Thumbs up or thumbs down on Rome?

One commenter said:

The way you write, I guess, seems to me to reveal a near certainty concerning the falsity of Catholic Doctrine. It seems as though you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Catholicism simply couldn’t be true. And you’re willing to hang everything on that confidence.

Too often, an argument is put forth in this form: “Protestantism has lots of problems. Therefore, Catholicism.”

I once looked at it this way myself. I was hanging around some close friends who were starting a fellowship for “completed Jews,” — that is, these were all Jewish people who had become believers, and they first started an informal fellowship, and then a church. But by this second phase, they were getting hung up on issues of leadership, church structure, etc. There were a lot of different ways they could have done this, but their disagreements over such issues led me to say, “the Catholic church has already been through these kinds of issues; they have decided upon a resolution to them, so I’m going home to Rome.” And that’s just what I did.

Francis Turretin, at the beginning of Volume 3 of his three volume “Institutes” states, in summary form, he says that Protestants (rightly) look to Scripture, and they determine what “the true faith” is by studying and understanding what the Scriptures say on a doctrine-by-doctrine, or point-by-point basis. And this needs to be done.

But Catholics, Turretin says, simply sweep all of this aside with one motion. They say, “We are The Church, and we decide what ‘the true faith’ is.”

And I think that the imbalance in this form of argumentation accounts for many of the misunderstandings that continue to occur in these types of discussions in our day.

In Turretin’s time, Roman polemicists attempted to prove their position. They argued, for instance, that the Roman church had never changed, that it was the Protestants who introduced novelty into the ongoing sweep of church history.

But by Newman’s time, Newman was realizing that Rome, too, had (“seemingly”) introduced “difficulties” — that neither Rome nor the Protestant churches adhered to the 5th century Vincentian rule: “what was believed always, everywhere, by all.” In fact, he summarily dismissed this as unworkable for both parties.

However, the position that Turretin noticed Roman polemicists were arguing for, “We are The Church, and we decide what ‘the true faith’ is,” was in Newman’s formulation, merely an assumption. That is, Newman assumed (and taught Roman polemicists to assume) that the authority structure that was present in his day, was “in some way” the same authority structure that was in place in the 2nd, 7th, and subsequent centuries.

My thought is that this assumption must not be allowed to stand unchallenged. And especially in the face of such historical evidence as I’ve presented — the historians I’ve cited DO present an alternative church structure that is far more viable, because it is based on real-life evidence that has been discovered.

So what I want to do is to really change the terms of the argument. To bring it out of Newman’s world of fuzzy assumptions, and to force Rome to argue that its conception of itself is right. If its conception of its own history and authority are right, then the evidences that it brings forth to support such contentions will be more than adequate to convince an unbelieving world.

My contention is that it cannot do so. My contention is that the work that I am presenting is also known to “the Magisterium” at Rome. The mere fact that “the Magisterium,” even the CDF, is conceding that “we are conscious of development in the primacy” is a huge historical concession. If Luther and Calvin had had a concession like that, the course of the Reformation could have been different.

We have that kind of concession today. It was forced by historical evidence.

People now need to ask the one question: “Did the Roman church come by its authority in a legitimate way?” Was its authority “divinely instituted,” as  it never tires of reminding us that it is? Or was this authority accumulated through less-than-honest means?

Looking at the early history of the papacy, and the evidence we have of how it came about, I don’t see that the answer to this question is in doubt.
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12 Responses to Thumbs up or thumbs down on Rome?

  1. Garret G says:

    Hi John-
    Another very well-written article! Do you think challenges such as these will be met or avoided? I run into this all of the time- the Church has always believed_____. It has been a slow process, but I am getting more insight from books such as David T Kings Holy Scripture- at least, I have Vol 1 for now.

    Off topic, but to pick your mind-Can you recommend an article or two for me on ‘real presence’ and what that meant to the early Church, versus the full blown Transubstantiation?
    Thanks and God bless you and give you strength to continue His work!
    Garret

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  2. johnbugay says:

    Hi Garret, thank you. I’ve been thinking about the Protestant/Catholic divide for almost all of my adult life.

    Without going into a lot of detail (I’ve got an “about” piece that I want to post at some point — it’s at PuritanBoard, and if you search on my name there for “started posts,” you’ll be able to find it.

    I’ve found that some of the really knowledgeable apologists on our side spend a lot of time — a whole lot of time — responding to some really preposterous claims that may have some of their genesis in genuine historical discussions, but many of them get distorted in the echo chamber of the Roman Catholic apologists, and by the time the echo chamber is done with them, Protestants are responding to the wholly illegitimate (and some even take it for granted) “33,000 denominations” claim.

