Two Roman Catholic claims that cannot both be true

When engaging Roman Catholic apologists one often encounters two claims: 1) Roman Catholicism is publicly verifiable, meaning that one can provide sufficient reasons for a nonbeliever to convert to Roman Catholicism (see here for a detailed discussion on this) and 2) that any conclusion concerning the type of church Christ founded that does not secure a means of certainty (as defined by Roman Catholicism) can be rejected prima facie.[1]  In this article I will examine whether or not one can consistently hold both of these claims.

It is a basic characteristic of proper argumentation that something cannot be considered public evidence for a position when the basis of its value as evidence is taken from its object—that is, from the position the evidence allegedly supports. By public evidence, I refer to evidence that one can accept as evidence theoretically prior to accepting the position that the evidence supports.[2] Taking this definition forward, this means that for a Roman Catholic to present public evidence for one to convert to Roman Catholicism he must provide evidence whose value as evidence does not rely on presupposing Roman Catholicism. One cannot provide public evidence to a nonbeliever for Roman Catholic church authority with alleged evidence that relies on Roman Catholic church authority for its value as evidence. Otherwise the argument would be immediately circular and publicly inaccessible.

Given this, the Roman Catholic apologist who seeks to provide sufficient reasons for one to convert to Roman Catholicism must build a case without appeal to church authority. If any element in the body of evidence that the apologist thinks provides sufficient reasons to believe presupposes Roman Catholicism, then this body of evidence cannot provide sufficient public reasons to convert. The Roman Catholic has failed to prove his case to the public. When this is the case, the body of evidence is insufficient to prove the case; and if a Roman Catholic cannot provide a sufficient body of such evidence for another to convert, then Roman Catholicism lacks public verifiability. But let us suppose that the Roman Catholic thinks that he can provide sufficient reasons to believe apart from any appeal to church authority. To even attempt this forces a startling concession: if one claims that he can provide sufficient reasons to believe Roman Catholic church authority apart from any appeal to that church authority, then he is consenting that Roman Catholicism could be false. And if Roman Catholicism could be false—that is, it is possibly false (probability is irrelevant)—then Roman Catholicism cannot provide certainty. For if something is possibility false, then one cannot consider its alternatives impossible; and if alternatives are possible, one cannot be sure that one of those alternatives is not correct. Thus Roman Catholicism cannot ensure certainty.

Let me state this point differently. When one discovers the legitimacy of the question “what type of church did Christ found?” he has already decided upon quite a few truths: Jesus Christ was messiah, he died and rose again, he founded a church, and his commission apostles to spread a deposit of truth. These are prerequisites to the question and therefore must be determined prior to the question’s answer. To be in this “realm,” a realm without an answer to the above question, requires a method of determining reasons to believe based on various sources. This is the realm from which a Roman Catholic must extract sufficient evidence to provide the answer to the above question. If this realm, one quite apart from church authority, is the theoretical basis of one’s apologetic, then Roman Catholic apologists cannot ensure certainty. For to consent to this methodology is to consent to the possibility of alternatives. Thus Roman Catholics apologists, by the very act of attempting to provide sufficient evidence or reasons to believe apart from church authority, undermine what they consider to be their greatest advantage: certainty.

We can take this further. When a Roman Catholic attempts to provide sufficient evidence or reasons to believe apart from church authority, he is assuming what one could call a Protestant-like paradigm or method. As I argued in Section III of my previous article (here), Protestants are in the business of providing themselves and others reasons to believe apart from church authority.[3] When a Roman Catholic does this he is consenting to the possibility of alternatives, which must include conclusions that preclude the type of certainty that they often claim is necessary. This means that the Roman Catholic cannot have any prima facie objection to any claim that contradicts the type of certainty that Roman Catholic claim is necessary. In other words, when another comes to a conclusion, using the same method Roman Catholic apologists use to provide sufficient reasons to believe apart from church authority, that precludes the type of certainty that Roman Catholics consider necessary, Roman Catholics cannot immediately reject it on grounds that it fails to meet the condition of certainty. One can reject such an alternative only on the grounds of a presupposed condition of certainty. But the method used by the Roman Catholic apologist already involves consenting to the possibility that such an alternative is possible, otherwise the Roman Catholic would be imposing Roman Catholic presuppositions into the method, and thereby failing to be in a position to provide public evidence for conversion.

