformation Thought: An Introduction,108-109)

  26. johnbugay said,

    May 7, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Sean. If you are going to quote McGrath as an authority, don’t forget to tell folks that, in his third edition of “Justification”, he believes the clarification of understanding that came with the Protestant doctrine of justification was perfectly acceptable because of “development”.

  27. Sean said,

    May 7, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    John (# 26)

    See the 9th comment in this thread and this article on the topic of Protestant appeals to ‘development.’

  28. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 7, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Bryan (#21): Sorry to have left your question hanging. Let me focus on just one text as a representative so that we can keep this manageable.

    Consider how Augustine treats justification in The Handbook of Faith, Hope, and Love.

    On the one hand, he speaks of justification as occurring by faith — to use modern terminology, faith is the instrumental cause of justification (e.g., Chap 18). He qualifies in this way, that only a living faith, a faith that works through love, saves.

    Further, Augustine connects the baptism of the Holy Spirit with faith, in this way:

    For his baptism is not with water alone, as John’s was, but with the Holy Spirit as well. Thus, whoever believes in Christ is reborn by that same Spirit, of whom Christ also was born, needing not to be reborn. — Handbook, 14.

    And further, he connects baptism by the Spirit with the sacrament of baptism:

    This is the meaning of the great sacrament of baptism, which is celebrated among us. All who attain to this grace die thereby to sin—as he himself is said to have died to sin because he died in the flesh, that is, “in the likeness of sin”—and they are thereby alive by being reborn in the baptismal font, just as he rose again from the sepulcher. This is the case no matter what the age of the body. — Handbook, 13.

    For Augustine, there is an inseparable connection between the sign and thing signified (as also, if I understand, in RC theology).

    But these three points are inconsistent: is the instrument of justification faith, or baptism? The question becomes acute when we consider those who believe, but have no opportunity to be baptized. And here, Augustine is obliged to “kluge” his system:

    For whatever unbaptized persons die confessing Christ, this confession is of the same efficacy for the remission of sins as if they were washed in the sacred font of baptism. For He who said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” made also an exception in their favor, in that other sentence where He no less absolutely said, “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven;” and in another place, “Whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it.” — Handbook, 7.

    In so doing, he is tacitly conceding that it is faith, and not baptism, that is the actual instrument of justification.

    It is in this way that his sacramentology is at odds with his soteriology.

    The same is true in Catholicism, but even more so, for Catholics are obliged to multiply types of justification in order to be able to simultaneously affirm that “justification is by faith” — i.e., initial — and “man merits justification through works wrought in love by God’s grace” — i.e., final.

    The two instruments of justification alleged are at odds, and cannot therefore coexist in the same sense. The RCC must therefore “define” a distinction between types of justification. But at this very point, they are at odds with both Augustine and Clement, who know of one justification only: The remission of sins coupled with regeneration.

  29. Bryan Cross said,

    May 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Jeff, (re: #28)

    But these three points are inconsistent: is the instrument of justification faith, or baptism?

    Just because you think it cannot be both, doesn’t mean you have shown an inconsistency. It only means that according to your presupposition that justification cannot be both by faith and baptism, St. Augustine is inconsistent.

    The problem is not in St. Augustine’s theology, but in the false dilemma you create by imposing your philosophical assumption on his theology. Rather than accuse the great doctor of holding an incoherent position, it would be more prudent and more humble to reconsider your assumption that justification cannot be both by faith and by baptism.

    Recognizing the possibility of salvation for those who confess Christ but have no opportunity to be baptized, is not a “kluge,” but a recognition of Christ’s mercy and desire that all should be saved, and His making a provision for that to happen in the case of persons who die while confessing Christ but without an opportunity for baptism. This is the same reason why in an emergency, anyone can baptize. Again, what makes it seem a “kluge” to you is the presupposition you bring to it, that justification is by one or the other, such that, if it is possible that a person can be saved without being baptized, then justification doesn’t in any way come through baptism. And that’s the faulty assumption. You should assume that your assumption is faulty, long before you conclude that St. Augustine couldn’t see a contradiction in his theology.

    What you are doing is trying to do theology by way of your own philosophical assumptions, rather than allow the Tradition and the Church to inform and revise your philosophical assumptions. And doing so elevates man’s reason above the authority of the Tradition and the Church. Rather than conclude based on your own philosophical presupposition that St. Augustine is inconsistent, it would be better to recognize that your presupposition could be false, and that possibly there is a way in which justification is through faith and baptism, even though persons who confess Christ but die without the opportunity for baptism can be saved. And in fact there is. The gift of faith comes to us through baptism by Christ’s establishment, yet the Spirit can give this gift even before a person receives the sacrament. If St. Augustine and the Catholic Church were right, let’s say, and you were wrong, your assumption would not allow you to see the correctness of his (and the Catholic Church’s) doctrine and the error of yours, because by means of your assumption you would [mistakenly] see all exceptional cases (i.e. persons saved by faith though without being baptized) as providing the rule, rather than as exceptions to the rule.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  30. Bryan Cross said,

    May 7, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Jeff, (re: #24)

    You wrote:

    (1) Why does Augustine believe that there are no people in this life (though there could hypothetically be) who have achieved a state without sin, while the RCC teaches that to be finally justified, one must achieve such a state, either in this life or in Purgatory?

    Your question conflates mortal and venial sin, but both St. Augustine and the Catholic Church distinguish between mortal and venial sin. (See the quotations from St. Augustine in this article.) When St. Augustine (like St. John) says that no Christian is without sin, and that we are to pray daily for the forgiveness of our trespasses, he is talking about venial sin. Venial sin is compatible with being in a state of grace, and retaining agape in one’s heart. And the Catholic Church teaches the same. When the Catholic Church teaches that to enter heaven, one must be finally justified either in this life or the next, it is referring not only to acquiring sanctifying grace and agape, but also to the rectification of temporal debt due to injustices against fellow creatures. And St. Augustine held the same, writing:

    “Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment.” (The City of God 21:13)

    And it bit later in that same book, he writes,

    “The prayer either of the Church herself or of pious individuals is heard on behalf of certain of the dead; but it is heard for those who, having been regenerated in Christ, did not for the rest of their life in the body do such wickedness that they might be judged unworthy of such mercy, nor who yet lived so well that it might be supposed they have no need of such mercy. … For were there not some whose sins, though not remitted in this life, shall be remitted in that which is to come, it could not be truly said, “They shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, neither in that which is to come.” (City of God 21.24)

    And elsewhere he writes,

    “In this life may You cleanse me and make me such that I have no need of the corrective fire, which is for those who are saved, but as if by fire…for it is said: ‘He shall be saved, but as if by fire’. And because it is said that he shall be saved, little is thought of that fire. Yet plainly, though we be saved by fire, that fire will be more severe than anything a man can suffer in this life.” (Explanations of the Psalms 37:3)

    “But by the prayers of the holy Church, and by the salvific sacrifice, and by the alms which are given for their spirits, there is no doubt that the dead are aided, that the Lord might deal more mercifully with them than their sins would deserve. The whole Church observes this practice which was handed down by the Fathers: that it prays for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, when they are commemorated in their own place in the sacrifice itself; and the sacrifice is offered also in memory of them, on their behalf. If, then, works of mercy are celebrated for the sake of those who are being remembered, who would hesitate to recommend them, on whose behalf prayers to God are not offered in vain? It is not at all to be doubted that such prayers are of profit to the dead; but for such of them as lived before their death in a way that makes it possible for these things to be useful to them after death.” (Sermons 172)

    “That there should be some such fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish — through a certain purgatorial fire.” (Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, and Love 18:69)

    “The time which interposes between the death of a man and the final resurrection holds souls in hidden retreats, accordingly as each is deserving of rest or of hardship, in view of what it merited when it was living in the flesh. Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead find relief through the piety of their friends and relatives who are still alive, when the Sacrifice of the Mediator [Mass] is offered for them, or when alms are given in the Church. But these things are of profit to those who, when they were alive, merited that they might afterward be able to be helped by these things. There is a certain manner of living, neither so good that there is no need of these helps after death, nor yet so wicked that these helps are of no avail after death.” (Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, and Love 29:109)

    Once you see that both St. Augustine and the Catholic Church recognized the difference between mortal sin and venial sin, and that both teach that there is purgatory, then you can see that there is no incompatibility at all between St. Augustine and the Catholic Church regarding “achieving a state without sin” in this life, and the fact that some who die in a state of grace still need to be cleansed further after death in order to be finally justified.

    You wrote:

    (2) Where does Augustine divide justification into multiple parts: initial, ongoing, final? And if he does not, does this not indicate a different conceptual framework from Trent?

    For St. Augustine, justification is by infusion of agape. It is not a forensic declaration, but an actual making righteous. And this takes place instantly, at baptism, through which grace and agape are poured out into our hearts. This initial justification is what St. Augustine is referring to when he writes that we are made just by a righteousness from God, “not that by which God is righteous, but that with which he clothes a human being when he justifies a sinner.” (Spirit and the Letter, 9) To have agape is to be righteousness, because love fulfills the law. St. Augustine says this over and over. (See “St. Augustine on Law and Grace.”) St. Augustine explains that we cannot merit this initial justification. That’s where the Pelagians were wrong. But, at the same time, St. Augustine teaches that once we receive the infusion of grace and agape, we can (and must) merit eternal life. Because the Christian life is supposed to be a growth in agape, through the sacraments and acts of agape, in this present life we are to grow in our participation in the divine life and the divine love. And because agape is the fulfillment of the law, therefore for St. Augustine, to grow in agape just is to grow in justification. That’s justification in the progressive sense. And all this is aimed at being truly righteous at the Judgment Seat. For St. Augustine, the righteous “live from the faith which works through love, so that God gives them eternal life in accord with their works.” (Grace and Free Will, 7) And again he writes, “For the purpose of our temporal life is to gain the merit by which we may live in eternity.” That’s final justification.

    McGrath, approvingly quoting Walthar von Loewenich, writes, “However, as von Loewenich has pointed out, “justification is not understood by Augustine in a highly forensic manner, but as a process with perfection as its goal. For Luther, semper ìustificandus means ‘ever to be justified anew': for Augustine, ‘ever to be made more and more righteous.'” (“Forerunners of the Reformation?”, 230)

    In that same article McGrath writes:

    However, the simple fact remains that Melanchthon appears quite unaware of the fact that his interpretation of the Pauline concept of imputed righteousness, as expressed in his doctrine of forensic justification, is itself an innovation, in that it is not merely absent from the writings of the patristic era (including those of Augustine), but is actually excluded by those writings (especially those of Augustine).” (“Forerunners of the Reformation?”, 235, emphases original)

    “The significance of the Protestant distinction between iustificatio and regeneratio (or sanctificatio) is that a fundamental discontinuity is introduced into the Western theological tradition where none had previously been acknowledged.” (“Forerunners of the Reformation?”, 238)

    The innovations here, unheard of in the patristic era, are (a) a merely forensic conception of justification as declaration, by imputation of an external righteousness, and (b) a conceptual distinction between justification as something extrinsic and forensic, and sanctification as something internal and progressive. Trent’s teaching on the distinction between justification-as-translation and justification-as-increase is the natural development of St. Augustine’s doctrine, because the distinction is already in St. Augustine, as I just explained above. But the Protestant innovations regarding justification are entirely foreign to St. Augustine, and to the whole patristic era. That’s why the notion that Protestantism develops St. Augustine’s teaching on justification, while Trent corrupts his teaching on justification, is, deeply mistaken.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  31. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 7, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Bryan (#29):

    Content first, then method.

    As to instrumental causes, I bring this assumption to the table.

    If (A and B) jointly cause X,
    but A without B also causes X,
    and B without A does not cause X,

    then B is not an instrumental cause of X.

    In this case,

    (genuine) faith together with baptism causes justification;
    (genuine) faith without baptism causes justification;
    baptism without (genuine) faith does not cause justification.

    (Augustine agrees with all three propositions in the cited materials.)

    Ergo, baptism is not an instrumental cause of justification.

    If you can show cause that my assumption is somehow suspect, I would welcome that.

    You’ve suggested that I’m making the exception into the rule, but in fact I’m using the exception to test the rule, to see whether the rule is in fact a rule, or merely a coincidence.

    The fact that faith and baptism occur together in the justified, is no proof that baptism actually justifies. It might rather be that the genuine believer will seek to be baptized, so that works follow on the faith that saves, as James teaches.

    Now to method:

    On the one hand, I can appreciate the call for humility.

    On the other, perhaps you can appreciate that #29 (though not #30) boils down to attacking presuppositions, without first demonstrating understanding of the argument.

    And this brings us back to the long arc of our conversations. What, in your view, would actually count as a contradiction? As long as a Catholic can play the trump card of “the problem is your presuppositions”, then he never has to consider the real possibility of a contradiction.

    Your reasoning seems to be hermetically sealed off from the possibility of falsification.

  32. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Bryan (#30):

    Your question conflates mortal and venial sin, but both St. Augustine and the Catholic Church distinguish between mortal and venial sin.

    Yes, I agree.

    …then you can see that there is no incompatibility at all between St. Augustine and the Catholic Church regarding “achieving a state without sin” in this life…

    No indeed, there is a conflict. Recall Augustine’s words: “whether there be a sinless man,—I believe there is not.”

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that he’s referring to venial sins: There are none who do not commit venial sins. This is inconsistent with Catholic teaching concerning sanctifying grace and the lives of saints; else, all would spend some time in Purgatory — unless, perhaps, they were struck by a bus while coming out of Confession.

    But if Augustine is referring to mortal sins, then your situation is far worse; he’s alleging that there are none who can achieve a state of avoiding mortal sins. I’m pretty sure we agree that he’s not making that argument!

    So which is he speaking of?

    “whether there be a sinless man [who commits no venial sins],—I believe there is not.”

    “whether there be a sinless man [who commits no mortal sins],—I believe there is not.”

    Either way, he does not admit that there are sinless men. “Saints” for Augustine remain sinners also: for it is the voice of saints which says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

  33. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 7, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    Bryan (#30): For St. Augustine, justification is by infusion of agape. It is not a forensic declaration, but an actual making righteous.

    For a Tridentine Catholic, justification is by infusion of agape. For Augustine, the situation is more complicated.

    I will grant you that Augustine couples remission of sins and infusion of caritas in the term ‘justification.’ But the difference between Trent and Augustine is this.

    For Trent, God declares men righteous only insofar as they become actually righteous by the growth of grace. Actual righteousness is antecedent to the forensic declaration, though of course one enters a ‘state of grace’ at baptism.

    For Augustine, God imputes *and* infuses righteousness, so that remission of sins comes at the beginning of the Christian life, together with the infusion of caritas. For Augustine (as far as I can tell), God does *not* justify according to the antecedent acquisition of righteousness, but justifies forensically and regeneratively in one stroke.

    In short, he does not appear to make a distinction between ‘state of grace’ and ‘being justified.’

    Now, I am not an Augustinian expert. My understanding could be in error. But what would be needed to show me my error would have to be some passage or other in Augustine makes our justification antecedently dependent upon our acquisition of personal righteousness.

    So while I grant that Augustine was not a Protestant (though not far off if we map Augustine to the duplex gratia of Calvin), still I argue that he was inconsistent with Trent as well.

  34. Bryan Cross said,

    May 7, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    Jeff, (re: #31)

    (genuine) faith together with baptism causes justification;
    (genuine) faith without baptism causes justification;
    baptism without (genuine) faith does not cause justification.

