"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

On the authority of creeds and confessions formulated by those without sacramental magisterial authority

Consider the creeds and confessions formulated by persons without sacramental magisterial authority. The practice of treating such creeds and confessions as authoritative raises a particular dilemma. I will use the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) as an example, but the same dilemma arises for any of them. If a person grounds his belief that the WCF is authoritative on its agreement with his own interpretation of Scripture, then it would be arbitrary for him to treat as less authoritative than the WCF any text or sermon that agrees fully with his own interpretation of Scripture, ceteris paribus. (See the combox discussion of this post.) But why think that agreement with one's own interpretation of Scripture makes something authoritative in the first place?

Here's the dilemma. If each individual has equal interpretive authority, then the very notion that one's own interpretation of Scripture is authoritative for all other persons violates Kant's categorical imperative: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." The maxim, "All others should submit to my interpretation of Scripture", if universalized [i.e. made a maxim that each person could live by], would make hash of the notions of authority and submission. Each person's interpretation would be authoritative for all others, thus entailing that no person's interpretation would be authoritative for others. That would be individualism. So in order to hold the WCF to be authoritative on the grounds that it agrees with one's own interpretation of Scripture, one must hide from others why one thinks it to be authoritative, for as soon as one reveals that the grounds for its 'authority' is that it agrees with one's own interpretation of Scripture, it is by that very fact shown to have no authority.

But if some people have more interpretive authority than others, then on what grounds do they have more ecclesial/interpretive authority? If the answer is that their interpretation of Scripture agrees with one's own interpretation of Scripture, then again the illusion of authority is exposed. Excepting an appeal to academic authority (see the link above), the only remaining grounds for ecclesial/interpretive authority is sacramental (i.e. the handing on of apostolic authority from the Apostles to their successors the bishops through the laying on of hands), as I have argued here.

So, either such creeds and confessions have no authority, or only those creeds and confessions have authority that were formulated by those having sacramental magisterial authority. Either way, it seems, creeds and confessions formulated by those without sacramental magisterial authority have no authority.

UPDATE: Here's the argument in syllogistic form:

1. Either each individual has equal interpretive authority or not.

2. If each individual has equal interpretive authority, then any creed or confession has authority only insofar as one shares the interpretation of those who wrote it.

3. If any creed or confession has authority only insofar as one shares the interpretation of those who wrote it, then no creed or confession has any actual authority and individualism is true.

4. If each individual has equal interpretive authority, then no creed or confession has any actual authority and individualism is true. (From 2 and 3)

5. If it is not true that each individual has equal interpretive authority, then the individual(s) with the highest interpretive authority acquire their interpretive authority either from academia or from the apostles through sacramental succession.

6. But the highest interpretive authority cannot be acquired from academia (as argued in the combox here).

7. If it is not true that each individual has equal interpretive authority, then the highest interpretive authority is acquired from the apostles through sacramental succession. (From 5 and 6)

8. Either no creed or confession has any authority and individualism is true, or the highest interpretive authority is acquired from the apostles through sacramental succession. (From 1, 4, and 7)

9. If the highest interpretive authority is acquired from the apostles through sacramental succession, then any creed or confession written by those not having sacramental authority from the apostles has no actual ecclesial authority.

10. Either no creed or confession has any authority and individualism is true, or any creed or confession written by those not having sacramental authority from the apostles has no actual ecclesial authority. (From 8 and 9)

11. If no creed or confession has any authority, then any creed or confession written by those not having sacramental authority from the apostles has no actual ecclesial authority.

12. Any creed or confession written by those not having sacramental authority from the apostles has no actual ecclesial authority. (from 10 and 11)

36 comments:

contrarian 78 said...

Bryan,
The argument would be put forth that
the basis for the authority is Scripture's perspicuity, and that this or that confession is most faithful to organizing/defining the truths of Scripture. It can be evaluated by considering things such as the proof texts supplied in the document. Of course, one can debate whether the authority of the Scripture and the appropriate interpretation thereof is self-attesting in the first place.

Thos said...

You could apply the latest PCA interaction with Federal Visionists to your paradigm. They were not refuted by Scripture, the ultimate authority, but rather by the Confession. This is for the sake of unity on the relevant points (baptismal regeneration, covenant headship, etc); there is no alternative.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Principium unitatis said...

Contrarian,

Thanks for this. I just updated my post to include my argument in syllogistic form. Now I'm trying to figure out which premise of my argument would be challenged by what you are saying here.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Thos said...

Bryan,

I've read a PCA elder describe the WCF (which you used as an example only, I realize) as a framework, like construction staging, around which the building of the church is constructed. It's a unifying document. Individuals can accept the interpretive norms and theological conclusions it states. But under Calvin's view, one is bound to remain a part of their church as long as it is true church (as measured by his two conditions of preaching the word and tending to the Christ-instituted sacraments). I think that's all a Confessionalist can say to your framework.

#5 - There is no interpretive authority other than the individual, moved by the Holy Spirit in his heart, while reading the Scriptures.

#8 - The confession is NOT an authority, but a framework in which the church handles disputes steming under it's one source of authority, the Bible. Individualism is reigned in by Calvin's unity (comity?) requirement puts the breaks on the hyper-individualism, keeping us under the framework of the church we are in.

Uck, I guess that's my effort at giving the PCA response. You could probably do a better job than I can.

Principium unitatis said...

Thos,

Check out the combox discussions here and here regarding biblicism and the WCF as a secondary authority. Jeff Myers, as you probably know, is a PCA pastor here in St. Louis, and also one of the signers of the recent FV document.

For another take, see the recent exchange between Lane Keister and Lee Irons here, here, and here. Lane is a PCA pastor. Lee was OPC, though I don't know what he is now. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

contrarian 78 said...

Bryan,
In considering your syllogistic argument, I suppose the objection would be raised that you have created a false dilemma. At least, I believe that is the proper term.

What I mean by that is that one must not need to be either sacramentally grounded as a priest or intellectually grounded as an academic to be able to grasp the validity of creed x over the rest. Instead, if Scripture is truly clear on matters of faith and morals, this would be clear to those with a basic understanding of God's word, laymen or not.

The academics may formulate the creed, but all may be capable of grasping its systematic accuracy and clarity, due to the ultimate truth and clarity of the Scriptures.

The only strong objection that comes to my mind is that this flies in the face of history. But then, I can see how the response of the "bibliocentric" individual would simply be that our sinfulness has produced the abundance of creeds and the adherents thereto.

Of course, on the other hand there are the promises and admonitions of Scripture with regard to unity, which have been clearer indications to me that your side is weightier than I used to think.

Principium unitatis said...

Contrarian,

Thanks for your comments. I agree that that is basically how a person in that tradition would reply. But I don't see how that would refute the argument, because I don't see which premise it would challenge. To refute a deductive argument, one must either show that the conclusion does not follow from the premises, or show that at least one of the premises may be not true. It looks as though what you saying about my creating a false dilemma is aimed at either premise 1 or premise 5. But I can't see how premise 1 could be false, because I can't see any middle position between the two positions referred to in premise 1. Likewise, in order to falsify premise 5, one must identity a third source (besides academia and sacramental succession from the apostles) for the interpretive authority of those who have greater interpretive authority. The only thing I can think of as a candidate is a kind of montanistic/gnostic appeal to the direct bestowal of divine authority in a special anointing. That's the sort of thing we see in people like Benny Hinn and Joyce Meyer. I can't see people in the confessional tradition of Protestantism taking that option. So, I don't see how their response would refute my argument. Thanks a lot for your comments. It is helping me think through this argument.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Thos said...

Bryan,

Thanks for the reading assignments... I commented on one of the former (where Catholics were censored, but I am still allowed!), and then say something in the latter very similar to my comment (that the WCF is amendable). It's interesting to me that while I've waffled on much of what is within the confession, I'm still pretty up tight in wanting to defend Confessionalism. It seems like the one check on hyper-individualism.

contrarian 78 said...

Bryan,
What I have been trying to say is that the third option aside from academics and the priesthood would be a non-human source; namely, God speaking through Holy Scripture.



Chapter I point VI of the WCF is indicative of such thinking, when it states:

"The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men."

Thos said...

Now I'm picking up a head of steam... if we were submitted to our Protestant denomination, and it were a confessional denomination, that does solve individualism. We live under the confession's teachings, and if we want to interpret things differently (say, what actually happens at a baptism), then our view needs to be persuasive enough to convince the General Assembly or Synod to change the Confessional standard. Voila! This checks individualism and allows room for the Holy Spirit to move the church forward toward truth...

But in practice?

Principium unitatis said...

Contrarian,

I think you are saying that the Protestant would challenge premise 5 of my argument. Here's premise 5 in its present state:

5: "If it is not true that each individual has equal interpretive authority, then the individual(s) with the highest interpretive authority acquire their interpretive authority either from academia or from the apostles through sacramental succession."

So if the third option aside from academics and the priesthood would be a non-human source; namely, God speaking through Holy Scripture. then here's what a revised premise 5 would look like:

5R: "If it is not true that each individual has equal interpretive authority, then the individual(s) with the highest interpretive authority acquire their interpretive authority either from (a) academia or from (b) the apostles through sacramental succession or from (c) God speaking through Holy Scripture."