I’ll state it differently for clarity. If one consents to the proper terms of providing sufficient evidence to answer the question “what type of church did Christ found?”, then one cannot limit the possible answers to this question with a presupposed answer to the question. One cannot limit the possible answers to this question by presupposing that the church must provide the type of certainty allegedly provided by the Roman Catholic Church. To do this would presuppose the answer to the question when the question is the matter at hand. Thus when a person comes to a conclusion that precludes the type of certainty Roman Catholics find necessary, a Roman Catholic must reject it for its content, not reject it prima facie for its methodological basis.

Roman Catholic apologists want to have it both ways. They will present evidence that they find sufficient to lead one to convert, yet when Protestants, using the same method, present evidence that they consider sufficient to lead one to convert it is rejected without consideration to its content but only for it methodological foundation. Again, Roman Catholics cannot have it both ways. They cannot hold to both (1) and (2) in the first paragraph above. Either you can present sufficient reasons for one to convert to Roman Catholicism apart from church authority and accept the legitimacy of the methodological basis of Protestant conclusions (meaning you cannot reject them prima facie for their failure to provide certainty) or you admit that you cannot provide sufficient evidence apart from church authority for one to convert to Roman Catholicism (an admission that you cannot legitimately enter public debate) and you continue to presuppose the requirement of Roman Catholic certainty when evaluating Protestant conclusions and thereby reject them prima facie. Take your pick.[4]

 


 

[1] By “rejected prima facie” I mean dismissing the legitimacy of the position without reference to or consideration of its details and solely from the outset of encountering it for failing to provide a means of certainty.

[2] There is such a thing, in my view, as private evidence that support internal consistency of a position. This fails to be public because the evidence relies on the system for its value; it is not inherently neutral.

[3] Faith, in the Reformed Protestant conception, is not the means of learning God’s promises, but an act of “seeing” or understanding those promises already provided. It is an act of overcoming our finiteness and sinfulness to see things beyond us. See another post (here) for more on this.

[4] Roman Catholics often dance between these two depending on which is most effective for an issue.

This entry was posted in Authority, Catholic Hermeneutics, Ecclesiology, Hermeneutics, Protestant Hermeneutics, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Two Roman Catholic claims that cannot both be true

  1. I reject Protestant conclusions because they’re based on faulty premises, not prima facie anything. So the latter point is something I’ve never asserted. Certainty is not generally something I expect any argument to provide me. As for your other point: I’ll address that in your lengthier post on the subject.

    Like

    • John Bugay says:

      Joseph — you may “reject Protestant conclusions” — but as Stephen says elsewhere,

      Too often Roman Catholics think that disproving Protestantism means proving Roman Catholicism; and, unfortunately, many former Protestants seem to think that disproving Protestantism means proving Roman Catholicism. It does not work that way.

      I would take it further: you’ve rejected Protestant premises, but the whole thrust of this site is to reject the Roman Catholic premises. Once Roman Catholic premises are rejected, then all that you’re left with are Protestant premises — which I think you should reconsider — or to become an atheist. As Sherlock Holmes said: “After you’ve eliminated all the other possibilities, what you’re left with, no matter how improbable, is your answer.”

      Like

      • John, that’s a nice thought — but I see it differently. in fact, I think starting with Protestant premises a priori may be your whole problem. Protestant premises came out of nowhere in the sixteenth century. Jesus Christ and His Apostles lived fifteen centuries earlier. Reading the writings of the Apostles and those who followed them, I find no notion at all of Protestant premises. So why would I presume something that is so late an invention and project it back upon those original writings, upon the whole of Christian history? No, the falsehood of Protestantism does not prove Catholic claims; but I think you have your presumption backwards. The Catholic Church, after all, is the stump from which Protestantism sprang. Why would you presume that if you disproved Catholicism, you would somehow have Protestantism left? The whole thrust of Protestant apologetics, as you yourself admit, is directed at disproving Catholic claims — but where is the positive support for Protestantism? Do Protestant claims have any basis, any reason for being, apart from a rejection of Catholicism? Why should I presume such claims at all, let alone a priori?

