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

Sunday, September 7, 2008

How would Protestants know when to come back?



How would Protestants know when to come back to the Catholic Church? This question came to mind when reading the 1994 document "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" and the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" worked out by Lutherans and Catholics in 1999. The question resurfaced when reflecting on Mark Noll's book Is the Reformation Over?, published in 2005. (See his interview here.)

The second question that came to my mind was about memory. Is there in Protestantism enough of a collective memory of the sixteenth century separation from the Catholic Church to be aware that should certain conditions be attained within the Catholic Church, conditions that were allegedly lacking so as to justify the separation, Protestants should seek to be rejoined to her in full communion?

The second question concerns me more than the first. Over a long period of time it is easy to forget our history, and thereby come to accept a state of schism as normal, ordinary, and acceptable. If the memory of the separation is lost, then the first question will not even be asked, and thus the desire to be reunited will be absent. Without memory of the separation, the separated state becomes the accepted, comfortable and presumed permanent state. When the very conception of visible unity is lost from memory, mere 'invisible unity' takes its place by default as the unity to which Christ calls His followers.

Any thoughts on these two questions?

44 comments:

Thos said...

Dear Bryan,

"...to be aware that should certain conditions be attained within the Catholic Church, conditions that were allegedly lacking so as to justify the separation..."

I regret that I am running out of time this morning, and failed to find some things in Calvin's Institutes I was seeking. Let me give what I think he says, and please correct me if I'm mistaken.

I do not believe that Reformed Christians are waiting for certain conditions to right themselves within Catholicism before we reunite. I understand that to be more the Lutheran position, that schism was justified for a time until Catholicism's 'errors' are amended. Calvinism, on the other hand, declares (and evidence of this assertion of mine is what I was looking for) that the Catholic Church became completely apostate, as to be no (visible) church at all (because it lacked the two signs of the visible church: preaching and 'rightly ordered' sacraments).

And this relates to your previous post too. Does the Calvinist have to have a problem saying we and you are in schism ('split')? We're in schism. But we say something like the upper trunk of the tree was rotten and dead, so we had to graft a branch down to a lower part (ancient part) of the tree, back to where it held the two marks of church (word & sacrament).

The difference between what I think is the Calvinist and the Lutheran positions vis-a-vis reunification? I think the Lutherans theoretically would rejoin the visible institution of Catholicism if it amended to their tastes, whereas the Calvinists would see no need for that -- let the Catholics join us when they get their act together (so to speak).

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Jeffrey G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Iohannes said...

Bryan,

I don't want to open another front in the conversation, but I think you are exactly right on this point:

Over a long period of time it is easy to forget our history, and thereby come to accept a state of schism as normal, ordinary, and acceptable.

That is what happened early on in American Protestantism. There were attempts in the 19th century to form a united church. The most notable was the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. The presbyterians at first took the proposal seriously. Unfortunately, the American episcopalians, who in time became more Anglo-Catholic than their brethren in England, treated the presbyterians in a way reminiscent of how Rome treats episcopalians. But now that Bishop Lightfoot's understanding of episcopacy has gained wide acceptance, it seems to me at least a bit silly that there are so few efforts to bring together orthodox episcopalians and presbyterians and other traditional protestants in a single church.

Anyhow, if you ever find time, you might like taking a look at the conclusion of this book:

For the Union of Evangelical Christendom: The Irony of the Reformed Episcopalians (By Allen C. Guelzo)

God bless,

John

George Weis said...

Brian,

As you are well aware, the flair of the Reformation lives in churches like the PCA. So, as for the first question, we know that it is certainly true, that certain changes would still be asked for before even the slightest consideration would be made. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Knox and the like are heros in that camp.

The second question falls more closely to where I was raised. In the Bible Christian camp the idea of the "invisible church" is so accepted, and the issues of the Reformation so settled (and even further developments overlapped) that the idea of a visible unity isn't even top of mind. Safe to say it is a low man on the totem pole.

Once an investigation is taken place though, I will be the first to admit, that one is met with major challenges and questions that beg answer. That is where I am.

The biggest questions I have now to people in my "current camp" -- How do we explain away the understanding of those early Christians who "smell more Catholic"? How can we say that immediately upon the death of John the entire church went haywire in regards to structure, sacraments and so on? How is it that we hold that Christianity in large wasn't made right (or at least partially) until the Reformation? What's more, is that "Biblicists" have gone even further, maintaining that they "Adhere strictly to scripture" throwing off all things historical.

I need those questions to be answered, as they cause a lot of issues for me.

Thanks for the questions Brian!

Blessings to you!

-g-

Iohannes said...

Dear Tom,

Do you belong to the PCA or another denomination with its roots in Southern Presbyterianism?

The reason I ask is that what you describe as the Calvinist attitude toward Rome looks like a view that has its origins primarily with Thornwell and 19th century American Presbyterianism.

I would recommend taking a look at Charles Hodge's essay on "Is the Church of Rome A Part of the Visible Church?"

God bless,

John

J.M.W. said...

If Rome renounced idolatry in bowing to statues, praying to saints and Mary, etc. Which is probably to say, never.

Principium unitatis said...

Gentlemen,

Thanks for your comments.

Some Protestants claim that they were 'kicked out' of the Catholic Church. Other Protestants say that they (themselves) *are* the continuation of the Catholic Church. Those who claim to be the continuation of the Catholic Church would not see any need to 'come back' to the [Roman] Catholic Church, no matter what conditions were met. Rome, they would say, should come back to us.

Those Protestants who think of themselves as having been 'kicked out' of the Catholic Church, however, seem to be more likely to perceive of the possibility of 'returning', at least given that the Catholic Church meets certain conditions. For these Protestants, would the Catholic Church have to become just like their present denomination, in order for them to come back? Or is it only a few big sticky issues that are holding back? The prospect of each Protestant denomination putting forth a list of distinct and unique demands in order to be reconciled with the Catholic Church, doesn't sound very hopeful; it would be impossible for the Catholic Church to conform to a plurality of incompatible positions. However, such actions, on the part of Protestants, would at least show a recognition of the nature of the separation (Protestants separated from the Catholic Church), and thus an awareness of the way by which to restore unity (through a kind of reversal of the separation). If the Church is an organic entity (i.e. a Body) then reunion has to take place by a return to the Body from which the schismatic group separated. So that means determining which is the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church".

Last year I considered (here) what seem to me to be the only four (logically) possible ways of reuniting Protestants and Catholics. The idea was to sketch out the 'logical space' for reconciliation, as a logical starting point. We can all agree, was the idea, that these are the four possible ways of uniting. Then, we go forward from there. :-)

Thanks for your comments. I'm trying to get a feel for how Protestants think about reunion with the Catholic Church, and your comments are very helpful in that respect.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

JMW,

What do you think of Catholic explanations of the use of images, such as this?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

J.M.W. said...

I don't find it very compelling. To me, this is *the* issue separating Rome and Protestants, and always has been, although many Prots don't realize it today. Just read the Reformers on it. I'd suggest reading the series of articles starting here:
http://www.biblicalhorizons.com/rite-reasons/no-58-the-second-word-v-on-images-and-art-part-2/
I've also blogged about it quite a bit. See here:
http://livingtext.wordpress.com/page/2/?s=image

Principium unitatis said...

Joel,

Thanks for the link to your blog. (I couldn't get the biblical horizons link to work.)

What I'm looking for is "the use of images or icons in Christianity is [wrong in principle] because _______.", and the Catholic and Orthodox explanation of the justification of the use of such images is wrong because ________."

Replies like "I'm not convinced" or "I don't find it compelling" are not enough, in my opinion, to stand up to an Ecumenical Council, as I argued in here.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Thos said...

Johannes,

Interesting (genuinely) to have my Reformed views analyzed. I am a PCA member, but probably more relevant to understanding my understanding of Calvinism and the Reformation is the fact that I was raised in the CRC, from an era *just* before that denomination stopped being quite so staunch in Dutch 5-point, no-holds-barred Calvinism. My own reading of the Institutes leads me to believe that my understanding of the Reformation is not a product of 19th-century thought, but I don't dismiss the possibility that I read Calvin tainted by preconceptions.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Josh S said...

The second question that came to my mind was about memory. Is there in Protestantism enough of a collective memory of the sixteenth century separation from the Catholic Church to be aware that should certain conditions be attained within the Catholic Church, conditions that were allegedly lacking so as to justify the separation, Protestants should seek to be rejoined to her in full communion?

Yes, we do. The Lutheran conditions are simple:

1. End the sacrifice of the Mass.
2. End the issuance of indulgences.
3. Affirm justification by faith alone, which means no longer teaching the meritoriousness of good works.
4. End the pope's claim that he possesses absolute authority over the entire Church by divine right.
5. Stop teaching as necessary for salvation and/or church fellowship doctrines that are not taught in Scripture.

Confessional Lutherans have a long memory, as our Book of Concord consists almost entirely of Reformation-era confessions. Basically, you'd have to repeal Trent, Vatican I, Ineffabilis Deus, and Munificentissimus Deus at a minimum.

Eric Telfer said...

What conditions would have to be met for Protestants to be united to each other? Division is not just an issue between the Catholic Church and Protestantism, but within Protestantism as well. When a Lutheran says that the Catholic Church would have to believe this and that, he is saying that the Catholic Church would have to agree with him on this and that. But why would that be the order of things? Why would it not be the other way around? Why should the Catholic Church agree with the Lutheran Church? By what authority would the Lutheran Church speak? Also, would the Lutheran Church then demand, for unity, that the Baptists, the Assembly of God, the Church of Christ, etc. also do the same, i.e., conform to the Lutheran position on certain issues? In the end, does unity with the Lutheran Church not depend on agreeing with the Lutheran Church, at least on certain things? But what authority does the Lutheran Church have over the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, the Anglican Church, the Reformed Church, the Assembly of God organization, the Baptist organization or any other church or organization. Moreover, what authority does the Lutheran Church have over me as an individual? The same type of questioning can be asked of any group.

Eric

Joseph said...

