Did the Catholic Church Give Us the Bible? (And How Are We Saved?)

Frequently, Evangelicals will talk about the need to join a Church that’s based on the Bible. There are even helpful quizzes for making sure that you’re going to a “Biblically based” Church. The Catholic Church can do one better: in a very real way, the Bible is based upon the Catholic Church. After I pointed this out on Facebook, a Protestant reader questioned this claim, and asked what Catholics believed the message of salvation is. And so today, I offer two posts rolled into one: (1) is the Catholic Church the origin of the Bible? and (2) What’s the Gospel message of salvation, according to the Catholic Church?

The Gutenberg Bible (15th c.). Photo by Mark Pellegrini.
The Gutenberg Bible (15th c.). Photo by Mark Pellegrini.

I. Did the Catholic Church Give Us the Bible?

There are four major reasons for affirming that the Catholic Church gave us the Bible:

1. The New Testament was written by the Church. The Books of the New Testament were written by Apostles and other leading clergymen within the Church. Recall 1 Corinthians 12:28, “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues.”

2. The New Testament was written to the Church. Just as the Old Testament was written to Israel, the New Testament is written to the Church. We see this most clearly in the Epistles, which tend to be addressed either to a particular church leader (Philemon 1:1, etc.), or a local church (1 Corinthians 1:2, etc.) or a particular group of Christians (1 Peter 1-2, etc.) or the entire Church (Jude 1:1).

3. Both the Old and New Testament were compiled by the Church. Without the Church, you don’t have a clear way of knowing which Books belong in the Bible and which don’t. As a matter of history, the Catholic Church gave us the Bible. As a matter of logic, there’s not a clear alternative, since there’s not an inspired Table of Contents handed down. As a matter of theology, there’s not a clear alternative, because there is no other infallible authority capable of setting this with any degree of certainty.

4. The establishment of the Church is mentioned in Scripture. Matthew 16:17-19 is the most obvious place. Jesus set up a Church, and entrusted that Church with the authority to speak in His name and to witness His Gospel to the ends of the earth. One of the ways that the Church fulfilled this commission was by creating the Bible, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

It’s become popular to speak of the Bible as a “love letter” from God. And that’s a good way of looking at it: a compilation of a series of love letters written by God to His People. That’s true of both the Old and New Testament, but with the New Testament, we can say something even more profound: that these are love letters written to His Bride (Ephesians 5:25-27):

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

So we don’t need to try to invent a new Church, a new Bride for Christ, based upon our reading of His love letters to her. We can just be joined to the Bride that He already has, the one to whom those letters were written in the first place.

The Resurrection of the Dead and the Weighing of Souls, from the Psalter of Blanche of Castile (13th c.)
The Resurrection of the Dead and the Weighing of Souls, from the Psalter of Blanche of Castile (13th c.)

II. How Are We Saved?

Having covered where the Bible came from, let’s look next at what it has to say about how we’re saved. While this wasn’t the original cause of the Reformation it quickly became one of the hottest-button issues, and it remains an area of contention.

Classically, the Protestant answer is rooted in particular Pauline texts about the importance of faith for salvation. That’s wonderful, but there are problems with how these texts are handled. Because Paul talks about the importance of faith, and because (given his audience and the context) that’s his almost-singular focus, there developed the idea that faith ALONE was what was needed for justification and salvation. Luther went so far as to “correct” Romans 3:28 from saying that we’re saved by faith to saying that we are saved by faith ALONE. In the uncorrupted text, the phrase “faith alone” appears exactly once in all of Scripture: James 2:24, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” So justification by faith is a good answer to your question. Justification by faith alone isn’t.

I would suggest that if you want a full answer, look at two things: (1) all of the times in Scripture that people ask how we’re saved; and (2) all of the times that the Final Judgment or salvation/damnation are mentioned.

What you’ll find is a picture much different than simple sola fide: Jesus’ description of the Final Judgment in Matthew 24 doesn’t even mention faith. He looks only at works. Don’t get me wrong: Jesus is not saying that we are saved by works without faith, any more than Paul is saying that we are saved by faith without works — what differs is only their emphasis, given their respective contexts. In Mark 16:16, He gives two criteria for salvation: faith and baptism.

Finally, I’d like to offer two “summaries” of salvation:

A. The New Testament witness is that Jesus is offered to us as our Lord and Savior, but we can’t take Him as our Savior while rejecting Him as our Lord. And it’s not enough to simply call Him Lord. We have to actually live that reality. “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

B. The entire message of salvation can also be summarized by saying that we are saved by love. We see this most clearly in the writings of St. John, and particularly the answers that he gives to these three questions:

1) Can you go to Heaven without loving God and our neighbor?
2) Can you love God without keeping His commandments?
3) Can you keep God’s commandments without doing good works?

If you want to know more about this, I wrote a post from back in February that takes a closer look at how St. John answers those questions.

165 Comments

  1. Encountering this truth about the Sacred Scriptures was the first thing that explicitly nudged me to the bosom of Mother Church four years ago. Thank you for this concise article, Joe. As St. Augustine said in “Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus” in ch 5, “For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church.”

  2. Speaking from a Protestant perspective: our major point of disagreement, I think, is in answering the question, “Is the Roman Catholic Church – that is, something very nearly like the institution that exists today – the same thing as ‘the church’ of the first century?”

    That’s been the point of contention since the 1500s, of course. Catholics, as I understand it, argue that yes, they’re an unbroken institutional line of descent, and so any scriptural references to “the church” should be parsed as referring to “the Church.” Protestants, for their part, tend to say that no, the RCC is an institution that grew up within (and for a time dominated) the body of Christ, but with beliefs and policies and so on that aren’t an inherent part of it. Hence “Reformation” – a return of the church to positions that the RCC no longer held.

    So, from a Protestant point of view, the books of the New Testament weren’t written by members of the RCC, because there was no RCC; they weren’t written to members of the RCC, by the same logic; and the references in the text are to the universal body of faith of which the Catholic tradition is only a part.

    It seems like this is a common issue in these debates: your argument is perfectly satisfactory, as long as one already thinks about the matters like a Catholic. From a Protestant POV, though, there are some underlying assumptions that I just don’t share – and without them, it’s not a compelling case.

    1. Irked,

      I think you’ve honed in on exactly the right question: is the Catholic Church the same Church referred to in Sacred Scripture? At a minimum, we should be able to agree that that Church gave us the Bible, while our dispute is over whether or not the Catholic Church is that Church.

      But look already at what a major shift this is. Instead of asking “is your Church Biblically based?” (an ahistorical question built upon bad assumptions), we’re trying to find the Church that gave us the Bible.

      In the first question, we’re weighing Catholicism against each of our individual interpretations of the Bible: the Church says I’m wrong about this reading of Scripture, therefore the Church is “unbiblical,” etc. Underlying this is a view that I know the Bible and the Church has to catch up. But this whole idea that I, apart from the Church, figure out the Gospel message, and then choose a Church based on my conclusions, radically corrupts the relationship between shepherds and flocks, and is wholly contrary to the relationship between the Church and the believer, and between the Church and Scripture, found in the New Testament.

      In the second question, we’re holding to historical Christianity, recognizing that Christ established a Church, and that we see that Church in the world in the first century, such that the Church either vanished or still exists. Of course, we still need to overcome certain Protestant assumptions on what “Church” means (nobody in the early Church held to the “invisible Church” view that was spread by Hus, Wycliffe, and Luther), but at least we’re asking the right question.

      I.X.,

      Joe

      1. Joe,

        “At a minimum, we should be able to agree that that Church gave us the Bible, while our dispute is over whether or not the Catholic Church is that Church.”

        Certainly we agree that members of that church wrote the Bible, and that it was written to other members of that church.

        I started to say that I had some quibbles with the wording here, but that I wasn’t sure they mattered – but reading further below, I think they do. Because I don’t think there is such a thing as “the church that gave us the Bible” – at least, not if we interpret “the church” in an institutional sense.

        Or, well, perhaps more accurately, I think it’s easy to answer, “What is the church that gave us the Bible?” The answer (again, from my POV) is that it was our church – the universal, catholic body of all believers, as distinct from the particular Roman Catholic denomination (and the particular Southern Baptist denomination, and…). But I don’t think any of us gain any particular claim to authority by that recognition; the first century church was a particular group of believers, and as they’re now dead, none of us are ever going to be them.

        Which segues into…

        “But look already at what a major shift this is. Instead of asking “is your Church Biblically based?” (an ahistorical question built upon bad assumptions), we’re trying to find the Church that gave us the Bible.”

        Here we part ways, I think. We’ve identified two different questions, certainly, but it’s not clear to me that one is good and the other is bad.

        Part of the problem of communicating cleanly here, as you note, is that we can use “church” in at least three different ways – (1) as a particular group of Christians that meets together, (2) as the universal body of Christ, and (3) as a particular broad institution or denomination, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. (You and I may disagree as to whether those last two are separate categories, which further confuses the issue!) As noted above, I believe it’s easy to find “the church that gave us the Bible” – as far as can be judged by surface appearances, we’re both already in that church, i.e., option 2. I just object to the identification of that church (i.e., option (2)) with some institutional subset (i.e., options 1 or 3)!

        So when I parse “Is your church biblically based?” it’s in the context of (1), or (3): “Is your particular meeting group, or your particular institution/denomination/whatever, based on the Bible?” And I think that’s a *very* important question to answer, and not an ahistorical one at all; that I am part of the same type-2 church as wrote the Bible in no way implies that I am part of the same type-1 or type-3 church.

        I’d love to continue this later, but I need to run off to my (type-1) church now. Thanks for the dialogue!

      2. “In the first question, we’re weighing Catholicism against each of our individual interpretations of the Bible: the Church says I’m wrong about this reading of Scripture, therefore the Church is “unbiblical,” etc. Underlying this is a view that I know the Bible and the Church has to catch up. But this whole idea that I, apart from the Church, figure out the Gospel message, and then choose a Church based on my conclusions, radically corrupts the relationship between shepherds and flocks, and is wholly contrary to the relationship between the Church and the believer, and between the Church and Scripture, found in the New Testament.”

        I agree with part of what you’ve said, I think, while disagreeing with the thrust of it. No one’s a pure island; no one comes to Scripture as a perfectly blank slate, entirely apart from any tradition or prior teaching that informs his interpretation, and it’s arrogant to believe otherwise. We’re all flawed, biased creatures, prone to trusting what seems right to us over God’s leading.

        But then, neither of us escapes that tendency, either. If you accept the RCC as an authoritative, infallible source, that’s itself a flawed, biased, human decision, informed by your past experiences and sense of what’s right and reasonable. If I instead accept (a particular interpretation of) the Bible as authoritative, I’ve made the same kind of decision. Presumably at least one of us was wrong – but neither of us avoided the problem of needing to interpret for ourselves and reach a fallible conclusion.

        I agree that it’s foolish for a Christian to stand “apart from the church” entirely in forming an understanding of the gospel, just as it’d be foolish to stand apart from the entire history of medical science when forming an opinion about your health. It’s, perhaps, not strictly impossible that you could figure out absolutely everything yourself, correctly, but it’s pretty dumb not to pay attention to the smart guys who came before you.

        But – crucially – in medical science, a great many of those smart guys were very wrong. And while it’s unlikely that I’ve discovered germ theory, and all of the experts who scoff at it are mistaken… well, it’s not impossible. They have authority and wisdom, but they aren’t infallible – and I think it’s in that frame that the believer best stands in relation to the rest of the church: it’s wise, it’s important to listen to, but it’s absolutely capable of mistakes.

        And I actually think that fits rather well with the shepherd/flock model outlined in scripture. Paul was certainly shepherd to the flock at Galatia, but he urged that congregation to hold to a particular truth – a gospel, openly declared and made publicly known – and told them to reject any shepherd who differed from it: “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you…”

        Implicit in that command is the idea that the people of Galatia could, and indeed should, compare the new teaching with the old – that they were in principle capable of judging whether their spiritual leaders were straying from the gospel. Otherwise, the instruction is meaningless.

        And as Protestants, that’s basically what we understand our call to be: not to pretend to some some platonic ideal of pure reason and absolute interpretation, but to judge (as best we can) anyone who claims the role of teacher according to the gospel present in the Bible, and to reject the ones that don’t seem to fit. That doesn’t seem inappropriate at all.

        “In the second question, we’re holding to historical Christianity, recognizing that Christ established a Church, and that we see that Church in the world in the first century, such that the Church either vanished or still exists.”

        Though, again (and as you note below) – definitions! Christ certainly established a type-2 church, in my view, which continues to exist; I don’t agree that he established a type-3, and so there’s no institution either to still exist or to have vanished.

      3. “No true Protestant can surrender the historical assumption on which the Reformation rests- the corruption of the Church in doctrine and discipline during the Middle Ages.” Lord Acton – The Catholic Press

    2. Irked,

      I’d also challenge the idea that we’re looking for the Catholic Church of the New Testament to be “something very nearly like the institution that exists today.” We’re not. We’re looking for something that is that Church (not just “like” it), but which might look quite different. In Matthew 13, Christ says that the Church, the Kingdom of Heaven, is like a mustard seed that will grow from the tiniest of seeds to the largest of garden plants. That’s exactly what the Church did, and that’s a testament to her fidelity to Christ, not a mark against her. But of course, it would be folly to demand that a mustard tree look “very nearly like” a mustard seed.

      I.X.,

      Joe

      1. “Then followed the ages which are not unjustly called the Dark Ages, in which were laid the foundations of all the happiness that has been since enjoyed, and of all the greatness that has been achieved, by men. The good seed, from which a new Christian civilisation sprang, was striking root in the ground. Catholicism appeared as the religion of masses. In those times of simple faith there was no opportunity to call forth an Augustine or an Athanasius. It was not an age of conspicuous saints, but sanctity was at no time so general. The holy men of the first centuries shine with an intense brilliancy from the midst of the surrounding corruption. Legions of saints—individually for the most part obscure, because of the atmosphere of light around them—throng the five illiterate centuries, from the close of the great dogmatic controversies to the rise of a new theology and the commencement of new contests with Hildebrand, Anselm, and Bernard. All the manifestations of the Catholic spirit in those days bear a character of vastness and popularity. A single idea—the words of one man—electrified hundreds of thousands. In such a state of the world, the Christian ideas were able to become incarnate, so to speak, in durable forms, and succeeded in animating the political institutions as well as the social life of the nations.”

        Excerpt From: Baron John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton – Political Thought on the Church

    3. I don’t know that I could begin to satisfactorily address your objection here, but I’ll bring up a point that I think is worth considering. The Catholic Church isn’t just the Latin Rite (Roman Catholic Church), which is by far the biggest rite. The Catholic Church is composed of the other churches, such as the Ruthenian Catholic Church, Maronite Catholic Church, Melkite Catholic Church, and a number of others, which are much smaller in size. The important thing to note, though, is that they are all apostolic churches, whose Patriarchs/Bishops are all in communion with the Bishop of Rome. There is great variety in traditions within these various rites, but they are unified in creed and beliefs.

      I would go so far as to argue that St Peter was in fact a Roman Catholic, given the fact that he was the Bishop of Rome (i.e. the first Pope). As a convert from protestantism, I can give testimony that the Catholicity of the Scriptures is illuminated dramatically by being exposed to the Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Church. This is because de facto lens of tradition through which protestants read the Bible begins to dissipate.

      …it’s kind of like when, in the movie, the Matrix, Neo swallows the red pill and awakens to find that reality is not quite what he thought it was before. Opening oneself up to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and considering that the Catholic Church just might in fact be the very same church that Jesus himself established on the foundation of His Apostles is risky and scary. But steps of faith are like that. Nevertheless, the peace of Jesus Christ transcends it all.

      Blessings to you.

      1. Lee,

        I’m definitely oversimplifying – that’s a fair point. I hope the broad thrust of the argument still comes through!

        “The important thing to note, though, is that they are all apostolic churches, whose Patriarchs/Bishops are all in communion with the Bishop of Rome.”

        Sure. But, well: I’m not persuaded that there is any such thing as a modern apostle; if there is such a thing, I’m not persuaded that it’s a position in any way associated with the bishopric of Rome; relatedly, I’m not persuaded that the bishop of Rome inherits authority possessed by Peter; and indeed, I’m not persuaded as a matter of historical fact that Peter ever served as bishop of Rome. Without wanting to derail too much, the strongest evidence for each of these claims seems to be the self-testimony of the Catholic Church (or the broader coalition you outline above), and I am, ultimately, not persuaded that that self-testimony is reliable.

        I’ve no opposition to steps of faith! This isn’t really a matter of fear, or risk, for me. But faith and reason are allies – and as best I can judge reason and the Spirit, that’s a step in the wrong direction.

        Thanks for the encouragement, in any event! It’s good to be able to relate as a family of believers – even if we quarrel on occasion.

        1. The thrust of your argument is, “I’m not persuaded.”

          No one is here to persuade you. Until God opens your heart to the truth, you will continue to reject all arguments.

          1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

          1. Notice the way things go:

            Joe: January 13, 2016 at 10:45 pm

            Irked,
            I think you’ve honed in on exactly the right question: is the Catholic Church the same Church referred to in Sacred Scripture? At a minimum, we should be able to agree that that Church gave us the Bible, while our dispute is over whether or not the Catholic Church is that Church.

            But look already at what a major shift this is. Instead of asking “is your Church Biblically based?” (an ahistorical question built upon bad assumptions), we’re trying to find the Church that gave us the Bible.

            Irked says: January 13, 2016 at 11:29 pm:
            Here we part ways, I think. We’ve identified two different questions, certainly, but it’s not clear to me that one is good and the other is bad.

            Irked says:
            January 18, 2016 at 3:18 pm
            “I started trying to expand the conversation to respond to everyone’s replies.”

            “But my goal here wasn’t to persuade you that the position is true – just to note that Joe’s position isn’t an effective way of arguing against Protestants. For it to succeed, you’d have to first convince the Protestant that the early church is the Roman Catholic Church – at which point the argument is unnecessary.

            “Maybe that’s the point where this whole thing went wrong; this isn’t a “Join me on the Protestant Side” conversation, just a, “No, that doesn’t work as an argument” one. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have expanded on my position when asked.”

            So, Irked enters a discussion to convince the other side (us) that the Joe’s arguments are not persuasive! But his goal was not to persuade us of anything, just to persuade us that the argument isn’t persuasive! Just because he’s so kind, no further intentions. To know that Joe’s arguments are not persuasive among Protestants (who can deny that?) is not the same thing as “they don’t work as an argument”. Given a Catholic (or purely historical) background, they work pretty well. But no, after being replied to over and over by several people, he takes out of his sleeve the card: “I probably shouldn’t have expanded on my position when asked” falls to pieces when we see that he wanted to discuss the “Biblically-based question” (1) (a theological-historical one — “is your Church Biblically based?”) as well as the second question (2) (is “the Catholic Church the same Church referred to in Sacred Scripture?”). Of course he didn’t furnish one single argument for the second question except “I’m not persuaded”. He follows the first question and then complains we follow it too. When we reply to him about what he thought was important (question 1), he ends up after a dozen replies affirming that “he started to expand”… The guy throws up an argument, which is pretty obvious and unnecessary (“Protestants aren’t convinced”); then refuses to discuss why; then says he doesn’t want to convince anyone; then victimizes himself for being called a gnostic (“secret, mystic, individual interpretation of the text”) or a Protestant (no, I don’t follow anyone like Luther, Calvin etc.); then refuses to discuss his own thoughts (“It’s not about me”). He complains about our interpretation of the Bible but doesn’t offer an alternative one; and doesn’t bother telling us why we should believe him, if he believes in private interpretation and sola scriptura (he tells us he believes in neither!). He believes in truth but that truth is not rational or authoritative, so much so that he doesn’t bother to tell us what that truth is, except from a single one-sentence quote and a trifle model stating that “no one knows the whole truth”). He believes the church is not an institution but he doesn’t care specifying what an institution is.

            Sorry, but this became as ludicrous as Craig defending in a previous post a bogus 50-year-old Jesus tradition to prove tradition is unreliable, and his adamant proclaiming that “he speaks the historical truth from a neutral standpoint”, even after admitting that he learned from “osmosis” [his word] and from a James White lecture.

    4. https://youtu.be/llLKar19XhA
      You did hit the nail on the head. The Church established the Scriptures, but which Church?

      If the Protestants are right, then the apostolic church is something like a ship sailing through the centuries. It started with the pristine ark at her founding. As she sailed through the conversion and fall of Rome, the medieval period, the Renaissance, etc, she accrued different barnacles–pagan accretions/breaks with what was originally there. It is not a wholesale rejection of what was originally there, but it became covered with these “pagan barnacles.” When men like Luther and Calvin came around, they dropped to the side of the ship, and began clearing the barnacles–let’s get back to the Christianity of the Bible, the original boat without any barnacles or rust.

      If the Catholics are right, it should be more like the growth of an oak tree from an acorn. Everything in the modern Church would be something held in potentiality at the start when it was a seed. Over time, responding to the world around it and as a result of its natural growth, it stops looking like the acorn and is growing into a tree. While at some points it may overreact to certain external stimuli (like the tree bending over a bit too much to reach sunlight) or certain branches become diseased and need to be cut off or treated by the Gardener, the tree’s source, its original cause is still the apostolic acorn. When Luther and Calvin looked at the tree (dealing with different diseases), instead of scraping barnacles off an old ship, they cut off branches from the tree and tried to plant an entirely new tree from the branches.

      How would we determine which view is the right one of the Reformation? Is it the cleaning of the old hull of a ship? Or is it the cutting off of branches from the living tree?

      The simplest way, I would say, is to look at the early Church. What model does it look like? If it is the Protestant model, then (while some of the particulars may be different) the Church of the Fathers should look something like the Protestant Church (Sola Scriptura, Congregational/Presbyteral Polity, Salvation by Faith Alone completely apart from works, et cetera). If it is the Catholic model, then the Church of the Fathers should look more like the Catholic Church, with the seeds of the doctrines held by the modern Church (high Eucharistic theology, Episcopal Polity, the Bishop of Rome having a significant role, devotion to Mary and the other saints, et cetera). Looking at the Church of the Fathers, we can determine who has the better model of the history of the Church and what the Reformation did.

      I would suggest reading Newman’s On the Development of Christian Doctrine, especially Part 2, Chapter 6. Newman (an Anglican at the time) looks in depth at the history of the Church in the first few centuries (specifically in the first/second centuries, the time leading up to Nicea, and the centuries right after Nicea.) He looks at them from the perspective of the enemies of Christianity: What are the pagans and the heretics saying about the Church? What sort of things do they accuse her of? et cetera. At the end of each section of the chapter, he summarizes what can be gathered from each era. Here is the example from the section on the Fourth Century/the time leading up to Nicea:

      “On the whole, then, we have reason to say, that if there be a form of Christianity at this day distinguished for its careful organization, and its consequent power; if it is spread over the world; if it is conspicuous for zealous maintenance of its own creed; if it is intolerant towards what it considers error; if it is engaged in ceaseless war with all other bodies called Christian; if it, and it alone, is called ‘Catholic’ by the world, nay, by those very bodies, and if it makes much of the title; if it names them heretics, and warns them of coming woe, and calls on them one by one, to come over to itself, overlooking every other tie; and if they, on the other hand, call it seducer, harlot, apostate, Antichrist, devil; if, however much they differ one with another, they consider it their common enemy; if they strive to unite together against it, and cannot; if they are but local; if they continually subdivide, and it remains one; if they fall one after another, and make way for new sects, and it remains the same; such a religious communion is not unlike historical Christianity, as it comes before us at the Nicene Era.”

      1. “The simplest way, I would say, is to look at the early Church. What model does it look like? If it is the Protestant model, then (while some of the particulars may be different) the Church of the Fathers should look something like the Protestant Church (Sola Scriptura, Congregational/Presbyteral Polity, Salvation by Faith Alone completely apart from works, et cetera). If it is the Catholic model, then the Church of the Fathers should look more like the Catholic Church, with the seeds of the doctrines held by the modern Church (high Eucharistic theology, Episcopal Polity, the Bishop of Rome having a significant role, devotion to Mary and the other saints, et cetera). Looking at the Church of the Fathers, we can determine who has the better model of the history of the Church and what the Reformation did.”

        At first glance, this seems like a solid approach. (Indeed, as a Baptist, the idea has some appeal – we can point pretty happily at the Didache for believer’s baptism!) And I don’t think it’s a meritless one – as I said above, I think there’s a lot to be gained by looking at our Christian forebears. I’m sure Newman is fascinating and valuable reading!

        But I think it assumes that any mutation or accretion – any change, or addition, or loss of the “merely Christian” core truths – happened gradually: as you say, like the growth of barnacles on a ship. It relies on us being able to watch the early church over extended periods – centuries! – and assuming that yep, they’re still doing everything more-or-less the right way.

        And that’s… not the pattern we see in the New Testament. How long did the church at Galatia go before they strayed *enormously* from the core truths of the faith – a year? Two years, maybe? If there’s one pattern we see repeated in the church, over and over again, it’s that we get handed the truth, and we pretty immediately mess the whole thing up.

        (From which none of us are immune! For our part, we Baptists have some *deep* theological scars from Prohibition, among other things.)

        So I don’t want to be like the early churches, in all respects; if I took their practice and theology as a mandate, I’d practice compulsory circumcision, get drunk on communion wine with my rich buddies (or starve with my poor ones), and take a pretty libertine view of sin. And that’s if we look maybe five years out. Five years! How much did they get wrong in a hundred? In two hundred? Three? How much was wrong by the time Nicea decided to start codifying things?

        So I don’t accept their practice as infallible. The only record I *do* take as infallible from that period is, well… Scripture – including the half of the New Testament that’s about how *bad* the church’s practice is! And in that regard – insofar as by “look at the early church” we mean “look at the ideal church, as described in the Bible,” I absolutely agree with your proposal here. But if that’s the point of appeal… man, I have a hard time unifying that with you guys.

        1. “But I think it assumes that any mutation or accretion – any change, or addition, or loss of the merely Christian’ core truths – happened gradually: as you say, like the growth of barnacles on a ship. It relies on us being able to watch the early church over extended periods – centuries! – and assuming that yep, they’re still doing everything more-or-less the right way.”

          We look to the things that changed/developed over time. The changes that last are the ones that really matter. Why? Look at your examples of compulsory circumcision or getting drunk on the wine at the Eucharist. These abuses, these accretions did not last. They may have dealt with them for a few years, but then they were never dealt with again. But, look to some of the other things that could be considered as either accretions happening over time or development in doctrine: prayer for the dead, the role of the bishop of Rome, the intercession of the saints, etc. None of these looked exactly like what the Catholic Church practices today at the time they started. But, however you argue about these, you have to concede that historically they grew, they developed–Purgatory did not spring up over night. It took several centuries to develop from the practices of early Christians praying for their dead.

          1. “We look to the things that changed/developed over time. The changes that last are the ones that really matter.”

            That seems like a very questionable standard, to me. What counts as “lasting?” For the last five hundred years – a quarter of the history of Christianity! – big pieces of the church have disagreed with core Catholic doctrines. Do those doctrines still count as lasting, or is that reason to call them into question afresh?

            (Presumably, Catholicism doesn’t view the existence of Protestantism as a reason to conclude Catholic doctrines were temporary things – but that’s precisely the point. If we define “lasting changes” as “things the Catholic Church does,” well, then, of course the RCC has the right of the matter!)

            Or what if we were having this conversation in the third century? Would the correct decision then be for us to reject the doctrine of Purgatory, because *at the time* it was a recent outgrowth, rather than a proven doctrine? If so, how can it be right for us to support the doctrine in one century and reject it in another? If not, then “lasting doctrine” can’t be our real court of appeal – so what is?

            For that matter, many of the things that you and I would likely agree are heretical – gnosticism, say, or deism – are evergreen! They recur again and again across two thousand years. Does this afford them respectability?

            I would say rather that developments over time, that took centuries to reach their final form, are *particularly* suspect. To run with your example: I absolutely agree that Purgatory developed from prayers for the dead. I think that’s the blackest mark against it – that it *wasn’t* a core, clear doctrine, or a clear teaching of Christ or Paul or Peter, but rather an outgrowth of (potentially flawed) practice.

            This needn’t be dueling “From my point of view…”s, I think; we have precedent to which we can appeal! We could have had this exact conversation about Pharisaical law in the first century. Suppose ancient (and oddly-named) scholars Alice and Bob debated this issue; Alice says, “We should judge the law by what’s written in the Pentateuch – guided by the rabbinic traditions since then, yes, but not affording them the same authority as what’s clearly written on the page.”

            Bob replies, “No, the teachers of the law are the keepers of the understanding of the law: the priests provide an unbroken heritage going back to Moses. To really understand Leviticus, you need to look to the traditions of the elders: what are the changes that have lasted the centuries? That’s how we know that it’s sin to heal on the Sabbath, or to travel more than a set distance, or to eat without washing your hands.”

            That’s probably an overstatement of similarity in some regard – but I don’t think it’s an overstatement by much. And we *know* how that all turned out; I think there are enough “Woe to you!”s in the gospels to give firm grounds for rejecting the traditions of the elders as a basis for faith.

          2. “That seems like a very questionable standard, to me. What counts as “lasting?” For the last five hundred years – a quarter of the history of Christianity! – big pieces of the church have disagreed with core Catholic doctrines. Do those doctrines still count as lasting, or is that reason to call them into question afresh?”