        Like

        • John Bugay says:

          Joseph – couple of things. First, maybe you didn’t see my comment regarding Fortescue. Basically, contra what you were saying, he says “I base my faith on what the Catholic Church of today says. That alone is quite enough for all of us…”. While he allows for history, he considers the argument from history “neither convincing nor safe” for Roman Catholics. And that is precisely what we have seen happening. The mighty edifice of the Roman papacy has been eroded by historical study. All that Rome now has left is the appeal to authority. That’s where Stephen’s article picks up.

          Next, regarding your understanding of “Protestant premises”, you have got a few things quite wrong.

          John, that’s a nice thought — but I see it differently. in fact, I think starting with Protestant premises a priori may be your whole problem.

          What are these “Protestant premises” you reject? What do you think that Luther and Zwingli were thinking: “We need to come up with a whole new thing, we need to be Protestants”? No – they were interested in fixing what was broken. And in their historical context, the church that they saw was horribly broken. They were seeking to fix things, but they were quickly back-handed by an institution that wanted to hear none of it.

          Protestant premises came out of nowhere in the sixteenth century.

          This simply isn’t true. Anthony Lane, for example, documents thousands of citations of church fathers in the writings of Calvin – and he was especially interested in showing continuity.

          Jesus Christ and His Apostles lived fifteen centuries earlier. Reading the writings of the Apostles and those who followed them, I find no notion at all of Protestant premises.

          “There is nothing new under the sun” – perhaps you could say what these “premises” are that you find no notion of. For one thing, the works by Bill Webster and David King on Sola Scriptura demonstrate the thorough reliance the early church had on Scripture. It is true that the supposed “authority” of “tradition” arose up along side of it in later years, but that reliance was like a growing cancer.

          So why would I presume something that is so late an invention and project it back upon those original writings, upon the whole of Christian history?

          In truth, it is Roman Catholicism that “projects back” its own current dogmas upon the earlier writings. For example, you look at early writings on the Lord’s Supper – you see the word “sacrifice” – and you have no other sense but to see “sacrifice of the mass”. However, an early Christian writer, in his own context, has no conception at all of the later dogmas. (Note that Ratramnus, in his debate with Radbertus on the concept of “transubstantiation”, he argued that the concept both novel and fundamentally wrong. That was in the 9th century.)

          The same thing with “Peter”. You see “Peter” mentioned in the second or third centuries, and you automatically “project back” upon it the entire papacy. In the third century, the eastern bishop Firmilian (writing to Cyprian) thought that Stephen’s claim about Peter brought “separation and division”, and he compared him with Judas, through whom “perfidy” and “wickedness” and “betrayal” came. If there were some kind of “petrine primacy” in that day, the bishop Firmilian had not heard about it. It was a later claim, and rightly rejected by the Reformers.

          No, the falsehood of Protestantism does not prove Catholic claims; but I think you have your presumption backwards.

          In the context of history, it was the Roman claims that were rejected. In the context of history, as I said above, once the Reformers were able to sort out the Roman claims, after they had eliminated Roman claims, they worked with what they were left with. “No matter how improbable, [that] is your answer.”

          The Catholic Church, after all, is the stump from which Protestantism sprang. Why would you presume that if you disproved Catholicism, you would somehow have Protestantism left?

          I think Paul’s comments about “the stump” are apt – but this goes to the heart of “what is ‘the church’?” What genuinely constituted “the church” in the days beginning from Christ onward. At first, it was the gospel – it was the message – it was “all who accepted the message” (Acts 2:41). When did “the hierarchy” even come into being, much less, make itself foundational to “the church”?

          The whole thrust of Protestant apologetics, as you yourself admit, is directed at disproving Catholic claims — but where is the positive support for Protestantism? Do Protestant claims have any basis, any reason for being, apart from a rejection of Catholicism? Why should I presume such claims at all, let alone a priori?