    I’m also a marketing communications person by profession, and I’ve spent a career fining ways to “cut through the clutter” — our world is absolutely thick with “marketing messages” that come our way, and just clutter up our minds, to the point that we (as 21st century Americans) can easily tune out the clutter and just ignore it.

    So what I’m trying to do is to re-cast the debate in 21st century terms, being absolutely honest with the history, while presenting it in terms that will resonate with the hearts and minds of those individuals (like yourself) who care to understand it.

    When I say “21st century” with respect to the RCC, I’m thinking in part of John Paul II’s encyclical, “Ut Unum Sint,” in which he called for “a new situation” with respect to the papacy, asking even non-Catholics to help think that through. This request for a “new situation” has prompted some to just blather on in stereotypical jargon and say nothing. But as I’ve tried to show here, there are lines of thinking that definitely do not conform to the Roman conception of the early papacy. For the Romanist (and I use that in the proper sense), the papacy was “divinely given,” it was recognizable from the beginning, not only by Peter, but Linus, Anacletus, Clement, etc., a grand procession right on down through history. And this “grand procession” of infallible popes (they didn’t know they were infallible, because “The Church” hadn’t defined infallibility yet) guaranteed that Roman doctrine would always be pure and error-free.

    Of course, 100% of this is an assumption — it is a pick-up of the story as it evolved by the medieval popes, and it is just projected, anachronistically, back onto the early church.

    The problem is that, as I’ve related, the historical record that’s been uncovered about that early period, has absolutely no correspondence with that particular Romanist story.

    I believe the powers in Rome recognized this disjoint, and that’s why there’s a call for a “new situation.” They haven’t really worked out what that “new situation” should be (things take decades and centuries for Rome to decide), and so I believe that things are in flux for a while.

    That’s why I’m bringing this up, and casting it in these terms. Rome must face up to its own history. Rome must be honest with its own history. That’s the only way for things ever to be worked out properly, under the umbrella of “Christianity.”

    In answer to your question, “will these challenges be met or avoided?”

    So far, in Roman history, such challenges have been avoided. In preparation for the year 2000, John Paul II went around all over the place apologizing for “the sins of the children of the Church.”

    So officially, I believe Rome will resist. Ratzinger’s work (that I’ve seen) has been involved in re-casting the early history of Rome in its own way. (See Chapter 2 in Ratzinger’s work “Called to Communion,” for example — it’s on Google Books — he provides something like an “exegesis” to try to prove the papacy — it’s on my “to-do” list to present this and address it).

    But on the other hand, if there are more people like David Waltz and Frank Ramirez out there, who are seriously questioning the historical claims of Rome, vs. the actual history), then the Internet will provide the same kind of path for our age as the development of the printing press for Luther’s.

    Maybe moreso — and more quickly.

    I’m sorry I haven’t provided links here — I’ve just started a new job this week, and I have to run out the door for work in a bit. But this is a fair summary of my thought processes.

    ^ ^ ^

    Regarding what the early church believed about “Real Presence,” I’d recommend that you look it up in Schaff’s history — I believe it is Volume 2. He talks about some of the different various beliefs that people had.

    “Full-blown transubstantiation” relies on Aristotelian categories. It’s not *really* a “real presence”; it’s *really* a “sacramental real presence.” See Rhology’s discussion of how this intersects with (for example) Chalcedonian Christology, at beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com. There are a couple of postings there.

    Please feel free to ask any questions you might have – I’ll be happy to go into some more detail about all of these things.

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  3. Garret G says:

    Fantastic! Thanks John, I will look those things up!
    God bless,
    Garret

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  4. herbert says:

    I’m re-reading some posts here. And since I am the person whom you quoted at the beginning of this post, I thought it was time I followed it up with a comment or two.

    First of all, my question was not intended to be understood as an argument (as you suggest at the outset of your post). Further on in your post, you refer to my question as a “form of argumentation.” It was an observation, John, followed by a question. By no means was I setting up some Protestant vs. Catholic dichotomy there. Then, in the comments, Garret continued with the us vs. them mindset… which, again, has nothing to do with my original question.

    My original question, far from being an argument of any sort, represents my desire to sincerely understand your thinking. Because, obviously, when you argue against Cardinal Newman, you’re arguing against a man who was for much of his life thoroughly Protestant. What you’re suggesting is that he left a world of rational, clear thinking in exchange for a “world of fuzzy assumptions.” I’m just trying to figure how how an otherwise intelligent man would do such a thing.