    The conclusion does not follow, because “without baptism” can have two meanings: (a) without being baptized, or (b) without coming from the sacrament of baptism. A person can have genuine faith without being baptized, but even in that case, the gift of the virtue of faith come through the sacrament of baptism, even if by the Spirit’s doing the infusion of that supernatural gift [of faith] precedes temporally the actual reception of the sacrament of baptism. So, the conclusion “baptism is not an instrumental cause of faith” does not follow from the premises.

    You’ve suggested that I’m making the exception into the rule, but in fact I’m using the exception to test the rule, to see whether the rule is in fact a rule, or merely a coincidence.

    Your ‘test’ includes a question-begging theological assumption, namely, that baptism can be instrumental in a person’s justification only if that person is baptized. But, St. Augustine did not hold that presupposition. The grace a person receives through “baptism of desire” is not non-sacramental grace; it is sacramental grace, because even in the case of “baptism of desire” the grace comes to the person through the sacrament of baptism, without the reception of the sacrament itself.

    It seems neither just nor charitable, to claim, on the basis of assumptions and presuppositions that are contrary to those held by St. Augustine, that his “conception of grace was at odds with his conception of the sacraments.”

    What, in your view, would actually count as a contradiction? As long as a Catholic can play the trump card of “the problem is your presuppositions”, then he never has to consider the real possibility of a contradiction.

    A real contradiction would be detectable as an incoherency within the Tradition. The problem I’m pointing out in #29 is using question-begging assumptions (from outside the Tradition) to criticize the Tradition. Question-begging criticisms of the Tradition are pointless because they presuppose the falsehood of the Tradition, and thereby presuppose precisely what they are setting out to show. That’s why in order to determine whether the Catholic Church is right about a particular point of doctrine, it is imperative not to use Protestant presuppositions in the evaluative process. The Church was there first; she has the benefit of the doubt by default. And the attitude of faith is fides quaerens intellectum, not bombarding her with question-begging criticisms.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  35. Bryan Cross said,

    May 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Jeff, (re: #32)

    No indeed, there is a conflict.

    No, there is not.

    Recall Augustine’s words: “whether there be a sinless man,—I believe there is not.” Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that he’s referring to venial sins: There are none who do not commit venial sins.

    That’s what he’s saying.

    This is inconsistent with Catholic teaching concerning sanctifying grace and the lives of saints;

    No, in Catholic teaching not even the saint (during this life) is without venial sin.

    else, all would spend some time in Purgatory — unless, perhaps, they were struck by a bus while coming out of Confession.

    Not necessarily. An act of agape, even in the moment of death, or in the suffering that precedes death, can make satisfaction for temporal punishment. And if the debt of temporal punishment is light, because of a life of charity, then the person need not go through purgatory at all.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  36. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 7, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Bryan (#34): In my post, (a) was the correct reading. “Without baptism” means “without having been baptized.”

    Your ‘test’ includes a question-begging theological assumption, namely, that baptism can be instrumental in a person’s justification only if that person is baptized.

    What question is being begged, precisely? Show the circle in the reasoning.

    Your argument adduces an alternate sacramental meaning for the word “baptism”, and assumes that Augustine must have meant this. However, Augustine clearly speaks of two different kinds of baptism: that of the sacrament, and that of the Spirit. It is clear from the passage above (and in context even more so) that salvation can come from the baptism of the Spirit without the application of the sacrament.

    Now, you will no doubt categorize this argument as “Gnostic.” But it is the argument that Augustine makes, nevertheless.

    Yes, I do assume that if there has been no baptism, then one cannot meaningfully speak of baptism as a cause.

    Else we could multiply causes frivolously: Unicorns cause global warming; it matters not if there are no actual unicorns.

    Question-begging criticisms of the Tradition are pointless because they presuppose the falsehood of the Tradition, and thereby presuppose precisely what they are setting out to show.

    This is false. Criticisms of the Tradition have a solid point: If one does not begin by assuming the Tradition, then one is not obligated by Scripture and reason to conclude the Tradition.

    On the other hand, defenses of the Tradition that require us to begin by assuming that the Tradition receives the benefit of the doubt are, in fact, question-begging in the proper sense of the word.

  37. Bryan Cross said,

    May 7, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Jeff, (re: #33)

    But the difference between Trent and Augustine is this.
    For Trent, God declares men righteous only insofar as they become actually righteous by the growth of grace. Actual righteousness is antecedent to the forensic declaration, though of course one enters a ‘state of grace’ at baptism.

    You seem to be suggesting that according to Trent, people don’t become righteous until some point after their baptism. That’s not the teaching of Trent or the Catholic Church. We become righteous instantaneously through the infusion of grace and agape at baptism, and then, God willing, we grow in the grace and agape. The growth is not from unrighteousness to righteousness, but from righteousness to greater righteousness.

    For Augustine, God imputes *and* infuses righteousness, so that remission of sins comes at the beginning of the Christian life, together with the infusion of caritas.

    Trent teaches the same thing.

    For Augustine (as far as I can tell), God does *not* justify according to the antecedent acquisition of righteousness, but justifies forensically and regeneratively in one stroke.

    Justification, for St. Augustine is the writing of the law on the heart, by infusion of agage. That happens at baptism. And that’s what the Catholic Church teaches too.

    In short, he does not appear to make a distinction between ‘state of grace’ and ‘being justified.

    Neither does the Catholic Church. In Catholic doctrine, anyone in a state of grace is justified, and anyone not in a state of grace is not justified. Anyone who is justified is in a state of grace, and anyone who is not justified is not in a state of grace.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  38. Bryan Cross said,

    May 7, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Jeff, (re: #36)

    What question is being begged, precisely? Show the circle in the reasoning.

    See the last part of the sentence from my statement in #34, the part of the sentence that follows the word ‘namely.’ Also see below. You wrote:

    However, Augustine clearly speaks of two different kinds of baptism: that of the sacrament, and that of the Spirit.

    Here’s what St. Augustine says:

    That the place of baptism is sometimes supplied by martyrdom is supported by an argument by no means trivial, which the blessed Cyprian adduces from the thief, to whom, though he was not baptized, it was yet said, “Today shall you be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) On considering which, again and again, I find that not only martyrdom for the sake of Christ may supply what was wanting of baptism, but also faith and conversion of heart, if recourse may not be had to the celebration of the mystery of baptism for want of time. For neither was that thief crucified for the name of Christ, but as the reward of his own deeds; nor did he suffer because he believed, but he believed while suffering. It was shown, therefore, in the case of that thief, how great is the power, even without the visible sacrament of baptism, of what the apostle says, “With the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:10) But the want is supplied invisibly only when the administration of baptism is prevented, not by contempt for religion, but by the necessity of the moment. For much more in the case of Cornelius and his friends, than in the case of that robber, might it seem superfluous that they should also be baptized with water, seeing that in them the gift of the Holy Spirit, which, according to the testimony of holy Scripture, was received by other men only after baptism, had made itself manifest by every unmistakable sign appropriate to those times when they spoke with tongues. Yet they were baptized, and for this action we have the authority of an apostle as the warrant. So far ought all of us to be from being induced by any imperfection in the inner man, if it so happen that before baptism a person has advanced, through the workings of a pious heart, to spiritual understanding, to despise a sacrament which is applied to the body by the hands of the minister, but which is God’s own means for working spiritually a man’s dedication to Himself. (On Baptism, IV.22)

    In Catholic doctrine there is, strictly speaking, only one baptism, as the Holy Spirit says through St. Paul in Ephesians 4:5. There is not a second baptism, i.e. a “baptism in the Spirit” as the Pentecostals teach. Baptism by desire and baptism by blood are not two other baptisms. Rather, they are two other ways of receiving from the *one* sacrament of baptism the sanctifying grace and agape which are given through the sacrament of baptism. St. Augustine describes it by saying that “the want is supplied invisibly.” From whence? Not bypassing the Church and the sacrament, but from the Church, through the sacrament, but given invisibly, not in the visible reception of the sacrament. That’s precisely why it was not superfluous to baptize Cornelius and his friends, because it was through the sacrament that they had received the Spirit, which is, as St. Augustine says, “God’s own means for working spiritual a man’s dedication to Himself.”

    It is clear from the passage above (and in context even more so) that salvation can come from the baptism of the Spirit without the application of the sacrament.

    Of course, if by “application” you mean receiving the sacrament. The Catechumen who dies without being baptized, has not received the sacrament; he has received certain *effects* of the sacrament, which have come to him through the sacrament by faith, by the power of the Holy Spirit who has brought these gifts to the Catechumen in anticipation of the sacrament.

    Yes, I do assume that if there has been no baptism, then one cannot meaningfully speak of baptism as a cause.

    Else we could multiply causes frivolously:

    That conclusion does not follow. Just because a sacrament has an invisible (to us) effect even in those who have not received the sacrament, it does not follow that causes can be multiplied frivolously. We’re dealing here with divine revelation, not philosophy. In addition, this objection would eliminate the justification for believing in any invisible effects. Not only that, but we couldn’t “speak meaningfully” about God doing anything invisibly. Every time we would try to speak about God doing something invisibly, our words would suddenly cease to have meaning. Regarding your unicorn example, what does not exist cannot cause. Unicorns do not exist, but the sacrament of baptism exists, and so grace can come through this sacrament, even before a person receives the sacrament.

    This is false. Criticisms of the Tradition have a solid point: If one does not begin by assuming the Tradition, then one is not obligated by Scripture and reason to conclude the Tradition.

    In the Catholic paradigm, the unwritten Tradition is not a conclusion from Scripture and reason, but is the belief and life and practice handed down from the Apostles, and continually unfolded by the Spirit deepening the Church’s understanding of what has been deposited within her. To treat Tradition as something that must be logically deduced from Scripture and reason abstracted from Tradition, would be to presuppose the truth of Protestantism. And if you’re going to criticize St. Augustine, Trent, and the Catholic Church by way of Protestant presuppositions, you might as well just pound the table and assert: “Protestantism is true. End of discussion.” That is, in order to compare paradigms, we have to enter into each, and evaluate each on its own terms.

    On the other hand, defenses of the Tradition that require us to begin by assuming that the Tradition receives the benefit of the doubt are, in fact, question-begging in the proper sense of the word.

    What is question-begging in a dialogue depends in part on what one’s interlocutor does or does not already accept. I was assuming that you at least recognized enough authority in the Fathers to give them the benefit of the doubt. If you don’t, then, my mistake. What you’re left with in that case, however, is biblicism. And in that case, it really doesn’t matter what St. Augustine said about grace and the sacraments.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  39. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 7, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    #37 is not fully accurate, and is incoherent at points.

    Incoherent, for you waffle between infusion by itself and infusion and imputation together:

    For Augustine, God imputes *and* infuses righteousness, so that remission of sins comes at the beginning of the Christian life, together with the infusion of caritas.

    Trent teaches the same thing.

    BUT

    Justification, for St. Augustine is the writing of the law on the heart, by infusion of agage.

    You cannot have it both ways here.

    Not fully accurate, for you omit that justification admits of multiple senses in the Tridentine framework. So when you say,

    In Catholic doctrine, anyone in a state of grace is justified, and anyone not in a state of grace is not justified.

    this is true or false depending on which sense of “justified” is being referred to. For Augustine, not so.

    Finally, you write,

    You seem to be suggesting that according to Trent, people don’t become righteous until some point after their baptism.

    I’m suggesting that Trent alters Augustine’s logical priority. In Trent, infused righteousness logically precedes the verdict: God declares the individual righteous because he has become righteous in nature. For Augustine, the verdict occurs together with the change in nature.

  40. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 7, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    Bryan (#38): I’m sorry, but I don’t see the question-begging still.

    It is true: I do assume that a cause which does not actually occur can be no cause at all. A baptism that does not take place cannot be the cause of justification.

    But this begs no question; it is simply an apparently self-evident axiom. (In fact, you seem to agree with me?! You say, “what does not exist cannot cause.”) Having axioms is not question-begging, it’s simply starting at the beginning.

    If you wish to question the axiom, then you can state a reasonable objection to it; but to dismiss it as question-begging is improper procedure.

    As to your argument, I believe you misunderstood. The objection is to non-existent causes, not invisible effects.

    In this case, I would assert that a baptism that never takes place cannot be the cause of justification or any other effect.

    Now, you seem to be saying that any particular act of baptism is not the actual sacrament, but rather that there is an abstract Sacrament of Baptism that can be an instrumental cause apart from any act of baptism taking place.

    That’s a metaphysical bridge too far for me, I’m afraid. If it were to be so, then why bother with any actual baptisms at all? We could skip the action of baptizing and let the Sacrament of Baptism do all the work.

    In my view, and certainly it seems to be that Scripture teaches, the term “sacrament of baptism” refers to actual administrations of baptism, not to an abstract generality of a sacrament.

    If you agree with me that “the sacrament of baptism” refers to the acts of baptism, then you should also agree that a baptism that does not take place, does not exist, and cannot be an instrumental cause.

    Now with regard to Augustine, you have not made your case that he believes that baptism supplies grace even when baptism has not been applied.

    In fact, Augustine says as you cited: It was shown, therefore, in the case of that thief, how great is the power, even without the visible sacrament of baptism, of what the apostle says, “With the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:10) But the want is supplied invisibly only when the administration of baptism is prevented, not by contempt for religion, but by the necessity of the moment.

    The “want” is supplied invisibly by the confession, not by baptism. This is in accord with Augustine’s discussion in City of God 13.7 (which I mis-cited as Handbook 7 above). He says, For whatever unbaptized persons die confessing Christ, this confession is of the same efficacy for the remission of sins as if they were washed in the sacred font of baptism.

    It clear that he regards the confession of Christ to be the instrument here, not baptism. Quite the opposite; he appears to be admitting that the thief was “without the power of the visible sacrament” — and no mention at all of an invisible one!

  41. Bryan Cross said,

    May 8, 2012 at 12:00 am

    Jeff, (re: #39)

    For Augustine, God imputes *and* infuses righteousness, so that remission of sins comes at the beginning of the Christian life, together with the infusion of caritas.

    Trent teaches the same thing.

    BUT

    Justification, for St. Augustine is the writing of the law on the heart, by infusion of agage.

    You cannot have it both ways here.

    Merely asserting that I “cannot have it both ways” does not establish or show any incompatibility in my two statements. You’ll need to substantiate your criticism here.

    So when you say,

    In Catholic doctrine, anyone in a state of grace is justified, and anyone not in a state of grace is not justified.

    this is true or false depending on which sense of “justified” is being referred to. For Augustine, not so.

    The sense of the term ‘justified’ here is having the law written on the heart, by having agape in one’s heart. Anyone justified in that sense is in a state of grace, both for Trent and for St. Augustine. And anyone not justified in that sense, is not in a state of grace, both for Trent and for St. Augustine.

    Furthermore, anyone who grows in agape (i.e. grows in His supernatural love for God), grows in his justification, both for Trent and for St. Augustine.

    I’m suggesting that Trent alters Augustine’s logical priority. In Trent, infused righteousness logically precedes the verdict: God declares the individual righteous because he has become righteous in nature. For Augustine, the verdict occurs together with the change in nature.

    You’re going to have to show this difference from the texts, rather than merely asserting it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  42. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 8, 2012 at 12:08 am

    Bryan (#38):

    To treat Tradition as something that must be logically deduced from Scripture and reason abstracted from Tradition, would be to presuppose the truth of Protestantism.