            And since the beginning of Christianity (even outlined in Acts) there have been both doctrinal and disciplinary disagreements within the body of the Church. This is why Jesus gave the power to bind and loose to the apostles and to St. Peter. Once there is a final say by the Magisterial (ie apostles) or St. Peter (ie his successor, the Pope) that’s it. We are called to obey authority; not reject it. Yet a large part of Protestantism is about rejecting authority. If you don’t like your church, find a new one. If you don’t like what your minister says, vote him out. And so forth. There’s no central authoritative figure and there is a lot of chaos.

            “Or what if we were having this conversation in the third century? Would the correct decision then be for us to reject the doctrine of Purgatory, because *at the time* it was a recent outgrowth, rather than a proven doctrine? If so, how can it be right for us to support the doctrine in one century and reject it in another? If not, then “lasting doctrine” can’t be our real court of appeal – so what is?”

            I am not sure if you are aware but Catholics believe in the “development of doctrine.” Basically this means that the doctrine of say Purgatory has always existed, but our understanding of it has become more detailed. Catholics have always understood there to be a place called Abraham’s Bosom. So there’s no “rejection” just more understanding. Our real court of appeal is authority. Who has it? For Protestants who reject a visible church, you have the authority over yourself. For Catholics who read the Bible, we believe that authority has been given to the Apostles and St. Peter by Jesus and then such authority has been passed on to their descendants (spiritual ones not physical ones).

            “For that matter, many of the things that you and I would likely agree are heretical – gnosticism, say, or deism – are evergreen! They recur again and again across two thousand years. Does this afford them respectability?”

            No because they were rejected by those given the authority to do so. For a Baptist, who has the authority to reject gnosticism or arianism in the visible church? Where does this authority come from: the Christian body or Jesus Christ?

            “I would say rather that developments over time, that took centuries to reach their final form, are *particularly* suspect. To run with your example: I absolutely agree that Purgatory developed from prayers for the dead. I think that’s the blackest mark against it – that it *wasn’t* a core, clear doctrine, or a clear teaching of Christ or Paul or Peter, but rather an outgrowth of (potentially flawed) practice.”

            Strange. Many medical practices start out crude and rudimentary. Yet many of them became the core of our understanding of medicine today. It is the same with science. As we learn more about God and his created world, we are going to be constantly zeroing in on things. Yes doctrines have “finality” about them but they also have finesse. It is the same with Protestant doctrines which is why there are so many denominations. Catholics don’t split off. We discuss for centuries the finer points. This is why we have things like Purgatory and prayers for the dead but are still working out what happens to unbaptized babies for example. Where do they go?

            “This needn’t be dueling “From my point of view…”s, I think; we have precedent to which we can appeal! We could have had this exact conversation about Pharisaical law in the first century. Suppose ancient (and oddly-named) scholars Alice and Bob debated this issue; Alice says, “We should judge the law by what’s written in the Pentateuch – guided by the rabbinic traditions since then, yes, but not affording them the same authority as what’s clearly written on the page.”

            Bob replies, “No, the teachers of the law are the keepers of the understanding of the law: the priests provide an unbroken heritage going back to Moses. To really understand Leviticus, you need to look to the traditions of the elders: what are the changes that have lasted the centuries? That’s how we know that it’s sin to heal on the Sabbath, or to travel more than a set distance, or to eat without washing your hands.””

            People are always going to disagree. This should be settled. Jesus gave authority to the Apostles and St. Peter. It’s in the Bible. It’s in history via the Early Church Fathers.

            “That’s probably an overstatement of similarity in some regard – but I don’t think it’s an overstatement by much. And we *know* how that all turned out; I think there are enough “Woe to you!”s in the gospels to give firm grounds for rejecting the traditions of the elders as a basis for faith.”

            We do? I don’t think you quite do. My understanding is that Jesus felt the various Jewish leaders to be hypocrites. No where in there does he reject the traditions of elders. We can see this in how he performed temple rites. We can see this when he says in Matthew 5:17 that he didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. You are also simplifying Judaism a bit much to say that the Jewish leaders pitted scripture against tradition. You also misunderstand Catholicism if you think Catholics pit scripture against tradition. We don’t. We embrace both. So do Protestants because believe it or not. Protestants have a tradition (like using grape juice for communion). It’s just a different tradition coming from different historical time periods than Catholics.

          3. deltaflute,

            It looks like you’re arguing rather a different tack than Anthony was – so where Anthony appealed to “this doctrine has been around a while, so it’s trustworthy” – and Anthony, I apologize for the oversimplification, there – you’re running in a very different direction.

            That’s certainly fair, but my replies to him are necessarily geared towards arguments you aren’t making. Perhaps this would do better as a new conversation sub-thread, rather than a continuation of my replies to him?

    5. Irked,

      If you believe Scripture, then you should be able to recognize the Catholic Church, therein, described. You certainly can’t find any Protestant denomination.

      First, Jesus Christ appointed a Pastor as head of the entire Church:
      John 21:17
      He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

      I see only a few Churches with such a Pastor. Further, Jesus Christ said that the Pastor over His Church would be infallible:

      Matthew 16:17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

      The list of Churches accept this teaching gets smaller.

      Jesus Christ not only said that the Pastor was infallible but Scripture describes the Church as infallible:
      Ephesians 3:10
      To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

      The list remains the same, but now I can certainly eliminate all Protestant denominations.

      Back to Matt 16:18, Scripture says that Jesus Christ established one Church. History shows that all the Churches sprang from the Church which is frequently described as the Mother Church. The Catholic Church.

      So, even using just a few verses we can eliminate the Protestants. None of their denominations even come close to being in Scripture. But we can continue to find Catholic indicators throughout the Bible:

      The Church which is infallible (1 Tim 3:15; Eph 3:10).
      The Church which is united (Eph 4:5).
      The doctrines of the Catholic Church which are distinctive from other churches:
      Purgatory (1 Cor 3:15).
      Eucharist (1 Cor 11:23-27).
      Communion of Saints (Rom 12:12-20).
      The Mass and the necessity to attend (Heb 10:25-31).
      The Sacrament of Confession (Heb 13:17).
      The Sacrament of Holy Orders (1 Tim 4:14).
      The Sacrament of Baptism (Titus 3:5).
      Justification and salvation by faith and works (Rom 2:1-13).

      And we find that the Protestant doctrinal pillars all contradict Scripture. For instance:

      Sola Scriptura contradicts 2 Thess 2:152 Thessalonians 2:15
      King James Version (KJV)
      15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

      Sola Fide contradicts James 2:24
      James 2:24
      King James Version (KJV)
      24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

      OSAS contradicts Heb 6:4-6
      Hebrews 6:4-6
      King James Version (KJV)
      4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

      Salvation by grace alone contradicts:
      Philippians 2:12
      Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

      and also:

      Romans 6:16
      Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

      Every Protestant doctrine which contradicts the Catholic Church also contradicts the Word of God in the Bible.

      1. De Maria,

        I do not believe that the verses you cite will bear the weight you’re asking them to carry.

        “If you believe Scripture, then you should be able to recognize the Catholic Church, therein, described. You certainly can’t find any Protestant denomination.”

        Indeed, I cannot! I don’t believe I can find either of our denominations in these verses – only our brothers in the faith.

        “First, Jesus Christ appointed a Pastor as head of the entire Church:
        John 21:17…
        I see only a few Churches with such a Pastor.”

        Unfortunately true, in all our denominations, I suspect – though I really respect the dedication with which many pastors I’ve known, like Peter, feed the sheep entrusted to them. But there’s nothing said in this verse about headship over the body – only a command that turns a fisherman into a pastor.

        (Indeed, if we go to verses that specifically do talk about “the head of the church” – say, Colossians 1:18 – they don’t mention Peter.)

        “Further, Jesus Christ said that the Pastor over His Church would be infallible:

        Matthew 16:17”

        If this statement is meant to be peculiar to Peter, then it’s odd that Christ repeats most of it a mere two chapters later to a group defined (very loosely!) as “the disciples” – a group that can’t be merely the twelve, since it includes at least one child. Indeed, the statement falls immediately next to a (very universal!) statement about how the church at large is to handle sin in its midst – again, it seems bizarre that this should be limited to just the twelve, let alone just Peter.

        I don’t feel particularly infallible, which suggests that infallibility is a misinterpretation. (Personally, I favor the argument that the translation is more nearly, “The things that you will bind have already been bound…” but I’m definitely not a Greek scholar.

        “Jesus Christ not only said that the Pastor was infallible but Scripture describes the Church as infallible:
        Ephesians 3:10”

        If you suggest that the church’s duty is to make known the wisdom of God, I don’t think you’ll have any argument from me – but I do not see any mention of infallibility in that passage.

        “Back to Matt 16:18, Scripture says that Jesus Christ established one Church.”

        On that we are agreed! I like Michael Card’s poetic rendition of Ephesians 4: “There is one faith, one hope, and one baptism, one God and Father of all; there is one church, one body, one life in the spirit, now given so freely to all.”

        But that this church is the institution of Roman Catholicism, rather than all those who claim Christ? That’s not in Matthew 16.

        “History shows that all the Churches sprang from the Church which is frequently described as the Mother Church.”

        Frequently described as such, perhaps, but not by Matthew. There’s a missing link in the argument.

        “And we find that the Protestant doctrinal pillars all contradict Scripture. For instance:”

        Briefly, and respectfully: I am not Martin Luther, and I do not feel compelled to defend all of Luther’s positions – a number of which were, as you rightly note, somewhat mistaken.

        1. Irked says:
          January 15, 2016 at 8:04 pm
          De Maria,

          I do not believe that the verses you cite will bear the weight you’re asking them to carry.

          That’s a strange stance to take. If you believe in Sola Scriptura and private interpretation, then how do you question anyone’s interpretation of Scripture?

          Unless, you feel you have greater authority over Scripture than everyone else?

          Indeed, I cannot! I don’t believe I can find either of our denominations in these verses – only our brothers in the faith.

          Is that an admission that you can’t find your beliefs in the Scriptures?

          “First, Jesus Christ appointed a Pastor as head of the entire Church:
          John 21:17…
          I see only a few Churches with such a Pastor.”

          Unfortunately true, in all our denominations, I suspect – though I really respect the dedication with which many pastors I’ve known, like Peter, feed the sheep entrusted to them. But there’s nothing said in this verse about headship over the body – only a command that turns a fisherman into a pastor.

          The verse is very clear that Jesus is appointing Peter as the Shepherd over HIS sheep. He isn’t talking to anyone else.

          (Indeed, if we go to verses that specifically do talk about “the head of the church” – say, Colossians 1:18 – they don’t mention Peter.)

          They don’t need to. Jesus already mentioned him above and in Matt 16:18.

          “Further, Jesus Christ said that the Pastor over His Church would be infallible:

          Matthew 16:17”

          If this statement is meant to be peculiar to Peter, then it’s odd that Christ repeats most of it a mere two chapters later to a group defined (very loosely!) as “the disciples” – a group that can’t be merely the twelve, since it includes at least one child. Indeed, the statement falls immediately next to a (very universal!) statement about how the church at large is to handle sin in its midst – again, it seems bizarre that this should be limited to just the twelve, let alone just Peter.

          He repeats part of it. But not the part about the keys. The keys were given exclusively to Peter. And it is because of the keys, the symbol of authority, why the Church teaches that no one can Teach infallibly, apart from Peter.

          In addition, the disciples are members of the Church. Understood in light of Sacred Tradition, Jesus was speaking to the Foundation of His Church, the Apostles and Disciples who would become the Rulers of His Church.

          Jesus used the child as an example but was not addressing the child.

          I don’t feel particularly infallible, which suggests that infallibility is a misinterpretation.

          Because you define the Word of God. Every Protestant puts himself in authority over Scripture. Scripture says what they deem it to say.

          Whereas, we, Catholics, understand Scripture according to the Teachings of Jesus Christ which are passed down by the Catholic Church. It is these Teachings which are the basis of the New Testament.

          (Personally, I favor the argument that the translation is more nearly, “The things that you will bind have already been bound…” but I’m definitely not a Greek scholar.

          We follow the Church because Scripture says that it is the Church which Teaches the Wisdom of God (Eph 3:10).

          “Jesus Christ not only said that the Pastor was infallible but Scripture describes the Church as infallible:
          Ephesians 3:10”

          If you suggest that the church’s duty is to make known the wisdom of God, I don’t think you’ll have any argument from me – but I do not see any mention of infallibility in that passage.

          It would be impossible for the Church to Teach the Wisdom of God, if in the message, error were to creep in. The Wisdom of God is not compatible with error. In that case, it would be the foolishness of man.

          “Back to Matt 16:18, Scripture says that Jesus Christ established one Church.”

          On that we are agreed! I like Michael Card’s poetic rendition of Ephesians 4: “There is one faith, one hope, and one baptism, one God and Father of all; there is one church, one body, one life in the spirit, now given so freely to all.”

          But that this church is the institution of Roman Catholicism, rather than all those who claim Christ?

          False dichotomy. It is those who come to the Catholic Churchm, who claim Christ and adhere to His authentic Teachings. It is who who claim Christ apart from the Church which have abandoned Christ and His Teachings.

          That’s not in Matthew 16.

          Yes. It is.

          “History shows that all the Churches sprang from the Church which is frequently described as the Mother Church.”

          Frequently described as such, perhaps, but not by Matthew. There’s a missing link in the argument.

          The link which you and all Protestants are missing are the Sacred Traditions which Jesus Christ passed down through His Church.

          “And we find that the Protestant doctrinal pillars all contradict Scripture. For instance:”

          Briefly, and respectfully: I am not Martin Luther, and I do not feel compelled to defend all of Luther’s positions – a number of which were, as you rightly note, somewhat mistaken.

          I doubt that you would agree with any other Protestant, as well. Protestant put themselves over Scripture and to them, Scripture says what they deem it to say.

          Any teaching, whether yours or Martin Luther’s or anyone else’s, which contradict the Catholic Church, also contradict the Word of God. Because it is through the Catholic Church, that God speaks.

          1. Ooh, we can do tags! Cool, I wasn’t sure that was supported

            [b]Testing?[/b] [i]Testing?[/i] Again?

            (More substantive post momentarily.)

          2. That’s a strange stance to take. If you believe in Sola Scriptura and private interpretation, then how do you question anyone’s interpretation of Scripture?

            I don’t claim all interpretations are equally valid – only that there does not appear to be a central human authority with infallible interpretive power.

            Again, run with the medical metaphor – there’s no infallible medical board, but that doesn’t mean “myocardial infarction” and “needs a good leeching” are equally valid interpretation of the evidence.

            Is that an admission that you can’t find your beliefs in the Scriptures?

            No. It’s an acknowledgement that denominations are temporal institutions within the larger body of Christ.

            The verse is very clear that Jesus is appointing Peter as the Shepherd over HIS sheep. He isn’t talking to anyone else.

            He’s certainly talking to Peter, yes! And he gives Peter a pastoral charge to feed the sheep. This is a charge all pastors share; it’s the root etymology that makes them pastors.

            Right? Like, is “Feed my sheep” not a charge common to all pastors? Do you believe other pastors are not obligated to feed Christ’s sheep?

            They don’t need to. Jesus already mentioned him above and in Matt 16:18.

            Yes, but those verses do not name Peter as head. When Scripture names someone as head of the church, it names… Christ.

            He repeats part of it. But not the part about the keys.

            This is true. It’s also subject to a lot of different interpretations; “infallibility” is not the obviously correct one. “Infallibility, subsequently passed to his institutional successors” is rather a more extraordinary reading.

            In addition, the disciples are members of the Church. Understood in light of Sacred Tradition,

            But at that point, we’re no longer appealing to scripture, because scripture doesn’t say all you’re saying.

            Which is fine! We can appeal wherever we like – but let’s be clear that at that point, this is no longer a matter of, “You, Irked, don’t believe scripture”; it’s “You, Irked, don’t believe Catholic tradition.” That part’s true!

            It would be impossible for the Church to Teach the Wisdom of God, if in the message, error were to creep in.

            If Christians aren’t allowed to imperfectly teach a perfect truth, then you and I and our gracious host had probably all better stop talking immediately – I’m fairly sure that’s not a standard any of us can claim.

            False dichotomy. It is those who come to the Catholic Churchm, who claim Christ and adhere to His authentic Teachings.

            Okay. But that’s not in the verse – again, there’s some extra source that I’m rejecting, not Matthew itself. Presumably, it’s…

            The link which you and all Protestants are missing are the Sacred Traditions which Jesus Christ passed down through His Church.

            … and so, again, your objection is that I don’t believe your traditions, not that I don’t believe scripture. And you’re right – I don’t!

          3. Good job with the tags. It really makes things clear. If you really want to get fancy, you ought to try the blockquote.

            Really nice effect

            But I prefer the b /b. Lots simpler.

            Irked says:
            January 15, 2016 at 8:54 pm

            I don’t claim all interpretations are equally valid – only that there does not appear to be a central human authority with infallible interpretive power.

            This is where we differ. We believe that Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church to Teach all which He commanded (Matt 28:19-20). And thus, we believe that authority to interpret the Word of God in Sacred Tradition and Scripture, rests in His Church.

            Again, run with the medical metaphor – there’s no infallible medical board, but that doesn’t mean “myocardial infarction” and “needs a good leeching” are equally valid interpretation of the evidence.

            Good example. First, let’s set aside the question of infallibility, just for a sec. Why? Because there is no inspired Scripture which says, “The medical board teaches the medical procedures of God.”

            However, notice that you go to the authority of a medical board. I assume that, all things being equal, you go to the authority of a medical board before you go to the first joe you meet on the street, for medical advice.

            Yet, Sola Scriptura, gives people the authority to decide for themselves what is good for their soul.

            Here’s another example. Why didn’t the Founding Fathers of the United States pass out the Constitution and say, “Hey, its Sola Constituccione”! Decide for yourselves which laws you will obey and disobey.

            No. It’s an acknowledgement that denominations are temporal institutions within the larger body of Christ.

            I also acknowledge their existence. But Jesus established one Church, not several temporal institutions (Matt 16:18). And He said His Church would stand forever.

            He’s certainly talking to Peter, yes! And he gives Peter a pastoral charge to feed the sheep.

            All His sheep.

            This is a charge all pastors share; it’s the root etymology that makes them pastors.

            Show me another verse where Christ appoints anyone else as Pastor over all His Sheep.

            Right? Like, is “Feed my sheep” not a charge common to all pastors? Do you believe other pastors are not obligated to feed Christ’s sheep?

            Other pastors are not in question here. Jesus is talking directly to and only to, Peter. And He appointed Peter the Shepherd of His Sheep. That’s the point.

            Yes, but those verses do not name Peter as head.

            Do they deny that Peter is head? Otherwise, why does it need to be repeated over and over? Once is not enough?

            When Scripture names someone as head of the church, it names… Christ.

            And Christ names Peter. Do you deny that Christ has the authority?

            He repeats part of it. But not the part about the keys.

            This is true. It’s also subject to a lot of different interpretations;

            Not true. It is subjected to different interpretations, by those who refuse to accept the authority which Christ placed in the Church.

            “infallibility” is not the obviously correct one.

            To you. We find it quite obvious.

            “Infallibility, subsequently passed to his institutional successors” is rather a more extraordinary reading.

            For those who lack faith in Christ. Don’t you believe that Christ is capable of guiding His Church, anymore? Didn’t Christ say, “I am with you until the end of the age”, (Matt 28:20).

            In addition, the disciples are members of the Church. Understood in light of Sacred Tradition,

            But at that point, we’re no longer appealing to scripture, because scripture doesn’t say all you’re saying.

            But we are appealing to the Word of God, passed down by the Church and which undergirds and supports the Scripture.

            You’re right though. We don’t believe in Scripture alone:
            Hebrews 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

            You see, Protestants claim to believe in Scripture, until Scripture tells them to do something which they don’t believe.

            Which is fine! We can appeal wherever we like – but let’s be clear that at that point, this is no longer a matter of, “You, Irked, don’t believe scripture”; it’s “You, Irked, don’t believe Catholic tradition.” That part’s true!

            The problem is, that Scripture tells you to believe the Church. You claim to believe Scripture, but reject those verses which tell you to believe the Church.

            If Christians aren’t allowed to imperfectly teach a perfect truth, then you and I and our gracious host had probably all better stop talking immediately – I’m fairly sure that’s not a standard any of us can claim.

            Nor do we. The Catholic Church is the one which Christ ordained and anointed and She accepts that ordination and annointing. And we believe and agree that it is so.

            But, you don’t believe that, do you? Why? Don’t you believe that Christ has the authority to appoint and anoint someone to speak for Him?

            2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

            Okay. But that’s not in the verse – again, there’s some extra source that I’m rejecting, not Matthew itself. Presumably, it’s…

            … and so, again, your objection is that I don’t believe your traditions, not that I don’t believe scripture. And you’re right – I don’t!

            Actually, it’s both. The New Testament Scripture is an outgrowth of Catholic Tradition. Catholic Sacred Tradition is the Teaching of Jesus Christ which the Catholic Church put into writing at the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

          4. How not to answer a question:

            De Maria: That’s a strange stance to take. If you believe in Sola Scriptura and private interpretation, then how do you question anyone’s interpretation of Scripture? Unless, you feel you have greater authority over Scripture than everyone else?

            IRKED: I don’t claim all interpretations are equally valid – only that there does not appear to be a central human authority with infallible interpretive power.

            Read the question again. The question is not: “are all interpretations equally valid”; the question was: “how can you convince anyone that your interpretation is valid, if you have no authority and anyone can interpret for himself?”

            Let’s be clear: if interpretation is private, then all interpretations are valid. Including the most creative ones. There’s no way out.

            This argument has been brilliantly dealt with here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/ (for comments and Mathison’s reply, see here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/02/keith-mathisons-reply/)

            If Christians aren’t allowed to imperfectly teach a perfect truth, then you and I and our gracious host had probably all better stop talking immediately – I’m fairly sure that’s not a standard any of us can claim.

            There is a difference between teaching imperfectly (who said anyone is “perfect” and “omniscient” here?) and teaching error. In Protestantism, there’s a very narrow definition of error.

            There’s no notion of “heresy”, otherwise each and all groups would start labeling each other heretics. Protestants are united in their division — they’re only united against Catholics. With that, almost all of them agree, ones more virulent than others. All I hear is “everything is OK, as long as it doesn’t go against the Bible”; but of course for something to go against the Bible, it must go against someone’s interpretation of the Bible; they gleefully claim other Protestants’ doctrines contradict the Bible, yet they choose not to emphasize that because what matters is union against the Catholics. Only the Catholic interpretation goes against the Bible; only Catholics are not allowed to have their own interpretation and live in peace. And to many, Catholics are not even Christians.

            In the end, my conclusion is fairly straightforward: Protestants don’t believe in truth, neither do they believe that truth matters to one’s salvation If you ask, they’ll tell you they’ve been saved because they accepted Jesus, and that nothing else matters. It doesn’t matter to have the right practice, the right doctrine, the right actions, the right way to worship. It’s that simple. If you ask them, “How are you sure that you have accepted the “right” Jesus, and not something you make Jesus to be?”, they’ll be dumbfounded. That’s why many of them come to great lengths to re-invent a negative connotation to “religion”, “doctrine”, “dogma” and so on. They say they have no religion and no doctrine. They say the search for truth implies “too much tradition, too much history”. That’s why faith is more of a feeling for them, than knowledge; why would you base a doctrine on knowledge if that doctrine also holds that knowledge with certainty is impossible?

            I end here with a quote that sums up the differences:
            “In Protestantism, faith simply does not matter. The role of doctrine is only to provide a lowest common denominator so that everyone can create his own “faith.”

            The basic mistake is to think that, because Protestants speak of Sola Fides, they give any real importance to Faith (defined by Catholics as “a supernaturally infused virtue by which we firmly believe all the truths revealed by God and proposed by the Church”).

            Protestants call “faith” something completely different. “Faith,” for the Protestant, is “assurance of salvation”, ie a demonic and full of pride version of Hope.

            We Catholics have the hope that we shall be saved. They think they have been saved, that Jesus has saved them and the heaven is guaranteed. And this demonic certainty is what they call faith. No matter the belief, no matter the Revelation; for them, “faith” is something completely different from and independent of these “irrelevant nonsense.”

          5. Brothers and/or sisters, I think we’re moving a little bit away from graciousness in our replies to each other. Could we perhaps tone down our responses a bit?

            De Maria:

            This is where we differ. We believe that Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church to Teach all which He commanded (Matt 28:19-20). And thus, we believe that authority to interpret the Word of God in Sacred Tradition and Scripture, rests in His Church.

            Yes, precisely. And that’s fine! But your original charge, upthread, was that I should be able to recognize the Catholic Church from scripture alone. Your argument, on the other hand, relies heavily on tradition – which makes perfect sense, but is not enough to convict me of your original charge. If you want to charge that Catholic tradition is unambiguously on your side, I won’t argue.

            And Christ names Peter. Do you deny that Christ has the authority?

            Let me cover a number of comments with one reply, here: I absolutely believe Christ has the right to bestow whatever authority he wishes, on whomever he wishes. This is not a question of what He can do; it’s purely a question of what He actually did.

            And as a matter of practical fact, at no point in those verses does Christ say that he appoints Peter head of the church. He says some things that you construe as implying this fact, and that I do not. At least one of us is wrong – there is a truth of the matter, whether we can demonstrate it to each other or not.

            But the conversation, “Does Christ mean precisely X when he says some thing Y?” is not the same as the conversation, “You don’t believe in Scripture.” If I say, “Christ is not the head of the church,” and Ephesians says, “Christ is the head of the church,” then I’m denying scripture. If I say “Peter is not the head of the church,” and John says, “Christ told Peter to feed his sheep,” then we have a question of interpretation.

            Which conversation are we having here? If it’s purely denial of scripture, we should be able to have it without recourse to tradition. If it’s a question of interpretation, then tradition is fair game for inclusion, but your original criticism of my position seems unwarranted. Which conversation do you want to have?

            How not to answer a question:

            De Maria: That’s a strange stance to take. If you believe in Sola Scriptura and private interpretation, then how do you question anyone’s interpretation of Scripture? Unless, you feel you have greater authority over Scripture than everyone else?

            IRKED: I don’t claim all interpretations are equally valid – only that there does not appear to be a central human authority with infallible interpretive power.

            Read the question again. The question is not: “are all interpretations equally valid”; the question was: “how can you convince anyone that your interpretation is valid, if you have no authority and anyone can interpret for himself?”

            I’m not sure your parsing is correct – “How do you question anyone’s interpretation?” and “How can you convince anyone else?” are very different questions. The former relates to my internal thought processes; the latter is very much outward-facing.

            But to answer your phrasing, I hope to convince by reason and argument, and hopefully by the shared witness of the Spirit. That’s how I’ve been convinced of error in the past, and how I’ve seen others convinced.

            Let’s be clear: if interpretation is private, then all interpretations are valid. Including the most creative ones. There’s no way out.

            Is interpretation of mathematics private?

            (Also, I would again reiterate that I am not Martin Luther, and not all modern Protestants hold to Sola Scriptura in the form Luther held it. Arguments against his position are probably mis-aimed.)

            There is a difference between teaching imperfectly (who said anyone is “perfect” and “omniscient” here?) and teaching error. In Protestantism, there’s a very narrow definition of error.

            I would suggest that this is a very narrow definition of “Protestantism.” I don’t draw a distinction between “teaching imperfectly” and “teaching error”; on the contrary, I suspect that when I do speak on theology, some portion of what I say is in error. I suspect all our denominations, and all of us as individuals, believe some untrue things… but the core truths are blessedly, mercifully simple: “If ye confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead…”

            And so long as we preserve that truth, I think we can be very, very wrong about a great many things and still welcomed to the wedding feast of the Lamb.

            Protestants are united in their division — they’re only united against Catholics.

            That is really, really funnily untrue. Get a Southern Baptist talking about the PCUSA sometime – there are some important senses in which I agree with you guys a lot more than with them. Or get an American Baptist talking about a Southern Baptist – often, we argue the hardest against those closest to us.

            I can understand where it would feel like a “united in opposition” from your perspective, but… look, from our point of view, you guys are just one more denomination. We might disagree with you more than the average, but I’m not sure “Protestant” is even a meaningful label anymore – we don’t really define ourselves in contrast to you.

            In the end, my conclusion is fairly straightforward: Protestants don’t believe in truth, neither do they believe that truth matters to one’s salvation If you ask, they’ll tell you they’ve been saved because they accepted Jesus, and that nothing else matters. It doesn’t matter to have the right practice, the right doctrine, the right actions, the right way to worship.

            I don’t deny that the Protestant you’re denying exists, but I’m not sure I’ve ever met him.

          6. Eep – my apologies, that should have been “you’re describing,” not “you’re denying.” Long posts!

          7. If the Catholic Church was in the 16th century what it is today, the Reformation would have never taken place. Nobody holds to the creeds of the original Reformers. They are forgotten, just as the history of the Middle Ages is forgotten.

          8. I would suggest that this is a very narrow definition of “Protestantism.” I don’t draw a distinction between “teaching imperfectly” and “teaching error”; on the contrary, I suspect that when I do speak on theology, some portion of what I say is in error. I suspect all our denominations, and all of us as individuals, believe some untrue things… but the core truths are blessedly, mercifully simple: “If ye confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead…”

            And so long as we preserve that truth, I think we can be very, very wrong about a great many things and still welcomed to the wedding feast of the Lamb.

            See? You just explained my point better than I did. Remember what I said? Of course you don’t see the distinction, since you don’t see the distinction between heresy and sound doctrine to have any significance, just the “core” matters. It doesn’t matter to have the right practice, the right doctrine, the right actions, the right way to worship. You just You just don’t agree on how many things, do you? Because clearly that confession alone is not sufficient:

            20“So then, you will know them by their fruits.
            21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ (Matthew, 7)

            The former relates to my internal thought processes; the latter is very much outward-facing.

