How Do We Know Ignatius’ Letters are Genuine?

St. Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of the Apostle John, wrote a series of letters somewhere about c. 107-110, en route to his martyrdom in Rome. These letters are richly Catholic, so much so that the Reformer John Calvin was convinced that they couldn’t be authentic. I mentioned this on the radio recently, and a listener wrote in to ask:

I heard you on Catholic Answers yesterday, and enjoyed the informative show. I am a Protestant far along on the road into the Catholic Church. I heard your message about Ignatius of Antioch and The Real Presence, and his letter to Smyrna on the road to his martyrdom. Then I read his letter to the Smyrnaeans.

Your blog noted John Calvin calling the letter to the Smyrnaeans into question, as if it were not authentic. I too am a lawyer and am eager to know more about the authenticity of the letter to the Smyrnaeans concerning the Eucharist. The letter is compelling on its own. The letter, if authentic, is doubly compelling given Calvin’s response to it.

Can you shed light on the question of the letter’s authenticity please? What are those proofs?

I’d be happy to, but I have to warn you that this story has a lot of twists and turns.

I. The Three Collections of Ignatius’ Letters

There were false letters claiming to be from St. Ignatius of Antioch (you can read them here, if you would like, but again: they’re spurious). These forgeries are themselves ancient, so Catholics and Orthodox for centuries believed that Ignatius of Antioch had written 13 letters. Protestants, including Calvin, often rejected all 13, since they seemed too Catholic. Today, nearly everyone agrees that there are 7 letters (called the “Middle Recension”) which were altered in the late fourth century (creating what’s called the “Long Recension,” a blend of real and pseudo-Ignatius). So here’s the threefold distinction:

  1. Long Recension – These were the 13 letters attributed to Ignatius of Antioch. Copies of this Long Recension are found in both Greek and Latin. It includes both altered versions of Ignatius’ actual letters and entirely-spurious letters.
  2. Middle Recension – These are the seven Ignatian letters now recognized, nearly-universally, as authentic.
  3. Short Recension – There are Syriac collections with very abbreviated versions of Ignatius’ letters. These were likely just translations / summaries into Syriac. (You don’t need to know about this, but I just include it for the sake of thoroughness).

Roger Pearse explains:

In the Greek manuscript tradition we find numerous manuscripts of a collection of 13 letters attributed to Ignatius of Antioch, the apostolic father.  This is known as the long recension; for 7 of these letters have reached us, but only just, in a handful of manuscripts in a shorter version, which we will refer to as the short version.  The differences between the two seem to relate to late 4th century theological arguments, with an Apollinarian or Arian tinge.  Finally there is a Syriac epitome of 3 of the letters, and I have seen a reference in Aphram Barsoum to Syriac texts of other letters.

The Anglican J.B. Lightfoot, no great fan of Catholic (whom he terms “Romanists”) nevertheless concedes that “throughout the thirteen letters the same doctrines are maintained, the same heresies assailed, and the same theological terms employed. In this respect no difference can be traced between the two sets of epistles.” So while there may have been theological reasons (responding to the Apollinarian or Arian heresies) for the forgery of the additional 6 letters, nothing theological (between Catholics and Protestants) turns on these spurious letters. Anything that Protestants would object to in the six false letters is also found in the seven genuine letters.

In other words, the fact that the Middle Recension is authentic should give Protestants serious pause, since it disproves many Protestant theories about the nature of the early Church.

II. Jaroslav Pelikan on the Scholarly History

Jaroslav Pelikan (1923-2006) was a Lutheran pastor, scholar and historian who, in 1998, converted to Eastern Orthodox. Nearly three decades before that, in 1969, he wrote a book called Development of Christian Doctrine: Some Historical Prolegomena. In it, he has an honest and relatively-detailed history of the controversy over the letters of Ignatius. He shows how the discovery and confirmation of the seven authentic Ignatian letters owes a great deal to Protestant scholars willing to follow the evidence wherever it led, even when it undermined their own theology or views of Church history. Although I agree with the vast majority of what he says, I want to nuance a couple of points, so I’ve added a few footnotes of my own [I’ve also removed his own extensive footnotes, which are present at the link for anyone interested]:

A brief reference to two celebrated instances from the history of philological research in the fathers during the past one hundred years will illustrate some of the subtle interrelations between denominational loyalty and historical-literary investigation.

The first is the question of the authenticity of the traditional version of the seven epistles of Ignatius of Antioch. In the first edition of Newman’s Essay these epistles were the chief proof for the development of “theological science” during the period immediately after the apostles. The epistles have been transmitted in three divergent manuscript traditions. The generally accepted text or “middle recension” of the seven epistles is represented in such witnesses as the so-called Medici manuscript in Florence, although this important manuscript happens to contain only six of the seven epistles in Greek. The “long recension,” present in both Greek and Latin manuscripts, is an extremely expanded version of the seven epistles, with several epistles added. There is also a recension much shorter than the first, available in a Syriac translation.

It has been agreed since Ussher [James Ussher, 1581-1656, Anglo-Irish bishop and scholar] that many of the other epistles circulating under the name of Ignatius during the Middle Ages were not authentic. But there has been no such agreement on the authenticity of the received text of the seven epistles of Ignatius. Because this text showed such an advanced stage of doctrinal development in its emphasis on the hierarchical nature of the Church and made such explicit reference to the authority of the bishop, certain Protestant scholars insisted that this version could not have been written by Ignatius, who died during or shortly after the first decade of the second century, perhaps as early as 107. Most Roman Catholic scholars, on the other hand, “maintained the authenticity and integrity of the twelve epistles of the Long Recension.” Each side began with a set of presuppositions and decided the question of authenticity in a way that was consistent with these. [1]

But it was not quite that simple. For while the polemical historians were exchanges theses, antitheses, and hypotheses, other historians were patiently at work sorting out the documentary evidence and drawing reasonable conclusions from it. John Pearson, an Anglican scholar, published in 1672 a careful defense of the authenticity of all seven epistles, which had been attacked by the French Calvinist, Jean Daillé. In 1845, the same year as Newman’s Essay, the conflict over the Ignatian epistles erupted again, as a result of the discovery and publication by the Anglican scholar, William Cureton, of the Syriac version of three epistles of Ignatius – those to Polycarp, to the Ephesians, and to the Romans – which were the only epistles he was willing to acknowledge as authentic. Once more, other Protestants joined the campaign against the traditional version of the epistles while Roman Catholics defended it, both sides on confessional grounds; and Newman was moved to write his provocative epigram: “The interpolated Epistles… are too Scriptural to be Apostolic.” [2]

Again it was Protestant historical scholarship that vindicated the authenticity of the seven epistles. Theodor Zahn, an orthodox Lutheran, published his defense in 1873. And from 1885 to 1889, Joseph B. Lightfoot, by then the Anglican bishop of Durham, wrote the definitive analysis of the evidence, together with a detailed history of the research into it. The highly developed hierarchical conceptions of the bishop of Antioch were not at all congenial to Zahn, nor even to Bishop Lightfoot, just as, for that matter, the omission of references to the primacy of the bishop of Rome in the epistles of Ignatius was a puzzle to his Roman Catholic interpreters.[3] But both Zahn and Lightfoot developed their literary, textual, and historical analysis with such careful attention to methodology and sound scholarship that there is now virtually unanimous acceptance of the seven epistles in their middle recension. The dispute was not settled by a priori theories about doctrinal development on either side, but by philological history and honest historical research into the facts of the development.

1. I’d be cautious about making too much of the symmetry that Pelikan leans on, because there’s an important difference: the Catholic claim would certainly be aided if some of the pseudo-Ignatian letters turned out to be genuine, but no Catholic claim relied upon them. In contrast, the authenticity of the seven letters of the Middle Recession really does invalidate Protestant claims about the nature of the early Church.

2. Cardinal Newman’s argument is actually a great counter-example to the pattern that Pelikan describes, in which Protestants and Catholics decide the case based on whether it helps or hurts them. Newman argued that sometimes the evidence was just too good to be true, saying in his An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine:

“Thus it is possible to have too much evidence; that is, evidence so full or exact as to throw suspicion over the case for which it is adduced. The genuine Epistles of St. Ignatius contain none of those ecclesiastical terms, such as ‘Priest’ or ‘See,’ which are so frequent afterwards; and they quote Scripture sparingly. The interpolated Epistles quote it largely; that is, they are too Scriptural to be Apostolic.”

3. Actually, in the authentic version of Ignatius’ letter to the Romans, he refers to the church of Rome as the church “worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of obtaining her every desire, worthy of being deemed holy, and which presides over love” (or “presiding in love”). This is less explicit than the sort of papal description given later in the second century (c. 180) by St. Irenaeus of Lyons, but it’s hardly on the level of ‘puzzling omission.’

III. J.B. Lightfoot on the Scholarly History

Pelikan mentioned how important J.B. Lightfoot was for the authentication of seven Ignatian letters. Lightfoot (1828-89) was an Anglican bishop and has been described as “the most famous New Testament scholar of the 19th century in the English-speaking world.  His commentaries on Paul’s letters in the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers are especially well-known.” It is in his commentary on the Apostolic Fathers that he goes into this question. His point is mostly to show that the Longer Recension is wrong, but in the process, he defends the Middle Recension:

To the critical genius of Ussher [James Ussher, 1581-1656, Anglo-Irish bishop and scholar] belongs the honour of restoring the true Ignatius. As I have already stated [], he observed that the quotations of this father in certain English writers from the thirteenth century onward agreed with those of the ancients, and he divined that in England, if anywhere, copies of the original form of these epistles would be found. He made search accordingly, and his search was successful. He discovered two Latin MSS [manuscripts], containing a text of which the Long Recension was obviously an expansion, and agreeing exactly with the quotations in Eusebius [c.260-c.340, considered the first Church historian], Theodoret [393-c. 466, bishop and theologian], and others. There could be no doubt then, that this Latin translation represented the Ignatius known to the fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries. But the Greek text was still unknown; and Ussher could only restore it from the Long Recension with the aid of his newly discovered Latin version, by lopping off the excrescences and otherwise altering to bring it into conformity thereto.

Ussher’s book appeared in the year 1644. Altogether it showed not only marvellous erudition, but also the highest critical genius. It was however marred by one blot. Though Eusebius mentions seven epistles of S. Ignatius, Ussher would only receive six. The exception was the Epistle to Polycarp, which he condemned as spurious. […] This part of Ussher’s theory was almost universally rejected, as it deserved to be; but his main argument was irrefragable, and those who have since attempted to reinstate the Long Recension have beaten their heads against a stone wall.

As yet however the original Greek of the Middle Recension was not forthcoming. Ussher had heard of a MS [manuscript] in the Medicean Library at Florence, which promised to supply the deficiency, but had not succeeded in getting a transcript. The discovery however was not long delayed. Two years after the appearance of Ussher’s work, Isaac Voss published six out of the seven epistles of the Middle Recension from this Florentine MS; which the absence of the seventh – the Epistle to the Romans – was easily accounted for by the fact that the MS was imperfect at the end, so that this epistle (as in the corresponding Latin) must have been incorporated in the Acts of the Martyrdom of the saint, with which the volume would close, and both together must have disappeared with the missing sheets. About half a century later the missing Greek Acts of Ignatius with the incorporated Epistle to the Romans were discovered in a MS belonging to the Colbert collection [] and published by Ruinart (Paris A.D. 1689) in his Acta Martyrum Sincera. Thus the Greek text of the seven epistles of the Middle Recension was completed.

So you can see how the Ignatian letters were authenticated: first, by carefully looking at how other Church Fathers (and later writers) quoted these texts. That gave us a sense of what the texts must have looked like at the time. This then led to a hunt for the unaltered texts, which quickly led to their discovery in Latin in the Medici’s library in Florence, followed by Greek versions of the same unaltered letters.

IV. Why This Matters

So what does all of this mean, practically-speaking? The Reformers weren’t unreasonable in rejecting Ignatius’ letters, given what they knew in the 16th century. Counterfeit letters existed, and the Humanist scholars of the Renaissance had discovered that many letters long assumed to be from the Church Fathers were actually forgeries.  As we’ve seen, there were even counterfeit letters of St. Ignatius mixed in with his real letters. So it’s easy to see why someone like Calvin would laugh off citations to Ignatius as a joke.

But now we know to a high degree of certainty, on the basis of careful scholarship and critical analysis, that these seven letters of Ignatius are authentic. This means that the Bishop of Antioch, a disciple of the last living Apostle (John), really did write somewhere about 107-110 to say things like this, condemning the Gnostics for not believing that the Eucharist was really the Flesh of Jesus Christ:

They [the Gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again. It is fitting, therefore, that you should keep aloof from such persons, and not to speak of them either in private or in public, but to give heed to the prophets, and above all, to the Gospel, in which the passion [of Christ] has been revealed to us, and the resurrection has been fully proved. But avoid all divisions, as the beginning of evils.

And this, calling for all Christians (upon risk of damnation) to be in total union with the bishop, and celebrate the Eucharist only within his communion:

Keep yourselves from those evil plants which Jesus Christ does not tend, because they are not the planting of the Father. Not that I have found any division among you, but exceeding purity. For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion [of Christ.].

Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth ] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever you do, you may do it according to [the will of] God.

And this, distinguishing between bishops and presbyters (a distinction denied by Calvin and by many modern Protestants):

For, since you are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, you may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as you indeed do, so without the bishop you should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall [at last] be found. It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all.

Many Protestants make historical claims about how Christ founded the pure, Apostolic Church but that this Church slowly fell away from the truth: either after Constantine legalized Christianity in the fourth century, or during the so-called “Dark Ages,” etc., then corruption slowly crept in. The Apostolic Church, it is claimed, had a body of “presbyter-bishops,” governing the church by committee. These committees were slowly replaced by individual bishops (even though we have no record of a single church recording such a takeover!); meanwhile, superstitions like the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist crept in.

Ignatius shows that all of these historical claims are pure fiction. Ignatius isn’t inventing belief in the Real Presence or in the distinction between the bishop and presbyters, or about the necessity to be in union with the visible Church (in the person of the bishop) for salvation. He’s speaking to people who already believe this, and speaking to them within a few years of the death of the Apostle John.

For Protestants to be right on these questions, we would have to assume that (a) the Church fell into heresy almost immediately and universally after the death of St. John, and (b) that modern Protestants understand Apostolic theology better than the men who sat at the feet of the Apostles. But those assumptions beggar belief. So we now know what Calvin did not: that his beliefs about the early Church are demonstrably false, and point to the fact that his theology is demonstrably false.

251 Comments

  1. One could ask whether the impetus behind the development of sola scriptura may have been an attempt to wall off the influence of the church fathers. St. Ignatius is certainly not alone in recording clearly the theology, practices, and structure of the catholic/Catholic church from its creation, which protestants necessarily needed to alter, re-define, or altogether abandon.

    1. I would gently suggest that this is a rather uncharitable interpretation of Luther et al. It also runs into a bit of a problem of motivation: what, exactly, was the Reformer’s objective?

      Or in other words – as a Protestant, I can give a very clear chain of events here: the Reformers are convinced of the superior authority of Scripture, and on that grounds they are compelled to reject the abuses of the church of their day. In other words, their actions start with a theological motive (“This is not what Christ wants for us, as per his self-revelation”) and everything flows from there. They might, of course, be mistaken in this conviction – but one can understand why they did what they did given that conviction.

      On the other hand, if sola Scriptura is effect rather than cause, I have trouble accounting for their motives without alleging sinister conspiracy. If they needed the superiority of Scripture to justify their condemnation of Rome… well, why were they condemning Rome in the first place? Did the deaths of Wycliffe and Hus suggest that this was a particularly solid long-term plan? What motive (setting aside things that reduce to, in the modern parlance, “for the evulz”) can we possibly allege?

      It seems rather more plausible to take their arguments at face value as sincere – if possibly misguided – attempts to honor what they saw as God’s primary revelation.

      1. I don’t see where, in this article, you find uncharitable interpretation. The second sentence of Section IV: Why This Matters says, “The Reformers weren’t unreasonable in rejecting Ignatius’ letters, given what they knew in the 16th century.” I didn’t notice any motivation being ascribed to the reformers in this article. Which part of this article do you think is uncharitable?

        1. Patrick,

          I didn’t mean that as a criticism of the article at all – my comments are a reply to, and a critique of, Mike’s post specifically (my post is nested under his, if that helps to clarify). If you see my looooong remarks down below, I start off by thanking Joe for being even-handed in his post.

      2. Luther and his kin surely knew, at a minimum, that early church history and tradition were potentially formidable barriers to the theology being proffered. So the choices were to try and address all the inconsistencies between the new theology and 1500 years of history and tradition, or find a way to limit the debate evidence. The choice seems to have been to try and limit the evidence to a single source, and where possible, even trim out some of that evidence if necessary.
        One would think that if the concept of limiting theological proof to the Scriptures was required or even implied by scripture, it would have been recognized and debated during the first 1500 years of church history.

        1. Mike –

          What new or inconsistent theology do you think was officially being offered by Rome? Luther and Calvin attacked the Church at its heart which was it’s authority itself. Get rid of the Mass and its authority disappears.

          I don’t deny a political/administrative reformation was necessary, but those problems weren’t the result of bad theology.

          1. Mike is talking about the new theology that was being offered by the Reformers. Mike is criticizing the Reformers, not Rome.

          2. Excuse my lack of clarity. The theology bring proffered was a reference to a new ‘reformist’ Protestant theology. The advancement of the new tenets being developed by Luther >i>et al, required a methodology that would eliminate, or at least wall off long standing Catholic traditions and history that stood in opposition to the new theology. It would be impossible to convince followers to abandon scripture, so the next best option would be to limit the scope of permissible evidence to scripture.

          3. Edit button Edit button…..
            Excuse my lack of clarity. The theology being proffered was a reference to a new ‘reformist’ Protestant theology. The advancement of the new tenets being developed by Luther et al, required a methodology that would eliminate, or at least wall off long standing Catholic traditions and history that stood in opposition to the new theology. It would be impossible to convince followers to abandon scripture, so the next best option would be to limit the scope of permissible evidence to scripture.

        2. Hi Mike,

          Yes, you are spot on. In his defense of his new theology, Luther did not appeal to one Church Father as having believed the viewpoint that he held. He realized none of them taught sola fide, which is why he said this:

          Augustine has sometimes erred and is not to be trusted. Although good and holy, he was yet lacking in the true faith, as well as the other fathers…But when the door was opended for me in Paul, so that I understood what justification by faith is, it was all over with Augustine. (Luther’s Works 54, 49)

        3. Mike,

          I think I’ve made the case in comments to recent blog posts that, indeed, it was presented in the first 1500 years – Cyril of Jerusalem being one standout example.

          But I don’t think you’ve answered my question: what’s the motive, in this theory? What is it that’s leading them to argue for different theology in the first place, if sola scriptura is just the smokescreen? Luther is convinced that he needs to risk ending up with Jan Hus, because… what?

          1. I was not arguing that sola scriptura was a smokescreen. I was suggesting that it was a device intended to emasculate the evidence present in factual Catholic history and Tradition.

            Can one in good faith argue that Luther, Calvin and others did not spend a great deal of time, thought, and evaluation in developing their theology? Surely in that course of evolution, the high hurdle of Catholic history and Tradition was assessed and evaluated. What better and more efficient way to address that ‘problem’ than to mandate that the scope of theological scrutiny shall not stray beyond the Scriptures?

          2. Hi Mike,

            I was not arguing that sola scriptura was a smokescreen. I was suggesting that it was a device intended to emasculate the evidence present in factual Catholic history and Tradition.

            Well, that’s exactly what I mean when I say you’re presenting it as a smokescreen. It isn’t, you say, that they were sincerely persuaded that this doctrine was true; it’s that they found it a useful device to tilt debates.

            I think that’s uncharitable. And it still doesn’t address my question: what is it, if not their view of Scripture, that drives them to disagree with the RCC in the first place?

          3. I may be wrong. I often am.
            But my reading of protestant history (slanted perhaps by my Southern Baptist upbringing) is that sola scriptura was not a sudden epiphanic discovery upon which the planks of the new theology were laid. SS instead seemed primarily important later, as a limitation to the debate on his initial theses, e.g. indulgences, and only later, on the topics of justification and salvation.

            In other words, Luther’s disquiet and objections to specific theology, in particular to magisterial authority, appear to have come before the idea that man can confidently rely only on the Scriptures. Perhaps Luther’s entire theology grew from a seed of sola scriptura, but in my admittedly limited reading of Luther, I don’t find that be the case.

          4. All depends on definition of SS. Catholics believe their doctrines and traditions are grounded in scripture. The issue is how SS is used for authority IMO. Man’s personal interpretation under Luther’s SS vs Rome.

            If Rome is who she claims to be then SS, as defined by Luther, is evil since it replaces Rome with man. Satan doesn’t use frontal attacks per se, he’s the Prince of Lies and his greatest trick is getting people to accept lies as truth.

          5. Mike,

            But that still doesn’t answer the question: what inspires the original theological objection embodied in the theses? If you take away the obvious, self-professed motive of the reformers, it seems like you need to be able to replace it with something.

          6. Irked –

            How are their motives any different than that of Joseph Smith? An empty head but pure heart shouldn’t excuse error that has guided hundreds of millions of soul away from Rome.

            The geo-political forces were far more powerful than Luther and Calvin that allowed the reformation to stick. For example, Germany was now free from the priestly tax, the culture was now in more control of its statehood and divorce was now redefined. Money, sex and power are powerful drivers than mere logic. The Reformers were the first political liberals to use the state to, whether knowingly or not, enforce their beliefs.

  2. You hit the nail on the head at the end:

    “For Protestants to be right on these questions, we would have to assume that (a) the Church fell into heresy almost immediately and universally after the death of St. John”

    I have seen Protestants argue this.

    “(b) that modern Protestants understand Apostolic theology better than the men who sat at the feet of the Apostles.”

    I have also heard this.

    I have a higher view of our brothers and sisters in Christ now in glory to affirm A and B is of the utmost arrogance and insanity (how can you know the Bible better than an associate of an Apostle) that it does not warrant further mention.

    God bless,
    Craig

    P.S. May I add the Syriac also contains doctrinal continuity with the middle recession.

  3. I see the Protestant dilemma regarding truths found in Early Church literature, such as the Letters of Ignatius, in more of a sociological than theological light. If we look at an analysis of Ignatius with purely just eyes, as we should being Christians (…ie.., we have no ulterior motives that we are trying to justify in our minds enough to skew the interpretation, or judgement, of that history), then we can understand the letters simply as they were written, and come to a conclusion such as Lightfoot (and Joe) did regarding their authenticity and content. But when we have ulterior motives, for instance, even as we see in politics today play out between mainstream media and President Trump, we can see how the interpretation of almost any data can be skewed and turned to portray the view that the political party or media wants, resulting in the currently famous expression of “fake news”. This is why I think the Protestant interpretations of the early Church are more sociological, or political, than theological, because they start with the objective of destroying the Traditional Church by ‘cherry picking’ segments of Church history to fit only into their particular theories, ignoring the context of much of the rest of that same history at the same time. Again, this is like the Russophobia fanaticism being pushed today by the Democrats, liberals, CNN broadcasts, and others, where they are so focused on destroying Trump, that they will interpret any normal interaction between the US and Russia as a proof of collusion, or treason, worthy of impeachment. To them, no normal or fraternal diplomatic interaction is possible, it will always be seen as a meeting of enemies against the liberal agenda.

    So, Protestantism is similar. A completely negative viewpoint will be given to all things Catholic, even before considering very common sense, and historical proofs, demonstrating the reasonability of Catholic doctrine and practice. They’ll ‘strain out a knat and swallow a camel’, so-to-say, wanting only a sliver of proof (knat) from any historical source, no matter how Catholic that source may be, to defend their negative claims against the validity of the Church, all the while ignoring the context of centuries of Christian history and doctrinal development that clearly supports the Catholic position.

    In this it is also similar to the story of the prodigal son, that Jesus taught in His parable. This son was so blinded by his worldly desires and pleasures that he neglected the important (fourth) commandment to ‘honor thy father and mother’. He was blinded by all of the charity that his father and mother had provided him in his life, and without which care he would not have even survived to adolescence. But, this son could not consider this historical truth, because of his own egoism and addictions to vice. He was blinded to the fact that in ‘justice’ love and honor was owed to his parents by the fact that in loving and caring for him throughout his childhood, the parents provided the son something he could never repay, and without which he would not even be alive. But, when a person like this son is blinded by such truths, history doesn’t have any value, only the present day. And so history can be overlooked, or reinterpreted, and this same son can recall only the negative things that the parents might have done for him (and forgetting the positive), thereby justifying his reason for a separation.

    And I see the same with much in Protestantism. The Catholic Church is the historical ‘parent’ and ‘Mother Church’, of all Christianity. We only need to read Eusebius’ Church History (310 AD) to understand this. And without this Catholic Church their would be no Protestantism, nor Bible, nor conversion of nations, nor historical Christian literature to study (…because it was the Catholic Church that preserved them throughout the centuries). But, like the ‘Prodigal Son’, the Protestants will ignore this history, and even the careful centuries long preservation of this history, and try to invent a new one. Like the Prodigal Son, and the ‘anti-Trumpers’, they will use almost any excuse to ignore, or alter to their benefit, the truths found in Church history, so as to promote their own theological positions, weak though those positions may be.

    Just my opinion.

    1. Hi Al,
      Just catching up on reading. Your analogy of parents (Catholic Church) to the child (Protestant) with reference to the prodigal son? Awesome.

      One caveat: I have lately become uncharitable to non-Catholics. One question: You say that Protestantism has theological positions. What exactly are those beyond Sola scriptura and Sola fide. I simply seem to read and hear a lot of mumbo-jumbo hocus-pocus. That sola is very lonely as it seems to exclude the fullness of God’s great beauty in his Church (Eucharist).

  4. Joe,

    Just wanted to say first that I appreciated your notes that Protestants worked to establish the authenticity of Ignatius’s letters, and that indeed, it was reasonable in Calvin’s time to be highly skeptical of them. Christians of all stripes have had to judge the authenticity of ancient works as best they could from the evidence they had at the time, and Christians of all stripes have sometimes concluded wrong; thanks for not suggesting that this is a defect uniquely found in Protestantism.

    Anyway. Moving on to the latter portion of your article:

    This means that the Bishop of Antioch, a disciple of the last living Apostle (John), really did write somewhere about 107-110 to say things like this, condemning the Gnostics for not believing that the Eucharist was really the Flesh of Jesus Christ:

    They [the Gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again.

    As you note, Ignatius writes against Docetism, a branch of Gnosticism; expanding on that, the Docetics denied that Christ had come physically to earth (because obviously all physical things are evil!). Their argument, then, was not particularly concerned with transubstantiation – rather, it was against the idea that there was even such a thing as the physical body of Christ. And it’s in this context, following a letter aimed squarely at Docetism, that Ignatius says what he does: these people, because they do not accept the physicality of Christ’s earthly life, are also driven away from the most basic practices of the Christian church.

    It’s certainly possible to read Ignatius as referencing an explicit belief in transubstantiation. I think it’s also reasonable to read it as him echoing Christ’s statement of “This is my flesh” and assuming that the reader would understand his words here in the same way as they did Christ’s. This doesn’t answer the question of whether that reader would believe that Christ was describing a symbol, a real presence, a literal transformation, etc. – it isn’t, in other words, a proof that Ignatius is not teaching transubstantiation – but it does give us reason to be hesitant in asserting that he’s doing anything but echoing Christ’s words.

    (“But Christ himself taught transubstantiation with those words!” is an entirely fair reply, but one that makes Ignatius rather irrelevant to the conversation.)

    As is often the case in the early church, for every point of distinction between our denominations, we can find fathers whose remarks seem to tilt in both our directions. If Ignatius seems to lean towards transubstantiation, what then do we say of Tertullian? Writing a generation later, against the same enemies, Tertullian says in Against Marcion that, “Having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, Jesus made it His own body, by saying, ‘This is My body…”

    … and thus far, he sounds exactly like Ignatius did! But Tertullian clarifies, adding, “that is, the symbol of My body. There could not have been a symbol, however, unless there was first a true body,” emphasis mine. If it is unbelievable that Ignatius could say what he says unless the early church generally accepted transubstantiation, surely it is equally unbelievable that Tertullian could say what he did unless they did not.

    Many Protestants make historical claims about how Christ founded the pure, Apostolic Church but that this Church slowly fell away from the truth: either after Constantine legalized Christianity in the fourth century, or during the so-called “Dark Ages,” etc., then corruption slowly crept in.

    I think many Protestants would not identify a particular point as the “start” of the problem, but would rather point to many different influential fathers who got many different particular things wrong, with a gradual accretion of some of their errors. Origen predates Nicea, but very few of us would say he got things basically right.

    I mean, we see the start of the problem in Galatians. The church has to struggle not to fall into error from the very beginning.

    The Apostolic Church, it is claimed, had a body of “presbyter-bishops,” governing the church by committee. These committees were slowly replaced by individual bishops (even though we have no record of a single church recording such a takeover!)

    The Protestants I know of who are even aware of that controversy say that the early church had a mixture of presbyterys and bishoprics, with some favoring one model and some favoring the other, and power gradually centralizing over time in the latter. Functionally, they’d say, the only difference between the two at first was whether your church had several elders or only one. (Indeed, some of those who hold to this view point to Ignatius as one of the ones who favored and pushed for the latter model; Ignatius’s words, then, are in part an urging towards a particular non-universal structure.)

    This isn’t just an assertion on the Protestant part, though. There are multiple sources of evidence of elder/presbytery-run churches, starting with Titus 1:5: “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint[a] elders in every town, as I directed you.” Note the plurals, there: elders in every town; while Paul follows with a description of the requirements to be an elder, no indication is made of what to do for any separate governing office. Indeed, while references to appointing elders is commonplace in the NT, references to single-bishop-led churches is… rather thin on the ground. Even major decisions of the church, like the Jerusalem Council, are made by a multiplicity of elders, with no indication of a singular bishop – note Acts 15:22, which indicates that the verdict comes from “the apostles and elders, with the whole church,” and identifies no singular head either in Luke’s narration or in the letter itself.

    Maybe even a clearer argument that there was no meaningful distinction between presbyterous (i.e., elders) and episkopous (i.e., bishops) in the earliest church comes from Acts 28. There, in v. 17-18, “Paul sent to Ephesus for the presbyterous of the church. When they arrived, he said to them…” This passage begins a speech to the elders which continues through verse 28, where he says, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you episkopous.” Again, there’s no distinction of separate offices here.

    But we can continue into extrabiblical sources, if you like. 1 Clement identifies no single person as its author, crediting itself only to the church in Rome; it then speaks highly of the “presbyters” among the Ephesians, with again no praise or indication of any singular bishop. Indeed, when it does mention bishops (in ch. 42), it is again only in the plural, and seemingly interchangeable with the role of elder – for despite saying earlier that the Ephesians had elders, the letter here mentions the appointment only of “bishops and deacons.” Continuing on into chapter 44, it says of “those mentioned before” – i.e., the bishops in ch. 42 – that “Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure.” Again and again, the terms are treated as interchangeable.

    We could continue to the Didache, or the Shepherd of Hermas, which likewise describe a plurality of leaders – but I think that gets the point across. Say that Ignatius was a singular bishop, that he preferred that model, and that he was not unique in this regard – fine! But there’s evidence aplenty that this was not a universal practice, and likely not even the more common one.

    I hope I can be forgiven a brief quote from another theologian on this matter, because I think it sums the matter up better than I can: “The presbyter is the same as the bishop, and before parties had been raised up in religion by the provocations of Satan, the churches were governed by the Senate of the presbyters. But as each one sought to appropriate to himself those whom he had baptized, instead of leading them to Christ, it was appointed that one of the presbyters, elected by his colleagues, should be set over all the others, and have chief supervision over the general well-being of the community… Without doubt it is the duty of the presbyters to bear in mind that by the discipline of the Church they are subordinated to him who has been given them as their head, but it is fitting that the bishops, on their side, do not forget that if they are set over the presbyters, it is the result of tradition, and not by the fact of a particular institution by the Lord,” emphasis mine.

    That’s Jerome, of course, presenting the Protestant version of early church history in his Commentary on Titus.

    Ignatius shows that all of these historical claims are pure fiction.

    Let me offer an alternative hypothesis: Ignatius shows that broadly-orthodox Christians held a multiplicity of views, even as early as the start of the second century, and that they did not agree in total with each other, with you, or with me. He shows, in other words, that on matters of tradition separate from the salvific core of the faith clearly taught in Scripture, there is often no such thing as the universal testimony of the fathers.

    And that, broadly speaking, is the Protestant understanding of the early church.

    1. I think many Protestants would not identify a particular point as the “start” of the problem

      I mean, we see the start of the problem in Galatians.

      Heh. Catching a poor choice of words before anyone else remarks on it: we see an early expression of the problem in Galatians.

      (My kingdom for an edit button!)

    2. Irked (your comments in bold):

      Their argument, then, was not particularly concerned with transubstantiation

      I don’t think I agree with this claim. He calls them heretics because they don’t believe that the eucharist is the flesh and blood our Lord “because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ”. His statement, if taken literally (which, since he’s giving a reason why Christians should reject the gnostics, there’s little reason to believe he’s being metaphorical), he’s literally saying that the real presence is an integral part of the faith. He can’t believe the Zwinglian view, because he doesn’t believe that the Eucharist is only a memorial. He can’t believe the Calvinist view, because he doesn’t believe that the Eucharist merely imparts the grace of Christ’s body, or imparts him spiritually only. With some sophistry, there might be argument that his statement could be reconcilable with the Lutheran view, but I’m not even convinced there.

      “…Without doubt it is the duty of the presbyters to bear in mind that by the discipline of the Church they are subordinated to him who has been given them as their head, but it is fitting that the bishops, on their side, do not forget that if they are set over the presbyters, it is the result of tradition, and not by the fact of a particular institution by the Lord,” emphasis mine.

      That’s Jerome, of course, presenting the Protestant version of early church history in his Commentary on Titus.

      I don’t think this is a problem for a Roman Catholic/Orthodox position. St. Jerome believes the judgements/disciplines of the Church and Tradition to be absolutely authoritative. As evidenced by his comments here defending his preface to the book of Daniel (which, by the way, he’s explicitly stating that he’s not defending the view of the Jews, but rather submitting to the judgement of the Church in accepting the full, Catholic version of Daniel):

      “What sin have I committed if I follow the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating [in my preface to the book of Daniel] the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the story of Susannah [Dan. 13], the Song of the Three Children [Dan. 3:29–68, RSV-CE], and the story of Bel and the Dragon [Dan. 14], which are not found in the Hebrew volume, proves that he is just a foolish sycophant. I was not relating my own personal views, but rather the remarks that they are wont to make against us. If I did not reply to their views in my preface, in the interest of brevity, lest it seem that I was composing not a preface, but a book, I believe I added promptly the remark, for I said, ‘This is not the time to discuss such matters’” (Against Rufinius 11:33 [A.D. 401]).

      Just my two cents,
      God Bless!

      1. Hey Alex,

        I don’t think I agree with this claim. He calls them heretics because they don’t believe that the eucharist is the flesh and blood our Lord “because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ”.

        I mean, as a historical matter, we’re pretty clear on what the Docetics thought – even their name is a reference to it, and Ignatius spends the entire rest of the letter laying it out for good measure. They did not think Christ had ever come in the flesh. It is certainly true that they didn’t think the bread was Christ’s literal flesh, but only as kind of a necessary consequence of the fact that they didn’t think there was such a thing as Christ’s literal flesh, because they thought Christ had only ever pretended to be a material being.

        “Did Ignatius intend to teach transubstantiation?” we could look at as a separate question, but that’s just historically not the major issue the Docetics had. Even Ignatius mentions their problem with communion only briefly, as just one in a long list of consequences of their heresy. (Some of which are pretty funny snark on his part.) So when I say “[The Docetics’] argument, then, was not particularly concerned with transubstantiation,” I think that’s just basically factual history.

        I don’t think this is a problem for a Roman Catholic/Orthodox position. St. Jerome believes the judgements/disciplines of the Church and Tradition to be absolutely authoritative.

        So I definitely don’t mean to suggest that I would agree with Jerome on all the particular implications of this change, or that his theology and mine are overall clean matches.

        But our question today was, “Did much of the early church begin as group-of-elders-led, rather than singular-bishop-led?” – and to that question, it doesn’t matter what Jerome thought about the authority of tradition. Joe, with modern Catholicism, says no, bishops are the ancient and proper tradition; Jerome, with modern Protestantism, says yes, bishops are a change, and a change we could make back.

        Does that make sense? I’m not contesting your argument, but I think it’s attacking a position I don’t claim. Again, what we’re debating is, at least for the moment, just a question of historical fact: “Did the organization change?”

        1. I would say that the organization might have changed, but during the time of the Apostles at the latest. Such that the sacred Tradition left by the Apostles was strictly Episcopal in nature, with possibly some hold outs until the tradition became implemented everywhere. I still hold that there is a possibility that there was never “synod of presbyters” governance at any time, as only a few church fathers seem to believe this was the case.

          I don’t think that a return to presbyterian governance is valid, for these reasons:
          1. It may have never been practiced at all, as only some church fathers believe it ever existed
          2. Even if it was, it was still under the authority of the Apostles, an authority which the church fathers all concede was passed onto the Bishops
          3. The church fathers all seem to agree it was a tradition of the apostles to establish/move toward episcopal governance
          4. The church fathers generally hold that membership in the church is determined by submission to the bishops
          5. The Catholic church came to consensus on episcopal governance
          6. Presbyterian governance today doesn’t involve full consecration of presbyters to perform all seven sacraments, and indeed, doesn’t believe in apostolic succession at all, something which would be regarded as a novelty by most, if not all, church fathers

          Concerning congregational governance, I believe that it is an utter novelty with no basis in church history whatsoever.

