Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Was (or is) the Reformation Necessary? An examination of Protestantism’s doctrinal Pillars: Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide -- 3

Interlude--Part 1

There have been some side-debates happening at Jacob's Blog that are worth noting. Especially since Jacob distilled one of the discussions into his article, Reformation Debate Part 3. Originally, the comments were made in the comment section of Reformation Day by a cool Catholic guy named Jon, whom I "met" at Dave Armstrong's blog, Cor ad Cor Loquitur.

This interlude in the debate revolves around the consequences of Sola Scriptura, especially the multiplicity of denominations in Protestantism and the nature of what the Church is. While this branch of the topic was not originated by myself, since Jacob is including it in our debate, I feel compelled to add my thoughts, as well. It's awesome to have backup from someone like Jon, though, and his description of how the Church works, and what the Church is, really got me thinking and made a lot of things make sense for me.

Jon's words will be in Brown. Jacob's, as usual, will be in Blue. My comments will be original to here, and thus obviously in the default white. They will occur throughout the whole post, per the usual. Obviously, since I agree with Jon, I'll be commenting on his words rather less frequently, and usually only to clarify anything I might find unclear, or to add Scriptural support for his claims. On with the show!

jon said...
[i'm one of gregory's transplants and i promise to be civil.]

As a convert to Roman Catholicism, I have always marveled at the prot
[estant] concept of 'the Church.' What is 'the Church' to a prot[estant], especially to an evangelical (b/c they seem to be more anti-'high' church than most, save the pentecostals)?

Actually, coming from Pentecostalism myself, they were very anti-high-church and anti-liturgy, claiming it "hindered the movement of the Spirit." Maybe Jon had some different experiences with Pentecostals. Cool.

Is it a loose, spiritual confederation of believers that transcends denominational labels but that no one can really agree on who's 'in' and who's 'out?' (after all--Jesus knows, as his sheep recognize his voice, and that's all that matters, I heard many times.) 1Tim.3:15 calls the church the "pillar and foundation of truth." What Church is this? and why isn't Scripture the 'pillar' and the 'foundation' of truth itself if that is all we need for salvation? Or is our salvation also dependant somehow on our PARTICIPATION in the body of Christ, or as an attachment to the 'vine' of Christ, His body, the Church? Or is it a "city on a hill" that is visible, recognizable, distinguishable from its surroundings; a 'body' of interlocking, inter-dependant parts inseparable from the whole? For so long as a non-catholic Christian I struggled with why God took a community He had an exclusive covenant relationship with and then irreperably shattered that community into a thousand-million pieces, presumably to give the benefits of the whole to each individual guaranteeing they wouldn't cooperate as a community any longer but then admonishing them to do so. I also struggled with--b/c I was raised anti-catholic, by the very nature of my prot[estant] upbringing, even if my parents never even discussed Catholicism at all--why Catholics seemed like they lived up to Jesus' prayer "that they may be ONE" (StJohn17,18) while embodying Paul's "traditions of men" (much discussed before): how can a heretic church maintain that degree of unity? And I say 'I strugged' b/c I KNEW instinctively that I didn't have it in myself to 'go solo,' to have this 'I've got Jesus and my Bible and that's all I need; I'll use the church community as a help, but not as a necessity for salvation'-attitude towards my faith, so I began to search, ending up having to re-think everything my devout evangelical parents taught me, God bless 'em.

To which Jacob said...
Thanks for the comment. I believe that the church is the body of Christ.(1 Cor. 12:12-13)And I believe that being a part of the body (that is to maintain fellowship with other believers using their gifts and abilities together for the Lord) is crucial to the health of each persons spiritual walk. Without being a part of the body of Christ Christians can certainly render themselves useless. But nowhere in scripture does it teach that fellowhip in the church is necessary for salvation.

I agree with Jon that this is a contradictory statement. That will be drawn out more completely below, but ask yourself, reader, how something can have been amputated from the body and yet still be alive?

I don't believe that the church is some invisible entity, but a very real presence. Indeed all who trust in Christ alone by faith through grace, are a part of the church. We are meant to shine our light before all men so they may glorify God. (Matt. 5:16)

It's all very fine and grandiose talk, and indeed, it is true. But in the eyes of the world, the Church is fragmented, disunified, and broken. It most certainly is not a single body. It is not a recognisable entity. And its power is greatly lessened because of this. If the Church is not an invisible entity, Jacob, pray tell, what does it look like? And if you can describe it as I could describe you by your photo, does your description match the biblical description of what the Church should be?

The problem is that (as it appears to me) the Roman Catholic church tryes to equivelate the church as an institution, when indeed it is the body of Christ that makes up the church.

I fail to see how "body" and "institution" are two different things. Christ "instituted" (originated, founded, inaugurated, started, began, established, etc.) His Church, and so thoroughly identified Himself with it, that He called it His Body. One who is a part of Christ's body is ipso facto a part of the institution of the Church.

Moreover, institution is a word that refers to a relationship, such as "The Institution of Marriage." David (Mark 1:17) objects to the institution of religion in favour of a "relationship with Jesus." Yet, they are one and the same thing. In fact, "the institution of marriage" is perhaps the most common metaphor for the Church! If it isn't the most common, it is second only to The Body.

I really do not understand the false dichotomy between "the institutional Church" and "The Body of Christ". It is a generation X-type reasoning, decrying the old institutions in favour of a rebellious and "free" world and spirituality! An institution is a structure or system with a coherent purpose, rules, and methods. A body is not less so! Yet you seem to advocate a body that can reorganise itself at any time, or separate itself, and yet still be a recognisable body! If your body did that, you would cease to resemble anything that could be mistaken for Jacob Allee. It is the system of bones, muscles, nerves, veins, etc. all operating according to the structure and rules that God designed us with that makes you and I who we are as corporeal beings.