            From a sociological point of view, your thought-processes are social too.

            Is interpretation of mathematics private?
            Did that even answer my proposition? If you equate mathematics with any human science (including Biblical exegesis), you’ll be in troubled waters. Do you believe in private interpretation of the Bible or not?

            If you don’t even believe in Luther-like private interpretation or sola scriptura, or faith alone, you’d better specify your belief.

          9. Irked says:
            January 15, 2016 at 11:10 pm
            Brothers and/or sisters, I think we’re moving a little bit away from graciousness in our replies to each other. Could we perhaps tone down our responses a bit?

            Ok.

            De Maria:

            This is where we differ. We believe that Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church to Teach all which He commanded (Matt 28:19-20). And thus, we believe that authority to interpret the Word of God in Sacred Tradition and Scripture, rests in His Church.

            Yes, precisely.

            Good. Glad we agree on our point of disagreement.

            And that’s fine! But your original charge, upthread, was that I should be able to recognize the Catholic Church from scripture alone.

            That is still my charge.

            Your argument, on the other hand, relies heavily on tradition – which makes perfect sense, but is not enough to convict me of your original charge.

            Two things.

            1. The plain sense of the words should lead you to the Catholic understanding.
            2. However, even if they don’t, the underlying Catholic Tradition, is the context within which the Scripture was written. And should, if you rely upon it, as we do, keep you in the Catholic understanding.
            3. Therefore, if you come to a different conclusion, it is because you are relying on your Protestant tradition to provide the context of the Scripture.

            If you want to charge that Catholic tradition is unambiguously on your side, I won’t argue.

            Good.

            And Christ names Peter. Do you deny that Christ has the authority?

            Let me cover a number of comments with one reply, here: I absolutely believe Christ has the right to bestow whatever authority he wishes, on whomever he wishes. This is not a question of what He can do; it’s purely a question of what He actually did.

            Not really. Its a question of whom you believe. Do you believe the Protestants, who came around in the 16th Century? Or do you believe the Catholic Church which was established by Jesus Christ?

            And as a matter of practical fact, at no point in those verses does Christ say that he appoints Peter head of the church.

            Yes. Actually, He does.

            Here’s the problem inherent in the Protestant teaching. You believe in the right of private interpretation. Therefore, how do you give yourself the right to deny anyone’s intepretation? Whether they use Sacred Tradition to support their claim or not?

            The Protestant stance is illogical. You give yourself the right of private interpretation and deny it to everyone else.

            He says some things that you construe as implying this fact, and that I do not.

            And you’re stance is superior, why?

            At least one of us is wrong – there is a truth of the matter, whether we can demonstrate it to each other or not.

            My argument is based upon 2000 years of Catholic Teaching. You deny Luther and I suppose everyone else. So yours is based upon your interpretation of Scripture, today.

            Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

            But the conversation, “Does Christ mean precisely X when he says some thing Y?” is not the same as the conversation, “You don’t believe in Scripture.” If I say, “Christ is not the head of the church,” and Ephesians says, “Christ is the head of the church,” then I’m denying scripture.

            Ok. Let’s see.

            Christ appointed Peter as the Shepherd over His Flock. Do you agree or not?

            If I say “Peter is not the head of the church,” and John says, “Christ told Peter to feed his sheep,” then we have a question of interpretation.

            Have you ever heard, in medical terms, of the word, “cephalo”? What does it mean?
            Have you ever heard where Peter’s name in Aramaic, is “Cephas”?

            Which conversation are we having here? If it’s purely denial of scripture, we should be able to have it without recourse to tradition.

            That isn’t true. It’s not as though you opened a Bible and began to read it without prior knowledge about what it contains. You also read the Bible according to your “traditions”. That is why you can deny the plain meaning of the word of God in Scripture, without batting an eye. Because you have been conditioned to believe that certain things are in Scripture.

            If it’s a question of interpretation, then tradition is fair game for inclusion, but your original criticism of my position seems unwarranted. Which conversation do you want to have?

            It’s not a matter of which conversation I want to have. Its a matter of you coming to grips with the truth. You also read Scripture according to your presuppositions.

            The difference is this. Our Presuppositions were taught by Jesus Christ and are the foundation of the New Testament Scripture.

            Whereas, your presuppositions come from after the 16th Century.

            I’m not sure your parsing is correct – “How do you question anyone’s interpretation?” and “How can you convince anyone else?” are very different questions. The former relates to my internal thought processes; the latter is very much outward-facing.

            I agree with his parsing. If you believe that anyone can decide for themselves based upon what they read, by what authority do you claim to know better than they?

            And if you believe that everyone’s interpretation is equally valid, how can you convince anyone that they are wrong? After all, they have just as much right to interpret Scripture, as you.

            But to answer your phrasing, I hope to convince by reason and argument, and hopefully by the shared witness of the Spirit. That’s how I’ve been convinced of error in the past, and how I’ve seen others convinced.

            The problem in that, is that you’ve been the standard of that which is right and wrong. Scripture, as it is used by Protestants, is not a standard. Scripture can’t stand up and say, “Hey, you don’t understand!” Scripture is a “dead” letter. It just sits there and is read by the living. The living then read it according to their prejudices.

            As opposed to the Word of God, which is alive and cuts to the very soul.

            Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

            Is interpretation of mathematics private?

            Nope. It’s pret near perspicuous. 2 + 2 = 4 in every language.

            But how about 2 Tim 3:16.

            We believe that verse upholds the Magisterium. Protestants claim it teaches Sola Scriptura?

            Who is right?

            (Also, I would again reiterate that I am not Martin Luther, and not all modern Protestants hold to Sola Scriptura in the form Luther held it. Arguments against his position are probably mis-aimed.)

            See, all that says to me is that you’re gnostic. Your beliefs are secret and private. Whatever we argue based upon known Protestant positions, you will toss aside with the old canard, “I have my own set of beliefs.”

            I would suggest that this is a very narrow definition of “Protestantism.” I don’t draw a distinction between “teaching imperfectly” and “teaching error”; on the contrary, I suspect that when I do speak on theology, some portion of what I say is in error. I suspect all our denominations, and all of us as individuals, believe some untrue things… but the core truths are blessedly, mercifully simple: “If ye confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead…”

            And that leads again to faith in Jesus Christ. He established the Church and said it would never fall and that He would be with her to the end of the age. But, you believe that the Jesus led Church has already fallen into error.

            I personally, would not follow any Church which I thought were teaching error. That is the sign of a false Church.

            And so long as we preserve that truth, I think we can be very, very wrong about a great many things and still welcomed to the wedding feast of the Lamb.

            You haven’t preserved the truth if you have been very, very wrong about a great many things.

            That is really, really funnily untrue. Get a Southern Baptist talking about the PCUSA sometime – there are some important senses in which I agree with you guys a lot more than with them. Or get an American Baptist talking about a Southern Baptist – often, we argue the hardest against those closest to us.

            I can understand where it would feel like a “united in opposition” from your perspective, but… look, from our point of view, you guys are just one more denomination. We might disagree with you more than the average, but I’m not sure “Protestant” is even a meaningful label anymore – we don’t really define ourselves in contrast to you.

            Hopefully, if you stay here long enough, you’ll learn that the Catholic Church is not a denomination, at all. It is the Church established by Jesus Christ.

            I don’t deny that the Protestant you’re denying exists, but I’m not sure I’ve ever met him.

            Irked says:
            January 15, 2016 at 11:11 pm
            Eep – my apologies, that should have been “you’re describing,” not “you’re denying.” Long posts!

            No problem. Thanks for your response.

          10. KO:

            See? You just explained my point better than I did. Remember what I said? Of course you don’t see the distinction, since you don’t see the distinction between heresy and sound doctrine to have any significance, just the “core” matters. It doesn’t matter to have the right practice, the right doctrine, the right actions, the right way to worship. You just You just don’t agree on how many things, do you? Because clearly that confession alone is not sufficient:

            You’re conflating “mattering” with “necessary for salvation.”

            The list of doctrines that are essential to salvation are short. The list of doctrines that matter is, y’know, “all of them.”

            Did that even answer my proposition? If you equate mathematics with any human science (including Biblical exegesis), you’ll be in troubled waters. Do you believe in private interpretation of the Bible or not?

            That depends entirely on what we mean by “private interpretation,” hence my question. Humor me: is mathematics a matter of private interpretation? If you object to that discipline: is engineering, or physics, or biology?

            If you don’t even believe in Luther-like private interpretation or sola scriptura, or faith alone, you’d better specify your belief.

            I believe that Scripture contains a quantity of infallible truth sufficient for salvation, as well as a lot of additional infallible truth. I also think there are true and useful theological facts found outside scripture – or at a minimum, that it’s logically possible for there to be such facts – and that there is additional knowledge (for instance, how to read) necessary to extract that truth from the Bible. That’s not far from Luther’s sola, but it’s not dead-on, either.

            So, for instance, it doesn’t bother me that the Bible contains no inherent table of contents, because the list of inspired books is discoverable, albeit fallibly, in something like the “fallible canon of infallible books.” It also means that I agree that it’s theologically possible for something like an authoritative Magisterium and papal infallibility to exist; I’m just not persuaded it does.

          11. Irked says:
            January 16, 2016 at 3:16 am

            You’re conflating “mattering” with “necessary for salvation.”

            The list of doctrines that are essential to salvation are short.

            What are those, in your opinion?

            The list of doctrines that matter is, y’know, “all of them.”

            Why do they matter if they are not “necessary” or “essential”?

            Did that even answer my proposition?

            No, Irked did not.

            If you equate mathematics with any human science (including Biblical exegesis), you’ll be in troubled waters. Do you believe in private interpretation of the Bible or not?

            That depends entirely on what we mean by “private interpretation,” hence my question. Humor me: is mathematics a matter of private interpretation? If you object to that discipline: is engineering, or physics, or biology?

            No. They are based upon Laws of Nature which are inescapable. As an example, try to break the law of gravity.

            If you don’t even believe in Luther-like private interpretation or sola scriptura, or faith alone, you’d better specify your belief.

            I believe that Scripture contains a quantity of infallible truth sufficient for salvation, as well as a lot of additional infallible truth.

            Do you believe that any error exists in Scripture?

            I also think there are true and useful theological facts found outside scripture – or at a minimum, that it’s logically possible for there to be such facts – and that there is additional knowledge (for instance, how to read) necessary to extract that truth from the Bible. That’s not far from Luther’s sola, but it’s not dead-on, either.

            It sounds as though you make yourself the authority over that which Scripture says? Is that right?

            So, for instance, it doesn’t bother me that the Bible contains no inherent table of contents, because the list of inspired books is discoverable, albeit fallibly, in something like the “fallible canon of infallible books.” It also means that I agree that it’s theologically possible for something like an authoritative Magisterium and papal infallibility to exist; I’m just not persuaded it does.

            So, when Jesus said, “go and Teach the world”, that didn’t, by His very act of speaking, create an authoritative Magisterium?

            And when Jesus said, “On this Rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail on it. And I give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven, what you bind will bound in heaven and what you loose will be loosed in heaven”, did not in His mere saying it, establish an infallible Papacy?

            Hm? I guess we believe that Christ has more power than you give Him credit.

          12. De Maria:

            1. The plain sense of the words should lead you to the Catholic understanding.
            2. However, even if they don’t, the underlying Catholic Tradition, is the context within which the Scripture was written. And should, if you rely upon it, as we do, keep you in the Catholic understanding.
            3. Therefore, if you come to a different conclusion, it is because you are relying on your Protestant tradition to provide the context of the Scripture.

            Even if I granted all this, it’d still be the case that you’re arguing that I dismiss scripture plus your tradition, not scripture alone. Make that allegation! Allege it all you like! It’s true.

            Not really. Its a question of whom you believe.

            No, I’m going to stand pretty firm on this one. The question is what actually happened. We can argue various sources of evidence to say what we believe about what actually happened, but the thing that matters is the truth.

            Do you believe the Protestants, who came around in the 16th Century? Or do you believe the Catholic Church which was established by Jesus Christ?

            C’mon. You can write my response to that one, at this point – I choose Door Number 3, and I don’t believe Door Number Two is true.

            Yes. Actually, He does.

            Here’s the problem inherent in the Protestant teaching. You believe in the right of private interpretation. Therefore, how do you give yourself the right to deny anyone’s intepretation?

            If I say 2+2 is 5, by what right do you tell me I’m wrong? If I say health problems are due to a surplus of choleric humors, by what right do you tell me I’m wrong?

            I doubt either of us believe that there’s a human authority that’ll give you an infallible answer on any of those. Are we therefore unable to talk about them? Are all answers equally valid?

            The Protestant stance is illogical. You give yourself the right of private interpretation and deny it to everyone else.

            “I think your interpretation is wrong (and so, probably, is some of mine)” is not the same thing as “You have no right to attempt an interpretation.”

            Christ appointed Peter as the Shepherd over His Flock. Do you agree or not?

            If we modify that to a shepherd, rather than the shepherd, sure. A pastor. An important, influential pastor, even, with the obligations of a pastor to care for the flock.

            If we’re exchanging questions: is there any pastor who is not obligated to feed Christ’s sheep?

            You also read Scripture according to your presuppositions.

            Yes. As I stated upthread, thirty posts ago.

            See, all that says to me is that you’re gnostic. Your beliefs are secret and private. Whatever we argue based upon known Protestant positions, you will toss aside with the old canard, “I have my own set of beliefs.”

            We’re… not all Lutherans, you know? The reason we have different denominations is that we disagree about this stuff.

            What you’re calling “known Protestant positions” are the positions of one guy five hundred years ago – a guy we generally respect, but not a prophet or an apostle or an infallible speaker. You’re absolutely right that some of that guy’s positions are flawed! That’s why we kept working on ’em.

          13. What are those, in your opinion?

            “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.”

            Why do they matter if they are not “necessary” or “essential”?

            You’d agree that it’s not necessary to literally never sin in order to still claim Christ, yeah? Does it still matter when you sin?

            If so, basically for that reason.

            No. They are based upon Laws of Nature which are inescapable. As an example, try to break the law of gravity.

            But we don’t literally have the laws of nature as the contents of our physics textbooks – we have some approximation, argued from the evidence, as filtered through our perceptions.

            That’s private interpretation. Or if it’s not, then neither is Protestant theology.

            Do you believe that any error exists in Scripture?
            No.

            It sounds as though you make yourself the authority over that which Scripture says? Is that right?
            Nope.

            You know the answer to the rest of these questions; I’ve answered ’em upthread.

          14. Irked says:
            January 16, 2016 at 3:46 am

            Even if I granted all this, it’d still be the case that you’re arguing that I dismiss scripture plus your tradition, not scripture alone. Make that allegation! Allege it all you like! It’s true.

            Glad we agree upon that which we disagree.

            Not really. Its a question of whom you believe.

            No, I’m going to stand pretty firm on this one. The question is what actually happened. We can argue various sources of evidence to say what we believe about what actually happened, but the thing that matters is the truth.

            Absolutely. I believe that the Catholic Church Teaches that which actually happened. It is the Catholic Church which Teaches the truth.

            Do you believe the Protestants, who came around in the 16th Century? Or do you believe the Catholic Church which was established by Jesus Christ?

            C’mon. You can write my response to that one, at this point – I choose Door Number 3, and I don’t believe Door Number Two is true.

            I’m in discovery mode here. You’ll have to reveal what you believe since you don’t follow anyone but yourself. Now, since you say that you believe that which Jesus actually did as opposed to that which the Catholic Church Teaches that He did, you’ll need to enlighten me upon the difference as you hold it. That way, I can compare to Scripture to see if you’re in line with the written Word.

            Is that fair?

            If I say 2+2 is 5, by what right do you tell me I’m wrong?

            I don’t need to tell you its wrong. You’ll learn if you try to get someone to give you $5 in exchange for $4.

            If I say health problems are due to a surplus of choleric humors, by what right do you tell me I’m wrong?

            I have no idea what those are. And you are certainly free to hold your own opinion. Are you saying that you equate your right to privately interpret health problems with your right to privately interpret Scripture?

            Let me ask you this. Do you hold for yourself the right to privately interpret the Constitution? Let’s say that someone says, “the Constitution says I am free, therefore I’m going to take what I want without paying for it.”

            Does everyone have a right to privately interpret the Constitution?

            I doubt either of us believe that there’s a human authority that’ll give you an infallible answer on any of those.

            On the contrary, I know that 2 + 2 = 4. That is an infallible answer.

            Are we therefore unable to talk about them? Are all answers equally valid?

            No one said we couldn’t talk about them. But you seem to be saying that you don’t want us to provide any answer from Sacred Tradition. Which, by the way, is the basis for the Sacred Word.

            “I think your interpretation is wrong (and so, probably, is some of mine)” is not the same thing as “You have no right to attempt an interpretation.”

            Then the question is, if you can’t tell wrong from right, why are you trying to pawn off your wrong answers as though you believe they are the truth?

            We believe in absolute Truth. We believe the Church Teaches the Absolute Truth.

            Christ appointed Peter as the Shepherd over His Flock. Do you agree or not?

            If we modify that to a shepherd, rather than the shepherd, sure. A pastor. An important, influential pastor, even, with the obligations of a pastor to care for the flock.

            No. Jesus didn’t say, “Hey, youse guys! Feed my sheep.” He said, “Peter, feed my sheep”. So, there will be no modifying of the Word of God.

            If we’re exchanging questions: is there any pastor who is not obligated to feed Christ’s sheep?

            No. But Christ was not addressing any other Pastor in that verse. Only Peter.

            You also read Scripture according to your presuppositions.

            Yes. As I stated upthread, thirty posts ago.

            I’m glad you understand that. Yet you call your interpretation, Scripture alone. Whereas, if you understand that you are following non-biblical presuppositions, you are at the very least, using poor nomenclature.

            We’re… not all Lutherans, you know?

            Do we ever! You have something like 50,000 denominations and counting. Before long, you and your Bible will be a separate denomination.

            The reason we have different denominations is that we disagree about this stuff.

            No kidding. Thanks for your honesty, by the way.

            What you’re calling “known Protestant positions” are the positions of one guy five hundred years ago – a guy we generally respect, but not a prophet or an apostle or an infallible speaker. You’re absolutely right that some of that guy’s positions are flawed! That’s why we kept working on ’em.

            Lol! And it led you further and further down that slippery slope. Because the next generation came up with solutions. Which the next generation also discarded and replaced their solutions. Which the next generation discarded and replaced theirs. Until you have the Protestant mess you have today.

          15. Irked says:
            January 16, 2016 at 4:02 am

            “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.”

            How about this one?
            Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

            Why do they matter if they are not “necessary” or “essential”?

            You’d agree that it’s not necessary to literally never sin in order to still claim Christ, yeah? Does it still matter when you sin?

            That doesn’t answer my question. Let me illustrate. I believe all those things matter and are essential. One must cease from sin and live in a state of grace. They matter because they are essential.

            But you are of the opposite opinion. You believe some things matter yet are not essential. So, why do they matter to you if they are not essential?

            If so, basically for that reason.

            No. They are based upon Laws of Nature which are inescapable. As an example, try to break the law of gravity.

            But we don’t literally have the laws of nature as the contents of our physics textbooks – we have some approximation, argued from the evidence, as filtered through our perceptions.

            That’s private interpretation. Or if it’s not, then neither is Protestant theology.

            That’s your opinion on what is private interpretation. But you are using a very flawed metaphor which does not illustrate the situation properly. Why haven’t you responded to the question on the Constitution?

            Do you believe that any error exists in Scripture?
            No.

            Good. Nor do we. Just trying to find out what you think.

            It sounds as though you make yourself the authority over that which Scripture says? Is that right?
            Nope.

            Then, how do you claim the authority to decide what it means?

            You know the answer to the rest of these questions; I’ve answered ’em upthread.

            Those were rhetorical. They were meant to highlight that you don’t really believe what Scripture says.

          16. But we don’t literally have the laws of nature as the contents of our physics textbooks – we have some approximation, argued from the evidence, as filtered through our perceptions.

            That’s private interpretation.

            Wow! A small dose of sociology, history of science, (or just good sense) will tell you that what you described as just Humean individualistic philosophy does not survive without an “interpretive community”, so to speak. Are you sure you came to all that textbook knowledge without a group of people discussing those matters? If you tell any physicist that the law of gravity is “private interpretation”, he’ll just laugh. There no such thing as private interpretation in science. You’re confusing “private interpretation” with “individual [process of acquiring] knowledge”.

            Or if it’s not, then neither is Protestant theology.

            Much of Protestant theology takes for granted “free examination of scripture”, “private interpretation”, or whatever you call it. That’s an individualistic ideology of knowledge. But that of course doesn’t work out very well; it’s a premise that, if taken to its utmost consequence, would dilute all Protestant denominations in some empty one-sentece creed like yours. What naturally happens is that groups are formed that agree on some issues; that group creates a social environment in which it is hard (sometimes very hard) to disagree. So, from a social point of view, you’re not speaking as an individual who reached your conclusions all by yourself. So, for all historical and sociological matters, as De Maria said, “your presuppositions come from after the 16th Century.” There is no possibility that a group of people thought what you think about Christian faith before the 16th century. That is a fact. Point me a group that believed in sola scriptura and all that, before the 16th century, and you win. Simple? Yes. I challenge you.

            Protestant theology is based on the presupposition of “private, free-thought, individual(istic) theology”, but that presupposition works out in reality as a leader that thinks his interpretations are authoritative (otherwise, there would be no churches). You don’t like historical examples, but clearly all church-founders, from Luther to Calvin to Knox to Wesley and the latest Pentecostal prosperity-theology churches, believed they were authoritative. That is, “private interpretation” works for the leaders, when they want to break away from other leaders’ theologies; but it is unwarranted for common folk. You just trade an authority (“the pope”, “the Catholic Church”) for another, just this other one lies to you saying that you can interpret scripture by yourself, when in fact they interpret it for you.

            “It also means that I agree that it’s theologically possible for something like an authoritative Magisterium and papal infallibility to exist; I’m just not persuaded it does.” Thanks for you sincerity; few Protestants would agree with you. They would just pretty much say that it is, if anything, “theologically impossible”. Because if it’s theologically possible, then Catholics are possibly right.

          17. Irked asked “Is interpretation of mathematics private?”

            “You can prove geometry to every man, not history. You can only prove history to men of good will” Lord Acton

      2. Okay, let’s back up a little bit. I’m running this on a separate sub-thread, because (a) it’s getting pretty silly to scroll back up top over and over again to start a reply, and (b) I think the conversation needs a bit of a reset.

        I’ve meandered somewhat in my replies, and that’s gotten us into a fisking that is expanding out towards infinity, so let me try to sum things up a little bit:

        1) The conversation’s turning kind of… pointed, and that makes it difficult to maintain interest in it. The last few posts have straight-up called me a gnostic and claimed that I don’t believe in truth – which, in addition to seeming like incompatible accusations, seem designed to provoke a response rather than advance a dialogue.

        So. If we’re going to carry on this conversation, let’s talk about ideas. Let’s talk about theology. But, flatly, I’m going to disregard any further remarks that run toward me as a person, because the pattern of such remarks so far has not been conducive to better mutual understanding.

        2) Relatedly, we’re starting to segue into an infinite chain of, “Well, but what about this verse? What about that verse? What about this particular thing that Martin Luther believed?” And we could do that all day, and all of the conversations would follow a very familiar pattern: first, someone would allege that a verse clearly means something it doesn’t quite say in literal, precise words. Then, I’d reply that I don’t think that’s what the verse means. I’ll be told that, if I don’t believe that this interpretation is what the verse means, I must not believe the Bible, because Catholic tradition clearly says…

        Somewhere in there, the conversation will trail off into how Protestants don’t really believe anything at all, do they? And look, guys, as fun as that’s been… we could all write the exchanges in our sleep. We’re not getting anywhere. If your position is – as I understand it to be – that rejecting the Catholic traditional interpretation of a passage is synonymous with rejecting the passage, to a degree that it’s not possible for any other ontology to exist, then we have a fundamental difference of opinion, past which I do not see any path.

        3) So let’s talk about truth. Rather than try to respond to each criticism in detail, let me propose a particular view of truth. The view is this: there is truth. This truth is reflected in some aspect of reality. We, as flawed human beings, experience this truth in a biased way; rather than grasp it perfectly and completely, we approximate understandings of it. Sometimes, a wise human proposes a new and better approximation; much of what we understand comes from listening to wise humans who have proposed such understandings in the past, and it’d be foolish to try to understand truth with no recourse to the approximations proposed in the past.

        At the same time, those approximations aren’t authoritative – they’re just attempts to explain a complex truth that we imperfectly understand. They tend, over time, to be replaced with better (or, at a minimum, different) approximations. In any particular time, then, we listen to the theories and decide whether we think they match our own, imperfect understanding of reality. Often, they will – much of the theories will be unambiguously true. Sometimes, they will not. Still other times, there are competing theories to explain the evidence, and we have to choose which one of them explains the evidence the best. But although there is a truth, there’s no temporal human authority that can give us direct feedback on whether we’re right or wrong.

        So you and I may reach different conclusions, and we may tell each other that we think the other person is wrong. That doesn’t imply that we think that we’re absolutely correct – only that we’re more persuaded of our position than we are of someone else’s. That doesn’t deny the other person’s ability to interpret for themselves, or their right to reach their own conclusions – it just… disagrees with them. That’s it.

        This is basically how human knowledge of reality works. It’s roughly how biology, or physics, or, yes, mathematics works (“Is P = NP?” offers a pair of competing theories; Russell’s Paradox pretty well destroyed a competing, previous theory). From my perspective, that’s how Christianity works: there is truth, communicated through Scripture (among other means), imperfectly understood by humans who try to understand it through their flawed perceptions.

        You can certainly disagree with that model, but if you do, argue with the model. It doesn’t deny the existence of truth. It doesn’t deny “the right to privately interpret” to others, whatever that means.

        Hope that helps clarify my position!

        1. Just a clarification: what do you say are those “other means” [“among other means”] are? (some Protestants would argue that there is nothing useful communicated apart from scripture [precisely, their own interpretation of scripture]).

          “there’s no temporal human authority that can give us direct feedback on whether we’re right or wrong.”

          That’s where we disagree. In science, that is called the “community of scientists”. Try telling an astronomer that the Ptolemaic model is correct, and that he has no authority to convince anyone otherwise. The problem is, we’re not dealing with a group of scientists trying to arrive at uncertain, provisional, human truth. Christians don’t define themselves this way. You’re taking an epistemic model derived from modern science (~500 or so years), and imposing that on a group of people who believe their source of authority is divine (aka Christ). Now, (1) there are two groups of people who believe in that authority: one believes that Christ created an institution and helps it and sustains until now; the other (2) believes that Christ created no institution, left us humans stranded on Earth without any guidance but the Bible.

          Why don’t you take a look here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/ to see what (2) entails, and tell us what you think?

          1. Just a clarification: what do you say are those “other means” [“among other means”] are?

            A partial list of at least potential communication mechanisms would be prophecy, the natural order, and the inward leading of the spirit. These are not all the same kind of revelation, and they don’t all work exactly the same way, but they’re all means God has used to communicate truth in the past. Other methods could in principle exist, but any method has to make the case for its inclusion.

            That’s where we disagree. In science, that is called the “community of scientists”. Try telling an astronomer that the Ptolemaic model is correct, and that he has no authority to convince anyone otherwise.

            No, you’re misreading me there. An astronomer absolutely has authority to convince. He can, and should, appeal to the evidence as he understands it, or the good arguments he’s inherited. He just doesn’t have the authority to claim, “Consensus is on my side, and consensus is necessarily truth.”

            Because the Ptolemaic model was at one time the view of the community of scientists, of course. If consensus was truth, we’d still have that view. It’s possible for the community to be wrong, and if the community can be wrong, it can’t give direct, factual feedback on whether your views are true – it can just give its best impressions.

            Those best impressions are valuable! If you disagree with the community, you’re probably wrong. But “probably”s aren’t truths.

            Again, “You’re using the wrong model” is a perfectly valid response to all this, albeit one I’m not really interested in pursuing here – I’m not evangelizing for why my model is the correct one, just trying to clear up some misunderstandings about what the model actually is.

            Why don’t you take a look here:

            No, thank you. Again, I’d like to keep a tight focus here; the day is too short to take this anywhere and everywhere. If you’d like to debate the particular things I’ve said, by all means, but I’m not interested in expanding the discussion to some third party’s view of yet another person’s understanding of scripture – that’s a conversation for another time.

          2. Irked says:
            January 17, 2016 at 3:26 am

            No, you’re misreading me there. An astronomer absolutely has authority to convince. He can, and should, appeal to the evidence as he understands it, or the good arguments he’s inherited. He just doesn’t have the authority to claim, “Consensus is on my side, and consensus is necessarily truth.”

            It doesn’t do a whole lot of good with you or any other Protestant that has come to this forum.

            For example, you have yet to answer the question of the Constitution. Here it is again. Do you think it would have been a good idea for the Founding Fathers to pass out the Constitution and say, “Hey! It’s Sola Constituccione! Just read the Constitution and decide for yourself which laws to obey!”

            You’re ignoring that question. That proves that you’re not really here for dialogue. You, like all the Protestants that have come here before you, are unduly impressed by your intellect.

            But we are not.

            We are completely convinced that God speaks through His Church. The Catholic Church.

            Now, I hope that doesn’t hurt your feelings. But, judging from past experience, it probably will.

            No, thank you. Again, I’d like to keep a tight focus here; the day is too short to take this anywhere and everywhere. If you’d like to debate the particular things I’ve said, by all means, but I’m not interested in expanding the discussion to some third party’s view of yet another person’s understanding of scripture – that’s a conversation for another time.

