The Good Shepherd and the Great Apostasy

The Good Shepherd
An Ethiopian depiction of Christ as the Good Shepherd, from an illuminated manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France

In John 10:14-16, Jesus says,

I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.

Catholics and Protestants tend to interpret this passage in very different ways, and it makes a world of difference.

 

I. The Anti-Church Interpretation

One popular Protestant interpretation is that, since the sheep hear the Shepherd’s voice, we have no need for the Church or any other authority.

Of course, the argument’s not generally presented this explicitly. Often, it’s painted in terms of this passage’s alleged support for the self-authentication of Scripture, the idea that Scripture proves itself to be true, and therefore requires no other authority.  As an individual believer, I can know that the Bible is the word of God, because I’m a sheep who hears the Good Shepherd’s voice. So, for example, Dr. Joe Mizzi refers to this verse in answering the question “How do you know that the books of Scripture are inspired?“:

Ultimately, I came to the full assurance that the Bible is the Word of God by the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart; for I, blinded by sin, could not perceive the light of the glory of Christ revealed in Scripture. He opened my eyes that I might see the beauty of His Word. Being one of His sheep, I hear the voice of my Shepherd. Or, if you like, being a child of the Father, I recognize my Father’s voice.

So Dr. Mizzi is a Christian, and therefore, he can read the Bible and know that it’s inspired. And not just that it’s inspired, but which Books belong in the Bible, and which don’t. C. Matthew McMahon explains the implications of this doctrine in Volume 2 of The Reformed Apprentice:

Self-authentication is something that Christians can witness over and against non-Christians. It goes back to, “my sheep hear my voice.” What that means is non-Christians cannot in and of themselves hear the Shepherd’s voice and therefore cannot be the rule by which the canon of the Bible is determined. Instead, the Bible is authenticated by itself and recognized by the Christians that read it. In our study so far, the Reformed Apprentice must recognize that being a believer is necessary to having the tools by which a self-authenticating scriptural document is recognized.

John Piper and numerous other Protestant pastors lean on this verse to make it say that Scripture teaches that Scripture is Scripture… even though in context, Jesus isn’t speaking about Scripture at all.

What are the implications of this interpretation?

  1. To avoid acknowledging the Church’s infallibility, this invents individual infallibility. In other words, you can’t trust the Catholic Church to get the canon of Scripture right, because the Church is fallible. But you can trust me to get the canon of Scripture right, because I’m a sheep who hears the Shepherd’s voice. And every other true believer is equally infallible.
  2. It means that anyone who gets the canon of Scripture wrong isn’t a true believer. As McMahon writes, “the Bible is authenticated by itself and recognized by the Christians that read it,” while “non-Christians cannot in and of themselves hear the Shepherd’s voice.” As Christ said in John 10:26, “you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.” So if your Bible has a different number of books in it than mine does, then you must not be a Christian.If you’re using the “I’m a sheep” argument to justify your canon of Scripture, you can’t disagree with this point, because it would require admitting that someone could be saved, could earnestly seek the truth, and still get the canon of Scripture wrong… the very conclusion this argument tries to avoid.  If you’re going to say that all Christians can know the canon from hearing the voice of Jesus, then it follows that all those who don’t agree with your canon (or who agree with your canon, but without hearing the voice of Jesus) aren’t Christians. But this forces you into arguing that Catholics and Orthodox aren’t real Christians, since if we were, we would have the 66-book canon. And, of course, it’s not just modern believers that you’ll have to excommunicate…
  3. This standard disqualifies every Christian before the Reformation. The 66-book Protestant Bible didn’t exist before the Reformation. Even those Christians who thought that it should be the canon, like St. Jerome and Rufinus, (a) didn’t actually have a 66-book canon, and (b) didn’t base their argument off of this “I’m a sheep” line of argumentation. Rather, they based their arguments off of things like the Jewish canon at the time, and a mystical interpretation of the 22 books in the Hebrew Bible and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. But Protestants employing this “I’m a sheep” argument can’t accept these arguments, since “non-Christians cannot in and of themselves hear the Shepherd’s voice and therefore cannot be the rule by which the canon of the Bible is determined.”So you can’t just excommunicate modern Catholics and Orthodox. You’ve also got to toss out the Christians who defined the Trinitarian doctrines, the New Testament canon, who solved the Christological controversies for you, etc. Apparently, they weren’t Christians, and so you can’t trust their judgment. Oh, and while you’re at it, make sure to throw out Luther and Calvin, since neither of them believed in the 66-book Protestant canon, either.
  4. This blasphemes Christ. Many Catholics respond to these arguments that Catholics aren’t Christians by pointing out how rude and uncharitable it is. I hate that response, because it doesn’t address the truth or falsity of the thing. If someone is a member of a non-Christian group presenting itself as Christian, the most charitable thing you can do is draw them back to Christ.No, the problem with this whole “Catholics aren’t Christians” argument is that it’s blasphemous. All “total apostasy” claims are. In Luke 15:1-7, Jesus again compares Himself to a shepherd with a hundred sheep. When one goes missing, He leaves the ninety-nine to go after the lost one until He finds it. He then “lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’” (Lk. 15:5-6).Total apostasy theories, in contrast, say that Christ lost His whole flock, that all 100 went astray and that He failed (or declined) to bring any of them back. That’s not just an indictment of the errant flock; it’s an attack on the Shepherd. As Christ tells us, a shepherd who sees the wolf coming, and lets him snatch and scatter the sheep is unworthy to even be called a shepherd (John 10:12). To say that the entire Church disappeared, that the entire flock of Christ was lost, is to say that the Good Shepherd ceased to be Shepherd, or was never anything more than a hireling.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger, The Faithless Shepherd
Pieter Brueghel the Younger, The Faithless Shepherd (1624)