    I’m afraid then that we are at an impasse. For I must either assume the truth of the Tradition, in which case “investigating the truth of the Tradition” is an exercise in genuine question-begging, and trying to prove a contradiction is futile in light of the Tradition’s claim for it’s own interpretive authority.

    Or else I must not assume the truth of the Tradition; in which case, I must justify the Tradition in some way or other.

    And if I am not to justify the Tradition from Scripture, then by what other means would you have me justify it?!

    What third thing do you propose as more reliable than Scripture, that can establish the truth of the Tradition?

    Bryan, I fear that we can do naught but talk past one another. I certainly shall not assume the truth of the Tradition as a working axiom; and you cannot hear me unless I first “show humility” and assume the truth of the Tradition.

    Where from here? I believe I must leave off and let you have the last word.

    Thank you for the interaction. I learned some things about Augustine that I did not previously know.

  43. bsuden said,

    May 8, 2012 at 3:01 am

    But the infallible apostolic magisterium of one has yet to give us a canonical list of the infallible Apostolic Traditions to which he appeals to as the irrefutable ground of his argument.

    Yet he still appeals to them and asserts that one must accept them – if not at least enter into their reasoning and examine them on that basis – before one critiques or demurs from them ala the favorite Protestant practice of pounding the table and declaring them ipso facto to be wrong.

    Meanwhile the rest of us dummies are still waiting .. . . for the canonical list. In the first place. And have been since the last time this came up what? A year ago?

    IOW this is fool proof way of arguing/equivocation. All one has to do is assert – according to the Roman Church POV – an unverifiable standard of authority and then what, turn in your chips for cash on the way out the door?

    Yet if those ATs appeal to or in any way acknowledge Scripture and more than a few immediate inferences from the same proclaim its supremacy, well what then boys and girls?

    The Tradition has led us to Scripture, but we continue to exalt the Tradition over Scripture?
    We don’t think so.

    IOW behold the typical freshwater Tiberian cuttlefish/convert. When pursued it emits the usual cloud of ink and escapes in the ensuing obfuscation.
    Oh, wait.
    This isn’t the Natl. Geographic blog.
    Sorry

  44. TurretinFan said,

    May 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Bryan, attempting to characterize Lane, wrote: “But because of doctrinal development, that degree of specificity is no longer sufficient for salvation and no longer within the bounds of orthodoxy. ”

    a) This is more of a description of Rome’s own system of adding human traditions, than it is a description of our position. It is Rome that demands de fide assent to doctrines that the early church fathers didn’t hold.

    b) On our position, there is a difference between what is necessary for salvation and what is orthodox. There is a difference between heresy and damnable heresy. The errors of the Arminians, for example, are not just trivial errors but serious errors. That, however, does not require us to assert that all Arminians are lost.

    c) Yes, the PCA has a lot of doctrinal requirements for office-bearers that would prevent a huge chunk of the extant church fathers from being office-holders, assuming that they maintained their then-held beliefs. But the PCA does not make those things definitional of the gospel. Not every doctrine is an essential doctrine.

    d) Bryan wrote: “none of the twenty-four Doctors of the Church from St. Athanasius to St. Thomas Aquinas could be PCA teaching elders today”. That may be true, where we assume that they wouldn’t modify their views. On the other hand, neither Athanasius or Aquinas could even be a member in good standing of Rome today. Athanasius held to a canon that differs from what Trent insists must be accepted dogmatically, and as Bryan admitted in an earlier thread, Thomas Aquinas rejected the immaculate conception (Athanasius never even heard of the immaculate conception). They not only couldn’t have been bishops or priests, they would have had to change their views in order to be members! Athanasius could obtain communicant membership in today’s PCA without having to change his views. Aquinas? That would be a closer call.

    e) Then again, even in his own day, Athanasius was condemned by Liberius so that Liberius could return from his banishment to be bishop of Rome again.

    Of course, Liberius didn’t hold to all the views that Bryan does, but that’s hardly the point. The point is that Bryan’s argument is absurd.

    I’d be happy to get into the weeds of what exactly Augustine’s views were on a variety of issues. But the post itself seems to be addressing the matter at a higher level, at the level of what the relative burdens are.

    Rome demands that its adherents accept more dogmas today. That ought to burden Rome with showing that those more things are actually apostolic traditions, not merely human traditions.

    One option is to simply appeal to Rome’s authority. Another option is to explore the historical and Scriptural record. If you choose the latter option, Rome loses. If you choose the former option, Rome stands on Rome’s own authority.

    -TurretinFan

  45. TurretinFan said,

    May 9, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    The field above is littered with strange arguments. One of my favorites is this: “Unicorns do not exist, but the sacrament of baptism exists, and so grace can come through this sacrament, even before a person receives the sacrament.”

    The idea that abstract ideas “exist” is an interesting abstract idea itself. Regardless of whether abstract ideas “exist,” in some sense, they don’t exist in the sense of being able to act or be acted on. Action, interaction, and the like require concrete existence. So, even if it were true that generally X comes through the sacrament of baptism, meaning that it comes through particular baptisms, it cannot come through “the sacrament of baptism” in the abstract.

    And this ends up being problematic for those in Rome.

    For example, Trent makes a number of explicit claims about justification.

    Of this Justification the causes are these:
    the final cause indeed is the glory of God and of Jesus Christ, and life everlasting;
    while the efficient cause is a merciful God who washes and sanctifies gratuitously, signing, and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance;
    but the meritorious cause is His most beloved only-begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies, for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, merited Justification for us by His most holy Passion on the wood of the cross, and made satisfaction for us unto God the Father;
    the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which (faith) no man was ever justified;
    lastly, the alone formal cause is the justice of God, not that whereby He Himself is just, but that whereby He maketh us just, that, to wit, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and we are not only reputed, but are truly called, and are, just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to every one as He wills, and according to each one’s proper disposition and co-operation.

    Trent immediately explains:

    For, although no one can be just, but he to whom the merits of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet is this done in the said justification of the impious, when by the merit of that same most holy Passion, the charity of God is poured forth, by the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of those that are justified, and is inherent therein: whence, man, through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives, in the said justification, together with the remission of sins, all these (gifts) infused at once, faith, hope, and charity.

    Whether or not other aspects of Trent can be reconciled to Augustine, these conceptions are not consistent with Augustine. Augustine took the position that the thief on the cross had the faith that justifies without having baptism. To use Trent’s categories, the instrumental means for the thief was (in Augustine’s view) faith, not baptism.

    Augustine connects the dots with Cornelius as well. Clearly he had the Spirit before baptism, which demonstrated his right standing with God (compare the argument about circumcision in Acts 15).

    Augustine points out that the fact that the benefit can be invisibly applied (applied without the sacrament, the visible sign) should not lead us to scorn the sacrament. After all, even Cornelius was subsequently baptized.

    Augustine goes on to say: “But what is the precise value of the sanctification of the sacrament (which that thief did not receive, not from any want of will on his part, but because it was unavoidably omitted) and what is the effect on a man of its material application, it is not easy to say.”

    That’s perhaps the most troubling piece of all for those hoping to make Augustine in the image of Trent. Trent treats baptism itself as the instrumental means of justification, but it seems pretty clear that’s not what Augustine thinks.

    And in case you think I’m speculating about his view on Cornelius, look at the parallel Augustine himself draws just shortly after:

    And if any one seek for divine authority in this matter, though what is held by the whole Church, and that not as instituted by Councils, but as a matter of invariable custom, is rightly held to have been handed down by authority, still we can form a true conjecture of the value of the sacrament of baptism in the case of infants, from the parallel of circumcision, which was received by God’s earlier people, and before receiving which Abraham was justified, as Cornelius also was enriched with the gift of the Holy Spirit before he was baptized.

    Notice what Augustine concedes: he concedes that baptism and circumcision are parallel, that Abraham was justified before circumcision, and that Cornelius was analogously “enriched with the gift of the Holy Spirit” before baptism.

    If Rome would concede the same, we would find faith alone as the instrumental means of justification, rather than baptism. Moreover, we would find reputed righteousness, rather than actual righteousness, the formal cause. Whether that latter point is something that Augustine himself held, perhaps we can consider another time.

    -TurretinFan

  46. TrosclairN. said,

    May 12, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    JohnBugay,

    This is in response to #22. You wrote a great deal so I will respond to the points that I think are most essential. If I miss any points please point them out to me and I’ll do my best to respond.

    You wrote:

    “I’ve repeated this several times, but Remember Kruger’s premise. He is not writing a work that will prove to skeptics that the Christian New Testament canon is what Christians say it is [the “self-authenticating”model he outlines]. He is rather arguing that, given the process by which the canon developed, Christians do have adequate grounds for believing the ‘self-authenticating’ model.”

    The model is not self-authenticating unless we know that each NT book was written by an Apostle. If the Apostolic authority ended with the last Apostle, then any book not written by an Apostle should be thrown out of the canon. If the model used to protect the said source of revelation, i.e. the Canon of Scripture, cannot be presented with the anticipation of convincing a person who is skeptical of the 27 book canon, then that model is most likely assuming what it is attempting to protect. The self-authenticating model assumes the current canonical list and then constructs ad hoc criteria for protecting the 27 book canon.
    You wrote:
    “As you might expect, there is a discussion of this. First of all, it’s not the case that Kruger doesn’t rely on the 2nd century witness. The point of Cullmann’s treatment is not that the 2ndcentury witness was unreliable. It was that “oral tradition” as a bearer of the“Apostolic witness” was unreliable. And much in the fashion of a game of “telephone”, the early church realized that a fixed written source was needed in order to become reliable. That’s the point of the creation of the canon. After that, theologians like Irenaeus and Tertullian are considered to be far more reliable theologians than some of the Apostolic fathers.”

    The earliest testimony that we have of the authorship of the Gospel of Matthew or of the Gospel of Mark (and many others) is the witness of the 2nd century tradition. If you doubt the reliability of the 2nd century tradition, why would you trust that same tradition regarding the authorship of the Gospels and other NT writings? Furthermore, many of the books were definitely not written by an Apostle. For instance, the Book of Hebrews, the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Luke, Acts of the Apostles, Revelations, etc. were not written by Apostles. Again, given your method, unless you can demonstrate the apostolic authorship of each NT book, it is not binding for any Christian to hold to the 27 book canon. In other words, without an authoritative Church or without the assurance of apostolic authorship, neither the Christian nor the skeptic is bound in his/her conscience to trust that the 27 book canon is revealed by God. Given this criteria, Marcion may have been on to something.

    You wrote:
    “Cullmann makes the case that the canon of the New Testament became fixed, as a necessity, because of the damage that was being inflicted by various Gnostic heresies: “oral” tradition was no longer reliable because it was becoming an admixture of too many things. The only reliable “apostolic tradition” was that which had been written down by the apostles and their associates during the lifetimes of the apostles.”

    But the same men who saw the need to ‘fix’ the Biblical canon also saw the need to ‘fix’ the lists of those who were successors to the Apostles. As a matter of fact, the Apostolic sees were more important for Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, etc. for the purpose of combating the Gnostic sects than was the Biblical canon. This contradicts Cullmann’s thesis. The Church fathers make it clear that the Scriptures could be twisted but the Apostolic sees had the sure ‘charism of truth’ which would preserve orthodoxy.

    You wrote:
    “This is the place to speak about the establishment of the canon by the Church of the second century. This again is an event of capital importance for the history of salvation. We are in complete agreement with Catholic theology in its insistence on the fact that the Church itself made the canon. We even find in this fact the supreme argument for our demonstration. The fixing of the Christian canon of scripture means that the Church itself, at a given time, traced a clear and definite line of demarcation between the period of the apostles and that of the Church, between the time of foundation and that of construction, between the apostolic community and the Church of the bishops, in other words, between apostolic and ecclesiastical tradition. Otherwise, the formation of the canon would be meaningless.”

    Cullmann here admits that the Church itself ‘made’ the canon. According to him, the solidification of the canon (which of course was not fixed until the end of the 4th century) was a sign that the Church could no longer trust the ‘oral traditions.’ But which early Christian claimed that the solidification of the canon was a reaction to the unreliability of oral tradition? Is this just speculation on Cullmann’s part? Did Tertullian, St. Cyprian, St. Irenaeus, Origen, St. Hippolytus, Eusebius, St. Augustine, St. Athanasius, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory of Nazianzen, St. Jerome, St. Leo, etc. think that Apostolic tradition was replaced by the contents of the Biblical canon? Culmann’s thesis is not only unhistorical but entails a false dichotomy.
    All of these men relied not on what we call ‘traditions of men’ but on Apostolic Tradition. Apostolic Tradition was not something that the Council of Trent pulled out of its hat or a construct that Catholic apologists invented to defend their faith. It is front and center in the early Church before, during, and after the solidification of the canon. Sure Scripture is central, but the early Christians never thought it precluded nor replaced the authority of Apostolic Tradition. The early Church taught that the Apostolic Tradition was the only true context for the Scriptures. This move by Cullmann has always struck me as unhistorical and a case of wishful thinking. It also bespeaks a nominalistic ecclesiology which should be treated at a different time.

    You wrote:
    “The period about 150 is, on the one hand, relatively near to the apostolic age, but on the other hand, it is already too far away for the living tradition still to offer in itself the least guarantee of authenticity. The oral traditions which Papias echoes arose in the Church and were transmitted by it. For outside the Church no one had any interest in describing in such crude colours the death of the traitor. Papias was therefore deluding himself when he considered viva vox as more valuable than the written books. The oral tradition had a normative value in the period of the apostles, who were eye-witnesses, but it had it no longer in 150 after passing mouth to mouth (Cullmann, 88-89).”

    Papias’s writings do contain some legendary material, but this is not the Apostolic Tradition to which I am referring. There were beliefs and rituals to which the whole of the early Church defended as essential to what the Church was (is). For instance, that the Eucharist is truly Christ or that Christ was God. Sure, the early Christians got things wrong, but the transmission of Apostolic Tradition is not like the ‘game of telephone.’ Apostolic Tradition is embedded in the liturgy of the Church which is older than Scripture. We even get glimpses of this in St. Paul and the other New Testament writings as well as the early creeds and hymns which are found throughout the Pauline or Johannine texts. I think J.N.D. Kelly’s research has been conclusive here. The liturgy is more than just a transmission of statements from person to person, a game of telephone. It is the very air breathed by a living Body, one with the Sacred Eucharistic celebration, pulsating from the heart of Christ (thus the early saying: Lex orandi lex credendi—the law of praying is the law of believing). Much like the traditions, habits, rituals, feelings, etc. of a family determine the very meaning of the relationship and communication within that family, so Apostolic Tradition is the very context by which the early Church read its Scriptures and Apostolic teachings. The Church did not have to wait for the Scriptures to be herself nor did she cease being herself after the formation of the NT. Tradition like Scriptures are in the heart of the Church and were central in the early Church.

    You wrote:
    “What Cullman relates here is that the church (as reported by Papias) had greatly valued the living voice of the Apostles. But they recognized the thing that we (Protestants) have all along been saying: the“living voice” is not a reliable transmitter, after a point. Over time, the value of this “living voice” had seriously degraded.”

    Again, please demonstrate that the early Church held this. My research tells me the complete opposite. Also, I’ve heard the same argument regarding the Gospels themselves. The Gospels are a product of oral traditions that were written after many of the Apostles were gone. This does not make them unreliable. On the contrary, it is the living testimony of the Apostles transmitted through tradition.