            Then, it sounds as though you aren’t interested in what we have to say. Why’d you come here again?

          3. Irked, I don’t want a partial list. And I thought you’d say “tradition”. After all, that’s a form of teaching mentioned in the Bible itself. I don’t really know how many times “prophecy, the natural order, and the inward leading of the spirit.” communicated God’s Word after Christ ascended from this earthly realm. You may say tradition doesn’t exist (historically untenable assertion); or that you don’t believe in the tradition that exists (you clearly don’t) because after year X there is historical evidence that that tradition taught Y, but you learned in your church (or wherever) from your pastor (or John Doe) that Y is wrong, therefore you make the unhistorical assertion that Y is wrong because it is taught by tradition (unhistorical and illogical, because the Bible, whatever you say, is a tradition taught by tradition, too).

            You didn’t address the fact that “Christians don’t define themselves this way.” (like scientists)

            I said that position (2) entails a big pack of problems. As De Maria said, if you don’t take your time to learn something elsewhere, your presence here is unfruitful, just as ours. Want to know what your problem is with the position you’ve been holding since your first reply here? Since you didn’t bother taking some 10 minutes to take a look at the link I sent you, I’ll do the favor and copy-paste Keith Mathison, a Protestant theologian:

            Is there any way to ever resolve the hermeneutical chaos and anarchy that exists within the Protestant church largely as a result of its adoption of radical individualism? Most Protestants do not seem to have taken this question seriously enough if they have considered it at all. If we proclaim to the unbelieving world that we have the one true and final revelation from God, why should they listen to us if we cannot agree about what that revelation actually says? Jesus prayed for the disciples that they would be one (John 17:21a). And why did He pray for this unity? He tells us the reason, “that the world may believe that You sent me” (17:21b). The world is supposed to be hearing the Church preach the gospel of Christ, but the world is instead hearing an endless cacophony of conflicting and contradictory assertions by those who claim to be the Church of Christ. This is the heart of the hermeneutical problem we face in the Church today. (The Shape of Sola Scriptura, pp. 274-275)

            You don’t think it’s a problem; instead, you present your one-sentence-only Christianity as “all you need to be saved”, “all else is secondary”, even though plain words from the Bible and from reason (I quoted Matthew 7 above, which you ignored) can tell you otherwise.

            But here is the crux of the problem with your view, again to quote Mathison:

            If the ecumenical creeds have no real authority, then it cannot be of any major consequence if a person decides to reject some or all of the doctrines of these creeds-–including the Trinity and the deity of Christ. If the individual judges the Trinity to be an unbiblical doctrine, then for him it is false. No other authority exists to correct him outside of his own interpretation of Scripture. This is precisely why solo scriptura inevitably results in radical relativism and subjectivity. Each man decides for himself what the essential doctrines of Christianity are, each man creates his own creed from scratch, and concepts such as orthodoxy and heresy become completely obsolete. The concept of Christianity itself becomes obsolete because it no longer has any meaningful objective definition. Since solo scriptura has no means by which Scripture’s propositional doctrinal content may be authoritatively defined (such definition necessarily entails the unacceptable creation of an authoritative ecumenical creed), its propositional content can only be subjectively defined by each individual. One individual may consider the Trinity essential, another may consider it a pagan idea imported into Christianity. Without an authoritatively defined statement of Christianity’s propositional doctrinal content, neither individual can definitively and finally be declared wrong. Solo scriptura destroys this possibility, and thereby destroys the possibility of Christianity being a meaningful concept. Instead, by reducing Christianity to relativism and subjectivity, it reduces Christianity to irrationalism and ultimately nonsense (Mathison, Shape…, p. 250).

            Remember my translation above to the effect that ““In Protestantism, faith simply does not matter. The role of doctrine is only to provide a lowest common denominator so that everyone can create his own “faith.”” That’s really what Mathison is saying. Then you were called a gnostic and didn’t like it. Then you said you didn’t believe Protestant theology was based in individual interpretation, and all we have left is a one-sentence declaration of faith that could be very well professed by polytheists, pantheists, or whatever.

            The article I linked was arguing that effectively, as I said, there’s no way out. Mathison argues that the way out of this relativism is “the Church”:

            But how does he determine what is the Church? Being Reformed, he defines ‘Church’ as wherever the gospel is found, because the early Protestants defined the marks of the Church as including “the gospel,” where the gospel was determined by their own private interpretation of Scripture. So he claims that it is in the Church that the gospel is found, but he defines the Church in terms of the gospel. This is what we call a tautology. It is a form of circular reasoning that allows anyone to claim to be the Church and have the gospel. One can read the Bible and formulate one’s own understanding of the gospel, then make this “gospel” a necessary mark of the Church, and then say that it is in the Church that the gospel is found. […]

            The Catholic position does not suffer from this circularity, because ‘Church’ is not defined in terms of “gospel,” but in terms of apostolic succession, involving an unbroken line of authorizations extending down from the Apostles.

            “Christianity [reduced] to irrationalism and ultimately nonsense” is what I see everywhere. I see pastors growing beards, wearing “Jewish-style” clothing and kippa, and preaching wealth for those who follow Jesus. I see a self-style theologian deny the immortality of the soul. I see people claim that we should worship on Saturday and not eat pork. I’ve even seen the bogus claim over and over that the Catholic church is heretical, and is as divided as the Protestants. I’ve seen over and over people say that Christ didn’t teach any religion or doctrine! I’ve seen a pastor say he prayed for the dead, even knowing that this prayer was useless. Almost all Protestants admit that veneration of the saints amount to polytheism, but you just said that all Catholics are saved anyway, because they surely profess the only thing you deem relevant to one’s salvation: your one-sentence creed (and much more). How polytheists can be saved, is a mystery.

          4. You’re ignoring that question. That proves that you’re not really here for dialogue. You, like all the Protestants that have come here before you, are unduly impressed by your intellect.

            De Maria, respectfully, I’m not going to continue this conversation as long as you’re openly assuming bad faith on my part. If we can make this a civil exchange of ideas, I’ll be glad to continue.

            Irked, I don’t want a partial list.

            I’m sorry. I’m not going to be able to exhaustively list the means by which God is able to communicate truth. For whatever it’s worth, I feel sure that tradition is a means that God has used to do so; I’m just not persuaded that your particular traditions are being used to communicate truth infallibly.

            You didn’t address the fact that “Christians don’t define themselves this way.” (like scientists)

            I did, albeit a bit indirectly. To requote: “You’re using the wrong model” is a perfectly valid response to all this, albeit one I’m not really interested in pursuing here – I’m not evangelizing for why my model is the correct one, just trying to clear up some misunderstandings about what the model actually is.

            I said that position (2) entails a big pack of problems.

            That’s fine. But position (2) – the thing Mathison opposes – is solo Scriptura. I haven’t claimed solo Scriptura; I’ve gone rather out of my way to not do so, in fact. As such, the critiques are… kind of a side point, y’know? You’re arguing against something that I agree is mistaken.

          5. Irked said – That’s fine. But position (2) – the thing Mathison opposes – is solo Scriptura. I haven’t claimed solo Scriptura; I’ve gone rather out of my way to not do so, in fact. As such, the critiques are… kind of a side point, y’know? You’re arguing against something that I agree is mistaken.

            Me – actually it really does come down to solo scriptura (I think). If you come across a passage that you interpret to mean x and your preacher (Bob) is preaching y. You both prayed about it, are equally educated on the subject and are adamant about your interpretations. Let’s says its on whether or not one can lose their salvation.

            Which interpretation wins out every time for both of you? How is that not solo?

            The foundation for Sola Scriptura (as originally promoted) is that the bible is easy to understand and you don’t need anyone to interpret it for you. How does this not become solo?

          6. CK,

            Which interpretation wins out every time for both of you? How is that not solo?

            Fair question. Broadly put, the doctrine Mathison calls solo Scriptura says that Scripture is to be read uninformed by anything else, as a purely individual experience – outside evidence, scholarly investigation, the understanding of a vast majority of the church, knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, etc. are irrelevant to an individual’s understanding.

            Sola – which is Mathison’s position, and the thing he’s contrasting with solo in all those lovely quotes above – says instead that the church and collected wisdom of Christians matter, that they inform our understanding; indeed, they are the context in which we form our understanding. But they are not, in his words, “supplementary sources of revelation”; that is, they aren’t inspired, or infallible, in the way scripture is. Mathison puts this in terms of “authority,” but I think that word’s going to cause more division than it’ll enable communication in this thread – he contrasts his use of authority very clearly with a Catholic understanding of the same thing, and we’ve got enough words bouncing around with multiple definitions already.

            I really don’t want to debate solo-vs.-sola, here, because again that’s going to take us down an infinite rabbit-hole, and anyway no one’s claiming solo (and I’m not sure I’m claiming sola in the way Mathison would). I’m just hoping to elaborate here for the sake of clarity, because it was a fair question. But the important thing here is that neither of these doctrines, as I understand ’em, say anything to the effect of, “If you disagree with your pastor/church/denomination, you’re necessarily wrong.” Sola just says that, basically, ignoring what the entire rest of the church has to say about a doctrine is unwise and kind of absurd, in the same way that ignoring what every other physicist has to say about gravity is generally unwise and kind of absurd. Neither approach tries to entirely avoid “I’m going to believe this, because of [reasons], despite what these other people say” – they just differ as to what sort of things we need to have as part of [reasons].

            Which, I mean – you can’t get around that, entirely. There’s always a personal-interpretational level; if nothing else, you exercise personal interpretation in deciding whether or not the evidence points to accepting Catholicism as an authoritative source in the first place. The sola/solo split is just in whether existing contexts do or should inform that personal interpretation at all.

            So, I’ve tried to be clear in what I say above that this model does include context as a valuable part of forming an understanding of Scripture – that, basically, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Mathison’s critique is aimed at an entirely different theological position, and it’s really not relevant to the conversation at hand.

          7. and I’m not sure I’m claiming sola in the way Mathison would

            I’m not sure of anything anymore. You’re not for “solo”; you’re not for “sola”; all your definitions of Christianity boil down to one sentence. What beyond that are you sure of? I wonder.

            So, I’ve tried to be clear in what I say above that this model does include context as a valuable part of forming an understanding of Scripture – that, basically, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

            Your supposed model is an individualistic model of personal interpretation for all believers. Let’s recap that: “there is truth, communicated through Scripture (among other means), imperfectly understood by humans who try to understand it through their flawed perceptions.” Who on earth would doubt that? If you ask a Muslim, he’ll say the same thing about his scripture; an Hindu, the same; even a Buddhist would agree; Zoroastrians; Yezidis; and so on. Your model is not a model specific to Christianity. (You may even change “scripture” to “publications in the field of physics”.) It’s empty. It belongs to many religions with a written tradition.

            What is extraordinary evidence? If you believe something is extraordinary (tradition, which you admit could be theologically true), I might as well believe it’s just a matter of fact. If extraordinary claims required extraordinary evidence in the domain of religious faith, faith would cease to be that, it would become… historical (or legal, or scientific) evidence. The most extraordinary claims are that 1) Jesus was born of a virgin; 2) was killed because of our sins; 3) rose from the dead; 4) is God’s son; 5) is God. None of this extraordinary claims carry the weight of “evidence” you propose. On the contrary: in face of those extraordinary propositions, on which the testimony of the Church is all we possess, there are much “lighter” things to believe, and historically so. It’s much more difficult to believe in 1-5 than to believe that the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus founded. If you want “evidence” for everything, you’ll come out empty-handed. There is much more evidence for the Church (biblical and historical) than there is evidence for the resurrection. I firmly believe that Jesus would be downright stupid if he had the Protestant “church” model in mind. An invisible “church” made of “visible churches” that cannot agree on the most basic things.

            Mathison’s critique is aimed at an entirely different theological position, and it’s really not relevant to the conversation at hand.

            Well, it seems nothing is relevant to anything. If we say Luther or Calvin said that, you’ll just say “I don’t believe in them”. If I say solo scriptura, you say you don’t believe in that; sola scriptura “I don’t believe in that”. Catholics can claim dozens of beliefs (know the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed?), you just repeat over and over one sentence and say all the rest “matters to salvation” but “won’t affect your salvation”.

            What matters to the post at hand is, “is the Church from which the Bible was compiled as “one book” the same Catholic Church we have today?” For one thing, it’s called “catholic”. Besides, it had the same organization. Furthermore, it can trace a tradition back to the time of the definition of the canon, something which the Protestants toss to the side or say: “We belonged to that Church, too. That church is not the same anymore, so we decided to split off, because of some reasons. You got the canon right, but so many things, wrong.” A little problem: why is that church not the same? Why no one bothered for 1450+ years? Why do you pick this and reject that, if not for a doctrine that you are the authority? Many Protestants believe in a general apostasy, which means there were no real Christians before them, and all were wrong for 1450+ years, and the Holy Spirit didn’t aid the followers of Jesus Christ in their teaching. This means Jesus was very weak at management, leadership, and institution-building, and his disciples were much worse, and didn’t even build a community of believers that had the same beliefs. This idea makes me sick. Of course we (Catholics) believe the Holy Spirit has guided the Church since day one, and that is nothing short of a miracle (name one institution that is almost 2000 years old). And sure we believe there is just one truth, one Church, and one Jesus.

          8. Irked says:
            January 17, 2016 at 4:06 pm

            De Maria, respectfully, I’m not going to continue this conversation as long as you’re openly assuming bad faith on my part. If we can make this a civil exchange of ideas,

            That’s where you don’t get it. Why would we exchange the Word of God for anything? Why would we exchange the Word of God for yours?

            You can keep your ideas.

            I’ll be glad to continue.

            Sure, as long as you understand that we don’t exchange Catholicism for any man-made traditions.

          9. I’m not sure of anything anymore. You’re not for “solo”; you’re not for “sola”; all your definitions of Christianity boil down to one sentence. What beyond that are you sure of? I wonder.

            See, this again is talking about me. Forget about me. I’m not important. Talk about the ideas actually on the table!

            And solo Scriptura, and Mathison’s read of sola Scriptura, and Luther and Calvin’s specific beliefs are not on the table. No one’s appealed to them for defense. No one’s relied on them as a basis for an argument. You’re having arguments with people who aren’t here!

            Your supposed model is an individualistic model of personal interpretation for all believers.

            In the same sense that physics is an individualistic model of personal interpretation, yes.

            So: do physicists not believe in truth?

            None of this extraordinary claims carry the weight of “evidence” you propose.

            I disagree. I believe there’s evidence for all of those things, and indeed that they are the likeliest explanations for that evidence.

            It’s much more difficult to believe in 1-5 than to believe that the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus founded.

            Yet the former have the advantage of evidence, and the latter has the weight of evidence against it.

            … I assert, obviously. But this is the point of irreconcilable differences: you and I, in our respective understandings of reality, weight the evidence for Catholicism’s claim to the truth differently. One of us is righter than the other, but the underlying process is the same.

            Beyond that, I’m not interested in re-litigating the Reformation with you.

            I firmly believe that Jesus would be downright stupid if he had the Protestant “church” model in mind. An invisible “church” made of “visible churches” that cannot agree on the most basic things.

            Well, He has a known preference for using foolish and weak things – goodness knows we qualify. I’m sure if I had His position, I wouldn’t have chosen to do it this way, either.

        2. Irked says:
          January 16, 2016 at 5:16 pm

          ….Hope that helps clarify my position!

          Irked, its not as though we didn’t already know your position. I think it is you who don’t understand ours.

          Here’s my position, which I believe all Catholics share.

          I’m not here to compromise Catholic Doctrine with you or anybody else. If your position contradicts Catholic Doctrine, it contradicts the absolute Truth taught by Jesus Christ.

          That’s all there is to it. I’m not here to meet you in a happy Protestant middle ground that will tickle your ears. Catholic Doctrine is the Word of God. Therefore, for me, it is Catholic Doctrine, or nothing.

          I hope that clarifies my position.

          1. Fortunately for the entire world the Catholic position is easily found abundantly in the 15 volumes of the official Catholic Encyclopedia. This is because Catholics actually HAVE a unified, and coherent, position on which their faith is based. And this can be compared to the multitudes of Protestant theological positions which are probably too many, and actually impossible, to count. Where, for instance, can we find a Protestant encyclopedia detailing their multitudes of positions? Why isn’t everything associated with Protestantism gathered together in an authoritative fashion as the Catholic Church has done, so as to be open, and available, for all to scrutinize? In the Catholic Encyclopedia, translated into dozens of languages, just about anyone in the world can critique the great volume of ancient Catholic Church History extending back even to the Apostles themselves. But with Protestantism such history is scant, and even non-existent before about 1400AD, unless one wants to believe that the Donatists were the original founders of the Anabaptists, as some try to wildly assert.

            I thank God that the Catholic Church has taken the immense amount of time, and effort, to record all of this essential Christian history and doctrine, including the multitudes of competent Biblical transcriptions, for over a 2000 year period of Christian history! Truly, this Church has understood well the command of the Lord to “Feed my sheep” throughout the centuries of Western Civilization.

          2. Irked, its not as though we didn’t already know your position.

            That’s great! This isn’t an attempt to get a “happy Protestant middle ground” at all – that sounds like a really terrible thing to go for. Rather, I’ve been understanding this conversation as an attempt to better understand each other. If you perfectly understand my position, then I think the conversation’s finished!

        3. Forget about me. I’m not important. Talk about the ideas actually on the table!

          The problem is, we don’t know what your ideas are; how are we going to talk about them? And how are we not going to talk about you, if those ideas are yours? Until now, your “ideas on the table” boil down to one sentence. I’ve raised points about that “one sentence” and about your “model” which you couldn’t care to discuss. I said your “Christianity model” works for Islam and Hinduism, so how could it be specific to Christianity? You remained silent.

          And solo Scriptura, and Mathison’s read of sola Scriptura, and Luther and Calvin’s specific beliefs are not on the table.

          So you decide what matters, what is on the table, and I’m pretty much sure you are just gleefully skirting the questions. In the end, we don’t know what your ideas are; and we don’t know what is on the table anymore. A glass of beer, perhaps?

          Yet the former have the advantage of evidence

          Evidence? Which “evidence” do you propose for articles of faith? Are you equalling miracles and faith with scientific proof? There is not a single shred of evidence that Jesus rose from the dead apart from the word of his disciples. If you call that evidence, there isn’t a single evidence of the existence of Shiva either, apart from the books and words from his worshipers.

          I’m sure if I had His position, I wouldn’t have chosen to do it this way, either.

          So you agree with me that protestant church organization as a whole is, at least from a human point of view, stupid. I did not mean simply “foolish and weak”, I meant downright stupid. The question is, apparently Jesus wasn’t that stupid for 1450+ years, since protestant church organization was nowhere in sight before the 16th century.

          1. The problem is, we don’t know what your ideas are; how are we going to talk about them?

            We aren’t! This is not a referendum on everything I think; I don’t have the time or interest for that.

            I came into this conversation to make a specific charge: that Joe’s arguments above are not effective at what seems to be their primary goal (i.e., making a case to Protestants), because they rely on an unspoken assumption Protestants reject (i.e., that the early church is synonymous with the Roman Catholic Church).

            Somehow, that got parsed as me rejecting truth, and, foolishly, I started trying to expand the conversation to respond to everyone’s replies. That was a bad idea, because (a) those replies can go on forever, and (b) the replies started to become about things I had not actually said (i.e., “Here’s what’s wrong with Luther”). So I refocused to a singular topic: a particular model of truth, in which truth does exist but is imperfectly understood, because that was what the original side-conversation was about.

            If you want to discuss Joe’s thing, great! If you think this is a model in which, somehow, truth still doesn’t exist, or where only one Protestant has the right to interpret, make that case. If you’re not interested in those, then let the whole “Protestants don’t believe in truth” thing drop, and let’s end the conversation.

            I said your “Christianity model” works for Islam and Hinduism, so how could it be specific to Christianity?

            It’s a very general model, yep! That’s good, because one of the things the model has to do is to let us initially choose between Christianity and Islam and Hinduism and atheism and etc. If it only worked once we’d adopted Christianity, it’d need to be sitting on top of some other model that explained how we got to that point.

            So you decide what matters, what is on the table

            We both get to decide which topics we’re interested in talking about; if there’s no overlap, we politely part ways. For my part, I’m not interested in defending beliefs I haven’t claimed.

            Evidence? Which “evidence” do you propose for articles of faith?

            That’s a long and separate question, though one I think argued well in, say, Lee Strobel’s The Case for… books. It’s not one I’m interested in side-tracking into today.

            So you agree with me that protestant church organization as a whole is, at least from a human point of view, stupid.

            Oh, yeah – first and foremost, it relies on humans to do the job, and that’s a pretty iffy proposition.

            If I was in His position, I probably would have also taken a pass on that whole “born in a manger, died on a cross,” thing, because on the face of it, those sound like pretty stupid ways to save the world, too.

          2. Back to the track, then:

            1) You are not persuaded that the Catholic Church was established by Jesus via the Apostles;
            2) Therefore, Joe’s assertion that “the Catholic Church gave us the Bible” is false, because that Church didn’t exist at that time.

            To hold (1), you must have an interpretation of the Bible and the early history of Christianity that is at odds with the history of all churches before the 16th century. You don’t want us to question either that interpretation of yours or its bases, simply because you don’t want to. It’s your unassailable premises.

            Now, if he Catholic Church, as you say, didn’t exist at that time (1st-4th century [canon]), when did it come to exist? Who founded it? When? Where?

            You define “Church”:

            (1) as a particular group of Christians that meets together, (2) as the universal body of Christ, and (3) as a particular broad institution or denomination, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. (You and I may disagree as to whether those last two are separate categories, which further confuses the issue!)

            And more, according to you:


            Christ certainly established a type-2 church, in my view, which continues to exist; I don’t agree that he established a type-3, and so there’s no institution either to still exist or to have vanished.

            There are several “obvious” problems with your reasoning. There was only one church at the time. It’s name (“denomination”) was “catholic”.

            You doubt that Christ created any “institution”, but that defies dozens of quotes here from the Bible and from history. But you don’t want to discuss either. To go beyond the mere realm of “possibilities” and guesswork (it’s possible that the Catholic position is correct, and vice-versa), one has to discuss the premises of your thought; but you are “not persuaded” with historical arguments that Christ created an institution, and you are “not persuaded” with Biblical arguments to the same effect, either. But no, this discussion is not about sola scriptura, which you hold but say you don’t, it’s not about private interpretation either, which you hold but you say you don’t; it’s not about Protestant doctrines, which you hold but keep saying you don’t; it’s not about whether tradition is valid or not, which you say is not, but will not discuss that either!

            What is an “institution” for you, then?

            One idea is that “Institutions are systems of interrelated norms that are rooted in shared values and are generalised across a particular society or social group as its common ways of acting, thinking, and feeling.” (from Scott, “Sociology, the Key Concepts”).

            Or like “organization”:

            “‘The defining criterion of formal organisation – or an organisation, for short – is the existence of procedures for mobilising and coordinating the efforts of various, usually specialised, subgroups in the pursuit of joint objectives.’” (idem)

            Or: “Formal organization: All social collectivities involve some form of organization, but the term formal organization is reserved for collectivities that have developed formal procedures for regulating relations between members and their activities.” (The Penguin Dict. of Sociology)

            You deny that Jesus created any of the above. You deny that Jesus gave his disciples authority to carry on his work “systematically”. That position is untenable, per all the arguments presented here.

            Of course Joe’s arguments don’t appeal to Protestants, and probably will never convince any of them. You might well say that the Catholic Church gave the world the Bible but afterwards started messing things up. But that would leave you in the uncomfortable position to justify why you cherry-pick some Catholic teachings (the Bible, some other things) and reject others, or leaving you to point when the Catholic church supposedly ceased to be the only and true church. That would take us to Mathison’s argument, that things in the Protestant camp are so messed up as to critically affect the credibility of Christianity. But messed-up is OK with Protestants (thousand of denominations — no problem), but not-OK with Catholics, who are messed-up in things “that matter”, although what “matters” is nothing except “one sentence”, according to you, but we know there is a whole line of doctrines you reject because you accept a few doctrines (sola scriptura and all that).

            Catholics have every Biblical and historical reason you imagine to hold fast to the fact and belief that Jesus created one, visible, universal (“catholic”) Church and no other. It’s not at all what you claimed to be, an “unspoken assumption rejected by Protestants”. It’s “spoken” everywhere.

            If he Catholic Church, as you say, didn’t exist at that time (1st-4th century [canon]), when did it come to exist? Who founded it? When? Where?

            It relates, whether you want it or not, to Joe’s post here: http://shamelesspopery.com/catholicism-v-sola-scriptura/

            Do I hope to persuade you of anything at this point? Sincerely, no. There are limits to engagement when reason and argument are so slippery.

          3. “Protestants reject (i.e., that the early church is synonymous with the Roman Catholic Church)”

            Anyone who has read Eusebius’ Church History, written in about 300 AD, and widely available on the web, would understand how the Roman Catholic Church of today is indeed VERY similar to the Church of the first few centuries. The ‘model’ that Irked, above, talks about, that is, the hermeneutic inherent in the ‘early Church’, can be found today in the modern Church in multitudes of points and similarities, both in theology, as well as in custom. For instance, the modern Church still has the ability to make authoritative decisions for the ‘body of believers’, such as were made in the first century when a new apostle, Mathias, was chosen to replace Judas; and also, when new liturgical regulations were established replacing former Judaic regulations (such as circumcision) which were addressed at the 1st Council of Jerusalem.

            The Catholic Church still exercises this authoritative ability to ‘loose and bind’, and it should obviously be able to do such. Such authority is provided by the teaching of Christ; and, if the Church that Christ founded was not able to, for instance, authoritatively excommunicate members who did not obey their mandates, and teachings, then this saying of Jesus Christ would not be possible in every age until the end of the world:

            “But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother.[16] And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. [17] And if he will not hear them: TELL THE CHURCH. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican. [18] Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Matt.18:15)

            Other points, or marks, of similarities include items found in the Creed. The modern Catholic Church has a high degree of unity inherent in it. You can find it in every country of the world today, and all believe in the same doctrines if they are indeed mindful, and faithful, Catholics. It’s all detailed in the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’. So, the Church today is ‘one’, it is unified in doctrinal and moral theology throughout the world, and with over 1 billion members.

            The early Church, also, had a “catechumen ate”, wherein prospective church members were taught the ‘apostolic faith’ in great detail, before they were permitted to be included in the Church. And anyone can read details about the catechumenate process in Eusebius’ history. Just google it.

            The Church is also holy. As Jesus taught “A tree is known by it’s fruits’, just look at the beautiful sacred art, music and literature, that has been composed throughout the last 2000 years, which portray such holiness exquisitely. Then compare such art to secular works and you will notice that sacred art, music and literature is very different, it is…’set apart’, i.e.. it is ‘holy’. If you cannot distinguish an element of holiness in such works you probably need either eyeglasses, or hearing aids, or both.

            And then we still have an extraordinary degree of apostolicity inherent in the modern Church. Just review the “The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus” written in about 210 AD, and you will find many elements of the modern liturgy of the Mass to be the same…word for word. Just ‘google’ the above title in quotations to find this ‘golden nugget’ of a work in early 3rd century ‘liturgics’.

            The ecclesiology that has ALMOST NOTHING in common with the early Church is the multiplex of Protestant congregations and differing theologies.

            The problem seems to be that Protestants, being free to come and go between their many denominations, believe that the Church that Christ founded should be patterned after their ‘hermeneutic’ which in practice is one of separation, and that unity of faith as found in the Catholic faith, and Church, is not ontologically possible. It seems that they would rather NOT HAVE a Church that is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church’, as this doesn’t fit into their theology, that same that has historically been proven to promote disunity over unity.

            Again, as Jesus said a ‘tree can be known by it’s fruits’, can we actually find any significant unity in this great conglomeration of Protestant creeds and sects?

            The problem here, is that Jesus taught that HIS CHURCH is ONE, and that He desires it to be so, even until the end of the world. Read carefully, below, what Jesus desires, and ask yourself if the Catholic hermeneutic of ‘unity’ fits more precisely Christ’s holy desire, or the Protestant Hermeneutic of ‘disunity’, as we witness today throughout the world, fits more precisely the desire of our most blessed Lord, Jesus Christ? Jesus says:

            “As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. [19] And for them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. [20] And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me;[21] That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. [22] And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one: [23] I in them, and thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me. “(John 17:18)

          4. 1) You are not persuaded that the Catholic Church was established by Jesus via the Apostles;
            2) Therefore, Joe’s assertion that “the Catholic Church gave us the Bible” is false, because that Church didn’t exist at that time.

            That’s basically the position, yes.

            But my goal here wasn’t to persuade you that the position is true – just to note that Joe’s position isn’t an effective way of arguing against Protestants. For it to succeed, you’d have to first convince the Protestant that the early church is the Roman Catholic Church – at which point the argument is unnecessary.

            Maybe that’s the point where this whole thing went wrong; this isn’t a “Join me on the Protestant Side” conversation, just a, “No, that doesn’t work as an argument” one. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have expanded on my position when asked.

            You don’t want us to question either that interpretation of yours or its bases, simply because you don’t want to. It’s your unassailable premises.

            Question it all you like – I don’t expect you to accept the truth of it! – but I’m not interested in debating specific details of it here, no. My point is, purely, that given a common Protestant premise, Joe’s argument doesn’t work.

          5. I agree that Joe’s argument doesn’t “work” (ie, convince). I’d be astounded if such a short argument really could convince anyone. It takes time to be convinced of anything of such magnitude.
            You’d have to 1) accept someone else’s interpretation of the Bible as a sound one; 2) accept history such as narrated by Eusebius’ and other Church fathers and early historians of the Church, which pretty much all testimony we have. 1 & 2 were dealt summarily by awlms above.

