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 -- 4

Interlude--Part 2

This Interludal debate is actually between David "Mark 1:17" who writes the blog Get Out of the Boat, that I referred to in Battleship Ecclesia, and is a Calvinistic Protestant like Jacob. He and I have debated before, both here and at Grace for the Wayward Heart. At Jacob's blog, in the topic called "Reformation Day", he contributed to the debate by trying to take a step back and examine our basic presuppositions about Scripture and the Church, in order to clear things up. He did an admirable job explaining both sides (only a few corrections were needed) and I really enjoyed replying. His words will be in blue, and mine, as usual, in the default white. Any editorial comments I make on my own words will be in [square brackets]. These are comments that do not appear in my original post on Jacob's blog.

Mark 1:17 said...
There is a fundamental difference in Interpretation of Scripture and this is why the two sides wont agree:

I guess you could sum it up that way. The major difference so far is over the very question, "Who has the ability to interpret Scripture properly?" Catholics say "the Church" in order to preserve unity of doctrine. Protestants say "everyone" in order to preserve purity of doctrine. However, the Protestant rule has led to thousands upon thousands of disagreements that have spawned ever-increasing denominational divisions, each with their own novel interpretation of Scripture. On the other hand, the Catholic Church has maintained not only doctrinal unity but also doctrinal purity, believing the same thing for 2000 years. So from a purely historical-logical perspective, I've decided to believe the Catholic method.

Please correct me if I am wrong on your standpoints.

Don't worry, if you are, I'll be sure to! :D

Based off of this Scripture Matthew 16:13-20

"Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say that the Son of Man is?' And they said, 'Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' And Jesus answered him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.' Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ."

You believe that Jesus was telling Peter that he (Peter) was the "rock" and "foundation" of His church on earth. And that Christ gave the power to bind and loose to Peter. And that Peter has passed that power on down the line from Pope to Pope.

Based on that text among others. From that text I get up to your last sentence. More is needed to get to actually passing that authority on.

You believe that Jesus was declaring Peter's confession of Him (Jesus) as the Christ as the "rock" and "foundation" of the church on earth. And that Christ gave the power to bind and loose to His disciples (those who followed Christ).

No comment really, since this isn't my belief anymore. But I do have one question--in the Protestant schema, what is referred to by the power to bind and loose?

You know that I believe the latter of these two interpretations. But I do have some questions and concerns about the first.

Fire away! You've done a fair job presenting things so far!

1. You believe that the Pope and Cardinals (?Majestirium?)

Actually, it's the Pope and the Bishops (the Pope himself is the Bishop of Rome), not the Cardinals. Cardinal is actually an honourary title, usually, but not necessarily, given to bishops. All bishops are part of the Magesterium, but not all Cardinals are. The Cardinals' chief role is to elect a new Pope upon the death of the old.

are the only people who are infallible in the interpretation of Scripture.

Actually, infallibility only pertains to doctrinal pronouncements on faith and morals. Usually, those do indeed reflect and teach a particular interpretation of Scripture, but don't go thinking that the Bible is 100% defined as interpreted in X way. Only something like 7 specific passages of Scripture have been authoritatively interpreted--and even that means that "X is the primary, indisputable meaning. Other meanings can be got, so long as they do not contradict X". As such (Matt 16 being just such a passage) we must believe that Peter is the Rock, but that does not exclude the teaching that Jesus is the rock, or that Peter's confession is the rock, so long as the other two interpretations are not presented in a contradictory fashion to Peter's "rock-ness". In fact, the Catholic Catechism refers to all three interpretations at various times.

More, the Pope is infallible on issues of faith and morals only when he is specifically defining a doctrine according to his official status as Bishop of Rome--or, as the theologians say, when he is speaking "ex cathedra" which means, "from the chair [of Peter]."

The rest of the Bishops, however, are only infallible when they make a declaration on faith and morals as a college, or speaking together, for instance at an Ecumenical Council (like Nicea, which gave us the Nicene Creed and the doctrine of the Trinity, or Carthage, which gave us the New Testament Canon).

But they declared themselves as such (I don't remember when or at which councel, but I want to say Trent...unsure though).