The Body of Christ is more than a simple metaphor, and even if it was, a metaphor is useless if it cannot properly correlate the two comparisons. A body is as I described it, so the Church must have those essential properties of a body. If you want to know what a body comprised of a group of people looks like, look up "Corporation" in the dictionary! If we are the Body of Christ, then we are "Christco." Yet I assume you'll have a greater disdain for "corporation" than for "institution."

1 Tmothy 3:15 "..which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth." (NASB)

Obviously the view of the church is crucial to the interpretation of this verse.

But that begs the question: what is the proper understanding of that verse?

The protestant understanding would be that the church, who are believers and followers of Christ, are the pillar and support of the truth.

Oh, well thank you. That cleared everything right up! Christians make up the Church! Who knew? But your reasoning fails in that each individual Christian is not a pillar or foundation of the truth. In fact, the multiplicity of opinion on what "truth" is in Protestantism (contraception, gay marriage, and divorce, on the moral side, and sacramentalism vs. symbolism, predestination vs. free will, and charismatism vs. cessationism on the doctrinal side) demonstrate that individual Christians or many times even individual branches of Christianity do not live up to the Biblical description of 1 Timothy 3:15. Again, I refer you to "corporation", which is an organisation that possesses an individual identity than that of its individual constituents. This fits in well with the Body of Christ idea. Our identity is Christ, and only ultimately so as we are all a part of His Body.

As far as being against high church, yes I am.

I'm not entirely sure by your response that you even know what "high church" means.

I detest the fact that the pope has been given titles such as "holy father" and "the vicor[sic] of Christ" and so on. Names that before only belonged to God Almighty Himself.

God is Christ's representative?! Do you know what "vicar" means?! You once again are building paper tigers and knocking them down, rather than actually interacting with Catholic beliefs.

That is but one of my disaprovals, but more of that will come out in the debate as it continues on.

Thanks for your thoughts.

I'm sure more of your misrepresentations and misunderstandings indeed will come out. Oh, how I look forward to that...

Jon replied...
thank you for your welcome, gregory, jacob!

Sadly, I think that the ancient, venerated concept of "the church," what it is and what it does, is dead outside of the 'high' churches (in many places, Christians don't even like the name "Church": they prefer 'worship center,' or 'community-something-or-the-other').

For the record, 'high' churches do not refer specifically to Catholic Churches. There are high Anglican churches, high Episcopalian churches, high Lutheran churches, high Methodist churches, etc. It usually refers to a more traditional and liturgically-based church, rather than the "free" churches like Pentecostals and SBCs.

here's a case in point:

"Without being a part of the body of Christ Christians can certainly render themselves useless. But nowhere in scripture does it teach that fellowhip in the church is necessary for salvation."

To me these are contradictory statements: in the first line you equate 'the church' with the body of Christ, in the second, it's back to being 'the church' again--ie, merely a "fellowship" of sorts. I mean, if Jesus equates Himself with His Church ("Saul, Saul, why do you persecute ME?") and it is His BODY, then why is it such a stretch to say that the way I remain attached to the vine is by remaining ONE with Christ's body, the Church?

Good point. This passage in Acts 9 is why I believe that Paul, who first compared the Church to Christ's body, and probably had this experience in mind when he did so, meant something more than a metaphor by it.

And to me, one's view of the church is not just crucial to the interpretation of that one verse but to EVERYTHING--after all, the church IS Jesus on this earth: He is no longer physically present (save in the Eucharist, another topic) EXCEPT thru His can this NOT be front and center for every Christian?

Even as a Protestant Pentecostal, I understood that we are the Body of Christ here on earth--that we physically manifest Christ to the world! The Audio Adrenaline song "Hands and Feet" just started running through my head.

And it is, by the way, one of the only ways for a non-catholic Christian to understand his Catholic brother: how the Church sees and understands that IT IS JESUS means that AS JESUS 1. the church forgives sins John 20:22-23; James 5:15 2. is infallible (on faith and morals) Matthew 16:18; Luke 10:16; John 16:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Timothy 3:15. Examples could be multiplied. 3. interprets Scripture (after all, the Church wrote it!) 2 Peter 1:20-21; 3:16-17 4. is the fountain of all grace 2 Corinthians 4:7-18--especially v. 15, where Paul talks about enduring hardships for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel of grace, and thereby (v.15) spreading grace. See also Titus 3:15, speaking of baptism as a bath of regeneration 5. has REAL spiritual power to "loose and bind" (even in heaven!) Matthew 16:19; 18:18 6. casts out satan Luke 10:17-20; Mark 16:17-18; Revelation 12:11. Again, examples could be multiplied. 7. heals spiritually and physically Mark 16:17-18; 1 Corinthians 12:9; James 5:13-16, etc. 8. does even MORE than our Lord did (as He said His followers would) John 14:12. Only in this context can one understand how the Catholic Church sees itself--it isn't just a matter of applying titles like 'Holy Father' or 'Vicar of Christ'--in another way YOU and I are 'vicars' of Christ (we are, after all, 'Christians,' or 'little Christs.')

Jacob said...
"Without being a part of the body of Christ Christians can certainly render themselves useless. But nowhere in scripture does it teach that fellowhip in the church is necessary for salvation."

I see why that statement sounds contradictory. As I look at it I admittedly didn't word it very well. What I mean to say is that it's not necessary for a Christian who is part of the Body of Christ to have fellowship with the rest of the body to actually be saved. However if as part of the body of Christ they cut themselves off from the fellowship, they are simply a hand or toe out there on their own. So fellowship with the body of Christ which is the church is vital for spiritual growth, but not for salvation itself.