            If you’re not interested in debating 1 or 2, and all that it entails, you’ve reached a dead end. If you want to pursue this further, just start by answering:

            If he Catholic Church, as you say, didn’t exist at that time (1st-4th century [canon]), when did it come to exist? Who founded it? When? Where? Why is it not “the same” today?

          6. Irked,

            Too bad for me, I got into this thread a bit late. A few questions:

            1. If the RCC is not “the Church” that gave us the Bible, then where did the Protestants get their Bible?

            2. Sure, there may different definitions of Church, but in answering above, which definition should apply?

            3. Can Mormons, JWs, Adventists be saved? They believe in Jesus, they think their church teaches the original message of Jesus in its purity, but they hardly resemble each other. How do we judge their beliefs?

            4. Jesus gave the apostles power to forgive or not forgive sins. Do the ministers in your church exercise this power?

        4. When Christ entered the world, he did so at a time when the philosophic system of the Greeks had been developed as far as human intellect could carry it. Also, Roman paganism was nearly extinct. The idea of “objective truth” was the modest compelling argument in favour of the Christian religion.
          I don’t see how the right of private judgement is compatible with objective truth. Tocqueville writes an entire chapter in Democracy In America about dogmatic belief. The fact is that we all take some opinions on faith. It is impossible to test every opinion you hold. So, if you believe that we as humans were left here without a visible church, and no guides but our own understanding, then we have returned to the world that Christ entered.
          What are the gross errors of the Church that pertain to the world today? Contraception? Abortion? The indissolubility of marriage? Same sex unions? Transgenderism? The dignity of human life? Slavery? Poverty? Transhumanism? Suicide?

  3. Joe,

    “Without the Church, you don’t have a clear way of knowing which Books belong in the Bible and which don’t.”

    The Early Church lived with this tension, and wrote about how some doubted and others accepted certain books. The authority of the Scripture does not rest upon whether men accept its authority.

    “As a matter of history, the Catholic Church gave us the Bible.”

    More accurately, God gave the Scriptures through the Holy Spirit through men of old, and later men compiled these Scriptures and put them into one library (i.e. the Bible). Your sentence there is misleading and makes it seem that the Catholic Church wrote Scripture, or decided Scripture, and that is not the case. The Church recognized what was Scripture.

    “As a matter of logic, there’s not a clear alternative, since there’s not an inspired Table of Contents handed down.”

    Again, the early Church lived without that table of contents for centuries, to say a Christian can’t get by without one is simply not true.

    “As a matter of theology, there’s not a clear alternative, because there is no other infallible authority capable of setting this with any degree of certainty.”

    But we do not need an infallible authority to decide Scripture. Scripture is Scripture. Whether men accept it is another matter.

    “What you’ll find is a picture much different than simple sola fide: Jesus’ description of the Final Judgment in Matthew 24 doesn’t even mention faith. He looks only at works.”

    All men are judged by works, but the Church is made on flesh with Christ, and hence are judged as Christ. Those outside of the Church stand by their own works, and are judged accordingly.

    “[W]e may no longer be judged according to human righteousness, WHICH IS ALWAYS UNDER JUDGMENT, but that we may be made perfect by the righteousness which comes FROM God. For THIS is the righteousness which comes by faith in Christ to all who believe and which dwells in them all.”

    As Augustine writes, “The righteousness of God IS NOT that by which God is righteous but that WITH WHICH He clothes man when He justifies the ungodly” (The Spirit and the Letter, 15).

    “Don’t get me wrong: Jesus is not saying that we are saved by works without faith, any more than Paul is saying that we are saved by faith without works — what differs is only their emphasis, given their respective contexts. In Mark 16:16, He gives two criteria for salvation: faith and baptism.”

    And baptism divorced from faith cannot save. It is through works that faith is perfected. Faithful men will get baptized. They will confess their sins. They will forgive. They will have patience.

    “In order to stop any one from asking: How can we be saved without CONTRIBUTING ANYTHING AT ALL to our salvation? Paul shows we do contribute a great deal toward it–we supply our faith” (Homilies on Romans, 7)!

    I have responded to your contentions before in much more detail, so I will add nothing more other than the fact when it comes to Scripture and salvation, you have put the cart before the horse. And in the former case it prevents your contentions from holding up to logical scrutiny, and in the latter it literally guts the Gospel. Salvation is not Faith + Baptism, or + Works, or + anything. Salvation is by Faith and that faith, lived out, results in obedience in all things.

    God bless,
    Craig

    1. “[W]e may no longer be judged according to human righteousness, WHICH IS ALWAYS UNDER JUDGMENT, but that we may be made perfect by the righteousness which comes FROM God. For THIS is the righteousness which comes by faith in Christ to all who believe and which dwells in them all.” – Apollonaris of Laodicea in Pauline Commentary from the Greek Church

      Homilies 7 on Romans was CHrysostom, sorry about missing citations.

    2. Craig –

      Two questions for you:

      1) Where does the Bible claim that “[t]he authority of the Scripture does not rest upon whether men accept its authority?”

      2) You said the following: “More accurately, God gave the Scriptures through the Holy Spirit through men of old, and later men compiled these Scriptures and put them into one library (i.e. the Bible). Your sentence there is misleading and makes it seem that the Catholic Church wrote Scripture, or decided Scripture, and that is not the case. The Church recognized what was Scripture.”

      Do you believe the Holy Spirit hasn’t guided the Catholic Church on matters of faith and morals since Pentecost (which would naturally include deciding what is Scripture)? If so, what is the historical and biblical basis for such position?

      I believe you’ve created a logical fallacy with your statement that the Catholic Church didn’t “decide Scripture” if the Holy Spirit was and always has been part of the Catholic Church in guiding it on matters of faith and morals. Your statement implies the Bible just plopped down from heaven and can be readily determined what should be in it without metaphysical guidance.

      Clayton Davidson

      1. I think the most important point in this whole comments section pertains to Joe’s article putting the cart before the horse as it pertains to salvation. In the end, this is the chief issue and ironically, this is the one that no one is willing to defend. I believe I have shown that all men are judged by works, but Christians are clothed with the righteousness of God, so their works in the eyes of God are perfect righteousness.

        “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH COMES FROM GOD ON THE BASIS OF FAITH” (Phil 3:8-9).

        God bless,
        Craig

        1. “This righteousness is not ours but BELONGS TO GOD [i.e. alien righteousness], and in saying this Paul hints to us that it is abundantly available and easy to obtain. For we do not get it by toil and labor but by believing” (Chrysostom, Homily 2 on Romans).

          1. Actually, it seems to us, quite important that you should answer questions posed to you. Clayton asks:

            Where does the Bible claim that “[t]he authority of the Scripture does not rest upon whether men accept its authority?”

            St. Augustine said that if it wasn’t for the authority of the Church, he wouldn’t accept the Gospel. We are telling you the same thing. It is not we who are putting the cart before the horse, but you.

  4. Craig –

    You said:

    “As a matter of logic, there’s not a clear alternative, since there’s not an inspired Table of Contents handed down. Again, the early Church lived without that table of contents for centuries, to say a Christian can’t get by without one is simply not true.”

    The natural outworking of Protestantism’s “bible only” worldview is to exclude the illiterate. Most people in history were illiterate and couldn’t read the Bible let alone have access to one given the cost for a complete Bible to be made. Protestantism rests upon access to a Bible and literacy which isn’t true.

    1. Clayton,

      “1) Where does the Bible claim that “[t]he authority of the Scripture does not rest upon whether men accept its authority?””

      The Scripture says it is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16). So, it’s authority derives from its source. The moment God breathed it out, it carried that authority.

      “Do you believe the Holy Spirit hasn’t guided the Catholic Church on matters of faith and morals since Pentecost (which would naturally include deciding what is Scripture)?”

      I believe the Holy Spirit has always guided His Church. I do not believe the true Catholic Church is summed up in Roman Catholcism in the sense that it is a monolithic institution with a literal headquarters. “[T]he God of the Christians is not circumscribed by place; but being invisible, fills heaven and earth, and everywhere is worshipped and glorified by the faithful” (Chapter 2, Martyrdom of Justin). This is a second century witness before Cyprian’s “No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church.” I think the earlier witness historically shows what the Church originally taught and I believe this is what is taught in the Scripture.

      “I believe you’ve created a logical fallacy with your statement that the Catholic Church didn’t “decide Scripture” if the Holy Spirit was and always has been part of the Catholic Church in guiding it on matters of faith and morals.”

      I think your paradigm forces you to see everything as stemming from a physical institution. I do not feel compelled by tradition, nor Scripture, to share this understanding.

      “Your statement implies the Bible just plopped down from heaven and can be readily determined what should be in it without metaphysical guidance.”

      Essentially yes. This is one of the reasons I do not reject the Deuterocanon out of hand.

      “The natural outworking of Protestantism’s “bible only” worldview is to exclude the illiterate.”

      Not really, Sola Scriptura pertains to religious authority, not how people are saved. People are saved by the God who justifies the ungodly.

      ” Protestantism rests upon access to a Bible and literacy which isn’t true.”

      Not really. As long as people have faith in Christ, they are saved…in this is what the Bible teaches. If you got that idea from a parrot telling you and you believe it, it makes no difference.

      God bless,

      Craig

      1. Craig,

        I believe the Holy Spirit has always guided His Church. I do not believe the true Catholic Church is summed up in Roman Catholcism in the sense that it is a monolithic institution with a literal headquarters. “[T]he God of the Christians is not circumscribed by place; but being invisible, fills heaven and earth, and everywhere is worshipped and glorified by the faithful” (Chapter 2, Martyrdom of Justin). This is a second century witness before Cyprian’s “No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church.” I think the earlier witness historically shows what the Church originally taught and I believe this is what is taught in the Scripture.

        I don’t understand your argument here. Do you think that Catholics after Justin stopped believing that God is invisible, or that the Church is Catholic, or that true worship isn’t circumscribed by place?

        In other words, what here either (a) proves an invisible Church ecclesiology, or (b) contradicts Cyprian or later Church Fathers, or (c) contradicts anything that the Catholic Church holds today?

        1. “I don’t understand your argument here. Do you think that Catholics after Justin stopped believing that God is invisible, or that the Church is Catholic, or that true worship isn’t circumscribed by place?”

          You do not understand Justin’s disciple’s point. True worship IS NOT circumscribed by place. The Church did not teach this in the first two centuries. THe thief on the cross was saved without being part of a visible body of believers or a specific institution. He was saved by his confession.

          Cyprian’s arguments against the Novationists, that their theology was right but their schism made them heretics and damned, is a paradigm that did not exist in earlier writings.

          God bless,
          Craig

        2. Craig,

          Union with the Catholic Church isn’t a geographical place. Catholics believe that (1) God isn’t confined to a geographic place, and (2) He established a visible Church that He intends His followers to be part of.

          Protestants agree with (1) but typically deny (2). You’re showing that Justin agrees with (1), and drawing the frankly-baffling conclusion that this means he must deny (2).

          If you’re going to show that belief in (1) requires denying (2), can you at least show your work? Because I believe in (1), as do all Jews and Christians, as far as I know.

          I.X.,

          Joe

          P.S. You write, “You do not understand Justin’s disciple’s point. True worship IS NOT circumscribed by place. The Church did not teach this in the first two centuries.” The Church did not teach this for the first two millennia, and still doesn’t. What church teaches that God is circumscribed by place??

      2. Justin Martyr, in his own writings, actually seems quite clear that there is a visible Christian Church that includes assembling for corporate worship in particular places:

        “But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized [illuminated] person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation.”

        Nothing of this sounds like he thinks that the true Church is an unidentifiable body of believers. (It’s also worth hearing what this second-century Father says about how we’re saved: baptism, faith, and good works.)

        1. Joe,

          Nothing in you are just quoted necessitates a literal, monolithic body to exist in order for their to be the Church. Where do we need a monolithic oranization for brethrens to assemble, to make common prayers, to baptize, to do good works? That’s all you quoted. I just quoted one of Justin Martyr’s disciples that explictly said that God cannot be confined to any geographic area.

          Justin Martyr himself wrote,

          “But though a man be a Scythian or a Persian, if he has the knowledge of God and of His Christ, and keeps the everlasting righteous decrees, he is circumcised with the good and useful circumcision, and is a friend of God, and God rejoices in his gifts and offerings” (Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 28).

          But if, Trypho, some of your race, who say they believe in this Christ, compel those Gentiles who believe in this Christ to live in all respects according to the law given by Moses, or choose not to associate so intimately with them, I in like manner do not approve of them. But I believe that even those, who have been persuaded by them to observe the legal dispensation along with their confession of God in Christ, shall probably be saved (Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 47).

          Moreover, that the word of God speaks to those who believe in Him as being one soul, and one synagogue, and one church, as to a daughter; that it thus addresses the church which has sprung from His name and partakes of His name (for we are all called Christians) (Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 63).

          None of this can be construed as what you claim. Now, Justin appears to believe those who simply do good works, not knowing specifically about Christ, implictly confess Christ. I do not agree with him about this. However, he was much more a universalist in a sense then what you are making him about to be.

          God bless,
          Craig

          1. Craig,

            I have no idea what the basis is of your conclusions. You seem to be making an enormous jump from “God cannot be confined to any geographic area.” to “therefore, the Church is invisible.” That logical leap is baffling and indefensible.

            Catholics, along with all Christians (as far as I know) believe that God cannot be confined to any geographic area. You realize this, right? We don’t think God is “confined” in our churches. It isn’t as if, when I’m in class, I think, “Man, I wish I could say a prayer, but God can’t hear me because He’s trapped in some church.”

            Justin is plainly distinguishing God (as God of the Universe) from the local “gods” of paganism, as the pagans believed that there were particular gods that ruled over particular parts of the earth. Judaism and Christianity have been univocal in rejecting this view.

            Again, it might be helpful if you outlined the Catholic teaching that you think Justin contradicts, and how you think his statement does this. Or to put it another way, why should my belief that God cannot be confined to any geographic area lead me to reject Catholicism and embrace the concept of an “invisible Church”?

          2. Joe,

            “I have no idea what the basis is of your conclusions. You seem to be making an enormous jump from “God cannot be confined to any geographic area.” to “therefore, the Church is invisible.””

            Justin defines over and over what he considers the Church.

            “Since those who did that which is universally, naturally, and eternally good are pleasing to God, they shall be saved through this Christ in the resurrectionequally with those righteous men who were before them…those who believe in Him and live acceptably” (Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 45).

            Justin thinks those with right belief and subsequent works are the Church. How you think this corresponds with your view, that correct belief and works are in vain when done not explictly in communion with Roman Catholcism, is baffling to me. Nowhere does Justin make this connection, and in fact, his criteria mitigates against it.

            “Or to put it another way, why should my belief that God cannot be confined to any geographic area lead me to reject Catholicism and embrace the concept of an “invisible Church”?”

            SImply because Justin said that worship cannot be confined geographically, and that he makes clear that he feels that far flung peoples outside of the then known Catholic Church, were saved by common confession.

            Quite frankly, Justin is not the last guy to write about these ideas (and neither is his disciple who was quoted.) Irenaeus spoke of unlettered barbarians as having a common confession with Catholics, and this being independent verification of Catholic teaching. Clearly Irenaeus did not view them as damned. Tertullian wrote in On Exhortation to Chastity, “Where three people are gathered together, there is a church, even if all three are laypersons. For each individual lives by his own faith” (quoted in p. 30 of Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Volume VI).

            So your idea, that these ideas are not true and explicit communion with Rome is an absolute necessity for salvation, is not found in the earliest Christian writings. In fact, they pass comment on things that would contradict this.

            God bless,
            Craig

          3. Craig,

            You claim that “Justin defines over and over what he considers the Church.” This is flatly untrue. Show me where Justin ever mentions the Church by name, much less gives a definition. It’s one thing to interpret the evidence in your own peculiar way, quite another to just make evidence up.

            Now, it’s possible that someone would say that:

            P1. We’re saved through faith and works.
            P2. The Church is defined as the set of all of the saved.
            C. Therefore, the Church is defined by the set of all of those saved by faith and works.

            But Justin doesn’t say P2: in fact, that’s one of the very points you’re supposed to be proving, not assuming. And there’s absolutely no evidence that he believed P2.* Instead, he just gives us P1. But guess what? The Catholic Church still teaches P1: we’re saved through faith and works.

            Nothing in “salvation is through faith and works” means “and therefore, the Church is invisible.”

            I.X.,

            Joe

            *You appear to be assuming a Protestant model, that there might be multiple orthodox Christian churches not in full communion with one another. Whatever you might think about the orthodoxy of the various Protestant denominations, can we at least agree that nothing like Protestantism existed in the second century Church?

            As a simple matter of history, we have not a shred of evidence to suggest that there were multiple orthodox Christian denominations at this time, not in communion with one another. Rather, we see one orthodox body, calling itself the Catholic Church (cf. the writings of Ignatius), and a number of heretical groups.

            It’s only much later that we see schismatics who still hold to orthodox faith, which is why it’s only much later that we get the Fathers talking about why non-heretical schismatics aren’t saved.

  5. Craig –

    1) So you truly believe anybody can figure out what IS scripture even though scripture itself isn’t self defining? History disagrees with your position. I don’t see how one can examine history and rationalize 73 vs. 66 book Bibles unless there was an error for over 1,400 years or God changed his mind. (Or, maybe man cannot figure out on his own what is scripture and Christ left us with a physical church on this planet since Pentecost to guide us.)

    2) If Christ created a physical Church on this planet that has lasted since Pentecost wouldn’t true faith require faith in such Church? Christ cannot create a half-truth church and having faith in him, by implication, would necessitate faith in a Church that he created and is physically on this earth today.

    I believe the Church is visible, physical and invisible. In fact, Catholics have to believe in the invisible part of the Church which is the Communion of Saints! My paradigm is for the visible, physical and invisible. I don’t try to make the Church smaller with my worldview. Protestants argue for a solely invisible church of believers.

    (I’ll leave justification out of the discussion. Only so much time and space.)

    Clayton

  6. It will be interesting to hear Joe’s take on your position of the “second century witness before Cyprian” that taught the church was invisible given scripture itself and the logical implications that flow from scripture. Christ wants an invisible church?

    If so, then there is no such thing as a priesthood which if true, means there is no such thing as a Mass, which if true, means Christianity went off the rails since inception since there is no early proto-protestant group of Christians in history that I could ever find. History is just one big lie. I have faith in history more than one man’s views of Christianity.

      1. Please do read chaters 65 to 67. Because it says nothing of a priesthood. It speaks of a “presider.” He affirms the Real Presence. He does not make mention of Ecclesiological powers above the presider, though in my own conjecture they did exist at the time of Justin’s writings.

        Justin Martyr is the last guy you would want to quote, simply because he headed his own school of disciples and appeared to be a bit against the grain, even for his own time.

        God bless,
        Craig

        1. Craig,

          I realize that dictionaries aren’t the best place to look for understanding theological terms, but the dictionary definition of “priest” is “an ordained minister of the Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican Church, authorized to perform certain rites and administer certain sacraments.”

          Justin Martyr gives a pretty in-depth account of the ordained minister of the Catholic Church authorized to perform certain rites and administer certain sacraments. You’re free to say that this presider wasn’t a priest, but that’s a bit like saying you have a plane figure with three straight sides and three angles that isn’t a triangle.

          I.X.,

          Joe

          P.S. The fact that his description of the Mass doesn’t include a reference to the bishop is… unsurprising. I can give you Roman Missals that don’t mention the bishop. It’s an enormous and unjustifiable argument from silence to say that this means he (or the authors of the Missals) therefore deny the episcopacy. But even you seem to realize that you’re grasping at straws here, since you concede that bishops did exist at this time.

          Is it realistic to expect every Church Father to explicitly affirm every point of Catholic doctrine? I certainly hope not. Nowhere in my original post do I mention the pope, or bishops, or the Eucharist, or the Virgin Mary. Please don’t conclude from this that I now hold the Protestant position on these things.

          A better conclusion would be that you’re drawing bad conclusions by focusing on what the evidence doesn’t (and realistically wouldn’t) say, rather than what it does say.

  7. Craig –

    Please explain how scripture is self authenticating? History doesn’t hold your position given 73 vs 66 books and I have no idea how one just knows what is scripture as you have alleged. You presume that scripture just existed so I’m trying to understand the factual and logical basis for this belief.

    Where are these non-sacerdotal Christians throughout early Christian history that support your position about what is the Church?

    1. Clayton,

      “1) So you truly believe anybody can figure out what IS scripture even though scripture itself isn’t self defining?”

      No. I believe that no one can recognize Scripture apart from a miracle. That is conviction by the Holy Spirit. So I do not think this makes the Scripture authenticated in the eyes of all.

      “History disagrees with your position.”

      No, actually it authenticates it. The CHurch existed for centuries before any council recognized what they termed the Canon. Scriptures were used before this time. Hence, the Scriptures do not derive their authority from a Canon.

      “2) If Christ created a physical Church on this planet that has lasted since Pentecost wouldn’t true faith require faith in such Church?”

      This is a non-argument. Your presupposition is the Catholic Church IS the true Church, of the true faith, from the day of pentecost. Hence, for one to deny this would be to deny the Church that Christ, through the Apostles, founded.

      Remove he presupposition that the Apostolic Church is Roman Catholicism and your contention no longer works. The Church was always made up of physical people. They met in physical places and still do. The Church was not always centered in Rome, nor always slavishly dependent upon an Apostles of Apostles, or even the Apostles themselves (see Mark 9;40). What binded all men, in all places together was their common faith.

      Now, I am not here to justify schism. I am not saying it was the Apostles’ intent to have people divide over every disagreement. It is quite clear that the Church worked very hard to prevent this. However, I believe you are conflating this with the idea that Roman Catholicism is indeed the original Church which all non-Roman Catholics are thereby schismatics. It requires a presupposition on your part to argue this.

      “…the church was invisible given scripture itself and the logical implications that flow from scripture. Christ wants an invisible church?”

      Which logical implications? What inferences are you drawing?

      “If so, then there is no such thing as a priesthood which if true, means there is no such thing as a Mass…”

      Not exactly. These things exist, they just do not stem from an institution headquartered in Rome, they are gifts to the Church given by God to all who are faithful.

      “Please explain how scripture is self authenticating?”

      I never argued it was. I said that history authenticates that people were able to recognize and use Scripture before a Canon, knowing that certain books of the Scripture were disputed (i.e. Book of James, Revelation, Deuterocanon, Esther, etcetera.)

      “History doesn’t hold your position given 73 vs 66 books…”

      I am not here defending a 66 book Canon.

      “…how one just knows what is scripture as you have alleged.”

      In the end you don’t. You merely have very good reason to believe that the books in your Catholic or Protestant Bible are Scripture. After all, the protestant Bible does not have any books you deny to be Scripture, so there is not a problem there. As for the Deuterocanon, if indeed Scriptural was always Scriptural before the Council of Trent decided it was so.

      “Where are these non-sacerdotal Christians throughout early Christian history that support your position about what is the Church?”

      You would have to clarify what you mean when you say, “Non-sacerdotal.” As far as I know this is a reference to the system of the Priesthood?

      God bless,

      Craig

      1. Craig,

        Clayton asked you a conditional: “If Christ created a physical Church on this planet that has lasted since Pentecost wouldn’t true faith require faith in such Church?”

        You’ve written a lot without actually managing to answer his question. It’s an important question, because it shows a fatal flaw underlying your entire argument. You’re assuming that such a Church doesn’t exist, and/or that it’s possible to possess the fullness of the orthodox faith without believing in (or being a member of) such a Church.

        As you can see, Clayton isn’t (as you suggested) “assuming” this. He’s asking you, IF it exists, wouldn’t that invalidate your entire argument?

  8. Joe –

    Correct. It’s a great question.

    Craig –

    1) Catholicism is a sacerdotal (i.e., sacraments) form of worship that is based around the Mass. If there is no priesthood there can be no Mass. I’m looking for factual history throughout time that supports your position about a Church that didn’t believe in the Mass. Presumably you reject the Mass. My conversion from Calvinism to Catholicism was heavily influenced by the fact that history is bereft of proto-protestant churches or believers. They simply don’t exist.

    2) Where does Scripture assert (or even imply) that it requires a “miracle” to recognize it? History is clear that Scripture is 73 books and not 66. There was no 66 book based Bible until 1,200-1,300 AD. Not sure how the Holy Spirit can change what is Scripture or else you are left with some constantly changing form of Christianity which makes no sense.

    3) You are alleging that Christ’s church is an “invisible” set of believers and that his Church doesn’t have a physical form on this earth. I’m not merely implying, I’m stating that such a position makes no sense that Christ would create an invisible church without a physical presence on this earth after reading scripture. Christ wants his Church to shine and assist in saving souls which is why it was designed and physically put on this earth.

    In the end I am faced with answering whether Rome’s claims are true or not.

    1. Clayton Davidson

      YOU SAID:”My conversion from Calvinism to Catholicism was heavily influenced by the fact that history is bereft of proto-protestant churches or believers. They simply don’t exist.”

      RESPONSE: Exactly the main reason for Dr. David Anders of Called To Communion joined the Catholic Church. Glad to see an truly open minded convert to the One, True, Holy and Apostolic Faith! God Blessed you with wisdom, sir!

  9. When Luther discarded the Catholic model, he had to substitute something else. The principle of sola scripture sounds like an attractive alternative that I expect Luther thought would be unifying. The fruits were quite the opposite as was quickly seen. Look how divisive and fractured Protestantism is after 500 years. If the Protestant model had been foundational to the “invisible” church for the first 1500 years, Luther wouldn’t be able to identify Christianity as anything cohesive enough to be meaningful. Without real authority and structure under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church would have died still a mustard seed.

  10. Who in history believed that only a miracle would reveal scripture to an individual? Where is the biblical support for such a position along with the historical support? In all my travels as a former Protestant I’ve never heard that position as the basis for knowing what is scripture. Even RC Sproul admits that what is the content of scripture is fallible. Under Craig’s standard scripture would be infallible and shouldn’t ever change since I doubt God wants some books in the Bible only part of the time. Hopefully Craig will shed some light on his position.

    1. Craig said – No. I believe that no one can recognize Scripture apart from a miracle. That is conviction by the Holy Spirit. So I do not think this makes the Scripture authenticated in the eyes of all.

      Me – Protestantism in a nutshell. It all comes down to private revelation.

        1. How do you prove anything to anyone? You’ve been here almost two years and you haven’t been able to prove anything to us nor us anything to you.

          I was an atheist and I know that no one proved that the Scripture is the Word of God to me. I came to believe in the Catholic Church and accepted Her Teaching.

          1. I am honestly not trying to be snarky. I was called to task saying that my position was that a miracle is necessary for anyone to recognize what Scripture is. So I ask, what proof do we really have?

            I thought we accept it purely on faith, hence, we do not have evidence or authority to appeal to other than the authority that it comes from God through the Apostles, and in your case, dictated by the Church. However, this is still a faith statement and not something naturally apparent to men.

            God bless,
            Craig

          2. Wherever the Spirit and Sacred Person of Christ is found whether in scripture or tradition, personal or public miracles, or in the witness of Christ acting presently in the souls of others that we encounter on a daily basis, Christ is recognized in the way that He taught:

            “the works that I do in the name of my Father, they give testimony of me.[26] But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep. [27] My sheep hear my voice: and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:25)

            Christ teaches that His ‘sheep hear HIs voice’, and they ‘hear’ also by recognizing the ‘works that He does in the name of His Father’, as seen in the quote above. Jesus was recognized NOT ONLY by his words, but also by His works, customs, miracles and deeds. That is to say, that the words of Christ were only one part of “the Word” that He came to proclaim. The other part of the ‘Word’, were His actions, and which is proved by this saying:

            “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. [38] But if I do, though you will not believe me, believe the works: that you may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. ” (John 10:37)

            As Christ lives in, and makes up as His Mystical Body, His Holy Church, as is proved by the example of the conversion of Saul, wherein Jesus says “Saul, why do you persecute me?” the works of the same Christ should be manifestly visible to ‘Christ’s Sheep’ in every generation, when they witness the ‘works that Christ’s Church performed in the name and power of ‘Christ’s Father’, ‘Our Father’. This is to say that as the Church is the ‘Mystical Body of Christ’, everything it does should be recognizable to Christ’s Sheep who “hear His voice”.

            This scripture also proves the essential nature of ‘sacred tradition’, because this ‘tradition’ is merely the acting out of the mystical body of Christ, through not only word BUT DEED ALSO, in all generations until the end of the world. To suggest that ONLY scripture conveys the ‘Word of God’ denies this living witness of the Mystical Body of Christ. It relegates Christian witness to a mere set of scriptures, when the true witness includes the living out of the Gospel ‘in all actuality’ through Christ’s, and the Holy Spirits, power in every truly Christian soul.

            Therefore, it is not ONLY Scripture that is a witness, but rather, we have the witness of Christ speaking through ‘His Sheep’ every time we encounter an authentic follower of Christ who makes up a part of His Mystical Body. Therefore, if anyone takes a ‘close look’ at the Catholic Church, it’s history, it’s sacraments, it’s writings, it’s saints, and the present lives of it’s current members, THEN Christ should be able to be seen and heard ‘calling to them’. These people, if they are truly sheep of the ‘Shepherd’, should recognize Christ’s ‘voice’ in every aspect of the Catholic Church. And that includes this blog.

          3. Al, I don’t think you really answered the question. Only the sheep hear His voice, you say. So, is that a natural ability of those sheep? And if so, why don’t all men have the ability?

