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

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Dodos, Passenger Pigeons, Schisms



In a benighted time long, long ago, in a Church history far, far away, there were schisms. Then, a little less than five hundred years ago, schisms became extinct. All schisms turned into branches, all sects into denominations, all factions into traditions, all divisions into diversity, all heresies into adiaphora. All was brought into unity, simply by redefining the terms.

Whereas before, the word 'Church' meant the Catholic Church in union with the successor of the Apostle Peter to whom Christ gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the term 'Church' was redefined to refer to an invisible entity into which all believers are perfectly joined no matter to which visible institution (if any) they presently belong. This redefinition eliminates the very possibility of schism. So the term 'schism' is rarely used now, and when it is used, its new definition refers only to a divide within a congregation. And if the congregational divide becomes permanent, then it ceases to be a schism and automatically becomes a branch, enhancing the magnificent diversity of the new invisible entity known as the 'Church'. While Scripture forbids schism, our redefinitions have made these Scriptural prohibitions moot, especially since we can just allow our congregational splits to turn into delightful branches.

Of course we Christians disagree about all kinds of theological claims; about the only thing we all agree on is "Jesus". But that's all St. Paul had in mind when he said that there is "one faith". (Ephesians 4:5) And it is true that Protestants cannot receive the Eucharist in Catholic or Orthodox Churches, and Orthodox and Catholics cannot receive communion in Protestant services. But that's no worry, because we're still one as an *invisible Body*, at least in a mystical sense. That's all that St. Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 10:17. And it is true that we're divided into myriads of distinct and autonomous religious institutions, most all of them founded in the last five-hundred years. But true unity has nothing to do with matter and the visible. True unity is spiritual. Regardless of how divided we are in the physical and material world, we're all truly one in the spiritual world, because we're all perfectly joined to that invisible Body of Christ, which is spiritual, not material. That's all St. Paul meant in speaking of the Church as the "Body of Christ" in Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, and Ephesians 3:5, 4:4, 5:23. That the Church is an invisible entity, not a visible, hierarchically organized material body, was part of the enlightenment revealed to us by Martin Luther.

Peacemakers, go home. There is no need for you and your old-fashioned sectarianism. We already have peace and true unity.

48 comments:

George Weis said...

Ouch!

and the hammer continues to fall.

You are a tough one Brian. You have your angle nailed down... ok, enough with the hammer symbolism!

Thanks again. Always interesting and always challenging. I sense a little fire in these words ;)

Blesings on you, and thanks for stopping by my site too!

-g-

mel said...

I was going to do just that - not reply - but I've been thinking about this all day. If you visited the PCA or my ARP church, you'd be welcome at the Communion Table. It's an RC rule you've put yourself under that prohibits you from partaking with our congregation (= one small part of the universal Body). I can't, however, partake at the Table in your congregation even if I wanted to. There are the RC rules. I don't believe those rules are from God but from man. And that's among the many reasons I'm not a Catholic. I need to reread your conversion story to see what led you down the road to Rome in the first place. And I guess my heels are digging in as I agree more and more with a spiritual unity. That's not a less-than unity from your desired physical unity. The Holy Spirit is just as much God as Jesus is, so why is spiritual unity not an option for RC?

That's all for today. I have more to read and pray about....

And I wish you peace.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Wow, you're in rare form today! It makes perfect sense. Why stop at redefining schism and Church? Lets redefine the sacraments and when life begins. Pretty soon, God's going to have a tough time finding us guilty of any sin since we've redefined them all.

Principium unitatis said...

Mel,

The Holy Spirit is just as much God as Jesus is, so why is spiritual unity not an option for RC?

It is all there in the links in the post.

It all goes back to the incarnation. If we don't know what man is, then we won't understand the incarnation. The Church is not the "Body of the Holy Spirit", but the Body of the incarnate Christ. Bodies are not invisible; they are visible, and they are hierarchically organized. It is all explained in the links in the post.