          My whole thrust is not “disproving” Catholic claims, but showing them for what they are – just simply vacuous (within the context of history). Yes, over and over again, Christ strips us down to the point at which “Christ alone” is sufficient .

          We, all of us, do need to understand history – Biblical history, and church history, to understand what it was into which Christ came. No kidding, there are “ministers of the gospel”, but to think that “the hierarchy” is somehow constitutive of what “the church” is, is badly mistaken.

          If you want “positive support”, look here, for example. But this whole site is devoted to giving believers the opportunity to understand what “traditions” did survive through the Reformation – all of them being “traditions”, none of them taking priority over “the gospel message”, all of them likely having flaws. But that is human – to have flaws. The important thing is to understand what the best traditions have been in Christian history – and to know that we live in fundamentally different times, though we may find something worth imitating at very many points within Christianity.

          And that was Paul’s primary message of “church leadership” – note that he avoided issues of “leadership”, understanding that there were individuals taking “leadership” roles based on some form of social status, rather than what Paul viewed the true mark of “leadership” – that of being a servant, that of being imitated. Which medieval “bishops” were worthy of being imitated? And yet, Paul “expressly commended others who were worthy of imitation”. That is what was constitutive of “church leadership” in Paul’s mind, in his writings. “A particular model [of leadership] was considered appropriate not because of who that person was, but because of the extent to which that life was conformed to the gospel. Consequently, all other [leadership] models were secondary in importance. Their supreme goal was imitation of Christ” (Andrew D. Clarke, “Serve the Community of the Church: Christians as Leaders and Ministers”, Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., ©2006, pg 251).

          I’m putting together a whole series on “Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics”. Click on that link in one of my posts. It’s easy to find the first one. Read some of the others. These are men in an era who sought to serve the church, whose lives and works were worthy of imitation. That’s where “the one true church” may be found.

          Like

          • John, thanks for pointing out your other comment regarding Fortescue; I had not seen it. First, I think you are misquoting Fortescue when you say that “he considers the argument from history ‘neither convincing nor safe’.” What he said was that “this line of argument” [which “does now involve our private judgment as to whether the ancient texts, do, or do not, really prove what we claim”] “is neither convincing nor safe” for the purposes to which he is speaking, to the faith of the Catholic faithful. And he is quite right: because, what may be convincing to him and to me from history, because it depends on our and [your] private judgment, may be unconvincing to you; it is subjective, indefinite, and uncertain. But Fortescue continues that such an argument “is a most valuable confirmation, which we are always ready to offer.” I concur with Fortescue in agreeing that as Catholics, we cannot subject the teachings of the Church to the necessity of proof at every turn: my primary reason for believing the teachings of the Church, as a faithful Catholic, is the testimony of the Church itself. But this argument is not how I arrived at such faith in the Church, nor how I defend it as an apologist; and Fortescue is not offering this as any sort of dogmatic statement that “the claims of the Church depend only on the Church’s authority.” Fortescue is speaking as a priest, pastor, and teacher of the faith, to the Catholic faithful, not as an academic historian or an apologist and certainly not as the sole, infallible, dogmatic voice of the Catholic Church. Your taking of his statements out of this context may make a convenient straw man for you and your friends, but it’s not much more than that.

            What are these “Protestant premises” you reject?

            Primarily I reject “sola scriptura,” the fundamental error of Protestantism, on which the whole enterprise rests, on which every other claim depends. Protestant misreadings of Scripture (such as “sola fide“) depend on separating Scripture from the tradition in which it was received. Protestant rejections of whatever it is they conveniently wish to reject depend on limiting God’s revelation to “Scripture alone.” This is not a premise taught anywhere in Scripture, nor one that the Early Church had any comprehension of. By projecting this premise back upon history, Protestants allege that the Catholic Church “fell away” from biblical truth — but she can’t very well have “fallen away” from something she never held to begin with.

            What do you think that Luther and Zwingli were thinking: “We need to come up with a whole new thing, we need to be Protestants”?

            Regardless of what they were “thinking,” they did come up with “a whole new thing.”