To me that third option looks like the montanistic/gnostic appeal to the direct bestowal of divine authority in a special Benny Hinn-style anointing. How would we know which persons have such an anointing, and which don't? In order to discern the answer, we too would need to be getting a direct message from God, in gnostic fashion. So this third option seems to be intrinsically individualistic. But the first part of premise 5 is opposed to individualism, since it grants that some persons have greater interpretive authority than others. Therefore it seems to me that 5R is self-contradictory.

I appreciate your thoughts.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

Thos,

if we were submitted to our Protestant denomination, and it were a confessional denomination, that does solve individualism.

Imagine that there were a thousand different denominations. Each person reads the Bible, comes up with his personal interpretation, and then picks the denomination that comes closest to his own interpretation. After each person joins the denomination that comes closest to his own personal interpretation, he submits to those in leadership in that denomination.

Since everyone in that scenario is submitting to their denomination's authority, is that scenario a non-individualist scenario?

I think the scenario is entirely individualistic. I have described that situation as equivalent to painting a magisterial target around one's interpretive arrow. If you were at an archery exhibition, and each archer was shooting into a blank canvas, and then painting a bullseye around his arrow, would you be impressed? No. There is no real target. Each archer makes his own target by painting the target around his own arrow after he has shot the arrow. Similarly, in the scenario above, each person is painting a magisterial target around his own interpretive arrow.

I have talked about that in more detail here.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

David W said...

Bryan,

I commented to you on Greenbaggins about praying to 'dead people' and then meandered over to here. I'd like to continue the 'dead people' thread with you but I am not sure that Greenbaggins is the right place to do that. At any rate, this subject is also fascinating; so, I'll stay here for now. . .

I find a difficulty in your argument with the introduction of the word 'interpret.' I find no place where the apostles were given any such power. On the contrary, I see them being given the promise of a recollection of what Jesus had taught them. They were able to pass this along. It seems to me that interpretation of what they passed along is quite another matter.

One more point. Romans 14 seems to say (my interpretation, of course!!!) that when we do stuff that is not according to the faith that God has given us (individually), then that is sin. It appears that individualism is a 'bad' word with you; but, isn't that where it all ends up? My relationship with my God is about my sin and not about what some 'authority' (other than He) has told me I 'ought' to do. I have His spirit to help me. (I also have flesh to get in the way of my understanding. That's a problem$#@%#) But, does bringing a third party into the mix as an authority really solve anything?

Principium unitatis said...

Hello David,

I find no place where the apostles were given any such power.

The authority of the Apostles to interpret Scripture is derived from their teaching authority. We see this in Matt 28:19-20, where Jesus commands the Apostles to teach all that He has commanded them. We can also see this in Luke 10:16, where Jesus tells the Apostles: "he who listens to you listens to Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me." By their teaching authority, they can write Scripture. And if they can write Scripture, then a fortiori, they can give the authoritative interpretation of Scripture. If you had lived in Jerusalem during the first ten years after Jesus' resurrection, before any NT books were written, and you were a follower of the Way, you would find no place in Scripture where the Apostles were given any authority, since no NT texts had been written. But that wouldn't mean that you would have to wait until at least one NT book was written in order to know whether the Apostles had any authority. Furthermore, if you read the early Church fathers, you will see that they believed that those in sacramental succession from the apostles had the authority to determine what the Church is to believe, what is the apostolic interpretation of Scripture, and what is and what isn't orthodoxy, and what is and what isn't heresy. See, for example, this quotation from Tertullian. And St. Irenaeus is making a similar point when he talks about apostolic succession, as you can see here.

Imagine that the Apostle Peter just finished writing 1 Peter, and then you went up to him and told him that it means X, and he said, "No, it means ~X", and you said, "We'll just have to agree to disagree. You create your denomination, and I'll create mine." The Apostles had the authority to give the authoritative interpretation of their own writings.

It appears that individualism is a 'bad' word with you; but, isn't that where it all ends up? My relationship with my God is about my sin and not about what some 'authority' (other than He) has told me I 'ought' to do.

See Luke 10:16. Then see Hebrews 13:17. Christ appointed the Apostles as authorities over the Church. And the Apostles in turn appointed bishops. To reject the human authorities that Christ appointed is to reject Christ.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

David W said...

Bryan,

Do you know of some way we could discuss this issue of apostolic authority to interpret without the use of words? That would really make it much easier!!! (Just kidding, well . . . , sort of). As I have observed so far, you make excellent points (I am being sincere in this) in your responses. Alas, I just see other possible explanations as being more plausible. Please note that anything I may say in the following that sounds 'authoritative' is just my humble opinion.

Matthew 28:20 - the teaching that seems to be specified here is a very specific teaching; it is the teaching to 'hold fast to' . . . It is not the teaching that might require interpretation of what Jesus had imparted to them. God's Word is God's Word; He is the only one who can interpret it. My interpretation (or any man's for that matter) is just so much nonsense.

Luke 10:16 is a very special situation involving the 70. Were there 70 apostles or 12? In any case, there is no indication that I can see in the text that they had any responsibility to 'interpret.' If they were speaking His words then others should listen as if He were speaking. They didn't have to interpret for this to be the meaning of this verse.

"By their teaching authority, they can write Scripture."

Truly, they were given the ability to write what they wrote. And, no, I do not know if they kept important information back and only revealed it privately to their followers. However, your conclusion that this gave them the authority to interpret what they handed down with the help of the Holy Spirit (other than what they explain in the text itself) seems to be a stretch.

Regarding the early church fathers you mention Tertullian. I read that reference and with all due respect, I see something different there. He is battling heretics and makes the statement that HE has this interpretive ability. Could this be a little self serving? The problem he is dealing with is clearly interpretation. If he can show that he has that authority than he wins the debate and maintains the truth. However, all I see him doing is saying that he has the authority. No proof.

"The Apostles had the authority to give the authoritative interpretation of their own writings."

Just for the record, I attend an SBC church. Honestly, I wish your statement above were true. But, just saying it does not make it so. The church being split into thousands of denominations is truly sin.

"To reject the human authorities that Christ appointed is to reject Christ."

I understand your perspective. I see that only Christ has authority. His Word has authority. The ones who speak forth His Word also have authority (when they speak it forth accurately) because they are speaking His Words. They in and of themselves have no authority. They are simply sinners who may or may not have been saved by grace. All these human trapping are very sad indeed. Can't we trust God to speak to His own using His own words and make sure that they get it?

contrarian 78 said...

Bryan,
Regarding premise 5R, I suppose the problem is not the amount of options with who has the highest interpretive authority.

I think what the WCF and other documents teach is that there is no stratification beyond asking that one search the Scriptures to see whether what is said is accurate. The contention is that all things related to life and doctrine are easily elucidated by reading and considering what follows from "good and necessary consequence."

This is not gnostic, unless you can demonstrate that this is a) not what Scripture teaches of itself, or b) not what history teaches was done.

The problem with the historical objection is one can always say that any departure from orthodoxy is not due to the obscurity of the Scriptures, but the darkness of the hearts of the readers.

Contrarian

Principium unitatis said...

David,

Matthew 28:20 - the teaching that seems to be specified here is a very specific teaching; it is the teaching to 'hold fast to' . . . It is not the teaching that might require interpretation of what Jesus had imparted to them. God's Word is God's Word; He is the only one who can interpret it. My interpretation (or any man's for that matter) is just so much nonsense.

If God is the only one who can interpret God's Word, and if your interpretation is just so much nonsense, then what are you doing trying to interpret Matt 28:20?

Luke 10:16 is a very special situation involving the 70. Were there 70 apostles or 12?

The two numbers are not mutually exclusive. There were 70 apostles. Twelve of them had a higher position. That is why they are the twelve foundation stones of the Church (Revelation 21:14)

In any case, there is no indication that I can see in the text that they had any responsibility to 'interpret.'

You are working in a 'sola scriptura' paradigm, as though if you can't find something in Scripture, then there is no good reason to believe it. But 'sola scriptura' is not taught anywhere in Scripture, nor was it believed or taught by the early Church fathers.

The position you hold regarding magisterial authority (i.e. that there is no authority but that of the Bible) is a position that no Christians believed for 1500 years. So, did the Apostles absolutely, completely, and utterly fail to teach the early Church what Christ intended regarding Church authority? Either the Apostles utterly and completely failed to teach the early Church the individualism which you hold, or the individualism you hold is not what the Apostles believed and taught. Which is it?

I agree that all the divisions are a sin. But the reason for all the divisions is precisely the individualism which you are espousing. Kristine Franklin's story illustrates that well.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

Thanks Contrarian.

I agree with your comments, i.e. that that is what the WCF says. But, none of that refutes any premise in my argument. So the argument still stands, so far as I can tell.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

contrarian 78 said...

I suppose the syllogism that would support confessionalism would be more in line with individualism, but not be wholly individualistic.

Perhaps a way of formulating it would be as follows:

1) The Scriptures are the ultimate authority in determining matters of life and morals.
2) The Scriptures are a clear authority on matters of life and morals.
3) Given the scope and size of Scriptures, much care must be taken in rightly dividing them.
4) All individuals are obligated to search the Scriptures to see whether a sect is rightly dividing them.
5) But not all individuals are equally gifted with wisdom and knowledge.