As for why Catholics cannot partake at Protestant communion, that's because it has always been the Church's position that a valid Eucharist requires apostolic succession. But the Protestants did not preserve apostolic succession. Therefore, the Catholic Church (and the Orthodox Churches) believes that Protestant communion is not a valid Eucharist. For a Catholic to partake would be to imply (falsely) both that the Protestant communion is a valid Eucharist and that Protestants are in communion with us. See Responsa ad quaestiones and the accompanying commentary on it.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Jason Stellman said...

Bryan,

I'm curious what you would make of this quotation from Tertullian:

"But what if a bishop, if a deacon, if a widow, if a virgin, if a doctor, if even a martyr, have fallen from the rule of faith, will heresies on that account appear to possess the truth? Do we prove the faith by the persons, or the persons by the faith?...For their very doctrine, after comparison with that of the apostles, will declare, by its own diversity and contrariety, that it had for its author neither an apostle nor an apostolic man; because, as the apostles would never have taught things which were self-contradictory, so the apostolic men would not have inculcated teaching different from the apostles, unless they who received their instruction from the apostles went and preached in a contrary manner. To this test, therefore will they be submitted for proof by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine." (The Prescription Against Heretics, 3, 32)

Rob said...

Bryan

Good post and I must agree with Tim rare form for you indeed. I had to read it 4 times and then scroll up and make sure I was not on someone else’s blog. I hope dealing with the confused souls on Jason’s blog is not adversely effecting you.

Keeping you in my prayers
Peace be to ya
Rob

Kim said...

Bryan, I don't think I've ever seen you so feisty! Does this have to do with the combox convo in your post on Justification and Monocausalism? I've been following (or trying to anyway) that convo in my email.

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

Honestly, I don't see what this post contributes toward the goal of "the reunion of all Christians." It offers no new substance. It only stirs up the pot.

Mel, whose church is very similar to mine, put it correctly. The obex to eucharistic fellowship is on your side. I have no objection in principle to communicating at the Lord's Table with our Roman Catholic brethren in Christ.

I hope you will seriously engage my response to your ecclesiology. A resort to sarcasm isn't called for unless you have as much reason to be confident of vindication as Elijah had before the prophets of Baal.

I will continue praying for you.

God bless,

John

Principium unitatis said...

Just a point of clarification, lest my 'feistiness' by misunderstood. I don't write all most posts in the same mode. Some are prayers. Some are arguments. Some are discussions. Some are reflections. Some are lamentations. Some are meditations. Some are explanations. This particular post is unusual in that I'm adopting another character as an author. That might not be obvious, but if you know me (and my regular readers do by now), then it will be obvious that I've adopted a character. The post is multilayered. The layer that you see if you don't click on any links is the adopted character. The layer you see if you click on all the links, is my own position. The two layers are at odds, and this sets up the irony that I was trying to communicate. The notion of telling a peacemaker to go home is by its very nature indicative of the need for the peacemaker.

I hope that clarifies. (Jason, I'll reply to your comment in just a bit.)

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

My disappointment in this post owes not to a misunderstanding of the irony. It owes to this irony being uncalled for.

John

Principium unitatis said...

Hello Jason,

Thanks for the question. First, notice that this is not actually a unified quotation. This is two sentences taken from chapter 3, which are then made to seem as if continuous with a selection from chapter 32. Both have to be taken in the context of the work as a whole.

Yes, the person is proved by the faith, according to the quotation from chapter 3. But, that just backs up the question. How do we know what is the true faith? And *that* is precisely the question that Tertullian is answering in this work. We find his answer specifically in chapters 20-22, 30 and 32. We know what is the apostolic faith not by debating from the Scriptures with the heretics (see chapters 15-19), but by looking to the apostolic Churches (i.e. the ones founded by the apostles) [cf. chapters 20-22, 30,32].