          1. Alex,

            I understand your argument, but I don’t see that it really disputes any of my evidence – and that evidence points to a practice continuing at least well into the second century. I can’t really argue against, “I just don’t think that happened.”

        2. In addition to this, there is also mention of some church fathers that the Arians practiced presbyterian governance, possibly explaining why some Church fathers believed there was early evidence, not being aware that the sources they were consulting were Arian.

          1. Alex,

            Alternatively, we can read that as “later church fathers erroneously condemned a healthy practice, on the grounds that it was associated with Arians.”

    3. Irked,

      I agree with what Tertullian said. The Eucharist is the Symbol of Christ’s Body. All of the Sacraments are symbolic, just as Exodus 12 describes the blood on the doorposts as symbolic.

      But here’s the thing: the Protestant lens for Scripture assumes that something either is symbolic or it is what it claims to be. But that’s not how OT Jews or Catholics view the world. The Sacraments are efficacious signs, representing what they accomplish.

      I’ve written on Tertullian before specifically, and he clearly affirms the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and that the Mass is a Sacrifice. But he also (rightly) affirms that the Eucharist is a symbol. It’s just not a mere symbol, so it’s anachronistic folly to pit these two parts of Tertullian’s sacramental theology against one another.

      I.X.,

      Joe

      P.S. I’ve heard that “but he was talking to Docetists!” response before, but it seems really evasive. Granted, he’s not writing against Real Presence-denying Christians, but that’s precisely because such people didn’t exist. We just don’t see any of this alleged early Patristic diversity when it comes to the Eucharist – I’ve seen nobody remotely orthodox (by either of our assessments of orthodoxy) who denies the Real Presence in the first, say, five centuries.

      And given that some Church Fathers clearly viewed it as a litmus test for whether or not one was even Christian, it’s remarkable that we don’t hear a peep of controversy about it in the early Church between otherwise-orthodox Christians. All of that’s to say, of course Ignatius was talking to Docetists and not Protestants. But he still says things that no Protestant would or could say (without severely twisting his meaning).

      1. Joe,

        I think it’s a bit of an extraordinary claim that Tertullian would say, “This is symbolic of the thing that it actually is,” and I’d need some proof to that effect before accepting it.

        More concretely, it seems that your reading makes Tertullian’s clarification actively cut against his argument: why bring up the nature of communion as a symbol at all, in an argument over the literal physical body, if you also believe that the bread is the literal physical body? The point is stronger without the parenthetical clarification – unless the clarification is necessary, because the unclarified sentiment isn’t true.

        Briefly, I don’t think the rest of your Tertullian article proves the case it sets out to make, though I’m hesitant to expand our conversation too far that direction. Tertullian does indeed show that the “bread” metaphor is recurrent in Scripture, and that Christ’s pointing through this symbol to his flesh affirms that he did have flesh – but this nowhere establishes that he thought these were more than symbol or figure. Again, to establish that he held the dual symbol/reality view you suggest would require some statement on his part to that effect – and this passage simply does not have such an affirmation. Instead, it twice mentions the symbolic view, clarifying it for both bread and wine.

        Now, one could squint and say, “Well, but we could fit that into a larger context of understanding the Eucharist in the Catholic way” – but one can squint just as well at Ignatius, as I argued, and I don’t think the RCC view should be automatically preferenced in our interpretation. For my part, I’d be happy to take “Ignatius thought they were literal, and Tertullian thought they weren’t” – but at that point we’re back to “The fathers disagreed wildly on all this stuff.”

        ***

        I would be curious to know your response to the arguments re: bishops/elders.

        1. Schaff on Tertullian:

          Yet Tertullian must NOT be understood as teaching a MERELY symbolical presence of Christ; for in other places he speaks, according to his GENERAL REALISTIC turn, in almost MATERIALISTIC language of an EATING of the body of Christ, and extends the participation even to the body of the receiver.” [4] (Schaff, volume 2, page 243)

          J.N.D. Kelly (many consider him the leading patristic scholar of the twentieth century) on Tertullian:

          PROGRESS IN EUCHARISTIC DOCTRINE from Kelly, EARLY CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES

          “In the third century the early Christian identification of the eucharistic bread and wine with the Lord’s body and blood continued unchanged, although a difference of approach can be detected in East and West. The outline, too, of a more considered theology of the eucharistic sacrifice begins to appear [I’ll cover Sacrifice later]. In the West the equation of the consecrated elements with the body and blood was quite straightforward, although the fact that the presence is sacramental was never forgotten. Hippolytus speaks of ‘the body and the blood’ through which the Church is saved, and Tertullian regularly describes [E.g. de orat. 19; de idol. 7] the bread as ‘the Lord’s body.’ The converted pagan, he remarks [De pud. 9], ‘feeds on the richness of the Lord’s body, that is, on the eucharist.’ The REALISM of his theology comes to light in the argument [De res. carn. 8], based on the intimate relation of body and soul, that just as in baptism the body is washed with water so that the soul may be cleansed, so in the eucharist ‘the flesh feeds on Christ’s body and blood so that the soul may be filled with God.’ Clearly his assumption is that the Savior’s BODY and BLOOD are as REAL as the baptismal WATER.”(Kelly, pg 211)

          “Occasionally these writers use language which has been held to imply that, for all its realist sound, their use of the terms ‘body’ and ‘blood’ may after all be merely symbolical. Tertullian, for example, refers [E.g. C. Marc. 3,19; 4,40] to the bread as ‘a figure’ (figura) of Christ’s body, and once speaks [Ibid I,14: cf. Hippolytus, apost. trad. 32,3] of ‘the bread by which He represents (repraesentat) His very body.’

          “YET WE SHOULD BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT INTERPRETING SUCH EXPRESSIONS IN A MODERN FASHION. According to ancient modes of thought a mysterious relationship existed between the thing symbolized and its symbol, figure or type; the symbol in some sense WAS the thing symbolized. Again, the verb -repraesentare-, in Tertullian’s vocabulary [Cf. ibid 4,22; de monog. 10], retained its original significance of ‘to make PRESENT.’

          “All that his language really suggests is that, while accepting the EQUATION of the elements with the body and blood, he remains conscious of the sacramental distinction between them.

          “In fact, he is trying, with the aid of the concept of -figura-, to rationalize to himself the apparent contradiction between (a) the dogma that the elements are NOW Christ’s body and blood, and (b) the empirical fact that for sensation they remain bread and wine.” (JND Kelly, EARLY CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES, page 212)

          Darwell Stone on Tertullian from A HISTORY OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST

          “Another kind of phraseology is found most markedly in Tertullian… Tertullian more than once uses like language with explicit reference to the Eucharist. He asserts our Lord’s intention to have been to show that bread was ‘the figure (figura) of His body’ : he explains the words ‘This is My body’ as meaning ‘This is the figure (figura) of My body’; he interprets the words of institution as placing our Lord’s body under the head of, or in the category of, bread (corpus eius in pane censetur) [Adv Marc iii,19; iv,40; De Orat 6]. He says also that our Lord by the use of bread ‘makes present (repraesentat) His very body’ [Adv Marc i,14].

          “The consideration of this type of phraseology must include some discussion of (a) the meaning of the words ‘symbol’ [in Clement of Alexandria] and ‘figure’ (figura) [in Tertullian]; (b) the meaning of the word translated ‘makes present’ (repraesentat); (c) the relation of the passages here quoted to other statements of the same writers.” (Stone, volume 1, page 29)

          FIGURA IN TERTULLIAN — “This is the FIGURE of My body”

          “As regards the early Church it may be confidently stated that the notions suggested by words meaning ‘symbol’ would differ in important respects from those which like words would suggest to an ordinary Englishman or German of today. Dr. Harnack has stated a crucial difference with great clearness.

          ‘What we nowadays,’ he writes, ‘understand by “symbol” is a thing which is not that which it represents; at that time “symbol” denoted a thing which in some kind of way REALLY IS what it signifies…What we now call “symbol” is something wholly different from what was so called by the ancient Church.’ [HISTORY OF DOGMA, ii,144; iv,289]

          “…Still more explicit indications of the meaning of such terms [as symbol or figure] in the phraseology of Tertullian may be shown by an examination of his language elsewhere and by a comparison of other known uses of the word ‘figura.’

          “In describing the Incarnation Tertullian uses the phrase ‘caro FIGURATUS’ to denote that our Lord received in the womb of His Virgin Mother not only the appearance but also the REALITY of flesh [Apol 21; cf. Adv Marc iv,21]. He says that our Lord made known to the Apostles ‘the form (FIGURA) of His voice’ [Scorp 12]. He uses the word ‘figura’ in the sense of a main point in, or head of, a discussion [Adv Marc ii,21]. Elsewhere he denotes by it the prophetic anticipation of an event afterwards to be fulfilled [De Monog 6 — the Latin is provided in note].” (Stone, vol 1, pg 30,31)

          “A scholar of great authority as to the meaning of early Latin documents has inferred from these facts that in Tertullian ‘figura’ is equivalent not to -schema- but to -charakter- [see Turner, Journal of Theological Studies, vii,596], that is, it would approach more nearly to ‘ACTUAL and distinctive NATURE’ than to ‘symbol’ or ‘figure’ in the modern sense of those terms.

          “The question of the meaning of such words in connection with the Eucharist will recur again in a later period. It may be sufficient here to express the warning that to suppose that ‘symbol’ in Clement of Alexandria or ‘figure’ in Tertullian must mean the same as in modern speech would be to assent to a line of thought which is GRAVELY MISLEADING.” (Stone, vol 1, pg 31)

          1. Hi Duane,

            I’m not going to be able to hunt down all of these references, but let me try to tackle the first couple. First a field test of some markup tags, though:

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            test

          2. Duane,

            Okay, back to business.

            You open by quoting Phillip Schaff; let me respond with that same passage of his book in a bit more detail. (CCEL has the whole thing online, for anyone who would like to settle for themselves which set of quotes more nearly captures Schaff’s meaning.)

            “Ignatius speaks of [the Eucharist] in two passages, only by way of allusion, but in very strong, mystical terms… This view, closely connected with his high-churchly tendency in general, no doubt involves belief in the real presence… but is still somewhat obscure, and rather an expression of elevated feeling than a logical definition.

            “Yet this would hardly warrant our ascribing either transubstantiation or consubstantiation to Irenaeus. For in another place he calls the bread and wine, after consecration, ‘antitypes,’ implying the continued distinction of their substance from the body and blood of Christ.”

            Of Tertullian, in the exact portion you cite, he says that Tertullian and Cyprian hold a view “approaching nearer the Calvinistic or Reformed,” followed by your citation. Again, it’s not an association of these men with the Catholic view.

            If that’s unclear from these quotes, here’s his summary statement of the whole thing, found at the beginning of the chapter you cite:

            “The doctrine concerning the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, not coming into special discussion, remained indefinite and obscure. The ancient church made more account of the worthy participation of the ordinance than of the logical apprehension of it. She looked upon it as the holiest mystery of the Christian worship, and accordingly celebrated it with the deepest devotion, without inquiring into the mode of Christ’s presence, nor into the relation of the sensible signs to his flesh and blood. It is unhistorical to carry any of the later theories back into this age; although it has been done frequently in the apologetic and polemic discussion of this subject.”

            Emphasis mine throughout. Schaff says that the early church didn’t try to form a singular “definition” of communion, that what they did say communicates a range of opinions, and that none of these opinions should be counted as “transubstantiation” or “real presence” or any modern view. By all means, let’s add him to the discussion as an authority on the subject!

            ***

            Likewise, I’m happy to enter Kelly into evidence. Kelly notes, as I argued the other day, that Cyprian and others in the early church saw no primacy in the bishopric of Rome (p. 207); I will gladly yield the argument as to what Tertullian thought in exchange for the acknowledgement that Roman primacy is an innovation made several hundred years after Christ.

            ***

            Rather than extend some already-very-long posts, let me start with just those two. Do you want to enter these men into the conversation as generally-accepted authorities on the early church? I will take that trade in a heartbeat; Schaff is explicitly on my side, and Kelly loses the battle but wins the war.

          3. Hi Irked,

            All I did was show you that even acknowledged Protestant authorities admit that your reading of the way symbol is used in Tertullian is wrong. Instead of just admitting you are wrong, you try to shift the argument to papal primacy.

            The fact that you are willing to concede that your reading of symbol is wrong in Tertullian, shows you know you are wrong on that point. It is shocking to me that if you really believed your argument was true, that you would concede the point!!!! I on the other hand know that the Church is right on the Eucharist being more than just a symbol, and that she is right on papal primacy, so I concede nothing.

            You want to have a discussion about papal primacy, we can start posting on an old thread of Joe’s that was on an article about papal primacy. We can bring in Schaff, Kelly, Stone, and many others. Just because I admit someone is an accepted authority, does not mean that I accept that they are right on all points. Clearly Schaff (who I called a sloppy historian on an earlier post with you I believe), and Kelly are wrong on papal primacy.

            I am going to leave you with the Russian Orthodox historian Nicholas Afanassieff, who said in his book “The Church Which Presides in Love” this:

            ST. CLEMENT OF ROME (c. 96 AD)

            “Let us turn to the facts. We know that the Church of Rome took over the position of ‘church-with-priority’ at the end of the first century. That was about the time at which her star ascended into the firmament of history in its brightest splendor…Even as early as the Epistle to the Romans, Rome seems to have stood out among all the churches as very important. Paul bears witness that the faith of the Romans was proclaimed throughout the whole world (Rom 1:8)…we have a document which gives us our earliest reliable evidence that the Church of Rome stood in an exceptional position of authority in this period. This is the epistle of Clement of Rome…We know that Clement was ‘president’ of the Roman Church….” (page 124)

            “The epistle is couched in very measured terms, in the form of an exhortation; but at the same time it clearly shows that the Church of Rome was aware of the decisive weight, in the Church of Corinth’s eyes, that must attach to its witness about the events in Corinth. So the Church of Rome, at the end of the first century, exhibits a marked sense of its own priority, in point of witness about events in other churches. Note also that the Roman Church did not feel obliged to make a case, however argued, to justify its authoritative pronouncements on what we should now call the internal concerns of other churches. There is nothing said about the grounds of this priority….Apparently Rome had no doubt that its priority would be accepted without argument.” (page 125-126)

            ST. CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE (c. 250 AD)

            “…according to his doctrine there should have really been one single bishop at the head of the Universal Church….According to Cyprian, every bishop occupies Peter’s throne (the Bishop of Rome among others) but the See of Peter is Peter’s throne -par excellence-. The Bishop of Rome is the direct heir of Peter, whereas the others are heirs only indirectly, and sometimes only by the mediation of Rome. Hence Cyprian’s insistence that the Church of Rome is the root and matrix of the Catholic Church [Ecclesiae catholicae matricem et radicem]. The subject is treated in so many of Cyprian’s passages that there is no doubt: to him, the See of Rome was -ecclesia principalis unde unitas sacerdotalis exorta est- [the Principal Church from which the unity of the priesthood/episcopacy has its rise].” (page 98-99)

          4. Hi Duane,

            All I did was show you that even acknowledged Protestant authorities admit that your reading of the way symbol is used in Tertullian is wrong.

            Whoa, hang on there. I’ll happily admit that Kelly disagrees with me, but Schaff’s on my side: he says outright that this is not transubstantiation, in either Ignatius or Tertullian, and it’s an error to read that doctrine (or other modern interpretations) back into either of them.

            It is shocking to me that if you really believed your argument was true, that you would concede the point!!!!

            Hm. So, I think you’re misunderstanding my use of “concede the argument.” I don’t mean by that to express that I’ve been convinced of a position; I mean to say that arguing further on a particular point may be a distraction from the argument as a whole. Maybe I should have said, “For the sake of argument, I’ll concede that…” to be clearer.

            I think, in other words, that there are multiple thresholds for “standards of evidence” where I can win this argument. I don’t particularly care which of them we use, and I’d rather agree to a common standard and move on from there than waste time arguing over which standard is the proper one. Depending on the choice of standard, though, different arguments make sense.

            In this case, I would gladly withdraw my argument as to whether Tertullian in particular held a different view of the Eucharist in favor of reaching mutual agreement that yes, Kelly is a reliable guide to early church history. I can support the first point by appeal to other sources than Tertullian, and if Kelly is accepted, the Catholic position has to fold.

            And the reliability of Kelly is your claim, not mine! You introduced him as someone often considered “the leading patristic scholar of the twentieth century.” Fine! If we want to take him as a reliable guide, let’s do it! But don’t tell me I should accept Kelly’s bona fides if you don’t think his conclusions are reliable.*

            Clearly Schaff (who I called a sloppy historian on an earlier post with you I believe), and Kelly are wrong on papal primacy.

            Presumably you would also say Schaff is wrong on the Eucharist in the early church, then, despite citing him on that point?

            Okay. If you think it’s reasonable to say, “These are unreliable scholars on points where they disagree with me,” I’ll echo that, and now we’re back to arguing primary sources. Again, I’m willing to argue on several different standards of evidence, but let’s you-and-I be consistent as to which one we’re using when we argue with each other.

            ***

            * – I want to pause here just for a point of clarity on another branch of this argument. I introduced Jerome, and might be charged with making the same sort of appeal there that I object to here. I don’t think, by any means, that Jerome settles the matter of “what was the early church like” – that because Jerome thinks it, it must be so. But Jerome is proof that many Christians of the 4th century didn’t see the matter the way Joe does now, and that what Joe sees as the Protestant view of church government is in fact an ancient one.

            In other words, Jerome’s authority (or lack thereof) doesn’t affect the argument that he thought what he thought.

          5. Hi Irked,

            I was responding to these statements of yours:

            But Tertullian clarifies, adding, “that is, the symbol of My body. There could not have been a symbol, however, unless there was first a true body,” emphasis mine. If it is unbelievable that Ignatius could say what he says unless the early church generally accepted transubstantiation, surely it is equally unbelievable that Tertullian could say what he did unless they did not.

            Tertullian does indeed show that the “bread” metaphor is recurrent in Scripture, and that Christ’s pointing through this symbol to his flesh affirms that he did have flesh – but this nowhere establishes that he thought these were more than symbol or figure. Again, to establish that he held the dual symbol/reality view you suggest would require some statement on his part to that effect – and this passage simply does not have such an affirmation. Instead, it twice mentions the symbolic view, clarifying it for both bread and wine.

            The part that I have highlighted, Stone, Kelly and Harnack say in explicit terms that you are wrong, that the way symbol and figure were used in the early church, is not the way that you are attempting to use them. And with this one sentence, Schaff contradicts your symbolic view:

            Yet Tertullian must NOT be understood as teaching a MERELY symbolical presence of Christ;

            In regards to your symbolic view, Schaff, and the others clearly disagree with you. Nowhere did I bring transubstantiation into the picture. So this statement that I made concerning your view still holds:

            All I did was show you that even acknowledged Protestant authorities admit that your reading of the way symbol is used in Tertullian is wrong.

          6. Duane,

            So I tried to be precise in what I said there: not that Joe was wrong on Tertullian, but that his symbol-and-the-real-thing-both claim needed evidence, and that the passage he cites didn’t provide that evidence. I stand by that – Schaff, for instance, makes his case from other passages than the one brought up.

            If your point is that you’ve now introduced the more evidence I asked for – cool, thanks! I would have no problem amending my view to something more like Schaff’s “not really equivalent to any modern view, but kinda-sorta Calvinist,” though I would want to read further on the subject.

          7. Hi Irked,

            Actually, the passage Joe cited, did prove the point. You were just reading the word figure, in that passage in a modern sense. One that Kelly, Harnack, and Stone, all say is a grave mistake.

            You might find this interesting by Calvin:

            We must confess, then, that if the representation which God gives us in the Supper is true, the internal substance of the sacrament is conjoined with the visible signs; and as the bread is distributed to us by the hand, so the body of Christ is communicated to us in order that we may be made partakers of it (John Calvin, Short Treatise on the Lord’s Supper, 17).

            The part that I’ve highlighted, that’s consubstantiation, pure and simple.

          8. Duane,

            I think we’re devolving into yes-it-did/no-it-didn’t, here; I’ll bow out on that point.

            Calvin, useful though he is, is not the authority to whom I’m answerable!

    4. Irked said – It’s certainly possible to read Ignatius as referencing an explicit belief in transubstantiation. I think it’s also reasonable to read it as him echoing Christ’s statement of “This is my flesh” and assuming that the reader would understand his words here in the same way as they did Christ’s. This doesn’t answer the question of whether that reader would believe that Christ was describing a symbol, a real presence, a literal transformation, etc. – it isn’t, in other words, a proof that Ignatius is not teaching transubstantiation – but it does give us reason to be hesitant in asserting that he’s doing anything but echoing Christ’s words.

      Me-What is your view of the Eucharist? Does it actually change in any way? Also, if its a real presence what do you mean by it?

      There are so many views….

      Thanks

      1. Hi CK,

        I think the Eucharist is a remembrance of the Lord’s death until he comes again, and that to treat it irreverently is to show similar irreverence to his sacrifice. I don’t think this necessitates transubstatiation, the real presence, or the other variations; I think the bread and wine we take are just bread and wine.

        Or, well, grape juice. Baptist, y’know.

        To be open, this is a doctrine I’m less certain of than I am some others; I would not be averse to being persuaded that there’s more going on, but I haven’t yet heard a particularly persuasive argument on that front. Transubstantiation seems like the hardest sell to me, though – the obvious argument that Christ did not intend the disciples to believe in a literal transformation is that the elements do not transform, and I don’t find it persuasive that they were intended to take any kind of “transformed in substance but not in accidents” view. (I think most of Aristotle’s category philosophy is basically wrong, which contributes to this.)

        Does that answer what you’re asking?

        1. Irked it does. Thank you.

          So your view is the following: I think the Eucharist is a remembrance of the Lord’s death until he comes again, and that to treat it irreverently is to show similar irreverence to his sacrifice. I don’t think this necessitates transubstatiation, the real presence, or the other variations; I think the bread and wine we take are just bread and wine.

          Earlier you also said: Now, one could squint and say, “Well, but we could fit that into a larger context of understanding the Eucharist in the Catholic way” – but one can squint just as well at Ignatius, as I argued, and I don’t think the RCC view should be automatically preferenced in our interpretation. For my part, I’d be happy to take “Ignatius thought they were literal, and Tertullian thought they weren’t” – but at that point we’re back to “The fathers disagreed wildly on all this stuff.”

          Me: even today we refer to the Eucharist as a symbol, but just not a symbol alone. So it doesn’t surprise me that the Fathers would refer to it as a symbol and also as something more than a symbol (which they all do).

          What would surprise me is if every major ancient christian religion got it wrong. They all teach that the bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

          They all squinted and came up with basically the same answer. It’s not just a “symbol” as you believe. The RCC, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Churches and the Church of the East (did I miss any?). They all taught a change to the bread and wine (and still do). The very Fathers you claim teach otherwise were high ranking members of those churches yet they said nothing to correct those churches of their errors.

          Reason would dictate that no one openly objected because no one disagreed.

          Can you point to any ancient Christian church that teaches there is no definite change to the bread and wine (somehow becomes the body and blood of Christ) after consecration?

          1. CK,

            In light of comments above, it seems likely that any quote I provide would not be accepted unless I can demonstrate that, in addition to believing that the elements are a symbol, the father explicitly denies the elements being anything other than symbol. I can point out that Augustine taught to the effect of, “Eating people is a crime, so this must be a symbol” – but that’s not going to cut it, right?

            Because at that point, I think the criteria have narrowed beyond what I could realistically produce.

            The very Fathers you claim teach otherwise were high ranking members of those churches yet they said nothing to correct those churches of their errors.

            Are we talking post the Fourth Lateran Council? I don’t agree that fathers through all the preceding years would have found it necessary to explicitly contradict a non-symbolic view.

          2. Irked –

            That’s because there is not enough quotes to change history. There are no proto-Protestants in early history as a sect that were rejecting the Mass.

            There is simply no substantive rejection of the Mass in early Church history.

          3. CK,

            Quoting myself:

            In light of comments above, it seems likely that any quote I provide would not be accepted unless I can demonstrate that, in addition to believing that the elements are a symbol, the father explicitly denies the elements being anything other than symbol.

            Actually, let me narrow in on that a little bit, rather than just asserting – what would count? Do you need a specific denial of substantive change to the bread? Is stating a different view sufficient? What would I have to give here to not get dismissed – to get you to agree, “Okay, yeah, that father was wrong, but he didn’t believe in transubstantiation?”

          4. Now we’re talking!!! Specifically about the weight of the evidence.

            I’ll rank the evidence in order of importance for your position to be sufficient:

            .5). Group of early Christians who rejected the Mass and the Church (actual history)!!!!

            1). Group of early Church fathers rejecting the Mass outright,

            2). Individual Church father outright rejection,

            3). Group of early Church fathers seriously questioning the Mass,

            4). Individual Church father seriously questioning the Mass,

            5). Group questioning the Mass

            6). Individual questioning the Mass,

            7). philosophical discussion about the Mass.

            The weight of the evidence for a rejection of the Mass is horrendously low. One would have to reject history (and scripture) to hold a view that one hopes existed and believe everyone else was wrong right out of the gate.

          5. cwdlaw223,

            Oddly enough, one of the few groups questioning the Mass were made mention of by Ignatius of Antioch in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans…

            To be fair, plenty of other gnostic groups throughout the centuries rejected the Mass and all other sacraments ;).

            Matthew

          6. I’m still waiting here for CK, since it’s his question in the first place, but just to clarify: I’m feeling a bit burned from the “For this to count, he’d need to write several chapters about it” comments in the last thread. I would like to know, as exactly as possible, what I would need to find in order to satisfy this request.

            I presume that finding a father who says “This is symbolic” and makes no further comment would not satisfy. Correct?

            What about a father who says, “This is symbolic,” and implies, without stating explicitly, that the literal view is untrue?

            Do you need, in other words, a father to explicitly deny a change in the nature of the elements? Is that the minimum bar? Is there some higher minimum bar?

            I would like to not spend time researching an answer, only to have it dismissed out of hand, or shuffled off with a “Well he can’t have meant that because no one believed that.” I understand no specification can be exhaustive, but I’m also not willing to chase a receding target. Give me at least some sense of what bar I need to clear, so we all know what the standards are in advance.

          7. Irked,

            You would need an explicit rejection of the idea that any change takes place in the Eucharistic elements after the consecration. You will search in vain to find one. The closest I think anyone has ever found was a dubious quote from Pope Gelasius I. But even then he refers to the Eucharist as a “divine thing” by which we “become partakers of the divine nature.”

            Matthew

          8. Matthewp,

            Heh, you anticipate my direction there. More fully, Gelasius says,

            “The sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, which we receive, is a divine thing, because by it we are made partakers of the divine nature. Yet the substance or nature of the bread and wine does not cease. And assuredly the image and the similitude of the body and blood of Christ are celebrated in the performance of the mysteries.”

            Emphasis mine, as ever. “Substance,” as I understand it, parses pretty clearly back to the Nicene Creed and the notion of Christ’s consubstantiality with the Father – but here, says Gelasius, the substance of the bread is bread.

            How different that is from Trent, session 13, chapter 4:

            “[B]y the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation.”

            Indeed, it is fitting: a change in substance. Not merely an addition of a new substance, if I understand correctly – but a replacement of the whole!

            And yet Gelasius denies that the substance is now anything but what it was.

            But even then he refers to the Eucharist as a “divine thing” by which we “become partakers of the divine nature.”

            To be sure, he does refer to the sacrament as a divine thing. It’s much less clear that he refers to the elements themselves as God – indeed, that seems to be what he’s clarifying.

            But more broadly, I’m not trying to claim that Gelasius holds to my view – only that he doesn’t hold yours. If something that explicit is insufficient, then yes, you’re quite right: I will never be able to find a citation that y’all would take.

          9. Irked,

            As I said, the quote is dubious. But let’s suppose it’s authentic. Pope Gelasius is clearly not familiar with, or attempting to use aristotelian metaphysics here. To read him the way you do would have Pope Gelasius I thinking that he is worshiping bread and that we become partakers of the divine nature by eating bread and drinking wine. That’s absurd. It’s much easier to read him as simply using the words “substance/nature” to refer to the outward appearances. And there is nothing to suggest that Pope Gelasius I would not have assented to the Tridentine understanding if it was explained to him.

            Furthermore, you simply cannot refer to any sacrament without reference to the matter involved because matter is essential to any sacrament. So you are wrong to say that it is not clear that Pope Gelasius I is referring to the Eucharistic elements. He was. He simply did not use the language that was used later which I am happy to admit was a development. If not referring to the Eucharistic elements, what “thing” is the Pope calling “divine?”

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          10. Matthewp,

            Pope Gelasius is clearly not familiar with, or attempting to use aristotelian metaphysics here.

            Heck of a Catch-22, here. I would say Galilean fishermen were far less aware of Aristotelian metaphysics, yet there’s no hesitation to argue that they understood something equivalent to the accident/substance divide. Is Gelasisus to be taken as not understanding that he’s accidentally contradicting the same thing?

            But let’s actually push harder on that: you say “clearly” he was unfamiliar. On what grounds? We’re still pre-the fall of Rome, here; while I’m not much of a student of the spread of Aristotelian texts, it doesn’t seem implausible that a Roman pope would have access to a wildly famous Greek philosopher. Surely we can’t say he was unfamiliar on the grounds of his contradiction – that would beg the question.

            Or still further: was Gelasius unaware of the significance of “substance” after it was so hotly debated at Nicaea? Surely we must acknowledge that he would have understood the implications of the word in at least that context.

            To read him the way you do would have Pope Gelasius I thinking that he is worshiping bread

            Do we know that Gelasius worshiped the elements?

            and that we become partakers of the divine nature by eating bread and drinking wine.

            By a sacrament involving eating bread and drinking wine. I don’t question that Gelasius thought there was something divine in the rite – that it was in some sense a participation in Christ. But there are a lot of senses that satisfy that which aren’t transubstantiation, and which would be condemned by Trent.

            If not referring to the Eucharistic elements, what “thing” is the Pope calling “divine?”

            I mean, most plausibly, the sacrament itself. But I think this may be a distraction from my other point; let me abandon this line of argument for the moment.

            It’s much easier to read him as simply using the words “substance/nature” to refer to the outward appearances.

            It’s certainly more convenient for the Catholic to do so! But I think it’s far more absurd; would Gelasius have said that Christ’s consubstantiality was merely an outward appearance like the father? I mean, he says “substance and nature” – when these terms are commonly used by the church of his day, do they suggest only a focus on exterior appearance?

            I mean, to go to the really obvious referent: the Council of Chalcedon, maybe fifty years earlier, had made explicit definition that in Christ “the distinctness of both natures and substances was preserved.” Is it plausible that, in a document defending the dual nature of Christ, Gelasius was unaware that he was exactly echoing the language of a Council defending the dual nature of Christ? Or are we to say that he interpreted that council as saying only that Christ maintained the external appearance of a human being? Surely not!

            We have an ecumenical council, defending the same subject, using the same phrase, not fifty years before – and the sense in which those words are used is the one I assert. Tell me that’s not a slam dunk. Tell me what better confluence I could even hope for.

            ***

            God be with you, too! Thanks again for our conversation yesterday.

          11. Irked,

            You say: “metaphysics here.
            Heck of a Catch-22, here. I would say Galilean fishermen were far less aware of Aristotelian metaphysics, yet there’s no hesitation to argue that they understood something equivalent to the accident/substance divide. Is Gelasisus to be taken as not understanding that he’s accidentally contradicting the same thing?
            But let’s actually push harder on that: you say “clearly” he was unfamiliar. On what grounds? We’re still pre-the fall of Rome, here; while I’m not much of a student of the spread of Aristotelian texts, it doesn’t seem implausible that a Roman pope would have access to a wildly famous Greek philosopher. Surely we can’t say he was unfamiliar on the grounds of his contradiction – that would beg the question.”

            I never claimed that Galilean fisherman did understand Aristotelian metaphysics. They didn’t have to and it doesn’t make a difference as to whether or not transubstantiation accurately describes the mystery. And yes, Aristotle was largely unknown for a significant amount of time in the early medieval period. Plato was all the rage then. Aristotle was not really given his day in the sun until the high medieval period. It’s highly doubtful Pope Gelasius I would have been familiar with him. That would be anachronistic.

            You say: “Or still further: was Gelasius unaware of the significance of “substance” after it was so hotly debated at Nicaea? Surely we must acknowledge that he would have understood the implications of the word in at least that context.”

            Perhaps, perhaps not. Given that he calls the sacrament “divine,” to then contradict that immediately following that seems silly. I’d give the Pope more credit than that.

            And yes, we can most definitely infer that Pope Gelasius worshiped the Eucharist, not only because we have surviving liturgies from that time like the Liturgy of St. James, but because he calls the sacrament “divine” and we are obligate by justice to worship Him who Is Divine.

            You say: “By a sacrament involving eating bread and drinking wine. I don’t question that Gelasius thought there was something divine in the rite – that it was in some sense a participation in Christ. But there are a lot of senses that satisfy that which aren’t transubstantiation, and which would be condemned by Trent.”

            Matter is essential to a sacrament. There is no such thing as a matter-less sacrament. And the material for the Eucharist are the Eucharistic elements. You cannot refer to the sacrament as a “divine thing” without calling the material essence of the sacrament “divine.”

            You say: “But I think it’s far more absurd; would Gelasius have said that Christ’s consubstantiality was merely an outward appearance like the father? I mean, he says “substance and nature” – when these terms are commonly used by the church of his day, do they suggest only a focus on exterior appearance?”

            Maybe this can help. Theodoret has something similar attributed to him when he said (supposedly): “For even after the consecration the mystic symbols are not deprived of their own nature; they remain in their former substance figure and form; they are visible and tangible as they were before. But they are regarded as what they are become, and believed so to be, and are worshiped as being what they are believed to be.”

            Theodoret uses the words “nature” and “substance” similarly to Gelasius but still unequivocally affirms that the Eucharistic elements are worshiped. Again we are met with the dilemma that either both these men are blatant bread worshipers, or they are not using the terms “substance” and “nature” the way you think they are.

            Both of these quotes are far from a slam dunk against transubstantiation. Not even close in fact because they both affirm the divinity of the Eucharist and affirm the adoration of the Eucharist.

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          12. Matthewp,

            Fair warning that I am kind of chortling as I write this, so it may come out a little overexcited.

            I never claimed that Galilean fisherman did understand Aristotelian metaphysics…. And yes, Aristotle was largely unknown for a significant amount of time in the early medieval period… It’s highly doubtful Pope Gelasius I would have been familiar with him.

            Er, are we looking at the same dates? Gelasius lived in the late 400s – he would have been born prior to the fall of Rome.

            If we were talking about, say, 800 AD, there’d be no argument here – but the late 400s? There are major Latin translations of Aristotle coming out right on top of those dates, let alone access to the originals.

            Perhaps, perhaps not. Given that he calls the sacrament “divine,” to then contradict that immediately following that seems silly. I’d give the Pope more credit than that.

            Oh, come now. Let’s grab the full quote – his words were that the sacrament is “a divine thing,” not that it is “divine.” These aren’t the same thing! God’s grace is a divine thing, but God’s grace is not God.

            Or here, let’s go to a father, so it’s not just me asserting it: in Oration 28, Gregory the Theologian says our mind and reason are a divine thing; does it follow Gregory worshiped our minds? I mean, heck, no less than Luther called baptism “a divine thing.” Did Luther think baptism was God?

            There is no contradiction here, unless we start by assuming your conclusion. We can’t start from, “Well, since he worshiped the Eucharist…” to answer the question “What did he think about the Eucharist?”

            Both of these quotes are far from a slam dunk against transubstantiation. Not even close in fact because they both affirm the divinity of the Eucharist and affirm the adoration of the Eucharist.

            Noooo, hang on. You skipped clean over the big one: the same words, on the exact same topic, just fifty years before. You’re telling me that’s… what, an accident?

            That’s ridiculous, dude. Your position requires:

            1) The pope doesn’t know Aristotle at the same time the most famous Aristotelian translations of the age are coming out.

            2) The pope probably doesn’t know anything about the enormously important consubstantial controversy of Nicaea.

            3) The pope has all kinds of other beliefs he doesn’t mention, but that conveniently line up with the way Catholics think about the matter today!

            4) The pope isn’t thinking about an ecumenical council in his lifetime, using his phrasing, on his subject.

            There is no way you would stand for my interpreting the fathers like that. I mean, set everything else aside; if I tried to assert a pope wasn’t thinking about the contemporary ecumenical council when he echoed its language on its exact subject, you would laugh me out of the thread. You would laugh me out.

            I mean, politely, because you’re a nice guy, but you know what I mean.

            I’m afraid I’m a little bit giddy on this, because I think I’ve got you. I can barely picture a cleaner match than this provides, or a more hilarious father to match it to than the pope. If using the words of Chalcedon, in the time of Chalcedon, in a piece on the subject of Chalcedon, is not overwhelming evidence that he meant them in the same sense as Chalcedon

            – if that’s to be overthrown on the grounds that it’s not the way you would use the words “divine thing” –

            – then no wonder you folks see no sign of Protestant thought; by that standard, I’m pretty sure I can prove Luther isn’t Protestant.

          13. Irked,

            “I’m afraid I’m a little bit giddy on this, because I think I’ve got you.”

            LOL ;).

            First off, you’re wrong on the Fall of Rome which took place circa 476. Pope Gelasius’s reign began in 492. His birth would be just around the Fall of Rome. It most likely occurred when he was very young, if not before his birth.

            Many of Aristotle’s works were unavailable in Latin until the 12th century. Boethius had translated a lot of Aristotle in the early 6th century but even then, only a few of his translations were circulated. So no, Gelasius was likely unfamiliar with Aristotle.

            “God’s grace is not God”

            Very debatable. I won’t get into the created/uncreated debate on grace here but if the divine life of God in the soul isn’t grace, than I don’t know what is.

            You said: “Or here, let’s go to a father, so it’s not just me asserting it: in Oration 28, Gregory the Theologian says our mind and reason are a divine thing; does it follow Gregory worshiped our minds? I mean, heck, no less than Luther called baptism “a divine thing.” Did Luther think baptism was God?”