6) Given the grandness of the task of dividing the word of God (3), the duty to understand them (4), but the gradation of wisdom and knowledge among men (5), it is necessary that the most able children of God assemble in councils to speak on matters of faith and morals.

The two questions that follow about this frame of thinking that come to my mind are:
A) How clear are the Scriptures really?
B) Given 5, how can the laypeople rightly divide whether someone is rightly dividing the Scriptures in 6's advocacy of councils as means to enlighten/clarify their teachings. In other words, if the Scriptures are difficult to systematize by the average believer, how is it easy to assess the systemizations of the learned?

David W said...

Bryan,

You said: "We see this in Matt 28:19-20, where Jesus commands the Apostles to teach all that He has commanded them."

I said: ". . . here is a very specific teaching; it is the teaching to 'hold fast to' . . . "

You said: "If God is the only one who can interpret God's Word, and if your interpretation is just so much nonsense, then what are you doing trying to interpret Matt 28:20?

Please take a deep breath and relax.

The issue was, I thought, whether Jesus gave the apostles the 'supernatural' ability to interpret His Word. I did not bring up Matthew 28:20. I assume you brought it up to make a point related to an opinion you hold regarding interpretative authority. Very little, if any, interpretation is required to simply see what Matthew 28:20 actually says. It doesn't really take God's intervention to see that it need not relate to interpretative authority.

You said: "But 'sola scriptura' is not taught anywhere in Scripture, . . ."

You bet. And, I would never bring that up. I really try to avoid such 'stereotyping.' It usually leads to confusion and I can't see how it has moved this particular discussion forward.

I believe a lot of things that are not in the Scriptures. For example, the moon is not made of green cheese. However, if I am going to believe something, then I ought to have weightier evidence than that some old guy may or may not have said it a long time ago.

You said: "The position you hold regarding magisterial authority (i.e. that there is no authority but that of the Bible) is a position that no Christians believed for 1500 years."

Sorry, but that is not my position. All authority has been given to Jesus. He may or may not have delegated some authority to others. Creditable evidence of this delegation would be appreciated. The simple fact that there are many who do and many who don't subscribe to your conclusion is sufficient to show that it is not THE obvious conclusion.

You said: "Either the Apostles utterly and completely failed to teach the early Church the individualism which you hold, or the individualism you hold is not what the Apostles believed and taught. Which is it? "

I do recommend the avoidance of stereotyping. I don't know what you mean by 'individualism' and until it is defined well and you know me a little better, I don't believe you should be painting me with that particular brush. I believe that the Holy Spirit is the only infallible interpreter of Scripture. To the extent that what I believe is of the Holy Spirit, then I have the truth. The statement that the Catholic Church has that interpretation is not proof. On the other hand it isn't a problem. God is sovereign.

You said: "I agree that all the divisions are a sin. But the reason for all the divisions is precisely the individualism which you are espousing."

So I am espousing sin. WOW! How quickly the ad hominems entered in . . . I must have touched a sore point. Sorry for that. Are you interested in discussing the merits of this issue of authoritative interpretation?

Principium unitatis said...

Hello Dave,

Thanks for your reply. I'm sorry if I came across as unrelaxed. I'm relaxed, but puzzled by your claims. You wrote:

Very little, if any, interpretation is required to simply see what Matthew 28:20 actually says.

You are, are you not, deriving that claim from the verse? You are determining the hermeneutical scope of the verse. Your claim, therefore, is itself part of your interpretation of the passage. So you are saying that "God is the only one who can interpret God's Word" and you are saying that "[your own] interpretation is just so much nonsense", but then you are interpreting Matt 28:20 in your determination that "very little, if any, interpretation is required to simply see what Matthew 28:20 actually says". For that reason, you seem (to me) to be contradicting yourself.

I wrote: "But 'sola scriptura' is not taught anywhere in Scripture, . . ."

You replied:

You bet. And, I would never bring that up. I really try to avoid such 'stereotyping.'

I do not know what you mean by 'stereotyping' here. I think it would help me understand you better if you would explain for me what you mean by this term. When you say, "I find no place where the apostles were given any such power", I assume that you mean "I find no place in Scripture where the apostles were given any such power". That statement implies that you are working within the restrictions of sola scriptura. And your low view of the Church fathers confirms that.

However, if I am going to believe something, then I ought to have weightier evidence than that some old guy may or may not have said it a long time ago.

If I am understanding you correctly, your reference here to 'some old guy' is a reference to the Church fathers. The early Church fathers were those to whom the Apostles bequeathed the deposit of faith that they had received from Christ. So the Church fathers are not just some old guys. They are witnesses (for us) to the teaching of the Apostles. They help us see what it was that the Apostles taught the early Church.

For example, St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, was martyred in Rome in 107 AD. He was the second bishop of Antioch, after Evodius, whom the fathers say was ordained by the Apostle Peter. The Apostle John died around 100 AD. So St. Ignatius was a contemporary of the Apostle John. And according to some, St. Ignatius himself was ordained by Peter before Peter was crucified upside-down by Nero around 67 AD. What did St. Ignatius think about Church authority? He taught exactly what the Catholic Church teaches about bishops, priests, and deacons. See here.

Given the low view you seem to have of the fathers, what grounds do you have for believing that the NT canon is correct?

I wrote: "The position you hold regarding magisterial authority (i.e. that there is no authority but that of the Bible) is a position that no Christians believed for 1500 years."

You replied: Sorry, but that is not my position. All authority has been given to Jesus. He may or may not have delegated some authority to others.

I'm sorry; I wasn't clear. I wasn't claiming that your position denies that Jesus has authority. You seem to be unsure regarding whether or not Christ gave magisterial authority to the Apostles. The position that Jesus did not give magisterial authority to the Apostles is a position that no Christians believed for 1500 years. St. Paul writes:

"For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you ..."(2 Cor 10:8)

"... in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down." (2 Cor 13:10)

"... even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority." (1 Thess 2:6)

"For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus." (1 Thess 4:2)

And to Titus (bishop of Crete), St. Paul writes:

"These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority." (Titus 2:15)

The simple fact that there are many who do and many who don't subscribe to your conclusion is sufficient to show that it is not THE obvious conclusion.

I never claimed that the Catholic position is "obvious". I'm claiming that it is true. But truth is something that often has to be searched out, for "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter." (Prov 25:2)

I wrote:

"Either the Apostles utterly and completely failed to teach the early Church the individualism which you hold, or the individualism you hold is not what the Apostles believed and taught. Which is it?"

You replied:

I do recommend the avoidance of stereotyping.

Again, I do not know what you mean by 'stereotyping'. What I have presented is a dilemma. Perhaps it is the "you hold" that you are referring to as 'stereotyping'. If so, then perhaps you mean that I should not presume to know what your position is. If I criticize a position that you do not hold, then please tell me that that is not your position. Here's my dilemma with the "you hold" removed:

Either the Apostles utterly and completely failed to teach the early Church that Christ gave no magisterial authority to any man, or the notion that Christ gave no magisterial authority to any man is not what the Apostles believed and taught. Which is it?

I don't know what you mean by 'individualism' and until it is defined well and you know me a little better, I don't believe you should be painting me with that particular brush.

The difficulty here is that since you don't know what I mean by 'individualism', therefore you feel as though I am "painting you with a particular brush". When you learn what I mean by 'individualism', then perhaps it will be more clear that I'm not painting you, but only referring to your position as you have already revealed it. If you wish to know what I mean by individualism, I recommend that you read my post Sacramentally grounded magisterium vs. individualism. If it is still not clear, then please let me know.

I believe that the Holy Spirit is the only infallible interpreter of Scripture. To the extent that what I believe is of the Holy Spirit, then I have the truth.

See comments #89, 91, 93, 94, 135, 145, 152, and 155 in the combox of this post.

I wrote: "I agree that all the divisions are a sin. But the reason for all the divisions is precisely the individualism which you are espousing."

You replied: So I am espousing sin. WOW! How quickly the ad hominems entered in

An ad hominem is an attack of the person. I'm not attacking your person; I'm criticizing your position, i.e. individualism. When each person treats himself as his own interpretive authority, whether or not he claims to be following the Holy Spirit, that is individualism. It is a denial of the magisterial authorities that Christ appointed to lead and shepherd His Church.

Are you interested in discussing the merits of this issue of authoritative interpretation?

Definitely. I think it is a very important issue. In fact I think it is the most important issue with respect to the goal of uniting all Christians and healing our present divisions.

Thank you again for your comments, and for your patience with me as I try to understand where you are coming from.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

David W said...

Bryan,

I tried to carefully read all that you referenced in your last response. I will try to not cover any ground with which you have already dealt. I am tempted to clarify the specific areas you identify as confusing in my previous response; but, I am afraid that that will just lead to a long post and not clarify what we are dealing with here. Let me know if there was anything there that you really want me to address.

Let me just provide a little more about me (I am after all a normal self-centered sinner). I did not grow up in church. I am a Jew who was an atheist until age 43. That was 20 years ago. The word 'Jesus' was truly an offense to me. I was all alone in my own living room when God transfered me to the Kingdom of His Beloved Son. For the first 42.75 years (approximately!) prior to that, I did not seek God nor was I aware of any need for nor any interest in Him. There is absolutely no question in my mind that I am going to spend eternity with Jesus and that the Holy Spirit is at this very moment indwelling me (whatever that means!).

