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.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Open Forum 1

(...is no longer open. Thanks for participating!)



Welcome to Barque of Peter's first Open Forum. After a few squabbles in recent posts (particularly about what's "on topic"), and the subsequent drop-off in posts altogether--as well as the fact that the current Rosary Meditation series is intentionally non-apologetic, and so many people have questions and concerns about what I've written--I wanted to pause in between each set of mysteries and offer a chance for comments, criticisms, arguments, encouragements, or whatever's on your mind.

It's an Open Forum, so if you want to address something I've written in the last five posts, fire away. If you want to wrangle over doctrine unrelated to anything ever discussed here before, fire away! Whatever's on your mind, state it. And if you just want to use the comments section as a place to discuss things with each other, and leave me out of it altogether--that's great too!

I'll just give three disclaimers:
1st--If this goes well, we'll do them a lot more often!
2nd--Chris and I reserve the right to use anything in the comments as fodder for future posts.
3rd--Let everything you say be said in a spirit of charity.

Other than that, have fun! Let the good times roll!

(Category: Miscellaneous: Open Fora)

50 comments:

Joni said...

I have a question for Gregory.

Throughout my lifetime as a Protestant, from a background quite similar to yours, we were taught to honor Mary as Christ's mother. But we there also always seemed to be the unspoken, "But don't get too carried away with this like the Catholics have."

While going through the RCIA process, we had some teaching on Mary that I felt was a bit much for those just coming into the Catholic Church. One quote was from a saint (whose name eludes me right now) that said something to the effect of, "We must come through Mary to get to Jesus." I found that offensive and it almost kept me from becoming Catholic at all.

I now realize that being a saint doesn't make a man perfect. Or that everything he ever said will become dogma. I got that part.

But I'm still having a difficult time finding the right balance here. Giving Mary her true place of honor as the Mother of God is my desire. But I don't want to make the mistake of putting her on the level of Christ, either.

Can you help?

P.S. Just a note for the previously "anonymous" or "just passing through" commenters. Sometimes it's easier to say what's on your heart if no one knows who you are. But remember that anyone in the world with internet can see this blog. It's not likely there will be personal retribution if you give a real identity!

Gregory said...

I remember when I was wrestling with similar ideas as a Protestant who was interested in Catholicism. Like you, the Catholic stance on Mary kept me from full communion with the Church three years longer than one would hope it would need to. After all, if they could just tone it down a little, for ecumenism's sake, more people could accept it, right?

The thing is, how much do we have to tone down in the name of unity?

But to answer your question, I'll refer to something a friend of mine told me when I was striving with these ideas.

I believe it was St. John Bosco who had a vision of two ladders reaching to heaven. One ladder was long and unsteady, while the other was short and stable, and easy to climb. It steady because Mary was holding it securely. The point, my friend let me know, is that we don't need Mary to come to Christ for salvation, but as His Mother and most faithful follower, she shows us the best way.

Of course, I objected strongly to this, saying: "NO! Jesus should be the one holding the ladder!" My patient friend simply replied, "You don't understand. Jesus is the ladder."

In Genesis 28:10-22, Jacob has a dream, in which he sees a ladder stretching to heaven, which angels are walking up and down.

In John 1:51, Jesus alludes to this dream when He tells Nathanael that he will see the angels ascending and descending on Jesus. That is, Jesus is the Ladder to heaven--the maker of the New Covenant and reconciler of us and God.

In St. John Bosco's vision, both the ladders represent Jesus. The long, unsteady one represents our attempt to follow Jesus in proper ways (the ladder did, after all, lead to heaven), but it was still unsteady. That is, it is easier for us to slip into sin and fall away.

On the other hand, the more direct and stable ladder, held by Mary like a construction worker holds a ladder steady for his co-worker, is an "easier" way to sanctification. It doesn't mean we'll definitely make it because we've chosen to honour Mary. But her powerful intercessions for us will make it more likely.

But the key is this: Mary is not the Ladder. That is, she's not the one who reconciles us to God. She's not the one who saves us. She's not the one who gets us to heaven. Mary helps us get on and stay on the Way, the Truth, and the Life who is Christ Jesus. It is only He who brings us the rest of the way.

For a more detailed explanation of all of this, I would highly recommend St. Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort's classic book, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. If you want, email me (watchman317ca @ yahoo.ca), and I can email you a Microsoft document version.

God bless
Gregory

joni said...

Thank you for the insights and thoughts. It really gives me a lot to think about.

My husband has the book you mentioned. I'll have to check it out.

Gregory said...

You're absolutely welcome. I'm glad I could help :)

Gregory said...

For anyone who's interested, I replied to the last of Suneal's comments in the Annunciation post, in five comments.

Also, please pray for Chris and his family. His father-in-law was in a pretty bad car accident and is rather banged up. Pray for his recovery, and for peace and safety in the whole family as Chris travels quite a distance to be with him.

suneal said...

Well, I wish to let everyone here know that I planned on not coming back to comment at Barque. I felt I do not fit the bill so to speak. But then Gregory around a week ago emailed me to let me know he had responded to me and basically invited me to respond back. Before that I told him I would withdraw because of how my latest postings were not viewed too favorably. I can understand that, seeing it is a Catholic blog site. Gregory also sent me another previous email, which after reading, I felt confirmed my doubts about continuing to contribute.

So here I am. There is so much I could respond to of what Gregory has said in response to me. It could take me a fully dedicated week to collect all my thoughts properly, and in fairness it took Gregory much longer than that to respond to my comments.

Two primary comments I raised created tension between my self and Gregory. The first was the issue of “inequality” in matters of faith. Simply put, I wanted an even playing ground. Here is why, so that when I say something that could oppose Catholic doctrine, I must out of the whole concept of fair, charitable discussion, at least be afforded the possibility that I could actually be correct. If anyone here thinks I am wrong on every issue I have raised that opposes Catholic dogma, then that in it self shows the problem at hand. I am not here as a buddy or a friend drinking coffee, but as a fellow brother in Christ and as a discusser/ debater. As such the only equality that maters is not as a “human being” but as a “brother in Christ.” If I am immediately as soon as I open my mouth “wrong” or at least wrong whenever I say Catholic dogma is either suspect, incorrect, or misled, then my point a long time ago seems valid, that I can’t stay here to discuss, because I am inferior with regards to matters of faith. Although I was more “put out” then than now, the same issue remains outstanding folks. I am sorry, but nothing seems to have changed. The proof is in the pudding.

Now granted, I admit I have said some controversial, absurd things here, and if I have offended Catholic sensibilities, I sympathize with those feelings. I sympathize because the same sensibilities were and still are offended in me, which is that what I say is not respected either.

The second issue that created tension between Gregory and my self was regarding my question, “can there be any variation on Mary here?” To that I believe Gregory said in the end “no,” because facts about what are really true about Mary can not at the same time oppose themselves. It is either one or the other. Now I agree with the logic of that reasoning but not with the conclusion of eradicating one interpretation over another without Scriptural authority to do so. Scripture supports neither interpretation with absolute certainty. For example, The Catholic Encyclopaedia admits with regards the alleged "immaculate conception," "No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture." And concerning your overly harnessed point Gregory that I agree with your conclusions of Luke 1:34, I did not mean what I said was exhaustive! You should ask me what else it might mean! I think you already know. I am sorry Gregory, but being a psychic of Mary's possible thoughts does not put Matthew in need of being interpreted in the light of Luke. If you read verse 18, "therefore they came together," implies sexual union. That coupled with the obvious meaning of Matthew 1:25 without the need to "divine" Mary's mind in Luke 1:34, also together with "brothers and sisters of the Lord" mentioned later in Matthew shows Matthew was not so "perpetually virgin" driven as you are Gregory. I know you have your cousin theory, but really, who is stretching things there? There is no actual precedent for that theory outside of the Catholic Church saying that's what is meant because the Old Testament did likewise occasionally.

And so what if Jesus gave Mary to John as her son and her as his Mother. That is a wonderful act, until Catholics take it completely out of context. You qoute the "Law" as your precedent because real sons had that duty, but so much of the Law was never even kept, such as "the year of Sabboath" every 7 years. Obviously Jesus' brothers did not listen to the Law very well in other matters, they knew who Jesus claimed to be, even despite Moses saying Christ would come as the Prophet like him and every one should listen to him (Deut 18:18-19). But Gregory you want to evaporize their possible existence despite so much Scripture to the contrary, with a premise of what they would have done were they really existant, which presupposes faith, obedience later as Christians. Maybe, Gregory, the Lord here gave a decree as the firstborn who by Law would take care of His Mother's care. Hmmm. Wait a second, I'm not the Magesterium, you can disregard that last statement. And further, even if the sons would have taken care of Mary, does it disturb you Jesus opted for the Beloved Disciple to do the job? Since you care about Mary so much which is a good thing by the way, then let's both be happy about what is provable from the text, rather than "quarrel" over what is not provable. But Gregory, I'll leave the speculation game for proving dogma in your capable hands, you're much better than me at it. If that is the trump card of the magesterium, well then, you win. But if Scripture is the final authority, then stop being so sure of yourself to the exclusion of other valid interpretations.

You often appeal to "secondarily" for Catholics dogmas such as Mary as the Second Eve, or for Mary as a co-mediator and us as well. Since almost every Marion doctrine of contention is also "secondary" in Scripture, then why can't you also let it be that? I say secondary, because scholars on both sides of this issue have admitted the difficulty of categorically proving one interpretation over the other. I admit, I spoke inappropriately about Matthew 1:25 to outright disprove your assertions regarding Luke 1:34. I knew nothing about Helvidius at the time. Despite that, Matthew as a whole still leans more heavily toward Mary not remaining a virgin. In other words, if these above doctrines were primary, the Bible would be loud and clear and decisive in its decisions. But Catholic scholars have enough honesty to admit the Bible is not so loud and so clear. That was my point about "variation."

What Gregory did not highlight I wish to mention. The doctrines of Mary’s “perpetual virginity,” her “immaculate conception,” her “mediatoral role,” are the ones of contention thus far. So if we here want to get into “only one of us is right, the other is wrong,” syndrome, then we need to realize that is true for at least 3 separate issues thus far. Here is my overly stated point, it could be 3 billion issues, but the Catholic Church is right on every one! Why? Well, because they only have “all truth” concerning matters of faith, at least in their own eyes. So whatever I might disagree on, if I oppose Catholic dogma, and because the Catholic Church has its “infallibility” to defend, there is no way this side of heaven anyone here being Catholic will admit I am right on anything concerning the three topics above which oppose Catholic doctrine.

So here we are, full circle. Gregory, you mentioned this:


"That "Mediation" is loaded with such "theological weight and significance" as you suggest is only because of the way the term has been misinterpreted by Protestant exegetes to deny the mediatorial role of Mary and the saints, and of us as fellow-believers and those who proffer the Gospel to the world."

"In fact, the very passage that Protestants love to use to support this eisegesis is 1 Timothy 2:5, but the context of that passage clearly indicates our own mediatorial role when Paul exhorts us to intercede one for another, and for civil and religious leaders, and everyone else. Intercessor and Mediator are synonyms--which is how the Catholic Church has always understood the terms."



Gregory, I am putting out a feeler to you right now in front of your brothers and sisters. First let me say this. For offending you several times as you have indicated I apologize. That was not my intent, but probably the heat of the moment. I think if you were truly open-minded regarding I Tim 2:5-6, you would have to at least say this, I am not eisogeting here in the use of this Scripture. Verses 5 and 6 together read:

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.”

From the context here, the word “Mediator” is joined with the theologically loaded concept of “ransom” from Scripture. Any use of the word “Mediator” in the New Testament is only applied in the context of “covenant,” whether Moses from the Old, who mediated the Old Covenant, or “middled” between God and the Israelites (Gal 3:18-19), or Jesus in the New who stands as Mediator of the New, Better Covenant (Heb 9:15). Also, verse one with the word “intercessor” is not the same Greek word as for “Mediator.” So Gregory, the notion of not equating these two words is not “eisogesis” as you say on the part of Protestants and therefore Mediator as Protestants define it must include primarily the office of propitiation (an atoning sacrifice or ransom)in order to be mediation at all.

I ask this of you Gregory, admit this much, what my last sentence said. Show your faith to indeed be “fuller” than mine. Offer me some of the charity you claim I have not given you in this discussion at times. Otherwise keep the double standard of clearing yourself of being in your words (not mine), "a scoundrel of an apologist," by my alleged implications, while you label me an "eisogete."

Here I am full circle. What will it be Gregory? Are you still superior in matters of faith as a Catholic? Folks, let’s admit it, me being here at all is pretty stinky. Gregory you want me here but you won’t be fair in your relationship to me as a fellow theologian. It’s either one or the other, doesn’t that make sense? So far this inequality has led to bad blood on both sides. There is no point to that. But nothing will change that except “I leave” as I basically have until recently called on by Gregory, or until the “superiority Magesterium” card is taken off the table.

“For the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged” (II Tim 2:24).

Blessings on all here in true saving, justifying, enabling faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and in the truth of His gospel.

Gregory said...

Hey Suneal,
Welcome back, and Merry Christmas!

I first want to say, before I engage your words above, that I am truly sorry for the way things have played out here between us. We have seemed at times to be speaking almost two different languages--or at least two different dialects. It's led to some rather significant misunderstandings between us. Moreover, I admit that I've been less than charitable and understanding in how I've dealt with those misunderstandings. Again, I apologise.

I almost wonder, for the sake of better, more loving communication that yields greater understanding, if, when we have the difficulties in debating that we've had so far, that we might take a step back from trying to make our points, and pause, and ask "What does he mean by that?" It's possible that the way you use a word, like "variation" for a current example, is very different from what I take "variation" to mean. It's possible that the phrase "Fulness of truth" or "fulness of the faith" has a very different meaning and application in my mind than it does in yours.

It may be that we still have strong disagreements with the others' positions, even after understanding what that position really is--but at least we'll be sure we understand said position. Up to this point, I'm not sure that's the case.

Suneal, I responded very thoroughly to each and every point of the email that you last sent me. But I never sent it to you. It's saved in a draft, in case I want to use anything I said in other contexts or in case I just need a reminder of how not to do things. That is, you sent me a rather emotional appeal, and I replied to it as though it were a logical argument. At the end, I sat back, re-read it, and said to myself, "This isn't going to help solve anything between us. In fact, more likely, it will make things worse." So it's on mothballs.

I mention that for a couple of reasons. First, I want you to know that my goal in discussing our differences of belief is not to simply "win every point". Second, I intend to follow the same thinking in replying to you now. I'm not going to reply to your above post with meticulous detail, point-by-point. In fact, likely I'll ignore major points that you make above. Maybe at some point in the future, when the hurt we both feel is far behind us and forgiven, we can readdress the subjects.

But for now, I mainly want to seek clarity of language and position in the more abstract sense, like I mention above. The "What does that mean?" thing.

Chris has a saying, "Labels equal libel." That is, when a person claims a definite name for himself (be it Lutheran, Pentecostal, Catholic, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Atheist, Tory, Liberal, etc.), it leads to the unstated assumption that opposing positions (and members of those positions) are inferior. Conversely, it leads to others pigeon-holing that person into a stereotype that he may not fit.

On the one hand, I agree with this ideal. But on the other hand, it makes life infinitely harder. Especially as an Apologist. Especially as this apologist, whose methodology consists less of trying to target specific people and beating them over the head, but examining systems of thought or belief and showing how they're right or wrong.

That is, I'm a Catholic personally because I believe that Catholicism, by the books, is right. And, honestly, I could only believe that the Catholic Church is the One Church founded by Christ by an examination of what they believe "on paper", and completely not by surveying what each individual Catholic believes or practices. Jesus, in His parable of the Wheat and the Tares, pretty much promises that the Church will have sinful hypocrites, unfaithful followers, and whatever ugly manifestation of not-really-Christians you can come up with. But He makes the point that it's not up to us to weed the unworthy out, because in the process, we'll be harming and killing those who really do belong--because one cannot easily tell the difference between the born again fallen humans and the unregenerate fallen humans who fill the pews and pulpits. Sometimes it's the choir who most needs the preaching.

This, it seems clear to me, is the only fair way to approach any religion or philosophy--by its stated beliefs, not by how well those beliefs are lived out. Rejecting Islam because it has a very terrorist-prone, violent fundamentalist faction is not a good reason, any more than rejecting Christianity by pointing to the Crusades or whatever else.

It is in this context that I find labels very useful. I fully subscribe to the label of "Catholic", because I fully endorse what the Catholic Church teaches, even when I fall woefully short of exemplifying that teaching in my own life. When someone learns that I'm a Catholic, and they want to show me that Catholicism is wrong, pointing out the hypocritical Catholics isn't going to cut it. (Don't misunderstand; I'm not saying you did that. I'm just trying--vainly--to make a point...) It has to be demonstrated by what the Church actually teaches, that it is wrong.

On the flipside, I have no label for you, Suneal, other than a vague "former Pentecostal who doesn't believe in labels". Other than that, I have no clear understanding of what it is that you do believe. I can't address you as a Pentecostal, saying "this, that, and the other seems amiss in Pentecostalism," since, as a former Pentecostal, that's a moot point for you. It makes things a little awkward, because our conversation seems to run like this--at least from my perspective:

Me: "Catholicism teaches X"
You: "X is wrong, or at least not fully supportable by Scripture"
Me: "The alternative, Y, isn't any more supportable from Scripture"
You: "I don't believe Y, either"
Me: "Catholicism teaches X because A, B, and C, and not simply because of Scripture"
You: "We're going in circles, because you don't believe I can be right"

Now, obviously, that's a bit simplistic, and I'm sorry. I wasn't going to reproduce any actual debate in detail. The point is, I don't have a handle on what it is that you actually do believe, so that I can interact with it.

On the other hand, somewhere along the line, you filed a suit of sorts against the Catholic self-notion of infallibility, taking offence with it because it automatically makes me assume that you're wrong every time you disagree with a point of Catholic Doctrine, and that therefore we can have no fair discussion as equals. I want to address this most of all, because all other difficulties between us seem to stem from it.

There are two things at issue here. The first is that, if I hold an opinion or a belief, and you hold a contrary one, I will automatically think that you are wrong. That's simply the way it is. Law of non-contradiction, and all that. This applies just as much to things of a theological nature as it does to other things. For example, if you tell me that Pepsi is a better cola than Coke, I will disagree with you until the day that I die. If you tell me that Molson Canadian is superior to Guinness, I may have to knock you down. You are very clearly wrong in both cases--at least as far as I'm concerned. Now, of course, the difficulty here is that this is a matter of opinion, pure and simple. I suppose we could compare the health factors of Coke and Pepsi, or do an unbiased "Pepsi Challenge" (one where they actually chill both brands--I still chose warm Coke over cold Pepsi), or some other test to determine objectively which pop is better, but it is subjective opinion in the sense that the fate of eternal souls is not in the balance. The truth of which is better is largely irrelevant to how anyone will live their lives beyond blue or red cans in their fridge. It's much easier for us to part as friends, and agree to disagree, when we disagree on something so trivial as beverages. Of course, the person who says they can't determine the difference between Coke and Pepsi is definitely, objectively wrong. Not only do they clearly taste different, they look different (Coke is ruddier), they smell different--they even fizz differently (Pepsi has bigger bubbles--more like Diet Coke's). But even then, the fact that such a person is clearly wrong is really not important.

Our differences in opinion regarding Religion rather have the stakes racheted up. We believe that souls depend on the right answer--whatever that answer is. It's rather more akin to discussing whether Canada should commit to an "as long as it takes" plan for Afghanistan, or whether we should pull out in 2009 or whenever. Lives are at stake--and each side believes that no matter which side they're on or whose lives they're concerned about. I would go on record as saying that there is a definite right answer, whether or not we will ever know what that is. I personally am for staying to see the work finished, as long as it takes, despite the fact that I was against going in the first place. However, it's still relatively easy to agree to disagree, since we can't claim to have any positively definite assurance of the correctness of one approach or the other. God hasn't divinely inspired anyone to state His will on the matter. At least not so far as I know ;)

But with Christianity, there is a difference again. Not only are lives and souls at stake, but we believe that there is a communicating God who reveals His will. We don't believe that Christianity is something that is or should be "made up." It comes from revelation. The catch is in how that revelation is interpreted (or even what we consider to be the full extent of the revelation). There are thousands upon thousands of versions of Christianity--ten thousand upon ten thousand interpretations of that revelation. Obviously, they can't all be right. When two of those interpretations irreconcilably conflict, one or the other must be decided upon as True.

From where I'm sitting, though, it seems that the very epistemological foundations of how we adjudge between two interpretations is itself. While you believe that only Scripture is binding, and all traditions are subject to it, and dispensed with based on whether or not they contradict it, I believe that certain Traditions are equal to Scripture, though fulfilling a slightly different function and originating in a slightly different manner. But it is this notion of Sola Scriptura that has become a bit of an elephant in the room. Your appeals to "variations" on Mary stem from your assertion that the Bible could go either way on many of them. My appeal to the "variation" which I happen to believe hinges on the fact that the Bible Alone is not the sole rule of faith.

I've mentioned Sola Scriptura, Tradition, and authority several times throughout, as they are the critical, epistemological issues. That is, in all our conversations except for the ill-fated and never completed (my fault) discussion of Sola Scriptura at Cynic, we've never addressed the issue or fully hashed it out. Thus, we both assume our own epistemological starting points and lob our attacks on the other's beliefs, and get angry with the other for arrogance or improper methods, or whatnot. Every time I attempt to bring the conversation around to Sola Scriptura, it must seem incredibly to you like I'm trying to change the subject, or, as you put it, that I'm "magisterium crazy". I'm not trying to avoid the issue--I'm trying to get to what I see as the heart of the issue. As far as the majority of Marian doctrines go, they're not explicitly provable from Scripture, as you state that even the Catholic Encyclopedia admits. I don't deny this. I would say that, as far as Scripture goes, your interpretation is just as logically valid as mine. I just don't believe that that's where it ends. If that makes me "magisterium crazy", then so be it. I would simply desire to hash out whether that is itself a good or a bad thing. If, as I believe, the Tradition is just as binding as the Scripture, since, as I believe, it represents the correct interpretation of that Scripture, then two competing interpretations of Scripture must yield to Tradition, and not Tradition yield to Scripture--since Tradition would not then be yielding to Scripture, but to an alternative interpretation of Scripture.

This, of course, leads us to that wonderfully volatile question of infallibility. If Tradition is to yield to another interpretation which claims to more accurately represent the Bible's meaning, then on what grounds do we decide between the two traditions, that is, the two interpretations?

We could, on the one hand, admit that we don't, and can't know, and therefore agree to disagree. But, it seems to me, this leads us to doctrinal relativism. Since there is, so far as I have seen, absolutely nothing in or relating to Scripture about which some sect of Christianity doesn't disagree with another over, then it seems our whole faith would have to be called into question. If no interpretation can be seen to be better than another, then we truly have no faith--no Church built on any Rock, Peter or otherwise--but a house on shifting sand.

Most Protestants, at least of the Evangelical variety, try to appeal to "Primary Doctrines" versus "secondary doctrines". So the Trinity, Jesus as God, His substitutionary death on the Cross, etc. are the litmus tests of "true Christianity." If you don't believe those, you're not really a Christian. The problem here, though, is that there is no agreed-upon list of Primary Doctrines. At least, as often as I've asked for one, no one has ever provided it for me. If you happen to know what it is, I'd love to see it. Instead, my experience has indicated that everyone has his own personal list of Primary Doctrines, by which he judges the "Christian-ness" of another's faith.

Now, above, you claim that I myself have appealed to a similar dichotomy. I deny that I have done so--and would suggest that where I seem to, it has been a case of where we are speaking two different dialects. That is, there are certain things that the Catholic Church believes are necessary for initial justification. Namely, faith and baptism (and the faith, in the case of infants, doesn't even need to be their own!) That faith must be in the Trinity, and in Christ's sacrifice and resurrection for our salvation. Everything, in a sense, is secondary to that. But that in no way means that all that is secondary to that is therefore up for debate, or optional. Rather, it means that everything else is contingent upon that. Or, contingent on something that is contingent upon that.

That is, if you believe in God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that Christ died to save you from your sins, and you are baptised, and then you die, you will go to heaven.

If you believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and are baptised, and live, then the logical implications of that belief take hold. For example, Christ founded a Church, claiming that He would guide it into all truth by His Spirit. That Church is both His bride and His body, and so intimately joined to Him as to be considered inseparable--as Jesus made clear to St. Paul "Why are you persecuting Me?", or as St. Jeanne d'Arc would later say at her trial, "About Christ and His Church, I know that they are one and the same thing, and that we shouldn't complicate the matter."

And if we accept that implication, then it follows that all other implications of belief in the Trinity and Jesus' gift of salvation flow through that Church, have their weight because of the Church, and are necessary for belief because the Church proclaims them to be so. That is what it means when the Bible calls the Church, "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15).

When I say, then, that belief in Mary as the Ark of the Covenant (for example), is a secondary issue, I do not mean that it is debatable, or that it can be discarded, or that it is not "as true" as Jesus' sacrificial death. I mean that She is the Ark of the New Covenant whether we believe it or not. If a Catholic goes all his life never being taught that Mary fulfils the typology of the Old Testament Ark, he will not go to hell for not believing it. If it never makes a huge impact on his Marian devotion, it will not likely affect his eternal salvation. Understanding Mary as the Ark helps us understand one of the reasons why she is so highly honoured, as well as offering a better glimpse of her role in salvation economy. But it is not secondary in the sense that Protestants typically understand that term. That is, if a person has a decidedly wrong understanding of Mary as the New Ark, it can affect salvation because it can affect the person's understanding not simply of Marian devotion, but of the whole concept of the Covenant that God makes with us. Everything is interconnected, and a false belief about one item will significantly alter the whole structure.

Anyway, I'm significantly digressing from what I had intended to say. Let me attempt to sum up:

First of all, it is on the one hand illogical of you to expect me to automatically consider your views to be "as right" as my own if they are diametrically opposed. It is equally illogical of you to assume that, because I assume that my thoroughly-researched position is right, then I somehow view you as inferior as a person or even as a child of God. It is again not logical to expect me to believe that, even though I think you're wrong about something, that your faith, about which I think you are mistaken at points, is equally valid to my own.