            This simply isn’t true [that Protestant premises came out of nowhere in the sixteenth century]. Anthony Lane, for example, documents thousands of citations of church fathers in the writings of Calvin – and he was especially interested in showing continuity.

            This is a specious argument (as it was for Calvin in the first place). No number or degree of patristic quotations can cover up for the fact that one’s primary ideas and premises are inventions and innovations. Show me the historical continuity of “sola scriptura,” or show me that it had even occurred to anyone prior to relatively modern times. Show me some evidence that the Reformers didn’t come up with “justification by faith alone,” as a sole, external, forensic declaration, out of whole cloth.

            For one thing, the works by Bill Webster and David King on Sola Scriptura demonstrate the thorough reliance the early church had on Scripture.

            That’s the usual Protestant fudge, isn’t it? But “sola scriptura” is more than just a “thorough reliance on Scripture”: the Catholic Church always has relied, and does today, thoroughly on Scripture. “Sola scriptura” is a thorough reliance on “Scripture alone,” in such a way as to reject anything that is not in Scripture — and this is something that was never held by the Early Church, or by anyone at all, until arguably Wycliffe; in the full sense of the proposition, not until the sixteenth century. Merely demonstrating the Early Church’s “reliance on Scripture” is specious and irrelevant.

            In truth, it is Roman Catholicism that “projects back” its own current dogmas upon the earlier writings. For example, you look at early writings on the Lord’s Supper – you see the word “sacrifice” – and you have no other sense but to see “sacrifice of the mass”.

            It may serve your argument to generalize “Roman Catholicism” into a single mode of thinking and argument, and to ascribe this generalization to “me,” but this is not in fact what “I” do.

            The same thing with “Peter”. You see “Peter” mentioned in the second or third centuries, and you automatically “project back” upon it the entire papacy.

            Again — this is not what “I” do.

            In the context of history, it was the Roman claims that were rejected. In the context of history, as I said above, once the Reformers were able to sort out the Roman claims, after they had eliminated Roman claims, they worked with what they were left with.

            “In the context of history,” the Reformers rejected claims and traditions that had been held and accepted in the Western Church for centuries. I have no dispute with you there. But the Catholic Church, also “in the context of history,” with its billion faithful believers today and perhaps as many over the past five centuries, have not rejected such claims, and have continued to thrive and flourish. But I am curious here: “After [the Reformers] had eliminated Roman claims” — again, what is it they were left with? Where did it come from?

            When did “the hierarchy” even come into being, much less, make itself foundational to “the church”?

            The only “hierarchy” that has ever been “foundational” to “the Church” has been in place since the beginning: bishops and presbyters appointed by the Apostles (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1:3–5) and their successors (1 Clement 44), the faithful of each church in communion with their rightful bishop (Ignatus, To the Smyrnaeans 8, To the Trallians 3, etc.), and in communion with every other church (Irenaeus, Against Heresies III.1–3, etc.). If the Reformers had wished to return to something “fundamental,” they would have recognized this timeless and universal model — as the Anglican Church sought to do.

            If you want “positive support”, look here, for example.

            I’ve been lurking here and reading this blog for a while, and very rarely have I seen any such thing. Looking back even over the recent archive, the vast majority of posts are directed at rejecting some “Roman” claim or another. I welcome positive posts and appreciate them. I still have a great love for the Protestant tradition, despite recognizing its fallacies, and especially for my Protestant brethren.

            The important thing is to understand what the best traditions have been in Christian history – and to know that we live in fundamentally different times, though we may find something worth imitating at very many points within Christianity.