Your argument in favor of SGA was excellent. You make many, many important points. The discussion, however, seems to miss a key point, the sovereignty of God. He is the one who has selected Jesus' body and it (the church, the body, the congregation, etc.) will be with Him for all eternity. There is nothing in heaven or on earth that can keep one single member of that church out of his/her place in the body of Christ. The purity or strength of the Catholic Church is not part of the question as to whether or not this body of Christ will finally attain to the prize of the upward call. Please, please, please do not jump to the conclusion that I believe that that gets me off of the hook for ever doing anything to 'build' that congregation.

So how do we explain all of the disunity and denominations in the catholic church. Sin. The veil was split at the cross. I, all by myself, can approach God. He is ready, willing and abundantly able to talk to me directly. BUT, I have sin. So, the message gets garbled. That is why I can only tell you what I have concluded and I can not tell you what you ought to do. Thankfully, God is sovereign and can see to it that I get to where He intends for me to go. Its just that simple. UNLESS, of course, you have a vested interest in being a head honcho in some church organizational structure somewhere.

One last point. You said in one of your post responses on BarlowFarms.com that "The Spirit works through the Church, through preachers and teachers."

I think you left out another important person the Holy Spirit works through. That is me (and you, if you are His). Makes all the difference in the world. So, I am not an individualist as I see it defined in any of your references. I go nowhere without the Holy Spirit. Whether you or anybody else can see that is really not the point. It is true.

Principium unitatis said...

David,

Thank you so much for sharing with me the story of your background and your conversion. I rejoice with you. I firmly believe that when Jews recognize that Jesus is the Messiah, it will be a tremendous blessing to Christians everywhere, and to the world. My mother is very much interested in this subject. Just a few days ago I sent her the link to this article. I'm really looking forward to reading both of Schoeman's books. The Association of Hebrew Catholics recently moved their headquarters here to St. Louis (see here), and I want to learn more about them.

If I may ask, have you been baptized? And what Christian tradition/denomination are you in now?

I was raised Pentecostal. Then I became Reformed/Calvinist just after college. Then I became Anglican shortly after finishing seminary. And then finally Catholic.

I agree with you that God is sovereign. The doctrine of divine providence has been a source of great comfort to me, especially at the most difficult times of my life. I also agree with you that the Holy Spirit works through you and through me. I wasn't intending to imply otherwise. But there are things that priests and bishops can do that we cannot do. For example, they can consecrate the Eucharist. And they can forgive and retain sins in the name of Christ: "If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained." (John 20:23) They can also confer the gift of the Holy Spirit. See, for example, the account in Acts 8. Philip the deacon could not confer the gift of the Holy Spirit, since Philip was a deacon, not a priest or a bishop or an Apostle. That is why Peter and John had to come to Samaria. Philip could baptize the Samaritans, but he could not give them the gift of the Holy Spirit. Simon Magus wanted this authority/power to bestow the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands. This is something that to this day is done by the bishops, who are the successors of the Apostles. The bestowal of the Holy Spirit takes place in the sacrament of Confirmation (also called 'Chrismation' in the East).

I pray that you will be guided by the Holy Spirit into the true Church which Christ Himself founded (Matt 16:18).

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

David W said...

Bryan,

Well, I am not sure we are on topic any longer; but . . .

Thank you for opening up for me a totally new area of investigation. (Not that I need another one!!!) I had no idea there were organizations such as the ones you pointed to in the last response.

"If I may ask, have you been baptized? And what Christian tradition/denomination are you in now?"

Baptism is one of those terms that I see being very much misunderstood. Thus, there are very strongly held and radically different views of it. As a result, many of these views are of necessity simply wrong. My view is, I am quite sure, very different from your view. Therefore, one of us is wrong. In particular, my understanding of the basic meaning of the term is 'union of something with something else.' Like when a cucumber is united with vinegar and becomes what we call a pickle. (sorry, not a very religious metaphor!!). To the point, I was been baptized (the water kind) in an Evangelical Free Church in New Jersey. As I have already told you, I had been previously baptized by the Holy Spirit while alone in my living room. (OOOOOPS, I thought there was only one baptism???) My wife and I now attend a Southern Baptist Church in eastern Tennessee. I am from Boston. I anxiously await the knowledge of why in the world God brought me to this part of the world and this kind of a church! It surely wasn't my doing!!!

You said: "But there are things that priests and bishops can do that we cannot do."

Then you listed a number of conclusions you (the Catholic Church) have come to and listed some Scriptures. I really would like to dissect each and every one of them with you. But, I doubt that is your interest. What I see in general (which of course I see as error) is that you look at specific occurrences in the Scriptures and then generalize in a way that makes the physical organization the focus. For example, you brought up John 20:23. You seem to see here that clergy can forgive sins. My question (in all seriousness) 'what does it take to forgive sin?' And, you must see that in John 20 the sins that they (by the way, who were the disciples there (12, 70, 120, or possibly 47?) were to forgive had already been forgiven. So, what exactly were they given the authority to do with regard to sin? I ask this in all sincerity.

You closed with: "I pray that you will be guided by the Holy Spirit into the true Church which Christ Himself founded (Matt 16:18)."

Well, first thank you for what I take as a sincere desire expressed here. I happen to be in the body of Christ and that is enough right church for me. Whatever human organization I may be associated with it truly secondary. God can use me wherever He puts me if I will only submit to Him. Do I or do I not have God in me?

Principium unitatis said...

David,

Thanks for your reply. My uncle lives in Cleveland, Tennessee, and teaches at Lee University. (Did I mention that I was raised Pentecostal?) :-)

If you want to see what the early Church believed about baptism, I have collected some teachings from the early Church fathers on this subject here.

What is known as "baptism by the Holy Spirit" is a reference to the filling by the Holy Spirit. I discussed it in my previous comment when I talked about Confirmation (Chrismation). We know that there is only one baptism, because Paul tells us that (Eph 4:5). Traditionally, baptism and confirmation were done together. They are still done together in the Orthodox Churches, and in the Catholic Church in the case of adult converts. But in the case of children, the Catholic Church now withholds confirmation until the children have reached an age of accountability.

What I see in general (which of course I see as error) is that you look at specific occurrences in the Scriptures and then generalize in a way that makes the physical organization the focus.

Actually, that is not my method. My method is first to see what the Church fathers thought about these passages of Scripture, and to read the Scriptures through the 'lens' of the fathers. As I said before, the fathers show us what they had received from the Apostles. To understand what the fathers thought about these verses is to understand what the Apostles thought about these verses.

For example, you brought up John 20:23. You seem to see here that clergy can forgive sins. My question (in all seriousness) 'what does it take to forgive sin?'

It takes divinity or divine authorization. This is why the Pharisees and scribes thought Jesus was blaspheming when He said, "Your sins are forgiven". (Mark 2; Luke 5) Only God can forgive sins. But Christ gave this authority to His apostles. It is the authority to forgive sins, but also the authority to retain sins. As Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16 regarding the power of the keys, "Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." The Church is the "Body of Christ", and is therefore not merely a human institution but is also a divine institution (just as Christ has two natures, so the Church has two natures). The magisterium of the Church speaks and acts in the name of Christ, and with the authority of Christ.

And, you must see that in John 20 the sins that they (by the way, who were the disciples there (12, 70, 120, or possibly 47?) were to forgive had already been forgiven. So, what exactly were they given the authority to do with regard to sin? I ask this in all sincerity.

That is a problem only for those who think that Jesus' death actually forgave all sins. The Catholic Church does not teach that our sins were *forgiven* by Christ's crucifixion. His crucifixion made it possible for us to be forgiven. Our sins are forgiven in baptism, when we are buried with Him and washed and raised to new life. Our post-baptismal sins are forgiven when we confess our sins and those persons (priests or bishops) having the authority (from Christ) to forgive or retain sins absolve our sins in the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.

Well, first thank you for what I take as a sincere desire expressed here. I happen to be in the body of Christ and that is enough right church for me. Whatever human organization I may be associated with it truly secondary. God can use me wherever He puts me if I will only submit to Him. Do I or do I not have God in me?

Through your baptism, you do have God in you. Through your baptism you are in the "Body of Christ". That is because your baptism is a Catholic baptism. Protestants may have baptized you, but the baptism with which you were baptized is in fact a Catholic baptism because it has its origin and efficacy through the Catholic Church, which received this sacrament directly from the Apostles, and they directly from Christ. By this baptism you are placed in a union (though it is an imperfect and incomplete union) with the Catholic Church. You are presently not in full communion with the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church", which is the "Body of Christ". The Catholic Church was founded by Christ on Peter (i.e. the rock), and is almost 2,000 years old. Jesus Himself tells us that on this rock Jesus "will build His Church". (Matthew 16:18) And that is how the Church fathers understood it. (See here for a collection of quotations from the Church fathers; Stephen Ray, a Catholic convert from the Southern Baptist denomination, wrote a very good book on this called Upon This Rock). The Southern Baptist denomination is only about 160 years old. It was not founded by the incarnate Christ Himself, and is not the one true Church. It is a man-made institution. But when the divine incarnate Christ founds an institution, that is not a mere man-made institution, that is a divine institution over which the gates of hell shall not prevail even until Christ returns.