This is still very much a contradiction--and it is only because of your minimalistic view of "salvation" that you don't see this yourself. Eternal life does not begin when we die. It is not "fire insurance." It is something that begins here and now, through knowing Jesus and being united with Him (John 17:3). The means by which that is effected is in participation with His Body, the Church. You say that if part of the body cuts itself off, it becomes somehow less effective "out there on their own". I should say so! It dies! How can something dead, spiritually, have eternal life?! This is the contradiction! If a foot is cut off from the body, it dies. There is no life in it. Since obviously we are not talking about physical death in the case of Christians cutting themselves off of the Body of Christ, the only alternative is spiritual death!

Or, to use Jesus' analogy of the vine--those who are cut off are fit only to be burned! John 15:6

Jon had the last comment in that particluar article:
The "Patristic Era" of the Church, or the era of the early Church Fathers, streches roughly from the middle of the 1st century to the middle of the 8th, and determining who was a 'Father' of the early church came down to four criteria for post-patristic Christians:
1. orthodoxy
2. holiness of life
3. church approval
4. antiquity
I think the 'rule of four' (dating, after all, from the 700s AD) is a good rule of thumb for just about any new-fangled thing introduced into christendom these days, and the concept of the church as a help but unessential (like the concept of tongues--which I read from your site with interest--or the concept of the rapture) is one such concept: 1. is it orthodox? 2. does it foster a holy life? 3. does it have a modicum of church approval? 4. how OLD is the idea? especially that last one--that criterion alone would sink a lot of the ideas floating around and which I think the Bible condemns in Hebrews13:9.

That's a good rule. I'll have to remember that. :)

From there, Jacob issued a new post, entitled Reformation Debate Part 3, which he described as his "formal response to Jon."

Here it is in its entirety:

This is actually not a formal response to Gregory, but to Jon. Jon brought up some thing that I felt got at the heart of some serious issues and so I chose to first respond to them. Jon's words will be in green, and my own in blue. Except where Christ is quoted that will be in red.

[This is me. Obviously the colours are going to remain consistent throughout this post, so happily disregard Jacob's key on this blog. It makes perfect sense on his own, however.]

thank you for your welcome, gregory, jacob! sadly, i think that the ancient, venerated concept of "the church," what it is and what it does, is dead outside of the 'high' churches (in many places, Christians don't even like the name "church": they prefer 'worship center,' or 'community-something-or-the-other'). Here's a case in point:

(Quoting me) "Without being a part of the body of Christ Christians can certainly render themselves useless. But nowhere in scripture does it teach that fellowship in the church is necessary for salvation."

to me these are contradictory statements: in the first line you equate 'the church' with the body of Christ, in the second, it's back to being 'the church' again--ie, merely a "fellowship" of sorts.

(let me jump in here) I see why that statement sounds contradictory. As I look at it I admittedly didn't word it very well. What I mean to say is that it's not necessary for a Christian who is part of the Body of Christ to have fellowship with the rest of the body to actually be saved. However if as part of the body of Christ they cut themselves off from the fellowship, they are simply a hand or toe out there on their own. So fellowship with the body of Christ which is the church is vital for spiritual growth, but not for salvation itself.

I answered that above, when he first replied to it. No need to repeat myself.

i mean, if jesus equates himself with his church ("saul, saul, why do you persecute ME?") and it is his BODY, then why is it such a stretch to say that *the way* i remain attached to the vine is by remaining ONE with christ's body, the church?

This obviously bring up the issue of whether or not one can lose his salvation. Which scripture is clear about. No, you can not.

Yet this is precisely one of those doctrinal issues about which all of Protestantism is divided! How one interprets these Scriptures is central to one of the biggest debates in Protestantism! So by your very referencing this discussion, you demonstrate the folly of Sola Scriptura, or you say that every group that does not teach Once-Saved-Always-Saved is preaching a false gospel and does not deserve to bear the name "Christian." Since the vast majority do not in fact believe that you cannot lose your Salvation, you must be willing to write a whole lot of people out of the faith!

Romans 8:38,

38"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Indeed not! But notice, God loves sinners. God even loves those who will never put their faith in Him! Notice something else, conspicuous by its absense: the passage never says that we cannot choose to reject our faith. God never takes away our freedom--in fact, in Salvation He gives a truer freedom than we previously had! But that freedom has a great responsibility--and we can choose to abandon that freedom in favour of slavery to sin (this is what Romans 6 was about, for goodness sake!) If we choose to give up our salvation, we have not "lost" it. No one has taken it from us.

Ephesians 1:13-14,

13"In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory."

In other words, the Holy Spirit guarantees that what we have heard is true, and that truth leads us to Salvation. But notice what that verse also says: We have not yet acquired possession of that salvation!

Think of it this way. My mom ordered 6 mugs for us for a wedding shower present. One came, and 5 are on their way. They are guaranteed to come, and if they do not, the Hudson's Bay Company owes us for them. Now, Melissa and I have received any number of mugs since that time, and we do not need these. Since they have been delayed in coming (for goodness knows what reason!) we can choose to give them up and change them for something that we would rather have. This annuls the guarantee from HBC because we have let them off the hook, so to speak.

Spiritually, if we choose to turn away from God rather than to persevere in Him, then we let Him off the hook of His guarantee to save us. That guarantee was never unconditional in the first place! It was dependent upon a response of faith and works from us!

The ability to lose your salvation is a false teaching.

In the sense only that the Devil or some external force cannot keep us from it, yes. In the sense that God would ever choose to not give it to us if we wanted it, yes. Our Salvation is morally assured--we can count on the promises of God to save us. However, that does not mean that we cannot choose to give up our salvation. That is the vital distinction. Because we are not ultimately saved until our lives are at their end, in this life, while we have only the guarantee (and a great guarantee it is!) but not the actuality, we can interrupt the delivery and refuse it.