Eric,

What about the different schisms within the Lutheran communion. Seems that they'd have to clean the sheets in their own bed before they invite someone else to come lie down in it. Unless of course part of the four marks of the Church is to have a multitude of conflicting beliefs.

CD-Host said...

I think I've left this comment a 1/2 dozen times. What would be required for Protestants to come back is a change in the structure of the church such that root causes of the reformation are fixed. Protestants don't believe that Luther was incorrect in his actions. That is Protestants believe the break was justified (essentially by definition) and before there can be any meaningful unity there cannot be a theology which argues that any disagreement is heresy.

That can be accomplished either by working on or creating a new churches or by redefining unity as ecumenicalism and congregationalism.

Eric Telfer said...

Assume for the moment that there was a Church that had authority recognized by most and that most worked in the context of that authority. Now think of a person that decided to relate to that Church differently. His formula or method looked like this:

(1) Read Scripture.
(2) Interpret it.
(3) Build a theology based on the various interpretations that you have made from reading Scripture.
(4) Figure out what is essential.
(5) If the authoritative Church does not agree, break away from the authoritative Church and start your own.
(6) When discussions about reconciliation and reunion come up with respect to the authoritative Church, declare that the only way you will re-unite is if the authoritative Church comes over to your position, giving up on its position.
(7) Apply the same to anyone else who does not agree with you.

Eric

CD-Host said...

Eric --

That's a caricature for what actually happened. It is not the case that a group of people met one day read the bible and decided to start 30 years war. There were debates on the bible that had occurred for centuries. There were debates about how to reform the church and what should be the extent of the Pope's powers for centuries.

I could put together a caricature of the reformation/ Catholic church like:

1) Start claiming authority at the local level
2) Create a global infrastructure of hierarchy
3) Assert that anyone who doesn't believe in your hierarchy is an enemy of God because this hierarchy was founded by Jesus
4) Kill anyone who disagrees
5) Repeat many times for 1300 years
6) Have a group finally be able to defend themselves militarily
7) Claim that this group is somehow a unique break with the past

Josh is putting together a reasonable list. I don't happen to agree with all of it (or even most of it) but if you actually want to engage we have to stop citing fake history. #1 is a really good example where I think the Catholic is a 100x stronger than the Lutheran case, with regards to the Eucharist. This is something that can be argued based on the evidence without an appeal that some Bavarian guy is endowed the magical power of infallibility.

Eric Telfer said...

It is the case that certain men follow this method, or come very close to doing so, both with respect to the Catholic Church and any other group or organization, regardless of whether the original Reformers did, though I think they did. It is also the case that certain men have interpreted the Bible a certain way and have equated that interpretation with what is essentially the Gospel or essential to the Gospel, and then declared anyone who disagrees heretical or apostate, refusing to be in union with them. It is the case that Protestantism largely rests on this sort of method or formula for Luther did this sort of thing himself, setting an example and precedent. Luther was not part of all of those historical debates that you speak of. He was a Catholic. Most claim that he read Scripture, found something in it that had not hit him before, formulated it, realized that it was not the same as what the Catholic Church was teaching [in detail], came to think of it as essential to the Gospel, and then equated his interpretation with the Gospel. If someone wants to challenge this interpretation of Luther, we can turn to Sproul. He thinks sola fide is essential to the Gospel and that if one does not agree with sola fide one is throwing the gospel out, to the point of being heretical, if not apostate. Sproul defines the Gospel in terms of his interpretation or one that others have asserted which he then agrees with, and then uses that to define what the true church is. The true church is found where his interpretation is found. If his interpretation is not present, the true Gospel is not present and so the true Church cannot be present. If someone wants to say that this is not Sproul's position and that I have mis-interpreted him, we can note that it is a very reasonable interpretation of his position and that even if wrong with respect to Sproul, who was offered as an example, it is the position and method used by some some, if not many. It may even be the defining feature of some on this issue, where the individual is made king under Scripture, but free to determine and define what the true Gospel is so long as he is working within the context of the Bible as the authoritative, inspired text as his only source of authority. Whether we want to call this 'Protestantism' or not is another issue, one of how to label, but there is no doubt that many follow a method very much like this. Some add sola scriptura to it. Some add sola fide. Some add both. Some do not add sola fide, but add personal relationship with Christ talk, but the method, or something very much like it, is common.

Eric

Eric Telfer said...

With regard to the memory aspect mentioned in the original post, I sometimes wonder what the memory repository or bank within Protestant circles is. Is there one? Some Protestants do seem to remember the 'Reformation' times and issues, while many do not. Note that in the ECT there seems to be no mention of sola fide. Sproul is concerned about this. He thinks that those Evangelicals that signed the document are acting as though sola fide is not important, when in fact he thinks it was very important. Have they forgotten how important it was, Sproul might ask? Do they not now understand how important it is, Sproul might ask? Some Evangelicals are not even remembering sola fide. Some are re-defining it in terms of a personal relationship with Christ. Sproul would like to stop this, but what authority does Sproul have over Colson, for example? Why should we listen to Sproul over Colson, not just in terms of sola fide and how it is to be defined and subsequently fleshed out but also in terms of how much weight was, should have been and should now be be put on it? Where is the central memory bank? Is it really just that the memory bank is in the mind of each Protestant individual, and such that it can be filled, emptied, or changed however that individual likes based on the individual's own interpretation of Scripture and the subsequent theology he builds for himself?

Eric

J.M.W. said...

Here is the Biblical Horizons link again, see if it works:
http://www.biblicalhorizons.com/rite-reasons/no-58-the-second-word-v-on-images-and-art-part-2/
Before I launch into dogma, let me tell you my own story. There was a time in my life when I desperately wanted to be Catholic or Orthodox. The main stumbling block to me was and always will be what I consider idolatry. I searched and searched (in vain) for evidence of bowing to images and icon painting in the first centuries. Yes, I know about Dura, but that isn’t the same thing. When you read non-Catholic or EO historians such as Ramsay MacMullen, you see that there is no evidence for those practices. So all the apologetics of John of Damascus and others were flawed. They believed that Luke literally painted Mary, and that the practice had its roots in the Patristic era - they staked their theology on those ‘facts.’ But those aren’t ‘facts’ at all, as we know.
I would be very afraid to stand before a Holy God on the last day knowing that I had plunged my family into idolatry for generations to come only because of some sensual attraction to an institution. I would have to surrender my conscience and violate what I believe is clear in the Bible.
I see Rome and the EO as being just like Judah and Israel in this regard. Just as in Ezekiel’s day the Temple worship was totally syncretistic, we have syncretistic worship in our day. Just watch “Interview #4” on this page:
http://www.wittenbergtrail.com/page5/RomanCatholicTheology.html
The priests in Ezekiel’s day could have said, “Look, this is the way our faith has always worshiped. Aaron made a calf to Yaweh in the desert, Father Rehoboam set up statues to Yaweh in the north. We are the successors of Moses, who are you to question our centuries old tradition?”
To answer your questions:
BOWING to or PRAYING TO images or icons in Christianity is [wrong in principle] because it violates the Second Word. There is nothing wrong with images and icons. Praying to them or bowing to them is. The golden calf was an image of Yaweh after all. Our 22nd article says:
The Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshiping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.
I agree.
The Catholic and Orthodox explanation of the justification of the use of such images is wrong because councils can err, and in this case they obviously did because they contradict the Second Word regarding bowing to images. As a friend has put it:
The making of images of the saints can be part of the honored remembrance of them by which we venerate them, as making and keeping pictures of other loved ones honors them.
But such icons do not serve as "windows into heaven" and acts of special reverence towards such icons are either forbidden (e.g., bowing to them, kissing them, making them objects of religious worship, etc.) or, taken in itself, indifferent (e.g., lighting candles in front of them, sending up incense before them).
In the former case (i.e., things forbidden), idolatry is involved inasmuch as they are a violation of the Second Commandment.
In the latter case (i.e., things indifferent), it is possible that such things much be done without guilt, but since [i] we have no promises in the Gospel with regard to the saints or their images and [ii] such acts can be a stumbling block for the weak or confused, we therefore should avoid them as detrimental to faith.
The positive requirement that saints be venerated through holy images is an unlawful binding of the consciences of the faithful and contrary to the promises of the Gospel.

Principium unitatis said...

Joel,

It wouldn't concern me if a practice wasn't found explicitly in the first or second century Church, given the possibility of further development and understanding of the deposit faith, particularly regarding the implications of the incarnation. In my opinion, each of the first seven councils is a deeper unfolding of an implication of the incarnation. I've written about that here. I suspect there are lots of things you do in your denomination that weren't done by the first century Christians.

BOWING to or PRAYING TO images or icons in Christianity is [wrong in principle] because it violates the Second Word.

How so?

Our 22nd article says:

What authority do these articles have?

The Catholic and Orthodox explanation of the justification of the use of such images is wrong because councils can err

Who told you that [plenary] councils can err, or is this just your own opinion?

they contradict the Second Word regarding bowing to images

How so? If you accidentally dropped your keys in front of an image, and then bowed down to pick them up, would you have violated the Commandment? If not, why not?

As a friend has put it:

What authority does this friend have? Who authorized him/her to speak for Christ's Church?

The positive requirement that saints be venerated through holy images is an unlawful binding of the consciences of the faithful and contrary to the promises of the Gospel.

Unlawful? According to what law? Where in the Catechism or any Ecumenical Council or the code of canon law does the Catholic Church *require* us to venerate saints through images?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Thos said...

JMW,

I enjoyed reading about your own experience. It sounded like you once toed the line I presently toe.

But then I was a little surprised to read this from you, "I would be very afraid to stand before a Holy God on the last day knowing that I had plunged my family into idolatry for generations to come only because of some sensual attraction to an institution."

I agree with this statement in entirety. If I chose to become Catholic or Orthodox only because of "sensual attraction" (i.e., 'smells and bells'), that would be a bad reason to break communion with my present ecclesial body. But was it "only" "sensual attraction" that led you to toe the line? Did you spend any time considering their respective arguments about authority?