In the grace and peace of Christ,

- Bryan

David W said...

Bryan,

Once more you bury me in information!!! Well, I have just finished the Epistle of Barnabas. It was great and I thank you for the excuse to read it. I have a few reactions; but, first let me just give you some data.

This data is all anecdotal and therefore not determinative of anything. I was saved, regenerated, united to Christ, transformed, made alive, or whatever term is most meaningful to you on November 23, 1987. I was baptized in water on June 26, 1988 in the name of the triune God. I know exactly who and what I was for the 43 prior years, not a pretty picture. By the time June 1988 rolled around I was not the same person as I had been prior to November 23, 1987. One example, I had not read the Scriptures prior to November 1987 and had absolutely no interest in them. Clearly a book of old myths and fairy tales, utter nonsense. In June 1988, I simply could not put them down!!! I desired to be in them every spare moment that I could find. Actually, my wife first pointed this out to me in January, 1988.

This man, Barnabas, certainly knows his OT Scriptures. I take him to be a Christian although his theology could use some help from the apostles. He did not reference any apostle as far as I can remember. However, his interpretations of the OT are indeed colorful. In particular he states:
"Concerning the water, indeed, it is written, in reference to the Israelites, that they should not receive that baptism which leads to the remission of sins, but should procure another for themselves."

Then he quotes passages from Jeremiah 2 and Isaiah 16. Can you please help me see how these passages lead to that conclusion?

Further he says "Mark how He has described at once both the water and the cross. For these words imply, Blessed are they who, placing their trust in the cross, have gone down into the water; for, says He, they shall receive their reward in due time:"

Again, I really need some help to see how he gets this out of the verses he quotes. One thing of note here is the fact that the ones who went down into the water (Does all water have to do with baptism???) FIRST place their trust in the cross.

Finally, we get to the quote you reference in your post on baptism: "This means, that we indeed descend into the water full of sins and defilement, but come up, bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear [of God] and trust in Jesus in our spirit."

Now he gets this from Ezekiel 47:12. PLEASE help me see how that passage has anything to do with Christian baptism.

This man also uses the same kind of creative reading of the Scriptures to conclude: "This implies that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a thousand years. And He Himself testifies, saying, "Behold, today will be as a thousand years."

Unless I am very mistaken, this is an embarrassment.

You say: "What is known as "baptism by the Holy Spirit" is a reference to the filling by the Holy Spirit."

How do you come to that conclusion?

"As I said before, the fathers show us what they had received from the Apostles."

Barnabas only talked about OT passages and his fanciful interpretations. He never once referred to anything an apostle had told him as far as I could see. I realize he is just a sample of one; but, after him, it is going to be hard to spend time on any of the others.

"His crucifixion made it possible for us to be forgiven."

That is my understanding also.

"Our sins are forgiven in baptism, when we are buried with Him and washed and raised to new life."

So, from Nov '87 to June '88 my sins had not been forgiven? Please, I was there, that description simply does not fit the facts. The Holy Spirit had baptized me by uniting me with Christ without any water. I was a new man and still am. Baptism had nothing to do with the transformation.

Principium unitatis said...

David,

The way to approach the fathers is not by demanding that everything they say be proven by Scriptural exegesis. That approach smuggles in the assumption of sola scriptura, i.e. the implicit assumption that the apostles said nothing that is not in Scripture. The way to approach the fathers is with openness and humility. They are our *fathers* in the faith, having preserved and transmitted the Scriptures and the apostolic tradition. They deserve to be heard and respected. If you think you know better than the fathers, then either the Apostles did a terrible job communicating the gospel to the fathers, or you are in a state of not actually knowing better than the fathers but thinking that you do know better than the fathers.

I have pointed out the problem with ecclesial deism here.

Regarding when you were saved, you seem to be putting more weight on your own subjective experience than you do on what the fathers and the Scriptures say regarding what baptism does (discussed in that same article on baptism). That does not mean that you cannot be changed in your pre-baptismal period. People who are seeking to enter the Church but are not yet baptized are called Catechumens. The Church teaches that Catechumens can be saved, through what is called the baptism of [or by] desire. And baptism is only granted to those Catechumens who show themselves to be ready to enter the Church. So the Church expects to see changes in the Catechumen prior to his baptism. Therefore the fact that you changed significantly (for the good) before you were baptized is fully compatible with what the fathers and the Scriptures teach about baptism.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

Contrarian,

I agree with your two points evaluating your argument. It is hard to see how that whole idea could have been in place before the invention of the printing press, and the increase in literacy.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

David W said...

Hi Bryan,

First, please tell me when you are tired of this interchange. I have no interest in clogging up your blog with long posts against your will.

"The way to approach the fathers is not by demanding that everything they say be proven by Scriptural exegesis."

No problem there. How about rationality? Should I desire that what they say appear rational to me? Like 6000 years and it will all be over. You quoted Barnabas on baptism. I read his epistle and found the quote. Furthermore, I found the Scripture upon which he based that quote. As your quote shows he begins with "This means that."

So, he appears to be going from A to B. He states A and B but no rational reason for his jump. He does not say 'the apostles told me' or 'God told me' or 'I have apostolic authority so you just have to believe me.' He simply states it as if it is fact. I am not smart enough to see how he makes this jump. I asked if you could help me understand since I assume you would not have used the quote if you did not follow how he could have come to that conclusion. You have not chosen to explain this jump for me so I am in the dark. Not a problem; but, all I am asking for is some rationality on barnabas' part.

". . . sola scriptura, i.e. the implicit assumption that the apostles said nothing that is not in Scripture."

You mean there are people who actually hold to this?

The way to approach the fathers is with openness and humility.

Not just the fathers but all people.

"They (the fathers) deserve to be heard and respected."

Absolutely.

"If you think you know better than the fathers, . . . "

I don't even know the fathers. It would be unforgivable for me to have that prideful attitude. But, are they infallible?

"I have pointed out the problem with ecclesial deism here."

Read it (I hope you understand that even though I have many different opinions than you, I do enjoy and respect your writings) and agree that there is a problem, kind of like being partially pregnant. The solution to me is to keep relying on the Holy Spirit and not telling anybody else what they should believe. Unless, of course, the Holy Spirit tells me to do that!

"That does not mean that you cannot be changed in your pre-baptismal period. . . . . And baptism is only granted to those Catechumens who show themselves to be ready to enter the Church."

Interesting; but, changed by whom in my pre-baptismal period? Does Scripture ever deal with this? (Not that silence on this would prove anything.)

I don't think I fit the mold of a Catechumen. I did not grow up in the church and so I had no idea what a Christian was supposed to be like. I also had no desire to change; I was completely satisfied with my life the way it was. (Talk about being in the dark!!!) I did not set out to modify my lifestyle in any manner whatsoever. Nobody was there telling me to do this or do that. It is simply that I changed and baptism played no part because it happened after the fact.

Principium unitatis said...

David,

You seem to be approaching the fathers with an attitude of antagonism and skepticism and criticism, not one of humility, openness and receptivity. If you choose to stumble over the "6,000" such that you won't even read the rest of what the fathers have to say about baptism, you are depriving yourself of the treasure of the fathers on this subject. No one claimed that the fathers are infallible. Nor is your interpretation of Scripture infallible. The "if it is not infallible then to the junk heap with it" mentality is not a wise way to approach the fathers. You expect the fathers to lay out arguments in order to move from A to B. They often don't. So, you can either throw out the fathers (because they don't always explain how they go from A to B), or you can try to learn from what they say, and receive them as they present themselves to us. You say, "All I am asking for is rationality on Barnabas' part". First read and meditate on what the fathers say. Don't demand proofs and justifications – you are not yet in a position to evaluate their claims properly. In my list of recommended books I have a section listing books that contain the writings of the fathers. Also, this site, though not exhaustive, is a terrific online resource for the writings of the fathers.

The solution to me is to keep relying on the Holy Spirit

That's exactly what Montanus kept saying. How do you know what the Spirit is saying? Millions of people claim to be listening to the Spirit, and claiming that the Spirit is telling them to be Mormons. So they are all failing to hear the voice of the Spirit, but you are not? As I wrote in some of the combox comments at this link I cited above:

"So who has the Holy Spirit? To whom is the Holy Spirit speaking and giving the correct interpretation of Scripture? If the Holy Spirit is speaking to everyone equally, then why is the Holy Spirit leading denominations (and factions within denominations) to contrary and incompatible interpretations of Scripture? Is He not a Spirit of peace and unity and truth? (Gal 5:22; Eph 4:3) Jesus told us that the Spirit would lead us into all the truth (John 16:13). But truth cannot contradict truth. So wherever there are contradictory interpretations, someone is not being led by the Spirit. But if we do not know who is being led by the Spirit and who is not, then are we not left in a state of ignorance?"

You say that the "Holy Spirit is Truth". But, as I pointed out [earlier], Who has the Holy Spirit? Your answer: All Christians. My reply: But who is to say who is and isn't a Christian? Your reply: The Scripture. My reply: According to whose interpretation? Your reply: The Holy Spirit's. My reply: And who has the Holy Spirit?

