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

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Babel or Keys?


'La Construction de la Tour de Babel'
Hendrick III van Cleve (1525 - 1589)
(click on the painting to view it full-sized)

Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church. But the very nature of the promise implies the presence of a war. The dragon "makes war" against the children of Christ's Mother, that is, those who "keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus." (Rev 12:17) So how does hell fight against Christ's Church? Of course there are external threats, such as persecution and the enticement of worldliness. But the more insidious attacks are internal; these are heresy and schism. Heresy and schism generally go together, because one without the other would be exposed for what it is. Only together can they hide each other. Satan hides himself in a certain respect, disguising himself as an angel of light. (2 Cor 11:14) That is his standard mode of operation. He once was Lucifer, the light bearer. So he portrays all his works as good and right and enlightened, as though they are the path of the truly wise, and especially suitable for making one wise. This is how he deceived Eve. This is how he deceived the people into choosing the murderer Barabbas [whose name means "son of the father"] over the innocent Son of God. And this is how he continues to deceive people into sinning against the Body of Christ, by leading them into heresy and schism.

But evil is always intrinsically self-destructive, because not only is evil a privation of good, but evil is also therefore a privation of unity and a privation of being. That is why evil is always parasitic on the good. Evil cannot exist on its own, but only in and in relation to what is good. For this very reason, the concepts of heresy and schism are not themselves sustainable within heresies and schisms. Within heresies and schisms these concepts collapse into the semantic equivalent of 'disagreement with my interpretation' and 'separation from me', respectively. All their objectivity and normativity is lost. Just as Satan succeeds when people no longer believe that he exists, so also he succeeds when the concepts of 'heresy' and 'schism' have been so evacuated that people no longer believe there really are such things.

The Church is supposed to be the voice of Christ to the world. Satan cannot defeat this voice, but through heresies and schisms he can drown it out in a sea of competing voices, each claiming to speak for Christ. In this way he creates confusion, not only in the world but even among Christians, for the effect is as if there is no authoritative voice of Christ, but merely a cacophony of opinions. Yet "God is not a God of confusion". (1 Cor 14:33) Christ did not leave His sheep without a shepherd. Nor did he intend that all who wish to determine who is the true shepherd first learn to read, let alone read and exegete Greek and Hebrew (as is testified to by the theological disunity among those who *do* read and exegete Greek and Hebrew).

The schisms that have weakened the unity and strength of our voice as Christians are in their effect like the curse of Babel that thwarted the builders of that tower. But the purpose of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is to reverse that division by means of a divine ingathering. This was the significance of the gift of tongues on the day of Pentecost, as described in Acts 2. (See the column of paintings on Neal Judisch's blog to get a better sense of the idea.) Babel was the tower of man, initiated by men and built up by men. It is the paradigmatic referent of Psalm 127:1, "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain". Nimrod is said to have been the initiator of the tower of Babel; in this way he is a figure of the Antichrist. In contrast to Babel, the Church is the tower that God is building, joining all peoples together into one Body in which we all speak the same divine language. (To read an early second century description of the Church as the tower that God is building, see Book 1 of the Shepherd of Hermas.) This is the Body of Christ, of which He is the founder and Head.

One way to respond to the common insouciance among Christians regarding our disunity is to show the disunity for what it is, as Dickens showed child labor for what it was. That is the sort of thing I was attempting to do recently here and here, in showing that the position of those Protestants who claim to believe in a visible Church is only *semantically* distinct from the position of those Protestants who deny that there is a visible Church. This highlights the absence of a middle position between Catholicism on the one hand, and that of those who deny that Christ founded a visible Church. The denial of a visible Church leaves each man to do what is right in his own eyes, for in that case there is no divinely-established voice of authority in the visible Church, because there is no visible Church. This position has difficulty making sense of St. Matthew 16 and St. Matthew 18, as I showed in the comments here.

Moreover, the ecclesiological position of those who deny that Christ founded a visible Church is intrinsically disposed to perpetual fragmentation and disharmony and weakness, for according to that position Christ did not establish a lasting hierarchy by which to preserve and guard the first mark of the Church: unity. But while Christ assured us that the Church will endure, He also tells us that a house divided cannot stand (St. Matt 12:25; St. Mark 3:25; St. Luke 11:17). Therefore, unity is an essential mark of the Church. Christ did not tell us to make a man-made peace that He would then preserve. He gave to His Apostles His peace, a peace that is not of this world. He left His peace with them. (St. John 14:27; Philippians 4:7) This is the divine peace and unity into which we must be incorporated. It is this divine peace and unity given by Christ to the Church that makes unity the first mark of the Church.

There are many Christians who recognize the need for greater unity among Christians. The moral decline in the broader culture makes such a need more and more obvious. And the recognition of this need for greater unity should be commended and encouraged, as should the efforts to effect it. But there are two fundamentally different types of ecumenicism. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us the goal of a thing shows us what it is, and the difference in goal distinguishes these two different types of ecumenicism. I'm not speaking here of the proximate goal of fostering dialogue and improving mutual understanding and social cooperation between Christians of various denominations and traditions. I'm speaking of the final goal.

I have written here about the way in which one form of ecumenicism unwittingly continues the work of Babel, by trying to create a new tower that Christ Himself did not found. It does this by seeking to establish a new institution and trying to get all Christians to be united to it. We see this mentality in organizations like the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. (For an example, see here.)

True ecumenicism does not lay a new foundation other than that which God has already laid, the incarnate Christ being the cornerstone, followed by the "apostles and prophets" (Eph 2:20), and their successors in the Church, which is "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15). True ecumenicism is therefore necessarily by its very nature and final goal a searching for and reuniting with the Church that Christ founded. So long as some Christians conceive of the Church that Christ founded as the mere set of all believers, or as the set of all believers and their activities, or as a mere phenomenon, they will not perceive what the Church actually is, and how the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. Mere sets and mere phenomena have no authority, no actual unity, and thus no actual being. What has no being cannot be a foundation, let alone a foundation of the truth.

To defeat the divisive work of Satan, we first have to come to see schisms for what they are. This is part of what it means to expose the works of darkness. (Eph 5:11) We tear away the façade of light that keeps us from perceiving evil as evil. These schisms are "ruptures that wound the unity of Christ's Body" (CCC 817). If we love our own bodies, then how much more should we care for the wounds of Christ's Body? But we can go about seeking to heal these wounds in one of two ways. We can either take the keys to ourselves, which is the way of Babel (or more precisely, an endless series of Babels, each with its own self-appointed or de facto Nimrod), or we can seek out the Church that Christ founded, where He left His peace, seeking full communion with the one to whom He gave the keys.


'Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter'
Pietro Perugino (1481-1482)

41 comments:

CD-Host said...

But we can go about seeking to heal these wounds in one of two ways. We can either take the keys to ourselves, which is the way of Babel (or more precisely, an endless series of Babels, each with its own self-appointed or de facto Nimrod), or we can seek out the Church that Christ founded, where He left His peace, seeking full communion with the one to whom He gave the keys.

Or we can engage in way 3. Come to understand that the reform movement started because of abuses and correct those abuses. This opens the door to unity. So far the argument AFAIKT being made on this board is that abuses are impossible by definition. I would like to ask my question again. If Benedict XVI were to declare ex cathedra that the trinity consists of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Pluto would this then become a Christian truth you are obligated to believe and obey?

If you are willing to say no, then we can have at the very least established that abuses are not impossible by definition which has been the circle we have been spinning in for weeks.

If you say yes, then ultimately god is Benedict XVI; the father son and holy spirit are just the spiritual beings he has currently appointed as the objects of worship.

It has been my experience in reading the Christian fathers that they do not hold that the Pope is invested with what amounts to divinity. Rather they have held to a standard of Christian truth: Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason. And this does offer a way out of continuous fragmentation. The UBS process showed this and the non denominational evangelical movement shows this. Which incidentally also disproves the idea that the only alternative to despotism is babel.

David said...

Wonderful article, Bryan! I've been having a similar discussion with my BIL. He believes that the Church is simply a collection of believers that is “saved” in every denomination. Of course, this makes 1 Tim 3:15 truly nonsensical and makes the ‘bride of Christ’ seem to be schizophrenic – holding to multiple completing doctrines. It also conveniently ignores the *overwhelming* witness of the early Church.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Great post Bryan.

Cd-Host, there is no option 3, you just reworded option one.

CD-Host said...

Tim --

Let me ask you a simple question then. What percentage of Protestants do you believe or in the near future are likely to view the Catholic church as infallible, and hold that the reformation was illegitimate in spirit?

That's what Rev Nyomi was saying. On those terms there really is nothing to talk about. Heck, David Koresh claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus, which trumps just having some keys. Protestants by definition are the people that Papel claims to being the very definition of truth. Now I don't believe that the Catholic church's claims are this strong, otherwise there wouldn't be anything to talk about more than there is for followers of David Koresh. So while I think these claims might be a successful debate tactic, in that they they shut off any other discussion, they make it a clear cut up or down choice and then the choice is down.

And as I've mentioned most U.S. Catholics don't even hold this position. Take for example CCC 1776-1802. Assuming your view of the doctrine was correct this entire section could be eliminated and replaced with "Good is whatever papel authorities define it to be and changeable however and whenever they see fit. Obedience not some internal or external view of good is required of man". Yet the CCC says the exact opposite.

CD-Host said...

Protestants by definition are the people that Papel claims to being the very definition of truth.

Yipes dropped an important word there. Should be:

Protestants by definition are the people that reject Papel claims to being the very definition of truth.

Principium Unitatis said...

Collin,

So far the argument AFAIKT being made on this board is that abuses are impossible by definition.