            Can you provide the full quote from Gregory the Theologian? I couldn’t find it in that Oration. Are you sure they called the water “divine” and didn’t just call baptism a divine institution? Well, I won’t speak for Luther lol.

            As to what Pope Gelasius thought about the Eucharist, one need only examine the Liturgies of the time. Read the Liturgy of St. James and you’ll get the idea.

            As to your points about the councils, it ain’t just me saying this. Read the Theodoret quote again. It’s obvious he did worship the Eucharist even though he uses the same language Gelasius used. Here’s 20th century scholar W.R. Carson:

            “…it is assumed wrongly that by the words “nature” and “substance” the Fathers cited, writing centuries before heresies had made accurate definition and precise terminology necessary, intended to mean what the Tridentine Fathers meant by them. This is demonstrably untrue. The words ‘substance’ and ‘nature’ are synonymous with what at Trent were called the ‘species’ or ‘accidents.’ This is surely evident (a) from the context of the various passages, where a conversion (metabolen), to use Theodoret’s word, of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, is mentioned; (b) from the fact that they constantly and uniformly speak of such ‘nature’ and ‘substance’ as symbols; (c) from Leibnitz’ (a Protestant authority) well-known observation that the Fathers do not use these terms to express metaphysical notions.(53) (d) As regards Theodoret, from the confession of the Lutherans of Madgeburg that he is opposed to their doctrine and cannot be read with safety.(54) It should be added that the passages attributed to Theodoret and St. Gelasius occur in works that are considered spurious by many competent critics.”

            But let’s just suppose you’re right. Let’s suppose this is an authentic quote from Pope Gelasius I which emphatically contradicts transubstantiation. So what? He goofed. You have one guy in 1000 years. He didn’t bind anyone to his idea and you have the entire rest of the church on the subject. He didn’t call all of them heretics. More importantly, they didn’t call Gelasius a heretic which they would have if he was saying that the Eucharist is merely bread/wine and nothing else. And to be clear, I don’t grant any of that. I just thought I’d point out that it still wouldn’t damage Catholic teaching or credibility.

            Luther certainly wouldn’t qualify as protestant by today’s standards. You yourself told me Calvin would throw you out. There’s only one thing left to ask. Do you, Irked, confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of Jesus Christ? Flesh which suffered for our sins and the Father in His goodness raised up again?

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          14. Matthewp,

            First off, you’re wrong on the Fall of Rome which took place circa 476. Pope Gelasius’s reign began in 492. His birth would be just around the Fall of Rome. It most likely occurred when he was very young, if not before his birth.

            Yeah, I got my date wrong the first time around. Fixed it the second time, though: “He would have been born prior to the fall of Rome.” Unless the argument is that he became pope at 15…?

            Many of Aristotle’s works were unavailable in Latin until the 12th century.

            And how was their availability in Greek in the 400s, in the greatest city in Europe? How well known were his theories in general? If you want to assert he was “clearly” unavailable at that point, show your work!

            Let me come back to this a little further down the post.

            Very debatable. I won’t get into the created/uncreated debate on grace here but if the divine life of God in the soul isn’t grace, than I don’t know what is.

            Choose a different attribute, if you like. God’s omniscience is a divine thing; God’s omniscience is not God. The attributes of God are not themselves God; that’s a category error.

            Can you provide the full quote from Gregory the Theologian? I couldn’t find it in that Oration.

            Sure. “No one has yet discovered or ever shall discover what God is in his nature and essence. As for a discovery some time in the future, let those who have a mind to it research and speculate. The discovery will take place, so my reason tells me, when this God-like, divine thing, I mean our mind and reason, mingles with its kin, when the copy returns to the pattern it now longs after.”

            God-like? To be sure! Patterned after the mind of God? Clearly! Is our mind God? Are we to worship our own reason, in Gregory’s telling?

            Are you sure they called the water “divine” and didn’t just call baptism a divine institution?

            No, that’s precisely my point: he called baptism “a divine thing” without implying that the water was God. So when Gelasius calls a different sacrament a divine thing, your contradiction – “But he must have thought the bread was God!” – is not forced.

            Unless we take “but Gelasius believed in transubstantiation” as an assumption as well as our conclusion!

            As to what Pope Gelasius thought about the Eucharist, one need only examine the Liturgies of the time.

            We’re coming back around to my original reluctance to engage on sources: arguments of the form, “He couldn’t have thought that, because no one thought that.” Maybe Gelasius disagreed with the Liturgy of St. James! Maybe it wasn’t popular in Rome at the time. Maybe the details of the liturgy changed in the subsequent 400 years before the first manuscript of it we have.

            Maybe a lot of things! But we don’t dismiss one man’s clear words on a subject because someone else said something else.

            As to your points about the councils, it ain’t just me saying this. Read the Theodoret quote again.

            Sure, let’s look at Theodoret in Dialogues II

            We find, first of all, that Theodoret – writing in the 400s! – is perfectly familiar with the Aristotelian language of “substance and accidents,” as he distinguishes the “substance” of a man’s body from the “accidents” of broken limbs and lost eyes, which do not change a body’s fundamental nature. (“Yet we see in [well and sick bodies] a very great difference, for the one is whole, perfect, and unhurt; the other has either lost an eye, or has a broken leg, or has undergone some other suffering… So the body is called substance; disease and health are called accident.”)

            (I did not expect at the beginning of this conversation to be defending to a Catholic that a church father was using Aristotelian language.)

            He proceeds (after noting that he wouldn’t dare to speak where Scripture is silent) to clearly distinguish substance/nature from appearance, saying of those Old Testament prophets who had seen God, “The prophet did not see the substance of God, but a certain appearance accommodated to his capacity. After the resurrection, however, all the world will see the very visible nature of the judge.” The prophet saw only an appearance; the nature and substance of God will be visible only after the resurrection. Again, there’s a clear divide here.

            Next, arguing again that all men will eventually apprehend exactly who Christ is, he says, “I have heard the words of the prophet Zechariah, ‘They shall look on Him whom they pierced,’ and how shall the event follow the prophecy unless the crucifiers recognise the nature which they crucified?” Not that they should recognize the appearance of Christ, as one crucified – whcih they had already done! – but that they should see who he truly was, in his essence.

            And again, when he argues that after the ascension the body of Christ remained truly a physical body, he says, “[His body] was not changed into another nature, but remained a body, full however of divine glory, and sending forth beams of light.” Clearly the appearance (the accident!) of the body changes, as it shoots out beams of light – but its nature does not!

            He then speaks of “the mystic symbols which are offered to God by them who perform priestly rites” – that is, the elements of communion – and says “Of what are they symbols? Of the body and blood of the Lord. Of the real body or not? The real… If, then, the divine mysteries are antitypes of the real body, therefore even now the body of the Lord is a body, not changed into nature of Godhead.”

            His imaginary opponent then makes the argument of transubstantiation(!), saying, “As, then, the symbols of the Lord’s body and blood are one thing before the priestly invocation, and after the invocation are changed and become another thing; so the Lord’s body after the assumption is changed into the divine substance.”

            And your passage comes as Theodoret’s avatar denies this claim: “Even after the consecration the mystic symbols are not deprived of their own nature… Compare then the image [that is, the Eucharist] with the archetype [that is, Christ], and you will see the likeness, for the type must be like the reality.”

            He’s for darn sure not a Baptist, but he does not – he can not – mean only> the visible appearance is preserved, unless he means in agreement with his opponent that Christ’s body has only the appearance of a real thing.

            By all means, bring Theodoret into this! But still further, Theodoret writes before Chalcedon; as clear as I think it is that he’s using this same notion, it is far less conceivable that Gelasius should be unaware of the language after Chalcedon.

            Here’s 20th century scholar W.R. Carson:

            Can we skip to the point where you’ve introduced Carson, a Roman Catholic priest, and I’ve introduced a Protestant scholar who disagrees, and we just let them fight? We have the primary sources right here – where do you see the weight of the evidence on this question?

            I mean, if you want to say, “I think you have the weight of the evidence in this case, but the strength of the Catholic position as a whole persuades me Gelasius can’t have meant that” – fine! If you want to say, as Catholic apologist Joe Gallegos does, that Gelasius may have been wrong, but was wrong at a time when the RCC hadn’t yet defined a position – fine!

            But I’ve given you a reading consistent with the use of the same words in Aristotle, Nicaea, Theodoret, Chalcedon, Trent, and the RCC today, and it seems like your leading counter is that Gelasius probably just didn’t know about most of those. That’s special pleading.

            But let’s just suppose you’re right. Let’s suppose this is an authentic quote from Pope Gelasius I which emphatically contradicts transubstantiation. So what? He goofed.

            The “so what” is that I would like an end to these “You Protestants can’t find anyone who thought what you thought” claims. If I have a pope who disagreed, then I’ve established the principle that there was not universal consent among the fathers on these matters.

            I mean, look, CK laid out the challenge here, and you told me I couldn’t pull it off. You guys set the standard, not me. If the reply to my beating that challenge is, “Well, so what?” then all I can do is say, hey, you guys should meet CK and Matthewp – they apparently thought it was a point worth making.

            Do you, Irked, confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of Jesus Christ? Flesh which suffered for our sins and the Father in His goodness raised up again?

            Unless persuaded by Scripture and clear reason, I cannot, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience.

          15. Irked said – Actually, let me narrow in on that a little bit, rather than just asserting – what would count? Do you need a specific denial of substantive change to the bread? Is stating a different view sufficient? What would I have to give here to not get dismissed – to get you to agree, “Okay, yeah, that father was wrong, but he didn’t believe in transubstantiation?”

            Me – You seem to approach the fathers like most protestants approach the Bible. One verse at a time instead of taking the whole teaching in view of Sacred Tradition or in this case, a particular father without taking his view in its entirety and their church. So you can point to verses and we can point to verses. You can point to a father supporting your view on the Eucharist and we can literally (in most cases) point several additional quotes from the same father supporting our view.

            Let’s say for the sake of argument some fathers believed that the Eucharist was nothing more than a symbol. How do we know they were right? We don’t for sure.

            This is what we do know. From what I’ve researched, every Ancient christian church teaches that the Eucharist is more than just a symbol. They believe something changes to the bread and blood at concentration (I don’t want to get bogged down with transubstantiation right now). The Liturgy of the Eucharist is the most important act of worship. The Oriental Orthodox split from undivided church around 400 and I assume you know the rest of church history. Yet they all came to similar conclusion about the Eucharist. RCC went granular while the others left it at a mystery.

            Let’s say this happened now at your it’s a symbol Baptist church. They officially start teaching that the bread and wine changes and take the discourse in John 6 literally. They don’t know how it changes but it does at consecration (whenever that is). Would you expect major debates on the matter before such a decision? Would you expect debates after the fact? Schisms? The answer is yes now, the answer would have been yes then.

            We call these men we are quoting and reading Church Fathers for a reason. They are/where major players in the history of Christianity. So my view is, those that believed it was just a symbol (to clarify my position, I don’t believe they did) were either sold on the decision, disagreed and stayed quiet or they disagreed but submitted to church teaching.

            So I’m not just looking for individual fathers, but for major christian religions that emerged from the undivided church that taught it was just a symbol or fathers debating each other on symbol vs body and blood of Christ.

            I can point to ancient religions that teach the basic view of the Eucharist (not a symbol) and no schism over the subject until the reformation. My conclusion is that no church leader believed it was just a symbol.

            You say (I think) some did some didn’t.

            If that’s the case, I would expect the topic to be specifically addressed and symbol fathers addressing blood and body of Christ fathers specifically as this is a major doctrine. I would also expect to see some ancient church following the symbol doctrine.

            Hope this makes sense.

          16. Hi CK,

            You seem to approach the fathers like most protestants approach the Bible. One verse at a time instead of taking the whole teaching in view of Sacred Tradition or in this case, a particular father without taking his view in its entirety and their church.

            I don’t think that’s fair or accurate, either to a general Protestant view of history or of Scripture. In this case, I’d like to note that I’m the one appealing to a multitude of sources, including Aristotle, contemporary ecumenical councils, and other fathers, to support my charge that these words should be read as I read them.

            Let me offer another perspective: one sometimes has a sense, as a Protestant, that every single verse of the Bible, and a hundred well-regarded fathers, could all say, “X is wrong,” and the Catholic would reply, “Oh, but you need to read that in light of the universal tradition that X was right. Now, why can’t you find anyone who thinks that X was wrong?”

            That’s not fair either, of course. Both context and individual verses/people need to be understood – but just as a verse may be misapplied without looking at its context, the existence of the context doesn’t make the individual verse disappear, however inconvenient it may be.

            You can point to a father supporting your view on the Eucharist and we can literally (in most cases) point several additional quotes from the same father supporting our view.

            So that’s not been my experience. No one has brought up a place where Gelasius taught transubstantiation. When I challenged Al, repeatedly, to show me anywhere that Cyril of Jerusalem taught a doctrine that he believed was unproven from Scripture, he gave me nothing. When I went to Cyprian, I got lots of information about Cyprian praising Peter, and nothing where Cyprian claimed the supremacy of the papacy.

            By contrast, for each of these men I provided direct, explicit, unambiguous quotes that – lacking some compelling evidence to the contrary – showed they held what I claimed they did.

            In each case, I was told that the overwhelming testimony of the fathers, and the vast weight of tradition, was on the Catholic side, and so clearly whichever father I was talking about now needed to be read as if he was a good modern Catholic if there was any possible reading that would admit it. In Cyril’s case, I didn’t even get that – I was just told he must not have meant what he said.

            Let’s say for the sake of argument some fathers believed that the Eucharist was nothing more than a symbol. How do we know they were right?

            I don’t claim that their existence is proof of my correctness. But this is your challenge, not mine; you set the standard here. I’m just trying to answer it.

            So you tell me: why did you think this was a worthwhile challenge to set? What import did you attach to it?

            So I’m not just looking for individual fathers, but for major christian religions that emerged from the undivided church that taught it was just a symbol or fathers debating each other on symbol vs body and blood of Christ.

            If something as clear as Gelasius is not taken as persuasive evidence of belief in a doctrine, I do not feel that there is any level of evidence I could possibly provide to establish my point. I’m not ever going to give you something clearer than, “The pope, using the language of both Aristotle and a contemporary ecumenical council addressing his subject, denied transubstantiation” – how could I?

          17. Irked said – If something as clear as Gelasius is not taken as persuasive evidence of belief in a doctrine, I do not feel that there is any level of evidence I could possibly provide to establish my point. I’m not ever going to give you something clearer than, “The pope, using the language of both Aristotle and a contemporary ecumenical council addressing his subject, denied transubstantiation” – how could I?

            Me – I’m not talking about transubstantiation. I’m talking about the bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Jesus. Something the Oriental, Orthodox and RCC believe. Transubstantiation is an attempt at explaining it and from what I gather they others leave it as a mystery.

            Let me try to explain my thinking again. This is the same way I approached the Communion of Saints.

            So let’s run with your theory that it Gelasius as Pope taught that the Eucharist was only a symbol (doctrine).

            Sometime after Gelasius every single ancient christian church (including the one he was the head of. Don’t want to cause offense and assume it was the RCC), who were in schism with each other (mind you none of the schism had to do with this change in doctrine), started teaching heresy and not a single church father stood up and specifically challenged this CHANGE in doctrine.

            Are you aware of any change in doctrine within a church that was without any public controversy? This would have been/would be and during the Reformation was a major scandal.

            You say the early church under Gelatius taught the Eucharist as a symbol (doctrine) that’s our point A. I’m not aware of a ancient church that has that doctrine today. That’s point B. Somewhere between these points there would necessarily be some kind of treatise specifically addressing this issue and those that were promoting one or the other. The fact that there isn’t leads me to believe that none of the churches taught the Eucharist was just a symbol and that your understanding of Gelatius is incorrect.

            You would agree that any change in doctrine would be a big deal, specially when it comes to the Eucharist. Right?

          18. Hi Irked,

            Your Augustine quote on Eucharist is woefully narrow. You say:

            \’In light of comments above, it seems likely that any quote I provide would not be accepted…. I can point out that Augustine taught to the effect of, “Eating people is a crime, so this must be a symbol” – but that’s not going to cut it, right?
            Because at that point, I think the criteria have narrowed….’

            Here’s a less narrow version of what Augustine thought (incorporating Paul) about the Eucharist:

            “Augustine on the nature of the Sacrament of the Eucharist”
            Sermon 272, Latin text with English translation

            What you see on God’s altar, you’ve already observed during the night that has now ended. But you’ve heard nothing about just what it might be, or what it might mean, or what great thing it might be said to symbolize. For what you see is simply bread and a cup – this is the information your eyes report. But your faith demands far subtler insight: the bread is Christ’s body, the cup is Christ’s blood. Faith can grasp the fundamentals quickly, succinctly, yet it hungers for a fuller account of the matter. As the prophet says, “Unless you believe, you will not understand.” [Is. 7.9; Septuagint] So you can say to me, “You urged us to believe; now explain, so we can understand.” Inside each of you, thoughts like these are rising: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, we know the source of his flesh; he took it from the virgin Mary. Like any infant, he was nursed and nourished; he grew; became a youngster; suffered persecution from his own people. To the wood he was nailed; on the wood he died; from the wood, his body was taken down and buried. On the third day (as he willed) he rose; he ascended bodily into heaven whence he will come to judge the living and the dead. There he dwells even now, seated at God’s right. So how can bread be his body? And what about the cup? How can it (or what it contains) be his blood?” My friends, these realities are called sacraments because in them one thing is seen, while another is grasped. What is seen is a mere physical likeness; what is grasped bears spiritual fruit. So now, if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the Apostle Paul speaking to the faithful: “You are the body of Christ, member for member.” [1 Cor. 12.27] If you, therefore, are Christ’s body and members, it is your own mystery that is placed on the Lord’s table! It is your own mystery that you are receiving! You are saying “Amen” to what you are: your response is a personal signature, affirming your faith. When you hear “The body of Christ”, you reply “Amen.” Be a member of Christ’s body, then, so that your “Amen” may ring true! But what role does the bread play? We have no theory of our own to propose here; listen, instead, to what Paul says about this sacrament: “The bread is one, and we, though many, are one body.” [1 Cor. 10.17] Understand and rejoice: unity, truth, faithfulness, love. “One bread,” he says. What is this one bread? Is it not the “one body,” formed from many? Remember: bread doesn’t come from a single grain, but from many. When you received exorcism, you were “ground.” When you were baptized, you were “leavened.” When you received the fire of the Holy Spirit, you were “baked.” Be what you see; receive what you are. This is what Paul is saying about the bread. So too, what we are to understand about the cup is similar and requires little explanation. In the visible object of bread, many grains are gathered into one just as the faithful (so Scripture says) form “a single heart and mind in God” [Acts 4.32]. And thus it is with the wine. Remember, friends, how wine is made. Individual grapes hang together in a bunch, but the juice from them all is mingled to become a single brew. This is the image chosen by Christ our Lord to show how, at his own table, the mystery of our unity and peace is solemnly consecrated. All who fail to keep the bond of peace after entering this mystery receive not a sacrament that benefits them, but an indictment that condemns them. So let us give God our sincere and deepest gratitude, and, as far as human weakness will permit, let us turn to the Lord with pure hearts. With all our strength, let us seek God’s singular mercy, for then the Divine Goodness will surely hear our prayers. God’s power will drive the Evil One from our acts and thoughts; it will deepen our faith, govern our minds, grant us holy thoughts, and lead us, finally, to share the divine happiness through God’s own son Jesus Christ. Amen!

          19. Margo,

            I’m told by people who study this more that there’s Augustine, and then there’s Augustine: the man’s theological perspectives shift over time on a number of topics, including this one. In any event, I didn’t really attempt to develop an argument from Augustine, except to feel out the bounds of what I actually needed – either Gelasius is enough to show my point, or I can’t imagine what anyone else would have to say to qualify.

          20. Hey CK,

            I’m sorry for being slow in getting back to you.

            So let me try to respond holistically to what you’re saying here. I’m focusing on transubstantiation for a couple of reasons, but one of the most important is this: if we do what you ask – if we’re not arguing for the specific doctrine of transubstantiation, but for the much more general perspective of the “real presence” – then a number of important things shift.

            And one of the most important is that “real presence” in the early centuries is not a position. It’s a spectrum – a range that includes everything from “literal physical transformation” to “a symbolic antitype” to “Christ is there and we participate with him” to “a mystery, of which not a lot can be understood.” I’m not sure, in light of that range, that it’s particularly useful to say that they all agreed on the real presence, when they didn’t all agree on what the real presence actually was. (And clearly they didn’t – Gelasius is just the most convenient example of a thread that’s wildly inconsistent with what 4th Lateran/Trent would eventually codify. Even some of the Reformers, despite the RCC’s condemnation of their views, would have said they believed in some sense of the phrase.

            Since Schaff has been introduced into this conversation on the Catholic side, let me go back to him again: “The doctrine concerning the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, not coming into special discussion, remained indefinite and obscure. The ancient church made more account of the worthy participation of the ordinance than of the logical apprehension of it. She looked upon it as the holiest mystery of the Christian worship, and accordingly celebrated it with the deepest devotion, without inquiring into the mode of Christ’s presence.” He proceeds to identify at least three different and mildly contradictory modes of understanding – as well as sources like the Didache that take no position at all. (I think a number of these fit the category of “does not actually become body and blood,” per your request.)

            I don’t offer that to say, “Look, Schaff said it, so you have to be convinced by it,” but only as a summary of how we understand those early years: as a time when a variety of perspectives flourished, most of which trailed off into mystery around the edges. It just doesn’t seem to have been a topic they felt the need to nail down for a long time, being more concerned with debates like “What is the nature of the Trinity, anyway?” and “How is Christ’s humanity related to his deity?” To be somewhat uncharitable, it seems like the aspects of communion most emphasized by a particular father are those convenient to support his position on some other topic. To be rather more charitable, it seems like the fathers recognized that Scripture gave us precious little information on how communion actually works, and for a long time they didn’t push for a specific reading of it.

            To put my own cards on the table, I’m not convinced that everything that would fit within that milieu was wrong; I’m willing to believe that some variation on the idea may have been correct. I’m not convinced that any particular view is necessitated from Scripture, though, and so I hold to the symbolic position mostly because I don’t see that we can confidently assert anything stronger. The bread and wine are a symbol; if there’s more going on, Christ didn’t think we needed to be certain of what it was.

            Now, eventually, the church gets around to debating the issue – after, unfortunately, an extended period of (what we see as) growing mysticism and authoritarianism within its structure. And when that happens, there is pushback: we do see people start to say, “Now, wait a minute, that’s not how we ever understood this to work.” So, contra your argument that there’s no debate when the shift is formalized, there is debate: Radbertus vs. Ratramnus and Maurus; Berengar of Tours; John Wycliffe; etc.

            But two things make our discussion more difficult by that point. One is that the RCC starts to threaten dissenters with both temporal and eternal consequences for not recanting; see Berengar, who yields, or Wycliffe, who doesn’t. The other is that the labels start to get fuzzy: is Wycliffe a father, or a heretic?

            That’s a little bit of a fuzzy answer, I know, because I’m trying to summarize our perspective without writing ten pages. If you need me to drill into it further somewhere, just say so. But that’s the short version: there is no perspective of the early church. Rather, there are a multitude of perspectives, which are not a favored topic of debate within the church for a long time, as other issues dominate the floor; when there finally is a move towards defining a singular perspective, there is indeed argument.

            But whatever perspective we hold here, it has to begin with the idea that – as I hope I’ve shown – there are significant variations, and that even popes would teach things that councils would later condemn. To read the early church as a single accepted position seems to me to be ahistorical.

          21. Hi Irked,

            The idea that the real presence/transubstantiation existed in lots of variations? Yes, if by use of different words, these Church Fathers tried to express an ineffable work of God. Yes, it was not necessary to delineate and specify exact words because people believed and ate and drank and were themselves changed experientially as a result of those beliefs. They didn’t need explanation for what they understood and knew God’s action in their lives. Refinement of language was needed only later to counter heresy. That is usually why Councils were called–there was too much confusion and a need for clarification.

            Here is a site which explains the Fathers who varied but little on the change in the bread. Happy reading.

            http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/12/church-fathers-on-transubstantiation/

          22. Irked –

            Who is your number one early Church father that taught the Eucharist was MERELY symbolic?

            I truly want to know because I place a high value on history. I searched and came up empty.

          23. One sentence stood out among all the writings of the Church Fathers on transubstantiation from the “Called to Communion” article:

            “It does not require faith to understand something as a symbol. It does require faith to assert that what appears to be bread is actually the Body of Christ.”

          24. Irked-I don’t understand what I’ve said that leads to this impression; if it’s any comfort, it doesn’t make any sense to me either!

            Me-What I’m asking what did Calvin have available to him that no-one in the Oriental, Eastern or Western churches have? Your view is that the same/similar errors infiltrated all early Christian churches without anyone noticing or it until the 1500s.

            Irked-So there are several things going on here, and a couple of distinct concepts that look like they’re being merged a bit; let’s unpack them.

            1) Christ’s sacrifice is done, yes. Sacrifice for sin is made and finished, yes. But Protestants do believe in a continuing sacrifice: we believe that Christians should “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.”

            Note, there, the function Paul assigns it: not an act of expiation, but of worship – as our most basic pledge as members of the new covenant. Which leads into…

            Me-it’s interesting that we are discussing the Eucharist and you fail to mention Jesus and what He specifically instructed us to do and specifically told us what the Eucharist is.

            Irked – 2) It’s not clear that the elements are the sacrifice the author has in mind here; I’m not sure how the body and blood of Christ would count as “your sacrifice” in any meaningful way.

            Me-of course you don’t since you only focus on Paul and completely ignore Jesus. Do you realize that early Christian religions know how we can unite our sacrifice with Jesus. You don’t understand what the Mass is. Again, Oriental, Orthodox and RCC who were in schism with each other and worlds apart do this at their respective mass.

            Irked con’t-And how, O Christian, is your repentance going to make Christ’s flesh and blood any more pure – or how is your sin going to make it any less?

            Me-and how, O Christian, can your body as living sacrifice be “pure”? Anyway, we offer ourselves as you rightly pointed out (Paul) AND Jesus as we were instructed to do by…drum roll…Jesus!

            Irked-If, instead, the text is continuing Paul’s theme – if the sacrifice is us, with our self-offering of obedience pledged again through the remembrance of Christ’s death – it makes perfect sense why repentance would be necessary for a pure sacrifice.

            Me-again you completely ignore Jesus. He specifically discussed the Eucharist and what it is yet you can’t seem to bring Him up.

            Irked-3) But even more so, I never claimed the Didache taught a symbolic view; I said there’s nothing here of an actual change in the substance of the elements, nothing of reverence to them, nothing of a particular role of a priest. There’s also, I might add, nothing of the conveyance of grace by consumption of the elements.

            Me-again you keep getting stuck on change of substance. We are told (not here) that it IS the body and blood of Jesus. All ancient Christian churches teach this as did Jesus.

            Irked-In short, the ritual as described here looks pretty darn Protestant; it is missing basically all the Catholic distinctives to which we object.

            Me-I have yet to attend a Baptist church where the Eucharist is the focus of worship.

            Irked-What did the prophets and teachers minister? Sacrifices among other things.

            I am pretty sure if you tried to participate in the ministry of temple sacrifices as a teacher, rather than a priest, it didn’t go well for you. Even the prophets weren’t a part of the temple sacrifices; that was for the priests alone. And “priest,” again, is absent from this list – perhaps because it’s, as Peter says, a function of all Christians.

            Me-per Didache the prophets are our high priests… Every first-fruit, therefore, of the products of wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, you shall take and give to the prophets, for they are your high priests.

            Irked-I think it’s a somewhat more natural reading here that the operative ministerial role of prophets and teachers is – well, to prophesy and teach.

            Me – Yes that’s all High Priests did…prophesy and teach…I think they did a lot more than that. They made sacrifice for themselves and for the people (sounds like the Mass)…but you said we are all priests (which I happen to agree) but there also seems to be another level of priest (something all early Christian religions have and you keep waving it away) otherwise the Didache would not have pointed it out.

          25. CK – Profound and more here:
            Me{CK]-and how, O Christian, can your body as living sacrifice be “pure”? Anyway, we offer ourselves as you rightly pointed out (Paul) AND Jesus as we were instructed to do by…drum roll…Jesus!

            Thanks for keeping up the good fight. And Irked – I thought you suggested that raising the Eucharist was ‘wildly’ or mildly off topic. Just the day before or yesterday.

        2. CW,

          Who is your number one early Church father that taught the Eucharist was MERELY symbolic?

          As I say, I hold to the symbolic view because I don’t think there’s proof of any particular stronger claim, and not because I think all versions of the “spiritual significance/real presence” views are necessarily wrong. I don’t really want to start another round of “Did so-and-so really mean that,” especially when I think Gelasius is such a compelling case.

  5. Why walk away over a symbol?

    Why is there no historical evidence of proto-Protestants (after Paul 🙂 )? One cannot argue Protestantism from history just as one cannot argue a 66 book CHRISTIAN Bible from history when such book never physically existed in history until the 12th-14th century. Men can come up with great theories, but what actually happened on planet earth?

    There is a direct commandment from Christ to eat his flesh and drink his blood and people walking away in disgust and he does nothing to correct them.

    I suspect people on this site would reject an ahistorical argument in their political life but they accept it in their theology?

    A symbolic Eucharist makes no historical (or Jewish) sense. Rome never needed its theology reformed and if it did? I would say Christ unequivocally failed and the gates of hell prevailed so why still believe??? Seriously.

    1. CW,

      Why is there no historical evidence of proto-Protestants (after Paul)?

      As I’ve argued in previous posts, I believe there is exactly such evidence; I think the fathers, and the church through history, present a multitude of views on subjects such as authority in the church, sola scriptura, baptism, communion, etc. I think, rather, that it’s the Catholic claim of a universal early agreement on their modern doctrines that’s ahistorical.

      I may, of course, be mistaken on this point – but then the argument is “What does history really show?” and not “Why don’t Protestants care about history?”

      1. Irked,

        What if I could prove to you logically that Sola Scriptura as the first protestant reformers understood it, is not only wrong but impossible?

        1. Matthew,

          I would be impressed! I would also be a little concerned by the number of simultaneous and disjoint conversations in which I was involved.

          There’s a lot that can hide in “as the first Protestant reformers understood it” that might reduce the effect, though. If you can give me a clearer statement of what you would intend to disprove, I can give a more meaningful reply.

          Rather than make you guess: sola scriptura as I’m interested in the term says, in effect, “Scripture is the sole infallible rule of faith,” with some associated details (i.e., that it’s a description of the sole rule of faith now, and not prior to the writing of the NT, etc.). Is that the statement you would intend to disprove?

          1. Irked,

            I’d actually rather discuss it in person kinda like we planned but never got around to lol. Would you be amenable to that?

      2. Irked –

        Please name these proto-Protestants in early history who reject the real presence. Top three.

        Then, please explain why the overwhelming historical record is Catholic//Real Presemce.

        I’m a former Baptist who was crushed by the weight of history on this issue. There are simply no church fathers who reject the real presence that I’m aware of and as explained on this site time and time again.

        Of course, why walk away over a symbol? Because Jesus and Jews knew he wasn’t speaking symbolically.

        1. Hi cw,

          I love this quote from Bellarmine:

          ake and eat: This is My Body. Weigh carefully, dear brethren, the force of those words. . . .

          Suppose a prince promised one of you a hundred gold pieces, and in fulfillment of his word sent a beautiful sketch of the coins, I wonder what you would think of his liberality? And suppose that when you complained, the donor said, “Sir, your astonishment is out of place, as the painted coins you received may very properly be considered true crowns by the figure of speech called metonymy,” would not everybody feel that he was making fun of you and your picture?

          Now Our Lord promised to give us His flesh for our food. The bread which I shall give you, He said, is My flesh for the life of the world. If you argue that the bread may be looked on as a figure of His flesh, you are arguing like the prince and making a mockery of God’s promises. A wonderful gift indeed that would be, in which Eternal Wisdom, Truth, Justice, and Goodness deceived us, its helpless pensioners, and turned our dearest hopes to derision.

          That I may show you how just and righteous is the position we hold, let us suppose that the last day has come and that our doctrine of the Eucharist has turned out to be false and absurd. Our Lord now asks us reproachfully: “Why did you believe thus of My Sacrament? Why did you adore the host?” may we not safely answer him: “O Lord, if we were wrong in this, it was You who deceived us. We heard Your word, THIS IS MY BODY, and was it a crime for us to believe You? We were confirmed in our mistake by a multitude of signs and wonders which could have had You only for their author. Your Church with one voice cried out to us that we were right, and in believing as we did we but followed in the footsteps of all Your saints and holy ones . . .

          1. There’ was no theology that needed reformed. The Refitmation was a deformation grounded in Gnosticism and relativism. There is simply no logical explanation unless one twists words and history.

            If Rome is wrong then Christ failed. That simple when one distills the arguments. Man wants Christ on his terms and definitely not subject to an authority on this earth other than his own interpretation. I do not say these things to be uncharitable but for truth and consistency.

        2. CW,

          Not a specific area I’m particularly well trained in, and unfortunately not a challenge I have time to dig deep into at the moment – there are a lot of threads flying here already, and I’m a little bit sorry that the Eucharist discussion seems to be distracting from the bishop/elder points I brought up. I brought out several examples of “proto-Protestantism” in response to a similar challenge in Joe’s recent post “Protestantism & early church history,” though, if that would help. (You can also see where that response blew up fast, hence some of my hesitation to start that thread today.)

          1. The Eucharist is Everything which is where all the arguments wind up. Why? Because Luther and Calvin tried to create a new form of Christianity out of thin air that ignored history, rejected the authority of a physical Church on this earth and destroyed apostolic succession.

            Rome falls if the Eucharist is just a mere symbol, but Christianity itself falls if the Eucharist is merely a symbol. Failure right out of the gate for 1,400 years??? Joseph Smith recognized that epistemological problem which is why he came up with the Book of Mormon to cure the church failure problem.

            What Luther and Calvin spawned was theological relativism abd the evidence is Protestantism today. There is no one Church and each Protestant sect can’t even officially agree on big issues.

          2. CW,

            There’s a lot of accusation there, and not a lot of direct evidence; I’m not sure how I can meaningfully reply to it.

          3. Irked –

            Who are these people that rejected the Mass for the first 500 years of Christendom?

            Of course you’ll see commentary from a few that might question the aspect of the Mass, but is that an outright rejection?

            Even the lead historian for Westminster seminary admits history is overwhelmingly Catholic.

            I read your responses in the previous blog regarding early church history and don’t see any group of people in early Church history rejecting the Mass. I see SOME commentary by a few that MIGHT be considered a rejection but still a far cry from a group of people who rejected the Mass, were somehow hidden in history and then the Reformers discover what they believed. Do you not see the parallels with Mormonism??? Do you not see the Gnosticism/relativism within Protestantism???

            Scripture wasn’t written as a recipe book but that is what the Reformers made it after they removed the Mass.

          4. CW,

            I think it confuses the discussion to ask for someone who rejects “the Mass.” We’re talking about a specific doctrine with relation to the Eucharist, and not the practice itself.

            I read your responses in the previous blog regarding early church history and don’t see any group of people in early Church history rejecting the Mass.

            I didn’t assert otherwise. Rather, I said that I presented some examples of what might be called “proto-Protestantism” on a similar challenge, regarding different doctrines.

  6. Great comments cwdlaw223, and Duane.

    As cwd notes, the Eucharist is the perfect focus for defining and understanding the faith of the Early Church. In understanding the true nature of the Eucharist, you understand the ancient Church’s understanding of Christ, and what it means to be united to His Mystical Body… or ‘excommunicated’ from it.

    Moreover, there is the tradition in the Early Church of ‘the viaticum’, receiving Christ in the Eucharist when in danger of death, as sustenance and strength for a souls journey to eternal life. And this custom should not be ignored regarding the Eucharist and the early Church. The question should be asked: “If the Eucharist was merely a symbol, then why would the Early Christians take such pains to travel far, and at odd hours of the day and night, to bring the viaticum to their dying brothers/sisters? Why would excommunication, or the inability to receive the ‘viaticum’ before death be the greatest of punishments a Christian could incur? A quick reading of the canons of the Synod of Alvira (305AD) demonstrate this. Read the 1st 3 canons, for instance:

    “Canon 1

    Any one, who after faith in the baptism of salvation, and being of adult years, shall have entered the temple of an idol [to commit idolatry] and shall have sacrificed – this being a capital offence, because it involves supreme guilt – shall not receive communion even at death. (Dale)

    Canon 2

    Flamens who after the faith of baptism and regeneration shall have sacrificed, because they will have doubled their guilt if murder be added, and have tripled their sin if sexual immorality be involved, shall not receive communion even at death. (Dale, slightly altered)

    Canon 3

    In the case of Flamens who have not sacrificed but merely given the games, inasmuch as they have abstained from the fatal sacrifices, we decree that they may be received into communion at the last: provided, however, that they first submit to a suitable penance; but if, after their penance, they commit sexual offences they should not be given communion lest they seem to be mocking Sunday communion. (Kidd, Documents, plus Webmaster)”

    And even before this Synod, we find Pope Victor in about 195 AD, threatening ‘excommunication’ for the bishops of the Church of Asia should they not agree to follow the the rest of the Catholic Church in it’s dating of the Paschal celebrations.

    This is to say, not only are the positive aspects of the Eucharist important to consider when studying the Early Church, but also the punitive affects resulting in the ‘deprivation’ of the Eucharist for those who are excommunicated. If the Early Church used the deprivation of the Eucharist as a supreme ecclesiastical penalty, and codified this penalty it in canon law at a very early date, it should not be ignored by students of Christianity. Rather, it is a proof of true ecclesiology and Catholic Faith, and backing up cwdlaw’s quote, above: “…everyone claims truth, but few can have such truth be congruent with history”.