And there we arrive back at the beginning of the circle.

My point in going through the 'circle' was to show that if we do not specifically know who has the Holy Spirit, then we do not know the Spirit's interpretation of Scripture. And then we are left with our own reason's attempt at determining the best interpretation of Scripture. But reason is not up for this task. That is why there are so many competing interpretations. And so then we are left in the darkness. The Spirit works through the Church, through preachers and teachers.

The words of the Ethiopian eunuch are for all of us, not just for himself: "How could I [understand what I am reading] unless someone guides me?" (Acts 8:31) St. Paul's statement, "All are not teachers, are they?" (1 Cor 12:29) denies the sort of ecclesial egalitarianism rampant in our contemporary individualistic culture. Many people subtly treat themselves as teachers by putting themselves 'under' teachers who say and think what they already believe and want to hear. (Health & Wealth preachers quickly come to mind, for example.) According to St. Paul, that practice becomes popular in the last days: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth". (2 Tim 4:3-4)

If we want to know the truth, our method cannot be simply to follow ourselves or follow those teachers who are saying what we think. That is still individualism. We have to find those like Philip, who have the authority to speak for the Church. Then we can know that we have the truth and be brought out of the darkness of uncertainty.


Everything I said there to "j" back in June applies equally to your claim that you are being led by the Holy Spirit.

Interesting; but, changed by whom in my pre-baptismal period?

By the Holy Spirit. Notice that Cornelius and his companions were changed prior to their baptism (Acts 10:23-48). But that did not nullify their need for baptism.

I don't think I fit the mold of a Catechumen. I did not grow up in the church and so I had no idea what a Christian was supposed to be like. I also had no desire to change; I was completely satisfied with my life the way it was. (Talk about being in the dark!!!) I did not set out to modify my lifestyle in any manner whatsoever. Nobody was there telling me to do this or do that. It is simply that I changed and baptism played no part because it happened after the fact.

I understand, but you were in the same state as a Catechumen with respect to the sacraments. My point was to show that since Catechumens can (and should!) change prior to their baptism, therefore there is nothing incompatible with your experience of your own changes prior to your baptism, and what the Catholic Church (and the fathers and the Scripture) teaches regarding what baptism does.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

David W said...

Bryan,

"If you choose to stumble over the "6,000" . . . "

The 6000 was early in the epistle. I continued to read the entire epistle seeking to understand what this man was saying. When I got to the baptism part, I tried to more closely see how he was going from A to B. After all, that was the reason for going there in the first place, baptism.

I have read the Bible and many other books. It is clear that none of them are like the Bible. That also holds for the epistle of Barnabas.

"No one claimed that the fathers are infallible."

Fine, that means they ought to have a place on our book shelves. But, on my book shelf I have a special place for all the infallible words of God. Those are the words I base my life choices on. The other words are for enjoyment and general learning. However, if one of the fathers tells me that apostle xyz told him that God had told him . . . well, you get the picture.

You quote me as saying "The solution to me is to keep relying on the Holy Spirit"

However, you left off the rest of the thought which separates me from Montanus. I finished by saying that I therefore won't tell you what you ought to do or believe. As you point out, I can not prove that what I think is due to the Holy Spirit. I have just chosen to trust God. He says He'll get me to the prize. If I have misunderstood Him and He wasn't talking to me at all, then I am no worse off for believing that He has spoken to me. In both cases I am hopelessly lost. What all these other 'Christians' with differing views have actually done is not something to which I am privy.

"Jesus told us that the Spirit would lead us into all the truth (John 16:13)."

WOW! Now that is how one can really get bad theology. Jesus is talking directly to the disciples who then wrote the Scriptures. You and I and all the errant theologians and denominations were not the ones that Jesus was speaking to there. Hijacking that Scripture as a promise to me is a terrible mistake, IMHO.

"Everything I said there to "j" back in June applies equally to your claim that you are being led by the Holy Spirit."

My claim is that I am indwelt, filled, sealed, alive, transformed, baptized or whatever term you prefer by the Holy Spirit. If I am right, then I am a child of God and He is taking care of getting me to the goal. He does not promise me perfect theology. I am just seeking to submit to His leading. If I succeed at that, then great. If not, He will still graciously accept me into eternity.

"Notice that Cornelius and his companions were changed prior to their baptism (Acts 10:23-48)."

Of course. And, of course, it was the Holy Spirit who changed them and me too (baptism of the Holy Spirit). You have to admit their situation was somewhat unique in that they were the first at an historic point in the development of the church. However, they heard the message, the Holy Spirit changed them and then they were baptized. That is the way it always happens. That is the way it happened with me. Now my change wasn't as dramatic as this one but I guess my not being the first gentile that was saved through Peter's preaching might explain the difference.

Principium unitatis said...

David,

Who are the leaders to whom you should be submitting and obeying? (Hebrews 13:17) The leaders of whichever community of believers (whether they be heretics or schismatics) into which you place yourself? Or the sacramental successors from the apostles?

You seem to think that you avoid Montanistic gnosticism by not telling others what to do. It is, however, your direct line to heaven, bypassing the Church, that is the sign of your individualistic gnosticism. "No one has ever ascended into heaven except the Son of Man whose home is in heaven." You cannot ascend into heaven in gnostic immediacy, nor can I. We must go through the Church, which is the Body of Christ. "What God has joined together, man must not separate. This is a great mystery, but I understand it as referring to Christ and the Church." You are trying to separate Christ and the Church. You want Christ, but your gnostic individualism has no place for the authority of the Church. As St. Cyprian said, "He who has not the Church for his mother cannot have God for his Father."

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

David W said...

Bryan,

"Who are the leaders to whom you should be submitting and obeying? (Hebrews 13:17)"

This is the last part of the letter and so the writer is listing a bunch of 'do-this' short statements as a wrap up and application of what has come before. Verse 17 is one of these terse directions to the Hebrews. In any case, he does say who the leaders are in verse 7. They are the ones who speak the Word of God and live it out. We are not only to submit to them (actually not them but the word they bring) but also to imitate their faith. I hope that my words so far do not contain too much interpretation (I am being sincere in this and not sarcastic).

Note that the writer is writing directly to the readers. He seems to me to credit these people with the ability to determine who these leaders are without consulting any sacramental successors from the apostles. Do you see any of this as true?

"It is, however, your direct line to heaven, bypassing the Church, that is the sign of your individualistic gnosticism."

It is never individualistic. It is always me and God. As an aside, do you believe that His child can in fact 'speak' with Him or do we need the church leadership structure and their teaching to do this for us? A sincere question.

Another question, to whom does God give faith? The church, to then hand it over to Bryan or David? No. If God is going to give saving faith to a person then He deals directly with that person. Now, don't misunderstand me. God could use a church service of any denomination to be part of the instrumentality of giving that gift of faith. Nevertheless, there is no reason to assume a church or THE CATHOLIC CHURCH to be the go-between. And, after the person's transformation, he/she has God somehow living in their person to change/direct them. Again, don't misunderstand me that God can use a physical assembly of people to be the instrumentality for the sanctification of His child.

"We must go through the Church, which is the Body of Christ."

I am a member of the body of Christ if I am His child. I am His child if I have Him indwelling me. I am going to ultimately be resurrected to be with Him for eternity if I am His child. My sin can not change this once He has changed me (baptism of the Holy Spirit). He is after all not an indian giver. When He gives a gift, it is for keeps. Anyway, that is the God I know. Call it Gnosticism if you wish; that ain't what it is.

The human structure called the Catholic Church is not needed for any of the above. As His child, I dearly desire to be in the presence of others who are also His children. But, I do not need authority figures to do my thinking for me. Whether it makes sense to you or not, I say the Holy Spirit does just fine. And, that is true regardless of how many different voices there are out there declaring that they have the truth.

"You are trying to separate Christ and the Church."

You mean Christ and some human organization. I simply do not have the wherewithal to separate Christ from His real body, the assembly or the church or the congregation of His children.

"You want Christ, but your gnostic individualism has no place for the authority of the Church."

I already have Christ or rather He already has me for eternity. His word has authority for me and it is only to that I ought to submit. It is not the person bringing me His word to whom I submit. It is the word that he brings me to which I seek to submit. I know you believe that that leaves me as a ship without any rudder or anchor. Sorry, God tells me otherwise.

Principium unitatis said...

David,

Your interpretation (yes it is an interpretation) of Heb 13:17 is apparently that you should only obey and submit to those human persons who interpret the Bible as do you. That is not obedience or submission to anyone but to your own interpretation of Scripture, as I pointed out in my post titled "Sacramental authority vs. individualism".

Every time you read the Bible you are interpreting it. If we claim to be reading the Bible but not interpreting it, we are deceiving ourselves.

You write, "It is never individualistic. It is always me and God." That precisely, is exactly what individualism is: just "me and God". No one in the early Church thought like this. They lived in submission to the Apostles, and later to those bishops whom the Apostles had ordained. They did not even have a New Testament. Carefully read the epistles of St. Ignatius bishop of Antioch (d. 107 AD) and see how far removed they are from individualism. (You can find them here .) That's the way it was for 1500 years after Christ (and still is in the Catholic Church). The invention of the printing press did not entail any change in the hierarchical order and non-individualistic nature of the Church.