    You wrote:
    “The 2nd century church developed an apologetic which included succession – it is clear from the writings of even Roman Catholic writers like Raymond Brown and Francis Sullivan [not to mention Protestant writers] that “succession” itself was a 2nd century development. As a second century development, it is no way “instituted by Christ”. And I outlined the implications of this.”

    Both Raymond Brown and Francis Sullivan were both unorthodox in their hermeneutics and their historical method of suspicion. That being said, Brown does not quite say what you attribute to him. He claims ignorance on HOW the early Church transmitted the apostolic authority to the episkope. However, he claims that the Pauline epistles and the Acts of the Apostles clearly attest to the apostolic authority of the episkope. Even Brown’s hermeneutic of suspicion could not stop him from recognizing that the NT authors witnessed the transmission of the apostolic authority to the episkope. Raymond Brown remarks about the first century bishops of the first generation:
    “One may correctly say that bishops took over the pastoral care of communities founded by the apostolic evangelization and thus were successors of the apostles.” (Questions on the Bible, Brown, 119)
    Also, it appears that you are suspicious of Raymond Brown and his historical-critical compatriots when they question the apostolic authorship of NT writings, but rely on their scholarship when they challenge the apostolic origins of apostolic succession. I see this in apologetics often (both protestant and Catholic): reject the historical critical scholars when they challenge my own position, but rely on them when their skeptical methods subvert my opponent’s position. Further, notice that you have two contradictory points floating about. First, according to Cullmann, the 2nd century Church solidified the canon in order to replace and correct the oral tradition of the Church. Second, the 2nd century Church invented apostolic succession, the vehicle of oral traditions, in order to buttress their apologetic. Which one is it?

    You wrote:
    “Biblical and patristic studies make clear that historically a gap occurs at the point where it has been claimed ‘the apostles were careful to appoint successors in’ what is called ‘this hierarchically constituted society,’ specifically ‘those who were made bishops by the apostles . . .,’ an episcopate with an ‘unbroken succession going back to the beginning.’ [citing Lumen Gentium 20]. For that, evidence is lacking…”

    The Scriptures are clear that the bishops now possess what the Apostles themselves had possessed, namely, the office of shepherding the Church of Christ (Acts 20:28, I Peter 5:1-4). Overlapping these writings we have the first century bishop Clement of Rome (who was disciple by the Apostles) claiming that the bishops succeeded the Apostles in the episkope and that the Apostles gave clear instructions on how each generation should replace the former generation of bishops. Without missing a beat we have St. Ignatius of Antioch (again a disciple of the Apostles) claiming that the bishops have central authority and that if one submits not to the bishop then he is not in the Church of Christ. They should be obeyed just as the Apostles were obeyed. He of course states that we must submit to the bishops because they hold the place of Jesus Christ in the Church. Again, Ignatius states that the Eucharist cannot be consecrated without the bishop, a power giving to the Apostles. Then of course by mid-2nd century the practice is ubiquitous, the whole Church is practicing apostolic succession. This unanimity is fixed before the Biblical canon. Further, given this nominalistic view of history and the Church, we would have to believe that the whole Church was deceived about her very essence from at least the 2nd century on (so much for the ‘pillar and ground of the truth’). Given what I know of Christ, I find this assertion appalling. Historically speaking, apostolic succession is rock solid even if all of the ‘hows’ are not answered in the first few decades.

    You wrote:
    “I haven’t read all of Cullmann, but you’ll have a hard time convincing me that he argued for this. More likely, given that he was arguing against Bultmann, who was asking questions about, and making comments on, what Jesus actually knew. But this is the place for a whole ‘nother discussion.”

    I have read very little of Cullmann, but I recently came across an interesting critique of his work that was fresh in my mind when we started our discussion. Concerning Cullmann’s PETER: DISCIPLE, APOSTLE, and MARTYRS and Cullmann’s rejection of apostolic succession, Stanley Jaki writes: “In Cullmann’s case a most revealing consequence of that allegedly biblical notion of time is the error which he attributes to Jesus concerning the time of his second coming! See pp. 201 and 207 in the English translation of the first and second editions, respectively.” (AND ON THIS ROCK, 51) I don’t have Cullman’s book, so I am strictly trusting authority here. If you have this book by Cullmann, I would be interested to hear your take on Jaki’s interpretation.

    Trosclair

  47. johnbugay said,

    May 14, 2012 at 5:08 am

    Trosclair, I just wanted to let you know I’ve seen your response here, thank you, and to let you know I’m preparing a response. Some of it will be tied in with some of the other work I’m doing on Michael Kruger’s work Canon Revisited, and so this may come out in pieces.

  48. TrosclairN. said,

    May 14, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Thank you John. I am interested in your response.

  49. johnbugay said,

    May 20, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Trosclair 46, I’ve responded here to the last portion of your comment, regarding Stanley Jaki’s comments on Cullmann. For a scholar supposedly of his caliber, he sure misses the mark.

  50. johnbugay said,

    May 24, 2012 at 5:56 am

    Trosclair (#46): You said:

    The model is not self-authenticating unless we know that each NT book was written by an Apostle.

    And

    The earliest testimony that we have of the authorship of the Gospel of Matthew or of the Gospel of Mark (and many others) is the witness of the 2nd century tradition. If you doubt the reliability of the 2nd century tradition, why would you trust that same tradition regarding the authorship of the Gospels and other NT writings?

    The “apostolic testimony” was given not just by Apostles, but by individuals like Luke (Luke 1:1-4) and Mark (who is said to have traveled with Peter). Keep in mind that we don’t simply have to take Papias’s word on that, but it is corroborated by internal testimony as well that Mark’s story is Peter’s story. Corroboration is the key. Whether we take Papias’s word is not an all-or-nothing thing. We may understand that they were more or less reliable at different times and with different writings, and we know where Papias was exceptionally wrong (as with his comment on Judas), and we can corroborate his testimony about Mark (and other writings).

    For example, R.T. France’s Commentary on Mark discusses internal qualities of Mark that show this gospel “reflects not the distant evaluation of a scholarly admirer of Jesus but the subjective experience of one of those who shared most closely in the stirring yet profoundly disturbing events of Jesus’ public ministry and his confrontation with the Jerusalem establishment”. That’s too much information to go into here, but if you genuinely care to have an answer to your question, you can look it up, and this is a good place to start. Ronald Reagan’s practice vis-à-vis the Soviet Union was useful here: “trust, but verify”.

    the same men who saw the need to ‘fix’ the Biblical canon also saw the need to ‘fix’ the lists of those who were successors to the Apostles. As a matter of fact, the Apostolic sees were more important for Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, etc. for the purpose of combating the Gnostic sects than was the Biblical canon. This contradicts Cullmann’s thesis. The Church fathers make it clear that the Scriptures could be twisted but the Apostolic sees had the sure ‘charism of truth’ which would preserve orthodoxy.

    Cullmann does respond to this, and you may have missed this in the links I provided (and to be honest, I don’t fault you if you didn’t go and read everything I linked to). But I’ll provide his response here for your convenience:

    For a long time it has been noted that, apart from the letters of Ignatius, the writings of the so-called Apostolic Fathers, who do not really belong to the Apostolic age but to the beginning of the second century—[1 Clement, Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas]—despite their theological interest, are at a considerable distance from New Testament thought, and to a considerable extent relapse into a moralism which ignores the notion of grace, and of the redemptive death of Christ, so central to apostolic theology. [See Torrance’s “The Doctrine of Grace in the Apostolic Fathers,” 1948].

    It has also been noted that the Church Fathers who wrote after 150—Irenaeus and Tertullian—although chronologically more remote from the New Testament than the authors of the first half of the century, understood infinitely better the essence of the gospel. ,b>This seems paradoxical, but is explained perfectly by that most important act, the codification of the apostolic tradition in a canon, henceforward the superior norm of all tradition.

    The Fathers of the first half of the century wrote at a period when the writings of the New Testament already existed, but without being vested with canonical authority, and so set apart. Therefore they did not have any norm at their disposal, and, on the other hand, and on the other hand, they were already too far distant from the apostolic age to be able to draw directly on the testimony of eye-witnesses. The encounters of Polycarp and Papias with apostolic persons could no longer guarantee a pure transmission of authentic traditions, as is proved by the extant fragments of their writings.

    But after 150 contact with the apostolic age was re-established through the construction of the canon, which discarded all impure and deformed sources of information. Thus it is confirmed that, by subordinating all subsequent tradition to the canon, the Church once and for all saved its apostolic basis. It enabled its members to hear, thanks to this canon, continually afresh and throughout all the centuries to come the authentic word of the apostles, a privilege which no oral tradition, passing through Polycarp or Papias, could have assured them (96).

    Cullmann goes on to note that, of course “scripture needs to be interpreted” and “the church ought to feel responsible for this interpretation”.

    However, if the notion of “apostolic sees” was helpful in combating the Gnostic heresies of the day, it must be recognized that this was a still-later development (late second century), and the church at large ought in no way to be bound by what really was an “interpretive hermeneutic” of the second century. It was by no means a “structural component” of “the Church that Christ founded”. And comments by late second and third-century writers ought by no means to provide the basis for a governmental structure that clearly became not merely open to abuse, but which itself became a form of abuse, and desperately needed to be changed.

    I’m going into more detail on this in this blog post, and I’ve got another one that takes into account Joseph Ratzinger’s writings on Apostolic Succession. But this is a start and I’ll try to get to some of your other objections as I move along.

  51. TurretinFan said,

    May 24, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    “If you doubt the reliability of the 2nd century tradition, why would you trust that same tradition regarding the authorship of the Gospels and other NT writings?”

    For the anonymous works in the NT, while we might believe that tradition, it’s not a matter of dogma for us. It might be our position, but there is a difference between position and dogma.

  52. TrosclairN. said,

    May 28, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Hi Johnbugay,

    The following is in reponse to your post “Which Came First, Apostolic Succession, or the New Testament.”

    Thank you for your response. Of course, I would like to point out a few assertions that are not tenable.

    (1) You have espoused two contradictory assertions. You stated that there was a canonical NT core ‘long before’ the time of Irenaeus (circa 180 A.D.). Then you asserted, via Cullmann, that the Apostolic Fathers (or those Christians before 150) had no ‘canonical core’ at their disposal. This is why you continue to claim that Irenaeus and Tertullian were ‘infinitely’ superior to the Apostolic Fathers, for the latter possessed a canonical core. These two assertions can’t both be true. You seem to want to say that the NT canon preceded the “rule of faith” and Irenaeus, while at the same time discounting the Apostolic Fathers because they were ‘infinitely’ inferior to the late 2nd century theologians. Either there was a canonical core before 150 or there was not. Which one is it?

    (2) You stated that Apostolic Succession had nothing to do with the growth and acceptance of the NT canon. There is no evidence to make such a claim. Clement of Rome (who you wrongly claim, via Cullmann, was in the 2nd century) taught that the Apostles established a criteria for succession in the episkope to govern the Church. Clement knew the Apostles and wrote before some of the books of the NT were written.He claims that this succession is of Apostolic origin. Ignatius is clear that the bishop is central for the Christian in both doctrine and sacrament. Surely the bishop, who possessed the authority of Christ according to Ignatius, would play a central part in the solidification of the ‘canonical core.’ Further, we know that the canonical process was not completed by the end of the 3rd or even the 4th century. The latter claim is not an apologetic trick which was invented by ‘papists.’ It is simply a historical fact that the canon was not fully fixed by the early Christians. How we interpret this fact is debatable, that it is a fact is not. So, it is a fact that the canonical process was not complete by then. Now, if the 3rd and 4th and 5th century Church held to Apostolic Succession and viewed the bishops as Shepherds over the Church, do you expect anyone to believe that the shepherds ruling over the Church had nothing to do with the canonical decisions? I don’t think this is tenable.

    (3) You stated that the early Church did not believe the doctrine of Apostolic succession to be a ‘structural element of the Church;’ it was only a temporary structure to fight off the Gnostic heresy. Of course, the heretical sects galvanized the Church to make explicit what had always been held regarding both ecclesiology and the Biblical canon. But it was universally held that the bishops were successors to the Apostles in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries. Being a successor to an Apostle could not have been a temporary move for the Church. Either the early Church was wrong or Apostolic Succession was/is essential to the Body of Christ. Given the nature of the claim, it is absurd that this succession was only for a few years. Everyone from Irenaeus to Augustine to Athanasius to Leo the Great speak about Apostolic authority in the bishops and councils as if it were essential to the Church. Indeed, if the doctrine is true, how could it not be essential? It is either false or essential. Your assertion is special pleading at best. Your skeptical method could be used for anything held in the early Church, even the Biblical canon itself. Given the fluidity of the canon even in the 3rd and 4th centuries, the canon would be a better candidate for your ‘temporary’ authority hypothesis.

    (4) You stated that ‘Apostolic Origin’ is the test for orthodoxy. We are back to the main problem with which we began. You must prove beyond reasonable doubt that each of the 27 books was written by an Apostle. If this cannot be done, then no Christian is bound by his/her conscience to accept a 27 book canon (at least according to your criteria). (I just noticed that you commented above and you claimed that because Mark and Luke knew the Apostles their writings can also be inspired. But remember it was to the Apostles alone that Christ said “He who hears you, hears me.” It would appear you are now hoping for some kind of Apostolic succession yourself.) Apparently, you know some secret method presented by Kruger that provides this certainty. Each blog post you almost tell us this secret. Please end the suspense and share this knowledge to which you and Kruger are privy.

    (5) You stated that the Apostlolic Office and authority are unrepeatable. Of course, ‘the twelve’ are unrepeatable in a sense. But the New Testament states that the episkope (an office occupied by the Apostles) is a perpetual office and those who occupy that office are ‘shepherds’ over the Church (Acts 20:28). The first ‘shepherds’ over the Church were the Apostles, and the bishops now participate in their ‘shepherdness’ as the Apostles shared in the ‘shepherdness’ of Christ (I Peter 2:25; 5:1-4). The Scriptures are clear that the bishop took on the role of shepherd which was once held by the Apostle. Because the authority of shepherd was given to the bishops, they now have the authority to lead the flock of Christ. How is this not successive authority? By at least the end of the second century throughout the patristic period all the way up to the Reformation, we observe that the Church held UNIVERSALLY the bishops to be the successors to the Apostles.

    The fixing of the canon did not cause the Church to abandon Apostolic succession nor Apostolic tradition. Why? because the Church Fathers thought them both essential to the nature of the Church. The bishops were not temporary successors, for they had the authority to forgive sins and consecrate the host, powers giving to the Apostles. The Church believed this before the final solidification of the canon and after. Thus before the final solidification of the canon we hear Hippolytus claiming:
    “[The bishop conducting the ordination of the new bishop shall pray:] God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . Pour forth now that power which comes from you, from your royal Spirit, which you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and which he bestowed upon his holy apostles . . . and grant this your servant, whom you have chosen for the episcopate, [the power] to feed your holy flock and to serve without blame as your high priest, ministering night and day to propitiate unceasingly before your face and to offer to you the gifts of your holy Church, and by the Spirit of the high priesthood to have the authority to forgive sins, in accord with your command” (Apostolic Tradition 3 [A.D. 215]).

    And around the same time of the solidification of the canon we hear John Chrysostom claiming:
    “Priests have received a power which God has given neither to angels nor to archangels. It was said to them: ‘Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose, shall be loosed.’ Temporal rulers have indeed the power of binding; but they can only bind the body. Priests, in contrast, can bind with a bond which pertains to the soul itself and transcends the very heavens. Did [God] not give them all the powers of heaven? ‘Whose sins you shall forgive,’ he says, ‘they are forgiven them; whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.’ What greater power is there than this? The Father has given all judgment to the Son. And now I see the Son placing all this power in the hands of men [Matt. 10:40; John 20:21–23]. They are raised to this dignity as if they were already gathered up to heaven” (The Priesthood 3:5 [A.D. 387]).