Finally, it is illogical to assume that, because I don't think that your opinions are equally valid to my own that there is no point in dialogue. What are not illogical are your arguments. And when you make logical arguments countering my faith, it causes me to consider those beliefs which I hold to, to reexamine them against the counter-argument, and formulate a response, and so see if the response holds weight. That is what I expected in our interactions.

After all, in criticising my beliefs, you automatically reveal that you yourself do not consider my faith to be completely right or true, and, on the other hand, you consider your own perspective to be right. I do not, therefore, illogically conclude that dialogue with you is meaningless or impossible. I simply understand that that's how discussion works. If you convince me that I'm wrong, it may very well lead me to convert. After all, I've done it once. My point so far has been that you're not likely going to convince me by offering arguments that I myself profferred in the course of my initial investigation of Catholicism, and which were, to my satisfaction, soundly defeated. It's a bit like Chicken Pox. In the overthrowing of my argument, the Church has weathered my chicken pox and cured me of it. My ecclesiastical immune system is therefore impervious to the theological chicken pox strain that is the same arguments I had already tried. If I believed them in the first place, and was shown to be wrong, then it seems unlikely that the same argument, devoid of further development, is going to bring me back (I sincerely hope you don't take offence to my comparing your arguments to a disease, as though I think you're sick or something. It was the only analogy that I could come up with). The fact that I don't find your above arguments convincing doesn't mean that I automatically assume that you're wrong and therefore am not listening. It simply is the logical result, to my mind, of having tried and failed with those same arguments. Getting mad at me for giving the same reply that has been used in the Church since the beginning seems somewhat unreasonable. I didn't offer it solely because I thought it would convince you. I offered it primarily to show you that there is an answer to offer--and that, mainly, because you suggested that I was ignoring Scripture that didn't fit with my agenda.

In sum, I hope I'm making it clear that you or your views are not immediately viewed as wrong because I'm "magisterium crazy", or because I think you're inferior to me. I think they're wrong because I happen not to agree with them. And my disagreement says absolutely nothing about your intrinsic value.

The second point I want to address is your question of "variations". Quite frankly, I'm at a loss. It occurs to me that I possibly simply have no idea what you mean by the term. It's incredibly likely that I answered a question that you weren't asking. If you meant something different than "Is it possible to believe two different positions simultaneously, or that two contradictory positions could be equally valid, despite the historical reality of the object-of-belief in question and the logical truth that only one of those beliefs can actually line up with the historical reality of the object-of-belief?" then by all means, re-ask the question the way you mean it. Otherwise, I don't see how there could be any other answer than "No." Obviously, we must believe what lines up with the facts, and disregard what contradicts them.

Now, in the case of Mary, the "facts" are somewhat difficult to come by. It is because of this that there are the problems that we've been having. The Bible is moot--that is, it's debatable, since both positions can be argued for from the implicit character of the texts in question. There are no scientific tests that we can run. The closest thing to "facts" that we have, then, is the testimony of Tradition, and the faith or lack thereof in the authority of that Tradition.

And, once again, it shows what is my final concluding point, that the authority of Tradition vs. Sola Scripture must be decided upon first.

Anyway, I hope this all makes a whit of sense. If not, please, ask me to clarify, and I'll try. Perhaps vainly, but I'll try. It's been a hectically brain-addling couple of days, with Christmas and all. This has been the only day, and will be the only day, for a while when I have time to respond, and it's not necessarily the day when my mind's most able to respond.

And if there's anything I missed in your above comments that you think I need to address, point it out to me. I'll get to it as soon as possible in the new year.

God bless,
Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year,
Gregory

C.J. said...

Quick clarification.

1) "Lable equals libel," is not quite the way the saying goes. I believe the saying is "label makes libel" which changes the direction of the possible interpretations.

2) It's not my saying. It's a maxim I read in William Hordern's pithy little volume A Layman's Guide to Protestant Theology. In that book, he was quoting the maxim himself, and it's a fairly old book. The saying predates me by quite a few years.

Still, thank you for flattering me, Gregory, and for raising the issue of labels. I'm personally of the opinion that labels are necessary, even beneficial. However, I see and understand how they can be misleading, and cause a great deal of difficulty between competing understandings.

I'll write in more as I have the time and access.

Take care,
Christopher

suneal said...

Hi Gregory,

Thanks for your reply. I am taking your advice and thinking and letting things sit before I reply in full.

I would like to make some comments now however. Gregory, here is one of your concluding statements:

"The closest thing to "facts" that we have, then, is the testimony of Tradition, and the faith or lack thereof in the authority of that Tradition."

I understand your sincerity Gregory in trying to claim Tradition is the next-in-line fact finding tool when Scripture is in your words "moot." But first, I want to say "moot" does not mean it needs outside help in order to clarify itself. When the Bible says, "The Word became flesh" and earlier "the Word was God," do you or I need Tradition to make plain to us the implications both overt and implicit? From these two statements alone, disregarding the numerous other passages relevant to reiterate the topic, we can authoritatively say Jesus is God and Jesus became incarnate or one of us, thus God became a man. Now, can Tradition help us to understand more fully how this happened? Absolutely, thus the Patristics giving us wonderful insight, the Apostles Creed, Athanasius Creed, and pertinent theology about the Trinity and Christ's dual human/divine natures. But, even after Tradition has illuminated Scripture on these topics of supreme importance to our salvation, it must always yield to its source of information. You are trying to make your case which is the Roman Catholic case that on "debatable" topics of which Scripture is not so clear as the one's above, that Scripture should then yield to Tradition for the final correct "interpretation," and why?; because Gregory you make the assumption to not do this leaves the Church in "doctrinal relativism."

I do not agree with either 1) your assumption that the church by not having an on-par Traditional authority with Scripture is swimming out in the ocean of moral/doctrinal relativism and is therefore no longer "the pillar and support of truth." 2) Nor do I agree with the implication of the Bible being "moot" on a particular theological topic requires it be rescued from "confusion" by the savior of "Tradition." On the contrary to you, I believe what the Bible does not clarify, it does so intentionally. Or rather, by not speaking with decisive authority on a topic, it leaves an intentional openness to that topic.

Now Gregory, back to my point a long time ago, that is what I meant by "variation on Mary." I mean to leave Scripture exactly where it leaves Mariology. Sure, let's probe, let's debate, let's learn together if you want honest dialogue, not just disproving one over the other. But in the end, realize this, I will leave this topic open to some extent, for that is what Scripture does. Now if you want to fault me, or pressure me into being an "either/or" thinker on this topic because of your own personal beliefs, then fault the Bible as well, after all, I am only following its lead. Moreover, I can say with more certainty than you can about me being a "doctrinal relativist," that you are not being faithful to the entire witness of Scripture, because you assume Tradition has to clarify even what Scripture does not. When I say entire witness, I refer to its wholistic focus on any one topic, either postively, negatively, declaritively or silently.

Further on this topic, "facts" are not "facts" outside of Scripture on matters of faith. That is where I stand, so I do not accept your paradigm or ground rules if that is what you are here trying to establish. To me and Protestants in general, tradition is enfolded or encapsuled within the canon. Therefore, a witness, outside of Scripture to verify Scripture is never needed to speak on par with Scripture. Jesus is the Word standing above and within the Word writen as well as above the Church or as Head of His Church. Jesus has made both, the Church was only the vehicle for His written word to come from, and the written word was often the vehicle to create the Church! But Jesus in His Gospel is Lord and creator of all of it. I put my trust in "Scripture" as the final authority because 1)It is the most reliable witness being either first-hand eye-witness or Apostle generation accounts 2)It is divinely inspired so that Jesus could use it to state historical facts, or to resist Satan by saying, "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."
Now although Tradition can also claim close proximity to Christ's life and the 12 Apostles (Paul as well), it can never do so to the extent of reliability as Scripture. The same can be said of "inspiration." The canon I argued at Aspiring Cynic became "self-evident," or imposed itself upon the church, not the other way around. You may be inspired Gregory and give a "word from the Lord." But should you ever claim it to have the same authority as what Jesus said when saying, "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God?" Maybe your answer will surprise me, so in case it does, know that I will never hold your word, nor the word of myself, nor the word of the Pope, nor the word of Augustine, nor even another lost letter recovered of the Apostle Paul, as "the Word of God," as manifest in Scripture, as being equal or on par with it in authority.

Furthermore, Tradition is not unanimous on Mariology, not to mention there is a substantial 200 year gap or so between the Apostle's and Tradition's primary voice on Mariology. Now granted, I am not here to put any of that Tradition down without hearing it, but know also I am in no way obligated to accept it on par with Scripture. Your logic as to why I should, in my mind is based on certain assumptions as mentioned above, that are not at all as universal as you think. Just because we as the church are supports of truth does not mean despite St. Jeanne d'Arc's quotation above, that we always have "all truth," or else absolute truth topples to the ground. I might just as illogically believe this as you might illogically believe that if the church choir ain't living it(Catholicism as defined in your words "on paper"), well then, let's pack it up and be athiests. But Gregory, on this account you are no longer so absolute, nor should you be in my mind with regards to "moot" Scriptural topics.

So in your charging me at times with being illogical, I think you miss your own "illogic." One last word here on St Jeanne d'Arc, what else did she say? Is everything she said "inspired" as is Scripture, or just this one sentence? How did you or Tradition come to decide what was so insprired of her and what was not? Is it not possible, that there are some quite serious holes in her logic? One simple one is this; Jesus is God, we are not, so are we still "one and the same thing" on that account as she says? If we are not, then is it o.k. to only "know in part," as Paul says in I Cor 13, yet still have all the sufficient knowledge needed for salvation, life and godliness in Christ Jesus? (II Pet 1:3) Is it o.k. that I just so easily complicated so simple a "matter?"

Finally, you said Gregory:

"it shows what is my final concluding point, that the authority of Tradition vs. Sola Scripture must be decided upon first."

O.k., I decided, it is "sola Scriptura." Are you asking for a consensus? Do you want to take a vote on a Catholic blog site? Come on Gregory, you believe one thing, I believe another. We already discussed this and as you mentioned you never pursued it any further. But just to leave you with some element of mystery, again I am not quite on the same page as you. I do NOT think despite everything I have said here, that the main issue is "sola scriptura" versus Tradition on par with Scripture. That is all I will say for now, I'll be away for a few days.

I hope I have heard you clearly thus far Gregory in what I understand you to be saying in the latest post.

Take care and happy New Year everyone!
Suneal

C.J. said...

I have a point to raise. It might seem simplistic to anyone who may want to proffer an answer/objection; it may even come across as a worthwhile subject to answer to. In any case, I hope anyone willing to answer will do so with sincerity.

The notion of sola scriptura is objected to by the Catholic Church because -- as Catholics interpret it -- it seems to dismiss sacred tradition. Informed Protestants will quickly dismiss the Catholic interpretation of sola scriptura on the basis that it is not a dismissal of sacred tradition, but a dismissal of those traditions that can't be verified through any scriptural basis. The difference being, as I'm sure you can see, that sacred tradition is just as valuable to Protestants as it is to Catholics; as long as Scripture makes an account, with reasonable inference or explicit example, sacred tradition is beautiful, and in some cases binding.

I think some of the difficulty Catholics have with realising that Protestantism is not a rejection of sacred tradition as the Catholic Church has defined it is because evangelical Christianity has done a great deal to damage the intellectual heritage of Protestant theology (cf. Mark Noll's The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, 1994). Of course, this is not the whole picture, but a necessary point to give background to my concern.

To be more precise, Catholics fall back on the fact that they have Scripture and Tradition to cement their case for why their theology is right. There is a great deal of weight to such a claim, and an inspiring heritage to learn from, indeed. But when the Protestant Reformation dug its heels into the ground, so to speak, and was able to make headway in history, it wasn't to the exclusion of sacred tradition. In fact, the same sacred tradition that has proved the ballast for the Catholic Church as regards Scripture, is the same sacred tradition the Protestant Reformers cited to defent their case (along with Scripture, too, of course). Where Catholics weigh in against Protestants, from my perspective on this issue, however, is simply a matter of emphasis moreso than dogma. Catholics consider the two founts (scripture and tradition) equal in matters of faith and morals; Protestants consider Scripture binding and tradition binding only insomuch as it is backed by Scripture. This is why an issue like Mariology -- which Gregory seems to have admitted cannot be proven, nor disproven from Scripture -- can be considered authoritative even when weighed against highly valuable, and keen insights to the contrary. For example, Mary is perpetually a virgin though Scripture can show otherwise (Catholics), and Mary enjoyed conjugal relations with Joseph though Scripture can show otherwise. In either case, both communions claim something that can be shown to the contrary, and both communions can claim sacred tradition and scripture as their source for their argument.

So here's my concern: what validates the Catholic Church's claim on sacred tradition if the Protestant church draws on the same traditions to different conclusions? What makes the Catholic Church right over above Protestants who have come to different conclusions from the same sources (e.g., Lutherans)?

Take care,
Christopher

C.J. said...

I found a very big editing mistake in my last post. The sentence,

"For example, Mary is perpetually a virgin though Scripture can show otherwise (Catholics), and Mary enjoyed conjugal relations with Joseph though Scripture can show otherwise."

should read,

"For example, Mary is perpetually a virgin though Scripture can show otherwise (Catholics), and Mary enjoyed conjugal relations with Joseph though Scripture can show otherwise (Protestants)."

Forgive that oversight, please. If I didn't catch that, I'm fairly certain it would've cause a good deal of confusion.

Cheers!

Hidden One said...

Please forgive me if I am wrong (this comment is basically directed at Chris), but if I may proffer a hypothesis (while trying to tread lightly so as not to offend anybody by mistake,) to better understand some of what has been said (most recently by C.J.) it would be this:

It seems to me that the Protestant position on Tradition as you define it in essence is that Protestants will accept any and all Tradition that they feel is in line with Scripture, which leads to Protestants accepting only the T/tradition that agrees with their personal/organizational interpretation of Scripture (right or wrong), while Catholics adhere to all of (Sacred) Tradition. It thus seems to me that the Protestant position on various traditions and such is like that of of someone who runs a small Christian bookstore and refuses to stock anything he disagrees with. Whatever weight is given to tradition is predominantly given because it agrees with the particular Protestant, not because it is tradition. (As I understand it, if it its weight existed because it is Tradition, than Tradition would carry a particular weight in a particular Protestant's mind irrespectable of whether or not that Protestant agrees with it.)

Thus, it seems to me, if I understand it correctly, that the Protestant position (for better or worse)on Tradition is something like that of the 'cafeteria Catholic', who accepts only the Catholic dogmas he or she wants to based solely or mostly on pre-existing conditions and factors, such as upbringing, convenience, and peer pressure.

Post-script: Please note that I am not accusing ANYone of ANYthing, merely putting forth hypotheses which are decidedly NOT personal in nature. This is honest hypothesizing and trying to understand, most of which occurred to me roughly a line or two before I wrote it, hence the amateurish writing quality.

suneal said...

To Hidden One,

You said:

"It seems to me that the Protestant position on Tradition as you define it in essence is that Protestants will accept any and all Tradition that they feel is in line with Scripture, which leads to Protestants accepting only the T/tradition that agrees with their personal/organizational interpretation of Scripture (right or wrong), while Catholics adhere to all of (Sacred) Tradition."

Do Catholics REALLY adhere to all of (sacred) tradition? If they did, then they would not preach the immaculate conception as binding and irrefutable doctrine, that Mary was born without sin, for the leading Catholic Scholastic theologian which the Council of Trent recommended as such, Thomas Aquinas, contrary to John Duns Scotus whom both he and St. Bernard of Clairvaux refuted earlier in the 12th century, did not subscribe to this doctrine, thus they both held Mary REALLY needed a Savior, for actual sin in her life (through being conceived with the sin nature- even though believing she did not actually sin and later she was made immaculate in her prenatal state). It was the Jesuits with their strong push for the immaculate conception and their zeal for Mariology that helped win the day for John Duns Scotus. It was not until Pope Pius IX made the decree in 1854, the Ineffabilis Deus, declaring the Immaculate Conception an essential dogma for all the church, that this dogma became the "proper interpretation" according to Catholic Tradition.

Going further back to the church Fathers, none of them believed Mary "immaculate from conception," although a few held her as sinless.

Augustine writes: "He [Christ], therefore, alone having become man, but still continuing to be God, never had any sin, nor did he assume a flesh of sin, though born of a maternal flesh of sin" (De Peccatorum Meritis, Bk II, Ch 38). Interesting how selective the Pope gets in 1854 about his beloved tradition which is supposedly binding, when ignoring the church Fathers' understanding on this subject and even many of the leading scholastic theologians.

The point is this, "Tradition" as binding to Catholics is already "cafeteria Catholic," even before a person by their choosiness decides to make it even possibly more so. By the way this specificity strikes me as no different from your critique of Protestantism that according to you, Hidden One, "leads to Protestants accepting only the T/tradition that agrees with their personal/organizational interpretation of Scripture."

You also said this Hidden One:

"Whatever weight is given to tradition is predominantly given because it agrees with the particular Protestant, not because it is tradition. (As I understand it, if it its weight existed because it is Tradition, than Tradition would carry a particular weight in a particular Protestant's mind irrespectable of whether or not that Protestant agrees with it.)"

It seems to me, that Catholics, and in this particular case I raise here, Pope Pius IX is also guilty as charged by you, Hidden One. He selected what "books" he liked, so to speak, neglecting two of the greatest theological minds in Catholicism, Augustine (although technically speaking he was not Catholic in the modern sense) and Aquinas, to come to his conclusion, and doing so without the support of a council, something no Pope before him had ever done. Where I wonder was the weight of the "Tradition" that did not agree with him, most of which was centuries old, that in the end he neglected in making such a binding, sweeping declaration of the "immaculate conception"?

As it stands now, there is much contradiction in Tradition on this subject, even more so than the loose ends Scripture leaves. The "evolving" idea of Catholic Tradition, well, I guess that has to exist to help Tradition appear "unanimous." But even the Greek Orthodox Church considers Tradition as "once for all," therefore they have always been more consistent in their doctrines. They also do not hold the "immaculate conception" as true, and they have to be considered part of "Tradition."

I mentioned Tradition has not been unanimous on Mariology any more than has Scripture. This is still true. So I believe Chris' very perceptive question still begs a satisfactory answer.

Suneal

C.J. said...

First, thank you, Hidden One, for your thoughtful reply. I appreciate you taking the time to consider the issue seriously, and write out a reply.

Second, I'm on board with Suneal as concerns this issue, so far. No big surprise, I'm sure!

In any case, Suneal has layed out some pretty hard-hitting, historical proofs for Catholic selectivism regarding Tradition. To my way of thinking, that does not dismantle, or disgrace the Roman communion anymore than admitting the common sentiment, "I'm only human. I'm not perfect." Hence the Roman Catholic Church can continue on with its claims to Tradition, and in a Newman-esque fashion decidedly deal with variances by citing a 'development of doctrine.'

But by doing so, however, it should be noted then that there is no difference between what the Catholics have done all through history, and what the Protestants have done from the moment of the Reformation on: developed.

Protestants came out from the Catholic Church because of a development in doctrine that was found to be unacceptable to other Church curates at the time. Those developments (the Reformation ones, that is) are not anathema because they don't bear the papal insignia but because they threaten a collective understanding that itself has become tradition, and of which the pope is the elected representative.

It could be argued that these developmental differences are on level with a large-scale cognitive dissonance (http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/dissonance.htm). That is, since Protestants are the result of doctrines that challenged the status quo of traditional Roman Catholicism, the Roman Catholic Church is forced to consider the veracity of its traditions and can't reconcile the apparent contradictions between the competing cognitions of Protestants and Catholics.

The first tactic in situations like this, and historically with the Roman Catholic Church, is to simply deny the difference. That is exactly what the Roman Catholic Church did with Protestants, and it led to peevish and rabid distortions, and dis-trust between both factions. Hence one reason why both groups of Christians nowadays can lay claim to the same sources in history and come up with different conclusions, but neither group can afford the other the room to say, "maybe I was wrong, afterall." That would require a religious, and psychological overhauling that neither communion is prepared to accept. The result is that we've moved through history since the Reformation, held to our dissimilar claims, and none of us are any better for it.

So let's bring things back to Mariology now. What if Catholics and Protestants are both wrong on their interpretations of Mary? Suneal, what happens to your line of thinking if it could be reasonably shown that Mary was, in fact, never sexually active? What do you lose? What do you gain? How is your faith in Christ affected?

Gregory, Hidden One, take up the issue of doctrinal infallibility. What would happen to your line of thinking if it could be reasonable shown that doctrinal infallibility is not reasonably pronounced on human understandings of Scripture and history? What would you lose? What would you gain? How would your faith in Christ be affected? Be careful here: I'm not asking you to re-consider the infallibility of Scripture; I'm asking you to reconsider the notion of the papacy pronoucing its understanding of Scripture as infallible.

That's all for now. It's been a sleepless night.

Christopher

Hidden One said...

As I don't have time to respond to Suneal and/or Chris in any great length at this point, I'm simpyl going to pose antoher question.

Considering the fact that neither Suneal nor Chris ever said that my hypothesizing is wrong, is it actually right, regardless (at this point) of whether or not Catholics do the same/something similar?

suneal said...

Hi Hidden One,

Your so hidden I don't know your real name. Anyway, Chris said in one sentence what I will say in many paragraphs.

Here is your qurestion:

"Considering the fact that neither Suneal nor Chris ever said that my hypothesizing is wrong, is it actually right, regardless (at this point) of whether or not Catholics do the same/something similar?"

Chris said:

"But by doing so, however, it should be noted then that there is no difference between what the Catholics have done all through history, and what the Protestants have done from the moment of the Reformation on: developed."

I think here Chris acknowledges your hypothesis is workable as a model for church history and as the fact that we are "human." This humanness is not really an issue for Protestants, for that is why they have "sola scriptura" as their final rule of faith, for the buck stops there rather than at our humanness. Our humanness happens to be the place truth is worked out, as the Truth, Jesus, lives among His people of truth.

Now for my longer winded answer. I take much longer than Chris to say things, so that Chris can be more appreciated.:)

Hidden One, here I believe is the hypothesis you were referring to:

"It seems to me that the Protestant position on Tradition as you define it in essence is that Protestants will accept any and all Tradition that they feel is in line with Scripture, which leads to Protestants accepting only the T/tradition that agrees with their personal/organizational interpretation of Scripture (right or wrong), while Catholics adhere to all of (Sacred) Tradition."

Your hypothesis did include a contrast to Catholics, so you can not say it is right despite what Catholics do similarly or not. Do you agree with that, Hidden One?

Part of your hypothesis was that Catholics do not do what Protestants do, which is to accept only Tradition that suits their preference, and I challenged that notion entirely. However, for the sake of fairness, I will discuss only Protestants in your hypothesis for a moment.

You assume (a) leads to (b). With (a) being “Protestants will accept any and all Tradition that they feel is in line with Scripture” and (b) being “Protestants accepting only the T/tradition that agrees with their personal/organizational interpretation of Scripture (right or wrong).” Now to a certain extent you are right. However, there is a hermeneutical circle in play, in which Scripture informs about Tradition and Tradition informs about Scripture. So it is not just as you say, but there needs to be a (c) clause added to more properly describe the hermeneutical circle. The (c) clause would be this; “Tradition informs us about Scripture, perhaps opening up Scripture to a truer, deeper understanding of it, which Scripture upon closer examination itself verifies, hence also verifying the usefulness of Tradition.” Now I think clause (c) stands somewhere between (a) and (b).

So here is what I am saying in layman terms, yes, your hypothesis is generally right, but there is still room for growth, it is not necessarily a static experience for a Protestant individually or collectively. Therefore, you need to amend this word “only,” for that is not true necessarily. This in the end amounts to this in my mind, the quest for truth on matters of faith, period. No Christian knows everything or has all knowlege, neither does any one Tradition in my opinion.

So here then is my amended version of your hypothesis:

"Protestants will accept any and all Tradition that they feel is in line with Scripture, while Tradition informs us about Scripture, perhaps opening up Scripture to a truer, deeper understanding of it, which Scripture upon closer examination itself verifies, hence also verifying the usefulness of Tradition, which leads to Protestants accepting the T/tradition that agrees with their personal/organizational interpretation of Scripture (right or wrong)."

Therefore, two factors exist. One, we all start from somewhere in our faith, and as Protestants that is within a certain Tradition and its vision of “sola scriptura.” Two, we all add to that original vision given to us, through Tradition and further study of Scripture, etc. Hence the hermeneutical circle grows.

Are there periods in all this of challenge, considering Tradition that opposes our own personal/organizational bias? Absolutely. Growth implies growth pains and that is not usually pleasant. God can use life circumstances as well to break us into new, better ways of living in faith and love before Him. If we don't experience that then we are not being treated as sons and daughters who are being disciplined for their spiritual benefit and to be conformed to the image of His Son.

So with regards to the hermenuetical circle, this process does not quite fit into a dictum, “Protestants accept only the T/tradition that agrees with their personal/organizational interpretation of Scripture (right or wrong).” In other words there is no fluidity to this, which therefore makes your hypothesis somewhat non-descriptive of much of Protestantism, while the absoluteness of the converse you state about Catholicism, that it “adheres to all of (sacred) Tradition,” is another rigid statement which in the end transcends all reality and historical fact, thus rendering your statement about Catholics accepting all Tradition as pure fiction.

So there is truth and keen observation to your hypothesis, in my opinion. But in the end, I believe all of Tradition is still there for me to teach me something, not just to support what I already believe. You could say the same about the Bible. Do you like all the wicked kings of the Old Testament? If you do, I'll pray for you, but if not, I am right there with you! Either way, they are in the Bible to learn from them, most particularly, what not to do. So Tradition good and bad can inform and draw me closer to Christ.

I hope you believe also, Hidden One, that Protestants also can and do embrace the personally uncomfortable Traditions for the greater collective good of a community of faith. I may like to drink alcohol, but if it causes my brother to stumble, the higher law of love is my rule. I may believe in an amillennialist interpretation of prophecy in a premillennialist church, but I don’t have to argue my position in that church. These are small examples, but I believe pertinent ones.

This comes around to where I think Protestants and Catholics should be, seeing each other in a common Tradition, or a catholicity that allows both to acknowledge not only to each other our strong points in the faith, but also our weak points. But if one party is “infallible,” I guess we are not going to be having too many “weak sessions” together. Therefore, we both miss out on each of our Traditions both challenging and informing the other, at least in a way that is most beneficial to true openness between two parties.