    And, finally, back to Garret’s comment- consider what’s going on at http://www.calledtocommunion.com. I am quite sure that Garret doesn’t have to worry about any intellectual challenges to Catholicism being “avoided.” The kind, caring, capable writers at C2C are more than happy to dialogue with any Christian concerning the truths of Christ’s Church. I have brought a number of challenging questions to C2C myself and have never been blown off or turned away. thanks. herbert

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  5. johnbugay says:

    First of all, my question was not intended to be understood as an argument (as you suggest at the outset of your post). Further on in your post, you refer to my question as a “form of argumentation.” It was an observation, John, followed by a question. By no means was I setting up some Protestant vs. Catholic dichotomy there. Then, in the comments, Garret continued with the us vs. them mindset… which, again, has nothing to do with my original question.

    My original question, far from being an argument of any sort, represents my desire to sincerely understand your thinking.

    I wasn’t pointing to your question as an argument. I was trying to answer it.

    Because, obviously, when you argue against Cardinal Newman, you’re arguing against a man who was for much of his life thoroughly Protestant. What you’re suggesting is that he left a world of rational, clear thinking in exchange for a “world of fuzzy assumptions.” I’m just trying to figure how how an otherwise intelligent man would do such a thing.

    It’s wrong to say that Newman was “thoroughly Protestant.” He was barely Anglican. We can quibble about differences in terminology, but he believed himself to be defending some kind of “middle way” between Protestantism and Catholicism. I haven’t studied him thoroughly, but

    As for his assumption, this is what he says in his introduction: “It is not a violent assumption, then, but rather mere abstinence from the wanton admission of a principle which would necessarily lead to the most vexatious and preposterous scepticism, to take it for granted, before proof to the contrary, that the Christianity of the second, fourth, seventh, twelfth, sixteenth, and intermediate centuries is in its substance the very religion which Christ and His Apostles taught in the first …”

    In his search to explain all the “difficulties,” he merely sweeps them under the rug and says, “not our job to prove this…” I do think he set aside “clear thinking” and adopted this assumption, which is what his “theory” is based on, as a way to explain “difficulties” that he couldn’t explain.

    Let me ask you, if Rome were to undertake to try to prove that “It is not a violent assumption, then, but rather mere abstinence from the wanton admission of a principle which would necessarily lead to the most vexatious and preposterous scepticism, to take it for granted, before proof to the contrary, that the Christianity of the second, fourth, seventh, twelfth, sixteenth, and intermediate centuries is in its substance the very religion which Christ and His Apostles taught in the first,” how do you suppose they would begin to go about doing that?

    If you are concerned about “intellectual challenges to Catholicism being avoided,” why don’t you ask them, then, to prove, that the church of the fourth and sixteenth centuries is, “in its substance, the very religion that Christ and His Apostles taught in the first.” I’d be interested to see what you come up with.

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  6. herbert says:

    Hi- I am not concerned about “intellectual challenges to Catholicism being avoided.” Garret seemed to indicate that he expected your challenge to be avoided or ignored. That’s why I referred to calledtocommunion.com. And as far as tough questions are concerned, though I’m a mere layman, I’ve asked my fair share of tough questions and have found that Catholicism, as Dr. Abraham Kuyper suggests in the series of lectures I’m currently reading, provides a Christian “life system” (Dr. Kuyper’s words) according to which not only can Paganism, Islam, et al. be solidly opposed, but also according to which may I strive toward a life lived in Christ.

    You see, John, unlike you, I will admit that I could be wrong about the true nature of the Catholic Church. But as Peter Kreeft once wrote, if I die and find that I was indeed mistaken concerning the nature of the Catholic Church, I would still be Christ’s child. And this is why I initially posed to you the question found at the beginning of this post.

    It seems that where I and many other Protestants-turned-Catholic see a slippery slope leading to rank self-direction (sola Scriptura boils down to solo Scriptura, after all), you don’t see one. And I guess that’s because of the fact that you understand yourself to have access to infallible knowledge concerning the identity of the Catholic Church.

    Without declaring myself a prophet of God, I simply can’t muster, through intellectual/historical analysis, the doctrinal confidence by which you seem to operate.

    Many people come to realize and accept the reality of the fac that any appeal to Scripture is indeed an appeal to a particular personal/denominational interpretation of Scripture. Those who refuse to accept this truth often attempt to argue against this point by appealing to Protestant unity concerning “the basics” of Christianity. However, since Baptism, a fundamental “basic” of Christianity, is a matter of heated disagreement between Protestants, the counter-argument seems to fall flat on its face.