  7. Irked –

    You said:

    “I think it confuses the discussion to ask for someone who rejects “the Mass.” We’re talking about a specific doctrine with relation to the Eucharist, and not the practice itself.”

    The practice itself cannot validly occur without a priest which is why you cannot separate the doctrine from the practice under Catholicism. Only in the world of Calvin and Luther can one separate the doctrine and practice. Why? Because under Protestantism there is no formal priesthood. Catholicism cannot exist without a formal priesthood and would cease to be Catholic if such thing occurred.

    I’ve laid out the basic framework to examine the weight of the evidence one would need to present in order to refute the Mass and most importantly, after one gets past all of the intellectual debates or quotes, there is still no significant group of people in early Church history (35 AD – 500 AD) who were rejecting the real presence of the Mass and continued on throughout history. The key word being “significant” since there will always be fringe sects with crazy ideas. Do you really want to bet your soul on a fringe group??? Such significant group of people didn’t exist and would be the best evidence that Rome went wildly off the rails on the single most important topic commanded by Jesus. Even in scripture Jesus doesn’t correct Jews who were rightfully appalled by his commandment. The Jews knew he wasn’t speaking symbolically and so did Christ otherwise why be appalled over a symbol and why no correction?

    1. CW,

      The practice itself cannot validly occur without a priest which is why you cannot separate the doctrine from the practice under Catholicism. Only in the world of Calvin and Luther can one separate the doctrine and practice.

      Sure, I get that. But whether the Mass has always had the form it currently has for Catholics is precisely the thing you’re asking me to debate. I’m not going to pre-concede the issue by assuming your use terminology employed by different people in different ways.

      Do you really want to bet your soul on a fringe group???

      I bet my soul on the once-for-all salvation Christ won for me on the cross, friend, and on the Father’s power to keep me despite my wayward heart – not on any group, fringe or otherwise.

      1. He commands you in plain language to knaw his flesh and drink his blood but you don’t do that. Instead, you say his words are merely symbolic and the epistemological basis for his words being symbolic come from where exactly? Two guys born 1,400 years after Christ died or through unknown fringe sects? Early church history isn’t replete with fighting on whether the Mass was a symbol.

        Christ did a lot more than just die for our sins. He commanded us to worship him in a specific way and this way was congruent with Judaism and his Church.

      2. “I bet my soul on the once-for-all salvation Christ won for me on the cross, friend, and on the Father’s power to keep me despite my wayward heart – not on any group”

        I guess you don’t absolutely need a Church then? Or, the Church is only a superfluous, non-essential, element regarding your salvation…maybe necessary for initial catechesis, but then not needed any longer after sufficient understanding of Christ is acquired?

  8. Irked –

    What if you are incorrect about the Mass?

    If the question is posed to me through a Protestant lens I’m fine since it’s just a symbol. Now what if your lens is Catholic and you still claim the Mass is a symbol? Have you not excommunicated yourself??? If one intentionally cuts oneself off from Rome what is the consequence of such action?

    BTW – many political leaders have excommmunicated themselves (ex. Pelosi, Biden, etc.). There are very few politicians who still hold onto any key issues of Catholicism. The idea that one should leave their religion at the door on political matters is another evil on our society spurred by moral relativism.

    1. Oh, yeah, if I’m wrong, I’m in a world of hurt. If you’re wrong, you’ve been worshiping a created thing, and that’s probably not great either. If we’re both wrong, and Islam is true, we’re both in trouble.

      “But what if you’re wrong?” arguments aren’t particularly useful.

      If one intentionally cuts oneself off from Rome what is the consequence of such action?

      If you’ll pardon the pun: not a blessed thing.

      1. Irked –

        How do you reconcile scripture and history on the Mass as a symbol?

        The historical record for a symbolic mass is barely existent except from fringe groups. The rest are from people in the 14th Century. I’m trying to figure out how you epistemologically get there especially since Christ’s actions in not correcting error goes against a symbolic position IMO.

        1. CW,

          That’s a question with a long answer. The short version is answered in three ways.

          First, the clearest evidence Christ did not intend us to understand a literal transformation is that the elements don’t transform. The Catholic position relies on a notion of a separation of the accidents and the substance of the elements; I don’t agree that this division is intended. Indeed, I don’t agree that these are useful philosophical concepts in general; Aristotle was a brilliant man with the disadvantage that he built his metaphysics on the foundation of a physics that was basically entirely wrong.

          Second, the required secondary theologies to make sense of a Catholic understanding of the Eucharist – the role of priests, the nature of ordination, the function of the mass in mediating grace, etc. – are so alien (and in places contrary) to Scripture as to rule out the understanding as a whole.

          Third, I do not concur that history is as lacking in orthodox adherents the symbolic view as you assert.

          I’m answering your question in the spirit of mutual understanding, but I’d prefer it if this didn’t spawn an enormous follow-up conversation; I’ve made several very long posts already in this thread, and I’m a bit worn out.

          1. IIrked –

            You answered my question The only follow up is why do you believe early history isn’t OVERWHELMINGLY Catholic?

            I’m a former Protestant and never could produce real historical evidence to support a symbolic view of the Mass (among other historical issues). If you have names/info of people please post. Joe’s articles on this issue are very persuasive.

            If the Mass isn’t symbolic then Pism falls IMO.

          2. Irked. –

            The names of your top two material people from 35-500 AD who you think view the Mass is symbolic would be greatly appreciated. Even better if you can point me to source material why you think they believe in such manner. I’ve never found anyone material on this specific issue. There are obviously fringe groups that dance around the issue, but I always wanted more than that to justify a belief.

          3. Canon 13 of the 1st Ecumenical Council at Nicaea supports the ‘true presence’ of Christ in the Eucharist, writing:

            “Concerning the departing, the ancient canonical law is still to be maintained, to wit, that, if any man be at the point of death, he must not be deprived of the last and most INDISPENSABLE Viaticum. But, if any one should be restored to health again who has received the communion when his life was despaired of, let him remain among those who communicate in PRAYERS ONLY. But in general, and in the case of any dying person whatsoever asking to receive the Eucharist, let the Bishop, after examination made, give it him. ”

            Why search for mere quotes from random fathers, when an ecumenical council of world wide bishops support ‘the ancient canon law’ reading the viaticum given before death?’

            It is ludicrous to argue that the early Church didn’t teach the ‘real presence’ of Christ in the Eucharist. Synods and Councils prove this, for those who have ‘eyes to see and ears to hear’ what these Councils teach regarding such a holy subject as …the Eucharist, ‘the New Testament’ wherein Christ proclaimed :

            “This is the chalice, the NEW TESTAMENT in my blood, which shall be shed for you.”

          4. Fellas, this has been about six replies since I glanced at this last. This is the root of that enormous new conversation I asked that we not do right now.

            CW, if you look over posts from the last six months or so, you’ll see several places where I’ve debated the Eucharist at length. You can find, for instance, my analysis of John 6, and my repeated unmet requests for Al to give me an alternative verse-by-verse exposition of the passage. If you would like to understand my position better, I’d ask that you look at those first.

          5. Irked –

            I’m begging for historical evidence of your position, not more exegesis. Assume you’re true regarding the Mass being a symbol, where are the material people in early church history who truly believed like you did????

            Who is the number one material person in history outside of scripture who also believed the Eucharist was ONLY a symbol.

          6. Hi Irked,

            Below you ask why no alternative explanation for John 37, 39, etc. was offered. On June 1, I offered one but I don’t know whether you read it since I had no reply. It was not addressed specifically to you but it was in fact for you as you had repeatedly asked. This was my own personal read. Anyone please comment where they see it as off-kilter.

            Best.

          7. Hi Irked,
            Forgot to paste! (We both love the edit we lack…)

            June 1, 2017 at 5:21 pm

            As you asked, here’s a read of John 6: 37, 39, and 44: All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.:

            But first, Irked, (Can one, being electric, be shocked?!) John 6:5:
            “…a great crowd had come to him.” Some of that crowd believed, “This is truly the Prophet.” Some who have come here hold an imperfect understanding of who Jesus is. In fact, “they would come to seize him and make him king.” (John 6:15). Yet still these ‘believed’ in Jesus. They saw him and his miracles with their own eyes, yes? Yet they are unwilling to allow Jesus His own end. They want their conception of salvation rather than his. They want literal bread; He wants to give them his spiritual flesh and blood. They in essence cast themselves out. Jesus does not turn them away but John 6:67: From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

            John 6:39: The will of the Father is that Jesus should lose nothing of what the Father has given Him. Actually, He shall lose nothing of ‘it.’ Perhaps people are not being talked of here at all, but perhaps heaven and earth materially are intended. (Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never…Matthew 24:35). John 1:1-3 says that the Word (Jesus) was God, was with God, and all things were made through him. God made all things good. Men alone have chosen the privation of goodness. Jesus loses NOTHING that is good.

            And John 6:44: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

            Jesus’ raising may mean raising into heaven, but it may also mean the resurrection–raising from the dead, and of everyone which is to occur just prior to the final judgment on the last day. ( Matthew 22:31;Matthew 13:47). The Father’s ‘drawing’ may be his drawing forth or calling (by a trumpet perhaps) of the elect and reprobate. For Jesus shall judge us all at that time, and only then shall we know to whom the “him” of verse 44 refers.

            God bless.

          8. Hi Margo,

            I must have overlooked your post – I apologize! Let me remedy that.

            Hi Irked,

            Yet still these ‘believed’ in Jesus. They saw him and his miracles with their own eyes, yes?

            They clearly believed in something about him. We see in v. 25 that this extends to calling him “Rabbi,” but in the latter verses that it doesn’t extend to trusting him for salvation. They are, pretty literally, looking for a free lunch.

            John 6:39: The will of the Father is that Jesus should lose nothing of what the Father has given Him. Actually, He shall lose nothing of ‘it.’ Perhaps people are not being talked of here at all, but perhaps heaven and earth materially are intended.

            It seems a remarkable leap to jump from the only topic Christ is discussing here to an entirely different book to find the object of “all that.” It seems like your reading would entirely separate verse 39, where Christ speaks of “raising them [that the Father has given me] up at the last day” from verse 40, which echoes the same sentiment and is explicitly about people.

            What justifies this kind of leap? Verse 35 is people. 36 is people. 37 is people. 40 is people. (I omit 38 because it’s only about Christ and the Father.) Nothing here is anything but people. What reason is there for not parsing 39 as “people?”

            Jesus’ raising may mean raising into heaven, but it may also mean the resurrection–raising from the dead, and of everyone which is to occur just prior to the final judgment on the last day.

            So when Christ says he will “lose none, but raise them up,” what exactly is entailed by “losing none?” Clearly these are contrasts: those given by the Father will be raised rather than being lost. If “raised” is something that happens to even the condemned, what on earth is this saying? What would it mean to be lost, if (as in your reading) neither the saved nor the condemned are lost?

            Would you likewise say that when Christ promises to raise up those who eat and drink of him, that this is only a promise to raise them up to salvation or damnation?

            It feels a bit like the passage here is being cut up beyond the point where we can trace Christ’s argument from verse to verse. In the process, I think we lose the amazing encouragements Christ is giving here, as the passage becomes, “Of those the Father gives me, I will lose none, which won’t stop most of them from going to hell.”

            The Father’s ‘drawing’ may be his drawing forth or calling (by a trumpet perhaps) of the elect and reprobate.

            So we’re told two things: that no one comes unless he is drawn, and that everyone who comes will never be driven away. If “drawing” is of both the saved and the condemned, then in your reading both the saved and the condemned must “come to Christ.” If that happens, Christ will… never cast away the condemned? Is this the same Christ who says to some of those people, “Depart from me, for I never knew you?”

            I’m being critical here, Margo, but I don’t see how this holds together. What is it that you see Christ saying, when he says all these sentences? What’s the flow of the argument?

            This is one of the reasons I was urging for a verse-by-verse exposition: something that would go through the passage in order, following the argument as it went. I’m no theologian, but I tried to provide exactly that – I don’t think speaking to isolated phrases and saying, “Perhaps this means such-and-such,” leaves us with a very intelligible passage as a whole.

            All critique aside, though, thanks for the reply, and again, I’m sorry for missing it on the first pass.

          9. Irked,
            This thread is confusing. Pardon me if I’m not posting this in the correct spot. Not sure how much time I can give this AM, but I’ll return later is I’m interrupted.

            You object to my quoting other scripture rather than sticking to the three verses you asked, then you bring in another verse (40) which you didn’t ask that we quote. What gives?

            Specifically I talked about ALL being raised on the last day. This is in scripture. Do you not accept that one part of scripture is related to other parts? The different parts do not contradict each other.

            Irked: It seems a remarkable leap to jump from the only topic Christ is discussing here to an entirely different book to find the object of “all that.” It seems like your reading would entirely separate verse 39, where Christ speaks of “raising them [that the Father has given me] up at the last day” from verse 40, which echoes the same sentiment and is explicitly about people.

            Irked: What justifies this kind of leap? Verse 35 is people. 36 is people. 37 is people. 40 is people. (I omit 38 because it’s only about Christ and the Father.) Nothing here is anything but people. What reason is there for not parsing 39 as “people?”

            The word “THING” justifies my suggestion that something other than people may be implied. MAY BE IMPLIED. The idea that material substance will come to an end but spiritual substance will never end. I agree that PEOPLE is most abundantly numerically expressed. I offer the suggestion that something else may be implied–perhaps our material bodies–because of the word “THING.”

            SHEESH, Irked. In one place you criticize because I add another verse and book to expound one verse and book. Here you bring additional verse into your argument. Why do you criticize me for doing what you do?

            The basic premise of what I see in the verses? God draws us to him in many different ways. We, in many different ways as you yourself suggest, come and turn away or come and stay with the Lord. Jesus NEVER turns anyone away. We, of our own volition turn away, freely, and stupidly. The choice is ours. We are all drawn, just as we have all be made, with a soul, an imprint, a likeness to God. We can choose to deny it.

            More later if you wish. Now I’m out the door. God bless.

          10. Hey Margo,

            The thread has gotten a little… over-cluttered, yeah.

            You object to my quoting other scripture rather than sticking to the three verses you asked, then you bring in another verse (40) which you didn’t ask that we quote. What gives?

            My objection is that, if we want to know what Jesus was saying in John 6:39, it makes total sense to look at what Jesus is saying in John 6:40. I don’t think it makes sense to look at what he says in an unrelated passage in Matthew. Context, as my Catholic friends here are fond of reminding me, is important!

            Specifically I talked about ALL being raised on the last day. This is in scripture. Do you not accept that one part of scripture is related to other parts?

            Certainly I do. But Scripture also very often uses “rise” or “raised” to refer specifically to those raised to life, exclusive of those raised to judgment. Passages that speak of a more general recalling of the dead tend to use different language (i.e., “The grave gave up those that were in it,” in Revelation). My question to you was, does a general calling of the dead – a calling that will end with many of them in hell – make sense in the context of Christ’s words here, such as his claim that those raised up will not be lost? I don’t see how to make sense of his argument in John 6 given your reading.

            I offer the suggestion that something else may be implied–perhaps our material bodies–because of the word “THING.”

            I could see an argument that this is a broader category than people – but surely we’d agree that in the context of the passage, people are primarily what he’s talking about, right? V. 37 clearly says that people are given to the Son (i.e., “All those the father gives me will come,”) and I think we have to read 39 as including those people in “All that the Father gives.”

            I’m not able to follow how your summary derives from John 6, but if you’d like to pick this up again at a later time, I’d be happy to.

        1. Margo,

          I’m not sure the referent of “it” in your sentence, but surely we agree that people choose unblessed things all the time?

          1. Another poster asked, “If one intentionally cuts oneself off from Rome what is the consequence of such action?”

            Your reply: “If you’ll pardon the pun: not a blessed thing.”

            So ‘it’ refers to “not a blessed thing.” If “it” is “not a blessed thing,” then it must be a non-blessed thing.

          2. Margo,

            No, I’m sorry, I’m still not following. “Not a blessed thing” was mostly a pun – that is, in response to the question, “What is the consequence of being cut off from Rome,” my answer was “Nothing.”

            (“Not a blessed thing” is a colloquial way of expressing that – i.e., “Martha, can I do anything for you today?” “Not a blessed thing, Fred.” The particular application of “blessed” just struck me funny; maybe that was trying to be a little too cute.)

  9. Further evidence of Early Church teaching on the Eucharist, and the nature of the priesthood, is derived from Book 8, Section 4 of the early Church Catechism named “The Apostolic Constitutions” :

    “…He has in several ways changed baptism, sacrifice, the PRIESTHOOD, and the divine service, which was confined to one place: for instead of daily baptisms, He has given only one, which is that into His death. Instead of one tribe, He has appointed that out of every nation the best should be ordained for the PRIESTHOOD; and that not their bodies should be examined for blemishes, but their religion and their lives. Instead of a bloody SACRIFICE, He has appointed that reasonable and UNBLOODY MYSTICAL ONE of His body and blood, which is performed to represent the death of the Lord by symbols. Instead of the divine service confined to one place, He has commanded and appointed that He should be glorified from sunrising to sunsetting in every place of His dominion [my note: the ‘world wide’ Mass celebrations]. He did not therefore take away the law from us, but the bonds.” (Book 8 Section 4)

    Find it here: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/07156.htm

  10. awlms –

    This is probably why I’ve never encountered real hard nosed evidence of a “only” symbolic Mass in early Church history.

    Here is quote from Carl Trueman, Protestant historian at Westminster Seminary, that I presume is true and relevant to the only symbolic Mass position:

    “Every year I tell my Reformation history class that Roman Catholicism is, at least in the West, the default position. Rome has a better claim to historical continuity and institutional unity than any Protestant denomination, let alone the strange hybrid that is evangelicalism; in the light of these facts, therefore, we need good, solid reasons for not being Catholic; not being a Catholic should, in others words, be a positive act of will and commitment, something we need to get out of bed determined to do each and every day. It would seem, however, that … many who call themselves evangelical really lack any good reason for such an act of will; and the obvious conclusion, therefore, should be that they do the decent thing and rejoin the Roman Catholic Church. I cannot go down that path myself, primarily because of my view of justification by faith and because of my ecclesiology; but those who reject the former and lack the latter have no real basis upon which to perpetuate what is, in effect, an act of schism on their part. For such, the Reformation is over; for me, the fat lady has yet to sing; in fact, I am not sure at this time that she has even left her dressing room.”

    I don’t see any good solid reasons that the Mass was only symbolic in early Christianity. In fact, scripture shows otherwise (no correction by Christ and the word gnaw) and then add a Jewish worldview to the mix during the 1st century and the Mass being more than just a symbol makes even more sense. God just left us a book to without a physical Church on this planet to guide us? No way.

  11. Irked –

    I highly recommend this article: https://www.catholic.com/tract/christ-in-the-eucharist

    Maybe it might change your perspective.

    For example, the Greek word used for “eats” (trogon) is very blunt and has the sense of “chewing” or “gnawing.” This is not the language of metaphor. Also, “[t]he phrase ‘to eat the flesh and drink the blood,’ when used figuratively among the Jews, as among the Arabs of today, meant to inflict upon a person some serious injury, especially by calumny or by false accusation. To interpret the phrase figuratively then would be to make our Lord promise life everlasting to the culprit for slandering and hating him, which would reduce the whole passage to utter nonsense”

  12. I am dumb struck with all the ink spent on this one post alone in such a short time. Incredible, Joe. Keep up the good work. I’m very proud to know you and your work.

    Lol….one read post, just because I was curious as to what I’ve been missing. Good grief…that’s a lot of ink.

    DJ|AMDG

  13. Hi Irked, regarding: “my repeated unmet requests for Al to give me an alternative verse-by-verse exposition of the passage.”

    In various comments in the past I noted that the statement of Christ “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” needs to be understood by what Jesus means by the words “comes to me”. And as I reiterated various times, ‘comes to me’ means to “carryout all that I have commanded you” as Jesus told his disciples before He ascended into Heaven. This means, to ‘come to Jesus’ is not merely to hear about Him. It means being catechized by the Church and not to deny Him even under torture.

    So, who can be assured of coming to Jesus? The closest we can get is to be catechized well by the Church; to receive all of her sacraments; to commit no mortal sin….or repent and confess if you do commit grave sin; to pray always as Christ says; and to live as a disciple of Christ until the end of your life. And even under torture, one is not to deny the Lord. This is what we learn from Early Church Catechesis such as the ‘Apostolic Constitutions’ here:

    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0715.htm

    …And the ‘Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, here:

    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3101.htm

    Moreover, the Canons of the Synod of Alvira gives more teaching, here:
    http://www.earlychurchtexts.com/public/elvira_canons.htm

    … As do the canons of the 1st Ecumenical Council of Nicaea., also, here:

    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3801.htm

    This is to say, to ‘come to the Christ’ is to come to her Church led by her appointed bishops. After catechesis, if you agree to everything taught by the Church, you will be baptized INTO Christ’s Church. And, of course there is a difference between a heretical Church and Christ’s Church. Early Church history/catechesis, and all of the Ecumenical Councils are clear: Christ’s Church is the Catholic Church. Just read all and this is clearly taught.

    So, this is what is meant to ‘come to Jesus’ in the quotes above. You must ‘come to Him’ through His Church, ‘through the door’, and not merely through a Bible which any heretic and expound on.

  14. Hi Irked,

    I have a question for you about sola scriptura. If someone were to preach that you must believe in the Trinity, that Jesus actually took flesh, and that Mary was perpetually a virgin, would that be okay, and fall within the boundaries of sola scriptura?

    1. Duane,

      I’m not sure what you mean by “Would that fall within the bounds of sola Scriptura?” (I assume there is a “gotcha” of some sort coming in that you’re describing the beliefs of some Reformer?) Someone could be persuaded that Scripture taught these things, I suppose; I would disagree with him fairly firmly, but that he misinterpreted Scripture would not be proof that he rejected sola Scriptura.

      Or putting that a different way, SS doesn’t teach that every person who sets out to interpret the Bible will get everything right about it, because people are still fallen creatures with damaged reasons. (That’s one of the reasons Protestantism praises the value of teaching and tradition as fallible guides to the faith.) So two people can both hold sola Scriptura and still reach different conclusions; that just indicates that at least one of them made a mistake.

      1. Please note that sola scripture is a doctrine which violates itself as it isn’t found in scripture nor does it determine what is scripture.

        Also, how does one know who is right or correct under this doctrine? You don’t since it’s determine by each fallen individual and rejects the concept that Christ created a physical Church on this planet to teach us correctly and he would prevent it from failing in such teaching. Individual Popes, Cardinals, Bishops and Priests might state error, but they aren’t the Magesterium.

        1. CW,

          There’s a pattern in which your posts have been very aggressive, and in a number of cases very aggressive on very surface-level critiques of Protestantism. So, for instance, yes, Protestants have only a fallible understanding of what the canon is. Every denomination – every religion – begins with a fallible human judgment as to what is and is not a spiritual authority. You and I begin by fallibly claiming different sources, but we’re no less fallible.

          I would ask that we move maybe a step more charitable and less accusatory in our interactions with each other.

          Also, how does one know who is right or correct under this doctrine?

          In the same way one knows who is right if two Catholics disagree on the teaching of the Magisterium: by judging by what the infallible source has said.

          1. Irked –

            I’m charitable to the person, but not heresy itself. I ask a simple question that you keep dodging and I’ll ask again. Who is the one early Church father outside of scripture itself that you believe taught a symbolic only view of thee Eucharist? Why don’t you just answer this simple, historical question??? Just give me a name. I don’t want anything else.

          2. Irked –

            There is a logical fallacy built into your if two Catholics disagree with the Magesterium comment. A Catholic doesn’t get the right to disagree with the Magesterium and would cease to be Catholic if they disagree (ex Nancy Pelosi on abortion).

          3. CW,

            I have not drawn a line that the Eucharist must be merely symbolic; I’m just unpersuaded it’s any particular thing more than that. Why are you asking me to defend a position I have not taken?

            A Catholic doesn’t get the right to disagree with the Magesterium

            And Protestants don’t get the right to disagree with Scripture.

            A Catholic might respond, “But you Protestants disagree with each other all the time!” Yes, I’ll reply, because we make mistakes; we sometimes misunderstand what Scripture says, due to our sin, our damaged reason, our attachment to our cultural assumptions, etc. Believing that Scripture is the infallible authority doesn’t make us incapable of error in our application of it. In the same way, two Catholics might agree that the Magisterium teaches infallibly, and yet disagree on what a particular teaching of the Magisterium means.

          4. Irked –

            By denying what the Eucharist has meant for centuries is taking a line in the sand. There was no substantive conflict on what it meant until the Reformers created a new interpretation of it. I have no idea why you would start your position on the Eucharist from a position other than one so clear in history. Your default position on the Eucharist is that a priest isn’t needed which flies in the face of 1,400 years of history.

            The argument that one can interpret the Magesterium which interprets scripture is reductionist in nature. I don’t get to disagree with how the Magesterium interprets scripture. Scripture doesn’t interpret itself and a Protestant isn’t subject to any interpretative authority on this earth but himself and his own personal views of scripture.

          5. CW,

            Your default position on the Eucharist is that a priest isn’t needed which flies in the face of 1,400 years of history.

            I don’t think the clarity of this conversation is well served by equivocating between “The Eucharist is something other than purely symbolic” and “The Eucharist can only be mediated by an ordained priest.”

            The argument that one can interpret the Magesterium which interprets scripture is reductionist in nature. I don’t get to disagree with how the Magesterium interprets scripture.

            Nor, again, do I get to disagree with what Scripture says. I would appreciate it if criticisms were aimed at positions I actually hold.

          6. Irked –

            Your position seems to keep changing or is relativistic in nature which makes it hard to pin down. Regardless, if you don’t accept the Eucharists as stated by the RCC by implication/law of noncontradiction you reject it.

          7. CW,

            I stated my position plainly to CK when he asked. To reiterate:

            “I think the Eucharist is a remembrance of the Lord’s death until he comes again, and that to treat it irreverently is to show similar irreverence to his sacrifice. I don’t think this necessitates transubstatiation, the real presence, or the other variations; I think the bread and wine we take are just bread and wine.

            “Or, well, grape juice. Baptist, y’know.

            “To be open, this is a doctrine I’m less certain of than I am some others; I would not be averse to being persuaded that there’s more going on, but I haven’t yet heard a particularly persuasive argument on that front. Transubstantiation seems like the hardest sell to me, though – the obvious argument that Christ did not intend the disciples to believe in a literal transformation is that the elements do not transform, and I don’t find it persuasive that they were intended to take any kind of “transformed in substance but not in accidents” view. (I think most of Aristotle’s category philosophy is basically wrong, which contributes to this.)”

            I hold to that. I’m not going to defend the claim that there is no spiritual component to the Eucharist, because I’m not certain that there isn’t; I just don’t think there’s enough evidence to positively conclude that there is. I’m happy to say, with a great many of the early fathers, that there’s some mystery here.

          8. Irked –

            So tell me which early Church father agrees with your remembrance only position? Give me your best one.

          9. No. I’m not interested in starting another enormous conversation on that, for three reasons. First, I came here to talk about Joe’s original blog post, and we have strayed an enormous distance from that. As I said back when I first replied, I would like to not make this into a huge side-conversation, and yet that’s exactly what it continues to try to become.

            Second, we’re not able to talk civilly about something as basic as what is or is not entailed by sola Scriptura. That doesn’t encourage me to start a new enormous doctrinal conversation.

            Third, as I’ve said several times, I don’t feel any particular need to defend the claim that there cannot be any spiritual component to communion. Your argument that a position must either be defended or rejected is untrue; ask a mathematician whether they defend or reject the claim that P = NP, and they’ll tell you there’s a third position: to say, “No sufficient proof either for or against that claim has been constructed.”

            So say for the sake of argument that no Christian, ever, in the first twelve centuries of Christianity, said anything that we might even possibly construe as a “symbol only” view. I don’t think that’s remotely true, but say for the sake of argument we accept it. Then, sure! Lots of early Christians said there was something spiritual to it, though what they meant by that varied from group to group. Maybe what some group of them meant by that was right.

          10. Irked –

            There is a massive difference between something being a symbol and merely or only a symbol. That is the problem you face with your position. I agree the Eucharist can be a symbol but it’s way more than that. You don’t believe it can be more than a symbol and there is no historical evidence for such position. Just give me the name of an early Church father that is anywhere close to your position and yet you think such person exists.

            Just post the first and last name or nothing more.

          11. You don’t believe it can be more than a symbol

            No. I’m not convinced that it necessarily is more than a symbol; that’s a different position.

            This is my point: after pages of circling round, we’re still not even on the same page as to what I believe, let alone why I believe it. That’s not a basis for a fruitful conversation.

          12. Irked –

            So you now think the Eucharist is more than a symbol? More than a mere remembrance ceremony?

            Good.

          13. No. You still, still, will not let my position be the thing I’ve said that it is. I think that we should stop here.

      2. Hi Irked,

        You said before that Cyril adheres to sola scriptura. Does he anywhere reject Apostolic oral tradition? If no, then you cannot say he believed in sola scriptura. In all likelihood he found no conflict between the two.

        What further hurts your contention is the fact that while at this time, the Scriptures were open to all, he repeatedly says that what he has taught in his lectures must remain secret. Why, if he is just teaching what can already be found in Scripture?

        You said:

        Someone could be persuaded that Scripture taught these things, I suppose; I would disagree with him fairly firmly, but that he misinterpreted Scripture would not be proof that he rejected sola Scriptura.

        Or putting that a different way, SS doesn’t teach that every person who sets out to interpret the Bible will get everything right about it, because people are still fallen creatures with damaged reasons. (That’s one of the reasons Protestantism praises the value of teaching and tradition as fallible guides to the faith.) So two people can both hold sola Scriptura and still reach different conclusions; that just indicates that at least one of them made a mistake.

        What good is a fallible guide to the faith? How can there ever be unity, if the guide is fallible? Do you not see, that any time a disagreement arose, one only has to say the guide has erred, we must break away?

        Do you realize there is no principled difference between you and LDS. They believe the Church went off the rails shortly after the death of the last Apostles. You believed it happened sometime later.

        1. Duane,

          You said before that Cyril adheres to sola scriptura. Does he anywhere reject Apostolic oral tradition? If no, then you cannot say he believed in sola scriptura. In all likelihood he found no conflict between the two.

          I don’t know that Cyril had any concept of “Apostolic tradition” in the sense that you use it today – that is, as the reason you believe doctrines, and not simply a basis for liturgical practice. If you’d like to claim that he permitted some other source of doctrinal grounding, in contravention of his own words, the burden of that proof is on you.

          What further hurts your contention is the fact that while at this time, the Scriptures were open to all, he repeatedly says that what he has taught in his lectures must remain secret.

          If you’d like to cite something with a reference, by all means, but this is too vague for me to reply to it.

          What good is a fallible guide to the faith?

          Scripture isn’t fallible. We are. We err either when we ascribe fallibility to Scripture or infallibility to ourselves, and indeed that is our critique of you.

          Do you realize there is no principled difference between you and LDS.

          Brother, this is not a line of argument that contributes to charitable conversation.

          1. Hi Irked,

            If the Church is fallible, how can I have certainty she is not wrong when she says Scripture is infallible? How can she be the pillar and foundation of truth, when she can err?

            In regards to the statement I made about you and a LDS, can you tell me what is the principled difference as to your beliefs as to when the Church went astray?

            In his prologue to his catechetical lectures, Cyril says this:

            .

            12. When, therefore, the Lecture is delivered, if a Catechumen ask you what the teachers have said, tell nothing to him that is without. For we deliver to you a mystery, and a hope of the life to come. Guard the mystery for Him who gives the reward. Let none ever say to you, What harm to you, if I also know it? So too the sick ask for wine; but if it be given at a wrong time it causes delirium, and two evils arise; the sick man dies, and the physician is blamed. Thus is it also with the Catechumen, if he hear anything from the believer: both the Catechumen becomes delirious (for he understands not what he has heard, and finds fault with the thing, and scoffs at what is said), and the believer is condemned as a traitor. But you are now standing on the border: take heed, pray, to tell nothing out; not that the things spoken are not worthy to be told, but because his ear is unworthy to receive. You were once yourself a Catechumen, and I described not what lay before you. When by experience you have learned how high are the matters of our teaching, then you will know that the Catechumens are not worthy to hear them.

            If what Cyril is teaching can be found in Scripture, why the need for secrecy?

          2. The question about the LDS is worded wrong. In respect to the fact that you both believe the Church fell away from the true Gospel, can you tell me theprincipleddifference between you and an LDS?

          3. You both believe the Church apostatized, they just believe it happened earlier than you do. But in respect to how you treat the ECF’S and early councils, is there a principled difference?

          4. Duane,

            If the Church is fallible, how can I have certainty she is not wrong when she says Scripture is infallible?

            Our knowledge of what the canon is is, itself, fallible, yes. We all have to start with a fallible step.

            In regards to the statement I made about you and a LDS, can you tell me what is the principled difference as to your beliefs as to when the Church went astray?

            No, I’m not going to do that, any more than I’m going to ask you to defend how the RCC isn’t just like the LDS in its substitution of its own church authority for that of Scripture. Both of those are cases someone could make, if they squint; neither accusation helps us better understand each other.

            Either our positions are right, or they’re wrong; “But some cult shares part of your beliefs!” does not contribute to figuring out which it is, and it’s not a debate I’m interested in having.

            If what Cyril is teaching can be found in Scripture, why the need for secrecy?

            For the reason he says, I presume: that too much deep theology, too early, will confuse the baby convert. There’s no inconsistency here with what he says elsewhere.

            As a simple example, I think Reformed theology is proved from Scripture. I don’t know as I would make that the first thing I talked about to a new Christian.

          5. Irked –

            The epistemological problem in your analysis is that the Catholic Church was first in history along with its Mass tradition which pre-dates the NT. In fact, the Catholic Church is the default church in history (Carl Trueman admits this fact).

            If history is meaningless then I would tend to agree with your comparison of the LDS and the RCC. But history isn’t meaningless. It’s very important.

          6. Hi Irked,

            You said:

            Our knowledge of what the canon is is, itself, fallible, yes. We all have to start with a fallible step.

            Fantastic!!! You are admitting that some of the books that you say are inspired, may not be. As such, holding to sola scriptura becomes unpardonable. You may be deriving an article of faith from books that are not inspired!!!!

            You said:

            No, I’m not going to do that, any more than I’m going to ask you to defend how the RCC isn’t just like the LDS in its substitution of its own church authority for that of Scripture. Both of those are cases someone could make, if they squint; neither accusation helps us better understand each other.

            Bring it on. Since the bible cannot be opened up and a voice come out of it where everyone hears that same voice telling us what it means, then authority really boils down to interpretation, pure and simple. In Catholicism, it is the Magisterium. In Protestantism, though it sounds nice to say Scripture is the highest authority, it really is your interpretation of Scripture that is the highest authority. This is why there is no difference between solo and sola scriptura.

            As a case in point, I give you the Ebionites. They sprang into existence shortly after the Council of Jerusalem. They rejected what that council decided. Their reading of Scripture and knowledge of what Jesus had taught led them to believe the Apostles got it wrong. What should they have done? Should they have submitted to the authority of the Apostles, when they believed the Apostles wrong? If no, then all of Paul’s admonishment’s of schism become empty words. If yes, then how is what the Reformers did any different than the Judaizers? Both refused to submit to legitimate authority that had been placed over them.

            I agree it is about authority. In reality, you submit to your own reading of Scripture. Irked, who has the authority to bind your conscience into submitting to a ruling, even if you think that ruling is wrong? Protestantism has proven that at the end of the day it is the individual.

            You said:

            Either our positions are right, or they’re wrong; “But some cult shares part of your beliefs!” does not contribute to figuring out which it is, and it’s not a debate I’m interested in having.

            Because in reality there is no principled difference. The following is taken from the article found here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/07/ecclesial-deism/

            I apologize in advance for it’s length (a few minute read), but it touches on some of the things you have stated:

            I. A Dilemma

            A few weeks after I graduated from seminary, some Mormon missionaries came to our door. My wife invited them in, and we started talking. But we were just getting into the important questions when we ran out of time. So we agreed to meet with them the following week. They ended up coming weekly for the rest of the summer. Since I had just completed four years of training in biblical theology, Greek and Hebrew, I was quite confident that I could persuade these teenage missionaries by exegetical arguments from Scripture that Mormonism is false and that the Gospel, as we understood it then, is true.

            Over the course of our discussions with these Mormon missionaries, when I argued that their teachings were contrary to Scripture, they would counter by appealing to the Book of Mormon, and I would respond by saying that the Book of Mormon is contrary to Scripture. But they viewed Scripture through the Book of Mormon, that is, in light of the Book of Mormon. They claimed that very shortly after the death of the Apostles (or maybe even before the death of the last Apostle) the Church fell into utter apostasy, and that the true Gospel had been preserved in North America where Jesus had come to preach to certain peoples living here at that time. For that reason, according to the Mormons, the Bible had to be interpreted and understood in light of this additional revelation that Joseph Smith had recovered, and not according to the teachings and practices of the early Church fathers. That was because in their view the early Church Fathers had corrupted Christ’s teaching by incorporating into it both Greek philosophy and pagan rites in syncretistic fashion. So our conversation at some point reached fundamental questions such as: “Why should we believe the Book of Mormon over the early Church fathers?”, and “How do you know that the Church fathers corrupted Christ’s teaching?”

            I realized at the time that I too, as a Protestant, could not appeal to the early Church fathers or the councils in a principled way to support my position against that of the Mormons. Of course, at that time I agreed with Nicene Trinitarianism and Chalcedonian Christology, but like the Mormons I too believed that shortly after the death of the Apostles the Church had begun to fall into various errors, minor at first but progressively more serious. So in my mind, everything any Church father said had to be tested against [my own interpretation of] Scripture.