    And after the canon was fixed we hear the witness of Philip the presbyter at the Council of Ephesus:

    “Philip the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See said: There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince (ἔξαρχος) and head of the Apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation (θεμέλιος) of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to today and forever both lives and judges in his successors. The holy and most blessed pope Cœlestine, according to due order, is his successor and holds his place, and us he sent to supply his place in this holy synod, which the most humane and Christian Emperors have commanded to assemble, bearing in mind and continually watching over the Catholic faith. For they both have kept and are now keeping intact the apostolic doctrine handed down to them from their most pious and humane grandfathers and fathers of holy memory down to the present time, etc.”

    The quotations that could be provided are endless. The Church has always seen itself as possessing Apostolic authority via Apostolic succession and because the Church is the pillar and bulwark of truth so should all Christians.

    If you don’t mind, please comment here so that I can keep up with your posts. I do thank you for the posts and links and will continue to read them, but it is difficult for me to comment on Triablogue. Recovering Luddite. Thank you.

    Nick Trosclair

  53. TrosclairN. said,

    May 28, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    TurretinFan,

    Why would you accept an anonymous book as inspired by God if not for the authority of the Church?

    Nick T.

  54. johnbugay said,

    May 29, 2012 at 5:14 am

    Question 1: “Either there was a canonical core before 150 or there was not. Which one is it?”

    Couple of things to keep in mind. First, the “canonical core” exists in the form of (a) divinely-inspired “covenant documents” [which means that God understands which books are “canon”] which are also (b) authoritative Apostolic writings, but that does not necessarily mean that everyone has them. Books (“codicies”) were copied by hand at great time and expense. Darrell Bock alludes to this fact in his critique of “The Bauer Thesis”, a scholarly opinion about the diversity among early Christians, which held wide sway in the mid 20th century, and still is propagated in some form by folks like Bart Ehrman, but which has been largely addressed by conservative scholars. Darrell Bock, for instance, in his “The Missing Gospels” (which I discuss here in Part 1 and Part 2) notes that there are a couple of valid points that Bauer makes:

    Two methodological emphases of Bauer have stood the test.

    1. In their desire to refute these views, the church fathers overstated their own case and sometimes were inaccurate about what was taking place, especially when it came to treating all heresies as coming from a singular root, whether it was back to Simon Magus or calling most of these movements Gnostic (Wisse 1971; Beyschlag 1974). Scholarly consensus exists on this point (Harrington 1980).

    This observation about the fathers should not be exaggerated. A check of Irenaeus against the sources of views he challenged reveals that he described those views accurately. Many of the details of views noted in other fathers also stand corroborated. The implications are important. The new and secret gospels, now paraded as fresh discoveries, were in fact well-known centuries ago. What the blurbs and endorsements claim is new and exciting information is not so fresh after all.

    Nonetheless, Bauer’s questioning produced a more careful assessment of the fathers. His call to view the sources from the church fathers in light of their polemics and to listen to proponents from both sides describe and present their views was a necessary historical corrective.

    2. The examination of evidence by geographical region was an important insight. Ideas move across time and space in different directions at different speeds. Sometimes they reflect a variety of cultural factors, with some of those factors being unique to a given region.

    These lasting observations make Bauer’s work significant. However, one must distinguish Bauer’s method from his thesis. The content and value of Bauer’s claims are not synonymous with his methodological breakthroughs (“The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities” Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishing, ©2006, pgs. 46-49).

    Did I use the word “infinitely”? I will stand by what Cullmann and Torrance have said. For example, Clement was very disciplined, a fan of the Roman army (see 1 Clem 37). He seems to have a very good grasp of the Old Testament. I don’t doubt that (as in ch 42) the Roman church was careful to appoint who was in charge of the church, but I deny that this amounted to the idea of “succession” which took hold later in the 2nd century. Hermas, for example, noted how the presbyters – ostensibly leaders of the various house churches in Rome, fought among themselves as to who was greatest. See, for example, The Papacy\’s Missing Link and A timeline of the early papacy.

    But still, I don’t doubt that he also misunderstood Paul’s concept of “grace” (they call it his “moralism”), or that he contradicted the writer of Hebrews (while still evidently citing that work). He was a mixed bag. Lampe assessed that he had a standard education for the time, but not anything special.

    You’ll note that both Torrance and Cullmann do make an exception to this with Ignatius – more than any of the early Christian writers, he likely had access to this “canonical core” and he evidently was familiar with it. Note also that someone like Barnabas and Hermas were likely writers from Rome. They understood the local situation (fighting among the elders, for example), but likely had less access to some of the writings of the early second century (which manifested itself in what they called moralism).

    My point is, it is very clear that “the Apostolic fathers” were not inspired. Their weaknesses are evident. But they were not completely out of touch, either.

  55. johnbugay said,

    May 29, 2012 at 5:55 am

    Question 2:

    “Clement knew the Apostles and wrote before some of the books of the NT were written.”

    Perhaps he knew them – his letter does not give a good indication that he knew them. He may or may not have been the Clement of Philippians 4. O’Brien, in his commentary, suggests that he may have been “a Philippian Christian who was well knwn within the church since Paul does not need to identify him” (citing several other authors). So you do not quite have warrant to equate the two. Plus, except perhaps for John and Revelation, it is doubtful that he wrote “before some of the books of the NT were written”. The early dating of Clement (prior to 80 AD) does not have much support, and as was mentioned above, I would argue, with conservative evangelical scholars, that all of the books of the NT (Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, and 1 and 2 Peter, are authentic).

    He claims that this succession is of Apostolic origin.

    You are reading a later conception of “succession” back into something that is not evident in the text. I spoke to this above. I don’t doubt that (as in ch 42) the Roman church was careful to appoint who was in charge of the church, but I deny that this amounted to the idea of “succession” which took hold later in the 2nd century. Hermas, for example, noted how the presbyters – ostensibly leaders of the various house churches in Rome, fought among themselves as to who was greatest.

    Von Campenhausen, for example, traces the different points of the “development” in the post-apostolic period. It is wrong for you to attribute something to Clement that he just wasn’t saying. I’m working through his work now at Triablogue.

    Too, Francis Sullivan, at a later date, notes that “most Catholic scholars agree that the episcopate is the fruit of a post-New Testament development”. That is *most* Catholic scholars, so you have a hard time simply dismissing them. Brown, in a footnote, asks, “One may intelligently wonder why, if seminarians are not taught a simplistic [Roman Catholic] conservatism about the NT, they do not communicate nuanced views in their preaching” (“Intro to NT Christology”pg 10), suggests that “communicating nuanced biblical views” “requires more effort and imagination than many to expend. The bland is often effortless and survives even when the church teaches the contrary”.

    I can accept this statement from Brown, by the way, and still argue on a book-for-book basis for an early (rather than a later) dating of many of the NT books. Brown was in the rough-and-tumble of NT scholarship, and an accurate reporter of what’s going on in Roman Catholicism, but there are many points upon which conservative evangelical scholars do disagree with him (and make good arguments in doing so).

    Further, we know that the canonical process was not completed by the end of the 3rd or even the 4th century. The latter claim is not an apologetic trick which was invented by ‘papists.’ It is simply a historical fact that the canon was not fully fixed by the early Christians.

    No one said it was “an apologetic trick invented by ‘papists’.” Kruger spends the better part of three very long chapters in his work discussing the “reception” of the canon, and he fully allows that the process was messy. That messiness, however, does not take away from the fact that the 27 books (a) were “divinely commissioned” as covenant documents, and (b) had apostolic origins and authority.

    Now, if the 3rd and 4th and 5th century Church held to Apostolic Succession and viewed the bishops as Shepherds over the Church, do you expect anyone to believe that the shepherds ruling over the Church had nothing to do with the canonical decisions? I don’t think this is tenable.

    I don’t doubt that they had “something” to do with it, but the very messiness of the process argues against the notion that “the Church” provided the kind of infallible ratification that Roman Catholic dogma seems to require. That “messiness” argues against the Roman Catholic position as well.

  56. johnbugay said,

    May 29, 2012 at 6:34 am

    Question 3:

    You stated that the early Church did not believe the doctrine of Apostolic succession to be a ‘structural element of the Church;’ it was only a temporary structure to fight off the Gnostic heresy.

    I did not say “it was only a temporary structure”. True, it was a later development. It did become “fixed” at a point. But what I also said was that, given that it was not “original”, the Reformers therefore were justified in throwing it off as “not biblical”. One of the primary arguments made by the Roman side during the Reformation was that the Reformers were not submitting to proper authorities. But these “authorities” certainly showed themselves to be unworthy of being authorities. And it is certainly “better to obey God than men”.

    Note this link from Steve Hays on Apostolic Succession. Steve says,

    A lot of Catholic epologists seem to think that all they need to do to prove apostolic succession is to prove the idea of apostolic succession in the church fathers. It doesn’t occur to them that proving the existence of an abstract idea is not the same thing as proving the concrete existence of what that idea purports. Even if you could prove the idea of apostolic succession in the church fathers, that doesn’t begin to prove the reality of apostolic succession. Apostolic succession posits a series of interlocking events. Cause and effect. But a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

    Apostolic succession involves a historical claim regarding a series of historical events. Therefore, one needs some form of historical evidence commensurate with the scope of the claim to verify the claim.

    And this isn’t just my Protestant opinion. Take a classic example: the way in which Leo XIII denies the apostolic succession of the Anglican church. For Leo XII, apostolic succession is contingent on valid ordination. And the validity or invalidity of ordination is a historical question which must be subjected to detailed historical investigation to verify or falsify the claim.

    I apply to Catholicism the same standard that Leo XIII applies to Anglicanism. If the Church of England must verify every step of the process, so much the Church of Rome.

    I’ll reproduce the text of Leo’s Encyclical so that you can see the type of historical reasoning that feeds into his conclusions. The very same requirements would apply, perforce, to the claims of Rome.

    You said:

    Being a successor to an Apostle could not have been a temporary move for the Church. Either the early Church was wrong or Apostolic Succession was/is essential to the Body of Christ.

    Of course, the process outlined by Steve above, also applies to the “early Church” conception of “Apostolic Succession”.

    It is clear, however, from the writings of Ignatius, that even though he held the office of “bishop” in high esteem, that Bishops did not have the same kind of authority that the Apostles had. He did not believe in the kind of “Apostolic Succession” that was adopted later in the second century. There is a difference. (Same, too, with Clement). John Behr writes:

    The case of St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing in the first years of the second century, is especially revealing. He refers to the Epistles of the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 12:2), yet he never cites them. For Ignatius, it is Christ who is both the content and the ultimate source of our faith, as it has been laid down for us by the apostles. Ignatius goes far beyond the other writers of his period in exalting the role of the apostles. In the various typological parallels that he is fond of drawing between, on the one hand, the bishop, deacon and presbyters, and on the other, the Father, Christ and the apostles (e.g. Trallians 3), the apostles are always placed on the eternal, universal level, along with Christ and His Father. This eternal and universal level is then reflected [emphasis added] in the Church, in her historically and geographically specific existence, in the threefold order of bishop, deacon and presbyters. Accordingly Ignatius repeatedly states that as a bishop he, unlike the apostles, is not in a position to give orders or to lay down the precepts or the teachings (δόγματα), which come from the Lord and the apostles alone.

    This is a very big step away from the conception that was later adopted by Irenaeus, (cited in Dei Verbum 7), that “the Apostles left bishops as their successors, ‘handing over’ to them ‘the authority to teach in their own place.’”

    Everyone from Irenaeus to Augustine to Athanasius to Leo the Great speak about Apostolic authority in the bishops and councils as if it were essential to the Church.

    Of course, once a thing like that is put into place, it’s natural to roll with it. But again, it wasn’t “from the beginning”, it wasn’t inviolate (though it may have had some usefulness), and it was right for the Reformers to throw off that authority structure, especially at a time when it was shown to have created the corruption and doctrinal error that were present at the time of the Reformation.

  57. johnbugay said,

    May 29, 2012 at 7:01 am

    Question 4:

    You stated that ‘Apostolic Origin’ is the test for orthodoxy. We are back to the main problem with which we began. You must prove beyond reasonable doubt that each of the 27 books was written by an Apostle. If this cannot be done, then no Christian is bound by his/her conscience to accept a 27 book canon (at least according to your criteria). (I just noticed that you commented above and you claimed that because Mark and Luke knew the Apostles their writings can also be inspired. But remember it was to the Apostles alone that Christ said “He who hears you, hears me.” It would appear you are now hoping for some kind of Apostolic succession yourself.) Apparently, you know some secret method presented by Kruger that provides this certainty. Each blog post you almost tell us this secret. Please end the suspense and share this knowledge to which you and Kruger are privy.

    Let me ask you a question: Is Paul stuttering here?

    and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born (1 Cor 15:5-8

    What’s the difference between “the Twelve” and “all the apostles”?

    I’m actually preparing a blog post now that discusses this, and also, what “apostolic origin” means. But as a clue to what this entails, consider “time frame”. One key method for understanding this is simply that it was “ancient” by the beginning of the second century. It was already old, held in esteem, used in church services, etc.

    You’re not telling me that you reject Mark and Luke just because these men weren’t named in lists of “the Twelve”, are you?

    As for “succession”, I’ve already given some indication of that above, in discussing Ignatius’s use of “the precepts or the teachings (δόγματα), which come from the Lord and the apostles alone”.

    There are a number of different types of “tradition” already that were occurring in Ignatius’s time. There was the “traditions” of the Jews; there was the “tradition” of the Apostles – which amounted to the teachings that were written in the New Testament documents. This is the “apostolic succession” that I am all in favor of. There was later “ecclesiastical” tradition. Cullmann is very clear that this “apostolic succession” falls into this later category of “ecclesiastical tradition”.

    You chide me for having some sort of “secret method”, but the secret, so far, is that I don’t have the time to sit down and go through all of the exegesis that Cullmann provides. Likely I’ll make some effort to do that in the near future, given how important it is. But his work is now available at a good price. You should check it out.

  58. johnbugay said,

    May 29, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Question 5:

    (5) You stated that the Apostlolic Office and authority are unrepeatable. Of course, ‘the twelve’ are unrepeatable in a sense. But the New Testament states that the episkope (an office occupied by the Apostles) is a perpetual office and those who occupy that office are ‘shepherds’ over the Church (Acts 20:28). The first ‘shepherds’ over the Church were the Apostles, and the bishops now participate in their ‘shepherdness’ as the Apostles shared in the ‘shepherdness’ of Christ (I Peter 2:25; 5:1-4). The Scriptures are clear that the bishop took on the role of shepherd which was once held by the Apostle. Because the authority of shepherd was given to the bishops, they now have the authority to lead the flock of Christ. How is this not successive authority?

    Here’s what actually is said in Acts 20:28: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood”. I see nothing there about “a perpetual office”. I see nothing about “bishops” in the modern sense. I’ve written extensively about the use of the terms “elders” and “overseers” and they were very much used interchangeably. There is no “bishop” in the New Testament, either in the sense that Ignatius uses the term, or (much less) in the sense that Cyprian may have used the term.