Peace in Christ,
Tom

CD-Host said...

Thos --

Honestly I have yet to hear a convincing argument for authority. Bryan did a truly excellent job outlining the argument for authority based on the early church fathers and they had very large holes. Clement being a great example his theory on an analogy that doesn't hold up at all unless writes into it many paragraphs not in the original and then one is left wondering how the analogy proves the point.

The evidence we have seems pretty consistent with the Baptist claim that among the early christian sects some favored institutional Christianity and those sects joined to form the Catholic church. The seeds of authority came from early leaders looking to extend their authority.

There is a wealth of counter evidence to the idea of a monolithic church that has existed at all times until recently. The ancient world's Christianity appears far less unified than what we have today.

Thos said...

CD-Host,

"The evidence we have seems pretty consistent with the Baptist claim that among the early christian sects some favored institutional Christianity and those sects joined to form the Catholic church. The seeds of authority came from early leaders looking to extend their authority."

This does not conform with my reading of the church fathers, but then, the claim itself attacks the veracity of those fathers, as it alleges they were power-mongers. The view presupposes a hunger for power within human nature. That would be fine with me on its own (as a presupposition), but it also seems to presupposes that the Holy Spirit was not in fact guiding the Church and preserving it from this early and serious error. What caused our windfall from the Holy Spirit 15 centuries later to bail us out from that predicament?

It's an odd way to view the Lord's work in the Church, and to view His promises in Scripture, and His own prayers for unity. This view leaves me feeling discouraged about God.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Thos said...

CD-Host,

"The evidence we have seems pretty consistent with the Baptist claim that among the early christian sects some favored institutional Christianity and those sects joined to form the Catholic church. The seeds of authority came from early leaders looking to extend their authority."

This does not conform with my reading of the church fathers, but then, the claim itself attacks the veracity of those fathers, as it alleges they were power-mongers. The view presupposes a hunger for power within human nature. That would be fine with me on its own (as a presupposition), but it also seems to presupposes that the Holy Spirit was not in fact guiding the Church and preserving it from this early and serious error. What caused our windfall from the Holy Spirit 15 centuries later to bail us out from that predicament?

It's an odd way to view the Lord's work in the Church, and to view His promises in Scripture, and His own prayers for unity. This view leaves me feeling discouraged about God.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

CD-Host said...

This does not conform with my reading of the church fathers,

I think if you read the fathers it is pretty clear there were people on the other side when they spoke of their authority. Exclusively from the fathers you can find substantial evidence for what occurred.

but then, the claim itself attacks the veracity of those fathers,

One can be devoted to the truth and still be quite wrong. The fathers are not inerrant.

but it also seems to presupposes that the Holy Spirit was not in fact guiding the Church and preserving it from this early and serious error. What caused our windfall from the Holy Spirit 15 centuries later to bail us out from that predicament?

Well to some extent the claims become much stronger. Between about 500 and 1100 there wasn't extensive violence against dissent. Variant forms of Christianity did flourish. Around 1100 there was military suppression of these variances and it took several centuries until a movement arouse which could defend itself militarily. That is for several centuries the church defended doctrine not by force of argument but by force of arms. And it worked for long while.

You can see many of the aspects of Protestantism in groups like the Beguines (I've called them proto-Protestants elsewhere). Saint Dominic acknowledged the reform movement originated with the Cathars.

For a full reformation, it took a combination of states with a higher degree of legitimacy, particularly poor church leadership and a good counter case theologically to all come together.


It's an odd way to view the Lord's work in the Church, and to view His promises in Scripture, and His own prayers for unity. This view leaves me feeling discouraged about God.

The world is fallen.

Thos said...

CD-Host,

I think your reply largely talked past the points I raised.

You said that if I read the fathers, “it is pretty clear there were people on the other side when they spoke of their authority.” I have read the fathers, or at least some of the writings of some of the fathers (I doubt many of us have read all of the writings of all of the fathers). It is not “pretty clear” to me that any of them proffered a baptistic ecclesial polity, as your prior post suggested.

You then said, “Exclusively from the fathers you can find substantial evidence for what occurred.” I’m going to need your help with this statement, because I am unable to understand the substance of what you are communicating. Of course there was evidence from our ancient sources of what occurred in ancient times, so I feel like I’m missing something here.

You took a nub of a sentence of mine, about the attack on the veracity of the fathers, and replied that one devoted to truth can also be wrong. I agree with that principle entirely. I also agree that the fathers are not inerrant, and I suggested no such thing (in my nub, or the sentence as a whole). The rest of my sentence was, “… as it alleges they were power-mongers.” There is a marked difference between saying a group lacks veracity because it is inerrant (all groups can be errant, so lack a certain quantum of veracity, barring the miraculous) and saying a group lacks veracity because their claims were tools of their power-mongering (what I meant to say). I mean to highlight to you the depth of doubt and cynicism this claim that from ~ 150 AD on, we were all gripped by power-hungry men, and not those seeking to preserve the truth of the deposit of faith (in an era before the canon was formed, and before our great Trinitarian and Christological dogmas were formulated by these same men). It calls everything into doubt.

“Well to some extent the claims become much stronger.”

What claims? I’m confused by this. You have painted a subjective picture of church history. I have to beg to differ here. I’m not a church historian, but I’m not a lay-slouch either. The Church did not have an army. The States had an Army. The interplay of the Church and various states throughout European history is a complex subject, not easily made subject to such subjective claims. I have never before heard the justificatory rationale for the Reformation being that the Reform groups had finally attained their own sufficient military might. Regardless, this all still speaks past my comments on what we make of the Holy Spirit letting the Church fall into so grave a condition as military occupation, in varying degrees, for over a millennia.

Which “aspects of Protestantism” are apparent in the Beguines? I am not familiar with these early groups.

Finally, I said of this skeptic’s view, that it makes me feel discouraged about God. Maybe I should say, at least discouraged about what He has in mind for the likes of us. Your reply was that the world is fallen. I don’t see how that helps me any – my discouragement induced by the proposition that while in our fallen state as Christians, we do not have the degree of protection (preservation) from the Holy Spirit that the New Testament texts assert on their face. It is not our fallenness that discourages me, it is the claim that we are not bolstered up in spite of our falenness, at least not enough to overcome the likes of second-century power mongers. How do I know Paul was not a giant power monger? Truth be told, under this paradigmatic approach, I do not.

From my heart,
Tom

Thos said...

I meant errant, not errant, in my fourth (and largest) paragraph. I apologize for this and the many other grammatical errors in my comment -- I should proof more carefully.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Eric Telfer said...

I think that once the Church was recognized publicly and broadly it was the case that most Christians were united not to just the message, but to the Church. Faith was not just in the message, but in the Church, which was part of the message. The message and the Church were intimately linked. To be a full Christian was to be united not just to Christ's message, but to Christ's Church.

But when there is message and a given organizational, authoritative, institutional body along with the message, there will always be some who take the message and discard the body. This will be true throughout history and I think it has been true throughout Church history.

There will also be some who discard the given body, but start their own.

There will also be some who discard the given body and redefine the original, given body in terms of what they think it should be.

Further, the body that was given by Christ was small and just a mustard seed. Much growth was to follow. But some only want the mustard seed and not the growth that followed, just as some do not mind the body so long as it is on their terms, i.e., not authoritative over and against their own authority.

It does not surprise me in the least that there was disunity amongst those who believed the same general message, at least with respect to its salvational story. For one, the early church was in a situation where the message could be trasmitted from brother to brother, cousin to cousin, neighbor to neighbor, and the rest, at least to some degree. Paul tells one person. That person tells 10 people. The message could spread rapidly and people could sort of have the message without having the body in a certain sense, just as they can now in a certain sense, by reading the Bible, by hearing the good news told to them by a friend, etc.

In fact, a person can hear about Christ and the plan of salvation without ever hearing about the organizational, heirarchical, institutional, visible body that Christ started. Or, one can hear about a redefined version of the original body and be committed to that version without knowing it. So the message can certainly get 'ahead' of a body and the body can be left behind, rejected, distorted, made secondary, etc. Indeed, there is a sense in which the message has always been 'bigger' than the body. What do I mean? I mean the message has probably always had more adherents than the body. There have probably always (or nearly always) been more followers of Christ than followers of Christ and the Church He started.

And, I would think that there was a time in history when the message was so much 'bigger' than the body in recognition that unity was a problem amongst believers, especially when the church was a mustard seed, and especially with slow, troublesome communication systems over large areas.

Eventually, recognition of the body came close to catching up to recognition of the message (or, should we say, the central aspect of the message or one aspect of the message), I think. At least it did catch up to some degree, as more and more followers of Christ were followers of the Church Christ started.

But with the so- called 'Reformation' there was a large break from the given body as men kept the message and the Bible (or portions of it) and went on to make their own organizations, claiming to have an authority of their own. Those who maintained a commitment to a good part of the message, but rejected the body increased in number, organized to some extent, and have since been dividing into fractions of their own, leaving not just a disunity between believer of the message and the original, given body that Christ started, but disunity on just about every issue between individual followers of the message (or some message that is similar to the original).

Does this mean that the original, given, authoritative, institutional, visible body was not always one and unified? Not at all. It is one, but there have always been individuals who have not been one with that original, given body, while accepting the central aspect of the message at a very general level or in a way admixed with error, either about doctrine or about their own authority with respect to doctrine, or, should we say, with respect to the original, given, visible (though small at first), authoritative, organizational body that we call the Church.

Eric

CD-Host said...

Hi Tom --

You said that if I read the fathers, “it is pretty clear there were people on the other side when they spoke of their authority.” I have read the fathers, or at least some of the writings of some of the fathers (I doubt many of us have read all of the writings of all of the fathers). It is not “pretty clear” to me that any of them proffered a baptistic ecclesial polity, as your prior post suggested.

Let me just start with the very first father from Bryan's series Clement. Here you have a group within the church that believes that the leadership is appointed by the membership and can deposed by the membership if they see fit. Which gives us an early case.