Here we see that once we are in Christ absolutely nothing can separate us from Him, we are sealed with the Holy spirit (no way out) who is our "guarantee of our inheritance (eternal life) until we acquire possession of it To the praise of His glory."

I would disagree with your interpretation, and I would disagree with you based on the multitude of Scripture that suggests that we must remain faithful in order to be saved, and that a failure to do so will result in our loss. After all, according to good Protestant hermeneutics, Scripture interprets Scripture. Moreover, the Church interprets Scripture also, and she has always warned that if we do not persevere, we will be cut off! The novel teaching to the contrary by John Calvin is the new and false gospel. And it leads to the ridiculous quandary, when played out in experience, of saying that one who was a Christian and fell away is either saved regardless of his obedience, or was never actually saved in the first place. Neither of those is tenable. If the former, then God is not just, and the Scriptures commanding our obedience are made nothing. If the latter, we can never know whether anyone else, or even ourselves, are actually saved! What kind of assurance is that?!

The way you stay part of the true vine is faith alone in Jesus which produces an eternal salvation with Him that is secure. The picture that Jesus gives us in John 15:1-8 is this:

1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples."

The branches that are pruned (vs.2) so that the rest may produce more fruit are false Christians that God is clearing out.

Can a "false Christian" really have been grafted onto the vine? That makes no logical sense!

Just like the wheat and the tares, they look alike, however one is genuine and one is not.

No, it is not just like the wheat and the tares! In that parable, the wheat (true Christians) are an entirely different species than the tares (false Christians)! Here in John, both those that are cut off, and those that remain, are actually part of the vine who is Christ! By your logic, Christ grafts into Himself those people who are false pretenders! NO! Christ does not unite Himself with falsity! Those that are a part of Him are true! What this passage teaches is that those who are truly united to Him, unlike actual branches on an actual vine, are people with free will who can choose to disobey Christ and thus are cut away! This passage teaches the opposite of what you want it to, as so many others you have quoted!

Verse four makes it clear that we can't bear fruit apart from the vine (Christ).

Obviously not!

But according to verse 5 if we are in Christ we do bear fruit. And verse 6 declares that those who don't bear fruit don't belong to Him and are thrown in the fire.

Well that's just it! You don't garden much, do you? A branch that is actually part of a tree, that does not bear fruit, needs to be cut off so that it is not still drawing the lifegiving resources of the tree into itself instead of those nutrients going to those which can produce life. If as Christians, we are bearing no fruit, bearing no works of righteousness, not keeping Jesus' commands (John 15:14), then we are cut off from Him! Verse 5 does not say, ipso facto that as part of the tree we will bear fruit. It says rather that if we remain part of the tree we will bear fruit. Try this on your houseplant. Cut 3/4 of a branch off, but leave it attached. See what has happened to that branch in a week! (If you don't have a houseplant, or can't wait that long, I'll tell you--it dies!) It is still part of the tree, but it has not "remained" with the tree, and cuts itself off of the source. It needs to be cut off for the health of the whole plant.

But verse 8 is the real clincher here "you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples."

You gravely misquote the verse, adding the very word that you claim clinches your point:

"you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples."

This verse is rendered according to the New Jerusalem Bible as

"It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit
and be my disciples."

It is translated in the New American Bible as

"By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."

In the King James Version it reads

"Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples."

The New King James Version says

"By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples."

The New American Standard Bible has it as "prove", as does the Revised Standard. However, how modern translators render the text is secondary, I assume you'll agree, to what is actually written in the Greek.

"En touto edoxasthe pater mou ina karpon polun pherete kai genesthe emoi mathetai."

Yeah, it's all Greek to me, too. But the key word here is "genesthe" which is a form of the Greek verb "ginomai", which means:

1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being

2) to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen

a) of events

3) to arise, appear in history, come upon the stage

a) of men appearing in public

4) to be made, finished

a) of miracles, to be performed, wrought

5) to become, be made

The particular tense of this verb is "future middle deponent indictative".

Again, all Greek to me.

Future--Same as our future tense, and indicates the contemplated or certain ccurrence of an event which has not yet occurred.

Middle Deponent--The middle deponent forms in almost all cases are translated as being in the active voice. So what's the "active voice"?

The active voice represents the subject as the doer or performer of the action. e.g., in the sentence, "The boy hit the ball," the boy performs the action.

Finally, "indicative mood" is a simple statement of fact. If an action really occurs or has occurred or will occur, it will be rendered in the indicative mood.

Basically, it's a straightforward way of saying the subject will certainly perform whatever (it's a verb, remember) in the future.

Realising that ginomai means "to become", the verse should be rendered "By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and will certainly become my disciples." The verb has nothing whatsoever to do with the word "prove" or "prove to be".

Since you called me out with such disagreement over how the New Jerusalem Bible phrased something (in the article on The Sign of the Cross, I feel justified in pointing out a glaring bit of "interpretive rendering" in your translation (which I assume is the ESV that you have previously prized so highly).

It's the same concept in James Chapter [2--good to know you don't know where it is!] "faith without works is dead." Works don't equal faith, or earn any kind of merrit[sic]. They simply prove that you have faith in Christ and are indeed already saved by the grace of God.

I'm pretty sure v.18 would contradict your interpretation. But either way, James makes it very clear that "Faith alone" will not save you, and as such, we could possibly skip that whole portion of the debate!

and to me, one's view of the church is not just crucial to the interpretation of that one verse but to EVERYTHING--after all, the church IS jesus on this earth: he is no longer physically present (save in the Eucharist, another topic) EXCEPT thru his can this NOT be front and center for every christian?And it is, by the way, one of the only ways for a non-catholic Christian to understand his catholic brother: how the church sees and understands that IT IS JESUS means that AS JESUS

Whoa. Let me stop you right there. The church (Christians) is not or are not Jesus.