            Where did I think the early Church had gone wrong? I agreed with the Mormons that the early Church had been influenced by Greek philosophy. The Church had made use of Greek philosophy with terms such as homoousious, hypostasis, and physis to explain and defend the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Of course, I believed those doctrines to be true, but the use of such Greek notions worried me because it suggested an implicit syncretism. Protestants I respected had told me that they questioned or rejected parts of the Nicene Creed (e.g., saying that Christ was “eternally begotten”) as being both extra-biblical and based on Greek philosophy. I knew that Greek philosophy had been quite influential in Alexandria, and I believed that this is where the allegorical method of interpretation was introduced. This was a method, in my mind, that was at least in part responsible for the Church’s departure from the Gospel, and the subsequent need for the Reformation. From my sola scriptura point of view, there was no difference between bishop and elder, no basis for the papacy or even Roman primacy, not even a real distinction between clergy and laymen. So the whole hierarchical organization of the early Catholic Church seemed to me to be a corruption, a departure from what was taught in the New Testament.

            Similarly, I believed that the Catholic liturgy, holy days, almost everything in the liturgical calendar, vestments for clergy, veneration of saints and their relics and icons, prayers for the dead, and prayers to departed saints were all accretions from pagan holidays and practices. Even the idea that some Christians are saints in some greater way (with a capital ‘S’) than that in which all Christians are saints was, in my opinion, a corruption, because I thought that egalitarianism followed from our being saved by grace. This was epitomized, in my view, by the Catholic Church’s veneration of Mary, treating her as “Mother of God,” and claiming that she remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus, as though marriage and sexual intercourse were evil.

            From my point of view at that time, the early Church had somehow been led astray from the finished work of Christ and come to believe in what I thought was a magical conception of the sacraments, presumably also imported from paganism. This magical way of conceiving of the sacraments explained why the bishops who wrote the creeds treated baptism as forgiving sins, why at some point they came to believe that the bread and wine really became the Body and Blood of Christ, and why they transformed the agape love-feast into the “Eucharistic sacrifice.”1 That, along with their failure to adhere to sola scriptura, explained why they treated things like confirmation, marriage, penance, and ordination as sacraments. From the sola scriptura point of view, all these ‘additions,’ like purgatory, the exaltation of celibacy, mysticism, monasticism, and asceticism, had to have come from paganism, and were therefore a corruption of the purity of the Church and the Gospel, just as Israel of the Old Testament had played the harlot with the gods of the other nations. As I saw it, the Church had started to deviate from orthodoxy by the second century, and the pace of that deviation only accelerated when, according to this narrative, Constantine made Christianity the official state religion.2 Christ had said that His Kingdom was not of this world, but in my mind the Catholic Church had tried to turn it into an earthly kingdom, with bishops and popes assuming monarchical prerogatives.

            So when the Mormons claimed that a great apostasy had overcome the Church by the time of the death of the last Apostle, I had no ground to stand on by which to refute that claim. The Mormons believed that the true gospel was recovered in the early nineteenth century by Joseph Smith. I believed, as a Reformed Protestant, that the true gospel was recovered in the early sixteenth century by Martin Luther. But we both agreed (to my frustration) that the early Church fathers and the councils were suspect and not authoritative in their own right. Over the course of our meetings with the Mormon missionaries that summer I realized that with respect to our treatment of the early Church fathers and ecumenical councils, there was no principled difference between myself and the two young Mormon missionaries sitting in my living room.3

            This same problem can be seen clearly in a debate hosted by Beliefnet.com in 2007 between Orson Scott Card, who is a Mormon, and Albert Mohler, who is a Reformed Baptist and also the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The debate centered on the question, “Are Mormons Christian?” Mohler rightly claims that Mormonism is incompatible with “traditional Christian orthodoxy.” He writes:

            According to Mormon teaching, the church was corrupted after the death of the apostles and became the “Church of the Devil.” Mormonism then claims that the true church was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith in the 1820s. This restored church was, Mormon theology claims, given the keys to the kingdom and the authority of the only true priesthood.

            [W]e do have an objective standard by which to judge what is and is not Christianity, and that is the very “traditional Christian orthodoxy” that Mr. Card and Mormonism reject.4

            According to Mohler:

            Christianity is rightly defined in terms of “traditional Christian orthodoxy.” Thus, we have an objective standard by which to define what is and is not Christianity. . . . Once that is made clear, the answer is inevitable. Furthermore, the answer is made easy, not only by the structure of Christian orthodoxy (a structure Mormonism denies) but by the central argument of Mormonism itself – that the true faith was restored through Joseph Smith in the nineteenth century in America and that the entire structure of Christian orthodoxy as affirmed by the post-apostolic church is corrupt and false. In other words, Mormonism rejects traditional Christian orthodoxy at the onset – this rejection is the very logic of Mormonism’s existence. A contemporary observer of Mormon public relations is not going to hear this logic presented directly, but it is the very logic and message of the Book of Mormon and the structure of Mormon thought. Mormonism rejects Christian orthodoxy as the very argument for its own existence, and it clearly identifies historic Christianity as a false faith.5

            Mohler claims that we have an “objective standard” by which to define what is and what is not Christianity. That objective standard is “traditional Christian orthodoxy.” But this subtly pushes back the question: What is the objective standard for what counts as “traditional Christian orthodoxy”? Mohler appeals to the early creeds, and the first four ecumenical councils. He seems to think that the end of the fifth century is roughly the cutoff for “traditional Christian orthodoxy.” But picking the fifth century as the cutoff for “traditional Christian orthodoxy” is no less ad hoc than is picking the first century. If one thinks that the Church fell into heresy or apostasy, there is no more principled reason to think the ‘apostasy of the Church’ did not begin for five hundred years than there is to think it began in the first century.

            Moreover, the first five centuries of Christian tradition are replete with beliefs and practices that Mohler rejects. I described some of them above in laying out those points concerning which I, as a Protestant, believed that the Church had been corrupted. The bishops who wrote the Nicene Creed, which Mohler treats as part of the orthodox tradition, were the bishops at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea in AD 325 and at the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in AD 381. But Baptists such as Mohler reject both the doctrine of apostolic succession and the episcopal form of Church polity that all those bishops believed and practiced.6

            Baptists reject what all those bishops believed and taught as being essential to the Christian faith regarding baptismal regeneration: “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”7 Many of the canons of the Council of Nicea (AD 325) do not even make sense from a Baptist point of view. Mohler is critical of the Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (AD 431) in its declaration of Mary as the ‘Theotokos,’ claiming that doing so “brought ill effects upon the Catholic Church.”8 He accepts the Christology taught by the Fourth Ecumenical Council (Chalcedon, AD 451), but rejects the teaching of the Fifth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople, AD 553) which affirmed the perpetual virginity of Mary,9 claiming that it “moved Roman Catholic theology and devotion increasingly away from the Holy Scriptures and toward human innovation.”10 And he rejects the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicea, AD 787) in its condemnation of iconoclasm.

            The problem here is that Mohler’s position faces a serious dilemma regarding the tradition to which he is appealing as the basis for “Christian orthodoxy.” On the one hand, Mohler cannot reject the tradition of the early Church, because that would make his own position fail to count as “traditional Christian orthodoxy,” and thus fail to count as “Christian,” by the very same argument he uses to claim that Mormonism is not Christian. On the other hand, Mohler cannot embrace the tradition of the early Church, because, as shown above, in many important ways that tradition is incompatible with his own Baptist theology.

            How does Mohler deal with this dilemma? He adopts a pick-and-choose approach. This approach attempts to avoid the dilemma raised above by methodologically, though not explicitly, counting as ‘traditional’ [as in “traditional Christian orthodoxy”] only whatever the Church said and did that agrees with or is at least compatible with his interpretation of Scripture. By this approach ‘tradition’ becomes whatever one agrees with in the history of the Church, such as the Nicene Creed or Chalcedonian Christology.

            This pick-and-choose approach to the tradition shows that it is not the fact that an Ecumenical Council declared something definitively that makes it ‘authoritative’ for Mohler. What makes it ‘authoritative’ for Mohler is that it agrees with his interpretation of Scripture. If he encounters something in the tradition that seems extra-biblical or opposed to Scripture he rejects it. For that reason, tradition does not authoritatively guide his interpretation. His interpretation picks out what counts as tradition, and then this tradition informs his interpretation.

            The problem with the pick-and-choose approach is that it is ad hoc insofar as one picks and chooses from among Church Fathers and councils only those statements one agrees with, to be ‘authoritative.’ In this way Mohler is engaging in special pleading: he criticizes Mormonism for selectively rejecting the Christian tradition, while he himself selectively rejects the Christian tradition. So in order to serve as the standard for “Christian orthodoxy,” the distinction between what counts as tradition, and what does not, must be principled. Yet Mohler’s theology has no conceptual space for a principled basis for this distinction. The result is that Mohler identifies tradition in the same way that an archer might paint a target around an arrow he has already shot into a wall.

            So the dilemma is this: either he makes an ad hoc appeal to tradition, and thus commits the fallacy of special pleading, or he gives up his appeal to tradition, and thereby loses that by which he tries to draw a principled distinction between the methodologies whereby Baptists and Mormons determine whether particular traditions are in line with Scripture or are ungodly accretions.>

            A further and particularly significant implication of this ad hoc approach to the tradition is that it undermines the basis for believing the canon of the Bible to be correct. If the Church erred in so many doctrines and practices, then we have no basis for believing that the Church got the canon right. It would be ad hoc to trust that the Church got the canon right while believing that the Church got so many other things wrong during that same period of time.11</strong

            In that case we cannot justifiably use our interpretation of Scripture to determine which traditions agree with our interpretation and which traditions do not, because we do not know which books are Scripture. Nor, for the same reason, can we use our interpretation of Scripture to determine which books of the Bible belong there, because that would be to assume at the outset precisely what we do not know, i.e., the canon. As a result, those who claim that the Church deviated from orthodoxy at an early point in history, and use Scripture to show this, undermine the very basis for their assurance that the book they hold in their hand is canonically inerrant. They must either turn to critical scholarship, or resort to some internal voice that they perceive to be from the Holy Spirit, in order to verify the canon, before they can use the canon to evaluate the tradition of the early Church.

            This guy Mohler, he reminds me of someone on these forums. Hmmm.

            You said:

            For the reason he says, I presume: that too much deep theology, too early, will confuse the baby convert. There’s no inconsistency here with what he says elsewhere.

            You cannot on one hand say that he is teaching from Scripture, and then on the other hand prove he is teaching from Scripture when he says keep these things secret.

            Can you show me where Cyril condemns Apostolic oral tradition, as the Catholic Church believes in?

          7. Boy, I sure butchered how I formatted that excerpt. Easier just to click on the link provided.

          8. Duane,

            Fantastic!!! You are admitting that some of the books that you say are inspired, may not be.

            Yes. I have said this consistently when asked.

            As such, holding to sola scriptura becomes unpardonable. You may be deriving an article of faith from books that are not inspired!!!!

            In the same sense as you may be deriving it from a Magisterium that is not inspired, yes. This is not a problem to which anyone has a solution.

            Bring it on.

            No, that’s precisely my point. This is not a useful conversation to have; it’s a variation on the “Hitler ate sugar; you ate sugar; therefore you’re like Hitler” fallacious reasoning one sometimes hears. “Some cult thinks X; you think X; therefore you’re like a cult,” does not matter.

            In Catholicism, it is the Magisterium.

            More precisely, it is the Catholic’s interpretation of the Magisterium, yes.

            We both have interpretational steps. We both have “I think this source is reliable, so I’m going to trust it as an infallible guide” steps. That human beings are fallible interpreters of evidence is not a deficit unique to Protestantism.

            As a case in point, I give you the Ebionites. They sprang into existence shortly after the Council of Jerusalem. They rejected what that council decided. Their reading of Scripture and knowledge of what Jesus had taught led them to believe the Apostles got it wrong. What should they have done?

            According to Paul, in Galatians, they should have followed the gospel they had previously been given. Clearly, they didn’t.

            What do you think a person persuaded in his conscience that the institutional church was teaching contrary to the Word of God should do? I don’t hear an answer to this very often.

            Both refused to submit to legitimate authority that had been placed over them.

            That rather begs the question, doesn’t it?

            Irked, who has the authority to bind your conscience into submitting to a ruling, even if you think that ruling is wrong?

            Christ.

            You cannot on one hand say that he is teaching from Scripture, and then on the other hand prove he is teaching from Scripture when he says keep these things secret.

            “Keep them secret” is rather different from what he actually says, i.e., “Let a Christian gain some maturity before you try to teach deep theology to him, or you’ll just make things more confused.” This is an intelligible position; I even gave you an example of how I’d practice it today.

            Can you show me where Cyril condemns Apostolic oral tradition, as the Catholic Church believes in?

            I can show you where he condemns teaching doctrines proved from any source other than Scripture, sure. I’m pretty sure “any other source” includes “oral tradition.”

            ***

            Respectfully, I’ve answered most of these questions multiple times just in this thread. Yes, we believe it’s possible we could err in our understanding of what is and is not Scripture, just as Luther and the Council of Laodicea both did. No, we are not relativists; we believe that objective truth exists, even if we may be mistaken in our understanding of that truth. No, the fact that Protestants begin by taking Scripture as an infallible source, and Catholics begin by taking the Magisterium as an infallible source, is not an epistemological difference; in both cases, a single human being (i.e., you or me) has to make a fallible judgment regarding infallibility. Yes, having chosen one of these things as an infallible source, we both then have to interpret what that source actually says and means. Now what?

          9. Irked –

            Not all human thinking is fallible. Otherwise, there could be no absolute or objective truth in human thought. This type of reductionist thinking is similar to people who claims that all causes must have an effect which would leave to infinite regress.

            In fact, if all human thinking is fallible such statement violates the law of noncontradiction because how could a fallible human know what is fallible since their thinking is fallible.

            There are some serious epistemological, rhetorical and philosophical errors in these posts.

            In fact, I believe that all people have the capacity to know of infallible truth. Not everyone accepts the infallible. If God interpreted scripture for you today and told you what he meant would you still hold that your thinking is fallible?

          10. CW,

            I think you and I should probably be done for this thread. Every time you have stated my position, or attempted to argue with it, you have misunderstood what it actually was. Perhaps that’s my fault, for not explaining it more clearly, but I don’t know any better way to do so than I already have. I think we should probably call it here.

          11. Irked –

            We need to engage more, not less. You take positions that are philosophically/epistemologically incorrect. For example, your position now is, if not explicitly then implicitly, that man’s thinking to interpret theological matters is 100% fallible and yet such thinking logically leads to the conclusion that man could never infallibly or objective know theological truths. All truth is therefore subject to the possibility of error (i.e., fallible) and therefore objective truth can’t exist.

            Please don’t tell me again that I don’t understand your position. Your position is quite evidence and clear in your posts and easy to figure out. You aren’t hiding the ball in what you believe. The problem is that your positions are often incorrect when pressed to their logical conclusions.

          12. CW,

            We need to engage more, not less.

            Bluntly, I asked for some greater mutual charity in our interactions, and you responded by claiming I don’t believe in truth. That’s not a foundation for a meaningful conversation.

            All truth is therefore subject to the possibility of error (i.e., fallible) and therefore objective truth can’t exist.

            Truth is not subject to error. Human understanding of truth is subject to error.

            This is my point. You’ve accused me of a number of things, but you’re presenting an entirely confident and wrong understanding the most basic philosophical terms of the conversation. This is not a profitable conversation, and I’m stepping away from it.

            Have a nice afternoon!

          13. Irked –

            You said: “Bluntly, I asked for some greater mutual charity in our interactions, and you responded by claiming I don’t believe in truth. That’s not a foundation for a meaningful conversation.”

            I didn’t say this, you EFFECTIVELY did. You are the one who claims that man is fallible (which means subject to possible error) in ALL his thinking/interpretation, not me. In fact, I said the opposite. Man can recognize infallible truth (that doesn’t mean he can always do it, just that it’s possible).

            You said: “Truth is not subject to error. Human understanding of truth is subject to error.”

            You are the one who has asserted/implied in your posts that ALL human understanding/thinking is subject to error. That means that humans are incapable of understanding truth because no matter what they think they believe such beliefs are fallible.

            You seem to ignore the rhetorical law of noncontradiction and then get upset when such flaws are pointed out. If you are going to post on a blog built around philosophy, epistemology and theology then you should be prepared to support your views instead of getting upset when someone points out the error in your views. Pointing out your errors isn’t a personal attack upon you. I wish you the best.

          14. Hi Irked,

            You said:

            In the same sense as you may be deriving it from a Magisterium that is not inspired, yes. This is not a problem to which anyone has a solution.

            Ummmm no. The Magisterium is guided, so she is infallible. See how we approach differently. You admit that a book you shape your life around may have error. If I believe in Christ, than based on His promises I can confidently state that the Church which He left to shepherd me, cannot teach error, for to do so would make Christ a liar.

            You said:

            No, that’s precisely my point. This is not a useful conversation to have; it’s a variation on the “Hitler ate sugar; you ate sugar; therefore you’re like Hitler” fallacious reasoning one sometimes hears. “Some cult thinks X; you think X; therefore you’re like a cult,” does not matter.

            Actually there is a major difference between what I am asking, and what you have just stated.

            Both you, and the LDS, claim that the Catholic Church apostatized at some point in it’s early history. Since you do not accept their version of events, I am asking you to tell me what is the principled difference between their version, and yours. I do not believe you can show a difference. I am offering you the chance.

            You said:

            More precisely, it is the Catholic’s interpretation of the Magisterium, yes.

            We both have interpretational steps. We both have “I think this source is reliable, so I’m going to trust it as an infallible guide” steps. That human beings are fallible interpreters of evidence is not a deficit unique to Protestantism.

            Except I have a living authority that if I do not understand what she is teaching, or has taught, I can ask them to clarify. And they can tell me I am wrong, and I will submit. You have your interpretation, and that is all.

            You said:

            According to Paul, in Galatians, they should have followed the gospel they had previously been given. Clearly, they didn’t.

            Three things hurt your argument.

            1.) The Ebionites never accepted Paul’s letters as inspired.

            2.) The fact that there was much debate at that first council, on the very issue that they broke away on, shows how contentious the issue was.

            3.) They believed they were following the Gospel that had previously been given.

            You said:

            What do you think a person persuaded in his conscience that the institutional church was teaching contrary to the Word of God should do? I don’t hear an answer to this very often.

            Submitted, of course. The Church has the authority to bind and loose, not us as individuals. If what the Reformers did was right, than the Ebionites, or the Arians, or Sabellians, or Meletians,….were also right in splitting the Church. After all, they were following their consciences.

            But what does Paul say about schism? And what does Jesus say should happen if an individual will not listen to the Church?

            You said:

            Christ.

            Oh? That can only lead to disunity, and fracturing of the Church. See, your answer is the answer that everyone throughout history gave when the Church ruled against them.

            Because Christ passed that authority on to someone else.

            Who did Christ give that authority to?

            By the way, writing in 1530, long after he split with the Catholic Church, Luther wrote: do not look for the keys of binding and loosing in Heaven, for they were left to an office on Earth.

            You said:

            That rather begs the question, doesn’t it?

            The Ebionites felt the same way.

            The leaders of the Reformation are clear that they were willing to submit to the bishops, as long as the Church agreed with them.

            The fact that the Reformers wanted to reform the Church, shows that they believed it was the true Church. If the Catholic Church was not the Church that Christ founded, then no amount of reforming can save it.

            You said:

            I can show you where he condemns teaching doctrines proved from any source other than Scripture, sure. I’m pretty sure “any other source” includes “oral tradition.”

            Please do.

            St. Cyril’s lectures teach prayers for the dead, asking prayers of the Saints, they give very detailed specifics about the Liturgy, etc., and he ends his talk by saying:

            “Keep these Traditions inviolate, and preserve yourself from offenses. Do not cut yourself off from Communion, do not deprive yourselves, through the pollutions of sins, of these Holy and Spiritual Mysteries. And may the God of peace sanctify you completely; and may your body and soul and spirit be preserved intact at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom be glory, honor, and might: with the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever, and in the ages of ages. Amen [23 (Mystagogic 5), 23].”

          15. Hi Irked,

            You said:

            Respectfully, I’ve answered most of these questions multiple times just in this thread. Yes, we believe it’s possible we could err in our understanding of what is and is not Scripture, just as Luther and the Council of Laodicea both did. No, we are not relativists; we believe that objective truth exists, even if we may be mistaken in our understanding of that truth. No, the fact that Protestants begin by taking Scripture as an infallible source, and Catholics begin by taking the Magisterium as an infallible source, is not an epistemological difference; in both cases, a single human being (i.e., you or me) has to make a fallible judgment regarding infallibility. Yes, having chosen one of these things as an infallible source, we both then have to interpret what that source actually says and means. Now what?

            This is a fallacy.

            Again, from calledtocommunion.com:

            Consider the following argument. Protestants have an inerrant source for the faith, the Scriptures. But it does not make one more confident of the true interpretation of the faith to add another layer of infallibility (the Church or magisterium) because the individual receiving instruction in the faith is fallible. Whatever is received, regardless of whether its inerrant or whether it came from an infallible source, must be interpreted by a fallible human and therefore becomes fallible. Because of this, Catholics have no greater assurance than Protestants that they have correctly received the faith. Just because Catholics have an ‘infallible Church’ does not make them more confident of the truth because both Catholics and Protestants are fallible. If we’ve seen this argument once, we’ve seen it at least a hundred times. In this post, I’ll show why it’s false.

            One problem with this argument is that it turns the question of infallibility into a question solely of individual epistemology. The question of whether the Church is infallible or not has a profound impact on our individual epistemology, but when we say that the Church is infallible, we’re not directly saying anything about individual epistemology. We’re making a statement about the reality of things. Suppose Joe and I are going to send Ted to the store to buy some eggs, but Ted doesn’t know how to get there and he’s not very good with directions. Joe gives Ted a map. I tell Ted, “In addition to the map, when you get to the first street, ask the baker to help you read the map. He never makes mistakes with directions.” Joe says, “The baker does make mistakes with directions because Ted can interpret directions wrong whether from a map or from a person.” Notice that Joe has denied my statement of the baker’s infallibility not based on anything related to the baker but on Ted’s ability to interpret the baker’s directions. The is the same error as someone denying the claim of Church infallibility based on individual fallibility. My statement about the baker can be true regardless of whether or not Ted is skillful at interpreting directions. It’s a separate question. Likewise, the question of Church infallibility is distinct from the question of whether or not it helps us achieve greater certainty.

            Alternatively Joe could say, “The baker might be infallible but he won’t help Ted any more than the map because Ted is bad with directions.” Come on Joe! If Ted is bad with directions, I say we should give him all the help he can get! But it seems obvious that an infallible baker would help Ted find his way. Now is there something about Ted that makes it impossible to improve on his certainty any more than giving him a map? Let’s get back to the question of Scripture and Church and look at the argument carefully.

            Here’s the argument. Scripture + Church is not better than Scripture alone because of man’s fallibility. So man’s fallibility is said to be the cause of Scripture + Church not being better than Scripture as regards certainty. Now God could have placed us in various states of infallible authority. Consider the basic three as follows. 1. No infallible authority. 2. Scripture only. 3. Scripture + Church. Now Protestants agree that 2 is an improvement on 1, but 3 is not an improvement on 2.1 But if man’s fallibility caused 3 not to improve on 2, then it would also cause 2 not to improve on 1. This is because, objectively speaking, 3 is better than 2 just as (and in the same way that) 2 is better than 1. A living authority that lacks the possibility of error and is capable of addressing any new question (along with the inerrant document) is better than only an inerrant document addressing a limited number of questions and unable to clarify itself. But if this fact is nullified by man’s failure to receive it infallibly because of something inherent in man himself (fallibility), then it can only be because the infallibility of any source is necessarily reduced to fallible interpretation by man. So objectively speaking, the Scripture alone (2) is better than no infallible authority (1), but in regard to man, 2 is not better than 1 because such infallibility (or inerrancy) is reduced to fallible interpretation in man. Sure, 2 might be better than 1 practically; Scripture is true and therefore sets us on the right path. But according to this argument it is not better than 1 in regard to certainty because man is a fallible interpreter. And yes, 3 might be better than 2 on some practical level, but not in regard to certainty. All infallible sources are reduced to fallible interpretations by man so nothing is really better than anything else as far as certainty goes. The moment we say that 3 is not better than 2, we simultaneously say 2 is not better than 1. And the moment we say that 2 is better than 1, we say that 3 is better than 2 (or would be if it was true). The Protestant argument fails because we all know and agree that 2 is better than 1. Therefore 3 is also better than 2.

            Consider a practical example in the following situations. 1. Scripture alone. 2. Scripture plus personal and direct guidance from Jesus Christ whenever any question arises. (Let’s say you had His cell phone number.) Now is 2 any better than 1? According to the argument above, it’s not any better whatsoever as regards certainty of the true meaning of Scripture. It might be neat to chat with Jesus, but the solo scripturist in 1 has just as clear of an idea of the true faith as the person in 2 according to the argument we’re addressing. But we know that Jesus could not make a mistake in interpreting the Scriptures. So only a total skeptic could say that His living authority would not help us decide the correct interpretation of various Scripture passages. It is precisely this same living infallible authority that Catholics claim is at work through the Church.

            Now the arguments above don’t prove that the Church is infallible. But they do show that the “you’re not any more certain than us” argument is fallacious. It does not refute the doctrine of Church infallibility because it does not address it. And it does not prove that an infallible Church does not aid us in certainty for the reasons given above. I also recommend Dr. Liccione’s post on the same subject from some different angles: Bad Arguments Against the Magisterium, II

            When Protestants (or Catholics) make a claim about Scripture’s inerrancy, they are not making a claim about their individual certainty, but about the trustworthiness of the source. Likewise, when we Catholics claim that the Church is infallible, we are not making a claim about our individual certainty. We’re primarily making a claim about the Church herself.

          16. Hi Irked,

            And another answer from same site.

            You said:

            Respectfully, I’ve answered most of these questions multiple times just in this thread. Yes, we believe it’s possible we could err in our understanding of what is and is not Scripture, just as Luther and the Council of Laodicea both did. No, we are not relativists; we believe that objective truth exists, even if we may be mistaken in our understanding of that truth. No, the fact that Protestants begin by taking Scripture as an infallible source, and Catholics begin by taking the Magisterium as an infallible source, is not an epistemological difference; in both cases, a single human being (i.e., you or me) has to make a fallible judgment regarding infallibility. Yes, having chosen one of these things as an infallible source, we both then have to interpret what that source actually says and means. Now what?

  15. Hi Irked,

    Hoping you won’t mind if I jump in on discussions between you and other posters, but I simply could not let this comment pass:

    You say, “We err either when we ascribe fallibility to Scripture or infallibility to ourselves, and indeed that is our critique of you.”

    I suggest you err when you criticize another’s reading of Scripture; since all are individually and personally fallible, one ought not suggest that another’s interpretation of Scripture is at fault. You did this to me just yesterday. This divides us? It is uncharitable.

    And so, through the Catholic Church’s interpretation of Scripture, the Catholic Church has the promise of the Holy Spirit and the Life of Christ in the Eucharist which is given to its members. It has the lives of the saints and of many holy people offering the sacrifice of their lives in service to His Church and to Humanity in his Name. The Church has a visible hierarchical structure and teaching authority which is tested by each and every one involved in it, and this is a safeguard, safeguarded by the Holy Spirit as Scripture teaches. The Magisterial teaching of doctrine and dogma is done with prayer, inspection, commission, counsel, council and input by all tested against one another until all are at peace with the teaching. So you see why we say the teaching is infallible. The teaching of the Church is not one quote of Gelasius (to which you point over and over ad infinitum as if his is the only voice of authority with which you may argue, and furthermore, that quote is not ascribed to with any certainty). The teaching of the church is not one pope suggesting ‘The commandments are not prohibitions!’ (paraphrase of P. Francis recently). All these quotes are not the teaching of the church. Use them if you will, but we do not accept them as the Teaching of the Church; you will not win any argument by failing to accept or to acknowledge or to understand whence arises the True Teaching and of what it consists.

    There ought to be no disagreement among Catholics; rather, there is “choice” of disagreement. Nancy Pelosi chooses to call herself Catholic, but she clearly does not accept Catholic teaching. She is what is known as a ‘cafeteria Catholic.’ This is a duplicitous choice not conducive to attaining the peace of Christ.

    1. Margo –

      Is the RCC who she claims to be? If so, Protestantism is a heresy like all other heresy. If not, then Christianity is pure relativism and it really doesn’t matter what one believes since man can be justified by death.

      It all gets back to the Reformers rejecting the RCC and wanting the keys in their hands.

      1. You bet she is who she claims to be. The bride of Christ. And yes, Protestantism is a heresy. An obstinate and far-reaching distortion of truth and charity. And yes, so very many want the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in their hands and the keys so they can call good evil and evil good. May God help us all in this giant morass. And Thank God for His beautiful RCC, the only safe and sure place on earth and in heaven.

      2. CW –

        “I think the bread and wine we take are just bread and wine.”
        “Or, well, grape juice.”
        I read this just as I read, “A rose is a rose is a rose.” There is nothing to smell there either. It IS what it is. Note, too, the change from wine–the substance Jesus offered–to something other. What He offered some HAVE caused to change. Not in the way He commanded, either.

        I cannot see that you have called another poster a relativist, as he claims you’ve done. Have you truly done such a thing??

        1. Margo –

          Nobody else is using relativism in this thread. Claiming that all thinking by man is fallible is pure relativism. We can’t know anything except that we’re fallible (which violates the law of noncontradiction). How can we truly know if we’re fallible if our thinking is fallible??? 🙂 🙂 :). Is Christ really God? Not sure if all thinking is fallible.

          Scripture doesn’t interpret itself. You either have someone interpret it for you (ex. Magesterium) or you do it yourself (Protestantism). Scripture was written predominantly for the Church to teach and not as a recipe book. Nobody can properly understand scripture without understanding Jewish culture and practices and studying from the Greek or Latin. Gnaw his flesh is hardly a symbolic or mere memory ceremony. That is a powerful statement to a first Century Jew but lost on 21st century man.

          Is the RCC who she claims to be? That is the biggest issue between Catholics and Protestants. The biggest issue thereafter is whether the Mass is real or fake.

          1. CW – Right! If we are fallible, we cannot know with any certainty that we’re truly fallible. All we can know for sure is: A rose is a rose, and wine becomes grape juice. It’s all so very logical, isn’t it?!

            Love the double emoji.

            God bless.

    2. Margo,

      I suggest you err when you criticize another’s reading of Scripture; since all are individually and personally fallible, one ought not suggest that another’s interpretation of Scripture is at fault.

      That doesn’t logically follow. Every conclusion we reach, about anything, is fallible, because we’re limited human beings and not God. That doesn’t mean that we’re unable to criticize each other’s conclusions; quite the opposite.

      I didn’t mean to be disrespectful of you, but I may have done so anyway, and if so I’ll apologize. What did I say that was uncharitable?

      1. Irked –

        If man is so infallible as to not able to figure out objective truth then Christianity is pure relativism under such worldview. How do we even know in our fallible nature what is infallible? Christ may or may not have risen.

        1. CW,

          This is becoming unprofitable. “Relativism” is the claim that no such thing as objective truth exists, not the claim that our interpretation of evidence is fallible. Unless you’re willing to claim that no two Catholics have ever disagreed as to what the Magisterium taught – a position I would find kind of hilarious under Pope Francis – you and I have basically the same position: a source we accept as infallible, which we try to understand and apply consistently, despite occasional failures.

          I would welcome engagement on my beliefs. “You’re a relativist” is not that.

          1. Irked –

            Basically the same position? That is ridiculous. I’m bound by the Magesterium and you are only bound by your admitted fallible beliefs. Massively different world views and belief systems behind those two positions.

            Fallible, by definition, incorporates a lack of objective truth and you correctly claim man is fallible. The Magesterium by definition must be infallible.

          2. CW,

            Let me try rewording, because I’m not sure we’re connecting here.

            Catholics have a source they claim as infallible, i.e., the Magisterium; Catholics, being fallible beings, can only fallibly interpret what that source has to say.

            Protestants have a source they claim as infallible, i.e., Scripture; Protestants, being fallible beings, can only fallibly interpret what that source has to say.

            Both sides can occasionally disagree as to what their infallible source says; this is not inherently a rejection of that source as an infallible source. In both cases, the source is infallible, but the follower – i.e., us – is not, and might misconstrue the infallible source’s teaching.

          3. Irked –

            This logic means everything is fallible including scripture and there would never be anything infallible. Everything is a maybe.

          4. The things that you and I think are fallible, yes. Neither of us has a solution to the Cartesian demon.

            When you chose to believe in Catholicism, was that an infallible decision on your part? When you first came to believe that the Magisterium was an infallible source, was that decision reflective of the impossibility of you making a mistake?

          5. Irked –

            The Magesterium is bestowed with the Holy Spirit. You’ve created a worldview where infallibility is impossible to recognize by man. Therefore, you’ve reduced Christianity to the absurd. Christ may or may not be a God. That is pure relativism because by definition fallible means possibility of error and objective truth cannot have possible error.

            I believe the RCC is who she claims to be from scripture, reason AND history. If the early Christians were wrong and the physical Church on this earth failed then Christianity is a false religion.

          6. Okay. I know of no better way to explain what I’m trying to express, and for whatever reason it seems like we’re still not connecting. I think we should call it here.

      2. Irked,

        No need to apologize if you don’t see the logic of it. I’ll leave you to it and pray for us all.
        God bless.

  16. Hi Irked,

    I tried to post this in an answer to where we were discussing earlier, but site kept on not posting it. Hopefully it works here. Again from calledtocommunion.com

    So why is discovering the Catholic Church through the study of history, Scripture and tradition not equivalent to discovering a confession that agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture, and how does the difference explain why the Catholic Church so discovered can remain authoritative while the Protestant confession cannot? The difference lies fundamentally neither in the discovery process nor in the evidence by which the discovery is made, even though those may be different. The difference lies fundamentally in the nature of that which is discovered.

    B. The basis for the difference between the authority of Scripture and Protestant confessions

    Consider why, for the Protestant, Scripture has more authority than any Protestant confession. Protestants and Catholics agree that “God is the author of Sacred Scripture. The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”6 Scripture is θεόπνευστος (God-breathed), whereas a Protestant confession is a merely human interpretation of the written words of God. Scripture does not have its authority on the basis of our agreement with what it says; Scripture has its authority because of who said it, that is, because of its divine source. But no Protestant thinks that any Protestant confession has the very authority of Scripture. No Protestant thinks that a Protestant confession is itself the Word of God. Protestants recognize that confessions are subordinate to Scripture because they recognize that the activity of [mere, unauthorized] men who interpret Scripture in order to construct the confession makes the authority of that confession to be different from the authority of the Scripture it attempts to interpret and explain. Because every confession is made by human interpreters, and these human interpreters are neither divinely inspired nor divinely authorized, these confessions are therefore merely human artifacts, not anything to which all men must submit on account of their divine authority. Just as every systematic theology book is a product of mere men, so every Protestant confession is the product of mere men. Some might be better than others, but none binds the conscience, because the authors were mere men, as are we, without divine inspiration or divine authorization.

    Even though every Protestant confession has Scripture as its material source (i.e. that from which its authors draw), yet for anything in the confession that is not an exact re-statement of Scripture itself, the more it has merely human judgment mixed within it, with no guarantee of divine protection from error, the more it is merely a human judgment, i.e. a human opinion. In other words, because Protestant confessions were crafted by mere humans not having divine authorization, to the degree they go beyond an exact re-statement of Scripture, they are essentially human opinion, and therefore have no more ecclesial authority than human opinion, even though their subject matter is the divine Word of God in written form. For this reason Protestant confessions have no more authority than any systematic theology book, even one written by a plurality of authors. This is why a Protestant confession has its ‘authority’ only on the basis of the individual’s agreement with its interpretation of Scripture, not because of who wrote that confession.7

    Protestants recognize the difference in authority between Scripture and Protestant confessions because they recognize the difference in the respective authority of their sources.8 No Protestant confession has the authority to bind the conscience, precisely because no Protestant confession has divine authority; each has only human authority. Even Protestant confessions state that they cannot bind the conscience. The Westminster Confession of Faith states, “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship.”9 And elsewhere, “All synods or councils, since the Apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.”10 If any Protestant confession had divine authority, it would necessarily bind the conscience of anyone who knew it to have divine authority. All Christians would be obligated by that Protestant confession’s divine authority to interpret Scripture according to the rule of faith provided in that particular Protestant confession.

    If the Protestant finds his conscience bound to a particular interpretation of Scripture, and he finds that same interpretation of Scripture presented in a confession, then per accidens his conscience will be bound to that confession (or that part of that confession) not because of any intrinsic authority had by the confession, but because the confession happens to express the interpretation that he presently holds to be necessary and thus conscience-binding. If his conscience ceases to be bound by that particular interpretation, the confession no longer binds his conscience. This shows that the confession has no intrinsic authority; it is not the confession that is authoritative over his beliefs; rather, his present beliefs make the confession to be ‘authoritative,’ by containing the interpretation he presently believes to be required of himself.11 The confession has no interpretive authority, because the individual is not required to conform to the confession. The confession, if it is to be the individual’s confession, must conform to the individual’s interpretation. He picks this particular confession because it conforms to his interpretation; it does not oblige him to conform to it, or, once picked, to remain conformed to it. And that is why no Protestant confession has any actual authority. Each Protestant confession merely contains a distinct interpretation which some individuals happen to believe (or at one time happened to believe) is not only true but necessary, and thus, conscience-binding. For this reason, neither a Protestant confession nor parts of it can bind anyone’s conscience; at most it is merely a record of what some people find or have found in their reading of Scripture to be the only way they can in good conscience interpret Scripture.