    Though I respect your zeal in certain ways, I simply don’t see that it’s possible for us to remove ourselves from the “world of fuzzy (intellectual) assumptions” in which Cardinal Newman lived. Without a public, visible, identifiable Teaching Authority (Luke 10:16), we’re stuck with the fuzziness. thanks. herbert

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  7. herbert says:

    One of the beauties of Catholicism is that as a Catholic, I can pray the following:

    “Lord, if justification by faith alone (imputed righteousness) is indeed real and true (although history, Scripture, and the Church suggest otherwise), I repent of my misunderstanding and fall upon your mercy and grace to receive it!”

    Again, though I don’t believe imputed righteousness is taught in the Bible, I could be wrong. This is why I rejoice as I, as a Catholic, proclaim my belief in the only “sola” that really matters: Sola Gratia !!!

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  8. johnbugay says:

    Catholicism, as Dr. Abraham Kuyper suggests … provides a Christian “life system” (Dr. Kuyper’s words) according to which not only can Paganism, Islam, et al. be solidly opposed, but also according to which may I strive toward a life lived in Christ.

    I don’t doubt that it provides a “life system.” But I would characterize that system — and I would think that Kuyper might also characterize it, as something of a “sacramental treadmill.” That is, the “good works” that James talks about are not, per say, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc. As the Council of Trent says, these works “unto sanctification through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church.” What, precisely are “the commandments of the Church?” Rome claims not to be a Pelagian system, but in practice, after Baptism, you’re working for your salvation.

    You see, John, unlike you, I will admit that I could be wrong about the true nature of the Catholic Church.

    I can be wrong about the true nature of “what’s 2+2?” but I don’t think so.

    I just today, came across this from Robert Reymond (whose Systematic I have owned for years, and referenced hundreds of times, but only just saw this today):

    Rome’s exegesis of Matthew 16 and its historically developed claim to authoritative primacy in the Christian world simply cannot be demonstrated and sustained from Scripture itself. This claim is surely one of the great hoaxes foisted upon professing Christendom, upon which false base rests the whole papal sacerdotal system.

    This is, I hope, being taught in the seminaries, at least where Reymond teaches. Or where he has taught. But it doesn’t look like Reymond is admitting he’s wrong, either.

    But as Peter Kreeft once wrote, if I die and find that I was indeed mistaken concerning the nature of the Catholic Church, I would still be Christ’s child. And this is why I initially posed to you the question found at the beginning of this post.

    After leaving the Church as a teen, I went back with the attitude that Kreeft espouses, and more: that it was a good way to worship God. But I later found that I couldn’t tolerate all the abuses. And I mean the doctrinal abuses. (Sure, I can get used to a system in which my children and I are abused. But there’s also a batter way).

    What Kreeft espouses here is a variant on Pascal’s wager: But unike Pascal’s wager, when the choice is Christianity or atheism (and if you bet wrong as an atheist, you lose nothing), as a Catholic vs. as a Protestant, you are enabling a mutant system to continue to be mutant, and even to create further doctrinal abuses. (Aren’t there people pushing for the dogma of Mary as Co-Mediatrix? Do you really want your “mistaken freedom” to contribute to more of that?)

    It seems that where I and many other Protestants-turned-Catholic see a slippery slope leading to rank self-direction (sola Scriptura boils down to solo Scriptura, after all), you don’t see one.

    No, it’s not the case that “Sola Scriptura” doesn’t boil down to “solo Scriptura” — many denominations offer very thorough confessional statements to which members adhere — there’s no “slippery slope” at all.

    But even on Triablogue, for example, where the writers there adhere to sound exegetical methods, the agreement between the members is far more assured than say, agreement among Roman Catholics on what Roman doctrines are.

    (Did you see the recent statement by Patrick Madrid to the effect that Pope John Paul II was wrong about Medjugorje? “Remember: Pope John Paul II was convinced that Fr. Maciel was a holy priest, an exemplary and faithful Catholic, and “an efficacious guide to youth.” He could not have been more wrong about that.”)

    Many people come to realize and accept the reality of the fac that any appeal to Scripture is indeed an appeal to a particular personal/denominational interpretation of Scripture. Those who refuse to accept this truth often attempt to argue against this point by appealing to Protestant unity concerning “the basics” of Christianity. However, since Baptism, a fundamental “basic” of Christianity, is a matter of heated disagreement between Protestants, the counter-argument seems to fall flat on its face.