    You ask, “How is this not successive authority?” Note that the Catholic Catechism is guilty of presenting a bait and switch on \”orders\”. Yes, there were “offices” in the New Testament church, but give it 150 years or so, and presto-changeo, they are different “offices”. While in the meantime, the Catechism speaks only in the most general terms, ignoring the actual process of “development” because one does not easily or necessarily grow into the other.

    Virtually every Protestant who reads this board is under the understanding that there were offices in the early church, and such a thing as legitimate ordination. But I don’t think any of them would grant the official Roman Catholic story of how the office of “elder” morphed into what the third century would have seen as a “bishop”.

    By at least the end of the second century throughout the patristic period all the way up to the Reformation, we observe that the Church held UNIVERSALLY the bishops to be the successors to the Apostles.

    Jerome, at least, did not hold this. He held, even in the 4th century, that the terms presbyter and bishop were used interchangeably. And the old canard that “all bishops are priests” certainly doesn’t hold in reverse. Today at least. In Jerome’s day, such a thing was still the practice.

    By the way, you noted above that your “canon” of the New Testament would be about half as large as mine. Is 1 Peter in your canon?

  59. johnbugay said,

    May 29, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Hi Trosclair, just for the sake of getting through all of your questions, I’ve responded briefly to them here, but please understand we are talking about a big subject, and I’m going to give you incomplete answers, the skeletons of responses which, Lord willing, I will flesh out further down the road in my main blog posts.

    There are a couple of trailing questions I haven’t addressed, but the nature of these (i.e. “consecrating the host” assume some things that need to be argued for.

  60. TurretinFan said,

    May 29, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Nick:

    You asked: “Why would you accept an anonymous book as inspired by God if not for the authority of the Church?”

    a) Inspiration itself is sufficient. It doesn’t need inspiration plus external human authority.

    b) The Holy Spirit persuades us to recognize the fact of inspiration. The Holy Spirit can use various means for various people. For example, in the case of the anonymous books of Esther and Job, the Holy Spirit can use the testimony of the Jews. Likewise, in the case of Hebrews the Holy Spirit can use the testimony of ancient men like Origen.

    c) “The Church” cannot speak. The churches can speak, and their testimony is one of the means by which we are persuaded.

    d) The Spirit can also work directly and internally in us, so that it is true what Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice.” Christians recognize the voice of the Shepherd – not infallibly, to be sure, but nevertheless they recognize it.

    -TurretinFan

  61. TrosclairN. said,

    May 30, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    JohnBugay,

    Speaking of Apostolic Succession, you stated:

    “Of course, once a thing like that is put into place, it’s natural to roll with it. But again, it wasn’t ‘from the beginning’, it wasn’t inviolate (though it may have had some usefulness), and it was right for the Reformers to throw off that authority structure, especially at a time when it was shown to have created the corruption and doctrinal error that were present at the time of the Reformation.”

    The Church was not just “rolling with it.” The witnesses who speak of Apostolic Succession reveal that it was essential to the structure of the Church and not an ad hoc structure. It is flippant to claim that you know that Apostolic Succession was not “from the beginning” when the Christian churches universally accepted it as essential to their own identity by at least the end of the second century. Before this time, we have explicit testimony from Paul, Peter, Luke, Clement, and Ignatius that the bishops/presbyters possessed the authoritative position as shepherds over the Church of Christ (Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:1-4; I Tim. 3:1;Titus 1:5). Further, they attest to the fact that these shepherds should be replaced by other shepherds when they die. St. Clement confirms what is hinted at in the epistles of Paul and Peter in the following passage:

    “Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry (c. 44).”

    Given what I know about our Lord and his promises, it’s hard for me to believe that he would make the Apostles shepherds over His Body, then have them bestow that authority (as shepherds) to other men, and then within three generations have those shepherds UNIVERSALLY misunderstand the very nature of that Church over which they guided as true shepherds Do you believe that the Church as a whole had an identity crisis at the end of the 2nd century and fabricated the idea of Apostolic Succession? The protestant skepticism on this topic reminds me of the epistemological skepticism of Descartes, Hume, and modern philosophy in general. Just as modern philosophers refuse to accept any shred of knowledge till epistemology can map every detail of the knowing subject, so many Protestants refuse to accept the teachings of the early Church without meticulous documentation. Unless it can be shown that the first century Christians wrote explicitly about every detail of how the process of Apostolic Succession works, Protestants just won’t buy it. Christians should not be so suspicious of the entity which preserved and transmitted the Gospel to the world. And, of course, if this same skeptical approach were applied to the development of the canon, no 2 Christians would possess the same Scriptures.

    You stated:

    “You’re not telling me that you reject Mark and Luke just because these men weren’t named in lists of “the Twelve”, are you?”

    No. I’m saying, given your method, you should reject them as inspired unless you can prove that they were commissioned by Christ to write an inspired text. Given your rejection of an authoritative Church and the methods you have presented, I do not see another option.

    You stated:

    “Here’s what actually is said in Acts 20:28: ‘Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.’ I see nothing there about ‘a perpetual office’. I see nothing about ‘bishops’ in the modern sense. I’ve written extensively about the use of the terms ‘elders’ and ‘overseers’ and they were very much used interchangeably. There is no ‘bishop’ in the New Testament, either in the sense that Ignatius uses the term, or (much less) in the sense that Cyprian may have used the term.”

    It does not matter what term you use, the fact is that bishops/presbyters (I know the terms were fluid early on) were shepherds over the whole Church. Did the office of “shepherd” not exist at the end of the 2nd century? Paul makes it clear to Timothy and Titus that shepherds would continually watch over the flock of Christ and rebuke with “all authority” (Titus 2:15). Was this lost by the 2nd century?

    You stated:

    “Yes, there were ‘offices’ in the New Testament church, but give it 150 years or so, and presto-changeo, they are different ‘offices’. While in the meantime, the Catechism speaks only in the most general terms, ignoring the actual process of ‘development’ because one does not easily or necessarily grow into the other.”

    Again, are you suggesting that the office of bishop was no longer part of the Church in the 2nd – 21st centuries? (By the way, the Catechism is not a work of apologetics but written for the faithful who already accept the Catholic Church as Christ’s Body.)

    Speaking of Apostolic Succession you claim:

    “Jerome, at least, did not hold this. He held, even in the 4th century, that the terms presbyter and bishop were used interchangeably. And the old canard that ‘all bishops are priests’ certainly doesn’t hold in reverse. Today at least. In Jerome’s day, such a thing was still the practice.”

    Even if St. Jerome thought the terms presbyter and bishop were used interchangeably (I think an argument can be made that he did not), it does not change the fact that St. Jerome believed in Apostolic Succession and explicitly stated that the bishop alone can ordain. St. Jerome fully believed in the Divine Origin of Apostolic succession. St. Jerome speaks of the successor of Peter unequivocally:

    “My words are spoken to the successor of the fisherman, the disciple of the cross. As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is, with the Chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the Rock on which the Church is built. This is the house where alone the paschal lamb can be rightly eaten, This is the ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails.” (Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers vol. VI, p.18).

    Nick Trosclair

  62. TrosclairN. said,

    May 31, 2012 at 12:05 am

    TurretinFan,

    Your assertion in (a) does not answer my question in #53. The question is “How do we know this anonymous text is inspired?” To respond that it is inspired whether we know it or not, assumes the very truth which we set out to prove. Of course, the inspiration of a particular text requires no external human authority, but how I come to know whether an anonymous is inspired does require an external authority.

    You claim in (b) that the Holy Spirit subjectively convinces each person about the inspiration of the text. However, in your examples of Job and Esther you provide the objective authority of the Jews, while for the New Testament you appeal to the authoritative opinion of Origen. This illustrates that you and I must appeal to a visible authority to know the inspiration of a particular text (especially an anonymous one).

    In (c) you state that the Church cannot speak, but the churches can speak. Certainly the Church spoke in the first 4 ecumenical councils. The individual churches explicitly refer to themselves as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. So yes, the churches can speak, but the one thing that each says is that the Universal Church speaks.

    In (d) you claim that we know because the sheep know the Shepherd’s voice. The Scriptures make it clear that the bishops are the shepherds over the Church. Why would you not listen to the shepherds that Christ placed over the Church? His sheep is their sheep, which is why Clement and Ignatius were so adamant about obedience to the bishops.

    Nick Trosclair

  63. johnbugay said,

    May 31, 2012 at 6:07 am

    The witnesses who speak of Apostolic Succession reveal that it was essential to the structure of the Church and not an ad hoc structure….

    Given what I know about our Lord and his promises, it’s hard for me to believe that he would make the Apostles shepherds over His Body, then have them bestow that authority (as shepherds) to other men, and then within three generations have those shepherds UNIVERSALLY misunderstand the very nature of that Church over which they guided as true shepherds Do you believe that the Church as a whole had an identity crisis at the end of the 2nd century and fabricated the idea of Apostolic Succession? The protestant skepticism on this topic reminds me of the epistemological skepticism of Descartes, Hume, and modern philosophy in general.

    I’m not saying it was “ad hoc”. I’m saying that the essential structure of presbyters, over a period of 150 years or so, lost its essentially Jewish flavor and adopted essentially what was a Gnostic/pagan structure. You can follow that through these four links, where I track F.F. Bruce’s account (and others, I think) along with Roger Beckwith’s account (references are contained within):

    Elders Teachers Chairs 1

    Elders Teachers Chairs 2

    Elders Teachers Chairs 3

    Elders Teachers Chairs 4

    This is not a radical skepticism. In 1960, Joseph Ratzinger even accepted this historical account as valid. His point was that the structure change came before the “canon” of the New Testament. Doctrinally, even Rome between Vatican I and Vatican II and the Anglican Prayerbook acknowledged the historical differences.

    The history behind this is not attributable to “radical skepticism”. The history is not in question, in its broad outlines, as well as in many of the details. It is well documented. Yes, individuals like Brown and Sullivan (whom you don’t like) report on the structure:

    Change in teaching on holy orders.

    See also:

    Roman bait-and-switch on orders

    But the doctrinal and theological import of all of this is that the “Episcopal structure” was optional, not integral, to “the church that Christ founded”. The Reformers were right and justified to challenge it and even get rid of it when it would not uphold Biblical teaching (substituting its own “Tradition” as somehow being the correct “interpretation” of genuine Biblical teaching).

    And keep in mind, when you talk about “radical skepticism”, that Christianity as a whole, including the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the validity of the Old and New Testaments, all have gone through this “radical skepticism” and have survived and even thrived. On the other hand, the “Episcopal structure” and especially the early papacy have not survived. As I’ve noted above, teachings on these things have, even in their official, “doctrinal” forms, undergone “modification”.

    No. I’m saying, given your method, you should reject them as inspired unless you can prove that they were commissioned by Christ to write an inspired text. Given your rejection of an authoritative Church and the methods you have presented, I do not see another option.

    All along, you’ve mischaracterized what the “method” is. Apostolic authority does not strictly mean “an Apostle wrote it”. These men were also authorized by Apostles to carry their message. But that authorization certainly does not imply “apostolic succession” as Rome teaches it today.

    Note, it is “the message” which constitutes “the succession” – the message, not necessarily the messengers. It is the “apostolic testimony”. I’ll go into this in more detail, but see Luke 1, just for example: Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they [the many accounts] were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, … so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught”. The “account” is what’s paramount. The Gospel message.

    It does not matter what term you use, the fact is that bishops/presbyters (I know the terms were fluid early on) were shepherds over the whole Church.

    Right, and the account I’ve given shows just precisely how “fluid” they are.

    Again, are you suggesting that the office of bishop was no longer part of the Church in the 2nd – 21st centuries?

    No, I’m suggesting the office of “bishop” as it existed in the late second century, was a development of the second century, in no wise integral to the presbyterial structure of the New Testament church (as was outlined in the “Elders Chairs” links above.

    the fact that St. Jerome believed in Apostolic Succession and explicitly stated that the bishop alone can ordain.

    It does not surprise me that the writers of the fourth century were clouded by earlier development. The fourth century is much less useful in determining what when on in the first and second centuries, compared with what the first and second century writers wrote.

  64. TurretinFan said,

    May 31, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Nick:

    You had written: “Why would you accept an anonymous book as inspired by God if not for the authority of the Church?”
    Now you re-characterize your question as: “How do we know this anonymous text is inspired?” Do you see the difference between the two questions?

    Your assertion that “how I come to know whether an anonymous is inspired does require an external authority,” is not an assertion I accept. It may or may not require external evidence, but evidence is not the same thing as authority.

    As to (b), (i) inherently being convinced is something individually experienced and (ii) you again confuse evidence and authority. The testimony of men is evidence not authority.

    As to (c), no – a majority of bishops spoke in the councils you mentioned. Those bishops were from many churches in the Byzantine empire, to be sure. Some churches, however, were not involved at all, such as the churches in Ethiopia and India (to pick two obvious examples).

    As to (d), who says we don’t listen to the pastors of the church? There is a difference between listening to the elders and investing them with infallibility. Also, keep in mind that the Scriptures equate the offices of “bishop” and “presbyter” and call for a plurality of these office-bearers in each church.

    -TurretinFan

  65. TrosclairN. said,

    May 31, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    TurretinFan,

    You stated: “Your assertion that ‘how I come to know whether an anonymous [text] is inspired does require an external authority,’ is not an assertion I accept. It may or may not require external evidence, but evidence is not the same thing as authority.”

    All external evidence is under the genus of authority. If evidence is not authoritative regarding its term, it ceases to be evidence. Without some external authority/evidence, we would not know which texts are inspired. The only alternative is that the Holy Spirit tells each person individually which books are inspired, i.e., the “burning in the bosom” is a sign of inspiration. Do you accept the latter criteria?

    You stated: “As to (c), no – a majority of bishops spoke in the councils you mentioned. Those bishops were from many churches in the Byzantine empire, to be sure. Some churches, however, were not involved at all, such as the churches in Ethiopia and India (to pick two obvious examples).”

    I agree, the majority of bishops were witnesses to the fact that they belonged to the Universal Church, meaning, the majority of churches saw themselves as members of the Universal Church which spoke through, for example, the Chalcedon Council. Did all of these churches misunderstand their identity? Further, the Council of Antioch saw itself as speaking for the whole Church, not just for the church of Jerusalem. The Church can and has spoken throughout every age of its existence. To strip the Church of its doctrinal and sacramental authority is a canard of the last few centuries and a product of a nominalistic ecclesiology, i.e., the Church is only nominally an entity or a fiction projected onto reality. It all smells of Kantian idealism.

    You stated: “As to (d), who says we don’t listen to the pastors of the church? There is a difference between listening to the elders and investing them with infallibility.”

    You have rejected the teachings of the pastors of the Church. For example, the pastors of the 3rd century Church were the bishops. Universally, they claimed that the bishops were the successors to the Apostles. You reject this teaching by the pastors of the 3rd century Church. Infallible or not, this is what they taught. Did they misunderstand the very nature of their existence as bishops and the very nature of the Church itself?

    Nick Trosclair

  66. TrosclairN. said,

    May 31, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    JohnBugay,

    You stated: “I’m not saying it was “ad hoc”. I’m saying that the essential structure of presbyters, over a period of 150 years or so, lost its essentially Jewish flavor and adopted essentially what was a Gnostic/pagan structure.”