Now Clement disagrees and to defend his position he doesn't cite preexisting canon law or precedent but rather he derives his position via an analogy. I think this is clear evidence that the structure he was arguing for was not universally excepted. I could give other examples if needed assuming you agree this one provides part of the evidence needed.

You then said, “Exclusively from the fathers you can find substantial evidence for what occurred.” I’m going to need your help with this statement, because I am unable to understand the substance of what you are communicating. Of course there was evidence from our ancient sources of what occurred in ancient times, so I feel like I’m missing something here.

What occurred was that a theology of institutional structure began to emerge in the proto-Catholic church. That is one of the Christian sects started to see authority as coming from a laying on of hands from leaders to other leaders, Petrine descent, and not from the membership at all.


The rest of my sentence was, “… as it alleges they were power-mongers.” There is a marked difference between saying a group lacks veracity because it is inerrant (all groups can be errant, so lack a certain quantum of veracity, barring the miraculous) and saying a group lacks veracity because their claims were tools of their power-mongering (what I meant to say). I mean to highlight to you the depth of doubt and cynicism this claim that from ~ 150 AD on, we were all gripped by power-hungry men, and not those seeking to preserve the truth of the deposit of faith

Well hmm. First off I don't think the battle was over by 150, at that point it was just really getting going. Lets say more like 280. As for the truth being preserved I don't see any evidence reading the writing that these people are preserving a truth and not constructing a doctrine. People simply preserving cite earlier works.


What claims? I’m confused by this. You have painted a subjective picture of church history. I have to beg to differ here. I’m not a church historian, but I’m not a lay-slouch either. The Church did not have an army. The States had an Army. The interplay of the Church and various states throughout European history is a complex subject, not easily made subject to such subjective claims. I have never before heard the justificatory rationale for the Reformation being that the Reform groups had finally attained their own sufficient military might.

I wasn't justifying the Reformation. What I was saying was what made the Protestant reformation different from earlier attempts was that they were successful in not being annihilated militarily. In other words if they had lost the 30 years war Protestantism would have died the same way the Cathari faith died in the Albigensian crusade.

Regardless, this all still speaks past my comments on what we make of the Holy Spirit letting the Church fall into so grave a condition as military occupation, in varying degrees, for over a millennia.

I'm not sure what to say. Every man, every entity, is corrupted by the fall. Only God is perfect.


Which “aspects of Protestantism” are apparent in the Beguines? I am not familiar with these early groups.

1) Lay leadership
2) Laity performing priestly functions. In particular no religious vows nor chastity was required.
3) Focus on the poverty of Christ
4) Translation of the bible into the vernacular and self study of the scriptures.
5) consubstantiationist

Finally, I said of this skeptic’s view, that it makes me feel discouraged about God. Maybe I should say, at least discouraged about what He has in mind for the likes of us. Your reply was that the world is fallen. I don’t see how that helps me any – my discouragement induced by the proposition that while in our fallen state as Christians, we do not have the degree of protection (preservation) from the Holy Spirit that the New Testament texts assert on their face. It is not our fallenness that discourages me, it is the claim that we are not bolstered up in spite of our falenness, at least not enough to overcome the likes of second-century power mongers. How do I know Paul was not a giant power monger? Truth be told, under this paradigmatic approach, I do not.

Well at least for 7 of Paul's works they were essentially universally accepted from the earliest days by all groups. One could argue the acceptance of Paul is part of the definition of being Christian.

As for your sense of discouragement I find it more discouraging to believe that God allows hundreds of sects and groups to exist for no reason. I love the idea of a Christianity that is growing and evolving reaching ever further in the quest to find God. I don't find it comforting in the least to believe that God who views earthly Kings as a rejection of him (1Sam 8) would choose a human despotism as his eternal structure. So while you may find it discouraging I find the alternative far more depressing.

So lets focus on truth not emotion.

Blessings,
CD-Host

CD-Host said...

Eric --

What visible evidence would you expect to see if your theory were true, mustard seed growing more slowly that Christ followers; rather than my theory, sect evolving and combining with other sects? I'd assert that they would look almost identical. How would you prove one rather than the other?

And remember it is not just that there was disagreement about whether there was an institution but even what it looked like. For example was Mary Magdalene an apostle with the most complete revelation or a disciple of no particular importance? These debates started very early.

went on to make their own organizations, claiming to have an authority of their own.

With the exception of the Anglicans, Protestants don't claim authority in the sense you mean it. They claim the sole authority is the bible and that no man is an authority. Leadership is chosen based on biblical criteria. That is a view keeping with the earlier churches which rejected institutional hierarchy. Leaders are chosen from below not above.

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

If I send out a message and also start an authoritative, institutional body to walk alongside the message throughout history, the message may be more well known than the body. That is particularly true if the body is small to begin with, and if communication is deficient. It would not surprise me if the message did not spread like wild-fire, especially with respect to its central claims, leaving the body to 'catch up' in recognition.

Further, it would not surprise me if some aspects of the message were misunderstood, as brother told brother and cousin told cousin. Some things would be left out. Some things would be misunderstood. Some things would only be partially understood. Some people would understand certain aspects, but not others. Some might conclude to the truth of the message, but not realize the importance of the body in the message or in relation to the message. Some might misunderstand the part of the message that includes the body. They might misunderstand what the body was.

They might even start groups of their own to further propagate the message and celebrate the message. They might even think that the groups they start to propagate my original message are equivalent in authority to the body that I started. None of this would take away from the fact that I started a body in addition to the message, and that I wanted the body to have a special role in relation to the message. That is, the fact that other groups came into exist to celebrate the message or propagate the message is not evidence that I did not start an institutional, authoritative body with the message.

And, at certain times in history, it would not surprise me if the message were not more well known than the significance of the body. Some will see these different groups propagating the same or a very similar message and conclude that those whom I assigned to govern the body and continue it throughout history are no different than those who started their own groups to propagate the message (or a very similar message). Others will recognize that in fact I did start a body to lead the way over all other individuals and groups, and that that body was to serve as the source of unity, the source of preservation, the source of authority, and the rest.

In fact, because different people read their own meanings into messages, mix their own ambitions and ideas with messages, and actually change messages to suit their own lifestyles and their own ambitions and understandings of things, it seems reasonable to me that I would start a body to walk alongside the original message, especially given the possibility for change, error and misunderstanding in the hands of mere men, even mere men with great intentions.

Beyond that, we know that some men might not have the best intentions with respect to the message. Some would corrupt it on purpose. Some would use it for power. Some would add and subtract to it in ways that I had not intended, perhaps even largely changing it over time.

And all of this is especially true if the message has aspects that are difficult to understood. That would be even more reason for me to start a body with the message that can someday provide a source of truth, correction, guidance, and the rest with respect to the message.

Collin wrote:

>'What visible evidence would you >expect to see if your theory were >true, mustard seed growing more >slowly that Christ followers; >rather than my theory, sect >evolving and combining with other >sects? I'd assert that they would >look almost identical. How would >you prove one rather than the >other?'

If you think they would look almost identical, then I am not sure how you would disprove my theory either.

Collin wrote:

>With the exception of the >Anglicans, Protestants don't >claim authority in the sense you >mean it. They claim the sole >authority is the bible and that >no man is an authority.

Yes. I know what they claim too. But look at what is being done here. The Bible is given so called sole authority. That is authority in a certain sense, but then man is left to be his own king (authority) when it comes to interpreting the Bible, figuring out what it means, and building a systematic theology based on that sole authority. But the interpretational possibilities are nearly endless. And even after we agree or disagree on the interpretations, the theologies that we build with respect to any given interpretation can be multiplied and disagreed upon too, and in quite divergent and diverse ways.

>Leadership is chosen based on >biblical criteria.

To represent the other position: Christ chose the leaders. They were the Apostles. The NT did not yet exist in canonized form. The Apostles appointed others. They were sent to bind and to loose. They were given the keys to the kingdom.

Collin wrote:

> That is a view >keeping with the >earlier churches >which rejected >institutional >hierarchy.

Offer all the evidence that you can for this view so that we can see what your sources are and why you think this. Put it alongside those who thought otherwise. Some early groups may have thought this because they did not understand that Christ started a body that had authority over the groups they started to propagate the same (or very similar) message.

When I read the Church Fathers, I see, on a very reasonable interpretation, something more like an authoritative body coming to the surface.

I also see that the Bible, on a very reasonable interpretation, supports an authoritative body, and that Christ started one, giving the keys to Peter. I see the Apostles acting in council authoritatively and choosing new leaders authoritatively. I see that there is true doctrine and false doctrine. I see that there is a true Church, as well as schism and heresy in relation to that Church. I see that Christ gave authority to the Apostles. I see that the Church is the pillar and bullwark of truth, not this or that group and not this or that individual.

By 200 AD it seems very clear that there was an institutional Church that led the way through most of history. In fact, that same body was largely accepted by most Christians as part of the faith. Moreover, that same body canonized Scripture and held some very important councils that many of us accept as binding today. Augustine, Aquinas and others accepted this body as authoritative. In fact, for most of Christendom, to be a Christian was to be united to that body, and not just its message.

With the 'Reformation', we have a clear example of men breaking from that body. We know from Luther's example that divisions from the Catholic Church are not always based purely on doctrinal concerns or on the best motives. Lots of personal, subjective factors can get into the mix as well,

Now a skeptic can always be skeptical, and it may be that the evidence can be read one of two ways, just as some Scriptures can be interpreted in more than one way, but the fact that there have always been people who disagreed with the Catholic Church and always been groups who have refused to be united with the Catholic Church does not mean that the Catholic Church is not the Church that Christ started.

Collin wrote:

>Leaders are chosen from below >not above.

This is, again, how Protestantism works. You are right about that. Protestants are free to define 'Church' however they like because Protestant individuals have more authority than the Church, on their view. They have rejected the idea of a truly authoritative Church. The only authority a Church can have is authority that the Protestant can give to it and then take away, as needed. Only the Bible is allowed to have authority, though this can be called into question when Protestants think they can change it for if I grant authority to something I can change what authority does it really have over me? And, if I can interpret it however I like and then build whatever theology I like based on my interpretation, that means that it has even less authority on me than before. By using Protestant principles, Christ and his commandments can be almost whatever I want them to be. All I have to do is get out from under the authoritative Church, and then make myself king when it comes to interpreting the Bible, building a theology that is rooted in it, and deciding what the Bible should be.

In contrast, note that the Bible is authoritative at one level (in a certain sense), the Church at a lower level (in a certain sense), and the individual man has both the Bible and the Church as his authority.

This has in fact been the generally accepted model, or something very much like it, if we look at most of Christian history prior to the Reformation, especially if we put to the side exceptions to the norm, and confusion over what might have been happening in the first 200 years when the message might have gotten ahead of the body for a time, if in fact it did and to the extent that it did, if it did. And, again, we know that the Reformation was a break *from* this tradition, from this norm, a norm that was very publicly recognized from 200 AD to the time of the 'Reformation'.

Eric

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

>With the exception of the >Anglicans, Protestants don't >claim authority in the sense you >mean it.

For clarification, they do in the sense that I mean because they put themselves above the Church, and in a sense, above the Bible (at times), making kings of themselves such that they can, if they want, create their own religions, however similar they might be to the original.

Eric

Thos said...

Collin,

Let me start by confessing that this comment, “So lets focus on truth not emotion” did not make me feel terribly charitable toward you. It’s left me upset and bothered (also emotions, I realize). I pray that I could hold nothing but love for you in my heart, and that we could indeed strive toward truth while guided by, but not derailed by, our respective, inevitable emotions. Would you agree that emotions are not diametrically opposed to truth as your statement implied?

You said in defense of the proposition that evidence of a baptistic polity existed within the early church:

“Now Clement disagrees and to defend his position he doesn't cite preexisting canon law or precedent but rather he derives his position via an analogy. I think this is clear evidence that the structure he was arguing for was not universally excepted.”

Of course there was no preexisting canon law, but only preexisting teachings from Christ and perhaps any immediate authority He left behind. Your second sentence reveals your test of any church ecclesiology or doctrine: universal acceptance. Under this test, if any group did not recognize their Bishop as having authority without their consensus, such authority did not exist (even if others did so recognize). Can you demonstrate that the universal-acceptance rule was itself universally accepted early on (e.g., did Clement and his audience in Corinth agree on this test or rule?)? If not, it seems to defeat itself. Also, we need to define who is counted within this rule’s universe; is it all humans, all Christians, certain Christians [defined as those who accepted Pauline epistles]? And was the definition of who is within the voting universe itself universally admitted?

“What occurred was that a theology of institutional structure began to emerge in the proto-Catholic church. That is one of the Christian sects started to see authority as coming from a laying on of hands from leaders to other leaders, Petrine descent, and not from the membership at all.”

You state as fact (e.g. “What occurred…”) some disputed points (i.e., ones that are not universally accepted). But it strikes me that the onus probandi should be on you to demonstrate that the likes of laying on of hands did not mean a conferral of authority, since New Testament texts at least arguably support that view (e.g., Paul going to have this done to him after his Damascus Road vision; Clement wasn’t just making it up). That is, unless you believe that the New Testament accounts of that practice are amenable to skepticism too.

“First off I don't think the battle was over by 150, at that point it was just really getting going. Lets say more like 280.”

Since my point was an observation that the Holy Spirit had not seen fit to preserve us from the grave error of immoral submission to depraved leaders, this is irrelevant. Whether He failed to preserve us at the 34th year, the 150th, the 280th or the 1,520th is immaterial to my assertion.

“I wasn't justifying the Reformation.”

I follow you, now, on what you were communicating about military might. Thank you for clearing that up.

“I'm not sure what to say. Every man, every entity, is corrupted by the fall. Only God is perfect.”

You said this in reply to my pondering what it says about the Holy Spirit that he has not seen fit to preserve us from teaching error. As an initial point, I do not believe that “every entity” was so corrupted, as I believe that God saw fit to preserve certain angels from the fall. Perhaps you would agree there, though. Regardless, your logic here would seem to obliterate a full confidence in the Bible (as it was written by fallen men), and would certainly obliterate any later confidence in the findings of men that list X contains the proper canon of revealed text. You might here appeal to your “universality” consensus assurance. If so, I would reply that if all are corrupted by the fall, then a consensus, even one of 100% of a given group, is no guarantee of preservation from error. Please note that I agree with you that we are all entirely affected by the fall. Therefore, only immediate preservation from the Holy Spirit would seem to allow a preservation in truth, and from error. If I accept that He was not preserving the early church from grave ecclesiological error on account of the fall, then I must doubt all truth-claims on account of the fall as well.

Thank you for describing the interesting Beguines. I take you at your word what they did and taught. I accept your proposition that there were groups or sects of people in the ancient world that believed in Christ without teaching what Catholics today teach.

“Well at least for 7 of Paul's works they were essentially universally accepted from the earliest days by all groups. One could argue the acceptance of Paul is part of the definition of being Christian.”

I’ve learned in law school that one could argue an awful lot of things. To reiterate my points above, applying the ramifications of the fall as you do, universal acceptance seems to guarantee nothing. And if your position is that A) Paul is valid because universally accepted by Christians, therefore B) one is not a Christian unless one accepts Paul, I am inclined to observe circularity.

“I love the idea of a Christianity that is growing and evolving reaching ever further in the quest to find God.” This sentiment requires a universally admitted definition of “Christianity.” E.g., is Mormonism a growth and evolution, or did it fall out of the category of Christianity? What guarantee, or even what reason to believe, do we have that we are further (i.e., closer) to God and not farther away? Why do you believe we are not devolving, as the primitivist might expect?

Your implied assertion that the papacy is a human despotism seems based on sentiment. At the least, it is charged language, and not truth-seeking language.

I signed my last comment “from the heart”, and I mean that.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

CD-Host said...

Tom --

Sorry forgot about this reply.

So lets focus on truth not emotion” did not make me feel terribly charitable toward you. Would you agree that emotions are not diametrically opposed to truth as your statement implied?

It wasn't my intent to upset you but rather to indicate your emotions were coming from your assumptions and it is more helpful to deal with the assumptions as thesis. That is why I presented a counter case. My point is that "I don't like that" doesn't leave any room for discussion. How does one argue that chocolate tastes better than vanilla?

So no emotion is not opposed to truth but it is distracting for this argument.

Under this test, if any group did not recognize their Bishop as having authority without their consensus, such authority did not exist (even if others did so recognize)

Well yes into the introduction of state violence in intra-church relations this is a tautology. Religious authorities have exactly the level and scope of authority that the membership grants them. They may assert that the god demands higher level of authority but until either the membership accepts this position or the state enforces this position they don't have that authority.

As for the doctrine of universality the claim of the catholic church is that they aren't a priesthood holding onto some sort of secret knowledge dispensing it as needed to the faithful but rather the teachings of the church represent that what was common to Christianity. That's the whole point of Unitatis redintegratio that the current opinions of the Catholic church were the actual opinions of ancient Christians. And that is an actual testable theory. So I'm using that very standard.

Now this board seems to be very close to arguing that the hierarchy is an absolute authority. That is if the Pope declared tomorrow that the trinity consisted of Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Pluto that not only would this be a now true statement about God but in fact would be true statement about the revelation of Christ. Now if I tried to point to the Catechism published before 2008 to argue that the trinity used to consist of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that would get rejected as some private interpretation.

So I really don't see an alternative to historical examination if we aren't going to just beg the question. That is universality is the closest I can come to a neutral doctrine.

You state as fact (e.g. “What occurred…”) some disputed points (i.e., ones that are not universally accepted). But it strikes me that the onus probandi should be on you to demonstrate that the likes of laying on of hands did not mean a conferral of authority, since New Testament texts at least arguably support that view (e.g., Paul going to have this done to him after his Damascus Road vision; Clement wasn’t just making it up). That is, unless you believe that the New Testament accounts of that practice are amenable to skepticism too.

The bible identifying laying on of hands as a way of receiving the Holy Spirit. It identifies authority as coming from God not Peter. Consistently you see the apostles argue from earlier revelation not from directly from authority. You never see them asserting they are the author of truth. In fact you see them feeling they have to defend their positions theologically based on previous revelation even after the laying on of hands.

To reiterate my points above, applying the ramifications of the fall as you do, universal acceptance seems to guarantee nothing. And if your position is that A) Paul is valid because universally accepted by Christians, therefore B) one is not a Christian unless one accepts Paul, I am inclined to observe circularity.

Here is the non circular version.

1) There exists a collection X of people (in say the year 120) who refer to themselves as Christians
2) Each of those people in X has doctrines.
3) Some doctrines are held by an overwhelming percentage of the people in X.
4) One such doctrine is the belief in the teachings and authority of the core 7 books of Paul.
5) Among the people who do not refer to themselves as Christians they do not believe in or accept the authority of the core 7.

Conc: The belief in the core 7 books of Paul is a Christian doctrine of that time period.

“I love the idea of a Christianity that is growing and evolving reaching ever further in the quest to find God.” This sentiment requires a universally admitted definition of “Christianity.” E.g., is Mormonism a growth and evolution, or did it fall out of the category of Christianity? What guarantee, or even what reason to believe, do we have that we are further (i.e., closer) to God and not farther away? Why do you believe we are not devolving, as the primitivist might expect?

Because God in his revelations shows a series of dispensations of knowledge of his will. Building up not degrading. Adam -> Noah -> Abraham -> Moses -> the prophets -> the apostles. I see no reason to believe the early church is a break in that theme.

Also God's revelation shows that when Israel falls into grave sin he applies successively greater pressure to reform her. Which seems consistent with the history of the reform movement / reformation and its effects on the Catholic Church.

Your implied assertion that the papacy is a human despotism seems based on sentiment. At the least, it is charged language, and not truth-seeking language.

No I think this charge is really, really important. You want to have unity discussions with Protestants you need to address the reason they decided they don't want to be part of the Catholic church. This is the big issue. Everything else is just details of the specific disagreements. I don't

Regardless, your logic here would seem to obliterate a full confidence in the Bible (as it was written by fallen men), and would certainly obliterate any later confidence in the findings of men that list X contains the proper canon of revealed text.

Eric and I discussed this in an earlier thread. The criterion of universality among supporters of an institution church works out here.

CD-Host said...

Eric --

Hi good reply.

>'What visible evidence would you >expect to see if your theory were >true, mustard seed growing more >slowly that Christ followers; >rather than my theory, sect >evolving and combining with other >sects? I'd assert that they would >look almost identical. How would >you prove one rather than the >other?'

If you think they would look almost identical, then I am not sure how you would disprove my theory either.
First off, you have to make the positive case. You are the one arguing I need submit to a particular Bavarian as my highest earthly authority. So equal evidence in either direction isn't sufficient to meet the burden.
But the evidence I would present is that if you carefully read the early fathers they are arguing their position regarding authority while the later ones are asserting it as from tradition. That change IMHO presents evidence for my view of the evolution.

That is authority in a certain sense, but then man is left to be his own king (authority) when it comes to interpreting the Bible, figuring out what it means, and building a systematic theology based on that sole authority. But the interpretational possibilities are nearly endless. And even after we agree or disagree on the interpretations, the theologies that we build with respect to any given interpretation can be multiplied and disagreed upon too, and in quite divergent and diverse ways.

I agree with this version. I disagree that the above is equivalent to claiming the right to construct authoritative churches. In other words I have the authority over my own conscience but not that of others. Protestant ministers (in general) don't believe any authority at all. I covered this pretty clearly in my analysis of the Machen trial.

> That is a view >keeping with the >earlier churches >which rejected >institutional >hierarchy. 

Offer all the evidence that you can for this view so that we can see what your sources are and why you think this. Put it alongside those who thought otherwise. Some early groups may have thought this because they did not understand that Christ started a body that had authority over the groups they started to propagate the same (or very similar) message.

I'm not arguing anything terribly extreme here. I'm basically taking the Birger Pearson's view for example in Gnosticism, Judaism and Egyptian Christianity. So lets be clear on the question here. Are you looking for proto-Christian / Christian works from the early world that are anti-authoritarian? The whole theme of Gnosticism is that earthly leaders, including church leaders, have at best a limited understanding of the saving truth of God. I can produce a long list, but heck the Catholic encyclopedia isn't going to dispute most of what I'm arguing they were teaching.
Think about the new age movement (which is a very good analogy). It would be meaningless to even talk authority to new agers. They don't even recognize the concept the way you mean it. For them truth is individual.

So before asking for evidence can I get clarity on the question specifically? I'm not following.

Let me attack this paragraph where your point is clear to me.
I also see that the Bible, on a very reasonable interpretation, supports an authoritative body, and that Christ started one, giving the keys to Peter.
Yeah but what do the keys mean. Do they mean authority, or do they mean the First Mystery? Protestants don't accept the interpretation that this means some sort of institutional church why would you expect earlier writers (many of whom rejected Acts) to?

I see the Apostles acting in council authoritatively and choosing new leaders authoritatively.

Really? Then where are all these false teachers coming from? Why is Paul having to argue in essentially all of his letters on an equal basis?

I see that there is true doctrine and false doctrine. I see that there is a true Church, as well as schism and heresy in relation to that Church.

Agreed the early sects didn't think highly of each other.

I see that Christ gave authority to the Apostles.
What authority?

I see that the Church is the pillar and bullwark of truth, not this or that group and not this or that individual.

Paul says that scripture is bullwark of truth. Not an institution. What God has revealed to us, is his ultimate authority.

By 200 AD it seems very clear that there was an institutional Church that led the way through most of history.
I'm not going to grant that by 200 you had a single united church. Rather you had a collection of churches that were well on their way to developing a theology of authority. I think the war had started by then, but wasn't over.

but the fact that there have always been people who disagreed with the Catholic Church and always been groups who have refused to be united with the Catholic Church does not mean that the Catholic Church is not the Church that Christ started.

I'm not arguing that. What I'm arguing is the earliest writings we have show no evidence of any church that Christ started. The evidence is consistent with a message developing into a church. Now your alternate theory is possible. But one has to ask why Christ was no opposed to the message running ahead of the institution if the institution is so important.

This has in fact been the generally accepted model, or something very much like it, if we look at most of Christian history prior to the Reformation, especially if we put to the side exceptions to the norm, and confusion over what might have been happening in the first 200 years when the message might have gotten ahead of the body for a time, if in fact it did and to the extent that it did, if it did. And, again, we know that the Reformation was a break *from* this tradition, from this norm, a norm that was very publicly recognized from 200 AD to the time of the 'Reformation'.

I'd say that is the case that from 180 on till 312 the church got authorative. From 312 to the 14th century the church became a state agency (in so far as their were states) and was certainly authoritative.

But I'm not sure I'd go as far as a norm. In places where the state was weak or unwilling to kill for the church, Christianity diversified. Take for example the Christianities of Arabian peninsula from the 5th century till the rise of Islam.

The early reformation was trying to attack minor issues: Luther, Calvin etc... still supported an institutional church. But they didn't see the division as essentially permanent. They thought the Catholic church would reform and curtail the "abuses" that concerned them. Now that Protestants don't believe that is going to happen and that diversification is permanent Protestantism is starting to develop a theology consistent with diversity. That is Protestantism is essentially (but not directly) asking the question whether the wrong side didn't win in the late 2nd- early 4th century battle regarding institutional Christianity. And starting to examine how much of Christian doctrine can you save if you reject state violence as part of Christianity.
So yes you are right it is a break with Christian history in the sense of the "normative church". But one of the things I find when I talk to conservatives whether they be Protestants or Catholics is a tendency to not deal with the enormous Christian diversity that exists through time. For example only 26% of born again Christians (baptized after confession which they continue to uphold) reject the notion that the earthly Christ was sinless.

Pick a century and take a look at the Christian map. I think you'll be shocked how non normative the norm is.

Best wishes,
CD-Host

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

I hope all is well! I will probably not keep up with all of these old threads as new ones are advanced, but here is a quick response to some of your comments.

I think both sides have a burden of proof and am not trying to imply that one does while the other does not.

>You are the one arguing I need >submit to a particular Bavarian >as my highest earthly authority.

Certainly not in every respect, or even in most respects. Further, it is not so much the person alone as the person in that office. Further, the Catholic Church is bigger on the inside than most imagine, with plenty of room for legitimate disagreements. The field for Catholics is not completley wide open (or nearly as wide open as it is for Protestants), but there is room to move about in it.

Protestants disagree on how much authority any single Protestant or church he starts should have over others, with some content to just not be under the authority of another and some extending the authority over others. Of course, in the end, if no Protestant is under the authority of another Church or group or man except himself, then each is his own king in his own 'church'. Each is his own authority.

>Let me attack this paragraph >where your point is clear to me.
>I also see that the Bible, on a >very reasonable interpretation, >supports an authoritative body, >and that Christ started one, >giving the keys to Peter.
>Yeah but what do the keys mean. >Do they mean authority, or do >they mean the First Mystery?

See Isaiah 22:20-22. It is very reasonable to interpret this in terms of official authority or governing authority. A body was being created and men were being placed in authority. They were given power and they were given a mission.

The presence of false teachers is not evidence that the Apostles were not acting authoritatively in Acts.

When I read the Bible I see the Apostles talking about true doctrine and false doctrine.

Christ gave the apostles authority to bind and loose.

>Paul says that scripture is >bullwark of truth. Not an >institution. What God has >revealed to us, is his ultimate >authority.

What God has revealed to us is not God's ultimate authority. What He has revealed to us is our ultimate authority in terms of Revelation, but He also gave us an authoritative Church, which has authority over us on matters of faith and morals.

>I'm not arguing that. What I'm >arguing is the earliest writings >we have show no evidence of any >church that Christ started. The >evidence is consistent with a >message developing into a church. >Now your alternate theory is >possible.

It is probable on my reading of the early Fathers, not just possible.

>But one has to ask why Christ was >no[t] opposed to the message >running ahead of the institution >if the institution is so >important.

One could ask questions of this sort on either side and about either side with respect to any apparent imperfection.

>I'd say that is the case that >from 180 on till 312 the church >got authorative.

I would say that the Church was authoritative at the time of the Apostles and that the Apostles gave that authority to others and so the Church was always authoritative. It just became more well known with time such that its nature, which had not changed from the time of the Apostles, became more well known.

>Now that Protestants don't >believe that is going to happen >and that diversification is >permanent Protestantism is >starting to develop a theology >consistent with diversity.

I think 'Protestantism' is dividing, and that it has no choice in the matter. Its own principles serve as a source of division.

> That is Protestantism is >essentially (but not directly) >asking the question whether the >wrong side didn't win in the late >2nd- early 4th century battle >regarding institutional >Christianity.

Well, I can start a movement tomorrow and ask the opposite question. And, I can start a movement within Protestant and argue that all Protestants were actually wrong about a great many things in the 16th century.

>Pick a century and take a look at >the Christian map. I think you'll >be shocked how non normative the >norm is.

I expect diversity and even division. I expect error and misunderstandings with all of this. But I think that Christ gave an authoritative body to help serve as a hub for unity and a source of truth amidst all the error and misunderstanding.

Eric

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

I want to clarify something. I think I misread one of your comments. You said:

>Paul says that scripture is >bullwark of truth. Not an >institution. What God has >revealed to us, is his ultimate >authority.

When I responded I misunderstood you to be predicating the last 'his' to God, when in fact you were probably predicating it to Paul. Sorry. I am not trying to misrepresent you here. I simply made a mistake.

But, with that in mind, we should note that having an ultimate authority does not mean that we cannot have other authorities, or one other.

Further, having an ultimate authority in one sense does not mean that we cannot have an authority in another sense.

I think we all agree that Paul's ultimate authority in some sense was God's Revelation. That is not an issue. But note that Paul would have thought the Church to be authoritative over himself, I think. But if Paul thought this, I should think this even more about myself and my relation to the Church. Have I more authority than the Church that Christ started? No. The Church and the Bible both stand above me. There is a Body of Christ. It is the Church. I am not above it. It is above me. I am not its head. Christ is. I am a member. It was first, before me. I only know what is true about Christ through the Church for the Church canonized the Bible and has provided a systematic theology about Christ. The Church walked through the ages and told us what was error and what was truth, guided by the Holy Spirit. Without the Church, I would not be in a great position to decide the truth about Christ, the truth about the Bible, the truth about how to interpret the Bible or the truth about which subsequent theology to follow in light of the Bible. Christ not only gave us Himself, and a message, but also an authoritative body that guides us through the ages.

Further, I do not know of any place in the Bible where Paul denies that the Church has an institutional aspect. I would say, in addition, that it is not merely an institution, but the mystical Body of Christ. Look at Ephesians.

In the peace of Christ,
Eric

CD-Host said...

Eric --

Hi. Just for future reference you may want to use <i> text of comment </i> rather than > marks as the layout gets messed up.

See Isaiah 22:20-22. It is very reasonable to interpret this in terms of official authority or governing authority.

David didn't have any religious authority. He was a secular king. Moreover is Peter a son of Hilkiah? So IMHO the Isaiah passage doesn't mean the same thing though you can make a better case in Revelations 3.

Now since we are using the ancient church fathers, the verse can be interpreted a lot of ways as I mentioned you see ancient writers who believe the keys refer to the First Mystery, that is keys open doors they don't imply authority. So for them Peter ~ the material/non-spiritual church opens the first door. Mary opens later doors and then personal insight. It doesn't prove what you want it to prove.

The presence of false teachers is not evidence that the Apostles were not acting authoritatively in Acts.

Yeah it does. You are arguing they had an authority that was universally or essentially universally accepted not there were a collection of sects each making co-equal claims.

When I read the Bible I see the Apostles talking about true doctrine and false doctrine.

Sure and if you read the writings of the other ancients sects they would also talk about true and false doctrine. And this continues on for several more centuries. Everyone seems to agree there is some true doctrine they just can't agree on what it is.

I think 'Protestantism' is dividing, and that it has no choice in the matter. Its own principles serve as a source of division.

OK what evidence do you have the Protestantism is more divided today then say 100 years ago?

Well, I can start a movement tomorrow and ask the opposite question. And, I can start a movement within Protestant and argue that all Protestants were actually wrong about a great many things in the 16th century.

Exactly. And then you would need to start presenting evidence and based on how good evidence is the Christian community would either move to accept some, all or none of these views. Gradually your movement's popular ideas would become universal and then it would die off as irrelevant. Birth, reproduction through union and then death.

But, with that in mind, we should note that having an ultimate authority does not mean that we cannot have other authorities, or one other.

Further, having an ultimate authority in one sense does not mean that we cannot have an authority in another sense.


No and no one would question the church as an authority. But the claim here has been that it is an ultimate authority. That is the sole determiner of the meaning and contents of scripture, the sole determiner of God's will, the sole determiner of Christian truth. My point was that Paul did not have that view at all in his writings.

I only know what is true about Christ through the Church for the Church canonized the Bible and has provided a systematic theology about Christ.

Here is a place you disagree with Paul who argues that you have many ways of knowing God's truth. That is how Romans starts that even in the absence of any scripture God has made his moral law known, even the absence of any teaching of Jesus salvation through faith is available from understanding the story of Abraham.

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

Thanks for the tip regarding HTML. I will use it. Thanks.

David didn't have any religious authority. He was a secular king.

David was a priest-king. He had royal authority within the Davidic Covenant.

Moreover is Peter a son of Hilkiah? So IMHO the Isaiah passage doesn't mean the same thing though you can make a better case in Revelations 3.

The point is that both events involved governmental offices, kingdoms, authority delegated to another, the appointment of royal stewards, etc. Jesus, the son of David, has the authority to appoint a steward to the kingdom that He is head of. Jesus ushered in a New Covenant and a new office with authority.

Now since we are using the ancient church fathers, the verse can be interpreted a lot of ways as I mentioned you see ancient writers who believe the keys refer to the First Mystery, that is keys open doors they don't imply authority. So for them Peter ~ the material/non-spiritual church opens the first door. Mary opens later doors and then personal insight.

But we have the binding part as well. Peter was not just given the authority to open, but also to close or bind.

It doesn't prove what you want it to prove.

It *supports* the position I am talking about. Others agree.
Protetant scholar FF Bruce says: 'And what about the 'keys to the kingdom'? The keys of a royal or noble establishment were entrusted to the chief steward or major domo; he carried them on his shoulder in earlier times, and there they served as a badge of the authority entrusted to him. About 700 BC an oracle from God announced that this authority in the royal palace of Jerusalem was to be conferred on a man called Eliakim...So in the new community which Jesus was about to build, Peter would be, so to speak, chief steward.'

The Interpreter's Bible says: 'The keys of the kingdom would be committed to the chief steward in the royal household and with them goes plenary authority. In Isa. 22:22 the key of the house of David is promised to Eliakim. According to Paul, Jesus is the only foundation, and Rev. 1:18, 3:7, Jesus possesses the key of David and the keys of death and Hades. But in this passage Peter is made the foundation and holds the keys. Post-Apostolic Christianity is now beginning to ascribe to the apostles the prerogatives of Jesus.'

Messianic Jew David Stern tells us that Jesus makes Peter both 'steward', with the keys, and judge. He says: 'The "keys" of the kingdom suggest the image of the steward with the keys to the rooms and storechambers of the house. Not only does hte bearer of the 'key' have authority to determine who is admitted, the chief steward also has responsibility for overseeing all that takes place in the master's house.'

RT France says: 'Isaiah 22 [is] generally regarded as the Old Testament background to the metaphor of the keys.'

OT Protestant scholars CF Keil and F. Delitzsch say: 'There is a resemblance [with Eliakim] to the giving of the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter under the NT.
The Jerome Biblical Commentary says: 'The key, symbol of the majordomo's authority to grant or deny admittance to the royal presence, was worn over the shoulder. The images used here to denote the authority of the steward are very similar to those of Mt. 16:19...and Jn 20:23.'

Roland de Vaux and John McHugh, in _Ancient Israel_ agee that the keys are the symbol of authority.

The New Bible Commentary says: 'The keys of the kingdom of heaven: the phrase is almost certainly based on Isaia 22:22 where Shebna the steward is displaced by Eliakim and his authority is transferred to him.'

Moreover, the OT was full of stewards and viziers.

Yeah it does. You are arguing they had an authority that was universally or essentially universally accepted not there were a collection of sects each making co-equal claims.

I am not arguing from *universal* acceptance to authority. I am arguing that at certain times in history there was more acceptance than Protestants sometimes note. In fact, for most of Christian history there was a great deal of acceptance. That general acceptance should be taken into account. But the argument is not from *universal* acceptance to authority. I readily admit that there have almost always been people who were wrong about Christ's Church. That is not controversial.

Further, the authority of the Apostles and the bishops they appointed did not rest on universal acceptance or acceptance at all for that matter. Christ gave Peter the keys. That means he had the keys, whether I accept him as authoritative or not.

Sure and if you read the writings of the other ancients sects they would also talk about true and false doctrine. And this continues on for several more centuries. Everyone seems to agree there is some true doctrine they just can't agree on what it is.

Disagreement does not undercut authority. If I am the authority on subject x and truly avoid error on subject x when speaking officially, the fact that there will be others who disagree with me would not undercut my authority on the subject if I have that authority by virtue of a or b.

No and no one would question the church as an authority. But the claim here has been that it is an ultimate authority.

The point is that the Church has more authority than you and I on matters of faith and morals.

I wrote:
I only know what is true about Christ through the Church for the Church canonized the Bible and has provided a systematic theology about Christ.

You responded with:

Here is a place you disagree with Paul who argues that you have many ways of knowing God's truth.

We have many ways of knowing about God. Paul and I agree on that. One way is through natural revelation. Another is through the OT. But many things can only be known through NT Special Revelation. The Church canonized the Bible and let us know what the NT was and was not.

Eric

CD-Host said...

David was a priest-king. He had royal authority within the Davidic Covenant.

David is a member of the tribe of Judah. He isn't a priest of any sort at all. To be a priest you need to be in the tribe of Levi. That is for example why Jesus is a priest in the order of Melchizedek and not a priest in a traditional sense.

As far as the keys are you arguing the Peter is a secular ruler, a prime minister in a political sense? As for the quotes, well yes that's how it was traditionally understood by the institutional church and that's what the commentaries show that their descendants (mostly still) still read it that way. That doesn't disprove my point, all the writers you mentioned don't subscribe to the idea that there are a series of mysteries one unlocks. That is you aren't really addressing how the ancients read it.

Since we are discussing Thomas on the other thread take Thomas:13 where it contrasts the 3 disciples in their understanding of Jesus:

Jesus said to His disciples, "Compare me to someone and tell
Me whom I am like."
Simon Peter said to Him, "You are like a righteous angel."
Matthew said to Him, "You are like a wise philosopher."
Thomas said to Him, "Master, my mouth is wholly incapable of saying whom You are like."
Jesus said, "I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated by the bubbling spring which I have measured out."
And He took him and withdrew and told him three things. ...


Righteousness, Wisdom, Mystery. There you see the "key" the first the material is considered the least. Or for example in the Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter, Peter founds the "imitation of righteousness" the first step in allowing the blind to see but Jesus warns him, "But if some choose to mingle with these priests, they will be taken captive by them, since they are naturally blind and without spiritual perception. In this way the guileless, good, and pure will join the congregation of those still looking for their christ and awaiting final delivery to the Worker of Death. Skilled men will come after you who will be highly praised for the propagation of false teaching. They will cause many to cleave to the name of a dead man, thinking that through death alone (and not life) they have become pure. Their very means to purification will defile them, and they will fall into a congregation called 'Name of Error,' into the hands of evil and conniving men with manifold doctrines and laws, and they will be ruled by a heretic hierarchy."