Regarding the second quotation, from chapter 32, in that chapter he gives two tests. The first test is apostolic succession. "Let them unfold the roll of their bishops ...". The second test is to compare the proposed doctrine to that of the apostolic churches, and those churches which are [in doctrine] no less apostolic, i.e. hold the same doctrine as that taught by the apostolic churches. He has already explained (in chapter 20) the relation of these churches that are (according to the time of their founding) post-apostolic, but in another sense they are "no less apostolic" because of their agreement with the doctrine of the apostolic churches. It would be a mistake, in my opinion, to try to understand this doctrinal test apart from the first test given in this chapter (i.e. chapter 32). The doctrinal test is only possible in light of the first test; that's what allows there to be a universal rule of faith in the Church (as he describes in chapter 28). If we tried to understand the second test (in chapter 32) apart from the first test, this would make Tertullian out to be contradicting what he said in chapters 15-19.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Thos said...

My PCA church 'fences' the Lord's Supper table in a way that arguably excludes Catholics from participation. We exclude "the ignorant and scandalous" (BOCO 58-1), which many would believe includes "Papists". Our ministers invite all "who profess the true religion, and are communicants in good standing in any evangelical church" (BOCO 58-4). If Catholicism embodies the true religion, we (the PCA) have problems, so I assume that the PCA excludes Catholics from the group of those professing the "true religion". Further, most would consider Catholicism to be other than an "evangelical church" as that term is used by American evangelicals. So I respectfully disagree with Mel's conclusions on open communion and the PCA.

Interestingly, Bryan and I would both be excluded from communion at a Lutheran LCMS church, our own ecclesial bodies' prohibitions aside.

But I also know that my pastor would not refuse the elements to someone he excommunicated that very week, because he believes it is on the ex-communicant's head to stay removed. So we fence, but won't actively exclude anyone. We fence with words, with moral force.

I also know a PCA member who takes communion at Catholic churches when she goes with relatives. This, she justifies, is acceptable because, their donor's scruples notwithstanding, what counts is what the underlying meaning of the elements is to her.

Alas.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Kevin Davis said...

Bryan,

Why don't you just subtitle your blog, "For the conversion of all Christians to the (Roman) Catholic Church"?

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

Welcome to my blog. Thanks for your comment. I would like to know what is your vision for full visible unity, and where, in your opinion, is the Church that Christ founded.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

Might you be getting a little ahead of yourself? Before going down this road anew, shouldn't you finish the earlier discussion of the same topics here? If you don't show yourself willing to carry a conversation through to the end, you won't be giving Mr. Davis much reason to attempt to interact with you.

In Christ,

John

Principium unitatis said...

John,

Please be patient. When I receive a 915 word comment in my combox, it goes to the back of the line.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Erick Hernandez said...

I don't agree with this at all... for one simple reason: Everytime we divide, no matter how small a matter of fact it is, the weaker we make our witness to Christ. How can people not doubt Christ when his followers can't even agree on what belief in him means??? This is the importance of a "visible" Church as the ancient churches of Catholics, Orthodox, and Orientals proclaim.

Principium unitatis said...

Erick,

Welcome to my blog, and thanks for your comment. I'm a little worried that it is not sufficiently obvious that my post is intended to be interpreted as irony. Do you think I should put an "irony alert" at the beginning of it, so as not to mislead readers into misunderstanding me?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Eric Telfer said...

It does seem that the notions of church, doctrinal error, and schism are substantive when we consider 'unity'. Whether the terms have been redefined is also important. There are certainly people who explicitly or implicitly hold to the type of position represented by this recent post, in contrast to those who do not. There are also people who hold to that position in a very forceful manner.

