Two Contrasting Books on Roman Catholicism

I am approximately 150 pages into Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica. In the interests of being able to report on my reading more often than every three months (which is about how long it will take me to get through one volume of the Summa), I am reading other words on Roman Catholicism. Two books I have read recently are Thomas Howard’s On Being Catholic, and Devin Rose’s If Protestantism Is True. My basic evaluation is that the Howard book is very interesting reading, is more constructive, and seeks to focus on the heart of Roman Catholicism. As such, I found the book quite interesting and informative (he writes quite a lot like G.K. Chesterton).

What is especially helpful about Howard’s book is the class of statements that begin “To be Catholic is…” If one were to put all these statements together in a row, one would get a fairly complete picture of what it means to be a Roman Catholic. His viewpoint on Roman Catholicism certainly seems to jibe with Robert Barron’s view of the church as an extension of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. The book I am reading by de Chirico is also leaning in this direction, though he would include the Roman Catholic understanding of the relationship of nature and grace to be equally central to Roman Catholicism (though I don’t think Howard would necessarily disagree with that assessment). Howard’s book will be extremely useful in formulating what Roman Catholicism is.

The Rose book I found rather disappointing. Rose tends to take a Baptist, general evangelical, low-church approach as constitutive of all Protestants. Even though he quotes Lutherans and Reformed (though he quotes Calvin as if the Reformed world were entirely indebted to Calvin in the same way that Lutherans are indebted to Luther, which is not the case), when he argues, it is as though the Reformed have dropped off the map. Many, if not most, of his arguments don’t work against the Reformed world. There are false dichotomies everywhere (the two options usually being Roman Catholicism and low-church, generally evangelical Baptist theology). He does not understand Reformed Protestantism, that much is quite certain. A few examples will suffice. On page 36, he says: “The Protestant teaching on grace is that it is divine aid but not divine life. Holiness comes from Christ imputing His righteousness to the Christian and so the Father legally declares him to be holy, but in reality he is not transformed into holiness” (emphasis original). Apparently Rose has never heard of the idea of sanctification. This is a recurring problem in Roman Catholic writings. I found the same problem in Ott’s Fundamentals. The correct Reformed Protestant teaching is that we get two benefits from being united to Christ. The first is justification, which is the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience to the believer, received by faith alone. The second is sanctification, which is God changing the person on the inside by infusing the Holy Spirit within the believer, such that the person becomes positionally holy, and progressively holy. The doctrine of sanctification says precisely what Rose thinks Protestants never say. The difference is that Protestants do not confuse the outward declaration with the inward change, but rather distinguish them as distinct (though inseparable) acts of God’s grace. The believer is not transformed on the inside in justification, but most certainly is transformed on the inside in sanctification. I have yet to see a Roman Catholic who understands this about Protestantism.

Another example is the description of Mary as Mother of God (and this issue was hashed out in excruciating detail on this blog a while ago). Yes, fundamental Baptists probably aren’t very comfortable saying this. But the Reformed have said that this is an appropriate way to refer to Mary, as long as it is understood by this that Mary is the mother of Jesus, a person who is God and man. We can refer to the person of Jesus by reference to either nature. And in this way, we can say that Mary was the Theotokos, the God-bearer. No one believes that Mary was the origin of Jesus’ divinity (although I would still argue that Roman Catholics go way too far with their doctrine of Mary). Still, one must not throw out the proper way of speaking about Mary, just because some people go too far. The abuse does not prohibit the use.

Rose, like other Roman Catholics I have read, misunderstands the Protestant doctrine of the perspecuity of Scripture rather badly. His definition of the Protestant doctrine is that “Protestantism teaches that the Scriptures are clear-despite any person’s experience to the contrary” (p. 153). The examples that Rose brings up involve things that are not central to being a Christian. Protestants do not, and have never taught, that all Scripture is perfectly clear. Protestants have taught that what is necessary for salvation is clear. The clearest example of how this works is the work of the Gideons. They place Bibles everywhere they can. The stories and testimonies told by the people who are affected by the Gideons’ work proves the Protestant thesis: many people who have either never been in a church, or didn’t understand and therefore went very seldom, are at the verge of committing suicide, or are seriously down and out. They go to a hotel, and are about to do something drastic, when they find a Gideon Bible there. Without a single person explaining to them what the text means, they come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit worked through the Word to convert that person. Now, it is true that saving faith comes far more often through hearing the Word preached. However, the Scriptures are clear enough on matters related to salvation that a person can come to a saving faith simply by reading the Bible. That is what the Protestants mean by perspecuity.

On authority, Rose again presents a false dichotomy. He seems to think that if a Christian does not have a Roman Catholic heirarchical authority telling him what to believe, then the Christian has no authority at all instructing him. Related to this is the idea of individualism: Rose thinks that the only alternative to Roman Catholicism is radical individualism. Reformed Protestants beg to differ. The church is most definitely an authority. The pastor is an authority figure. It is not just “me and my Bible and Jesus.” The difference is that we do not posit infallible authorities other than Scripture and the Holy Spirit. We posit fallible authority over (yes, OVER!) a Christian’s life.

In short, Rose’s book is entirely too simplistic in its analysis of Protestantism, which leads me to believe that Rose did not thoroughly explore Protestantism before he left it. He did not scour the multitudinous writings of Evangelicals on Roman Catholicism before he left. Apparently, he asked his pastor and friends questions which they were not able to answer. And because they were not able to answer them, he left Protestantism. Folks, let me stress this: if you are considering such a life-changing move as going from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism, shouldn’t you leave absolutely no stone unturned? Shouldn’t you read as widely as you can on the subject before you give up? So far, I have not found a single objection to Protestantism from Roman Catholicism that has not been answered somewhere or other in Protestant works. This is not to say that Roman Catholic objections have no substance. Many of their objections are weighty questions indeed. However, there are answers, as there have been answers for centuries.

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82 Comments

  1. Dennis said,

    January 5, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Lane,

    I first read On Being Catholic back in the late nineties shortly after my personal conversion experience (from nominal Catholic to orthodox Catholic). I still consider it my go to book to understanding what it means to be Catholic.

    I haven’t read Devin Rose’s book but I don’t know how fair it is to compare these two authors in one post as one is a professor and the other is an internet apologist. I’m pretty sure Devin Rose would be the first to acknowledge he’s no Thomas Howard as he’s likely writing from his own personal perspective while Howard was writing from a more scholarly perspective.

    A better grouping of authors with Howard would probably have been Hahn or Groeschel and Devin Rose would be more along the lines of Jimmy Akin or Carl Keating.

    Other than that, nice thoughts…

  2. Dozie said,

    January 5, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    “The correct Reformed Protestant teaching is that we get two benefits from being united to Christ. The first is justification, which is the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience to the believer, received by faith alone. The second is sanctification, which is God changing the person on the inside by infusing the Holy Spirit within the believer, such that the person becomes positionally holy, and progressively holy.”

    You attempt to make distinctions without showing what the real differences are between Justification and Sanctification. In your religious system, if one is justified (because he or she has placed faith in Christ) and dies in a state of non-sanctification, does he or she go to hell? Put another way, what is the real consequence for a justified Protestant who is not in a sanctified state or who boasts that sin cannot put him or her in hell? (go here: http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2012/12/luther-your-sin-cannot-cast-you-into.html).

    The point is that while Protestants may mean well in talking about sanctification, the reality is that in their system, all of Christian life is swallowed up by the concept of justification – that is, ones status as a justified person. There is even the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone, which if true, must rule out the necessity of sanctification in the Prostestant system.

  3. Reed Here said,

    January 5, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Dozie: look up the reformed understanding of definitive sanctification. It corresponds to your objection, removing it as well.

  4. greenbaggins said,

    January 5, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Dennis, I was not actually trying to compare the two. These were merely two recent books I had read.

    Dozie, I have already introduced a number of points of difference between justification and sanctification: 1. justification is instantaneous, while sanctification is a process; 2. justification happens outside us, while sanctification happens inside us. 3. justification happens by imputation, whereas sanctification happens by infusion. These are quite clear in the post above. Not sure how you missed that, but maybe you read too quickly.

    As to your hypothetical situation, there is no person who has ever been truly justified who is not also sanctified. They are inseparable benefits (I said that also in the post). I would argue that the beginning of sanctification happens at the same time as justification, though it is a distinct act of God’s grace. God’s grace in sanctification happens in a way that involves two realities: we become positionally holy by means of definitive sanctification, and we become progressively holy by means of progressive sanctification. These two aspects of sanctification mark the beginning and the continuance of God’s grace in this area, respectively. To repeat, God never justifies a person without also sanctifying him. These two benefits are tied together by means of union with Christ. Union with Christ, incidentally, is also the reason why justification is not a legal fiction. A marriage that happens between Christ and the justified person means that the person is legally entitled to all that belongs to the spouse. This is why Christ’s righteousness can be imputed to us. Now, whether you believe this or not, it is the Reformed view, and it is one which no Roman Catholic yet seems to have understood (at least, I have yet to see such a person). Instead, they continually make criticisms that have been answered many times before (such as the legal fiction canard). Certainly, Devin Rose does not understand this.

  5. January 5, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    Lane, two points: (1) if you’re just 150 into the Summa, you’ve got a loooong way to go, boy (as you know); (2) No one writes like Chesterton!

  6. greenbaggins said,

    January 5, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    Richard, my plan is to read the entire Summa this year. One volume every two months or so. As to your second point, I think Howard comes close.

  7. Ron said,

    January 5, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    You attempt to make distinctions without showing what the real differences are between Justification and Sanctification. In your religious system, if one is justified (because he or she has placed faith in Christ) and dies in a state of non-sanctification, does he or she go to hell?

    Dozie,

    As you yourself quoted from Lane, “we get two [but not just two] benefits from being united to Christ.” The two are justification and sanctification.

    You must appreciate that Reformed theology maintains that one cannot lose his salvation. What you might have missed is that we believe this great salvation encompasses not just forgiveness but holiness too. Remember the saying, we’re justified by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone? Even if you don’t agree with the sentiment please represent your opponents truthfully, which might take some more research on your part since you certainly are not intentionally misrepresenting Reformed theology.

    Bottom line is, in Reformed thought – just as one cannot fall from a state of justification neither can one fall from definitive sanctification in Christ. So it is false to suggest that in Reformed thought one who is justified can die in a state of “non-sanctification.”

    “There is even the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone, which if true, must rule out the necessity of sanctification in the Prostestant system.”

    Before you ever post again I think you should defend, retract or refine that statement. If you stand by your statement, then you should demonstrate why Justification by Faith Alone alleviates the necessity of sanctification within a Reformed framework.

    Logically speaking, definitive sanctification is both a necessary and sufficient condition for justification:

    If Sanctified, then Justified (Sanctification sufficient for Justification)
    If Justified then Sanctified (Justification sufficient for Sanctification)

    As Reed pointed out, definitive sanctification addresses your objection.

    Your task is to show why Faith Alone undermines the necessity of Sanctification in the experience of the believer. Moreover, can’t we just as easily say that there is a doctrine of justification by water in the Roman system, which if true, must rule out the necessity of sanctification? Now if you wish to say that water baptism is accompanied by both justification and definitive sanctification, well then consider that our argument as well.Maybe start with the Westminster Standards if you wish to critique Reformed thought.

    69 WLC: The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.

    77 WLC: Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification…

    I suspect that because Rome confounds justification with sanctification, you further reason that if justification is not at all according to works then works are both superfluous and not necessary in the life experience of those saved by grace. I thought 400 years has helped to clear up that confusion but obviously I was wrong.

  8. Dozie said,

    January 6, 2013 at 12:59 am

    “You must appreciate that Reformed theology maintains that one cannot lose his salvation.”

    Perhaps there is something that I am missing. In your system, would you equate salvation with justification such that one who is justified is necessarily saved and always saved? If truly you equate justification with salvation as I suspect you do, do you see how you have eliminated the need for sanctification since one who is justified is necessarily saved regardless of one’s progression in sanctification or even ones attitude towards sanctification? On the other hand, if you do not equate justification with salvation, then you must propose an additional formula to account for how one is saved because the statement “justification = salvation” will be insufficient to account for how one is saved.

    However, I need to point out that the assertion that “one cannot lose his salvation” is an assertion that has not been demonstrated to be true regardless of what Reformed theology teaches. Since there is only one God (there is not a Reformed God and Lutheran God), the question of how one is saved must be a catholic teaching and not one to be determined by sectarian mischaracterizations. Therefore, the appeal to Reformed theology in this case is not very helpful.

    In my earlier post, I provided a link to site that claims that sin does not hinder one from going to heaven. So far, this assertion has not been addressed by those who have responded to me. I would like to know, as I try to understand the Protestant mindset, whether or not this assertion is one that a Reformed Protestant will be willing to make his or her own.

  9. greenbaggins said,

    January 6, 2013 at 8:46 am

    Dozie, the Reformed position is not that justification equals salvation. The idea of salvation in the Bible is used in more than one way. To the Philippians jailor, it meant the entrance into the Christian life. But in other passages, salvation means the entirety of the Christian life. In neither of these senses are salvation and justification equivalent. Even in the entrance to the Christian life, salvation means justification, definitive sanctification, and adoption all together in union with Christ. When it is used of the entire Christian life, it means justification, definitive sanctification, adoption, progressive sanctification, and glorification, all connected by union with Christ. One receives the instantaneous initial salvation by faith alone, and one receives the rest of it by grace as well, though it is an empowering grace that results in holiness (not in a causative way but in a necessarily resultative way).

    Dozie, Romans 8 and many other passages teach that salvation cannot be lost.

    I am astonished at your assertion that sin does not hinder one from going to heaven. It is most definitely the Roman Catholic position that mortal sin prevents one from going to heaven, unless it is dealt with, is it not? It is the Protestant who believes that once truly forgiven, the entirety of a sinner’s sin (past, present, and future) is forgiven.

  10. Dozie said,

    January 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    “One receives the instantaneous initial salvation by faith alone, and one receives the rest of it by grace as well, though it is an empowering grace that results in holiness (not in a causative way but in a necessarily resultative way).”

    Well, thank you for the response. I get from your explanation that salvation is more than justification but then Reformed people emphasize “justification” over and above the other elements in salvation that you listed (“definitive sanctification, adoption, progressive sanctification, and glorification”). However, my question pertains to whether one who is at the stage of having only received justification (prior to receiving all the other things you listed) can be lost. That is, if one is simply justified (prior to sanctification), can this person go to hell?

    If your answer to the above is “no”, I am concluding then that in your system, all one needs is the grace of justification and that while “definitive sanctification, adoption, progressive sanctification…” may be good additions, they are not necessary for entrance into heaven.

    “Dozie, Romans 8 and many other passages teach that salvation cannot be lost.”

    No, this is a sectarian understanding of that passage.

    “I am astonished at your assertion that sin does not hinder one from going to heaven. It is most definitely the Roman Catholic position that mortal sin prevents one from going to heaven, unless it is dealt with, is it not?”

    If you followed the link I provided, you would have found that the claim that sin does not hinder entrance into heaven is an assertion being made at a Reformed blog site (Beggarsall). You seem to be astonished by the claim that sin does not hinder entrance into heaven but then you went on to add: “it is most definitely the Roman Catholic position that mortal sin prevents one from going to heaven…” Do you agree or disagree that (mortal) sin prevents one from going to heaven?

    Ron asks: “Moreover, can’t we just as easily say that there is a doctrine of justification by water in the Roman system, which if true, must rule out the necessity of sanctification?”

    No, you may not say that because the Church teaches that one who is baptized can lose the grace of justification gained at baptism, hence, sanctification is required if one is to remain in the state of justification.

  11. CD-Host said,

    January 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    I think Devin is presenting a popular apologetic. Popular apologetics tend to oversimplify. But in essence I think the argument is true. The situation in Protestantism as it exists is a consumer culture.

    1) There are a wide range of denominations
    2) Within denominations there are a wide range of sub-denominations
    3) These denominations and sub-denominations are dependent on membership for funding and influence
    4) Hence these denominations and sub-denominations compete for members. It is possible to believe that collectively individuals need the church, in the invisible church sense, more than churches need individuals. But in the physical church sense there can be no doubt, exactly opposite is true.
    5) Members of churches are rather ecumenical, especially if pressed and feel comfortable switching between them if pressed.

    Which means that individuals decide on a theology and then join an organization that more or less agrees with them, maintaining their membership as long as they have this level of agreement. Devin left Protestantism with far more thought than most people leave most churches. Certainly the tens of millions who switch from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism aren’t carefully considering it to the extent Devin considered his change.

    _____

    Now it be the case that para-church organizations begin to have enough authority to speak effectively in a disciplined way. I’ve always cited the UBS as a good example of a post Catholic ecumenical organization that is able to exercise authority, very broadly (i.e. they include Protestants, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews…)
    (see http://church-discipline.blogspot.com/2009/08/ubs-process-ecumenicalism-at-its-best.html )

  12. andrew said,

    January 6, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Look forward to your thoughts on Aquinas. Not easy reading, but fascinating stuff. Nothing better for the brain than trying to anticipate his answers to objections

    What shocked me was how high a ‘Calvinist’ he was (in the predestination sense). He is much stronger than the average Presbyterian today, perhaps because he is not content with ‘paradox’. His exegesis of Timothy’s ‘God desiring all men to be saved’ could some straight from Herman Hoeksema! I am not sure if he saw any contradiction between this and the rest of his beliefs.

  13. greenbaggins said,

    January 6, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Dozie, a couple of points in response. The reason why Protestants harp on justification so much is that it has always been regarded as the hinge of true religion (Calvin) or the article by which the church stands or falls (Luther). And, of course, it was also the doctrine most hotly disputed between the Protestants and the Roman Catholics. That does not mean that we think justification is *more* important than sanctification. They are both vitally important. God does not merely save us from the guilt of sin, but He also saves us from the power of sin, though the latter happens gradually throughout life, whereas removing the guilt of sin is a judicial act that happens instantaneously in justification.

    As to your scenario, I would answer that no such person can exist in Reformed theology. God *never* justifies a person without *simultaneously* beginning the sanctification process, which starts with definitive sanctification, and continues with progressive sanctification. There is no such person as a justified-but-not-sanctified person. God never declares a person “not guilty” without also, *and at the same time* starting the process of making that person more holy (by infusing the Holy Spirit into the person). This is what we mean by justification and sanctification being inseparable. Justification never occurs without sanctification. Sanctification never occurs without the reality of justification. They go together. To try to divorce them would be like trying to say that the sun gives light, but no heat. No, the sun always gives light and heat together. Union with Christ is a package deal: all or nothing. All the benefits of Christ (including perseverance!) are given together, though they operate in different ways. The chain of Romans 8 is unbreakable. All the saving benefits are all necessary, in the sense that they are always constitutive of the salvation God provides. This must be understood in such a way that works are not causative in any way of salvation. Nevertheless, they are included as the necessary result of the grace of sanctification. Holiness and good works are therefore the inevitable result of the grace of God working in a person. Yes, the Reformed faith has been slandered many times as if it thought that holiness was not necessary, and good works were unimportant. Read the Puritans sometime, and discover that the case is quite different. Or, read Calvin, and wonder why in the world he treated sanctification *before* justification in his Institutes. It had this apologetic purpose vis-a-vis Rome: that sanctification and justification are to be thought of as simultaneously happening, and not separated from each other, because they are the two-fold grace (duplex gratia) of union with Christ.

    Saying that my understanding of Romans 8 is sectarian is not really an answer to my claim based on that passage. Where, precisely, is the break in the chain?

    As to your comment about sin, I was astonished that you were saying that no sin hinders us from heaven (if that statement is a quotation from a Reformed blog site, you didn’t exactly make that clear). My own personal belief is that all sin (in regard to ultimate destiny, I do not believe in the distinction between mortal and venial sin) hinders us from getting to heaven. Sin absolutely prevents us from getting to heaven, unless the blood of Christ cleanses us from it. As for the Christian, all of his sin, past, present, and future, is forgiven in justification. So, he cannot lose his state of forgiveness by sin, though he can certainly have his assurance severely damaged by it.

  14. January 6, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    GB,

    A wee bone to pick on your comment that perspicuity of Scripture was always confined to the essentials of salvific faith by Protestantism. This is not in accord with what history shows. A good source would be this item:

  15. Ron said,

    January 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Well, thank you for the response. I get from your explanation that salvation is more than justification but then Reformed people emphasize “justification” over and above the other elements in salvation that you listed (“definitive sanctification, adoption, progressive sanctification, and glorification”).

    Dozie,

    I’m with you on that one. I would suggest stop listening to the White Horse Inn and read Ephesians instead. :)

  16. jamesswan1 said,

    January 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    “(go here: http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2012/12/luther-your-sin-cannot-cast-you-into.html).”

    Dozie, my blog entry has nothing to do with your question.

    JS

  17. Ron said,

    January 6, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Dozie,

    Here is a brief video from Lane Tipton that speaks to this matter of emphasis. If nothing else, please appreciate that not all Reformed folk place the accent on justification.

  18. Ron said,

    January 6, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Lane – thank you for fielding Dozie’s response to me. It says all I would have said and then some.

  19. Bob S said,

    January 7, 2013 at 3:45 am

    You got to laugh. Only on Bilbo’s blog. We get a drive by shooting from Dozie (where’s Happy, Grumpy, Sleepy and the rest of the gang?) though he does commendably circle back for the double/triple tap engagement.

    Yet the problem in part as James complains, is Dozie’s link to James’s article at BeggersAll. The same which does nothing more than walk through Luther’s statement and put it in context.

    But maybe reading is not the forte for our sacramentally oriented romanists.
    After all romanists bear false witness against the ninth commandment – “Thou shalt not bear false witness” – in the first place, by calling it the eighth, which what? makes it easier to overlook. Or does Dozie have a better reason why he thinks Luther’s emphasis is on sin rather than on salvation.

    And of course the perseverance of the saints is sectarianism according to Rome. After all it’s taught in Scripture by no less than Christ himself.

    My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
    And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. John 10:27-29

    IOW if it is God who has begun the good work of salvation in a man’s heart and soul, he will finish it and no man is able to pluck himself out of the hand of God, nor would he ever want to because again, God, who started the good work of saving a man, will finish it. Salvation ultimately and in the first place is of the Lord and his will, not man’s. Rome of course doesn’t believe in the bondage of the will or the perseverance of the saints, but if the last is not taught here in Scripture, what exactly is being taught according to the private interpretation of our roman exegetes?

    I did appreciate the heads up on Thomas’s book though and plan on getting a (emphasis cheap) copy. Maybe not his If Your Mind Wanders At Mass though.

    Yet one, his Evangelicalism Is Not Enough is possibly what gave Doug Wilson the inspiration for at least the title to his Reformed is Not Enough (boo, hiss). Two, through the Amazon Look Inside feature I did read where Howard in the foreword ultimately attributed his roman conversion to the fact that his fundamentalist parents brought him up to “love Jesus”.
    Huh?
    Ouch.
    That’s sad/painful to think about.

    But then again when I pointed out to my baptist friend that Rome interprets “This is my body” in the same literal fashion that fundamentalists read premillenialism into the Book of Revelation, I didn’t get much of a substantive reply.

  20. Bob S said,

    January 7, 2013 at 4:16 am

    11 Certainly the tens of millions who switch from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism aren’t carefully considering it to the extent Devin considered his change.

    An absolutely ridiculous statement, but hey, maybe one ought to consider the source.

    I wasn’t impressed with what I read about Scott Hahn in a Trinity Review article, but since he copiously recommends Howard’s books I finally got around to locating and printing out an (emphasis) free copy of his 17 page conversion story. Talk about pathetic/puerile, however popular this genre of bedtime stories might be.

    As for grade inflation, never mind Zimbawe, the Weimar Republic or our very own Ben Bernank and the Fed, make that hyper. The guy’s a ph.d. and for starters he demonstrates zero comprehension of the protestant exposition of 2 Tim. 3:15-17 or 2 Thess. 2:15. As a protestant before he converted.

    Sad. Very sad. Even before we start talking Hahn latching onto Norm Shepherd’s abnormal view of covenant theology.

    But of course, he carefully considered and studied his decision to swim the Tiber. Obviously the sewage doesn’t bother him. Guess maybe the rest of us don’t have quite as strong a constitution as Mr. Hahn does.
    A pity that.

  21. Dozie said,

    January 7, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    “We get a drive by shooting from Dozie (where’s Happy, Grumpy, Sleepy and the rest of the gang?) though he does commendably circle back for the double/triple tap engagement.” And this:

    “But of course, he carefully considered and studied his decision to swim the Tiber. Obviously the sewage doesn’t bother him.”

    Be assured that your unique style of engagement has been noted.

    “Yet the problem in part as James complains, is Dozie’s link to James’s article at BeggersAll. The same which does nothing more than walk through Luther’s statement and put it in context.”

    I was going to let Ron and GB have the last word on this but now something has to be said about James Swan’s defense/adoption of Luther’s abominable statements.

    First, I disagree that James Swan’s article “does nothing more than walk through Luther’s statement and put it in context.” One has to appreciate the fact that James Swan has earned the reputation of being a Luther apologist and has been defending Luther in all manner of situations for some time now. In this role as Luther apologist, one has to ask: “how many match sticks does it take to burn down the house”? How many Luther bombastic statements does it take to discredit Luther and all those who defend him? Intelligent people bring up statements attributable to Luther (statements that ordinarily would not be indefensible) but James Swan in his singular role attempts, in the name of contextualization, to pull the blanket over some people’s eyes. In the particular instance in question, Luther claims: “Your sin cannot cast you into hell”. An unbiased person attempting to contextualize this statement will be obligated, first of all, to distance him/her self from the statement. There is nothing in James Swan’s analysis that indicates he finds the statement offensive or that the statement may create the wrong impression in others. He does not say that “the statement is misleading, but here is the context” or that the statement is wrong on its face. No, he simply justifies the statement by supplying or making up contexts that really sound bizarre to thinking Christians.

    Interestingly, even Lutherans are not impressed with James Swan’s hypocritical attempt to cover up for Luther. I know Paul McCain is not. Here’s a question put to James Swan by a Lutheran woman:

    “Dear James, it comes down to the question: if Luther was so right, why a Calvin? Does it not?” (This question was left unanswered). And then in the same comment, the lady points out: “And all the messes James is cleaning up, are just not as interesting to Lutherans who want to be more interested in the gospel than in Luther” (http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=19795707&postID=8878445420994759274).

    This Lutheran woman lady realizes that Luther created a mess which even Lutherans are not willing to touch; James Swan enters to clean up Luther but he does not find Lutheranism persuasive enough to sign on the dotted line. This is a sad commentary on the nature of Protestantism – happy in division. But the question remains: if Luther was so right, why Calvin?

  22. Dozie said,

    January 7, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    “statements that ordinarily would not be indefensible” Should be: statements that ordinarily would be indefensible

  23. CD-Host said,

    January 7, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    @Dozie 21
    But the question remains: if Luther was so right, why Calvin?

    I’ll take that one as someone with no dog in this fight. Luther and Lutheranism were concerned with reforming the church and that failing a short term schism, which would lead to reconciliation in which their various complaints would be addressed. Luther was no attempting to build a separate branch of Christianity, though he may the 1540s have begun to realize that’s what he did. Luther’s doctrines were fundamentally negative, that is to say they were a critique of Catholicism.

    Calvin conversely was not someone with deep Catholic ties. He was a 2nd generation leader of the revolution. He was aiming to create a new basis for an institutional Christianity that could exist for a long time separate and distinct from Catholicism.

    a) A firm clear definition of sola fide that was attempting to logically consistent. In particular a firm unblinking affirmation of predestination.

    b) A doctrine of conversion, which is going to be needed if individuals are going to choose to be Protestant or Catholic and not states.

    c) A doctrine of an institutional church that could exist outside the Roman structure.

    ____

    As for the idea that Reformed are shocked by the idea that our sinful natures not our specific sins acts damn us. They don’t have any reason to hedge or deny that claim. They are not shocked or horrified. They have no reason to distance themselves. This is what they preach, openly, forcefully, unequivocally. I’m sorry I think they are just dead wrong on believing that is even a troubling statement to someone Lutheran or Reformed.

  24. jamesswan1 said,

    January 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    “One has to appreciate the fact that James Swan has earned the reputation of being a Luther apologist and has been defending Luther in all manner of situations for some time now.”

    I thought I was simply a person with a blog.

    “In this role as Luther apologist, one has to ask: “how many match sticks does it take to burn down the house”? How many Luther bombastic statements does it take to discredit Luther and all those who defend him?”

    Where Luther was in error, I’ve pointed that out.

    “Intelligent people bring up statements attributable to Luther (statements that ordinarily would not be indefensible) but James Swan in his singular role attempts, in the name of contextualization, to pull the blanket over some people’s eyes.”

    This sort of statement is a good example of why you’ve been banned from my blog, off and on, over the years. You are one of of maybe 3 or 4 people that have earned the honor of having your comments immediately dumped off the Beggars All blog.

    “In the particular instance in question, Luther claims: “Your sin cannot cast you into hell”. An unbiased person attempting to contextualize this statement will be obligated, first of all, to distance him/her self from the statement. There is nothing in James Swan’s analysis that indicates he finds the statement offensive or that the statement may create the wrong impression in others. He does not say that “the statement is misleading, but here is the context” or that the statement is wrong on its face. No, he simply justifies the statement by supplying or making up contexts that really sound bizarre to thinking Christians.”

    The context of Luther’s comment was provided in my blog entry for anyone to read. It’s not my fault if you can’t see past your own Romanism to understand what Luther is saying. Before I searched out the context, it was close to impossible to know where the quote was from. So you tell me who’s being dishonest here: the person that originally posted the comment without a reference, or my blog article which provides the context, and also a link to the writing it was taken from.

    “Interestingly, even Lutherans are not impressed with James Swan’s hypocritical attempt to cover up for Luther. I know Paul McCain is not.”

    That’s news to me. I’ve had cordial interaction with Rev. McCain for a few years, and I don’t recall ever having any problems with him. If you have any comments from Rev. McCain implying he’s “not impressed with James Swan’s hypocritical attempt to cover up for Luther,” I certainly haven’t seen any such statements. Certainly Rev. McCain doesn’t appreciate my Reformed theology, but I don’t recall ever being criticized by him for any of the obscure Luther quotes I’ve looked up. In fact, Rev. McCain himself has posts that refute the nonsense attributed to Luther.

    “Here’s a question put to James Swan by a Lutheran woman”

    A Lutheran woman, by the way, who is a friend of mine and who does appreciate my Luther entries.

    “This Lutheran woman lady realizes that Luther created a mess which even Lutherans are not willing to touch;”

    That’s nonsense. In fact “this Lutheran woman” actually helps me with translating Luther’s German so I can complete some of my entries. She’s actually been a great help over the years.

    “James Swan enters to clean up Luther but he does not find Lutheranism persuasive enough to sign on the dotted line. This is a sad commentary on the nature of Protestantism – happy in division. But the question remains: if Luther was so right, why Calvin?”

    It’s odd how you can read my blog in such a Talmudic way and yet miss the obvious: It’s often the case that what Luther is saying (or not saying) isn’t really the point- It’s the fact that Romanism, particularly pre-1920 Romanists and recent online e-pologists have a terrible time with contexts, that is, if they even bother to look up a context.

    JS

  25. Bob S said,

    January 7, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    21 Yo Dozie (you gotta admit that is a different name even if it is your real one),

    The reason I called your comments “drive-by” can be readily discerned from James’s original article and his follow up of 24 here, if not GB’s and Ron’s.

    It’s called a prima facie case, if not an almost immediate inference as to who is arguing in a largely shallow and superficial manner and who is serious. (I will grant your writing skills are improving tho obviously I disagree with your content.)

    But as far as that goes I thought the following priceless/hilarious.

    This sort of statement is a good example of why you’ve been banned from my blog, off and on, over the years. You are one of of maybe 3 or 4 people that have earned the honor of having your comments immediately dumped off the Beggars All blog.

    We hasn’t made it into that esteemed category yet, but rest assured, we’ll give it our best shot.

    As for my somewhat off topic rant about Hahn, one, whether you like it or not the immorality of Rome was a catalyst for the Reformation in its day and a real detraction from it today.

    What I really was referring to though – which I readily admit was sloppiness on my part – was his extremely sloppy case for his decision. As in he gave us no real reliable reason for his move.

    Or if you prefer the Liccione jargon, all he gave us was his fallible opinion/interpretation contra the reliable, perspicuous and self interpreting divine revelation.

    And how about that sectarian doctrine of the perseverance of the saints? Maybe somebody can’t find it, because they deliberately aren’t looking for it.

    You get three guesses who.

    cheers,

  26. Jason Loh said,

    January 7, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    As a Lutheran, I say thank you James Swan & Beggars All Reformation for defending Luther on the blogosphere and the cyberspace. Hehehe, James is more Lutheran than some of the confessional Lutherans. And yes, thank you Triablogue and not least GreenBaggins for contending for the truth of the gospel of justification by faith alone in Scripture alone as the living Word of God.

  27. jamesswan1 said,

    January 8, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    “As a Lutheran, I say thank you James Swan & Beggars All Reformation for defending Luther on the blogosphere and the cyberspace. Hehehe, James is more Lutheran than some of the confessional Lutherans. And yes, thank you Triablogue and not least GreenBaggins for contending for the truth of the gospel of justification by faith alone in Scripture alone as the living Word of God.”

    Thanks.

  28. michael said,

    January 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    When I was a little boy I attended Easter Mass on my Indian Reservation and the visiting circuit Priest taught us about reincarnation.

    So, james swan writes: “…I thought I was simply a person with a blog. …”

    No you are not James! Oh come on, who are you kidding? You know you are Martin Luther reincarnated and actually now having converted back to the Holy See you just act like you are James Swan a simply person with a blog!

    Come on James, just admit to it. It’s true and you know it! :)

  29. Jason Loh said,

    January 9, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Hahaha … I forgot add … thanks to Old Life Presbyterian (Dr Darryl Hart) too!

  30. John Bugay said,

    January 10, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Lane, I appreciate you taking this on [Roman Catholicism generally] as a major topic of discussion. It’s huge, and there’s lots and lots of chaff out there.

  31. PJ said,

    January 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    I’m Catholic, yet I appreciate Lane’s writing not only because he is thoughtful and learned, but because he is decent and kind, and those two virtues are often missing in discussion between Protestants and Catholics — especially in the blogosphere.

    On the other hand, some of the comments — from Catholics and Protestants both — leave me shaking my head. Why this need for sarcasm and rancor? As St. Paul tells us, if we haven’t charity, we haven’t anything. We are to speak the truth, yes, but in love — always in love. And love is not puffed-up, self-satisfied, and bitter.

  32. Andrew McCallum said,

    January 13, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    So far, I have not found a single objection to Protestantism from Roman Catholicism that has not been answered somewhere or other in Protestant works. This is not to say that Roman Catholic objections have no substance. Many of their objections are weighty questions indeed. However, there are answers, as there have been answers for centuries.

    Lane,

    This is just so true. But if you look on the Catholic blogs our friends there are convinced that their challenges to the Reformed have not been refuted. And this from folks who in many cases were previously in Reformed churches. It’s so interesting to me how the two sides can go to the same set of biblical and historical data, come away with diametrically opposed conclusions, and the both truly believe that they have fully answered the objections from the other side!

  33. Bob S said,

    January 15, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    32 Andrew,

    There’s no question all the respective parties believe they are correct, yet the interesting part comes in ferreting out the various presuppositions both sides bring to the data and how consistently they make their case based upon those axioms.

    Neither is sincerity a guarantee of objectivity or the truth. Yet it all boils down to whether Scripture is sufficient, perspicuous and infallible, as well as self interpreting or – after fudging a quick appeal to Matt. 16 – the church/pope is proposed as the infallible interpreter of the insufficient and obscure Scripture.

    Again all parties would profusely profess belief in God, Scripture and the church, just to different degrees and definitions – all the while private judgment/reason is assumed/appealed to in judging whether the pope’s judgment is infallible, no?

    From a prot POV, that means through the due use of the ordinary means we can understand the respective gospels of either the infallible Scripture or the infallible magisterium. But not both. That would be cheating.

    Go figure. Have fun. It’s the internet. Opinions are free and the Vatican is not net neutral, Liccione’s paradigm isn’t a silver bullet and JJS’s revolutionary commentary on Romans is pretty much the same old Roman rehash.

  34. Andrew McCallum said,

    January 16, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Bob S,

    Yes, I was partly thinking of Jason Stellman’s blog when I made my comments. He is doing the same thing as the folks at the CTC blog. We answer him sufficiently (my opinion obviously) but he comes away saying that nobody has refuted him. I and other Protestants give solid answers to the RC’s but in the end it seem to matter nothing – we are told that their arguments against us stand unrefuted. Maybe it’s just not worth the time….

    My advice to Jason was that it’s best not to play the roles of prosecuting attorney and judge in the same case, so as to speak.

  35. Bob S said,

    January 16, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    34. Well, for my money Andrew, JJ is small change at the moment. Of course If he ever gets around to publishing in hard copy his self willed ignorance of the reformed alternatives to his recently discovery of the roman novelties, I might be tempted to buy it. Remaindered at Half.com for cheap. (Ditto Howard.)

    Yet as sean has alluded to, if our Woodinville writer might be channeling Teilhard De Chardin in his new book, I am more intrigued by Liccione’s reincarnation of a used paradigm salesman as the latest philosophical shroud CtC finds convenient for obscuring the epistemological discussion.

    That is, Old Life’s quote of Cross notwithstanding, Sextus Empiricus was a pagan, not a papist and his radical skepticism cuts both ways when it comes to paradigms.

    Dunno. Maybe Sextus has paid enough dues in purgatory that Mr. Liccione will be able to stand in as his godfather for the baptism by fire in that day. Sort of like the Aquinas – Aristotle arrangement.

  36. Devin Rose said,

    January 25, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Lane,

    What a happy surprise to jump over to GreenBaggins and discover that you read my book and are discussing it! Of course, you have criticisms of it, but that’s fine.

    I appreciate that you did NOT compare me with Howard, or, Heaven forbid, Aquinas! I wish I could write prose like Howard does, or come up with such elegant explanations.

    I don’t plan to tackle in detail everything you brought up, maybe in future blog posts on my own blog as I have time. But a few general responses.

    First, yes I was a Baptist/Evangelical/low church. I was not Reformed, or Anglican, or Lutheran, or Methodist, or Pentecostal, or any number of other strains within Protestantism. At the same time, in my book I focus on positions that most Protestants hold to, cutting across denominations. Hence, Luther and Calvin are quoted, Zwingli is brought up, and so on. These are some of the most influential Reformers of course, even if no Protestant denomination tracks perfectly with any one of them.

    Regarding perspicuity, you said: “Protestants do not, and have never taught, that all Scripture is perfectly clear.” And I would point out that I have never said that Protestants think that “all Scripture is perfectly clear.” I worded my statements on perspicuity carefully, namely, that Protestants set a high bar for perspicuity (which they do), and further that sola Scriptura requires this bar to be set high. The many conflicting Protestant interpretations of the Scriptures are evidence against the idea of perspicuity as defined by Protestantism. Note I said, evidence against, not outright refutation of.

    Regarding Mary, I’m glad you can say she is the mother of God. Most Protestants I have talked to would never say that.

    Regarding justification and sanctification, in fact I was and am familiar with the Reformed teachings on these doctrines. It seems to me that there is a contradiction or inconsistency in them. Bryan Cross argues this in his post “Imputation and Paradigms: A Reply to Nicholas Batzig” (as does Jason Stellman in the comments to his How the Church Won post). Just search for the word sanctification in these posts and the comments. You don’t think their arguments are valid, I assume. That’s fine. I can find nothing invalid in them, and even as a Baptist I understood the inconsistency: on the one hand everything we do is filthy rags, even after being justified, on the other, we are told that after justification we are being sanctified and have the Holy Spirit within us and are becoming more and more holy. That doesn’t add up. I can understand the attraction in wanting to believe that these two beliefs (on justification and sanctification) are simultaneously true, but logically they contradict each other.

    Regarding authority, this is the whole “sola reduces to “solo” Scriptura” debate that the Called to Communion guys made the case for a few years ago. Reformed apologists sought to disprove the syllogism. It seems to me that they failed. It seems to you that they succeeded. Either way, claiming that I don’t understand the arguments is not true. I understand them. I have read them over and over, the syllogism, the counter-arguments, the counter-counter-arguments. So we both think we understand the arguments, but one of us is in fact, wrong. If it is me, I hope to find that out.

    Regarding how much I searched within Protestantism, I can only say that I was able to quickly get to the root of the differences and realize that Protestantism’s answers (especially with respect to reason’s role in understanding the Christian Faith) were unsatisfying. The canon of Scripture is just one example. I’ve been Catholic 12 years now and still have not found an answer to the canon question from Protestantism. (And before someone mentions it, yes I have read Dr. Kruger’s book.)

    How was I able to get to the root of the differences so quickly? One reason was that I had been an atheist my entire life before Christ came into my life. I didn’t have twenty years of ingrained bias either for or against Protestantism or Catholicism, though after just a short time in Protestantism I was biased against Catholicism, thinking it a dreadful religion of man.

    But it is true that, unlike many Catholic converts, I didn’t go through Anglicanism or Reformed Protestantism or Lutheranism before becoming Catholic. I don’t think it is necessary to do so, and there have been converts directly from atheism that bypassed Protestantism altogether. They realized even more quickly than I did that Catholicism has stronger answers. That said, it still takes faith to believe that the Catholic Church is what she says she is. It cannot be proven through reason alone (nor of course, can Protestantism).

    God bless,
    Devin

  37. greenbaggins said,

    January 26, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Devin, thanks for coming over to comment on this. You say:

    First, yes I was a Baptist/Evangelical/low church. I was not Reformed, or Anglican, or Lutheran, or Methodist, or Pentecostal, or any number of other strains within Protestantism. At the same time, in my book I focus on positions that most Protestants hold to, cutting across denominations. Hence, Luther and Calvin are quoted, Zwingli is brought up, and so on. These are some of the most influential Reformers of course, even if no Protestant denomination tracks perfectly with any one of them.

    The problem is that your answers do not apply to all the various Protestant traditions. There is a bit too much lumping together when it comes to the critique.

    Regarding perspicuity, you said: “Protestants do not, and have never taught, that all Scripture is perfectly clear.” And I would point out that I have never said that Protestants think that “all Scripture is perfectly clear.”

    You said in the book that “If Protestantism is true, then the Scriptures can be understood through careful study and correct examination of ‘the Scriptures as a whole’ as well as through other particular verses that are ostensibly clearer” (p. 150). This is not nearly nuanced enough. Here you use term “Scriptures” in a completely unqualified way, thus giving rise to my interpretation of your statement as including all of Scripture. In fact, you even use the term “the Scriptures as a whole” as part of the definition of what is clear. Given the fact that MANY, if not most, Roman Catholics I have seen talk about the Protestant doctrine of perspecuity get it completely wrong, can you not see why I interpreted this the way I did? If you were not claiming that Protestants believe all Scripture to be clear, then you used what is perhaps the least clear way of expressing it that I could possibly imagine.

    By the way, you follow that with an _absolute_ falsehood. You say in the book, “At the root of the endemic contradictions within Protestantism lies the absence (and by definition, the impossibility) of an interpretive authority for the Scriptures above that of the individual Christian” (p. 151). This might be true of the low-church evangelicals with which you associated, but it is not true of confessionally Reformed Protestants. Pastors have a ministerial authority in interpreting the Scriptures that is given to them by God, and under which God’s people must sit. Furthermore, confessional Protestants believe that the confessional standards of the church stand above the individual believer, but below Scripture itself. You would have made your statement true had you inserted the word “infallible” before the words “interpretive authority,” but as it stands, it is a complete falsehood.

    You say in your post, “The many conflicting Protestant interpretations of the Scriptures are evidence against the idea of perspicuity as defined by Protestantism.” This is an old canard that has been answered by many Protestants. Their answer might not satisfy you, but you act in your book as if no one in the Protestant tradition had ever heard of this argument before. I would answer by simply saying that Protestants are not as divided as Roman Catholics usually make out, and that Roman Catholics are not nearly as monolithic as Roman Catholics make out. Heck, Roman Catholics in history have not even agreed on the definition of “tradition.”

    You say in the post, “I’ve been Catholic 12 years now and still have not found an answer to the canon question from Protestantism.” This is probably because you would fall into Scott Clark’s category of someone searching for illegitimate religious certainty. I don’t feel the need to have a logically unassailable position on even every essential of the Christian faith. It’s called living by faith. For the Roman Catholic, the faith has to be in something visible. Almost all the things that Protestants object to in RC worship have to do with visual things. From our perspective, faith is in a God that we cannot see. There are therefore some things which we believe that we believe with great probability, but not absolute certainty.

    Your quickness in the getting to the point has been at the cost of accuracy in describing the Protestant positions, as I have said above. Did you run this book by any Protestants before you published it? It does not appear that you did. I, for one, would not even think about publishing a book on Roman Catholicism without running every part of it by at least several Roman Catholics.

  38. Devin Rose said,

    January 26, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Hi Lane,

    When I said “If Protestantism is true, then the Scriptures can be understood through careful study and correct examination of ‘the Scriptures as a whole’ as well as through other particular verses that are ostensibly clearer,” I meant that Protestants believe (rightly I would say) that one must take the Scriptures as a whole–in Catholic terminology this would be “the content and unity of the Scriptures”–rather than dicing the Scriptures up and examining one part in piecemeal fashion in isolation from the rest (or ignoring one book or group of books). I would assume you would agree with that, no? That one should not isolate Scriptures, or relegate some parts to the “ignore” bin, that instead one should approach the Scriptures believing God is their author and that there is therefore a remarkable unity of all the books.

    The idea is that unclear parts of Scripture will be illuminated by other, presumably clearer parts, as well as by taking the content and unity of all the Scriptures into consideration. Catholics can agree with much of this, but the difference is that Protestants use their own particular tradition in interpreting the Scriptures, while Catholics use sacred Tradition. The former is of human origin; the latter of divine origin. Obviously you disagree. But that is the difference.

    By the way, you follow that with an _absolute_ falsehood. You say in the book, “At the root of the endemic contradictions within Protestantism lies the absence (and by definition, the impossibility) of an interpretive authority for the Scriptures above that of the individual Christian” (p. 151). This might be true of the low-church evangelicals with which you associated, but it is not true of confessionally Reformed Protestants. Pastors have a ministerial authority in interpreting the Scriptures that is given to them by God, and under which God’s people must sit. Furthermore, confessional Protestants believe that the confessional standards of the church stand above the individual believer, but below Scripture itself.

    I understand that you think it is a falsehood. I think it is true. Where do we go from here? This is the argument in the Sola/Solo Called to Communion article and subsequent follow-ups (the tu quoque, etc.).

    I will just say, yes I know that you think you are under ministerial authority that is of divine origin and that the confessions stand above the individual believer, but when the rubber meets the road, the confessions are opinions of men no more infallible than you are.

    Regarding running the book by a Protestant, I would say two things: One, my editor was a life-long Protestant. Two, let’s say I ran the book by you. Well, you would not agree with many arguments–take the “sola reduces to solo” one for instance–so you would say I should not put that in there because it is an “absolute falsehood.” Yet I think it is a true statement. So if Protestants or Catholics did what you are suggesting, very few books would be written (which may, on the other hand, be a good thing, but I digress). Further I doubt that many Protestants follow your advice and run their apologetics books by Catholics.

    That said, I do wish to portray Protestantism, such as it is, in the most accurate light possible, in the sense of how Protestants define their own beliefs. If there are ways where I have fallen short of that, whether by painting with too broad a brush or by not nuancing the teachings well enough (or just by being flat-out unclear in my writing), I apologize. I’m editing the book again as it will be published under a new name and edition, so I will be taking your feedback into consideration.

    God bless,
    Devin

  39. greenbaggins said,

    January 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    But, Devin, you said “an interpretive authority.” You did not say “infallible interpretive authority.” Therefore, what you are actually saying is that there is no interpretive authority whatsoever that is above *individual* interpretation in Protestantism. That statement is plain false the way it stands. You did not define “interpretive authority” in that context as needing to have a divine authority. Therefore, you are guilty of using a Roman Catholic paradigm to describe Protestantism. You assume the Roman Catholic definition of interpretive authority, and then impose that on Protestantism.

  40. Devin Rose said,

    January 28, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Hmm, I argue (as does the Called to Communion article) that in Protestantism, the individual is the ultimate interpretive authority:

    However, as we shall argue below, there is no principled difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura with respect to the locus of “ultimate interpretive authority:” sola scriptura, no less than solo scriptura, entails that the individual Christian is the ultimate arbiter of the right interpretation of Scripture.

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/

    If the individual is the ultimate interpretive authority, then there is no interpretive authority above him. But it sounds like you don’t think this argument is valid, and so do think that there is a principled difference between sola Scriptura and “solo” Scriptura, with respect to ultimate interpretive authority. Is that right?

  41. greenbaggins said,

    January 28, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Protestants argue that God’s Word is the ultimate interpreter of itself, as God poured His own meaning into the text. It is, therefore, more a question of whether my interpretation of Scripture is aligned with Scripture itself. The Bible means what it means regardless of whether anyone ever interpreted it. God is His own best interpreter. We are seeking to think God’s thoughts after Him. Fortunately, there is a way for God’s thoughts to be given to us. God has written them down, and God gives His children the Holy Spirit (and not just to individuals, but also to the church in the sense given below). The only ultimate interpretive authority is God Himself. Underneath that ultimate interpretive authority are *lesser* authorities, the church as represented by the pastor is one non-inerrant interpretive authority, which authority has *more* authority than the individual, who has an interpretive authority that is subject both to the church’s non-inerrant authority, and, more importantly, to God’s own self-interpreting authority. The line of authority goes from God the Holy Spirit-church-pastor-individual. It is therefore a severely truncated view of interpretive authority in Evangelicalism that you present in your book. It is so severely truncated as to be rather severely distorted. The problem with your presentation of Evangelicalism is that you seem to think that Evangelicals believe the church has zero interpretive authority between a person and God, and that all Evangelicals think that their own opinion is subject to nothing. Confessionally Reformed folk believe in the above line of interpretive authority, where the individual interpretive authority is most certainly *not* ultimate. Neither do we believe that the church has infallible interpretive authority, of course.

  42. Devin Rose said,

    January 28, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    Lane,

    Yes I understand that _you think_ that this is the way the line of authority goes. I’m arguing, as does the Called to Communion post I linked to above, that in fact your thinking is in error. That is, that while you think that this is the way authority goes, because of your other Protestant beliefs, your claims are erroneous.

    So the “severely truncated view of interpretive authority in Evangelicalism” that you allegedly say is found in my book, and that Reformed folks like you reject, is, I argue, the actual reality of following Protestantism’s beliefs (or lack thereof) to their logical conclusion.

    This is not meant to be insulting.

    Dr. Michael Liccione made a follow-up post that, in section II, explains where the error in your position is, effectively rebutting your claim of subordinate authorities (and that the individual does not retain ultimate interpretive authority): http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/02/mathisons-reply-to-cross-and-judisch-a-largely-philosophical-critique/

    If you have not read his article, especially section II, I would ask that you do so. I’m claiming that these two articles clearly and definitively rebut your argument.

    God bless,
    Devin

  43. January 29, 2013 at 5:04 am

    [...] can read Lane Keister’s criticisms at Green Baggins. My response doesn’t come until later in the comments, as I didn’t realize he had [...]

  44. CD-Host said,

    January 29, 2013 at 9:06 am

    @Green / Lane –

    Just to add to what Devin saying, let me rephrase this Catholic apologetic in a slightly different way.

    Assume there were collections of doctrines: D1..D90.
    Assume there were churches/denominations C1A..C90Z where C5_ was a church that believed doctrine 5.
    Assume that all of churches were able to arrive to defend their doctrines to some degree in a way that sounded plausible to some people.

    Obviously within a church the church chooses the doctrine.
    But between churches in general that is not going to be the case though some churches do share doctrine.

    Now an individual could just pick a church for arbitrary reasons, like which one has the best child services or which one is closest to their house and and up with a semi-arbitrary collection of associated doctrines which they choose to sorta believe until there is a good reason to change churches.

    But a more serious individual would see that their choice of church is driven by their choice of doctrine. Obviously they can appeal to any one church when it comes to doctrine: pick church C11L and D11 is the doctrine but so what since if they had picked C13L, D13 would have been the correct doctrine.

    For someone serious about doctrine they cannot look to a church to solve this problem. Instead he more or less has to start considering the doctrinal decisions themselves. At some point he may decide D18 is the right set of doctrines for himself. The problem is that their equally knowledgeable and apparently just as sincere friend decided that D44 was the correct doctrine. Since he and his friend both went through the same process whatever is different in their result is a result of differences between them, that is they did the choosing of the doctrine.

    Now lets finally add the complication of the Holy Spirit. The C18 churches and the C44 churches both claim to be led by the Holy Spirit. Because people are capable of generating religious feelings (or if you like because the devil misleads people about their religious feelings) both the D18 guy and D44 think they were led by the Spirit. So the Spirit doesn’t help either. And the evidence for that is that C1A..C90Z exist and are quite popular.

    ____

    Now what this really comes down is a deeper question about predestination. For the Reformed what they really mean is that C87 churches are the ones that “really” have the Holy Spirit and whomever doesn’t pick a C87 type church probably isn’t saved… and thus doctrine D87 is true in a way that D18 and D44 can’t be. But that is no longer meaningfully a doctrine of sola scriptura rather it is an appeal to yourself as a particularly graced form of guru.

  45. theoldadam said,

    January 29, 2013 at 10:00 am

    I was a Catholic for 35 years. I’m convinced that many Catholics just like ‘religion’ (as do many Evangelicals).

    They just want to have a dog in the fight.

    They gotta play some role, no matter how small.

    That, is putting one drop of poison into the pure clean glass of water.

  46. Don said,

    January 29, 2013 at 11:32 am

    CD-Host #43,
    Ignoring a couple serious, but tangential, problems (e.g., that churches generally don’t share doctrines [unless by "doctrine" you mean a church's entire system of doctrine; even so most churches' have doctrines which greatly overlap with those of other churches], and that “the Reformed” think that only people who belong to their particular church C87 are saved), I have a question on how this is supposed to represent the Catholic apologetic. Specifically, Catholics seem to think their church (or doctrine) is special and immune from the tu quoque charge that they’re just church C71. How does your formulation of this apologetic deal with that?

  47. Bryan Cross said,

    January 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Lane, (re: #41)

    The line of authority goes from God the Holy Spirit-church-pastor-individual….

    Except it is not a “line.” In this system every individual has direct [bosom-burning] access to the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures, which determination always trumps all other alleged authorities when there is a disagreement between what the individual determines the Holy Spirit is speaking within through his own study of the Scriptures, and what the “church” or “pastor” are saying.

    Confessionally Reformed folk believe in the above line of interpretive authority, where the individual interpretive authority is most certainly *not* ultimate.

    Whenever any “church” or “pastor” does not conform to what by one’s own judgment the Spirit is speaking in one’s own heart, through one’s own study of Scripture, one is both free and obligated to reject and disobey the “church” or “pastor.” (Otherwise one cuts off the very act of Luther by which Protestantism justifies its entire existence as separate from the Catholic Church.) So the teachings and decisions of the “church” and “pastor” are always subject to the individual’s internal judgment concerning what the Spirit is speaking in the Scriptures. For that reason, the individual’s interpretive authority *is* ultimate, because the “church” and “pastor” can never trump it, but it can at any time trump that of the “church” and “pastor.”

    Because “when I submit (only when I agree) the one to whom I submit is me,” such ‘authorities’ are no authorities at all, but provide merely the semblance of being under authority. Of course confessional Reformed folk do not describe their position as providing only a semblance of authority. But in the Reformed system the nature of the ecclesial ‘authority’ in relation to the individual’s interpretive authority is always such that it can be trumped by the individual’s determination of what the Spirit is saying.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  48. De Maria said,

    January 29, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Protestants argue that God’s Word is the ultimate interpreter of itself, as God poured His own meaning into the text.

    How does that work exactly? Say that Joe Protestant says that Scripture teaches the consubstantial presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Whereas, Bob Reformer disagrees.

    How does the Scripture then, interpret Itself?

  49. Don said,

    January 29, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Bryan Cross #47,
    You are so wrong in almost every sentence that I can only suppose you don’t realize what “submit” means to a Protestant. I’ll give you a concrete example: I grew up Baptist. I happen to still think that believer’s baptism (by immersion) is most consistent with the New Testament Scriptures. However, I attend a Reformed church. So I have happily submitted to my church’s practices and doctrine and had my children baptized as infants.

    Now, I suppose I could have been “free” to do otherwise, except that I did agree to “submit to the discipline of the church” [paraphrase, from memory] when I became a member. But how am I “obligated to reject and disobey the “church” or “pastor””? (Not being Lutheran, I have no idea what you’re talking about regarding Luther, as if he were the first non-Catholic Christian?).

  50. Bryan Cross said,

    January 29, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Don, (re: #48)

    However, I attend a Reformed church.

    Why did you choose to attend a Reformed church, rather than a Baptist church, a Methodist church, a Pentecostal church, a Church of Christ church, a Lutheran church, etc., etc., etc., …. etc.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  51. CD-Host said,

    January 29, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    @Don #46

    Hi Don.
    Specifically, Catholics seem to think their church (or doctrine) is special and immune from the tu quoque charge that they’re just church C71. How does your formulation of this apologetic deal with that?

    This apologetic and the Catholic one I’m rephrasing it from doesn’t deal with that objection at all. The goal is to simply argue that there is no meaningful in practice distinction between an individual interpreting scripture with themselves as ultimate authority and the Reformed doctrine. That a person who takes doctrine seriously in the Protestant framework cannot avoid making themselves their own ultimate interpretative authority. It exists to counter Lane’s objection to Devin, it doesn’t exist to make the positive case for Catholicism.

    You are absolutely correct that at the end of this apologetic the Catholic church is just C71 with doctrine set D71. Catholics don’t see this apologetic as establishing the truth of D71, rather they see it is undermining a specific method for choosing between them. An entirely different apologetic is used to propose a solution.

    1) A historically false argument is made about the development of early Christianity.
    2) A historically correct argument is then made tying the modern Catholic church to the ancient Catholic church.
    3) Based on (1) and (2) they are able to establish that C71 is the church that Jesus founded.
    4) One of the doctrine of C71 from its earliest days is that the church cannot go astray on crucial matters of faith and morals.
    5) From which D71 naturally follows.

    That is either the church from its earliest days has always been lying or D71 is the correct set of doctrines. The problem with their argument is threefold

    a) The falsity of (1). And they don’t have a good counter for that. The problem for a Reformed opponent is that (1) being false also undermines a good deal of Reformed doctrine as well.

    b) The doctrine is a bit self defeating since it is rather easy to show that the early church did not agree with D71. One needs a whole additional theology of “development” that isn’t accounted for.

    c) Even if one grants (1) just because C71 is the original church doesn’t mean one still couldn’t reject the criteria of original.

    So I think the anti-Protestant part of the apologetic holds up well. The affirmative case I think is badly flawed.

  52. Don said,

    January 29, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Bryan Cross #49,
    It’s the first one I was invited to, when I moved into the area. Does that help you answer my question?

  53. Bryan Cross said,

    January 29, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Don, (re: #51)

    Good thing the JWs weren’t the first to invite you. :-)

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  54. Don said,

    January 29, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    Bryan Cross #52,
    You’re hinting at an answer to my question in #48,

    But how am I “obligated to reject and disobey the “church” or “pastor””?

    which if the church or denomination is teaching something explicitly contrary to orthodox Christianity (such as rejection of the Trinity), then it’s time to leave. But that does not seem to be your point in 47, where you seem to discuss any level of disagreement. So I’ll look forward to a general answer to my question, thanks.

  55. michael said,

    January 29, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Bryan : “… For that reason, the individual’s interpretive authority *is* ultimate, because the “church” and “pastor” can never trump it, but it can at any time trump that of the “church” and “pastor.””.

    To use a poor analogy there is one element in there “the big elephant in the midst” that Bryan is glossing over and that is God and His ability to communicate with His Sheep/People.

    Bryan have you forgotten this that is a part of sacred Scripture ?

    “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:1-5 ESV)

    There undoubtedly will be controversies and struggles in the Body, dah!

    Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. (Acts 20:28-31 ESV)

    So the member who also hears His voice will have a witness in time or over a period of time his error or the Pastor’s as the Holy Spirit does His sanctifying work in the heart of these members. That in no way let’s a Pastor or Elder off the hook if their discernment is poor.

    We do have the Word of God to go to and draw from as we have access to enter by that New and Living Way to talk to God!

    Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:19-23 ESV)

    And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32 ESV)

    Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13-18 ESV)

    A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle. From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. (Proverbs 18:19-21 ESV)

  56. jamesswan1 said,

    February 2, 2013 at 10:04 am

    “Whenever any “church” or “pastor” does not conform to what by one’s own judgment the Spirit is speaking in one’s own heart, through one’s own study of Scripture, one is both free and obligated to reject and disobey the “church” or “pastor.” (Otherwise one cuts off the very act of Luther by which Protestantism justifies its entire existence as separate from the Catholic Church.) So the teachings and decisions of the “church” and “pastor” are always subject to the individual’s internal judgment concerning what the Spirit is speaking in the Scriptures. For that reason, the individual’s interpretive authority *is* ultimate, because the “church” and “pastor” can never trump it, but it can at any time trump that of the “church” and “pastor.”

    -snip-
    “Why did you choose to attend a Reformed church, rather than a Baptist church, a Methodist church, a Pentecostal church, a Church of Christ church, a Lutheran church, etc., etc., etc., …. etc.”

    So says CTC’s Bryan Cross.

    As finite human beings, we never escape interpreting anything, be it an infallible Bible or an infallible church.

    1. Did Mr. Cross use his own internal judgement when he chose the Roman church? If so, was this judgment “subject to the individual’s internal judgment concerning what the Spirit is speaking in the Scriptures”? That is, fundamentally, did Mr. Cross compare his reading of the Bible to what various churches believed, and then choose which church he wanted?

    2. How is it that Mr.Cross isn’t himself now a private interpreter of what Rome teaches? Why is he the correct interpreter of Rome, and someone like Gerry Matatics is not?

    Sentiment as that put forth by Mr. Cross defines the context of the discussion. Don’t allow that. The discussion is not about joining this or that church. It’s about ultimate infallible authorities. Either Rome is the infallible authority or the Bible is the infallible authority. Whether or not one leaves this or that church isn’t the issue. I can certainly leave my infallible authority (the Bible) just as Mr. Cross could leave his infallible authority (the Roman church). Mr. Cross could use his private judgment and choose another infallible authority like the Mormon church. I could choose the Koran.

    I choose not to leave my infallible authority. Sure, I might leave my church and join another, but this is not done at the expense of leaving my infallible authority. Mr. Cross could likewise choose to leave his particular flavor of Romanism for another flavor (a group in communion with Rome). He could do this without leaving Romanism. He would be using his private judgment… which he’s never stopped using.

    Regards,

    James

  57. CD-Host said,

    February 2, 2013 at 10:30 am

    @James –

    Either Rome is the infallible authority or the Bible is the infallible authority.

    I don’t think that’s an accurate characterization of the issue. Catholics don’t deny the bible and many Catholics would consider the bible an infallible authority And possibly a complete infallible authority.

    The problem is what to do from there. From observation we can determine readily that people are not able to generate a consistent agreed upon set of doctrines from the bible. So even if one grants the bible is infallible, the bible as understood seems to be quite fallible. One could imagine having 50 sets of doctrine all wildly different from one another, all asserting the infallibility of the bible, all clearly deriving their doctrines from the bible yet none in agreement.

    The bible being an infallible authority doesn’t get you much further than a fallible bible would.

  58. jamesswan1 said,

    February 2, 2013 at 11:48 am

    “I don’t think that’s an accurate characterization of the issue. Catholics don’t deny the bible and many Catholics would consider the bible an infallible authority And possibly a complete infallible authority.”

    When I speak of Rome as an infallible authority, I’m referring to sola ecclesia (“the concept that the Roman Church [exemplified in the Papacy especially] is the sole and final authority in all matters”).

    I don’t begin with Roman presuppositions.

  59. CD-Host said,

    February 2, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    @james #57

    Well first off Catholics don’t consider the Pope much less the church the sole authority. Nor for that matter do Protestants consider the bible quite that strong. Sola scriptura is the doctrine that all other authorities are subordinate to the bible. Sola scclesia is the doctrine that all other authorities are subordinate to the church.

    * An ultimate authority is one that takes precedence over all the others. * A final authority is the last in a sequence of authorities to be consulted.
    * An infallible authority is an authority which can never be wrong.

    Those are not equivalent and interchangeable concepts. Something can be any one or two of those 3 without being the others. For example one could hold that logic is an ultimate infallible authority, nothing which violates the laws of logic can possibly be true thus infallible and ultimate. On the other hand it is rarely a final authority because so few arguments can be reduced to deductive logic.

    You are freely migrating between these 3 concepts. Catholics would argue that similar to log even if they grant the bible is an ultimate and infallible authority it is so opaque that in effect the bible itself almost never acts as a final authority. Rather fallible biblical interpretations acts as a final authority and are conflated with an infallible ultimate bible.

  60. jamesswan1 said,

    February 2, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Ah, the death of 1000 qualifications game begins.

    “Well first off Catholics don’t consider the Pope much less the church the sole authority.”

    My comments were in regard to ultimate infallible authority.

    “Nor for that matter do Protestants consider the bible quite that strong.”

    I am not a lone person in the woods with a Bible. I am a member of church that ascribes to confessional standards. That church though, while an authority, is not an infallible authority.

    “An ultimate authority is one that takes precedence over all the others.”

    Yes, that would be the sola ecclesia of Romanism.

    “A final authority is the last in a sequence of authorities to be consulted.”

    Yes, that’s the sola ecclessia of Romanism.

    “An infallible authority is an authority which can never be wrong.”

    Why, that’s the sola ecclesia of Romanism also.

    Those are not equivalent and interchangeable concepts. Something can be any one or two of those 3 without being the others. For example one could hold that logic is an ultimate infallible authority, nothing which violates the laws of logic can possibly be true thus infallible and ultimate. On the other hand it is rarely a final authority because so few arguments can be reduced to deductive logic.

    While they may not be “equivalent and interchangeable concepts” they certainly do a good job in describing 3 aspects of the sola ecclesia of Romanism.

    You are freely migrating between these 3 concepts.

    You are “freely” defining the conversation into a paradigm you wish to control.

    Catholics would argue that similar to log even if they grant the bible is an ultimate and infallible authority it is so opaque that in effect the bible itself almost never acts as a final authority. Rather fallible biblical interpretations acts as a final authority and are conflated with an infallible ultimate bible.

    I realize Romanists argue according to their paradigms. I’m not arguing from a Romanist paradigm. It is an inconsistent paradigm. Rome herself must be interpreted by the individual, as does the Bible. Mr. Cross must interpret Romanism and I must interpret the Bible. There’s no thousand words of qualification that will escape the simple truth. He’s simply obfuscating this obvious fact above. If you wish to help him, then so be it. Pile up all the decretals of Romanism and plop a Bible on top, and then listen to Mr. Cross say, “So the teachings and decisions of the ‘church’ and “pastor” are always subject to the individual’s internal judgment concerning what the Spirit is speaking in the Scriptures.” Then, ask yourself: why is this not the case for Mr. Cross in his understand of Rome?

  61. Ron said,

    February 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    From observation we can determine readily that people are not able to generate a consistent agreed upon set of doctrines from the bible. So even if one grants the bible is infallible, the bible as understood seems to be quite fallible. One could imagine having 50 sets of doctrine all wildly different from one another, all asserting the infallibility of the bible, all clearly deriving their doctrines from the bible yet none in agreement.

    1. It is false that “people are not able to generate a consistent agreed upon set of doctrines from the bible.” For instance, the Westminster Assembly was comprised of people. The Westminster Assembly generated “a consistent agreed upon set of doctrines from the bible.” Therefore, people generated “a consistent agreed upon set of doctrines from the bible.”

    2. It is hard to infer precisely what CD-Host is actually trying to say given the imprecision with which he writes. I don’t say that to shame him, but only to preface a request for an extra measure of charity as I deal with the next part – as I do draw some inferences based upon some disjointed premises.

    It would appear That CD-Host would like to argue that disagreement over doctrine makes it needful, if not necessary, to have an infallible magisterium. But why does Rome get a pass with respect to disagreement? Rome disagrees with the Westminster Confession of Faith, therefore, it would seem incumbent upon CD-Host to rationally extricate Rome from the mix of people who he thinks are fallible based upon disagreement and, therefore, not trustworthy. If he fails to do so, then he has drawn his conclusion about Rome based upon a double standard. Of course Roman Catholics simply ignore this point, for they prefer to assume an attitude of agreement among themselves versus disagreement among Protestant sects. Yet the way in which they group their sets and subsets is arbitrary and misleading, as I will prove below.

    A professing atheist may employ the same argument as CD-Host against Roman Catholicism. After all, if we lump Rome in with all the rest of Trinitarian Christianity (and apply CD-Host’s reasoning) then the disagreements among the set of all Trinitarians, including Roman Catholics, would imply (by CD-Host’s standard of reasoning) that all doctrine held by Trinitarians is dubious, even Rome’s. In response to this Roman Catholics might say that Rome claims infallibility whereas Protestant denominations don’t. But how does the claim of infallibility establish actual infallibility any more than it proves arrogance and delusion?

    Moreover, surely not all the delegates to Trent agreed upon every point of doctrine, but they did produce a document that is representative of the Roman communion. So it was for the Divines and the Confession. In this sense, Romanism is no different than Presbyterianism or any other Ism with a confession of faith.

    In conclusion we may safely say there is agreement among “people” yet there is also disagreement among “people.” CD-Host’s “argument”, which is simply a tired old Romanist polemic, shows itself to be a wax nose. It’s simply fallacious to conclude that Presbyterianism is not trustworthy because the Westminster Confession disagrees with, say, the Augsburg Confession. We might just as easily argue that Romanism is questionable because it disagrees with all other Trinitarian confessions.

    Let me preempt one thing by saying that one’s view of subscription is irrelevant to this matter. The material point is that a consistent confession of faith implies no confusion among those who do subscribe.

  62. CD-Host said,

    February 2, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Ron #60 –

    It is false that “people are not able to generate a consistent agreed upon set of doctrines from the bible.” For instance, the Westminster Assembly was comprised of people. The Westminster Assembly generated “a consistent agreed upon set of doctrines from the bible.” Therefore, people generated “a consistent agreed upon set of doctrines from the bible.”

    I think from context (i.e. my discussion in post 44) the question was all people not some group of people choosing to agree with one another. Everyone agrees some group of people can choose to agree, what has not happened is that the doctrines become self evident. That is the bible acting as an effective authority. Even among people who subscribe to Westminster they quickly fell into other disagreements.

    But why does Rome get a pass with respect to disagreement? Rome disagrees with the Westminster Confession of Faith, therefore, it would seem incumbent upon CD-Host to rationally extricate Rome from the mix of people who he thinks are fallible based upon disagreement and, therefore, not trustworthy.

    Ah good point. Addressed in post #50 above. Also addressed in response to your next block.

    It’s simply fallacious to conclude that Presbyterianism is not trustworthy because the Westminster Confession disagrees with, say, the Augsburg Confession.

    No there is a crucial difference. Both Westminster and Augsburg to some extent argue that the bible is perspicuous that is an effective source of doctrine. Now they hedge this to some extent by arguing it is perspicuous among the elect, but that still doesn’t help much (see below).

    So we have the following chain of statements.

    1: Westminster Confession states X
    2: Augsburg states ~X
    3: Both parties agree X and ~X do in fact contradict and cannot both be true.
    4: Both parties assert their doctrine is derived from scripture.
    5: Both parties assert that scripture is clear on this issue, so if a person (an elect person?) is interpreting scripture they cannot help but agree with their position.

    So at least one of the following must be true.
    C1: Those holding to Westminster are not among the elect
    C2: Those holding to Augsburg are not among the elect
    C3: The X/~X doctrine is not derived from scripture and thus both parties are unable to successfully determine which doctrines are derived from scripture.
    C4: Scripture is unclear or contradictory on the X/~X doctrine and thus not an effective final infallible source of doctrine.

  63. CD-Host said,

    February 2, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    @james #59

    I am not a lone person in the woods with a Bible. I am a member of church that ascribes to confessional standards. That church though, while an authority, is not an infallible authority.

    See the hedging. The bible is infallible. Well it isn’t infallible by itself it requires a church. And that church isn’t infallible. What difference is there between that and a fallible bible?

    While they may not be “equivalent and interchangeable concepts” they certainly do a good job in describing 3 aspects of the sola ecclesia of Romanism.

    I agree. Catholics make incredibly strong claims about the church. My point in #56 was disagreeing with our analogy. If you see that the two situations of sola ecclesia as you call it and sola scriptura aren’t analogous then you are agreeing not disagreeing with me.

    I realize Romanists argue according to their paradigms. I’m not arguing from a Romanist paradigm. It is an inconsistent paradigm.

    Sorry I don’t buy into the fashionable among the Reformed Van Til nihilism. I think there are where facts are objectively testable one or the other facts becomes simply true in any sane epistemology.

    Mr. Cross must interpret Romanism and I must interpret the Bible. There’s no thousand words of qualification that will escape the simple truth.

    Far be it from me to put words in Bryan’s mouth but he addressed this objection on his site for example in his Tu Quoque article. I think I can only link to one thing so I’ll choose instead to link to an article that more directly addresses the book article from his site but not from his fingers The Catholic and Protestant Authority Paradigms Compared by Ray Stamper.

    Which is that a book cannot engage in dialogue in can only engage in monologue. Any questions that arise from the initial monologue from that point on are resolvable only through interpretations. If multiple sensible interpretations disagree there is no further capacity for clarification. Conversely an institution can engage in dialogue. So there is a core asymmetry. Your church can engage in dialogue but that creates another asymmetry. Your dialogue institution and your authority are not the same, while his are.

  64. Don said,

    February 2, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    CD-Host #61,
    Your “chain of statements” falls apart at point 5, specifically the “cannot help but agree with their position.” Somehow you seem to imply that it’s generally thought that “the elect” “must” interpret Scripture “correctly.” The WCF flatly contradicts this (31.4), even acknowledging that there could be errors in itself. Its authors understood that all people are sinners and make mistakes. Just because someone is trying to sincerely interpret Scripture correctly, they may not be doing so. So your conclusion C3 is probably correct in general but it’s not exactly noteworthy.

  65. CD-Host said,

    February 2, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    @Don #63

    If you agree with C3 you are disagreeing with Ron #60. You are agreeing that the bible as understood, even by the elect, even collectively is quite fallible even if it is intrinsically infallible in some abstract sense.

    It is noteworthy only because this is where the debate is at.

  66. Ron said,

    February 2, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    I had posted this response on the wrong thread. It belongs here.

    CD-Host,

    Confessions go beyond the gospel of substitutionary death, a doctrine all justified persons agree upon. Secondly, a Confession that goes beyond the teaching of the gospel can recognize, as the Westminster standards do, that not all doctrines are equally plain (undermines 5). In fact, Peter called some of Paul’s writings difficult to understand. Thirdly, it is fallacious to conclude (C4), that disagreement implies non-clarity. Otherwise we’d have to conclude that God’s existence is not clear because professing atheists disagree with theists on God’s existence. At any rate, it is fallacious to conclude that since some doctrines are difficult to agree upon that, therefore, an infallible magisterium is biblical, let alone necessary.

    You said you would address this but somehow I missed it: “But why does Rome get a pass with respect to disagreement? Rome disagrees with the Westminster Confession of Faith, therefore, it would seem incumbent upon CD-Host to rationally extricate Rome from the mix of people who he thinks are fallible based upon disagreement and, therefore, not trustworthy.”

    Remember, a professing atheist may employ the same argument against Rome as you against Protestant denominations. Again, if we lump Rome in with all the rest of Trinitarian Christianity (and apply your reasoning) then the disagreements among the set of all Trinitarians, including Roman Catholics, would imply (by your reasoning) that all doctrine held by Trinitarians is dubious, even Rome’s.

    Below is your argument with one alteration. I substituted Trent for the Lutheran confession.

    1: Westminster Confession states X

    2: Trent states ~X

    3: Both parties agree X and ~X do in fact contradict and cannot both be true.

    4: Both parties assert their doctrine is derived from scripture.

    5: Both parties assert that scripture is clear on this issue, so if a person (an elect person?) is interpreting scripture they cannot help but agree with their position.

    So at least one of the following must be true.

    C1: Those holding to Westminster are not among the elect

    C2: Those holding to Trent are not among the elect

    C3: The X/~X doctrine is not derived from scripture and thus both parties are unable to successfully determine which doctrines are derived from scripture.

    C4: Scripture is unclear or contradictory on the X/~X doctrine and thus not an effective final infallible source of doctrine.

    For time sake, let me preempt your rejoinder. You might argue that since “Scripture is unclear… and thus not an effective final infallible source of doctrine” that, therefore, we need Rome. But how is it that Scripture is clearer to the Roman magisterium than to the Divines? Your only appeal can be that Rome says so. For as soon as you grab your Bible to prove your point you undermine your conclusion that Scripture is “not an effective final infallible source of doctrine.”

    So, in the final analysis, not only do you believe Rome on her say so alone; you are unable to check her claims against Scripture because Scripture is apparently unclear and not effective in settling such matters. (BTW, Mormons have a similar problem.)

    Moreover, there is no OT precedent of infallibility (yet there has always been disagreement over Scripture). Given no such precedent, the burden of proof is not upon Protestants to disprove infallibility, which has been done by comparing Scripture with Trent etc., but upon Rome to positively prove infallibility. Yet you cannot possibly prove your doctrine from Scripture, for you have already asserted that Scripture is not effective in such matters. Consequently, your conclusion of an infallible magisterium rests 100% upon Rome’s claims regarding infallibility. That, CD-Host, is a hazardous way to go about things.

  67. Don said,

    February 3, 2013 at 1:03 am

    CD-Host 64,
    Ron’s comment 60 is kind of long. Where did I disagree with him? Where he said that the Westminster Divines didn’t fully agree with each other? Where he said “people generated ‘a consistent agreed upon set of doctrines from the bible’?” Maybe if he had said _all_ people, which he did not.

    Anyway,

    You are agreeing that the bible as understood, even by the elect, even collectively is quite fallible even if it is intrinsically infallible in some abstract sense.

    I take it that your misrepresentation of what I would agree to is not on purpose but symptomatic of your miscomprehension of the Protestant position. “The bible as understood” is not equivalent to “an understanding of the Bible;” the phrases are not the same when the nouns–the focus of the phrase–are interchanged. The closest that I would agree to is to say that: The understanding of the Bible, even by the elect (collectively or individually) is, because of the understander’s sin, fallible even though the Bible itself is infallible.

  68. CD-Host said,

    February 3, 2013 at 7:17 am

    @Ron #65 –

    Confessions go beyond the gospel of substitutionary death, a doctrine all justified persons agree upon. Secondly, a Confession that goes beyond the teaching of the gospel can recognize, as the Westminster standards do, that not all doctrines are equally plain (undermines 5).

    The argument for (5) works well for a subset of doctrines. To pick your particular example there are a wealth of theories of atonement:

    Christus Victor (Orthodox)
    Governmental (Arminian)
    Moral influence (Patristic, Unitarians, Christian liberals)
    Penal substitution (Scholastic – Reformed)
    Ransom (Patristic, Anabaptist, World of Faith)
    Recapitulation (Patristic, dead today)
    Satisfaction ( Lutheran, Reformed (Calvin), some Catholics)
    Substitutionary (current most popular, added to other theories)

    So even if you focus this narrowly you still run into the same problem.

    Thirdly, it is fallacious to conclude (C4), that disagreement implies non-clarity. Otherwise we’d have to conclude that God’s existence is not clear because professing atheists disagree with theists on God’s existence..

    And many Christians have no problem arguing that God’s existence is unclear based on the fact that knowledgeable apparently sincere people disagree. I’d be willing to assert that agreement of all or almost all knowledgeable sincere people is a good definition for what it means for an idea to be clear. A situation where huge block of sincere knowledgeable people have massive disagreements strikes me as a rather good definition for opaque.

    You said you would address this but somehow I missed it: “But why does Rome get a pass with respect to disagreement? Rome disagrees with the Westminster Confession of Faith, therefore, it would seem incumbent upon CD-Host to rationally extricate Rome from the mix of people who he thinks are fallible based upon disagreement and, therefore, not trustworthy.”

    From the perspective of divergent theories they don’t get a pass. The divergence is just an argument against the clarify of biblical derivation. It proves one particular method fails. That particular method’s failure is a serious problem for traditions that grant it a central role, not so much for ones that don’t.

    Below is your argument with one alteration. I substituted Trent for the Lutheran confession….
    4: Both parties assert their doctrine is derived from scripture.
    5: Both parties assert that scripture is clear on this issue, so if a person (an elect person?) is interpreting scripture they cannot help but agree with their position.

    You need more than one alternation. Catholics don’t argue Trent is derived from scripture. Nor do they argue that scripture is clear on this issue, rather they argue the opposite.

    . But how is it that Scripture is clearer to the Roman magisterium than to the Divines? Your only appeal can be that Rome says so.

    Not really. I can think of many many more possible appeals.

    For example Resource based: The RCC has vast financial resources and intellectual resources well beyond what Protestant denominations have and these give it a substantial advantage. Ideas get clarified when considered in a

    Proven track record: The RCC has a longer track record of managing to stay more consistent on major points than most (all?) Protestant denominations. Even the clearest thinkers like Calvin have huge blocks of their theology rejected within 500 years, and have fragmented into groups with irreconcilable theologies. While there are disagreements among Catholics they have been able to contain their degree and reach resolutions that overwhelming numbers can accept.

    There are many more.

    But ultimately the appeal they make is that Jesus has a special relationship with the church he founded and they are that church. The point about church Jesus founded, is a historical argument not a scriptural one. Rome’s claim is their historical case when examined holds up even in the absence of all faith. The special relationship comes from early patristic testimony. Either very early church fathers were lying/mistaken about the degree of authority they had from the apostles or this special relationship was a teaching of Jesus and the apostles. That’s their argument, it is not scriptural.

  69. jamesswan1 said,

    February 3, 2013 at 7:31 am

    See the hedging. The bible is infallible. Well it isn’t infallible by itself it requires a church. And that church isn’t infallible. What difference is there between that and a fallible bible?

    Perhaps you deny God used fallible men to put together infallible Scripture. I don’t, so there’s no difficulty in believing in infallible scripture and a fallible church coexisting. The testimony of Scripture is that God gave his word to fallible men, sometimes blatantly sinful men, Yet it’s still his infallible word, despite the fallibleness of the human conveying that word. Romanism though ignores an elephant in the room: the Old Testament. There, God used the fallible Jews to put together the infallible Old Testament. They were entrusted with the very words of God (Rom. 3:2). Advocates of Romanism argue that an infallible church is needed to know which biblical books are infallible. But yet, Jesus himself say to the the Sadducees, “have you not read what God said to you…” (Mt. 22:31).

    I agree. Catholics make incredibly strong claims about the church. My point in #56 was disagreeing with our analogy. If you see that the two situations of sola ecclesia as you call it and sola scriptura aren’t analogous then you are agreeing not disagreeing with me.

    No, I’m not agreeing with you. I’m not denying sola ecclesia simply for the sake of denying sola ecclesia. Rome, by making the claim she does, sets herself up as the very voice of God. My basic question is thus: Where is the voice of God? Where is God’s special revelation found? If God’s word is found outside the Scripture, where is it? Rome claims to be infallible because God’s Spirit and word are found within her. I deny that claim. So, when I deny sola ecclesia, I do so for the simple fact that Rome is not inspired by God’s Holy Spirit to make her infallible.

    Sorry I don’t buy into the fashionable among the Reformed Van Til nihilism. I think there are where facts are objectively testable one or the other facts becomes simply true in any sane epistemology.

    Yes, I went and scrolled through what appears to be your blog. You don’t like “Reformed” or presuppositional apologetics, you appear to give little overt information about exactly what you believe, that’s at least what I discovered from about 10 minutes of scrolling through the entries. Perhaps others enjoy playing cat-and-mouse games with you, I don’t. For clarity sake, you could always simply let me know exactly where you stand on Romanism and why you spend the time here you do defending her. It appears to me, and I could be wrong, you’re more concerned with refuting Reformed apologetics against Romanism than defending Romanism.

    Far be it from me to put words in Bryan’s mouth but he addressed this objection on his site for example in his Tu Quoque article. I think I can only link to one thing so I’ll choose instead to link to an article that more directly addresses the book article from his site but not from his fingers The Catholic and Protestant Authority Paradigms Compared by Ray Stamper.

    Mr. Cross and the CTC folks have been addressed by my friends over on aomin.org (I recall it being a DL broadcast) and Tfan’s blog (search “Tu Quoque”).

    Which is that a book cannot engage in dialogue in can only engage in monologue. Any questions that arise from the initial monologue from that point on are resolvable only through interpretations. If multiple sensible interpretations disagree there is no further capacity for clarification. Conversely an institution can engage in dialogue. So there is a core asymmetry. Your church can engage in dialogue but that creates another asymmetry. Your dialogue institution and your authority are not the same, while his are.

    Do you really believe Rome produces unity on core issues because of claiming infallible authority ? Consider a basic issue:

    Dei Verbum states:

    107. The inspired books teach the truth. “Since therefore ALL that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.” [Vatican II DV 11]

    This statement itself is prone to multiple interpretations with the Roman community. Conservative Roman Catholic apologists see this as a clear statement that the entirety of Scripture is without error. Some Roman Catholic scholars though (like R.A.F. MacKenzie and Raymond Brown) see the phrase “for the sake of our salvation” as limiting inerrency to only those sections of Scripture that teach about salvation.

    Eric Svendsen notes, “No one can tell us what the ‘official’ Roman Catholic teaching is on this issue, and Rome’s ‘infallible interpreter’ is of absolutely no advantage to the Roman Catholic apologist, for he has remained silent on the matter. [Source: Eric Svendsen, Upon This Slippery Rock, 24]. Thus, the actual teachings of the Roman Catholic Church are prone to interpretation. The Roman apologist must use his own private interpretation to determine what the meaning of Roman Catholic teaching is. The conservative and liberal Roman Catholic can read the same document and come to two differing opinions.

    So on a fundamental issue- what are, or are not, the very Words of God, Romanists are not unified. This doesn’t even scratch the surface. One need only to compare current Romanism with previous centuries of Romanism. Consider what Luther pointed out many years ago of the Roman church of his day:

    There is no other place in the world where there are so many sects, schisms, and errors as in the papal church. For the papacy, because it builds the church upon a city and person, has become the head and fountain of all sects which have followed it and have characterized Christian life in terms of eating and drinking, clothes and shoes, tonsures and hair, city and place, day and hour. For the spirituality and holiness of the papal church lives by such things, as was said above.  This order fasts at this time, another order fasts at another time; this one does not eat meat, the other one does not eat eggs; this one wears black, the other one white; this one is Carthusian,  the other Benedictine;  and so they continue to create innumerable sects and habits, while faith and true Christian life go to pieces. All this is the result of the blindness which desires to see rather than believe the Christian church and to seek devout Christian life not in faith but in works, of which St. Paul writes so much in Colossians [2]. These things have invaded the church and blindness has confirmed the government of the pope.” [LW 39:221].

  70. Ron said,

    February 3, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Catholics don’t argue Trent is derived from scripture. Nor do they argue that scripture is clear on this issue, rather they argue the opposite.

    Perfect. Let’s go with that. You are to believe Trent on the church’s say so, without any recourse to Scripture. Accordingly, your view of Roman dogma is based upon Rome’s say so alone.

  71. CD-Host said,

    February 3, 2013 at 9:44 am

    @Don 66

    Where you are disagreeing is his point (1). It is false that “people [collectively] are not able to generate a consistent agreed upon set of doctrines from the bible.”

    ____

    As for the misrepresentation. Yes I’m unclear. I think you are really disagreeing on tone. One phrasing hints that the bible is opaque that is imperfect and another hints that the the reader is flawed. It is the hint of the difference that is bothering you. But reducing the hint away, let me give an argument and you tell me at what step you disagree.

    A1: Amy’s horse is Angel.
    A2: Angel is the horse of Amy.

    are equivalent statements in English. The generative construction “‘s”
    is quite literally defined in terms of the older prepositional form “of”

    for the same reason

    B1: Jay’s understanding of the bible
    B2: The biblical understanding of Jay

    are the same thing. This applies even if I replace Jay with a defined group.

    C1: The elect’s understanding of the bible
    C2: The biblical understanding of the elect

    this doesn’t change if I add irrelevant clauses.

    D1: The elect’s understanding of the bible due to tunafish
    D2: The biblical understanding of the elect due to tunafish
    D3: The elect’s understanding of the bible
    D4: The biblical understanding of the elect

    still have the same possessive structure. D1 and D2 are the same statement as are D3 and D4.

    ____

    In any case if I gave a precise physics equation to a bunch of toddlers and demanded they draw conclusions about objects from those equations I’d get answers more or less independent of the equations and thus highly inconsistent. If I setup the same situation but this time gave nonsensical equations to physicists I’d get the same sort of highly inconsistent answers. What we mean by saying physics equations are unclear is that they produce the results in physicists that any equations produce in toddlers. Ultimately the distinction you are aiming for is one without a difference AFAICT. in terms of reliability it doesn’t matter if we inescapably toddlers or the equations are flawed. In either case they don’t serve the function being claimed for them.

    Can people create consistent doctrines from the bible. If the answer is “no” as a result of sin, or pinecones what difference does that make? The answer is still no. The very least we can expect from a perspicuous text is that different readers are able to come up with a consistent interpretation. If multiple readers break into camps with wildly different views and hold to them when confronted with each other’s reasoning there is a serious problem with the doctrine of perspicuity. The issue of whether the text or humanity collectively is at fault is a side point.

  72. jamesswan1 said,

    February 3, 2013 at 10:01 am

    The RCC has a longer track record of managing to stay more consistent on major points than most (all?) Protestant denominations.

    Have you ever read the Old Testament? Israel was far from consistent in their worship and understanding of God, and yet God entrusted them with the Scriptures and called them his people. Even if the RCC really were ” more consistent on major points”, this doesn’t prove they are the true church, or a true church at all for that matter.

    Question: If you’re not a Romanist, why are you arguing in defense of Romanism?

    I don’t get it.

  73. CD-Host said,

    February 3, 2013 at 10:27 am

    @Ron #69

    Perfect. Let’s go with that. You are to believe Trent on the church’s say so, without any recourse to Scripture. Accordingly, your view of Roman dogma is based upon Rome’s say so alone.

    OK fine lets work this example:

    I think the Catholic apologetic would work something like this.

    1) The RCC leadership claims Trent is Catholic dogma this is provable using easy natural means.

    2) The RCC’s leadership claims about Catholic dogma are true by definition: they would argue this is a tautology. The same as CD-Host’s stated positions are whatever positions CD-Host states.

    This is an interesting debate and one where I think Catholic apologetics often ends up being a bit flawed where they tend to use an equivocation. The tautology holds up in the most basic sense but that reduces “Catholic dogma” to mean just an arbitrary lists of statements that the current leadership holds. Under a more expansive doctrine it means essentially the emerging consensus of the church collectively over time. I think history of philosophy type approaches can be used here. You don’t just have to take Rome’s word’s for it, but one can examine the historical record for themselves and draw a conclusions on most of Trent. That’s a long argument but not one particularly based in faith nor scripture.

    3) The statements of Trent are matters of faith and morals: I think this is obviously true. I don’t even know of a counter argument that contests this.

    4) The Catholic church is inerrant on matters of faith and morals: the argument for this comes from the early church fathers claiming this has always been the Catholic position. It comes down to whether you are willing to say by the third century the Catholic / Christian church was deeply corrupt to the point it would be making up major doctrines out of whole cloth. Most Conservative Presbyterians aren’t willing to go quite that far since they understand how corrosive that sort of position is towards their positions on other issues.

    Now one can look at (1) – (4) and see there is nothing specific to Trent there. Any faith / morals statements made by the leadership with some reasonable degree of historical support would pass the same 4 step process. Which is a tremendous degree of authority and power for the church. If you wanted to reject it, (4) is really the only point of attack. But it is up to you if you want to go through that door or not.

    I made comment #44 trying to clarify a Catholic apologetic. I’ve been disagreeing with attacks on it which are weak.

  74. Ron said,

    February 3, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    This is an interesting debate and one where I think Catholic apologetics often ends up being a bit flawed where they tend to use an equivocation.

    That RC apologetics is “a bit flawed” is to put it mildly.

    You don’t just have to take Rome’s word’s for it, but one can examine the historical record for themselves and draw a conclusions on most of Trent. That’s a long argument but not one particularly based in faith nor scripture.

    I’m not interested in arguments not based upon Scripture. At the end of the day, Rome’s claims are not based upon Scripture. When the claim the fathers their appeal is essentially to what they consider Rome, not Scripture. If they appeal to Scripture to establish Rome then Scripture proves itself to be sufficient to settle at least one doctrinal matter, the question of whether Rome his who she claims to be. So again, how does Rome get from Peter to the popes of Rome?

  75. Ron said,

    February 3, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Hi James,

    CD-Host seems to take an evidentialist approach. Pretty risky gamble.

    Good Lord’s Day,
    Ron

  76. CD-Host said,

    February 3, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    @James –

    I’m not a Romanist, though I love their masses. I don’t personalize arguments. Arguments are valid or invalid, sound or unsound, complete or incomplete regardless of what I believe going in or might prefer. I would consider a character flaw not a trait when my preferences about how an argument turn out influence my evaluation.

    Now in terms of presuppositional apologetics I generally find them across the board ridiculous. CtC makes use of them as well and different places in their apologetic and when they do I’m equally critical. Van Til is almost a caricature of Post-Modernism. Presuppositionalism IMHO is being used in Reformed circles to avoid problems in weak arguments. The structure of how they are used in practice:

    A: Gives argument X
    B: Gives Y counter evidence to X
    A: Starts talking about presuppositions.

    Hey why not talk about the Superbowl for all the relevance it has? Changing presuppositions rarely addresses Y. It is a distraction. Nothing in Devin’s post #36-42 make particular use of presuppositional differences between Reformed theology and Catholicism.

    The apologetic is rather clear cut. The founders of Protestantism claimed that Sola Scriptura would lead to a robust orthodoxy: that is an orthodoxy that is both heavily accepted and rich in content. 500 years later nothing remotely like that is evident. What is evident is what I described in post #11. It is not the presuppositions that are presenting a problem for the Reformed argument, it is the facts that are presenting the problem. Catholicism (Western) doesn’t suffer from that problem. Again that’s not a question of presupposition it is a simple question of fact. As Hillary Clinton recently put it, living in an ‘Evidence-Based World’.

    Do you really believe Rome produces unity on core issues because of claiming infallible authority ?

    I’d say that Rome has a fairly good but not perfect track record of producing a robust orthodoxy. Which is not to say there aren’t differences but they are generally able to hedge them in. Your example from Dei Verbum is a good one of where I think you can see that process at work. Protestantism when confronted with the fundamentalist/modernist controversy split the churches. They ended up very quickly with radically divergent theologies of scripture being believed and taught by large institutions. Rome conversely hasn’t had the schism and Dei Verbum is a move towards hedging towards a consensus position.

    The debates on Sola Fide that led to the Reformation or more recently the almost complete rejection of Humanae Vitae by their membership are examples of failures of this model.

    But getting back to the main point, one could take the position that the relative purity of small churches is preferable to a robust orthodoxy. And I think your quote does take that position. And I can certainly see as a defensible position. But ultimately that is an argument for a marketplace of competing Christianities none with strong claim over their membership. Essentially embracing the vision of the Radical Reformers. Embracing Solo Scriptura as the end goal of Sola Scriptura is a reasonable counter argument to the entire CtC Sola/Solo thread of argument. What’s not a reasonable position is asserting that the truth of falsity of Rome has any bearing on the historical track record of Sola Scriptura.

  77. Don said,

    February 3, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    CD-Host 70,

    B1: Jay’s understanding of the bible
    B2: The biblical understanding of Jay

    are the same thing.

    Here is where you err. A one-to-one correspondence with A would say:
    B1′: Jay’s understanding of the Bible
    B2′: The understanding of the Bible of [or by] Jay

    But “biblical” and “of the Bible” are not equivalent. They could be in some circumstances, due to the many ways that “of” can be used. But mostly because “biblical,” at least in general Protestant usage and remember we’re putting words in my mouth here, does not mean “of or relating to the Bible” so much as it means “Bible-based.”

    I’m not sure what your toddlers/equations illustration was supposed to show. Its main shortcoming is that it is possible that some physicists would recognize the nonsense equations as such. So it doesn’t seem like an especially valid analogy to anything we’re discussing here.

  78. CD-Host said,

    February 4, 2013 at 7:40 am

    @Don 77

    B1′: Jay’s understanding of the Bible
    B2′: The understanding of the Bible of [or by] Jay

    Don. Point taken regarding bible biblical. That’s totally fair.

    I’m not sure what your toddlers/equations illustration was supposed to show. Its main shortcoming is that it is possible that some physicists would recognize the nonsense equations as such. So it doesn’t seem like an especially valid analogy to anything we’re discussing here.

    Let’s work with the physicist analogy a bit. I hadn’t considered it from this direction. But certainly there are people knowledgeable and familiar with the bible (the analogy of physicists) that believe the bible has radically different theologies that there is no bible point of view at all though particular books may have one. That would be the equivalent of self contradictory equations in physics which would give a variety of answers.

    So for example if someone were to ask what is the bible’s position on the role of Jesus to the Father I believe that Matthew, John and Revelations don’t present 3 views on the same theory but 3 entirely different theories. If you forced me to answer, I’d have to pick and I’d do so inconsistently with other people who share that view, the majority of knowledgeable liberal Christians for example. So there are people who see the shortcoming of using the bible to create a robust orthodoxy. You just happen to think they are wrong.

    I agree the analogy falls in lots of ways. It was meant to make a simple point about toddlers

  79. Bob S said,

    February 4, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Basically the scandal that a perspicuous and sufficient revelation in the Bible does not produce a perfectly visible church made up of still fallible yet redeemed sinners is enough for some folks to jump ship and start rowing across the Tiber to that golden city on the opposite shore. Or at least start cheering for CtC.

    But every heretic has his text.
    And every atheist his non sequitur.
    They should know who they are.

    Likewise the misuse of presuppositionalism does not rule out presuppositionalism.

    The chief presupposition in this discussion being again that someone thinks they know a lot more about protestantism than they really do or likewise protestantism and presuppositionalism.

    But I predict another fanfare blast and announcement of a new convert over at CtC shortly. I don’t think the glowering visage of the last prize convert will be bumped off the homepage though.

    cheers

  80. jamesswan1 said,

    February 4, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    But I predict another fanfare blast and announcement of a new convert over at CtC shortly. I don’t think the glowering visage of the last prize convert will be bumped off the homepage though.

    Sooner or later, another Reformed turned Romanist will be the next best thing…. and he or she will go the way of Gerry Matatics.

    That’s one of the problems with using conversion stories as your primary apologetic tool… they can bite you.

  81. Rooney said,

    February 5, 2013 at 1:56 am

    If a reformed person visits sedevacantist websites like MHFM, I think such a person would be hardened more against the current RCC and the chances of converting to the RCC will drop. Reading sedevacantist/traditionalist arguments was one thing that kept me from seriously considering the RCC.

    Even if they do end up crossing the Tiber, they will probably go straight into Sedevacantism rather than through the modern RCC.

    I personally agree that some of the recent Popes are anti-Popes. I am also shocked that anyone could prefer the new mass to the old mass.

  82. February 5, 2013 at 4:29 am

    [...] Over at Green Baggins, a commenter named Rooney said: [...]


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