II. The Pro-Church Interpretation

A better interpretation of John 10 is that Christ isn’t promising this clarity to every individual sheep, but to the sheep collectively… and through the Church. It’s true that He promises that the sheep will hear His voice, but He also sends out the 72 saying that “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” So when we listen to the Church, we listen to Christ. And that’s the mark of being a faithful sheep: our fidelity to our earthly shepherds, the ones that Christ promised us in Jeremiah 3:15 (“And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding”).

Let’s return to Christ’s words in John 10:16, “I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.” His meaning here is clear. When He speaks of “this [sheep]fold,” He means Israel. When He speaks of His “other sheep,” He means the faithful Gentiles. And when He promises to incorporate them into a single flock, He’s speaking of the Church.

In doing so, He’s repudiating the Protestant vision of an “invisible Church.” That’s the idea that all Christians are one simply by virtue of shared faith in Christ, and so corporate reunion is neither necessary nor possible (nor, in some views, even advisable). So we’re “one Church,” but we aren’t one ecclesial body, and we preach contradictory creeds. The Eucharist is either Jesus Christ or idolatry. Marian veneration is either the respect due our Mother, or idolatry. The priesthood and Sacraments are either critical for our salvation or un-Christian accretions.

But of course, that isn’t what Jesus was speaking of. The faithful Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles already had that kind of union: a union in which you disagree with each other, and sometimes hate each other’s guts, but are still seeking the same God. So any vision of Church that subs Catholics and Orthodox and Protestants as modern-day Jews and Samaritans and Gentiles is a Biblically-weak vision of the Church. Christ promises us more: that we won’t just have one shepherd, but that we’ll actually become one flock. Later in John’s Gospel, He’ll go even further, praying that we may have the radical communion found within the Trinity Itself (John 17:20-23). At a bare minimum, this means a single, unified visible Church with a single Creed, “of one heart and soul,” like the early Church (Acts 4:32).

This is a ringing endorsement of the Catholic Church, and of her necessity. And this gives us a great rubric for our own spiritual journey. If you find yourself breaking off from the other 99 sheep, it’s because you’re the one who is lost. And this same logic applies whether it’s 33 A.D., or 1517, or 2015, or some point in the far distant future. You can’t both break off from the Church and follow the Shepherd’s will for your life. Hear in this the voice of our common Shepherd calling you to rejoin the flock.

32 Comments

  1. Great post, Joe! Your reading of Jesus seeking the lost sheep in light of the Great Apostasy is very insightful. Jimmy Akin’s e-book “Why Mormonism Is Not Christian” also speaks to this, when he comes to the conclusion that if the Great Apostasy is true, and EVERYONE fell away, then Christ is a failure. May the Lord continue to draw all men to Himself in His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church!