Vatican 1 was when the doctrine of Infallibility was officially defined, in 1870. However, for a doctrine to be defined infallibly by the Church, it had to have been believed from antiquity (and more or less meet the other of the 4 qualities that Jon mentioned in the post before yours [Those were A-Orthodoxy, B-Holiness, C-Church Approval, and D-Antiquity]). The doctrines are not just pulled out of a hat, and the bishops say, "That sounds good!" It is the final reflection on a historical belief of the Church, which has often just been taken for granted, but at the present, a controversy over it has arisen and so a definitive pronouncement must be made. We see this at the Council of Trent. Historic Christianity has always accepted the Deutero-Canonical books of the Old Testament (what Protestants call the Apocrypha) as Scripture, and that was never challenged until Martin Luther rejected them in the 16th Century. Because of this the Catholic Church defined at the Council of Trent that the Deutero-Canonical books are indeed Scriptural. A misunderstanding of this has led many Protestants to claim that we "added" those books at that time, but the fact is, they had always been there and always been understood as Scripture. It was at that time that they were officially declared so.

It works that way with every Catholic doctrine, including Infallibility. It had been understood in the past, but the exact meaning and extent of it was carefully and precisely laid out so that there would be no misunderstanding of it, in 1870, at the first Vatican Council.

My concern here is that these few men have taken an authority that is not theres to take.

We believe that that authority flows out of Jesus' promises and commands that the Gates of Hell would never overcome the Church (meaning that It would never abandon the true faith) and that the Holy Spirit would guide the Church into all truth (the command, or instruction, being to bind and loose, and to preach that truth to the world). When the Church is called "The Pillar and Foundation of the Truth" in 1 Timothy 3:15, this is only possible if infallibility is true of the Church, and thus, St. Paul is attributing that quality to her in the 1st century!

The only one who is infallible is God!

You believe the Bible to be infallible, yes? Why? I'll wager it is because it is God's Word, and so He caused it to be infallible, correct? Yet God chose weak and sinful humans to write His Word. Those people could have fouled it up pretty good, had God not kept them from so doing.

We extend that understanding to the Church by analogy: God wanted His Church to preach His Salvation to the world, but the Church is full of sinful people who could foul that up pretty badly. We believe that God will not allow this based on His Promises in Scripture, and so keeps the Church from officially teaching error. If He could do it with the Bible, on what grounds do you object to Him doing it in His Church, which is, in fact, His Body?

Infallibility is not something that the Church has, just because, as if it is just something that belongs to her, putting her on level with God. Rather, infallibility is a Grace of the Holy Spirit, given to the Church to guide her into all truth so that she can spread that truth to the nations. Thus, the infallibility of the Church is a gift of God, flowing out from His Infallibility into His Body to complete His Mission.

And I believe that God dwells within each of His people and that when His people are in a right relationship with Him, He leads them into All Truth!

This is true, but He does it in a way that is never and can never be divorced from His Church. When an individual says, "The Spirit will guide me into all truth, so I don't need the Church to tell me how to interpret my Bible," not only is that just prideful, but it is demonstrably false. We see that when we look at two very devout Christian people reading Scripture and coming to two incredibly different understandings of it. One says, "I have free will!" and becomes a Methodist. The other says "God predestines everything!" and becomes a Christian Reformed. One says, "The Eucharist is Jesus Himself, and is necessary for salvation!" and becomes a Lutheran. Another says "It is only a symbol, a nice way to remember Jesus' sacrifice. We'll celebrate it, at His command, once a quarter," and goes to a Presbyterian church.

So you see, many contradictory views come to light (I could multiply examples, especially if I went into the end times!) from the view that each of us is equipped to interpret Scripture properly for ourselves, because "The Spirit will guide me into all truth." And in my mind it is the downfall of Sola Scriptura.

Also, basing the position of the Pope off of this passage I also believe is wrong because of the whole differences in the Greek forms of "rock" (I know that you and Loren hashed through that, but I see Loren's points as more vallid than those that you brought up. "rock" as in pebble for Peter and "rock" as in bedrock for foundation.

I respectfully disagree with you, and think Loren didn't make his case at all (no offence to him; he was a great opponent and is a great guy). The difference, as I said, was simply a matter of gender, and that played out in the fact that everywhere else in Scripture that referred to a small stone, "Lithos" was used, not "Petros". To the Sacred Authors' minds, "lithos" was the word to use, every time. Why change it for this time? By that logic, Peter's name would be Lither, or something. But Petra is a feminine word in the Greek, and not suitable to call a man, and so the Gospel writer, Matthew, changed it to Petros, giving it the masculine ending. Loren tried to defeat this argument by suggesting alternate masculine endings, but in so doing displayed his own lack of Greek knowledge, because the other endings were either plural or possessive (the equivalent to 's in English). So I submit that Loren did not make his case well at all. But then again, we come to the issue of how do we know who was right? Which teacher do we listen to? The one who "makes a better case" or the one with authority to decide? And round and round we go.