Finally, as Chris has mentioned, Protestants draw from the same sources of Tradition as do Catholics. As well, Protestants can not trace their lineage except through either Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. For this reason Catholics are valuable, in that they are closer to the Traditions of the church generally speaking. But the fact Catholicism may have strayed, is the strength of Protestantism to go back to the closest reliable documented source, Scripture alone. If some believe the church can not stray, then how do they account for "the falling away" described in I Thes 2:3. Obviously for Paul, the same person who said the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth, also said there would be a "falling away" and in the "temple of God" "a man of lawlessness." Because of all the above mentioned factors, we need to heed Scripture primarily and study Tradition for further enlightenment to that revelation of Scripture.

As to who decides definitively on which Traditions are correct, well I believe Chris' question 7-8 posts back should be raised again.

Here it is from Chris' words:

"So here's my concern: what validates the Catholic Church's claim on sacred tradition if the Protestant church draws on the same traditions to different conclusions? What makes the Catholic Church right over above Protestants who have come to different conclusions from the same sources (e.g., Lutherans)?"

suneal said...

Hi Gregory,

Quite some time ago you said this:

"The point is, I don't have a handle on what it is that you actually do believe, so that I can interact with it."

O.k. Gregory, here is what I believe in a nutshell.

God created all things by His word, thus He is Creator. He placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. They are the father and mother of us all. We as a race became sinners when they sinned. Sin is therefore passed on for all have sinned in Adam. The only Person for sure not to have sinned or be tarnished by sin was and is Jesus, fully God, fully man, born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, crucified under Pontius Pilate’s rule, raised the third day, ascended to heaven on the 40th day after His resurrection. Fully God, God the Son, of one substance with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Triune God who is the “LORD our God who is one” (Deut 6:4). He is the God of Israel, a people called to be holy.

Jesus alone is our Savior, the fulfillment of most Old Testament types, thus being "the Word made flesh" (Jn 1:14). In Himself, by the preaching of His gospel by the Holy Spirit poured out within and upon His people, He unites all who believe in Him in Himself, being the summing up of all the Father’s plans for the cosmos. He died as our Atonement, and through His blood poured out and body broken we are healed, forgiven, gathered back to God’s original purposes as His Church, His own body in mystical union.

This purpose is summed up in our salvation comprised of two parts:

1)Justification, the forgiveness of sins in Christ’s death and blood through His sacrificial death on the cross at Golgotha, and the making righteous via imputed righteousness of sinners before a holy, perfect, just God, of which both the above two points regarding justification are pure acts of grace on God's part, with the only vehicle for such grace being "by faith apart from works" (Rom 3:28), regardless whether the works be of the Law or otherwise, for no work of a man whatsoever qualifies the grounds of his salvation. For this reason Scripture, our sole final rule on matters pertaining to faith, says, "God is one, and He will justify the uncircumcised on the grounds of their faith and the circumcised through their faith" (Rom 3:30) God is the actor or doer of justification, we the recipients only.

2) Sanctification; the living out of our new lives in Christ, wherein our imputed righteousness is made manifest in regeneration of life in all manner of good deeds, thus glorifying our Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and fulfilling our original purpose to love God, enjoy Him and glorify Him by, with, and through His enabling grace. Justification and sanctification are neither to be separated nor confused as also the human and divine natures of Christ can neither be separated nor confused. If this be a mystery, let it be of the necessesity of the truth of the gospel reigning clearly and fully.

God’s reign is manifest in Christ today, the kingdom he preached being “not of this world,” (Jn 18:36) which begins in Christ and the Church, and awaits Christ’s bodily return from heaven, so that when He comes we who live shall be caught up together in the air with Him, with the dead rising to meet Him first, and so shall we ever be with the Lord as He creates “a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness” (II Pet 3:13). Those who believe not shall be damned, while those believing in Christ who is raised from the dead, confessing Him Lord, shall be saved having eternal life, being in the past tense, for this eternal life begins now upon union with Christ by faith in His gospel and word, which is the very life of Christ himself, hence as John said we have all assurance presently with no doubt, "that God HAS given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son" (I Jn 5:11).

As we await His bodily return from heaven in like manner to His ascent, we are commanded to love one another as He loved us and laid down His life for us, giving us the perfect example to follow, and promising to be with and live within us so that we not only imitate our Lord, but experience this truth as reiterated in the words of the Apostle Paul; “I am crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that lives, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). The crucified risen Lord is then what we preach, with ourselves crucified and forgiven in Him, servants for Jesus’ sake, in hope of salvation reaching to the uttermost parts of the earth, baptizing converts in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching everyone to obey all the Lord has commanded us.

This might have been a total waste of time and not at all what you wanted Gregory. I tried.

Suneal

Gregory said...

Hey all.

Sorry for my lack of participation of late. It's been a busy holiday.

I'll be around tomorrow with something substantial to say to all of the above (God willing).

Until then, I'll just remark a word of thanks to Suneal for his above post, stating his beliefs.

Suneal, it wasn't a complete waste of time, and does certainly help me know which angle to take on certain points and questions. Anything outside the purview of your summary (such as, for example, the role of the charismatic gifts in today's church), and I'll simly ask if I feel it's pertinent.

God bless you all, and thanks so much for stimulating and charitable discussion. I'm looking forward to being able to offer my own two cents again :)

Chris, I'm really sorry that Melissa and I didn't get the chance to see you while you were down for the holidays. I was really looking forward to last Saturday. Sorry it didn't work out.

God bless
Gregory

Gregory said...

Darn it...hit the wrong link and lost what I was saying...

All right. A lot of great discussion has gone on of late, and I intend to reply to much, if not all, of what has been said. But as I'm still somewhat short on time, this will be a process involving more than one day, so I'll begin by replying to each comment (or perhaps a couple comments, if they're short), individually, rather than trying to tackle all of it at once!

First off, I would like to say, as I said to Chris on the phone earlier today, that I'm enjoying the depth and tone and level of the discussion so far. This is the type of discussion I'd love to see around here more often. Keep it up.

I'm going to start with Chris' first two comments (that is, the first two that he makes after my last major comment above: his "clarification" and the one which follows it. I'm going to save replying to Suneal for when I have more time to adequately respond. Sorry to keep you waiting.

Chris wrote:
Quick clarification.

1) "Label equals libel," is not quite the way the saying goes. I believe the saying is "label makes libel" which changes the direction of the possible interpretations.


Okay, thanks for that. I'm not entirely sure how it changes the way I had interpreted it. I believe it was more a typo on my part than an actual misinterpretation. Nevertheless...

2) It's not my saying. It's a maxim I read in William Hordern's pithy little volume A Layman's Guide to Protestant Theology. In that book, he was quoting the maxim himself, and it's a fairly old book. The saying predates me by quite a few years.

Be that as it may, it was you from whom I first heard it, and I did take it to be your expressed opinion.

Still, thank you for flattering me, Gregory, and for raising the issue of labels. I'm personally of the opinion that labels are necessary, even beneficial. However, I see and understand how they can be misleading, and cause a great deal of difficulty between competing understandings.

I confess that it seems interesting to me that you can quote Holdern's maxim without fully adhering to it, yet when I reproduce another's post, I was previously called into account for it because it was assumed that I fully agreed with every point that my friend had made, and expected to defend his personal, experiential opinions. Seems something of an odd double-standard. But I digress. It does bring up an interesting question of method, though: Of what purpose are quotations if we personally are not beholden to their expressed meanings?

Chris wrote:
I have a point to raise. It might seem simplistic to anyone who may want to proffer an answer/objection; it may even come across as a worthwhile subject to answer to. In any case, I hope anyone willing to answer will do so with sincerity.

The notion of
sola scriptura is objected to by the Catholic Church because -- as Catholics interpret it -- it seems to dismiss sacred tradition. Informed Protestants will quickly dismiss the Catholic interpretation of sola scriptura on the basis that it is not a dismissal of sacred tradition, but a dismissal of those traditions that can't be verified through any scriptural basis. The difference being, as I'm sure you can see, that sacred tradition is just as valuable to Protestants as it is to Catholics; as long as Scripture makes an account, with reasonable inference or explicit example, sacred tradition is beautiful, and in some cases binding.

I must confess that I think that Hidden One did an excellent job of addressing your point, which your and Suneal's follow-up comments didn't seem to completely address. I have been enjoying your discussion in that regard.

That said, even accepting the difference in theory between so-called "solo scriptura" and historical Sola Scriptura, properly understood, I am still not convinced of how, in practice, the two methodologies are any different except by degree. It seems to me that, on the one hand, even the most anti-intellectual evangelicals, who disavow tradition altogether, still refer to it (at least those who are Trinitarian, and thus actually Christian. We'll leave aside groups like the Oneness Pentecostals in that regard). There is an extent to which even anti-traditionalists still have recourse to, and embrace, tradition, and there is an extent to which "traditionalist" Protestants selectively pick and choose which traditions they will adhere to. Again, it seems to me more a matter of degree than of actual methodology. And in all honesty, your and Suneal's responses regarding Hidden One's point in that regard haven't addressed the difference, if any, between the two "types" of Sola Scriptura. Instead, your most forceful counter-argument to this point is "Catholics do it, too;" a claim which, even if true, doesn't in any way bolster a defence of the historical Protestant method, but which, moreover, I think shows a misunderstanding of the Catholic methodology, which I will endeavour to demonstrate as time permits.

I think some of the difficulty Catholics have with realising that Protestantism is not a rejection of sacred tradition as the Catholic Church has defined it is because evangelical Christianity has done a great deal to damage the intellectual heritage of Protestant theology (cf. Mark Noll's The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, 1994). Of course, this is not the whole picture, but a necessary point to give background to my concern.

To a large extent, this is probably true. And the situation is exacerbated, of course, by anti-Catholic evangelicals who tout the allegedly specious version of Sola Scriptura to war with the Catholic faith. If the most common form of Sola Scriptura (almost exclusively so) that a Catholic ever encounters is the one which you so disparage, is it any great wonder that in denouncing "Sola Scriptura" as a whole, that is the form we pick on?

That said, even before this discussion, or the one at Aspiring Cynic which kick-started that blog, I was not unaware of the two types of Sola Scriptura, although I will admit to being deficiently learned of the historical progression and the not anti-Catholic intent of its original practice. However, then as now I fail to clearly see a practical difference between the two theories.

To be more precise, Catholics fall back on the fact that they have Scripture and Tradition to cement their case for why their theology is right. There is a great deal of weight to such a claim, and an inspiring heritage to learn from, indeed. But when the Protestant Reformation dug its heels into the ground, so to speak, and was able to make headway in history, it wasn't to the exclusion of sacred tradition. In fact, the same sacred tradition that has proved the ballast for the Catholic Church as regards Scripture, is the same sacred tradition the Protestant Reformers cited to defent their case (along with Scripture, too, of course). Where Catholics weigh in against Protestants, from my perspective on this issue, however, is simply a matter of emphasis moreso than dogma. Catholics consider the two founts (scripture and tradition) equal in matters of faith and morals; Protestants consider Scripture binding and tradition binding only insomuch as it is backed by Scripture. This is why an issue like Mariology -- which Gregory seems to have admitted cannot be proven, nor disproven from Scripture -- can be considered authoritative even when weighed against highly valuable, and keen insights to the contrary. For example, Mary is perpetually a virgin though Scripture can show otherwise (Catholics), and Mary enjoyed conjugal relations with Joseph though Scripture can show otherwise (Protestants). In either case, both communions claim something that can be shown to the contrary, and both communions can claim sacred tradition and scripture as their source for their argument.

First of all, to your final point, which is the point that has been in question from the beginning, you claim that Protestants can come against Mary's perpetual virginity from "tradition" as well as Scripture. I ask, as I earlier asked Suneal, "What tradition?" Other than Helvidius in the early Church days, who taught that she was not always a virgin? Other than Helvidius, who before the Reformation taught that she was not always a virgin? As far as I have seen, there is no such tradition until after Luther's time.
(Luther believed in Mary's perpetual virginity himself! Some quotes:
"Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb....This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that." {Luther's Works, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan (vols. 1-30) & Helmut T. Lehmann (vols. 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (vols. 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (vols. 31-55), 1955, v.22:23 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) }
"Christ...was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him....I am inclined to agree with those who declare that 'brothers' really mean 'cousins' here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers." {Pelikan, ibid., v.22:214-15 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) }
"A new lie about me is being circulated. I am supposed to have preached and written that Mary, the mother of God, was not a virgin either before or after the birth of Christ." {Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:199 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) }
"Scripture does not say or indicate that she later lost her virginity....When Matthew [1:25] says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her....This babble...is without justification...he has neither noticed nor paid any attention to either Scripture or the common idiom."{Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:206,212-3 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) } )

Before moving on, I would like to point out that, to this point, we've been labouring under an incomplete view of the Catholic understanding. We have talked of evangelical Protestantism's "solo" Scriptura, and of historical Protestantism's Scripture-and-Tradition form of Sola Scriptura, and of Catholicism's Scripture-and-Tradition-as-equal-sources, and then you raise, subsequently, the question of the fundamental difference between these two views. But here it is: Catholicism's rule of faith is not Sola Scriptura et Traditio any more than it is simply Sola Scriptura. Earlier, Suneal suggested that I was Magisterium-crazy, and yet now, in our current discussion, it seems we are leaving out the so-called "third leg of the stool" altogether.

The same difficulty that affects Sola Scriptura--that is, an ancient text of necessity needs an interpretation, and the question of which interpretation is correct and how one knows--is the whole question behind Sola Scriptura's validity. If we accept that "Tradition" purports to be "nothing other than the correct interpretation of Scripture", as Cardinal Ratzinger has defined it in the past, then the question still remains as to which tradition is the correct interpretation, when faced with a multitude of traditions, or a multitude of interpretations of those traditions, or, in the case of historical Protestantism, the reserved right to dismiss any tradition that is deemed not to be the correct interpretation. In the Catholic rule of faith, the Magisterium is the living voice--the living interpreter who safeguards a correct understanding of Scripture and the correct application of Tradition. We believe that it is trustworthy since, as the teaching office of the Church, as headed by the Pope, it is prevented from teaching in error by the charism of infallibility through the Holy Spirit as fulfilment of Christ's promise never to let the gates of Hell overcome the Church, and the fulfilment of Scripture's description of the Church as the pillar and foundation of truth.

So here's my concern: what validates the Catholic Church's claim on sacred tradition if the Protestant church draws on the same traditions to different conclusions? What makes the Catholic Church right over above Protestants who have come to different conclusions from the same sources (e.g., Lutherans)?

As I mention above, it is the third leg--the Magisterium--which effectively changes the structure of the rule of faith and safeguards and ever re-examines Scripture and Tradition in light of modern, contemporary concerns, in order to keep the faith living and active and understood. And yes, the Church's self-understanding of infallibility in that regard does rather tip the balance. But leaving aside the question of infallibility for the moment, the very existence of a magisterial body seems to be absent in Protestantism as a whole. What person or body of people in historical Protestantism ascertains the proper interpretation of Scripture, or the adherence to which traditions as binding or useful? What man or group of men enforces these decisions as binding upon the faithful. Perhaps I am mistaken, and please correct me, but the very Protestant ecclesiological self-understanding seems to preclude the very possibility of the existence of such an office.

And whether you agree that there is or should be such an office, or whether or not such an office is or could be preserved infallible in its decrees, nevertheless, it is the office that makes all the difference in the world between historical Sola Scriptura and the Catholic rule of faith.

I'm sure I'll have more to say on it as I reply to your responses to H1, and as I reply to Suneal's comments.

Take care,
Christopher


That's all that I have time for today.
God bless,
Gregory

(I'll just note that I'm not going to reply to comments regarding this post until I'm caught up on all the others....)

Hidden One said...

Looking good everybody. Sadly I don't have time to reply at all just yet, so for clarity's sake, I'll probably wait until Gregory's done.

C.J. said...

Gregory,

I'm not sure where to start with what you've written. Respectfully, it's quite hard to follow; it seems to run in many different directions.

I'm not saying it doesn't make sense. It might very well be that I just don't understand how and what you are relating, but after a first read, I admit I was lost. For example, the following:

"I confess that it seems interesting to me that you can quote Holdern's maxim without fully adhering to it, yet when I reproduce another's post, I was previously called into account for it because it was assumed that I fully agreed with every point that my friend had made, and expected to defend his personal, experiential opinions. Seems something of an odd double-standard. But I digress."

I'm not sure what you were referring to with this. Can you explain, please?

Our Lord bless you, and keep you,
Christopher

suneal said...

Gregory, I know your last post was for Chris, but you mention me several times, so I am posting a reply as well.

Gregory said:

“That said, even accepting the difference in theory between so-called "solo scriptura" and historical Sola Scriptura, properly understood, I am still not convinced of how, in practice, the two methodologies are any different except by degree. It seems to me that, on the one hand, even the most anti-intellectual evangelicals, who disavow tradition altogether, still refer to it (at least those who are Trinitarian, and thus actually Christian. We'll leave aside groups like the Oneness Pentecostals in that regard). There is an extent to which even anti-traditionalists still have recourse to, and embrace, tradition, and there is an extent to which "traditionalist" Protestants selectively pick and choose which traditions they will adhere to. Again, it seems to me more a matter of degree than of actual methodology. And in all honesty, your and Suneal's responses regarding Hidden One's point in that regard haven't addressed the difference, if any, between the two "types" of Sola Scriptura. Instead, your most forceful counter-argument to this point is "Catholics do it, too;" a claim which, even if true, doesn't in any way bolster a defence of the historical Protestant method, but which, moreover, I think shows a misunderstanding of the Catholic methodology, which I will endeavour to demonstrate as time permits.”

Actually Gregory I think you misunderstand, “solo scriptura” does not actually exist at all! As you yourself said, everybody, even anti-traditionalists somewhere fall back on tradition. In this we agree. This also proves our point long ago, that “by Scripture alone,” infers automatically the context of at least a living tradition being present. In other words, there is a vested authority in the body of Christ, which Scripture itself endorses, while at the same time being always the sole source of the endorsing, or in other words, of the authority it invests in its endorsement. Our response did not address any difference between the two because (1) the topic was not primarily about “sola scriptura” but rather about how Protestants deal with Tradition (2) Hidden One never made any point about “two types” at all. (3) our forceful argument regarding Catholic’s “do it to” was actually completely the topic! The real topic was Protestant selectivity versus Catholic embracement of “all (sacred) Tradition.” Now perhaps Hidden One has kept the word “sacred” to mean something other than the obvious, such as only what the Magisterium declares is sacred. But since I trust that what people say they mean, even as the interpretation of Scripture is first to be taken in its most obvious meaning, I will conclude then that what Chris and I discussed was not only relevant but right on target. Hidden One’s hypothesis was two-fold; it was about Protestant traditions selectivity and Catholic universality towards sacred tradition.

Gregory said:

“That said, even before this discussion, or the one at Aspiring Cynic which kick-started that blog, I was not unaware of the two types of Sola Scriptura, although I will admit to being deficiently learned of the historical progression and the not anti-Catholic intent of its original practice. However, then as now I fail to clearly see a practical difference between the two theories.”

Why Gregory? The hermeneutical spiral perfectly describes the difference even though as I said this was not the main topic. Let me reiterate Hidden One’s hypothesis:

“It seems to me that the Protestant position on Tradition as you define it in essence is that Protestants will accept any and all Tradition that they feel is in line with Scripture, which leads to Protestants accepting only the T/tradition that agrees with their personal/organizational interpretation of Scripture (right or wrong), while Catholics adhere to all of (Sacred) Tradition. It thus seems to me that the Protestant position on various traditions and such is like that of of someone who runs a small Christian bookstore and refuses to stock anything he disagrees with. Whatever weight is given to tradition is predominantly given because it agrees with the particular Protestant, not because it is tradition. (As I understand it, if it its weight existed because it is Tradition, than Tradition would carry a particular weight in a particular Protestant's mind irrespectable of whether or not that Protestant agrees with it.)

Thus, it seems to me, if I understand it correctly, that the Protestant position (for better or worse)on Tradition is something like that of the 'cafeteria Catholic', who accepts only the Catholic dogmas he or she wants to based solely or mostly on pre-existing conditions and factors, such as upbringing, convenience, and peer pressure.”

Now, the first sentence gives the hypothesis, the last one here, the conclusion. Here was an amended hypothesis and my response to Hidden One’s conclusion:

"Protestants will accept any and all Tradition that they feel is in line with Scripture, while Tradition informs us about Scripture, perhaps opening up Scripture to a truer, deeper understanding of it, which Scripture upon closer examination itself verifies, hence also verifying the usefulness of Tradition, which leads to Protestants accepting the T/tradition that agrees with their personal/organizational interpretation of Scripture (right or wrong)."

Therefore, two factors exist. One, we all start from somewhere in our faith, and as Protestants that is within a certain Tradition and its vision of “sola scriptura.” Two, we all add to that original vision given to us, through Tradition and further study of Scripture, etc. Hence the hermeneutical circle grows.

Are there periods in all this of challenge, considering Tradition that opposes our own personal/organizational bias? Absolutely. Growth implies growth pains and that is not usually pleasant. God can use life circumstances as well to break us into new, better ways of living in faith and love before Him. If we don't experience that then we are not being treated as sons and daughters who are being disciplined for their spiritual benefit and to be conformed to the image of His Son”

So Gregory, the question was answered on two fronts. (1) I addressed the hypothesis by amending it via the hermeneutical spiral (2) I addressed Hidden One’s conclusion by talking about how this spiral causes Protestants to be challenged by scripture and traditions, thus accepting traditions they may or may not like. Now, if I am in a cafeteria, taking food I don’t want but I know is good for me, then I don’t think I can then be called “cafeteria-Catholic.” However, to give some valid credit where it is due to Hidden One and his insightfulness, I admit that yes, I do not ALWAYS eat the food of tradition I don’t like. And since I have spent many years and lots of experience in the Christian faith determining what food is good via testing tradition against Scripture, I don’t see the harm in that either!

Finally, as to your statement,

“Catholic’s do it to,” does nothing to boast our claim,”

I disagree, for one it proves this is the only real method that actually exists in church history. Therefore, the Catholic claim of following “all of sacred tradition” and therefore being more authoritative is rendered impotent. All traditions, including the Roman Catholic one are “cafeteria” choosy at some point. Contrary to “sola scriptura” not being bolstered, it absolutely is because Protestants never claimed “tradition= only the correct interpretation of Scripture.” Nor did we ever claim tradition is infallible. Nor did we ever claim a special group called the “magisterium” is always right.

Secondly, Sola Scriptura is validated in Protestant history in that tradition never fully lives out the ideal of sola scriptura, but if on track ever seeks to align itself to it. This alignment, requires both ends of the hypothesis Hidden One proposed and that I amended. At one end there is a static state of tradition that has been proven to be in full accord with Scripture and its voice, while at the other end, tradition being human and fallible ever seeks to find where it is not in alignment with Scripture, hence there has been progressive development in Protestantism.

An example, Lutherism, with justification understood rightly was huge progress over the Catholic understanding of justification by faith and works (I plan on posting an essay I wrote on this sometime in the future). Then Calvinism with a properly aligned emphasis of sanctification built squarely on Luther’s “justification by faith alone.” Then, Puritanism, mixing the devotional life with reformed theology. Then, Jonathon Edwards came with his emphasis on “religious devotion,” or “experiential religion.” Then came John Wesley, who defended I John 3:9 literally which says “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin because he is born of God.” His doctrine of “total sanctification” was preached which borrowed from Eastern Orthodoxy the idea if “divinization.” Wesley also was a forerunner for ecumenism, for he was not so adverse to the Catholic faith but rather took good points from it in his theology. It should be noted Wesley firmly preached even this high form of sanctification, something far more comprehensive than Calvin’s sanctification, as being entirely obtained “by faith.” So, little wonder then that he defended as did all the others herein mentioned, “justification by faith alone.” Then, the Holiness, Keswick and Revival movements followed. Then came Pentecostalism with the most comprehensive practiced Spirit-filled experience since the Apostolic church. Now all this happened, because of the Protestant hermeneutical spiral which was founded squarely upon “sola scriptura.” Catholics see only the divisions, thus the digressions, while Protestants see the progression towards a more Biblically complete Christianity. So no, there is no discrepancy between the amended hypothesis of Hidden One, and there is certainly no “lack of bolstering” thereby to Protestant faith or to the doctrine of “sola scriptura.”

All of what I used above in example answers your last question Gregory, more than adequately, so I will state it now;

“What person or body of people in historical Protestantism ascertains the proper interpretation of Scripture, or the adherence to which traditions as binding or useful? What man or group of men enforces these decisions as binding upon the faithful. Perhaps I am mistaken, and please correct me, but the very Protestant ecclesiological self-understanding seems to preclude the very possibility of the existence of such an office.”

The office you critique Protestants of lacking is all the teachers, prophets, pastors and other men of God in our history who preach the gospel according to the rule of “sola scriptura,” hence ever plummeting further the depths of God’s word while adhering to their own traditions insomuch that they align with Scripture. The examples above are supremely adequate. And although they do not speak with a voice that causes Protestants to outwardly unite under one “leader,” they certainly speak with authority as we see the truths of God’s word form more and more a “Biblical church” closer in nature to the church of the New Testament witness and vitality. Let it be noted, had not Catholicism strayed so far from truth, we might be further and even closer yet to the New Testament church in praxis.

Gregory said:

"First of all, to your final point, which is the point that has been in question from the beginning, you claim that Protestants can come against Mary's perpetual virginity from "tradition" as well as Scripture. I ask, as I earlier asked Suneal, "What tradition?" Other than Helvidius in the early Church days, who taught that she was not always a virgin? Other than Helvidius, who before the Reformation taught that she was not always a virgin? As far as I have seen, there is no such tradition until after Luther's time."

The fact Helvidius taught what he did, even though he could not prove his point against the opposite view (1) does not actually disprove his particular view (2) is enough to show that Protestants living today who back up that particular view do have at least some very early tradition upon which to do so. Secondly, of the discussion between the “immaculate conception’ and “perpetual virginity,” the latter is a much more benign subject. So whoever is right or wrong does not ultimately make or break any major theological dogma. However, church history itself that took 1800 years to develop the dogma of the “immaculate conception,” shows that such reservations about it mean there are tremendous theological implications going way beyond those of perpetual virginity. Just because Luther believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary, does not mean I have to. So am I being selective here, YES!