  2. “John Piper and numerous other Protestant pastors lean on this verse to make it say that Scripture teaches that Scripture is Scripture… even though in context, Jesus isn’t speaking about Scripture at all.”

    Good point at pointing out this nonsense. It is almost impossible to talk to most Protestants about the Deuterocanon because they are either ignorant of it or respond with a visceral hatred of it, and when pressed as to why it is not Scripture, simply respond that the Scripture itself says that it is…which of course is a weak argument and not one that is seen in the early Church.

  3. One popular Protestant interpretation is that, since the sheep hear the Shepherd’s voice, we have no need for the Church or any other authority.

    Except Scripture.

    But those who hold this interpretation do not realize that Scripture tells us that Christ speaks to us through the Church:

    2 Corinthians 5:20King James Version (KJV)

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

      1. Where do you draw that conclusion from what is said there?

        From the text, spiritually discerned.

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

        As a Catholic steeped in Tradition, I recognize here several Catholic Teachings.

        1. The priest stands in place of Christ.
        2. The Church prays for us to God.
        3. This is a description of the Sacrament of reconciliation (i.e. confession), wherein, we submit to the priest, he accounts to God for our soul, prays that we are released of sins and reveals to us that we are absolved of our sins.

        You don’t have this basis since you reject the Traditions. Therefore, you substitute Protestant understanding. But how do you do it? Since here, Scripture tells us that certain men stand in God’s place and Protestants decry this teaching as blasphemous?

        Do you believe that anyone speaks to you in place of God? Do you believe that anyone prays for your soul in place of Christ?

        1. I looked it up, and while the Eastern Orthodox would apply it to themselves, the Anglicans to themselves, the Lutherans to themselves, the Roman Catholics to themselves, it is a reasonable enough explanation now that I read Chrysostom:

          Consider what Christ says concerning the Jews. The Scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; all therefore whatsoever they bid you to do, do ye. Matthew 23:2-3 Now we have not to say, the elders sit on Moses’ seat, but on that of Christ; for they have successively received His doctrine. Wherefore also Paul says, We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us. 2 Corinthians 5:20 See ye not that in the case of Gentile rulers, all bow to them, and oftentimes even persons superior in family, in life, in intelligence, to those who judge them? Yet still because of him who has given them, they consider none of these things, but respect the decision of their governor, whosoever he be that receives the rule over them. Is there then such fear when man appoints, but when God appoints do we despise him who is appointed, and abuse him, and besmirch him with ten thousand reproaches, and though forbidden to judge our brethren, do we sharpen our tongue against our elders?

  4. Regarding your #3: It also disqualifies St. Augustine, who believed in the Catholic 73 book bible, and whom Reformed Christians revere. I’ve even had friends of mine call Augustine a “Reformed Christian” (a bizarre claim, to say the least).

    1. Augustine had many key differences with Protestants. Baptismal regeneration and its applicability to infant baptism chief among them. He also adhered to the Deuterocanon and was open to the idea that purgatory existed (though he considered it debatable.)

      1. St. Augustine is a Catholic.

        “I would not believe in the Gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not influence me to do so.”
        Against the letter of Mani, 5,6, 397 A.D.

        1. It’s a rhetorical question, so I don’t think you were understanding what was said within the proper context:

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

          His point is clear. He thinks it is arbitrary to accept Mainchaeus’s Epistle based upon his own authority, so it is just easy enough to say “I only accept the Gospel based upon the Catholic Church’s authority.” So, the argument is really based upon an understanding of the Canon and how it has been properly recognized (in the Catholic Church, of course.)

          1. Craig Truglia says:
            April 29, 2015 at 9:26 pm
            It’s a rhetorical question,

            You’re not making sense. There is no question at all.

            so I don’t think you were understanding what was said within the proper context:

            Since you see a question where there is none, then it is you who is not understanding what was said.

            Therefore I ask, who is this Manichæus? You will reply, An apostle of Christ.

            Why are you putting words in my mouth? Which one of the twelve would do you say that I say that he is?

            I do not believe it.

            Then why did you say it? I sure didn’t.

            Now you are at a loss what to say or do; for you promised to give knowledge of the truth, and here you are forcing me to believe what I have no knowledge of.