    I’m willing to accept that the mode of Baptism is not something that is critical to salvation. Baptism as an ordinance is a public statement. (It’s too bad that Lutheranism became locked into some pre-Reformation notions about Baptism, too. But some of the earliest conflicts in Christianity involved the notion of “the validity of baptism by heretics,” and so there is much irony that Roman Catholic baptism, though practiced by heretics, is still valid.)

    This is just a non-starter with me.

    One of the beauties of Catholicism is that as a Catholic, I can pray the following: “Lord, if justification by faith alone (imputed righteousness) is indeed real and true (although history, Scripture, and the Church suggest otherwise), I repent of my misunderstanding and fall upon your mercy and grace to receive it!”

    Why would you pray that? Rome has definitively ruled out such things, and as a Catholic, you’re supposed to “receive with docility” the teachings that you receive in various forms. Such a prayer just completely contradicts the whole reason for becoming a Catholic in the first place.

    I suspect you really don’t know Catholicism the way you think you do.

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  9. herbert says:

    John, first of all, I’ve appreciated our discussions so far. If my tone ever begins to sound belittling or rude, forgive me, then let me know. I appreciate your putting your thoughts out there for a guy like me to explore. And I would never want to treat you uncharitably. thank you.

    1. Do you consider the responsibilities that accompany marriage to represent a “sacramental treadmill” as well? Do you consider your responsibility to feed, clothe, bathe yourself to represent some sort of treadmill? This is called “life.” We can’t arrive until we’ve arrived, no matter how desperately you want the race to be over before it’s over. Why, if we’re declared righteous already, would you look forward to hearing the words “well done, good and faithful servant”?

    2. After Baptism, you’re indeed working for your salvation due to the fact that you’re not dead yet. All along, after Baptism, I assume you’re praying the way Jesus taught you to pray; that is praying daily for forgiveness of your sins. After all, if your righteousness is a past, declarative event, why must you pray as Jesus taught (that is, perpetually)?

    3. Explain to me, if you don’t mind, how you could be wrong about 2 plus 2 equalling 4. I don’t get it.

    4. Who’s Robert Reymond? And what does his opinion concerning Matthew 16 have to do with anything? Obviously there are many people who wouldn’t agree with him.

    5. Who determines what a “doctrinal abuse” is? I submit that, as a Catholic, you weren’t exactly Catholic. That is, as a Catholic, you submit to Church doctrine. Determining what does and what doesn’t constitute “doctrinal abuse” (for a Catholic) is the job of the Magisterium.

    6. Why is it that what you consider to be a “mutant system” is mistaken for the very Church of God by so many holy people? That’s what I don’t understand about your perspective. Look at JRR Tolkien. Read his works. Do you really consider him to be confused, dupe? Look at Anne Rice. Read her “Christ the Lord” series. Read her recent book entitled “Angel Time.” Her intellect and Christian devotion are inspiring. Yet she is Catholic.

    7. What does Vatican 2 say about St. Mary?:

    “Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix and Mediatrix. This, however, is to be so understood that it neither takes away from, nor adds anything to, the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator.” (Lumen Gentium, n. 62.)

    Further, consider the fact that “co” comes from the Latin “cum” which means “with” (not “equal to”). Do you deny that Mary bore Christ? Do you deny that Mary was with Christ there in the beginning of the Gospels all the way to Calvary? If not, what is it that you’re reading into this title that so deeply disturbs you (especially in light of the clear teaching I quoted above from the 2nd Vatican Council)?

    8. After something like 800 comments following the sola/solo article at Called to Communion, there hasn’t been a Protestant who’s been able to clearly and unambiguously explain what principled difference lies between sola Scriptura and the reviled “solo” Scriptura.

    9. You say: “many denominations offer very thorough confessional statements to which members adhere — there’s no ‘slippery slope’ at all.” But what of the fact that each of those members reserves the right to completely disregard his respective “confessional statement” if he comes to believe that it is doctrinally flawed? The denominational adherence of which you speaks is utterly conditional. If you don’t agree with me, could you explain why?

    10. Concerning the writers at Triablogue, who determines what “sound exegetical methods” are? Further, as a Catholic, I call upon Christ as the Savior and Messiah. If this Lowest Common Denominator Christianity is what you’re promoting, why, then do you spend so much time attacking the Catholic Church? Can’t I stand side by side with you as a follower of Christ? If not, why not?

    11. I’m sorry. But Medjugorje is hardly on my radar. But no matter what’s going on there. It probably has little to no impact on the arguments/ideas/insights which led me to Catholicism.