Tradition also means “living tradition.” You, Gregory, will have to admit all tradition was alive at some time, so why discredit any living tradition based on its lack of proximity to the Apostles in time. For example, the Pentecostals have greatly developed a hermeneutic for the Holy Spirit, charisma, missions, and so forth. Did they exceed their forefathers? Yes. So why should not their voice on those matters be as authoritative as Augustine, Origen, or whoever regarding pneumatology? This gets into the whole question of “apostolic succession” verses “Apostolic tradition.” The Pentecostals in many ways could be said to be closer to the Apostolic tradition than any tradition from 300 A.D. onward, or more in fellowship with them, via the outpouring of the Spirit, gifts of the Spirit and signs and wonders flowing from that particular revival. Now that is not to say, they were closer in all aspects.

But, herein is the difference yet again between what Protestants believe and what Catholics do. Protestants say tradition MAY = the proper interpretation of Scripture. But they never say it always does nor do they ever claim it does with the same authority which Scripture alone has. And in the topic of apostolic succession, or of the early church fathers, Protestants acknowledge that both good and bad (errant) traditions were preserved. Since we acknowledge that from the get-go, for the Reformation said “Scripture bests interprets Scripture,” therefore the Patristics are not necessary nor even always useful to interpret Scripture, it is not a great leap for me or other Protestants to oppose the dogma of the perpetual virginity of Mary. This combined with all the other points I have made above makes my leap not at all wrong.

But now a question for you Gregory. Since you are bound by your belief to accept the “traditions” that are right according to the Magisterium, how do you reconcile the fact Augustine, a leading theological mind in Catholic understanding, and the rest of his contemporary church fathers would today be “anathema” under the doctrine of the “immaculate conception.” For Pope Pius IX solemnly warned: "Hence, if anyone shall dare -- which God forbid! -- to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he thinks in his heart" (Ineffabilis Deus).
So either the Church Fathers were wrong or Pope Pius IX and all the Magisterium since him were wrong. If you say the church fathers were wrong, then you are rejecting an overwhelming witness that was in much closer proximity to the Apostles by 1500 years difference, which means even more so than me, for at least I can point to Helvidius for tradition to back Mary having other children, you have no early tradition to back up the doctrine of the immaculate conception (born without sin, not only not sinning), thus making you far more selective than I am with regards to Mariology and tradition weighing into my “choice” of what I believe. So who is the greater “cafeteria Catholic” in this instance? Furthermore, you critique me for following my beliefs of not by necessity needing to believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, while you yourself on a more theologically weighted Mariology issue follow your belief less than I do. I don’t blame you, Gregory, I blame the Magisterium in whom you have put your faith. For they are the ones who contradict themselves yet claim “infallibility.”

Here is what a historian of doctrine says regarding the “immaculate conception.”

“The Church Fathers, though many of them exempted Mary from actual transgression, knew nothing about her freedom from original sin. Paschasius Radbertus (790-865) was the first to teach that Mary remained free from sin in the womb and entered the world without sin” (History of Christian Doctrine; Klotsche-Mueller; p 144).

Below, Gregory, are your words from one of your older posts, sorry I don’t remember which one it was:

“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.”

No offense Gregory, but you might want to reassess your logic or more importantly the sources of your logic. Here is another topic that the Catholic Church has not at all believed the “same thing for 2000 years” about, transubstantiation. The list could get really long, so I’ll leave it at that for now. The point is doctrine has not only grown, it has changed to often opposing positions within the Roman Catholic Church. Infallibility is merely an idea with regards Tradition or the Magisterium. I believe it should be put where it belongs, on Scripture alone.

All that is left then to respond to is “the third-leg, the Magisterium.” I will save that for another post, for that topic warrants a fresh start.

Take care,
Suneal

Gregory said...

Okay, bit by bit we work our way through.

Chris, I think we covered the point I was trying to make in reference to Label makes Libel on the phone, and it's really a non-issue, so I'm not going to go back to it.

Suneal, when I say that the argument that "The Catholic Church does it too" isn't a very good one, I stand by that. Especially since I would deny that the Catholic Church does selectively pick and choose. Your argument for that doesn't hold up in the weight of history, in my opinion. But I'll go over that in more detail when I finally get to the point where you make that argument in the first place.

In the meantime...

Suneal wrote:
Hi Gregory,

Thanks for your reply. I am taking your advice and thinking and letting things sit before I reply in full.

I would like to make some comments now however. Gregory, here is one of your concluding statements:

"The closest thing to "facts" that we have, then, is the testimony of Tradition, and the faith or lack thereof in the authority of that Tradition."

I understand your sincerity Gregory in trying to claim Tradition is the next-in-line fact finding tool when Scripture is in your words "moot." But first, I want to say "moot" does not mean it needs outside help in order to clarify itself.


"Moot" means that the point is debatable--that is, there is no clear resolution, and both sides can make an equally strong (or weak) case. I never claimed that Scripture was "moot", in the common sense that it is worthless or unimportant. I simply said that its conclusions about Mary's perpetual virginity are moot--that is, debatable. Whether the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity is important is something else altogether, I suppose. In my mind, it's important for two reasons. The first is that belief in Mary's perpetual virginity is de fide doctrine--that is, it's binding on all faithful Catholics to hold to this belief. If it's wrong, it has far-reaching implications for Catholicism. The other reason, is that it is akin in my mind to the importance of defending a claim such as "your mother is a slut." That is, it is a personal matter of defending my Mother's honour. You may disagree that it dishonour's Mary to believe that she and Joseph had sex in the normal course of their married life, but on that rather subjective notion, we happen to disagree.

Now, since these two factors make the subject one of some importance for me, and since Scripture gives no clear indication one way or the other, then I do believe that "moot" means that outside help is required in the formulation of a decision.

When the Bible says, "The Word became flesh" and earlier "the Word was God," do you or I need Tradition to make plain to us the implications both overt and implicit? From these two statements alone, disregarding the numerous other passages relevant to reiterate the topic, we can authoritatively say Jesus is God and Jesus became incarnate or one of us, thus God became a man. Now, can Tradition help us to understand more fully how this happened? Absolutely, thus the Patristics giving us wonderful insight, the Apostles Creed, Athanasius Creed, and pertinent theology about the Trinity and Christ's dual human/divine natures. But, even after Tradition has illuminated Scripture on these topics of supreme importance to our salvation, it must always yield to its source of information.

I don't think your example, in light of the history of the Church, can conceivably support your argument at all. In fact, Tradition (and the Magisterium) was absolutely necessary in this regard, considering the impact of Arianism on the Early Church. Arius was able to lead the majority of Christianity astray by his error--to the point where Athanasius contra mundi was barely hyperbolic. If Scripture is so plain on this point as you suggest, then why was it not easily and quickly used to dispel the heresy with a quick reference to chapter and verse? Rather, Arianism lasted for many years, needed an Ecumenical Council to decide matters, and even after the council decided in favour of our current understanding, it took many more years for Arianism to finally be defeated (and even today, in groups such as Unitarianism and JWs, it rears its ugly head). As such, our clear understanding of Christ's divinity based on John 1 and other relevant Scriptures is really reading back into Scripture through the lens of the Council of Nicaea.

You are trying to make your case which is the Roman Catholic case that on "debatable" topics of which Scripture is not so clear as the one's above, that Scripture should then yield to Tradition for the final correct "interpretation," and why?; because Gregory you make the assumption to not do this leaves the Church in "doctrinal relativism."

I do not agree with either 1) your assumption that the church by not having an on-par Traditional authority with Scripture is swimming out in the ocean of moral/doctrinal relativism and is therefore no longer "the pillar and support of truth." 2) Nor do I agree with the implication of the Bible being "moot" on a particular theological topic requires it be rescued from "confusion" by the savior of "Tradition." On the contrary to you, I believe what the Bible does not clarify, it does so intentionally. Or rather, by not speaking with decisive authority on a topic, it leaves an intentional openness to that topic.


First of all, I believe in the necessity of Tradition based on Scripture (though, of course, not only on Scripture ;) ), such as when St. Paul equates his "traditions" passed on orally or by letter, with the Word of God (cf. 1 Thess 2:13, 2 Thess 2:15). If it is the Word of God then it is on the one hand inerrant, and on the other, equal in importance with Scripture.

Second, there are many issues of great importance regarding faith and morals on which Scripture is silent or unclear--such as abortion, homosexuality, or embryonic stem cell research, for example. However, these issues obviously have grave import. Yet people can, and have, gone to the Bible and reached polar opposite conclusions--even intelligent and educated scholars. Even issues like an eternal Hell are debated! Without an extra-biblical tradition to inform our interpretation of Scripture, we will have doctrinal relativism. In many denominations, we already do.

Now Gregory, back to my point a long time ago, that is what I meant by "variation on Mary." I mean to leave Scripture exactly where it leaves Mariology. Sure, let's probe, let's debate, let's learn together if you want honest dialogue, not just disproving one over the other. But in the end, realize this, I will leave this topic open to some extent, for that is what Scripture does.

Suneal, as you are not a Catholic, I'm perfectly fine with you disagreeing or leaving the topic "open". But for Catholics, the Marian dogmas are just as de fide binding on us as Christological ones. As such, as long as I hold to the truth of the Catholic Church, I am constrained to have an either-or view on Mary. As a self-proclaimed apologist (since I have no official mandate--this is just a hobby), I desire to show the reasonability of the Catholic Church's teaching, and how such beliefs do not contradict the Bible, in a hope of helping others to embrace the truth that I've discovered in the Catholic Church, be they other Protestants, or anyone else who may happen by this blog.

I have difficulty believing, however, that you are completely impartial on this topic of Mary, since you first criticised my Mary-themed post, and claimed that I was wrong in certain beliefs. As such, you don't seem content to agree to disagree. Otherwise whence this discussion?

I've said before that I understand Protestants' difficulties with Catholic Marian dogmas, and can understand why Protestants would reject the Catholic faith over them. And on the one hand, I will agree to disagree with them about this. But that does not mean that I will be content to not write about Mary from a Catholic perspective, or to defend my beliefs about her with as well-reasoned an argument as I can conceive.

Now if you want to fault me, or pressure me into being an "either/or" thinker on this topic because of your own personal beliefs, then fault the Bible as well, after all, I am only following its lead. Moreover, I can say with more certainty than you can about me being a "doctrinal relativist," that you are not being faithful to the entire witness of Scripture, because you assume Tradition has to clarify even what Scripture does not. When I say entire witness, I refer to its wholistic focus on any one topic, either postively, negatively, declaritively or silently.

I am not out to fault you. It was, if you recall, you who initially faulted me, and I who defended my beliefs, and yes, claimed that an objective historical person has either/or facts pertaining to them. How you can deny taking a side on them is, I suppose, an honest position of agnosticism. For myself, however, it is binding on me to take one perspective over the other. As far as believing that Tradition has to clarify what Scripture does not, I don't think I understand how that makes me unfaithful to the witness of Scripture, since Scripture itself points to a clarifying Tradition. Scripture is not complete, and never claims to be so. In fact, it claims just the opposite! Yet if we are to have the complete truth, then something must pick up where Scripture leaves off, and something must clarify what Scripture leaves unclear.

Further on this topic, "facts" are not "facts" outside of Scripture on matters of faith. That is where I stand, so I do not accept your paradigm or ground rules if that is what you are here trying to establish.

Then it is not me that refuses to have an open discussion. If we disagree about our paradigms, then we must either utilise the other's paradigm and force our conceptual understandings into those confines, or we must go back and reexamine those paradigms. I began, I feel, by trying to demonstrate Marian doctrine through a Sola Scriptura paradigm, and we could reach no conclusion. As such, it seems that the paradigm itself needs examination. If we cannot examine the paradigms of Protestant Sola Scriptura vs. the Catholic notion of Sola Verbum Dei, where the Word of God is comprised of Scripture, Tradition, and the living voice of the Magisterium, and so arrive at some sort of either common ground or conversion of paradigmatic thinking, then how, pray tell, can we converse? We are, until that point, speaking, if not two different languages, then at least two very different dialects.

To me and Protestants in general, tradition is enfolded or encapsuled within the canon.

On what is that supported, when the Canon itself speaks of Traditions outside of itself, and the very composition of the Canon is a tradition of necessity exterior to itself? If nothing so eloquently denies the plausability of Tradition=Canon, it is the means by which we have the Canon itself in the first place!

Therefore, a witness, outside of Scripture to verify Scripture is never needed to speak on par with Scripture. Jesus is the Word standing above and within the Word writen as well as above the Church or as Head of His Church. Jesus has made both, the Church was only the vehicle for His written word to come from, and the written word was often the vehicle to create the Church! But Jesus in His Gospel is Lord and creator of all of it.

I agree that Jesus is the Word, and the only Word that means anything. But that Word is not limited to Scripture, and Scripture itself, again, indicates that Apostolic Tradition is also the Word.

I put my trust in "Scripture" as the final authority because 1)It is the most reliable witness being either first-hand eye-witness or Apostle generation accounts 2)It is divinely inspired so that Jesus could use it to state historical facts, or to resist Satan by saying, "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."
Now although Tradition can also claim close proximity to Christ's life and the 12 Apostles (Paul as well), it can never do so to the extent of reliability as Scripture.


Again, I disagree.

The same can be said of "inspiration." The canon I argued at Aspiring Cynic became "self-evident," or imposed itself upon the church, not the other way around.

This again seems to me to be contrary to the facts of the case. For centuries after the birth of the Church, many non-canonical books were viewed as Canon, and many canonical books were viewed as spurious. It took much prayer and deliberation to arrive at the 27 NT books we have today, as well as the 46 Old Testament books. As regards the OT, that itself again speaks against your argument, for if the Canon were really self-authenticating, why do we have a discrepancy between Protestant and Catholic canons? On what "self-authenticating" grounds do you dismiss seven-plus books of the Old Testament?

You may be inspired Gregory and give a "word from the Lord." But should you ever claim it to have the same authority as what Jesus said when saying, "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God?" Maybe your answer will surprise me, so in case it does, know that I will never hold your word, nor the word of myself, nor the word of the Pope, nor the word of Augustine, nor even another lost letter recovered of the Apostle Paul, as "the Word of God," as manifest in Scripture, as being equal or on par with it in authority.

My word, or the word of any private revelation, never has the weight of General Revelation--that which is binding on all believers. But that General Revelation, I believe, goes beyond the Canon, and includes Tradition, and the decrees of the Magisterium as the infallible interpreters of Scripture and Tradition. Perhaps that does surprise you, but your refusal to accept at least extra-biblical Tradition still runs contrary to Scripture's claim that it, too, is the Word of God.

Unfortunately, that's all I have time for today. I'll have to finish up responding to this comment tomorrow (hopefully). I hope my words haven't been too harsh. I don't mean them to be.

God bless
Gregory

Gregory said...

And so it continues...

Just for the record, I'll be resuming my meditations on the Rosary next week. We'll be going through the Luminous Mysteries, starting with Jesus' Baptism.

Alright, now to continue with Suneal's post, and, maybe, beyond...

Suneal wrote:
Furthermore, Tradition is not unanimous on Mariology, not to mention there is a substantial 200 year gap or so between the Apostle's and Tradition's primary voice on Mariology.

There is a substantial 300 or so year gap between the Apostles and the formulation of the Biblical Canon. It would seem to me that, amid much persecution in the early church, and the attempt to formulate coherent doctrines about the Holy Trinity and the nature of Christ (which themselves took 300 to 400 years to hammer out into the form that we recognise today), the traditions related to Mary are pretty much par. Further, considering Irenaeus' comments in the second century, and comments even earlier, I believe, from Ignatius of Antioch (though I'd have to double-check that), I would contend that the earliest voices regarding Mary are only 50 to 100 years distant of the last canonical writing.

That traditions regarding Mary weren't unanimous is no more surprising than traditions regarding Christ not being unanimous until the Church definitively and bindingly declared that X is the truth. This is the same with Mary, though since in many respects doctrines pertaining to her are infinitely less important than those pertaining to Christ, there was a certain priority to how the Church throughout the ages has endeavoured to define what Dogmas and when. But even then, I'm not so sure that the Early Church Fathers were as divided with regard to Mary as you suppose.

Now granted, I am not here to put any of that Tradition down without hearing it, but know also I am in no way obligated to accept it on par with Scripture.

Which, of course, is the mentality of Sola Scriptura (which, curiously, you and Chris later on deny exists...Je suis confusé).

Your logic as to why I should, in my mind is based on certain assumptions as mentioned above, that are not at all as universal as you think.

My logic as to why one should accept Tradition as par with Scripture comes from Scripture itself:
"For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe" (1 Thess 2:13 NKJV, emphasis mine).
"Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or by letter" (2 Thess. 2:15 NKJV, emphasis mine).

The Bible makes it clear in various other places (John 20:30; 2 John 12, Jude 3), that the Biblical texts were never intended to be an exhaustive account of Christ's life, or of the teachings of the Apostles. In the above-quoted references, among others, St. Paul makes it clear that the spoken word of the Apostles was just as much the Word of God as the written word, and that the Traditions of the Apostles were just as binding whether or not they were ever written down. Moreover, these traditions (specifically those not written down, according to 2 Tim 2:2) were to be entrusted to the leaders of the Church in successive generations and passed on. It is this that the Catholic Church refers to as "Sacred Tradition" or "Apostolic Tradition", and those entrusted with it, namely the successors of the Apostles, the Bishops, who comprise the Magisterium. We both agree in the necessity of Tradition, apparently. But Catholicism takes it one step further, saying that it is just as binding and authoritative as Scripture, stemming from the same source, which is the Holy Spirit working through the Apostles, and through their successors.

Just because we as the church are supports of truth does not mean despite St. Jeanne d'Arc's quotation above, that we always have "all truth," or else absolute truth topples to the ground.

The fact that we are the foundation of the Truth means that yes, the fulness of Truth resides in the Church. Our own personal understandings of that Truth are perhaps limited and feeble. I know my own is--but the Holy Spirit is leading us into that fuller understanding of the truth "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). That is, the Apostles have handed down to us the fulness of the faith, and have entrusted it to their successors, the bishops. Guided by the Holy Spirit, they together (and the Bishop of Rome especially) are prevented from teaching error as formal, binding doctrine, and moreover, are led to further understanding and application of that once-for-all faith.

I might just as illogically believe this as you might illogically believe that if the church choir ain't living it(Catholicism as defined in your words "on paper"), well then, let's pack it up and be athiests. But Gregory, on this account you are no longer so absolute, nor should you be in my mind with regards to "moot" Scriptural topics.

Again, though, since Scripture itself indicates that there is an external tradition, which is the Word of God as well, and since the keepers of that Tradition have defined doctrine regarding topics which Scripture leaves undefined (such as, again, the Canon of Scripture itself, among other things), I will take my stand on what Tradition has made clear despite Scripture's ambiguity. Where, after all, does Scripture indicate that what it leaves undefined should not later be defined?

So in your charging me at times with being illogical, I think you miss your own "illogic." One last word here on St Jeanne d'Arc, what else did she say? Is everything she said "inspired" as is Scripture, or just this one sentence?

As far as Ste. Jeanne (or St. Joan, as she's called in English, but that's just too butch a name for me. I prefer the French. Although, the war-maiden saint wasn't entirely un-butch herself...) is concerned, the quote comes from the transcript of her monkey-heresy-trial. It, among many of the other answers she gave, served to vindicate her posthumously because of its resonance with Church teaching (and the words of Christ Himself, cf. Acts 9:4--so if her particular words weren't inspired, their sentiment was, according to both of our standards).

How did you or Tradition come to decide what was so insprired of her and what was not? Is it not possible, that there are some quite serious holes in her logic?

I suppose you'd have to take up her illogic with Our Lord, who Himself, as I mentioned, expressed quite the same sentiment.

One simple one is this; Jesus is God, we are not, so are we still "one and the same thing" on that account as she says?

You and I, as individuals, are not "one and the same" with Jesus. But the Church, being the Body of Christ, is obviously one and the same with the Head. And we, as parts of that Body, are therefore parts of Christ.

If we are not, then is it o.k. to only "know in part," as Paul says in I Cor 13, yet still have all the sufficient knowledge needed for salvation, life and godliness in Christ Jesus? (II Pet 1:3) Is it o.k. that I just so easily complicated so simple a "matter?"

If we are to be led into the fulness of Truth by the Holy Spirit, then no, it is not alright to rest content at our unknowing. Jesus didn't simply promise that we'd be led into the fulness of everything we need to know to be saved, but into the fulness of Truth. If you want to take a minimalist approach to "what is necessary to pass through the pearly gates" then that's fine. But even then, I think we might disagree even on that. I've never yet seen a list of so-called "essential doctrines" that all of Protestantism agrees on, let alone Protestants and Catholics. As for what the Bible said about what we need to be saved, my personal study of Scripture in that regard is what ultimately led me to the Catholic Church.

Asking "what do we need to know or believe to be saved?" is to my mind just as odd and dangerous a question as the oft-asked-by-teens, "How far is too far before it's sin?" What if we miss out on something important because we don't view it as necessary? To whom do we turn to answer the what's necessary question? And if Jesus Christ has promised us more than simply salvation, why are we ignoring all the goodness that He has for us?

Finally, you said Gregory:

"it shows what is my final concluding point, that the authority of Tradition vs. Sola Scripture must be decided upon first."

O.k., I decided, it is "sola Scriptura." Are you asking for a consensus? Do you want to take a vote on a Catholic blog site? Come on Gregory, you believe one thing, I believe another. We already discussed this and as you mentioned you never pursued it any further.


In fairness, I didn't have time, and I felt that things were getting a little heated, and by the time I did have time, I wasn't sure if everyone concerned figured it was a dead issue for that blog. Hence, I've capitalised upon this opportunity to bring it up again.

Further, simply saying "I've decided on Sola Scriptura" without giving reason for it hardly makes for a discussion enabling us to reach a possible common ground. Believing as I do in the material sufficiency of Scripture, that is, that everything that I believe can be found in Scripture, at least implicitly or in seed form, I could defend my beliefs by way of Sola Scriptura. I'm simply not sure why I should be constrained to do so, when I don't agree with it as a guiding principle. Moreover, when I do so, we still bump up against that common objection inherent to Sola Scriptura, "that's just your interpretation." If we are content to simply have differing interpretations, to agree to disagree, then why did you post contradictory comments to my Mary post in the first place? Don't misunderstand, I love the opportunity for discussing alternate ideas. But the fact that you would voice them means that, to you, they seem important enough to voice. If that is the case, then why are we arguing about the validity of arguing about it?

You asked about "variations." In one sense, obviously there can be variations, since there are variations. But in another, objective sense, only one of those variations can actually be true. Perhaps this side of Heaven we can never know which version is actually the case, but as a Catholic, the version that I purport is morally and theologically binding on me to hold it. My intent in proclaiming and defending it is three-fold: First, to educate and encourage Catholics to be faithful in holding it. Second, to encourage and educate people interested in Catholicism to embrace it, so that they can enter into Communion with the Catholic Church. Third, to demonstrate that such beliefs are not contrary to the testimony of Scripture, that they do not in any way contradict the Faith, in order that those who claim that Catholicism isn't truly a Christian faith will be shown to be wrong.

A fourth, more personal reason, is simply to be a means of expressing my love and veneration for my Mother.

But just to leave you with some element of mystery, again I am not quite on the same page as you. I do NOT think despite everything I have said here, that the main issue is "sola scriptura" versus Tradition on par with Scripture. That is all I will say for now, I'll be away for a few days.

It is indeed an interesting element of mystery. If our understanding of how we are to approach Sacred Scripture, particularly in light of beliefs that are not readily explicit in Scripture (and even the proper understanding of things that are explicit in Scripture), is not the main issue to be resolved before we can investigate any particular topic, pray tell me what is, and shed the mystery.

I hope I have heard you clearly thus far Gregory in what I understand you to be saying in the latest post.

Take care and happy New Year everyone!
Suneal


For the most part, I think you have. I hope that my further comments have clarified my position somewhat. And I'm always willing to reclarify as necessary, when I have time. If I could write this blog full-time, like other people, then I'd be a lot quicker and more thorough in my responses.

God bless,
Gregory

suneal said...

Gregory said;

"My logic as to why one should accept Tradition as par with Scripture comes from Scripture itself:
"For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe" (1 Thess 2:13 NKJV, emphasis mine).
"Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or by letter" (2 Thess. 2:15 NKJV, emphasis mine).

The Bible makes it clear in various other places (John 20:30; 2 John 12, Jude 3), that the Biblical texts were never intended to be an exhaustive account of Christ's life, or of the teachings of the Apostles. In the above-quoted references, among others, St. Paul makes it clear that the spoken word of the Apostles was just as much the Word of God as the written word, and that the Traditions of the Apostles were just as binding whether or not they were ever written down. Moreover, these traditions (specifically those not written down, according to 2 Tim 2:2) were to be entrusted to the leaders of the Church in successive generations and passed on. It is this that the Catholic Church refers to as "Sacred Tradition" or "Apostolic Tradition", and those entrusted with it, namely the successors of the Apostles, the Bishops, who comprise the Magisterium. We both agree in the necessity of Tradition, apparently. But Catholicism takes it one step further, saying that it is just as binding and authoritative as Scripture, stemming from the same source, which is the Holy Spirit working through the Apostles, and through their successors."



Gregory, how are you?

I don't really know what to say at this point to you. Does it matter what I say? In the end, it seems all my logic contrary to the Magisterium, which for all intense purposes equals Tradition in Catholicism (the Catholic lense of selectivity), is mute, wrong, misled, of no validity. I think Catholics have some awesome points. I think Gregory, you have made some great points. Namely, the importance of tradition in preserving the Christian faith as well as it did. You will recall at Aspiring Cynic I said as much before.

With regards your above point, Paul in I Thes 2:15, is referring to any "message or letter come from us, to the effect the day of the Lord is already come" (II Thes 2:2). Verse 15 says, "stand firm and hold to the traditions which were taught, whether by word or by letter from us." So "message" and letter basically comprise the word "tradition." I don't see anything in what you said, that is compelling me to believe tradition here does not equal what Paul taught by letter. I believe what the Gospel is written, is our best reliable source of all tradition, even as Jesus did regarding the Old Testament, who appealed to Scripture, not the Jewish traditions to make His authoritative points. Again, as I believe, the tradition or the "people of God" are enfolded within Scripture. So no problem Gregory, tradition in this case equals Scripture. Afterall, Paul's exhortation to them, was a letter of "tradition," which you and the Magisterium use to support some "extraeneous tradition" called the "magisterium." Where in Scipture do I find the "magisterium?" A pretty big jump for you to attach them to this or any other Scriptural reference about "tradition."