            Are you now arguing with yourself? Or are you making up straw man arguments that you can knock down. I feel totally left out.

            Perhaps you will read the gospel to me,…

            Lol! I guess you’re entertaining yourself. I’ll wait til you address me.

            His point is clear. He thinks it is arbitrary to accept Mainchaeus’s Epistle based upon his own authority, so it is just easy enough to say “I only accept the Gospel based upon the Catholic Church’s authority.” So, the argument is really based upon an understanding of the Canon and how it has been properly recognized (in the Catholic Church, of course.)

            Obviously, you don’t understand the statement. St. Augustine is clear. He accepts the authority of the Catholic Church even above that of the Gospel. Without the Catholic Church, he would not believe the Gospels were true.

            That is the case with all of us. Even you accept the authority of the Catholic Church in the Scriptures. Without the Catholic Church, you would not have the 66 books which you have in your Bible. Those 66 books did not put themselves in the Bible. The Catholic Church put them there.

  5. That big confusing thing in the middle is a block quote in which your quotation from Augustine comes from. Augustine’s quip about not believing anything unless the Catholic Church told him is in response to his own rhetorical question: “Therefore I ask, who is this Manichæus?”

    I am sorry if I did not convey that accurately, but it is pretty clear you read the quote but never read the context of what was before or after it, for you replied to me thinking I wrote all those things when Augustine did.

    1. Lol! That’s embarrassing. I actually have read the letter, but, obviously, didn’t recognize it today.

      Regardless of my blunder, it is clear that St. Augustine accepts the authority of the Catholic Church and not Scripture alone. As to who is Manichaeus? have you not heard of the Manichaean heresy?

      Wikipedia:
      Manichaeism taught an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. Through an ongoing process which takes place in human history, light is gradually removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light whence it came. Its beliefs were based on local Mesopotamian gnostic and religious movements.

      1. Augustine was a Manichee for almost 12 years, I have a decent background on it. My only point is that the quote you used is not in support of the idea you are espousing, that is all.

        1. Craig Truglia says:
          April 30, 2015 at 2:46 am
          Augustine was a Manichee for almost 12 years, I have a decent background on it. My only point is that the quote you used is not in support of the idea you are espousing, that is all.

          I disagree. St. Augustine was plainly saying exactly what I am saying. Let me show you:

          He says:

          But should you meet with a person not yet believing the gospel, how would you reply to him were he to say, I do not believe?

          What if you were to meet with someone who does not believe the Gospel.

          For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church.

          As for me, if it wasn’t for the authority of the Catholic Church, I would not believe in Jesus Christ.

          So when those on whose authority I have consented to believe in the gospel tell me not to believe in Manichæus, how can I but consent?

          So, when the Church which tells me to believe in Jesus Christ tells me not to believe in Manichaeus, why would I disobey?

          Take your choice.

          It doesn’t matter what you say. Let me give you an example.

          If you say, Believe the Catholics: their advice to me is to put no faith in you; so that, believing them, I am precluded from believing you—

          If you say to me, believe the Catholic Church. Then, I would abandon you because the Catholic Church preaches against you.

          If you say, Do not believe the Catholics: you cannot fairly use the gospel in bringing me to faith in Manichæus; for it was at the command of the Catholics that I believed the gospel;

          But if you say to me, “Don’t believe the Catholic Church.” Then you can’t use the Scriptures. Because it is the Catholic Church which taught me to believe the Scriptures.

          — Again, if you say, You were right in believing the Catholics when they praised the gospel, but wrong in believing their vituperation of Manichæus: do you think me such a fool as to believe or not to believe as you like or dislike, without any reason?

          But if you say, “it is right for you to believe the Catholic Church in one thing but not in another. Do you think I’m your puppet that you can tell me what to do as though you have some sort of authority? Who do you think you are, exactly?

          So, what we have here, is St. Augustine using the exact same argument against Mani, that I am using against you.

  6. I’m not some sort of Augustine expert, but if you understand Augustine’s view of epistemology I don’t think you can draw that conclusion given the context. Let me narrow the passage a bit:

    “If you say, Believe the Catholics: their advice to me is to put no faith in you; so that, believing them, I am precluded from believing you—If you say, Do not believe the Catholics: you cannot fairly use the gospel in bringing me to faith in Manichæus; for it was at the command of the Catholics that I believed the gospel;— Again, if you say, You were right in believing the Catholics when they praised the gospel, but wrong in believing their vituperation of Manichæus: do you think me such a fool as to believe or not to believe as you like or dislike, without any reason?”