Really? Because Jesus seemed to think so: Luke 10:16; Acts 9:4-5. St. Paul seemed to understand what He was getting at, too: 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:15. According to 1 Peter 1:4, we even share Jesus' divine nature! So, between Jesus', Paul's, and Peter's words, or yours, I'm gonna go with them.

We are Ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) or representatives of Christ Jesus in this world that is not our home.

Yeah, or "vicars", like the Pope!

We are adopted sons of God (Romans 8:14-15).

With Jesus as our older brother! Hallelujah!

But we are most certainly not Jesus in the sense that you are about to go into. We are the body of Christ, yes. But that is a metaphor given to help explain how we as believers have different gifts and abilities that can function together like a hand does with the arm and the arm to the shoulder, and so on (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).

Oh, it's much more than a metaphor! Have you read Acts 9:4-5?

Pointing out that to function properly for Christ we must work together as believers, with Christ as the head (our leader) of the church. But we do not actually become Christ himself on this earth, we simply speak on His behalf with the authority that come from the Bible.

Actually, that authority comes from Jesus. The authority of the Church to write, compile, and canonise the Bible also comes from Jesus! Since the Church predates the Bible (at least the NT) obviously you've got your flow of authority backwards!

1. the church forgives sins

No way man. Only the shed blood of Christ can for give sins.

Helloooo! Were you listening? We forgive sins through Jesus--with the Authority that He gave us!

The authority is in Jesus Christ alone to forgive sins by his bloody sacrifice.

Funny, I could swear that He said, "As the Father has sent Me, so now I send you. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven, and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

Hebrews 9:22,

22"Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins."

This is exactly why the Eucharist and the "propitiatory" mass is wrong and unscriptural. Only by the shedding of blood can forgiveness of sins be made and received.

Yeeaaah....remember that big ol' Cross?

But the Roman Catholic Catechism says itself in paragraph 1367
"The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different." "In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner."
So not only is this a sacrifice without blood that cannot forgive sins anyway, the claim is being made that Christ must be re-presented again and again as a victim for sacrifice.

Uh, no, that's not what it says! The blood that was shed at Calvary is once and for all! That sacrifice of Calvary is eternal, perpetual, constantly before the throne of God in Heaven (Revelation 5:6--the Lamb slain standing before the Altar in Heaven. What did you think that was talking about?). When we participate in the Eucharist, that once-for-all, perpetually-before-the-throne sacrifice is made present again to us ("re-presented") so that we can partake in the fullness of the grace that is offered. This is identical to the Passover, where the blood of the Lamb was shed on the doorposts so the Israelites' firstborn sons would live. But the blood on the doorpost was not enough. The family had to eat the lamb! And so must we, in order to appropriate the fullness of the sacrifice! This is not unbiblical at all! It is a symbolic communion that eliminates this reality that is unbiblical! (John 6:53)

The bible says that Christ was not a victim but went willingly to the cross on our behalf. (Philippians 2:8)

Have you studied theology? 'Cause I'm beginning to wonder! "Victim" is the technical term for a sacrificial offering, willing or not!

And furthermore Christ original sacrifice was enough and He is not to be repeatedly sacrificed.

And so He is not! Did you read the Catechism? Go back and read the clause that I bolded. It's the same sacrifice! Not a new one, not another one! In the Mass, we are taken to Heaven to experience the offering of Calvary in the Throneroom of God!

Hebrews 9:25-26,

25"Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."

And Hebrews 10:12,

12"But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,"

Yet He is High Priest forever--and a priest, by definition, sacrifices. If the priesthood is eternal, so is the sacrifice, as Revelation makes clear in its description of The Lamb who was Slain from the foundation of the World!

And John 19:30,

"...He said,'It is finished,' and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."

In an historic, temporal moment, yes, it was finished when Christ died on Calvary. But from the eternal perspective, it is ever-present to God in Heaven!

The church does not forgive sins, only Christ. His one time sacrifice was enough to cover all sin, forever for anyone who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:26)

No one is contesting this--except that one receives that salvation--even the very message of that salvation, from the Church!

2. is infallible (on faith and morals)

No, the only thing that is infallible is God Himself and His holy word (the Bible).

God is infallible, yes. God's word is infallible, yes. But God's Word was written by sinful men, who for the purpose of writing Scripture were graced by God with the gift of infallibility. Now, why is it such a leap of logic to realise that God did this in order to preserve His Word from error--and thus, if He made the same promise to the Church (Matthew 16:18; John 16:13; 1 Timothy 3:15), that He would not keep His Church as doctrinally pure as He kept His Word? Why is one (a series of infallible books written by fallible men graced with infallibility) a sure and certain thing and the other (a God-ordained institution of fallible men founded to spread the truth--infallibly through that same grace--to all the world) so unlikely?

Or, put another way, if the Church never can decree anything infallibly, how can you be sure that the New Testament that you so cherish is the right collection of infallible books? At best, according to Protestant reasoning, The Bible is a fallible collection of infallible books! That is neither very logical, nor very reassuring! On what grounds, outside of a Church that can infallibly make such a decision, do you accept the Bible is the truth?

The Roman Catholic Church claims that when it comes to faith and morals that the Bishops when they speak in one voice are infallible. Or when the the pope speaks on faith and morals he is infallible.

When they are defining an issue of faith or morals as doctrine they are infallible.

And they claim that Peter was the first pope. (Have I said anything incorrect?)

Slight clarification above. It's not your words, but your understanding of those words, which is incorrect.

Well let's look at a few things here for a moment. Galatians 2:11-14,

11"But when Cephas (who is Peter John 1:42) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?"