    C. The basis for the distinction between the authority of the Catholic Church and Protestant confessions.

    What the person becoming Catholic discovers in his study of history, tradition and Scripture is not merely an interpretation. If what he discovered were merely an interpretation of history, tradition and Scripture, then what he discovered would have no more authority than any Protestant confession. If his discovery were merely an interpretation, it too would be merely a human opinion. The prospective Catholic finds in his study of history and tradition and Scripture something that does not have a merely human source, either from himself or from other mere humans not having divine authorization. He finds in the first, second and third (etc.) centuries something with a divine origin and with divine authority. He finds the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and its magisterial authority in succession from the Apostles and from Christ. He does not merely find an interpretation in which the Church has apostolic succession; he finds this very same Church itself, and he finds it to have divine authority by a succession from the Apostles. In finding the Church he finds an organic entity nearly two thousand years old with a divinely established hierarchy preserving divine authority. The basis for the authority of the Church he finds is not its agreement with his own interpretation of Scripture, history or tradition. History, tradition and Scripture are means by which and through which He discovers the Church in reality. The Church he finds in history and in the present has its divine authority from Christ through the Apostles and the bishops by way of succession.

    Herein lies the critical difference between the Church the inquirer finds in the centuries following Christ, and a Protestant confession. The former, like Scripture, has a divine origin and a divine authority, whereas the latter has a merely human origin and hence a merely human authority, just as any systematic theology book has a merely human origin and a human authority, even as it draws from and seeks to exposit Scripture. Whereas a Protestant confession cannot bind the conscience except per accidens, (i.e. unless one is already bound in conscience by the interpretation contained in that confession), a divinely authorized magisterium binds the conscience per se, that is, by the divine authority it has within itself.

    Consider the following example. Jesus says:

    “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.” (John 5:39)

    Through searching the Scriptures, the reader is not supposed to find only an interpretation of Christ. The one who searches the Scripture is supposed to discover, through the Scriptures, the second Person of the Divine Trinity. The reader of Scripture who discovers only interpretations of Scripture, but does not discover Christ, has not discovered that Person to whom Scripture points. Such a reader of Scripture already knows that Scripture has divine authority, but through Scripture he has not yet discovered anything greater in authority than himself. Through his reading of Scripture he is supposed to discover something (actually Someone) more authoritative than himself, and more authoritative than his own interpretation.

    The tu quoque objection does not apply to the reader who through the Scriptures discovers Christ, because in discovering Christ such a reader is not picking as an ‘authority’ something that conforms to (or agrees with) his own interpretation of Scripture. Discovering Christ through the Scriptures differs altogether from picking a confession based on its agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture. In picking a Protestant confession the individual retains interpretive authority, for the reasons I explained above. But the reader who through the Scriptures discovers the Person of Christ has discovered something more than an interpretation; he has discovered a Divine Person, Someone having authority over himself, even interpretive authority over himself. Likewise, the person who reads history, tradition, and Scripture, and discovers the Church, has not merely discovered an interpretation, but has discovered something with a divine origin and hence with divine authority, and thus interpretive authority, even conscience-binding authority; he has discovered the Body of Christ.

    Every interpretation of Scripture that is made by men-without-divine authorization is the product of mere-man, and thus has no divine authority over man. No such interpretation can bind the conscience. This is why no Protestant confession has actual authority. Even the prospective Catholic’s interpretation of Scripture, tradition and history has no divine authority as such. If the prospective Catholic had only an interpretation, and a confession that expressed that interpretation, his confession would have no actual authority, nor for that reason would any community of persons formed by like-minded individuals having only that shared interpretation and a corresponding confession, even if they called themselves a ‘church’ or ‘the Church.’ But if through and beyond his interpretation he discovers the actual Church that Christ founded, filled with the Holy Spirit and retaining divine authority through an unbroken succession from the Apostles, spanning through twenty centuries “terrible as an army with banners,” bearing the trophies [relics] of the apostles and martyrs, and spread out over all the whole world, then he has discovered something that isn’t merely human. He has discovered the divine society on earth, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded, to which not only his interpretation but his whole life must submit and conform. Just as discovering Christ through the study of the Scriptures is not subject to the tu quoque objection, so for the same reason discovering the Body of Christ through the study of Scripture, tradition and history is not subject to the tu quoque. In both cases it is the same Christ he has discovered, in His physical body which has ascended into Heaven, or in His mystical body, the Church:

    1. Duane,

      I’m just going to reply to your several posts here, if that’s all right? The post nesting is getting too thick up there.

      Ummmm no. The Magisterium is guided, so she is infallible.

      So, these are assertions we can both make. You say I’ve made a fallible decision to trust books that might not be inspired; I say you’ve made a fallible decision to trust an organization that might not be inspired. You say, no, the organization is inspired; I say okay, so are the books. You say, no, that I don’t know the books are inspired; I say, well, you don’t know that about the organization either. You say some variation on yes, the evidence is clear regarding the organization and/or the Spirit has guided you into truth; I say, well, same thing’s true for the books.

      And round and round we go.

      Now, we could talk about the evidence that each of us uses to trust the sources we do, though I think it’s a bit late in the day to begin to do so in this thread. But there is no “gotcha” here. There’s no “Aha.” The difference between us is that we are persuaded that different sources are infallible, not that I’ve made a fallible decision to trust something and you somehow haven’t.

      You admit that a book you shape your life around may have error. If I believe in Christ, than based on His promises I can confidently state that the Church which He left to shepherd me, cannot teach error, for to do so would make Christ a liar.

      Again, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of my point. I agree that either of us might, in principle, have erred in our identification of a source as infallible. Having been persuaded as to what is and is not infallible Scripture, however, I confidently believe that it cannot teach error. Again, these are beliefs we hold in parallel.

      Both you, and the LDS, claim that the Catholic Church apostatized at some point in it’s early history. Since you do not accept their version of events, I am asking you to tell me what is the principled difference between their version, and yours.

      Okay. I’m saying that it doesn’t matter how much my position does or does not resemble the LDS; what matters is how much it does or doesn’t resemble what actually happened.

      Except I have a living authority that if I do not understand what she is teaching, or has taught, I can ask them to clarify.

      Okay, but now the terms of our debate have shifted. We’re now asking, “How difficult is the interpretation each of us has to do?” – but there’s no getting around the fact that each of us has to do some interpretation. There may, let us say, be differences of degree in the clarity of our respective sources – but they aren’t differences of kind.

      And they can tell me I am wrong, and I will submit.

      Sure. Likewise for Protestants and Scripture. Where either of us sees our source telling us we’re in error, we are morally obliged to submit our conscience to it.

      Three things hurt your argument.

      I mean, take it up with Paul, dude. He was clear: hold to the gospel you were given once – and no matter whether any authority on heaven or earth tells you otherwise, you hold to that gospel.

      Submitted, of course.

      Okay. So your answer is that, if an apostle should come teaching what you perceive to be a different gospel than the one entrusted to you, you go with what that apostle says? If given what seems to you to be a choice between the clear words of God, and the words of a man who says he’ll tell you what God really wants, your conclusion is that we ought to obey the man? That’s the biblical position?

      So, Athanasius, then – he should have followed the rest of the church on that whole Arianism thing?

      But what does Paul say about schism? And what does Jesus say should happen if an individual will not listen to the Church?

      You know, of course, that we don’t agree that Jesus said anything about “the Church” as you mean the phrase.

      Oh? That can only lead to disunity, and fracturing of the Church. See, your answer is the answer that everyone throughout history gave when the Church ruled against them.

      Yes, it is. It’s an answer some have claimed truthfully, and some falsely. Cyprian said it, as did Luther, as did a hundred heretics.

      But regardless of who says it, Jesus is still the only answer.

      The Ebionites felt the same way.

      The measure of truth is whether or not it aligns with the gospel, and not whether or not some wrong person made a similar argument.

      Please do.

      “Have thou ever in your mind this seal, which for the present has been lightly touched in my discourse, by way of summary, but shall be stated, should the Lord permit, to the best of my power with the proof from the Scriptures. For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 4:17.

      St. Cyril’s lectures teach prayers for the dead, asking prayers of the Saints, they give very detailed specifics about the Liturgy, etc., and he ends his talk by saying:

      Show me a doctrine Cyril taught which he justifies from tradition alone. Not liturgical practices, as he describes in the section preceding your quote; show me a doctrine he says to hold because of tradition, apart from the proof of Scripture.

      Again, from calledtocommunion.com:

      I would, again, ask that we not fill the thread up by copy-pasting pages of arguments written by other people, to other people.

      In particular, your author is arguing against a different position than I’ve taken here. He argues that having an additional infallible source is useful for the sake of greater clarity; I haven’t said otherwise. I have said, rather, that both Protestants and Catholics begin by fallibly accepting a source as infallible. If I accept the Bible as infallible, and you accept another source as infallible that then tells you the Bible is also infallible, we are both still bounded by our fallibility in the initial decision to accept some source. Your confidence and mine are both still only as good as that initial decision.

      If I say to you, “I trust that these are the books of the Bible, because Bob said so, and I think Bob is infallible,” have I thereby an inherently better claim to know what is and is not infallible? No, obviously not; if I’m wrong about Bob, I’ve gained nothing whatsoever, and I can’t get around the fact that I had to make a fallible decision to trust Bob.

      Now, having trusted Bob, I may have greater clarity going forward, as I have both the Bible and Bob to tell me what’s what. But I do not inherently have any greater surety in that first step.

      And, critically, if I’m wrong about Bob, none of my greater clarity going forward from that point matters a lick.

      1. Hi Irked,

        I will address the rest of your comments a little later.

        Sure. Likewise for Protestants and Scripture. Where either of us sees our source telling us we’re in error, we are morally obliged to submit our conscience to it.

        Ummm no. Not even close. My source telling me that I am wrong is a living authority, outside of myself, and my interpretation of Scripture. Your source telling you that you may be wrong, is your interpretation of Scripture. Vastly different. You give no one else the authority to tell you that you are wrong. I submit to one that I perceive Jesus gave Divine Authority to. You submit to yourself. Of that there is no argument.

        I mean, take it up with Paul, dude. He was clear: hold to the gospel you were given once – and no matter whether any authority on heaven or earth tells you otherwise, you hold to that gospel.

        Except they never accepted St. Paul’s teachings. They never viewed him as an Apostle. They believed they were holding to the Gospel that was originally given to them, and it wasn’t what St. Paul was preaching. So after that first council went against what their consciences told them, what should they have done? Obeyed the council, or split from the Church?

        Okay. So your answer is that, if an apostle should come teaching what you perceive to be a different gospel than the one entrusted to you, you go with what that apostle says? If given what seems to you to be a choice between the clear words of God, and the words of a man who says he’ll tell you what God really wants, your conclusion is that we ought to obey the man? That’s the biblical position?

        Were the Apostles given Divine Authority from Jesus? Did He say when we hear them, we hear Him? It would be an impossibility for them to preach a different Gospel, and as such, I would know my interpretation of the Gospel was wrong. See, you suffer from what all Protestants suffer: you do not trust the Church that Jesus founded, and guides. You only trust it when she agrees with you.

        Let me turn the tables on you though. What good were the keys given to St. Peter to bind and loose, if all anyone ever has to say is: “I believe when you attempt to bind me, that you are preaching a different gospel”?

        So, Athanasius, then – he should have followed the rest of the church on that whole Arianism thing?

        Ummm, what position did Rome take? That is who he sided with. And who holds the keys? Rome

        You know, of course, that we don’t agree that Jesus said anything about “the Church” as you mean the phrase.

        Why don’t you give me an answer based on how you would interpret it?

        How should the early Church, in your view, handle a situation such as the Arians? And what should the Arians have done, in your opinion, once the Church ruled their position was wrong, yet they still believed they were right?

        The measure of truth is whether or not it aligns with the gospel, and not whether or not some wrong person made a similar argument.

        Who decides what aligns with the Gospel? Right now, in Protestantism, it is the individual. Admit it. The community that you worship in right now, you worship with because they align with your view of the Gospels.

      2. HI Irked,

        Okay, but now the terms of our debate have shifted. We’re now asking, “How difficult is the interpretation each of us has to do?” – but there’s no getting around the fact that each of us has to do some interpretation. There may, let us say, be differences of degree in the clarity of our respective sources – but they aren’t differences of kind.

        Yes, but the fact that some interpreting has to be done is not in question. What is in question, is can a living source outside of myself bind my conscience such that I will submit, even when I think that source is wrong? Did Jesus give the Apostles the authority to bind and loose me, even when I think they are wrong? If yes, then where is that Church now? That Church that can bind and loose you must still exist somewhere, even if you don’t believe it is the Catholic Church, or else the gates of Hell did prevail. You have already admitted that your church cannot bind you if you think they are wrong. In essence, you are admitting that you do not worship at the Church Christ founded. As such, am I, as a Catholic, in a far superior position than you, in the fact that not only do we both have what we agree is an infallible source (Scripture), but that I also have an infallible interpreter of that infallible source, one that I can constantly go to for further clarification? See, I have an infallible interpreter who can constantly shepherd me to bring me closer and closer to alignment with that infallible interpreter, an authority that is outside myself. You only have yourself. Since you have admitted that you are fallible, even when you believe you are clarifying said infallible document to yourself, you could be expounding error.

        At the end of the day, you, and all Protestants hold your position because you don’t trust the Church. You say you submit to Christ, but it is only your interpretation of Christ’s word, that you trust. You practice solo scriptura. Did Christ leave us alone, or did He leave an authority to shepherd us? Did Christ leave the Scriptures as our shepherd, or did he leave human beings, who passed on their Christ given duty, to other human beings?

        What should give you pause, is that most of the heresies in the early Church, that Protestants admit were heresies, used the exact same arguments, and made the exact same appeals as the Reformers did. When the Church ruled against them, they left the Church, and attempted to start a competing Church.. You cannot show a principled difference between them, and the Reformers

        “Have thou ever in your mind this seal, which for the present has been lightly touched in my discourse, by way of summary, but shall be stated, should the Lord permit, to the best of my power with the proof from the Scriptures. For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 4:17.

        I want to be clear on something. Are you saying that Cyril believed that the doctrine of sola scriptura is found in Scriptures?

        1. After worship at the Church Christ founded, should read, by acknowledging that there is an authority outside themselves, given the power to bind and loose them, Catholics have an additional safeguard against private interpretation that Protestants do not have. As such, am I…

        2. I would add, that while we start in different positions, what the Catholic finds in the Church, and what the Protestant finds is vastly different, and the two paradigms can never be reconciled, because one exalts individual interpretation, whilst the other subjects the individual to a source other than themselves.

      3. Hi Duane,

        Replying here rather than try to piecemeal the others.

        Ummm no. Not even close. My source telling me that I am wrong is a living authority, outside of myself, and my interpretation of Scripture. Your source telling you that you may be wrong, is your interpretation of Scripture. Vastly different. You give no one else the authority to tell you that you are wrong.

        So I’m going to introduce a premise here. You can certainly disagree with it, although I think it would be difficult to do so – but if we differ on the premise, we’re not going to be able to find agreement in what follows.

        Here’s the premise: everything requires interpretation. The input of our senses requires interpretation. The simplest sentence requires interpretation. Biblical truth requires interpretation. Everything requires interpretation.

        This is not by any means – to be utterly explicit – a denial that some things are true, and some are false, or a claim that we cannot have meaningful knowledge, or anything like that. It’s also not the claim that all things are equally difficult to interpret: some are more difficult, and some are less.

        But everything requires interpretation.

        So if your position is that the Protestant’s interpretation of Scripture is his final authority, I’ll say: okay, fine – then your interpretation of the Magisterium is yours, and here we are again, sharing the same boat. Perhaps the Magisterium lies a little further towards the “clear” end of the spectrum – but in any world containing Amoris Laetitia, we have to agree that neither of our sources is free from differing interpretations.

        (Someone might object, “But many of those interpretations are wrong, and only one is the correct, true interpretation!” No doubt! But this, again, is an argument both our denominations can make, and not a division between us.)

        Now, you seem implicitly to be saying that the Protestant interprets Scripture in a self-serving way, while the Catholic does so objectively. No doubt there are people with self-serving interpretations in both our traditions. But to allege an inherent distinction, not in source, but in mode of interpretation – that requires proof, and not just the assertion that obviously the Protestant is self-serving.

        Or here, let me make that a bit personal: All else being equal, I would prefer that something like what the Catholic Church claims itself to be really did exist; it would simplify matters. When I reject Catholicism, it’s because the truth I see in Scripture forces that on me, and not because I find it a convenient “out” of doctrines I’d prefer not to believe in anyway. I became a Calvinist against my inclinations, because I saw no other way to read Scripture. I affirm the biblical teachings on sexuality, not out of an inherent revulsion for alternatives, but because God has been about as clear as he possibly could be – and my internal moral sense is second to what I understand Him to command.

        Now, without question – without question – there are cases where my application and understanding of His revealed truth is damaged by my biases, by my self-perceptions, by my sin. Who among us can say otherwise? But to say that Protestants have interpretation, where Catholics have revealed truth, is absurd on the face of it. It misunderstands the very nature of interpretation: everything requires interpretation.

        So after that first council went against what their consciences told them, what should they have done? Obeyed the council, or split from the Church?…It would be an impossibility for them to preach a different Gospel, and as such, I would know my interpretation of the Gospel was wrong.

        If these people didn’t hold to the salvific gospel – and Galatians says that the whole Judaizer movement was a false gospel – they were never part of any church, capitalized or otherwise; they couldn’t split from what they never were.

        Let me take this more generally. The only consistent statement that can be made to anyone, of any faith background, is that they should do two things:

        1) Try to know whether what they believe to be God speaking is, in fact, God speaking.

        2) Obey what they understand God to say.

        There’s no other consistent position to be had. One cannot say, “Well, they should obey the group that claims to be the church of God, even though they believe that group contradicts God.” How could such a command be followed, when multiple groups make that claim in contradiction of each other? Should they follow what they understand to be a false church, a church that teaches contrary to God, on the basis of the fact that this church says, “No, really, we’re the true church”? Obviously not.

        Perhaps you’ll answer, “No, they should follow the true church, Roman Catholicism.” But the person we’re discussing isn’t persuaded of the Catholic claim – if they were, they’d take “the words of the Magisterium” and “the words of God” as synonymous, and we wouldn’t be in this fix in the first place.

        We aren’t talking about such a person, by the very definition of the problem; we’re talking about someone who thinks a church is teaching contrary to God’s truth. It is amazing to me that your answer to this puzzle is, “Yes, act against divine revelation; obey the group that you think is speaking contrary to God.”

        Now, will acting according to what you understand God to say save you, if your understanding is wrong? No – the faithful Muslim is as damned as the loyal atheist, or the insincere Baptist. All of these people judge wrongly as to what God requires of them. But at that point, our argument with them is, “Your judgment is mistaken, and you in your sin are are rejecting the truth – here, let me show you.” It is not, “I know you don’t believe anything I’m saying comes from God, but do it anyway.” Faith precedes obedience.

        This is the pattern we see at, say, Pentecost: the disciples argue that the Jews are wrong in their judgment of Christ, that he is indeed their promised Messiah – and then they call men to repentance. But to say, “You should obey such-and-such group of men,” without proving first that these men do speak for God, is meaningless. Anyone – literally any faith that has ever been – could make such a statement, and without evidence to show which one is right, they’re all equivalent.

        (One might say, “But we’ve proven the RCC is the trustworthy church.” Fine! Then let’s talk about that proof, as I tried to do originally, and not these digressions into obeying them contrary to what you understand God to command.)

        Again, Galatians is not subtle on this subject: the gospel is not subject to any other authority. If Paul comes, and teaches something contrary to the gospel you were given, let him be accursed. If an angel comes, let him be accursed. If Peter and the others held in esteem from the “parent church” come – what they are thought to be makes no difference, as God does not show favoritism – and Peter preaches a different gospel, let him be accursed.

        Paul doesn’t say, “Look, just listen to Peter; trust him over what you see in the gospel.” He doesn’t even say that of himself! He says to follow the gospel, the gospel they first accepted. These are commands that can only be followed if the Galatians have the capability to know for themselves – to understand via interpretation – what the gospel delivered once-for-all really does teach. They require the Galatians to make personal judgments regarding that gospel, and what is and isn’t consistent with it. They are utterly inconsistent with your directive.

        Let me turn the tables on you though. What good were the keys given to St. Peter to bind and loose, if all anyone ever has to say is: “I believe when you attempt to bind me, that you are preaching a different gospel”?

        That power is not granted to Peter only; it’s plausible to read Matthew 18 as granting it to all Christians. More, there is no indication in the text – none – that it has the meaning you give it here.

        Ummm, what position did Rome take?

        Liberius signed off on a statement of faith consistent with Arianism, and excommunicated Athanasius for his resistance. You tell me.

        (“But there were extenuating circumstances!” one might reply. Yes, there were! But for us to stand with Athanasius in denying the legitimacy of Liberius’s actions would have required us to make a personal judgment – an interpretation! – of the thrust of orthodox Christianity, and to set that interpretation against not only the near-unanimity of the assembled councils of bishops, but against the edict of the pope himself. To even make the argument that there could be circumstances where one should act as Athanasius did is to admit the necessity of personal interpretation.)

        Why don’t you give me an answer based on how you would interpret it?

        Sure. Christ says that if someone will not listen to his local assembly regarding their charge that he is in sin, the church should put him out of its membership and treat him as though he were a non-Christian. I agree with that wholeheartedly. Christ does not say that no church will ever do so in error, or that a man not guilty of a sin should admit to it on the basis of his church’s charge.

        How should the early Church, in your view, handle a situation such as the Arians? And what should the Arians have done, in your opinion, once the Church ruled their position was wrong, yet they still believed they were right?

        The churches should have condemned Arianism as heresy, instead of largely accepting it for a time as they actually did. I believe I’ve answered the rest of your question already.

        Who decides what aligns with the Gospel? Right now, in Protestantism, it is the individual.

        To say “what aligns with the gospel” is to say “what aligns with the actual words of God.” And no one other than you can ever decide what source you believe has the words of God. I don’t say that all answers are equally good; rather, all but one of them are equally bad. But the individual must always – always – make a personal decision to take the actual words of God as such, and to hear what they have to say; this is a foundation of our faith.

        The individual must decide; there exists no alternative. You and I have decided differently what the true words of God are, and what their meaning is, but we both decided.

        The community that you worship in right now, you worship with because they align with your view of the Gospels.

        Sure. I worship in a church that teaches what I understand to be God’s truth. Like you do. There is no difference here, no matter how many ways you frame the same argument.

        What is in question, is can a living source outside of myself bind my conscience such that I will submit, even when I think that source is wrong?

        Once again, Protestants affirm that we are bound to obey what is written in the Bible, regardless of whether it would be the natural leading of our consciences, because we understand it to be the living Word of God. There is no difference here between us save which source we consider binding. I would refer arguments of the form “But it’s really your interpretation-” to the start of my post.

        Indeed, virtually all of the remainder of your post seems, again, to be an argument that Protestants interpret and Catholics don’t, or perhaps that Protestants interpret in a self-serving way and Catholics don’t. Again, I’d refer all of these back to the start of the post.

        I want to be clear on something. Are you saying that Cyril believed that the doctrine of sola scriptura is found in Scriptures?

        That seems like the start of a new conversation, and I don’t really want to start any more conversations. I said I would demonstrate that Cyril believed we should hold only those doctrines proved from the Scriptures – not those whose only authentication is some other source, such as church traditions. I believe my citation, in which he says exactly that, and indeed says that such proof the very thing our salvation depends upon, suffices. Now what?

        1. Irked –

          Do you believe that ALL theological interpretation by man is fallible?

          How do you infallibly conclude that all interpretation is fallible?

          If all theogical interpretation is fallible and therefore all thinking behind man trying to interpret scripture is fallible, how is there any real assurance that anything in Christianity is objectively/infallibly true?

          These are serious epistemological questions behind your worldview.

          1. CW,

            Do you believe that ALL theological interpretation by man is fallible?

            Do I believe that? Barring a miraculous action on the part of God, yes.

            How do you infallibly conclude that all interpretation is fallible?

            I don’t. I fallibly conclude it; my self-analysis of my own fallibility is as subject to possible error as anything else. Most of my debate partners don’t claim personal infallibility, though, so there’s not generally any argument on the point that our interpretations are fallible.

            If all theogical interpretation is fallible and therefore all thinking behind man trying to interpret scripture is fallible, how is there any real assurance that anything in Christianity is objectively/infallibly true?

            We’re headed deep into, “But how do we really KNOW anything?” territory, here, I think. There certainly is a (basically useless) sense in which we don’t know that we’re not brains in a vat, or minds tormented by an evil demon with the power to deceive all of our senses, or simply madmen. There’s no way to prove these hypotheses false without being self-referential.

            These are also largely irrelevant restrictions of “knowing,” though, which is why we mostly dismiss them via unspoken assumptions after introductory philosophy classes. If you prefer, we can say that we are as sure of the core truth of Christianity as we are of anything else in life – but that this surety is still imperfect, as we’re imperfect. Most obviously, given the current conversation, at least one of us understands at least one core truth of Christianity wrongly, so clearly there’s some human frailty there.

            Theories of knowledge are, in part, my field of study; if you would prefer this thesis restated as a Bayesian net, or a Dempster-Shafer belief distribution function, we can certainly do that. But “we understand the world imperfectly” is not a particularly controversial epistemological position.

          2. Irked –

            You said: “But “we understand the world imperfectly” is not a particularly controversial epistemological position.”

            The issue is whether man is incapable of understanding infallible theological truth? I’m not aware of any scriptural support for this worldview or any other material theologian in history (Catholic or Protestant) who holds this position. Who do you believe holds such position? I’m not sure Luther or Calvin would agree that man’s thinking is so corrupted by sin that he is incapable of knowing infallibly what is sin after reading scripture.

            Why should I believe anything if there is no truth since all truth is fallible? Do you not see the parallels in a worldview where all truth/meaning/interpretation is fallible with those who believe is moral relativism? It’s the same type of thinking in my opinion. If there is no infallible truth then there is no real truth and everything becomes relative.

          3. CW,

            The issue is whether man is incapable of understanding infallible theological truth?

            Whoa, hang on; that’s not what I said. I said man is fallible in his interpretation of theological truth, not that he is incapable of understanding it. “Fallible” doesn’t mean “always wrong”; it just means he might get it wrong sometimes.

            Since you say you’ve never found a theologian teaching this before, let me offer just a couple of examples:

            -Paul of Tarsus: “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” As we moved from the error-prone understanding of childhood to that of adulthood, so shall we ultimately move to a more perfect sight of God and His truth.

            -Charles Spurgeon, Friendship’s Guide: “No Church may lord it over your minds, for the Church may err, but not so Christ. ‘Whatever I command you,’ says He. He is Infallible—He will bid you do no ill! But a Church of fallible men is still fallible, and may slide aside, first a little, then more, then much, then monstrously—then utterly apostatize from the faith of God’s elect!”

            R.C. Sproul, Grace Unknown: “Roman Catholics view the canon as an infallible collection of infallible books. Protestants view it as a fallible collection of infallible books. Rome believes the church was infallible when it determined which books belong in the New Testament. Protestants believe the church acted rightly and accurately in this process, but not infallibly.”

            I could dig for more, but this is pretty standard – you can probably uncover some on your own.

            Now! As I say, this is the state of things absent a miracle. God may inspire us to understanding; he may forcibly reveal truth with a surety surpassing normal human bounds. I don’t limit His ability to override our flawed perceptions when and as he wishes. I would assume we both believe he has done so in the composition of Scripture itself. You also believe that such grace has been given to the Magisterium; we don’t.

            Why should I believe anything if there is no truth since all truth is fallible?

            So this is a pretty fundamental misunderstanding in our conversations, I think; it’s recurred several times. “Truth” and “our understanding of truth” are separate things. To say that our understanding of truth is fallible is to acknowledge the obvious: we know in part, we see as in a mirror darkly.

            Truth – Christ, who is the Truth! – is not fallible. Our limited understanding does no damage to his perfection.

            And that’s why your comparison to moral relativism is, well, wrong! Relativism is the teaching that there is no moral truth, only human preferences and cultures. Moral fallibility is the teaching that we imperfectly understand moral truth; it requires, as a precondition, that moral truth exists! It’s a call to humility, not a claim that everything is just, like, your opinion, man.

            This really is an important point, and I think it’s at the root of much of our disagreement.

          4. Irked –

            You said: Whoa, hang on; that’s not what I said. I said man is fallible in his interpretation of theological truth, not that he is incapable of understanding it. “Fallible” doesn’t mean “always wrong” it just means he might get it wrong sometimes.

            If man is always fallible in his interpretation of theological truth (which you stated) then by default he is incapable of determining what is infallible since such determination would be through a fallible interpretation and still possibly have error in it. That is the rhetorical law of non-contradiction at work. Of course fallible doesn’t mean always wrong, it means capable of error.

            On a bigger note, please explain to me why you believe Christ didn’t create a physical, living, breathing Church on this earth to guide us and last with man until the second coming? I’m curious of the factual basis for this position.

          5. CW,

            If man is always fallible in his interpretation of theological truth (which you stated) then by default he is incapable of determining what is infallible since such determination would be through a fallible interpretation and still possibly have error in it.

            Are you reading “determine” as “infallibly determine,” here? To be sure, man is incapable of infallibly determining what is infallible. He may be quite capable of fallibly determining it; we make fallible determinations of things all the time.

            Again, it seems from where I’m sitting like you’re equating “belief” and “truth” here, and I think that’s just going to confuse the matter. My interpretations – my beliefs – regarding the truth can have errors in them. That doesn’t make inerrant truth impossible – it just means my beliefs may not perfectly match it.

            If you think there’s a contradiction here, I’d invite you to diagram it out in logic so we can see it clearly. Barring that, I don’t think you’ve demonstrated a contradiction. If it’s clearer, to say “we fallibly determine something is infallible” is functionally the same as to say “we believe something is absolutely true,” which is not a contradictory sentiment at all.

            On a bigger note, please explain to me why you believe Christ didn’t create a physical, living, breathing Church on this earth to guide us and last with man until the second coming?

            But I do believe Christ created a physical, living, breathing church. We’re it. I just don’t think that church is infallible or humanly hierarchical.

            You are arguing with claims I haven’t made!

          6. Irked –

            We’re getting closer and a little more digging might help.

            You said: Barring that, I don’t think you’ve demonstrated a contradiction. If it’s clearer, to say “we fallibly determine something is infallible” is functionally the same as to say “we believe something is absolutely true,” which is not a contradictory sentiment at all.

            But the statement “we fallibly determine something is infallible” is not functionally the same as to say “we believe something is absolutely true.” Man can’t truly know absolute truth if all of his thinking fallible and possibly in error. No matter what conclusion such person would make about what they think is infallible they would always need to state that such conclusion might be in error if their thinking/interpretation/knowledge (whatever word you want to call it) is 100% fallible.

            With respect to the Church I’m glad you agree. Now to follow up, what did this physical Church on earth teach from 100 AD – 750 AD? Where was a church that didn’t have a priest and consecrated Mass during 100 AD- 750 AD? I’m looking for history surrounding this living, breathing, physical church. A believer can be part of the Church, but he isn’t the Church that we’re talking about.

          7. CW,

            But the statement “we fallibly determine something is infallible” is not functionally the same as to say “we believe something is absolutely true.”

            Yes, it is. This is pretty standard usage of “belief” in theories of knowledge; you can find a good summary in, say, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s article “Belief.” If it’s not clear that these are functional synonyms – if you understand one to say something the other doesn’t – then again, I think that might be part of our disconnect.

            Man can’t truly know absolute truth if all of his thinking fallible and possibly in error.

            He can’t infallibly know it, barring a divine miracle, yes. As I’ve said, there’s a narrow and largely useless sense of the word “know” where we can’t “know” anything, because all our sensory inputs might be the results of a hallucination or an evil demon or a malicious AI or what-have-you.

            This isn’t the way we generally use the word “know,” though, because again, it makes the word very nearly useless, and because “as sure of this as I possibly can be of anything” is a mouthful.

            No matter what conclusion such person would make about what they think is infallible they would always need to state that such conclusion might be in error if their thinking/interpretation/knowledge (whatever word you want to call it) is 100% fallible.

            This is exactly what Sproul’s phrase “fallible collection of infallible books” does: it acknowledges the possibility of human error. We don’t usually append such a clause after every single declarative sentence we make, though, because – well, because it would apply to every single declarative sentence we make.

            Now to follow up, what did this physical Church on earth teach from 100 AD – 750 AD?

            Lots of things, some of which varied by place, person, and time. I’ve made my case, upthread and in previous threads, for some of the things taught during this period; you’re welcome to revisit them, if you’d like a fuller answer.

          8. Irked

            So when did Rome come into error? Right out of the gate? General time period would be great.

          9. CW,

            You can find several places where I’ve answered that question, and the ensuing discussion, in the preceding threads.

          10. Irked –

            I checked and couldn’t find a date nor the issue in connection with a date.

            How about you give me the date of the biggest issue when Rome failed?

          11. Hi CW,

            I interpret Irked telling you and me to “Go fish.” I suspect he’s done for the day.

            God bless you and God bless Irked. And me too.

          12. CW,

            I checked and couldn’t find a date nor the issue in connection with a date.

            Right, exactly. Errors in a religion that spans multiple continents don’t often happen like light switches; they develop over time, particularly in a society where you might not be able to read Theologian Bob’s “new” book until 20 years after he wrote it. The history of the church is a history of slow encroach of error, and slow push back against it, starting in about 30 AD and continuing up to about now.

            It makes no more sense for me to give you a date there than to give you the first date where American colonists started to resent Great Britain. Events get dates; processes stretch out.

          13. Irked –

            That is a very uncharitable response after your constant requests for charity. Furthermore, you have a warped view of history that isn’t substantiated except by your own mind.

            I will pray for your soul.

          14. Irked, sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. I see CW more or less taking the same approach I was. I am intrigued by the following comment you made..

            Right, exactly. Errors in a religion that spans multiple continents don’t often happen like light switches; they develop over time, particularly in a society where you might not be able to read Theologian Bob’s “new” book until 20 years after he wrote it. The history of the church is a history of slow encroach of error, and slow push back against it, starting in about 30 AD and continuing up to about now.

            Me – This was a similar answer Craig gave me when we were discussing prayers to the dead. You know what the answer is therefore errors must have creeped in without anyone noticing. This would only make sense if these issues were not important at the time. The Eucharist was very important from the beginning. So the Eucharist as a symbol turned into a sacrifice at the mass, as the actual body and blood of Christ, that forgives sins, that is adored without anyone noticing.

            So No one really understood the Scriptures, was aware of any Fathers saying otherwise. If they did they sold out. Not only that but the Oriental Church which split in 450 AD had the same errors creep into their theology. Eastern Orthodox the same errors!!!! Different continents with very little contact similar errors! None of them for 1500 years bothered to read or understood the fathers or the Bible.

            Let’s look at other similar errors that creeped in to these religions worlds apart unnoticed by anyone until the reformation. Baptism saves, confirmation, sacrificial worship, bishops and priests, oh my!, altars, apostolic succession, laying of hands, Eucharist not just a symbol, confession to a priest, loss of salvation, liturgy of the Word liturgy of the Eucharist, Sacred Tradition, fasting, veneration of Mary….

            The evidence shows this is what the early Christians believed. As I said earlier you wants us to suspend reason and ignore history.

          15. Eh? I’m honestly perplexed, there – that wasn’t meant uncharitably at all.

            It’s just that you’re asking a question without an answer. The early church is thousands of people; thousands of people don’t change their minds all at once. Perspectives develop, and a lot of that development happens between the speeches and the councils and the famous publications. I gave you an example from history; I can give a dozen more, if you want.

          16. Irked –

            When did the Church get the Mass wrong? Give me a range of dates when it failed. The Didache predates most of the NT so right of the gate there is historical evidence of what was actually happening in the Church regarding the Mass and a consecrated host. Christians were called canibals for a reason.

          17. CW,

            When did the Church get the Mass wrong? Give me a range of dates when it failed.

            I think something like the “literal physical transformation” theory is present in the early church – prior to, let’s say, 300 – as one of several coexisting theories, with the overarching position of agreement being that it’s something of a mystery. We see a rise in the general mysticism of the church in the Middle Ages, with corresponding shifts in the view of communion; in the same period, for instance, we start to see elaborate carrying vessels built in ways they weren’t before, as there’s an increasing tendency to view the priest as having miraculous powers. By the Fourth Lateran Council, the transubstantiationist position has clearly become dominant – though even then, as Berengar of Tour and (later) John Wycliffe demonstrate, there remains substantial mixed opinion. Once other perspectives are anathematized, though, opposition within the RCC tends to be – well, eliminated, not to put too fine a point on it.

            The Didache predates most of the NT so right of the gate there is historical evidence of what was actually happening in the Church regarding the Mass and a consecrated host.

            The Didache is a great example. Does it have high, ritualized respect for the act of communion? Yeah, absolutely. But there’s no statement that the bread and wine are the Lord’s body and blood; no worship of the elements; no indication of a special role for priests in sharing of the meal. General acceptance of those things would be a later – in some cases a much later – development.

            Christians were called canibals for a reason.

            The same people who called Christians cannibals also called them atheists.

          18. irked said – The Didache is a great example. Does it have high, ritualized respect for the act of communion? Yeah, absolutely. But there’s no statement that the bread and wine are the Lord’s body and blood; no worship of the elements; no indication of a special role for priests in sharing of the meal. General acceptance of those things would be a later – in some cases a much later – development.

            Me – Irked you are kind of all over the place. Can we start with the Didache as standard and go from there? Again what did Calvin and Reformers have that the early Christians didn’t that allowed them to completely go off the rails? It seems your view is the further away from 30 AD we move the closer to pure Christianity we get… It just doesn’t make sense.

            Back to the Didache…

            XIV – 1. On the Lord’s Day of the Lord come together, break bread and hold Eucharist, after confessing your transgressions that your offering may be pure;
            2. But let none who has a quarrel with his fellow join in your meeting until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice be not defiled.
            3. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord, “In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice, for I am a great king,” saith the Lord, “and my name is wonderful among the heathen.”