I have never claimed that, nor do I believe that. If you are interested in serious dialogue, then let's avoid the straw man. If you would like to know what I believe about something, simply ask. Your comments have made frequent use of the straw man, for example, in your latest claim that the fathers do not hold that the pope is invested with what amounts to divinity. No one here claims that, so this too is a straw man.

Correcting abuses is fully compatible with avoiding schism. The end doesn't justify the means. We cannot engage in schism simply in the name of 'correcting abuses'.

But you need a principled distinction between an abuse and a heresy. And you have yet to provide one.

It is easy to stand in anonymity and throw stones, because you don't have to defend your own position by contrast. So let's hear something about you. To which denomination do you belong? Under whose authority are you?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

CD-Host said...

If you would like to know what I believe about something, simply ask.

Look at the first post in this thread. I did ask. I started with a question. And that is the 3rd time I've asked that question.

Your comments have made frequent use of the straw man, for example, in your latest claim that the fathers do not hold that the pope is invested with what amounts to divinity. No one here claims that, so this too is a straw man.

Well as long as we are playing the correct one another game, you are actually misusing the term straw man. A conclusion cannot be a straw man. A straw man is mischaracterizing an opponent's argument not incorrectly (which I assume is your claim) drawing conclusions from their argument.

Correcting abuses is fully compatible with avoiding schism.

That was my opinion. Tim however disagreed.

But you need a principled distinction between an abuse and a heresy. And you have yet to provide one.

I don't think you wrote what you meant here. But I'll start off with:

heresy:
1) A doctrine hold be believers in religion X considered so outside the bounds of the religion that the the overwhelming majority of persons in religion X, no longer considers a person believing in it to be part of the same faith.
2) A doctrine that contradicts an essential of the faith even if the essential is still upheld.

It is easy to stand in anonymity and throw stones, because you don't have to defend your own position by contrast.

Now that is a good example of a straw man. I think I been defending my position for several weeks quite well.

Under whose authority are you?

God's. If you mean what earthly persons do I take spiritual advice from and learn from, then you are asking a question with an answer. I reject the notion of "spiritual covering" (which is how I'm taking authority in the sense you mean it) .

Principium Unitatis said...

Collin,

I asked: " Under whose authority are you?" You replied: "God's."

So does Hebrews 13:17 no longer apply?

"Obey your leaders and submit to their authority." (Heb 13:17)

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium Unitatis said...

Collin,

If Benedict XVI were to declare ex cathedra that the trinity consists of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Pluto would this then become a Christian truth you are obligated to believe and obey?

It is hard to know whether to take you seriously, because it is hard to know whether you are asking a merely rhetorical question, or a sincere question. Before you start criticizing a position, first try to learn the position. The Catholic Church does not believe or teach that the pope (or an ecumenical council) has the power to overturn any previously established dogma.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

CD-Host said...

So does Hebrews 13:17 no longer apply?

Look at verse 7, "Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you". That is leaders are those that teach God's word. They are to obeyed in so far as they teach God's will, but not when they oppose it. The entire book of Hebrews is one long lecture on why earthly priests are but a pale imitation of heavenly priests. It is a discussion of why individuals should choose one group of leaders (Christian leaders) over earthly Priests, "For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one... Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen." I can think of no book in the entire bible that is less in accord with the idea of a an earthly church being the gateway to God than Hebrews. Hebrews asserts loudly and passionately not only the existence of but the essential importance of an invisible church. A true priest is one who does not die but holds his office forever (Heb 7:23).

It is hard to know whether to take you seriously, because it is hard to know whether you are asking a merely rhetorical question, or a sincere question. Before you start criticizing a position, first try to learn the position. The Catholic Church does not believe or teach that the pope (or an ecumenical council) has the power to overturn any previously established dogma.

Take me seriously and work through the example. September 23, 2008 Benedict makes the declaration. Then what happens?

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

You wrote:

heresy:
1) A doctrine hold be believers in religion X considered so outside the bounds of the religion that the the overwhelming majority of persons in religion X, no longer considers a person believing in it to be part of the same faith.
2) A doctrine that contradicts an essential of the faith even if the essential is still upheld.


Who determines what is essential to the faith, on your view? Who determines what the faith is, on your view? Who determines if a doctrine contradicts something essential to the faith, on your view? Does your view make room for one view really being true and another false? Does heresy, on your view, have anything to do with being false?

Eric

CD-Host said...

Eric --

Good questions, though I figure you would already know my opinion from the previous discussion.

Who determines what is essential to the faith, on your view?

An overwhelming majority of the Christian faithful.

Who determines what the faith is, on your view?

Anything considered part of the faith by a significant minority.

Who determines if a doctrine contradicts something essential to the faith, on your view?

Determines for what purpose? If you mean for a heresy trial, the person's denomination / church.

Does your view make room for one view really being true and another false?

Well yes. The church as a whole will in general (especially in the absence of force) tend to more towards the truth and away from what is false.

Carol said...

Dear cd-host,

I do not have faith in the Pope but I do have faith in God, that He will keep His Church in truth. The Pope and all the Bishops who lead the Church are fallible men. But the deposit of faith which is held by the Church is, I believe, protected by God Himself. Certainly God is able to protect His Bride and lead Her into perfect truth, is He not? When we fail to believe that the Church can hold the TRUTH, could it be that we are failing to have faith that God is able to keep Her (His Bride)until He comes again for Her?

As a new Catholic, I have come to see that my trust in the Church does not mean that those who lead the Church are perfect men (some, yes, are far from it - as am I, a sinner saved by Grace). But my trust in the Church is an expression of my belief that God is keeping His Bride until He comes again in Glory to bring Her to the Marriage Feast. May She be ready, perfected, (and yes, reformed where She needs reforming), strong, beautiful, waiting with great longing for Her Bridegroom - with eyes for no other. This is my prayer for the Church, for Christ's precious Body on this earth. I love the Church as I see Her for what She will be someday.

May the peace and hope of Christ, our Bread of Life, be with you today cd-host.

-Carol

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

Matthew Henry and Darby both interpret Heb 13:17 as applying to the living. Further, Hebrews is not anti-Church.

Aside from that, let me summarize to see if this is your position.

(1) An overwhelming majority of Christian faithful, on your view, determine what is essential to the faith.

(2) Anything considered part of the faith by a significant minority is what the faith is.

(3) A person's own local church can determine what heresy is.

(4) The Church [as a whole] will in general tend towards the truth and away from what is false, though you do not see the church protected from error with a 'spiritual covering'.

(5) From our prior discussion, you also think that a consensus of self-identified followers of Christ decide what the canon should be, what the interpretation of the canon should be, and what the theology asserted should be.

(6) All of this can change from generation to generation and from culture to culture. That is ok with you. If self-identified followers of Christ become more liberalized, the Bible just changes with it, along with the interpretations and the systematic theology. In some way, you might even think that such flux is good. So long as it represents what the consensus thinks, it is ok, on this view. I take all of this also to mean that you think the canon is open. It can change. It could be added to or subtracted from or modified in various other ways, so long as it fits with the consensus.

(7) You think the gnostic books should have been included in the canon and so you think the canon is at least incomplete, if not wrong.

(8) On this view that you offer, the Church does not necessarily have the truth, but moves to and away from the truth, more or less.

(9) There is no authority within the Church to guide us. We just have to rely on the consensus opinion of the times. That consensus view may not be true, but it is the best we can do. Christ does not protect us from error. People just more or less approximate the truth, not really knowing what it is.

(10) On your view, something like Baptist Protestantism is the truth of the matter, and you measure whether doctrines in light of it.

(11) Heresy is either:

(a) A doctrine hold be believers in religion X considered so outside the bounds of the religion that the the overwhelming majority of persons in religion X, no longer considers a person believing in it to be part of the same faith, or,

(b) A doctrine that contradicts an essential of the faith even if the essential is still upheld.

(12) The Church is just an aggregate of all believers.

(13) Truth plays a role in all of this and some people are wrong while others are right, both in interpreting Scripture and building theology based on Scripture.

(14) Unity should be sought by correcting abuses and false teaching.

(15) There is no authoritative Church as such with respect to the lay Christian. Each man is his own king under the Bible alone without a Church over him.

I hope I got it right.

In Christ,
Eric

CD-Host said...

Carol --

Hi. Certainly God is able to protect His Bride and lead Her into perfect truth, is He not? When we fail to believe that the Church can hold the TRUTH, could it be that we are failing to have faith that God is able to keep Her (His Bride)until He comes again for Her?

Let me rewrite that a bit and tell me where the fallacy is:
Certainly God is able to protect his faithful from disease and keep them in alive and healthy, is He not? When we fail to believe that the God can hold out against all disease, could it be that we are failing to have faith that God is able to keep his faithful alongside him until he comes again for them? This was exactly the question Paul faced in Thessalonians 4. And in it he argues that material death is no barrier to rebirth through Christ in his kingdom, "Do not grieve like people who have no hope." If he does not need to keep his believers even alive why would he then need to perfectly preserve doctrine?

Quite simply the evidence of history tends to show doctrine changing with time. It is absolutely consistent with a belief that doctrine evolves in responses to events and crises not that some immutable truth was handed down and is just being passed along. Could God do it the other way, sure. Did he choose to, no.

As a new Catholic, I have come to see that my trust in the Church does not mean that those who lead the Church are perfect men (some, yes, are far from it - as am I, a sinner saved by Grace). But my trust in the Church is an expression of my belief that God is keeping His Bride until He comes again in Glory to bring Her to the Marriage Feast. May She be ready, perfected, (and yes, reformed where She needs reforming), strong, beautiful, waiting with great longing for Her Bridegroom - with eyes for no other. This is my prayer for the Church, for Christ's precious Body on this earth. I love the Church as I see Her for what She will be someday.