            This is perhaps the best and most succinct statement of the Protestant problem of “traditions” that I’ve seen — and it explains the Protestant attitude that, even when I was a Protestant, was entirely foreign to me, that would lead Christians to be entirely indifferent to the fact that their modern churches have no resemblance at all to the Early Church or to anything that has preceded — or to be entirely oblivious and blissfully ignorant to that fact. Protestants presume that “the church” is something of their own fashioning, as if they make it and can make it whatever they please, and that it can somehow be separated from what has been handed down to us — that they are free to pick and choose what “traditions” are “worth imitating,” as if they were putting on a costume, and they might or might not find parts of it fashionable. They presume that the only “essential” parts of the message are those found in Scripture, which makes for an artificial limitation and exclusion of the “essentials,” and an artificial reduction of the other parts to merely dispensable things that “may be worth imitating.” This is not a notion that anyone in the Church prior to the Reformation could have comprehended. A church of one’s own making, in piecemeal “imitation” of picked and chosen “traditions” we have received, makes for merely a imperfect “imitation” of the Church of Christ. And it is no surprise at all that Protestant churches and denominations everywhere are now shedding parts of the “costume” as fast as the rest of the world in today’s fashion.

            Like

            • John Bugay says:

              I did not misquote Fortescue. He clearly does not put “the authority of the Church” and “reason” on any kind of par, a claim that you were attempting to make with your statement, which I quoted earlier “when I appeal to Scripture, my appeal carries with it the authority of the Church — but does not depend on it”. For Fortescue, his appeal to the papacy certainly does depend on “the authority of the Church”– especially now in the light of the research that puts the origin of the papacy in the late fourth century, and as existed from Leo through 1950 somewhere in the late fifth century.

              Second, regarding Sola Scriptura as having sprung up out of nowhere, there’s plenty of documentation that this isn’t the case. As far as the “argument” of Sola Scriptura, see this post by Turretinfan:

              http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-positive-and-negative-claims-of.html.

              He’s got a better analysis of this somewhere, but I didn’t have time to locate it. However, once you reject the notion that “interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission” (“and you can tell a tree by its fruit” — that’s a general principle right from Jesus — so it is a judgment we are free to make, according to Scripture) no other source is quite like Scripture, and hence, “Scripture alone”.

              Like

            • For Fortescue…

              I don’t know how you think this is relevant. Fortescue is one man, one historian, who died nearly a century ago, who again, you are quoting out of context. I happen to like him a lot. But his statements and opinions are not infallible dictates of the Catholic Church. You seem to be ascribing some authority to him that he never had.

              …Especially now in the light of the research that puts the origin of the papacy in the late fourth century, and as existed from Leo through 1950 somewhere in the late fifth century.

              I don’t know what research you’re referring to. But yes, it’s quite true that “the papacy” as it was understood in the Middle Ages developed over the first few centuries of the Church: you’ll find no dispute there. But there has always been a bishop in Rome.

              Second, regarding Sola Scriptura as having sprung up out of nowhere, there’s plenty of documentation that this isn’t the case.

              I wonder if you could show me some?

              As far as the “argument” of Sola Scriptura, see this post…

              Thanks for pointing out this post. This reminds me very much of a post I made recently that sought to examine what I saw to be some of the key propositions of “sola scriptura” and find support for them. It seems to me, according to my reading of the Westminster Confession (I.6), and especially according to Reformed practice, a corollary to these propositons that Turretinfan states is that because “everything we need to know for salvation is taught (clearly) in Scripture,” nothing else is needed, and any teaching in addition to Scripture (even if this thing is not “contrary to Scripture”) should be rejected. This is applied unevenly; some Protestant churches and even some Reformed churches retain quite a bit of tradition in addition to Scripture. But for most, the mere fact that something is “not in Scripture” is a valid reason to reject it, even if it isn’t shown to be “contrary to Scripture.”

              Reading Church History as a Protestant: The Epistemology of Sola Scriptura

              It seems to me that the Catholic Church fully accepts the primacy and inerrancy of Scripture. It’s the “sufficiency” and “perspicuity” — especially the way these propositions are applied — that create problems. Where are these propositions taught (clearly) in Scripture?

              However, once you reject the notion that “interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission” (“and you can tell a tree by its fruit” — that’s a general principle right from Jesus — so it is a judgment we are free to make, according to Scripture) no other source is quite like Scripture, and hence, “Scripture alone”.

              So, you’re saying “sola scriptura” can only proceed logically from a rejection of the Catholic Church? Thank you. That explains a great deal. I had no idea where it came from!