So Peter who according to Romans Catholics was the first pope and should have been infallible when it comes to faith and morals was called out by Paul and he "opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned." Condemned of what? He was condemned along with the other Jews because their "conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel."

Peter was not defining a doctrine. Infallibility does not extend to a person's behaviour. Peter could be as hypocritical as he pleased, but he could not have officially taught that hypocricy was morally right, nor could he (nor did he) define that Gentiles had to become Jews to be saved. Peter's indecision and hypocricy on this matter does not touch the doctrine of infallibility.

Well if the gospel doesn't relate to faith and morals what does?

Peter did not deny the Gospel. He did not act in accordance with the Gospel. There is a difference.

Peter was denying the truth of the gospel by separating himself from gentile believers because they weren't circumcised. Peter was out of step because the circumcision party was adding a work to the gospel, and they were the ones to avoid fellowship with.

True enough, but Peter never formally declared that true Christianity resided with the Judaisers.

While I'm certain after being called on this that Peter repented, he still sinned and was in error on a crucial subject regarding faith and morals.

Yet, at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), Peter and James officially and infallibly declared the truth of the Gospel, and not Peter's personal error. Thus, the Grace of Infallibility led Peter to define circumcision as an unnecessary requirement for salvation.

In Matthew 16:23 Jesus even calls Peter Satan for setting his mind on the things of man instead of God.

So what? Again, this is not an issue of infallibiltiy. Infallibility does not equal perfection, neither does it mean that the one who is infallible knows all the answers. What it means is that in a matter of doctrine, the Spirit of God prevents him from proclaiming falsehood as truth. Infallibility is a lot narrower and more specific of an idea than you seem to think.

How about outside the Bible. Are there any examples of popes disagreeing about an issue of faith and morals? Yes.

In the year 1431 one pope condemned Joan of Arc as a heretic and had her burned at the stake.

Study history! No pope ever condemned St. Jeanne! She tried to appeal to him, but the court refused her, condemned her unjustly on false charges, and sentenced her through the secular court. In all, it was almost as severe a travesty of justice as the trial of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ! Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Joan of Arc

Another pope revoked her condemnation 24 years later. And yet another pope exalted her to sainthood in 1920.

As well they should have. Justice was finally served! (And a late date of 1920 is nothing phenomenal. Canonisation is often a long process.)

Quite a deal to go from a condemned heretic, to a saint. But the pope's are "infallible" when it comes to faith and morals? That doesn't appear to be the case.

Since no pope was involved in her actual condemnation, this is more moot a point than your reasoning with St. Peter!

3. Interprets scripture (after all, the church wrote it!)

Men wrote the Roman Catholic Catechism, and made the Roman Catholic traditions, but God wrote the scriptures! Not the church. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Wait, what? The Bible fell from the sky? Tell me, did it have a table of contents in it?

This is especially true since the Old Testament scripture was written by the Jews before the "church" came to be.

Since it was the Church who declared what all the 73 books of the Bible were, it is at least certain that the Church defined the Bible, even if 46 of them weren't actually New Testament. Moreover, since Israel was the "Ekklesia" (or church) of God in the OT, the statement that the Bible originated in the Church is not inaccurate, though perhaps imprecise.

As far as who can interpret scripture, well yes the church interprets scripture by the Holy Spirit. But the church, again, is the body of Christ. All who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their savior are a part of the body of Christ and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:13)

Oh, I see. So any Christian, "even a ploughboy" to quote Luther, is fully able through the Holy Spirit to interpret Scripture correctly. Right. I see now. It makes sense! So then how pray tell, can there be so much disagreement, contradiction, and out-and-out error in the Protestant Church?!

It's a wonderful notion that the Holy Spirit and I can figure out the faith by reading the Bible! In practice, it simply does not hold true!

So either anyone who doesn't agree with you is not actually a Christian (since their interpretation of Scripture is different, and thus they obviously don't have the Holy Spirit to guide them), or else God doesn't care about error and disunity in His Church, and Jesus was a deluded liar! Those are your choices--those, or the plain truth that not just anyone can interpret Scripture, that there must be an authoritative and infallible interpreter, and that interpreter is the Church!

It is by the Holy Spirit that each Christian interprets scripture. This doesn't mean that there are multiple interpretations of scripture, indeed there is only one. But because we are weak in our flesh (sinful nature) people can certainly misinterpret scripture. That is why it's so important to learn and practice solid Bible hermeneutics.

So now it's "Anyone with enough scholarship, learning, and proper education" can interpret Scripture? Well, that's a far cry from "everyone" isn't it? And why should education be a factor if God Almighty Himself is guiding me into the correct interpretation? You are contradictory!

The Bereans went to the scriptures themselves to make sure what Paul was telling them was true (Acts 17:11) and they are commended for it.

The Bereans made sure that Paul wasn't just making something up, yes! It was great that they didn't just take his word for it, on this new teaching! And yes, they could understand how the Bible would have said so. But let me ask, would those Berean Jews have understood the Scripture to say what Paul preached, had he not preached it? Since the vast majority of Jews do not, it's a safe assumption. Notice, the Bereans were commended for their openness and diligence in receiving the message, not for reading the Bible and arriving at the correct interpretation themselves, as the Spirit guided them!

Christians have a responsibility to go to the scripture themselves and make sure what they are being taught adds up. In order to do that it certainly involves interpretation.

And to an extent, Scripture is pretty easy to interpret. But the issue is when there are competing and contradictory interpretations, there is of necessity, error. Either the Eucharist is literally Jesus, or it is not. We cannot both be right. We can make our arguments, and we can appeal to Scripture. The Christian is bound to examine those Scriptures to see if we are obviously out in left field. But in the final examination, especially when Scripture is not clear, the Church has to rule.

4. is the fountain of all grace

Again, no. God is the fountain of all grace. It is He that became a man and lived a perfect life, fulfilled the law and died in our place for sin. Romans 3:23-24,

23"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

You are really missing the point that the Church, as Christ, united with Him, participates in His giving of Grace to the world. God, in this image, is the source of grace. The fountain is not the source of the water, but the means by which the water is distributed. Through proclaiming the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, the Church does act as the Fountain of Grace, by bestowing the Grace of God to the world. (Romans 10:12b-15)
The same Lord is Lord of all, and His generosity is offered to all who appeal to Him, for 'all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.'
How then are they to call on Him if they have not come to believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard of Him? And how will they hear of Him unless there is a preacher for them? And how will there be preachers if they are not sent? As Scripture says: 'How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messengers of good news.'
God conveys His Grace through the Church. It is in that sense in which we are the Fountain of Grace!

5. has REAL spiritual power to "loose and bind" (even in heaven!) 6. casts out Satan 7. heals spiritually and physically 8. does even MORE than our lord did (as he said his followers would). only in this context can one understand how the catholic church sees itself--it isn't just a matter of applying titles like 'holy father' or 'vicar of christ'--in another way YOU and I are 'vicars' of christ (we are, after all, 'christians,' or 'little christs.')

The continuing assignment of God's power, authority, and even His holy name to the Roman Catholic Church and its bishops is sickening to me.

Don't read your Bible then, because it is the Bible that says it, not us! I gave ample references above.

I am most certainly not going to accept a title that Biblicly speaking is a name of God. And I refuse to call anyone "Father" especially "Holy Father" besides my Father in Heaven. Matthew 23:9,

"And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven."

Mmm hmm. What do you call that man that married your mom, out of curiosity? I'm pretty sure that passage referred to not calling anyone a teacher, and yet you've tossed that word around. Oh! When you go to that guy who wears the stethescope and prescribes medications, what do you call him? Doctor? Hey! That's the Latin word for "Teacher"! Fie! How dare you call these people titles that are proper to God alone?! Oh, wait, because Jesus isn't speaking literally! He's not saying you can't give these people those titles! He is saying that when we call someone "father" we recognise their fatherhood is actually symbolic and metaphorical of God's Fatherhood, and not the other way around!

Call no man "Father"?

Jacob is back now, and has updated the comments. Since I began my summation, John replied to Jacob saying...
"If you believe (In Christ to save you)you will be grafted in, if not you wont."
No, you are already grafted in, he makes it quite clear:

"..otherwise you too will be cut off." ([Romans 11:]22)

As to eph.1:13+14:

"..Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance..."

Yes, OF COURSE the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our salvation! But does that mean we cannot offend the Holy Spirit and drive Him away, sinning against Him in such a fashion that it is counted against us even "in the world to come" (Matt.12:32)? Of course we can! So long as we nurture a right relationship with the Holy Spirit (the kind of relationship that binds us to the Father and to the Son, John16:13-15) He is the sign that we are "sealed", "PROVIDED WE REMAIN IN HIS KINDNESS". If we do not "remain" (we are already there, we must "remain"), we too "will be cut off." but we can offend the Holy Spirit (otherwise what you are saying is that Christians cannot commit the unpardonable sin, something untenable; only Christians HAVE the Holy Spirit in a relationship form--Luke11:13) as Jesus warned us (Mark3:9, Luke12:10). As for the rest, I don't quite understand how you take these verses that are interpretable either way--"the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable", sure, but you can still go to hell with your free will--but cannot/will not hear Jesus' words to His disciples as being literal as well: "whose sins YOU FORGIVE are forgiven them." how is that difficult? and why--allow me a tangent here--did it take christendom 1,500 years to figure out that that was not what Jesus meant? Where was the Holy Spirit, who was to guide us "in all truth" (John16:13)? To me, like an OT Jew, history is HIS-Story (I'm sure you've heard that one before). Over and over again, God tells the Jews, "remember." "Remember when I brought you out of Egypt, guided you thru the wilderness, settled you in the promised land...remember! I AM the God of your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob...remember!" And all of their feasts and fasts were based in their past historical relationship with God. So if we are the 'wild shoot grafted in the place of the Jews,' why wouldn't He continue that same covenant relationship with His Body, the Church? Why would He allow--per prot
[estant] thinking--the "real" church to go underground (something never prophesied) and remain virtually anonymous for 15 centuries? I don't get it...
ok--back from tangent, sorry--

"I get that we are His hands and feet and all that. But it's not meant to be taken as we are "littereally Jesus Himself"."
Then pray explain how it is that if I have intercourse with a prostitute, Jesus has intercourse with a prostitute (1Cor.6:15-17)...

And this is key in my thinking--because if you are right, mariology (as well as a host of other RC teachings) is idolatry; if I am right (and we PUT ON Christ, we longer exist, but HE in us), Mary is my mother as surely as she is Christ's, and God is my Father as surely as He is Christ's.

To this Jacob replied (And I'll begin inserting comments again):
Well Jon, you make the "seal" in ephesians 1:13 a pretty weak seal since it's all so easy to break out of.

Jacob, I think you're thinking of a "seal" like those tinfoil seals under the lid of a jar of peanut butter or Tylenol, to seal in freshness and display evidence of tampering. But that's not what the Seal of the Spirit refers to at all. Rather, the Seal is the official "signature" of the King declaring that something has His Authority. Christians aren't "sealed in tight." We're under the sign and seal of Christ. There is a large difference when it comes to the issue of Salvation and our response.

God has sealed us, yes. He has given His Solemn Oath that He will not reject us or consign us to Hell if we live for Him. But the Bible repeatedly discusses our response and responsibility to live accordingly! The Epistle to the Ephesians itself is split in half, first describing what God has done for us, and then, with Chapter 4, describing our responsibilities to Him.

As far as being cut off, it's because no fruit is being produced which shows that a person isn't a true believer.

But that isn't what the text says. In order to have been grafted in, you have to have been a true believer! Yet for whatever reason, the works cease, and your sloth destroys your faith (that's why sloth is one of the Seven Deadly Sins), and you show by your actions that your faith is, indeed, Dead.

When James talks about "faith without works is dead" he points to this same principle. If you have no works, you have no faith.

Exactly. They are two sides of the same coin. Thank you for disproving Sola Fide by your own words!

Works prove that someones faith really exists. It is not necessary for salvation but a sign that they have what is necessary for salvation. FAITH.

You make entirely no sense:
Therefore C=B.

Where A is Faith, B is Salvation, C is works and '=' is "necessary for".

But you wish to say that Faith is necessary for Salvation, and works are necessary for faith, but somehow, works are not necessary for salvation! It is a contradiction, plain and simple! If one thing is necessary for another, and a part of one thing is essential to that thing, then by default, the part is necessary for the whole conclusion.

It's the same as saying (by your logic) the bar is necessary for the mousetrap to trap the mouse. The spring is necessary for the bar to operate, but the spring is not necessary for the mousetrap to actually trap the mouse!

Which part is primary (faith more important than works, or less important than works, or equal to works) is immaterial, because both are necessary!

As far as the unpardonable sin: Mark 3:28-30
28"Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" -- 30for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."
The unpardonable sin is unbelief in Jesus as the Messiah.

Uhm, no, no it isn't! Jesus Himself said that a blasphemy against Him is forgivable (Luke 12:10, the parallel passage). Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is decrying a work of God as a work of the Devil, not simply unbelief in the Messiah. It is having such a hard heart that you refuse to hear and recognise the Spirit's voice and work in your life, and would rather attribute it to Satan. I would caution many cessationists who say that charismatic gifts are of demonic origin that they are perilously close to the commission of this sin! I disagree that Jon is right in that only Christians could commit this blasphemy, but certainly they are not exempt from the possibility!

You can't be forgiven by Christ if you don't believe He is the Christ! It's not something where you can be a Christian and then screw up and lose your salvation and never be redeemed. The only sin that can't be forgiven is the sin of unbelief, because you can't be forgiven for that which you don't seek forgiveness for.

But a Christian, quite evidently, can be plagued with such unbelief, and continue in it, until they do renounce their faith. It happens many, many times!

As far as followers of Christ forgiving sins... why don't you get it? If a person comes to me after a message of the gospel and they tell me "I've trusted in Jesus as my savior" I can without hesitance say to them "if indeed you've trusted in Christ to save you, then your sins are forgiven."

Yes, that is true. But Jesus is referring to something more here. If someone sins after trusting in Jesus, the Church has the authority to pronounce forgiveness! Read the end of Sin and Satan for how this works in the Covenant family. Breifly, a sin in the Christian covenant is more than simply a sin against God, but a sin against His Body, the Church. The Church needs to forgive you as well as God, and the priest, as the representative of both Christ and of the Church, makes that pronouncement. Out of curiosity, where in Scripture does it say to confess to God alone for forgiveness? Quick answer, if you're interested in saving yourself some time, is it doesn't.

It's not my pronouncement that forgave them, it's their faith in Christ! I simply declare what has already taken place!

This is all well and good for one who is not a Christian (though I would say that the Bible teaches it is in Baptism that their sins are washed away (Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:20), which nullifies even that part of your argument, but further, once one is in the Covenant, and has then forsaken the Covenant, they must now be reinitiated into the Covenant.

You said regarding 1 Corinthians 6:15-16 "then pray explain how it is that if *i* have intercourse with a prostitute, *jesus* has intercourse with a prostitute."

But let's look at the scripture itself.

15"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two will become one flesh."

It never says you force Christ to have sex with a prostitute.

That is exactly what it says! It says that the sexual act makes the two parties "One Flesh". If we are already one with Christ, then Christ is being made "One Flesh" with the prostitute!

In fact if you want to say you litterally are Jesus in the sense that you are tallking about, that's like saying you force Jesus to sin!

Since Paul was talking about the spiritual bond of the sexual relationship, you're analogy is a non sequitur. But even if not, then it certainly demonstrates the severity of sin! Since Christ can have no part in sin, we see certainly that its effects are such as to kill the life of grace within us (in the case of mortal sin) or to at least wound it (in the case of venial sin)! Yet in your Once-Saved-Always-Saved philosophy, sin becomes "no big deal"--certainly not something that could come between you and God! But that teaching is expressly condemned in Scripture! (Romans 6)

Which most certainly isn't the truth.

The truth is that sin is a serious matter and will cut us off from Christ if we do not repent of it through the Sacrament that He has instituted to make such penance!

Simply put we are "members" of the body of Christ. We belong to Him. Don't mix what belongs to Jesus with such things as sexual immorality.

That is a far over-simplification of the thrust of the text, as I laboriously explain above! It's not simply "mixing" but "blending" or "joining"! That is why it is such a major concern to Paul (as indeed is all sin)!

And yes, Mariology and numerous other teaching of the RCC are indeed idolotry. Never in scripture are we told to pray or worship to anyone but the living God.

If we were talking about these things in our debate, I would again chastise you thoroughly for misrepresenting our teachings. Since we are not, I'll save myself the correction and simply urge you to remain on topic and not chase after hypothetical cases-in-point, but stick to the issue, in this case, "Ecclesiology".

God bless

(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--The Church and other Christian denominations
The Church: The Make-Up of the Church)

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