If nothing else, I hope it's food for thought.
[One can read the entire debate here, and determine for himself who made the better arguments, if he is interested.]

The foundation for the Church must be Christ

Absolutely it is!

and Christ alone. (and I know you will [I think he meant dis]agree with that, but please read on)

Of course I will, since Scripture itself disagrees with you. (Ephesians 2:20: "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone." This is the same author who said in 1 Cor 3:11 that there is no other foundation than Jesus Christ. So either Paul contradicts himself, which we accept on faith is impossible, or we interpret 1 Cor 3:11 in light of Ephesians 2:20, seeing that the foundation of truth is the Church [1 Tim 3:15] built on the Apostles and Prophets, and that Jesus Christ is the most essential, without-Him-there's-nothing part of that foundation. But there is no contradiction.)

2. Why would Christ being the Head of the Church delegate His authority to a created being?

Because we are all human beings who are spiritually united to Him! Since He is not Himself physically present, someone must represent Him to a world that relies on the 5 physical senses to understand the world, even non-physical, Spiritual realities. That He has done so is evident in many places of Scripture, esp. John 20:22-23 and Matthew 28:18-20

His church is universal, consisting of those still on earth and those in heaven, and those who from our perspective have fallen asleep. I can't see God giving any of His authority to a lesser being.

A lesser being? God has raised us up higher than the angels, and in fact has made us brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus! In fact, as Jon pointed out in one thread here, Paul says in Galatians that we ourselves are dead and only Christ remains! So we are not "lesser beings"! Yes, obviously we are not God Himself, but His Church is the Body of Christ--so intimately united with Him that Jesus could accuse St. Paul of persecuting not His followers, but He Himself before Paul's conversion. Is it any wonder, after that encounter, that Paul would be the one to coin the phrase, "Body of Christ"? He understood that not as a metaphor, but as Christ meant it on the road to Damascus!

(When Michael was confronted by Satan, even He [the head of the angels] deffered to God saying, "The LORD rebuke you.")

Yes, but we are higher than the angels (Psalm 8) especially since we are Christ's Body. [In fact, I would add, Christ Himself gave us the authority to cast out Satan, which ipso facto gives us greater authority than even the Captain of the Host of Heaven, St. Michael himself!]

So in short my concerns are:
1. That a few men have made themselves the only interpreters of Scripture and have used Scripture to bolster their position and make people think that they need these few men to interpret the Scripture for them, when God gives us His Spirit to guild and direct us. They have made themselves the foundation and not Christ.

A valid concern, if an alternative was viable. The Protestant Reformation, and the resulting division upon division, have demonstrated that individuals who think they can infallibly interpret Scripture were wrong! And if it is true that, from the provided biblical evidence, Christ Himself designated the Church to function in such a way, then these few men have not grasped after false power, but have been ordained to the greatest level of service in the Church! And that's precisely what it is: service! Their power is only power to keep people from error so they don't end up in Hell--not power to exalt the power weilder. The Bishops that I've met and talked to (like my own priest, before he was consecrated Bishop this past August) didn't want the job because of the responsibility and level of service--they do not seek it to gratify their lust for power! And those who would, are very rarely given the job, thank God!

2. In doing this these men have taken authority from Christ, which not even Michael was bold enough to do.

Again, this concern is false, since Christ Himself is the Authority by which they operate, and He Himself ordained them to their sub-authority. Jacob has objected to the term "Vicar of Christ" as something that should be reserved for God alone, but that is silly, since "Vicar" means "Steward" or "Representative". In a sense, we are all vicars of Christ, but [the pope is] one of them in a particular sense. But a vicar must faithfully represent Christ--he does not rob Christ of His Authority, but rather, manifests it!

Because of these two completely different stances RC's will not agree with Protestants on the 5 Sole's of the Refermation (I personally don't think that you can separate them, they are 1 giant Sole in 5 parts).

I still am not sure what they are. Let me see if I got them right:

Grace alone
by Faith alone
through Christ alone
to the Glory of God alone.
And Scripture alone.

So that's a 4 in 1 sola and one more...