Indeed, some retreat to this notion of invisible unity or unity only with respect to 'Jesus' when they are being presented with the possibility of a more material, visible, sacramental, and doctrinal sort of unity. Some do this, that is, when on the defensive. Some of the same people, probably without realizing it, however, then go on the offensive and declare others to be heretical, schismatic, dis-united and, sometimes not even Christian. I have met non-Catholics who call themselves Protestants, for example, who will not submit to the authority of any particular Protestant denomination (though willing to worship with many) but think they are unified with them in some way that is many times not described. Some of the same refuse to worship with the Catholic Church and some even refuse to think of the Catholic Church as a Christian group. And so we have this invisible unity that is very vague and open on the one hand, almost allowing everything and being very open and indiscriminate, but on the other, with respect to the Catholic Church, having a strong position of exclusion. Of course this is not the position of all or necessarily anyone in this discussion, but it is the position of many. Underlying this, I think, is some notion of what unity should look like and so what doctrine should be and so on. This relies on some notion of 'church'. But it would seem that to exclude like this the notion of invisible unity would have to be given more content so that it would have the resources to exclude something heretical, doctrinally unsound, etc..

Eric

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

That would be a better explanation were it not that you have repeatedly left conversations without warning. If you plan to delay giving an answer, then it would be good to do what you did with Jason's post--don't ignore it while giving every indication of moving on to other matters--but post a note saying you will comment in a bit.

John

Kevin Davis said...

I would like to know what is your vision for full visible unity, and where, in your opinion, is the Church that Christ founded.

I simply don't put a lot of stock in "full visible unity." The Church is where the Risen Lord is proclaimed and the Holy Spirit active, in Word and Sacrament. Thus, the Church is found in a congregation of Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Evangelical Free, and so on. A "liberal" congregation which preaches not Christ for the forgiveness of sins, but a "Kingdom of God" of our own determination, is not properly a church. Thus, as we have seen, especially since the 18th century, there is an evangelical unity among disparate denominations and no denomination where Christ's vicarious atonement and his gift of freedom in the Holy Spirit is witnessed to. This is ekklesia. This is what Christ founded.

Principium unitatis said...

John,

If I have left a conversation without warning, then I am unaware of having done so, and I apologize. So far as I know, I have never done that (though it is quite likely that I have forgotten to reply to a comment in a conversation). I don't treat all comments as conversations to which I must give warning if I do not intend to write further replies. I don't believe that I have to comment on every comment that comes into my blog. So there are some (in fact many) comments to which I don't respond. Nor do I feel that I have to have the last word in an exchange. I don't think of my comboxes in that way. I think of my posts and comments as little gifts (for whatever they are worth), not as obligations. People are free to accept or reject them. And I expect my readers to recognize that I am free to reply or not to reply to comments that I receive, according to my own schedule and resources. Generally I do not "plan to delay". I plan to answer comments that I am able to answer with the time I have, according to what I judge to be the need for a reply.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

So apart from a fuller exposition of the content of faith, in what way would you consider your position different from the position spelled out in this very post?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

You have left on at least two occasions when asked to substantiate historically your claims about the papacy:

See the discussion in "Corpus Christi and Ecclesial Docetism", which carried over into "Schism from a Gnostic Point of View." It was there that I explicitly pointed out to you how misleading your appeal to Tertullian was. You neither defended your presentation of Tertullian nor did you correct it on your page of selections from the fathers. You simply let the topic drop, and when a week later I attempted to get some kind of answer in the comments to "The Fathers Gave Rome the Primacy," you still did not engage Schatz's work on the history of the papal primacy. By then you were too busy.

At Conscious Faith, where Kepha and I blog, I directly asked you in "Many Parts, One Body" about the history of the papacy, and you completely ignored my question. Kepha complained about this in one of his comments, but then you just stopped commenting.

As I told you last night, these are serious topics, and if you will keep going around the internet challenging and upsetting people about them, I hope you will at least see your argument through to its conclusion.

In Christ,

John

Kevin Davis said...

Bryan,

Well, I don't put a lot of stock in the idea of an "invisible church" either. The Church is visible -- it proclaims, it worships, it prays, and so on -- in short, it is the herald of the Gospel. This is obvious from scripture. There is, to be sure, those who are "saved," the true disciples of Christ, and those who are not, but to call the former the "invisible church" as if it is the "more true" or "more real" church is nonsense. They are two separate, different "things" -- to predicate "church" of both is a categorical mistake. The Church as visible is necessary because it is given the necessary task of heralding the Gospel. The "saved" are just that, the saved, and I leave it at that.