            So how can a symbol be a pure sacrifice? I thought we were done with new sacrifices. The Eucharist can only be a pure sacrifice if it’s what Jesus told us it is…His body and blood. The same sacrifice offered by Jesus himself as stated in Luke.

            XV – 1. Appoint therefore for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, meek men, and not lovers of money, and truthful and approved, for they also minister to you the ministry of the prophets and teachers.
            2. Therefore do not despise them, for they are your honourable men together with the prophets and teachers.

            Me – What did the prophets and teachers minister? Sacrifices among other things.. It looks like sacrifices (pure sacrifices) where still being offered after the Crucifixion (see above).

            Irked do you make a pure sacrifice at your baptist church?

          19. CW,

            It seems your view is the further away from 30 AD we move the closer to pure Christianity we get… It just doesn’t make sense.

            I don’t understand what I’ve said that leads to this impression; if it’s any comfort, it doesn’t make any sense to me either!

            So how can a symbol be a pure sacrifice? I thought we were done with new sacrifices.

            So there are several things going on here, and a couple of distinct concepts that look like they’re being merged a bit; let’s unpack them.

            1) Christ’s sacrifice is done, yes. Sacrifice for sin is made and finished, yes. But Protestants do believe in a continuing sacrifice: we believe that Christians should “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.”

            Note, there, the function Paul assigns it: not an act of expiation, but of worship – as our most basic pledge as members of the new covenant. Which leads into…

            2) It’s not clear that the elements are the sacrifice the author has in mind here; I’m not sure how the body and blood of Christ would count as “your sacrifice” in any meaningful way. And how, O Christian, is your repentance going to make Christ’s flesh and blood any more pure – or how is your sin going to make it any less?

            If, instead, the text is continuing Paul’s theme – if the sacrifice is us, with our self-offering of obedience pledged again through the remembrance of Christ’s death – it makes perfect sense why repentance would be necessary for a pure sacrifice.

            3) But even more so, I never claimed the Didache taught a symbolic view; I said there’s nothing here of an actual change in the substance of the elements, nothing of reverence to them, nothing of a particular role of a priest. There’s also, I might add, nothing of the conveyance of grace by consumption of the elements.

            In short, the ritual as described here looks pretty darn Protestant; it is missing basically all the Catholic distinctives to which we object.

            What did the prophets and teachers minister? Sacrifices among other things.

            I am pretty sure if you tried to participate in the ministry of temple sacrifices as a teacher, rather than a priest, it didn’t go well for you. Even the prophets weren’t a part of the temple sacrifices; that was for the priests alone. And “priest,” again, is absent from this list – perhaps because it’s, as Peter says, a function of all Christians.

            I think it’s a somewhat more natural reading here that the operative ministerial role of prophets and teachers is – well, to prophesy and teach.

          20. Hey CK,

            I owe you another apology – overlooked one post, misattributed another. (It looks like maybe you posted while I was writing a reply to CW?) Let me fix at least one of those.

            This was a similar answer Craig gave me when we were discussing prayers to the dead. You know what the answer is therefore errors must have creeped in without anyone noticing.

            I wouldn’t say that. Running with the example of the Mass, again, I’ve cited a number of people who noticed and/or taught other positions – they just lost the argument.

            This would only make sense if these issues were not important at the time. The Eucharist was very important from the beginning.

            I would say that the exact nature of the Eucharist doesn’t seem to have been a major concern of the earliest church for a long time. That’s hard for me to adapt to from a modern mindset, but it’s also hard for me to understand disagreement over the fundamental divinity/humanity of Christ for hundreds of years – and yet that’s exactly what we find. From the documentary record we have, it seems like the earliest church just focused primarily on other doctrines than communion: argument on the nature of Christ and the Trinity, for instance, eats up a lot of time.

            I mean, heck, the nature of the atonement seems like a pretty core Christian doctrine, and even that doesn’t get nearly as much focus as I would expect for centuries.

            So No one really understood the Scriptures, was aware of any Fathers saying otherwise.

            I’m not following you in this sentence; can you try me again?

            Are you saying “Did no one understand the Scriptures? Was no one aware of any Fathers who said otherwise?” If so: well, ignorance is definitely a factor here – from what I understand, Greek scholarship gets to be very bad for a while, and if all anyone is working from is the Vulgate, it’s going to be easier to make mistakes.

            But I would never say that no Christian knew the Scriptures during this period; I’d just say they read them wrongly, and focused on the fathers they agreed with over the ones they didn’t. I don’t mean to condemn that wholeheartedly – we all do it to some degree. But I do think they were wrong – and worse, that having made theoretically infallible statements, there was no possibility of ever revisiting those statements later. Error compounds on error.

            The evidence shows this is what the early Christians believed. As I said earlier you wants us to suspend reason and ignore history.

            I do think it’s kind of funny that you’re criticizing me for wanting to suspend reason, while Al’s criticized what he sees as my tendency to cling to reason over true wisdom. That’s something of a no-win situation!

            I do agree that the evidence shows what early Christians believe. And I think what it shows is a multiplicity of views – many of which would eventually be anathematized, with the remainder claimed erroneously as the universal faith of the father.

        2. What follows is from Calledtocommunion – http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2017/04/the-scriptures-the-spirit-and-the-sheepfold-a-reply-to-dr-wes-bredenhof/.

          For further edification, there is a lot more there on nominalism and sola, solo, following the church of one’s choosing, etc. There is also a poster who sounds like Irked’s doppelganger!

          “That’s the question: where does Scripture teach me to look? If I desire to submit to Christ in all things, then should I leave the yes or no finally to myself, or should I leave it finally to the Church? Here’s a scenario I included in some email correspondence with someone on this very question:

          You wrote about appearing before our Lord and giving account. My fear is appearing before Him and having to explain why I thought I knew better than His Church. He may ask me:

          “Jeremy, do my Scriptures mention the Church by name, and do my Scriptures contain promises to and about her?”

          Yes, Lord.

          “Jeremy, what do my Scriptures say about my Church?”

          She is your body, Lord. She has your mind; she is your fullness. She is built by you, headed by you, taught by you, perpetuated by you, protected by you. She is your Bride. She is your dwelling place. She has your presence, the presence of the One to whom all authority in heaven and on earth has been given, always, to the end of the age. She speaks truth to the heavenly places, she judges the cosmos. She looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners.

          “Jeremy, do my Scriptures mention you by name and make these promises to you?”

          No, Lord.

          “Then on what grounds did you exalt and lean on your own understanding rather than on hers? On what grounds did you elevate your judgment over and against the judgment of the authority that I established, the authority to whom all those profound words applied? Why could you not have trusted, as your children trusted in you, that I knew full well what I was doing when I patiently built my Church century after century? Or did you think that I was no better a king than Ahab, that my kingdom foundered as badly, and went astray for far longer, than his did? Jeremy, why, above all, why could you not have obeyed, even if you did not understand?”

          Scripture gives me no grounds to deny the Church’s judgment in favour of my own. It gives me no grounds whatsoever to think that Christ gave the Spirit-illuminated understanding of Scripture to me and not to His Church. The same goes for Calvin, de Bres, Ursinus, and all the rest. There is no scriptural reason to think that Christ gave the true, Spirit-guided understanding of Scripture to those men instead of to His Church. But Scripture gives me plenty of reasons to deny my judgment, and theirs, in favour of the Church’s.

          Christ goes with his Church 100% of the time – always, to the end of the age. Christ also told us that His sheep would know His voice. But Scripture does not lead us to rest in ourselves as the place where our Shepherd speaks; rather, Scripture leads us away from ourselves:

          For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths [2Ti.4:3-4].

          Sound teaching is not something Scripture leaves to our own itching ears to determine. We do not hear our Shepherd if our obedience is rendered finally to our own judgment. We will not find the truth there, but only myths, and only wandering. Rather, it’s the Church who is the pillar and bulwark of the truth [1Ti.3:15], and Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life [Jn.14:6]. To know the truth of Christ, one must know the Church, and therein one will find the true meaning of the Scriptures. It is within the walls of Christ’s own handbuilt sheepfold that we hear the voice of the Shepherd, not outside the walls, not among the hawkers who lead us wandering after their claims of superior scriptural understanding, and certainly not in ourselves.

          And again, to truly believe in the existence of such a Church, this who, this interpretive authority above you, would be to break with the Reformation as a whole. It would mean recognizing that the five-hundred-year separation from the Church to whom we once belonged is a schism, a sin condemned in no uncertain terms by Scripture, and a sin born of following the divisive light of men, not the unifying illumination of the Spirit.”

          1. Amen Margo!

            Don’t forget, if all knowledge is fallible then what we know of Christ is fallible and nothing infallible exists (except for our fallible understanding 🙂 🙂 :)).

            Irked will convert. I did as a former Calvinist.

          2. CW – One can only hope that one allows God to open one’s eyes to Himself. When did you convert and how did that happen? My father converted to Catholicism, after close to 50 years of chasing some chimeric version of Presbyterianism, Methodism, Lutheranism. He died a few short years after converting. During his lifetime, as one of eight siblings, he and every other one of them denominated something different and argued with each other every time they met. One converted to Catholicism at marriage, another was a Baptist, and others permeated one or another version of one or another denomination from time to time. As a cradle Catholic and child, I meekly observed and thought that Christ never intended that disunity among his children, this within only one biological family…

          3. Hi Margo,

            I think it’s fair to assume here that when the person you’re quoting says “the Church,” big-C, they mean “the Roman Catholic Church,” yeah?
            That seems to be the common Catholic use of the term, and it seems to be the way they use it as the article continues.

            Because given that, I’d answer…

            “Jeremy, do my Scriptures mention the Church by name, and do my Scriptures contain promises to and about her?”

            … with… well, no; that’s an equivocation on the meaning of “church.” Jesus never said anything about your denomination to the exclusion of all others, any more than he did mine. He made promises that apply to both of them, sure – and by extension, promises that apply to both of us, as members of his body.

            The style of argument Jeremy makes here assumes its conclusion. Of course if Jesus made promises to the Roman Catholic Church specifically, to the exclusion of all other denominational churches, then the Protestant is in error. But the Protestant thinks that’s a false claim on the part of Rome: that in it, she claims for herself promises Christ made to all his followers.

            It’s not persuasive unless you already believe the Catholic position is right, in other words. Because if I answer that first question differently – if I deny its implied identity between “the church” and “the Church” – none of the rest of this holds together.

            Now, one can certainly say, “But you’re wrong, and they are identical.” But debating that question is the entire rest of this conversation; this poster seems to skip to the point where the Protestant has already conceded the debate!

          4. Hi Irked,

            I believe you’ve seen the light! The Protestant has conceded the point!

            Oh. So if CW doesn’t understand P = NP or P vs. NP, then I suppose we’ll have to consult Godel or Lipton or Levin. A few of whom, among other greats, despite my lack of logic, I know. Be careful where you trod!

          5. Hi Margo,

            “Be careful where you trod” is a bit my point, yes. I’m not primarily a philosopher by trade, but I spend enough time in the field that I’m pretty sure it’s not a fundamental philosophical error to say “Human interpretation is fallible.”

            Since we seem to be talking about my post to CW: CW, my point is that I’d appreciate it if our conversations took a bit more of a “Let’s understand each other, because what I understand you to be saying doesn’t make sense” form, instead of the “serious epistemological, rhetorical and philosophical errors” form they’ve taken so far. I do actually have a little bit of experience in these fields, and if I seem to be saying something crazy, I’d appreciate it if we at least considered the possibility that it’s a miscommunication.

            (Margo: I’d also enjoy a conversation on Godel, though!)

          6. Hi Irked,
            Ok. So the one-up-man-ship has sunk, right? The hope is that one can overlook it rather than shout it out. It often is simply nothing more than armor one wears, and we all wear some of it at one time or another.

            Conversation on Godel will have wait until I meet him (in the afterlife) or when I meet God (who will explain all I need to know in an infusion of beatitude). In the meantime, I presume you too have great friends and colleagues who know Gödel’s work.

            You mention somewhere above that you ‘chose’ Calvinism? Do you say this was a more or less or purely rational decision? Did inspiration play no part?

          7. Margo,

            I’m not really trying to play “Well, my background’s better than YOURS” – but I would like to claim, and I hope I’ve provided some evidence of, a certain amount of… baseline competence? I actually do kind of know what I’m talking about when it comes to theories of knowledge, and I have some basis to say that the things that are being called fallacies aren’t.

            Maybe this was a poor way of communicating that. It seems to have produced more heat than light, anyway, which suggests it was poorly conceived.

            It seems, in particular, like you and I are kind of at cross-moods in this thread, which I’m unhappy about. I’m not sure exactly why that is, because it seems to have gone on for most of the thread; I don’t want to offer a totally unspecific non-apology on that front, but I’d like to fix it if I can. I’ve generally enjoyed our conversations, and I’ve liked that they were generally polite.

            Am I just mis-parsing internet tone, or have I offended you? If there’s something I can apologize for, I will.

            You mention somewhere above that you ‘chose’ Calvinism? Do you say this was a more or less or purely rational decision? Did inspiration play no part?

            I don’t think those are entirely extricable phenomena. I’m Reformed; inspiration plays a part in all right theological decisions. Reason is one of the means God uses in that purpose; the light of the Spirit is part of what enables us to reason about Scripture, definitely.

          8. Hi Irked,

            The difference in our beliefs, beliefs, and grace plays itself out here. Awlms has a lot of wisdom, about which he speaks. I hang my hat on his response.

            A pinpoint of a specific example…I ask about your personal decision to Calvinism. You answer that the Spirit enlightens reason. There is a reason for belief and there is also God’s gratuitous gift of belief.

          9. Margo,

            A pinpoint of a specific example…I ask about your personal decision to Calvinism. You answer that the Spirit enlightens reason. There is a reason for belief and there is also God’s gratuitous gift of belief.

            I don’t think we can separate these out, though. I believe it’s by God’s grace I have the beliefs that I do; I also believe I’m compelled to them by reason. It’s a both/and, if that makes sense; the faculty of reason is part of God’s gift of grace to us.

          10. Hi Irked,
            Indeed, reason is God’s gift. But Jesus asked us to eat his flesh in order that we may have the life of heaven within us. And that life would be eternal.

            Reason suggests that God, who gave us reason, ought surely to have known that eating bread or flesh (of animals) was something HE HIMSELF implanted in us as an INSTINCT. Surely He had need to reiterate his gift of instinct within us to remind us to eat. And to eat him in order that we may have life.

            If we but knew the gift of God.

          11. Margo,

            Feels like we’re maybe changing subjects there? I might have to beg off for this thread.

          12. Hi Irked,

            Okay with me if we stop here for now. I disagree that my statement is a change of subject from reason and faith. Who has set limits on the topic? We’ve been off the authenticity of Ignatius letters since the get-go.

            This is what I see as side-step. I dance that way too so I know the move.

            God bless. And thanks.

          13. Thanks for the compliment Margo. I’m really just an ignorant ‘fool for Christ’.

            The reason that wisdom is superior than scholastic philosophy, logic, etc… is because Jesus Himself said: “From the depths of the heart does the mouth speak”.

            He doesn’t say: “From the height of the intellect does the mouth speak”. This is what the Greeks taught.

            Even St. Thomas Aquinas understood this when he considered St. Bonventure superior to him in his mystical theology. And St. Francis himself was superior to both of them in holiness even though he had never studied in the scholastic schools famous in those days. Rather, he studied in carefully ‘imitating Christ’ in everything he did.

            This is not to say that both are not useful. It’s only to point out that..”out of the mouth of babes is wisdom made known”. And this is for the sake of humbling the philosophers and scribes who think that their intellect is superior to the heart. But Jesus Christ contradicts this. Jesus doesn’t say…” you will know my disciples by how they reason with each other”. But rather, “You will know my disciples by how they ‘love’ each other.

            This is to say, that the Sacred Heart of Jesus is King. And the intellect must be subject to Him. Even St.Paul knew this when he despised the philosophers of Greece, and said that it is ‘Christ Crucified’ that he will preach and teach.

            So, intellect is inferior to virtuous living and imitating Christ in our lives. This is how countless poor enter heaven, while the wise of this world are rejected. Regarding this, Christ said: “Unless you become like little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven.”

            I prefer to follow St. Francis’ way…which is ‘the imitation of Christ’. By doing what Christ says to do, we learn and gain spiritual experience by ‘practicing what He preached’.

            At least this was St. Paul’s, and many other Saints, way of life also.

            Best to all.

        3. Hi Irked,

          … Now, without question – without question – there are cases where my application and understanding of His revealed truth is damaged by my biases, by my self-perceptions, by my sin. Who among us can say otherwise? But to say that Protestants have interpretation, where Catholics have revealed truth, is absurd on the face of it. It misunderstands the very nature of interpretation: everything requires interpretation.

          You miss the point. Of course we all interpret. But the final authority is vastly different for a Catholic than a Protestant. It is inherently much harder for you to be unbiased, because you are the final say. No one, likes to admit they are wrong. Your WCF cannot bind you. Only you can tell you that you are wrong, for you have granted unto yourself that power. A Catholic, is not bound by their interpretation, but by an outside authority. At the end of the day, you can only submit to your interpretation.

          ….Paul doesn’t say, “Look, just listen to Peter; trust him over what you see in the gospel.” He doesn’t even say that of himself! He says to follow the gospel, the gospel they first accepted. These are commands that can only be followed if the Galatians have the capability to know for themselves – to understand via interpretation – what the gospel delivered once-for-all really does teach. They require the Galatians to make personal judgments regarding that gospel, and what is and isn’t consistent with it. They are utterly inconsistent with your directive.

          Again, you miss the point. The Ebionites were part of the early Church. The Apostles had been placed in authority over them. They accepted the gospel that had been delivered to them. Then the issue of circumcision was dealt with. They felt the Church erred on this point, and was now delivering a different gospel. They started their own Christian community.

          Of course they should have submitted, Christ himself said to do what the Pharisees taught, because they sat in Moses seat. What provision did Christ make for those who truly thought those in Moses’ seat were wrong?

          Unless you have been granted Divine Authority to bind and loose, you must submit to those who have been given it, even if you think they are wrong. Christ is clear.

          Now I know you do not believe you have been given Divine Authority to bind and loose. And Calvinism does not preach that they have it. Ergo, they cannot be Christ’s Church.

          Your fear, is that you will be told to do something that is wrong. But if Christ is who He says He is, then His Church cannot teach error. To do so would mean that Christ is not with the Church, which would make Him a liar.

          That power is not granted to Peter only; it’s plausible to read Matthew 18 as granting it to all Christians. More, there is no indication in the text – none – that it has the meaning you give it here.

          Oh no? Have you heard of the Protestant W.F. Albright? Heres from a paper by Scott Hahn.

          It is of considerable importance,” Albright says, “that in other contexts, when the disciplinary affairs of the community are discussed, the symbol of the keys is absent, since the saying applies in these instances to a wider circle. The role of Peter as steward of the kingdom is further explained as being the exercise of administrative authority as was the case of the Old Testament chamberlain who held the keys.”

          Now, what he means there is that nowhere else, when other Apostles are exercising Church authority are the keys ever mentioned. In Matthew 18, the Apostles get the power to bind and loose, like Peter got in Matthew 16, but with absolutely no mention of the keys. That fits perfectly into this model because in the king’s cabinet, all the ministers can bind and loose, but the Prime Minister who holds the keys can bind what they have loosed or loose what they have bound. He has, in a sense, the final say. He has, in himself, the authority of the court of final appeal and even Protestants can see this.

          The Church and the Gospel of Matthew,” Gerhardt Meier says on pages 58 through 60, “Nowadays, a broad consensus has emerged which, in accordance with the words of the text applies the promise to Peter as a person.” This is a Protestant speaking now. “On this point liberal and conservative theologians agree,” and he names several Protestant theologians from the liberal to the conservative side. “Matthew 16:18 ought not to be interpreted as a local church. The church in Matthew 16:18 is the universal entity, namely the people of God. There is an increasing consensus now that this verse concerning the power of the keys is talking about the authority to teach and to discipline, including even to absolve sins.” Professor Gerhardt Meier is a Protestant with no interest in supporting the Catholic claim but, as an honest scholar, admits that Peter is the one that Jesus is giving His power to. “Peter is the rock and the keys signify, not only disciplinary power to teach, but even to absolve sins. With all due respect to the Protestant Reformers, we must admit that the promise in Matthew 16-18 is directed to Peter and not to a Peter-like faith. As Evangelical theologians, especially, we ought to look at ourselves dispassionately and acknowledge that we often tend unjustifiably toward an individualistic conception of faith. To recognize the authenticity of Matthew 16:17 and following demands that we develop a Biblically based ecclesiology or doctrine of the church.”

          Gerhardt Meier is showing, as an honest scholar, that the church which Jesus speaks of is a universal church, not just a local congregation, another favorite ploy of anti-Catholic apologists. He says, “No, the church He’s talking about is the one, holy, Catholic Church, the universal church and the rock on which it will be built is Peter, not Peter’s confession and the keys that Jesus gives to Peter are keys not only to teach but even to absolve sins.” He’s not saying, “We all should become Catholics, but what we should honestly do is to grant the Catholics the point. Because if we are honest in interpreting the Bible, we have to admit these conclusions.”

          Another Lutheran professor, a professor of scripture and theology at Concordia Seminary in Hong Kong, Torg Forberg wrote an article entitled, “Peter, High Priest of the New Covenant.” Forberg insists that Jesus is the ultimate High Priest in the New Testament, but he says, “Peter is presented as some kind of successor to the High Priest in tradition used by the final redactorate, Matthew 16:13-19. Peter stands out as a kind of chief Rabbi who binds and looses in the sense of declaring something to be forbidden or permitted. Peter is looked upon as a counterpart to the High Priest. He is the highest representative for the people of God.” This is Protestant testimony.

          Never, have I heard another Christian say that it is plausible to read the text in the way you are saying.

          I will answer the rest later

          1. Duane,

            You miss the point. Of course we all interpret. But the final authority is vastly different for a Catholic than a Protestant. It is inherently much harder for you to be unbiased

            It seems to me like this is a shift in our argument, but let’s go with it: at that point, as I said earlier, we’re talking about differences of degree, rather than kind. Say that you’re right, and it is harder for a Protestant to interpret fairly; I don’t know that I agree with that statement in all regards, but what of it? “Somewhat more difficult” is not a category difference.

            because you are the final say.

            So are you! You can, as Athanasius did, conclude that there are extenuating circumstances causing the church to misspeak. You can, as Gerry Matatics and at least some strains of sedevacantism do, conclude that there have been no true popes since the 1950s. You can do as a tremendous number of professing American Christians, Protestant and Catholic, do and just do and think whatever you want, whatever the official church positions might be, and still likely be counted a member in good standing.

            If you like, you can conclude that your particular strain of belief isn’t condemned by Catholicism! I’m pretty sure the Magisterium is not going to personally single you out for correction – your priest might, sure, but he’s not infallible. Or you can simply conclude that you were wrong, and no, Catholicism isn’t the true church after all; maybe the Methodists have it right.

            Any of these – all of these – are options open to you, and you have the final say over any of them. When you submit to the judgment of the Magisterium, it’s your call that you should do that, your assessment of the evidence that says, “Yes, this is the authority that can tell me whether I’m messing up or not.”

            You choose, or are persuaded, to give that to a group of people; I choose, or am persuaded, to give it to the Bible. Is the Bible not able to say, “Such-and-such behavior is wrong?” Is it not “living and active,” and able to separate truth from error?

            This is not a difference of type.

            Only you can tell you that you are wrong, for you have granted unto yourself that power. A Catholic, is not bound by their interpretation, but by an outside authority. At the end of the day, you can only submit to your interpretation.

            We both choose to acknowledge things as outside authorities; we both interpret those authorities; we both consider ourselves bound by the results of a sincere attempt to interpret those authorities correctly. This is not a difference.

            Again, you miss the point. The Ebionites were part of the early Church. The Apostles had been placed in authority over them. They accepted the gospel that had been delivered to them.

            As I understand it, the only “gospel” the Ebionites held to was apocryphal. But fine! If they had the actual gospel, then I return to my original answer: they were to hold to that gospel. If they didn’t have the gospel, then my answer is as before: there is no consistent answer here except “Do what you understand God to command.”

            Of course they should have submitted, Christ himself said to do what the Pharisees taught, because they sat in Moses seat.

            In the midst of a passage condemning everything about the Pharisees, including their interpretation of Scripture, sure. And yet Christ himself disobeys the Pharisees, as do the apostles. And what defense does Peter himself offer when called to account for standing against those in Moses’s seat?

            “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

            If we do not take as a given – as a premise of our conversation – that the Roman Catholic Church speaks with the voice of God, the same answer applies.

            What provision did Christ make for those who truly thought those in Moses’ seat were wrong?

            On matters of doctrine? We see the provision; it’s the disobedience of the entire line of early Jewish Christianity.

            Now I know you do not believe you have been given Divine Authority to bind and loose.

            You’re mistaken, then. Matthew 18 is at minimum a general statement to the whole of the disciples, and at maximum a statement to the church as a whole. I understand the teaching in these passages to be a parallel to “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven,” in John 20 – that is, that “binding and loosing” regards the loosing of men from sin to salvation, which – if it is to come at all – is to come through the members of the church.

            (I also think this is a passage that admits multiple plausible interpretations; I think mine is most plausible, but there are others I could be persuaded of. Cf. Spurgeon, below.)

            Your fear, is that you will be told to do something that is wrong.

            With respect, I don’t think you can tell me what my motives are. I don’t reject Catholicism out of fear of what it might tell me to do; I reject it because I see no way to make it compatible with what I understand to be the Word of God.

            Never, have I heard another Christian say that it is plausible to read the text in the way you are saying.

            It’s pretty common! As just one example among many, I would recommend to your attention Spurgeon’s commentaries, which teach that the passage regards the internal administration of churches in general, but absent any legislative capacity, infallibility, or hierarchy – that it is, in other words, granted to the churches, and therefore to us when we act as the church.

          2. Irked –

            If Rome is who she claims to be, how can it be split from scripture? Rome, like scripture, would be divine.

            In the end, aren’t you left with a world without a physical, living and breathing Church on planet earth that never survived Pentecost? Just a fallible collection of books that at best, we can only fallibly interpret? I don’t ask that question to argue, but to follow your position to its logical conclusion.

          3. CW,

            Sure, if Rome is who she claims to be, I’m wrong. If Rome isn’t who she claims to be, you’re wrong. That’s the point we’re debating, right?

            In the end, aren’t you left with a world without a physical, living and breathing Church on planet earth that never survived Pentecost?

            There’s no real basis for this claim, which makes it hard to argue against at length. So, in brief: nope!

          4. Irked –

            Now I’m curious about your concept of a church. What exactly do you think is the Church that Christ promised us? I don’t want to presume what you believe, but by implication you seem to reject a living, breathing, physical Church wasn’t created by Christ in planet earth.

          5. The church in Scripture is, variously, the set of all sincere followers of Christ (i.e., “the invisible church”), and, more commonly, a particular local gathering of those followers (i.e., “the church at such-and-such”). Both these groups are composed of living, breathing, physical people (though the invisible church is sometimes also counted to include dead Christians).

            The difference between us is that we don’t believe the church has any inherent hierarchical structure beyond the local body, save for its headship in Christ, and that we don’t believe its judgments are infallible. Does that answer your question?

          6. Irked –

            I understand the Protestant definition of Church, I’m more concerned of the historical support of such position. Who in early Church history (100 AD-750 AD) believed that the Church referenced in scripture wasn’t a living, breathing, divinely inspired, metaphysical entity on planet earth?

            Top two names would be great.

          7. CW,

            Who in early Church history (100 AD-750 AD) believed that the Church referenced in scripture wasn’t a living, breathing, divinely inspired, metaphysical entity on planet earth?

            I hope not many people did, because, again, I’d say the church is all those things.

        4. CW,

          Again what did Calvin and Reformers have that the early Christians didn’t that allowed them to completely go off the rails? It seems your view is the further away from 30 AD we move the closer to pure Christianity we get… It just doesn’t make sense.

          I don’t understand what I’ve said that leads to this impression; if it’s any comfort, it doesn’t make any sense to me either!

          So how can a symbol be a pure sacrifice? I thought we were done with new sacrifices.

          So there are several things going on here, and a couple of distinct concepts that look like they’re being merged a bit; let’s unpack them.

          1) Christ’s sacrifice is done, yes. Sacrifice for sin is made and finished, yes. But Protestants do believe in a continuing sacrifice: we believe that Christians should “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.”

          Note, there, the function Paul assigns it: not an act of expiation, but of worship – as our most basic pledge as members of the new covenant. Which leads into…

          2) It’s not clear that the elements are the sacrifice the author has in mind here; I’m not sure how the body and blood of Christ would count as “your sacrifice” in any meaningful way. And how, O Christian, is your repentance going to make Christ’s flesh and blood any more pure – or how is your sin going to make it any less?

          If, instead, the text is continuing Paul’s theme – if the sacrifice is us, with our self-offering of obedience pledged again through the remembrance of Christ’s death – it makes perfect sense why repentance would be necessary for a pure sacrifice.

          3) But even more so, I never claimed the Didache taught a symbolic view; I said there’s nothing here of an actual change in the substance of the elements, nothing of reverence to them, nothing of a particular role of a priest. There’s also, I might add, nothing of the conveyance of grace by consumption of the elements.

          In short, the ritual as described here looks pretty darn Protestant; it is missing basically all the Catholic distinctives to which we object.

          What did the prophets and teachers minister? Sacrifices among other things.

          I am pretty sure if you tried to participate in the ministry of temple sacrifices as a teacher, rather than a priest, it didn’t go well for you. Even the prophets weren’t a part of the temple sacrifices; that was for the Levites alone.

          I think it’s a somewhat more natural reading here that the operative ministerial role of prophets and teachers is – well, to prophesy and teach.

    1. Hi awlms,

      I wanted to thank you. You have complimented me several times, and I never replied. I assure you, I have received/learned much from your posts.

      I believe you will like the other article from that website that I posted minutes before this posting, further up the thread.

      1. Keep up the excellent commentary, Duane. I always enjoy reading your posts. And I think I need to start a file to have on hand all of the great quotes and passages found on this site, thanks to your’s and others’ research. On occasion I try to go back through old posts to find some of these resources, but spend a lot of time searching. This site is like ‘crowd sourcing’ theological research. There are so many great links provided here I can’t keep count.

        So, keep up the good work….and keep all of us in your prayers.

        Best to you…and to all,…Irked too (because he inspires excellent conversation and holy study…to the benefit of all).

        – Al

    2. Hi Al!

      Wondered where you’ve been. I’ve become immeasurably slothful or dispirited or even mean-spirited in posting lately, and I wonder if this perhaps has ever happened to you! Joe’s next lecture is on St.John Vianney, about lukewarmness and prayer. Worth the hour.

      I love the called to communion site. There is so much there. Particularly striking is this quote from Duane’s post above, from John 5, which I just read yesterday and wanted to post but didn’t.

      “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.” (John 5:39) (There is more at verse 40: ” Yet you are not willing to come to me that you may have life.” How does one have life? John 6:58: “…so he who eats me, he also shall live because of me.”)

      Through searching the Scriptures, the reader is not supposed to find only an interpretation of Christ. The one who searches the Scripture is supposed to discover, through the Scriptures, the second Person of the Divine Trinity. The reader of Scripture who discovers only interpretations of Scripture, but does not discover Christ, has not discovered that Person to whom Scripture points. Such a reader of Scripture already knows that Scripture has divine authority, but through Scripture he has not yet discovered anything greater in authority than himself.

      1. Hi Margo,

        Some important business came up that has to do with mechanical design, and I am very absorbed into it now because it helps pay the bills. But it might only last a month or two. So, I’ll have more time for spiritual conversation in the near future. Moreover, since cwdlaw and Duane were giving so much info., and great comments to Irked, who always gives a challenging argument…I thought it not necessary to interrupt their interesting discussions. And I really enjoyed reading them for a change!

        Regarding being mean, etc.. I don’t think anything you’ve written is excessively antagonistic. In these debates it’s often difficult to get ones point across, because it takes chapters of the ‘Summa’ to cover the same territory as some theological threads we are discussing. And remember even St. Jerome was a little ‘cranky’ in writing, on occasion, so I don’t think it’s anything out of the ordinary. I was also surprised when Irked got a little ‘tired’ of the debate a few comments back. it’s the first time I think this has happened. But, again, it’s difficult to communicate on some of these topics, on both sides, but that’s not to say we shouldn’t try to get our points across. And in all of the discussion there is opportunity to study and learn. I now know St. Cyril of Jerusalem pretty well because Irked brought him up, a while ago. So, those are some side benefits to participating in these conversations: we get to study spirituality and Church history in some depth.

        Anyway, you do great, and it’s refreshing to read your comments. Your comment on St. John V. in the next post was good. It’s spiritually refreshing to read because it is commentary and not logical argumentation. Not to say that debating isn’t important, but it’s just good to have some reflection at the same time. The beauty of the faith is what is the delight of this life, and eternal life also, and so it’s good for commenters to inject the debates with some spiritual commentary also, even as Joe does in his posts. He mixes things up a bit, using his charity, prudence and wisdom.

        I also like how you referred the the seven deadly sins in your recent comment. I was just reading some writings on the ‘gift of counsel’ lately, and have covered many of the deadly sins also over the last few months. A study of sin and virtue is very profitable for everyone, and we’re lucky to have so many saints and spiritual writers to comment on them.

        Anyway, keep up the excellent comments. There’s always a ray of spiritual light twinkling in them for the readers to benefit by. and I hope Duane and cwdlaw also keep up their great comments. And I don’t want to leave out Irked. His tenacity and fortitude are admirable….even if they are on the other side of our debates. I pray for all of us here, and especially for Irked…because I think all of us here wan’t to see everyone enjoying the beauty of Christ’s holy faith as Jesus Himself want’s it to be lived and enjoyed. What’s greater, or more beautiful, than the ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus’ in the depths of our own hearts? And so we want all people to come to know Christ intimately and deeply, so as to enjoy His Divine friendship, companionship, eternal life and blessed communion…now and forever.

        God bless you always.

        1. Awlms,
          You are so kind, so encouraging, so overwhelmingly charitable. May God bless you abundantly. Yes, when I am dispirited I will re-read this post. Right now I’m making a copy for my file so I don’t have to “crowd-search” as you sometimes do!

          Exactly. Exactly why we do what we do. So that all may share in beauty of the Lord and then reflect that back to others.. You know exactly why I love to read Irked–tenacity, ability to turn a topic, ease of apology (usually), and his side-step dance moves.

          I too have had some work outside the post–legal hearing on zoning changes within our community; involving the homeless, a couple churches, and a City, against the residents in the City. It was a moral conundrum and a cauldron for a while. Then God shed some light. Thank God.

          Pray God you continue to support and inspire us all for a very long time. Now and forever.

          1. Thanks Margo. 🙂

            I just hope all the great commenters here keep on posting. I’ll get back into the action more, when I get finished with this important project. But, I’m still reading! This is very recreational, and fun reading… compared to theologically sparring with Irked….that’s called… ‘studying’. Although that’s fun also most times… as is chatting with you-all. 🙂

    3. You are a good teacher of the faith, Duane. God bless you for your efforts. As we read in the readings at Mass today, a Christian needs the gift of wisdom from the Holy Spirit to make sense of all the knowledge and theology that we acquire in life. King Solomon was an example of this, per the first reading today. Without wisdom, we only have data and speculation that makes little sense. With wisdom, we understand many aspects of ecclesiology that most people overlook, such as the necessity of Church governance, hierarchical structure (..even as a tree biologically exhibits, via it’s ever expanding branches as it grows, and as Jesus taught it should resemble), physical boundaries for bishops to govern, and which they cannot transgress on territories of fellow bishops…etc.. All of this is how the Church expanded while fulfilling the mission that Christ sent them to accomplish. And all of this is cataloged in Eusebius’ Church history, showing the growth of the Church from the time of Christ to 300 AD.

      To ignore this history is to dispise wisdom, for we need this type of data to include into our database of theological understanding. Moreover, we need an understanding of the daily life of Christians in that early time of Church history, to see how they were catechized, and sometimes, how they were martyred. To look only to the intellect and philosophy, logical and scholastic as it might seem, and to neglect a review of the common practices of the early Church…ie..their ordinations, their written liturgies (Apostolic Traditions and constitutions), their canon law, their synods and councils…is to relegate the Church to be a mere philosophy or ideology, and not a ‘living body’ as Christ Himself described it. If Christianity is merely a philosophy, then how is it that God communicates to his saints in dreams…when they aren’t even conscious? How do they do miracles and exorcisms? Did St. Joseph logically philosophize his escape to Egypt with Mary and the infant Child? Or did God teach him in a dream how to accomplish his appointed mission and responsibilities? And how was St. Paul converted, through logical argumentation or …through a physical and spiritual miracle of Christ Himself, who repremanded Paul’s on his way to Damascus, and blinded him at the same time?

      So, in reading the Acts of the Apostles, and also the acts of so much early Church history, we see that the Church developed as you say, as a living and growing body. It started as a seed with Jesus Christ, germinated by the gift of the Holy Spirit who strengthened and guided the Apostles, sprouted stems and leaves when the Apostles ordained their successors, and continued to grow until this very day, laying deep roots of written theology and history. And all along, the Church had Jesus as it’s main trunk, giving it life and wisdom to handle all conflicts and challenges. But again, one needs a gift from God to understand this beautiful birth and growth of God’s holy Church.

      May we all be like King Solomon and ask of God to give us the gift of understanding and wisdom. Even as God clearly wishes us to have it.

      Duane, keep up the excellent apologetics, for the sake of truth… and in the Lord. Your charitable arguments are a pleasure to read.

      Best to you, Irked, Margo, and all.

  17. CK,

    Threading is getting very confusing, now – I think maybe we’ve both responded to the wrong branch at this point? Would you mind if I started us fresh down here?