Another question, to whom does God give faith? The church, to then hand it over to Bryan or David? No.

God typically gives faith through the Church, as St. Paul says when he writes, "Faith comes by hearing". (Rom 10:17) And in the same place, "how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?" (Rom 10:14-15) In order for persons to acquire true faith, ultimately persons have to be sent to preach. And the ones sending them to preach are the bishops, who themselves (through apostolic succession) have been sent by the Apostles, who themselves were sent by the incarnate Christ.

Nevertheless, there is no reason to assume a church or THE CATHOLIC CHURCH to be the go-between.

It is not an "assumption". Which other Church is 2,000 years old? The Church that Christ founded is the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church". It is the Church (the Catholic Church) which is "the pillar and bulwark of truth" (1 Timothy 3:15)

You mean Christ and some human organization.

No, I mean Christ and the Church, which was founded by Christ on Peter the rock. There is only one Church, because Christ has only one bride. The "assembly, the Church, the congregation of His children" is the Catholic Church. The idea that Christ did not found a unified institution with bishops and priests and deacons, is an idea unknown to the early Church and the early Church fathers. Again, therefore, either the Apostles did a lousy job communicating to the first generation of Christians what the Church is, or your gnostic conception of the Church is not Apostolic.

I am a member of the body of Christ if I am His child.

True. But even a child can be estranged from his family. When Protestants left the Catholic Church in the 16th century, they became estranged from the family that Christ founded as the Church. I explained above that because of your baptism you are a member of the Body of Christ, but you are in imperfect communion with that Body, because you are in a man-made institution that is about the same age as Mormonism.

His word has authority for me and it is only to that I ought to submit.

His Word says otherwise: "Obey your leaders and submit to them". (Heb 13:17)

I know you believe that that leaves me as a ship without any rudder or anchor.

Not at all. You do not lack a rudder; you are your own rudder. Of course you claim to be led by the Holy Spirit as you interpret Scripture. All gnostics claim that. The odd thing is, all these people are claiming to be led by the Holy Spirit as they interpret Scripture, and yet they all come to very different and often incompatible and contradictory positions. But when I point this out to them, they always respond by suggesting that it is everyone else who is not following the Holy Spirit. But since they are led to incomparible and contradictory positions, they can't all be right. And yet they never say, "Hmm, maybe I'm wrong; maybe I'm not really following the Holy Spirit after all." Persuading yourself that you are following the Holy Spirit is in practice a convenient way of allowing yourself to justify thinking and doing exactly what you want. Gnosticism denies that the Holy Spirit works principally and primarily upon us through the sacraments and magisterial hierarchy of the Church. For the gnostics it is me, Jesus, and my personal Bible. (See, for example, the book written by the Presbyterian pastor Philip J. Lee titled, Against the Protestant Gnostics.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

David W said...

David,

"Your interpretation (yes it is an interpretation) of Heb 13:17 is apparently that you should only obey and submit to those human persons who interpret the Bible as do you."

Sorry to have led you astray; that is not my view. Since you continue to repeat it, we obviously are having trouble communicating clearly. I assume you and I agree that there is only one message from God, however, we may get it. For example, let's assume my message is "hslkkfjkdlkgowen." Now, you can transport that message to another person exactly as I have stated it. No interpretation is required. You now could be described by Hebrews 13:7 as one who has brought the word of David (big difference from the way it was originally written!!!) to this person. Without any interpretation; that is what Hebrews 13:7 says. You are the one who is adding interpretation by assuming that only the ones with special knowledge (gnostics) can bring the message and its attendant interpretation to the Hebrews. And, of course, this gnostic information comes from the group who call themselves the Church. AHHHH, but they have such logical reasons for saying that they are the chosen ones.

"If we claim to be reading the Bible but not interpreting it, we are deceiving ourselves."

There are degrees of interpretation. It is not an all or nothing situation as you seem to want to make it. Some really important verses provide quite valuable information without much interpretation being required.

"That precisely, is exactly what individualism is: just "me and God"."

What would you say "me and the Catholic Church is?"

"No one in the early Church thought like this. They lived in submission to the Apostles, and later to those bishops whom the Apostles had ordained."

I dare say I have no idea how many actually lived in submission and neither do you. Nevertheless, it does sound like a great plan to me as long as the men to whom they were submitting brought them the word of God and not some other word. However, you must be able to see that we, living in 2007 AD, are living with a radically different set of conditions than they were. I doubt that any of them had access to the wealth of information that you and I take for granted every day. And, yet you want to use the same mode of total sheepish obedience that they were told was required. Don't you acknowledge the wolves that were and still are out there? I am not to use the brain that God gave me? Does using my brain have to conflict with my submission to God? NO, NO, NO.

"God typically gives faith through the Church, as St. Paul says . . . "

My question was not the methodology that God might use to give faith. My question was 'to whom does He give faith.' I don't think you answered that nor dealt with the logical conclusion of the answer. The presupposition of 'church uber alles' seems to have clouded that interchange.

Now you reference Romans 10 and bring it to apostolic succession and the church. CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT. God is here talking about the nation of Israel not the new covenant church! Surely you can agree that God has chosen to use our human faculties to give us faith. So, naturally, hearing is part of it. But, does that leave out reading??? Is it only 'preachers' and not writers who God can use to give one faith? Can it only happen through ordained 'ministers?' You really do seem to be trying to put God into a very small box.

Did you by any chance see Romans 10:9? Notice that baptism is not required for salvation. Or did Paul just forget to make mention of it here?

"It is the Church (the Catholic Church) which is "the pillar and bulwark of truth" (1 Timothy 3:15)"

Paul was not assessing the Catholic Church of 2007AD. He was telling Timothy what the purpose of the church was suppsed to be. Now, whether it has or has not yet attained to that goal is up for discussion.

"The idea that Christ did not found a unified institution with bishops and priests and deacons, is an idea unknown to the early Church and the early Church fathers."

It sure would have made things simpler for a country bumpkin like me if somebody would have told this to Paul. He seems to be under the misunderstanding that there are only Elders (of one stripe) and Deacons. (1 Timothy 3:1-13) And, that it was Jesus as the head who provided all the structure and unity that the church needed.

"But even a child can be estranged from his family."

Isn't human sin an awful thing! Can you imagine a family estranging a child? Fortunately, God would not have a clue as to how to estrange one of His children. Talk about heresy.

"When Protestants left the Catholic Church in the 16th century, they became estranged from the family that Christ founded as the Church."

No, they became estranged from a human organization that didn't like having its authority questioned. Not good for the sheep to ask questions, you know.

"His Word says otherwise: "Obey your leaders and submit to them". (Heb 13:17)"

Please, please, please see what defines a leader in verse 7. I have no problem submitting to that kind of a leader because it is not him that I am submitting to.

"You do not lack a rudder; you are your own rudder."

How do you know that God is not my rudder? Oh, I know. Since I disagree with the Catholic Church it must be so. You do realize that it might be the Catholic Church which is not listening? Or is that not possible since we have apostolic succession???

"Of course you claim to be led by the Holy Spirit as you interpret Scripture."

And you claim that I am not. Sounds like 'he said - she said.'

"All gnostics claim that. . . . "

Your long description of these gnostics does not apply to me. That is unless you know my thinking better than I do. I simply do not hold the opinions that you ascribe to 'them.' Moreover, I can't imagine myself giving the responses that you attribute to them. So, I guess I am delusional.

Principium unitatis said...

David,

Thank you for your reply. I would like to respond to some of the things you wrote.

For example, let's assume my message is "hslkkfjkdlkgowen." Now, you can transport that message to another person exactly as I have stated it. No interpretation is required. You now could be described by Hebrews 13:7 as one who has brought the word of David (big difference from the way it was originally written!!!) to this person. Without any interpretation; that is what Hebrews 13:7 says.

That is your *interpretation* of what Hebrews 13:7 says. You are not merely cutting and pasting Heb 13:17, as someone who is "transporting" a message like "hslkkfjkdlkgowen." You are attempting to explain the meaning of Hebrews 13:17 to me. If you were actually being consistent with what you say about not interpreting Scripture, you could say nothing more than just cutting and pasting the verse itself.

You are the one who is adding interpretation by assuming that only the ones with special knowledge (gnostics) can bring the message and its attendant interpretation to the Hebrews.

Actually, I never said that only the ones with special knowledge can bring the message and its proper interpretation to the Hebrews. But those to whom the Hebrews (and we) are commanded to obey and submit to are those who have been sacramentally ordained by the apostles.

There are degrees of interpretation. It is not an all or nothing situation as you seem to want to make it. Some really important verses provide quite valuable information without much interpretation being required.

I don't disagree with that statement. But when you acknowledge that interpretation is taking place, that simply raises the question: Whose interpretation is authoritative? And if you reply, "The Holy Spirit's", that just pushes back the question, "And who has the Holy Spirit's authoritative interpretation?" And if you reply, "Every believer", then the obvious reply is: "Then since they disagree in so many ways regarding the interpretation of Scripture, which believers have the Holy Spirit's authoritative interpretation?"

What would you say "me and the Catholic Church is?"