You attack the Protestant position as if it denies the visible Church in favor of an invisible Church. But, as Protestants have long pointed out, this is nonsense and a caricature of the Protestant position. Protestants deny that the Church is an object of faith the way Catholics believe it is, but they do not deny the necessity of the visible Church and the holy task to which the Church is appointed. The whole point of the Reformation was to reform the visible Church precisely because it is visible, commissioned by Christ.

Principium unitatis said...

John,

I saw no need to respond to your last comment in the Corpus Christi thread, and the same is true of the "Schism from a Gnostic point of view" thread. You expressed your opinion; I read it, and took note of it. But I didn't see any question from you, or alleged refutation of some claim I had made.

As for my Tertullian quotation, I simply don't agree with your interpretation. Tertullian says similar things (about the primacy of Peter) in his earlier period. It seems to me, given the nature of sarcasm, that it only works if there is at least some truth to it. That's why, in my opinion, Tertullian's comment, even if sarcastic, only works if it was quite universally well-known that the bishop of Rome did have the primacy. Just because you state your disagreement with me, doesn't mean that you have shown me to be in error, or that I'm obliged to retract my claim or remove this Tertullian quotation from my list of selections from the fathers.

It is true that I haven't engaged Schatz's work. But that's not on account of rudeness on my part. I simply haven't had time.

At Conscious Faith, where Kepha and I blog, I directly asked you in "Many Parts, One Body" about the history of the papacy, and you completely ignored my question. Kepha complained about this in one of his comments, but then you just stopped commenting.

I generally don't visit that blog. I have it on my reader, so that when a new post comes in, I sometimes offer a comment. But I usually don't check back for follow-up comments. And regarding your question regarding the history of the papacy, one of the rules of rational discourse (as opposed to sophistry) is to focus on one question at a time, so as to avoid shotgun style exchanges. There was a different question on the table when you asked your question, and it was directed at Kepha. That is why I didn't answer your question then.

As I told you last night, these are serious topics,

Indeed. If I'm wrong, then I'm trying to get people into a visible unity that Christ did not found. But if you're wrong, then you're leading people to remain in schism from the Church Christ did found.

and if you will keep going around the internet challenging and upsetting people about them, I hope you will at least see your argument through to its conclusion.

As a philosopher, I wouldn't even know how to construct an argument without a conclusion. For me that would be like trying to construct a square without a fourth side. :-) But if anything I have said is false, please feel free to refute it.

This kind of self-defense is not something I wish to do on my blog. I wish to talk about the things that divide us. I ask all who contribute here not to engage in ad hominems. And that includes ad hominems directed at me, my character, my motives, my charity, my intellectual integrity and sincerity, etc. My point in asking that is to create a context and tone in which people feel comfortable to state and defend their opinions and positions, while willing to have their positions criticized, but knowing that this is a context in which they themselves won't be attacked or insulted. That security is essential, in my opinion, for a fruitful ecumenical dialogue. I hope you will respect that request in your interaction with me.

Thanks John.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

John,

One more thing. If what I am saying is *true*, then it is good that is "upsetting" some people. Whether or not an activity "upsets" some people tells us nothing about whether the activity is good or bad.

As a philosopher, I do not evaluate the worth of activities by whether or to what degree they do or do not "upset" people. Socrates upset a lot of people, and they killed him for it. The same can be said for Jesus. And MLK. What matters to me is the truth, not whether it upsets people. So, if anything I have said is false, please feel free to refute it.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

I wrote "The Church: Catholic or Invisible?" to show that the Protestant claim to believe in a visible Church is refuted by the principle of parsimony, because it is indistinguishable from a position which denies that there is a visible Church but affirms that some believers are visible.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Iohannes said...

Mr. Cross,

I make mistakes sometimes, and I apologize if I have conducted myself improperly. With that said, having presented my thoughts, I think it best to allow the candid reader to decide between us.