    The essential feature is that the bishops/presbyters took on the authority as shepherds over the Church which was once shared by the Apostles. These shepherds had full authority (Titus 1:5). This did not change in the 2nd century. Because there is little information about these shepherds from the first century, you erroneously conclude that the 2nd century office itself was corrupted. All of this you hold in opposition to the Church of the late 2nd and 3rd centuries. Were the bishops of the 3rd and 4th centuries the shepherds over the flock of Christ? If not, who were the shepherds?

    You stated: “This is not a radical skepticism. In 1960, Joseph Ratzinger even accepted this historical account as valid. His point was that the structure change came before the “canon” of the New Testament.”

    Ratzinger has never denied the essential structure of the Church but has confirmed that the presbyter/bishop terminology was fluid. I do not think this is controversial. Further, Ratzinger is very clear in his book CALLED TO COMMUNION that the Apostolic authority of the presbyter/bishop and the priesthood are found explicitly in Scripture. He holds that the details of HOW this transition of authority took place are not made explicit for us until the 2nd century Church. Just as the content of the canon is unclear in the first century, so the latent details of Apostolic Succession were not fully understood until the 2nd century (given the documents we possess). The Ratzinger quotes you provided are consistent with this position.

    You stated: “But the doctrinal and theological import of all of this is that the “Episcopal structure” was optional, not integral, to “the church that Christ founded”. The Reformers were right and justified to challenge it and even get rid of it when it would not uphold Biblical teaching (substituting its own “Tradition” as somehow being the correct “interpretation” of genuine Biblical teaching).”

    It was not optional. Luke tells us that the presbyter/bishops were shepherds over the whole flock of Christ, having been given this authority by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28). Paul tells us that the bishop has ALL AUTHORITY (Titus 1:5). Obedience was not optional, as we see in III John. Of course, the Apostolic Fathers and all of the Christians of the first millenia confirm this essential structure. The early Church claimed that the “Episcopal structure” was NOT optional. Again, do you think the Church had an identity crisis at the end of the 2nd through 16th centuries?

    You stated: “And keep in mind, when you talk about “radical skepticism”, that Christianity as a whole, including the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the validity of the Old and New Testaments, all have gone through this “radical skepticism” and have survived and even thrived. On the other hand, the “Episcopal structure” and especially the early papacy have not survived.”
    The “validity” of the New Testament has “survived” this radical skepticism, but the structure of the Catholic Church has not? This is a very subjective approach. For each scholar you cite in support of the “validity” of the NT, I could point out a scholar who challenges its “validity.” I find this method of “validity” or “survival” to be highly subjective. If we go this route, I think the Catholic Church’s surviving power is most convincing given the fact that the Catholic Church (with its Episcopal and outdated papal structure) is the largest Church on the planet. Of course, I think this is a subjective way to test the truth or falsity of any particular claim.

    You stated: “All along, you’ve mischaracterized what the ‘method’ is. Apostolic authority does not strictly mean ‘an Apostle wrote it’. These men were also authorized by Apostles to carry their message. But that authorization certainly does not imply ‘apostolic succession’ as Rome teaches it today.”

    This just pushes your dilemma back one step. You have to show that each writer of the New Testament was commissioned by the Apostles to write inspired Scripture. Remember, just because an early disciple of the Apostles is writing an historical account of the early Church or the life of Christ does not mean that anyone was claiming it to be inspired. The gap between a good historical account and inspiration is infinite. Your job is to show that every single author of the New Testament was commissioned by the Apostles to write an INSPIRED work. If this cannot be done, then no Christian is bound in his conscience to accept the 27 book canon. Further, St. Clement, who knew the Apostles, explicitly stated that the succession of the episkope is of Apostolic Teaching/Origins. In other words, St. Clement thought this succession part of the Apostolic Message. I think I will trust the man who had the teachings of the Apostles “ringing in his ears.”

    You stated about St. Jerome: “It does not surprise me that the writers of the fourth century were clouded by earlier development. The fourth century is much less useful in determining what when on in the first and second centuries, compared with what the first and second century writers wrote.”

    John, please note what you have done here. In my previous post I said that the early Church universally held to Apostolic Succession. You retorted that St. Jerome rejected this doctrine. I went on to disprove your assertion and now you respond by saying that St. Jerome does not count because he was in the fourth century. From now on, please cite sources that you find credible.

    Nick Trosclair

  67. TurretinFan said,

    June 1, 2012 at 2:50 am

    Nick,

    Your first point seems just to confirm my point that you mistakenly refer to evidence as “authority.” When I find fingerprints at the scene of a crime, those fingerprints aren’t an “authority,” they are evidence. When I hear the noise of a motor vehicle’s engine coming up the drive, that’s evidence that someone is arriving – it’s not “authority” to that effect. It would be helpful for you to grasp this distinction instead of opposing it.

    As to the early councils, like Chalcedon, it’s certainly possible that the bishops had an overly exalted idea of their own importance. At the same time, I wonder if you have considered what they thought they were doing, as well as what other councils of the 4th and 5th centuries thought they were doing.

    Also, consider what this prominent 5th century bishop wrote in response to his theological opponent:

    Augustine (354-430 AD):

    The Father and the Son are, then, of one and the same substance. This is the meaning of that “homoousios” that was confirmed against the Arian heretics in the Council of Nicaea by the Catholic fathers with the authority of the truth and the truth of authority. Afterward, in the Council of Ariminum it was understood less than it should have been because of the novelty of the word, even though the ancient faith had given rise to it. There the impiety of the heretics under the heretical Emperor Constantius tried to weaken its force, when many were deceived by the fraudulence of a few. But not long after that, the freedom of the Catholic faith prevailed, and after the meaning of the word was understood as it should be, that “homoousios” was defended far and wide by the soundness of the Catholic faith. After all, what does “homoousios” mean but “of one and the same substance”? What does “homoousios” mean, I ask, but the Father and I are one (Jn 10:30)? I should not, however, introduce the Council of Nicaea to prejudice the case in my favor, nor should you introduce the Council of Ariminum that way. I am not bound by the authority of Ariminum, and you are not bound by that of Nicaea. By the authority of the scriptures that are not the property of anyone, but the common witnesses for both of us, let position do battle with position, case with case, reason with reason.

    John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 1, Vol. 18, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J., Answer to Maximinus, Book II, XIV – “On the Sameness of Substance in the Trinity,” Section 3 (New York: New City Press, 1995), pp. 281-82.

    You refer to a council of Antioch. If you mean the council of Antioch of about 327 (there’s some question about the precise date), the canons of that council set up a church government that is inconsistent with the papacy. First, it requires that all appointments of bishops are by local/regional councils. Second, it makes all ordinations the duty of the local bishops and prohibits bishops from intruding on one another’s regions. There is no exception for Rome, Alexandria, or any of the other major metropolitans. It’s not the original presbyterianism, but it’s not a papal ecclesiology, either.

    If you mean the assembly at Jerusalem, called in response to the request from Antioch, the assembly never pretends to speak for “the whole Church,” or even to the whole Church. It was addressing a question posed by the church at Antioch and provided a letter that was addressed only to Gentile believers and only in a specific geographic area.

    “Universally, they claimed that the bishops were the successors to the Apostles. You reject this teaching by the pastors of the 3rd century Church.”

    Actually, it is you who reject the teachings of those bishops about succession. What they meant by succession is just what we mean by succession today. What you mean by succession is something altogether different. Our ministers and other elders are the successors of the apostles, not yours. Yours fail to teach the apostolic faith and preach and practice heresy, such as that it is proper to offer hyper-dulia to Mary and to offer latria to the host after the consecration. Your leaders are the successors of the Borgias (as a Vatican butler recently was bold enough to seek to expose), not the successors of Peter and Paul.

    -TurretinFan

  68. June 4, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    TurretinFan,

    With all due respect, I think you’re grossly misrepresenting St. Augustine there. His point was just that it makes more sense to argue from Scripture (which Maximus accepted) than Nicea (which Maximus rejected). In that same passage, he refers to “the authority of the truth and the truth of authority” carried by the Fathers.

    It was Augustine, after all, who argued:

    Perhaps you will read the gospel to me, and will attempt to find there a testimony to Manichæus. But should you meet with a person not yet believing the gospel, how would you reply to him were he to say, I do not believe? For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church.[/b] So when those on whose authority I have consented to believe in the gospel tell me not to believe in Manichæus, how can I but consent? Take your choice. If you say, Believe the Catholics: their advice to me is to put no faith in you; so that, believing them, I am precluded from believing you—If you say, Do not believe the Catholics: you cannot fairly use the gospel in bringing me to faith in Manichæus; for it was at the command of the Catholics that I believed the gospel;— Again, if you say, You were right in believing the Catholics when they praised the gospel, but wrong in believing their vituperation of Manichæus: do you think me such a fool as to believe or not to believe as you like or dislike, without any reason?

    It is therefore fairer and safer by far for me, having in one instance put faith in the Catholics, not to go over to you, till, instead of bidding me believe, you make me understand something in the clearest and most open manner. To convince me, then, you must put aside the gospel. If you keep to the gospel, I will keep to those who commanded me to believe the gospel; and, in obedience to them, I will not believe you at all. But if haply you should succeed in finding in the gospel an incontrovertible testimony to the apostleship of Manichæus, you will weaken my regard for the authority of the Catholics who bid me not to believe you; and the effect of that will be, that I shall no longer be able to believe the gospel either, for it was through the Catholics that I got my faith in it; and so, whatever you bring from the gospel will no longer have any weight with me.

    So Augustine explicitly recognized that the Bible comes to us through the Catholic Church, such that there’s no coherent reason to reject the Church, and not the Bible. I address all of this in greater depth here: http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2012/06/did-augustine-deny-that-catholic-church.html

    God bless,

    Joe

  69. June 4, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Really messed up that formatting. I’m still green when it comes to WordPress. Sorry!

  70. TrosclairN. said,

    June 4, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    TerretinFan,

    You stated: “Your first point seems just to confirm my point that you mistakenly refer to evidence as ‘authority.’ When I find fingerprints at the scene of a crime, those fingerprints aren’t an ‘authority,’ they are evidence. When I hear the noise of a motor vehicle’s engine coming up the drive, that’s evidence that someone is arriving – it’s not ‘authority’ to that effect. It would be helpful for you to grasp this distinction instead of opposing it.”

    Evidence is by nature authoritative regarding its term. Of course, the evidence given by non-persons (e.g. fingerprints) is authoritative only in an analogous manner to the authority that persons possess. The point is that you, even in the examples you presented, cannot rely on your experience with the Holy Spirit alone to decide which texts are inspired by the Holy Spirit. Let’s take a concrete example, the Epistle to the Hebrews. This epistle (sermon?) is anonymous. We don’t know to whom it was written. There are passages that are extremely difficult understand (e.g. Heb. 6:4-6/Heb. 10:26) and square with the rest of Scripture. Why do you accept this book as inspired by God? How would you convince someone of its inspiration?

    You stated: “As to the early councils, like Chalcedon, it’s certainly possible that the bishops had an overly exalted idea of their own importance. At the same time, I wonder if you have considered what they thought they were doing, as well as what other councils of the 4th and 5th centuries thought they were doing. Also, consider what this prominent 5th century bishop wrote in response to his theological opponent.”

    The bishops of Chalcedon viewed themselves as successors to the Apostles. Did they completely misunderstand their own identity? Also, your quote by Augustine should be understood in both its context and Augustine’s overall ecclesiology. First, he was speaking to an Arian bishop, a bishop who rejected the authority of the Council of Nicaea. For Augustine to refer to the Council in defense of his orthodox position would be tantamount to you or me referring to the Bible as Inspired in order to prove the existence of God to an atheist. I would not refer to the inspiration of the Scriptures because, for the atheist, it has no authority (at least in his mind). I would refer to natural philosophy and the contingency of the cosmos because the atheist claims to respect reason alone (sola ratio). Second, Augustine’s overall ecclesiology is clearly “Roman” Catholic. Augustine stated:

    “[T]here are many other things which most properly can keep me in [the Catholic Church’s] bosom. The unanimity of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15–17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here. And last, the very name Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called ‘Catholic,’ when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house” (Against the Letter of Mani Called “The Foundation” 4:5 [A.D. 397]).

    Throughout Augustine’s writings he makes it crystal clear that the Catholic Church spoke with all authority and that the successor of Peter was the bishop of Rome.

    You stated: “If you mean the assembly at Jerusalem, called in response to the request from Antioch, the assembly never pretends to speak for “the whole Church,” or even to the whole Church. It was addressing a question posed by the church at Antioch and provided a letter that was addressed only to Gentile believers and only in a specific geographic area.”

    My mistake. I did mean the Council of Jerusalem, not the Council of Antioch. The council determined how the Church should handle the Gentile converts. St. Peter states that the Holy Spirit was speaking about all Gentiles in general, not just Antioch. The early Church brought these issues to the Apostles and the presbyters/bishops because they had the authority to bind and loose the whole Church.

    You stated: “Actually, it is you who reject the teachings of those bishops about succession. What they meant by succession is just what we mean by succession today. What you mean by succession is something altogether different. Our ministers and other elders are the successors of the apostles, not yours. Yours fail to teach the apostolic faith and preach and practice heresy, such as that it is proper to offer hyper-dulia to Mary and to offer latria to the host after the consecration. Your leaders are the successors of the Borgias (as a Vatican butler recently was bold enough to seek to expose), not the successors of Peter and Paul.”

    How do you square protestant ecclesiology with the above quote by Augustine? Augustine continues:

    “If the very order of episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church’ . . . [Matt. 16:18]. Peter was succeeded by Linus, Linus by Clement, Clement by Anacletus, Anacletus by Evaristus . . . ” (Letters 53:1:2 [A.D. 412]).

    But to get back to our original discussion, why should Christians accept the inspiration of the anonymous book of Hebrews? I do hope you answer this question so I can better understand the protestant position.

    Nick Trosclair

  71. TurretinFan said,

    June 5, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Joe:

    You wrote:

    With all due respect, I think you’re grossly misrepresenting St. Augustine there.

    That’s a big charge. Let’s see whether you analyze what Augustine said and actually demonstrate a misrepresentation.

    His point was just that it makes more sense to argue from Scripture (which Maximus accepted) than Nicea (which Maximus rejected).

    What Augustine actually said was “I am not bound by the authority of Ariminum, and you are not bound by that of Nicaea” and that the Scriptures are “not the property of anyone.” Who is misrepresenting him?

    In that same passage, he refers to “the authority of the truth and the truth of authority” carried by the Fathers.

    What do you suppose the relevance of this is? Surely you don’t think that the “the Fathers” have an authority equal to that of Nicaea. Perhaps you think that Augustine thought that? Why are you mentioning this? I hope it’s not to distract from Augustine’s clear statement that Nicaea is not binding on Maximus and that instead Augustine is going to argue from the authority of the Scriptures, which are not the property of anyone.

    Then you raise a comment from Augustine in an entirely different book and an entirely different context. Surely, the relevance of this quotation is very slight at best:

    You quote this:

    Perhaps you will read the gospel to me, and will attempt to find there a testimony to Manichæus. But should you meet with a person not yet believing the gospel, how would you reply to him were he to say, I do not believe? For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church. So when those on whose authority I have consented to believe in the gospel tell me not to believe in Manichæus, how can I but consent? Take your choice. If you say, Believe the Catholics: their advice to me is to put no faith in you; so that, believing them, I am precluded from believing you—If you say, Do not believe the Catholics: you cannot fairly use the gospel in bringing me to faith in Manichæus; for it was at the command of the Catholics that I believed the gospel;— Again, if you say, You were right in believing the Catholics when they praised the gospel, but wrong in believing their vituperation of Manichæus: do you think me such a fool as to believe or not to believe as you like or dislike, without any reason?