    12. Concerning Baptism, again, you’re utilizing the term “heretic.” I wonder, though, who exactly has the authority to determine what constitutes heresy? And again, why would you trust Luther to get something as critical as Justification correct, while completely blowing it when it comes to Baptism? I see this kind of stuff as ad hoc. Without some principled basis for ecclesial/denominational submission, it just sort of seems like a doctrinal smorgasbord to me. I wish I didn’t reach that conclusion. But I can’t see it any other way!

    13. My comment about praying to Christ to forgive me if I’m mistaken in becoming Catholic and denying Justification by Faith Alone (according to Protestant prescriptions) is meant to demonstrate that at the end of the day, after all the discussion and q and a, etc. I’m simply falling upon His mercy and grace. That’s all I’ve got going for me. Thomas Merton once prayed the following:

    “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

    I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.

    Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

    But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.

    And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it.

    Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

    14. John, it sorta seems to me that you have a giant chip on your shoulder. Take it from me, for all the Catholic Church’s abuses and mistakes, it is a source of goodness and direction for many pilgrims. If the Church is indeed what you make her out to be, well, then, time will prove you right. I have more than a suspicion that you’re wrong, however. Still, I’m glad that you will openly discuss this stuff with a guy like me and I respect you in many ways. You’ve been very kind to me and I thank you. herb

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  10. johnbugay says:

    Hi Herbert — I’m starting with item 14, and then working through all the rest. I’m not sure why you continue to read my stuff and “try to figure me out” but I can imagine it to some degree. You’ve felt dissatisfied with the church that you grew up in, for reasons that you’ve articulated, and you’ve gone through this elaborate process to become a Catholic, to bring your family into the Catholic Church, and now you’ve encountered someone who is going in precisely the opposite direction, saying that you have made a big mistake, and you’ve decided to stop and try and clarify and figure some things out. I can appreciate this.

    I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. I have always been a very good professional writer. Some time ago I wanted to write fiction, but I never really knew enough about any one topic to do the kind of job with it that I wanted. But over the years, I’ve learned a lot about this topic. I have always, from the time I was a teen, struggled with issues of Catholicism and Protestantism. In some ways, my life has been absorbed by the question. As you might imagine, it is a topic that seems to be inexhaustible. No one has “solved” it in 500 years. And in some ways, the parties have just hardened against each other. (I’m not talking about the liberal movement, and nor am I talking about squishy, equivocal efforts of the last 20 years, in which both sides use the same words, but assign different meanings to those words — such as “The Gift of Salvation,” — and in doing so they suggest that they have come to some sort of agreement. That’s balderdash.)

    So, after a struggle which has taken many years, in both directions, and having picked up a boatload of knowledge on both sides of the subject (though certainly not complete or comprehensive knowledge), I’ve decided that the best thing I can do with my life is to focus on what I’ve learned, and to write with, I hope, some clarity and conviction on one of the topics that I know best. It is a conscious decision. I’m sorry if sometimes I seem harsh. One of my intentions is to write in such a way that both sides will come away believing that I know the topic, and that I’m representing both sides fairly. I’ll make mistakes, but (to your questions about certainty and “2+2”), in the same vein that a God who gives man the capacity to understand how to send men to the moon, and probes to Mars, and to develop MRI’s to probe the heart and brain, I am very confident that he has given me the ability to understand the history of the church and the meaning of the Scriptures, and to be able to say that the evidence that Rome presents for its own authority just doesn’t prove what it intends to prove. Nor does it come close, by any measure that I’ve been able to understand.

    So when you ask, “how can you be so certain in my conclusions about Roman Catholicism,” I can say that I have very great confidence in the conclusions I’ve arrived at. Not because I think I’m smarter than anyone, but precisely because I’ve studied it with such depth. And, with a desire to be honest about it. You may not think so now, but I made it a point to answer every single objection that I had, prior to leaving the RCC.

    So now, with regard to the church, I am on the continuum of knowing such things as “2+2=4” and “George Washington was the first president of the United States” and having some superficial knowledge of calculus and quantum physics. I can trust those who put probes on Mars. Most of the time. I have a confidence in others who know how to translate the Koine Greek in the bible verse that says “For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law” and “if a law could have saved, then Christ died for nothing.” They have been able to understand the context of these verses, and other verses, and provide a very clear and sound explanation for what this means. Further, they have been able to do the same thing with other verses, chapters, books, and come to a very sound understanding of what the Scriptures say. They have come to whole systems — I’d point you to some of the Protestant Confessions for examples of this.