That is what Luther wanted. I don't disagree with that at all. But if she needs to be reformed she needs to be reformed from imperfection.

Blessings to you,
CD-Host

CD-Host said...

Eric --

I'm addressing the overwhelming theme of Hebrews. And I agree Hebrews 13:7 is about people who teach the word of God. I'm not disagreeing with that, I'm disagreeing that it implies obedience to a hierarchy regardless of their teachings. Bryan was originally discussing the situation when leaders teach contrary to God's will. That is I was addressing an absolute command to follow spiritual leaders regardless of what they taught and I was saying in context it couldn't possibly mean that. Particularly in that Hebrews explicitly advocates for the doctrine of a heavenly church being the real church.

As for the summary this time its a little further off though quite close.

(7) Is much too strong. What I said was that the current canon accurately represents a good collection of writings of the followers of the institutional church. The Christian community is examining these Gnostic works and deciding what role they should play. I'm supporting the reevaluating I'm not advocate as a representative the result. I personally have opinions for example I'd like Enoch (which is not actually gnostic) to become canon but that's a personal opinion and no consensus for it exists. The canon as it exists today is the right canon for today. Thomas (which is gnostic) seems to be the book that the Christian Community is moving most quickly towards adopting, that is the community's opinion not mine. (I can think of a 1/2 dozen I'd like more than Thomas if we are going to adobt Gnostic works).
As for subtractions again I have personal opinions but those aren't authoritative, even for me, until there is much wider acceptance. Again the UBS process is very indicative of what I would support.

(8) No. I can see why you are saying that but your applying your theology to my views. I don't believe in a static will of God.

(10) I'd say Baptist Protestantism is the direction the Christian community is moving in. That is errors are being corrected there and it represents the current direction of the Holy Spirit. Your phrasing is too strong.

(15) I'd say that each man is in a series of communities and can draw on those communities for assistance in his relationship with Jesus and his search for spiritual truth. There are no more kings, 1Sam8.

Principium Unitatis said...

Collin,

What do you think about what I wrote here?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

CD-Host said...

Bryan --

Well my feeling is that your analogy doesn't work. Marriage is explicit a sexual union, that is a material event. Worship however is not for example, "John . 4:23 But a time is coming – and now is here – when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. 4:24 God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

There just aren't quotes like that regarding marriage.

__________

As for Church Discipline (which is after all what my blog is about) it is specific to the congregation. Most of the classics on discipline treat it as a local affair for example Mell's. As for schism he expands on the idea in Phillipains 2 and aims that Christians love one another, work together, fellowship together in the Spirit, and assist one another. Schism is a failure to do those things, it doesn't require a hierarchy. He (IMHO) attacks the idea of establishing permanent dominant Christians in 2:3.


As for the lines you say crush gnosticism the Gnostics embrace those ideas. For example here is Heracleon on the issue of water, " Insipid, temporary, and unsatisfying was that life and its glory, for it was worldly. The proof of it being worldly is the fact that the cattle of Jacob drank from it (i.e. the well). . . But the water which the Savior gives is from his spirit and his power. . .The words “shall never thirst again” mean that his life is eternal and never perishes as does the first (life) which the well provides, but rather is lasting. For the Grace and gift of our Savior cannot be taken away, and is not consumed or destroyed in the one who partakes of it. The first life is perishable. . . (In John 4:14, “The water I shall give that one shall be a well of water within springing up into everlasting life.”) The words “springing up” (John 4:14) refer to those who receive what is richly supplied from above and who themselves pour forth for the eternal life of others that which has been supplied to them. . . " He certainly doesn't see those verses as "smashing gnosticism".

So in short I don't see your analogy as proving your point nor the verses you select as excluding what you aim to exclude. Sorry, but you asked.

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

What I said was that the current canon accurately represents a good collection of writings of the followers of the institutional church.

Is it a true inspired collection? Does that even matter? Or, are all groups just in the business of picking books that support their position such that the Gnostics should just pick Gnostic books and the non-Gnostics should pick non-Gnostic books, regardless of the truth?

The Christian community is examining these Gnostic works and deciding what role they should play.

Who in the Christian community? The majority of Christians?

The canon as it exists today is the right canon for today.

Is it the right canon for tomorrow? For all times? For all Christians?

Thomas (which is gnostic) seems to be the book that the Christian Community is moving most quickly towards adopting, that is the community's opinion not mine.

Which community are you talking about? Is there a representative? Are the 1 billion + Catholics involved in the decision and the 300 million + Orthodox? How many Protestants? One or two hundred million? I know a lot of Protestants, but I have not met any as of yet who are saying that we should change the canon to include Thomas. Perhaps I am just out of the loop.

(I can think of a 1/2 dozen I'd like more than Thomas if we are going to adobt Gnostic works).

Is it about what we like?

As for subtractions again I have personal opinions but those aren't authoritative, even for me, until there is much wider acceptance.

What if 200 million Protestants agreed to change the canon tomorrow and 1.3 billion non-Protestant Christians said no to the change? Would that be enough to count as acceptance? Is that what (3) was about: anything that has the support of a significant minority of Christians counts as what the faith is?

If 300 million Protestants stand up tomorrow and declare that the Trinity and Incarnation are now false, could they be wrong, on your view? Does it matter? Or, is it just that there is a consensus?

What if 250 million Protestants disagree with you tomorrow? Will you yield to the authority of the consensus?

If they say that Christ was not God-Incarnate could they be wrong? If they say that some of the books in the canon were not inspired and want to introduce one of RC Sproul's books on Sola Fide in place of, say, James, would that be wrong or problematic? Or, is that ok too? If 200 million Protestants say they no longer believe Sola Fide tomorrow, will that make make Sola Fide false? If they say [faith and works] is now the popular position of the consensus will that make [faith and works] true? If they say that we are not saved by grace and that Christians mis-interpreted Scripture, will that then become true? Could it be that x was true when the Reformers were in favor of it, but not true when later Protestants decided against it? How many Protestants would it take? 10 million? 20 million? After all, the canon we have is right for today, but, if I understand correctly, may not be right tomorrow [on your view]. Christians are free to change it and whatever prior interpretations and positions they have previously held whenever they can get a consensus of other Christians to agree with them, or perhaps only a significant minority. After all, that defines what the faith is, on your view, if I understand correctly.

In Christ,
Eric

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

I think you agree with this:

(1) An overwhelming majority of Christian faithful, on your view, determine what is essential to the faith.

Comment: But an overwhelming majority think lots of things that you might disagree with. Let us say that 700 million Catholics think that an authoritative, visible, sacramental, non-gnostic Church with a chief steward is an essential part of the faith, for example. Does that make that view of the faith essential to the faith? What if 20 million Gnostic Christians disagree? Or 10 million or 5 million or 5000 for that matter. What then would be essential to the faith?

I think you agree with:
(2) Anything considered part of the faith by a significant minority is what the faith is.

Comment: But what if there were two significant minority groups and both disagreed with one another in a way that did not allow both to be right? If one minority group says x and the other says not x, what is the faith?

In Christ,
Eric

CD-Host said...

Eric --

Well lots to answer.

Is it (the current canon) a true inspired collection?

Inspired yes. True needs to be more specific. A book can be true about x and false about y. For example the bible's theory of cosmology is true to the ancient Hebrew view but false as far as the actual physical cosmos.


Or, are all groups just in the business of picking books that support their position such that the Gnostics should just pick Gnostic books and the non-Gnostics should pick non-Gnostic books, regardless of the truth?

That didn't happen for either group. Groups co-create with the selection of books being based on their faith along with tradition and reason and at the same time by making that choice they alter the path of the development of their faith.

Christianity would be a lot different today if John has been "too gnostic" and rejected.

Who in the Christian community? The majority of Christians?

Yes.

Is it the right canon for tomorrow? For all times?

I don't own a crystal ball.


CD: Thomas (which is gnostic) seems to be the book that the Christian Community is moving most quickly towards adopting, that is the community's opinion not mine.

Which community are you talking about?


The Christian community. That is self identified Christians.


Is there a representative? Are the 1 billion + Catholics involved in the decision and the 300 million + Orthodox?

Yes.

How many Protestants? One or two hundred million? I know a lot of Protestants, but I have not met any as of yet who are saying that we should change the canon to include Thomas. Perhaps I am just out of the loop.

I didn't say that change is ready happen I said it was ready to be considered. As for evidence it is happening. think about the 5 gospels (SV translation). Or Archbishop of Canterbury's consideration the Henson translation which drops the pastorals but includes Thomas.

On the negative side consider the controversy about the recent gospel of Judas or the da Vinci code. Do a quick survey in your church and ask them what they think about the da Vinci code / gnostic writings this Sunday. I'll think you'll be surprised how aware they are of this issue.

Nestle Aland has used Thomas in several places to weigh in on verses. NIGTC (generally considered the most scholarly bible commentary) makes use of gnostic fathers in determining word choice and meaning

Yes acceptance is building. 100 years ago Fragments of a Faith Forgotten was fringe literature. Today just about every book store carries translations and commentaries of gnostic texts in their Christian book section. Anytime Pagels publishes it is on the best seller list.

Is it about what we like?

No, it is about what we believe to be true as the church.

What if 200 million Protestants agreed to change the canon tomorrow and 1.3 billion non-Protestant Christians said no to the change?

That is pretty much what happened in the 16th century regarding the apocrypha. So yes that would be binding on Protestants. The Protestant community waited until the early 19th century before finalizing their rejection, which showed they were aware of the magnitude of this change.

If 300 million Protestants stand up tomorrow and declare that the Trinity and Incarnation are now false, could they be wrong, on your view?

Wrong about the faith or wrong about the nature of God?