When I see myself as being saved by being incorporated into the Church, which is the Body of Christ, that is the gospel.

I dare say I have no idea how many actually lived in submission and neither do you.

I never claimed to know such numbers. But from the writings of the fathers we can see that the individualism that is common in our contemporary society is something that cannot be found in the life and practice of the early Church.

Nevertheless, it does sound like a great plan to me as long as the men to whom they were submitting brought them the word of God and not some other word.

One problem with that way of thinking is that it is exactly what the heretics said. The Arians, for example, thought that the Nicean position was not the right interpretation of the word of God. Where each man makes himself his own interpretive god, necessarily there will be heresy, schism, and ultimately anarchy and chaos. Some of the forms of Protestantism in the US have already reached that point. What sounds like a great plan *to you* is irrelevant, since the right question is: what was *God's ordained plan* for the governance of His Church. Did He leave it without shepherds, so that the wolves could come right in and plunder and devour the sheep? Or did He establish shepherds, with clear directives regarding the replacement of those shepherds in each successive generation, so that all might know where is the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church"?

However, you must be able to see that we, living in 2007 AD, are living with a radically different set of conditions than they were.

Yes, we are 2000 years removed from the Apostles. But for the fathers, the words of the Apostles were still "echoing in [their] ears", as St. Irenaeus says here of St. Clement (the third bishop of Rome after St. Peter).

And, yet you want to use the same mode of total sheepish obedience that they were told was required.

My "wants" having nothing to do with this. I want whatever Jesus wants. If Jesus set up His Church in a certain way, I'm not about to tell Him, "Jesus, your model of Church governance was fine for that time, but things have changed; it is time to institute a democracy."

Jesus told Peter three times to feed His sheep. We are the sheep of His pasture. Perhaps "sheepish obedience" is exactly what we should be doing, if we are in fact Christ's sheep. I'm talking about the obedience that comes from recognizing that God has appointed authorities in the Church, and that I'm not one of those authorities. St. Paul tell us that "those who resist authority" have opposed the ordinances of God, and will receive condemnation upon themselves. (Romans 13:2) That is true of both civil and ecclesial authorities.

Don't you acknowledge the wolves that were and still are out there?

I do acknowledge that. Some of the wolves are those whom the gnostics are accumulating to tickle their ears according to their own interpretation, as St. Paul tells us will happen in the last days. (2 Tim 4:3-4) I have written more about that here and here.

I am not to use the brain that God gave me?

I do acknowledge that we are to use the brains that God has given us.

Does using my brain have to conflict with my submission to God?

Of course not. I did not claim otherwise.

Now you reference Romans 10 and bring it to apostolic succession and the church. CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT. God is here talking about the nation of Israel not the new covenant church!

By presuming to know that what Paul says in Romans 10 regarding coming to faith does not apply to "the new covenant church", you are, once again, interpreting Scripture. Either you have to give up your claims that, "God is the only one who can interpret God's Word" and that your interpretation is "just so much nonsense", or you have to stop interpreting Scripture, and just cut and paste verses.

Surely you can agree that God has chosen to use our human faculties to give us faith.

Of course.

So, naturally, hearing is part of it. But, does that leave out reading???

No.

Is it only 'preachers' and not writers who God can use to give one faith?

No.

Can it only happen through ordained 'ministers?'

In one sense, it can happen apart from ordained ministries. The person telling you or writing to you can be someone who is not ordained. But in another sense, it cannot happen apart from ordained ministers, because the gospel has come to the world through the Apostles, and they were all ordained ministers.

Did you by any chance see Romans 10:9? Notice that baptism is not required for salvation. Or did Paul just forget to make mention of it here?

If you had read the fathers, you would know that by "confess" there Paul is referring to something that Catechumens do just before their baptism. They confess the faith before the Church, and then they are baptized into the Church. Paul is talking there, indirectly, about baptism. Don't forget that Romans 6 is the background for Romans 10. By 'confess' Paul does not mean speaking directly to God apart from the Church, e.g. in one's back yard, or while in the shower.

Paul was not assessing the Catholic Church of 2007AD. He was telling Timothy what the purpose of the church was suppsed to be. Now, whether it has or has not yet attained to that goal is up for discussion.


Once again, you are interpreting Scripture, this time 1 Timothy 3:15. Either you have to give up your claims that, "God is the only one who can interpret God's Word" and that your interpretation is "just so much nonsense", or you have to stop interpreting Scripture, and just cut and paste verses

The Catholic Church of 2007 AD is the same Catholic Church of 65 AD, [approximately] when Paul was writing, even though it has developed in many ways (just as an organism grows and changes over time). The Church that was the "pillar and bulwark of truth" is still the "pillar and bulwark of truth", because Christ has promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail over His Church (Matt 16:18), and that He will be with His Church until He returns (Matt 28:20), and that the Holy Spirit will guide His Church into all truth (John 16:13).

It sure would have made things simpler for a country bumpkin like me if somebody would have told this to Paul.

If you had not strapped yourself up in the limitations of sola scriptura, the truth about the Church would be much easier for you to learn. But, seeing as you have limited yourself to sola scriptura, then if Paul does not write something down, you have put yourself in a position of not being able to learn it. One significant problem with sola scriptura is that it is not itself taught in Scripture. It is a paradigm you are imposing on Scripture. A good book on this subject is Not by Scripture Alone, edited by Sungenis. I highly recommend it.

He seems to be under the misunderstanding that there are only Elders (of one stripe) and Deacons. (1 Timothy 3:1-13)

The word translated as "elder" in the NT is presbyteros in the Greek. All bishops are also presbyters. But not all presbyters are bishops. The distinction between bishops and presbyters is not clear in the NT because apparently all the earliest presbyters were also bishops. But the distinction is clear by the end of the first century, as is shown in the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. 107 AD) who takes the distinction between bishop and presbyter as a given in each of the churches to which he writes. After the deaths of the apostles, the bishops (who then took the place of the apostles) ordained presbyters having the authority to consecrate the Eucharist and celebrate the other sacraments, but not having the authority to ordain. That is the distinction between a bishop (who is also a presbyter), and a presbyter (who is not also a bishop). The bishop can ordain; the mere presbyter (who is not also a bishop) cannot ordain. That is one of the reasons why Protestant pastors do not have valid orders, as I explained here.

Fortunately, God would not have a clue as to how to estrange one of His children.

He tells us how it is to be done in places like Matt 18:15-19, 1 Cor 5:5, and 1 Tim 1:20.

. Please, please, please see what defines a leader in verse 7. I have no problem submitting to that kind of a leader because it is not him that I am submitting to.

You have no problem 'submitting' to a leader who says only what agrees with your own interpretation of Scripture. (Yes, I know that you deny that you interpret Scripture, but it is plain to anyone reading this discussion that you have here interpreted every Scripture verse that has been brought up.) Your proposed "cut and paste" model of avoiding interpretation by way of pure transmission, would, if followed consistently, place you in a 'church' in which the 'sermon' was simply and only the reading of Scripture. But that is obviously not what happens in a Southern Baptist sermon. Therefore, it seems that what someone says about Scripture is only interpretation when it disagrees with what you think the Scripture says. In other words, for you, 'interpretation' in practice amounts to "any understanding of Scripture that differs from mine".

How do you know that God is not my rudder?

I'm pointing out a problem with the gnostic way of 'following God'. That gnostic way bypasses the Church and attempts to discern directly, by direct appeals to the guidance of the Spirit, the voice of God. Sometimes gnostics use the Scripture; other times they don't. What makes it gnostic is this direct and ultimate appeal to the Spirit apart from the Church. One of the primary problems with this philosophy is that it cannot be found [as endorsed] in the early Church. In fact, the Gnostics were recognized by the early Church as heretics, and the Church opposed them for centuries. (I have written something called the gnostic roots of heresy here.) Millions of Christians today practice their faith in this gnostic manner. The odd thing is that while claiming to be following the Spirit, they come to incompatible and contradictory positions. But truth cannot truth. And the Holy Spirit is supposed to lead us into all truth. So how is it that they are all being led by the Holy Spirit? Having been raised as a Pentecostal myself, I know that it is very easy to deceive oneself into thinking that one is being led by the Holy Spirit while actually just following one's own self. Gnosticism places self on the throne. It is the error we see in the Garden of Eden, as I discussed here.

Your long description of these gnostics does not apply to me. That is unless you know my thinking better than I do.

I'll simply tell that from what you have said in this discussion, you fit gnosticism to a 't'. If you don't know what gnosticism is, how can you know that that is not what you hold? It is possible to hold a philosophy and not even know that one holds it, because one has never seen it for what it is, or seen any alternative to it within a broader paradigm. (I grew up in a gnostic form of Christianity, and never learned that I was a gnostic until graduate school.) That does not mean that one who exemplifies gnosticism while denying being a gnostic is delusional; it may simply mean that you need to learn what gnosticism is, why it is false, and what it is that gnosticism opposes.

I'm going to take a break from our discussion. (Feel free to write back, or to write me at my e-mail address in my profile.) I have offered you a lot of reading, and it takes a lot of time to mull and digest these sorts of things. So I think you would be profited more by carefully meditating on all the readings that I have suggested than by quick back-and-forth exchanges with me.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan