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

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Unity, Faith and Submission

Here is a quotation from the Catholic encyclopedia article on "Protestantism":

[BOQ] Again, it is illogical to base faith upon the private interpretation of a book. For faith consists in submitting; private interpretation consists in judging. In faith by hearing, the last word rests with the teacher; in private judgment it rests with the reader, who submits the dead text of Scripture to a kind of post-mortem examination and delivers a verdict without appeal: he believes in himself rather than in any higher authority. But such trust in one's own light is not faith. Private judgment is fatal to the theological virtue of faith. John Henry Newman says "I think I may assume that this virtue, which was exercised by the first Christians, is not known at all amongst Protestants now; or at least if there are instances of it, it is exercised toward those, I mean their teachers and divines, who expressly disclaim that they are objects of it, and exhort their people to judge for themselves" ("Discourses to Mixed Congregations", Faith and Private Judgment). And in proof he advances the instability of Protestant so-called faith: "They are as children tossed to and fro and carried along by every gale of doctrine. If they had faith they would not change. They look upon the simple faith of Catholics as if unworthy the dignity of human nature, as slavish and foolish". Yet upon that simple, unquestioning faith the Church was built up and is held together to this day.

Where absolute reliance on God's word, proclaimed by his accredited ambassadors, is wanting, i.e. where there is not the virtue of faith, there can be no unity of Church. It stands to reason, and Protestant history confirms it. The "unhappy divisions", not only between sect and sect but within the same sect, have become a byword. They are due to the pride of private intellect, and they can only be healed by humble submission to a Divine authority. [EOQ] (my emphases)


~Joseph the Worker said...

Very nice and very relevant to what I have been discussing on my blog.

Eric Telfer said...

It does make sense that the faith of Protestants will be different for several reasons. First, many Protestants emphasize a fiduciary faith. Second, private judgment replaces or changes the nature of faith to some degree or in some sense. Third, the Catholic Church is in a different epistemological condition with a different history and a different relation to the Bible on the one hand and Christ on the other, such that no Protestant 'church' or ecclesial community can offer the same type of faith. For example, the faith of Protestants through Protestant organizations or through private judgment of the Bible, is always probabilistic and lacking authority in just about every matter that one can think of. Fourth, there are now so many different Protestant faiths. But the Bible calls us to walk in unity. See Ephesians 4- 'There is one body and one spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all...' But Protestantism cannot offer one faith for it lacks the internal principles and historical resources to do so. Not only that, it has negative principles which actucally cause and promote division, i.e. private judgment, sola scriptura, sola fide, abandonment of the original authoritative Church, abandonmnet of the authority of the bishops, etc. Luther should have worked internally to reform the Catholic Church, but instead jumped ship and started cruising about in a ship of his own. That ship, however, necessarily lacked what the original ship had and could not but lack those things, some of which were the proper navigation tools, leaving Luther and the rest to be 'tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting', (Ephesians 4)as if 'a wave of the sea driven and tossed by every wind.' (James 1).