    What I’m asking what did Calvin have available to him that no-one in the Oriental, Eastern or Western churches have? Your view is that the same/similar errors infiltrated all early Christian churches without anyone noticing or it until the 1500s.

    I mean, I think Berengar of Tours noticed it, but his case makes it pretty clear what happened when anybody objected. That’s five hundred years before Calvin!

    The big historical factors that I think change the game by the 1500s are basically threefold. First, it was a favorable political climate; monarchs who wouldn’t have dared oppose the pope a couple of hundred years before now found it actually advantageous to do so. Second, the printing press made (comparatively) rapid dissemination of ideas possible. Those two together meant the Reformers had a chance to establish safe places to live, and had a chance to actually convert some critical mass of people. Third, increased education and literacy – particularly Greek literacy – made it possible to study original-language texts in ways that hadn’t been widespread for a long time, and to think about them in as the object of rational inquiry.

    It isn’t like we don’t see objections prior to that! It’s just that objectors tend to end up dead, like Hus and Wycliffe two hundred years before, or forced to recant, like Berengar. I don’t think it’s a shock that we didn’t hear many opposing voices during that time; if anything, I think it’s amazing that we hear any at all.

    it’s interesting that we are discussing the Eucharist and you fail to mention Jesus and what He specifically instructed us to do and specifically told us what the Eucharist is.

    I mean, I don’t think I’ve been shy in explaining how I understand John 6, but that was a whole ‘nother thread. You were asking about the Didache; I tried to limit the answer to the bare minimum to answer that question.

    of course you don’t since you only focus on Paul and completely ignore Jesus.

    That’s not remotely fair. Do I need to repeat everything I’ve said before on Christ’s words, every time this subject comes up, or can I be assumed to still think now what I wrote a couple of months ago? If it’s the former, these posts are going to run even longer than they already do.

    Do you realize that early Christian religions know how we can unite our sacrifice with Jesus.

    Maybe! Or maybe that’s not what the authors of the Didache mean at all. We can’t, in any event, assume that they have a modern Catholic understanding of the mass in order to prove that they do, and the passage reads perfectly well under my interpretation.

    and how, O Christian, can your body as living sacrifice be “pure”?

    By the washing of the blood: “though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”

    Anyway, we offer ourselves as you rightly pointed out (Paul) AND Jesus as we were instructed to do by…drum roll…Jesus!

    Okay. So do you agree that the relationship between repentance, and offering a pure sacrifice, is regarding the offering of ourselves as pure sacrifices?

    If not, then I still have the same question I asked before: how does my repentance make Christ’s body and blood more pure?

    If so, then what in the Didache necessitates that the author has any further meaning beyond the one we both agree that he has?

    again you keep getting stuck on change of substance. We are told (not here) that it IS the body and blood of Jesus. All ancient Christian churches teach this as did Jesus.

    Okay, but we can’t debate every single source simultaneously. Do you agree that in this source there’s nothing indicating a literal transformation of the elements?

    I have yet to attend a Baptist church where the Eucharist is the focus of worship.

    Nor do you find worship of the elements in the Didache! If you’ve never seen a Baptist church pray to the Lord in remembrance of his sacrifice before taking communion, as in the Didache, though – well, then I’m irritated at my brother Baptists for failing you.

    per Didache the prophets are our high priests…

    Right, that’s a Numbers 18 reference: as the tithes were given progressively up the chain of priests in the old covenant, so we support prophets in the new. But in that metaphor, they’re high priests of us as priests; it’s the Levites whose tithes supported the high priests. There’s nothing here calling them out as able to offer the body and blood of Christ – in fact, the only thing that connects them to the Eucharist at all is a note that you should let the prophets thank God as long as they want, and not cut them off when the prayer is over.

    It seems like the required assumptions are piling up here. The author of the Didache has to view the elements as actually the body and blood of Christ (which he doesn’t say, over the course of several lengthy prayers); he has to intend a particular role of the bishop or the prophet or somebody in consecrating the host (which he doesn’t ever mention, in a manual of How to Have a Worship Service); he has to assume a priestly capacity lacked by the rest of his audience (despite that audience being the only ones he ever mentions as bringing a sacrifice).

    but there also seems to be another level of priest (something all early Christian religions have and you keep waving it away)

    Not at all. We have our under-shepherds – our pastors, our bishops, our episkopos – and they serve an important role to guide us toward Christ. We say today, just as the Didache (and Paul) did, that it’s our responsibility to support them: that the workman is worthy of his hire. But they are the lead priests among many priests, offering the same sacrifice as everyone else.

    1. Hi Irked,
      So if you wish to answer about Eucharist, sacrifice, atonement, I have a comment. Please ignore me if I’m off your mark. You and CK are talking about offering oneself.

      We offer ourselves as Jesus commanded. We offer ourselves with His life (His Body, His Blood) within us. He makes our offering more pure. By ourselves we could not hope to offer anything but for what He gives. And since He gives us Himself in Eucharist, we offer Him to Himself, or Him to His Father, however the mystery is in itself. We are given a portion of the sacrificial offering; we are the reason the sacrifice was necessary, and the reason it was offered. We are called to participate, to become one with it.

      God bless.

      1. Margo,

        So if you wish to answer about Eucharist, sacrifice, atonement

        I don’t, really. I think we had a pretty wide-ranging conversation on that a while back; I’m trying to go just far enough into it to answer the general question of “How do you understand church history to develop.” I’m also trying to not let that blossom back into a general Eucharist conversation, because then we’ll never get to anything else. (Joe’s original post was as much about bishops as it was the Eucharist, and I don’t think there’s been much of anything on that since the first few posts.)

        Which is probably a sign that I’m not succeeding at this goal very well, I guess, but that’s what I’m trying to do. (It’s why I begged off when we jumped from “What does this CA post say about the nature of the church?” to “Why did Jesus use the word ‘eat’?”)

        Comment is welcome, though! I disagree with some of your premises, but that’s probably not much of a shock at this point.

        God bless you, too!

    2. Irked –

      A better understanding of Greek? The Eastern Orthodox were Greek and didn’t come anywhere close to Protestantism. I’m positive the Eastern Orthodox understood Greek much better than the Germans or the French.

      You post as if history was at a tipping point for over 1,500 years if everyone was just a little smarter or more assertive. In fact, your posts border of a form of agnostic history as though it was so confusing and complex that nobody could figure out what they believed. This is nonsense. History is overwhelmingly Catholic and even a Protestant historian like Carl Trueman doesn’t try avoid this fact.

      1. CW,

        Rather than launch an enormous side-discussion on East/West differences: my comments are meant primarily within the context of the western church, where Greek scholarship was really quite bad for a long time. Even giants like Augustine didn’t know much Greek; it just wasn’t a particularly common skill for a long while. (We can see some of the end of this period of ignorance in the eventual rediscovery of Greek philosophers like Aristotle, as others have discussed upthread.)

        Anyway, I don’t say that as a moral critique; I don’t speak Greek myself. But if your most prominent theologians aren’t able to go back to the texts in their original language for hundreds of years… well, that’s going to be a limiting factor, and things might change once people finally can.

        You post as if history was at a tipping point for over 1,500 years if everyone was just a little smarter or more assertive.

        Show me anywhere that I alleged stupidity on the part of the pre-Reformation church.

        What you’re accusing me of is, yet again, nothing like what I actually said. People did assert these doctrines were wrong; some of them were forced to recant, and others refused and were murdered. There are a lot of long, slow developments at play that make the Reformation successful in Luther’s time where previous objections had been stamped out. If it wasn’t for movable type, or the antipope crisis of the 1400s, or the failure of Henry VIII to have sons, or the particular inheritance laws of the Holy Roman Empire… well, who can say? Maybe Luther would have ended up like Hus, and we’d be talking about someone else fifty or a hundred years later.

        In fact, your posts border of a form of agnostic history as though it was so confusing and complex that nobody could figure out what they believed.

        It isn’t that no individual person had beliefs for hundreds of years; it’s that the church as a whole didn’t agree on some of these matters for hundreds of years. “What is Christ’s nature?” is a topic of heated argument among church fathers right up to (and including) Nicaea – that’s three hundred years to reach a consensus opinion on one of the most basic principles of our faith. And when that’s found to still be too vague, it’s over another hundred years before Chalcedon issues a clarification. The wheels turned slow.

        1. This is just modern gnosticism/intellectualism being put out as truth. If everyone were just smarter or more intelligent they would have figured out that Protestantism is right and Catholicism was wrong. That’s a bunch of nonsense and quite frankly offensive to the early Church fathers. Theological concepts might have been more refined (ex. the Trinity which violates any form of sola scriptura), but nobody got the Mass wrong. Early Christians were called canibals for a reason.

          I wish you the best but I have no more time for made up history.

          1. It would be nice if this objection was based on something I said, instead of on things I flatly deny – but I do agree that our conversation has run its course.

          2. It’ sucks based on everything you say. You try to redefine history in your posts as though just a little more knowledge would have set everyone straight. You just can’t see your own errors.

            Lack of understanding of Greek? Nonsense.

          3. Isn’t it amazing how much history…and how little intellectualism is found in the Old Testament?….it’s almost all history? And the Gospels also.

            And in the Christian era, are we suppose to accept only intellectualism and doctrine and ignore, or discount history? Or, is the history we have, as found in Eusebius, and the various synods and councils of the first 500 years invalid? Why would the OT history be valid and believable, but not the Church history to 1000 AD? It’s absurd.

            This history, in all its catechisms, all it’s canon laws, all it’s creeds, all it’s institutions (i.e. Monasticism, etc…), it’s conversion of so many barbarian nations (i.e.. anglo saxons, etc..), it’s careful catalog and preservation of historical documents, letters, and sacred scripture….. SCREAMS: “The Catholic Church is the One and Only Church founded by Jesus Christ!!”

    3. Actually, CK, I think this runs pretty neatly back to the question you were asking me – “What did Calvin have that no one else did?” Here’s the Encyclopedia Britannica on the subject of Greek in the west, from their article “Classical Scholarship.”

      “During the 3rd and 4th centuries the knowledge of Greek in the West died out with shocking suddenness; Augustine had only a rudimentary knowledge of the Greek language, and translators such as Jerome (c. 347–419/420) and Rufinus (c. 345–410/411) were scarce indeed.

      “The barbarian invasions of the 3rd century marked the beginning of a testing time for Latin as well as for Greek scholarship, and the scholars of the 4th and 5th centuries… were epitomizers and compilers living on inherited capital. In the Western Empire the knowledge of Greek was practically extinct, and the earlier literature of Rome itself was threatened with extinction.

      “Like almost everyone before Politian [in the 1400s], Petrarch knew little or no Greek… Thus, although Greek teachers and Greek manuscripts had long before begun to enter Italy, the advanced study of Greek, apart from the activities of an isolated genius like Politian, made little headway before the 16th century.”

      Hopefully that’s a bit of substantiation of my claim. At least one of the things Calvin had was training in Koine Greek – one of the very few men in the western church to have that ability in a millennium. Luther, as well, was able to work from older Greek sources – both men benefited from a revival to which earlier scholarship just didn’t have access.

      Setting the bigger questions aside for a minute: can you see where we might argue that losing the ability to read the New Testament in its original language for a thousand years might have been a source of error – and that it’s no wonder that recovering that ability might coincide with a raft of challenges to Latin-based interpretations? I’m not asking you to agree that it’s right – but can you see where it’s not crazy?

      1. Irked –

        The Eastern Orthodox, who were Greek, never had any problems coming to the same conclusions as any Roman Catholic who was learned in Latin which blows your argument out of the water that some lack of understanding in Greek lead to an error.

        This argument has no basis in fact or history and is merely a deductive argument built upon bad assumptions such as the farther away from history the better we understand it.

        1. CW,

          No, I think you and I are done here. I gave you a universally-accepted historical fact, and you called it nonsense – while again criticizing me for claims I didn’t make. As long as you’re unwilling to accurately represent my views or basic history, I don’t see that there’s anything to be gained from us talking further.

          1. Irked –

            Posting conjecture and calling it fact doesn’t! make it fact. Go tell the Eastern Orthodox your history and they’ll laugh at your claims.

      2. Irked I haven’t had an opportunity to read your other replies and unlike most people posting here it takes me sometime to organize my thoughts and write it down. Even then, when I reread them again after posting they can still make me cringe 🙂 I’ll try to get to them later though this question/issue really gets to what I’m trying to get at. The fact that we can find individuals challenging various beliefs/doctrine is not the issue, the question is what did the community at the time decide and where they wrong. Historically we just don’t see an attempt to CHANGE doctrine/church teaching (not talking about discipline) without controversy.

        That being said, I agree with your overall premise and view of Augustine and Jerome. So the concept is not crazy. Koine Greek was long dead by the 1500s. Knowing the language without tradition is not enough though. You take away tradition and you will end up with hundreds of ways to interpret things. This is why I keep emphasizing Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Churches, if you just look only at how the Church in the west developed you are missing half the picture. You can’t find what you are seeking by focusing mostly on Rome, because her teaching can be easier to dismiss if you don’t consider the Oriental and Orthodox churches. The RCC, Orthodox and Oriental evolved in very similar fashions even though they were in schism and for hundreds of years had little communication. The way they worship, focus on the Eucharist, priests, bishops, structure, Sacred Tradition…. It’s not by chance that this happened. They all had similar templates as their guide (I call this tradition and Scripture). So what I take issue with you (and Craig back in the day) is your theory that all these similar if not the same errors slowly bled undetected into all these religious communities.

        One can learn about cultures and traditions but one does not truly know about a culture and its traditions unless they lived it. Calvin did not live it. He tried to start over with a fraction of the writings that were available to the fathers and without a true understanding of the underlying traditions. Not because he wasn’t intelligent he just didn’t live it. The fathers were living it and passing it down through the centuries and what we ended up with is what we find in the three ancient branches which look nothing like most of today’s protestants. That is a historical fact.

        So in my personal journey it came down to RCC or Orthodox and authority sold me on RCC. Either way I’d be ok because they both have something no protestant church can offer me, which is the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

        1. Hey CK,

          Even then, when I reread them again after posting they can still make me cringe

          I feel you on that, brother – Me From Yesterday is often a pretty big idiot.

          Historically we just don’t see an attempt to CHANGE doctrine/church teaching (not talking about discipline) without controversy.

          So I don’t disagree with that. I think my point with some of these individual citations, though, is that they show there is controversy: that there are people who say, “Hey, wait, that’s not what we’ve always said.”

          Koine Greek was long dead by the 1500s. Knowing the language without tradition is not enough though.

          Right, I’m not trying to argue that this necessarily makes Calvin et al. correct – if that makes sense? They could have the Greek and, in principle, still be in error – I’m just trying to establish that a rediscovery of some truth is at least plausible for that particular time, in those particular circumstances.

          This is why I keep emphasizing Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Churches, if you just look only at how the Church in the west developed you are missing half the picture.

          I’m resistant to going into the Eastern Orthodox for about three reasons. One is just a question of scale; we’re already trying to cover so much ground with just the western church that I despair a little of doubling the size of the project. A second is a matter of personal familiarity; I’m a lot stronger on the medieval history of… let’s say Germany and westward, than I am of parts east of there. I don’t want to start confidently asserting things about regions I’m just less familiar with.

          A third reason is that the Eastern Orthodox approach to faith is just weird. I don’t mean that as a dig – but from the little I understand, their theological philosophy is so far from the style of inquiry we’re used to, the kind of thing that would eventually grow into the Enlightenment, that I don’t feel entirely up to explaining their process.

          Like – just as one example, look at David Dunn’s article “Top Ten Things Every Protestant Should Know About Eastern Orthodoxy.” Point #4 is regarding the Eucharist, and here’s part of his explanation of the theology: “We believe it is a mystery… Now stop asking so many stupid questions, and open your mouth!” Or take Philaret’s Longer Catechism, which says outright that we can’t really know what it means to say Christ is present in communion – but that he is, anyway.

          That’s a totally different way of approaching the question than the specific propositional stuff we’ve been arguing – and it’s alien enough to me to make explanation difficult.

          So for all those reasons, I’d prefer to stick as much as we can to more familiar ground for all of us. I don’t want to completely ignore your question, though, so let me try a short answer. The Great Schism separating east and west took place after a thousand years of church history. I don’t think it’s remarkable, after all that time, that there would be a fair amount of bleed-over between the two; it isn’t as though we have these doctrines develop in isolation.

          Like, to look at just one of your examples, I’ve already said (following Jerome) that bishops are a model very early on, that grows to be nigh-universal by 300 or so. Of course the EO inherit that as well! Likewise, I see a lot of the high ritual style of Catholicism as having roots in Jewish tradition, and so being present from the very beginning – with the shift being from “This is how we do it” to “This is the only right way to do it.” (A shift anyone who has ever changed anything about organizational culture will be familiar with, I think!) Again, it makes sense that this would be present in both denominations.

          One can learn about cultures and traditions but one does not truly know about a culture and its traditions unless they lived it. Calvin did not live it… The fathers were living it and passing it down through the centuries

          But there are two competing narratives at that point – both the institutional church and the Reformers claimed to be presenting beliefs handed down from the earliest of the fathers, and that the other side isn’t really keeping faithfully the teaching of the early church. I wouldn’t claim as obviously true that the Reformers were right on this point – but I don’t think you can claim it for the Catholics, either.

          And that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to show in these last few posts; the reason I quote Jerome and Cyril and Cyprian and Berengar and Gelatius and Clement and Ambrosiaster and Theodoret and Firmilian and Tertullian and the Didache – before we even touch Scripture – is all to say: there are grounds for saying that the Reformer’s ideas are indeed very old, and very traditional, and that the Catholic perspective of a basically-monolithic viewpoint is wrong.

          I appreciated your straightforward answer before, so let me push again: is there enough evidence there to see how someone at least could understandably reach that conclusion? You think it’s the wrong conclusion – that’s fine! But it’s not a groundless one; there’s evidence that reads very naturally in that direction.

          ***

          Something of a long postscript specifically for you, CK – it’s your answer to it I’m mostly interested in.

          Let me track back the conversation a little bit, if I can, because these things get to be like wrestling an octopus. I started out, two weeks ago, arguing historical sources: here is what these church fathers say about the structure of the church in their time. From there, you asked me to give my personal view, and we talked a bit about me. Then you challenged me to find any church teaching a contrary position to Rome – a challenge that led, eventually, to Pope Gelasius. That led, in turn, to questions about how I understand church history as a whole to develop, which brought up Berengar and the Didache as late and early examples of doctrines and reactions to them. Then we moved into Calvin, and why anything should be different for him than anyone before him – and, at last, to our current exchange: that Calvin was wrong because he disagreed with the church fathers.

          We’ve come full circle! If I can… well, gripe, for a minute: it seems a little bit like the argument runs, “Your citation of the fathers teaching this doctrine can’t be right, because no one prominent ever taught it; the Roman bishop can’t have ever taught this doctrine, because no one ever objected to it; various people over 500 years can’t have rightly objected to it, because what would have been special about that particular point in history; it doesn’t matter that Calvin was at a special point in history, because the fathers didn’t teach this.”

          That’s not entirely fair to you – and you aren’t even the one saying all of the pieces of it. I understand that, but I’m trying to convey a little bit of how it feels internally: I can’t refute the entire sweep of the RCC interpretation of history simultaneously, and it seems like any time I try to talk about any particular thing, my reading is denied on the grounds of everything I’m not talking about at that exact instant.

          So this is my question to you, following all that: how can we do this more effectively? I don’t enjoy being charged with side-stepping queries, but I’ve been asked questions that range freely over multiple continents and two thousand years of history. That’s exhausting, and I think it keeps us from really making headway on any particular, finite subject. So that’s my sincere request: is there any way going forward that we can make this more productive, and less a debate on everything, everywhere, all at once?

          1. Irked – So I don’t disagree with that. I think my point with some of these individual citations, though, is that they show there is controversy: that there are people who say, “Hey, wait, that’s not what we’ve always said.”

            Me-I agree there were disagreements on many issues.

            Koine Greek was long dead by the 1500s. Knowing the language without tradition is not enough though.

            Irked-Right, I’m not trying to argue that this necessarily makes Calvin et al. correct – if that makes sense? They could have the Greek and, in principle, still be in error – I’m just trying to establish that a rediscovery of some truth is at least plausible for that particular time, in those particular circumstances.

            Me-Agree.

            This is why I keep emphasizing Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Churches, if you just look only at how the Church in the west developed you are missing half the picture.

            Irked-I’m resistant to going into the Eastern Orthodox for about three reasons. One is just a question of scale; we’re already trying to cover so much ground with just the western church that I despair a little of doubling the size of the project. A second is a matter of personal familiarity; I’m a lot stronger on the medieval history of… let’s say Germany and westward, than I am of parts east of there. I don’t want to start confidently asserting things about regions I’m just less familiar with.

            Me-What’s your end goal? If you want to get a better grasp of what the early Christians believed you can’t ignore the Eastern Orthodox. You might find that some things that you thought were medieval innovations were around in some form or fashion hundreds if not a thousand years before then.

            Irked-A third reason is that the Eastern Orthodox approach to faith is just weird. I don’t mean that as a dig – but from the little I understand, their theological philosophy is so far from the style of inquiry we’re used to, the kind of thing that would eventually grow into the Enlightenment, that I don’t feel entirely up to explaining their process.

            Like – just as one example, look at David Dunn’s article “Top Ten Things Every Protestant Should Know About Eastern Orthodoxy.” Point #4 is regarding the Eucharist, and here’s part of his explanation of the theology: “We believe it is a mystery… Now stop asking so many stupid questions, and open your mouth!” Or take Philaret’s Longer Catechism, which says outright that we can’t really know what it means to say Christ is present in communion – but that he is, anyway.

            That’s a totally different way of approaching the question than the specific propositional stuff we’ve been arguing – and it’s alien enough to me to make explanation difficult.

            Me-Well, I guess western culture is more legalistic. I can’t disagree with their view of the Eucharist though. It’s like demanding an explanation on how Jesus was resurrected or how he cured the sick. It’s a mystery and a miracle. RCC went granular in trying to explain how it really is Jesus, but at the end of the day it is a mystery and a miracle and RCC and Orthodox both believe the bread and wine changes into the body and blood of Jesus.

            Irked-So for all those reasons, I’d prefer to stick as much as we can to more familiar ground for all of us. I don’t want to completely ignore your question, though, so let me try a short answer. The Great Schism separating east and west took place after a thousand years of church history. I don’t think it’s remarkable, after all that time, that there would be a fair amount of bleed-over between the two; it isn’t as though we have these doctrines develop in isolation.

            Me-I’ve thought of that also, but this doesn’t apply to the Oriental Orthodoxy which split in 451 AD. They are very similar.

            Irked-Like, to look at just one of your examples, I’ve already said (following Jerome) that bishops are a model very early on, that grows to be nigh-universal by 300 or so. Of course the EO inherit that as well!

            Me-St Ignatius of Antioch (tradition says he was a disciple of John) had a high view of bishops. I’m not sure how much earlier you need to go.

            Irked-Likewise, I see a lot of the high ritual style of Catholicism as having roots in Jewish tradition, and so being present from the very beginning – with the shift being from “This is how we do it” to “This is the only right way to do it.” (A shift anyone who has ever changed anything about organizational culture will be familiar with, I think!) Again, it makes sense that this would be present in both denominations.

            Me- Catholicism is the fulfilment of Judaism. As the saying goes, we are more Jewish than the Jews. The only reason we are called Christians is because the Jewish leaders refused to accept their Messiah and those that followed Jesus were a minority and considered a cult. So it makes perfect sense that the ritual style be preserved since it’s a continuation not an end to Judaism. Jesus came to fulfill the law not abolish it. That is why you don’t find any ancient Christian community worshiping the way you worship and why you find sacred rituals, tabernacles, altars, priests, sacrifice (Eucharist) etc. in the ancient Christian community and I don’t just mean RCC.

            One can learn about cultures and traditions but one does not truly know about a culture and its traditions unless they lived it. Calvin did not live it… The fathers were living it and passing it down through the centuries

            Irked-But there are two competing narratives at that point – both the institutional church and the Reformers claimed to be presenting beliefs handed down from the earliest of the fathers, and that the other side isn’t really keeping faithfully the teaching of the early church. I wouldn’t claim as obviously true that the Reformers were right on this point – but I don’t think you can claim it for the Catholics, either.

            Me-First you can’t figure out what beliefs where handed down unless you include the Oriental and Orthodox. Second, I can claim it by being consistent. The Church is protected by the Holy Spirit and cannot teach error. I found the Church Christ founded and I accept all that she teaches on faith and morals. My suggestion for you is to find the first council you accept and work backwards. If you don’t accept any council then I really don’t know how you can really be sure of anything for the reasons I’ve stated elsewhere.

            Irked-And that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to show in these last few posts; the reason I quote Jerome and Cyril and Cyprian and Berengar and Gelatius and Clement and Ambrosiaster and Theodoret and Firmilian and Tertullian and the Didache – before we even touch Scripture – is all to say: there are grounds for saying that the Reformer’s ideas are indeed very old, and very traditional, and that the Catholic perspective of a basically-monolithic viewpoint is wrong.

            Me-and those are good points. By the way have you read Called to Communions post on Transubstantiation? It addresses Gelasius etc… and the overwhelming view that the early fathers believed in transubstantiation though they didn’t use that word. In any event, you point to all these theological giants who held great positions in the church supporting your views (in some cases supposedly) yet at the end of the day they submitted to the authority of the Church, which in itself proves that they believed in the authority of the Church. Otherwise I would expect them to vigorously oppose the Church. I don’t see it. Jerome opposed some of the books in the vulgate, but in the end he submitted.

            Irked-I appreciated your straightforward answer before, so let me push again: is there enough evidence there to see how someone at least could understandably reach that conclusion? You think it’s the wrong conclusion – that’s fine! But it’s not a groundless one; there’s evidence that reads very naturally in that direction.

            Me-yes I can certainly see it. The error that I see in you approach is as if all these books where just discovered and you are trying to figure out what these men believed using Calvin and the Bible as your baseline.

            Frankly, I think you have to start from the other end and you can’t just focus on RCC. When researching the Eucharist don’t get fixated on Transubstantiation. There is so much more to it, going way back to the Old Testament and Jewish Tradition. My two cents.

            This is my usual approach. As an example you showed me Gelasius taught the Eucharist didn’t change (there are other views on this interpretation. See called to communion post on transubstantiation, there’s ammo against it in the comments for you also). Transubstantiation was not affirmed until the 1200s? but the belief that it somehow changed into the body and blood of Jesus was around before Gelasius and practiced before and after. Again, even if you say Gelasius view was the prevailing view, we know that is not so in the RCC or Orthodox Churches today. A change in doctrine just doesn’t happen without notice over time and there is nothing available that shows any conflict over the Eucharist (within the Orthodox or RCC) changing into the body and blood of Jesus. You see writings from the Orthodox not accepting RCC view of Transubstantiation, but not in the fact that it changes at consecration into Jesus. So Gelasius view is not what it seems or he was wrong otherwise I would expect to see some discourse directly addressing the issue much like other heresies.

            ***

            Something of a long postscript specifically for you, CK – it’s your answer to it I’m mostly interested in.

            Let me track back the conversation a little bit, if I can, because these things get to be like wrestling an octopus. I started out, two weeks ago, arguing historical sources: here is what these church fathers say about the structure of the church in their time. From there, you asked me to give my personal view, and we talked a bit about me. Then you challenged me to find any church teaching a contrary position to Rome – a challenge that led, eventually, to Pope Gelasius. That led, in turn, to questions about how I understand church history as a whole to develop, which brought up Berengar and the Didache as late and early examples of doctrines and reactions to them. Then we moved into Calvin, and why anything should be different for him than anyone before him – and, at last, to our current exchange: that Calvin was wrong because he disagreed with the church fathers.

            We’ve come full circle! If I can… well, gripe, for a minute: it seems a little bit like the argument runs, “Your citation of the fathers teaching this doctrine can’t be right, because no one prominent ever taught it; the Roman bishop can’t have ever taught this doctrine, because no one ever objected to it; various people over 500 years can’t have rightly objected to it, because what would have been special about that particular point in history; it doesn’t matter that Calvin was at a special point in history, because the fathers didn’t teach this.”

            That’s not entirely fair to you – and you aren’t even the one saying all of the pieces of it. I understand that, but I’m trying to convey a little bit of how it feels internally: I can’t refute the entire sweep of the RCC interpretation of history simultaneously, and it seems like any time I try to talk about any particular thing, my reading is denied on the grounds of everything I’m not talking about at that exact instant.

            So this is my question to you, following all that: how can we do this more effectively? I don’t enjoy being charged with side-stepping queries, but I’ve been asked questions that range freely over multiple continents and two thousand years of history. That’s exhausting, and I think it keeps us from really making headway on any particular, finite subject. So that’s my sincere request: is there any way going forward that we can make this more productive, and less a debate on everything, everywhere, all at once?

            Me-Frankly I don’t know how you’ve manage so far. You are have wealth of knowledge far exceeding mine (I’m not being coy, I can tell without a doubt). So the Didache doesn’t specifically say the elements change, but 30 years later a disciple of John (Ignatius) says it is the body and blood of Christ to be administered by a Bishop. That is why in my opinion you need the Church guided by the Holy Spirit. It is next to impossible to prove anything with certainty without that faith. I believe Jesus rose from the dead because the Bible says so. I believe the Bible because a Church told me it was written by men who were under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I believe that Church because it’s guided by the Holy Spirit. The question for me never has been a who but which Church.

            So back to your question, maybe pick a topic or run with Joe’s next or old post and try to stick to it? A novel idea, I know 

            Of course I would need help from my friends as my overall knowledge is very limited (though I have learned much from you by your insistence on answering questions!) and it takes me such a long time to research things. I don’t usually have answers at the ready, but do have something in due time.

          2. Hey CK,

            Thanks for the thorough response.

            What’s your end goal? If you want to get a better grasp of what the early Christians believed you can’t ignore the Eastern Orthodox.

            That’s fair! Consider this more of a reluctance (for the time being) in line with what we talked about at the end of the last posts: I don’t really want to open up an enormous additional can of worms. If that means we need to leave things at, “Irked, your explanation is plausible when we consider the western church alone, but I don’t believe it holds up when considering the east as well” – I’m okay with that being an end point for today.

            Well, I guess western culture is more legalistic.

            I would say propositional rather than legalistic, I think: the difference is more on the question, “Is it worthwhile to try to understand how these doctrines relate to each other, and what that tells us, or are these things ineffable mysteries?” That’s probably not really fair to how the EO would put it, but I think they’d agree that there’s some substantial difference in approach.

            I’ve thought of that also, but this doesn’t apply to the Oriental Orthodoxy which split in 451 AD. They are very similar.

            I have to confess to not a lot of personal exposure to Oriental Orthodox Christians. But, again, at least some of these elements I don’t think are surprising at all: the bishopric structure, etc. are already well in place by that point.

            St Ignatius of Antioch (tradition says he was a disciple of John) had a high view of bishops. I’m not sure how much earlier you need to go.

            My sense is that this takes us back to my first post in this thread, and to the arguments I made there. (For the most part the thread has preferred the communion half of it, but I think the bishop stuff is almost more interesting.)

            Following those arguments: this is an early change, absolutely – early enough to be present in all three of the branches you mention – but historical Catholicism acknowledged that it was a change.

            Catholicism is the fulfilment of Judaism. As the saying goes, we are more Jewish than the Jews.

            So there are certainly senses in which that’s true; we believing Gentiles are, as Paul says, the true Israel, the remnant promised to Abraham, the grafted-on branches. At the same time, the Scriptures are pretty clear that this doesn’t require the religious cultural patterns of the Jews – our Sabbaths are fulfilled in Christ, our circumcision is an attitude of the heart, and we’ve no more need of remembrance of holy days and new moons. So I think this…

            So it makes perfect sense that the ritual style be preserved

            … is absolutely true, and explains the appearance of high ritual in these various churches – but I think “It makes sense that” and “It is necessary that” are very different positions here.

            Putting that another way, I think it’s very understandable that all branches of the early (and largely Jewish) church should adopt the same cultural patterns. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with following those cultural patterns! But I don’t think that’s evidence that a different cultural pattern is in error.

            That is why you don’t find any ancient Christian community worshiping the way you worship

            Well… depends on what we want to focus on, y’know? The Didache, again, sounds to me more like the way we do communion than the way you guys do. Its description of baptism has some elements neither of us hold to – but it’s also pretty clearly a ritual for adults, which again fits well with us. The presbyter form, again, is more like the governance of many Protestant churches.

            Second, I can claim it by being consistent.

            Sure, but so can I. I’m not saying either of our viewpoints is inherently inconsistent – that’s my point. We have to judge which narrative is right on the evidence; you and I disagree as to where the weight of that evidence lies, but it’s not on the face of it obvious that only one perspective could in principle claim the church fathers.

            By the way have you read Called to Communions post on Transubstantiation?

            I did, yes. I’m concerned that the authors aren’t really being fair to their sources. Just as one example, the first confession of transubstantiation they cite is Berengar of Tours – but Berengar says those words under direct, personal threat from the pope, after spending his life teaching against transubstantiation, and having already recanted a similar statement once.

            Likewise, I think I’ve addressed their comments regarding Gelatius etc. upthread – for all that they say Theodoret wasn’t aware of the “substance/accidents” divide, Theodoret defines precisely that division, in precisely those words, not two pages before he starts talking about how the substance of the elements is unchanged. (I comment on this at length earlier in this thread, if you’d like a fuller reply.)

            So it doesn’t seem to me that they’re interpreting the sources I’m familiar with fairly, and that makes me kind of suspicious of the whole, if that makes sense.

            In any event, you point to all these theological giants who held great positions in the church supporting your views (in some cases supposedly) yet at the end of the day they submitted to the authority of the Church

            Some of them did; others didn’t. Cyprian outright rejected Stephen’s decrees and declared that no one but Christ could command a bishop, as came up the other day. Athanasius has already come up in this thread. So when you say…

            Otherwise I would expect them to vigorously oppose the Church.

            … well, what more vigorous opposition would you want to see?

            Jerome opposed some of the books in the vulgate, but in the end he submitted.

            Jerome translated the Deuterocanonicals, but I don’t think we can fairly say he was ever personally convinced that, say, Tobit and Maccabees were canonical; his only statements on the subject are to the contrary.

            yes I can certainly see it. The error that I see in you approach is as if all these books where just discovered and you are trying to figure out what these men believed using Calvin and the Bible as your baseline.

            I can follow that. But it seems to me that if I (following many other Protestants before me) am to disagree with the Catholic position on history, it must necessarily have that appearance – right? If you have a particular interpretational framework that you’re used to using, and I argue for another one, it’s going to have to look like novelty, whether it is or not. (Catholic readings of Scripture have something of the same appearance for me, if that makes sense; the alien always looks novel.)

            Frankly, I think you have to start from the other end and you can’t just focus on RCC.

            So you lose me a little bit here. Which is “the other end?” If you mean “start from the oldest sources, and work forward,” I absolutely agree – but I’m sometimes critiqued then for “Oh, you just look at the Bible, and can’t consider all the tradition that comes after it.” It’s a bit of a Catch-22!

            I would gladly, gladly, restrict conversation to just the Scriptures – and, sure, the Jewish traditions – before considering later traditions at all.

            A change in doctrine just doesn’t happen without notice over time and there is nothing available that shows any conflict over the Eucharist (within the Orthodox or RCC) changing into the body and blood of Jesus.

            Would you not say Wycliffe or Berengar or the Radbertus/Ratramnus/Maurus debates are evidence of a conflict?

            So back to your question, maybe pick a topic or run with Joe’s next or old post and try to stick to it?

            Heh. I tried! I like to think my first post is completely on-topic.

            Still good advice, though. And thanks for your civility and kind words – I’ve enjoyed our exchanges, and I think I learn a lot by arguing for my side, too.

  18. “I think it’s very understandable that all branches of the early (and largely Jewish) church should adopt the same cultural patterns. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with following those cultural patterns! But I don’t think that’s evidence that a different cultural pattern is in error.”

    Regarding inculturation in the Church I think both Irked and CK can benefit by the witness of St. Gregory the Great and his exchange with St. Augustine (who converted the the English nation in about 598 AD). This exchange of letters and questions reveals how the Church is flexible when dealing with new peoples/nations in the western world. Here is a particular passage between Augustine and Pope Gregory that shows how the early Church spread to pagan nations, and some of the difficulties in inculturation for the Bishops to adjust to:

    ( From Bedes “History of the English Church and Nation”)

    “Augustine’s Second Question—Whereas the faith is one and the same, are there different customs in different Churches? and is one custom of Masses observed in the holy Roman Church, and another in the Church of Gaul?

    Pope Gregory answers.—You know, my brother, the custom of the Roman Church in which you remember that you were bred up. But my will is, that if you have found anything, either in the Roman, or the Gallican, or any other Church, which may be more acceptable to Almighty God, you should carefully make choice of the same, and sedulously teach the Church of the English, which as yet is new in the faith, whatsoever you can gather from the several Churches. For things are not to be loved for the sake of places, but places for the sake of good things. Choose, therefore, from every Church those things that are pious, religious, and right, and when you have, as it were, made them up into one bundle, let the minds of the English be accustomed thereto.”

    *******************

    This shows how the Church is capable of adaptation according to the needs of different cultures, and that pertains even to this present day in the evangelization of the many Asian and African peoples and cultures still lacking the knowledge of the Holy Faith taught by Christ. The Church has ALWAYS been flexible in the first stages of Christian evangelization, but the newly evangelized barbarian cultures were also brought into closer affiliation with the world wide Church customs as time passed. Very shortly these same barbarian nations were filled with Monasteries and Cathedrals, as is detailed on St. Bede’s history above. This short passage is just an example of how the Pope aided in the conversion of nations back in 600 AD. ( by the way…if he didn’t do this, we most likely would not be writing in English today…so St. Gregory changed the world for the better in these accounts.

    This history can be found here:

    https://www.ccel.org/ccel/bede/history.v.i.xxii.html

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