I'm getting to the same old place pretty fast Gregory, I'm starting to care very little about continuing this unedifying conversation we are engaged in. Listen, you are enthused about your faith, I can admire that much at least, even if I find your logic less compelling the more we discuss. I guess the Catholic "antidote" is not killing the Protestant "virus" in me.

Furthermore, I am wondering if I could not better spend this time, in fulfilling what God has called me to, pastoral ministry, to know Christ as my life, and to count all things but loss for Him. I throw this out there for any whom the Lord may wish to pray for me, that I fulfill my ministry. For I don't think I want to be a "professional" at this either, Gregory.

So peace, man. Take it easy.

Suneal

Remy said...

Hey Greg,

It's been a while since I've asked you anything remotely related to Catholicism, however I think that I have stumbled upon a Bible verse of relative controversy. I do not know how to interpret it other than it is, but perhaps you can shed some light as to what Paul is saying. The passage is 1 Corinthians 11.1-16... forgive me not writing the passage for all to see, but I'm a little busy at the moment, so I'll cut to the chase... blunt anti- feminism and head coverings ? Doesn't seem very Christian to me (Islam?). I see you've started a rather lengthy theological debate... anyhow, please answer me, and I hope you are well.

God Bless
-Remy

Craig said...

Hey Greg,
Economics is probably not a great way to evaluate the truthfulness of a religion. But I heard a theory a while ago and I wondered what you would say to it. I heard that countries where Catholicism thrives are generally very poor. The person telling me this theory supposed that Catholicism made the countries poor, although I don't know if that is true.
Oddly, I would think that christian countries are generally wealthy. Do you think that protestantism is a better formula for financial wealth than catholicism? (as an unintended secondary side effect of the belief system)

Hidden One said...

@Craig:

I personally think the whole think is something of a moot point. There is little better than poverty for inspiring humility, charity, and avoiding having to go through the "eye of the needle".

I think Catholicism (indeed, Christianity as a whole) is spreading best in poor countries because the poor are most willing to admit that they need a Saviour. It's a very humbling concept.

Gregory said...

Suneal, sorry to see you go again. I will certainly be praying for you and all your endeavours.

I will, nevertheless, finish replying to all that you have written here so far. I'll leave it to Chris to let you know when I'm done, though, and you can feel free to respond, or feel free not to.

Craig, I'm not entirely sure how accurate your friend's observation regarding Catholic countries being poorer than Protestant ones, or whether the religious affiliation is the main factor. Obviously, comparing Protestant USA to Catholic Mexico is going to skew the data.

However, unless I'm mistaken, Italy, France, Spain, Poland, and other very Catholic European nations are not poverty-stricken. Where they are or have been have often been the result of foreign invasion and oppression, such as the Communist rule of Poland or the British oppression of the Irish.

The history of Central and South America is also rather complex and involved one, and the poor nations of that region are such for reasons beyond Catholicism's influence.

Moreover, as Hidden One suggested, the argument of your friend could be simply that Catholicism has such a strong influence in poorer nations because the Catholic missions there have met the needs of an already poor populace, such as the Daughters of Charity in Calcutta, India.

To perhaps point out the ultimate flaw in the argument, I could turn it around by pointing out that Protestant countries have been the ones who more typically have endorsed slavery, even into our own times. The United States rather late emancipation, and England's own rather late Emancipation compared to the rest of Europe, as well as the predominately "Protestant" South African Apartheid. Now obviously there were other factors involved, and it's rather simplistic to say that Protestantism supports slavery (It was, on the other hand, Catholicism, which very early on, with St. Patrick--c. 350--, who began to speak out against slavery). In the same way, it's rather simplistic to say that Catholicism makes nations poor.

Remy,
I believe the key in interpreting certain passages of Scripture is to read it with the original intent of the author. In a case such as this, what is the point or principle that Paul is trying to elucidate?

The main thrust of the passage is the interdependency of men and women, and the specific created order of authority with which God imbued us. That is, just as God is head of Man, men are the head of women. That is, in a marriage relationship, while we should aspire to equality and mutual submission, there comes a point where the man must "be a man". It's not that the man dominates his wife, but he does have that authority to make the call where no mutual resolution can be reached.

This passage comes particularly in the context of Paul's writing to the Corinthians as to proper conduct in the liturgical setting, and the Christian Church's separation from idolatry and paganism (the passage is oddly sandwiched between a discussion of the Eucharist). This also gives us a clue to Paul's intent--that Christians are to be modest and decorous at Mass. In an age of Temple Prostitution in paganism, in a city renowned for sexual licence, Paul is advising the women to cover up, in part out of a sign of submission, and in part out of modesty's sake, in order to keep the worship of the Church pure and free from distraction.

The key to understanding how "literal" the passage is, is in verse 10, where Paul says "For this reason, the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels (NKJV)." The veil or whathaveyou, is a sign of their modesty and submission. But symbols aren't universal. The principle is the modesty and submission. How that is demonstrated, I think, is up to the culture in which it is demonstrated. That is why St. Paul writes, "Judge for yourself whether it is fitting..." (v. 14), and concludes by saying that if this is really a problem, then Paul says that the Church has no such custom at all (v.16). That is, what Paul is advocating is not Christian Law, but more his suggestion for keeping propriety at Mass. And the principle is one that I think still stands, and needs to be taught. Maybe we here in Canada aren't so distracted by women's hair, but how often, especially in the summer, do we see girls in short skirts and low-cut tops going up for Communion. And, quite honestly, it is distracting! There should be a renewed emphasis on Modesty (and dress code) in Church, I think. Even for us guys. If Christ the King is truly present, then His courtiers should dress appropriately.

One last comment on interpreting such tricky passages. How do we know what's a cultural recommendation vs. a perpetually binding rule? We must always read Scripture with the mind of the Church. That is, it's not our job to read the Bible in order to "figure things out for ourselves." We should always consult the writings of the saints or papal encyclicals, and, of course, attend Mass and other opportunities for Bible Study.

Anyway, that's all I've got time for today, but I should have time tomorrow to come back and continue where I left off, above.

God bless
Gregory

Remy said...

Wow, that certainly is a good point of view, although it is still difficult to draw the line between anti-feminism and equality in this passage. There is no real statement of interdependency, no clear-cut one, I mean, its mostly, no matter which way you slice it, leaning towards the male, though, that's not so bad...males have their roles in society as they should, since primeval times they have been the providers and protectors, therefore I do think it is logical to accept that a male could "be a man" as you stated, to hold up his responsibility. Gender equality is not clear cut, as men are evolutionarily dominant over women in some aspects, and of course vice versa for women. I'm sure I've come across many examples of gender equality in the Bible, I just can't quite pull them up right now...:), I'm very tired, I just finished exams.

It's funny how this works out though, because I just so happen to have the same opinion about the people who wear their pyjamas to church. I grew up in an Eastern European Catholic Polish family, which pretty much says right there what the tradition in my family is when it comes to dress code. Showing you don't care how you present yourself pretty much says you don't care about church or God for that matter.

I do have one question for you though, of a little more consequential matter than the previous. It has come to my attention that a gay teacher of mine has "married" and has adopted a kid. I dunno if I've ever been so helpless. Is there a prayer I can devote for the child? Perhaps to Mary? It may sound a bit juvenile or whatever, but, to be frank...a kid with no Moms?????? That's just. plain. wrong. I mean, how is that kid going to be affected in the future?? I mean, I can't even dare to think of starting some sort of anti-anti-family group, cuz, well, I'd get the boot. Hard. But anyways, perhaps this is a little to colloquial for this forum so I'll leave it at that.

I hope we can catch up soon.


Yours in Him

Remy

Gregory said...

Hey Remy,
It's good to hear from you too, and yeah, we should catch up sometime.

With regards to equality in the Bible, in the passage in question, check out verses 11 and 12:
"However, in the Lord, though woman is nothing without man, man is nothing without woman; and though woman came from man, so does every man come from a woman, and everything comes from God (NJB)." Further, other passages talk about there being "neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female, but all are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28), and Ephesians 5:21-33, which advocates submission to each other, and while it belabours the wife's submission to her husband as the Church submits to Christ, it concludes with the corollory that the husband must love the wife so much that he is ready to die for her as Christ died for the Church. So if there's a case to be made for male headship and authority (and there is), it comes with a boatload of responsibility which includes death.

That is to say, men and women are equal, but different. We each have a different role to play in the family and in the Church.

Plus, the fact that, when reading Genesis one, we see a progression from lower to higher, and lesser to greater, as the seven days are recounted, it has been argued that, since woman was created last, she represents the pinacle of God's creation...

I would definitely agree that your gay teacher and his "life partner" are seriously going to have a detrimental effect on the child's upbringing. And, homosexual couples can adopt now?! I knew it. My parents had to wait 15 years to adopt me, and ... yeah, anyway, that's about to turn into an unproductive rant...

I don't think starting an "anti-anti-family" group at your school will do anything except make your teacher your enemy, which will likely not do anything except hurt your grades. But definitely pray. Our Mother is always a good choice. I also found a short prayer for spiritual adoption. It's meant for an unborn child, to protect them from abortion, but I adapted it: "Dear Jesus, child of Mary, I love You and thank You for Your unconditional love. I plead with You to protect the life of the child whom I have spiritually adopted and whose life is threatened by homosexuality. May this child be allowed to grow in wisdom, age and strength in Your presence and in the sight of all. Amen."

I'd also suggest a Novena to the Holy Family for the Protection of the Family:

Say this prayer once a day for 9 days:
"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless me and grant me the grace of openly professing as I should, with courage and without human respect, the faith that I received as your gift in holy Baptism.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless me and grant me the grace of sharing as I should in the defense and propagation of the Faith when duty calls, whether by word or by the sacrifice of my possessions and my life.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless me and grant me the grace of loving my family and others in mutual charity as I should, and establish us in perfect harmony of thought, will, and action under the rule and guidance of the shepherds of the Church.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless me and grant me the grace of conforming my life fully as I should to the commandments of God's law and those of His holy Church, so as to live always in that charity which they set forth. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I ask in particular this special favour... (mention silently your special intentions). Amen."

Seemed to fit both for your desire to take a stand, and to pray for the child.

And don't worry about being too "colloquial." I've enjoyed the change of pace. And it is an open forum.

God bless
Gregory

suneal said...

Jesus loves me, this I know,
for the Bible, tells me so,
little ones to Him belong
they are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes Jesus loves me,
the Bible tells me so.

"and hope does not disappoint us, for God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Rom 5:4).

"in this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the Atoning sacrifice for our sins" (I Jn 4:10).

Amen.

Hidden One said...

Amen.

Gregory said...

It's high time I got back to replying to past comments here. Tomorrow I'll have the next Rosary Mystery up, but this forum will stay open for those who care...

I'll start off by commenting on Hidden One's comments, even though I for the most part have no quarrel with them (he is on "my side" after all ;) ), but since the next few posts from Chris and Suneal deal with his comments, and since I want to respond to them, I'd better go through it all...

Hidden One wrote:
Please forgive me if I am wrong (this comment is basically directed at Chris), but if I may proffer a hypothesis (while trying to tread lightly so as not to offend anybody by mistake,) to better understand some of what has been said (most recently by C.J.) it would be this:

It seems to me that the Protestant position on Tradition as you define it in essence is that Protestants will accept any and all Tradition that they feel is in line with Scripture, which leads to Protestants accepting only the T/tradition that agrees with their personal/organizational interpretation of Scripture (right or wrong), while Catholics adhere to all of (Sacred) Tradition. It thus seems to me that the Protestant position on various traditions and such is like that of of someone who runs a small Christian bookstore and refuses to stock anything he disagrees with. Whatever weight is given to tradition is predominantly given because it agrees with the particular Protestant, not because it is tradition. (As I understand it, if it its weight existed because it is Tradition, than Tradition would carry a particular weight in a particular Protestant's mind irrespectable of whether or not that Protestant agrees with it.)

Thus, it seems to me, if I understand it correctly, that the Protestant position (for better or worse)on Tradition is something like that of the 'cafeteria Catholic', who accepts only the Catholic dogmas he or she wants to based solely or mostly on pre-existing conditions and factors, such as upbringing, convenience, and peer pressure.

Post-script: Please note that I am not accusing ANYone of ANYthing, merely putting forth hypotheses which are decidedly NOT personal in nature. This is honest hypothesizing and trying to understand, most of which occurred to me roughly a line or two before I wrote it, hence the amateurish writing quality.


If I can simplify what H1 said, and, H1, correct me if I misstate anything, it would be thus:

Chris and Suneal, you have spent a lot of time belabouring the fact that Sola Scriptura, as such, includes tradition, insofar as that tradition can be supported from Scripture. Whatever tradition can't be supported, or even seems to be contradicted by Scripture, is discarded. However, since Protestantism makes use of historical tradition, it is not so intellectually vacuous as the "Solo Scriptura" touted (though not really followed) by so-called evangelical Christianity (I say "so-called" because I'm not sure why I, as a Bible-believing Catholic am not "evangelical", or really what that title actually signifies. But I digress.)

Anyway, your argument has been, that since Sola Scriptura, properly understood, utilises Tradition, in what major way does it differ from the Catholic rule of faith, except in its conclusions, other than how much emphasis is placed on one "fount" or the other? In other words, what claim does Catholicism have to a superior system, if both systems are hardly differentiated?

Now, if I've misunderstood something in there, please let me know. I'm not trying to labour under false pretenses or misunderstandings, but it has been a while since I've had the chance to discuss stuff, and I might have gotten muddled along the way.

To this question, H1 answered, and I concur, that Protestants, even "traditional" ones, only rely on tradition insofar as it lines up with their personal theology. That is, depending on their denominational stance and their personal study of Scripture, they will accept or reject elements of the Church's ancient traditions, rather than those traditions informing or deciding personal or denominational stances.

Now, admittedly, it is perhaps a little more grey than that either-or scenario, but it still seems to come down to that fact. And it comes down to it in this manner: The Protestant says "tradition is good where it agrees with or doesn't contradict Scripture, and so we accept certain traditions, such as the Trinity, but reject others, such as Purgatory, based on Scripture." However, another Protestant, also practicing a very informed Sola Scriptura, might say he agrees with the tradition of Purgatory, as did C.S. Lewis, but not with other ancient traditions.

When it comes right down to it, the differences within Protestantism stem from what basically becomes a subjective understanding of Scripture informing a person or group about which traditions are valid, and which "contradict Scripture", instead of allowing the traditions of the Church to inform one's interpretation of Scripture. And it is this ultimately subjective attribute of Sola Scriptura that prompts me to repeatedly level the accusation that it has caused the divisions within Protestantism and leads ultimately to doctrinal relativism.

Hidden One compares this selectivism with regard to Tradition, the admission or dismissal of particular traditions in Protestantism, to the obedience to or rejection of beliefs by those popularly dubbed "Cafeteria Catholics", which is a derogatory term leveled at persons who call themselves Catholic and yet freely reject certain Catholic teachings (particularly teachings that more conservative-minded Catholics view as tantamount in importance, whether or not they actually are. This term is most commonly used to refer to those who deny the Church's teaching on things like abortion or homosexuality).

While the methodology of a Protestant and a Cafeteria Catholic is similar, I would say that it is ultimately a poor comparison for H1 to have used. The selectiveness in Protestantism is inherent in the system, whereas the selectiveness of the "cafeteria Catholic" stems precisely out of disobedience to the system.

Anyway, that's all I'll say with regard to H1's comment. I hope it helps. I'll turn, in light of what I've said, to address the replies to his comment:

Suneal wrote:
To Hidden One,

You said:

"It seems to me that the Protestant position on Tradition as you define it in essence is that Protestants will accept any and all Tradition that they feel is in line with Scripture, which leads to Protestants accepting only the T/tradition that agrees with their personal/organizational interpretation of Scripture (right or wrong), while Catholics adhere to all of (Sacred) Tradition."

Do Catholics REALLY adhere to all of (sacred) tradition?


Suneal, your question and consequent argument are based on a flaw of understanding with regard to what Sacred Tradition is, and how Dogma develops and comes to be promulgated as such. One or two (such as you mention) dissenting voices do not an alternative tradition make. That is, because St. Augustine and St. Thomas, according to you, did not believe in the Immaculate Conception, it did not mean that there was no belief or tradition in the Church regarding it. To answer your question more specifically, though, the Church relies on Sacred Tradition--that is, Apostolic Tradition, as it was handed down through the Bishops. However, throughout the centuries, other traditions also enter into popular thought that are not binding and are not necessary to be believed (and some which may even be harmful). There are times when certain beliefs are challenged, and then the case is brought under review to decide based on the testimony of ancient writers, led by the guidence of the Holy Spirit, whether a particular long-held belief is of Apostolic Tradition or not. When it is decided so, it is bound infallbily as Dogma, and becomes binding on all faithful Catholics to believe it or follow it (in the case of a moral precept).

It may be, in the case of certain doctrines, that there simply is no issue regarding their authenticity until a rather late date. For example, the Canon of the Old Testament was handed down to the Church from the LXX, and the Church always maintained that it consisted of the 46 books we have today. This canon was not disputed except here and there in the early centuries, and it was not felt that an official declaration was needed until Trent, when, during the Reformation, Martin Luther and those following him eschewed the deuterocanonical books. It was only in response to this action that the Church infallibly declared that those seven books are, in fact, inspired by God just as the other 66 books accepted by Protestants and Catholics alike. It is for the reason of being challenged that most beliefs were defined dogmatically.

However, there are other times when certain beliefs are defined because a Pope feels that it would strengthen the faith of the people. It was for this reason that the Assumption of Mary in to Heaven was dogmatically defined. It wasn't being challenged or questioned, but because of the state of faith in Europe (particularly France) in the last century, the Pope felt that the defining of a dogma might ignite and inspire faith in people. I suppose history will judge the success of that decision, but I mention it in the interest of being thorough. The Assumption was believed in the Church, and perhaps even taken for granted in many cases, until the definition, which made it a binding doctrine. In all the only major impact it had on the life of the Church was to add a feast day to the liturgical calendar! The addition of a feast, of course, being where inspiration to faith was to come in--especially in most European countries where such feasts included an actual day off work.

If they did, then they would not preach the immaculate conception as binding and irrefutable doctrine, that Mary was born without sin, for the leading Catholic Scholastic theologian which the Council of Trent recommended as such, Thomas Aquinas, contrary to John Duns Scotus whom both he and St. Bernard of Clairvaux refuted earlier in the 12th century, did not subscribe to this doctrine, thus they both held Mary REALLY needed a Savior, for actual sin in her life (through being conceived with the sin nature- even though believing she did not actually sin and later she was made immaculate in her prenatal state).

First of all, since Duns Scotus actually comes later in history than St. Bernard and St. Thomas, it cannot with any accuracy say that he was refuted by them. To be refuted, you must make an argument which is subsequently overturned by a counter-argument. The counter-argument cannot come first. Consider earlier, when I said that your arguments against Mary's perpetual virginity were refuted by St. Jerome. I did not mean that St. Jerome made an argument that already saw your argument and answered it before it was made, but rather, that your argument was identical to one Helvidius, whom St. Jerome had refuted. Since your argument added nothing to that of Helvidius, it can be said that St. Jerome refuted your argument.

In the case of John Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas, Scotus forwarded a position regarding the Immaculate Conception that actually furthered the discussion, answering Thomas' objections to the belief in a manner which Thomas hadn't dealt with in his writings, and which he wasn't around to refute after it was put forth by Duns Scotus.

Now, no one building on Thomas' thought was able to overturn Scotus' theory in line with Thomas' thought, and, in fact, even though St. Thomas didn't personally believe in the Immaculate Conception, his thoughts on theology as a whole, and on Mary in particular, are actually credited with paving the way for the doctrine as it is defined today!

Secondly, your claim that [St. Thomas and St. Bernard] both held Mary REALLY needed a Savior, for actual sin in her life (through being conceived with the sin nature- even though believing she did not actually sin and later she was made immaculate in her prenatal state) is mistaken on more than a few points. The first is that Catholic Tradition is very unanimous on the fact that Mary did not commit "actual sin" as you claim, though your use of the phrase might have been an accident, since you later state that they believed that Mary never actually sinned. There is a theological difference between Original Sin and Actual Sin, and one does not commit Actual Sin simply by being born with Original Sin. The Church has always been of the mind that Mary did not commit Actual Sin all through the question of her immaculate conception.

Further, you are right to say that Mary needed a Saviour, and that it was this need of a Saviour that was the stumbling block for St. Thomas in accepting her Immaculate Conception, for he could not reason through how both could coincide. It was precisely on this point that Duns Scotus' contribution was so important, for it put forth how Mary's conception free from Original Sin did not exclude her from the need for a Saviour, but was, in fact, the result of a singular saving act on behalf of Jesus Christ in view of the merits gained by His Passion and Death.

As such, trying to bolster the argument against the Immaculate Conception on the grounds that Mary needed a Saviour and that the Church held that she actually sinned is wrong on both counts. The first, again, is that even according to the Immaculate Conception dogma, the Church holds that Mary needed a Saviour nonetheless, and the second, because it was never accepted teaching in the Church that Mary sinned.

It was the Jesuits with their strong push for the immaculate conception and their zeal for Mariology that helped win the day for John Duns Scotus.

Having done some research, I don't see the Jesuits as having played a huge role in the definition. Do you have a source on that? From what I've seen, it was the Fransiscans who were most vocal, and, ironically, the very Marian Dominicans who opposed it the longest (owing, likely, to the fact that St. Thomas was himself one of their rank).

It was not until Pope Pius IX made the decree in 1854, the Ineffabilis Deus, declaring the Immaculate Conception an essential dogma for all the church, that this dogma became the "proper interpretation" according to Catholic Tradition.

And, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, had St. Thomas known of the definition that would be promulgated by the Pope, he would have been its strongest supporter rather than its detractor, for the Catholic dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception upholds St. Thomas' teaching with regard to Mary, that she did need a Saviour, and that her salvation was one of preservation from sin rather than rescue from sin. Had he been able to hear Duns Scotus' argument that "protection" from sin and "preservation" from sin were not somehow mutually exclusive, much of the controversy might have been averted.

And a note on Thomas being a Doctor--that means that, as far as his writings and teachings are concerned, they are consonant with and accurately reflect and expound the De Fide teachings of his day--not that he was right and to be regarded as the final authority on every issue in dispute.

From the editor's note to the Summa Theologica's treatment of the Immaculate Conception:
The question is answered thus: St. Thomas as a Doctor of the Church and in matters which were not then "de fide," is a witness to the expression of the faith of his time. Hence his line of argument coincides with, because it follows, that of St. Bernard, Peter
Lombard, Alexander of Hales, Albert the Great, St. Bonaventure. It was not likely that St. Thomas would differ from the great masters of his time, who failed to understand that the grace of redemption might at the same time be one of preservation and prevention. Nor is it likely that St. Thomas had any reliable information about the movement* in progress at that time towards a belief in the Immaculate Conception. [*Principally in England, where, owing to the influence of St. Anselm (1109), the doctrine was maintained by Eadmer (1137). Nicolas of St. Albans (1175), Osbert of Clare (1170), Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln (1253), William of Ware (1300), who was the master of Duns Scotus (1308)]. No doubt he knew something of it, but the names of its promoters would have weighed little with him as against those of Bernard, Albert, Peter, Alexander, and Bonaventure. And it must not be forgotten that among those who upheld the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, not a few ascribed the privilege as being absolute and not one of preservation and Redemption. Hence it is that St. Thomas insists on two things: (1) that the Mother of God was redeemed, and (2) that the grace of her sanctification was a grace of preservation. And, be it remarked in conclusion, these two points, so much insisted on by St. Thomas, are at the very basis of the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Going further back to the church Fathers, none of them believed Mary "immaculate from conception," although a few held her as sinless.

Rather, nearly all of them held her as sinless, and preserved as such from the womb. When her complete sanctification occurred was not one of major discussion, though it was held that John the Baptist was preserved sinless, having been sanctified in the womb (as the Angel had foretold, and which was considered to have happened at Mary's visitation to Elizabeth). And since Mary was considered greater than John, her state of "full of grace" was considered greater than that of John as well, though in what manner was not fully discussed.

Augustine writes: "He [Christ], therefore, alone having become man, but still continuing to be God, never had any sin, nor did he assume a flesh of sin, though born of a maternal flesh of sin" (De Peccatorum Meritis, Bk II, Ch 38). Interesting how selective the Pope gets in 1854 about his beloved tradition which is supposedly binding, when ignoring the church Fathers' understanding on this subject and even many of the leading scholastic theologians.

St. Augustine also said, "We must except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin." [On Nature and Grace, ch 42]

It seems the selective citation accusation is a double-edged sword.

The point is this, "Tradition" as binding to Catholics is already "cafeteria Catholic," even before a person by their choosiness decides to make it even possibly more so.

It is not simply "tradition" or even "Scripture" which is binding to a Catholic, for both the Scriptures and Tradition needs definition and interpretation. Not every word of every Catholic author is "Apostolic Tradition" any more than every word of the Pope is infallible. It is the Magisterium of the Church, guided indefectably and infallibly prevented from teaching error by the Holy Spirit, which promulgates, defines, and defends the Faith of the Church.

Thus a Pope, after much research and prayer, saying that such-and-such a writer was wrong on such-and-such a disputed point in that writer's time, is not selectively discarding Sacred Tradition. He is exercising his office in preserving and defining that true Tradition, and developing the Church's understanding of it through logical extention. This is quite a bit different than the lay Catholic indulging in "cafeterianism", since the lay Catholic has no such authority to make such decisions for himself, whereas that is precisely the role and office of the Pope as successor to Peter.

By the way this specificity strikes me as no different from your critique of Protestantism that according to you, Hidden One, "leads to Protestants accepting only the T/tradition that agrees with their personal/organizational interpretation of Scripture."

That was why Hidden One was specifically criticising/condemning Cafeteria Catholicism.

You also said this Hidden One:

"Whatever weight is given to tradition is predominantly given because it agrees with the particular Protestant, not because it is tradition. (As I understand it, if it its weight existed because it is Tradition, than Tradition would carry a particular weight in a particular Protestant's mind irrespectable of whether or not that Protestant agrees with it.)"