    It is therefore fairer and safer by far for me, having in one instance put faith in the Catholics, not to go over to you, till, instead of bidding me believe, you make me understand something in the clearest and most open manner. To convince me, then, you must put aside the gospel. If you keep to the gospel, I will keep to those who commanded me to believe the gospel; and, in obedience to them, I will not believe you at all. But if haply you should succeed in finding in the gospel an incontrovertible testimony to the apostleship of Manichæus, you will weaken my regard for the authority of the Catholics who bid me not to believe you; and the effect of that will be, that I shall no longer be able to believe the gospel either, for it was through the Catholics that I got my faith in it; and so, whatever you bring from the gospel will no longer have any weight with me.

    You seem to think that: “Augustine explicitly recognized that the Bible comes to us through the Catholic Church, such that there’s no coherent reason to reject the Church, and not the Bible.”

    But

    a) He doesn’t say that the Bible comes to us. He wasn’t talking about us. He was talking about himself.

    b) He doesn’t say that the Bible comes a certain way. He says he was persuaded to believe by the authority of the Catholic church.

    c) The “Church” of Augustine’s day is different in important ways from Rome. In one obvious aspect, Rome is as ultra-sectarian as the Manichaeans, and the papacy’s claims of “apostolic succession” are similar to those of Mani.

    d) A better analogy to Augustine’s argument is from the historical fact, that he had no problem opposing the teachings of the bishop of Rome. If we are to accept Rome’s authority on his authority, we would also reject Rome’s authority on his authority, because he never accepted the idea of papal infallibility.

    e) As the analogy indicates, just because Augustine refers to the Catholic church having some kind of authority does not suggest that he viewed them as an infallibility or as being on a par with Scripture. Neither your nor we think that way about Augustine, even if he is being used as an authority.

    f) Notice that whatever Augustine means, he can’t mean that the church dogmatically defined the gospel. He doesn’t think that – we don’t think that – even you don’t think that. Thus, he can’t be referring to the kind of authority that would be relevant to our conversation.

    Summing up, I notice that your accusation of misrepresentation hasn’t been substantiated. Instead, you simply try to characterize what Augustine said and then divert to things Augustine said elsewhere.

    -TurretinFan

  72. June 6, 2012 at 12:09 am

    TurretinFan,

    You say:

    What Augustine actually said was “I am not bound by the authority of Ariminum, and you are not bound by that of Nicaea” and that the Scriptures are “not the property of anyone.” Who is misrepresenting him?

    Again, I think you are the one misrepresenting him. True, you’re using his words, but you’re taking them out of context to suggest that Augustine means that the Council holds no normative force. He’s plainly not saying that.

     On the contrary, he explicitly denies it, in saying that the meaning of that “homoousios” was confirmed at “the Council of Nicaea by the Catholic fathers with the authority of the truth and the truth of authority.” He’s not repeating himself: he’s acknowledging that they’re both right, and capable of settling the question.  That he treated the Council as having normative authority is also evident from his own life: he apologized for an inadvertent violation of Canon 8 of the Council of Nicaea, even though he was unaware of the Canon at the time.

    On the contrary, in this passage from Augustine, he’s clearly saying that Nicea holds no force over Ariminum, because Ariminum rejects it.   In a similar way, an atheist isn’t “bound by” the Bible, in the way that a Christian is. So no, the passage can’t legitimately be used to show that Augustine “sounded exactly like a Sola Scriptura Christian” in this context, except by taking his words grossly out of context.

    Finally, I showed from his other writings that he explicitly accepted Scripture on the authority of the Catholic Church (which doesn’t sound exactly like any Sola Scriptura Christian I know!).  Answering your responses:

    a) Yes, it’s in the first person, but his point applies equally well to any Christian who understands where the Bible comes from;

    b) In what sense did you think Augustine was moved to believe in those preicsely Scriptures?

    c) Augustine defends Petrine Apostolic Succession in Chapter 4 of the letter against the Manichees.  Plenty of pre-Augustinian Fathers also articulated and defended the same thing, as I’m sure you know.  So the idea that the Catholic Church is different today, because of Petrine Apostolic Succession is plainly wrong.  And the notion that Catholicism is “sectarian” now in a way that it wasn’t then is equally wrong.  Catholic then didn’t mean Manichean or a thousand other heresies.  It doesn’t today.

    d) The idea that papal infallibility means that there are no areas in which anyone can ever disagree with the pope is an argument well beneath you.  You know that’s a straw man of the position.  If you honestly think Augustine rejects papal infallibility (despite his own claims that the Bishop of Rome could properly settle disputes), show me exactly where and how.

    e) & f) What does it mean to say that infallibility is or isn’t on par with Scriptural inspiration?  Those sound like Protestant categorizations completely foreign to both the Fathers and modern Catholicism (it presupposes that an infallible thing could be oppose or be in tension with an inspired thing, an assumption we reject).

    If you’re reduced to making an argument that begins with “Notice that whatever Augustine means, he can’t mean” you’re probably engaging in evasive “anything but that” exegesis.

    So let me lay out the matter plainly.  Do you honestly believe that, if he were alive today, St. Augustine would be a Protestant?  If not, what’s the point of all of this?  And if so, how do you rationalize this, in light of his own words to the contrary?

    I.X.,

    Joe

  73. TurretinFan said,

    June 6, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Joe:

    You wrote:

    Again, I think you are the one misrepresenting him. True, you’re using his words, but you’re taking them out of context to suggest that Augustine means that the Council holds no normative force. He’s plainly not saying that.

    You haven’t demonstrated that the context suggests a different meaning than the plain meaning of his words, which is not only that Nicaea was not binding on his Arian opponent, but also that the Scriptures were not the property of either side of the debate.

    Your recasting of my comments as saying that the council has “no normative force” is not an accurate way of characterizing what I said. Despite Rome’s apologetic attempts to suggest that there is either Rome’s absolute authority or total relativism, Augustine and we hold that councils can have authority that is less than absolute. In fact, Rome itself holds this to be true in the case of regional councils, so it shouldn’t be hard for you to understand.

    You wrote:

    On the contrary, he explicitly denies it, in saying that the meaning of that “homoousios” was confirmed at “the Council of Nicaea by the Catholic fathers with the authority of the truth and the truth of authority.

    That’s part of the context that I provided, by the way. Why do you assume that by “authority of the truth and the truth of authority” Augustine is not referring to Scripture?

    You wrote: “He’s not repeating himself: he’s acknowledging that they’re both right, and capable of settling the question.”

    What are both right? What do you think the two things are?

    “That he treated the Council as having normative authority is also evident from his own life: he apologized for an inadvertent violation of Canon 8 of the Council of Nicaea, even though he was unaware of the Canon at the time.”

    As noted above, there is a world of difference between imagining that a council has divine, infallible ecumenical authority and thinking it has a lesser authority, such as canonical authority.

    “On the contrary, in this passage from Augustine, he’s clearly saying that Nicea holds no force over Ariminum, because Ariminum rejects it.”

    No, he says that Nicaea does not bind Maximinus and that Ariminum does not bind himself (Augustine). More importantly, what sort of authority does a council have if its authority depends on whether or not we accept the council? That’s certainly not the kind of authority you claim councils have. That’s rather like the caricature of the Protestant position.

    “In a similar way, an atheist isn’t “bound by” the Bible, in the way that a Christian is.”

    Now you’re just making things up. Find where Augustine ever says something like that! No, the Bible as authority over everyone, whether or not people accept that authority. All are duty bound to accept it.

    “So no, the passage can’t legitimately be used to show that Augustine “sounded exactly like a Sola Scriptura Christian” in this context, except by taking his words grossly out of context.”

    You keep throwing out these charges, but you can’t substantiate them.

    “Finally, I showed from his other writings that he explicitly accepted Scripture on the authority of the Catholic Church (which doesn’t sound exactly like any Sola Scriptura Christian I know!).”

    You should read more folks like Calvin, Turretin, etc., who acknowledge that we are persuaded in various ways to accept that the Scriptures are what they claim to be. Augustine’s comments are, when not taken out of context, fully consistent with folks like Calvin.

    “a) Yes, it’s in the first person, but his point applies equally well to any Christian who understands where the Bible comes from;”

    You are alleging that. Augustine did not allege that. That’s your argument, not Augustine’s argument. His comment is autobiographical, yet you are trying to make it normative.

    “b) In what sense did you think Augustine was moved to believe in those preicsely Scriptures?”

    Augustine doesn’t explain here. One reasonable explanation is that he’s referring to the fact that Christians like his mother and Ambrose told him that these documents are what they claim to be.

    “c) Augustine defends Petrine Apostolic Succession in Chapter 4 of the letter against the Manichees.”

    a) I suppose you mean his book, “Against the Fundamental Epistle of the Manichaeans.”

    b) In chapter four (section 5) of that work, he writes: “The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate.” That isn’t a “defense” of the topic.

    c) It also isn’t the modern Roman notion of papal apostolic succession. He refers to a succession of priests – not to a single monarchical universal bishop.

    d) His comments here may shed some light on what he means by the authority of the church persuading him. He writes, just before the sentence provided above:

    The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age.

    It’s not an argument that the Church is infallible, but rather an evidentiary point.

    “Plenty of pre-Augustinian Fathers also articulated and defended the same thing, as I’m sure you know.”

    A lot used the term “succession.” The word-concept fallacy is then frequently employed by Roman apologists to argue that these fathers held to the modern Roman concept. If that reasoning is valid, then we hold to the modern Roman view too, since we refer to ourselves as the successors of the apostles.

    “So the idea that the Catholic Church is different today, because of Petrine Apostolic Succession is plainly wrong.”

    That wasn’t my argument. The Roman church today is different from the Catholic Church that Augustine referred to because, among other things, the Roman church claims to be the one true church with a single bishop having universal jurisdiction, infallible that doesn’t depend on conciliar approval, and so on.

    “And the notion that Catholicism is “sectarian” now in a way that it wasn’t then is equally wrong.”

    Actually, Unam Sanctam stated: “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.” That’s a pretty significant increase in sectarianism.

    “Catholic then didn’t mean Manichean or a thousand other heresies. It doesn’t today.”

    “Catholic” never meant “Roman.” But the RCC today encompasses groups ranging from the SSPX to the Neocatechumenal Way. It has priests like Kung, teachers like Rahner, orders like the Dominicans and Jesuits, and lay apologists like Jimmy Akin, Robert Sungenis, and Mark Shea. It has liberation theology types and all sorts of moral heretics (like Cardinal Law).

    And that doesn’t even touch on its formal heresies, like demanding veneration of Mary, exhorting the invocation of the dead, and teaching men to worship bread.

    “d) The idea that papal infallibility means that there are no areas in which anyone can ever disagree with the pope is an argument well beneath you. You know that’s a straw man of the position. If you honestly think Augustine rejects papal infallibility (despite his own claims that the Bishop of Rome could properly settle disputes), show me exactly where and how.”

    How can Augustine “reject” an error that wasn’t yet innovated? You can simply deny that the papal teachings Augustine rejected were ex cathedra teachings, to deny the specific examples of where he rejected papal teachings, but he never justifies his rejection on that basis. He never says that he’s rejecting this teaching legitimately because it is not ex cathedra. The idea that there were infallible ex cathedra teachings of the papacy didn’t exist in Augustine’s time. His opposition to papal teachings is evidence that he didn’t believe in papal infallibility, but – yes – he didn’t look into the future and reject papal infallibility.

    “e) & f) What does it mean to say that infallibility is or isn’t on par with Scriptural inspiration? Those sound like Protestant categorizations completely foreign to both the Fathers and modern Catholicism (it presupposes that an infallible thing could be oppose or be in tension with an inspired thing, an assumption we reject).”

    That’s not what I said. I said Augustine can view X as having authority without placing X on a par with Scripture. Likewise Augustine can view X as having authority without holding that X is infallible. Your argument assumes that if Augustine says “X has authority,” he means “X is infallible,” which is not the case.

    “If you’re reduced to making an argument that begins with “Notice that whatever Augustine means, he can’t mean” you’re probably engaging in evasive “anything but that” exegesis.”

    That doesn’t answer the argument. If it can’t mean what your argument requires, then your argument fails. Yes, that’s not a helpful exegesis of what Augustine means, but you introduced the passage to support your argument. We are not pursuing the exegesis of the passage as an end in itself.

    “So let me lay out the matter plainly. Do you honestly believe that, if he were alive today, St. Augustine would be a Protestant? If not, what’s the point of all of this? And if so, how do you rationalize this, in light of his own words to the contrary?”

    I suppose that depends how you define “Protestant.” There are lots of doctrinal disagreements between someone like Augustine and myself on a variety of important points. However, there are lots of doctrinal disagreements between Augustine and modern Rome. He doesn’t fit neatly into either box.

    The difference, though, is that when it comes to settling disputes amongst the three of us, Augustine and we would allege that Scriptures are sufficient authority to resolve the matter. You deny this, against Augustine’s statement: “By the authority of the scriptures that are not the property of anyone, but the common witnesses for both of us, let position do battle with position, case with case, reason with reason.”

    Would you really being willing to submit to the authority of Scripture if it was at odds with your councils? If not, then it is clear that these examples of Augustine sounding to high-church for some Protestants are just a distraction.

    -TurretinFan

  74. TrosclairN. said,

    June 7, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    TurretinFan,

    I was hoping you would respond to the last question I asked. Here it is again:

    The Epistle the Hebrews (sermon?) is anonymous. We don’t know to whom it was written. There are passages that are extremely difficult to understand (e.g. Heb. 6:4-6/Heb. 10:26) and to square with the rest of Scripture. Why do you accept this book as inspired by God? How would you convince someone of its inspiration? I do hope you respond to these questions. Thanks.

    Nick Trosclair

  75. TurretinFan said,

    June 18, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Mr. Trosclair:

    If you are asking about me personally, as distinct from the rest of humanity, the questions seem to be one of those personal questions I don’t feel the need to answer. In other words, what was particularly persuasive for me or what I might particularly argue to someone who was unpersuaded are idiosyncratic points that are hardly worthy of a combox discussion.

    But generally speaking, if I were attempting to convince someone of its canonicity, I would point out its ancient origin and its widespread (though not universal, immediately) acceptance from ancient times among believers, as well as its harmony with the rest of Scripture. I would answer objections of alleged lack of harmony, of course.

    Now here’s a question back to you. Before Trent (which came after the Reformation) Rome had not dogmatically defined the canon. Sure, there was a list of books from the 4th Lateran Council, but that was not a dogmatic definition, and 16th century Cardinals felt free to treat that canon as a list of ecclesiastical books, rather than as a list of inspired books.

    So, the question back to you is this: why should Trent change anything for us Reformed people? We were able to tell that Hebrews was inspired before Rome defined dogma. We didn’t need Trent then, and we don’t need Trent now. In fact, Trent got it wrong on books like Tobit:

    http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2012/06/tobit-one-reason-to-reject-its-alleged.html

    Of course, we don’t need any of the particular evidences we have. God could have used other means to persuade us of the inspiration of this book.

    But even if you accept Trent, there are still mini-canon issues. What do you do with the story of the woman caught in adultery, or 1 John 5:7-8? After all, inspiration extends to the words, not just the books.

    The solution, of course, is not to let perfection be the enemy of sufficiency. That’s the solution on mini-canon as well as on the canon.

    -TurretinFan


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