You may have the last word. Should you extend the little gift of a reply, I will be providing a fresh link for visitors at Conscious Faith to read this page. I will not, however, be posting a response.

It would be remiss to go without saying this:

I thank you for what interaction you have offered, and I hope you will think seriously about what I have told you. I believe you to be intelligent, and I do not question your Christian profession. I do, however, sincerely believe that you are wasting your time and your talents on internet activities that neither honor Christ nor serve to advance the reunion of all Christians. Zeal is of little value if it is misdirected. There are decent arguments for Roman Catholicism, but I have not seen you make them. To me you look like someone who has been too long caught up in the world of the popular apologetics movement. That's not the real world, and I think a break from blogging might help you to grow more in the faith.

God bless,

John

Principium unitatis said...

John,

As I said just above, ad hominems are not permitted here. Feel free to criticize my positions and my claims and arguments. But criticizing my level of knowledge (or anyone else's) is an ad hominem, and I simply won't allow it here. I spelled this out carefully last year here.

Those are the rules here. If you want to post here, please abide by them.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Kim said...

I beg to differ with the last commenter about what you do here, Bryan. I have benefited greatly.

The arrogance of many of the Reformed bloggers I've read for the last 3+ years is more than I can stomach anymore.

Principium unitatis said...

Kim,

I appreciate your encouragement. (I really do.) But may I ask you not to say here (on my blog) anything critical of Reformed bloggers. We all have character deficiencies, and we should all pray for each other, that we will grow in patience and love. The only way, I believe, to overcome our schisms is through love -- the real kind, the kind that willingly suffers for the sake of the beloved, endures all things, believes all things, never fails, that sort of love. (I'm going to be posting something on that later this week.)

I think we can be encouraged that the Holy Spirit will not fail to work through love, to bring about true peace and reconciliation. Lord, may it be so.

Thanks Kim, for your grateful and open heart.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Kevin Davis said...

Bryan,

I just read your piece. The problem is that a "visible church" has to be how you (and fellow Catholics) define it, so the way Protestants define it is thus not credible. However, Protestants do not believe there is a single, formal Church that is specially-protected, infallible in dogma, properly sacramental, and so on. Instead, they can say that the Church exists where the Gospel of Christ is proclaimed, through Word and Sacrament. With this more minimalist definition of the Church, they can affirm its existence in multiple denominations and churches with no denomination. This is a notion of the Church that is visible, whether you like it or not. Just because it is not your idea of the visible Church, does not make this idea of the Church any less a visible entity.

The problem is that you believe there must be a visible Church that is an object of faith. Protestants instead deny that any Church can claim the assent of faith, because every instantiation of the Church is subject to error, dogmatic and otherwise. I respect your position, but, please, at least give Protestants the respect their position deserves.

Kim said...

Sorry Bryan. I just get fed up with the attitude I see in them that I can't help saying something. I am not helping things when my comments lack love as well. Love wins over far more people than "being right". Your graciousness has meant a lot to me. May I be so gracious. And maybe it is I who need the break. I'm pretty weary right now.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

What I have offered is a deductive argument (actually two deductive arguments). The only two ways to refute a deductive argument are to falsify one or more premises, or to show that the conclusion does not follow from the premises. Here's the argument.

(A) There is a visible Church. (Assumption to be tested)

(1) If ~A (i.e. if there were no visible Church, but only visible Christians in various institutions), there would be no visible difference.

(2) When a visible thing is removed or added, there is a visible difference.

(3) Therefore ~A. [from (1) and (2)]

(4) The simpler position is preferred, ceteris paribus. (Principle of parsimony)

(5) Therefore, ~A. [from (1) and (4)]

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Kevin Davis said...

I sincerely propose that you drop the syllogisms until you are willing to understand the terms in a debate. I have 24 credit hours of philosophy under my belt, not counting philosophy of religion. And I just finished a master's dissertation on Newman's epistemology, arguing, coincidentally, how syllogisms cannot get you very far in a realist metaphysics. So, I'm aware of what a deductive argument is. But, an argument is only as good as the terms which make-up the variables. Hence, I attacked your definition of "visible church." Your argument only works with your definition, not the Protestant definition. In fact, your argument is simply your way of defining "visible church."