It seems to me, that Catholics, and in this particular case I raise here, Pope Pius IX is also guilty as charged by you, Hidden One.


Again, it is precisely the Pope's office to do just what Pope Pius IX did. He did not neglect "two of the greatest theological minds in Catholicism", as is evidenced by the fact that the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception relied heavily on those writers, while coming to a different conclusion from them based on other arguments that rounded out the debate.

He selected what "books" he liked, so to speak, neglecting two of the greatest theological minds in Catholicism,

Is that what he did? Was it so simplistic? I wonder.

Augustine (although technically speaking he was not Catholic in the modern sense)

I'm curious, in what sense wasn't Augustine a "Catholic in the modern sense", while St. Thomas Aquinas was? How do you make that distinction? Especially since it was reading St. Augustine that initially demonstrated the truth of the "modern" Catholic Church to me? He was certainly more Catholic than any other denomination out there, being an ordained bishop and subjecting himself to the Church and the Pope.

It always seems an interesting thing for people to say, that such-and-such an ancient Catholic wasn't, in fact, a Catholic. If it was because you think he would have been something else, had "something else" existed, then why not St. Thomas Aquinas, since the same "something else" didn't exist in his day, either?

and Aquinas, to come to his conclusion, and doing so without the support of a council, something no Pope before him had ever done.

Is that so? From what source do you draw that conclusion? And, for that matter, where does it say that the Pope needs the support of a council? The council needs the pope to be authoritative, not the other way around.

Where I wonder was the weight of the "Tradition" that did not agree with him, most of which was centuries old, that in the end he neglected in making such a binding, sweeping declaration of the "immaculate conception"?

It was balanced against the weight of the Tradition that did agree with him, which also was centuries old. In fact, it was the discerning between the two, and even the synthesis of the two, which became the Immaculate Conception dogma. Had he declared it to be untrue, we could be having the same conversation protesting his dismissal of St. Anselm (who also was a doctor of the Church) and others who advocated the Immaculate Conception. That there was disagreement about a matter of faith that was not De Fide is to be expected--but when and where it occurs, it necessitates a dogmatic pronouncement.

As it stands now, there is much contradiction in Tradition on this subject, even more so than the loose ends Scripture leaves.

The contradiction is precisely why the definition was needed. It was not always believed and understood the same way by everyone, and so a decision regarding what was right and what was wrong needed to be made. This again is the fundamental difference between the Catholic rule of faith and Protestant sola scriptura. Catholicism has a living Magisterium whose office is precisely to make decisions in this sort of circumstance. When a similar circumstance arises in Protestantism, there is no one to arbitrate and weigh the evidence and the logic and decide--and even if someone did, there is no reason why that decision is binding on the next guy, and so split after split happens and denominations continue to multiply.

The "evolving" idea of Catholic Tradition, well, I guess that has to exist to help Tradition appear "unanimous."

The "evolving" idea of Catholic Tradition is what's known as "The Holy Spirit who will guide you into all truth" through the continued study and prayer regarding this or that issue. The exact same process occurred with the definition of the Holy Trinity, which had clearer Scriptural evidence, yet which still needed some 400 years to hammer down.

But even the Greek Orthodox Church considers Tradition as "once for all," therefore they have always been more consistent in their doctrines.

You mean, that Greek Orthodox Church which has formally embraced heresy on seven different occassions (though, admittedly, later changing their minds and reforming)? Seems pretty consistent to me.

They also do not hold the "immaculate conception" as true, and they have to be considered part of "Tradition."

Actually, they do hold to a form of the Immaculate Conception (and much of the earliest support from Tradition for Mary's sinlessness comes from the East). They simply formulate the same doctrine in a reverse/positive sense. Whereas the West emphasises her protection from sin, the East points to her utter holiness, calling Mary panagia, or "All-Holy".

I mentioned Tradition has not been unanimous on Mariology any more than has Scripture. This is still true. So I believe Chris' very perceptive question still begs a satisfactory answer.

Suneal


I'm sorry, which question was that? I think I might have answered it since you made that statement.

The ideas of ancient Catholics are not all equally "Tradition" in the sense which Catholics refer to binding Apostolic Tradition. And it is precisely the role of the Pope, and the college of bishops in union with him, as at the various ecumenical councils, to decide and define which doctrines are binding on all the Church, as they rely on the testimony of Scripture and Apostolic Tradition to guide their decision--but mostly upon the Holy Spirit and His charism of infallibility, protecting the Church from embracing formal heresy and thus defecting from the faith.

Alright, that was a lot of work, and I'm out of time for today. Nice to make headway again, though. I'll hit up Chris' response to H1's comment, and go on from there. Maybe even today, if I have time. But I doubt it.

And, someday, after I finish the Rosary posts, I'll be doing a series on the four Marian Dogmas, as well as other formal apologetic posts about Mary. I intend, therefore, to go back and cover in a more deductive-essay fashion a lot of what I've briefly replied to here. I say that in order to indicate that I intend to provide a more well-rounded description and discussion of each of the dogmas than I perhaps have done here so far.

God bless
Gregory

Hidden One said...

I think those were good explanations of Catholic doctrine/practise/individuals/etc, Gregory. Your comment definitely improved my understanding of the matters involved. I have jsut one comment:

"While the methodology of a Protestant and a Cafeteria Catholic is similar, I would say that it is ultimately a poor comparison for H1 to have used. The selectiveness in Protestantism is inherent in the system, whereas the selectiveness of the "cafeteria Catholic" stems precisely out of disobedience to the system."

Actually, I'd say that the selectiveness of Protestantism is "disobedience to the system" insomuch as Protestantism does not recognize the authority of the {Catholic} Church, same as cafeteria Catholics. Protestantism is based, historically, insofar as I understand it, as a rebellion against the teaching authority of the Magisterium.

Gregory said...

I understand your point, H1, but, for the purposes of my description, I was referring to Protestantism as a distinct and separate entity unto itself, not as a splinter from Catholicism.

Even though historically, Protestantism was a reaction to and "protest" of the Magisterium, today, the majority of Protestants are not themselves guilty of this rebellion, which is why the Catholic Church can consider them brethren. As such, their methodology, and the current motives underpinning it, are different from the original reformers (again, for the most part). It is for that reason that I dealt with the Protestant system, and the "system" of Cafeteria Catholics, in the way that I did.

Well, since I'm here, I might as well try to reply to Chris before posting a new article. If I take too long replying to Chris and don't get a new post up, blame him...or Paul...certainly not me! ;)

Christopher wrote:
First, thank you, Hidden One, for your thoughtful reply. I appreciate you taking the time to consider the issue seriously, and write out a reply.

It's nice when you two can actually get along in a discussion ;) Does the heart good.

Second, I'm on board with Suneal as concerns this issue, so far. No big surprise, I'm sure!

In any case, Suneal has layed out some pretty hard-hitting, historical proofs for Catholic selectivism regarding Tradition.


I'm not entirely convinced that he has, as per my response to him above. It seems, more accurately, that he has misunderstood the notion of Tradition vs. tradition, lumping them all together as of equal weight, and then complained about inconsistencies, while at the same time excluding the obvious place of the Magisterium, headed by and embodied in the Pope, to make the very decisions that Suneal decried. That being the case, Suneal's insights are very hard-hitting to the seemingly inadvertant paper tiger that was set up, but, at least to my mind, not so much against actual Catholic self-understanding of its methodology.

To my way of thinking, that does not dismantle, or disgrace the Roman communion anymore than admitting the common sentiment, "I'm only human. I'm not perfect." Hence the Roman Catholic Church can continue on with its claims to Tradition, and in a Newman-esque fashion decidedly deal with variances by citing a 'development of doctrine.'

When you say "Newman-esque fashion", you obviously are alluding to John Henry Cardinal Newman's essay on the Development of Doctrine (a concept that did not originate with Newman, btw). To put it the way you did, it seems that you are discrediting Newman's contribution to Catholic apologetics as laid out in that essay, without offering any reason why it should be so discredited. Next, you will equate Protestant "developments" with those argued for by Newman in the Catholic Church, even though that self-same essay seems to anticipate you when it details what is and what is not a valid development.

I suppose that we would have to discuss the essay and its major points individually to do that topic justice, as it seems rather outside the purview of our current discussion. Perhaps I'll do a series on it after I'm done with Mary.

But by doing so, however, it should be noted then that there is no difference between what the Catholics have done all through history, and what the Protestants have done from the moment of the Reformation on: developed.

Again, the key is what "developments" are valid, and what aren't. Not all changes are valid developments, as Newman himself elucidates. And more, the multi-faceted ways in which doctrine has "developed" in Protestantism--developing in a different direction for each denomination, again indicates to me the need for a guiding force such as the Magisterium.

Protestants came out from the Catholic Church because of a development in doctrine that was found to be unacceptable to other Church curates at the time. Those developments (the Reformation ones, that is) are not anathema because they don't bear the papal insignia but because they threaten a collective understanding that itself has become tradition, and of which the pope is the elected representative.

Your vagueness about what doctrines you're referring to as well as your particular sentence structure cause me to have very little idea of what your meaning is, and so I'm at a loss to give an adequate response. It seems to me that the reason the Church rejected any particular Reformation doctrine would depend mainly on the doctrine itself, and not the emotional reaction to it. But again, since you neglected to give a specific example (though I suppose I could infer one), I can't fairly respond.

It could be argued that these developmental differences are on level with a large-scale cognitive dissonance (http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/dissonance.htm).

That is, since Protestants are the result of doctrines that challenged the status quo of traditional Roman Catholicism, the Roman Catholic Church is forced to consider the veracity of its traditions and can't reconcile the apparent contradictions between the competing cognitions of Protestants and Catholics.


Read the link, still not entirely sure of your meaning. Are you saying that Catholicism rejected Protestant claims simply because the Church was too invested in its own interpretations, and that's why Protestantism exists today? This may in part be true, but then, that's also the same as implying that Protestants are ipso facto right in their new interpretations and Catholics mistaken in their own long-held understandings--or, at least, that neither position can be proved or held with any certainty.

The first conclusion seems to me to be begging the question, while the second boils down precisely to the doctrinal relativism of which I believe to be the end result of Sola Scriptura. If I've really missed something (which is entirely possible, since I'm really having difficulty understanding you), please clear it up for me.

The first tactic in situations like this, and historically with the Roman Catholic Church, is to simply deny the difference.

Again, with a lack of particular example, this has confused me. Are you saying that the Catholic Church began by ignoring the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism? That doesn't seem to square with what I know of the historical record. I could be wrong, of course, but again, I need something concrete.

That is exactly what the Roman Catholic Church did with Protestants, and it led to peevish and rabid distortions, and dis-trust between both factions. Hence one reason why both groups of Christians nowadays can lay claim to the same sources in history and come up with different conclusions, but neither group can afford the other the room to say, "maybe I was wrong, afterall." That would require a religious, and psychological overhauling that neither communion is prepared to accept. The result is that we've moved through history since the Reformation, held to our dissimilar claims, and none of us are any better for it.

This was the result of what again? Denying that there were differences between our communions in the first place? And you've laid this denial squarely on the Catholic side? I'd really be better served if we examined your claims with specific details against the historical record.

So let's bring things back to Mariology now. What if Catholics and Protestants are both wrong on their interpretations of Mary?

Do you mean with regard to individual doctrines about Mary, or that Catholics are right on some points and Protestants right on others? If the former, then there is an Option C which is not readily clear on each. If we're both wrong about her Immaculate Conception, what is the third option between either she was or either she wasn't? Same with her Perpetual Virginity or her Assumption. (As far as her being the Mother of God, as far as I know we're all agreed on that. It's only historically uninformed Protestants that have ever challenged me on that doctrine.)

If the latter, I suppose it would depend on the individual case again, though it seems to me that I, personally, would have a fair amount to lose. Namely, the understanding of the Church as protected by the Holy Spirit from teaching error. In which case, I would have to quit the Catholic Church--something that will require hard-hitting proof to accomplish, since such hard-hitting proof was necessary for me to enter the Church in the first place.

It is this fact that I think has frustrated Suneal so incredibly about me. It is not that I am not open to the truth, nor that I can't admit that I could be wrong. It is that such an admission goes beyond a simple academic abstraction. In fact, theology as an abstraction devoid of real implications is an utterly strange and alien concept to me. If X is true, then I must believe X and adjust my life accordingly. I was convinced that X = Catholicism, and that life-adjustment cost me a lot (I suppose I am like the really invested cult member in the Cognitive Dissonance essay example in that regard). If X=/=Catholicism, it will affect my church affiliation, my theology, my marriage, my career path, and many other things that I can't even take stock of now. I did it once after much study, prayer, and argument. If I am to repent of all of that, it will need to be the result of even more study, even more fervent prayer, and even better counter-argumentation.

It is not that your comments haven't mattered, Suneal. They have challenged me greatly. But they in themselves have not been enough to convince me. I doubt that this Open Forum will suffice--just as one internet discussion 5 years ago didn't suffice to make me a Catholic, either. But I have taken your words to heart, to prayer, and to study. I haven't simply ignored them, and my replying to this open forum should be evidence of that.

Suneal, what happens to your line of thinking if it could be reasonably shown that Mary was, in fact, never sexually active? What do you lose? What do you gain? How is your faith in Christ affected?

Suneal, I notice you never actually bothered to answer Chris' question...Unless I missed it. Could you point it out to me if I did?

Gregory, Hidden One, take up the issue of doctrinal infallibility. What would happen to your line of thinking if it could be reasonable shown that doctrinal infallibility is not reasonably pronounced on human understandings of Scripture and history?

No one has made the claim that Infallibility extends to understandings of history (or science, for that matter, despite your oft-repeated non sequitur about ancient Christians believing the earth was flat). Infallibility extends only to official declarations of doctrine pertaining to Faith and Morals. If we rephrase your question in light of what Doctrinal Infallibility does cover, I'll proceed to answer your questions.

What would you lose? In short, the Catholic Church. It would be shown to be a fraud. Moreover, though, I would lose any possibility of knowing Truth. I would be tossed back on to my own limited and subjective understanding of Scripture, hoping that I was being guided by the Holy Spirit. I would need to reinvent the wheel all over again. Ultimately, I would lose Christianity, since Jesus would have failed to be able to keep His promise that the Gates of Hell would not overcome the Church--for if the Church can err, then it has erred. If it hasn't erred, then the Catholic Church is still true except in that one error of believing itself infallible. Since Protestantism comes rather late onto the scene, there is then 1500-odd years without a true Christianity, in which time the Gates of Hell did prevail--and more, there is no sure guarantee that any particular version of Protestantism is actually a restored Church. That leaves Orthodoxy, which, contrary to Suneal's assertion, has formally embraced heresy several times, and then turned back. Thus they have erred, and there is no sure way to tell whether their current state is true or not.

If there is no Church, then there can be no faith in the infallibility of the Scripture, except for circular reasoning of "because the Scripture says so", but the Scripture also says various other things which would be overthrown in the above-outlined scenario. Moreover, since an erring Church produced the Canon of Scripture, I could not even trust that the Canon I received actually was the infallible Word of God.

If Protestantism is right with regards to Doctrinal Infallibility--in that it is not entrusted to men through the Holy Spirit's guidance--then I cannot even be a Protestant, and at best must resort to Judaism, or perhaps Islam, or else a hippy-airy-fairy theism.

That's a lot to lose. So I again reiterate that, if this is the case, it will take a good deal of argumentation to convince me.

What would you gain? In light of all that I lost? The only possible thing that I could gain was the knowledge that, hey, at least I'm not a dupe! Small consolation.

How would your faith in Christ be affected?

If I could still believe in Christ (since my belief in Christ was initially dependent on the testimony of a Church and a Bible that I apparently can no longer trust), it would seem that He couldn't be who He claimed He was, at least insofar as He was powerless to actually fulfil His promise to found and preserve a True Church.

Be careful here: I'm not asking you to re-consider the infallibility of Scripture;

Unfortunately, the infallibility of Scripture is a belief contingent on believing in a Church. That is, since the Church gave us the Scripture, if I cannot trust the Church to have done so without error, then I cannot trust the Scripture to be the Word of God. Or, conversely, since the Bible promises a Church free of error, and that Church does not exist, there is one point at least on which the "infallible" word of God has erred.

I'm asking you to reconsider the notion of the papacy pronoucing its understanding of Scripture as infallible.

And I've done so, and those are my conclusions. I personally can see no way around it except one--and that is to prove that Protestantism, at least one form of it, or Orthodoxy, is the true keeper of an Infallible understanding. Since Protestantism (and I believe Orthodoxy as well) actually denies this claim, I seem stuck in a logical connundrum. Perhaps you are able to show me the way out. If not, then I am still a Roman Catholic, if only for Puddleglum's reason.

That's all for now. It's been a sleepless night.

Christopher


Unfortunately that's all for me as well. No new post.

It's Chris' fault for having too stimulating and involved a post :p

God bless
Gregory

Gregory said...

Whew...Well, I'm getting there, anyway...

Hidden One wrote:
As I don't have time to respond to Suneal and/or Chris in any great length at this point, I'm simpyl going to pose antoher question.

Considering the fact that neither Suneal nor Chris ever said that my hypothesizing is wrong, is it actually right, regardless (at this point) of whether or not Catholics do the same/something similar?


Suneal replied with:
Hi Hidden One,

Your so hidden I don't know your real name. Anyway, Chris said in one sentence what I will say in many paragraphs.


H1's insistence on remaining hidden is rather frustrating, especially since his first name is so generic, that unless one were to include his last name (which is a bitch to spell, anyway), no one would have any idea who he is. His moniker is redundant, in my eyes. But ah well.

Here is your qurestion:

"Considering the fact that neither Suneal nor Chris ever said that my hypothesizing is wrong, is it actually right, regardless (at this point) of whether or not Catholics do the same/something similar?"

Chris said:

"But by doing so, however, it should be noted then that there is no difference between what the Catholics have done all through history, and what the Protestants have done from the moment of the Reformation on: developed."

I think here Chris acknowledges your hypothesis is workable as a model for church history and as the fact that we are "human."


Why does the fact that we are human preclude the ability of the Holy Spirit to guide His Church infallibly so as to prevent it from teaching error? After all, the writers of Sacred Scripture were so preserved from transmitting error in their writings. On what basis does the Protestant limit that gift to the writers of Scripture, and not permit it to be applied to those with the responsibility of interpreting and propagating it? I don't see in the Bible itself why this should be so, any more than I see anything explicit in the Bible that says the Bible itself is infallible. I do see the Bible being called God's Word, and since God cannot lie nor err, His Word must logically have the same quality of veracity. However, I also see, as I've mentioned, Apostolic Tradition being referred to as God's Word, whether it is written or oral. On what grounds, then, do we say that it is subject to fallibility whereas the Scriptures are not? Further, I see Jesus promising that His Church will never be overcome by Satan (the Father of Lies) and that it is the pillar and foundation of the Truth. On what logical grounds do we deny it infallibility? How can a fallible Church support the Truth? And more, if that Church is indeed Christ's Body, then should it not have the same quality of Truth as its Head claims for Himself?

This humanness is not really an issue for Protestants, for that is why they have "sola scriptura" as their final rule of faith, for the buck stops there rather than at our humanness.

But herein lies the problem which I believe H1's question and earlier hypothesis strikes at, which, it seems to me, you have overlooked. This problem manifests itself in two errors in your reasoning:

The first is that, for the Catholic, the Church is divinely prevented from formally teaching error in matters of faith and morals. Thus, She doesn't rely on "humanness" any more than the Sola Scripturist is allegedly able to avoid that pitfall.

The second is this: Scripture requires interpretation. This is true whether we talk about the Bible or any other text. Goodness knows that even our discussion here has been subject to misinterpretations! How are we expected to be able to properly interpret a text that is between 2000 and 3500 years old, written in various foreign languages representative of several foreign cultures which we don't really understand?

Now, here's what I believe you would say in answer to that question--correct me if I am wrong: On the one hand, the testimony of tradition would guide in understanding, as would scholarly works by experts in the languages and cultures, thus bridging the gap somewhat. Further, the Holy Spirit is able to guide the faithful student into a proper understanding.

The connundrum occurs precisely here: You have already stated that traditions must be subject to one's interpretation of Scripture--that is, Scripture determines the validity of tradition, not tradition determining the validity of the interpretation of Scripture. Thus, how can one rely on tradition to determine the proper interpretation of Scripture, when tradition is itself dependent on that proper interpretation in the first place?

As to the scholars, they themselves have to rely on various traditions in order to reach their own conclusions. Moreover, various scholars disagree with each other as to certain points. How does one determine which scholar is more reliable and accurate than the other?

Since, then, it seems that the accuracy of the tradition and the scholar is determined by one's understanding of the Scripture--an understanding ostensibly arrived at by the tradition with the aid of the scholar, the "historical" Sola Scripturist finds himself in a position that ends up being not to different than the so-called "solo scripturist" who claims (spuriously) to only rely on "the Holy Spirit and me", whom the historical Sola Scripturist decries so fiercely as not being true to the spirit of Sola Scriptura as initially laid out. It seems to me, however, that the Solo Scripturist is simply the logical conclusion to Sola Scriptura.

I believe that that is the point that Hidden One was trying to establish in his hypothesis--and he can correct me if I am wrong in that regard. Nevertheless, it is the position I will establish for myself.

Now, the "Holy Spirit and me" position, to my mind, is a fair one. After all, it is similar to the Catholic infallibility position--that is, the Holy Spirit preserves the Pope and the college of bishops from promulgating formal heresy as binding doctrine. The difference is that, while the Catholic Church sees this protection as beloning to one person, and by extention, to a group of people acting as a college in union with that person, the Protestant notion sees the Holy Spirit guiding each individual's interpretation of Scripture in a unique and personal way. How much that individual chooses to rely on the traditions and expertise of others is a subjective choice that he makes--as is the decision of which traditions and which scholars the individual chooses to employ, and which to dismiss.

The problem resulting from this position, and I believe inherent in it, is the one that I have mounted repeatedly against Sola Scriptura (in whatever form one chooses to employ it)--and that is its breakdown into a disunified Christianity. That is, two sola scripturists, reading the same Scriptures, guided by the same Holy Spirit (ostensibly), and relying on the same traditions, or alternately selecting different traditions according to their notion of what is a valid tradition and what isn't, arrive at two different and often outright contradictory positions.

Now, if there is "one Lord, one Faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all", how can there then be two different interpretations, if that One God and His one Scripture are where "the buck stops...rather than at our humanness", as you put it, Suneal?

Now, you can blame it, as many do, on sin in the life of the interpreter blocking the voice of the Spirit--but what of the times when that is not the case? And if we are all sinful people, how can we ever be sure that we are free of sin enough to ensure proper communication with the Spirit?

Or, if because of our humanness, we cannot rely on an interpretation to be infallibly guided by the Spirit, then how can we possibly avoid the doctrinal relativism which I said Sola Scriptura logically breaks down into?

Our humanness happens to be the place truth is worked out, as the Truth, Jesus, lives among His people of truth.

But until that truth is worked out in us, we cannot be sure that we have it. If we cannot be sure that we know the truth at any given point, how can we believe it in faith, and proclaim it to a lost and dying world? If the truth is not something that is revealed to us--something infallibly preserved in us--how can we actually be considered a "people of truth"?

Now for my longer winded answer. I take much longer than Chris to say things, so that Chris can be more appreciated.:)

Hidden One, here I believe is the hypothesis you were referring to:

"It seems to me that the Protestant position on Tradition as you define it in essence is that Protestants will accept any and all Tradition that they feel is in line with Scripture, which leads to Protestants accepting only the T/tradition that agrees with their personal/organizational interpretation of Scripture (right or wrong), while Catholics adhere to all of (Sacred) Tradition."

Your hypothesis did include a contrast to Catholics, so you can not say it is right despite what Catholics do similarly or not. Do you agree with that, Hidden One?


I believe Hidden One's "similarly behaving Catholics" referred to the Cafeteria Catholics, who aren't being obedient to the Church in the first place. Moreover, it was you who claimed that all of Catholicism does what Hidden One claimed Protestants do, not he himself. His desire to deal with the Protestant practice despite Catholicism was a desire to stay focused on his hypothesis rather than follow the rabbit trail which you brought up in your initial rebuttal. I would aver that I sufficiently dealt with your rebuttal above, and continue to deny that what the Catholic Church does is the same as what Hidden One describes Protestantism as doing. As such, the "Catholics do it too" rebuttal is rendered rather null.

Part of your hypothesis was that Catholics do not do what Protestants do, which is to accept only Tradition that suits their preference, and I challenged that notion entirely.

I challenged your challenge--and I believe that Hidden One was probably over-generalising a bit. The main part of the problem was his encasing "Sacred" in parentheses, making it seem like an extraneous term rather than central to the whole premise. The Church does not accept all tradition, but only Sacred Tradition--that is, Tradition believed to be handed down from the Apostles as the Word of God, and the logical development of that Tradition as put forth by the Magisterium--as binding on all believers. This contrasts with Protestantism in two ways. First, Protestants do not choose to accept even many of the certain apostolic traditions, such as the Sacramental life of the Church, in many cases--and even those denominations which do, do so only in a limited fashion. Secondly, Protestantism has no such juridical body to separate what is Apostolic Tradition from the local cultural traditions and legends that crop up from time to time as a result of the "humanness" of Christians.

However, for the sake of fairness, I will discuss only Protestants in your hypothesis for a moment.

You assume (a) leads to (b). With (a) being “Protestants will accept any and all Tradition that they feel is in line with Scripture” and (b) being “Protestants accepting only the T/tradition that agrees with their personal/organizational interpretation of Scripture (right or wrong).” Now to a certain extent you are right. However, there is a hermeneutical circle in play, in which Scripture informs about Tradition and Tradition informs about Scripture. So it is not just as you say, but there needs to be a (c) clause added to more properly describe the hermeneutical circle. The (c) clause would be this; “Tradition informs us about Scripture, perhaps opening up Scripture to a truer, deeper understanding of it, which Scripture upon closer examination itself verifies, hence also verifying the usefulness of Tradition.” Now I think clause (c) stands somewhere between (a) and (b).


I believe I dealt with this adequately above when I described the Sola Scripturist's logical connundrum earlier in this comment. I do not see that adding (c) does anything to break the hermeneutical circle out of its circular reasoning. You are still left with a chicken-and-egg paradox, and a subjective evaluation of which traditions interpret Scripture, and whether Scripture bears out that tradition's interpretation. If this subjectivity did not exist, then there would not be the myriad denominations in existence today. Unless something has the authority to definitively and actively say "This is the truth; walk ye in it," the subjectivism will continue to circle around itself, and the only conclusions that will be drawn are what the interpreter has already brought with him to the text (since we all bring with us something to the text).