    What’s going on here? Augustine is essentially saying that if he takes the Gospel on good authority (that being the Catholics), then he must listen to that same authority so as not to believe in the Manichees. If the Manichees reply not to believe the Catholics, then Augustine’s reply is that he would lack a reasonable basis in which to accept the teachings of Mani.

    Now, this idea of what Augustine views as a “reasonable basis” sounds nebulous if you have not read and remembered Augustine’s defense of faith in Book 6 of the Confessions. In that Book, Augustine essentially says that when he was learning how to interpret the Scripture under Ambrose, he realized that the Scripture had authority because it got so many things right. Unlike the teachings of mani where philosophy and science disproved his conclusions, Augustine was able to verify the teachings of the Scripture. So, whenever he ran into something he did not understand in the Scripture o Catholic faith of the time, he accepted by faith what was taught was true, because every single issue that he was able to verify proved to be true.

    It would be like reading a book on Civil War history, and you know the Civil War real well. The book is very accurate from what you already know about the Civil War. Then, the author of the same book writes another about a topic you know less about, the Spanish-American War. You read the new book, and based upon the track record of the author previously, accept what he says as fact.

    So, without understanding that this is how Augustine approached accepting the Gospel and the truths of the Christian religion, I think you are not understanding what he is saying in his criticism of the claims of Mani. His point is retrospect is simple. If he doubts Catholicism, then he doubts the whole business of the Gospel. So, he cannot both accept the Gospel and Mani.

    1. <bCraig Truglia says:
      April 30, 2015 at 11:14 am
      I’m not some sort of Augustine expert, but if you understand Augustine’s view of epistemology

      St. Augustine’s epistomology is Catholic.

      I don’t think you can draw that conclusion given the context.

      Again, because you’re not Catholic and are reading St. Augustine through Protestant filters.

      Let me narrow the passage a bit:

      “If you say, Believe the Catholics: their advice to me is to put no faith in you; so that, believing them, I am precluded from believing you—If you say, Do not believe the Catholics: you cannot fairly use the gospel in bringing me to faith in Manichæus; for it was at the command of the Catholics that I believed the gospel;— Again, if you say, You were right in believing the Catholics when they praised the gospel, but wrong in believing their vituperation of Manichæus: do you think me such a fool as to believe or not to believe as you like or dislike, without any reason?”

      What’s going on here?

      St. Augustine is telling the Manichaeans that it doesn’t matter what they say, he accepts only the authority of the Catholic Church.

      Augustine is essentially saying that if he takes the Gospel on good authority (that being the Catholics), then he must listen to that same authority so as not to believe in the Manichees.

      That authority being the Catholic Church.

      If the Manichees reply not to believe the Catholics, then Augustine’s reply is that he would lack a reasonable basis in which to accept the teachings of Mani.

      No. St. Augustine says that if the Manicheans tell him not to believe the Catholic Church but then begin to use the Gospel to believe the Manicheans, then they will be contradicting themselves, because it was by the Catholic Church that he began to believe the Gospel. Compare these two statements:

      —If you say, Do not believe the Catholics: you cannot fairly use the gospel in bringing me to faith in Manichæus; for it was at the command of the Catholics that I believed the gospel;—

      And

      For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church.

      They obviously say the same thing.

      Now, this idea of what Augustine views as a “reasonable basis” sounds nebulous if you have not read and remembered Augustine’s defense of faith in Book 6 of the Confessions.

      I’ve read and understood all of St. Augustine’s books. And St. Augustine always proves to be supremely Catholic.

      In that Book, Augustine essentially says that when he was learning how to interpret the Scripture under Ambrose, he realized that the Scripture had authority because it got so many things right. Unlike the teachings of mani where philosophy and science disproved his conclusions, Augustine was able to verify the teachings of the Scripture. So, whenever he ran into something he did not understand in the Scripture o Catholic faith of the time,

      The Catholic faith is the same today as it was then. What St. Augustine saw in Scripture, we still see today in the Catholic Church.

      he accepted by faith what was taught was true, because every single issue that he was able to verify proved to be true.