What if 250 million Protestants disagree with you tomorrow? Will you yield to the authority of the consensus?

Absolutely. I accept the pastorals as part of the bible and authoritative even though I personally believe them to be 2nd century political propaganda. I as an individual don't have the right to make whatever changes I want.

I'll drop the whole series of questions starting with "If they say that Christ was not God-Incarnate could they be wrong?" because of the same issue about true of the faith or true of the nature of God.

Comment: But an overwhelming majority think lots of things that you might disagree with. Let us say that 700 million Catholics think that an authoritative, visible, sacramental, non-gnostic Church with a chief steward is an essential part of the faith, for example. Does that make that view of the faith essential to the faith?

I'd disagree they believe in authoritative. But yes non-gnosticism is an essential of the faith now. You are confusing my assertions regarding 1st-3rd century Christianity with modern Christianity. They aren't the same faith. The whole point is that in the last 200 years there has been a slow movement back to a faith which is more consistent with the ancient faith. If this discrepancy didn't exist in the first place this wouldn't be needed.

I think you agree with:
(2) Anything considered part of the faith by a significant minority is what the faith is.

Comment: But what if there were two significant minority groups and both disagreed with one another in a way that did not allow both to be right? If one minority group says x and the other says not x, what is the faith?


For each group the faith is x and ~x respectively. For the Christian community as a whole it is neither.

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

(10) I'd say Baptist Protestantism is the direction the Christian community is moving in. That is errors are being corrected there and it represents the current direction of the Holy Spirit.

What errors? Further, how do you know they are being corrected or that they need corrected? What ruler or standard are you using to decide these things? Your own interpretation of Scripture? A minority interpretation? A Gnostic interpretation? A majority interpretation? Church officer interpretation? Polls?

Does the direction of the Holy Spirit change with respect to faith and morals? How do you know what the current direction of the Holy Spirit is? What if you and I read the Bible and disagree about the current direction of the Holy Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit behind every doctrinal movement in history?

(15) I'd say that each man is in a series of communities and can draw on those communities for assistance in his relationship with Jesus and his search for spiritual truth.

Can the communities mislead him? Can the communities teach falsehoods about Jesus or what Jesus meant? Which communities should he listen to? The Baptist community? The Orthodox community? The Catholic Community? The Assembly of God community? A non-denominational community?

There are no more kings, 1Sam8.

Does that mean that there are no more leaders with authority over the individual or over a minority group? No more church officers with more authority than the individual or more authority than a minority group of Christians on matters of faith and morals? Does that mean that the individual is now king? Does it mean that there is no authoritative Church? Does it mean that there is no chief steward here on earth in the kingdom?

A large part of this issue has to do with who has authority over who or what on matters of Special Revelation and morals. There are at least three 'authoritative' relationships to consider.

(1) There is the relation between the Church and the Bible with respect to authority.

(2) There is the relation between the Bible and (a) the individual, (b) a minority group, and (c) a majority group of Christians with respect to authority.

(3) There is the relation between the Church and (a) the individual, (b) a minority group, and (c) a majority group of Christians with respect to authority.

In Christ,
Eric

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

I will be working quite a lot for the next several days and will not have much time, if any, for this sort of thing, though I have enjoyed the discussion.

If all of the books in the current canon are inspired, how do you know them to be inspired?

That didn't happen for either group. Groups co-create with the selection of books being based on their faith along with tradition and reason

But if one person or group with faith A picks books a, b, and c and another person or group with faith B denies a, b and c, who is right? Both have a faith about Christ, but the faiths might be divergent and different, which would then give rise to an entirely different Bible, and a Christianity that looks much different because it is much different.

I don't own a crystal ball.

So the canon that we have today may not be the canon that is true for tomorrow, if I understand you correctly.

I didn't say that change is ready happen I said it was ready to be considered. As for evidence it is happening. think about the 5 gospels (SV translation). Or Archbishop of Canterbury's consideration the Henson translation which drops the pastorals but includes Thomas.

But just about any minority group could make just about any change and get people to follow. The issue is whether or not the change should be followed. Joseph Smith, Muhammad and just about anyone can sit down and change the canon. How would you know whether the new claims were true? How would you know that someone is not misleading you? Does that even matter? When you speak about the Baptist community moving towards truth and away from error, it seems that you are allowing for a movement towards truth. But if some can move towards it, cannot some positions be examples of a movement away from it? How do you decide who is moving towards the truth and who is not? If it is all based on acceptance, can those accepting the new doctrine not be wrong? Could those who accepted Sola Fide not have been wrong about Sola Fide? Can a minority of Protestants who now reject Sola Fide not be wrong in their rejection?

No, it is about what we believe to be true as the church.

How do you determine what the Church believes? Take a poll? Look to see what books are popular at the bookstore?

I said:

What if 200 million Protestants agreed to change the canon tomorrow and 1.3 billion non-Protestant Christians said no to the change?

That is pretty much what happened in the 16th century regarding the apocrypha. So yes that would be binding on Protestants.

Is the truth binding to Protestants? If the Protestants had been wrong, would it still be binding to Protestants? If I stand up tomorrow and announce that all of the current groups have been wrong all along in almost every way and get 300 million people who claim to be following Christ to follow me down this path, will they be bound to that path regardless of the truth? Will the path that I start be not just a faith that I started but the faith that was given to us by Christ and the Apostles?

The Protestant community waited until the early 19th century before finalizing their rejection, which showed they were aware of the magnitude of this change.

Who were the representatives of the movement? Who finalized the rejection? Can they later change the rejection to an acceptance?

I wrote:

If 300 million Protestants stand up tomorrow and declare that the Trinity and Incarnation are now false, could they be wrong, on your view?

Wrong about the faith or wrong about the nature of God?

Could their claims be wrong even if it is their faith?

If 500 million Catholics disagree with you tomorrow, will you yield to their position?

With respect to a Protestant consensus, you said you would.

Absolutely. I accept the pastorals as part of the bible and authoritative even though I personally believe them to be 2nd century political propaganda.

Do you accept the bishops of the Catholic Church in a similar way?

I as an individual don't have the right to make whatever changes I want.

But Luther did make the changes and people followed him and they made changes of their own and others followed them. Did they have the authority? Further, why is it that you do not have the authority but some do?

If 700 million Catholics disagreed with you and thought that the Church was non-gnostical and visible and authoritative in a way that you disagreed with, would you say that what they are saying is essential to the faith? I am not just talking about their faith or your faith, but what is true with respect to the faith?

But yes non-gnosticism is an essential of the faith now.

But is it true?

The whole point is that in the last 200 years there has been a slow movement back to a faith which is more consistent with the ancient faith. If this discrepancy didn't exist in the first place this wouldn't be needed.

How do you know that it needs to take place? Why should there be a movement back to gnosticism? Is gnosticism true?

For each group the faith is x and ~x respectively. For the Christian community as a whole it is neither.

What if there were significant divisions within each group with respect to x? Would you then have to do at the level of the group what you just did to the Christian community as a whole, i.e., say that it is neither also? Further, if one group says the faith is x and the other not x, who is right? If one man starts a group that loves Christ, but says he did not really atone for our sins, but has a significant following, does it follow that that is now a part of the truth about Christ? Who would be right?

Further, how are you deciding? By a consensus within the Church? By majority opinion within the Church? By minority opinion within the Church? By pastoral authority within the Church? By trusting the majority? The minority? This or that minority over and against another one? By trusting the Church officers? The pastoral teachers? Which ones?

If a physicists stands up tomorrow and tells us that the incarnation is physically impossible and 300 million Christians come to think he is right and so reject the incarnation, will you follow that movement or an equal number of people who say the opposite? Would you recommend that I follow that movement?

If 200 million Protestants tell you that they disagree with this idea that you have about an open canon, will you yield to them? Or, will you think that they are wrong and misunderstanding the truth of the matter?

When push comes to shove, are you the king or the Church? Are you the king or the consensus? Are you the king or the pastoral leaders? Are you the king or is this or that minority the king? Are you the king or is the majority the king?

Next, is the pastoral authority that you claim to submit to the king over the majority? Over a minority?

Who should I trust most on matters of faith and morals when I am concerned about the truth? The majority? A significant minority? An individual like Luther or Calvin with followers? You? The Baptist churches? Which one? The Assembly of God organization? If there is a disagreement and all claim to have the answer but give different answers, who should I trust the most?

In Christ,

Eric

CD-Host said...

Eric --

Hi, good questions with some overlap. Let me take them a bit out of order. The first comment is "authoritative relationship" is forcing my opinions into a paradigm that doesn't really fit. So you are introducing a bit of inaccuracy by forcing another framework on the issue.

A large part of this issue has to do with who has authority over who or what on matters of Special Revelation and morals. There are at least three 'authoritative' relationships to consider. 

(1) There is the relation between the Church and the Bible with respect to authority.

The Church uses 4 criteria: Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason. Scripture is one of the criteria so the church will be heavily influenced by it. By the same token these 4 criteria are what are used to determine the contents of scripture. For example how often another work isis cited within something determined to be scripture. Paul frequently cites the Tanakh and sees that as scripture, and the church has chosen to accept that while Jude's citing of the Assumption of Moses and 1Enoch is not considered sufficient in and of itself. And further the use of these citations was one of the reasons the church had such trouble deciding if Jude itself was scripture. 

 (2) There is the relation between the Bible and (a) the individual, (b) a minority group, and (c) a majority group of Christians with respect to authority.

The bible is one of the 4 criteria for all groups. 

 (3) There is the relation between the Church and (a) the individual, (b) a minority group, and (c) a majority group of Christians with respect to authority.

The short answer is, it depends.

The individual belongs to a church. The church belongs to a denomination (usually). The denomination belongs to the community of the faithful which includes all Christian churches. You have to be a little more clear where the majority and minorities are and how important it is to church life.