So here is what I am saying in layman terms, yes, your hypothesis is generally right, but there is still room for growth, it is not necessarily a static experience for a Protestant individually or collectively. Therefore, you need to amend this word “only,” for that is not true necessarily. This in the end amounts to this in my mind, the quest for truth on matters of faith, period. No Christian knows everything or has all knowlege, neither does any one Tradition in my opinion.

Jude 3 seems to contradict you on that point. That is, there is a faith "once for all handed down". We do not fully comprehend the breadth and heighth and depth of it, and it is in that regard that we still grow in our understanding of the Truth as the Holy Spirit guides us into that Truth. This is what produces development in doctrine. But that doctrine and its development are not sporadic or subjective things, but are, as Jesus promised, "guided".

So here then is my amended version of your hypothesis:

"Protestants will accept any and all Tradition that they feel is in line with Scripture, while Tradition informs us about Scripture, perhaps opening up Scripture to a truer, deeper understanding of it, which Scripture upon closer examination itself verifies, hence also verifying the usefulness of Tradition, which leads to Protestants accepting the T/tradition that agrees with their personal/organizational interpretation of Scripture (right or wrong)."


How does Scripture (an inanimate book) examine itself? Ignoring that and accepting the obvious intended meaning that the student of Scripture reexamines it in light of the traditions, and showing their veracity, the question still remains, how does the Sola Scripturist avoid the subjectivism that leads to the brackets at the end of the hypothesis: whether right or wrong?

Unfortunately, that's all I have time for today. I'll finish up the rest of Suneal's reply to Hidden One shortly.

I did want to ammend an earlier comment that I made in response to Suneal's claim that the Orthodox Church doesn't believe in Mary's Immaculate Conception. What I said earlier stands, but I lately learned further information of interest, while listening to an interview with a Ukranian Greek Catholic priest who converted from Eastern Orthodoxy. You can listen to the interview by going here and clicking on the Feb 12 show (it's not uploaded yet, but it should be within the next day or so).

Fr. Yuriy Kolasa, when asked by a caller about the differences in theology between Catholics and Orthodox, stated that the only real major difference is the Orthodox denial of the papacy. The "Filioque" controversy that led to the Great Schism was overcome once cooler heads were able to prevail (and the Churches would have reunited at the Council of Florence, I believe, had the Turks not chosen that moment to invade Constantinople, leading to some western Catholic atrocities towards the Byzantine Christains which set relations back centuries). The other doctrine that Fr. Kolasa mentioned, since it's brought up a lot, is the Immaculate Conception. He stated, with regard to this, that the belief is noticeably implicit in the Eastern Church's teachings and writings, and that the reason why She hasn't officially pronounced on it is political rather than theological: namely, that the timing of the Catholic Church's declaration was a detrimental one in light of Catholic-Orthodox relations. In other words, because of heated disagreement then occurring between East and West, the East reacted to the Pope's pronouncement by rejecting the prospect of pronouncing similarly pretty much out of spite.

On the one hand, therefore, Orthodoxy does implicitly believe in the Immaculate Conception, and on the other, her ongoing denial of the doctrine in explicit terms is a political position and not a theological one. As such, their stance cannot be accurately presented as a dissenting tradition in the other "ancient" Church (as well, it casts a shadow on Suneal's assertion that the Eastern Orthodox Church has been more "consistent" in her doctrines).

Seriously out of time now.
God bless
Gregory

Gregory said...

So it turns out that the reason I said I had to go just then, earlier, was cancelled, so I'm back and am going to try to finish off my response to the comment from Suneal which I had begun...

Therefore, two factors exist. One, we all start from somewhere in our faith, and as Protestants that is within a certain Tradition and its vision of “sola scriptura.”

A Tradition which is itself only 500 years old, compared with a 2000 year old tradition for Catholicism. Sola Scriptura was never taught nor practiced before Martin Luther--which is another (main) reason why Catholics reject it as a working principle.

Two, we all add to that original vision given to us, through Tradition and further study of Scripture, etc. Hence the hermeneutical circle grows.

The difference, again, as I've stated repeatedly here, is that without an infallible authority to guide the acceptance and rejection of certain traditions and the proper interpretation of Scripture, the hermeneutical circle, whether static or growing, is subjective at its core and can be no sure determinate of truth in and of itself.

Are there periods in all this of challenge, considering Tradition that opposes our own personal/organizational bias? Absolutely. Growth implies growth pains and that is not usually pleasant.

That may very well be--but it is no sign that the growth is a good or healthy one. Cancerous growths include their own "growing pains"--but those pains lead to death.

God can use life circumstances as well to break us into new, better ways of living in faith and love before Him. If we don't experience that then we are not being treated as sons and daughters who are being disciplined for their spiritual benefit and to be conformed to the image of His Son.

Very true, and I agree wholeheartedly. I fail to see the relevance, however.

So with regards to the hermenuetical circle, this process does not quite fit into a dictum, “Protestants accept only the T/tradition that agrees with their personal/organizational interpretation of Scripture (right or wrong).” In other words there is no fluidity to this, which therefore makes your hypothesis somewhat non-descriptive of much of Protestantism,...

I do not know that H1's conclusion is necessarily devoid of fluidity, or, on the other hand, how your more "fluid" correction necessarily leads to a different conclusion than an ultimately subjective acceptance or rejection of various traditions based on one's personal understanding of his faith. That faith may very well change and grow without negating the subjective quality inherent in it.

...while the absoluteness of the converse you state about Catholicism, that it “adheres to all of (sacred) Tradition,” is another rigid statement which in the end transcends all reality and historical fact, thus rendering your statement about Catholics accepting all Tradition as pure fiction.

I believe I have adequately corrected that flaw in H1's statement and your understanding of it. It is not that Catholicism embraces all tradition, but all Apostolic (or Sacred) Tradition. I believe H1's bracketing of "Sacred" was meant to indicate that his use of Tradition with a capital T referred specifically to "Sacred Tradition", whereas small-t tradition was more all-inclusive of any Christian belief within history, right or wrong. I'm not sure that was understood by you, and so I keep belabouring the point.

So there is truth and keen observation to your hypothesis, in my opinion. But in the end, I believe all of Tradition is still there for me to teach me something, not just to support what I already believe.

The "keen observation" in H1's comments was specifically about the subjectivity in Sola Scriptura's praxis, no matter how you splice it. Thus far, you have not shown anything within its system that nullifies the subjectivity and objectifies the truth, safeguarding the Christian against doctrinal relativism.

You could say the same about the Bible. Do you like all the wicked kings of the Old Testament? If you do, I'll pray for you, but if not, I am right there with you! Either way, they are in the Bible to learn from them, most particularly, what not to do. So Tradition good and bad can inform and draw me closer to Christ.

Your analogy falls apart in this: The Bible is quite explicitly clear about which kings were bad, so that we would know not to imitate, but to learn from the mistakes of, those kings. There is no similar explicit, objective voice--in the Sola Scriptura system--telling us which traditions are corrupt, and how we should learn from them to grow closer to Christ. It seems that it is very often the case that a Christian might reject a particularly important and good Tradition as corrupt, and "learn to grow closer to Christ" from its alleged error. But since the Christian in this circumstance is in error to begin with, and is building on that error by avoiding the truth which he believes is error, he cannot thereby grow closer to Christ, can he?

I hope you believe also, Hidden One, that Protestants also can and do embrace the personally uncomfortable Traditions for the greater collective good of a community of faith.

I am not sure what you mean here. If you mean that a believer tacitly accepts an error that is believed by the larger community, for the "good" of the community, then no, I for one vehemently disagree.

I may like to drink alcohol, but if it causes my brother to stumble, the higher law of love is my rule.

That higher law of love may involve abstinence for you, but it also engages you to strengthen the weaker brother, as well. We are not to leave him in his weakened state.

I may believe in an amillennialist interpretation of prophecy in a premillennialist church, but I don’t have to argue my position in that church.

I'm a touch rusty on my prophetic particulars, but what if a particular interpretation includes with it certain heretical beliefs? Should we not root out that heresy?

These are small examples, but I believe pertinent ones.

I have an example, as well. One I was hoping might be more direct, which is one ulterior motive I had in asking you for a statement of what you believe, which, while you provided that, you skipped over the particular doctrinal point I thought a former Pentecostal might be sure to include. As such, my example will have to be slightly more hypothetical than I initially intended, since I'm not entirely certain on which side you fall--though I might wager a guess. Nevertheless, we know what assuming does...

Anyway, to wit:
Within Protestantism there are two camps regarding the "charismatic gifts" of 1 Corinthians 12-14 (and granted, these two camps involve a spectrum by way of emphasis, but nevertheless they are two competing, contradictory, and irreconcilable positions. I will deal with them at what I perceive to be their logical conclusions). On the one hand, we have those who embrace the charismatic move of the Holy Spirit, such as Pentecostals and others--people who believe that such miraculous manifestations are of God and part of the life of the Church today. On the other hand, there are the Cessationists, who believe that such miraculous manifestations terminated either with the death of the Apostles or the completion of the writing of, or canonisation of, Scripture--depending on who you ask. To them, such modern-day manifestations are either self-delusions, fakery, or demonically inspired.

This being the case, how do we respond? If a person believes that, say, tongues are from the Holy Spirit, then he would worry that a cessationist could be endangering his salvation by "quenching" and "grieving" the Spirit. On the other hand, the cessationist views the charismatic as either a liar, a lunatic, or a possessed man.

So while your profferred examples are somewhat benign, there are other, weightier issues separating Protestants, which, considered to their logical conclusions, would cut each other out of "the church catholic". How, then, are such discrepancies reconciled by Sola Scriptura if both sides profess to abide by that rule of faith?

This comes around to where I think Protestants and Catholics should be, seeing each other in a common Tradition, or a catholicity that allows both to acknowledge not only to each other our strong points in the faith, but also our weak points.

Unfortunately, because our interpretation of that Tradition differs so widely, it cannot really be considered a common one. Yes, there are many points of intersect, and as such, we can rightly consider each other brothers. But somewhere back in the day, the two groups decided to adhere to differing traditions that were irreconcilable.

But if one party is “infallible,” I guess we are not going to be having too many “weak sessions” together. Therefore, we both miss out on each of our Traditions both challenging and informing the other, at least in a way that is most beneficial to true openness between two parties.

I disagree that this is necessarily the case. There are many weak points in Catholicism, and many ways in which we have learned and grown from Protestantism--such as, for example, a renewed emphasis on Bible Study by the lay person, for example. There have been times as well when Protestant perspectives on certain doctrines--when they haven't outright contradicted the dogmatic Catholic position--have served to round out that dogmatic Catholic understanding.

"Infalliblity" doesn't mean we're always completely right--it simply means we're prevented from being utterly wrong. There are still plenty of "we don't know for sure"s and such to be worked through, as the Spirit continues to guide the Church into the fullness of Truth--and it won't be the first time that the Spirit uses the Protestand communions to aid us--despite our claim to infallibility. It is that infallible charism that will help weed out what is good from what is bad within Protestantism.

It is the other direction that I wonder about, honestly. You claim that I won't admit to a variant interpretation on Mary's perpetual virginity, for example, but neither have you shown that you might be willing to reexamine your own views about our Blessed Mother, either. In that regard, at least, it's the pot calling the kettle black.

Finally, as Chris has mentioned, Protestants draw from the same sources of Tradition as do Catholics. As well, Protestants can not trace their lineage except through either Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy.

Do Protestants trace lineage through Eastern Orthodoxy? What groups, and on what basis? It seems somewhat historically untenable.

For this reason Catholics are valuable, in that they are closer to the Traditions of the church generally speaking. But the fact Catholicism may have strayed, is the strength of Protestantism to go back to the closest reliable documented source, Scripture alone.

The problem is, one can make the claim that Catholicism strayed, but it has never been successfully demonstrated when that straying occurred. And, if the Church did stray at some point in history, why did it take so long for the Reformation to occur? If the Church is to be protected against the Gates of Hell prevailing, how is it that those gates did prevail for the duration of time between Catholicism apostatising and Luther reforming? Moreover, on what point can you demonstrate Catholicism erring that doesn't, once again, boil down to a subjective interpretation of Scripture? I personally am of the belief that no Catholic doctrine contradicts Scripture in any way, even if some of those doctrines aren't explicitly located within Scripture. On what grounds then, should I take the subjective opinion of a Protestant who claims that the Church has strayed from Scripture simply because his interpretation of that Scripture happens to differ from mine? If we both adopt Sola Scriptura, then we both have the right (and if Luther's "ploughboy" is to be believed, the ability) to interpret that Scripture. Who then arbitrates between our conflicting interpretations? If, on the other hand, I believe that I have a Church with an infallible teaching authority to decide such matters, the deck is, admittedly, stacked in its favour. Moreover, the Scripture itself is only as reliable as a source as the person who is interpreting it is reliable as an interpreter. We've referred to the Scripture as "infallible", but really, it isn't. It contains no error regarding faith and morals--it is "inerrant". But a text cannot be infallible. Infallibility is a property that belongs to a person. Scripture cannot infallibly interpret itself.

If some believe the church can not stray, then how do they account for "the falling away" described in I Thes 2:3. Obviously for Paul, the same person who said the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth, also said there would be a "falling away" and in the "temple of God" "a man of lawlessness."

Individual Catholics can fall away--and will, at the last day, fall away en masse, led away by the Man of Lawlessness who will persecute the Church, driving the faithful underground, and will then presume to place himself at the head of a counterfeit church. The Catholic Church has always held that one can abandon the faith. How does that contradict the truth that the Church itself will never fail--that is, there will always be a remnant, and the Magisterium will never formally embrace error and heresy?

Because of all the above mentioned factors, we need to heed Scripture primarily and study Tradition for further enlightenment to that revelation of Scripture.

I disagree. Rather, because of all those above mentioned factors, we need the security that Christ promised us, in a Church upon which we can rely to teach the Truth no matter what the opposition, "all the more as that Day approaches."

As to who decides definitively on which Traditions are correct, well I believe Chris' question 7-8 posts back should be raised again.

Here it is from Chris' words:

"So here's my concern: what validates the Catholic Church's claim on sacred tradition if the Protestant church draws on the same traditions to different conclusions? What makes the Catholic Church right over above Protestants who have come to different conclusions from the same sources (e.g., Lutherans)?"


My answer to Chris' question still stands:
As I mention above, it is the third leg--the Magisterium--which effectively changes the structure of the rule of faith and safeguards and ever re-examines Scripture and Tradition in light of modern, contemporary concerns, in order to keep the faith living and active and understood. And yes, the Church's self-understanding of infallibility in that regard does rather tip the balance....[T]he very existence of a magisterial body seems to be absent in Protestantism as a whole. What person or body of people in historical Protestantism ascertains the proper interpretation of Scripture, or the adherence to which traditions as binding or useful? What man or group of men enforces these decisions as binding upon the faithful. Perhaps I am mistaken, and please correct me, but the very Protestant ecclesiological self-understanding seems to preclude the very possibility of the existence of such an office.

And whether you agree that there is or should be such an office, or whether or not such an office is or could be preserved infallible in its decrees, nevertheless, it is the office that makes all the difference in the world between historical Sola Scriptura and the Catholic rule of faith.

Whew, that was a lot.
God bless
Gregory

Hidden One said...

Gregory: "I believe that that is the point that Hidden One was trying to establish in his hypothesis--and he can correct me if I am wrong in that regard. Nevertheless, it is the position I will establish for myself."

You got me there.

"I challenged your challenge--and I believe that Hidden One was probably over-generalising a bit."

Guilty, and guilty to the "Sacred" thing, too.

"A Tradition which is itself only 500 years old, compared with a 2000 year old tradition for Catholicism. Sola Scriptura was never taught nor practiced before Martin Luther--which is another (main) reason why Catholics reject it as a working principle."

Actually, I seem to recall a quote or two from Augustine rejecting/countering a notion at least similar to Sola Scriptura, but to the best of my knowledge, this oft-called "proto-Protestant" seems to have won out in defence of the Magisterium. I'll glance around and see if I can find it.

"I believe H1's bracketing of "Sacred" was meant to indicate that his use of Tradition with a capital T referred specifically to "Sacred Tradition", whereas small-t tradition was more all-inclusive of any Christian belief within history, right or wrong. I'm not sure that was understood by you, and so I keep belabouring the point."

Bingo.

"Whew, that was a lot."

Yup.

C.J. said...

I'm not even sure where to begin responding. You wrote so much that I'm a little daunted at the prospect of copy/pasting this-that-and-the-other quote, point, or quip just to make a comment. That, and I don't have the time. Too many premiums on my time as it is. Sorry.

I'm just going to pull some things off the top of my head that stood out from your posts, Gregory, and comment on it.

I wrote: Gregory, Hidden One, take up the issue of doctrinal infallibility. What would happen to your line of thinking if it could be reasonable shown that doctrinal infallibility is not reasonably pronounced on human understandings of Scripture and history?

To which you replied (in part): No one has made the claim that Infallibility extends to understandings of history (or science, for that matter, despite your oft-repeated non sequitur about ancient Christians believing the earth was flat). Infallibility extends only to official declarations of doctrine pertaining to Faith and Morals. If we rephrase your question in light of what Doctrinal Infallibility does cover, I'll proceed to answer your questions.

Drawing attention to the oft-repeated non sequitur, as you put it, was not an attempt to draw a parallel between cosmology and Mariology. In fact, it was a parallel meant to illustrate the point that what we believe is not necessarily always what is. Or, to put it differently, I can believe with all earnestness and sincerity that my wife has always enjoyed Metallica, but eventually, through some means of communication, I'm going to find out that that's simply not the case. In the end, what I so genuinely believed was simply untrue. Our beliefs don't dictate reality. So as far as I can see, my use of the example of early Christians believing the earth was flat was not a non sequitur, but an example used to illustrate a fact: that our beliefs can be mistaken, no matter how well we cling to them, or attempt to justify them.

You also said: Ultimately, I would lose Christianity, since Jesus would have failed to be able to keep His promise that the Gates of Hell would not overcome the Church--for if the Church can err, then it has erred.

Perhaps I'm just not sure how to understand the kind of conclusion that you've made here, but my immediate thought is that you've missed the connecting ingredients between a) the Church making a mistake, and c) Hell storming, and destroying the Church. What happened to "b"? Have you committed the fallacy of the excluded middle? From my vantage it seems so, but before I simply accuse you of that, I'd like to invite you to fill in the gap, if indeed there is one.

I think that's all for now. I'm feeling distracted tonight, so I'm going to go entertain my impulsivity.

God bless you,
Christopher

C.J. said...

"'Infalliblity' doesn't mean we're always completely right--it simply means we're prevented from being utterly wrong."

I glossed over this the first time I read through your comments, but it was brought back to my attention today. So my question here is: does this translate into, 'Infallibility means we're not necessarily wrong'?

I'm pretty sure 'infallibility' as you've used it doesn't come across as such by way of classic definitions of the term.

Cheers!

C.J. said...

You are still left with a chicken-and-egg paradox, and a subjective evaluation of which traditions interpret Scripture, and whether Scripture bears out that tradition's interpretation. If this subjectivity did not exist, then there would not be the myriad denominations in existence today. Unless something has the authority to definitively and actively say "This is the truth; walk ye in it," the subjectivism will continue to circle around itself, and the only conclusions that will be drawn are what the interpreter has already brought with him to the text (since we all bring with us something to the text).

So, if we all bring something with us to the text, and that is the danger of subjectivism, who is your Magisterium to make official pronouncements on anything lest in doing so they're willing to contradict their 2000 year old principle of having the 'authoritative' final say on a doctrine? That is, a bunch of doctrinal watch-dogs come to the Text (and any surrounding documents on whatever's in question) and hammer out a collective subjectivism concerning a doctrine, and voila! we have a definitive, authoritative, and thereby binding pronouncement on a theological issue? Nothing has changed in the scenario you present, Gregory, except that there are a bunch of ecclesiastical cronies calculating on a doctrine that a single, peevish Protestant can look into. If that's the case, the Catholic Church doesn't get to be more right because they have more people pouring over a doctrine than the arm-chair Protestant theologian sitting at home working through the same doctrine himself. More does not make 'righter'. It just makes more people bringing more selves to the table; more subjectivism.

Jude 3 seems to contradict you on that point. That is, there is a faith "once for all handed down". We do not fully comprehend the breadth and heighth and depth of it, and it is in that regard that we still grow in our understanding of the Truth as the Holy Spirit guides us into that Truth. This is what produces development in doctrine. But that doctrine and its development are not sporadic or subjective things, but are, as Jesus promised, "guided".

Not following you here, friend. So we've got this faith that's been handed down. Great. With you so far. Then you state that we don't fully understand it. Fine. But then you admit that we "grow in our understanding of the Truth as the Holy Spirit guides us into that Truth." Which you then go on to note is not 'subjective' but 'guided. So am I to take from what you've written that being guided by the Holy Spirit wipes out any possibility of human sinfulness messing with our understanding of what we're being guided into? And if that's the case, are you suggesting that the Magisterium -- being guided by the Holy Spirit, of course -- is perhaps holier than us bench-warmers who scratch our heads trying to make ends meet on this-that-or-the-other doctrine of faith? If we're not part of the old boys club (the Magisterium) we're less likely to know what our faith entails? Doesn't that seem like a bit of a practical gnosticism to you: they're the Magisterium so they know better; they know stuff we couldn't know 'cause God doesn't 'guide' us like that. He gives us partial truths and reserves the bigger portions of truth for the higher-up Mucky-Mucks.

Sorry to sound so crass, Gregory. I'm not upset at you, nor have you offended me. What offends me is the possible implications I see in Catholic reasoning based on what you've written. It's nothing personal. And if it was, I'd give you a call. ;)

How does Scripture (an inanimate book) examine itself? Ignoring that and accepting the obvious intended meaning that the student of Scripture reexamines it in light of the traditions, and showing their veracity, the question still remains, how does the Sola Scripturist avoid the subjectivism that leads to the brackets at the end of the hypothesis: whether right or wrong?

First, Scripture is living (Heb. 4:12), so God uses what He says to interpret what He says. We are just the agents through whom He speaks via the written word. Hence when we read Scripture and we need understanding, God can guide us in understanding by giving us more of His Word as the interpretation for the Scripture we need interpreted. If the issue were as simple as 'can paper speak for itself' (as your quip, "How does Scripture [and inanimate book] examine itself?" intimates) we'd be dealing with a quirky topic not fit for theology.

More Scripture is not a casuistry manual, so it doesn't set out the how-to's of it's own self-interpretation. We can infer rightly, however, that because it is living and active that God is speaking through it directly to those that read it, and that it is uniquely applicable (at times) to individual people despite traditional interpretations to the contrary. Traditional interpretations are a good bead on a doctrine, but as you noted above: "We do not fully comprehend the breadth and heighth and depth of it, and it is in that regard that we still grow in our understanding of the Truth as the Holy Spirit guides us into that Truth. This is what produces development in doctrine." Even without a Magisterium, I might add.

Second, the Sola Scripturist, if he is honest, will admit that he doesn't have all the right answers. But the implication from that is that he doesn't have all the wrong ones ipso facto. He doesn't even know if he has all the right or wrong answers in any ultimate sense. So can he avoid subjectivism? No. Does that mean that all parsing of Scripture must then terminate on 'right' or 'wrong'? No. But it certainly doesn't mean that believing Sola Scriptura is a strong working principle is equivalent to being a lone-ranger Christian and re-building Christendom one doctrine at a time! Holding to Sola Scriptura is a practical measure to insure that come what may, the source and norm for all understanding of the Christian life can be relied on from one source: Scripture.

Furthermore, having a Magisterium doesn't secure you against the question of 'right or wrong?' It just puts the question up front a step sooner. You, subjective Gregory, still have to decide whether you're going to accept what the Magisterium says whether it's right or wrong. And that's what makes you Catholic, and me not. You decide what's right based on what the Magisterium says is right; I decide what's right based on what I think Scripture tells me is right. And once you face God at the final judgment, Gregory, the Magisterium isn't going to play ersatz for you. You'll have to face God on your own, bud. And if the Magisterium was wrong about something, and God questions you about it, Gregory, you won't be able to get away with, "well, I believed it 'cause the Magisterium told me so."

The point is: you've put your lot in with a group of teachers, and you trust them to tell you what the truth is. That's fine overall. But let's not cast illusions that because you've done so you now have some greater force to appeal to than the Scripture that I, or any other Protestant reads. We're all relying on the same Holy Spirit to guide us, and we're all deciding in our human weakness to believe what we've been guided to, or not.

Pax Christi,
Christopher

C.J. said...

I wanted to add one further point to the idea of Sola Scriptura, Gregory, a quote from a theologian I respect.

"Since Holy Scripture is God's Word, it does not ask the Pope or any other theologizing individual for its credentials, but through the operation of the Holy Ghost, which is inseparably connected with it, the Word creates the very faith which recognizes it as God's Word. The works of God in the realm of nature present an analogous case. They attest themselves as divine works. They do not need to be certified as such by the naturalists." (F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics v. I, page 5)

Your life under God, Gregory, does not need to be certified by the Magisterium. What you are convicted of from Scripture, conscience, and history do not need the emblem of Church officials to validate them. In much the same way, the Sola Scripturist does not necessarily need the certification of more people in higher offices to tell him whether God guided him or not. Those resources are certainly available within Protestantism, and a person is wise to avail his/herself of them. However, those authoritative resources are not ends in themselves, as the Magisterium appears to be. Only Scripture is the final authority, the source and norm of the Christian faith. Everything else is peripheral, including the Magisterium or the lone interpreter.

Hidden One said...

On a less theological note, Gregory, your new display pic is intense. *thumbsup

C.J. said...

So, anyone here actually read Pope Pius IX Encyclical "The Immaculate Conception" of February 2nd, 1849?

I have no doubt now that there is a lot of messed up stuff going on about Mary.

By the way, isn't this considered one of the infallible decrees of the Roman Catholic Church?

Gregory said...

H1, thanks. I like it too :)

Chris, before I go back and tackle everything you've just written (after which I'll go back and continue to tackle all the rest of what's here), I just wanted to mention that no, I haven't yet read Pope Pius IX's encyclical "The Immaculate Conception". I'm off to do that right now.