            The reason I said, “What would you say to an atheist to prove the Bible is the word of God,” is because it gets at the core of the issue. What about the Scripture proves itself to the world at large?

          4. Craig,

            I’m just stating how Jesus Himself taught us, even though it be by parable and symbolism.

            “So, is that a natural ability of those sheep? And if so, why don’t all men have the ability?”

            I can only speculate, as parables are to be understood intuitively and not necessarily logically. And this is the way that the Lord chose to teach, through stories and symbolism, and which I consider to be eternally beautiful both in style and content.

            It seems that all sheep and goats (all people)are given a capability to hear the voice of the Shepherd according to the extent that God the Father has chosen for them. However, due to free will inherent in their human nature, some of these ‘sheep and goats’ will prefer the physical world, the Devil, and pleasures of vice, over the voice, virtues and companionship of the Shepherd who calls them. Either by addiction to these three opposing attractions, or maybe by just pure malice against anything depriving them of the same evil focus, they choose to shy away from, or reject to listen to and follow, the Shepherd. It is all their free will to either follow or reject, when the opportunity comes and the Shepherd calls out to them through the proclamation by voice, or writing, of Christ’s holy Gospel.

            It seems that this is what Christ teaches in many places in the Gospel narratives, both by word and example. I can give you sources from scriptures if you desire.

  11. He didn’t mention one needs the Holy Spirit to know what exactly is the content of scripture. Maybe he meant the HS, but he didn’t say that. Regardless, is the HS changing books on us???

    I want to know why the HS has changed the books or was everyone for 1,400 years with the 73 book Bible wrong?

  12. Of course, where is such condition found in scripture? Sproul cops out and admits fallibility of the contents of scripture without any biblical support for such standard.

    This is a major problem for those who believe in Sola Scriptura.

  13. What hubris! Why don’t you just claim that Jesus was Roman Catholic too while you are at it? The church that can make the best case for “giving” us the Bible would be the Orthodox Churches. I know this article was intended as more cannon fodder against us Protest-ants, but please give some respect to our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Orthodox churches. The NT was written in the language of the Greek church. The cities where the texts originated (Jerusalem, Antioch, and the various Greek cities) did not fall under the authority of the bishop of Rome because they were Patriarchs on equal ground. This is where Joe will back-peddle and try to make an appeal to the bishop of Rome being the chief Patriarch or appeal to the various Eastern Rites of the RCC.

    As a Lutheran, I know that I share a common history with the RCC and the various Orthodox churches. It is insulting to dismiss them and to try to force them under the bishop of Rome, but that is the sort of thing that cause the Great Schism in the first place. (Mic drop)

    1. Hubris is knowingly being member of a church that has no possibility of being the church started by Jesus Christ. Why aren’t you Orthodox then?

      Jesus is the head of a church and demands that we be members of His church. So unless He’s the head of the Lutheran church, you should still be searching. Some one on this site said it perfectly that this means that if you have true faith you must have faith in His church (whatever church that is).

    2. The Orthodox Churches were not divided from the Catholic Church until well after (6 centuries?) the question of Scripture’s canon was a matter of dispute. I am certain that Joe did not mean any disrespect to the Orthodox Churches, who certainly have apostolic origins, true sacraments, and true ministers. Although the Oriental and Assyrian Churches have other matters of dispute, they too are apostolic and possess true sacraments, and so fall in a completely different category from Protestants who have no historical connection with the Church founded by Christ, except in those elements they decide to use (part of Scripture, the practice of baptism, something resembling the Mass).

      1. Question: When did it become taught that Apostolic succession guaranteed the efficacy of the sacraments? I have not read Tertullian’s treatment of the matter, but Clement and Irenaeus never talk about this notion. When was it first spoken of and by whom?

      2. All I have at hand is the following from Ignatius of Antioch (2nd cent):
        “Let only that Eucharist be regarded as legitimate which is celebrated under [the presidency of] the bishop or him to whom he has entrusted it.” -Letter to Smyrneans, 8:1

        I just found that by opening the Catechism (1369), so I don’t know the context, etc. But since a bishop is only made so through the laying on of hands by another bishop, that would seem to answer the question. I’m sure the full understanding of this only developed entirely over time.

        1. Max, let me synthesize what you wrote.

          We know from Clement (and the Epistle to Titus, among others) that the Apostles appointed Bishops, and from those Bishops were appointed subsequent Bishops as Clement details.

          We know from Ignatius that nothing can be done without consent of the Bishop (i.e. a few people within the congregation cannot go out on their own and just start their own church, appoint themselves as Bishops, and perform the sacraments).

          The two of these things, when taken together (for neither addressed both issues at once), show that only Bishops appointed by Bishops, etc., going back to the Apostles can perform proper sacraments.

          That certainly gives me something to chew on. Thank you.

          Another question: Why are Oriental Orthodox distributors of true sacraments, but not Anglicans? The Anglican Church has Bishops stemming back from their time within Catholicism, which should logically go back to Apostolic times.

      3. Looking around a little more (against my better judgment…time…), it looks like Aquinas in making the argument that schismatic and heretical priests celebrate true but sinful Eucharist, he makes reference to a work of Augustine called “Against the Letter of Parmenian” which is nowhere in sight in English (probably in the library, in a collection of anti-Donatist works), and my Latin is not so good here. But the argument is that the Church does not re-ordain heretical priests who enter into communion with her, if they were ordained by a real bishop. This means that they have a real priesthood, because they were ordained by a real bishop.

        This argument still work nowadays: if an Orthodox or Armenian Apostolic or Assyrian Church of the East priest decided to enter the Catholic Church, we would not have him ordained again–he is already a priest. If an Anglican or Lutheran “priest” entered the Catholic Church, they would require ordination before they could preside at the Eucharist (there are some strange exceptions, but they prove the rule).

        Unrelated to the whole matter, I found a cool quote about apostolic succession in Augustine’s Letter 53: “2. For if the lineal succession of bishops is to be taken into account, with how much more certainty and benefit to the Church do we reckon back till we reach Peter himself, to whom, as bearing in a figure the whole Church, the Lord said: Upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it! Matthew 16:18 The successor of Peter was Linus, and his successors in unbroken continuity were these:— Clement, Anacletus, Evaristus, Alexander, Sixtus, Telesphorus, Iginus, Anicetus, Pius, Soter, Eleutherius, Victor, Zephirinus, Calixtus, Urbanus, Pontianus, Antherus, Fabianus, Cornelius, Lucius, Stephanus, Xystus, Dionysius, Felix, Eutychianus, Gaius, Marcellinus, Marcellus, Eusebius, Miltiades, Sylvester, Marcus, Julius, Liberius, Damasus, and Siricius, whose successor is the present Bishop Anastasius. In this order of succession no Donatist bishop is found.”
        So cool…I love being Catholic. Somehow related is that Augustine asks the Donatists in that same letter if they have any bishops in those cities to whom the letters of Scripture are written (they don’t, it’s an African schism; the true Church is Catholic, i.e. everywhere). It’s related to the main post if only because it shows the close relation between Scripture and the actual Churches founded by the Apostles.

        I pray for the unity of all Christians. What an enormous tragedy that there is not full communion among all the Churches where Christ becomes present in his flesh and blood!

        1. As referred to in my above reply, why not the Anglicans? I read, “The ministers of Edward VI changed all the Sacraments and installed Protestant ministers, making the Church of England not only schismatic, but clearly heretical and invalid by Catholic standards.”

          Being that Ignatius criteria is that whomever a Bishop installs can consecrate the sacraments, where does this idea come in that a sacrament is legitimate because of the Catholic Orthodoxy of the priest? If that were the case, wouldn’t all Oriental Orthodox be excluded from the sacraments?

        2. It’s a bit complicated, but it is primarily because they changed the rite of ordination (which they have no capacity to do). It was a heavily contested issue until Leo XIII settled the matter. Some Anglicans disagree with Leo XIII and consider their orders valid in the Catholic sense, but some went so far as to be ordained by Old Catholic bishops (schismatic) to ensure the validity of their orders. And of course other Anglicans, holding a Zwinglian sacramental outlook, don’t care one way or another. That they attempt to ordain women now seems to be another nail in the coffin. Another fun case: The Lutheran Church in Sweden. I don’t know when they fell off the train, but for a long time they had preserved intact the Catholic practice of ordination and so had true sacraments.

          Now the Oriental Churches, although considered heretical (Monophysite, though it’s more complicated) have preserved the same rites they used when they were in communion with the Catholic (and Orthodox) Church, and so the orders are valid. As one more example of the sacramental thing, Chaldean Catholics (typically in Iraq) are permitted to receive the Eucharist from Assyrian (Nestorian) priests in the most dire of circumstances. And this is because, despite a heresy and a 1500 year old schism, they still maintain the sacramental practice they received from the apostles. Christ is truly present in their Mass.

          So it is not a matter of doctrine so much as it is of practice that keeps the sacraments all together. Of course, without the true teaching on these things, one is bound to get things wrong here and there. It is only by a wonderful grace that the Assyrian and Oriental Churches have kept what they have as intact as they have, and I have a hope that we won’t remain aloof for much more than 100 years. God willing!

          1. Max,

            How was the rite changed? What constitutes a change? It appears to me as pretty arbitrary :/ If the orthodoxy of the one does not make the sacrifices efficacious (as the Novatian and Donatist controversies settled), what’s the whole deal with mincing meat over the form and function of Anglicans? Quite frankly, can’t they theoretically have everything wrong, but if ordained, still perform the sacrament? The Church has upheld the sacraments performed by Bishops and Priests who lapsed and still does with the Oriental Orthodox who are heretics.

            I am not clear about the distinction. Specifically what did the Anglicans do wrong?

          2. Sacramental basics 101: For a sacrament to be valid, one must have the proper matter and form, the form being the words used for the sacrament. In some cases, Christ gave us the words the sacrament (e.g. baptism, Eucharist), in other cases it belongs to the Church to determine the exact form, apart from which they are invalid.

            So if you take a normal Catholic priest, and he says “This is my torso” or “This is my Jesus”, but fails to say “This is my body”, then nothing happens. There is no sacrament.

            In the Anglican Church, they had perfectly valid orders until the change of the rite, that is, a change in the words used for ordination. Now the Church has the authority to change this within reason (thus the apostolic Churches do not have identical rites), but no secular king can do this. And so right after that law was passed, you had a validly ordained (though Anglican) bishop place his hands on a man’s head, intending to ordain him, and then saying words approved by no apostolic church. And so the one “ordained” would be called a priest by Anglicans, but he was not really ordained since the sacrament was deficient as regards form.

            For the details, you can look them up. It has not been without controversy, but the Church has reaffirmed this judgment of Leo XIII recently in 1998 and in 2009. Looking at the Wikipedia page, it was already decided in 1555 that those ordained under the Edwartine ritual were to be unconditionally reordained. Super interesting stuff…
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostolicae_curae

          3. Last post for the night…

            So it is a very interesting historical question, and so I kept looking around. In this book is an examination of the question (made before Leo XIII’s declaration), and he gathers together a lot of the historical details, including the particulars of the rites involved. I intend to read more of it later:
            https://books.google.it/books?id=5N5hAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA183&lpg=PA183&dq=how+did+edward+vi+change+ordination&source=bl&ots=Ex9hKkY7Iq&sig=ZYjD8-XpFhOF-8bk4VWYFJw0hWY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi0oo_Wv6_KAhWHiRoKHX1SBBgQ6AEILDAH#v=onepage&q&f=false

            It might be worth noting that it is not just the Catholics who do not accept Anglican orders. The Orthodox also reject Anglican orders as invalid. And again, the majority of Anglicans don’t care about whether they have order.

          4. Max,

            Please bear with me on this, I am trying to understand:

            “For a sacrament to be valid, one must have the proper matter and form, the form being the words used for the sacrament.”

            Can we define “matter.” For example, I understand by “form” you mean a baptism is not efficacious when not done in Christ’s name (i.e. the name of someone else). But, what’s matter?

            “…in other cases it belongs to the Church to determine the exact form, apart from which they are invalid.”

            Isn’t this specious? If what Constitutes a real Church are Bishops ordained by Bishops going back to the Apostles, then don’t the Anglicans define for themselves what exact form is proper?

            If your response is that Bishops with succession cannot do this, only the Roman Bishop can, then where does this leave Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox. I presume that they can theoretically err pertaining the exact form, and then lose their succession?

            “In the Anglican Church, they had perfectly valid orders until the change of the rite, that is, a change in the words used for ordination. Now the Church has the authority to change this within reason…”

            Please define “within reason?” Who decides the reason?

            What was wrong about the Edwardine ordinal?

            “…then saying words approved by no apostolic church.”

            But the Bishops themselves, as you said were Apostolic, so they would be saying words approved by themselves, an Apostolic church.

            God bless,
            Craig

          5. Craig wrote: “What is the rite of ordination?”

            St. Hippolytus of Rome (170-235AD) wrote an important 3rd century liturgical manual for use in ordaining bishops and priests. It is a very useful for understanding the early Church and how they conducted such ecclesiastical rites. The title of the work is “APOSTOLIC TRADITION OF HIPPOLYTUS”. It is truly a ‘golden nugget’ of early Church history and can be found on the www in public domain PDF form, here:

            http://www.rore-sanctifica.org/bibilotheque_rore_sanctifica/12-pretendue_tradition_apostolique_d_hippolyte/1934-burton_scott_easton-tradition_apostolique_d_hippolyte/Burton_Scott_Easton_-_The_Apostolic_Tradition_of_Hippolytus_(1934).pdf

          6. For the above link…Copy and paste it in your browser as the .pdf part didn’t link with the web address.

          7. This might help clarify things:

            “The origin of the Anglican succession

            It was this venerable ordination rite, as preserved in the English varieties of the Roman Pontifical, which was in use in the country when Henry VIII began his assaults on the ancient religion. He did not himself venture to touch it, but in the next reign it was set aside by Cranmer and his associates who, under the rule of Somerset and Northumberland, were engaged in remodelling the whole fabric of the Church of England to suit their extreme Protestant conceptions. These men pronounced the ancient forms to be utterly superstitious and requiring to be replaced by others more in conformity with the simplicity of the Gospel. Hence the origin of the Edwardine Ordinal, which, under the sanction of the Act of 1550, was drawn up by “six prelates and six other men of the realm learned in God’s law, by the King’s Majesty to be appointed and assigned”.

            This new rite underwent some further changes two years later, and was thus brought into the form in which it remained till the year 1662, when it was somewhat improved by the addition of clauses defining the nature of the orders imparted. As the Ordinal of 1550 had no lasting influence on the country, we may disregard it here, as we may also disregard, as of less consequence, the rite for the ordination of deacons.

            In the Ordinal of 1552 the “essential form”, that is, the form adjoined to the imposition of hands, was, in the case of the priesthood, merely this: “Receive the Holy Ghost. Whose sins thou dost forgive they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain they are retained; and be thou a faithful dispenser of the Word of God and of His Holy Sacraments”; and these other words, whilst the Bible was being delivered, “Take thou authority to preach the Word of God and to minister the Holy Sacraments in this Congregation, where thou shalt be so appointed.” In the case of the episcopate it was, “Take the Holy Ghost, and remember that thou stir up the grace of God which is in thee by imposition of hands, for God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and of soberness”; and these others, while the Bible was delivered, “Give heed unto reading, exhortation, and doctrine. Think upon these things contained in this book . . . . Be to the flock of Christ a shepherd not a wolf; feed them, devour them not; hold up the weak, heal the sick, bind together the broken, bring again the outcast, seek the lost . . . .”

            The additions made in 1662 were, in the case of the priesthood (after the words, “receive the Holy Ghost”), “for the office and work of a priest in the Church of God now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands”; and in the case of the episcopate (after the words, “Take the Holy Ghost”), “for the office and work of a bishop in the Church of God now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands”.

            By this new Ordinal seven bishops and a number of inferior clergy were made during the last two years of Edward VI. On the accession of Mary in 1553 it was discarded, and the Pontifical resumed, but on the accession of Elizabeth in 1558 its use was restored, and has continued (with the addition of the defining clauses since 1662) down to the present day. The Anglican clergy are thus the creation of this Ordinal, and, primarily, the validity of their orders is dependent on its sufficiency — that is, on its sufficiency in its earlier form, for if that be wanting, the Apostolical succession must have lapsed long before 1662, and could not be resuscitated by the additions then made. It was on this consideration of the character of the Edwardine rite that the Holy See based its definitive decree of 1896.
            Still, for the complete understanding of the history of the subject it is necessary to know something of the circumstances under which Archbishop Parker was raised to the episcopate, and of the further defects which the Anglican succession has been thought to inherit from its relation to the same. This Dr. Matthew Parker was chosen by Queen Elizabeth to be her first Archbishop of Canterbury. The metropolitan see was then vacant by the death of Cardinal Pole, and all the other sees of the kingdom, with a single exception, were vacant likewise, either because of the death of their previous occupants, or because the bishops who survived were, in the eyes of the Government, deprived for refusing to conform to the new order of things. The Queen intended through Parker to raise up a new hierarchy, but a difficulty confronted her. When consecrated himself, Parker could consecrate his intended colleagues; but how was he to get consecrated himself? None of the Catholic bishops still living would consent to perform the ceremony, and in default of them she had recourse to four ecclesiastics of no very high reputation, three of whom (William Barlow, John Scory, and Miles Coverdale) had been deprived by Mary, and the fourth (John Hodgkins) was a turncoat who had been consecrated suffragan Bishop of Bedford in 1537 and had consistently changed with every change of the times. To Barlow was given the lead, and he, with the others as his assistants, consecrated Parker, 17 December, 1559, in the private chapel at Lambeth, using the Edwardine Ordinal. Three days later Parker, with the aid of Barlow, Scory, and Hodgkins, consecrated four others at Bow Church. From these ancestors the whole Anglican succession is sprung. Was, then, the consecration of Parker a valid act? This is the other ground of dispute round which, as a matter of history, the controversy has gathered.”

          8. Easy question first: The matter in the sacrament is the physical aspect. In ordination, this is the laying on of hands. In baptism, this is water. In the Eucharist, this is bread of wheat and wine of grapes.

            So, Anglican orders. I’m going to start by reiterating that this is on the way more difficult end of questions relating to sacraments. It’s just not something your average Catholic is ever going to need to think about.

            So “within reason” means that the form used must be sufficient to signify what occurs in the sacrament. The leeway permitted on this differs from sacrament to sacrament, but this is one constant. Where I’m reading now, it sounds like Edward to changed the form of episcopal consecration so that it no longer sufficiently signified what occurs in ordination, and by one account it differed little from the formula used at Confirmation. Apparently, about 100 years later after these changes, the Anglicans decided to add some more words to the rite, to specify it further, but the damage had been done–there were no longer any validly ordained bishops by that time. The book PDF I sent you contains (in one of the last chapters) the various formulas in use, if you want to see exactly what they contain. Actually, I just looked at awlms’ post and it contains the various Anglican formulae.

            Just to give a few more historical sacramental examples of where legitimate and illegitimate difference exists. The Roman rite baptized by saying, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Whereas the Byzantine rites baptize saying, “The servant of God, (insert name), is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Certainly different, but the essentials remain. Both are valid forms, though Latin Catholics are bound to use the one, and the Eastern Catholics/Orthodox are bound to use the other.

            An illegitimate case: So, in the 16th or 17th century, missionaries made their way into India and found Christians who were using a liturgy very similar to that of the Assyrian Christians. Pretty cool…except they were using bread made from rice. There was an investigation made, and so on, but the determination was ultimately that bread made from rice does not constitute valid matter for the sacrament, and so they had not celebrated a valid Eucharist for over 1000 years. And yet their orders were valid, because they had maintained the form of their rite.

            So changes can be made to rites, but not in such a way that they do away with the necessary matter and form. Even the Pope could not permit that anything but bread and wine be used in the Eucharist.

            I’m somewhat curious, Craig, have you experienced the liturgy in any historical Churches? I just wonder if your knowledge is mostly from reading about it, or if you did ever participate in a Catholic or Orthodox liturgy, as it is really is difficult to explain all of it to someone who has never heard or seen it. Even for someone who has, it can be quite the task!

          9. Max and Al,

            The problem I have wrapping my head around is the seemingly arbitrary definition of proper matter in ordination and the sacraments.

            For example, Max writes: “…Edward…changed the form of episcopal consecration so that it no longer sufficiently signified what occurs in ordination, and by one account it differed little from the formula used at Confirmation. Apparently, about 100 years later after these changes, the Anglicans decided to add some more words to the rite, to specify it further, but the damage had been done–there were no longer any validly ordained bishops by that time.”

            Reading from what Al posted, I do not see some radical difference in the words where the intent and substance of what was said between the two ordinations would be any different. It sounds like a lawyer decided that based upon a technicality, the Anglican order became void. It honestly comes across as legalistic and petty, as I am still not entirely clear about the crucial differences between what the Anglicans said for 110 years between 1552 and 1662 and what they have said after that point which is considered legitimate.

            Further, considering the Indian Eucharist made of rice bread, how does anyone come to the conclusion that certain grains can make break (rye, wheat, barley) but not other grains (rice, spelt, etcetera.)? This seems that what can be considered the same matter and what can be considered the wrong matter are completely arbitrary, decided at a whim.

            Can someone explain to me specifically what was wrong with the Anglican ordination?

            Thanks,
            Craig

          10. The following was taken from The Invalidity of Anglican Orders and the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter
            September 22, 2013 By Donald Paul Sullins

            While Apostolicae Curae holds that Anglican ordination does not confer the fullness of Catholic orders, this by no means implies that Anglican ordination is without its own value and purpose.

            Article 25, titled “Of the Sacraments,” presents the Anglican assessment of the nature of the seven sacraments traditionally recognized by Catholic Christianity. In a characteristic Anglican compromise, it charts a middle course between the Catholic teaching that all seven are valid and objective means of grace, and the radical Protestant rejection of all sacraments as mere ordinances or customs. While substantially agreeing with the Catholic understanding of the sacramental nature of baptism and the Eucharist, of the remaining Catholic sacraments, Article 25 states:

            Those five commonly called Sacraments—that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction—are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not the like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

            Here the emerging Church of England unmistakably asserted that the ordination of deacons and priests lacks any divinely ordained sign or ceremony, and, thus, does not confer sacramental grace. Apostolicae Curae specifically inquires whether the Anglican Ordinal meets the standard for conveying a sacrament and comes to the same conclusion. The Catholic Church’s imposition of ordination on Anglican clergy converts as if it never occurred before, then, simply recognizes and agrees with the Church of England regarding this central Anglican teaching. Consistent with this recognition convert Anglican priests also receive confirmation and are re-ordained as deacons.

            The specific concern of Apostolicae Curae, that the Edwardian Ordinal drafted by Archbishop Cranmer lacked both the form and intent of Catholic ordination, is emphatically confirmed by the content of that rite itself, and contemporaneous expressions of Cranmer’s doctrinal views. Even the most motivated ecumenists have seldom claimed otherwise. “The eating of Christ’s flesh and drinking his blood,” wrote Cranmer in 1550, the year before he revised the Ordinal, “is not to be understood simply and plainly, as the words do properly signify, that we do eat and drink him with our mouths; but it is a figurative speech spiritually to be understood.” Consequently “Christ made no such difference between the priest and the layman that the priest should make oblation and sacrifice of Christ for the layman … but the difference between the priest and the layman in this matter is only in the ministration.”

            With regard to the crucial question of the nature of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Cranmer ordination rite clearly not only did not intend to do, but intended not to do, what the Catholic Church did,The Real Presence was not simply glossed over, it was explicitly rejected. The ministers of the Church of England were intended to be ministers of the Word, by speech in preaching, and by act in symbolic sacraments, and not priests of the true, substantive Body and Blood of Christ.

            Historical and theological arguments to the contrary are present in both Anglican and Catholic discourse, but they have failed to carry the day in both communions. There are many theological convictions for which a minority opinion may be the correct one, but on this point, that cannot be the case.[B] Ordination is not a matter of private devotion or opinion, but a public act of the Church.[/B] Those Catholics and Anglicans who wish to affirm the Catholic validity of Anglican orders are thus caught in a kind of double bind. Their thinking, no matter how convincing it may be, has not won the agreement of their churches, which, after all, are the ones implementing the ordinations in question. This sociological vise squeezes all who hold such opinions in the two communions, but none more tightly than those Anglicans who hold the most Catholic convictions.

          11. By the way, I ran the article I quoted from past someone who has made the study of Anglican orders his life’s work for quite some time, reading everything on the subject he can get his hands on. He is an Anglican. He admits that the Anglican ordination specifically intended not to do what the Catholic Church’s ordination does.

          12. The ‘intention’ of the person being ordained is also an essential element for a valid ordination, in addition to ‘matter’ and ‘form’. And, the earliest Anglican bishops did not have such intention, in union with the Catholic Church’s Doctrine, to effect a valid ordination. Here’s some detail concerning this:

            “According to Catholic doctrine, it is necessary for validity that the minister of a sacrament should not only employ a proper form, but should also have a proper intention. Thus Pole, in his instructions to the Bishop of Norwich (which Leo XIII cites in his Bull of condemnation), tells him to treat as not validly consecrated those pretending bishops in whose previous consecration ceremonies “the form and intention of the Church had not been observed”, thereby implying that this double defect was present in the Edwardine consecrations. On this point the defenders of Anglican orders urge that (1) to admit that the mental intentions of the minister can affect the validity of the Sacrament is to involve in uncertainty all ordinations whatever — for how are we to know what internal lapses or deflections from the due intention may not have been secretly made by those on whose acts the orders of whole generations of Christian ministers have been dependent? — and (2) even granting this doctrine of intention, no defect of due intention should be imputed to the Anglican prelates of any generation, since, according to theologians like Bellarmine, even an heretical minister’s intention is sufficient as long as it is a general intention to do what Christ does or His true Church does, whatever this may be. But, it is replied, it is impossible not to recognize that the minister’s intention is an essential element. Why, for instance, is there a valid consecration at Mass when the priest pronounces the words, “This is my Body”, but no valid consecration when he pronounces the same words in the presence of bread whilst reading from St. Matthew’s Gospel in a community refectory? Still the Church trusts to the Providence of God to watch over all such defective intentions as are not externally manifested, and assumes that the minister’s intention is correct in every serious administration of her own rites, even when he is — like Cranmer, for instance — a person of heterodox opinions. Where, however, a defective intention is manifested externally, she must deal with it, and that is what has happened in respect to the Anglican ordinations. The rite, as has been explained, was altered in Edward VI’s time to give expression to a heterodox belief concerning the nature of Holy Orders, and was likewise adopted in this sense by the Elizabethan authorities. When, then, they proceeded to administer it, the only reasonable interpretation of their action was that they conformed their intention to their rite, and hence that, from a Catholic point of view, their acts were invalid on a twofold ground: the defect of the form and the defect of the intention.” (Catholic Encyclopedia)

            Read the whole article on Anglican Orders, here:

            http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01491a.htm

          13. Al,

            Concerning the medieval corruption of the Catholic Church, there were more than a few Bishops who bought their positions, hoping to get the money back from the patronage these Bishoprics supplied. Many became Bishops at exceedingly young ages and were Bishops of multiple locales. How can we seriously argue that such men had the correct intent to perform their duties as Bishops?

            So, just as baptism cannot be undone regardless of the intent, matter, or form it is conducted, how do these rules get thrown out the window and applied differently to the Eucharist or ordination? I just don’t understand 🙁

          14. Craig Truglia says:
            January 18, 2016 at 12:07 am
            Al,

            Concerning the medieval corruption of the Catholic Church, there were more than a few Bishops who bought their positions, hoping to get the money back from the patronage these Bishoprics supplied. Many became Bishops at exceedingly young ages and were Bishops of multiple locales. How can we seriously argue that such men had the correct intent to perform their duties as Bishops?

            So, just as baptism cannot be undone regardless of the intent, matter, or form it is conducted, how do these rules get thrown out the window and applied differently to the Eucharist or ordination? I just don’t understand 🙁

            What would change if you did understand?

          15. Craig,

            I don’t think it’s reasonable to compare the wide scale, and very public, apostasy of an entire nation due to the political manipulations of a murderer King, Henry the VIII, with the evil actions of various fraudulently ordained Bishops in Church history. It was very well known in the Catholic Church at that time when the Anglican Church was formed, that there was a complete apostasy from Rome, and that any ordinations in the future would be tainted by evil ‘intent’ on the part of the future bishops. Basically, they would not fulfill the Church’s requirements for ‘apostolic succession’, set forth simply, here:

            “Holy Order is in three degrees: those of bishops, priests, and deacons, the bishops possessing the priesthood in its plenitude, that is, with the power not only to exercise this ministry personally, but also to transmit it and the diaconate to others. Thus the bishop is the only minister of Holy Order, and for its valid administration it is essential that

            . he should himself have received a valid episcopal consecration,

            . and should use a rite in which are reserved all the essentials of validity as instituted by Christ.

            To have received or failed to receive orders under these conditions is to be within or without the Apostolical succession of the Catholic ministry.

          16. How can we seriously argue that such men had the correct intent to perform their duties as Bishops?

            It is the rite that is in question. Those priests and bishops that you mention, were ordained using a rite that contained wording that specifically intended to do what the Catholic Church intended.

            The Anglican ordination rite, on the other hand, used words that specifically intended not to do what the Catholic Church intended, as many Anglicans acknowledge.

          17. For baptism, matter, form, and intention are necessary and essential. I showed varying forms, but they have in common that they explicitly state baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and they must be with water. No exceptions. As for the intent, it is sufficient to intend that one do what the Church does when she baptizes. This is why anyone can baptize, even a nonbeliever. There was a recent case of priests baptizing in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. When this was discovered, the Church clearly declared: all such baptisms were invalid and those who receive them are in need of baptism.