Further things like how essential the minority considers this issue is important.

CD: (10) I'd say Baptist Protestantism is the direction the Christian community is moving in. That is errors are being corrected there and it represents the current direction of the Holy Spirit.

What errors? Further, how do you know they are being corrected or that they need [to be] corrected?

As for what. A good example is the use of state terror to resolve theological disputes. The baptists stood for biblical criteria against violence. Another example is the universal decimation of the scriptures, the proto-baptists and later the protestants championed all Christians having the scriptures.

As for how do I know, because the Holy Spirit has chosen to lead the church in that direction. That is these opinions won out based on the key criteria.

What ruler or standard are you using to decide these things?
Your own interpretation of Scripture? A minority interpretation? A Gnostic interpretation? A majority interpretation? Church officer interpretation? Polls?

Overwhelming majority interpretation. For example very few Presbyterians today stand by Calvin's creation of a police state in Geneva. I don't know any Catholics that defend the Cathar genocide on principle.

Does that mean:
that there are no more leaders with authority over the individual or over a minority group?
Depends what you mean by authority. The word is being used to mean a variety of ways. But leaders have the authority invested in them by the membership.
No more church officers with more authority than the individual or more authority than a minority group of Christians on matters of faith and morals? Unless the leader represents a majority then yes.
Does that mean that the individual is now king? No.
Does it mean that there is no authoritative Church? No the church remains authoritative.
Does it mean that there is no chief steward here on earth in the kingdom? The church may choose to appoint a chief steward and recognize a chief steward. Right now a few denominations have one but in general most do not and with a few notable exceptions those that do invest their steward with the power of a democratic chief executive not a king.

If all of the books in the current canon are inspired, how do you know them to be inspired?

Because the church has accepted them as inspired.

But if one person or group with faith A picks books a, b, and c and another person or group with faith B denies a, b and c, who is right?
Right in what sense? Right for whom? If the you mean for the Christian community as a whole who is right will be determined by the results of the dialogue between A and B. Most likely it will be an opinion that neither of them holds, a synthesis call it C, which both communities over time will move towards. And C is what is "right" in the sense I think you mean. The dialogue between A and B is how the church's understanding grows.

So the canon that we have today may not be the canon that is true for tomorrow, if I understand you correctly.
Yep.

But just about any minority group could make just about any change and get people to follow. The issue is whether or not the change should be followed. Joseph Smith, Muhammad and just about anyone can sit down and change the canon.

Before we start going down this line my read of the Qur'an has Muhammad responding to Collyridian Christianity not Catholic, just so you have the background. And at the time this happened the Holy Spirit was wiping out paganism. Collyridianism is arguable pagan. So I'd argue the direction Muhammad took things was consistent with the direction that the Spirit was leading man. I can think of lots of reasons for that.

As for Joseph Smith. IMHO not enough time has passed to see what the Spirit is doing there. So I don't have a good answer. I could speculate in a Protestantism rapidly moving toward bibleolatry how having a group that is culturally Protestant but with an entirely different bible might be a useful counter creation but I don't know how this will play out.
How would you know whether the new claims were true?

As they are widely accepted, become confirmed with experience and time.

When you speak about the Baptist community moving towards truth and away from error, it seems that you are allowing for a movement towards truth. But if some can move towards it, cannot some positions be examples of a movement away from it?

Sure. David Koresh identifying himself with Jesus is an example that moved away from it. Heaven's Gate, and for that matter most of the UFO cults. Edgar Cayce.

How do you decide who is moving towards the truth and who is not?
In real time you can't tell. In retrospect it will become clear.

If it is all based on acceptance, can those accepting the new doctrine not be wrong? Could those who accepted Sola Fide not have been wrong about Sola Fide? Can a minority of Protestants who now reject Sola Fide not be wrong in their rejection?
Sure.
How do you determine what the Church believes? Take a poll? Look to see what books are popular at the bookstore?
I know you are being sarcastic, but yes. See what people believe. Listen to people. Read blogs.... Take the pulse of the community.
If I stand up tomorrow and announce that all of the current groups have been wrong all along in almost every way and get 300 million people who claim to be following Christ to follow me down this path, will they be bound to that path regardless of the truth? Will the path that I start be not just a faith that I started but the faith that was given to us by Christ and the Apostles?

For you to get 300m to follow you will require you provide absolutely overwhelming evidence of your case. It would require you to prove that the structural reforms you were seeking were important enough to justify schism and could not be achieved in the current churches in a way that was almost universally accepted. And then yes, whatever you had proven would be the faith of Christ.

Who were the representatives of the movement? Who finalized the rejection? Can they later change the rejection to an acceptance?

The British and Foreign Bible Society in 1826 (predecessor to the ABS) finalized it.

Could their claims be wrong even if it is their faith?
No. The faith can be wrong about the truth.

If 500 million Catholics disagree with you tomorrow, will you yield to their position?

With respect to a Protestant consensus, you said you would.
I'm not a Catholic so that's a different faith community.

CD: Absolutely. I accept the pastorals as part of the bible and authoritative even though I personally believe them to be 2nd century political propaganda.

Etic: Do you accept the bishops of the Catholic Church in a similar way?
I accept them as the bishops of the Catholic Church. I also accept Tenzin Gyatso as the current Dalia Lama / spiritual leader of Tibet. 

CD: I as an individual don't have the right to make whatever changes I want.

Eric: But Luther did make the changes and people followed him and they made changes of their own and others followed them. Did they have the authority? Further, why is it that you do not have the authority but some do?
Reformers made the changes, Luther proposed them. Communities do have that power. Luther proposed 95 arguments against indulgences they were accepted by huge numbers of Christians. Luther proposed that invalid excommunications had no weight the community accepted this. Luther translated the bible churches all over the world were transformed. Luther had the power to propose his power came from the community, as the bible indicates a leader's power should.

CD: But yes non-gnosticism is an essential of the faith now.
Eric: But is it true?

I think what you are asking here, is where the original Christians much closer in their theology to the 2nd century gnostics or the 2nd century catholics. My personal opinion is essentially Walter Bauer's that early Christianity was a loose collection of faiths that joined together. There is no one original. But while Bauer is becoming influential he has not been accepted and thus a perfect example of something I think is true but not authoritative.

If 200 million Protestants tell you that they disagree with this idea that you have about an open canon, will you yield to them? Or, will you think that they are wrong and misunderstanding the truth of the matter?

200m Protestants do think the canon is closed and so authoritatively it is. About 250 years ago the individual verses were considered closed. That consensus was undermined and in the last 70 years public opinion (including Catholic) has shifted 180 degrees.

Who should I trust most on matters of faith and morals when I am concerned about the truth? The majority? A significant minority? An individual like Luther or Calvin with followers? You? The Baptist churches? Which one? The Assembly of God organization? If there is a disagreement and all claim to have the answer but give different answers, who should I trust the most?

First off they all agree about 98% of the time. There really is very little mainstream diversity on most practical matters. That being said you should obey your faith community, so the real issue is how to you pick one. And the answer is you pick for yourself based on your best reading of reason, experience, scripture and tradition weighing the criteria you consider important. This is the mechanism by which the holy spirit provides feedback to leadership on these key issues. This is how dead theologies die.

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

Thanks for the discussion. More could be said, but I think the discussion, as it stands, serves to bring out more of the issues.

In Christ,
Eric

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

I was able to find computer access and have just a few minutes here.

I asked:

Could their claims be wrong even if it is their faith?

You answered: No. The faith can be wrong about the truth.

Is it yes or no? I could not tell.

Eric

CD-Host said...

A no on the faith and a yes on truth. That is the community cannot be wrong about the true faith but the faith can be incorrect about the world or history. For example the true faith rejected Copernicus and they were wrong.

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

A no on the faith and a yes on truth. That is the community cannot be wrong about the true faith but the faith can be incorrect about the world or history. For example the true faith rejected Copernicus and they were wrong.

There are lots of different self identified Christians who are associated with or members of different groups or communities with different claims about what the true faith is. Can any group be wrong about what the true faith is? Or, is the truth about Special Revelation, i.e., the faith, relative to each group? The example about Copernicus is not hitting on the heart of what I am interested in. I want to know something more like whether a group of self identified Christians can be wrong in its claims about matters of Special Revelation and Christ, wrong about what the true faith even is.

It seems also that on your view we are to follow the majority of self-identified Christians. But, it also seems that you would not be willing to follow, i.e., yield to the authority of, the majority of self identified Christians on x if you disagree with x and if there is a significant minority group that says not x that you agree with even if the majority of self identified Christians do claim x to be true. It seems that you might exclude yourself from the authority of the majority with respect to x by either saying that you follow a significant minority with a different claim or that you are not a member of this or that group. For example, you are not a Catholic and so do not think you should have to agree with a particular Catholic position because you are not a Catholic, even if the majority of self-identified Christians are Catholics and disagree with you. So, it seems that a person, on your view, can excuse himself from the authority of the majority by appealing to a significant minority or by simply identifying himself with a different group or community or denomination, if I understand correctly.

If I wanted to avoid the authority of the majority, I could go to a smaller minority or another community or denomination. If I wanted to avoid the authority of that smaller group, I could create or follow a significant minority within that group and appeal to it, or simply identify myself with a yet smaller group. If I wanted to I could get out from under the authority of the majority of self identified Christians who are Catholic by moving to the Orthodox group. I could then get out from under the authority of that group by moving to the Protestant group. I could then get out from under the majority of that group by not identifying myself with group, perhaps by saying that I am a non-Catholic, non-Protestant, non-denominational independent Christian.