I will answer your question, though. An Encyclical is not a binding document (i.e. infallible), though, since it comes from the pope, it is worthy of our attention and respect.

In the case of the Immaculate Conception, the Dogma was not defined in Pius IX's encyclical, but in his Constitution Ineffibalis Deus, which is a dogmatic and therefore infallible decree.

Now I'm off to read The Immaculate Conception, and, if I can find it, Ineffibalis Deus as well.

Gregory said...

Alright, so, I've now read the Encyclical The Immaculate Conception, as well as the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus (which can be found here), and I am a bit confused about why you would "have no doubt now that there is a lot of messed up stuff going on about Mary." I saw nothing in either document that isn't pretty much oft-stated Catholic doctrine. Perhaps if you thought that the encyclical was an infallible document, I could see concern, since it is simply a letter to bishops acknowledging their desire for the Dogma to be finally pronounced as such. Beyond that, I fail to see your problem. Specifics?

Okay, I'm off now to respond to your earlier four posts from this past weekend...

Gregory said...

I'm not even sure where to begin responding. You wrote so much that I'm a little daunted at the prospect of copy/pasting this-that-and-the-other quote, point, or quip just to make a comment. That, and I don't have the time. Too many premiums on my time as it is. Sorry.

Understandable. But I want to be thorough. Unfortunately, it's a side-effect.

I'm just going to pull some things off the top of my head that stood out from your posts, Gregory, and comment on it.

I notice that some of my questions to you (particularly revolving around your cognitive dissonance point, but others as well) didn't stand out from my post, since you never addressed them.

I wrote: Gregory, Hidden One, take up the issue of doctrinal infallibility. What would happen to your line of thinking if it could be reasonable shown that doctrinal infallibility is not reasonably pronounced on human understandings of Scripture and history?

To which you replied (in part): No one has made the claim that Infallibility extends to understandings of history (or science, for that matter, despite your oft-repeated non sequitur about ancient Christians believing the earth was flat). Infallibility extends only to official declarations of doctrine pertaining to Faith and Morals. If we rephrase your question in light of what Doctrinal Infallibility does cover, I'll proceed to answer your questions.

Drawing attention to the oft-repeated non sequitur, as you put it, was not an attempt to draw a parallel between cosmology and Mariology. In fact, it was a parallel meant to illustrate the point that what we believe is not necessarily always what is. Or, to put it differently, I can believe with all earnestness and sincerity that my wife has always enjoyed Metallica, but eventually, through some means of communication, I'm going to find out that that's simply not the case. In the end, what I so genuinely believed was simply untrue. Our beliefs don't dictate reality. So as far as I can see, my use of the example of early Christians believing the earth was flat was not a non sequitur, but an example used to illustrate a fact: that our beliefs can be mistaken, no matter how well we cling to them, or attempt to justify them.


But it is a non sequitur precisely because we deny that a belief is believed on the basis, as you put it, because it was believed before us (which isn't the basis on which we believe in Christianity, btw). That is not the definition of Tradition, and I thought you knew that. Tradition amounts to the received teachings from the Apostles, as transmitted through the bishops as reliable witnesses, who expounded on those beliefs, fleshing them out into a greater understanding without changing the kernel. In this regard, it was not an issue of how many people believed it, but of its faithful transmission through the ages.

And if you reject that as a binding source of authority, then I really don't see how a "traditional" Protestant is any better off than a "solo scripturist"--especially when a "traditional" Protestant such as yourself isn't even sure how to define "tradition".

You also said: Ultimately, I would lose Christianity, since Jesus would have failed to be able to keep His promise that the Gates of Hell would not overcome the Church--for if the Church can err, then it has erred.

Perhaps I'm just not sure how to understand the kind of conclusion that you've made here, but my immediate thought is that you've missed the connecting ingredients between a) the Church making a mistake, and c) Hell storming, and destroying the Church. What happened to "b"? Have you committed the fallacy of the excluded middle? From my vantage it seems so, but before I simply accuse you of that, I'd like to invite you to fill in the gap, if indeed there is one.


Thank you for the opportunity. I perhaps left out the middle because I assumed it to be self-evident. My apologies.

A: Jesus promised to establish a Church, which could never be overcome by the Devil (metonymised in Matthew 16 as "the Gates of Hell"). That Church is defined as the pillar and support of the Truth (1 Tim 3:15).

B: All falsehood, lies, and error come from the Devil (cf. 2 Tim 3 and 1 John 4:1-6 with John 8:44). Therefore an erring Church a) doesn't fit the Scriptural definition of "pillar and foundation of truth" and b) has been overcome at some point by the gates of hell in formally embracing its error.

Therefore, C: If the Church is capable of embracing formal error and heresy--that is, if it is not infallible--then it has in fact done so, that is, formally embraced error. Since Protestantism comes 1500 years late on the scene, and each version of it denies that it has things completely right, it is safe to assume that each version has erred in some fashion--or else the one sparkling gem of Christianity is hidden amid thousands of worthless pebbles. If not the Protestants, we can discout Eastern Orthodoxy since it has historically and formally embraced error as doctrine, and while it has double back and rejected that error, without the surety of knowing the Truth (which is evidenced by their embracing error in the first place), we cannot be sure that their current stance is without error.

That leaves us with the Catholic Church--and if infallibility is untrue, then even if the Church had been preserved completely correct in everything, it would have erred tragically in defining itself to be infallible, since infallibility is impossible in this scenario.

Therefore, either there is one true Church without error because it is preserved infallible, and the Catholic Church is the only one in the running since it is the only one who therefore hasn't erred on the issue of infallibility; or there is no infallibility and all forms of Christianity are subject to error, are not the pillar and support of Truth, and Jesus failed to make good on His word.

As such, not only does the Church go, but Christ along with it--unless you can show me a Protestant sect that a) actually did exist in the early Church, b) is right on each of its doctrines, including c) the issue of infallibility, the fact that it doesn't exist despite the reality of the church saying so seeming to have been blessed with just such a gift.

"'Infalliblity' doesn't mean we're always completely right--it simply means we're prevented from being utterly wrong."

I glossed over this the first time I read through your comments, but it was brought back to my attention today. So my question here is: does this translate into, 'Infallibility means we're not necessarily wrong'?


I think my use of the term "utterly" might have been confusing. The Doctrine of Infallibility, as understood by the Catholic Church, states that when the Pope, or the College of Bishops together with the Pope, make a pronouncement on Faith or Morals, with the intention of such pronouncement being made out of the office of the Pope as successor to Peter and possessor of the Keys (i.e. ex cathedra), he (or they) is prevented from binding on the faithful anything that would constitute formal heresy by the Holy Spirit.

That is, whatever the Dogma is that is so pronounced, it is true--though that truth may still not be fully understood and later generations may have more of it revealed--all without contradicting or overturning that earlier truth.

Hence, Infallibility doesn't mean that whatever the Pope says is true--only what he says ex cathedra as it pertains to faith and morals (which is why I keep insisting, for example, that the flat-earth thing is a non sequitur, since it doesn't pertain to faith or morals, but to natural science). Further, Infallibility doesn't mean that whatever is defined in such situations is the absolute fullness of the truth about that subject. It is the truth, but the Holy Spirit may continue guiding us into the fullness of truth regarding that doctrine.

Thus my statement, "'Infalliblity' doesn't mean we're always completely right--it simply means we're prevented from being utterly wrong," should be understood this way:

"doesn't mean we're always...right", that is, infallibility only attaches when it is an ex cathedra statement pertaining to faith and morals. A statement outside that scope could very well be wrong without affecting the infallibility doctrine.

"doesn't mean we're...completely right", that is, there may be more we will come to understand regarding a particular doctrine as the Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church, or, maybe that particular dogma is the fullness of truth on that partucular subject. In either case, the truth we know is no less true because we don't fully comprehend it, any more than God Himself is less true simply because we can't fully comprehend Him.

"we're prevented from being utterly wrong", that is, the Church is divinely prevented from teaching formal heresy or error as binding on the faithful.

I'm pretty sure 'infallibility' as you've used it doesn't come across as such by way of classic definitions of the term.

The way I've used it is in line, as far as I can tell from my studies, with the Vatican 1pronouncement on infallibility from 1870. That is where the Church 'infallibly' codified the dogma, and therefore must be where we draw our understanding of its usage within the Church.

You are still left with a chicken-and-egg paradox, and a subjective evaluation of which traditions interpret Scripture, and whether Scripture bears out that tradition's interpretation. If this subjectivity did not exist, then there would not be the myriad denominations in existence today. Unless something has the authority to definitively and actively say "This is the truth; walk ye in it," the subjectivism will continue to circle around itself, and the only conclusions that will be drawn are what the interpreter has already brought with him to the text (since we all bring with us something to the text).

So, if we all bring something with us to the text, and that is the danger of subjectivism, who is your Magisterium to make official pronouncements on anything lest in doing so they're willing to contradict their 2000 year old principle of having the 'authoritative' final say on a doctrine? That is, a bunch of doctrinal watch-dogs come to the Text (and any surrounding documents on whatever's in question) and hammer out a collective subjectivism concerning a doctrine, and voila! we have a definitive, authoritative, and thereby binding pronouncement on a theological issue? Nothing has changed in the scenario you present, Gregory, except that there are a bunch of ecclesiastical cronies calculating on a doctrine that a single, peevish Protestant can look into. If that's the case, the Catholic Church doesn't get to be more right because they have more people pouring over a doctrine than the arm-chair Protestant theologian sitting at home working through the same doctrine himself. More does not make 'righter'. It just makes more people bringing more selves to the table; more subjectivism.


I'm honestly baffled at how you came to this description of the Magisterium. It sounds more worthy of Jacob Allee than of you.

The Magisterium is not more authoritative than the everyday layperson because there are more of them making a decision on a teaching of the Church (after all, the Pope has in his office the sum total authority of the Magisterium). The authority stems from the Keys given by Christ to Peter and thereby to his successor, the bishop of Rome, and, with him, the college of Bishops. And again, we can trust that authority due to the charism of infallibility given through the Holy Spirit. It has nothing to do with how many people vote, but who those people are, and whether they were invested with the authority to do so. We were not all given this authority, nor the accompanying charism.

Jude 3 seems to contradict you on that point. That is, there is a faith "once for all handed down". We do not fully comprehend the breadth and heighth and depth of it, and it is in that regard that we still grow in our understanding of the Truth as the Holy Spirit guides us into that Truth. This is what produces development in doctrine. But that doctrine and its development are not sporadic or subjective things, but are, as Jesus promised, "guided".

Not following you here, friend. So we've got this faith that's been handed down. Great. With you so far. Then you state that we don't fully understand it. Fine. But then you admit that we "grow in our understanding of the Truth as the Holy Spirit guides us into that Truth." Which you then go on to note is not 'subjective' but 'guided. So am I to take from what you've written that being guided by the Holy Spirit wipes out any possibility of human sinfulness messing with our understanding of what we're being guided into?


First of all, when I say "we", I don't mean all Christians as individuals are each so guided, which might be causing some confusion. I mean "we" collectively as the "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church" under the Bishop of Rome.

As far as infallibility goes--that is, the guidance of the Holy Spirit who leads us into all Truth and protects the Church from formally promulgating error--yes, it works in spite of human sinfulness. That's the whole point. It's an ex opere operato type of deal. If the Pope's infallibility was dependent upon his sinlessness, then it most certainly would not exist! In the same way, the Bible is inerrant and fully and infallibly God's Word despite the sinfulness of its human authors. The Spirit of God was able to inspire the authors of Sacred Scripure in spite of their sinfulness to give us the inerrant Word of God in the Bible; why then is it an impossible leap to believe that that same Spirit of God could similarly inspire (in a lesser way, since Scripture was Revelation, but what the Church does today is not) and prevent the human members of the Magisterium from teaching error, to give us the infallible doctrines of the Church? There is absolutely nothing in logic to cause us to embrace one and not the other. It is only faith and obedience that are wanting.

And if that's the case, are you suggesting that the Magisterium -- being guided by the Holy Spirit, of course -- is perhaps holier than us bench-warmers who scratch our heads trying to make ends meet on this-that-or-the-other doctrine of faith?

Absolutely not. I've just taken pains to deny that above.

If we're not part of the old boys club (the Magisterium) we're less likely to know what our faith entails?

I didn't say that, either. I simply have said that the Magisterium is invested with the Authority to so teach, and with the gift of Infallibility to make sure that teaching is true.

Doesn't that seem like a bit of a practical gnosticism to you: they're the Magisterium so they know better; they know stuff we couldn't know 'cause God doesn't 'guide' us like that. He gives us partial truths and reserves the bigger portions of truth for the higher-up Mucky-Mucks.

Absolutely not. Gnosticism taught a secret knowledge that was not available to the rest of us. The Magisterium, on the other hand, simply safeguards from error the truths that we already know, and is bound to disseminate truth to all the world. There is nothing secret about it, nor special. If it is gnosticism, it is gnosticism on the grounds only that you don't like the idea that a particular person or group of people have a particular authority over others within the Church. I'm sure that can't be your problem, or you wouldn't argue so violently for biblically-based authority with your friend Tim. The question simply revolves, then, around who has that authority.

Sorry to sound so crass, Gregory. I'm not upset at you, nor have you offended me. What offends me is the possible implications I see in Catholic reasoning based on what you've written. It's nothing personal. And if it was, I'd give you a call. ;)

Not at all. Likewise, what offends me in what you have written is my own apparent inability to be clearer in what I have tried to say.

How does Scripture (an inanimate book) examine itself? Ignoring that and accepting the obvious intended meaning that the student of Scripture reexamines it in light of the traditions, and showing their veracity, the question still remains, how does the Sola Scripturist avoid the subjectivism that leads to the brackets at the end of the hypothesis: whether right or wrong?

First, Scripture is living (Heb. 4:12), so God uses what He says to interpret what He says.


I think you're making an exegetical error here. If you look at the pronouns in verse 13, they're all personal: "He", "Him". That these pronouns refer back to "The Word of God" in verse 12 seems to be the only conclusion available from the sentence structure of the text. Thus, the Word of God referred to seems not to be the Bible itself, but rather Christ, whom John calls "The Word". Once that was pointed out to me, I read and re-read that passage again and again, and don't see how another conclusion can be reached.

If my conclusion is right, then your argument falls apart rather quickly.

We are just the agents through whom He speaks via the written word. Hence when we read Scripture and we need understanding, God can guide us in understanding by giving us more of His Word as the interpretation for the Scripture we need interpreted.

This is true, to a point. But how do we know when our understanding has been led by God, and when it has been led by our preconceptions, or worse, by the Devil's influence? After all, two devout Christians arriving at opposite conclusions to, say, the charismatic question that I outlined above, would both claim God's leading.

Also, what "more of His Word" are you referring to?

If the issue were as simple as 'can paper speak for itself' (as your quip, "How does Scripture [and inanimate book] examine itself?" intimates) we'd be dealing with a quirky topic not fit for theology.

But that's precisely my point. Even your above explanation doesn't satisfactorily address my question regarding how Scripture interprets Scripture in any way that we are sure we have the right answer. Suneal's and my debate over the Perpetual Virginity of Mary illustrated that quite clearly. He saw a passage clearly saying No, while I saw one clearly saying Yes. Which passage interprets the other? When we drew from further texts, neither conclusion was satisfactorily reached by either party. And so on for pretty much every topic over which Protestantism is divided among itself.

More Scripture is not a casuistry manual, so it doesn't set out the how-to's of it's own self-interpretation. We can infer rightly, however, that because it is living and active that God is speaking through it directly to those that read it, and that it is uniquely applicable (at times) to individual people despite traditional interpretations to the contrary.

Again, denying your interpretation of Heb 4:12, another example which I could raise to support my above case, btw, I agree that Scripture can take on an individual meaning other than the Traditional one--but that individual meaning can only supplement the Traditional one, and only applies to the individual to whom it is given. God called me into ministry with Ezekiel 3:17--but I cannot therefore make dogmatic pronouncements about that verse's application to everyone else.

The point in question is who has the right to interpret Scripture in such a way as to make doctrines that are binding for the entire Church, not, Is God able to speak to me personally through my daily devotions as I read His word?

Traditional interpretations are a good bead on a doctrine, but as you noted above: "We do not fully comprehend the breadth and heighth and depth of it, and it is in that regard that we still grow in our understanding of the Truth as the Holy Spirit guides us into that Truth. This is what produces development in doctrine." Even without a Magisterium, I might add.

But whatever growth there is cannot contradict what has come before--otherwise, that "growth" is a malignant tumour.

And if that new, fuller understanding is to become official dogma within the Catholic Church, it must be officially recognised by the Magisterium. Otherwise, I have no contention with your point.

Second, the Sola Scripturist, if he is honest, will admit that he doesn't have all the right answers. But the implication from that is that he doesn't have all the wrong ones ipso facto. He doesn't even know if he has all the right or wrong answers in any ultimate sense. So can he avoid subjectivism? No. Does that mean that all parsing of Scripture must then terminate on 'right' or 'wrong'? No. But it certainly doesn't mean that believing Sola Scriptura is a strong working principle is equivalent to being a lone-ranger Christian and re-building Christendom one doctrine at a time!

It does when the question is where does the Church get her doctrine, and not how does the individual Christian grow in faith.

Holding to Sola Scriptura is a practical measure to insure that come what may, the source and norm for all understanding of the Christian life can be relied on from one source: Scripture.

Scripture can only be the source and norm for all understanding provided that Scripture itself is properly understood. Since the Sola Scripturist cannot be sure if he has properly understood Scripture, it can be no sure source or norm for anything. This is precisely where Sola Scriptura fails. The authoritative source can only be authoritative if it is properly understood--and if something is to be properly understood, it must be known to the learner that he has properly understood. Thus, Scripture, which cannot speak other than what is printed on the page, cannot explain itself when the person reading it makes an error in his thinking regarding what he has just read.

Furthermore, having a Magisterium doesn't secure you against the question of 'right or wrong?' It just puts the question up front a step sooner.

It does secure you against the uncertainty of misunderstanding, however, and that's the point. Since the Magisterium is a living voice, it can repeat, reexplain, and reteach what has been difficult to understand. That is why Catholicism embraces three legs of a stool, since Scripture and Tradition, left to themselves, both amount to text on a page subject to the interpretation and misinterpretation of the reader. The Magisterium, on the other hand, can actively guide the faithful in times of question regarding certain issues.

You, subjective Gregory, still have to decide whether you're going to accept what the Magisterium says whether it's right or wrong.

When I put my faith in the infallibility of the Magisterium, it is no different, nor any less logical, than my putting my faith in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. We all must make the decision to do so. The Bible is no more self-evidently God's Word than is the Magisterium.

And that's what makes you Catholic, and me not. You decide what's right based on what the Magisterium says is right; I decide what's right based on what I think Scripture tells me is right. And once you face God at the final judgment, Gregory, the Magisterium isn't going to play ersatz for you. You'll have to face God on your own, bud. And if the Magisterium was wrong about something, and God questions you about it, Gregory, you won't be able to get away with, "well, I believed it 'cause the Magisterium told me so."

I might disagree with you there. My answer would be such: "Lord God, I believed You put a Church in place to be the pillar and foundation of the truth, and, trusting the Church I believed You gave me, I was led astray by my sincere intention to be obedient to the Church that is Your Body."

You, on the other hand, would say, "Lord, I believed that You didn't give anyone any authority over me except the Bible alone, even though the Bible doesn't actaully teach that, but teaches the existence of such authority. I put myself in the position of that authority in order to seek You."

I don't know, Chris. I at least seem to have the virtues of humility and obedience informing my decision, as well as the virtue of faith which we both share, but place in different things. If I am damned, I will be damned for sincerely trying to follow God where I believed He led me--to His Church. If you are damned, it will be for the same reason, but a different application. Thus I fail to see how your point makes any difference, or puts you and sola scripturists in a better position. I'm sorry if that offends you at all.

The point is: you've put your lot in with a group of teachers, and you trust them to tell you what the truth is. That's fine overall. But let's not cast illusions that because you've done so you now have some greater force to appeal to than the Scripture that I, or any other Protestant reads. We're all relying on the same Holy Spirit to guide us, and we're all deciding in our human weakness to believe what we've been guided to, or not.

Chris, you, and the rest of Protestantism, can't even agree with the historic Church about what even belongs in Scripture. And if the same Holy Spirit is in fact guiding, whence all the division? If the Holy Spirit has guided Protestants through their use of Sola Scriptura, then Protestantism should be united. But Sola Scriptura doesn't unite. It has done nothing but divide--a point which you have never attempted to satisfactorily answer me on, as far as I can recall.

You like to, instead, say that Catholicism is divided as well--but it's not. Not in the same way. There are dissenters, sure, who kick against the goads of Catholic teaching, but in doing so, they are being disobedient, not disunified, in the same way as when I sin, I'm not disunified from the Church, I am disobedient.

Protestantism, guided by Sola Scriptura, on the other hand, has fallen into division not out of disobedience, but obedience, to their interpretations of the text. Obedience to all texts, I might point out, except 1 Cor 1:10-17 and 3:1-4. I have even heard such divisions justified by equating each denomination with a unique part of the Body of Christ, à la 1 Cor 12--as though our differences were simply matters of personal taste or the ministering of particular needs!

On the other hand, the Magisterium says X is wrong, or Y is sin, and those who do not like it aren't dividing the Church, but are rather simply cutting themselves off from the faith.

I wanted to add one further point to the idea of Sola Scriptura, Gregory, a quote from a theologian I respect.

"Since Holy Scripture is God's Word, it does not ask the Pope or any other theologizing individual for its credentials, but through the operation of the Holy Ghost, which is inseparably connected with it, the Word creates the very faith which recognizes it as God's Word. The works of God in the realm of nature present an analogous case. They attest themselves as divine works. They do not need to be certified as such by the naturalists." (F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics v. I, page 5)


And I agree with that, as far as it goes. However, the pagans saw the same works of nature and misunderstood them as the ends in themselves, and worshipped them as divine. In an analogous way, Scripture, while accepted as God's word, and even perhaps inspiring faith of itself (though, certainly, not always, since there are many out there who have read the Bible devoid of faith), can still misunderstand that very faith and fall into serious error.

After all, groups like the Unitarians and the Jesus Only Pentecostals have the same Bible you do, and still deny the Trinity.

Scripture is definitely a good thing--even a great and wonderful thing. But it is not for that reason the only good thing--nor the only necessary thing.

God bless
Gregory

(And, when we return--whenever that will be--we'll continue to reply to the back posts....)

Your life under God, Gregory, does not need to be certified by the Magisterium. What you are convicted of from Scripture, conscience, and history do not need the emblem of Church officials to validate them. In much the same way, the Sola Scripturist does not necessarily need the certification of more people in higher offices to tell him whether God guided him or not. Those resources are certainly available within Protestantism, and a person is wise to avail his/herself of them. However, those authoritative resources are not ends in themselves, as the Magisterium appears to be. Only Scripture is the final authority, the source and norm of the Christian faith. Everything else is peripheral, including the Magisterium or the lone interpreter.

Gregory said...

Whoops, apparently I missed some...

Your life under God, Gregory, does not need to be certified by the Magisterium. What you are convicted of from Scripture, conscience, and history do not need the emblem of Church officials to validate them.

Rather, my conviction from Scripture results from my proper or improper understanding of Scripture. My conscience must be formed--it does not automatically determine right from wrong. And my understanding of history can all too easily be biased or revisionist (and more, in my particular case, history as I have understood it has led me to the Church).

Insofar as these things depend on the right understanding of Scripture (and at least the first two points do), I need a guide in understanding it, and I would prefer one that can't get it wrong, wouldn't you? In the meantime, I'm left with my opinion, which is really no different than where I started, except that my opinion might happen to be different.

In much the same way, the Sola Scripturist does not necessarily need the certification of more people in higher offices to tell him whether God guided him or not.

But when the Sola Scripturist meets up with another Sola Scripturist who disagrees with him, who decides? And what if one Sola Scripturist goes so far as to view the beliefs of the other Sola Scripturist as outright heretical (like if you met a Unitarian)? What arbitrates? What if that Unitarian has the unlikely quality of being smarter than you, and is able to reason through Scripture in a way you are unable to confute, although you still know him to be wrong--or would you still know him to be wrong? What prevents the sola scripturist in such a situation from being "tossed to and fro on every wind of doctrine" (cf. Eph 4:14)?

Those resources are certainly available within Protestantism, and a person is wise to avail his/herself of them. However, those authoritative resources are not ends in themselves, as the Magisterium appears to be. Only Scripture is the final authority, the source and norm of the Christian faith.

According to what is Scripture so named? The Bible itself nowhere states it. The ancient Christians nowhere adhered to it nor taught it. In fact, it wasn't even possible until Luther's own day, nor even practicable truly in our own day.

So you deny that the Church's Magisterium, that is, her Christ-appointed leadership, is an authoritative end, athough Scripture seems to certainly imply it, if not fully stating it, and even though the historic Church has always maintained it as such, and substitute it for a tradition that sets up Scripture in their place, although no one had ever named such a thing until Martin Luther.

Yet, you make statements like the above devoid of any argumentation. This is why I told you on the phone that I was somewhat disappointed with the calibre of your latest responses. You're better than this.

Everything else is peripheral, including the Magisterium or the lone interpreter.

It was the Magisterium that definitively handed us the Scripture, decided what belonged to Scripture, and was commissioned to faithfully teach the religion contained within the Scripture. To call them "peripheral" seems a bit at odds with reality. Scripture itself doesn't treat the role of the Apostle and Bishop in a peripheral way, but considering that Jesus never told the Apostles to write books, but rather to found a Church, one could argue that the Bible itself is "peripheral" and simply an accident of history--Paul and the other Apostles couldn't travel anymore because they were locked up, so they wrote letters instead. Now, I wouldn't make that argument myself, but I could make it with more force than you can make the Magisterium out to be peripheral.

God bless
Gregory

Gregory said...

After having a good heart-to-heart chat with my ex-coauthor, Chris, regarding this Open Forum, and the way things went in it, I've decided to declare it officially "closed". If I can figure out a way to disallow new comments without hiding the old ones, I'll do that. Otherwise, I dunno.

Anyway, there'll be another Open Forum up after I do the five Luminous Mysteries. Oh yes, it's high time I got back to those!

God bless

50 comments--not bad.
Gregory