Catholics agree with Grace alone, Christ alone, and the Glory of God alone. It is simply the protestant understanding of Faith Alone and Scripture Alone that we disagree with.

I guess that's why the debate isn't covering "Grace, Christ, or God's Glory alone" since on those points we agree. And I guess that's why the 5 Solas aren't called "The Pillars of Protestantism", but only Faith alone and Scripture alone.

One last thing:
Gregory, You are a big stickler for Apostolic Succession. That is a large part of your support for the RC church. Do you honestly believe that as a Protestant I cannot trace my "Spiritual" heritage right back to Christ?

I don't believe that is the question of Apostolic Succession. It refers specifically to the faith transmitted generation by generation through the successive ordination of bishops descended from the Apostles.

Further, no, I don't, because I believe that Protestantism introduces novel and erroneous teachings that no one before Martin Luther believed. In that regard, then, no, you cannot trace your faith back to Christ.

What you believe correctly, in line with the historic church, you believe solely wholesale from Catholicism, but Protestantism rejected so much and added so much that you cannot trace it back. I'm sorry.

No, I don't know the name of the guy who discipled the guy who discipled the guy who discipled me.

Even that is not the issue. Discipleship is not ordination to ministry, let alone ordination to Bishop. I didn't make up the definition of Apostolic Succession, nor did I make it a quality of the True Church. The authors of the Nicene Creed did that, when they said, "We believe in one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church."

However, if I put more time and effort into it that I am willing to put in, I am 100% positive that it would trace right back to Christ!

Possibly, but you still aren't a bishop, and that still doesn't mean that somewhere back just before John Calvin Apostolic Succession was broken due to false teaching.

And you may say, sure well, it goes right through the RC church.

That was my point up to "just before John Calvin".

That isn't the point here.

It is precisely the point, because up until the Reformation, the Catholic Church was the Church, and the Reformers left that Church.

The point is that the Church of Christ is not some Institution.

Of course it is! It has rules and guidelines and clear membership requirements and leadership and is a visible thing.

It is Christ's body.

Of course it is, but what is a Body but an institution? How can you have one in the sense of a group of people comprising it, without it being an institution?

Christ is the head, the brain if you will. He tells His body what to one else.

But that doesn't negate the institutional factor. [Rather, I would suggest that it increases the institutional concept.]

The Body of Christ did not become an institutionalized body until sometime between 300 and 500 years after Christ was crusified.

On what historic basis do you make that claim? If Paul was writing Timothy about instituting Bishops and Priests right off the bat, and we can look at the historical record and see how the Church was organised, how can you make such a claim?

You also speak very highly of Unity, what was the early church so unified on? Was it not what the write of Hewbrew refers to as Elementary doctrine? Hebrews 6:1-2
"Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment."

Yes, but it was also the stuff that the author of Hebrews wanted to leave behind, to move onto the "mature Christian stuff".

I don't know what translation you are using but "washings" is a reference to "baptsims" which is something you claim the early church agreed about, but you and I don't. So in that sense alone (and I could pick apart the rest of the list as well) we are not agreed and your argument fails.

So they all agreed upon these, and were moving on toward maturity. What is this Maturity? To know Christ to be in fellowship with Christ...not through a system, but through a friendship and intimate relationship with Christ.

Is that what the text says? It called the knowledge of Christ "elementary doctrine"! The "Mature doctrine" seems to refer to the rest of the book, especially the next chapters, which typologically demonstrate how Christ fulfils the Old Testament. In fact, it lays the groundwork for our faith in the Sacrifice of the Mass, which is Jesus' once-for-all sacrifice, eternally present before God, being made present to us so that we can participate in it!

In fact, in the Early Church, it was the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, that were considered the "Mature" doctrines.

Again I don't see that Christ would want His body Institutionalized.

In Christ,


Christ Himself ordained Apostles to do His Work, and said to Peter that He would build His Church on him. Then He sent them out to do so, and in so doing, they appointed deacons, priests and bishops, and thus institutionalised the Church!

Your personal hangup about a "personal relationship" being hindered by "the Church" is really hard for me to grasp! We've been through it before, and we still aren't getting through to each other. But there is no contradiction to Christ's Body being an institution. Maybe you're confusing "institution" with "business"?

Anyway, it was a pleasure responding to you. I hope you continue to try to understand the Catholic faith, even if you don't end up accepting it--so that you don't misrepresent it.

God bless

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

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