    It just so happens that the Protestant Confessions of the Reformed Orthodox (the WCF, Heidelberg Catechism, Second Helvetic Confession, etc.) all say very similar things. It is very short-sighted to say that this amounts to “solo scriptura” in any way.

    Further, we can compare “systems” (If I may suggest that what Reformed Orthodoxy has come up with are “systems”.) Compare Lutheran “systems” with those of Arminians. You mentioned Baptism. And yes, there are differences. We can say where those differences occur, and pretty much why they occur. And we can say, “they are significant in some areas, not significant in others.” In fact, King James (of the KJV) actually, in his day, tried to get all of the various Protestant groups together, under the banner of saying that “the differences among us aren’t that great at all.” I’m looking into this effort.

    Luther and Calvin (and others) made these very distinctions when interacting with the Anabaptists, for example. They said precisely where and why they thought the Anabaptists were wrong. And of course, we can compare all this with the Roman Catholic system, which, you have said, eliminates the need to go through that process on the virtue of its authority to have defined an authoritative “system” of its own.

    The difficulty with this lies in the fact that the Authority that the Roman Catholic Church claims for itself does two things:

    1. It rests on very thin arguments.

    2. It uses this “authority” to try to justify some very non-Scriptural things.

    At first — at the time of the Reformation, and for hundreds of years afterward, the Roman Catholic Church tried to justify its authority by saying, “From the beginning, we’ve not changed any doctrines. From the beginning, we have always taught the same thing.” But that effort fell apart. That’s why Newman had to come up with his “theory” — which, as we’ve discussed, does not provide an explanation for Roman Catholic authority, but merely assumes it.

    So my program is two-fold:

    #1. Show that Roman Catholic claims to authority (and this supposed authority itself) are completely bankrupt, being built on sand and deserving to be washed away.

    #2. Present, in simple terms, some of the best principles of the Reformation (in juxtaposition with the claims of Rome), in such a way that people who don’t normally study these things can understand them.

    At the present time, I’ve focused on #1 more than #2, but I see this as a long-term project. I just turned 50; the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is in 7 years, but the 500th anniversary of the Diet of Worms is 11 years down the road; the Augsburg Confession is 20 years down the road, the first publication of Institutes is 26 years away. And there were four versions of that. The business guru Tom Peters said, “start a movement,” and Lord willing, I’m hoping to be able to do this for a long time.

    You asked: 1. Do you consider the responsibilities that accompany marriage to represent a “sacramental treadmill” as well? Do you consider your responsibility to feed, clothe, bathe yourself to represent some sort of treadmill? This is called “life.” We can’t arrive until we’ve arrived, no matter how desperately you want the race to be over before it’s over. Why, if we’re declared righteous already, would you look forward to hearing the words “well done, good and faithful servant”?

    No, I don’t consider “life” or “marriage” to be a “sacramental treadmill.” But with Roman Catholicism, so much of what you are required to do to, what, to “merit your salvation” has nothing to do with what James (for example) calls “good works” and everything to do with following Roman rules for pursuing the Sacramental system, including rules for attending mass and going to confession (among others.)

    Reymond, who you asked about, is or was a professor of Systematic Theology, first at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, now (or more recently) at Reformed Theological Seminary. He wrote a chapter in a book that discussed the irony that, while Vatican II had admitted virtually everyone to salvation “through the church” by living according to the dictates of their conscience (“First of all the Muslims…”), reserved its most stringent anathemas (“could not be saved”) to those one-time Catholics who leave the Church.

    2. After Baptism, you’re indeed working for your salvation due to the fact that you’re not dead yet. All along, after Baptism, I assume you’re praying the way Jesus taught you to pray; that is praying daily for forgiveness of your sins. After all, if your righteousness is a past, declarative event, why must you pray as Jesus taught (that is, perpetually)?

    I think you’ve got your metaphors wrong here. It’s the Calvinists who say you’re dead in sin prior to regeneration. For the Catholics, you’re just impaired.

    5. Who determines what a “doctrinal abuse” is?

    For starters, consider 1 John: “The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” Roman Catholicism has “the Alias Smith and Jones” defense for popes: “For all the banks they robbed (and other evils they did), they never taught anyone.” However, if you look closely, you can see that John equates behavior with “the truth is not in him.” This seems to me to be very clear evidence against the notion of the wicked succession of popes. But this isn’t my whole case; this is just one very small example.

    I’ve pointed many times to the sacking of Nestorius. He was made a scapegoat by Cyril (who enforced his position at the council of Ephesus with armed gangs of thugs.). But now, there are major sectors of RCC and Orthodox scholarship that freely say “Nestorius was not guilty of the Nestorian heresy.” I can provide a link to a video for you on that one.

    This isn’t to say that any pastors who sin can’t teach the truth. But if you’ll check the records, you’ll find that Rome has never apologized for, or repented of anything.

    I submit that, as a Catholic, you weren’t exactly Catholic. That is, as a Catholic, you submit to Church doctrine. Determining what does and what doesn’t constitute “doctrinal abuse” (for a Catholic) is the job of the Magisterium.

    Submit all you want, I was a faithful Catholic for many years, and even attended Opus Dei “evenings of recollection” for a number of years. I knew the gig.


    7. What does Vatican 2 say about St. Mary?:

    What do the Scriptures say about Mary? Eric Svendsen’s “Who is My Mother” does a thorough exegetical analysis of every mention of Mary in the New Testament, and provides an exegetical picture of a woman who would be appalled of the things that Roman Catholicism has said about her over the centuries.

    8. After something like 800 comments following the sola/solo article at Called to Communion, there hasn’t been a Protestant who’s been able to clearly and unambiguously explain what principled difference lies between sola Scriptura and the reviled “solo” Scriptura.

    Turretinfan gave a thorough answer to this posting, which I believe you’ve read and rejected. But I don’t believe you’ve rejected it for any sound reason. In the first place, he showed that Mathison, who has been Bryan Cross’s whipping boy for some time now, did not accurately represent what Oberman wrote about Tradition 0, I, and II. I’ve outlined above a scenario in which Sola Scriptura does work. Second, even the worst case of “Solo Scriptura,” if it were true, does not validate Rome’s claims to authority. There’s much more to be said, and I’m disappointed that more Protestants aren’t saying it, but I’m confident that more people will seek to understand how Sola Scriptura genuinely works, rather than picking it up second-hand from Bryan Cross.

    You say: “many denominations offer very thorough confessional statements to which members adhere — there’s no ‘slippery slope’ at all.” But what of the fact that each of those members reserves the right to completely disregard his respective “confessional statement” if he comes to believe that it is doctrinally flawed? The denominational adherence of which you speaks is utterly conditional. If you don’t agree with me, could you explain why?

    It’s not “utterly conditional.” Check into “Recovering the Reformed Confession.” Nevertheless, the doctrinal “unity” you think that Rome offers is just as disregarded by Catholics as whatever disunity you think that Protestants have. Protestants will go off and form a new denomination; Catholics will just stab each other in the back. (If you think I’m exaggerating, go to Beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com and search the “blueprint for anarchy” category.)

    10. Concerning the writers at Triablogue, who determines what “sound exegetical methods” are?

    Among the other things I’m doing, I’m hoping to work on a series about a sermon series that Bullinger preached on Scripture in the early years of the Reformation. Bullinger emphasized such patristic exegetical topics as “God’s will . .. to have His Word understood” … Expound Scripture according to the Received Articles of our Faith … Expound Scripture according to its Context … Expound darker passages by clearer ones, and fewer passages by more numerous ones … That’s for starters. Machen contended with the liberal critics. He provides an excellent example. George Ladd’s “New Testament Theology” goes into a great deal of detail. These are foundational works for today. It’s easy to be caught by surprise, but there are exegetical principles that have been practices since the beginning. And as a hint: Rome isn’t doing it this way.

    I’ve written about some of these in the context of Irenaeus, by the way. Scroll down a bit.

    Further, as a Catholic, I call upon Christ as the Savior and Messiah. If this Lowest Common Denominator Christianity is what you’re promoting, why, then do you spend so much time attacking the Catholic Church? Can’t I stand side by side with you as a follower of Christ? If not, why not?

    Rome doesn’t let you say “Christ alone”. You have a whole boatload of “the fullness of the faith” that you must adhere to under the pain of conscience. And Rome is not shy about imposing this on everyone. “And if anyone dares to disagree, It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”

    I’m not saying that your adherence to Christ isn’t saving to you. But it will save you (if it does) in spite of Catholic dogma, not because of it.

    Merton: “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

    Psalm 119: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

    Jesus: (Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.”

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  11. herbert says:

    John, again, I am touched by the energy you’ve invested in responding to me. Allow me to think about this stuff for a while and get back with you via private email. Thanks! (unless you think it’s worthwhile to hash this stuff out publicly. I think it’s worthwhile either way!) herbert

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