              Like

            • John Bugay says:

              Joseph, regarding Fortescue, I have two things to say:

              First, if your criteria is “infallible dictates of the Catholic Church”, you may have about three of these that are agreed upon by Roman Catholics. Yes, you have the CCC, but of course, that’s not infallible; Ratzinger referred us back to the “original sources” — whatever those are. And so, whenever we ask for an “infallible canon” of these (in response to the request for an “infallible canon of Scripture”, the only response is a , with the caveat that “the Magisterium COULD tell us, because that’s their “divine institution”, but of course, they never have come up with that.

              Second, Fortescue is far, far more qualified, as a theologian and a priest, and a writer of the “Catholic Encyclopedia”, than you could ever be, to provide an “interpretation” of Roman thinking in his time. If his “thinking” on a topic is largely correct, you are in no position to challenge him. And yet, that is what you have boastfully been doing.

              Like

            • John, I most apologize if you feel I’m “boastfully” claiming anything. That hasn’t been my intent, nor have I meant to denigrate or challenge Fortescue or you or anybody else. I know that I am at best an amateur.

              By “infallible dictates of the Catholic Church,” I meant the pronouncements of the assembled magisterium in ecumenical councils and many pronouncements of the popes, especially in apostolic constitutions. This is not my definition but, as I understand it, a pretty standard one.

              My point was that you seem to attack Fortescue, Hahn, Ratzinger and others as if you think that somehow their opinions represent the dogmatic teachings of the Catholic Church, and that by undermining them you are undermining the Church herself. Most of the time, with the works of theologians or historians or catechists or other writers, this is not the case. These people, in their scholarly opinions (which includes Ratzinger, both before and after he was pope), are not infallible. They wouldn’t claim to be, and I am not “challenging” them by saying so. Your criticizing their writings no more undermines Catholic thought than my criticisms of the writings of Calvin or Beza would undermine Reformed thought.

              I want to also say that I bear you no ill will at all in these discussions, and even though we disagree, I do genuinely embrace you as a Christian brother, and I pray you will do the same for me. I sense some personal vitriol and it makes me sad. My greatest burden is for the unity of the Body of Christ, and whether you’re right or I’m right, we both love and serve the same Lord. May God bless you and His peace be with you.

              Like

            • John Bugay says:

              My point was that you seem to attack Fortescue, Hahn, Ratzinger and others as if you think that somehow their opinions represent the dogmatic teachings of the Catholic Church, and that by undermining them you are undermining the Church herself

              Well, if you think THESE individuals are getting the Magisterium wrong, then what epistemicological advantage do you think that having a Magisterium actually provides?

              I want to also say that I bear you no ill will at all in these discussions, and even though we disagree, I do genuinely embrace you as a Christian brother, and I pray you will do the same for me.

              As a convert to Rome, I view you as having rejected whatever form of Christianity you may have embraced in the past, and I do pray that you will come to see the truth in this. I bear you no ill will (or vitriol) personally, but I do see what you have done as first of all a betrayal, followed up by your intention to persuade other Christians to make the same mistakes you have made.

              But I have walked your path, more or less as a convert (“revert”) back into the RCC, and I know that it can be a temporary path. That is my hope for you.

              Like

            • The advantage is that in what the Magisterium does teach — the truths of the faith having been revealed — we can have certainty and security. (And I didn’t say that I thought any of these people were wrong in their opinions, let alone that they were “getting the Magisterium wrong.” The point is that most of what you’ve cited are private, scholarly opinions and not representative of the teachings of the Church.)

              As a convert to Rome, I view you as having rejected whatever form of Christianity you may have embraced in the past, and I do pray that you will come to see the truth in this.

              So, you presume that whatever I “rejected” was truer than Catholicism? That’s very generous of you. Most of the Reformed I’ve known have not been so kind to Arminianism or Pentecostalism. But I don’t see my journey as one of “rejecting” anything at all, but rather of accepting the fullness of truth. A “rejection of the propositions of “sola scriptura” is not a rejection of Scripture, but an acceptance that there is more. I still cherish all of the faith and devotion I was raised with, and that’s only grown. I still embrace all of my brothers and sisters from before, but now my family is a world larger.

              I bear you no ill will (or vitriol) personally, but I do see what you have done as first of all a betrayal, followed up by your intention to persuade other Christians to make the same mistakes you have made.

              A betrayal of whom — or what? I would urge you, again, not to take this “betrayal” personally. But I most certainly discern a lot of vitriol you have toward the Catholic Church, and that puzzles me. It also puzzles me (and I’ve asked this several times, and would genuinely appreciate an answer) how you seem to wield just as much certainty in your position as any Catholic. What is the source of this certainty?

              But I have walked your path, more or less as a convert (“revert”) back into the RCC, and I know that it can be a temporary path. That is my hope for you.

              Yes, I know that many such people fall away; but I hope that I am through the “honeymoon.” The path that led me here was the culmination of all my life, and I finally feel at home and secure in my faith. It is my hope and prayer that, even in our disagreements, all who love the Lord can relinquish their hatred and hurt toward one another and be overcome by His love (John 13:35). May God bless you, and His peace be with you!

              Like

  2. Stephen Wolfe says:

    I had to make a couple edits to the first paragraph to add some clarity. I apologize for making edits like this after publishing.

    Like

  3. Paul Bassett says:

    Joseph,
    No one could read the writings of the Reformers – Calvin principally comes to mind – and make the statement that “Protestant premises came out of nowhere in the sixteenth century” – that’s just silly. You should read the Reformers, Joseph, and see for yourself. The Reformers drew deeply from church history. In fact, Calvin used church history to convert Roman Catholic priests not because his teaching was novel, but because it was so obviously true to history.

    I like your analogy of a “stump” for Rome. It seems apt since many of the Renaissance popes had stripped the tree bear to enrich either themselves or their families. But I’m curious what you think that “stump” was in the era leading up to the Reformation when the papacy was at Avignon, Joseph? Ever since 1312 the Roman church had taught that there is no salvation outside her ranks. Yet there were many popes – who are listed as true popes today – who, along with their cardinals, bishops and priests never believed such a thing since they occupied the church in France. They led a church at Avignon and were puppets of the secular King of France! Is that what you think Christ instituted on this earth? Are those the premises that you would build your apologetic on?

    The Reformation was necessary to save Christ’s church from all the political intrigue that Rome’s false doctrines had subjected it to. It’s fascinating that the last “Roman” pope was one who resigned at the Council of Constance (1415). His lineage was replaced by what historians refer to as the “Pisan” line of popes. And yet, your premises Joseph are that Rome has an “unbroken succession” from Peter to Francis I because that is the fundamental premise of Rome.

    Of course history proves otherwise which I think is Stephen’s point. Without appealing to Rome’s authority, Catholics’ got nothin’.

    Blessings in your continued studies, Joseph.

    Like

  4. Pingback: The One True Church | Reformation500

  5. hiram says:

    Rome’s irrationalism is one of the evidences/fruits of her complete departure from the faith delivered once for all to the saints.

    The perpetual of virginity and the perpetual sinlessness of Mary, for instance, cannot both be true. For if Mary did not have sex with Joseph, then she would be violating God’s command to her and Joseph to “not separate except for a short time for prayer.”

    So if Mary was a perpetual virgin, she could not possibly be perpetually sinless.
    And if she was perpetually sinless, then she could not have possibly been a perpetual virgin.

    Yet Rome, with a straight face, says that God has revealed to them that both of these doctrines (which are not only unbiblical but mutually exclusive) are true.

    This one contradiction demolishes the presumptuous claim to infallibility that papists make for their church. And yet they cannot see it…

    Their foolish hearts are darkened.

    -h.

    Like

    • John Bugay says:

      Hi Hiram — They would tell you “that’s just your interpretation”, ignoring the fact that you are right about it. You don’t have the “infallible interpretation”.

      Overall, I think too many people forget that “you will recognize them by their fruits”.Roman apologists want to give a pass to Rome, on the basis that “infallibility isn’t impeccability”, but they fail to recognize that among “the infallible” are the worst scum of the earth who ever lived.
      .

      Like

Comments are closed.