So, by either identifying oneself with a different group or by appealing to a significant minority within the group, one could, on the view that I think you are offering (though I may be misunderstanding you), excuse oneself from the authority of the majority of self identified Christians.

Eric

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

First off they all agree about 98% of the time. There really is very little mainstream diversity on most practical matters.

How do you get the 98% number?

The evaluation would also depend on how you use the terms 'mainstream' and 'practical'.

How do you even define 'mainstream' within Protestantism with so much diversity?

I would say that there is at a very general level understood in a very general way a lot of agreement, but that beyond that there is a tremendous amount of disagreement, chaos and confusion. Certain passages in the Bible are interpreted tens and even hundreds of different ways by people calling themselves Protestants. There are substantial disagreements over church government, marriage, divorce, remarriage, sola scriptura, sola fide, what is really essential to the gospel, the second coming, church 'manners', altars, church decor, homosexuality, ordination of homosexuals, ordination of women, abortion, tongues, prophcy, miracles, intermediate state, the sacraments in general, baptism, the mode and methods of baptism, infant baptism, the authority of the church, exactly what the church is, morals, Sunday worship, Mary, the millennium, tribulation, the eucharist, justification, dancing, dress codes, socialization with others outside the group, once saved, always saved, the role of works in salvation, etc., etc.

On just about any topic one can think of one can find a great diversity of positions amongst Protestants. Sometimes it is even the case that before the Catholic Church even says anything against x, other Protestants already have.
And other Protestants then turn and condemn that position and so on down the line. I am not even convinced that we should even be using the term 'Protestant' or 'Protestantism' these days because Protestants many times cannot even agree on what it is. Further, more and more non-Catholic, non-Orthodox Christians are becoming non-Protestants as well, at least in some significant senses, i.e., some prefer to be called Evangelicals or independent Christians, some reject sola fide as an essential aspect of the Gospel, some reject sola scriptura, etc. I think that we have people calling themselves Protestants by habit who can be considered as a group but who ultimately bring to the table a huge diversity of ideas, not all of which can be true at the same time in the same sense. In that way, when we try to figure out what the collection of individuals believes we run into difficulties. Are we, for example, supposed to write down all of the individual positions and find the position that is held by the highest number of people? What if the differences in number are small? If 10 million people hold x and 11 million hold not x, which is true and also which represents the collection as a whole? If I say x and my friend says y, are we to take the position to be x-y, somehow mixing the two together to form an intermediate position? It is not clear how such a group of individuals is really much more than a group of individuals with similar but different ideas about the same things. Nor is it clear how we would know what the whole really thinks or if we really could, if the whole is just really a bunch of individuals. Moreover, many self-identified Christians do not know the details and have not thought about the issues much. Do they count? Do they have equal status with those who have? And what about the Christians who have been university-ized and fallen under the drink this or that education-ism or philosophy-ism? Does a man who calls himself a Christian who is clearly under the influence of Marxism or Freudism or scientism or gnosticism or whatever else we might think of get the same weight as someone who is not? Would the people who call themselves Protestants even be able to agree on how to determine these things in practice?

In Christ,
Eric

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

If you do not as an individual have the right or authority to make whatever changes you want as you granted, but Luther did propose changes, then it seems that you do have the right and authority to propose changes just as Luther did, on your view. If you do not have the right or authority to make changes as an individual, but the Reformers, who were a relatively small number of men many times acting apart from one another (though influenced by one another), did have the right and authority to make the changes, then you really have the right to make changes too, on your view. Luther, Wycliff, Meanchthon, and the rest were individual men who proposed and made changes. If they can, on Protestant principles, I can too. So can you.

Further, at least some of these men also started their own churches. If they can do that, I can too, on those same principles. You can also, on those principles. Luther was not given authority to start his own church. He started his own church by virtue of his own authority, an authority he granted to himself. He was not given authority to change the Bible, he did it without authority or by virtue of authority he granted to himself.

If it works for him, it can work for you or me or anyone else for that matter, on this view. And so Luther rebelled against the Catholic Church and some of Luther's followers then rebelled against him and their followers against them and so on down the line. The same process is continuing today. It is the Protestant process that Luther put into motion, but could not stop.

In Christ,
Eric

CD-Host said...

Eric --

Hi. Lots of posts to respond to.

There are lots of different self identified Christians who are associated with or members of different groups or communities with different claims about what the true faith is. Can any group be wrong about what the true faith is?

You are adding a new category here with "true faith". We had truth before and faith before. I'm not sure what "true faith" even means. If you drop the true part then it comes from the broader community and the nature of the claims.

Let me give you an example I've talked about before the US Catholic church and birth control. People make claims like "catholics believe that the Pope's word is final when it comes to matters of faith and doctrine". Yet it is obvious that US catholics understand the contents of Humanae Vitae and reject them. And this has been the case 40 years.

Or, is the truth about Special Revelation, i.e., the faith, relative to each group?

Hold on. The faith is relative the truth is absolute.

It seems also that on your view we are to follow the majority of self-identified Christians. But, it also seems that you would not be willing to follow, i.e., yield to the authority of, the majority of self identified Christians on x if you disagree with x and if there is a significant minority group that says not x that you agree with even if the majority of self identified Christians do claim x to be true.

Not quite. My community needs to support freedom on doctrine x, or have the minority opinion on x. I can't hold a position in opposition to my community unless I leave the community and join one of the minority communities. I'm bound by their laws.

So, it seems that a person, on your view, can excuse himself from the authority of the majority by appealing to a significant minority or by simply identifying himself with a different group or community or denomination

Only the later not the former method. An individual may propose change based on the former method but not adopt it.

CD-Host said...

Eric --
How do you get the 98% number? .... How do you even define 'mainstream' within Protestantism with so much diversity?

I'd say mainstream diversity is those things held be overwhelming majorities. In other if you were to write down random statements about Christian doctrine and ask Christians to make them true/false what percentage would have substantial disagreement:

Vishnu is a god in Christianity (F)
Turtle entrails should be used for determining possession by evil spirits (F)
Collisions is a book of the bible (T)
etc...

There are substantial disagreements over church government, marriage, divorce, remarriage, sola scriptura, sola fide, what is really essential to the gospel, the second coming, church 'manners', altars, church decor, homosexuality, ordination of homosexuals, ordination of women, abortion, tongues, prophcy, miracles, intermediate state, the sacraments in general, baptism, the mode and methods of baptism, infant baptism, the authority of the church, exactly what the church is, morals, Sunday worship, Mary, the millennium, tribulation, the eucharist, justification, dancing, dress codes, socialization with others outside the group, once saved, always saved, the role of works in salvation, etc., etc.

Let me pick a few from that list. I'm going to use "all" to mean 95+% in this section.

Church government. All protestants agree that there are 3 models of government presented in the bible: Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregationalist. That is they all agree congregations have government and that there is only disagreement on how to build hierarchies (or whether to build them). All Protestants agree there are people of moral influence that exist beyond the congregational structure and all protestants agree that leadership needs to be approved from below not appointed from above. All protestants agree on the need for organizations that are not directly answerable to one congregation: publishers, mission boards... So really the thing that divides them a little bit about ownership of church property and who dispenses money to these para-church organizations. IMHO that's not a huge degree of disagreement. What Protestantism is moving towards is a congregational structure with some mini denominations and national/global para church organizations and that is happening across the board.

Divorce and remarriage. There is almost no disagreement on this issue in practice at this point. Very few congregations expel the remarried regardless of the grounds for divorce. The only major debate is whether the remarried are barred from leadership and even that policy is losing steam. Protestants are hostile to "unbiblical divorce" and seek reconciliation. There is very little difference between left fundamentalists and liberals in practice.

sola scriptura Protestants uphold this doctrine almost without exception. If anything support for it has grown much stronger with the centuries.

I could keep going but this is a good sample for now.

Further, more and more non-Catholic, non-Orthodox Christians are becoming non-Protestants as well, at least in some significant senses, i.e., some prefer to be called Evangelicals or independent Christians,

I'd argue that Evangelicals are Protestants. I don't think it is true at that is point that independent fundamentalism is outside the protestant tradition. The parachurch organizations are theological and work quite well between them.

Are we, for example, supposed to write down all of the individual positions and find the position that is held by the highest number of people? What if the differences in number are small? If 10 million people hold x and 11 million hold not x, which is true and also which represents the collection as a whole? If I say x and my friend says y, are we to take the position to be x-y, somehow mixing the two together to form an intermediate position?

You need an overwhelming consensus not a simple majority.

Does a man who calls himself a Christian who is clearly under the influence of Marxism or Freudism or scientism or gnosticism or whatever else we might think of get the same weight as someone who is not?

Yes. Self identification is the criteria for determining who is part of the Christian community.

Blessing to you Eric.

Eric Telfer said...

The following was stated in this thread:

Luther translated the bible [and] churches all over the world were transformed.

First, at that time in history in Europe, those who could read could generally read Latin. Latin was part of the culture and not a dead language.

Second, there is good reason to think that during that time in history and during the middle ages taken as a whole people were actually very well acquainted with the Bible and with Scriptural ideas. Some go as far as to say that the medieval culture was as satured in biblical ideas as the Puritans were.

Third, the Bible had been translated into a great many languages. In fact, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Denmark, Holland, Norway, Poland, Bavaria, Hungary and other countries all had their own respective translations long before the printing press.

Fourth, Luther was not the first to translate the Bible into German. Raban Maur, born 776, for example, translated the whole Bible into the old German tongue. We have good reason to think, in fact, that by the time of Luther, no fewer than 14 translations existed in German. One Protestant historian shows that there were 17 editions of the whole Bible in the German language prior to the year 1521, aside from an huge number of German Psalms, NTs, and other parts of the Bible.