      We can still verify every single Catholic Teaching in the Scriptures.

      Note St. Augustine’s Catholic methodology. The Catholic Church compares Scripture to Tradition and Tradition to Scripture. That is how the Manichaeans are proved false. That is how you and the Protestants are proved false. But St. Augustine compared all that he was taught by Catholics to the Scriptures and verified they were true. And he compared all that the Scriptures teach to Catholic Doctrine and confirmed they were accurate.

      If you combine both ideas, you will see that you are reading Scripture “alone” into the document. Since St. Augustine never says that the Scriptures have more authority than the Catholic Church. Nor does he ever claim that the Scriptures “alone” have authority but the Church does not.

      And have you read St. Augustine’s City of God? The title of this manuscript, “City of God”, is a reference to the Catholic Church which points to the 22nd Chapter of Revelations. In other words, St. Augustine considers the Church to be the heavenly Jerusalem. This is, again, the Teaching of the Catholic Church which, as I am showing you, can be traced to Scripture.

      If you want to truly understand St. Augustine’s epistemology, read that book.

      It would be like reading a book on Civil War history, and you know the Civil War real well. The book is very accurate from what you already know about the Civil War. Then, the author of the same book writes another about a topic you know less about, the Spanish-American War. You read the new book, and based upon the track record of the author previously, accept what he says as fact.

      Exactly! The author of the New Testament is the Catholic Church. And the Catholic Church also provides you the Traditions of Jesus Christ. Therefore, you need to trust the Catholic Church, because she speaks in place of God and pray for you in place of Christ.

      So, without understanding that this is how Augustine approached accepting the Gospel and the truths of the Christian religion, I think you are not understanding what he is saying in his criticism of the claims of Mani.

      It is you who is not understanding St. Augustine. You are reading into St. Augustine your Protestant perspective. But St. Augustine is thoroughly Catholic.

      His point is retrospect is simple. If he doubts Catholicism, then he doubts the whole business of the Gospel. So, he cannot both accept the Gospel and Mani.

      Exactly! Therefore, he is stating that he does not doubt Catholicism. In fact, he is stating that he gives Catholicism more authority than the Gospel. That is such a strong statement of faith in the Catholic Church that even the Catholic Church does not formally make such a statement, but leaves it to Catholics to figure it out for themselves.

      You have now said it yourself but apparently remain confused as to the idea you have uncovered. This is a blindness which affects all Protestants with whom I’ve spoken. Pray that God will give you the grace to accept the truth which you have stated yourself.

      His point is retrospect is simple. If he doubts Catholicism, then he doubts the whole business of the Gospel.

  7. “[Y]ou’re not Catholic and are reading St. Augustine through Protestant filters.”

    Not really, I actually have some level of training in reading ancient documents. I have read Augustine before I was ever a Christian, So, I’m not coming with preconceived notions and then going back to Augustine to try to substantiate my opinions.

    Of course, by your logic, only your interpretation can be valid because you espouse to be a Catholic. Of course, if you were following a false religion claiming to be Catholicism, but it really wasn’t, there would be no logical way to show you otherwise…because you would be working from the premise that only Catholics (here false Catholics) could properly evaluate true Catholicism. Of course this is logically absurd, but you appear unable to grasp this.

    “The author of the New Testament is the Catholic Church.”

    No, the author is God. Do not deify the bride of Christ.

    “The Catholic faith is the same today as it was then. ”

    No it wasn’t http://christianreformedtheology.com/2015/03/09/before-300-was-early-christianity-overtly-roman-catholic/

    “His point is retrospect is simple. If he doubts Catholicism, then he doubts the whole business of the Gospel.”

    Of course, because Catholicism was the only game in town then that would be recognizable with what anyone by any stretch of the imagination would consider Christianity. Modern Catholcism does not look like ancient Catholicism.

    1. “No, the author is God. Do not deify the bride of Christ.”

      Sorry, but you are wrong in this. It is ‘co-authored’. The Lord used human free will and also human talents and gifts provided by the Holy Spirit, with the addition also of human made physical implements such as parchment, papyrus, ink etc.. some of which might have been provided by pagans and gentiles, to compose the ‘New Testament’ writings. The Gospel is the Lord’s teaching through word and deed to His disciples. The New Testament is the expression of the Church revealing a portion of this teaching in written form. Other teachings of Christ’s Gospel came in the form of liturgical practices that the Apostles transmitted to the infant Church, things such as the celebration of the Eucharist, the recitation of the Psalms in community, the singing of songs, the gathering together at certain times, etc.. all of which are part of the ‘tradition’ that the Apostles taught to the first Christian converts.

      So, the ‘bride of Christ’ is in no way ‘deified’ by Her participation in the transmitting of the Holy Gospel and co-authoring, through the use of the physical body and human talents, the New Testament writings to the world.

      1. “Sorry, but you are wrong in this. It is ‘co-authored’.”

        No, the Church authored the Canon, which means the Church recognized what was inspired by God. “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21). So, they were essentially the scribes for God, and though their own voices were heard in the writings, they were not the authors God was.

  8. Craig,

    I’ve shown you where and how you misunderstood St. Augustine. And I’ve shown you that his message is precisely the same message I am passing on.

    All you keep doing is repeating the same objection with no substantiation. Repeating a lie, doesn’t make it true.

    Of course, because Catholicism was the only game in town ….

    Because it was then and remains today, the only True Church of Jesus Christ.

      1. Craig Truglia says:
        May 4, 2015 at 7:19 pm
        Lot other games now my friend.

        Are you really bragging about that?

        John 17:11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

        2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

  9. “Modern Catholcism does not look like ancient Catholicism.”

    Craig,

    Instead of focusing on everything wrong, and different, with the Modern Catholic Church, in comparison to the ‘ancient’ Catholic Church, maybe you should consider every characteristic, teaching and liturgical practice that is practically the same as it was back then. Then it is possible to understand what is truly essential in the Church, as compared to what is changeable and just ‘organizational’ as is needed for an ever growing institution. For instance, it’s easy to understand the natural physical, and mental, differences between an person when he/she was 10 years old, and then again at age 60. And a similar consideration needs to be given when analyzing the Church in it’s natural, physical and theological development. That is to say, if Jesus Himself compared the Church to first ‘a tiny seed’, and then to a ‘large tree sufficient for the birds of the air to build their nests’, we must consider that indeed it is the same tree, but that it has also naturally changed, grown and matured according to God’s holy and eternal designs. Just because the physical structure of the plant has changed, i.e.. a strong and sturdy trunk, flowers, fruit, tall stature, etc… does not signify that it is deficient, or defective, in any way. Of course it is not the same as it was when it was a seedling, but it is what God intended it to be in it’s fruitfulness and maturity.

    In the early Church of the first four centuries we can easily witness this development, and especially as described in “Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History “. From the Council of Jerusalem, and ‘Apostolic’ times, we can note how the first bishops were appointed to lead the 1st century churches. And very shortly after, in the 2nd century, with the great expansion of the Christian Church in both east and west, the large numbers of new bishops demanded even greater organization amongst themselves, and this was accomplished through the means of various ‘Synods’ and regional ‘Church Councils’. And continuing into the 4th Century, the even greater multitudes of new churches expanding throughout the entire Roman Empire needed to be organized, associated, harmonized and integrated. This was so that this great number of bishops throughout the ‘Empire’ were all ‘on the same page’, so to say, and teaching the same ‘Universal’ Christian Gospel as taught by the other bishops of the Church. And so, the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea was called to accomplish this. We note also that the canons of Nicaea describe very well the structure of that early Catholic Church, which included not only bishops, as was the case in the first century, but also Metropolitan Bishops (ie. Archbishops), as well.

    So, even a child can recognize this simple and natural development for what it is. It’s pretty basic.

    Then, if we can understand this development and growth of the Church in the first 4 centuries, it is not so difficult to understand the growth and development over the next 4 centuries. As the Church expanded both North and West to ever more pagan areas, and the fall of the Roman Empire ensued, new ecclesiastical developments took place to address these new circumstances in the various territories and countries of the World. This is not to say that the Church lost it’s spiritual way, or broke it’s covenant with Christ in any way, i.e., aposticized from God, Jesus, etc.., but that it was developing in the world according to the realities of new nations and political structures after the fall of the Roman Empire. And then, when Islam a few centuries later arose, the Church also needed to adjust, adapt and realize the challenges posed by the advent of this new, and violent, civilization that was newly being born into that ancient world. Every epoch of the Church had it’s challenges to face, and those challenges continue even to our present time.

    It’s all pretty simple to understand. It is just the natural ecclesiastical and theological growth and development intended by the Holy Trinity for the sake of the conversion of the entire world, even as Jesus taught in the Gospel, and which is still taking place.

    In modern times, if you look closely at the modern Catholic Liturgy, you will find it to be remarkably similar to what was described in the early Church of the 1st/2nd centuries, even though the modern day Church has 1,000’s of times the members it had back then and now extends throughout the farthest frontiers of the planet. Note also the great order found in the modern Church, and the great peace regarding almost every aspect of Modern Catholicism. It is really quite beautiful and amazing!

    So, the Church has indeed matured and developed, but has always remained throughout the centuries to be the one and same ‘Mystical body of Christ’. And according to the promise of Christ in His holy Gospel, it will likewise continue to mature, develop and grow, even until the end of the world.

        1. LOL, let me rephrase:

          If the RCC can affirm what the 32nd chapter of 1 Clement without contradicting it on other points, then all is well and any changes just window-dressing.

          I was going by memory and typos don’t help. Here is the chapter in question:

          Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognise the greatness of the gifts which were given by him. For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. Romans 9:5 From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, Your seed shall be as the stars of heaven. All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

          1. We can. As one of Clement’s successors said:

            “With Christ, the God of Israel, the one true God, became the God of all peoples. The wall as he says in his Letter to the Ephesians between Israel and the Gentiles, was no longer necessary: it is Christ who protects us from polytheism and all of its deviations; it is Christ who unites us with and in the one God; it is Christ who guarantees our true identity within the diversity of cultures. The wall is no longer necessary; our common identity within the diversity of cultures is Christ, and it is he who makes us just. Being just simply means being with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Further observances are no longer necessary. For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love. Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love. So it is that in the Letter to the Galatians in which he primarily developed his teaching on justification St Paul speaks of faith that works through love (cf. Gal 5: 14).”

          2. You seem to think that Chapter 32 is an explanation of faith alone. Did you happen to read chapter 30?

            Chapter 30. Let Us Do Those Things that Please God, and Flee from Those He Hates, that We May Be Blessed.

            Seeing, therefore, that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all those things which pertain to holiness, avoiding all evil-speaking, all abominable and impure embraces, together with all drunkenness, seeking after change, all abominable lusts, detestable adultery, and execrable pride. For God, [says the Scripture], resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Let us cleave, then, to those to whom grace has been given by God. Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words. For [the Scripture] says, He that speaks much, shall also hear much in answer. And does he that is ready in speech deem himself righteous? Blessed is he that is born of woman, who lives but a short time: be not given to much speaking. Let our praise be in God, and not of ourselves; for God hates those that commend themselves. Let testimony to our good deeds be borne by others, as it was in the case of our righteous forefathers. Boldness, and arrogance, and audacity belong to those that are accursed of God; but moderation, humility, and meekness to such as are blessed by Him.

            It sounds as though St. Clement does not separate faith from works as you do. But in context one with the other, St. Clement understands that our faith which pleases God is expressed by doing righteous works which please God.

  10. Again, if consistently taught and affirmed, then there are no problems. If paid lip service to and contradicted, then God speaks of men who honor Him with their lips but their hearts are far from Him. I am not saying that is you, but the consistent affirmation of the truth and living it out is of the utmost importance.

    God bless,
    Craig

    1. Craig Truglia says:
      May 4, 2015 at 11:18 pm
      Again, if consistently taught and affirmed, then there are no problems. If paid lip service to and contradicted, then God speaks of men who honor Him with their lips but their hearts are far from Him. I am not saying that is you, but the consistent affirmation of the truth and living it out is of the utmost importance.

      God bless,
      Craig

      Have you read Hebrews 11?

      Hebrews 11 King James Version (KJV)

      11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

      2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

      3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

      4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

      5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

      6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

      7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

      8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

      9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:

      10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

      By faith, those who believe in God, do the will of God. And it is only those who do the will of God who will enter the Kingdom of God:

      Matthew 7:21King James Version (KJV)

      21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

      Can you affirm that?

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