Once again, a Church is where the Gospel is proclaimed, in Word and Sacrament. When the Protestants go home, does the Church exist? I don't care. I'll say, "Nope, it doesn't exist, and when they come back on Wednesday or Sunday, then it exists again." What do I care? It simply doesn't matter, as long as the only thing we're talking about is visible, which it is. Maybe I need to be more explicit: I do not care whatsoever about an "invisible church." In fact, whether there are any Christians ("saved") at all in a particular church does not negate it being part of the visible church as long as the Gospel is proclaimed. I have a totally objective view of the church. It is upon the confession of Christ as Lord and Savior, and those who proclaim it, that the church is founded.

This is all a silly debate, anyway. The real objection to Protestantism from Catholics is not that they don't believe in a visible church, it's that they don't believe in the visible church -- they do not put their faith in any church at all.

Erick Hernandez said...

This post is for everyone who has disagreed with the "visible" Church doctrine.

The reason that "visible" Church in the Catholic (even Orthodox) sense is important is because it solidifies true belief. Here's an easy example: the Anglican communion is pro-choice while the ancient Churches are pro-life. How does that mesh as belief in Christ??? Who is correct??? Since both sides claim legitimacy, imagine the confusion of a person looking for Christ. Division in the way Protestants have practiced Christianity for 500 years is a weakening of Christian witness.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

Notice that nothing you said pointed out which premise is false [even with a Protestant conception of 'visible Church'] and why, or how the conclusion does not follow from the premises.

Therefore the argument remains unrefuted. Comments such as "until you are willing to understand the terms in a debate" are ad hominems.

Merely asserting that the entity you believe in is visible doesn't make the entity you believe in visible, anymore than the man who asserts that the numbers he believes in are visible makes numbers visible. It is merely a table-pounding assertion. I could just table-pound the opposite position. And that wouldn't get us any closer to knowing which claim was true, yours or mine. But if you refute my argument, we'll have less reason to believe the conclusion of my argument.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

Erick,

I definitely agree that our division weakens our Christian witness, and that pursuing full visible unity is essential. Thanks for your comments.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Kevin Davis said...

Wow! I give up. My whole point is that I define "visible" differently from you. You sound like a kid who just finished his Logic 1101 course and is amazed at how he can throw around fallacy latinisms. Now, that was an ad hominem.

Joseph said...

I have 24 credit hours of philosophy under my belt, not counting philosophy of religion.

I have a Business degree and a minor in Business Computer Systems, but, I can tell you with absolute confidence, that I've had alot to learn in the real world. The degree and that classes I took got my foot in the door. It wasn't long before I was humbled. I don't think I would ever say, "I took 18 hours of Systems Analysis in one semester and got a 'A', so you'd better realize that I have authority in it" to anyone in my field, let alone a professor.

Just some thoughts.

Kevin Davis said...

Joseph,

I agree. I don't think having a degree in something de facto necessitates oneself as an authority. However, it does make a difference in a discussion whether you are talking with someone who has no training in philosophy and someone who has quite a bit. I know fully well how syllogisms rarely fail due to a formal fallacy but, instead, due to a material fallacy. It is with the latter -- the terms used, how they are defined, in what context, and with what limits -- that arguments find their legitimacy.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

My whole point is that I define "visible" differently from you.

So, in one sentence, what is your definition of 'visible'?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Andrew Preslar said...

I am pleased to find you waxing rhetorical in this post. I could almost wish that you would follow suit in the combox.

In your syllogism, shouldn't the conclusion (3) be A, that is ~ (~A), since there is a visible difference (per (2), implied)?

Or am I misreading the argument?

Principium unitatis said...

Thanks for your comment Andrew. You wrote:

In your syllogism, shouldn't the conclusion (3) be A, that is ~ (~A), since there is a visible difference (per (2), implied)?