Fifth, some scholars think that Luther lacked the time and skills required to translate the Bible from Greek and Hebrew, and that he actually sat down with an old German translation and, for the most part, copied it, changing a few things here and there that disagreed with his new theology.

Sixth, scholars recognize hundreds of errors in Luther's so called 'translation'.

Seventh, had the Catholic Church not preserved the Bible for nearly 1500 years prior to Luther, Luther would not even have had the opportunity to try to translate it.

Eighth, the printing press is what really made the Bible more accessible than ever. Moreover, the first copy of the Bible off the printing press was a Catholic version.

In Christ,
Eric

CD-Host said...

Eric --

If you do not as an individual have the right or authority to make whatever changes you want as you granted, but Luther did propose changes, then it seems that you do have the right and authority to propose changes just as Luther did, on your view.

Yes.

If you do not have the right or authority to make changes as an individual, but the Reformers, who were a relatively small number of men many times acting apart from one another (though influenced by one another), did have the right and authority to make the changes, then you really have the right to make changes too, on your view.

No. I don't agree with your history at all. The reform movement was huge. The reformed communities once they formed were huge. The widespread support from the broader Christian community when they were part of the church and when the left they look large percentages of the population with them. So no I don't think these were individuals making changes they were communities making changes and with individual leaders.

This might be easier if we pick a particular reformer and reformed community. Do you want to pick? Obviously we can walk through Luther. We could for a change do Anne Boleyn / Thomas Cromwell.

If they can do that, I can too, on those same principles. You can also, on those principles.

Absolutely.

Luther was not given authority to start his own church. He started his own church by virtue of his own authority, an authority he granted to himself.

No he was granted the authority by the German people.

He was not given authority to change the Bible, he did it without authority or by virtue of authority he granted to himself.

Luther didn't change the bible. He proposed changes some of which were accepted and some rejected.

If it works for him, it can work for you or me or anyone else for that matter, on this view. And so Luther rebelled against the Catholic Church and some of Luther's followers then rebelled against him and their followers against them and so on down the line. The same process is continuing today. It is the Protestant process that Luther put into motion, but could not stop.

I'd reject the whole language of "authority" "rebellion" etc... The early Reformers in general didn't understand who deep the reforms would need to go. They saw the root on the surface but what the centuries have proven is that the root stretches back than they ever imagined. That is Thomas Muenzer's assessment not Luther's has proven correct.

The early anabaptists were looking to groups like the Paulicians for inspiration so I don't think you can argue they understand how deep the problems were but the broader Protestant community didn't accept their assessment at the time. Over the centuries Protestantism has been moving in their direction.

So yes it is true that Luther, and the broader Protestant community, didn't appreciate the extent of the problem but it is not the case that this is some sort of series of "rebellions". That sort of language isn't helpful it imposes a framework that almost all Protestants (with the exception of the right reformed) reject.

Good talking to you,
CD-Host

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

No. I don't agree with your history at all. The reform movement was huge.

It became huge, but it started with Luther.

I wrote:

Luther was not given authority to start his own church. He started his own church by virtue of his own authority, an authority he granted to himself.

No he was granted the authority by the German people.

But Luther first acted without the support of the people. Further, within Protestantism as it stands today, I do not need support of others to start my own church. I can buy a building down the street tomorrow and put up a sign. I can then make myself a pastor and teach how I follow Christ and what I think the right theology is.

Luther didn't change the bible. He proposed changes some of which were accepted and some rejected.

He was not proposing changes. He was changing it, literally. Others then gave him direct and indirect feedback. Many times he rejected the feedback and did it his way.

I'd reject the whole language of "authority" "rebellion" etc...

Luther recognized that he was rebelling against Church authority.

That sort of language isn't helpful it imposes a framework that almost all Protestants (with the exception of the right reformed) reject.

Protestants want to think of Luther as a reformer, not a rebel. But in fact, he did not reform the Catholic Church. He rebelled against it, left it, and started his own. And what he started contained doctrines that had not been taught for 1500 years. So, in a sense, he was also rebelling against a tradition of thought on several matters.

On your view we can talk about the overwhelming majority of Christians deciding this or that and having, perhaps, more authority than (a) church officers, (b) the office of chief steward, and/or (c) church officers and the office of chief steward together together. The overwhelming majority of living Christians can have that kind of authority, on your view, if I understand correctly. But what about the overwhelming majority of Christians who are not presently living on earth? Would they, on your view, still have a say? Or, can the overwhelming majority in any given generation overturn 1500 years of tradition?

Eric

CD-Host said...

Eric --

In reading the last 2 responses I think you are getting a bit polemical regarding Luther. Where you are in one post arguing that his bible was of no particular importance and in the next arguing he started the reformation all by himself. I'm going to start offering some corrections and points of dispute because I think that we are actually getting the heart of the problem in discussing Luther rather than church fathers. But I'd urge you to examine your sources regarding the reformation.

First, at that time in history in Europe, those who could read could generally read Latin. Latin was part of the culture and not a dead language.

The point of Luther's translation was not just who could read it but that it was written in the uneducated vernacular so that people barely literate could read it to each other. Luther worked very hard to capture German as it was spoken by the German people not scholarly German. The educated could read the Vulgate but the semi-educated and uneducated could not.

Luther's bible arguably consolidated the German family of dialects language into a single language.

Second, there is good reason to think that during that time in history and during the middle ages taken as a whole people were actually very well acquainted with the Bible and with Scriptural ideas. Some go as far as to say that the medieval culture was as satured in biblical ideas as the Puritans were.

I don't see any evidence for that in my reading medieval literature at all. Puritan literature is littered with biblical quotes, the same Jerome's comments are. You don't see that when you read materials from the middle ages.

Third, the Bible had been translated into a great many languages. In fact, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Denmark, Holland, Norway, Poland, Bavaria, Hungary and other countries all had their own respective translations long before the printing press.
Fourth, Luther was not the first to translate the Bible into German. Raban Maur, born 776, for example, translated the whole Bible into the old German tongue. We have good reason to think, in fact, that by the time of Luther, no fewer than 14 translations existed in German. One Protestant historian shows that there were 17 editions of the whole Bible in the German language prior to the year 1521, aside from an huge number of German Psalms, NTs, and other parts of the Bible.


Oh absolutely but those were mainly translations from the Vulgate not from the Hebrew/Greek. It was Luther who went back to Erasmus' Greek. Luther was the first step in a rejection of the Catholic Church's bible, for Luther the bible came from God not the church while the Vulgate unquestionably came from the church.

Fifth, some scholars think that Luther lacked the time and skills required to translate the Bible from Greek and Hebrew, and that he actually sat down with an old German translation and, for the most part, copied it, changing a few things here and there that disagreed with his new theology.

I don't speak German. But I find it unlikely given that the older ones used the Vulgate. None the less he did the NT in 3 months I'm sure he used it. Bible researcher covers this issue well.


Sixth, scholars recognize hundreds of errors in Luther's so called 'translation'.

No doubt. There are hundreds of errors in the AV as well and this bible was 3 generations earlier.

Seventh, had the Catholic Church not preserved the Bible for nearly 1500 years prior to Luther, Luther would not even have had the opportunity to try to translate it.

Maybe. But I'm not sure what the point is.

Eighth, the printing press is what really made the Bible more accessible than ever. Moreover, the first copy of the Bible off the printing press was a Catholic version.

Sure but the one that sold 100k copies was Luther's. I'll close with the quote from Cochlaus "Luther's New Testament was so much multiplied and spread by printers that even tailors and shoemakers, yea, even women and ignorant persons who had accepted this new Lutheran gospel, and could read a little German, studied it with the greatest avidity as the fountain of all truth. Some committed it to memory, and carried it about in their bosom. In a few months such people deemed themselves so learned that they were not ashamed to dispute about faith and the gospel not only with Catholic laymen, but even with priests and monks and doctors of divinity.

CD-Host said...

[The reform movement] became huge, but it started with Luther.

Not at all. Read any history of Saint Dominic hundreds of years earlier. He saw himself as a reformer. Luther, along with other reformers, were part of the reform movement. Luther became a well known spokesmen and then after his excommunication a movement leader.

Eric: Luther was not given authority to start his own church. He started his own church by virtue of his own authority, an authority he granted to himself.

CD: No he was granted the authority by the German people.

Eric: But Luther first acted without the support of the people.


Huh? By the time he founded a church he had a huge following. The reason he was excommunicated rather than ignored was that his attack on indulgences was cutting deeply into Papel revenue. Tetzel didn't argue that Luther wasn't influential the problem was he was influential at all levels of society.

Further, within Protestantism as it stands today, I do not need support of others to start my own church. I can buy a building down the street tomorrow and put up a sign. I can then make myself a pastor and teach how I follow Christ and what I think the right theology is.

Sure and until someone shows up this isn't a church yet. Once they do you have a Christian community.

CD: That sort of language isn't helpful it imposes a framework that almost all Protestants (with the exception of the right reformed) reject.

Eric: Protestants want to think of Luther as a reformer, not a rebel. But in fact, he did not reform the Catholic Church. He rebelled against it, left it, and started his own. And what he started contained doctrines that had not been taught for 1500 years. So, in a sense, he was also rebelling against a tradition of thought on several matters.


If you read Luther in 1517 he is objecting to indulgences. In 1518 he is defending his ideas but arguing arguing that people should not leave the church. Then the inquisition starts and by 1520 you have a have an excommunication and "Lutheran church". But the reformers at that point still believe this is a short term problem. They don't think they are forking Christianity permanently. The 30 years war doesn't start until 1618 a hundred years later. But over a generation Luther's ideas catch on in Hungary, in England in Switzerland and pretty soon the battle was over indulgences or Luther at all. But rather the systematic problems that led to the standoff with Luther.