So you can see the idea of the keys indicating Peter as the first in a series of steps. I could go on but I don't think we really want to discuss Gnostic theology of Peter at length. The main point is that the ancients did not see universally (or primarily) as obviously meaning what you take it to mean. That is they would agree with the Jerome Bible commentary on the symbolism (those who give entry to the King) but not on this making Peter into some ultimate authority. And certainly not (as the quote above indicates) this passing on to his successors.

Disagreement does not undercut authority. If I am the authority on subject x and truly avoid error on subject x when speaking officially, the fact that there will be others who disagree with me would not undercut my authority on the subject if I have that authority by virtue of a or b.

Here we disagree. If your opinion is not accepted you aren't the authority. Einstein didn't become the authority on space time until electron paths due to magnetism confirmed that relative mass was a function of relative velocity and not an absolute. His formulas didn't become right at that moment but that was the moment he became an authority.

The point is that the Church has more authority than you and I on matters of faith and morals.

Not at all. If that were the question there wouldn't be a dispute on this blog. The disagreement is whether the current Church officers have more authority than scripture more authority than tradition more authority than experience and reason. That is whether they have more authority than the faithful.

There is no dispute they have more authority than individuals.

I wrote:
I
only know what is true about Christ through the Church for the Church canonized the Bible and has provided a systematic theology about Christ.

You responded with:

Here is a place you disagree with Paul who argues that you have many ways of knowing God's truth.

We have many ways of knowing about God. Paul and I agree on that. One way is through natural revelation. Another is through the OT. But many things can only be known through NT Special Revelation. The Church canonized the Bible and let us know what the NT was and was not.


So you are retracting the "only" or continuing to assert it?


Be well,
CD-Host

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

David is a member of the tribe of Judah. He isn't a priest of any sort at all. To be a priest you need to be in the tribe of Levi. That is for example why Jesus is a priest in the order of Melchizedek and not a priest in a traditional sense.

I am not saying that David was a Levitical priest or a priest in the traditional sense.

Peter was chief steward of the Church here on earth. He was delegated authority by Christ.

As for the quotes, well yes that's how it was traditionally understood by the institutional church and that's what the commentaries show that their descendants (mostly still) still read it that way.

That is how it is still understood on a very reasonable interpetation by some decent Protestant scholars.


That doesn't disprove my point, all the writers you mentioned don't subscribe to the idea that there are a series of mysteries one unlocks. That is you aren't really addressing how the ancients read it.

I was not actually trying to disprove your point. I was showing that there is support even amongst Protestant scholars for the notion of keys being symbolic of authority.

Bringing in Gnostic books is interesting. Do you think we should give equal status to Thomas and the canonized Scriptures?

Here we disagree. If your opinion is not accepted you aren't the authority. Einstein didn't become the authority on space time until electron paths due to magnetism confirmed that relative mass was a function of relative velocity and not an absolute. His formulas didn't become right at that moment but that was the moment he became an authority.

If Christ appoints a man to an office and gives him authority, he has authority regardless of whether you or I accept him as an authority. If Christ gives him the power to do x and I do not realize it that does not mean that he does not have that power. If Christ grants him the authority to do y and I reject him, it will not follow that he lacks the authority that Christ gave to him. I do not take away what Christ gave by not accepting his authority.

I said:

The point is that the Church has more authority than you and I on matters of faith and morals.

Not at all. If that were the question there wouldn't be a dispute on this blog.

Of course there would. There will nearly always be people who will not trust the Church for a variety of reasons, i.e., confusion, misunderstanding, pride, disagreement, etc. No matter what position the Church took there would always (or nearly always) be people who thought it had made a mistake.

The disagreement is whether the current Church officers have more authority than scripture more authority than tradition more authority than experience and reason. That is whether they have more authority than the faithful.
There is no dispute they have more authority than individuals.


Do they have more authority than you to decide what the faith is? If you disagree with them, will you yield to their authority because they have more authority than individuals?

There are many issues. One is whether those in the apostolic line have authority over you and I as individuals. That is an issue that some Protestants are not wanting to face. If we throw the Church out and just talk about the Bible alone, i.e., Me and My Bible Alone, that is an issue. Many Protestants are doing just that with Sola Scriptura.

I have met Protestants who refuse to submit to any authority except the Bible and their own authority when it comes to interpreting the Bible. For some that is a big issue.

Another is whether they have authority over the whole body of Christians when it comes to faith and morals. For instance, if a minority disagrees with the Church officers about x, does that mean that the minority is suddenly right about x and not the Church?

Another issue is whether they have authority over Scripture. This is typically how the issue is framed by many. They want to ignore the Church authority over the individual issue and focus the attention on the authority of the Church in relation to the authority of Scripture. Many Bible believing Christians say that the only authority over them is the Bible. But this misses the point that the Bible has to be interpreted and a theology will generally be made explicit.

Another issue is whether they have authority over Scripture, Tradition, Experienc, and Reason. I would note here that the Church officers have reason, experience, Scripture and Tradition also. So, this, many times, turns out to be a debate between which interpretation of Scripture, which Tradition, which experience or interpretatation of experience, and which Tradition is right. It is not the Church officers vs. Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason, but Church officers with apostolic authority, Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason vs. those individuals or groups without authority with their own interpretation of Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason.

I wrote:
I only know what is true about Christ through the Church for the Church canonized the Bible and has provided a systematic theology about Christ.

So you are retracting the "only" or continuing to assert it?

Continuing, but, of course, reserve the right to qualify further as most statements can be misunderstood in several ways .

In Christ,
Eric

CD-Host said...

I am not saying that David was a Levitical priest or a priest in the traditional sense.

In what sense was he a priest?

CD: That doesn't disprove my point, all the writers you mentioned don't subscribe to the idea that there are a series of mysteries one unlocks. That is you aren't really addressing how the ancients read it.

I was not actually trying to disprove your point. I was showing that there is support even amongst Protestant scholars for the notion of keys being symbolic of authority.


OK... then if we agree that doesn't disprove my point, then what evidence do you have that Peter was regarded as the authority in the ancient world?

Bringing in Gnostic books is interesting. Do you think we should give equal status to Thomas and the canonized Scriptures?

In terms of what was the opinion of the ancient church absolutely. We have a wide variety of them over a wider range of sects


Do they have more authority than you to decide what the faith is?

Yes.

If you disagree with them, will you yield to their authority because they have more authority than individuals?

Notice the jump. They have more authority than an individual not all individuals collectively.

There are many issues. One is whether those in the apostolic line have authority over you and I as individuals. That is an issue that some Protestants are not wanting to face. If we throw the Church out and just talk about the Bible alone, i.e., Me and My Bible Alone, that is an issue. Many Protestants are doing just that with Sola Scriptura.

That is a bit of an exaggeration. Most Protestants attended bible studies, buy spiritual books, listen to exegetical preaching. All 3 are informed by dialogs on scripture. Protestants (in general) do not interpret the bible in widely divergent ways because they collaborate with one another. What they reject is the belief that some Bavarian guy has final say, rather than the church (the community of the faithful) has final say.

I have met Protestants who refuse to submit to any authority except the Bible and their own authority when it comes to interpreting the Bible. For some that is a big issue.

They use that language but in practice Protestants believe the bible means pretty much the historical church has taken it to mean. Someone who read the bible in a way genuinely differently is usually rejected by the Protestant community as being part of their community.

Another issue is whether they have authority over Scripture. This is typically how the issue is framed by many. They want to ignore the Church authority over the individual issue and focus the attention on the authority of the Church in relation to the authority of Scripture. Many Bible believing Christians say that the only authority over them is the Bible. But this misses the point that the Bible has to be interpreted and a theology will generally be made explicit.

Yes and Protestants collaborate on a theory of hermeneutics as well. They take that very seriously. What they reject is a particular authoritarian method as being the primary legitimate method. They want the opinion of the church as a whole not one man.

They don't consider Calvin to be authoritative in and of himself.

Another issue is whether they have authority over Scripture, Tradition, Experienc, and Reason. I would note here that the Church officers have reason, experience, Scripture and Tradition also. So, this, many times, turns out to be a debate between which interpretation of Scripture, which Tradition, which experience or interpretatation of experience, and which Tradition is right. It is not the Church officers vs. Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason, but Church officers with apostolic authority, Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason vs. those individuals or groups without authority with their own interpretation of Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason.

I'd reject the "without authority" as begging the question. The rest is true. The Pope is a guy with an opinion.

Eric:
I only know what is true about Christ through the Church for the Church canonized the Bible and has provided a systematic theology about Christ.

CD: So you are retracting the "only" or continuing to assert it?

Eric: Continuing, but, of course, reserve the right to qualify further as most statements can be misunderstood in several ways .


Well then how are you not contradicting Paul? You claim the only way you know something is via the bible and Paul claims there are many ways.

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

I do not have time today, but do want to respond to the end of the note where you entertain the idea that I might be contradicting Paul.

Well then how are you not contradicting Paul? You claim the only way you know something is via the bible and Paul claims there are many ways.

I did not claim that the only way I know *something* is via the Bible. I was talking about Christ as such. Paul, with natural revelation, is talking about God as God.

There might be a sense in which my statement could be challenged in this way, however: you also know about Christ through your friends and family and through an oral tradition that has moved through cultures, apart from the Bible. Even with the Bible you might know something about Christ.

There may be some truth in that and that may challenge the only part, but my statement was also in regards to the truth about Christ. Moreover, I would say that there is a sense in which the major doctrinal positions about Christ have been mediated to me by the Church in some way, even if indirect. Even the Bible was canonized by the Church and preserved for so long by the Church such that when I read it now I owe something to the Church and in a sense it comes to me *through* the Church.

Good discussion. I will not have much time in the near future for I am working quite a lot.

In Christ,
Eric