            Duane’s points are all on point for the matter of Anglican orders. As I have said though, this is not a basic issue that Catholics would regularly consider. Unless this is the one point that keeps you from entering the Church, I do not know if it is worth the labor to go through it all. I highly recommend reading the Catechism (either the 1992 one, or the one from Trent) on sacraments for a good introduction to Catholic teaching on sacraments.

          18. Al,

            “I don’t think it’s reasonable to compare the wide scale, and very public, apostasy of an entire nation due to the political manipulations of a murderer King…”

            I am honestly not trying to play a game of whose the bigger bad guy. I am not defending King Henry the VIII. I am trying to understand the Catholic position here and it honestly appears inconsistent. If the Anglican order has forfeited Apostolic Succession due to matter and form, then clearly at least some Bishoprics forfeited their successions due to their intent for profit within Catholicism. To ignore this is to hold some sort of double standard where essentially nothing a Catholic ever does can void succession, while any offense of the non-Catholic does. If so, it does not appear to be a serious intellectual position.

            Duane,

            “It is the rite that is in question. Those priests and bishops that you mention, were ordained using a rite that contained wording that specifically intended to do what the Catholic Church intended.”

            I understand, but was specifically in the rite was so bad that it avoided succession? And, if a slight indiscretion that is hard to discern the difference between in form voids succession, certainly malicious intent also voids a Bishop’s succession.

            Max,

            “For baptism, matter, form, and intention are necessary and essential.”

            On what basis does it not matter for baptism, but it does for the Eucharst?

            “As I have said though, this is not a basic issue that Catholics would regularly consider. Unless this is the one point that keeps you from entering the Church, I do not know if it is worth the labor to go through it all.”

            Well, it is personally important to me to know the distinctions here. I really feel that I have asked simple questions, and it does not appear to me entirely consistent when form, matter, and intent apply–and to whom they apply. Honestly, I do not see how anyone can remain Catholic if they were not confident in the succession of their Bishops, and to have that confidence, you would need to know why other claimants don’t.

            God bless,
            Craig

          19. Craig,

            It is not the one receiving’s intent in this sacrament that matters for efficacy. It is the intent of the one conferring that matters. That is the key difference.

          20. Precisely Duane. So, if the one conferring the ordination was himself an executor of his own office by simony, and the one he confers the office to the same, the the ordination is invalid.

            The 2nd Council of Nicea says:

            “If any bishop gives ordination in return for money, and puts up for sale that which cannot be sold, and ordains for money a bishop or chorepiscopus, or presbyter, or deacon, or any other of those who are reckoned among the clergy; or who for money shall appoint anyone to the office of œconomus, advocate, or paramonarius; or, in a word, who has done anything else contrary to the canon, for the sake of filthy lucre— he who has undertaken to do anything of this sort, having been convicted, shall be in danger of losing his degree. And he who has been ordained shall derive no advantage from the ordination or promotion thus negotiated…”

            God bless,
            Craig

          21. Craig,

            I’m not sure I understand your question about baptism. Baptism requires right matter, form, and intention to be valid, just as the Eucharist and ordination do. If any of these sacraments lack matter, form or intent, then they do not happen and are invalid.

            As for your other response, I would say that there are plenty of other reasons why people are Catholic. Most Catholics probably have no idea that their bishop is in a line going all the way back to the Apostles. (This matter prompted my curiosity to go investigate my own bishop’s episcopal line…cool stuff…) But indeed, if you were on the fence between Catholicism and Anglicanism, it is an important question indeed!

            As for the matter of simony, the sacrament would actually happen, since one does actually intend to do what the Church does in ordaining, even if for ulterior motives. The Canon you cited from Nicaea II would strip such an ill-intentioned cleric from any benefits that accrue from his ordination, but he would still be validly ordained. Current canon law still contains a similar punishment: “Can. 1380 A person who celebrates or receives a sacrament through simony is to be punished with an interdict or suspension.”

          22. Max,

            “I’m not sure I understand your question about baptism. Baptism requires right matter, form, and intention to be valid, just as the Eucharist and ordination do. If any of these sacraments lack matter, form or intent, then they do not happen and are invalid.”

            Catholics don’t re-baptize baptists. Most baptists, though baptized in the name of the Trinity, reject baptismal regeneration. So, the intent behind baptism is clearly different, no more different than the intent of the Anglican and Catholic Priest circa 1550.

            “As for your other response, I would say that there are plenty of other reasons why people are Catholic…”

            But that’s not what I am commenting on.

            “As for the matter of simony, the sacrament would actually happen, since one does actually intend to do what the Church does in ordaining, even if for ulterior motives.”

            Second Nicea clearly does not allow for this. In unequivocal terms it states: “And he who has been ordained [by means of buying the office of Bishop] shall derive no advantage from the ordination or promotion thus negotiated; but let him remain a stranger to the dignity and responsibility which he attained by means of money.”

            He “remain[s] a stranger” to the office of Bishop. This means, those who have attained the office by Simony never became Bishops. This then also means that all those Bishops appointed by men who themselves became Bishops by Simony, are not Bishops either because only a Bishop can appoint Bishops.

            So again, if the intent of the Anglican Bishop was not to properly execute his priestly functions (in what sense I don’t know, no one here has really explained the difference), I honestly do not see the difference between that and blatantly violating a Canon of an ecumenical council which explicitly says those who become Bishops via simony are not Bishops at all.

            God bless
            Craig

          23. For baptism, because it is so necessary for salvation, the sufficient intention is only the most general, typically stated “intending to do what the Church does.” For this reason, an atheist could baptize someone if they were in danger of dying, so long as they intended to baptize. Not ideal, but it happens. So if someone only intended to wash someone, that would not be enough. I’ll be honest, the declaration that Anglican orders are invalid because of “intent and form” struck me as a bit odd, but certainly the form aspect makes sense. Again, the Anglican case is rather unique.

            As for the Nicaea II quote again, the office of a bishop is distinct from the character which is received by ordination. Thus even current canon law says: “149.3. Provision of an office made as a result of simony is invalid by the law itself.” (I should have quoted this one before, but it took a little navigating.) From this, it is clear that the office is not the same as the sacred order because there is a whole section in the code on the loss of ecclesiastical office. For example, the code now requires that all bishops submit their resignation at the age of 75. Once this is accepted, they no longer possess their office, and yet are still truly consecrated bishops. If you are interested, canons 145-196 of the current code are all about offices, their provision and their loss.

            And this is why your quote says simonists remain a stranger to the “dignity and responsibility” of the office. For these (called “obligations and rights” in the modern code) accrue to the office. But he is validly ordained nonetheless. Under ordinary circumstances, such a person would never be placed in an office again, but if they were, they would not require another ordination.

            One more note, just on the history of the current 1983 Code, just to explain the relevance of quoting it. In the 12th century, Gratian gathered together a collection of Canon Law from all the sources available to him (NT, papal decrees, conciliar canons), and this became the definitive collection for a number of centuries. In 1917, this was reorganized in a Code, and this itself was redone in 1983 to reflect what was declared in the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Despite changes, it is one long legal tradition stretching back to the early councils, and so the language used at Nicaea II (787) is along the same lines as the current Code, despite the great length of intervening time.

            For one more example of office used in this way, I quote Nicaea I (325), Canon 2, about what to do with a cleric who was ordained earlier than he ought to have been, “But if, as time goes on, any sensual sin should be found out about the person, and he should be convicted by two or three witnesses, let him cease from the clerical office. And whoso shall transgress these [enactments] will imperil his own clerical position, as a person who presumes to disobey the great Synod.”

            I apologize if any of this seems convoluted! That’s the nature of the beast when it comes to canon law…

          24. Max,

            I certainly appreciate your time on this. I will say, however, this whole issue I find more than a little disturbing. You write:

            “I apologize if any of this seems convoluted! That’s the nature of the beast when it comes to canon law…”

            It’s not really as convoluted as it is completely inconsistent. The Scripture says, “For God is not a God of disorder” (1 Cor 14:33). This is something we have to keep in mind when evaluating if this is something we believe is really of God.

            Second Nicea says that those who have bought the office of Bishop are cut off from the people of God:

            “But if it appear that any one has done this [i.e., given money], at any time as a price for ordination, let him be dealt with according to the Apostolic Canon which says: If a bishop has obtained possession of his dignity by means of money (the same rule applies also to a presbyter or deacon) let him be deposed and also the one who ordained him, and let him also be altogether cut off from communion, even as Simon Magus was by me Peter. ”

            How could one, who by virtue of becoming a Bishop actually is “altogether cut off from communion” be a valid Bishop at any point? And, how can those he appoints be successors if he is an invalid.

            But wait, there’s more.

            The first Lateran Council states:

            “[T]he detestable crime of simony is forbidden by both divine and human law…[If] the election of the Roman pontiff is made or effected by the person who is elected…by the gift, promise or receipt of money, goods of any sort, castles, offices, benefices, promises or obligations…then not only is this election or CHOICE ITSELF NULL, AND DOES NOT BESTOW ON THE PERSON ELECTED…ANY RIGHT OF EITHER SPIRITUAL OR TEMPORAL ADMINISTRATION…so that the one elected is not regarded by anyone as the Roman pontiff…A simoniacal election of this kind is never at any time to be made valid by a subsequent enthronement or the passage of time, or even by the act of adoration or obedience of all the cardinals.”

            Max, this could not be any clearer. The man elected by simony was never elected. Period. This is what they meant during second nicea. This is merely the same idea reiterated in 1513.

            “For baptism, because it is so necessary for salvation, the sufficient intention is only the most general, typically stated “intending to do what the Church does.””

            And how were the Anglican Bishops not intending to do what the Church does?

            And still, it has not been explained to me the crucial difference between the Anglican and Catholic Bishop in 1550, as I put the care into explaining the difference between the Baptist baptizing and the Catholic–one does not intend to regenerate the soul of the believer through baptism, one does.

            “For this reason, an atheist could baptize someone if they were in danger of dying…”

            And the Atheist’s intent is to do what the church does? How is that possible?

            It honestly seems to me that Apostolic Succession is in doubt by the Catholic definition. Perhaps some Oriental Orthodox have avoided simony and thereby have some level of certainty that they have followed the matter, form, and intent of Bishop ordination accordingly.

            God bless,
            Craig

          25. Nightingale,

            “I’ll be honest, the declaration that Anglican orders are invalid because of “intent and form” struck me as a bit odd, but certainly the form aspect makes sense.”

            As posted, this was derived from a selection right out of the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia under the topic of “Anglican Orders”. But, in reviewing my comment I did make a mistake in saying that it was the intent of the person being ordained that demanded the ‘intent’. The Encyclopedia passage clearly states:

            ““According to Catholic doctrine, it is necessary for validity that THE MINISTER of a sacrament should not only employ a proper form, but should also have a proper intention. Thus Pole, in his instructions to the Bishop of Norwich (which Leo XIII cites in his Bull of condemnation), tells him to treat as not validly consecrated those pretending bishops in whose previous consecration ceremonies “the form AND INTENTION OF THE CHURCH had not been observed”, thereby implying that this double defect was present in the Edwardine consecrations.”

          26. The key distinction here is between the sacrament of Holy Orders, which has its effect regardless of the wickedness of the minister (Donatus was wrong), and the conferral of an office. Wicked people can ordain and be ordained validly, that is the nature of the sacraments.

            However juridical acts (like the conferral of an office, an election, removal from an office, etc.) can be valid or invalid for different reasons. All of the quotes in your most recent post are about the validity of juridic acts, about the OFFICE, and NOT about the validity of the sacrament of Holy Orders itself. This distinction must be understood, and I presented all the quotes I did before in the hope of making this distinction clear.

            So with the Lateran quote you cited about the election of a Pope, it is the election that is declared invalid, not any ordination. The Papacy itself is an office (albeit a very special one), and not a distinct level of holy orders, and so there is no question about a sacrament being valid or invalid in that text, but only of an election, and consequently of an office.

            Examples of other offices: pastor, vicar, cardinal, ordinary. These are not conferred by ordination, but some are bestowed in conjunction with ordination (so typically bishops become ordinary of a diocese, but they eventually retire from this office, without ceasing to be a bishop).

            A bishop can certainly be cut off from communion with the Church, and this what happens with schism or any deposed minister. They do not cease to have the sacred character that bishop (or priest) has, and yet they are removed from the OFFICE. That is, they no longer have the rights or obligations or dignity that pertain to that office.

            Just as when a baptized person is excommunicated: they remain a baptized person, and yet cannot participate in the life of the Church until they are reconciled.

            When I said “convoluted”, I did not mean inconsistent. I only meant complex and difficult to follow, especially for someone unfamiliar with the legal terms involved. The meaning of the word “office” and the understanding of the validity or nullity of juridic acts is consistent.

            Just to clarify the Anglican order question, though I think your question has been answered:
            Form: Awlms posted the different texts used by the Anglicans. In 1552, the formula for consecrating a bishop did not in any way distinguish the work of a bishop from the work of a priest. And therefore it fails to sufficiently signify what is supposed to happen in the sacrament, and therefore it (the sacrament itself) would be invalid. Nothing would happen. The 1662 text adds the word, “for the office and work of a bishop in the Church of God now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands,” which would seem to supply the defect of form, yet it has been 100 years since a valid episcopal ordination, and so there are no bishops.
            Intention: I admitted that this is harder for me to understand, but looking at Duane’s posts more carefully, I think I get it now. The idea is that, not only do they not intend to do what Church does, but they intend to not do what the Church does. Subtle, but I think that was the difference he was driving at. Again, this is less clear to me than the issue of form, but the deficiency is form is enough to mess things up. (Note that the intention in question here relates directly to the sacrament. In the matter of simony, one may have extra intentions–which even make it gravely sinful–, but there is no deficiency with respect to the sacrament itself.)

            And I’m going to just put off the baptism questions for now, but reiterate that it is very easy to baptize someone. Perhaps Duane’s distinction applies here (as I understand it): you basically have to intend to not baptize someone in order for it be invalid. Otherwise, if you are using water and the Trinity, you’re good to go.

          27. Just to further make clear the distinction between an ordained person and someone who holds an office:

            Can. 145 §1. An ecclesiastical office is any function constituted in a stable manner by divine or ecclesiastical ordinance to be exercised for a spiritual purpose.
            §2. The obligations and rights proper to individual ecclesiastical offices are defined either in the law by which the office is constituted or in the decree of the competent authority by which the office is at the same time constituted and conferred.

            Can. 1008 By divine institution, the sacrament of orders establishes some among the Christian faithful as sacred ministers through an indelible character which marks them. They are consecrated and designated, each according to his grade, to nourish the people of God, fufilling in the person of Christ the Head the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing.
            Can. 1009 §1. The orders are the episcopate, the presbyterate, and the diaconate.
            §2. They are conferred by the imposition of hands and the consecratory prayer which the liturgical books prescribe for the individual grades.

            These will often overlap:
            Can. 129 §1. Those who have received sacred orders are qualified, according to the norm of the prescripts of the law, for the power of governance, which exists in the Church by divine institution and is also called the power of jurisdiction.
            Can. 274 §1. Only clerics can obtain offices for whose exercise the power of orders or the power of ecclesiastical governance is required.

            As far as I can tell, the use of these terms are consistent from the time of the Council of Nicaea onward.

            Here are also some sections about the Pope’s office, to clarify that it is an office, the holding of which depends on a legal election, and is not identical with the sacred order of bishop, although one must be a bishop to take up that office:
            Can. 331 The bishop of the Roman Church, in whom continues the office given by the Lord uniquely to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, is the head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the pastor of the universal Church on earth. By virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely.
            Can. 332 §1. The Roman Pontiff obtains full and supreme power in the Church by his acceptance of legitimate election together with episcopal consecration. Therefore, a person elected to the supreme pontificate who is marked with episcopal character obtains this power from the moment of acceptance. If the person elected lacks episcopal character, however, he is to be ordained a bishop immediately.
            §2. If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.

          28. Craig said:

            “And how were the Anglican Bishops not intending to do what the Church does?”

            Here’s how:

            (from my formerly posted quote, about 19 comments, above)

            “The Queen intended through Parker to raise up a new hierarchy, but a difficulty confronted her. When consecrated himself, Parker could consecrate his intended colleagues; but how was he to get consecrated himself? NONE OF THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS STILL LIVING WOULD CONSENT TO PERFORM THE CEREMONY, and in default of them she had recourse to four ecclesiastics of no very high reputation, three of whom (William Barlow, John Scory, and Miles Coverdale) had been deprived by Mary, and the fourth (John Hodgkins) was a turncoat who had been consecrated suffragan Bishop of Bedford in 1537 and had consistently changed with every change of the times. To Barlow was given the lead, and he, with the others as his assistants, consecrated Parker, 17 December, 1559, in the private chapel at Lambeth, using the Edwardine Ordinal. Three days later Parker, with the aid of Barlow, Scory, and Hodgkins, consecrated four others at Bow Church. From these ancestors the whole Anglican succession is sprung.”

          29. Max,

            “I gave an explanation for the sake of your understanding what an ecclesiastical office is and how it differs from holy orders. It was not an argument, but a simple definition of ecclesiastical legal terms. I cited a text from First Nicaea…”

            The following is from Canon Law:

            “These will often overlap:

            Can. 129 §1. Those who have received sacred orders are qualified, according to the norm of the prescripts of the law, forthe power of governance, which exists in the Church by divine institution and is also called the power of jurisdiction.
            Can. 274 §1. Only clerics can obtain offices for whose exercise the power of orders or the power of ecclesiastical governanceis required.”

            You need to cite which Nicea they are part of, and where. I cannot find those words, I suppose you are mistaken.

            As for the distinction you are drawing in definitions, that people can become legitimate clerics by means of simony (hence have received their sacred order) but not exercise any office, I understand what you are saying. However, Second Nicea contradicts your contention that this is possible. It says unequivocally: “And he who has been ordained shall derive no advantage from the ordination or promotion thus negotiated; but let him remain a stranger to the dignity and responsibility which he attained by means of money”

            The person who paid to be ordained “remain[s] a stranger to the dignity and responsibility.” It never speaks of the man assuming any office that he as a result of simony now loses. Being that the words of the sentence say “derive no advantage from the ordination OR promotion…but let him remain a stranger,” grammar necessitates that the simonist remains a stranger to both the ordination and the office negotiated for.

            So, while you get a little snippy at the end of your response, “without taking time to really grapple with the basics, you will keep misgrapsing…,” I think you are having issues with grappling with the basics. We have a Canon from an Ecumenical Council that explicitly says the simonist remains a stranger to the order. This was written before any later Canon Law that you cite.

            I think you need to consider the mental gymnastics of your position. Someone from your position must maintain that one needs to maintain both that someone who pays to be a Bishop on some level is really a Bishop, AND that 11 year old Bishops in the past had the correct intent to exercise the office, AND that the Anglicans forfeited their roles as Bishops through slight changes in wording. THat’s an awfully big pill to swallow.

            “The minister’s intention may be perverted in two ways. First in regard to the sacrament: for instance, when a man does not intend to confer a sacrament, but to make a mockery of it….”

            I am sure the 11 year old Bishop applies, as does the cynical man buying the office who cares nothing for the sacraments. I am sure we had more than a few of those over the centuries.

            “I could not state it more clearly. Simony is an intention about something that follows the sacrament…”

            Actually, it can be, but it can also not be. Let’s say James White goes ahead and buys a Bishopric, simply just to prove a point. He does not believe in the sacraments. Can he now ordain more shadow Bishops? Or, was his intent going in something that makes it that he never attained to the order?

            Therefore, while some people could have a bad intention following the sacrament, but in the case of simony, clearly the intention precedes the sacrament. The person intends to have profit, or the person is too young and does not even know his parents are buying him a retirement parachute, or many other possible preceding motivations.

            “Yes, it is forbidden to ordain children. And yet it would be valid. That is how the sacraments work. Could they validly receive an office? No, that would be legally invalid…Orders are permanent and ontological. ”

            Again, how could the child attain to the order (not office) when he does not intend to confer sacraments, or be a Bishop, or know whats even going on (which I am sure is the case more than a few times)?

            “I had asked before if you have any experience of the Church’s liturgical life, because this often feels like explaining to a blind man what colors are like…”

            With all due respect, I think some of your response is a bit condescending. Now, perhaps I am so ignorant it really is a bore to respond to me on banal details, but I think in your response you have showed a bit of “tunnel vision.” You differentiate between orders and office, but the language of second nicea disallows for both. You say Simony proceeds the sacrament, but in fact the intent actually precedes the sacrament. You say that children can attain to an order but not an office, but clearly they do not have the intent to officiate the office or know anything about the dignity of the order.

            I think there are certain very basic problems with your analysis here. I tip my hat when it is due, I did so when you cited Ignatius’ Letter to the Smyrneans Chapter 8. However, I can say that what you are writing in response here simply does not hold up to scrutiny, though you appear not to realize this.

            ___

            Al,

            “Here’s the problem. There was widespread persecution since Henry VIII forced all priests and bishops to sign the Oath of Supremacy in 1535. It was similar to the Roman Emperors of the first centuries who forced the early Christians to deny their faith under penalty of death. How can anyone consider a bishop who signed Henry’s ‘Oath of Supremecy’ a Catholic?”

            Did Sir Thomas More die during this time?

            To answer your question, the Bishops who sign the oath would be no different than Pope Militiades and Bishop Caecillian offering incense to the Emperor. They did not lose their office by means of even heresy.

            “And this is why, in 1550, when the Anglican Church was founded, it is easy to understand why …”None of the Catholic Bishops STILL LIVING would consent to perform the ceremony”.”

            This honestly does not make sense to me, it is like the Donatist controversy in reverse, here the Catholics are the Donatists and the Anglicans are the Catholics.

            On New Advent, I cam across a “Synodal Letter” attached to the Canons of First Nicea. It says: “The Synod, then, being disposed to deal gently with Meletius (for in strict justice he deserved no leniency), decreed that he should remain in his own city, but have no authority either to ordain…those who have been placed by him, after they have been confirmedby a more sacred laying on of hands, shall on these conditions be admitted to communion.”

            So, it appears that these men never lost their order, though they could not officiate the office of Bishop. I do not see how the Anglicans would be any different.

            “…if you think ‘simony’ was a worthy cause for an invalid ordination, what do you think of this threat of execution, should a Priest merely say a Catholic Mass?”

            Personally, I think literal succession does not depend upon the beliefs of the man preceding you. However, the issue of “simony” is that Ecumenical Councils have decided that it precludes men from even being of the order of Bishop, let alone attaining to the office. Hence, by your own tradition, simonists never were Bishops, and they can confer onto others what they were never were themselves. They in effect remain laymen.

            “I (state your name) do utterly testifie and declare in my Conscience, that the Kings Highnesse is the onely Supreame Governour of this Realme, and all other his Highnesse Dominions and Countries, as well in all Spirituall or Ecclesiasticall things or causes, as Temporall…”

            I agree this is heresy. However, heresy does not preclude ordination, or the Catholic church what have had problems stemming all the way back to the 4th century.

            God bless,

            Craig

        3. Max,

          “The key distinction here is between the sacrament of Holy Orders, which has its effect regardless of the wickedness of the minister…”

          However, you have already stated that when it comes to ordination, the incorrect intent, form, or matter invalidates it. Surely, the intent to make profit by ordaining, or to make future profits by being ordained, is incorrect intent.

          Further, the declaration of the council that states such as election “DOES NOT BESTOW ON THE PERSON ELECTED…ANY RIGHT OF EITHER SPIRITUAL OR TEMPORAL ADMINISTRATION,” how can he administer the sacraments? Isn’t that a spiritual administration? Unlike Donatism which dealt with sinful Bishops and their supposed inability to administer sacraments, simony is not about a sinful Bishop. It is about a -non-Bishop. He never attained to the office. This is why 2nd Nicea says, ” let him REMAIN a stranger to the dignity and responsibility” of the Bishopric. Key word is “remain.” He was a stranger, i.e. alien to the office of the Bishop before, and he remains so afterwards.

          “However juridical acts…can be valid or invalid for different reasons. All of the quotes in your most recent post are about the validity of juridic acts, about the OFFICE, and NOT about the validity of the sacrament of Holy Orders itself.”

          Two counter points.

          1. Wouldn’t the simonist Bishop fail the intent test?

          2. Do you have any writing written before 1st Lateran that would say this, or is this a later teaching which attempts to maintain the legitimacy of succession in spite of the ramifications of widespread simony?

          If this “subtle” distinction between ordination and other juridic acts didn’t exist for the first 1500 years of the Church, that smells a little fishy to me…especially in light of the fact that it contradicts the clear teaching of Nicea and Lateran than those who assume the role of Bishop via simony never were Bishops to begin with.

          “The meaning of the word “office” and the understanding of the validity or nullity of juridic acts is consistent.”

          I am stickler for what it means that a Bishop has no temporal or spiritual administration to mean, he cannot run the church or confer sacraments. I am a stickler that those who remain strangers to the Bishopric were never secretly Bishops to begin with, or become ones later. The terms used in 2nd Nicea and Lateran are not subtle or difficult, probably on purpose as they wanted their teachings to stand and not be reinterpreted. I guess that didn’t work.

          “Just to clarify the Anglican order question, though I think your question has been answered: “…the formula for consecrating a bishop did not in any way distinguish the work of a bishop from the work of a priest.”

          How? Al’s link did not say how this is so.

          “And therefore it fails to sufficiently signify what is supposed to happen in the sacrament…”

          Again, Baptist baptism fails to signify what is supposed to happen in the sacrament according to Catholics. I know you don’t want to “touch” baptism, but this is wildly inconsistent.

          “Intention: I admitted that this is harder for me to understand, but looking at Duane’s posts more carefully, I think I get it now. The idea is that, not only do they not intend to do what Church does, but they intend to not do what the Church does.”

          By whose definition were they not doing what they ought to be doing? Where was their intent wrong?

          Again, how do we square this with the intent of a Bishop to assume to the role for the golden retirement parachute, which was essentially what it was in the middle ages?

          “…the deficiency in form is enough to mess things up.”

          Again, what was that deficiency? Not adding a sentence saying, “I am a Bishop, not a priest, I want you to be extra sure of that?” What was missing that was so critically important?

          “In the matter of simony, one may have extra intentions–which even make it gravely sinful–, but there is no deficiency with respect to the sacrament itself.”

          Not exactly. We had 11 year olds consecrated as Bishops into the 1600s (https://books.google.com/books?id=71RQUItRplYC&pg=PA300&lpg=PA300&dq=underaged+bishops&source=bl&ots=HiasmcTwBX&sig=va-iYdgB05i76quXzavya3XwaG0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi4g_2o6bXKAhUGSyYKHYwcBUsQ6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q=underaged%20bishops&f=false). Did they have any relevant, religious intentions? Clearly, profit was the only motive on the part of the families buying the positions.

          My memory fails me, but we have even younger elections of 10 year olds. So, we have the clear problem with the intent, plus the ecumenical councils saying such men never were bishops to begin with but remained strangers to the office.

          “you basically have to intend to not baptize someone in order for it be invalid.”

          So, for the ANglicans, they would have to intend not to be Bishops, which they clearly did not do, as they continued being Bishops…and as far as I know, unlike the French Catholic Bishops which had their 11 year olds mixed in, the Anglicans did not have this problem.

          —-

          Al

          “Here’s how…”

          I really cannot follow what was done wrong. We don’t like the guy (Parker) or the Bishops who ordained him. I don’t get it, what’s the problem with them? Further, the quote says Anglicanism sprung all from one guy, which is simply not true. Every city had a Bishopic already, they all had their succession from pre-Reformation.

          1. I gave an explanation for the sake of your understanding what an ecclesiastical office is and how it differs from holy orders. It was not an argument, but a simple definition of ecclesiastical legal terms. I cited a text from First Nicaea and explained the continuity of the terms. I am incapable of making the distinction more clear.

            As far as intent, simony does not exclude the intent to confer a sacrament but is rather added on to it. This makes it very evil, and is absolutely forbidden. See Summa III.46.10,
            “The minister’s intention may be perverted in two ways. First in regard to the sacrament: for instance, when a man does not intend to confer a sacrament, but to make a mockery of it. Such a perverse intention takes away the truth of the sacrament, especially if it be manifested outwardly.
            Secondly, the minister’s intention may be perverted as to something that follows the sacrament: for instance, a priest may intend to baptize a woman so as to be able to abuse her; or to consecrate the Body of Christ, so as to use it for sorcery. And because that which comes first does not depend on that which follows, consequently such a perverse intention does not annul the sacrament; but the minister himself sins grievously in having such an intention.”

            I could not state it more clearly. Simony is an intention about something that follows the sacrament, and does not pertain to the sacrament itself.

            Yes, it is forbidden to ordain children. And yet it would be valid. That is how the sacraments work. Could they validly receive an office? No, that would be legally invalid. This is a difference between the ontological and the legal. I have provided enough texts to show that office and orders are not identical. Orders are permanent and ontological. Offices are conferred and lost. An illicit ordination (that has proper matter and form) succeeds in making one a deacon, priest, or bishop, but makes the one ordained irregular for taking on an office.

            I had asked before if you have any experience of the Church’s liturgical life, because this often feels like explaining to a blind man what colors are like. However much he has heard about them, it really is a whole different matter from actually seeing them. If this is your first time hearing the terms “matter” and “form” in relation to the sacraments, then there is a very wide lacuna in your understanding of Catholic sacramental theology that precludes a coherent debate on these matters. Two resources:
            Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Two “Celebration of the Christian Mystery”:
            http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM
            Catechism of Trent, Part Two “The Sacraments”:
            http://www.cin.org/users/james/ebooks/master/trent/tindex.htm

            The first one is from 1992, makes frequent reference to Scripture and the Fathers, and is the one I would recommend. This is the official catechetical text for the Catholic Church throughout the world, so you can’t go wrong.
            The second one was produced after the Council of Trent, mostly as a handbook for priests. Fewer quotes from sources, but very exact in phrasing the belief and practice of the Church (some practice might be different).

            I’m not wholly unwilling to converse further on these topic–they are very interesting, and I believe you are earnest to understand the truth of the matter. But without taking time to really grapple with the basics, you will keep misgrapsing exactly what the Church teaches.

          2. Hi Craig,

            Here’s the problem. There was widespread persecution since Henry VIII forced all priests and bishops to sign the Oath of Supremacy in 1535. It was similar to the Roman Emperors of the first centuries who forced the early Christians to deny their faith under penalty of death. How can anyone consider a bishop who signed Henry’s ‘Oath of Supremecy’ a Catholic? And this is why, in 1550, when the Anglican Church was founded, it is easy to understand why …”None of the Catholic Bishops STILL LIVING would consent to perform the ceremony”. To support the Oath, was to support a heresy as one claims that the King/Queen has supreme authority in all things including Church doctrine. Read Henry’s Oath of 1535, below, and if you think ‘simony’ was a worthy cause for an invalid ordination, what do you think of this threat of execution, should a Priest merely say a Catholic Mass? I hope you see the problem?:

            “I (state your name) do utterly testifie and declare in my Conscience, that the Kings Highnesse is the onely Supreame Governour of this Realme, and all other his Highnesse Dominions and Countries, as well in all Spirituall or Ecclesiasticall things or causes, as Temporall: And that no forraine Prince, Person, Prelate, State or Potentate, hath or ought to have any Jurisdiction, Power, Superiorities, Preeminence or Authority Ecclesiasticall or Spirituall within this Realme. And therefore, I do utterly renounce and forsake all Jurisdictions, Powers, Superiorities, or Authorities; and do promise that from henchforth I shall beare faith and true Allegiance to the Kings Highnesse, his Heires and lawfull Successors: and to my power shall assist and defend all Jurisdictions, Priviledges, Preheminences and Authorities granted or belonging to the Kings Highnesse, his Heires and Successors or united and annexed to the Imperial Crowne of the Realme: so helpe me God: and by the Contents of this Booke.” (Wikipedia)

            Here also are some penalties for practicing the Catholic Faith contrary to the monarchy:

            “In 1559, a 12 pence fine for refusing to go to church was created, and the loss of office for Catholic clergy refusing to take the oath of supremacy. Attendance at mass was to be punished by a fine of 100 marks, but the saying of mass, or arranging for it to be said, carried the death penalty”

            From: http://www.elizabethi.org/contents/elizabethanchurch/catholics.html

          3. I might add, that this monetary penalty of 10 pence to be paid for NOT attending Church is quite a novelty in the history of Christianity. It’s basically forcing a person to attend Anglican religious services by requiring the equivalent of 1 days wages (1 shilling=12 pence, equal to a craftsman’s wages in Elizabethan times) for not attending.

            What a way to start your own national Church! 🙂

          4. And, to attend a Catholic Mass, on the other hand, cost a 100 marks fine, where 1 mark = 13 shillings. So, 1300 shillings would equal about 4 years of a trademan’s labor at 1 shilling per day for 6 days per week.

            No wonder there are so many Protestants in England! At least they didn’t destroy all of the beautiful Catholic cathedrals… but only hijacked them! 🙁

    3. Rev Hans,

      I made the factual assertion awhile ago that Luther, your church’s founder added a word to sacred scripture. Have you had time to investigate and think about what that means to his credibility?

      1. That was the worst.

        Wanting to discredit other New Testament books because it disagreed with his theology is another. He was willing to do whatever it took (discredit Scripture, add words) to make Scripture fit his theology.

        Popes are accused of this and labeled the anti-Christ. Funny how protestants are willing to look away at what Luther did and not give him the same label.They hold him up as the savior of Christianity. It is truly is baffling to me.

      2. Here’s a short reminder of Luther’s justification for the inclusion of the word ‘sola’ into the Romans 3:28 biblical text…in his own words:

        Luther says: ” I have received your letter with the two questions or inquiries first, why in the third chapter to the Romans, the words of St. Paul: ‘Arbitramur hominem
        justificari ex fide absque operibus legis,’ were translated by me into German in the following manner: ‘We hold that man is justified without the works of the law, (allein)through faith.’ And at the same time you tell me what great fuss the Papists make, because the word Sola (“alone”)
        is not in the text of Paul.”

        Luther’s Answer to the Papists.

        1. You Papists do not know how to translate.” I have
        taken great pains to translate correctly, nevertheless, you
        must find fault with me, although one of you has published
        my translation with only some slight changes. —Such is the
        substance of his first answer to the Papists.
        2. Luther continues : “And in order to return to the
        point. If your Papist makes much unnecessary fuss about
        the word (Sola, alone), say straight out to him, Doctor
        Martinus Luther will have it so, and says, Papists and
        donkeys are one and the same thing. Sic volo, sic jubeo, sit pro
        ratione voluntas (thus I will have it, thus I order it, my will
        is reason enough). For we will not be the scholars or the
        disciples of the Papists, but their masters and judges. We
        must once in a way act a little haughtily and noisily with
        these jack-asses. ”
        3. Luther then tells us that he is more learned than the
        Papists, and continues : ” This is my answer to your first
        question ; and as to their unnecessary noise about the word
        Sola, I beg of you not to give those donkeys any other or
        further answer, but simply this much : D. Luther will have
        it so, and says he is a Doctor above all Doctors in the whole
        Popery.’ ‘

        Derived from a great read @:

        https://archive.org/details/luthersownstatem00ocon

    4. Tell me Reverend, did the patriarchs at the time of the first seven ecumenical councils call themselves Orthodox, or Catholics? If the latter, then I really do not see how it is hubris or a slap in the face to say that the Catholic Church gave us the bible.

    5. Rev. Hans,

      Are you actually outraged that a Catholic views the single visible Church that existed before the Great Schism was Catholic rather than Orthodox? Of course I do. If I thought that the first-millennium Church was Orthodox, I’d become Orthodox, as should you, if you actually believe what you’ve written here. That’s just a matter of intellectual integrity, not hubris.

      I.X.,

      Joe

      1. This is like I thought you did not tag up properly from third base on an easy fly ball. It is easy to make an argument that Protest-ants have deviated from the history and source of scripture, and there are plenty of misguided reformers who make this argument for you, sadly. This is where you thought that you had an easy trot to home plate off of this easy pop-up.

        I think you jumped early because you still seem to fail to appreciate shared history. There was no Catholic or Orthodox Church before the great schism; there was only The Church that was catholic (universal) and orthodox (in faith). We were all together. There were five Patriarchs, with four in the East believing they were all equals and one in the one in the West with a different view. The Hubris is to try to claim it all for your church tradition instead of acknowledging the shared history.

        Lutherans have had official dialogue with the Orthodox Churches, which I see as part of the holy catholic Church. We are working on unity with the whole body of Christ, just as your church has done since Vatican II. Our dialogue may not have started with outVatican II, so thanks for starting this unity work!

  14. It’s amazing what Protestants find themselves having to defend. Almost from the very beginning of the Protestant Reformation they had to find ways of defending how different Protestants came to different interpretations of the Bible despite the initial claim that anyone reading the Bible for himself would arrive at the true meaning. Then they had to find ways of defending how they managed to divide into so many different Churches. Then, of course, we got the notion of the invisible Church simply because they had so many Churches. All of these defences drew out of practical necessity rather than any sudden realisation about the meaning of the Bible.

    A recent example of these strange defences out of practical necessity comes from the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, Rev David Robertson. He has claimed that there are four verses in the Bible which tell people they must leave whatever Church they belong to if it no longer teaches the truth. For American readers, I should point out that the FCoS is an offshoot of the Church of Scotland, so Rev Robertson is merely trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to find Scriptural support for people leaving a Church and setting up their own.

    But this is what has happened over and over again in Protestantism. A development occurs and they have to rushing to the Bible to try and find some verse which supports what they have done.

    Another example is the claim that there are essential doctrines over which all true believers have to agree and those which are supposedly non-essential over which they can and do disagree. They even claim to find support in the Bible for this strange claim.

    But the consequence is that you now have Evangelical Protestants saying that homosexual behaviour is condemned by Scripture while other Evangelical Protestants claim otherwise but both saying that this is a non-essential doctrine so it doesn’t affect your salvation. Therefore even for those Evangelical Protestants who hold to the Biblical view of homosexuality they are forced to concede that somebody who lives a homosexual lifestyle is not barred from being saved. Nor for that matter people who carry out abortions.

    If anybody wants to contradict that last statement let him show me the statement of “essential” doctrines which says otherwise.

    1. I don’t think the Bible discusses the immorality of the ‘birth control pill’ either. How are the multitudes of individual, ‘do-it-yourself Bible interpretation’ Protestants suppose to inherently know whether ‘birth control’ is a virtue or a vice? Is every Christian suppose to be an expert in every aspect of Christian theology? Who can trust who in this case?

      Fortunately the Catholic Church has the benefit of 2000 years of Saints, and Doctors of the Church, to rely on, in addition to the modern Catholic theologians who study these same masters of Catholic Theology. And then we have modern synods and councils who come together and discuss difficult theological and moral topics, utilizing both past and present theology to settle tricky modern questions such as the morality of ‘birth control’.

      Those who examine carefully these 2000 years of synods and councils will see how reasonable their many decisions were, and continue to be. What a treasure we have in the ‘deposit of faith’ which is the ‘sum’ of all of these holy Church councils. What a pity for the Protestants who must ever be their own theologian, synod and Council! What a horrendous undertaking, almost as if a person rejects all historic automobile technology, and must start from scratch in his garage trying to make 4 wheels and a seat go 50 mph. Some things are just mean’t to be handled in a ‘corporate’ way, to gain the benefit of particular expertise and study. And Jesus designed His Church in this very fashion, as a corporate society, a kingdom, capable of ever greater expansion, and utilizing the talents of all it’s members for the benefit of all.

      Away with do-it-yourself, ‘home spun’, Christianity! Long live Christ’s Kingdom, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church built upon ‘rock’; the same that is promised by Christ that the ‘gates of Hell shall not prevail against it’ even until the end of the world!!

      1. Well, we know that until 1928 all Protestant Churches held to the Biblical teaching on artificial contraception: they all condemned it. Then the Anglican Communion decided that there were some circumstances in which artificial contraception was justified. Since then there was a constant procession of Protestant Churches abandoning the Biblical teaching. Whether they were ‘liberal’ or ‘evangelical’ made no difference. They all suddenly ‘discovered’ a new interpretation of the Bible. Rather like the liberals are currently discovering new interpretations regarding homosexuality. Can anyone name a single Protestant Church whose official teaching condemns artificial contraception? But what would be the point anyway? Any member of any Protestant Church is free to decide for him/herself what the Bible means. No human authority can be above his/her private interpretation. Don’t like your Church’s teaching on something? No problem. Go and set up your own Church. Best of all, call it non-denominational.

        Any Confession of Faith produced by a Protestant Church is a ‘subordinate’ authority. That means it binds nobody. Moreover, anybody can accept it by interpreting it any way that they want. The Church of Scotland (a Presbyterian Church, by the way) uses the Westminster Confession as their statement of faith. However, in practice hardly anybody in the Church of Scotland holds to that statement in its entirety and in 1986 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland decided that, “ministers, deacons and elders at ordination have to assent to the Confession and its role, but, at the same time, it is made clear that this is a ‘subordinate’ standard (to Holy Scripture) and therefore open to challenge on the basis of further study of Scripture.” One Church of Scotland minister recently declared that ‘in truth, all truth about faith is temporary.” His Church then had a meeting on the Apostles Creed and proceeded to reinterpret it in a way which was ‘highly imaginative and creative’. Just like his forefathers at the time of the Protestant Reformation re-interpreted ‘one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church’ so he reinterprets the whole statement.

        So not only is doctrinal chaos endemic to Protestantism, constant changing of doctrines is also inevitable.

  15. Let’s look at the early church. The Orthodox Church came first, established by Christ. Then, later on, a small group of people wanted to have a leader (pope) in Rome. There was an argument within the early church because prior to this the church did not have a king or any type of leader. The majority of Christians did not want that. So, the Roman Catholics broke away from the original church so that they could have a pope, who would be like a king of their Christian group. They made extravagant claims that the pope was somehow infallible and that he had supremacy. Meanwhile, the Orthodox Church continued as it had been, and they refused to agree with the new teachings of the break-away sect.

    Over time, the Roman Catholic Church changed in several ways from the early Orthodox Church. Besides these changes, the pope became very powerful, and he was often more powerful than kings of nations. The Roman Catholic Church accumulated an amazing amount of wealth, and many if not most people within the church became corrupt. Being a powerful “nation” with it’s own laws and rules that were decided upon by the same corrupt church officials, they tried to force people of all stripes into submission.

    Roman Catholic power was gradually stripped away to some extent by those who protested against the corruptness of Rome. However, Roman Catholics tried their best to hold onto their wealth and power, and they excommunicated anyone who spoke up against corruption. They used violent means to try to assert their power against the so-called Protestants. This corruption continues to this day. Simply look at the news coming out of the Vatican. It involves Roman Catholics within the Vatican itself being exposed for stealing exorbitant amounts of money.

    Even today Roman Catholics do not acknowledge the validity of beliefs of other Christians, and will not accept them at communion. As can be seen from this thread, Roman Catholics believe that their own church officials (contemporary or ancient) have a right to make rules that every Christian should follow, and they make big claims that the rules were from God. The Roman Catholics writing on this thread seem to have little if any knowledge of the Orthodox Church, and they claim all power and righteousness for themselves.

    Hypocritical Roman Catholic priests have denounced the beliefs of other Christians (being on their high horses) while simultaneously committing pedophilia within a Roman Catholic setting. The pedophilia was known about and covered up by the Roman Catholic Church. Members of the Church trusted the rules and regulations that their Roman Catholic superiors gave them, and they didn’t ask too many questions when they were told that pedophilia was not a problem. A media frenzy exploded, uncovering this tragedy that was a result of church members following the rules of the church blindly, and without asking questions. A tremendous number of children were harmed, and it was the fault of the Roman Catholic priests and the Roman Catholic community that tried to cover it up. This was not a Christ centered church.

    The Orthodox Church is alive and well, never having fallen into the traps that the Roman Catholic Church has made for themselves. Protestantism is a direct result of choices that the Roman Catholics made. However, Roman Catholics often attack Protestants verbally for not blindly following the teachings of a so-called infallible pope, and so-called infallible church rules. This thread is a good example.

    Roman Catholics on this thread and elsewhere conveniently forget about the true origins of the church and now claim that the Orthodox Church is somehow a “sister” church to Roman Catholicism. The Orthodox Church, however, sees itself as the one holy, “Catholic,” apostolic church established by Christ. The Orthodox Church rejects any notion of papal supremacy and infallibility that the break-away Roman Catholics claim.

    1. Your over-simplification of history and presumption to be the harbinger of truth will bring nothing but contempt. Your unwarranted assumptions such as “The Roman Catholics writing on this thread seem to have little if any knowledge of the Orthodox Church” need not be dealt with, either. The irony is that most arguments leveled at Protestant beliefs in this thread can actually be made by the Orthodox, too.

  16. Tell says – Let’s look at the early church. The Orthodox Church came first, established by Christ. Then, later on, a small group of people wanted to have a leader (pope) in Rome.

    Me – what, where and when.

    Tell – There was an argument within the early church because prior to this the church did not have a king or any type of leader.

    Me – Really??? Do the Orthodox not think that Peter was the leader. Christ certainly did.
    The majority of Christians did not want that. So, the Roman Catholics broke away from the original church so that they could have a pope, who would be like a king of their Christian group. They made extravagant claims that the pope was somehow infallible and that he had supremacy. Meanwhile, the Orthodox Church continued as it had been, and they refused to agree with the new teachings of the break-away sect.

    Tell – Over time, the Roman Catholic Church changed in several ways from the early Orthodox Church.

    Me – Such as…

    Tell – Besides these changes, the pope became very powerful, and he was often more powerful than kings of nations.

    Me – Orthodox leaders were weak???

    Tell – The Roman Catholic Church accumulated an amazing amount of wealth,

    Me – Orthodox did not? What is done with this wealth?

    Tell continues – and many if not most people within the church became corrupt.

    Me – MOST became corrupt? Can you cite evidence or should we just take your scholarly word.

    Tell – Being a powerful “nation” with it’s own laws and rules that were decided upon by the same corrupt church officials, they tried to force people of all stripes into submission.

    Me – Official teaching please. We can all point to “officials” not following official teachings. I can point to Peter not following the Church’s official teaching. I guess that makes the early church “Orthodox” you mentioned above a ruse.

    Tell – Roman Catholic power was gradually stripped away to some extent by those who protested against the corruptness of Rome. However, Roman Catholics tried their best to hold onto their wealth and power, and they excommunicated anyone who spoke up against corruption.

    Me – please cite historical evidence that they excommunicated ANYONE who spoke against corruption.

    Tell – They used violent means to try to assert their power against the so-called Protestants.

    Me -yes they did. I guess any religion that ever asserts their power against anyone can’t be true. I wonder if Orthodox ever did this..hmmm

    Tell – This corruption continues to this day. Simply look at the news coming out of the Vatican. It involves Roman Catholics within the Vatican itself being exposed for stealing exorbitant amounts of money.

    Me – did a search on the internet and found nothing about the Vatican using violent means to this day. Can you provide link please?

    Tell – Even today Roman Catholics do not acknowledge the validity of beliefs of other Christians,

    Me – please cite official teaching please. Actually we believe the opposite. You might try and read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    Tell – and will not accept them at communion.

    Me – true we do allow Protestants to take communion. Funny, do Orthodox accept Protestants? There are Orthodox Churches that dont allow Catholics to participate. If we are so evil, why do you even want to have communion with us? btw we do this to protect them “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27)

    Tell – As can be seen from this thread, Roman Catholics believe that their own church officials (contemporary or ancient) have a right to make rules that every Christian should follow, and they make big claims that the rules were from God. The Roman Catholics writing on this thread seem to have little if any knowledge of the Orthodox Church, and they claim all power and righteousness for themselves.

    Me – you have shown us a complete ignorance of the Catholic Church and I’m not sure you know that much about the Orthodox.

    Tell – Hypocritical Roman Catholic priests have denounced the beliefs of other Christians (being on their high horses) while simultaneously committing pedophilia within a Roman Catholic setting.

    Me – Let see if this proves something. Hypocritical Protestants/Orthodox ministers, elders, priest have have denounced Catholic beliefs (being on their high horses) while simultaneously committing pedophilia within their a Christian setting. Wow!!! you are good!!!

    Tell – The pedophilia was known about and covered up by the Roman Catholic Church. Members of the Church trusted the rules and regulations that their Roman Catholic superiors gave them, and they didn’t ask too many questions when they were told that pedophilia was not a problem. A media frenzy exploded, uncovering this tragedy that was a result of church members following the rules of the church blindly, and without asking questions. A tremendous number of children were harmed, and it was the fault of the Roman Catholic priests and the Roman Catholic community that tried to cover it up. This was not a Christ centered church.

    Me – Are you saying that any church that has covers crimes and has any evil within it’s wall is not a Christ centered church? Please point me to your pure Christian centered community so we can all join. I guess the original Christians might be suspect with Judas and all.

    Tell – The Orthodox Church is alive and well, never having fallen into the traps that the Roman Catholic Church has made for themselves.

    Me – Really??? Maybe you should of done some research…ignorance is bliss.

    Tell – Protestantism is a direct result of choices that the Roman Catholics made.

    Me – Correct. Even a blind squirrel will find a nut once in a while.

    Tell – However, Roman Catholics often attack Protestants verbally for not blindly following the teachings of a so-called infallible pope, and so-called infallible church rules. This thread is a good example.

    Me – Kind of like you are doing to Catholics right now? We can find plenty of people from different denominations (even Orthodox) who act like this way. Can you point to someone other than De Maria who has verbally questioned someone for not “blindly following the teachings of a so-called infallible pope, and so-called infallible church rules”?

    You are a good example of someone who feels the need to lie to get to your “truth”.

    Tell – Roman Catholics on this thread and elsewhere conveniently forget about the true origins of the church and now claim that the Orthodox Church is somehow a “sister” church to Roman Catholicism. The Orthodox Church, however, sees itself as the one holy, “Catholic,” apostolic church established by Christ. The Orthodox Church rejects any notion of papal supremacy and infallibility that the break-away Roman Catholics claim.

    Me – What’s the point of your rant???? If Orthodox is the true church don’t aren’t you basically saying everyone else is not 100% correct?

  17. I will happily answer questions that were addressed to me. This will take a long time. I won’t have much time for another similar response after this. My purpose in writing the first post was mainly to make certain people aware of the Orthodox Church since many Roman Catholics (including the author of the above article) claim that the Roman Catholic Church originated the Christian Church. This is incorrect, and if you look at historical sources outside of Roman Catholicism you will find that what I am writing is true.

    Secondly, I wrote above about history because I have been witness to many Roman Catholics scorning Protestant Churches with an attitude of superiority. Often Roman Catholics tell Protestants why they are wrong and why the Roman Catholics are right. The reasons that are given usually include a statement that the Roman Catholic Church is somehow better because it was the first Church. It is wrong to treat fellow Christians in such a manner of distain and it is also wrong that historical falsities are given. If you feel contempt for me based on what I wrote (someone above claimed I would cause contempt) then that is disappointing.

    I was asked “What, Where, When” with regards to when the Orthodox Church was established and the first pope came along. The Orthodox Church was founded on the Day of Holy Pentecost in Jerusalem in 33 AD. This happened only 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our true God. The first major Bishops of the Church (also known as Patriarchs) have remained Orthodox up until the present time. They include the Patriarchs of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, and Constantinople. Later, other Patriarchs developed. The Roman Catholic Church broke away from the Orthodox Church in 1054 because the Patriarch of Rome at that time made wrongful claims of authority over the entire Church. After that the Roman Catholic Church created their own teachings that were completely out of line with what the ancient Church had taught. Some of these teachings include: the Doctrine of Infallibility of the Pope, the idea of purgatory, the prospect of indulgences, clergy marital status, and much more.

    By the way, it was 1522 when Martin Luther founded Lutheranism. So, it took 1,021 years before the Roman Catholics decided that a pope should lead their new Church and that fundamental teachings of the church should be changed. Once Roman Catholicism broke away it only took 468 years for certain Roman Catholics to complain about corruption within the Roman Catholic Church and the whistle blowers were then promptly excommunicated and called Protestants.

    Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk who wanted to change concepts like “indulgences” back to what the Church originally taught before the Roman Catholics broke away from the Ancient Church and began making their own, quite different teachings. Luther wanted changes to be made within the Roman Catholic Church and he had no plans to found a new Church. However, like others who made complaints about wrongful teachings and corruption, he was brought before the Diet of Worms and excommunicated. It was after he was excommunicated that he founded Lutheranism, and urged Christians to learn to read so that they could see for themselves what was actually written in the Bible (and not dictated from a Church, along with ideas about indulgences, etc.)

    The Vatican is a city-state that has immensely more power than the Orthodox Church. The pope is at the top of a pyramidal structure. The corruption that happens at the top stains the rest of the church. The Orthodox Churches are independent in their administration, yet they are in full communion with one another. Therefore, if greed or corruption affects one of the Orthodox areas the other areas are separate and not as much affected as in Roman Catholicism.

    If you don’t believe that corruption (not necessarily violence, as someone assumed) and problems (like pedophilia-cover-ups) continue to affect the Roman Catholic Church then I recommend visiting the website of the New York Times or Huffington Post and you will see a long list of articles. You won’t get an accurate story if you only look at Roman Catholic news. Once you do a search on regular news sites under Catholicism and Corruption do the same for Protestantism and the Orthodox Church. You will see a big difference in the number of articles about corruption for each of these religions, with the Roman Catholic Church having the lion’s share (by far) of articles about corruption. A Church that willingly and purposely covers up crimes like pedophilia has serious problems at the very top.

    If the top of the Church is not Christ centered then it is still possible for people lower in the hierarchy to be good Christians, but overall, such crimes stain the Church throughout. Judas was only one man who betrayed our Lord. The corruption within the Roman Catholic Church involves many people, and a large, powerful city-state.

    I was accused of “lying to get to your truth,” accusing Roman Catholicism of not being a “true religion,” and of myself accusing Roman Catholics of being “evil.” I never stated any of that. If you think that is what I meant then you misunderstood what I wrote. By standing up for other Christians who are being spoken to as if they are inferior (Protestants), and by noticing and commenting about corruption within a Church I am simply stating what I see and condemning that behavior. I also would like Roman Catholics to be more aware of their own (and our shared) Church history rather than making claims that Roman Catholicism was the first Church. I do not intend to drive anyone away from being a Christian, and no one should question their personal Christian faith from reading what I have written. My intention, rather, is to drive Christians to work hard to do better in Christ’s name. What can we ALL do to make the universal Church better?

    Do I believe that Roman Catholicism is a true church? I believe as Saint Irenaeous said, where the spirit of God is, there is the Church. We can see the visible Church, but it is not possible for humans to see where the Spirit of God may be.

    All of the Christians reading this have core common beliefs that connect us. We must come together in this age and support one another as followers of Christ Jesus. There is much evil in this world (Isis, etc.) and if there is such a focus on bickering among Christian believers we will not be focusing on the works that our Savior called us to do. How about featuring a new article on this website that focuses on good works that Christians of various backgrounds do together?

    1. Tell it as it is,

      Your history here is quite wrong. You claim that Constantinople was one of the original Patriarchates. It wasn’t. It was much later than the other four, and its sole claim to authority was its tie to Rome. All of the Pentarchy are connected to Petrine-Roman authority. Jerusalem, Antioch, and Rome are the three Sees founded by St. Peter; Alexandria is the See founded by Peter’s disciple, St. Mark; and Constantinople was engrafted as the “New Rome,” but (explicitly!) second in honor and authority to the true Rome.

      As for the idea that the first popes were in 1054, I’ve never read anyone who holds that position. There were Eastern Christians complaining about papal authority for centuries before 1054… how could that be, if the popes weren’t already claiming authority?

      Read up on your history. Pope St. Clement I in the 90s A.D. intervened in the internal affairs in the church of Corinth, while St. John the Apostle was still alive. Pope St. Victor I, who died in 199 A.D., excommunicated all of Asia Minor for their refusal to use the Roman dating for Easter (dating that was later affirmed and codified by the First Council of Nicaea). And in the 220s, St. Irenaeus of Lyons explains that Apostolic succession — and particularly the lineage of popes — can be used to disprove heresies.

      From Book III of Against Heresies,

      “Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops.”

      Now, you might be wondering what a bishop of Lyons would be affirming the authority of the Bishop of Rome, rather than his own authority, but Irenaeus explains: “For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.”

      He then gives us a full and complete listing of the popes from Peter down to the 220s (when he’s writing):

      “3. The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spoke with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand the tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.”

      So the idea that the papacy emerged in the eleventh century is off by about a millennium.

  18. Father Dwight Longenecker, former Anglican priest now Roman Catholic, writes fondly of Episcopalians (“Proud Episcopalians Defiant”, January 15, 2016):

    Bishop Curry’s definition of “loyal members of the Anglican Communion” must be somewhat flexible. In fact, there are now about 150 different Anglican style churches which are “not in communion”. You can go here to sample them.

    Some of these churches are fairly large, affluent and international. Some are tiny. Most are run by schismatic lunatics whose proto cathedral is in their Aunt Mildred’s garage.

    When one really looks hard at the Episcopal Church why should they be regarded differently than any of the other 150 or so Anglican style churches?

    These churches “not in communion” are known for renegade prelates who do whatever they like and hold whatever unorthodox opinions they like. Their known for having wacky ideas and the idee fixe that they are the right ones and nobody else could possibly be right. They are religious eccentrics who often have a persecution complex, a dodgy academic history, an obsession with the “validity of their orders”, a fondness for titles of dignity, a touching vanity of grandeur, and a taste in outlandish vestments.

    Seems Episcopalian to me.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2016/01/proud-episcopalians-defiant.html

    The same can be said of Protestants in general. Wackiness is not considered a defect in theology. What can be more wacky than see Christians who profess to believe in nothing but the Bible (sola scriptura), the very Bible that forbids private interpretations of scripture (2 Peter 1:20), yet interpret it privately all the time?

    If wackiness were only a laughing matter, it could br tolerated for entertainment value. But Protestant wackiness is destructive of the virtue of faith and Christian unity. Nothing destroys faith than to put oneself as the final judge and arbiter of scripture. And nothing destroys Christian unity than to have many competing judges and arbiters of scripture.

    These are days when you don’t know whether you should laugh or cry….

  19. like it or not the catholics made the bible, yes they didn’t contribute to scripture but definatley they chose the books that went in to the christen canon during the early day of the church (catholic church) ,it was said to be a political process.There several books which were inspired for example the book of the revalation of peter and the book of enoch but did not make it into the canon.Some even add on to say that the making/ choosing of the books had the presence of the holy spirit to make our canon perfect. But even though it seems the bible can be used for anything in terms of miss interprating it and only using it without the regard of acknowledging other scripture.Paul himself said that religion without tradition is damned in other words there is nothing you are doing. Can I end by saying it says that one must listen to scriture(not the bible or the new canon).

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