Those people were followers of Luther's ideas not members of his church.

But what about the overwhelming majority of Christians who are not presently living on earth? Would they, on your view, still have a say? Or, can the overwhelming majority in any given generation overturn 1500 years of tradition?

Tradition is one of the 4 criteria. It gets weight co-equal to reason, scripture and experience. So it gets a strong vote. Tradition shouldn't be lightly discarded but it isn't binding. But, I'm using tradition in the inclusive sense, all of Christian tradition. Not just the tradition of one sect/denomination that is long lived and popular.

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

I asked:
Can any group be wrong about what the true faith is?

You are adding a new category here with "true faith". We had truth before and faith before. I'm not sure what "true faith" even means.

Collin, are you a relativist when it comes to truth claims about Revelation?


Hold on. The faith is relative the truth is absolute.

But can your truth claims about Revelation and matters related to Revelation be true and mine be false? Or, is it a true for me but not for you type situation that we are dealing with on your view?


Not quite. My community needs to support freedom on doctrine x, or have the minority opinion on x. I can't hold a position in opposition to my community unless I leave the community and join one of the minority communities. I'm bound by their laws.

First, would most Protestants agree with you here? I have talked to Protestants who claim that they can decide it all for themselves, regardless of what this or that denomination, as a group, holds. Some will say that no modern church will tell them how to believe or what to believe about Scripture. They decide that themselves.

Second, on Protestant principles, leaving the community that one disagrees with is the norm. If you do not agree, try another church. If you do not agree, find yet another. If you do not agree, start your own.

Third, is your community Christ's community? It sounds like you are the king, not Christ. For you are free to choose your community and make a new one if you like, on your the principles of your community.

Only the later not the former method. An individual may propose change based on the former method but not adopt it.

Ok. So I cannot appeal to a significant minority to excuse myself from the majority or perhaps overwhelming majority, but I can identify with a different group if I like, on your view. So, if I do not agree, I can just find another group and keep doing that until I do. Given the diversity within Protestant circles, I will probably eventually find a group that mostly agrees with me.

Eric

CD-Host said...

Eric --

Collin, are you a relativist when it comes to truth claims about Revelation?

It would depend on the type of revelation. Like for example my answer on stigmata was relativistic. On the other hand I'm an absolutist about contents of revelatory texts.


But can your truth claims about Revelation and matters related to Revelation be true and mine be false?

Yes.

First, would most Protestants agree with you here? I have talked to Protestants who claim that they can decide it all for themselves, regardless of what this or that denomination, as a group, holds.

They wouldn't phrase it the same way as I am. I'm being forced to use Catholic categories to discuss Protestant theology. If you ask the question in Protestant language, "Should a member of a church that disagrees with something in the statement of belief of that church remain a member and or teach that belief" you will get my answer.

Some will say that no modern church will tell them how to believe or what to believe about Scripture. They decide that themselves.

Ask them what the opinion of their church would be if they denied the trinity or if they supported the Mormon little god's view of salvation based on their understanding of scripture.

Second, on Protestant principles, leaving the community that one disagrees with is the norm. If you do not agree, try another church. If you do not agree, find yet another. If you do not agree, start your own.

Or you become convinced and change your belief. For example 20 years ago everyone in a baptist church was essentially arminian now many of the people in the pews are members are 4 or 5 pointers.

Third, is your community Christ's community?

Yep and so is yours.

It sounds like you are the king, not Christ. For you are free to choose your community and make a new one if you like, on your the principles of your community.

Christ owns all the communities. George Bush is president of Los Angles and New York.

Ok. So I cannot appeal to a significant minority to excuse myself from the majority or perhaps overwhelming majority, but I can identify with a different group if I like, on your view. So, if I do not agree, I can just find another group and keep doing that until I do. Given the diversity within Protestant circles, I will probably eventually find a group that mostly agrees with me.

On one view yes. But not on everything. So you find a community that matches reasonably well and then engage on areas of disagreement.

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

I think it is best that we end our discussion at some point here for it is clear that we could talk for years on this, and it may not be prudent to post comments under this thread for years. But, I would end with a series of questions (not that I necessarily expect you to answer them, but because I am interested in something more fundamental).

Who is right about the number and mode and nature of the sacraments? Is it true that baptism is only symbolic? Are you a relativist on that?

Who is right about whether there is an office of Chief Steward created by Christ?

Who is right about infant baptism? Is whatever answer that is given relative?

Who is right about the nature of man? Are all of the answers relative?

Who is right about the nature of the grace? Are all of the answers relative?

Who is right about the nature of salvation? Are you a relativist on sola fide? Or, is sola fide essential to the Gospel because it is the true interpretation of the Gospel?

The nature of the Church?

The nature of the priesthood?

The nature of Scripture? Is private interpretation the rule or are we to read and judge Scripture within the context of the Church authority?

The nature of Revelation? Who is right about Sola Scriptura, if it is taken to mean that Scripture is the only source of extra-biblical authority? Is sola scriptura relative?

You have said that the faith is relative and made it appear at times as though you are willing to allow a huge degree of change, not only in theology, but also in the canon itself, as though one set of claims might be true at one time and yet not at another.

Most think the canon is closed. But if most start to think the canon is open, then it is open, if I understand correctly. You look to the collection of self-identified Christians *in your group* for authoritative answers, but if that consensus changes with respect to its truth claims about a great deal of this, that is ok on your view of things. Perhaps about 5-10 truth claims have to stay the same, on your view, but the rest of the answers are relative and can change dramatically. Is that how I am to understand you?

I suspect that you might say that according to your view, if there is not an overwhelming consensus on x, then x is open to a variety of possibilities.

Interesting discussion, by the way. I appreciate your time and efforts.

I am back to work this weekend and may just let you have the last word given the circumstances with work and the nature of our discussion on someone else's blog.

May God bless you and yours,
Eric

CD-Host said...

I think it is best that we end our discussion at some point here for it is clear that we could talk for years on this, and it may not be prudent to post comments under this thread for years.

Its been good talking to you. Very constructive dialog. I think this discussion and the others managed to capture what this blog is about and the (IMHO) started to touch on the real issues.

But, I would end with a series of questions (not that I necessarily expect you to answer them, but because I am interested in something more fundamental).

What is the more fundamental thing?

Anyway in reading these questions I'm going to use a notation:

(*) = personal belief
(B) = Baptist belief
(P) = Protestant belief
(C) = Christian belief


Who is right about the number and mode and nature of the sacraments?

(P) I'm not sure there are "sacraments" in the Catholic sense. There aren't particular events where God is uniquely active.


Is it true that baptism is only symbolic? Are you a relativist on that?

(P) Yes it is a symbol and a command. On the other hand it is the distinguishing mark between Christian and non Christian.

Who is right about whether there is an office of Chief Steward created by Christ?

(B) Christ did not create a material church.

Who is right about infant baptism? Is whatever answer that is given relative?

(B) I think the baptists are right. Believe and be baptized is the command and babies cannot believe. There are quasi-Christians that attend churches and live in Christian communities and children fall into this category.

(*) Yes I think this belief is relative. While I believe the covenantial arguments are incorrect they are not completely invalid and a belief in believers baptism is not a prerequisite for salvation.

Who is right about the nature of man? Are all of the answers relative?

Not sure exactly what is being asked.

Who is right about the nature of the grace? Are all of the answers relative?

(*) Wesley and yes it is relative.

Who is right about the nature of salvation? Are you a relativist on sola fide?

(P) Luther. But the difference between his position and the Catholic one is 90% terminology and 10% genuine difference. Having the right position on sola fide is not a prerequisite for salvation.

The nature of the Church?

(*) I think the historical evidence is overwhelming in support of the baptist position.

The nature of the priesthood?

(C) Pretty much everyone agrees with relatively minor differences. You would need to be more specific as to which difference.

The nature of Scripture? Is private interpretation the rule or are we to read and judge Scripture within the context of the Church authority?

(C) All Christians believe that believers should study scripture with others and have an informed conscience and read scripture in light of their conscience. No Christian believes that the church is authorized to reject the teachings of scripture and none believe their church's teachings are contrary to scripture.

The nature of Revelation? Who is right about Sola Scriptura, if it is taken to mean that Scripture is the only source of extra-biblical authority? Is sola scriptura relative?

The question doesn't make sense to me. I'm not sure how can scripture be a sourceof extra-biblical authority.

Most think the canon is closed. But if most start to think the canon is open, then it is open, if I understand correctly. You look to the collection of self-identified Christians *in your group* for authoritative answers, but if that consensus changes with respect to its truth claims about a great deal of this, that is ok on your view of things. Perhaps about 5-10 truth claims have to stay the same, on your view, but the rest of the answers are relative and can change dramatically. Is that how I am to understand you?

Yep.

I suspect that you might say that according to your view, if there is not an overwhelming consensus on x, then x is open to a variety of possibilities.

Yep.

Interesting discussion, by the way. I appreciate your time and efforts.

Same here. Very good discussion.

I am back to work this weekend and may just let you have the last word given the circumstances with work and the nature of our discussion on someone else's blog.

Well it is not like this isn't the topic of the blog.

I guess I would close with this. I don't and I'm not seeing many Protestants who find the keys argument compelling. Ultimately the historical case is rather weak. Moreover even if keys argument is correct the core argument is whether the church can err. It was here that Luther in arguing that Hus should not have been burned argued the church can err.

A Protestant can believe in the whole apostolic succession in a very literal sense and still believe the Catholic church is either not the current church or that it is in error. I think the issue of error needs to be dealt with genuinely.

I personally think this discussion of the fathers and discussion of the keys misses the crucial question. So let me ask you a question. Assume I believed that Christ gave Peter the keys. How does that legitimize building a church via. the use of state terror?