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.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Response To Jacob Allee's "It's Time For Protestants To Remember Why They Are Protestants" By A Concerned Protestant, p. II

In part I of this article, I noted that Jacob Allee had raised a stink about something he really didn’t want his readers to be concerned about: the fact that he and another preacher are evangelicals. And that in contrast to being Roman Catholic. In fact, he continues on from neverminding his evangelicalism to explain that his sensitivities have been overwrought by “the inclusiveness of Roman Catholics as brothers and sisters in Christ.”

From there, he admits a point of ignorance to shoulder his muffled protests, “… I don’t know the people he [the preacher] was referring to, maybe they trust in Christ alone, by faith through grace, but if they believe in the teaching of the Roman Catholic church, they are not believers.” Taken as a whole – that is, neverminding Jacob’s evangelicalism and thereby pretending he has no doctrinal investments in his words combined with the fact that his discourteous position necessitates an inclusiveness he’s not willing to admit – it quickly becomes clear that Jacob really has no idea what he’s trying to write, much less convince everyone of.

Essentially, Jacob’s admission that he “doesn’t know the people [the preacher] was referring to” stood alongside the possibility that “maybe they trust in Christ alone, by faith through grace” amounts to: those people may be Christians, but I really can’t say. That’s a reasonable glance at a very real possibility: he really doesn’t know who’s who and how they came to be that way. But then Jacob loses sight of his sensibility again by combining his confession that he doesn’t know with the condemnation, “but if they believe in the teaching of the Roman Catholic church, they are not believers.”

At this point I’m forced to ask myself, ‘what happens if those people do believe in Christ alone, by faith through grace (a formula I will take up in a moment), and are Roman Catholics? Has Jacob then blasphemed by judging a person as condemned (“they are not believers”) who has be declared righteous by God (“maybe they trust in Christ alone, by faith through grace”)? Does this mean that God can save Roman Catholics despite their institutional communion? If so, what is Jacob left with? A bunch of people who are Roman Catholic and saved.

Now what?

Well, Jacob doesn’t answer that question. Pity, really. I would’ve like to have seen him wrestle with the issue a little more before throwing in the towel and thinking it means that he won – that is, that he’s irrefutably right. Instead he calls on St. Paul to do his fighting, noting that “if anyone should preach another gospel that they should be accursed” (cf. Gal. 1:8-9) and that “this is clearly what the Roman Catholic church does.”

Since this paper is an examination of Jacob’s paper, and since I’ve worked almost line through line of his first two paragraphs, I have to ask my readers, how is it clear from what Jacob has expressed so far that this is what the Roman church does? What of what Jacob has written makes it clear that the Roman church preaches a different gospel? The fact that Jacob says so? The fact that Jacob’s fallacy of hasty generalization could possibly lull a less aware reader into sympathetic agreement? It’s plain to see both from Jacob’s paper so far, and my response that “this is [not] what the Roman Catholic church does.”

Aside from mere academic concerns with Jacob’s paper though, I have representational concerns. That is, like Jacob, I am Protestant, and have not given my voice over to Mr. Allee to represent me. Thus far his critique of why Roman Catholics are not brothers is predicated on nothing more than his evangelicalism, and we’re asked to nevermind that. But couched in his comment that maybe the Roman Catholics at the funeral “trust in Christ alone, by faith through grace” is a grave misrepresentation of the Protestant motto, Sola Fide (Justification by faith alone).

Now, if it was just Jacob and I in conversation, I might add the corrective: ‘do you mean “by grace through faith”’? But Jacob has published a paper – that is, made public – demanding Protestants everywhere remember why they are protesting. This wouldn’t really be much of a problem for me if it were used in a different context, say, one that isn’t directly opposing Roman Catholicism. As it is, we need to make sure we’re being very clear here, and not just glossing over misconstructions as if we’re talking to people who don’t care, and glad-hand based on superficial affiliations.

Jacob has accidentally misrepresented the Protestant position by mixing up the way God operates with the gift His operations enable. That is, we are save by grace through faith alone, not the other way around. This completely agrees with Sola Fide which is not a declaration against God’s grace (afterall, one of the other pillars of the Reformation was ‘by grace alone’, or Sola Gratia) but against the mentality and teaching that anyone can effect, or assist in their own salvation through meritorious acts, or by collecting indulgences. Sola Fide does not exclude the initial operation of grace; it requires it. God’s grace enables the faith by which we believe and are saved.

So having cleared up that misrepresentation of Protestant Sola Fide, let’s return to the next part of Jacob’s paper.

Having already asked his readers to nevermind the issue of ‘evangelicalism’ Jacob raises it once again. He asks, “Why are supposed [yes there’s that snobbery again!] ‘evangelicals’ becoming more and more ready to include Roman Catholics as Christians?” I think we’d be flogging the proverbial dead horse if we faced-off with Jacob on the issue of ‘evangelicalism’ again, so let’s move on to his primary concern: considering Catholics Christians.

Jacob began his paper – more or less – by stating that he doesn’t know if the Catholics at the funeral were saved (that is, Christian) or not. He takes up a non-judgmental stance and grants that some of the Catholics may, in fact, be saved – albeit only if they agree with his Protestant misconstruction of Sola Fide. So putting it all together, Jacob has demonstrated that his pious, non-judgmentalism is a false humility from which he judges the final condition of others’ souls based on whether or not they happen to know Jacob’s misunderstanding of Protestant theology and then believe it.

Given the above, let’s make allowance for Mr. Allee to retract his misunderstanding, and gain a proper Protestant perspective; that is, a correct view of Sola Fide. For in truth, Jacob has judged the hearts of others through a mistaken theological perspective, all the while admitting he doesn’t know the condition of others’ hearts. That’s an awkward contradiction that should be resolved by giving Jacob some wiggle-room, as it were, and space to correct himself. And interestingly, the 1st century church, before the advent of institutional Catholicism, would’ve been more likely to excommunicate Jacob for condemning others based on his erroneous teachings, and false humility than they would have been for people believing wrongly and requiring education.

To be continued…

(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--The Church and other Christian denominations.)

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