In (1) the statement is that if there were no visible Church, there would be no visible difference. Visibly, everything would be exactly the same as it is now. In (2), the statement is that visible things are by their nature the sort of things that, when added or removed, there is a visible difference. So it follows from that there is no visible Church, because if there were a visible Church now, then the removal of the visible Church would make a visible difference. Perhaps a better way to word the first argument would be like this:

(A) There is a visible Church. (Assumption to be tested)

(1') If A, then the removal of the visible Church would make a visible difference.

(2') The removal of the visible Church would not make a visible difference.

(3') Therefore, ~A. [from (1') and (2'), by modus tollens.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Andrew Preslar said...

Thanks for the clarification. I re-read the original in light of the preceding comments and it made more sense.

Kevin Davis said...

Visible church = Bob, Sam, and Joan congregating together in proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, through ministry of the Word (preaching, bible reading, hymns, etc.) and Sacrament (at certain times and when required, e.g., baptism for a convert). When Bob, Sam, and Joan commit themselves to this task of proclamation, they constitute part of the visible church.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

Consider the following dialogue. One of the participants is a Protestant who claims that there is a visible Church. Call him VC-guy. The other is a Protestant who denies that there is a visible Church. Call him VC-denier.

The following dialogue ensues:

VC-denier: "There are Christians who get together and proclaim the Word and celebrate the Sacraments. And there are various denominations of which most of them are a part."

VC-guy: "Wait, you left out something else that is also there, i.e. the visible Church."

VC-denier: "I don't see any visible Church. I see only the things I listed."

VC-guy: "All the things you listed constitute the visible Church"

VC-denier: "What if it didn't exist?"

VC-guy: "What do you mean?"

VC-denier: "I mean, what would be different if there were no visible Church?"

VC-guy: "There wouldn't be people congregating together to proclaim the Word and celebrate the Sacraments."

VC-denier: "No, you're not following me. I mean, what if there were only people congregating together to proclaim the Word and celebrate the Sacraments, and not some additional entity called the visible Church? What would be different?"

VC-guy: "Well, nothing, but that's impossible, because wherever there are people congregating to pro-"

VC-denier: "I know, I know, wherever people are doing those things, by definition that is the visible Church".

VC-guy: "Right"

VC-denier: "But what if there wasn't actually another entity, i.e. a visible Church, but only a term [i.e. 'visible Church'] that was being used to refer to the plurality of persons doing these activities? What would be different?"

VC-guy: "I don't know. Nothing I guess."

VC-denier: "Have you ever heard of the principle of parsimony?"

VC-guy: "No, what is it?"

VC-denier: "It is the principle that the simpler explanation is to be preferred, all things being equal."

VC-guy: "Ok, how does that apply here?"

VC-denier: "Well, we can explain the same data equally well in two ways, one by positing another entity "the visible Church", and one without positing an additional entity."

VC-guy: "Ok, so what?"

VC-denier: "Therefore, by the principle of parsimony, the explanation that does not posit an additional entity is preferred, because positing the additional entity is entirely unnecessary."

VC-guy: "So according to your argument, there isn't actually a visible Church. Rather, what exists are visible persons who are proclaiming the Word and celebrating the Sacraments. We can give those persons a collective label (of any sort), but we shouldn't make the mistake of treating the label as referring to a single unified entity constituted by those persons."

VC-denier: "Exactly."

VC-guy: "So really, there is no visible Church; there are visible people engaged in meeting to proclaim the Word and celebrate the Sacraments, but not another entity 'the visible Church'."

VC-denier: "Yep."

VC-guy: "Thanks, that was helpful. I guess I'm also a visible Church denier, strictly speaking."

VC-denier: "That's what I have been trying to tell you."


The point of the dialogue is to show how VC-guy's position falls prey to the principle of parsimony. The application of the principle of parsimony shows how he has committed the fallacy of "misplaced concreteness".

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan